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Ruination: A League of Legends Novel

Ruination: A League of Legends Novel PDF

Author: Anthony Reynolds

Publisher: Orbit


Publish Date: September 6, 2022

ISBN-10: 031646905X

Pages: 448

File Type: Epub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Erlok Grael stood separate from his peers, awaiting the Choosing.

They waited within a small open-air amphitheater, the architecture all gleaming white marble and gold-encased capstones. Helia wore its opulence proudly, as if in defiance of the brutalities of life beyond the shores of the Blessed Isles.

The others joked and laughed together, their collective nervousness drawing them closer, yet Grael stood silent and alone, his gaze intense. No one spoke to him or included him in any of the whispered japes. Few even registered his presence; their gazes slipped over and around him as if he didn’t exist. To most of them, he didn’t.

Grael did not care. He had no desire to swap inane small talk with them, and he felt no jealousy at their juvenile comradery. Today would be his moment of triumph. Today he would be embraced into the inner circle, apprenticed within the secretive upper echelons of the Fellowship of Light. He had more than earned his place there. No other student present came close. They might hail from wealth and nobility, while he came from a line of illiterate pig farmers, but none were as gifted or as worthy as he.

The masters arrived, filing down the central stairs one by one, silencing the gaggle of hopefuls. Grael watched them, eyes burning with a hungry light. He licked his lips, savoring the prestige and glory that were soon to be heaped upon him, anticipating all the secrets that he would soon be privy to.

The masters shuffled into place upon the lower tiers of the amphitheater, their expressions solemn, staring down at the cluster of adepts on the floor below them. Finally, after an overlong pause to build suspense, a pompous, toadlike master, his skin pale and wet-looking—Elder Bartek—cleared his throat and welcomed the graduating students. His verbose speech was heavy with gravitas and self-congratulatory asides, and Grael’s eyes glazed over.

Finally, the time came for the masters to choose which of the graduates would be taken under their wing as apprentices. There were leaders here from all the major disciplines and denominations of the Fellowship. They represented the Arcanic Sciences, the various schools of logic and metaphysics, the Blessed Archives, the Astro-Scryers, Hermetic Oratory, Esoteric Geometry, the Seekers, and other branches of study. All served, in one way or another, the greater purpose of the Fellowship—the gathering, study, cataloging, and securing of the most powerful arcane artifacts in existence.

It was an auspicious gathering of some of the world’s most brilliant minds, yet Erlok Grael focused on only one of their number: Hierarch Malgurza, Master of the Key. Her dark skin was heavily lined, and her once-ebony hair was now mostly gray. Malgurza was a legend among the adepts of Helia. She didn’t appear at every year’s Choosing ceremony, but when she did, it was always to embrace a new apprentice into the inner circle.

The Baton of Choosing was brought forth. It was passed first to Hierarch Malgurza, the most honored master present. She took it in one gnarled hand, causing a ripple of murmurs among the students. Malgurza would indeed choose an apprentice this day, and the ghost of a smile curled Grael’s thin lips. The elderly woman cast her hawkish gaze across the gathered hopefuls, who held their breaths as one.

Whoever was named would be marked for greatness, joining a hallowed, elite cadre, their future assured. Erlok Grael’s fingers twitched in anticipation. This was his moment. He was already half stepping forward when the hierarch finally spoke, her voice husky, like oak-aged spirits.

“Tyrus of Hellesmor.”

Grael blinked. For a second, he thought there must have been some mistake, before the cold reality of his rejection washed over him, like a bucket of frigid water to the face.

There was a delighted whoop from the chosen student, along with a burst of whispers and gasps. The newly named apprentice stepped forward amid a flurry of slaps on the back and ran up the steps of the amphitheater to take his place behind Hierarch Malgurza, a broad smile on his smug face.

Grael made no outward reaction, though he had gone dangerously still.

The rest of the ceremony went by in a dull, surreal blur. The Baton of Choosing passed from master to master, each choosing a new apprentice. Name by name, the crowd of hopefuls around Grael dwindled, until he stood alone. The sea of masters and former peers stared down at him, like a jury ready to announce his execution.

His hands did not twitch now. Shame and hatred writhed within him, like a pair of serpents locked in a death struggle. With a click of finality, the Baton of Choosing was sealed back within its ceremonial case and borne away by golden-robed attendants.

“Erlok Grael,” announced Bartek, his eyes smiling. “No master has spoken for you, yet the Fellowship is nothing if not benevolent. A place has been secured for you, one that will, it is hoped, teach you some much-needed humility, and at least a modicum of empathy. In time, perhaps, one of the masters may deign to take you on—”

“Where?” interrupted Grael, eliciting murmurs and tuts, but he did not care.

Bartek looked down his bulbous nose at him. His expression was that of a man who had inadvertently stepped upon something distasteful. “You will serve as a minor assistant to the Wardens of Thresholds,” he declared, malice gleaming in his eyes.

There were smirks and stifled laughter among his former peers. The Threshers, as the student body derisively called them, were the lowest of the low, both literally and figuratively, those who guarded and patrolled the lowest depths of the vaults beneath Helia. Their ranks consisted of those who had earned the ire of the masters, whether through gross political misstep or misdemeanor, and any others whom the Fellowship wished out of the way. Down in the darkness, they could be forgotten. They were a joke. An embarrassment.

Bartek’s patronizing voice droned on, but Grael barely heard his words.

In that moment, he swore that this was not the end. He would serve among the wardens and ensure that his worth was noticed, such that none of these pompous, sniveling masters or his snobbish peers could deny him. He would serve a year, maybe two, and then he would take his rightful place within the inner circle.

They would not break him.

And he would remember this insult.


Alovédra, Camavor

It was dark and cool within the hallowed Sanctum of Judgment, and Kalista appreciated the reprieve from the scorching Camavoran summer outside. Standing at attention, bedecked in form-fitting armor and a high-plumed helm, she waited for judgment to be rendered.

Despite being out of the sun, the slender young heir to the Argent Throne, kneeling at her side, was sweating, and his breath was shallow and quick.

His name was Viego Santiarul Molach vol Kalah Heigaari, and he waited to see if he would be crowned king, or if this day would be his last.

Absolute rulership, or death. There could be no middle ground.

He was Kalista’s uncle, but she was more like an older sister to him. They had been raised together, and he had always looked up to her. He was never meant to be the next king. That should have been Kalista’s father, the firstborn, but his unexpected death had placed Viego, his younger brother, next in line.

The sound of the massed crowds outside was muted within the cold walls of the sanctum. Hooded priests, their faces obscured by shadow and blank porcelain masks, stood anonymous in the gloom, forming a circle. The incense from their censers was cloying and acrid, their whispering chant monotonous and sibilant.

“Kal?” breathed Viego.

“I am here,” Kalista replied, standing at his side, her voice low.

He glanced up at her. His patrician face was long and handsome, yet in that moment he seemed younger than his twenty-one years. His eyes were panicked, like those of an animal caught between fleeing and fighting. Upon his forehead, three lines had been drawn in blood, coming together to a point just between his eyebrows. The blood trident was traditionally drawn only upon the dead, to help speed them on their way to the Beyond and ensure that the Revered Ancestors recognized them. It spoke of the lethality of what lay ahead.

“Tell me again of my father’s last words,” whispered Viego.

Kalista stiffened. The old king had been the Lion of Camavor, with a fearsome reputation in battle—and on the political stage. But as he lay dying in bed, he hadn’t looked anything like the robust warrior-king who had so terrorized his enemies. In those final moments, his body was wasted and thin, all his vaunted power and vitality sapped from him. His eyes had still radiated a small measure of the power he’d had in his prime, but it was like the last glow of a fire’s embers, one final glimmer before the darkness claimed him.

He clutched at her with the last of his strength, with hands that more closely resembled a vulture’s talons than anything belonging to a man. “Promise me,” he croaked, burning with a desperate fire. “The boy does not have the temperament to rule. I blame myself, but it is you who must bear the weight, granddaughter. Promise me you will guide him. Counsel him. Control him, if needed. Protect Camavor. That is now your duty.”

“I promise, Grandfather,” Kalista said. “I promise.”

Viego waited expectantly, looking up at her. The faint roar of the crowd outside rose and fell like the crashing of distant waves.

“He said you’d be a great king,” Kalista lied. “That you’d eclipse even his great deeds.”

Viego nodded, trying to take comfort in her words.

“There is nothing wrong with being afraid,” she assured him, her stern demeanor softening. “You’d be a fool if you weren’t.” She gave him a wink. “More of a fool, I mean.”

Viego laughed, though the sound had an edge of hysteria to it and was too loud in the cavernous space. Priests glared, and the heir to the throne gathered himself. He pushed a wayward strand of his wavy hair behind one ear, and was still once more, staring into the darkness.

“You cannot let fear control you,” said Kalista.

“If the blade claims me, it will be you kneeling here next, Kal,” Viego whispered. He reflected on that for a moment. “You would make a far better ruler than I.”

“Do not speak of such things,” hissed Kalista. “You are blessed of the Ancestors, with power flowing through your veins that your father did not have. You are worthy. By nightfall you will be crowned king, and all of this will be just a memory. The blade will not claim you.”

“Yet if—”

“The blade will not claim you.”

Viego gave a slow nod. “The blade will not claim me,” he repeated.

There was a change in the air, and the priests’ incessant chanting quickened. Their censers swayed from side to side. Light speared down into the sanctum through a crystal lens set in the center of the dome high above, as the sun finally moved into position directly overhead. Motes of dust and ribbons of cloying scented smoke drifted in the beam of light, revealing… nothing.

Then the Blade of the King appeared.

Its name was Sanctity, and Kalista’s breath caught in her throat as she looked upon it. Hovering suspended in midair, the immense sword existed only in the spiritual Halls of the Ancestors, except when called forth by the rightful ruler of Camavor, or when summoned by the priests for the judgment of a new sovereign.

Every monarch of Camavor wore the Argent Crown, a belligerent tri-spiked circlet perfectly befitting the long line of belligerent rulers, but Sanctity was the true symbol of the throne. The primacy of whoever held Sanctity was undisputed, and to possess the Blade of the King was to be soul-bound to it—although not every heir to the Camavoran throne survived the ritual of binding.

Kalista knew that was not some vague, mythical threat, either. Down through the line of history, dozens of heirs had perished here in the Sanctum of Judgment. There was a good reason some called the blade Soulrender, and it was rightly feared by Camavor’s heirs and enemies alike.

The crowd outside had fallen silent. They waited in hushed anticipation, ready to welcome a new monarch or mourn his passing. Either the doors would be thrown open and Viego would stride forth in glory, blade in hand, or the bell atop the sanctum would toll one singular, mournful note, signaling his end.

“Viego,” Kalista said. “It is time.”

The crown prince nodded and pushed himself to his feet. The blade hung before him, waiting for him to take it. And yet, still he hesitated. He stared at it, transfixed, terrified. The priests glared, eyes wide behind their expressionless masks, silently urging him to do what they had instructed.

“Viego…” hissed Kalista.

“You’ll be with me, won’t you?” he whispered urgently. “I don’t think I can do this alone. Rule, I mean.”

“I’ll be with you,” said Kalista. “I’ll stand with you, as I always have. I promise.”

Viego gave her a nod and turned back to Sanctity, hanging motionless in the shaft of light. In seconds, the moment would be lost. The time of judgment was now.

The priests’ chanting reached a fevered pitch. Smoke coiled around the sacred blade, like so many serpents, writhing and twisting. Without further pause, Viego stepped forward and grasped the sword, closing both hands around its hilt.

His eyes widened, and his pupils contracted sharply.

Then he opened his mouth and began to scream.

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