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Mordekaiser exited Summoner’s Rift, more preoccupied than he had felt in a long time. It was not because of the recent game; that had been a complete success. The Master of Metal had easily dominated his lane against the assassin mage LeBlanc, and had even gotten a few kills off their Nocturne as well. His allies, the zealous Demacian hero Garen and the vengeful Graves, had experienced similar success. The match had been over before he had been able to finish his Rylai’s Crystal Scepter, a tool that he often utilized to cripple his foes before finishing them off with his deathly curse.
Normally, such victories were invigorating and made him feel especially powerful. There was nothing quite like seeing the fear and suffering in his enemies’ eyes moments before he cursed one and, in a particularly sadistic twist of irony, forced that unfortunate soul to destroy his own allies. He could not keep his hold on that soul permanently, as that took too much energy and power for even him to supply, but 30 seconds was more than enough to suffice.
However, he did not feel such dark joy today. Instead, a brooding thought had re-emerged inside his head, stronger than ever, which had eliminated any happiness that could have been gained during the match. This thought had haunted him ever since the relocation of the Twisted Treeline to the Shadow Isles, but now stronger than ever. Ancient memories, memories that he had kept locked away, had been released by the two altars. He could not ignore them, for they were as much a part of him as he was part of the Shadow Isles. And today, he decided, he would confront those memories and the souls of the altars.
Mordekaiser stepped into the High Summoners’ chambers. There, he found Coronach, the High Summoner who had been his guide to the League in the Master of Metal’s first few days. The summoner smiled when he saw who he was.
“Ah, Mordekaiser! It has been a while since we last talked. How do you feel about the new Twisted Treeline?”
“It is…interesting. And I, for one, am glad that the Isles are finally getting the respect they deserve,” the metal titan growled in response, but not in an unfriendly manner. Mordekaiser had always held Coronach in high regard because he, unlike so many other weak and foolish summoners, was not afraid to experiment with the magic of darkness and shadows. The high summoner was not a bad man by any standard, and was well respected and revered by all. It was just that Coronach had come to learn an important truth which only dark magic users could appreciate: that just as light magic was not necessarily good in all circumstances, neither was dark magic necessarily evil. It all depended on the mage in question, and Mordekaiser could think of few people who were as worthy to wield the raw dark magic as Coronach. “I have a request that I would like to make,” Mordekaiser suddenly said.
“Oh? And what would that be?”
“I wish to visit the Twisted Treeline Field of Justice. Privately. There are certain matters that I must address there alone. No one else must disturb me.”
“Hmm…an interesting request. While I see nothing wrong in that by itself, I know who you are, Mordekaiser. I trust that you will not attempt to cause chaos in the Shadow Isles?”
“You insult me, Coronach! I am many things, but I am no fool. However, my plans are central around me being able to communicate with the souls of the altars. I request permission to speak with them during my sojourn to the Twisted Treeline?”
“Very well. Granted,” replied Coronach. “I will temporarily unlock the altars while you are there. But be warned…you may not fully release the spirits within.”
Mordekaiser scoffed, “It would take power greater than mine to release those spirits.”
Coronach nodded. “Very well then. Enjoy your journey.”
The Master of Metal appeared at the base of the Twisted Treeline. He felt the familiar magical bindings wrap themselves around him, preventing him from reaching full potential. If he was at his full power, there was no stopping him. His curse, for example, not only drained health and soul but also left his victims completely immobile and weak, helpless to defend themselves. If only he had that power on the fields, but no matter.
He could already tell the differences between the Field of Justice when it was actively used and when it had been shut off. The ghoulish shopkeeper lay back in his stall in what looked to be sleep, the glow in his face gone. Similarly, the nexus and turrets had been dimmed to just a faint glow, signaling that the magic that powered them had been toned down for the night. “Of course,” Mordekaiser thought, “it would be a colossal waste of magic to keep them powered all throughout the night. And contrary to popular belief, the dead do need rest.”
He walked slowly towards the middle of the field, where he knew the two altars lay. As Coronach has promised, they had both been unlocked solely for him. Many would have expected him to approach the East Altar, where the entity known only as “the Lord” to the summoners was encased. It was well known, after all, that the Lord was very sympathetic to the champions of the Shadow Isles and, if he had things go his way, would make the entire world like that wretched place. But Mordekaiser was not interested in speaking with the Lord, at least not yet. Instead, he approached the altar closest to him, the one containing the Lady.
“Lady Liandry…” Mordekaiser hissed, “I have come to speak to you at last, alone and face to face.”
Nothing happened for several seconds. Then, in response, the altar glowed brightly and a specter rose from within its depths. It turned to face the Master of Metal, revealing a beautiful but cold face of a lady who had seen and experienced far more than one ever should experience in one’s life.
“Mordekaiser…” she said coldly, “what business do you have here? Was not the victory of the King satisfactory enough for you?”
“I owe my allegiance to none but the Shadow Isles, as you well know, Lady…” the titan replied evenly. “I hold no love or oath to the King, and serve him only as I see fit. Unlike Hecarim, I know what the King is and what his true intentions are.”
“And yet you fought at his side during the War of the Shadows,” shouted Lady Liandry. “Where were your powers, when we most needed them? Had you allied with us, we might have held out for longer and even be victorious! You abandoned, no, betrayed us, and that betrayal was our downfall.”
“Enough!” Mordekaiser snarled, causing the lady to fall silent, though she still glared at him accusingly. “I fought on the King’s side because I knew that, while your cause was noble, there was no way that it could have been won at that time. Even with my help, you would never have been able to defeat the King as powerful as he was back then. And I would remind you, my lady, that I had not sworn any allegiance to your side either back then, so you have no right whatsoever to lay the cause of your defeat on my head.”
The titan lowered his voice to normal level. “I believed the King, when he first spoke his honeyed words. He had promised that the Shadow Isles would reach a glory beyond what any of us could ever foresee. He had promised that we would be the envy of every nation in Runeterra. That all the world would bow to us.”
The glare from his red eyes had faded. “I was not the same as I am now. Perhaps not younger, but certainly more foolish back then. I should have known that what he truly promised was slavery of the Shadow Isles to his brutality and power. But by the time I realized this horrible reality, it was too late. The Shadow Isles were already plunged in a horrible war in which there was no escape, not even in death. Yet even if I had realized this, I could do nothing. He was too powerful back then for even me, the first of the undead, to stop. Had I resisted, I would have been destroyed.”
The lady’s gaze faltered, “But, if you are opposed to him now, why do you continue to serve him?”
“Why, to destroy him, of course,” the dark one answered wryly. “The King, for all his supposed greatness, is a fool. Victory has made him weak. He believes that he has complete domination, so he spends no time expanding his power to make sure that he keeps his rule. At the same time, his enemies, including myself, have grown disgusted with his failures and used the millennia to strengthen ourselves for the sole purpose of toppling him from his throne. Thresh, the Chain Warden, has already begun to savor the time when he can bind the King to his power and drag him off into the Abyss.”
“I do not approve of you associating yourself with Thresh, Mordekaiser. He is wild, brutal, and dangerous.”
“But he is also a very powerful ally to have, and he will be most useful in taking down that fool of a King.”
“If you can control him, then I will speak no more about it,” the Lady sighed. “When the time comes, will you do what must be done?”
“I will do what I should and could have done an age ago had I the power to do so. I will tear that unworthy wretch who calls himself King down and bring the Shadow Isles back as it used to be, a land of peace for all the undead.”
The Lady smiled sardonically, “With you at its head?”
The Master of Metal laughed mirthlessly. “Had I been younger, I would have taken a chance to subjugate the Shadow Isles without hesitation. But no longer. Now, I find such absolute leadership to be, frankly…tiring. Having to take care of every affair of the Shadow Isles, the trivial as well as the important, for all eternity, would drive me insane. Should the King fall, I will leave the ruling of the Shadow Isles in the hands of someone else who I know can do the job well.”
Lady Liandry nodded. “I must apologize to you, Master of Metal.”
He looked up at her in surprise. “And why is that?”
“I misjudged and hated you for all these years. I believed that you had betrayed everything you once stood for when you sided with the King. But now I see that, at your core, you have not changed from your beliefs. And I can place my trust in you once again to liberate the Isles from the King’s rule.”
Mordekaiser nodded. “I will not fail. The King has grown weaker, while his enemies, my allies, have grown stronger. When we meet once more on the battlefield, he will know this truth in the most painful way possible.”
He laughed, though this time with genuine humor. “You were right to tell Hecarim that I cannot be trusted. That fool still believes the King’s lies and will serve him to the end. However, the reason why he should not trust me…that is where the difference lies.”
The Lady smiled. “Before you go...does...does the Lord still love me? I know that he sided with the King, that he stands for everything that I oppose, and that we fought on opposite sides during the war…and yet…I cannot forget him. I cannot forget his good despite his allegiances. I cannot stop loving him.”
Mordekaiser placed a comforting hand on the spirit’s shoulder. “He still loves you. When I cross the altar at times…I can hear him trying to remember you. The years have worn away his memory…but he has not stopped loving you even after now. Of this I am sure.”
The titan lifted his mace. “And now, it is time for me to depart. Do not forget, Lady Liandry: I will fight on behalf of the Shadow Isles until the very end.”
The Lady smiled. “I hold you to that oath,” she answered, and with that, her soul descended into the altar, and was locked once again.
Mordekaiser then decided to turn to the East Altar. It would not do for the Lord to reveal his true intentions regarding the King of the Shadow Isles, for he was loyal to him to almost fanatical levels. However, they still had a friendly relationship, and it was only proper for Mordekaiser to call him forth, however briefly.
The Lord of the East Altar rose up, and turned to face the titan. “My Lord!” he exclaimed. “It is good to see you back in the Isles once again!”
Mordekaiser laughed. “At ease, Lord Hydra.”
“Soon,” Lord Hydra responded, “the Shadow Isles will rise once again! All of Runeterra will behold our might! We will become the envy of every nation, and death shall be the creed of all!”
“For the glory of the Shadow Isles!” Mordekaiser roared triumphantly, lifting his mace to the air. The two laughed for several minutes.
“When the time comes, my Lord,” the Lord finally asked, “will you do what needs to be done?”
“It will be done. On this I swear,” the Master of Metal responded. Satisfied, the Lord’s soul shrank back into the altar, which promptly re-locked itself.
“But will your interpretation of what needs to be done be the same as mine?” he continued more quietly. “Only time will tell...”
“Mordekaiser! Mordekaiser!” The Lord of the Damned turned to see Teemo behind him.
“What do you want?” he growled.
“Coronach sent me to tell you that your time is up,” Teemo chirped, “and that you’re expected to-“
Teemo never finished his sentence, for suddenly the Master of Metal slammed his mace into him, zapped him with a Siphon, set him aflame with the powerful Ignite spell, and cursed his soul. If one could have seen Mordekaiser’s face, they would have seen him smirk on it as he forced the newly formed Teemo ghost to imitate Twisted Fate’s new dance. Such actions were highly frowned upon by the summoners, but since he had killed Teemo on a Field of Justice they were technically legal. Besides, it was a well-known but silent secret that everybody hated Teemo. He doubted that anybody would rebuke him for this; after all, he had done them a favor.
More importantly, Mordekaiser felt content in a way that he had not felt for a long time. Even locked in the altar, a specter of guilt had hung over the titan for centuries now, condemning him for not fighting against the King. Though he knew that his refusal to fight the then-powerful tyrant were well-justified, a part of him had still been ashamed of the cowardice that the Lady had just now forgiven. His conscience had been cleared by her, and his resolve strengthened. For the good of the Shadow Isles, he would help to overthrow the King who had brought about the Isles’ ruin, and restore the Shadow Isles to its former glory. The Master of Metal stepped up to the teleportation platform to return to the Institute of War. He had work to do.