Xin Zhao

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Xin Zhao
Xin ZhaoSquare.png
General Information
TitleThe Seneschal of Demacia
Release DateJuly 13th, 2010
Cost1350 BE 585 RP
PrimaryFighter
SecondaryAssassin
Statistics

Health
570 (+ 92)

HP Regen
8 (+ 0.7)

Mana
273.8 (+ 35)

Mana Regen
7.256 (+ 0.45)

Movespeed
345

Attack Dmg
66 (+ 3)

Attack Spd
0.645 (+ 3.5%)

Range
175

Armor
35 (+ 3.5)

Magic Resist
32.1 (+ 1.25)

Lore

For outdated and now non-canon lore entries, click here.
  • Biography
  • Story #1
  • Story #2
Xin Zhao is a resolute warrior loyal to the royal family of Demacia. Once condemned to the fighting pits of Noxus, he survived countless gladiatorial bouts. It was not until he faced the forces of King Jarvan III in battle that he decided to relinquish his past life, in favor of serving what he saw as a more honorable cause. Armed with his favored three-talon spear, Xin Zhao now fights for his adopted kingdom, audaciously challenging any foe, no matter the odds.

Rumored to have never lost in one-on-one combat, Xin Zhao spent much of his life fighting an uphill battle. Some of his earliest memories are of the Viscero, an Ionian fishing boat he served aboard off the coast of Raikkon. A diligent cabin boy, he obeyed his elders’ every request—from cleaning grimy decks to fixing tangled nets—and enjoyed a peaceful existence… until the day they unknowingly ventured too deep into foreign waters.

A pair of privateer ships from Noxus chased down the smaller vessel. Their commander cited the glory of the empire as he boarded, claiming the Viscero and its crew as his rightful property. They were mostly ageing fishermen, unfit for military service, but they would be taken back to Noxian territory regardless.

After enduring a tough journey across the open ocean, Xin Zhao found himself in a strange new land. There was no delicate beauty in the waters here, no magic in the trees. Imposing gateways and fortified stone walls unlike anything he had ever seen lined the streets, and the people were crammed into every available inch of space. He learned this was the capital of Noxus, and it was from here that a man known as “Darkwill” ruled the vast empire. Separated from the rest of the Viscero’s crew, and with no means of returning home, Xin Zhao entered the service of the man who had taken him prisoner.

His skill with a spear did not go unnoticed, and soon he was promised a better life—with meals served on plates—in exchange for his martial prowess. Noxus celebrated strength, and his patron deemed him to be a strong fighter.

Having nothing to lose, the young man accepted. He shed his ragged clothes for crude armor, and entered the Reckoning arenas.

Truly, this was a strange form of entertainment. Mighty warriors, known by even mightier titles, fought each other before ravenous crowds, who cheered for displays of skill and showmanship as often as they did for blood. Xin Zhao, taking the name “Viscero”, was catapulted into success. His bouts soon filled the seats of every arena… and also the pockets of his sponsors. In only a few short years, Viscero became a celebrated name—one that audiences adored, and other Reckoners came to fear.

But this good fortune did not last.

Beyond the distractions of the Reckoner circuit, the empire faced difficult times. Hostile nations encroached upon its territories, provoking rebellion all along the Noxian frontier. It was rumored that Darkwill and his advisors had offered a fortune in gold for the private release of mercenaries, prisoners, and Reckoners alike, to be conscripted into the empire’s warhosts. With little more than a handshake, Xin Zhao and his fellows were bought out, and placed on a transport ship heading west.

Here, at the coastal fortress of Kalstead, the names and reputations of even the most well-known Reckoners counted for little. They were hurled into battle against the elite forces of King Jarvan III of Demacia, who was determined to curb Noxian influence on Valoran… and Xin Zhao quickly learned that war was unlike any arena duel.

While many of the former Reckoners deserted in the face of inevitable defeat, Xin Zhao held his ground, staining his spear with the blood of hundreds. When the king’s Dauntless Vanguard—some of whom were silently impressed by his skill—finally surrounded him, still he refused to run. Xin Zhao stood tall, welcoming his execution.

However, Jarvan thought differently. Unlike the arena crowds, the king of Demacia took no pleasure in needless killing. He granted the defeated Noxians their freedom, if they would swear to leave Kalstead in peace. Surprised by this show of mercy, Xin Zhao thought about what awaited him back in Noxus. He could return to a society where his life had meant little beyond the gold he earned for his patrons… or he could fight for those who embodied the virtues to which he, himself, aspired.

Compelled by honor, he knelt before Jarvan III, pledging himself to the king’s service.

In the decades since, Xin Zhao has proven his loyalty time and again. As a seneschal of the royal household, he acts not only as bodyguard and advisor to his friend and master, but also to the king’s son—the young Prince Jarvan, who will one day inherit the crown. Xin Zhao’s path to becoming a Demacian may have been unusual, and yet he never falters in his commitment to the kingdom and its ideals. This is not from a sense of duty, he reasons, but by choice.

"Death is inevitable. One can only avoid defeat."

- Xin ZhaoSquare.png Xin Zhao

AFTERMATH
AFTERMATH 1.jpg

The first rays of dawn brushed the rooftops of the Great City, turning pale stone to gold. The air was still, and the only sounds filtering up to the high garden terraces on the east side of the citadel were the gentle chorus of morning birds and the hushed murmur of the waking city below.

Xin Zhao sat cross-legged upon a stone dais, hands resting upon his spear, laid across his lap. He stared down across the lower garden tiers, over the battlements and out across Demacia’s capital beyond. Watching the sun rise over his adopted homeland normally brought him peace… but not today.

His cloak was charred and splattered with blood, and his armor dented and scratched. Strands of his iron-gray-streaked hair—no longer the full inky black of his youth—hung wild over his face, having escaped his topknot. Under normal circumstances he would have already bathed, washing away the sweat, blood, and stink of fire. He would have sent his armor to the battlesmiths for repair, and secured himself a new cloak. Appearances mattered, particularly as the seneschal of Demacia.

But these were far from normal circumstances.

The king was dead.

He was the most honorable man Xin Zhao had ever met, and he loved and respected him above all others. He was oath-sworn to protect him… and yet Xin Zhao had not been there when he was needed most.

He took a deep, wracking breath. The weight of his failure threatened to crush him.

The mage uprising the day before had taken the whole city by surprise. Xin Zhao had been wounded in the running battles as he fought to make his way back to the palace, but he felt nothing. For hours, he’d sat here, alone, letting the cold of the stone seep into his bones as the shroud of grief and shame and guilt descended upon him. The palace guards—those that hadn’t been killed in the attack—had left him to his misery, keeping clear of the tiered garden where he sat in silence through the hours of darkness. Xin Zhao was grateful for that small mercy. He didn’t know if he could cope with the accusation in their eyes.

The sun reached him, finally, like the light of judgment, forcing him to squint against its glare.

He sighed deeply, steeling himself. He pushed himself to his feet, and took one final glance across the city he loved, and the garden that had always before brought him solace. Then he turned, and walked back toward the palace.

Many years ago, he had made a promise. Now he intended to keep it.


Lifeless and hollow, Xin Zhao felt like a wraith haunting the location of its demise. Death would have been preferable. Falling while protecting his lord would at least have been honorable.

He drifted along corridors of the palace that seemed suddenly cold and lifeless. The servants he saw did not speak, shuffling along in shocked silence, their eyes wide. The guards he passed wore mournful expressions. They saluted, but he looked down. He did not deserve their acknowledgment.

Finally he stood before a closed door. He reached out to knock, but paused. Did his hand tremble? Cursing his weakness, he rapped sharply on the solid oak, then stood to attention, planting the butt of his spear sharply to the floor. The sound echoed along the corridor. For a long, drawn-out moment, he remained motionless, staring at the door, waiting for it to open.

A pair of patrolling palace guards turned a corner and marched past him, armor clanking. Shame kept him from looking at them. Still, the door remained shut.

“I believe High Marshal Crownguard is in the North Ward, my lord seneschal,” said one of the guards. “Overseeing increased security.”

Xin Zhao sighed inwardly, but gritted his teeth and nodded his thanks to the guard.

“My lord…” said the other guard. “No one blames you for—”

“Thank you, soldier,” Xin Zhao said, cutting him off. He didn’t want their pity. The pair saluted, and moved on their way.

Xin Zhao turned and marched down the corridor in the direction the guards had come, toward the northern wing of the palace. It was no reprieve that the High Marshal, Tianna Crownguard, was not in her office. It merely drew out this matter.

He walked through a hall hung with pennants and banners, pausing briefly beneath one of them—a standard depicting the white-winged sword of Demacia on a field of blue. It had been woven by the king’s late mother and her handmaidens, and even though almost a third of it had been destroyed by fire, it was a work of astounding beauty and artistry. It had fallen at the battle of Saltspike Hill, but King Jarvan himself had led the charge to reclaim it, Xin Zhao at his side. They’d cut their way through hundreds of fur-clad Freljordian berserkers to reach it, and Xin Zhao had been the one to lift it high, even as flames licked at its embroidery. The sight of the reclaimed standard had turned the tide that day, rallying the Demacians, and securing an unlikely victory. Jarvan had refused to allow it to be repaired on its safe return to the palace. He wanted all who looked upon it to remember its history.

Xin Zhao passed a small room, a remote library in a little-used corner of the palace that was one of the king’s favorite places to spend his evenings. It was his place of escape, where he could get away from the fussing of servants and nobles. Xin Zhao had spent many long nights here with the king, sipping fortified honey-wine, and discussing the finer points of strategy, politics, and the now-distant memories of their youth.Jarvan was ever the stoic, stern leader in public, yet here, in this inner sanctum—particularly in the early hours, when they were deep in their cups—he would laugh until tears ran down his face, and speak with passion about his hopes and dreams for his son.

Fresh pain wracked Xin Zhao as he realized he’d never hear his friend laugh again.

Without having noticed it, Xin Zhao found himself passing by the halls of training. He’d probably spent more hours there over the last twenty years than anywhere else. That was his real home, where he felt most himself. There, he’d spent untold hours training and sparring with the king. That was where, to the king’s amusement and delight, his son had adopted Xin Zhao into the family. Where Xin Zhao had taught the young prince to fight with sword, spear, and lance; where he’d consoled him, wiping away his tears and helping him back to his feet when he fell; where he’d laughed with him, and cheered his successes.

Thought of the prince struck him like a blade to the gut. Xin Zhao might have lost his dearest friend the previous day, but young Jarvan had lost his father. He’d already lost his mother in childbirth. He was now alone.

With a heavy heart, Xin Zhao made to walk on, but a familiar sound gave him pause: a blunted blade slamming against wood. Someone was training. Xin Zhao’s brow furrowed.

A sickening feeling grew in the pit of his stomach as he slipped through the heavy doors leading within.

At first he couldn’t see who was there. The arches and pillars around the edge of the vaulted room conspired to keep them obscured. The sound of sword strikes echoed loudly around him.

Rounding a cluster of pillars, he at last saw the prince hacking at a wooden practice dummy with a heavy iron training sword. He was covered in a sheen of sweat, and his chest was heaving with exertion. His expression was one of anguish, and he attacked wildly.

Xin Zhao paused in the shadows, heart aching to see the young prince so raw and hurt. He desperately wanted to go to him, to console him, and help him through this awful time, for the prince and his father were the closest Xin Zhao had ever had to family. But why would the prince want him here? He was the king’s bodyguard, and yet he lived while the king lay dead.

Hesitancy was not familiar to Xin Zhao, nor a feeling he was comfortable with. Not even in the Fleshing pits of Noxus had he ever second-guessed himself. Shaking his head, he turned to leave.

“Uncle?”

Xin Zhao cursed himself a fool for not having left immediately.

They were not blood relatives, of course, but the prince had started calling him uncle soon after Xin Zhao had come into the king’s service, twenty years earlier. Jarvan had been just a boy, and no one had corrected him. The king had been amused by it, at first, but over the years Xin Zhao had become as close as blood kin to the royal family, and he had watched over the king’s son as if he had been his own.

He turned slowly. Jarvan was a boy no longer, standing taller than Xin Zhao. His eyes were red-rimmed, and surrounded by dark rings. Xin Zhao guessed he was not the only one to have had no sleep.

“My prince,” he said, dropping to one knee and bowing his head low.

Jarvan didn’t say anything. He just stood there, looking down at Xin Zhao, breathing hard.

“My apologies,” said Xin Zhao, his head still lowered.

“For interrupting, or for not being there to protect my father when he was murdered?”

Xin Zhao glanced up. Jarvan glowered down at him, heavy training sword still in hand. He had no good way to answer, to say all that he felt.

“I failed him,” he said at last. “And I failed you.”

Jarvan stood for a moment longer before turning and striding to one of the many weapon racks arranged around the room.

“Rise,” Jarvan ordered.

As Xin Zhao did, the prince threw him a sword. He caught it reflexively in his off-hand, still holding his spear in his right. It was another training blade, heavy and blunted. Then Jarvan was coming at him, swinging hard.

Xin Zhao jumped backward, avoiding the blow.

“My lord, I don’t think this is—” he began, but his words were cut off as Jarvan lunged at him again, thrusting his sword at his chest. Xin Zhao batted it aside with the haft of his spear, and stepped back.

“My prince—” he said, but again Jarvan attacked, more furiously than before.

Two strikes came at him this time, one high, one low. Jarvan may have been using a training blade, but if those blows struck, they would break bone. Xin Zhao was forced to defend himself, deflecting the first with a side-step and an angled spear, the second with the blade of his own sword. The impact rang up his arm.

“Where were you?” snarled Jarvan, pacing around him.

Xin Zhao lowered his weapons. “Is this how you want to do this?” he said, in a quiet voice.

“Yes,” said Jarvan, his anger simmering, his sword held in a deathgrip.

Xin Zhao sighed. “A moment,” he said, and moved to put his spear on a rack. Jarvan waited for him, hand clenching and unclenching on the hilt of his sword.

As soon as Xin Zhao returned to the center of the room, Jarvan attacked. He came in a rush, grunting with effort. There was little finesse to the strikes, but fury lent him strength. Xin Zhao turned those blows aside, using Jarvan’s power against him, not wishing to meet the heavy blows directly.

At any other time he would have berated the prince for his poor form—he was thinking only of attack, and leaving himself open for ripostes and counter-strikes—but Xin Zhao would not interrupt the prince’s justified anger. Nor would he take advantage of the gaps in his defense. If the prince needed to beat him bloody, then so be it.

“Where—were—you?” Jarvan said between strikes.


“I should have done this long ago,” the king said, not looking up from his desk, where he sat penning a letter.

Every dip of the quill was an irate stab, and he wrote in fast, furious bursts.

It was rare to see to see the king’s emotions so close to the surface.

“My lord?” Xin Zhao said.

“We have been so fixated on that which we fear,” the king said, still not looking up, though he did pause from his angry scratching for a moment. “We’ve been fools. I’ve been a fool. In trying to protect ourselves, we’ve created the very enemy we sought to protect ourselves from.”


Xin Zhao blocked a heavy blow aimed at his neck. The force of the strike drove him back a step.

“You have nothing to say?” demanded Jarvan.

“I should have been with your father,” he answered.

“That is no answer,” snarled Jarvan. He turned away abruptly, tossing his sword aside with a sharp, echoing clang. For a moment, Xin Zhao hoped the prince was done, but then he retrieved a different weapon from its place upon one of the racks.

Drakebane.

Now the prince leveled the lance toward him, his expression hard and unflinching.

“Get your spear,” he said.

“You are not armored,” protested Xin Zhao.

Training weapons could easily break limbs, but the slightest mistimed parry with a combat blade could be lethal.

“I don’t care,” Jarvan said.

Xin Zhao bowed his head. He bent to retrieve Jarvan’s discarded training sword, and placed it carefully upon a rack, along with his own. Reluctantly, his heart heavy, he retrieved his spear and moved back out into the open area in the center of the hall.

Without a word, Jarvan attacked.


“I’m not sure I follow, my lord,” said Xin Zhao.

The king paused, looking up for the first time since Xin Zhao’s arrival. In that moment he looked suddenly old. His forehead was deeply lined, and his hair and beard had long since gone to gray. Neither of them were young men anymore.

“I blame myself,” said King Jarvan. His eyes were unfocused, staring off into empty space. “I let them have too much power. It never sat right with me, but their arguments were convincing, and they had the backing of the council. I see now I was wrong to have ignored my own judgment. With this letter, I am commanding the mageseekers to halt their arrests.”


With a deft flick, Jarvan extended Drakebane toward Xin Zhao. The legendary weapon’s haft almost doubled in length, its lethal blades slicing blindingly fast toward Xin Zhao’s neck.

The seneschal swayed aside, deflecting the deadly strike with a circular turn of his spear, careful the blades did not hook his own weapon.

Even in the brutal contests of the Fleshing, Xin Zhao had never seen a weapon like Drakebane. In truth, the secret of how to fight with it had been lost in the reign of the first kings of Demacia, and in unskilled hands it was as deadly to its wielder as to the enemy. As such, for centuries it had been little more than ceremonial, an icon of the ruling family. However, when the prince was still just a boy, he had dreamed of fighting with it, like the heroes of old he idolized, and so Xin Zhao had promised to teach him when he was ready.

Jarvan leapt forward, bringing the lance down in a scything blow. Xin Zhao turned it aside, but the prince followed up instantly with a spinning strike that missed him by scant inches, the bladed tip slicing by his throat. Jarvan was not holding back.

Before Xin Zhao could teach the young prince how to wield the weapon, however, he had to master it himself. With the king’s approval, he began training to learn its secrets. Surprisingly light in the hand and perfectly balanced, it was a sublime weapon, created by a master at the peak of his abilities.

Forged in Demacia’s infancy by the renowned weaponsmith Orlon, the lance was a revered icon of Demacia, as much a symbol of its greatness as its towering white walls or the crown of the king. Wrought to defeat the great frostdrake Maelstrom and her progeny who had plagued the early settlers of Demacia in ages past, it had long been a symbol of the royal line.

For years, Xin Zhao had practiced with the lance every day before dawn. Only when he felt he understood it well enough had he begun to teach the teenage prince how to wield it.

Jarvan grunted with effort, lunging at Xin Zhao. The seneschal thought only of defense, stepping neatly away and always aware of his surroundings. His spear was a blur before him, knocking the lance from its intended course each time it came at him.

Young Jarvan had already been learning the uses of sword and spear and fist—as well as the more cerebral arts of military history and rhetoric—it was on his sixteenth birthday that he was finally presented with Drakebane by his father. He trained hard, sustaining countless self-inflicted injuries along the way to mastery, but he eventually fought with the weapon as if it were an extension of himself.

Jarvan pressed Xin Zhao hard, striking furiously. He gave the seneschal no respite, each attack blending seamlessly into the next. A foiled lunge became an upward, sweeping slash, which in turn came around in a pair of scything arcs, first in a low, disemboweling cut, then back across the throat. All were avoided by Xin Zhao, his body swaying from side to side, and his spear flashing to turn each strike aside.

Nevertheless, while Jarvan had long been Xin Zhao’s student, the prince was younger and stronger, and his tall frame gave him a greater reach. No longer was he an awkward aspirant; he’d been hardened by battle and training, and Jarvan’s skill with Drakebane now easily outstripped his own. Jarvan harried him mercilessly, forcing him to retreat with every step.

It took all of Xin Zhao’s considerable skill to remain unscathed… but it could not last.


The king looked down, reading over his letter. He let out an audible sigh.

“Had I the courage to do this earlier, perhaps this day’s disaster could have been averted,” he said.

He signed the letter, before dripping heated royal blue wax next to his name and stamping his personal seal into it. He blew on it, then held the letter up, shaking it lightly in the air to aid its cooling.

Satisfied the wax was dry, the king rolled the letter before sliding it into a cylindrical case of cured white leather, and sealing the lid.

He held it out to his seneschal.


Xin Zhao barely avoided a vicious slash, turning his face at the last moment. The jagged blades of Drakebane sliced across his cheek, drawing blood.

For the first time since they began, Xin Zhao wondered if the prince was actually trying to kill him.

There was a certain balance in dying to the son of the man he had failed to protect.

Jarvan slapped Xin Zhao’s spear aside with the butt of Drakebane and turned swiftly, bringing the weapon around in a tight arc, the blade seeking his neck.

It was a perfectly executed move, one that Xin Zhao had taught the prince himself. Jarvan’s footwork to set up the strike was sublime, and the initial hit to his weapon was weighted just enough to knock it aside, but not so hard that it slowed the final strike.

Even so, the seneschal could have blocked it. It would have been a close thing, but he trusted his speed—even tired as he was—to have ensured the strike did not land.

And yet, he made no move to do so. His will to fight was gone.

He lifted his chin ever-so-slightly, so that the strike would be true.

The blades of Drakebane hissed in. The blow was delivered with speed, skill, and power. It would slice deep, killing him almost instantly.

The killing blow stopped just as it touched Xin Zhao’s throat, drawing a series of blood-beads, but nothing more.

“Why will not you say where you were?” said Jarvan.

Xin Zhao swallowed. A warm trickle of blood ran down his neck. “Because I am at fault,” he said. “I should have been there.”

Jarvan held the blade at Xin Zhao’s throat for a moment longer, then stepped back. He seemed to wilt suddenly, all the fire and fury draining out of him, leaving just a grieving, lost son.

“My father ordered you away then,” he said. “And you do not wish to blame him for your absence.”

Xin Zhao said nothing.

“I’m right, am I not?” said Jarvan.

Xin Zhao sighed, and looked down.


Xin Zhao remained silent and unmoving. He eyed the sealed letter the king held out to him, but did not reach out to take it.

The king raised his eyebrows, and Xin Zhao finally accepted it.

“You wish me to give this to a runner, my lord?” he said.

“No,” said Jarvan. “I will trust its delivery only to you, my friend.”

Xin Zhao nodded gravely, and attached it to his belt.

“Who is it for?”

“The head of the mageseeker order,” said the king. He held up a finger. “And not to one of his lackeys, either. To him directly.”

Xin Zhao bowed his head. “It will be done, as soon as the streets are clear and the whereabouts of the escapee have been determined.”

“No,” said the king. “I want you to go now.”


“He could be so stubborn,” said Jarvan, shaking his head. “Once his mind was set, there was no changing it.”

“I should have been there,” said Xin Zhao, weakly.

Jarvan rubbed his eyes.

“And defy your king’s order? No, that’s not you, uncle,” said Jarvan. “What was it he had you doing?”


Xin Zhao frowned.

“My place is by your side, my lord,” he said. “I would not wish to leave the palace. Not today.”

“I want you to deliver that message before events worsen,” said the king. “It’s imperative that the mageseekers are reined in before this escalates. This has gone far enough.”

“My lord, I do not think it wise for me to—” Xin Zhao said, but the king cut him off sharply.

“This is not a request, seneschal,” he said. “You will deliver this decree. Now.”


“Delivering a letter,” said Jarvan, flatly. “That’s why he ordered you from his side?”

Xin Zhao nodded, and Jarvan let out a bitter laugh. “How very like him,” he said. “Always thinking of state matters. You know he missed my blade ceremony, on my fourteenth birthday, because of a meeting of the Shield Council. A meeting about taxation.”

“I remember,” said Xin Zhao.

“You delivered this letter, I take it?”

“No,” Xin Zhao said, shaking his head. “I turned as soon as I heard the bells. I made my way back to the palace as swiftly as I was able.”

“And ran into trouble in the streets, by the looks of it,” said Jarvan, indicating his battered appearance.

“Nothing that could not be dealt with.”

“Mages?” said Jarvan.

Xin Zhao nodded. “And others who had thrown their lot in with the murderer.”

“We should have executed them all,” hissed Jarvan.

Xin Zhao looked at the prince in alarm. He’d never heard him speak with such vitriol before. Indeed, he knew the prince had always been troubled by Demacia’s treatment of its mages. But that was before.

“I do not believe your father would share that view,” said Xin Zhao, in a measured voice.

“And they killed him,” snapped Jarvan.

There was nothing helpful for Xin Zhao to say, so he remained silent. That moment’s fire was extinguished within Jarvan almost immediately. Tears welled in his eyes, even as he tried to hold them back.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. In that moment, he was a boy again, scared and alone.

Xin Zhao stepped forward, dropping his spear, and took Jarvan in his arms, hugging him tightly. “Oh, my boy,” he said.

Jarvan cried then, deep wracking sobs that shook his whole body, and tears he had not yet shed now ran freely down Xin Zhao’s face as well.

They stood clinging to each other for a few more moments, held together by shared loss, then stepped apart. Xin Zhao turned away to pick up his fallen spear, allowing them both a moment to gather themselves.

When he turned back, Jarvan had thrown off his sweat-stained shirt, and was pulling on a long, white linen tunic emblazoned with a blue-winged sword. Already he looked more composed.

“Now you will do what you were born to do,” Xin Zhao said. “You will lead.”

“I don’t think I’m ready,” said Jarvan.

“No one ever does. At least, not the good ones.”

“But you will be with me, uncle. To help me.”

A coldness clawed at Xin Zhao’s heart. “I… regret that will not be possible,” he said.


Xin Zhao was conflicted. He was sworn to King Jarvan, and had never once defied an order from him, not in twenty years of service.

“My place is here, protecting you, my lord,” he said.

King Jarvan rubbed his eyes, looking suddenly tired.

“Your duty is to Demacia,” the king said.

“You are the king,” said Xin Zhao. “You are Demacia.”

“Demacia is greater than any king!” snapped Jarvan. “This is not up for debate. It is an order.”

Xin Zhao’s inner sense for danger was screaming, but his devotion to duty silenced it.

“Then it will be done,” he said.

With a bow, he turned and strode from the room.


“I made a promise, long ago,” said Xin Zhao. “If harm ever befell your father, my life was forfeit.”

“And how many times did you save my father’s life?“ said Jarvan, suddenly stern. In that moment he seemed so much like his father, in Xin Zhao’s eyes. “I personally witnessed you do so at least three times. I know there were others.”

Xin Zhao frowned.

“My honor is my life,” he said. “I could not live with the shame of going back on my word.”

“To whom did you make this pledge?”

“High Marshal Tianna Crownguard.”

Jarvan frowned.

“When you entered my father’s service, you pledged yourself to Demacia, did you not?” he said.

“Of course.”

“Your pledge was to Demacia.” said Jarvan. “Not my father. Not anyone else. Your duty to Demacia overrides all.”

Xin Zhao stared at the prince. He is so like his father.

“But what of the High Marshal?”

“I will deal with Tianna,” said Jarvan. “Right now, I need you to do your duty.”

Xin Zhao let out a breath that he didn’t realize he had been holding.

“Will you serve as my seneschal, as you served my father?” said Jarvan.

Xin Zhao blinked. Moments earlier he’d been certain Jarvan was going to execute him… and he didn’t feel that would have been unjustified.

He hesitated, his emotions in turmoil, his mind reeling.

“Xin Zhao… Uncle,” said Jarvan. “Our kingdom needs you. I need you. Will you do this? For me?”

Slowly, as if expecting Jarvan to change his mind at any moment, Xin Zhao dropped to one knee.

“It would be my honor… my king.”


Jarvan walked with Xin Zhao up through the palace, toward the council room. His father’s advisors—no, his advisors, Xin Zhao corrected himself—awaited.

Soldiers were everywhere. Demacia’s most elite battalion—the Dauntless Vanguard—had been brought in to supplement the palace guard, and they stood at every doorway, watchful and disciplined.

Jarvan’s expression was stern, his bearing regal. Only Xin Zhao had witnessed the outpouring of emotion down in the training room. Now, in front of the palace servants, the nobles, and the guard, he was in complete control.

Good, thought Xin Zhao. The people of Demacia need to see him strong.

Everyone they passed dropped to one knee, bowing their heads low. They continued on, striding purposefully.

Jarvan paused before the great council doors.

“One thing, uncle,” he said, turning to Xin Zhao.

“My lord?”

“The letter my father wanted you to deliver,” he said. “What happened to it?”

“I have it here,” said Xin Zhao. He loosened it from his belt, and handed the leather case over.

Jarvan took it, broke the case open, and unfurled the sheet of vellum within. His eyes flicked back and forth as he read his father’s words.

Xin Zhao saw Jarvan’s expression harden. Then he crushed the letter in both hands, twisting it as if he were wringing a neck, before handing it back.

“Destroy it,” Jarvan said.

Xin Zhao stared at him in shock, but Jarvan was already turning away. He nodded to the guards standing on either side, and the council doors were thrown open. Those seated at the long table within stood as one, before bowing low. Flames crackled in the ornate fireplace set against the south wall within.

There were a number of empty seats at the table. The king was not the only one who had fallen in the previous day’s attack.

Xin Zhao was left holding the crumpled letter, stunned, as Jarvan moved to the head of the table. He looked back at Xin Zhao, still standing in the door.

“Seneschal?” said Jarvan.

Xin Zhao blinked. At Jarvan’s right, High Marshal Tianna Crownguard stared at him, her gaze dangerously cold. On Jarvan’s other side, his gaze equally icy, was Tianna’s husband, the intended recipient of the king’s letter—the head of the mageseeker order. Xin Zhao’s gaze passed between them, then returned to Jarvan, who raised his eyebrows questioningly.

Without further pause, Xin Zhao strode into the room, and threw the letter into the flames.

Then he took his place, standing behind his ruler. He hoped none of the deep concern he suddenly felt was visible.

“Let us begin,” said Jarvan.

WHAT ONCE SAILED FREE
WHAT ONCE SAILED FREE 1.jpg

The prisoner stands tall, his ankles chained to a wooden post, his wrists bound together with coarse rope. Blood trickles down his cheeks onto his black Noxian tunic, leaving small red puddles by his bare toes. Above him, the sky paints patches of gray against blue, unsure of its true colors.

A fence of tall jagged stakes surrounds the prisoner. Nearby soldiers run from tent to tent. Their hurried steps kick up dust, leaving grime on their boots they will be sure to clean before they face their commanders. The prisoner knows this, having observed their disciplined behavior over the past days. It is unlike any he has ever seen.

Around the camp, bright navy banners ripple in the wind, displaying the image of a sword dividing two spread wings—the sigil of Demacia.

Not long ago these were the black and crimson banners of Noxus. The prisoner remembers his orders: to reclaim Kalstead for the glory of the empire.

He failed.

And he knows the consequences. War does not forgive failure. This is the truth he is prepared to accept. For now, he awaits his fate. The first time he was held prisoner, he lost his home. This time, he will lose even more.

He closes his eyes as more memories flood his mind. There were two men, he recalls. His master he knew—he had turned a lost boy taken from his home into a fighter fit for the Reckoner arenas. The other was a stranger, claiming to represent the empire’s best interests. After they shook hands, he was sent west, under the shadow of the Argent Mountains, to Kalstead.

There were no goodbyes, no well wishes. But, he was not alone. Others like him shared a name, “soldiers-of-misfortune” as they were called back in Noxus. Ragtag groups of fighters sent to deal with tasks unworthy of a veteran warband’s attention. Not many had a say in the matter, their masters too willing to sell their talents to the military for the right price.

“You don’t look like you’re from Noxus,” a voice calls out, breaking the prisoner’s moment of reflection.

He opens his eyes and sees a Demacian man standing outside the enclosure. His garb is a mix of navy and brown fabric covered by chainmail, and a shortsword hangs by his waist. He has the bearing of a leader, the prisoner decides, but a junior one.

“What’s your name?” the soldier calls.

The prisoner thinks. Will his answer decide his fate?

“Xin Zhao,” he replies, his voice rough and dry.

“What?”

“Xin. Zhao.”

“That doesn’t sound like a Noxian name,” the soldier wonders aloud. “Noxian names are tough, like… Boram Darkwill.” He says the two words with a shudder.

Xin Zhao does not reply. He doubts this conversation is worth having before his coming execution.

“Come along, shield-sergeant,” says another Demacian. The young officer’s severe look commands the sergeant’s attention. She wears silver armor with gold trim adorning her shoulder pauldrons. A cape of vivid blue falls down her back.

“Don’t bother conversing with Noxians,” she advises. “They do not share our virtues.”

The sergeant bows his head. “Yes, Sword-Captain Crownguard. But if I might ask…”

The captain nods.

“Why is this one being kept by himself?”

She glances at the prisoner, her blue eyes stern with contempt.

“This one ended more lives than the others.”


Xin Zhao wakes to the sound of horns. He sits in the mud kicking his numb feet at the damp soil. Pressing his back against the post, he snakes himself up to a standing position and sees the sergeant from the day before approach, accompanied by four others dressed in similar attire. They open the gate to the enclosure and the sergeant walks through first, carrying a tray holding a bowl of hot soup.

“Morning. I’m Olber, and this is my watch unit,” the sergeant says. “Here’s your breakfast, Zen Jaw.”

Xin Zhao watches him set the tray on the ground. Who knew someone could mispronounce two syllables so cruelly?

A Demacian guard cuts through the rope binding Xin Zhao’s wrists with practiced motions. The sergeant and the others stand by, their hands resting on the hilts of their swords.

“Well, go on and eat,” Olber says.

Xin Zhao picks up the bowl. “They sent five of you.”

“We do as the captain orders,” Olber explains. “She’s a Crownguard, after all. They protect the king himself.”

The guards nod along and turn to each other.

“Aye, her father saved the last Jarvan at Storm’s Fang,” one mentions.

“Which Jarvan was that?” another asks.

“Second. We’re on the third one now.”

“That’s King Jarvan the Third,” Olber interjects. “Your king. And mine. You oughta show some respect, given he personally rode out here with us.”

They think highly of their king, Xin Zhao notes. While the soldiers continue to banter, he drinks his soup, one sip at a time, as he listens to their conversation. They speak of how foolish the Noxians were to venture this far west, of how easy it was for them to come to Kalstead’s aid, and of how their triumph was one achieved in the name of justice.

We were sent here to die, Xin Zhao realizes. He grips the empty bowl so tightly it cracks, the wood coming apart in his hands.

The Demacians turn their attention. Olber looks at Xin Zhao. “Hands.”

Xin Zhao offers his palms facing upward.

“You sure took a beating,” Olber remarks, tying new rope around Xin Zhao's wrists. The guards gather around. They see scars everywhere, running like rivers up and down his skin. Xin Zhao follows their gaze. He can no longer tell which scars came from which match. There were so many that he fought, and so few he cared to remember.

“Those aren’t recent wounds,” one of the guards observes.

“You’re right,” Xin Zhao says. His voice, clear and strong, grabs their attention. For a moment, they stand still, looking at him like he is no longer just another prisoner.

“What’d you do back in Noxus?” Olber asks.

“I fought in the arenas,” Xin Zhao answers.

“A Reckoner!” a guard exclaims. “I’ve heard of you savages. They fight to the death in front of thousands!”

“I’ve never heard of no Reckoner named Zen Jaw,” another mutters.

“Maybe he wasn’t a good one? Maybe that’s why he’s here, all beaten and tied up?”

“Hold on,” Olber chimes in. “Don't you Reckoners use different names in the arena?”

Xin Zhao almost smiles. This Demacian is smarter than he lets on. It is known, even outside the empire, that Reckoners often choose inventive titles. Some opt for the extravagant. Others have something to hide. For Xin Zhao, it was to remember the life he had before it was taken away.

“Viscero,” a guard says, holding an unfurled piece of parchment. “That’s what the other Noxians called him.”

Olber snatches the parchment. He examines it. A few long seconds pass before he looks up at Xin Zhao. “You're the Reckoner.”

Silence. Thin streaks of sunlight cut through the gray sky.

“Viscero,” Olber repeats, his voice tinged with awe. “The one who never lost.”

The guards look to each other. Then, together, they stare at Xin Zhao, their eyes now lit with recognition.

“I know you!” says a guard.

“Didn't you beat a minotaur?” says another.

Olber raises a hand to halt the idle chatter. “Why'd you say your name was Zen Jaw?” he asks.

Xin Zhao sighs. “Once I became a Reckoner, there was no more Xin Zhao. There was only Viscero.” He looks down at his bound wrists, at his chained ankles, and then back at the Demacians. “In the time I have left, I’d rather live by my real name.”

“But what’s a famous Reckoner doing fighting Noxus’ border wars?” Olber asks again.

“I was bought out,” Xin Zhao replies, “by the military.” He finds explaining all this rather strange. For so long, he had assumed his final moments would pass by quickly, in the arena, by spear or sword—not with a hot meal and questions about his past.

Is this fate offering its last sympathies?

Olber appears troubled. “You didn't have a choice,” he says.

Xin Zhao shakes his head.

“You have family left in Noxus?”

Xin Zhao thinks for a moment, then shakes his head again. He wonders if he has any family at all, anywhere.

“Well, I guess you're off to a new beginning.” Olber nods at a guard who pulls out a key and starts unchaining Xin Zhao from his pole.

Xin Zhao tilts his head, curious. “What do you mean?”

Olber smiles. “Let’s get you dressed.”


Xin Zhao sits upright in the new tunic given to him. The Demacian fabric feels soft on his skin. He looks about the tent, counting the straw beds and the empty bowls of soup. Remarks of gratitude fill his ears. He recognizes the earthy voices. They come from others who, hours ago, were prisoners like him.

One by one, they rise from their beds and thank the healers who mended their wounds. Armed Demacians enter the tent. Xin Zhao watches the prisoners be escorted out. He knows them well, having marched alongside them to Kalstead. On their journey, they spent much of their time trying to best each other in individual feats of strength, with the victors celebrating their might and the defeated left in shame. Those especially vocal would boast aloud how many Demacian soldiers they planned to kill. That was before they came face to face with a real army.

There was no battle. Maybe the Noxian military would have fared better, with its legions and siege weaponry, but they were not the military. They were conscripts, untrained in the ways of formal combat, facing a unified kingdom. Within hours, Kalstead cheered for its saviors.

We were sent here to die, Xin Zhao reminds himself. And yet, as fate would have it, they still lived. Not by the will of Noxus, but by that of Demacia.

Fate flows like the four winds, his elders had once said, and no man can know its course until he sails it.

An old healer walks by. Her pale robe matches the others working in the tent. “How are you feeling, child?” she asks.

“I'm fine,” Xin Zhao replies. “Thank you.”

“Do not thank me. Thank the king. It was by his royal decree that all prisoners be cared for.”

“The third Jarvan?” This king, again. How can one man inspire so much?

“Yes, our great Jarvan the Third,” she corrects him. “He granted you the opportunity to begin anew. To find peace.”

Xin Zhao looks down at the floor with his hands folded. Viscero could always find a place in the arena. And elsewhere, the peoples of Valoran would embrace him for his strength, that much he is certain. As for his birthplace—the First Lands beyond the sea he has not seen for decades—it is as foreign to him now as any distant fantasy.

Where could he find peace? Would he want it?

No, his chance at peace died long ago, when he took his first life and was rewarded with an extension on his own.

Xin Zhao turns to the healer. “I have one question, if I may.”

“What is it, child?”

“This king of yours. Who is he?”

The healer chuckles. “Why don’t you see for yourself?”


Xin Zhao walks behind Olber with four guards surrounding him. As they trudge through the camp, he peers into the passing tents, seeing Demacian soldiers pack their belongings and captains plan for their next deployment. Rumors tell that somewhere, not a week’s march away, another battle against Noxus is imminent. Xin Zhao ponders if that is where these people will head, following a trail of turmoil, righting wrongs wherever they go. They seem to serve a higher calling, something stronger than strength, and perhaps more valuable.

He imagines how that might feel, to be so clear in your convictions you would sacrifice your own life for them. There were times in the arena when his life meant nothing. Now, it is worth an audience with a king.

“Looks like you’re the last one,” Olber says, stopping the escort and pointing ahead.

Xin Zhao follows the sergeant's finger and spots a tent larger than all the others. The same bright navy banners grace its roof. Guards in gleaming armor stand in parallel lines outside its entrance. He sees a man, bearing Noxian tattoos on his face and neck, shuffle out carrying a small bag. The man bows his head multiple times before he is led away by one of the guards, and immediately, another Demacian steps in to fill the empty space.

“That's the king's tent,” Olber says. “We are to stay here. You go in, kneel, accept the provisions granted to you by the king, and then we'll collect you.”

The sergeant smiles. “The king said once you're in front of him, you're a free man… but you’ll still need us when you’re out. Captain Crownguard runs this camp, and she’ll not have enemy combatants walk alone. Not ‘til they leave Kalstead for good.”

Xin Zhao gives a knowing nod, and heads toward the tent.

“The king welcomes Viscero!”

The voice that hails him is deep and proper. Xin Zhao walks forth. Once inside, he kneels on his right leg and bows his head low. The floor is covered in cloth embroidered with depictions of winged knights and helmed warriors.

“You may look up,” another voice comes. Xin Zhao lifts his head and identifies its source. It is a man, not much older than himself, sitting on a raised oaken chair. He wears radiant, gold-plated armor embellished with ebony spikes. Atop his head is a crown adorned with jewels. By his right hand lies a great steel lance, its edges sharp like the teeth of some magnificent beast.

This is their king, Xin Zhao realizes. His eyes linger on the man for a second longer, sensing the air of majesty about him, paired with a raw physical presence he had not expected.

To the king's left stands Sword-Captain Crownguard, just as stoic as when Xin Zhao first saw her.

To his right, dressed in a royal tunic is a little boy. He sits on an oaken chair of his own with his small leather boots dangling over the edge. It is impossible not to notice the king’s likeness in him, both having strong noses and square jaws. Two additional guards surround these three, each holding a spear pointing upward.

“Viscero is quite an unusual name,” King Jarvan III says. “What is its origin?”

Xin Zhao peers downward, wondering how he should respond.

“You will speak when the king addresses you,” the sword-captain commands.

“At ease, Tianna,” the king says with a wave of his hand. “He is surely shocked by the events of these past few days. We would be right to offer this man his time, would we not?”

The sword-captain opens her mouth only to close it without a word, choosing instead to give a curt nod.

“It is a reminder of my home,” Xin Zhao answers.

“Oh, is that so?” the king says, intrigued. “I have studied much of Noxus, yet I have never heard of a place called Viscero.”

“It is not so much a place, but a memory… albeit one that changed meaning in Noxus.”

“Ah,” the king says, looking briefly at his son, “memories of one’s childhood are such—”

“But it is not my real name.”

“You dare interrupt the king?” the sword-captain roars. Her hand clutches the hilt of her sword.

Xin Zhao bows his head. Then, he hears laughter, hearty and full. Again, the voice of Jarvan III.

“You are the first one today to have caused Tianna such grievance,” the king says. “It is her inaugural battle leading the Dauntless Vanguard, though it was not much of a battle, I am sure you would agree.”

He pats the shoulder of the young prince, who has stayed quiet, attentively observing his father. “Please,” the king says. “Tell us your story, Viscero, whose real name has not yet been revealed to me.”

Keeping his gaze low, Xin Zhao takes a breath. “My birth name is Xin Zhao, given to me by my parents who I have not seen since I was a boy. They may be alive, or dead—I do not know.”

He swallows hard. “The place I was born is known as Raikkon, a coastal village in the First Lands, which the people here call Ionia. My childhood was spent on a fishing boat named Viscero, helping the elders with whatever they needed. Life was simple, peaceful… until the marauders came in their red and black ships.”

He closes his eyes for a second. No Demacian speaks.

“We didn’t stand a chance. I was taken. After months on the sea, I found myself in Noxus. Everything was… towering, oppressive, harsh. There was none of the natural beauty that filled my home.”

Xin Zhao thinks he hears hushed sounds of agreement. A resonant murmur, a tiny voice whispering.

“As any lost boy would, I did what was needed to survive. Things I’m not proud of that got the attention of those with power. They recognized my strength, and turned me into a fighter. From there, Viscero was reborn—as a Reckoner.”

He sighs as his voice grows soft. “I killed many, many foes. Some whose real names I didn't even know. The more I killed, the louder the crowds cheered, ‘Viscero! Viscero!’ as their gold filled the pockets of my masters. I thought that would be how I lived out my days, fighting in the arena for the thrill of others. That is, until Noxus offered my masters more gold than the arenas could ever bring.”

Xin Zhao’s shoulders slump. “That was all it took for me to end up here. Your soldiers know the rest.”

Jarvan III is quiet. Everyone waits for him to speak.

“You have lived quite the life,” the king finally says. He glimpses at his son before looking back at Xin Zhao. “Thank you for sharing with us your journey. It makes me, and all of Demacia, proud to be able to release you from the bonds of Noxus.”

The king nods toward one of the guards, who brings out a linen pouch and sets it down before Xin Zhao. It jingles with coin.

“This is the blessing of Jarvan the Third,” Captain Crownguard declares. “There is enough gold there to last you one week’s worth of travel. Know that you've erred to invade lands protected by the kingdom of Demacia, but as a show of good faith, our king has granted you a second chance. Use it well.”

Xin Zhao glances at the pouch. He does not budge. Is it that simple? Take this bag and walk out of here—in peace? Just now, he spoke more honestly about himself than he has ever done, to a stranger who could have ended his life with the wave of a hand.

However, that stranger cared to listen. And through that, he became a stranger no more.

There is no peace for me, but maybe there can be a cause?

“Well,” Captain Crownguard says, pointing two fingers toward the exit.

Xin Zhao lowers his head. “I have one request, if I may.”

“Speak,” the king says.

“I wish to join your guard.”

“Absurd!” Captain Crownguard shouts. The guards strike the ends of their spears against the ground in accord.

The king lets out a soft chuckle and turns to his sword-captain. “What an interesting proposition.”

“Surely, you can't—” Captain Crownguard begins, before she is silenced by her king’s hand once more.

“Let the man explain himself,” Jarvan III says with a grin. “I wish to hear his reasoning.”

Xin Zhao raises his head. His eyes meet the king's. “You have shown me mercy and honor,” he begins. “Two things I never knew until now. All my years in Noxus, I spent fighting for a cause not my own, and during that time I knew of only two truths. Victory meant survival and defeat meant death. That was what I learned, seeing other fighters fall in the arena or disappear never to be seen again after too many losses. But you and your people fight for something else. Something more.”

A breeze ruffles the tent. Two small leather boots shuffle. Xin Zhao clears his throat.

“And I'd rather die fighting for honor than live out my days regretting that I never made that choice.”

Jarvan III leans forward. All others know to remain quiet.

“You speak well,” the king replies. “Better than some of my own advisers, truth be told. Still, my wards endure years, decades even, of training. How am I to believe you are capable?”

Xin Zhao stares at the king, at the prince, at Captain Crownguard. A part of him knows what he could say; another knows what he could do. Is it his choice to make?

No.

Fate has made its choice.

He grabs the coin pouch and throws it at the sword-captain, hitting her in the face. While she recovers, he sweep kicks the guard to his left, knocking him to the floor. Xin Zhao snatches the Demacian’s spear, swinging it in a circle to trip the other guard to his right. His body moves on instinct, fluid and swift as his mind pretends he is back in the arena. With one final twirl of the weapon, he jabs it forward at Jarvan III, its blunt end stopping inches short of the king's throat.

The young prince gasps. The king's guard gather themselves. Soldiers rush in as the sword-captain draws her blade.

Xin Zhao falls to his knees. He lays the spear down without a sound and offers his neck. Finely crafted steel weapons touch his skin.

Tension fills the room. All eyes lock onto Xin Zhao, whose own eyes are closed, at peace, ready to accept whatever comes next.

The king straightens his cloak. “Stand down,” he commands. “My father once said Noxus wasted its talent in those arenas. Now I see the truth in his words.”

“My king,” Captain Crownguard begs. “He tried to kill you!”

“No, Tianna,” the king replies. “He showed me how I could be killed. Even in front of my own trusted guards.”

“My deepest apologies,” Xin Zhao says. His voice is calm and measured, a quiet tide not yet ready to flow ashore. “It was the only way I thought to demonstrate myself.”

“And demonstrate you did,” the king says. “To me, and these warriors of Demacia. It appears they could learn a thing or two from you.”

“I will not have the king’s guard be sullied by a prisoner!” Captain Crownguard exclaims.

“When this man entered my sight, he was a prisoner no more.” The king stands from his chair. “Demacia was founded long ago, by good people who sought refuge from the evils of this world. This man's story reminds me of those tales of old, of great Orlon and his followers. The very ones my father once told me.”

His gaze falls on the prince, who looks back, amazed. “My son, my life’s joy,” the king says, “how happy I am that you are here to witness this moment. To see for yourself why we must uphold our virtues, so others may aspire to do the same. Do you understand?”

“Yes, father,” the prince says, his voice small but firm.

The king steps forward. “Xin Zhao, you have touched me with your life and your courage, a rare thing I have not felt in some time.” He bends down to help Xin Zhao to his feet. “Though you may not have been born a Demacian, I shall allow you to travel back with us, to my kingdom, where you will then prove yourself and your loyalty as my personal guard.”

Xin Zhao feels the king's sturdy hands grip his shoulders.

“Do not take this opportunity lightly.”

Xin Zhao looks Jarvan III in the eye. And for the first time, in a long time, he feels joy, washing over his body like the waves that once carried Viscero free.


The night air is chilly this far north of Kalstead. There is still a week or so before he will gaze upon the walls of the Great City of Demacia, Xin Zhao thinks as he walks outside his tent. A familiar face stands by the entrance.

“Still awake?” Olber says.

“I'm going for a walk. Won't be long.”

Strolling through the camp alone, Xin Zhao takes in the spirit of his new allies. They are an orderly lot, quick to aid one another and ensure safety among their ranks. Seeing their disciplined manner brings a smile to his face. He rounds a corner to look up at the crescent moon when he feels a sudden force pulling him down.

His body collides hard against the ground.

After blinking a couple times, he regains his senses and realizes he has been dragged inside a dimly lit tent. The sword-captain glares down at him. Beside her stand fearsome soldiers dressed in heavy warplate.

“You may have won the king's favor, but you are no Demacian in my eyes,” she states.

As Xin Zhao stands on his feet, she unsheathes her sword. Like the pride following their lioness, those around her do the same.

“I will be watching you,” she warns. “Should anything happen to the king while you are sworn in his service—”

With two hands, Xin Zhao clasps the flat sides of her blade. “Take this as my oath to you.”

Tianna Crownguard looks on, stunned, as he pulls the sword’s tip toward his own throat.

“Should anything happen,” Xin Zhao says. “You may kill me.”

Abilities

Determination.png Determination [Passive]

Innate: Every third attack deals bonus damage and heals Xin Zhao.
Physical damage: (+15 / 25 / 35 / 45% total)
Heal: 10 / 14 / 18 / 22 / 26 / 30 / 34 / 38 / 42 / 46 / 50 / 54 / 58 / 62 / 66 / 70 / 74 / 78 (+10% total) (+40%)
Three Talon Strike.png Three Talon Strike [Q]
Cost: 30 Mana Cooldown: 7 / 6.5 / 6 / 5.5 / 5

Active: Xin Zhao's next 3 basic attacks deal extra physical damage and reduce his other cooldowns by 1 second. The final strike also knocks the target into the air for 0.75 seconds. Physical Damage: 20 / 28 / 36 / 44 / 52 (+40% bonus)
Wind Becomes Lightning.png Wind Becomes Lightning [W]
Cost: 45 Mana Cooldown: 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 Range: 900

Active: Xin Zhao slashes in front of himself with his spear, then thrusts it forward. Slash deals physical damage; Thrust deals physical damage and slows by 50% for 1.5 seconds.

Cast time is reduced with Attack Speed provided from items and levels (minimum of 0.4 seconds).

Slash Damage: 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 (+30% total)
Thrust Damage: 30 / 65 / 100 / 135 / 170 (+75% total)
Audacious Charge.png Audacious Charge [E]
Cost: 50 Mana Cooldown: 12 seconds Range: 650 Area of Effect: 125

Active: Xin Zhao charges to an enemy. The charge deals magic damage to nearby enemies and slows them by 30% for 0.5 seconds. Charging grants Xin Zhao Attack Speed for 5 seconds. Magic Damage: 50 / 75 / 100 / 125 / 150 (+60%)
Attack Speed: 40 / 45 / 50 / 55 / 60%
Crescent Guard.png Crescent Guard [R]
Cost: 100 Mana Cooldown: 120 / 110 / 100 seconds Area of Effect: 250

Active: Xin Zhao unleashes a sweep around him that deals physical damage and knocks them back (max 600 vs monsters).

For 3 seconds after casting this ability, Xin Zhao has increased Awareness and will completely block damage from enemies that are far away. Xin Zhao's attacks and spell casts increase the duration of Awareness by 0.3 seconds each.

The last champion hit by Xin Zhao's basic attacks or Audacious Charge.png Audacious Charge is not knocked back.

Physical Damage: 75 / 175 / 275 (+100% bonus)
[+15% target's current]

Patch History

Patch 9.19

Passive base heal increased. Q base damage increased later.

Xin could use some love after the Scuttler changes decreased his early game power value so we're helping out.

Determination.png Passive - Determination

BASE HEAL : [8-59 (levels 1-18)]
10-78 (levels 1-18)

Three Talon Strike.png Q - Three Talon Strike

BASE DAMAGE : [20/25/30/35/40]
20/28/36/44/52


Patch 9.10
Q cooldown decreased.

Now that Scuttler spawns later, other champions aren't forced to fight Xin as much at his biggest power spike. But because of that, his niche as an early game powerhouse doesn't have as big of an impact, especially on the outcome of a game. We can now help him out so he can do better throughout a game without worry.

Three Talon Strike.png Q - Three Talon Strike

COOLDOWN : [9/8/7/6/5]
7/6.5/6/5.5/5


v8.11
Base attack damage growth decreased. E slow decreased.

The scuttle changes increased the value of early fights, and Xin Zhao definitely excels in that world. Having a strong early game isn't the problem, but being able to translate that so easily into a strong mid-game is concerning. We're toning down his offensive scaling and his ability to stick to opponents and force them to fight him so he'll have to work harder for that mid-game edge.

Base Stats

ATTACK DAMAGE GROWTH : [3.3] 3

Audacious Charge.png E - Audacious Charge

SLOW : [50%] 30%


v8.4
Passive damage decreased. W base cast time decreased.

Xin Zhao is one of the strongest users of Press the Attack. With the power increase PtA is getting (see below), and everybody's favorite Seneschal needs to lose some base power as a result. Also cleaning up some weirdness on short-ranged casts of Audacious Charge and making Wind Becomes Lightning more fluid.

Determination.png Passive - Determination

PASSIVE DAMAGE : [20/40/60/80%]
15/25/35/45% total attack damage

Wind Becomes Lightning.png E - Wind Becomes Lightning

BASE CAST TIME : [0.6] 0.5 seconds
REALISTIC SPEAR : Spear Thrust now originates from Xin Zhao's position at the end of the cast

Audacious Charge.png E - Audacious Charge

BUNNY HOP : Short-ranged dashes will now correctly move Xin Zhao forward to the target


v7.24
Base health decreased. W second hit ratio decreased.

Xin is proving too good at Pressing Three Attacks. Once he does, his baseline durability gives him too much freedom to unload on his target (and his overall damage is probably also a bit high).

Base stats

BASE HEALTH : [600] 570

Wind Becomes Lightning.png E - Wind Becomes Lightning

LINE DAMAGE RATIO : [0.85] 0.75 total AD


v7.22

BASE ARMOR : [25.88] 35
BASE ATTACK DAMAGE : [57.54] 66

Three Talon Strike.png Q - Three Talon Strike

BASE DAMAGE PER STRIKE : [15/20/25/30/35]
20/25/30/35/40


v7.21

Xin Zhao’s been faring well since his recent ability update. We’re sprucing up his recommended items to better advise aspiring Seneschals.

HERE’S A TIP : Xin Zhao’s recommended items have been updated!


v7.19
Ability update; check out the below context and prior dev blog for more information.

Xin Zhao finds himself a character without an identity at a times, and we wanted to give him something specific to excel at. We eventually settled on the idea of Xin Zhao as a duelist, but we wanted to differentiate him from the controlled dueling of Fiora or the hunt and isolate dueling of Kha’Zix. Xin Zhao, a former gladiator, excels in creating duels amidst a teamfight, and we wanted his kit to reflect that.

Base Stats

BASE ATTACK SPEED : [.676] .645
ATTACK SPEED SCALING FACTO : [2.6%] 3.5%

Determination.png Passive - Determination

STRONG AS A RAGING FIRE Every third attack deals 20/40/60/80% (at levels 1/6/11/16) of total AD as bonus damage
NOT THE SHARP END Every third attack heals Xin Zhao

Three Talon Strike.png Q - Three Talon Strike

DAMAGE : [15/30/45/60/75]
15/20/25/30/35
RATIO : 0.2 total [0.4 bonus]
attack damage align:left

Wind Becomes Lightning.png E - Wind Becomes Lightning
Xin Zhao performs a quick slash in a cone front of him, then thrusts his spear forward in a line. All enemies hit by the thrust are slowed by 50% for 1.5 seconds.

SLASH DAMAGE : 30/40/50/60/70 (+0.3 total attack damage)
THRUST DAMAGE : 30/65/100/135/170 (+0.85 total attack damage)
FORCE OF A GREAT TYPHOON : Wind Becomes Lightning’s cast time is reduced by bonus attack speed

Audacious Charge.png E - Audacious Charge

COST : [60] 50 mana
DAMAGE : [70/110/150/190/230]
50/75/100/125/150
SLOW DURATION : [2] 0.5 seconds
SWIFT AS A COURSING RIVER Casting Audacious Charge grants Xin Zhao 40/45/50/55/60% attack speed for 5 seconds

Crescent Guard.png R - Crescent Guard

TOO TANKY No longer grants bonus resistances
MYSTERIOUS AS THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON For 3 seconds after casting Crescent Guard, Xin Zhao will negate all damage originating from champions further than 450 units away. Duration is extended by attacking champions.


v6.10
Base health and health per level up.

Xin’s taken a hit in a post-Devourer world, but for most of the game we’re actually pretty happy with the pace of his damage after diving in. Pre-6.9, Devourer + Rageblade allowed Xin to kill enemies too quickly - they’d rarely have time to react. Rather than tune his damage up (and shorten that reaction window again), we’re upping Xin’s durability to keep him feeling happy about ramming his face into the back lines, especially given his lack of an exit-strategy once committed.

General

BASE HEALTH : [591] 600
HEALTH GROWTH STAT : [87] 92


v6.4
W AP ratio and attack speed lowered.

As we mentioned last patch, Xin Zhao's a fighter whose identity is linked closely to his ability to flexibly adopt different builds based on the situation. While we tailored 6.3's changes to his crit/attack damage-heavy builds, it's Xin's synergies with Guinsoo's Rageblade and Sated Devourer that's got us scared to death. Even though Sated Xin was already his most successful build before the changes, we wanted to see how he did with them before taking action. Now we’re we're specifically targeting Sated Rageblade Xin Zhao it to bring it line while we assess what follow up XZ's of all shapes and sizes (and items) need going forward.

Battle Cry.png W - Battle Cry

HEAL RATIO : [0.7 ability power] 0.4 ability power
ATTACK SPEED : [40/50/60/70/80%] 40/45/50/55/60%


v6.3
W scales with attack damage and crits on every third attack. E cooldown flattened.

Xin Zhao's been left in the dust as far as stabbin' folks goes, underperforming in every role across the board. One of our old-school 'melee carries', Xin's always had a lot of flexibility in builds - able to swap between 'max cooldown lockdown machine' or 'crit-fueled basic-attacking monster' based on his team's needs. That said, itemization changes in 2016 have impacted that flexibility pretty heavily. These changes are aimed at bringing back Xin's ability to opt-in to an early snowball rather than feeling pressured to always aim for the lategame (via Sated Devourer and Guinsoo's on-hit synergies).

A point of clarification: To those of you worried about Xin's new crit mechanic's getting out of control with the already-popular Sated Devourer builds, it's important to note that the crit occurs every third attack, not every third hit. This means Sated's Phantom Hit passive won't let him double down into more crits, so you're better off with regular ol' attack damage and attack speed to make the most of his new Battle Cry.

Battle Cry.png W - Battle Cry

HEAL RATIO Now additionally scales with 0.2 bonus attack damage
RAGING FIRE Now passively causes every third attack to critically strike for 25/37.5/50/62.5/75% bonus Crit Damage for that attack

Audacious Charge.png E - Audacious Charge

COOLDOWN : [14/13/12/11/10 seconds] 12 seconds at all ranks


v5.24
Three Talon Strike actually works.

5.23 saw X to the Z’s Three Talon Strike refactored under-the-hood, which caused all sorts of unintended problems. We’ve patched him up so Xin’s better suited for the rage of war. Sorry!

Three Talon Strike.png Q - Three Talon Strike

SORRY ABOUT THAT : Fixed a bug where Three Talon Strike was incredibly slow
SORRY ABOUT THAT PART TWO : Attacking with Three Talon Strike now properly refreshes the buff duration


v5.13
W's AP Ratio down.

"Xin's exactly the kind of guy we want to see picking up Sated Devourer (more on this below!); or so we thought until someone stacked Ability Power with the Phantom Hit and managed to out-heal Dr. Mundo. Let that sink in.
This ratio was always a little goofy, so we're toning it down to make sure Xin Zhao players can strike with all the force of a raging fire without becoming unkillable in the process."
  • Battle Cry.png W - Battle Cry
    • RATIO : 0.7 ability power 0.5 ability power

v5.9
R's knockback applies a brief stun.

"Though often seen as a high-damage diver, we're beefing up Xin's crowd control to boost his potency when functioning as a team's initiator. He'll still need additional follow-up from his team to not splat immediately afterwards, but at least he'll hit with all the force of a great typhoon before going down."
  • Crescent Sweep.png R - Crescent Sweep
    • [NEW] THINK ALISTAR'S HEADBUTT : Now applies a 0.75 second stun to knocked back targets

v5.5

W's base healing up at early levels, E's damage up at later levels.

"As a jungler on the borderline of viability, we're giving X to the Z a bump towards his strengths (sustain and skirmishing) to help him get down to business."
  • Battle Cry.png W - Battle Cry
    • BASE HEAL : 26/32/38/44/50 30/35/40/45/50
  • Audacious Charge.png E - Audacious Charge
    • DAMAGE : 70/105/140/175/210 magic damage 70/110/150/190/230 magic damage

v4.21
Mass Texture Rebalance (Part 4)

"We're continuing our comprehensive pass at the game's older character textures. As with parts 1, 2 and 3, our goal is to improve parity with newer releases and make sure everybody looks at home on the newly-updated Rift. Is anyone even reading this paragraph anymore? "
  • TEXTURES : The following textures have been updated:
  • MalphiteSquare.png Malphite
    • Base, Coral Reef, Marble, Obsidian, Shamrock
  • MalzaharSquare.png Malzahar
    • Base, Djinn, Overlord, Shadow Prince, Vizier
    • ShenSquare.png Shen
    • Base, Blood Moon, Frozen, Surgeon, Warlord, Yellow Jacket
  • WukongSquare.png Wukong
    • Base, General, Jade Dragon, Volcanic
  • Xin ZhaoSquare.png Xin Zhao
    • Base, Commando, Imperial, Viscero, Winged Hussar

v3.03

  • Audacious Charge
    • Damage reduced to 70 / 105 / 140 / 175 / 210 from 70 / 110 / 150 / 190 / 230
    • Cooldown increased to 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 seconds from 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9
  • Crescent Sweep
    • Base damage reduced to 75 / 175 / 275 from 125 / 225 / 325
    • Cooldown increased to 120 / 110 / 100 seconds from 100 / 90 / 80

v1.0.0.152

  • Base Movement Speed increased by 25.

v1.0.0.151

  • Crescent Sweep now properly procs spell vamp and other effects (e.g. Rylai's slow)

v1.0.0.148

  • Three Talon Strike
    • Fixed: Bonus damage no longer applies to critical strikes
  • Audacious Charge
    • Fixed: Slow is now reduced by Tenacity

v1.0.0.144

  • Base attack damage reduced to 55.3 from 59
  • Attack damage per level increased to 3.3 from 3
  • Audacious Charge damage reduced to 70 / 110 / 150 / 190 / 230 from 70 / 115 / 160 / 205 / 250

v1.0.0.143

  • Base Attack Speed increased to 0.672 from 0.658
  • Attack Speed per level increased to 2.7% from 2.5%
  • Challenge (Passive)
    • Xin Zhao challenges his target with his basic attacks and Audacious Charge, reducing their Armor by 15% for 3 seconds. Only one target can be challenged at a time.
  • Three Talon Strikes
    • Now reduces his other ability cooldowns by 1 second with each strike
    • Attack Damage ratio increased to 1.2 from 1.0
    • Cooldown reduced to 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 seconds from 10
  • Battle Cry
    • Passive: Heals Xin Zhao for 26 / 32 / 38 / 44 / 50 (+0.7 Ability Power) every third basic attack
    • Active no longer reduces other abilities' cooldowns
    • Cooldown reduced to 16 / 15 / 14 / 13 / 12 seconds from 24 / 22 / 20 / 18 / 16
    • Mana Cost increased to 40 from 35
  • Audacious Charge
    • Now challenges the target
    • Damage increased to 70 / 115 / 160 / 205 / 250 (+0.6 Ability Power) from 70 / 110 / 150 / 190 / 230 (+0.4 Ability Power)
    • Slow increased to 25 / 30 / 35 / 40 / 45% from 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 / 40%
    • Slow duration increased to 2 seconds from 1.5
    • Range reduced to 600 from 650
    • Cooldown reduced to 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 seconds from 16 / 15 / 14 / 13 / 12
  • Crescent Sweep
    • Now knocks all unchallenged targets back
    • Now has a 1.0 bonus Attack Damage ratio
    • Cooldown increased to 100 / 90 / 80 seconds from 75
    • Armor and Magic Resist bonus adjusted to 15 / 20 / 25 per champion hit from 25 + 7 / 10 / 13 per champion hit
    • Now has a new particle

v1.0.0.140

  • Fixed a bug where Three Talon Strike did not take Critical Damage modifiers into account

v1.0.0.131

  • Crescent Sweep Armor and Magic Resist increase per Champion hit on increased to 7 / 10 / 13 from 5 / 8 / 11

v1.0.0.125

  • Tooltips now properly display numbers in his passive as it updates

v1.0.0.124

  • Three Talon Strike knock up duration slightly reduced
  • Audacious Charge slow duration reduced to 1.5 seconds from 1.75

v1.0.0.120

  • Crescent Sweep
    • Percent health damage reduced to 15% from 20%
    • Bonus armor and magic resist per champion hit reduced to 5 / 8 / 11 from 7 / 10 / 13

v1.0.0.116

  • Base attack damage increased to 59.1 from 52.3
  • Attack damage per level decreased to 3.1 from 3.3
  • Fixed a bug where Three Talon Strike could be activated while it was still active
  • Battle Cry
    • Passive attack speed is no longer removed while the ability is on cooldown
    • Attack speed increased to 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 / 40% from 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 35%
  • Crescent Sweep
    • Armor and magic resist reduced to 25
    • Now scales and grants 7 / 10 / 13 armor and magic resist for each champion hit

v1.0.0.115

  • Battle Cry duration reduced to 5 seconds from 7
  • Crescent Sweep duration reduced to 6 seconds from 8
  • Audacious Charge cooldown adjusted to 16 / 15/ 14 / 13 / 12 from 18 / 16 / 14 / 12 / 10

v1.0.0.109

  • Three Talon Strike cooldown changed to 10 seconds at all levels from 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8
  • Crescent Sweep bse damage reduced to 125 / 225 / 325 from 125 / 250 / 375

v1.0.0.106

  • Audacious Charge no longer deals damage and slows if Xin Zhao's dash is interrupted by another movement effect

v1.0.0.105

  • Fixed a bug where Xin Zhao was considered to be a ranged Champion for the purpose of items like Frozen Mallet, etc

v1.0.0.100

  • Audacious Charge can no longer be cast while rooted

v1.0.0.97

  • Base attack speed reduced to 0.658 from 0.679. This will also lower his attack speed gain from items and abilities by a similar percentage
  • Attack speed per level reduced to 2.6% from 2.8%
  • Audacious Charge
    • Area of effect radius reduced to 225 from 350
    • Slow percentage reduced to 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 / 40% from 40% at all levels
    • Slow duration reduced to 1.7 seconds from 2 seconds
    • Fixed a bug where Xin Zhao could appear to slow down during his charge if he attempted to move too much
  • Crescent Sweep
    • Base damage lowered to 125 / 150 / 375 from 150 / 275 / 400
    • Percentage of current health damage lowered to 20% from 25% at all levels

v1.0.0.96
Xin ZhaoSquare.png Xin Zhao released



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