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The Redemption of Jericho Swain
Chapter 7: Almost there
“So how exactly are we going to convince the others to let him come along?”
“We could use his armor to disguise him, and say he’s a friend of mine.”
“No dice. They’d recognize his voice...unless we had him gargle salt water for an hour straight!”
“But that would only be temporary...That’s why we gotta make him gargle salt water every few hours, so that his voice remains mangled and mutilated beyond recognition.”
Swain frowned as the debate between the two continued, becoming more and more far-fetched as Riven and Rainbow Dash tried to think of ways into tricking their friends into letting Swain come along. After the suggestion of disguising him as a giant suitcase came up for about the fifth time, he cleared his throat to gain the attention of the two in front of him. “I do not mean to sound contrary, but perhaps it would be best if we were truthful. I have already explained my reasons for being here to you. Surely with your assistance I can make the rest of your group see reason.”
“Still not quite sure if this counts as reason,” Rainbow Dash muttered under her breath as she rolled her eyes. “I think that he should probably stay here while we go to the shipyard though. At least that way we could have some time to talk with the others a little before having someone who almost got us killed shoved in their faces.”
Riven nodded. “Yeah, softening them up first will probably be a good idea. Your group doesn’t exactly seem like the grudge-holding type, anyway.”
Rainbow Dash shrugged. “It’s probably also a good thing that Rarity isn’t with them yet. She’s still a bit saddlesore about having to be in the middle of a fight. Complained for two days straight about having to wash the grime from her coat.”
Riven finished securing a pauldron to her shoulder and motioned toward the door. “We should get going. They should arrive not long after us, and we want to get them off the streets as fast as possible. Swain, wait here, and don’t touch any of my stuff.” Swain rolled his eyes as the pair exited, leaving him to his thoughts.
- - - -
An excited yordle gibbered in the background of the room Pinkie was waiting in. She didn’t understand even half of what he was saying, even with the weird translation thing going on in her head for some reason. The yordle’s companion, a relatively dour individual, at least by yordle standards, was trying to question the safety of using a live subject for their creation’s maiden run. The former was assuring him that he and his colleague in Demacia had run all of the appropriate equations already, and now that their kind visitor had found the source of their power problems(a wrench that someone had absentmindedly let fall into the machinery), it was only fair to repay her by helping her reunite with her friends. Pinkie turned to the pair, suppressing a faint twitch in her left hand. “Don’t worry guys, I have a good feeling about this one. Nothing’s going to go wrong with this one, I just know it.”
The more serious yordle sighed. “Very well, very well...If you’re sure you want to go through with this mutilation of the scientific method, it’s your choice. Maybe we’ll all be remembered as the ones who mechanized one of the most popular Summoner tricks after this. Start up the Portal-Opening Relocation Transmitter!”
Mechanics and engineers in the Yordle Academy of Science sprung into action. Pinkie had been wandering Bandle City the previous day, following a series of almost premonitory sensations in her limbs that felt like they were drawing her to the building, where she could happen to trip over a pipe and dislodge a misplaced wrench. At the very least, it was a good indicator that even here, her Pinkie Sense still functioned. Unlike a previously exasperated Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie had never tried to study or quantify the oddly helpful sensations that would often make sure that she was in the right place at the right time, though the most reasonable explanation that she had heard was some sort of genetic anomaly caused by a unicorn in the earth pony’s lineage. Pinkie just preferred to chalk it up to one of life’s little blessings. Life hadn’t been shy with blessing her in the past, so why should something like a little bit of premonition surprise her?
“Communication has been established with Demacia. Power is stable in the hextech converter. We’ll be ready in less than a minute, once the mana-powered containment barrier stabilizes.” More technobabble from the yordles. Pinkie couldn’t really understand anything that most yordles said, either being too scientific or full of so many odd turns of phrase and non-sequiturs that even Pinkie found herself baffled most of her time in Bandle City. Eccentricity seemed to be the trademark of the yordle species. Pinkie decided she would miss this place.
“You’re up, Pinkie. Remember, when it turns blue, step into the portal, and if all goes well, you’ll be talking with your friend in Demacia today.” Pinkie nodded, and spread a round of hugs and thank-yous to all of her new yordle friends, wishing them happiness and parties aplenty in their futures. With a hop, skip, and a jump, Pinkie bounded through the blue gateway in front of her.
- - - -
Swain was still human at heart, even if he did his best to conceal it, and like most humans he had a curious heart. It was for that reason that while he stayed true to Riven’s request not to touch any of her personal belongings, he still found himself compelled to wander about, taking note of the torn and faded decorations. Like most homes, this one told Riven’s life story in bits and pieces, from the broken pieces of war equipment to the Noxian flags that had been salvaged from various battlefields. Swain was already aware of Riven’s story of Noxus’ fall from what she termed as ‘honor’, and how her comrades-in-arms had died to the chemical weapons that Swain had authorized the chemist known as Singed to use. Perhaps it had been a miscalculation on his part. Usually, such a horrific and unthinkable fate would break the spirit of a people, ending their resistance soon after. Some people could not understand that one so-called ‘atrocity’ could actually save lives in the long run. Not even the Master Tactician himself could have predicted how staunch the Ionian resistance was, and how his efforts only galvanized the Ionians. Swain felt no guilt though. He knew that people like him were rare, able to do whatever it took to reach his goal. Labels like monster, betrayer, and murderer meant nothing to him. He’d become whatever it took to reach his future.
His future...and what a glorious future it would be. Noxus would reign supreme in an uncontested era of peace and prosperity. The road would be bloody and long, but Swain knew in his heart that it was quicker than the methods of world peace that others were pursuing, and by virtue of that, his method would eventually pay dividends in time saved in bringing about peace to Valoran. With him at Noxus’ helm, he’d be able to transition Noxus from the state of fighters to a more well-rounded entity when they no longer needed so many soldiers. The other city-states wouldn’t just go along with his plans, no. They had to have proof that Noxus was strong enough to lead them all into a better future. Riven’s reforms were necessary for this purpose, as Noxus needed to be strong in all ways, not just one. For Valoran’s sake as much as Noxus’ or his own, he’d have to break the world apart and remake it in a manner that wouldn’t fail as catastrophically as it had in the past.
Swain’s eyes passed over a crude portrait of Swain’s deceased friends. They didn’t realize how great the cause they died for was, and neither did Riven. Swain wanted peace as much as any of them, but he knew that only a lasting peace would do. History would forgive him for all that he had done if he succeeded. Monster was the label given to those who fell short after wagering the lives of others. Swain was better than that though. He would succeed, and he would be known as a bringer of peace. They would come in from all over the world to see Valoran’s harmony, and Swain would be there at the helm to show them the wonders he had wrought for his people.
Still...he couldn’t help but rest his eyes on the portrait a few minutes longer. Greatness didn’t have much time for camaraderie, and Swain had known since he was small that he was destined for greatness. A single-minded focus had guided him from the bottom to the top. By his own merits he had become Grand General. It wasn’t just for his sake though, it was for everyone, and it was for the good of everyone that he must forsake such petty bonds. It was for the greater good.
Swain gathered his composure, nothing that Nightmare had been oddly silent during his contemplations, and felt compelled to wonder how much of his thought process his guest could read. It wouldn’t do for Nightmare to catch him being this sentimental. Swain had to remain as cool and calm as ever. He would assist this group, and prove his worth. The goodwill garnered from such an endeavor might pay off in the long run, and there wasn’t really much risk to it. No reason not to. It was for the greater good, after all.
- - - -
Rainbow Dash really wasn’t the group-hug type. As such, she wasn’t prepared for the onslaught that fell upon her the moment her friends lunged off of the airship. Riven’s greeting was a little more subtle, consisting of a nod from Kassadin and a brief pat on the shoulder from Ezreal. After the former group took a moment to extricate themselves from the awkward pile that their hug had collapsed into, Riven cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention. “Welcome to Noxus. It isn’t much to look at, I know, but it has its own peculiar charm to it. That being said, we should get moving. The streets aren’t safe when it is dark.”
Rainbow Dash prodded at Applejack, Fluttershy, and Twilight in turn. “So what have you guys been up to? I haven’t heard a peep since I talked to that guy from the League Embassy the day that I got here.”
“Twi’s just been gathering all of us,” Applejack said. “Ah landed in this place called Zaun. Met some nice people there, if a little strange. The air was a bit off though. Ah didn’t really get to stay long enough to see much of it, to be honest.”
“Piltover was...nice...” Fluttershy nodded. “Ezreal was very helpful, and he showed me around Piltover. They have magic and machines here I never would have imagined... It was much better than Zaun.”
“Yeah, I have all sorts of ideas to tell Princess Celestia about when we get back!” Twilight smiled at the prospect of a long, detailed conversation with her mentor about the wonders of hextech and all that she had seen here. “Maybe I can even take a few books when we manage to get back.”
“...We do have a plan for getting back, right?” Rainbow Dash frowned. “I don’t wanna be stuck here forever.”
“Of course! Nasus is at the Institute of War right now lobbying for our cause. If he can’t persuade them, I don’t know who can.” Twilight gave Rainbow Dash her most assuring smile. “There’s absolutely nothing to worry about.” Ezreal and Kassadin pointedly said nothing, and Riven coughed as she muttered under her breath. “What did you say, Riven, I didn’t quite catch that?” Twilight Sparkle said, oblivious to the reactions of the three champions.
“Oh, uh, I was just gonna say that me and Rainbow Dash kinda have a guest waiting for us back home... You see, not long before you arrived, I got a knock on the door, and, uh, Swain was there. He wanted to travel with us due to a string of complicated circumstances, and in exchange for some help that only he could give, I kinda said yes. I know he’s got a bad record, but there’s really nobody el-”
Riven’s speech faltered and stopped as Twilight raised her hand. “Riven, he’s probably wronged you more than any of us, and if you find it, for whatever strange reason, a good idea to bring him along...well, I’m willing to trust your judgment after all that you’ve done for us. I’d be a pretty poor friend if I didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt in circumstances that I don’t think I’m fully able to comprehend. Unless he does anything to hurt me or my friends, he’s free to come, right girls?” Fluttershy and Applejack nodded in agreement. “Of course, if he does happen to slip up, he’s out. We just can’t risk too much on him right now.”
Riven nodded. “Thank you for understanding. I hope that this is something that none of us will regret. To be honest, I’m still not sure of his motives, but he’s my best chance for reforming Noxus. Time will tell, I guess. Also, right before your zeppelin arrived, a League messenger reached us. Apparently, we’ll be skipping the trip to Bandle City.”
- - - -
“Hi Rarity!” Rarity squeaked in surprise, and tumbled into a rack of fabrics, causing Pinkie Pie to flinch. “Oooh, are you okay?”
Rarity sputtered and huffed for a moment before catching her breath. “I-what...I mean, I’m fine, Pinkie. What in Celestia’s name are you doing here? I thought you were across the continent!”
Pinkie took a deep breath, and Rarity instantaneously regretted her question the moment Pinkie’s barrage hit her. “Well you see I landed in this cool city full of short furry things called Yordles that were really nice and we had parties and everyone was happy but then I found a fancy university type thing where some of them were working and then I found a wrench with my face and accidentally fixed the portal thingy they’d been working on and they were so happy that they had to throw another party and offered to send me here with their portal thingy where I met another yordle with a complicated H-name and then he sent me to the League Embassy and then they sent me to you and now I’m here!” Pinkie finally stopped, winded.
It took a few moments for Rarity’s brain to catch up to Pinkie’s words. “So...you managed find some...yordles...who let you use their magical teleportation device...and now you’re here?”
Pinkie nodded excitedly. “Yep yep! Also my Pinkie Sense still works and you look really pretty as a human. I like having hands ‘cause they’re so great at grabbing things, I mean using my mouth was okay, but kinda icky. I mean, one time I grabbed a bucket of paint with my mouth while I was trying to help Applejack paint her barn...”
Rarity couldn’t help but tune Pinkie out as she went into full-rant mode. ‘Well, this makes a little part of our trip simpler. I hope the others are doing well though. The newspapers here say that one of the people they are travelling with is a criminal now. I hope they get here soon.’
“-and then the unicorn doctors pumped my stomach again!” Pinkie finished, completely unaware that she was being ignored.
“Yes, yes, that’s wonderful Pinkie.” Rarity inwardly flinched. ‘If only for my sanity, I hope they get here soon.’
- - - -
Nasus was frustrated as only one who has dealt with a true bureaucracy can be. He had already spent several days wrestling with the Institute of War on the matter of the six Equestrians who had been pulled from their homeworld, but the he had still made no progress on securing any further resources to send them home. Hours of paperwork to file his audience request with the Department of Champion Relations, a full day to sit waiting in a room only to be told he his request had to be transferred to their researchers, but only after he had to make an appointment with the High Council of Equity to authorize the usage of the Institute of War’s resources for a task completely unrelated to world peace. It was for the latter of those appointments that Nasus was waiting with rapidly thinning patience, though he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to hear their answer.
He hadn’t spoken to the High Council of Equity since had first been ripped from his homeworld, in the early days of the League of Legends. Back then, no city-states had placed much faith in the new construct, only bothering with it in the first place because it was backed by the most powerful magicians in Valoran. Even the High Council of Equity, composed of the three most powerful Summoners in existence, couldn’t convince city-states to devote their best fighters to the League’s cause though. Thus, until the League had proven itself in the eyes of its constituents, Summoners had looked across worlds to find fighters for their creation. Out of the original forty champions that had first gathered at the birth of the League, six had been drawn from other worlds to help pad the numbers. Nasus had been one of these, and it had been for the sake of creating a peace that had been so elusive on his homeworld that he had joined their cause. Although he could admire the League’s single-minded nature, at times like this, it was more of a hindrance than a help. Even so, it was Nasus’ hope that his history with the founding of the League of Legends that would give him enough pull to request help this once, as he had never asked for League intervention on any other matter besides that of his brother, Renekton.
A female voice sounded out into the lobby that Nasus was currently seated in. “Nasus, Curator of the Sands.” Nasus stood, and entered the adjoining room.
The office of the High Council of Equity was lavish enough to fit its membership. A thick, lush carpet painted the floor with a deep crimson, and the walls were decorated with expertly painted portraits of various important figures in the League’s history. A few hundred years ago, Nasus would have been uncomfortable with such a display of wealth, but now, understanding that like most of their displays, this was just another method of intimidation to draw attention away from how fragile peace really was, he could only feel a slight amount of pity for Valoran.
The High Council of Equity itself, composed of High Councilors Vessaria Kolminye, Kiersta Mandrake, and the relatively recent appointment that was Heywan Relivash, stood before him, trying their best to look important despite the fact that Nasus towered several feet over all of them. Each one had overly ornate robes and perfectly maintained appearances and composure, though they weren’t bothering with their hoods this time, he noted. The head of the council, Vessaria, stepped forward. “Welcome, Nasus. We haven’t had the pleasure of an audience since your brother was captured. I must say, your words in his defense were quite...stirring. We’ve read the paperwork, but would like to hear it directly from you. What brings you here?”
Nasus took a breath, and gathered his composure. “As you are aware of, due to the incompetence of a set of six Summoners who sought to perform an unauthorized variant of the standard ritual, myself and five others were pulled into another world. During the course of our stay in this world, we met and befriended some of the locals, who assisted us in returning to Runeterra. However, without any proper knowledge of the spell that sent us here, it appears that the locals who constructed the spell that returned us could not perfect it, and as a result, were pulled to Runeterra with us when we returned. Although we are eternally grateful that the Institute of War has seen fit to assist us in gathering the scattered locals, this still leaves the problem of their return home, as we no longer have access to the artifacts that powered their version of the spell. Upon the premise that the Institute of War is indirectly responsible for their predicament, I wish to appeal the decision not to devote any more of its resources to the safe return of these six to their proper location.”
Vessaria nodded. “Yes, this is what your written appeal stated. Unfortunately, we cannot accept your appeal. You’re perfectly aware of the petty politics that go on between the Summoners and Emissaries of the League. I could present your case to the General Assembly when we next gather, but I honestly doubt that it would have enough support to pass through, and as you’ve gone out of your way to avoid the more political aspects of the League, I just don’t think you have enough pull to sway enough people to your cause. I’m sorry, Nasus, I truly am. Unless you can gather enough support from the General Assembly, I can’ just go behind their backs and give you what you need.”
Nasus sighed. “I...understand.” There was a slight pause. “Among these locals is a magical prodigy, and a flyer capable of breaking the sound barrier in her natural form, among other talents. Appropriately prepared, they could prove potent on the Fields of Justice.”
Vessaria smiled. “There is no stipulation to how long a champion must retain their position. After judgment and approval, any champion is free to use their capabilities on the Fields of Justice to gather support for their causes in the General Assembly. Judgments are unbiased, of course, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as the last two magical prodigies we accepted weren’t combat trained at all. Is there anything else we can help you with, then?”
Nasus allowed himself a smile. “I believe that will be all, High Councilor. Thank you for your time.”
- - - -
Princess Luna’s voice boomed through the castle, resounding with authority but laced with urgency. Guards swarmed like ants through Canterlot Castle, each with one task embedded in their minds. “Search everywhere. Mobilize the entire Royal Guard! Find her! Search from Ponyville to Manehattan to the Everfree Forest if you have to!” Luna’s voice lowered to a whisper. “Please, just find her. Find my sister. Find Celestia.”