|Release Date||December 13, 2013|
|523 (+ 87)|
|6.5 (+ 0.9)|
|63 (+ 3.2)|
|0.67 (+ 4 (+2.5)%)|
|30 (+ 3.4)|
|30 (+ 1.25)|
Yasuo is a champion in League of Legends.
- For outdated and now non-canon lore entries, click here.
- Story #1
- Story #2
- Story #3
As a child, Yasuo often believed what the others in his village said of him: on the best days, his very existence was an error in judgement; on the worst, he was a mistake that could never be undone.
Like most pain, there was some truth to it. His mother was a widow already raising a young son, when the man who would be Yasuo’s father blew into her life like an autumn wind. And, just like that lonely season, he was gone again before the blanket of Ionian winter settled over the small family.
Even though Yasuo’s older half-brother, Yone, was everything Yasuo was not—respectful, cautious, conscientious—the two were inseparable. When other children teased Yasuo, Yone was there to defend him. But what Yasuo lacked in patience, he made up for in determination. When Yone began his apprenticeship at the village’s renowned sword school, a young Yasuo followed, waiting outside in monsoon rain, until the teachers relented and opened the gates.
Much to the annoyance of his new peers, Yasuo showed natural talent, and became the only student in several generations to catch the attention of Elder Souma, last master of the legendary wind technique. The old man saw Yasuo’s potential, but like trying to bridle a whirlwind, this pupil was known to ignore most teaching. Yone pleaded with his brother to set aside his arrogance, gifting him a maple seed, the school’s highest lesson in humility. The next morning, Yasuo accepted the position as Souma’s apprentice, and personal bodyguard.
When word of the Noxian invasion reached the school, some were inspired by the great stand that had been taken at the Placidium of Navori, and soon the village was bled of the able bodied. Yasuo longed to add his sword to the cause, but even as his classmates and brother left to fight, he was ordered to remain and protect the elders.
The invasion became a war. Finally, one rain-slicked night, the drums of a Noxian march could be heard in the next valley over. Yasuo abandoned his post, foolishly believing he could turn the tide.
But he found no battle—only a raw grave for hundreds of Noxian and Ionian corpses. Something terrible and unnatural had happened here, something that no single blade could have stopped. The land itself seemed tainted by it.
Sobered, Yasuo returned to the school the next day, only to be surrounded by the remaining students, their swords drawn. Elder Souma was dead, and Yasuo found himself accused not only of dereliction, but of murder. He realized the true killer would go unpunished if he did not act quickly, so he fought his way free, though he knew this would all but confirm his apparent guilt.
Now a fugitive in war-torn Ionia, Yasuo sought any clue that might lead him to the murderer. All the while, he was hunted by his former allies, continually forced to fight or die. This was a price he was willing to pay, until he was tracked down by the one he dreaded most—his own brother, Yone.
Bound by honor, they circled each other. When their swords finally met, Yone was no match and, with a single flash of steel, Yasuo cut his brother down.
He begged forgiveness, but Yone’s dying words were of the wind techniques responsible for Elder Souma’s death, and that his brother was the only one who could have known them. Then he fell silent, passing on before he could grant any absolution.
Without master or brother, Yasuo wandered the mountains distraught, drinking away the pain of war and loss, a sword without a sheath. There in the snow, he met Taliyah, a young Shuriman stone mage who had fled the Noxian military. In her, Yasuo saw an unlikely student, and in himself, an even more unlikely teacher. He trained her in the ways of elemental magic, wind shaping stone, embracing at last the teachings of Elder Souma.
Their world changed with rumors of a risen Shuriman god-emperor. Yasuo and Taliyah parted ways, though he gifted her the treasured maple seed, its lesson now learned.
As she returns to her native desert sands, Yasuo has set out for his own village, determined to put right his mistakes...
|"Death is like the wind—always by my side."
|CONFESSIONS OF A BROKEN BLADE:|
The knife-edge of the plow cut through the rough topsoil, turning the underbelly of winter toward the spring sky. Riven walked the small field behind the ox-driven rig, her focus caught between steadying the wide set handles and the foreign words she clumsily held in her mouth.
“Emai. Fair. Svasa. Anar.”
Each step filled the air with the loamy scent of newly awakened earth. Riven gripped the wood tightly as she walked. Over the last few days the coarse handles had roused dormant calluses and fleeting memories.
Riven bit her lip, shaking off the thought, continuing with the work at hand. “Mother. Father. Sister. Brother.”
The thin-ribbed ox flicked an ear as it pulled, the plow kicking up clots and small rocks. They struck Riven, but she paid them no mind. She wore a rough woven shirt, the dirt-speckled sleeves rolled into thick bands. Pants of the same material had been dyed an earthen yellow. Their cuffed edges would now be too short on the man they had been made for, but on her, they brushed her bare ankles and the tops of her simple, mud-caked shoes.
“Emai. Fair. Svasa. Anar.” Riven continued the mantra, memorizing the words. “Erzai, son. Dyeda…”
Without slowing her pace she wiped a strand of sweat soaked hair from her eyebrow with her sleeve. Her arms were well muscled and still easily held the plow one-handed. The farmer had gone up to the house for a skin of water and their lunch. The old man said she could stop and wait on the threshold of the shaded forest that bordered the tract, but Riven had insisted on finishing.
A fresh breeze caught the damp at the back of her neck, and she looked around. The Noxian Empire had tried bending Ionia to its will. When Ionia wouldn’t kneel, Noxus had tried to break it. Riven continued her meditative pace behind the plow. For all the Empire’s strength, spring would still come to this land. It had been more than a year since Noxus had been driven out, and the grays and browns of rain and mud were finally giving way to shoots of green. The air itself seemed to hold new beginnings. Hope. Riven sighed as her hair’s bluntly cut edges brushed her chin.
“Dyeda. daughter,” she began her invocation again, determined. She gripped the wooden handles again with both hands. “Emai. Fair.”
“That's fa-ir,” a voice called out from the shadows of the forest.
Riven stopped suddenly. The plow handles lurched in her hands as the bony ox was brought up short by the leather reins. The plow kicked hard into a tough clod of dirt and gave a metal twang as a stone caught on the cutting edge.
The voice did not belong to the old man.
Riven tried to ease her breathing by exhaling slowly through her lips. There was one voice, but there could be more coming for her. She fought the years of training that urged her to take a defensive stance. Instead she stilled her body, facing the plow and beast before her. Riven felt too light. She held on tightly now to the plow’s wooden handles. There should have been a weight that anchored her, grounded her, at her side. Instead, she could hardly feel the small field knife on her right hip. The short, hooked blade was good for cutting dew apples and stubborn vegetation, nothing more.
“The word is fa-ir.”
The speaker revealed himself at the edge of the field, where the farmland met a band of thick amber pines.
“There is a break in the middle,” the man said, stepping forward. A wild mane of dark hair was pulled back off his face. A woven mantle was tucked around his shoulders. Riven noticed that it did not completely cover the metal pauldron on his left shoulder, nor the unsheathed blade at his side. He was of a warrior class, but did not serve one house or precinct. He was a wanderer.
Dangerous, she decided.
“Fa-ir,” he pronounced again.
Riven did not speak, not for lack of words, but because of the accent she knew they would carry. She moved around the plow, putting it between her and the well-spoken stranger. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and bent to examine the plow’s blade, feigning interest in the stone she had struck. Meant to cut through sod and clay, the blade would be more useful than the field knife. She had watched the old man fix it to the wooden body that morning and knew how to release it.
“I don’t remember seeing you in the village when I was here last, but I have been away awhile,” the man said. His voice held the indifferent roughness of a long time lived on the road.
The ever present insect hum became louder as Riven refused to fill the silence between them.
“I’ve heard that the magistrates are being called to hear new evidence in the case of Elder Souma’s death,” the man continued.
Riven ignored him and patted the patient ox. She ran her fingers along the leather straps as someone who was familiar with the trappings of horses and farm animals, batting away a gnat from the ox’s big, dark eyes.
“Then again, if you are new to this land, perhaps you know little of the murder.”
She looked up at the word, meeting the stranger’s gaze, the innocent beast between them. A scar stretched across the bridge of the man’s nose. Riven wondered if the one who left that mark still lived. There was hardness in the stranger’s eyes, but under that, curiosity. Riven felt the ground tremble through the soles of her thin leather shoes. There was a sound like rolling thunder, but there were no clouds in the sky.
“Someone’s coming,” the man said with a smile.
Riven looked over her shoulder at the hill that led to the old man’s farmhouse. Six armed riders crested the little ridge and marched their mounts down to the small harrowed field.
“There she is,” one of them said. His accent was thick, and Riven struggled to parse the nuance of language she had been trying so hard to learn.
“But... is she alone?” another asked, squinting at the shadows between the trees.
A quick breeze wrapped around the plow and Riven, sliding back into the shadows of the forest. Riven looked to where the stranger once stood, but he was gone, and the approaching riders left no time to wonder.
“A ghost maybe,” the leader said laughing at his man. “Someone she cut down coming back for revenge.”
The riders spurred their horses into a trot, circling Riven and crushing the even trenches she had dug that morning. The leader carried a rigid bundle wrapped in cloth over the back of his mount. Riven’s eyes followed that horse as the others moved around her, their hooves compacting the loose earth back into cold, hard clay.
She gave the plow blade a final glance. Two riders carried crossbows. She would be taken down before she reached even one of them. Her fingers itched to touch the potential weapon, but her mind begged them to be still.
Tightness quickened in her muscles. A body long trained to fight would not surrender so easily to peace. A deafening rush of blood began to pound in her ears. You will die, it roared, but so will they.
Riven’s fingers began to reach for the plow blade.
“Leave her be!” The voice of the farmer’s wife was strong from calling in errant cows and it rang out over the field, breaking Riven from her self-destructive urge. “Asa, hurry. You must do something.”
The riders halted their circles around Riven as the farmer and his wife crested the hill. Riven bit hard on the inside of her cheek. The sharp pain centered her, quelling her urge to fight. She would not spill Ionian blood in their field.
“I told you to stay in your home until we were done,” the leader said to them.
The old man, Asa, hobbled through the uneven dirt. “She’s done nothing wrong. I was the one who brought it,” he said gesturing toward the wrapped bundle. “I will answer for it.”
“Master Konte. O-fa,” the leader said. A patronizing smile tugged at the corners of his thin lips. “You know what she is. She has committed many wrongs. If I had my way, she would be cut down where she stands,” He looked Riven over, then wrinkled his nose in annoyance. “Unfortunately, old man, you can say your piece at the hearing.”
While the leader spoke Riven’s feet had sunk into the moist earth, momentarily holding her fast. The feeling of being mired, pulled down, overwhelmed her. Her pulse quickened to a shallow beat and a cold sweat slipped between her shoulders as she struggled to pull free. Her mind was enveloped by a different time, a different field. There the horses snorted, their hooves trampling blood-soaked dirt.
Riven shut her eyes before more remembered horrors could bury her. She inhaled deeply. A spring rain floods this ground, not the dead, she told herself. When I open my eyes, there will be only the living.
When she opened her eyes, the field was a field, freshly turned, and not an open grave. The leader of the riders dismounted and approached her. In his hand he held a pair of shackles, swirls of Ionian metal far more beautiful than anything that would have chained criminals in her own homeland.
“You cannot escape your past, Noxian dog,” the leader said with a quiet triumph.
Riven looked up from plow blade to the old couple. The lines on their faces already carried so much pain. She would not bring them more. She could not. Riven tried to hold onto the image, the two of them leaning into one another, each holding the other up. It was a moment of fragile defiance before they knew something would be taken. When the old man wiped a sleeve across his wet cheek, she had to turn away.
Riven shoved her wrists toward the leader of the riders. She met his smug grin with a cold stare and let the steel close over her skin.
“Do not worry, dyeda,” the farmer’s wife called out. Riven could hear the taut hope in her voice. It was too much. Too much hope. The wind carried the strained words and the smell of freshly turned earth, even as Riven was led farther and farther away. “Dyeda,” it whispered. “We will tell them what you are.”
“Dyeda,” Riven whispered back. “Daughter.”
For two days after the girl surrendered, there had been nothing for Shava Konte to do but help her husband slowly repair the trampled furrows and plant the field. It was a task made easier by the girl’s labors, and yet, if their sons still lived, it was one she and Asa should not have had to do at all.
On the cold morning of the tribunal, knowing it would take more time for their older bones to walk the long road into town, the couple left before dawn to reach the village council hall.
“They know she is Noxian.”
“You worry too much,” Shava said, clucking her tongue for good measure. Realizing her tone was more fit for calming chickens than her husband, she gave him a hopeful smile.
“Noxian. That is all they need to proclaim guilt.” Asa mumbled his thought into the homespun wool wrapped around his neck.
Shava, who had spent the better part of her lifetime coaxing stubborn animals into the butcher’s pen, stopped short, turning to face her husband.
“They do not know her like we know her,” she said, stabbing one of her fingers to his chest, exasperation escaping through her hands. “That is why you are to speak on her behalf, you old goat.”
Asa knew his wife, and knew further argument would not change her mind. Instead he nodded his head softly. Shava gave a dissatisfied harumph and turned back to the road, marching in silence to the town center. The council hall that was beginning to fill. Seeing the crowd, she hurried into the narrow space between the benches of the council hall to find a seat closer to the front... and unceremoniously tripped over a sleeping man’s leg.
As the old woman fell forward with a weak yelp, a groan escaped from the sleeping man. Like a lightning blade, his hand snapped forward, his grip like steel, catching the old woman by the arm before she fell to the stone floor.
“You must watch your step, O-ma,” the stranger whispered deferentially, drink still heavy on his breath, but slurring none of his words. He withdrew his hand as soon as the old woman was back on her feet.
The old woman looked down her nose at the unlikely savior, her eyes narrowing. Under her scrutiny, the man receded further into the shadows of the mantle wrapped around his shoulders and face; the ghost of a scar across his strong nose disappeared into the darkness.
“The council hall is nowhere to recover from a night of misdeeds, young man.” Shava righted her robes, the disdain evident in the tip of her chin. “A woman’s life is to be decided today. Be gone before you are asked to concede your own wrongdoings before the magistrates.”
“Shava.” The old man had caught up and put a hand on his wife’s arm. “You must keep your temper in check if we are to offer our assistance today. He meant no injury. Leave him be.”
The hooded stranger offered two fingers up in peaceful supplication, but kept his face hidden. “You strike to the heart of the matter, O-ma,” he offered, humor creeping into his voice.
Shava moved on, carrying her indignation like a delicate gift. The old man tipped his head as he passed.
“Do not judge her quickly, my boy. She worries that an innocent soul will be found guilty before the truth is known.”
The hooded man grunted in acknowledgement as the old man moved on. “On that we are of the same mind, O-fa.”
The old man glanced back at the strange, hushed words. The seat was empty, save the ghost of a breeze that rustled the robes of a nearby couple deep in conversation. The hooded stranger was already receding into the far shadows of the council hall.
Shava chose a seat at the front of the gathered crowd. The smooth swirls of the wooden bench should have been comfortable—they had been shaped by woodweavers to promote balance and harmonic discussions of civic duty—but the old woman could not find a comfortable position. She glanced at her husband, who was now settled patiently on a creaky stool, waiting to be called. Beside Asa, a bailiff stood and picked his teeth with a sliver of wood. The old woman recognized the bailiff as Melker, leader of the riders that had come for Riven. She glared at him, but Melker took no notice. He was watching the doors at the back of the room. When they opened and closed behind three darkly robed figures, he straightened quickly, tossing aside the bit of wood in his mouth.
The magistrates, their smooth vestments settling behind them as they took their place at the head table, looked out at the crowded hall. The noise in the great room dropped to an uneven silence. One of the three, a tall, slim woman with a falcon nose, stood solemnly. “This tribunal has been called to take in new attestations in the matter of Elder Souma’s death.”
A hum of murmurs, like a hundred locusts, began to build from somewhere in the middle of the crush of people. Some had heard of the new evidence the judge spoke, but most had gathered at the rumor there was a Noxian in their midst. But rumors didn’t change what they all knew: Elder Souma’s death was no mystery. The wind technique, the magic that scoured his meditation hall was all the evidence that was necessary. Only one besides Souma himself could have executed such a maneuver.
A wound, unevenly healed, opened. The hive mind of the crowd coalesced in a moment of communal pain. If the elder had not fallen, they shouted to each other, the village would not have taken such heavy casualties. Shortly after the murder, half of a Noxian warband had slaughtered many on the way to Navori. So many sons and daughters had been lost in the Noxian engagement, an engagement that swelled in the distressing imbalance of Souma’s death. Worse yet, the village laid the blame on one of their own.
The thrum found a clear voice.
“We already know who murdered Elder Souma,” Shava spoke through weathered lips. “It was that traitor, Yasuo.”
The crowd nodded and a biting agreement rippled through the mob.
“Who knew Elder Souma’s wind techniques? Yasuo!” Shava added. “And now Yone has not returned from the pursuit of his unforgivable brother. Most likely the coward is responsible for that as well.”
The crowd’s gnashing grew again, this time crying out for Yasuo's blood. Shava settled more easily on the bench, satisfied that the question of guilt had been pointed back at the correct person.
The falcon-nosed judge came from a long line of woodweavers, ones famed for being able to untwist and straighten even the heaviest burls. She lifted a perfectly round sphere of hard worn chestnut and brought it down definitively against its jet-black cradle. The sharp sound wrenched the crowd into silence and order returned to the hall.
“This court seeks knowledge and enlightenment about the facts of Elder Souma’s death,” the judge said. “Do you wish to stand in way of enlightenment, Mistress…?”
The old woman looked to her husband and felt heat rise in the skin of her cheeks. “Konte. Shava Konte,” she said much less boldly. She dipped her head. The old man on the stool watched her and mopped the sheen of sweat from his own balding crown.
“As I was saying, we are here to take in new evidence.” The falcon judge looked out at the crowd for any other stubborn burls and nodded to the bailiff, Melker. “Please bring her in.”
The overcast skies had parted since the magistrates entered. When the large doors at the back of the hall opened again, Riven watched as the room full of villagers was split by a blinding shard of daylight. She walked across the hall’s threshold and the movement pushed aside the still air in the hall like the release of a held breath.
The doors closed behind her. Two warrior priests marched her through the large aisle that divided the throng. The council hall was once again cast in the murky gloom from curled windows set high in the ceiling and the cylindrical lanterns that hung from the sculpted roof. She watched Shava Konte swallow thickly as she passed.
She knew what they saw. A woman, her white hair matted with straw from a rough sleep in stone cell. A stranger. An enemy. A daughter of Noxus.
Fatigue clung to Riven’s bones like the farmer’s mud that still stained her clothes. Her soul felt stiff and misshapen, but when Riven’s gaze found the old man on the stool, she stood a little straighter.
She took in the three judges seated on the dais before her. The stern one in the middle motioned for Riven to be seated, rather than shackled standing.
Riven refused the wooden chair shaped by magic. She recognized the bailiff as the lead rider that came to old couple’s field. His thin lips stretched in the same arrogant smile.
“Suit yourself, it’ll just be harder for you.”
The bailiff sat on the chair himself with an air of satisfaction. The center judge gave the bailiff a look of admonishment and then spoke to Riven.
“I know you are not of this land. The dialect here is tricky. I will speak the common tongue so that we may better understand each other.”
Like most Noxians, Riven had learned enough of Ionia’s common tongue to command and order, but like the land itself, the accent of each village had a unique personality flavored by its people. She nodded at the judge and waited.
“What is your name?”
“Riven,” Riven said. Her voice was hoarse, catching in her throat with a croak.
“Bring her water.”
The bailiff stood and took up a skin of water, shoving it at her. Riven looked at the skin, but did not take it.
“It is only water, child,” the judge seated beside the center judge said, leaning forward over the table. “What, do you fear we would poison you?”
Riven shook her head, refusing the offer. She cleared her throat, determined to speak without any more assistance. The bailiff pursed his lips and took a deep swig, water dribbled from the corner of his mouth. He flashed his teeth in a triumphant sneer meant for her.
“You have been brought before this council,” the judge interrupted, drawing Riven’s attention back to the three robed figures and the crowd gathered within the hall. “Because we wish to know what you have to say.”
“Am I not being sentenced?”
The judge swallowed her surprise.
“I am unclear about how justice is carried out where you come from, but here we believe justice is first served by understanding and enlightenment.” The judge spoke to Riven as if she was a young child. “We believe you have knowledge of an event that is most important to this community. If that knowledge reveals a crime, then you could be sentenced and punished accordingly.”
Riven looked from the judge to Asa, then back. Justice in Noxus was often decided in combat. If one was lucky, it was decided swiftly and with the sharpened end of the weapon. Riven eyed the judge warily. “What do you want to know?”
The judge leaned back. “Where are you from, Riven?”
“I have no homeland.”
The judge’s narrowing gaze told Riven that her words had been taken as defiance. The hawk-faced magistrate paused, tempering her response. “You must have been born somewhere.”
“A farm in Trevale.” Riven looked at the old man. “Noxus,” she admitted.
The council hall, which had dropped back to silence in order to hear the prisoner, took in a collective breath.
“I see,” continued the judge. “And you no longer call that place home.”
“When your home tries to kill you, is it still home?”
“You are an exile then?”
“That would imply I wish to return,” Riven said.
“You do not?”
“Noxus is no longer what it once was.” Impatience edged into Riven’s voice. “Can we get on with this?”
“So be it,” the judge said with a calmness that irritated Riven more than the shackles on her wrists. “You came with the Noxian fleet, yes?”
“I assume so.”
“You do not know?” The judge looked confused.
“I do not remember,” Riven said. She glanced to the crowd, her sideways look catching the eyes of Shava. The old woman had asked a similar question. Riven shook her head. “Does it matter? There was a battle. Many died. That is all I know.”
The painful memory of war that smoldered among the crowd flared to life at Riven’s words. They shoved each other, shoulders knocking together and shouting, as they all tried to stand at once.
Someone lashed out. “Noxian filth! My son is dead because of you!”
A moldy eggfruit sailed through the air and pelted Riven in the neck. The fermented juice and pulp slid wetly down the back of her shirt. The rotten smell rose up in the air, but Riven would not allow the scent of death to take her back to that moment long ago. She closed her eyes, allowing her breath to come through parted lips.
With that, the crowd erupted. Riven knew what it looked like, that she felt nothing for what had happened to these people. “Please,” she whispered to herself, unsure if she was imploring them to stop, or to encourage the fullness of their barely contained anger.
In answer, more of the late season eggfruit exploded on the stone floor. One caught Riven behind the knee. She stumbled, struggling to maintain her balance with her hands bound.
The judge rose to her full height, towering over the seated villagers and Riven. Her magistrate’s robe flared as she slammed the chestnut sphere against its cradle. The wooden benches beneath the crowd strained, groaning and flexing in response to the magistrate’s will.
“I will have balance restored to this hall!”
The reprimanded villagers quieted.
“Yes, Riven, the council remembers that time,” the judge continued with more restraint. “Many Ionians… and Noxians… perished. And you?”
It was a question that plagued Riven. Why had she been spared when others had not? She could offer no answer that would satisfy. “It seems I did not,” she said quietly
“Indeed.” The judge smiled coldly.
Riven knew there was little she could say to pacify the bereaved crowd. She owed them the truth, but even that was not hers to give. Her memories of that time were broken. She bowed her head.
“I do not remember,” Riven said.
The judge did not stop the questioning. Riven knew doing so would only allow for interruptions to spew forward from the anger simmering in the room.
“How long have you been in this land?”
“I do not remember.”
“How did you come to this village?”
“I do not remember.”
“Have you been here before?”
“I…” Riven hesitated, but could not hold on to the moment that would give a clear answer. “I cannot remember.”
“Did you meet with Elder Souma?”
The name stirred something within her. A memory of a memory, hazy and sharp at the same time passed through her. Anger flooded the empty place where her past once lived. She had been betrayed. She had betrayed.
“I can’t remember!” Riven lashed out in frustration, the shackles at her wrists rattling.
“War breaks many things,” the judge said, softening. “Some we cannot see.”
In the face of this enlightenment, some of the fight left Riven. “I cannot remember,” she said, more calmly than before.
The judge nodded. “There are others who may be able to speak to what you cannot remember.”
Riven watched the old man make his way slowly to a witness stool set in front of the judges. His fingers shook as he smoothed a few errant hairs in his thick eyebrows.
“Asa Konte,” the judged said patiently. “O-fa, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us today.”
The old man nodded.
“Do you know this woman, the one called Riven?” the judge asked.
“Yes,” the old man said. “She came to us at the beginning of this past wet season.”
“Myself and Shava, my wife.”
The judge looked up at Mistress Konte, who still shifted uncomfortably on the bench at the front of the hall. The judge gestured to Riven.
“She came to you?”
“Well, I found her in our field,” the old man offered sheepishly. “We had a calf wander in the night. At dawn I went looking for it. Instead I found her.”
Murmurs of surprise and concern spilled again from the crowd.
“More will come!”
“We must protect ourselves!”
The judge rested a hand on the heavy wooden sphere in front of her. The room grew quiet. “What did she want, Master Konte?”
The old man smoothed his eyebrows again and glanced at Riven. His look begged apology.
“She wanted to die, magistrate,” he said softly.
The judge leaned forward.
“It was the start of the wet season,” Asa continued. “She was soaked to the skin, nothing but fevered bones held together by mud and stubborn Noxian muscle.”
“You knew she was Noxian?”
“She carried a weapon, a blade, the scabbard was inscribed with the marks of their father tongue. No Ionian would carry such a weapon.”
The judge pursed her lips. “Master Konte, you took heavy losses during the invasion?”
“I did, magistrate,” the old man said. He looked to his wife. “Two sons.”
“What did you do with the woman?”
The old man took a deep breath.
“I took her home to Shava,” he said.
The murmur of the hall rose again, questioning the man’s lenience on a foe that had been so merciless. The faces within the hall told their stories of loss. None in their community had been untouched by the conflict. The old man lifted his head, and turned to the crowd, challenging the hardness of their hearts.
“My sons… My boys… Their bones have long since been cleaned by the sky. Would those we lost wish us to bury ourselves in grief beside them?”
Riven watched as the old man and his wife shared a knowing look. Shava’s eyes were wet and full.
“We were not ready to let them go, but…” The old man’s voice quivered. “But it does us no good to mire ourselves in the past when there is life left to live.”
Shava bit her bottom lip and sat up straighter, daring those who sat next to her to speak ill of their choice. Asa turned away from the crowd’s stares. He sat facing the magistrate, the stool creaking beneath him.
“There were so many deaths, I couldn’t bear to add another,” he explained. “We cleaned her up and offered what we had in peace.”
The judge nodded without emotion. Riven watched as the judge took in Riven’s shirt and pants, mentally unrolling the cuffs. She knew what the judge pictured as she had thought the same thing many times since the old woman had presented the clothes. They were meant for a young man, a head taller than her, maybe a man with Shava’s smile or Asa’s kind eyes.
For Riven it was a constant reminder of her own weakness. All her years of living or dying by the strength of Noxus, and Riven had accepted their fragile offer of hope, let herself be clothed in it and in a family that could have been.
“When she regained her strength, she wanted to work in the fields,” the old man went on. “My wife and I are old. We welcomed the help.”
“You and your wife did not fear for your lives?”
“The girl wants nothing to do with Noxus. She hates Noxus.”
“She said this to you?”
“No,” he said. “She said nothing of her past. Shava asked her once and she said nothing. We saw that it pained her, so we did not ask again.”
“If she said nothing, then how do you infer her feelings about her homeland?”
Master Konte wiped at his old eyes. Riven watched the trouble pass over his face, like the words were not his to give. He spoke quickly, conscious suddenly of the audience surrounding him.
“Fevered dreams, magistrate,” he said. “The night she came to us. Something that belonged to her, something she had cared for greatly, had been broken. For that she cried out against Noxus.”
“Do you know the thing she spoke of?”
“I believe so, magistrate.” The old man nodded slowly. “The pommel of her weapon has been bound into her scabbard. Four days ago I saw her undo the laces. I saw the blade was broken.”
Riven had thought she had only been watched by the fat mousing cat that day in the barn. A few snide comments about the quality of Noxian weapons passed like handshakes among the crowd.
“And what did you do with that knowledge, Master Konte?”
“I took the blade to the temple.”
The judge cocked her head to one side, looking down her predatory nose at the old man. “To what end?”
“I hoped the priests might be able to mend it. That if the blade was made whole, she might be relieved of some of the ghosts that haunt her.” Even as crowd erupted behind him, the old man looked at Riven and the chains that bound her hands. “That she might have some peace in the present.”
“Thank you, Master Konte, for sharing your knowledge with the council,” the judge said, coldly staring the congregation into silence. “Your attestation is finished.”
She looked down at an unrolled parchment and back to the bailiff.
“Bring in the weapon.”
Riven watched two temple priests carry in a large wooden tray draped with a scarlet cloth and set it gingerly on the table before the council judges. A warrior priest stepped forward, his high rank made evident by the fluted edges of his wooden pauldron and breastplate.
“Show us,” the judge said.
The warrior priest withdrew the scarlet cloth, revealing a weapon and sheath both bigger than a kite shield. The scabbard was etched in the harsh strokes of Ur-Noxian, the heavy angles and slashes in stark contrast to the fluid script of Ionia. But it was the blade that drew the interest of the judges. A blade so thick and heavy it looked like it would break the well-trained arm of a temple priest to lift it, let alone the slender wrist of the young woman shackled before them. Indeed, when Riven had seen the weapon for the first time, she had thought the same thing.
Now, instead of one solid blade, the weapon was fractured into angry pieces, as if monstrous claws had raked through its metal flesh. The five largest pieces would have been deadly in their own right, but laid out against the soft Ionian cloth, broken and raw as it was, it was terrifying.
The judge looked at Riven. “This weapon belongs to you.”
Riven nodded her head.
“I suppose in this many pieces, it makes it a bit difficult to wield,” the judge said to herself.
There were snickers among the crowd.
The warrior priest shifted uncomfortably. “This weapon is ensorcelled, magistrate. The Noxians have bound magic into the blade.” The disgust hung heavy on his words.
Riven didn’t know if the judge was listening to the priest. The judge was nodding absently, her gaze washing over the weapon until it found the spot that Riven knew it would, the empty place Riven had struggled to fill. The judge’s falcon nose twitched.
“There is a piece missing.”
A young temple adept swayed nervously before the council hall.
“Adept, is this the weapon Master Konte presented to the temple?” the lead judge asked.
“You were the one to alert this court?”
“How did you know this weapon would be of interest to us?”
Riven watched the adept wipe his hands on the lengthy sleeves of his robes. His face was pale, as if he might faint, or be sick on the stone floor.
“Adept?” the judge probed.
“I am a bone washer, magistrate.” The words tumbled out of the young man. His hands hung like spent candle wax. “For the elders. After their bodies have been left to the sky, I collect them and prepare them.”
“I am familiar with the duties of a bone washer, adept. How is it this weapon concerns you?”
“The blade is the same.”
A moment of confusion swept over the judge’s face. The same uncertain daze washed over the crowd, passing from person to person in befuddled looks. Riven, however, felt a wave of unease crawl over her skin.
“When I prepared the bones of Elder Souma, after his time, for the temple, I mean to say.” The adept’s haphazard explanation was losing many. Instead of continuing he pulled from a fold in his robe a small silk bag and started undoing the tight knots with his long fingers. He retrieved from the bag a shard of metal and held it up. “This metal, magistrate. It is the same as the broken blade.”
The adept scurried from his place and approached the judge. She took the shard from his outstretched hand and turned it over in her fingers. Even held at a distance, the metal seemed similar to the broken blade.
Riven's breath caught in her throat. There was the piece of her past that she had searched for and given up finding. Now it was on the verge of coming together, illuminating a dark and forgotten corner of her mind. The guilt Riven carried and had buried deep was finally being unearthed. Riven steeled herself against what she knew would come next.
“Where did you find this?” the judge asked.
The adept cleared his throat. “In the bones of Elder Souma’s neck.”
The council hall gasped.
“You did not bring this forward before?” The judge’s eyes narrowed as she focused in on her target.
“I did,” the adept said, trying desperately to look anywhere but the warrior priest who stood next to Riven’s broken blade. “But my master said it was nothing.”
The judge had no such trouble looking at the warrior priest.
“Approach,” she ordered. She handed the bit of mangled metal to the warrior priest. “Put it with the rest.”
The warrior priest glared at the adept, but followed the orders given. He approached Riven’s blade and then turned at the last minute to the judge. “Magistrate, there is dark magic in this weapon. We don’t know what this piece may reveal.”
“Proceed.” The judge’s words left no room for argument.
The warrior priest turned back. All the eyes in the council hall watched as he took the sliver of hammered metal and placed it nearest the tip of the broken blade.
The weapon was silent.
The judge let out a small sigh. Riven, however, continued to watch the old man and his wife. She knew their hope would last only a moment longer. She had been weak to accept it, to believe that there was something in this world for someone so broken. Their relief at her fleeting innocence hurt most of all. It hurt because Riven knew in that moment the good they believed about her was a lie. The truth of her past was sharper and more painful than any blade.
Riven heard the sword beginning to hum. “Please,” she called out. She struggled to be heard over the chatter of the hall. She struggled against her restraints. “Please, you must listen.”
The vibration built. Now it could be heard and felt. The villagers panicked, pushing and shoving to get back. The judge stood quickly, her arms outstretched to the wooden table that held the broken sword. The edge of the table began to grow and curl, the wood budding new green limbs over the weapon, but Riven knew the magic would not hold.
“Everyone, get down!” Riven yelled, but the sound of the blade drowned out her voice, indeed all the voices, as the weapon built to a fever pitch.
Then, all at once the power exploded in a burst of runic energy and splintered wood. A gust of wind knocked everyone who had been standing down to the floor.
From the ground, the faces of the crowd turned to Riven.
Riven’s lips were cold and her cheeks flushed. The ghosts of her mind, memories she had entombed, they were fully alive now, looming one by one before her. They were Ionian farmers, sons and daughters, the people of this village that would not kneel to Noxus. They were looking at her. Haunting her. They knew her guilt. They were her warriors, too, her brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They would have gladly sacrificed themselves for the glory of the empire, instead she had failed them. She had led them under the banner of Noxus, a banner that had promised them a home and purpose. In the end, they were betrayed and discarded. All of them cut down by the sick poison of war.
Now these ghosts stood among the living, the courtroom of spectators knocked down by the power of the blade. The villagers slowly rose to their feet, though Riven was still there in that valley from long ago. She couldn’t breathe. Death choked her nose and throat. No, these dead aren’t real, she told herself. She looked at Asa and Shava and they at her. Two shades stood near them. One with eyes like the old man’s and the other with a mouth like Shava’s. The old couple clung to one another as they steadied themselves and stood, oblivious to the deathly past that surrounded them.
“Dyeda,” the old woman said.
At that Riven could no longer contain her guilt and shame.
“I did it.” The words fell from Riven’s lips with an empty hollowness. She would accept her fate at the hands of these people. She would let them pass judgment and she would answer for her crimes.
“I killed your Elder,” she told them, breathless. Her ragged confession filled the room. “I killed them all.”
The council hall that had been as still as a grave swarmed back to life. Armed warrior priests, drawn by the commotion, flooded through the doors, pushing past villagers who just wanted to run away from the dangerous magic that had been thrust upon them.
The falcon-nosed judge had found her footing and cracked her wooden sphere against the table.
“This hall will restore itself to balance,” she demanded.
The room grew quiet once more. Overturned benches were righted. The crowd seated themselves. The hooded stranger scratched his scarred nose and moved to examine the new chest high scorch mark that blackened the walls of the council room. A warrior priest approached the magic weapon tentatively.
Amid the broken table legs, was the blade and sheath. A greenish glow of energy crackled around the still broken pieces. The warrior priest bent and reached for the pommel, using two hands as he felt the true weight of the sword. Though fractured, the weapon held its shape.
“Put that accursed thing away!” someone shouted from the crowd. The priest slid the weapon back into the sheath as more priests came to remove it.
“I killed him,” Riven repeated. The voice was hers and not hers. It was the past speaking through her. She looked at the faces in the room. Memory restored, she was awake once more to a shadowed corner of her history.
“Riven,” the judge said.
Riven’s attention snapped from the blade to the judge.
“Do you know what you are confessing to?” she asked.
“Why did you do this?”
“I do not remember.” The words were all she had to offer. Because of her bound hands, Riven could not wipe away the silent tears that ran down her jaw.
The judge stared hard, waiting for more to reveal itself, but when nothing came, she motioned to the bailiff.
“Riven, you will stay chained in this hall until dawn so that all who need to speak with you to make peace may do so before you are sentenced.”
Riven looked at the shackles on her wrist.
“The other magistrates and I will consult the scrolls and the elders for an appropriate punishment of your crime.”
The villagers left quietly. The last to leave was the old couple. Riven knew this because she heard Shava whisper in her country voice to the old man, though emotion made the words unclear. When she heard their aged feet finally shuffle over the threshold, Riven at last looked up. The room had been emptied of the living—the only thing she was left with were the ghosts of her past.
The midnight air was cold and clear. The full moon held a ring of frost high in the dark sky. The light streamed in through the hall’s still open doors, but did not reach the shadows which held Riven at the back of the room. None of the crowd had come inside during the day to make their peace. The warrior priests had taken the blade, but the wooden spiked scorch mark that encircled the room kept the villagers from venturing inside the council hall. Some had come to the open door, a few with more rotten eggfruit, but ultimately Riven had been left alone with her thoughts. Sleep had finally come for her, but it was the light, fitful sleep of someone who knew the coming dawn could be her last. When shuffling footsteps approached in the dark hours before sunrise, she was instantly awake.
Riven opened her eyes.
“O-fa,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
The old man crouched down next to her slowly and unrolled a soft cloth full of tools. Riven recognized the metal instruments as the ones he used to fix the long blade to the plow.
“What does it look like I’m doing, child?” The silhouette of the moonlight deepened the wrinkled edge of his face, but the gloom of the shadows where the two of them sat did not touch him the way Riven had thought they would.
“You are stubborn in your wish to die,” he chided her. “That is not how you will find balance.”
He worked the shackles at Riven’s wrist and ankles. Riven did not push him away and tell him to go home as her mind insisted. Her selfish heart would not let her. If the old man was the last person she would sit beside in this life, Riven wanted the moment to go on as long as it could. She sat this way for a few minutes until she heard footsteps on the gravel outside the hall. Riven looked to Asa. He was smiling, dangling the opened cuffs before her like a child’s toy.
“O-fa. Quickly. You must hide. Someone is coming.” The edge to Riven’s voice was sudden and sharp and left no room for argument. The old man shuffled to a dark corner to wait in the shadows. Riven bowed her head again in the practiced pose of sleep. She let her hair fall in front of her face, but kept her eyes open.
A strong wind blew through the trees and curled around the posts of the hall’s great doors. There, framed by a shaft of moonlight, the contour of a man stood on the threshold.
The stranger’s mantle was now pushed back fully from his face and hung loosely over his shoulders, leaving his blade and metal pauldron clearly outlined. He paused at the doorway like the others. Unlike the villagers, he ventured inside. His feet made no sound on the stone floor. When he was a blade’s length from Riven, he stopped.
He reached behind his back and retrieved a leather scabbard with harsh runic writing carved into it. He tossed it, clattering, at Riven's feet.
“Which weighs more, Riven?” he asked. “Your blade, or your past?”
It was clear the stranger knew Riven wasn’t sleeping and so Riven no longer pretended. She looked up at him, his face reduced to gray shadow, yet the scar across his nose was clear.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Another broken blade,” he answered. “You are ready to accept guilt. For that, I admire you.”
Riven watched as a brief wash of emotion crossed his face.
“There is more to the story of your blade,” he continued. “Do you desire the truth of what happened?”
“I killed him. He died because of me. They all died because of me,” Riven countered. She was not sure if she was capable of carrying more grief.
“Pick up your weapon.”
Riven sat. She could hear the man’s low growl of frustration.
“Stand and face your past,” the man said. His voice left no room for argument.
A wind began to build, swirling around the room, knocking back benches in the hall, and pushing Riven to her feet. Instinct and physical memory guided the young woman’s arm. When Riven faced the stranger, the sheathed blade was in her hand.
“I asked him to destroy it,” she said.
“Did you?” the man’s voice was mocking.
The stranger’s question was cutting and it hit a bone of memory in Riven. She shuddered with a half-remembered vision. Elder Souma’s voice had been so calm. The air in his meditation room had been heavy with thought and the smell of incense. Elder Souma had not judged her or her burden.
Riven looked at the stranger before her now, anguish building in her heart, flooding her body until it reached her hands. She tightened her fingers around the pommel as she drew the runic blade from its sheath.
“Why are you here?” Riven asked.
The broken blade coursed with power. The blinding light cast their shadows on the walls.
“I heard you wanted to die.” The stranger smiled.
The ghosts that haunted her had returned in full force and Riven swung wildly at them now. The man’s blade parried the sadness and the fury. It infuriated her and centered her back in the present. They danced around each other. The air hummed and crackled at each block and thrust.
“I came here to kill my master’s murderer.” He was breathing hard through gritted teeth. “I came here to kill you.”
Riven laughed, tears in her eyes. “Then do it.”
The wind warrior lowered his sword, and instead manipulated the very air that swirled around them. The magic built to a fever pitch, the man focused the energy at the runic blade. The Noxian spells within the weapon shuddered, the broken pieces separating for a moment, releasing the sliver at the fore end.
The energy collapsed and the sliver broke away, speeding toward the shadowed corner that held Asa. The tiny bit of death was about bury itself in the old man’s throat. The spiced memory of incense flooded Riven’s nose, she was back in Elder Souma’s meditation room.
“No!” she shouted. Riven dropped her blade, unable to prevent that which had happened before.
Just as the piece of shrapnel was about to graze the old man’s weathered skin, it stopped, held in place by a current of air. The man with the scarred nose let out a strained sigh and the small shard of Riven’s broken blade dropped harmlessly to the stone floor.
“You are lucky your breath comes so heavily, Master Konte,” the stranger said, his own short-winded words tumbled out quickly.
Riven ran to the old man and embraced him. She looked over her shoulder at the stranger. A breeze still whipped his hair as he wiped a bit of sweat away with the back of his free hand.
“It is true.” The stranger joined them, picking up the splinter of the blade. Riven watched some of his anger melt into understanding. “You killed Elder Souma, but you did not murder him.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” The moment Riven had been searching for, she was living again. The words came fast and thick. She was shaking as she held on to the old man.
“I came to him. I begged...” Riven struggled to enunciate each word as emotion overcame her. “I begged him to help me. To break this. To break me.”
“Elder Souma tried to destroy your blade,” the scarred man said. His voice grew thick. “But we cannot destroy our past, Riven.”
Riven knew what it was to face memories that could not live again, but would not stay dead. She saw now this stranger carried his own ghosts. The swirling eddies of air calmed around him as he gave a heavy sigh.
“Elder Souma was my responsibility. If I had been there… that night… I could have protected him. It was not your intention to kill him.” Riven watched, one knowing fighter to another, as the man resettled the burden of his own unseen demons once again on his shoulders. He met her gaze. “In the end, the fault of his death lies with me.”
“Yasuo?” The old man looked more closely at the man and then wagged a gnarled finger at this. “You have shown great honor in admitting the truth in this matter.”
“My honor left a long time ago, O-fa,” In Yasuo, Riven saw her own resistance at the offer of hope, of forgiveness. The man with the wild hair shook his head at the old man’s reprieve. “One mistake has compounded many others since. That is my punishment.”
The pronouncement was interrupted by the shift of gravel. A falcon-nosed woman entered the council chamber. She walked carefully around the room, inspecting the damage of the fight between the two broken warriors. A metal jangle kept time with her footfalls. The judge slowed as she passed Riven and the old man. Riven recognized a loop of leather slung with the keys to her shackles. When the magistrate came face to face with the stranger, she stopped.
“Taking responsibility is the first step to atonement, Yasuo” she said evenly.
“And the second?” There was a desperate edge to Yasuo’s words.
Yasuo held the magistrate’s gaze. The room stilled, holding its breath.
The judge’s quiet voice was loud in the empty council hall. “Forgiving yourself.”
Riven watched the fellow warrior closely. He could not bring himself to the words that would release him from his pain. Riven had wanted death for so long, but now as she witnessed Yasuo’s own struggle, she knew the hardest thing she could do was to live and to live with what she had done. Yasuo looked at her now. Would he stay and face his past?
The man who carried the weight of the wind turned his back on the council hall and walked into the night. Riven held tightly to the weathered hands of the old man.
Sunrise was cool, but there was a thickness in the blanket of clouds that hinted the day would turn warm and humid. When the warrior priest and the hawk faced judge with the leather loop of keys had come to collect Riven, the judge had raised one slender eyebrow at the neatly piled shackles still on the floor. Riven stood on her own and walked out of the hall to face her future.
The other magistrates had gathered the waiting villagers in the square outside the council hall. Riven assumed none of them wished to be confined with her or her runic blade. A cool breeze now tugged at the plaits of the judge’s hair.
“Upon examining the evidence and consulting with the elders, the Noxian woman will stand for her crimes,” the judge began.
Riven bristled at the inclusion of the land of her birth. She watched as Shava and Asa leaned on each other.
“Though easy to carry out, a sentence of death does not keep the world in balance,” the head magistrate continued. “It does little to repair the destruction a crime rips through a community.”
The people of the village nodded in sober agreement. Riven took in their faces, noticing a pattern to the many who were missing; fathers and mothers to the young, sons and daughters of the old.
“Instead, this council seeks a longer, harsher sentence,” the judge continued. “We will see that Riven, the exile, mends that which she has broken.”
The judge looked down her falcon nose at Riven.
“It will be a punishment of hard labor,” the judge announced. “Starting with the fields of Master and Mistress Konte.”
A murmur swept through the crowd.
“This court will also see Riven make reparations to the council hall. And to those whose homes and families were injured in the Noxian invasion.”
The judge looked at Riven expectantly. “Will you live by this decision?”
All eyes were on Riven now. A new emotion caught in her throat. She looked around. The ghosts she carried did not melt away with the pronouncement. Riven looked to them as they mixed freely with the living. It surprised her. She welcomed the visions. She would prove to them that she was worthy of the gift being offered.
“Yes.” Riven barely recognized her own voice, overcome as it was.
The old couple swept forward at this, crushing Riven between them. Riven relaxed into their embrace, leaning into them now as they did to her.
“Dyeda,” Shava murmured against the slashes of Riven’s white hair.
“Daughter,” she whispered back.
|THE ROAD TO RUIN
When I was a child, my brother asked me: “Does the wind flee, or does it follow?”
For a long time, I chose to run, for death followed at my back. The people hunting me once called me their friend. Now, when they draw their blades, they call me murderer.
One by one, they find me. The first was a swordsman of strength renowned throughout Ionia. When we were young, I saw him cleave a tree in two with a single swing of his blade.
But he could not cleave the wind.
The second was a warrior of speed and grace. Agile and cunning, she outran the clever foxes in the woods.
But she could not outrun the wind.
The third was a man of compassion. He taught me the meaning of patience when I was just a prideful child.
My guide. My friend.
How long can I keep going? Even the strongest wind eventually dies.
But until then, I will not flee. I will follow the truth. Let the wind guide my blade, and lead me to the true murderer—the one responsible for the blood on my hands.
|A SWORD WITHOUT A SHEATH
What is a sword without the man behind it? Teaching a swordsman to kill is simple. The true challenge lies in teaching him not to kill.
When I watched my young brother begin training, he breathed life into the blade at first touch. One heard whispers in the halls comparing him to the sword masters of old. But as Yasuo grew and his skills increased, so did his ego. He was impetuous and boastful. He ignored our masters’ lessons, and knew nothing of patience.
Fearing my brother had strayed too far from the way, I went not to warn him, but to make an appeal to his honor. I gave him a maple seed, our school's highest lesson in humility... one Yasuo seemed to have forgotten. A seed is just a seed, but given time one may come to know the beauty it holds within.
Yasuo took my gift, and the following day he pledged himself to the Elder Souma. I had high hopes he would learn the patience and virtue required of a true swordsman.
It was not to be.
Today, it seems clear to me that Yasuo murdered the very person he was sworn to protect. He has betrayed his nation, his friends, and himself. Were it not for my actions, I wonder if he would ever have been swept down this dark path.
But my task is not to question. I must bear the burden of my duty.
At first light tomorrow, I will set out to capture a sword without a sheath: my brother Yasuo.
- Yasuo's Champion Page
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