So, I binged RWBY… Again…

So, I binged RWBY… Again…

And I have no regrets. Of all the “TV” series I watch, this is among my favorites. Not because it’s super-high quality or does anything new, but because of it’s heart and improvement. And that’s something that really speaks to me.

Working on my manuscripts has been trying as of late. It’s harder to find things to change and make better. It’s gotten to the point where I can read the first sentence of a chapter and remember almost every detail of the chapter. That’s not a feeling I enjoy, especially since I know my writing isn’t quite to publishing standard.

But that’s why I draw on RWBY as inspiration. If you’ve seen any of the series, you’ll know what I mean. The animations, musics, story, pacing, everything leaps in quality from season to season (BTW, there’s only three seasons so far, so it’s incredible when you realize how far they’ve progress when season three has some ballin’ animation and graphics).

In a way, when I watch RWBY, I see an opportunity to challenge myself. To look at the animators at Roosterteeth and think, “If they can push themselves that hard, so can I.” And, as always, it’s a struggle. Self-motivation is hard to come by, and when you do hold onto it, it never seems to last. But having that reminder that others are out there, fighting a similar battle, it gives me a little hope that I will publish my manuscripts.

So, a word to all my fellow writers out there. Don’t give up. Find something that pushes you to improve your work, whether it’s a TV show, author, or peers (shout out to my awesome critique group). And thank you to Roosterteeth for being so dedicated to your work. It’s truly inspiring.

Side note: Go watch RWBY. It’s freaking awesome.

 

-Jared Pope

Game of Thrones: Season One

I know I’m late. I’m five season late to be reviewing this, but I felt like I really needed to just get my thoughts about this crazy and entertaining series out there, seeing as I only recently watched it. Besides, there’s a lot to learn from George R. R. Martin’s lore and story writing (although the show does slim it down.)

First off, the lore of the show is strong and well laid out. Terms are thrown about, but are given filler explanations until a more fleshed out version is given the opportunity to be explained. Politics and beliefs are pieced together over the course of the season, building towards the viewers understanding of the world over all without completely overwhelming them, but there are surprise moments as well, just to keep the viewer on their toes. While some things aren’t completely answered, there’s enough there to keep me immersed in this brutal medieval world.

Speaking of brutality, it’s everywhere. Within the first five minutes, there’s death, and it just continues. No one is exempt from its hammer. Not even animals. This show is certainly not for the squeamish as blood, bodies, and their parts are constantly being added to the death toll. On the topic of *ahem* “squeamish” qualities, nudity and sex are just as prevalent. However, the show does a decent job of making sure they’re at the beginning or end of a scene where necessary information is present. A few times, it’s excessive or unnecessary, but not enough to take away from the overall enjoyment of the series.

Characters… where do I begin? There’s so many. Some I don’t even know the names of, and of those, plenty are dead. Of the dozen I know, the Starks are consistently in my favorites. Except Sansa… for the first half. By the end of the series, that subtle snarkyness and sass is great. Arya’s a little rebel and growing into a fine swordswoman. Rob grew on me as the season went on, culminating in his first successful battle. And Ned… Oh Ned, you’re too honorable for your own good.

Lannisters? Tyrion’s the only one on the good list. Smart, sensible, a bit promiscuous, and surprisingly honorable. It’s just a shame he gets shafted by his twin siblings’ plans. Speaking of the twins, they can both burn in hell with that little brat of a prince. Eff Joffery (trying keeping it PG here.)

Daenerys’ growth is the best by far. From a timid young girl to warlord is nothing short of crazy awesome. Not to mention, she managed to romance Khal Drogo, and that’s a feat in and of itself. Plus, dragons. Just… Dragons.

Finally, plot. I’m not going to spoil  it for those who haven’t seen it. However, I will say one word about it: Twincest. That can literally be the answer to the majority of the plot. Twincest. *shakes head*

Overall, worth watching, even if you know some of the major points of the story. The characters are believable. Plot is convoluted. World is alive and breathing. If you’re up for brutal and gut-wrenching medieval politics and war, this is a must see (or read, depending on your choice.)

Tales from the League Update

So… my story is no longer close to canon. Not that it was to begin with, but you know what I mean. TF and Graves are buddies again, so a premise surrounding that fact is pointless.

Now, here’s the problem I face, do you people want to see where I go with this story? Or should I start something else? I can do either one, but if you guys really want to see the Renegades vs. the World, then let me know.

Until then, I’ll be focusing on the work I want to be publishing. See you later!

Tales from the League: Strategists

Wavering shadows lined the walls, brought to life by the candles on the diminutive table. Two figures leaned over it, one sitting on the ground while the other leaned against the wall of a pool. Stars watched them from a single window in the wall.

“Graves?… Graves… Malcom!”

The sitting figure snorted and glanced up. Nami gave him an irritated glance. “I told you, you should rest. I can handle the research by myself.”

Graves scratched his beard. “Can’t. Not now, anyways.” He leaned over the wrinkled parchment, taking in the faded ink.

“Yes, you can,” Nami chided. “We’ve been at this for a week. Even the two hot heads take a break from their training. You should too.”

“And you?”

“Research has been my life for the past several years. I know how to handle myself. Go get some rest.” She placed a webbed hand over the tome Graves examined and closed it.

A grumble left his throat. “Not until we finish this.”

Nami huffed. “We have our plan. All we need to do is execute it. Besides, the longer we wait, the less likely it is to work. Our little group isn’t a secret any longer, and I know you know that some people are pulling strings to make sure we don’t get our way. And I need this to go our way.”

“I can rest once I make sure we’re covered from every angle. I’ve put more effort in to lesser stakes. This is nothing,” Graves gently shoved Nami’s hand aside and resumed his reading. Her hand slammed down again, crushing his under a pound’s worth of paper.

“You know how you should always listen to me on the Rift? Do that now. You’re sabotaging our efforts. Sleep. Now.”

Graves glared at the Marai, and she did the same. As their eyes locked, his began to flutter, sleep pulling at his eyelids. He grit his teeth and opened his mouth, “Fine… But before I do, let’s just makes sure we’re still on the same page.”

Nami smiled. “Thank you. So, first thing we still have to take care of is our appeal to the Council. I’ve already written up the formal request, but we still haven’t sent it in.”

“Cause they’ll either ignore it or respond immediately, denying us time to prepare for it.”

“Which is why we are looking into the League Charter and how they’ve failed to uphold it,” Nami finished. “Everyone already has their arguments regarding that. We also know under what statures and definitions we’re setting up our group, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, and our own charter is written and memorized by everyone. So that’s taken care of. We’ve got a list of Overseers for our match, since it will come to that, if at all. Most are Bilgewater representatives, so we might be lacking in some strategy departments,” Nami stated.

“Taken care of. Everyone knows their position forwards and backwards. The only problem is determining who might be set against us. What have you got?”

Nami sighed and pulled some parchment from a file. “Pantheon, Irelia, Leona, Lee Sin, Udyr, Sona, Vayne, Kat… The list goes on, and none of it is pretty.”

“Eh, not much to worry about then. So long as our engagement goes well, Yas and Riven can annihilate anyone. I’ll clean up all the rest. Shouldn’t be a problem. Is that everything?”

Papers shuffled through Nami’s hands. “Generally. There are some contingencies that I’ve noticed that we-”

“I’ve already planned for them,” Graves answered. “Don’t worry your little headdress over that.”

“But-”

“I said don’t worry about it. Just trust me.”

Nami shook her head. “Says the least trusting person in Valoran.”

“Just keep researching. Imma nap, now. Mom.” Graves leaned against the wall, and shut his eyes.

**

Riven and Yasuo surveyed the Rift together, or rather, as together as the ten foot gap between them would allow. Beneath them, another practice match rumbled beneath them. Both sides had lost several towers, but the red team held the advantage.

Yasuo spotted Maokai pressing forward with his allies on the blue team. Their march towards the center of the Rift went unopposed. As they approached the remains of red’s primary tower, Maokai split from the group, heading north. Members of red team gathered underneath the shielded tower

“Not a good idea,” Riven muttered.

Yasuo glanced at her before examining the battlefield. “What are you talking about? He’s flanking them. Red’s all bunched up for him to engage. Even under tower, they still have the damage to win this fight.”

“Just watch,” Riven sighed.

Maokai waited in the brush, ready to ambush the enemy. The teams began exchanging fire, most shots blocked by the minions that dotted the path. The red team backed off as they began to take hits. Maokai circled behind them, using the wall for cover. He rounded onto the main path, but was stopped as the sunlight focused and impaled him.

“There it is.” True to her words, the red team collapsed on Maokai. Even as the red team shredded Maokai, the blue dove to save him. A foolish mistake. The tower ripped at their ranks, cutting them down as the red team turned to fight.

The ace was rapid. Only Leona died from the red team, and their assault ended the match quickly. Yasuo let his jaw drop. “How?”

“Bad engagement,” Riven explained. “He should’ve gone in from the front, not the back. That way, even if he got locked down, he’d take the towers hits first, and his team could have focused on the priority targets. Not saving their teammate.”

“But he should have used his jump,” Yasuo stated.

“Crowd control. I thought you’d know that. Besides, whoever Maokai’s Overseer was needs practice… Yeah, Demacian… Geez, he’s new even for Champion standards. We are not hiring him.” Riven marked a line on her scroll, adding to the myriad of lines that plagued it.

“I don’t see how that failed. His jump-”

“Not everyone can do what you do, Yas,” Riven spat. “Slippery… Look. We need to figure out how we’re going to win. How would you have gone against the red team’s line up? Yeah, if we get ahead and rip them apart, great. What about when we’re even, or they’re ahead?”

“Do what I always do: Isolate them and rip them apart,” Yasuo angrily stated.

“Are you that stupid? The red team grouped once they realized they couldn’t go in one-on-one situations. What then?”

“Split push. I can escape if they catch me alone.”

“What about the rest of the team?”

“I don’t know… They’ll be a distraction,” Yasuo gazed at the blue nexus, entranced as he watched its shattered crystal lazily reform. His shoulder numbed in pain. Reflexively, he drew his blade and snapped it to Riven’s neck.

She didn’t flinch, instead, pouring fire from her eyes. “You wonder why people naturally don’t like you. You damn, arrogant… I’m wasting my breath. I’m going to talk with Maokai, see what went wrong. Maybe some time alone will help you realize how stupid you are.”

**

Normally, the hustle of devising war plans made the strategy room alive and loud, but today, it was silent. Garen surveyed the room’s occupants. Lux stood next to him, examining the names of Graves’ accomplices. Shyvanna stood next to Jarvan’s empty chair. Her hands idly clenched behind her back.

Across from the half-dragon, Fiora and Xin sat together. The former polished her blade, a glazed look over her eyes. Completing the group, Galio and Vayne separated Shyvanna from Fiora.

“Why don’t we get Quinn’s opinion?” Lux suggested, breaking the silence.

“She’s not a part of the Remnant,” Fiora answered.

“But-”

“But nothing. She’s a commoner whom still hasn’t been admitted by Jarvan,” Fiora interrupted.

“Whom is still missing,” Garen declared. “That’s why we kept this silent. We know who poses as him currently. Lux, she’ll be admitted in due time. Fiora, I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself.

“Quinn is an invaluable asset. Both on and off the Rift. However, we’ve already asked plenty of her, regarding information gathering. She deserves a break.So I’ll repeat myself: what else should we do? We’ve already have our representatives siding against Graves’ but that might not be enough.”

Xin spoke, “Personally, I don’t see it as a problem. With the chaos regarding both Shurima and Graves, we could take the opportunity to find out where Jarvan has gone missing.”

“Would stop saying he’s missing?” Shyvanna breathed, fury coating her words. “We know he’s been captured, otherwise that conniving-”

A brief cough from Galio silenced her. A flash of guilt crossed her face before she restarted. “Xin is right. This chaos is the exact kind of cover we need to infiltrate Noxus.”

“The question is not when, it’s whom to send,” Vayne muttered. “None of us are assassins, much less infiltrators of any sort. And, I’m sorry Lux, but, despite your ability to disappear, you’d stand out whenever you run out mana. Any of us would.”

Lux pursed her lips together. “I wasn’t going to suggest myself,” she retorted, indignant. “I know my invisibility limited, and with how bloody Noxus is, someone could track me easily. So, let’s choose someone who’s excellent at staying hidden. Like Quinn.”

Fiora scoffed. “You’d entrust the prince’s safety to her? A Demacian Eagle is sure to stand out among the crows circling that hellhole. She’s no better than the rest of us, and Garen said we’ve used her too much.”

“I’m for it,” Shyvanna declared. “Of all the people we trust, she stands out the least. All we’d have to do is give her some Noxian styled clothing and she’d be on her way.”

Galio nodded and rumbled, “It’s a bit risky, but I think it’s worth it. She can handle herself in many situations. I also motion that if we do send her on this mission, it’d be her entrance exam for joining the Remnant.”

“I don’t know,” Xin muttered. “I think the prince is better suited determining who should join. The royalty is the one entrusted to the legacy of the Protectorate. Not the nobility. However, I am in agreement with this proposition.”

“So am I,” Vayne stated.

“Then I guess I recant my break for her,” Garen finished. “We send Quinn to rescue Prince Jarvan. We can determine her status with the Remnant after her success or failure. Are there any objections?”

Silence invaded the room again. Glances exchanged between the occupants. Most were nods. Fiora opened her mouth, but quickly shut it. When no one spoke against the decision, Garen continued, “Very well. Meeting adjourned.”

Most left, but Garen stopped Lux with a hand on her shoulder. Her curious eyes met his. “That’s a bit uncouth of you. Suggesting your friend for a suicidal mission like that.”

“I know she’d be more than willing,” she pointed out. “You don’t know her like I do. She’s just as willing, if not more so, to lay her life down for our king and country.”

“That’s exactly why I’m worried,” Garen explained. “I wasn’t lying. She’s invaluable, whether or not she’s a part of the Remnant. I know some of the things that go on behind those bloodied walls. Knowing the rumors, let alone the confirmed stories, I’d never want to send anyone into that place. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I just want you to understand what you have just proposed.”

“And I do. And Quinn does. Like I said, you don’t know her like I do. One way or another, she will succeed. I… Garen-tee, it,” she laughed.

A grin tugged at his lips, but somberness kept it suppressed. “I hope for Valoran’s sake, you are correct.”

**

Darkness enveloped the docks, perfect for Irelia’s situation. She tugged her black cloak closer towards her face. It had been hard enough to get a cargo ship to take her to the mainland, let alone do it without anyone recognizing her.

I am a bit early, though, she reminded herself. She glanced behind herself and began to wind through the buildings. Every few moments, she checked behind herself. The only people that roamed this early weren’t following her. Sighed in relief.

“Happy?”

Irelia yelped and whipped out a short blade, but it was quickly ripped from her hands and pressed to her heart. A pair of amber eyes locked with hers, and a playful smile revealed a fang-accented smile.

“Don’t… ever… do that again,” Irelia breathed. She grabbed at the dagger and missed as the wielder flourished it away.

“C’mon,” Ahri giggled. “You know you’d have to do better than that if you want try and escape unnoticed.” She spun the blade again and handed it back to Irelia.

“How did you find out?”

“I have my ways,” she teased. “Besides, you aren’t exactly the most discreet person. And so you know, Karma’s not going to be happy with you.”
Irelia pocketed the blade and ignored the fox. “Look, I have to do this. I know she wants what’s best for Ionia, but I’m not sure how much longer we can play the bystander.”

“You think Graves’ little party is going to be that bad, huh?”

“If it wasn’t for the fact that Azir is already making things complicated, I don’t think it’d be much of a problem. But Graves is a patient and cunning man. I know he doesn’t intend to bring down the League, but that’s the way it’s looking.”

Ahri huffed. “Explain this to me as if I’m five. How does this bring down the League? If he’s successful, he gets to off Fate. Maybe his compatriots get something in return. How is this such a big deal?”

“There’s more than one person with a grudge against another champion in the League. If he gets to kill Twisted Fate, that’ll open the flood gates for everyone killing each other. Champions get cut down left and right. Political relations breakdown. And so does the League, and we can’t let that happen.”

Ahri smiled. “Well, if that’s true, take me with you,” she hummed. An azure orb floated from between her tails and to her palm.

“I can’t. You need to stay here with Karma. I can’t help you with your episodes if-”

“I’ll be fine. Ionia is my home, and despite my past, I’m going to protect it. If what you’re saying is true, then it’s only natural we intervene. You’re taking me with you. Or do I have to persuade you through other methods,” she hummed. Pink auras swirled around her hand to emphasize her point.

Biting her lip, Irelia sighed, “Fine, but be discreet.”

“Of course. I can do more than kill with my magic,” she replied. The orb faded, blending with her surroundings, as did her tails and ears, giving her a truly human appearance. “Besides, I didn’t want to stay with that fuddy duddy Karma, anyways.”

**

Councilman Bendicas flipped through the appeal request again. He should have just thrown it away, but he couldn’t. A single signature glared back at him: Malcom Graves. Very few Champions had such a strong influence over the Council. Graves only made that list because of his persistence.

“This isn’t the first time he’s done this,” Bendicas remarked to his secretary.

The secretary nodded. “I understand, sir,” he replied. “Should I throw it out like the others?”

“I want you too, but…” His voice trailed off. A nagging voice itched at the fringes of his thoughts. He’d only do it again. If I shut him down publicly and lawfully, he stop. Bendicas skinned the form again.

Everything was precisely and eloquently filled out. He recognized the handwriting as Nami’s. And the rumors are true. He read the names of the applicants again. This…Well, some of our most unruly and powerful champions are looking to upset the order. As if Azir wasn’t bad enough.

“Contact the other council members. Tell them I’m rearranging the schedule. First order of business: shutting down Graves and whatever game he’s playing at. Also, I’m sure he’s been awaiting this, get me Jericho Swain. He might have some input I want to hear.”


As always, the characters, world, and concepts are all property of Riot Games.

The story belongs to me. Happy reading! -Jared

Updates on Hold

I’m doing a lot of editing for my novel right now, so I’ve put my short stories on hold. With a convention coming up in the next month and the fact that I’m meeting with fellow authors has pushed me to work more and more on my novel. Plus, I’m really close to getting it ready for publishers.

That’s not to say there won’t be any updates at all, just I won’t devote time to short stories unless I get an idea that’s really compelling to write. Or I just need a quick break from editing.

Also, this hold is going to be indefinite. Gasp! Yeah, I’m sorry. But editing calls. That and my partial obsession to GET THIS BOOK PUBLISHED!! Gotta go, I hear my book calling.

– Jared

Tales from the League: Seekers

 Seekers

                For every time she saw it, Riven couldn’t shake the awe every time she saw the Institute of War. It’s true name, the Valoran Institute of Magical and Diplomatic Studies, was a massive and imposing building built into a mountain. Enormous columns supported a granite carved entry way at the top of a wide set of stairs. Statues of many famous mages and heroes from Valoran’s past lined both the walls and railings of the exterior. Most notable were the fabled leaders of the Protectorate and Mage Lords, the two largest statues guarding the entire entryway.

Students from across the continent applied to this symbol of peace to become experts in their given field. What initially made the Institute famous was its location underneath the first recorded rift into the Void. The same rift that Baron Nashor had burst from. The same one that the League used to settle disputes.

When the League of Legends came into existence, it was only natural that the Institute housed a peacekeeping institution. It was a shame most of the peaceful relations had faded in recent years. Barely a decade since the League’s inception, Demacia and Noxus had jockeyed for political standing with the Council of the League. Now, the Institute of War, as it was so colloquially nicknamed, carried an air of high tension.

A tap on her shoulder brought Riven out of her reprieve. Yasuo nodded his head toward Graves, whom had already started toward the door. “Are you going to gawk all day or get to work?” Riven scowled at him and pushed him aside. The two of them quickly followed Graves through massive stone doors.

People bustled through the high ceilinged hallways. Many were young intrepid souls, conversing among their peers; others were older and talking with groups of students, gesturing at memorabilia that lined the halls. Some people, however, were divided by their allegiances, marked by their similar attire. Every so often, a single being passed. Their air of reclusiveness and arrogance staked them as one of the few representatives of the League.

“Alright,” Graves announced. “From here, I’ve got several jobs that need to get done. One, I’m off to find Maokai. Yas, I need you to find Nami.”

“Why? Wouldn’t it be better if you-”

“I’m risking that her curiosity and your charm will bring her on our side. Remember, she’s seeking an artifact for her people. One that the League has vowed to help her with. With us she can accelerate that process,” Graves explained.

“Riven, I want you to gather information. Specifically on the current status of the Shuriman Case. Anything and everything regarding it is helpful. If you can gather any other information, that’d be great.”

Riven nodded. “Alright. We meet back here at sundown. Let’s go.”

**

From the rafters to that painting. Hide in the shadows and wait for her to cross with that mage in the intersection. A swift strike to the neck, and it’s over. I’ve got to stop being bored, Katarina thought to herself. Her eyes continued to follow Riven as she made her way towards the Institute’s banquet hall. Lunch had just begun to die down, leaving Katarina to finish her meal alone. She twirled her blood-red hair as her former ally approached.

“Honestly, I’m surprised at how comfortably you roam these halls,” Katarina jested.

Riven shook her head. “Please. These nobles couldn’t fight me if they tried. How are you?” She spread her arms wide for Katarina to embrace in a friendly hug.

“Been better, but for now, seeing an old friend is the best thing in the world. Come, we’ve got a lot to discuss. How’s the food business? I hear you’re still rocking the bunny suit.”

Riven sighed. “Look, as much as I’d love to catch up, I’m more worried about this Shurima situation. I only heard about it a couple of weeks ago.”

Katarina frowned. “That. That is… Well, part of me is happy that Swain is malcontent. Until he killed my spy, I had heard that he had been frustrated with the move. Many independents are moving into Azir’s camp because of the promise of a bright future. I honestly don’t blame them. Even Cass is abandoning Noxus at her own attempt for power.

“I’m not happy with the prospect that Noxus might have another powerhouse to contend with. Azir seems hell bent on bringing Shurima out of its desolate state. And he’s been successful. I don’t need more reason to be forced to do that swine’s bidding. He’s already twisted so many strings to gain control of Noxus, it makes me sick.”

“Easy,”  Riven calmed her down. “We can worry about the demonic tactician later. How far along is the case?”

“Fortunately, taking as long as normal cases this size. There’s enough contest from both Demacia and Noxus  to force this into an official League match. They’re still determining rules, but it appears that they’ll settle on a good, old-fashioned nation-versus-nation match.”

Riven nodded. “So he already has a full roster for champions?”

“Yes. Nasus, Sivir, Rammus, Amumu, Skarner, Cassiopeia are guaranteed. Supposedly Xerath and Renekton are joining, but both of them hate Azir, so we’ll see. Even Zyra, Nidalee, and Rengar have showed interest in joining.”

Riven inquired, “Why them? Aren’t they fine being independent?”

Katarina shrugged. “Who knows. Shurima is near the jungles of Kumungu. Maybe they saw it as an opportunity to have the support of a city-state. The fact is, this is a move unprecedented in the League’s history.”

Riven bit her lip, glancing at the chandeliers above her head. A soft white glow emanated from their magically lit candles. “Why are you suddenly interested?” Katarina questioned.

“Hmm?”

“The only politics you care about is how Noxus is slowly degrading into a madhouse. Why the sudden interest?” she repeated.

Riven hesitantly sucked air between her teeth. “To be frank, I’m helping found the League’s first mercenary team.”

**

The obvious furtive glances didn’t make Yasuo feel any more comfortable. A library was one of the last places he wanted to be. He didn’t need people reminding him of that. Metal clanked as his scabbard smacked his leg with each step. His eyes remained forward, avoiding making the situation anymore awkward than it had to be.

Yeah. As if I can convince her to join us. I’m just a Ionian swordsman. I can definitely argue with precision why she should turn her back on the League’s help. And I willingly subjected myself to this insanity. I’d better either kill Riven or find whom is truly responsible for my elder’s death once this madness is over. Maybe then… he shook his head clear.

He distracted himself by scratching the scar across his nose, the last gift Yone had given him. I’m sorry brother. With his thoughts calm, he strode to the back corner of the library, finding a specially made pool.

It occupied a sizeable chunk of the corner, set snuggly next to the wall. Several people could fit inside and still have room to move. However, most of it was occupied by a teal fish tail. Its owner leaned over a diminutive table, studying various pieces of text. Her silvery headdress was a sign to her people that she was meant to guard them. To Yasuo, it meant nothing.

Nami didn’t notice Yasuo approach her until he coughed slightly. “Reading up?”

A playful smile graced her lips, her black and orange eyes shining with innocence and friendliness. “Hey, Yas. I am reading up, though I’m taking a break from my quest. Doing a little research on human history. I’m doing a little research on Ionia right now. Wanna join?”

Yasuo raised a hand, saying, “No thank you. Reading was never really my thing.”

“Ever the warrior,” she sighed. “You should some time. Maybe find a legend or warrior’s tale you like. Anyways, what brings you to my little corner of the world?

“A proposition,” he answered.

“If it’s marriage, I’m going to have to decline. Sure, there are similarities between the mating rituals of the Marai, but it’s just weird. I don’t want to have to stay at the den all the time. Preparing food, and cleaning.”

“That’s not-”

Nami laughed. “I know that’s not what you meant. Lighten up. Is it about another practice match? Not that we really need to practice our combinations, but it is fun to watch us melt opponents like a night eel devouring its prey.”

“Unfortunately, no,” Yasuo replied. “But it is about the League. I’m helping stand up a group for misfits like you and me.”

“Misfits?”

“Do you mind letting me finish?”

“Of course, sorry.”

Yasuo huffed. “We have no place in the politics here. Both of us are subject to officials that have no reason to be commanding us. They also hold several cards that keep us in their pocket. My safety, and the safety of your people.

“The fact is this: you are no closer to helping your people than you were when you joined the League. The League wants you around because you are strong. If you complete your quest, you’ll leave the League, so they won’t help you with your quest.”

“Well, duh,” Nami snorted.

“What?”

Nami positioned herself as upright as the pool would allow in its shallow depths. “It’s been years since I’ve made progress. And the League barely lets me out of the halls to do any actual searching. If you’re offering a way to help me find the moonstone and return home, you’ve got a deal.”

Yasuo watched, stunned, as Nami offered a hand. It took a few moments for Yasuo to regain his motor functions, but he quickly grabbed the hand and shook it. That was… easy.

**

“That’s not reason enough to make me join your group,” Maokai rumbled. A breeze passed through the rooftop garden. It was one of the few places off limits to students of the Institute, reserved as a quiet place for the champions to relax. On one end, the endless view of the southern half of Valoran stretched before them. The other, provided an eagle’s view of the rift. Quinn, the only other occupant of the garden, leaned over the rift edge.

Clashing metal and war cries whispered from the rift below. Graves leaned against the southern railing. “I’m just saying. The League claims to help you while offering the same sanctuary and help to those you despise.”

“You have a grudge against Fate. I don’t have any of the sort. Even to the denizens of the Shadow Isles,” Maokai retorted.

Graves mumbled, “You really are stubborn.”

“And so are you. I don’t need your help,” Maokai stated. The sun peered from behind the sparse clouds. The treant closed his glowing cyan eyes, basking in its light. Graves observed the treant’s mood.

“You really enjoy the sun,” Graves noted.

“Why are you changing the subject?”

“To get back to it,” Graves retorted. “The League isn’t the only group that can help you. There are plenty of mages that don’t hold any ties, politically. If we help them where no one can, they might be willing to help you rid the Shadow Isles of its curse.”

Maokai opened his eyes, his gaze settling on the man before him. “I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t have to. But one thing’s for sure, if you keep playing toy for the League, you won’t ever see the Shadow Isles’ former glory.”

Maokai spat, “Humans like you are the reason the Shadow Isles are the way they are.”

“And you’ve also put your loyalty with those same humans. I’m not asking for loyalty or trust. I just want a situation where you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” Graves responded. “A situation that I intend to honor.”

Maokai scrutinized Graves. A few brief moments passed before he asked, “And if you don’t?”

“Then it’s my neck, ” Graves replied.  The two stared each other down until a grin cracked his tree-like face.

“Then let’s hope your last moments won’t suffering my wrath,” Maokai stated. Graves nodded and the two left the garden, leaving it uninhabited.

**

Baylee scribbled several notes on the schedule on her desk. The most frustrating part of her task was organizing the Demacian champions’ schedules. With the current rate the League was putting on practice matches, it was a surprise any of them had time to see to their duties for Demacia. Though, being a champion for Demacia was an imperative part of their duties.

A familiar squawk brought her eyes up from the desk. Quinn stood before her, in full ranger gear. Valor perched himself on her arm, larger that Quinn’s upper body. The eagle’s pale blue eye surveyed the young secretary.

“Is the Prince here today?” Quinn asked urgently.

Baylee shook her head. “I’m sorry, but he has other duties to take care of. As far as I know, you are the only champion here today. Garen was supposed to be-”

“And he’s here,” a commanding voice spoke from behind them. Garen’s armor shone, even in the low light. Scratches and chips were barely visible, fresh from time spent polishing. Quinn furtively glanced around the enormous man’s body. A low, white flash disappeared from the nearly empty hallway, but she caught the unmistakable glimpse of violently red hair.

“What’s the problem?” he questioned.

Quinn calmed her breathing and met his gaze. “We have a major problem. I just witnessed Graves conversing with Maokai over a possible alliance.”

“What? That’s insane,” Garen scoffed.

“I know. Which is why I stuck around. You won’t believe that he accepted the deal,” she continued.

“He… accepted the deal?”

Quinn nodded. “I couldn’t believe it either, but Valor can confirm it. Graves is gathering allies, and I don’t think that Maokai is the first. It sounded as if he already had a few others in on his alliance.”

Baylee furrowed her brow. “But what purpose would they have in joining forces?”

“Something undermining the League. If what I heard is correct, they’re trying to make their own faction within the League. If they’re successful, they’ll be able to use independent citizens as a means to achieve whatever their goals are. Maokai would get his wish of restoring the Shadow Isles to normal.”

Garen rubbed his chin. “That’s grave news. We’re already dealing with Azir’s power move. He’s predictable, but Graves…”

Quinn whispered, “If they are successful, we’d see even more changes across the map. There might even be some people…”

“There might be champions killed outside the League,” Garen finished. “Come, we set out for Demacia immediately. Baylee, cancel all our plans with the League for the next week. We might be seeing the greatest change in Valoran’s history since the days of the Protectorate.”

Tales from the League: Leaders

  Leaders

              On the outside, Irelia remained composed as the woman next to her, but her mind roiled with the urge to bring the leaving criminal to justice. Karma placed a hand on Irelia’s shoulder, shaking her head slightly.

“I didn’t think you would be so willing. Why are you letting them go?,” Irelia questioned, carefully keeping her voice level. Karma ran a hand through her short charcoal hair and returned her gaze to the backs of the trio on the docks.

“Because this will bring balance to Ionia,” Karma answered, her melodic voice soothing to the ear. “As you told them, there will be less death, and one less criminal to worry about. You should be grateful. ”

Irelia nodded. “I understand. But in hindsight, this is a bad move. You shouldn’t have let me let a criminal go. I should go after them. They could disturb the balance.”

Karma turned to face Irelia, the crest hovering above her shoulders bobbing as she did so. “Then let them. If they seek to disturb the balance, let them do so away from here. Remember the crest on your shoulders. It is the same as mine. One of leadership. One of example. How would it look if the Will of Blades selfishly went after a criminal for justice?”

Irelia pursed her lips and answered, “It would look as if I didn’t seek balance in all things.”

“Exactly. Put those thoughts aside. For the first time in a long time, balance has tipped back towards equilibrium. Let’s not force it back to where it was.” Karma glanced a final time at the trio boarding a private passenger ship. Nodding, she walked to the center of the city. Irelia followed. The few citizens that roamed the streets on this cloudy morning offered a few respectful words of greeting or a bow. Karma returned each in turn; Irelia gave replied with cursory nods.

Thoughts continued to trouble Irelia as they made their way to the city’s central temple. Ornate arches marked each of the five landings that interrupted the steps. Vibrant crimson and violet paint decorated the exterior of the building. As they approached the steps, Irelia stopped.

“What if this isn’t for the best?” Irelia stated. Karma turned, a confused look on her face. “We just let three very powerful beings band together for an unknown purpose. All of whom are incredibly determined to achieve their goals. What if we just allowed something terrible to happen?”

“Don’t let doubt cloud your mind. It’s unlikely they’d do anything to harm Ionia,” Karma chided.

“I don’t mean just Ionia!” Irelia’s voice rose.

Karma’s face hardened, losing its natural softness. “Watch your tone. We’ve already talked about how you are an example. Your duty is to Ionia. Do you need another history lesson to why we do not willingly interfere with the rest of the world’s politics?”

Irelia’s vehemence died quickly. It pained her to know that Karma was right, but her mind itched to know the truth. Instead, she merely stated, “You’re right. I apologize.”

**

Several passengers of the ship staggered with its swaying. Graves shook his head and returned to nursing his drink. The ale tasted centuries old, but it remained a beautiful ambrosia to him. Foam coated his mustache with each sip, and he eagerly licked it off. Creaking wood provided the ambience for an otherwise silent cabin.

To his left, Yasuo leaned against the wall, glaring at Riven, whom sat next to Graves. Riven did her best to ignore the piercing eyes and focus on her own ale. She nearly gagged with every sip. “Not much of an alcohol drinker, are you?”

“No,” Riven replied. “Just because I serve it doesn’t mean I drink it.”

“Shame. If it wasn’t for the fact that this ale is old, I could mistake this for Bilgewater Prime.”

“You can stomach that garbage?” Riven questioned.

Graves joined Yasuo in his glare. “Girl, you have about five seconds to recant that insult to Runeterra’s finest ale.”

“Make me,” she challenged. Her eyes locked with his, a legitimate challenge as her hand reflexively gripped the sword next to her. A tense moment passed before Graves chuckled.

“Easy, kid. No need to get violent here. We still need each other.” Riven rolled her eyes and glanced at the sailor that acted as a waiter. The sound of a wave crashing into the ship echoed in the chamber.

Riven sighed, “I still can’t believe it worked.”

“Hmm?”

“You convinced Yasuo to stop killing me long enough to give him to opportunity to kill me once and for all. How? For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve never struck me as the diplomatic type. More of a ‘shoot first, don’t get shot back’ kind of guy. How did you do it?”

Graves laughed, drawing a few gazes his direction. “Calculated risk. I’m a gambler. You should know that. If my risky words pay off, then who gives a crap how I did it?”

Riven pursed her lips together, giving him a disappointed glare. “You have my compliance for now, only because you can help me. I am placing my trust in you. Why can’t you do that with us?”

“You know why,” Graves mumbled.

“I could always betray you,” Riven threatened.

“And how would you return Noxus to glory?” Graves demanded.

“I’d find a way. Always have,” she shot back. With an aggressive shove, she got up from the table and stormed up to the deck. Graves sucked air through his teeth, watching her go. The screeching of a chair against the ground forced him to glance up. Yasuo plopped next to Graves. He snatched up Riven’s abandoned ale and took a deep swig.

“She’s right about one thing,” Yasuo muttered. Graves cocked an eyebrow at him. “Well, two things,” he continued. “This ale is garbage. Lucky for you, I always bring some sake. Want some?”

Graves shook his head. “I’ll keep my ale. What’s the second thing?”

“We’re both trusting you to uphold your end of the deal. The least you could do is show some trust in us here,” Yasuo explained.

Graves scratched his beard. “That’s your own damn fault, then. I don’t have to trust you, just cause you trust me.”

“Fair enough, but would you rather have us on your side, or completely against you? I’m sure I could convince Riven to side with me long enough to kill you.”

“Such an idle threat. The League prevents us from doing that, so next time, come up with a worthwhile threat. At least Riven has legitimate threats and can back them up,” Graves retorted.

“That girl-”

“Has twice the sense you’ll ever have, hothead,” Graves spat. “We all know your story. Just like we know hers. Just like we know mine. So shut yer trap for five seconds and think. Maybe then you wouldn’t be sitting here now.”

Yasuo clamped his mouth shut. With a quick flourish, a bamboo cup appeared in his hand, and he took a sip from it. A moment of silence passed between them before Yasuo spoke again. “Stories and rumors do little to explain people. How would you know anything about her?”

A playful glint appeared in Graves’ eye. “Now that is a hilarious tale, one I certainly enjoy telling. Okay, Riven fled to Bilgewater to escape those who wanted her dead…”

**

Graves’ world flipped on itself, sending him sprawling to the wooden floor. Somewhere through the sudden brightness, Yasuo cried out, screaming in an ancient dialect as a thud followed. Sight eventually returned to Graves, and the familiar setting of the ship’s cabin greeted him.

Riven stood above him, hands on her hips, giving him a disappointed glare. Yasuo struggled to rise next to him, but he quickly fell on his face. Graves shook off the sluggish thoughts of his brain and stood. He helped Yasuo fight the hangover and get to his feet.

The snow-haired woman shook her head, “The captain wants us off before he leaves in the next five minutes.”

“Thanks… for the heads up,” Graves mumbled. Riven led the two men around the overturned table and chairs and off the ship. A strange wetness clung to Graves’ beard. Wiping it away revealed it to be drool from his deep slumber. The trio wandered into the mid-morning sun; the hustle of Bilgewater docks was in full swing.

Navigating through the sailors and beggars took time before they reached the city proper. Yasuo glanced nervously around the citizens, many of which glanced at him nervously or viciously. “Where are you taking us,” he demanded.

“To my apartment. For one, I’ve got to sell it. Two, both of you need to shake off your hangovers. I’m surprised anyone got sleep at all, considering you spent the night laughing at how I earn money wearing a costume,” Riven spoke the last words with venom.

Yasuo glanced downward, but Graves remained unfazed. “Hear anything you want repeated?”

“Yeah. How about the part where I had to kick you out for fondling one of my co-workers? I recall I did it with one hand,” Riven answered.

Graves bit his lip, surprised at the shrewd quip. The streets continued to wind further into the city until a thin tall building appeared before them. It swayed with the costal breeze, threatening to topple at a moment’s notice. Riven marched inside and up several flights of stairs.

Her room was high enough on the building to feel its sway. Yasuo and Graves steadied themselves against the wall. “Weaklings. I’ve slept in worse places,” she muttered as she left them alone.

Minutes passed in silence as the two of them acclimated to the unstable environment. Riven soon returned and began taking several belongings from the sparsely decorated room. Yasuo noticed her linger over a small picture that she stuffed into her bag.

Shouldering it, Riven stood and asked, “Alright, mighty leader. What’s our next objective?”

“We make for the Institute,” Graves stated. “If all goes well, our last members should be there.”

**

Blood reeked in Jericho Swain’s nose, even from his terrace far above the city’s streets. However, he enjoyed the stench. It helped him think; it made him hungry. Claws pinched his shoulder through his ornate robe. He absently patted Beatrice’s beak, noting the raw, bloody meat he felt in it. Tempted as he was, he refrained from taking a piece.

Appearances, appearances, he reminded himself. A smug grin crossed his face as faint screams echoed from the streets below. How he loved it, the screams of the dying. Noxus was where he was meant to be. Where he was meant to rule.  A door creaked open, and his face went neutral.  Turning he saw a young servant kneeling before him.

“My lord,” he stated, voice slightly shaking. “You have an uninvited guest. She says that she has roses for you to buy.”

“Let her in.” Swain’s voice echoed hollow. The young man nodded retreating without glancing at his master. A elderly lady appeared in the door way. She was hunched over, holding a wicker basket full of ink-colored roses. “There’s no need for such deception here,” he said.

A snake-like voice oozed from the old lady’s mouth, full of arrogance on cunning. “And ruin the fun?” The image of the elderly lady faded, leaving a youthful and beautiful woman standing in her place. A golden headdress adorned hair midnight hair, and a regal cape covered the rest of what her clothing didn’t. Black makeup contrasted her pale face.

With a flick of her wrist, a staff appeared in her hands. “It’s just us, you know. I’ve already cast the usual charms.”

Swain glanced at the door, ensuring that servant was no longer there. “You can never be to safe.” He gestured to Beatrice, and the raven flew from his shoulder. Swain’s hardened mask faded, allowing his emotions to show. “I hope you have good information, Deceiver.”

LeBlanc bowed, “Of course. First, know that our guest is still under the influences of my charms. He’s not going to be a threat anytime soon. Second, our plans for Demacia are going smoothly. Doubt is beginning to spread among the citizens, especially with the debacle of Kalamanda. It won’t be long before their reputation with the Council is going to affect their stance overall.”

“Excellent,” Swain smiled.

“However, there is a third piece of news,” LeBlanc frowned.

A scowl crossed Swain’s smile. “I don’t like unforeseen elements. What is it?”

“Graves has… made allies,” she stated. “On my last visit to Bilgewater, keeping tabs on our favorite exile, she was approached by Graves, and the two left for Ionia last week. My sources say they arrived in Bilgewater again today, with Yasuo in tow.”

Swain grimaced. “What game is he playing at? Riven and Yasuo? How did he manage  to get those two to not fight each other on sight?”

“I do not know,” LeBlanc answered.

“Then find out!” A fist slammed through a nearby table, shattering it. Splinters peppered LeBlanc’s calm face.

“As you wish,” she sighed. A quick motion caught Swain’s eye. Beatrice swooped in and whispered into his ear. Breathing heavily, he put on his neutral mask and stepped into the hallway. The servant boy tried to run, but a swift gesture caused talons to sprout from the ground and hold him in place. Swain turned the boy to face him.

“How much did you hear?” Swain quietly asked. The boy gulped, avoiding Swain’s gaze. “I thanked the late General Du Couteau for giving you to me. You have served me well in the years since his passing, but I always wondered where you were running off to periodically.”

Swain leaned in closer and begain whispering in a bizarre and demonic language. The servant’s face contorted in horror as he began thrashing against his bonds. Swain’s body rippled as his human guise disappeared. A scream of terror echoed through the citadel’s halls and was immediately silenced.


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