In the highest tower of Noxus, Jericho Swain sat alone in his desk reflecting on his current problems and how to deal with them. Though it seemed to the outside world that Noxus was completely united under Swain’s command, he knew that the truth hadn’t been quite as simple. His rise to Grand General had made him not a few enemies, some of them very powerful ones. Swain’s first task was to take them all down one by one, either by forcing them to swear a personal oath of allegiance to him or else outright eliminating them. Compared to Keiran Darkwill, they had all been easy prey, so Swain hadn’t found much of a challenge in any of them. “Disappointments, all of them, Beatrice…” he hissed to his pet raven, Beatrice.

The only powerful entity in Noxus that Swain had left alone, besides his general Darius, was the metal titan Mordekaiser. Swain knew only too well of the Master of Metal’s dark powers; he had witnessed his soul-stealing curse several times during his retinue of the League and even fallen to it himself occasionally. Noxus and Mordekaiser had long held an unofficial “non-aggression” agreement. Neither would bother the other, and Swain saw no benefit in violating that agreement at this point in time. Now was not the time to dwell on or intrude in the Lord of the Damned’s dealings in Noxus.

With his power and authority firmly solified and established, Swain then considered what to do with it. He had briefly toyed with the notion of ignoring the League’s restrictions and declaring war on Valoran to dominate it all, but he soon dismissed the idea. Swain had been both praised and criticized, depending on the city-state, for many things. Cruel, power-hungry, ambitious, dominating, ruthless; these were all characteristics that Swain not only accepted but boasted. However, he refused to be acknowledged as two things: a fool and an oathbreaker. To violate the League, especially with that idiotic Demacia and the other states so fervently supporting it, would make him both. They and the League itself were filled with powerful magic and sorcery, and would most likely blast Noxus right out of the mountain if he attempted such extreme aggression. Besides, he knew that the city-state was riddled with its own internal corruption and problems. How could Noxus master all of Valoran if it couldn’t even master itself?

The Master Tactician was completely and genuinely loyal to Noxus, but he more than anyone else could see how it was decaying from within. The dark city-state was falling to itself, the old concept of strength fading as the nobles of Noxus became self-absorbed and negligent of the city’s needs. Even the previous Grand General, Boram Darkwill, had fallen into this trap of decay and foolishness. Swain’s original view of Darkwill had been one of respect and admiration. Here was a man, he had believed when he had ascended to one of his right-hand men, who could rule Noxus well and with an iron fist. However, Swain soon faced the bitter reality that Darkwill had already become as corrupt and negligent as the other nobles. It disgusted him to no end, especially when Darkwill accepted the crushing defeat against Ionia with what he saw as little more than meek acceptance.

Swain could do little about this until, suddenly, a glorious opportunity had come to him in the form of the Kalamanda conflict. He could develop a master plan on how, using the conflict between Demacia and Noxus, he could get rid of Darkwill and take his place. Then, as Grand General, he could use his powers to return Noxus to the old concept of strength and make it the invincible powerhouse it had once been. He wouldn’t deny that part of his motive was personal gain, but more importantly, Noxus needed to be rid of the corruption that shackled it.

wain had manipulated the events of Kalamanda to his advantage. Many of his rivals and enemies had accused him of organizing the conflict from the start, but in truth all that he had done was to manipulate the conflict to eliminate Darkwill while using Kalamanda as a cover-up. Shortly before Demacia had been about to claim Kalamanda’s resources, Swain had used a corrupt Demacian soldier (a rare find indeed) and convinced him to speak out against that fool Jarvan IV just when he was about to claim Kalamanda’s pact. What followed next would have required more resources than he possessed, so he had turned to his former colleagues in the Black Rose.

wain’s relationship with the shadowy organization was complicated but mutually beneficial. Swain had been a loyal and useful member of the Black Rose before he had decided to turn to politics and the military to serve Noxus. His resignations stirred up much protest from a large part of the organization, though they eventually agreed to let it occur on the promise that Swain would not abandon them entirely. Though he no longer served the Black Rose officially, Swain still offered small services, blocking off areas where the Black Rose were known to work and looking the other way when they were conducting their secret missions, as long as the Black Rose’s missions did not damage the welfare of Noxus (and they rarely ever did). He did this solely on the basis of the Black Rose’s simple contract: those who served the Black Rose would be rewarded when they asked for it.

He had called in several of those favors for Kalamanda. Swain had requested for LeBlanc to send several of the Black Rose’s most powerful assassins to assault Darkwill’s retinue, and they had done their work with terrifying efficiency. Of course, none could be spared to link the Black Rose with the assassinations.

What followed next was more for show than any significant plan. After framing the Demacians for Boram’s murder, Swain had asked LeBlanc to impersonate Jarvan and initiate the war that would have inevitably broken out anyway between Demacia and Noxus. It was a perfect ploy, completely covering up Swain’s ulterior motives regarding the leadership of Noxus. After all, who would ever think that Swain was secretly using the Kalamanda incident to set himself up as the new leader of Noxus? Who would have had the time when the fate of Runeterra itself was at stake?

“My lord?”

Swain snapped out of his thoughts. He turned to see Darius standing in front of his desk, one of the few people in Noxus that Swain could trust. Like Swain, Darius favored the old ways of strength, had loathed the corruption that had riddled Noxus, and was not afraid to show it. He was quite infamous for solving problems using his axe rather than the subtle nuances of politics, beheading many an unfortunate adversary both within and outside Noxus. Swain and Darius had seen the potential within each other and formed their own alliance, working together to bring Swain to power. However, Swain could not afford to show any sympathy or favoritism even to his best general. Especially not to his best general.

“What is it?” he snapped.

“Our mission to quell the uprisings in the Noxian underground have been completely successful. The insurgent Ironblade has been utterly defeated,” Darius reported. “I decided to give my brother the…privilege…of making a spectacle of it for the benefit of the general public,” Darius added with amusement in his voice.

Swain smirked underneath his mask. Neither he nor Darius took Draven very seriously, but he really was so very entertaining. Even he, an individual who had spent so much time planning and counter-planning the future, had been surprised more than once by Draven’s unpredictable and deadly effective executions.

“What else do you have to report?” Swain asked.

“Very good news sir,” Darius replied. He then smiled, something Swain had never seen before. “General Du Couteau has returned.”

“What?” Swain asked, his face giving nothing away.

“The General suddenly reappeared this morning in the Noxus square. There is a huge fanfare right now, sir. All of Noxus is celebrating his return. Du Couteau spent time reuniting with Katarina and Cassiopeia, but after that he didn’t spend time on pleasantries. He wishes to speak to you, and you alone.”

“Escort him up to the antechamber immediately,” Swain ordered. Darius turned and left.

Swain thought silently to himself. He had, of course, known about General Du Couteau’s reappearance long before the event had actually occurred. He had, after all, been responsible for Du Couteau’s disappearance in the first place, though for reasons very different than what most might have expected. The General was one of the few individuals who had ever been treated to Swain’s well-concealed humanity.

Du Couteau and Swain had been lifelong friends and allies, a fact that not even Katarina or Cassiopeia were aware of. They both fervently believed in the old Noxian way of strength, and it had been Du Couteau who had first introduced Darius to Swain back when the former had achieved his almost impossible victory over Demacia. However, one so prominent in the Noxian hierarchy had enemies just as dangerous. Swain knew that Boram’s son, that pathetic weakling Keiran, had grown envious of Du Couteau’s fame and power. Keiran had long suspected, perhaps even correctly, that the Noxian people and High Command would vote Du Couteau over him as the new Grand General should Boram ever fall. Keiran, in response to this perceived threat, whispered poison against Du Couteau in his father’s ear, deluding him into believing that Du Couteau would kill Boram and take his place.

With Boram and Keiran turned against Du Couteau, it would only have been a matter of time before they arranged for Du Couteau to “disappear.” So Swain had done it first. After Keiran’s many assassins failed to slay Du Couteau in his latest and most violent attempt, Swain had arranged for him to escape to a Noxian outpost far from the main city. The outpost’s commander and soldiers were completely loyal to Swain and Swain alone, so they would not reveal the General’s whereabouts to the Darkwills. From there, Du Couteau would wait until he could safely reveal himself. Swain had strictly instructed him not to make contact with anybody, not even his own daughters, since such an action would not only endanger the Du Couteaus but also cast suspicion on Swain himself. It was only after the Darkwills had been killed that Swain had contacted Du Couteau and told him that it was safe to return.

“Let’s go, Beatrice. Time to meet an old friend,” Swain told his raven affectionately. He rose from his chair and left his office. He was not going to exchange pleasantries with Du Couteau. There was business to attend to. Noxian business.