No longer just a (very popular) game, League of Legends has spawned a Netflix series in Arcane (an awesome show)—and now the first novel set in the League universe is coming: Anthony Reynolds’ Ruination. Ahead of its release September 6, io9 has a sneak peek at the first chapter.
First up, here’s a bit more about the book and its characters:
Camavor is a brutal land with a bloody legacy. Where the empire’s knights go, slaughter follows.
Kalista seeks to change that. When her young and narcissistic uncle, Viego, becomes king, she vows to temper his destructive instincts, as his loyal confidant, advisor, and military general. But her plans are thwarted when an assassin’s poisoned blade strikes Viego’s wife, Isolde, afflicting her with a malady for which there is no cure.
As Isolde’s condition worsens, Viego descends into madness and grief, threatening to drag Camavor down with him. Kalista makes a desperate gambit to save the kingdom: she searches for the long lost Blessed Isles, rumored to hold the queen’s salvation, if only Kalista can find them.
But corruption grows in the Blessed Isles’ capital, where a vengeful warden seeks to ensnare Kalista in his cruel machinations. She will be forced to choose between her loyalty to Viego and doing what she knows is right—for even in the face of utter darkness, one noble act can shine a light that saves the world.
Here’s the full cover. Swords ahoy!
And here’s the excerpt, the entire first chapter of Ruination: A League of Legends Novel.
How different the world might have been had that blade found its mark…
Dearest Isolde, sister of my heart,
By the time you receive this, you will have left Alovédra and be only days from Santoras.
It disappoints me that our efforts to find a diplomatic solution fell short, but don’t be disheartened—the idea of a bloodless negotiation would never have been even considered during my grandfather’s rule. This is progress, and your impassioned pleas for Camavor to avoid creating more enemies and to preserve the economy of our ally were compelling. Were Viego not so keen to cement his rule with a victory on the field, he might not have listened to the arguments of the priesthood and the Knightly Orders at all.
Viego holds your counsel in the highest regard, and your positive influence on him will rein in the Knightly Orders’ worst excesses. He’s come so far, just in the short time you’ve been married! Already he has enacted changes that I never would have dreamed of. The nightly opening of the East Barracks kitchens to feed the poor and needy—which I know was at your urging—has earned him much goodwill among the less fortunate of Alovédra, and I am still in awe that you were able to convince Viego to give a council seat to an elected representative from the lower classes.
I still worry about you traveling here to Santoras and being in such close proximity to the coming conflict, but I understand your reasoning. Indeed, if the rest of Viego’s court had even a fraction of your wisdom, empathy, and compassion, the world would be a far brighter place. There is no doubt Santoras will fall, as so many other city-states and nations have before, but I believe you are correct: Your presence will ensure that Santoras is not put to the sword after the battle.
The Grand Masters will balk at being ordered not to sack the city—they have grown wealthy filling their coffers with ill-gotten riches stolen from conquered foes—but they will not dare go against Viego. There will still be some violence and looting, of course. It would be unrealistic to believe otherwise. But I do believe this is the dawn of a new era for Camavor, one built upon bolstering trade with allies and improving the lives of average Camavorans, and not fixated upon brutal conquest and bloodshed hidden behind the veneer of the “noble quest.”
It will take time to change the outdated and savage questing culture of the Knightly Orders, but with your help, I am confident that we can guide Viego toward ending it once and for all. What perhaps began as a noble endeavor has become corrupted by greed, and it is long past time for this vile practice to end. Your people witnessed the worst of it firsthand; no one should have to see their homeland ravaged and their loved ones butchered like they did. Nothing can be done to atone for that atrocity, but we can ensure that it never happens again.
The histories will record your influence on the future greatness of Camavor, I have no doubt. You bring out the best in Viego. It gives me such hope for the future.
Your dearest friend and ally,
The Scouring Plains, Santoras
Eighteen Months After Viego’s Coronation
Kalista vol Kalah Heigaari, General of the Host, Spear of the Argent Throne, and niece to the king, ripped the helmet from her head. She sucked in a deep breath and ran a hand through her long, sweat-damp hair.
The sun beat down upon her, relentless and unforgiving. The heat was searing, burning her lungs, but slowly, her heart rate began to steady. Only then, with the fury of battle dissipating, did she feel the ache and sting of wounds she didn’t remember taking. Her head felt heavy, and there was a ringing in her ears. Had she taken a head blow? It was possible, yet the battle had been so chaotic, she couldn’t be certain.
Her arms were leaden, her back sore. All she wanted to do was sink to the ground and close her eyes, but she did not. No soldier wanted to see their commander giving in to exhaustion. And so she remained on her feet, praying to the Ancestors that her legs did not collapse beneath her.
Thousands of bodies were strewn across the dusty plain. Where the fighting had been thickest, they were piled high, in lines where the soldiers had clashed and died. Most were motionless, but not all. Survivors on both sides twitched and moaned. But the Camavorans were the victors, and so while their wounded would be borne away, their injuries tended, the Santorassians were already being finished off.
Beyond the battlefield, the wives and daughters, husbands and sons of those soldiers watched from atop the sloping sandstone walls of their city. Kalista imagined she could hear their wails. There would be panic within those walls. Their king had gambled all by standing against Camavor, but he was dead, and his city would be claimed.
Far behind Kalista, upon a rise overlooking the battlefield, was the covered pavilion where her king watched, his queen at his side. Viego had wanted to be down here, fighting, leading from the front, the mighty blade Sanctity in hand. He came from a lineage of warrior-kings, and his father was the legendary Lion of Camavor, after all. Viego had been king for a year and a half now, and wanted to prove his might to his allies and his detractors alike.
Before the battle, he had dismissed the counsel of his advisors and generals who urged him to watch from afar, out of harm’s way. Once they had gone, Kalista had confronted him.
“You are the king, and you do not yet have an heir,” Kalista had said through gritted teeth, starting to lose her patience.
“I am sick of living in my father’s shadow,” Viego had snapped. He was garbed for battle, wearing gleaming black plate edged in gold. “I am every bit the warrior he was. I want this victory to be mine.”
“It will be yours whether you take the field or not,” Kalista shot back. “The histories will record it as a victory for King Viego. It doesn’t matter if you fight.”
“It matters to me,” he had returned hotly.
No one else would dare speak to him in the tone she had used, but as a child, he had always sought her approval, and in many ways still did.
Even so, Viego was not to be convinced. He had opened his mouth to argue, until Queen Isolde placed a hand on his arm. “Kalista is wise, my love,” she had said. “Stay by my side. Please. You have nothing to prove.”
As gently spoken as she was, there was a formidable strength in Isolde. Viego had sighed, and finally relented. “I guess it is just pride that makes me want to fight,” he had said, placing a hand over his queen’s. “I will do as you wish, my love.”
On the dusty, hot battlefield, surrounded by the dead and dying, Kalista raised her spear high, in salute to the royal couple in the distance.
“Best get that seen to, General,” said a voice, a deep baritone rumble. Kalista turned to see Ledros, her most trusted and capable captain. He was a giant of a man, standing head and shoulders above the next tallest soldier in the Camavoran ranks, and his deeply tanned face was crisscrossed with pale scars. As with all the lowborn infantry of the Host, his armor consisted of little more than a baked-leather breastplate, a humble bronze helm, and leather greaves. His large wooden shield was splintered, and it fell to pieces as he unhooked it from one arm. Those arms were massive, as big as any other man’s thighs. He was splattered with blood, but little of it was his own.
Kalista stared at him, trying to understand what he meant. He gestured to the side of her head, and she reached up to her temple. She frowned as her fingertips came away bloody. Glancing down at her helmet, held loosely in numb fingers, she saw the rent gouged in its side. Axe strike. It must have been a glancing blow, else she would have been lying in the dust with the other corpses. She’d been lucky, and Ledros knew it.
“It’s nothing, Captain,” she said.
Ledros was carrying a severed head, holding the grisly trophy by its hair. The Santorassian king. It had been the death of that warrior-monarch that broke the enemy. And as always, once the rout began, the end had been inevitable. Fear was contagious on the battlefield, and the resolve of soldiers could be fragile. The death of one man could cause an entire battle line to shatter, just as a single pebble could cause an avalanche.
“That was a fine kill,” Kalista said.
The enemy king had a reputation as a consummate swordsman, and from what Kalista had seen of him fighting, that reputation wasn’t exaggerated. He’d carved into their right flank at the head of his elite guard, fighting like a demigod, slaughtering everything in his path. The Camavoran line had buckled, threatening to break, until Ledros had shouldered his way through the fray to face him.
There was no doubt the king had been a gifted warrior…He’d just never faced the likes of Ledros before.
“Bastard put up a good fight,” Ledros grunted.
“Not good enough, it seems,” Kalista observed. “The Knightly Orders will be furious you denied them the chance to claim that glory themselves.”
Ledros grinned. His features were too broad and thick for him to be regarded as handsome, but he had an honest face. He had absolutely no guile in him, which was far too rare a trait. “That just makes this victory all the sweeter,” he said, a wicked gleam in his dark eyes.
Kalista snorted. It was an undignified sound, but there was no one near to hear it but Ledros and her other loyal soldiers of the Host. She may have been highborn, but she had always felt more comfortable among the common rank and file than among other nobles, with all their flattery, lies, and backstabbing. Camavoran court politics were as dangerous as any battlefield, full of feints, sudden assaults, and desperate last stands, but Kalista would much rather face her enemies across the field. At least there you could see who was holding a blade.
Dust clouds in the distance showed where the scattered remnants of the enemy army had fled. They wouldn’t last long. Three major Knightly Orders had marshaled for battle alongside the Host to defeat Santoras—the Knights of the Azure Flame, the Horns of Ebon, and the Iron Order—along with a handful of minor orders. They had been denied the glory of a decisive, victorious charge, for the enemy had broken before any of them had fully committed themselves to the battle, and so those knights would satisfy themselves by running down the survivors.
Pushing aside her exhaustion, Kalista walked among the Host, Ledros at her side. She wanted them to see their general. She stopped frequently to compliment individual soldiers, to joke with some, and commiserate with others. She knelt beside the injured, and held the hands of the dying, and drew the blood trident upon the foreheads of those who had already passed, speaking words of thanks for their bravery—it sounded empty to her but seemed to give solace to those still living to hear it. She told the younger soldiers they were veterans now, and nodded to the real veterans, with their haunted eyes. Porcelain-masked priests picked their way across the field, tapping at the taut surface of their finger-drums to help guide the spirits of the dead to the Revered Ancestors.
Everywhere they went, soldiers slapped Ledros on the shoulder. Even those who had not seen him kill the enemy king knew of it. Every soldier in the Host regarded him with awe and reverence. He was their talisman. Kalista dreaded what would happen should he ever fall in battle, for he truly was the heart and soul of the Host.
The sun had dipped low as Kalista and Ledros made their way through the gathered knots of soldiers. Her throat was parched and dust-coated, and she gratefully accepted a waterskin from one of her officers.
Now that the shock of combat was fading, there was a jubilant mood among the Host. They had survived the day and were victorious. They would see their wives, husbands, and children once more, and the next dawn would seem glorious for that.
A great cheer went up for Ledros, and he obligingly lifted his bloody trophy high for all to see. Kalista saw the blush on his broad cheeks and smiled. As big as he was, indomitable in battle and able to face charging heavy cavalry without a hint of fear, this kind of adoration made him nervous. She found it endearing.
Ledros caught her eye. Help me, his eyes begged, but that merely goaded her on. She placed a hand on his massive shoulder—well above her own head—and lifted up her spear.
“Ledros!” she roared. “Slayer of Kings!”
He stared down at her, aghast, and she laughed at his embarrassment.
The Host roared their approval and chanted his name. Everyone was on their feet now, thrusting dented and bloodied weapons in the air. Only when it began to die down did Kalista notice the heavily armored horseman nearby, watching silently. Sitting astride a steel-encased warhorse of titanic proportions, the knight was resplendent in his ornate armor, a rich purple cloak of the finest velvet draped over his shoulders.
Hecarim, Grand Master of the Iron Order. My betrothed.
She hurriedly removed her hand from Ledros’s shoulder. The jubilation of moments before was gone, leaving only silence. The big captain turned toward Hecarim and lowered his gaze in dutiful deference, as did every member of the Host. Kalista did not follow suit. She was of royal blood and lowered her gaze to no one but the king.
Hecarim’s features were proud and noble, refined and aristocratic, and he cast his imperious gaze across the soldiers. It lingered on Ledros for a moment before settling on Kalista. His wavy shoulder-length hair was dark, his olive skin unmarred by flaw or blemish. His eyes were the deep green of ocean depths, and they had an intensity that was at once alluring and dangerous.
He dismounted, sliding smoothly to the ground with a rattle of armor. He was tall and broad-shouldered. Not Ledros-tall, but who is? A squire rushed forward—the daughter of some nobleman wealthy enough to buy her place at Hecarim’s side—and took the warhorse by the bridle. The beast snorted and stamped one iron-shod hoof, eyes flashing. For a moment it seemed it would bite the girl, but a sharp word from its master settled it.
“Lady Kalista,” Hecarim said, bowing his head, though his eyes never left her own.
“My lord Hecarim,” Kalista returned, with a subtle inclination of her chin.
The silence lengthened as she waited for him to speak. A bead of sweat ran down her taut, muscled back, beneath her armor. They were set to be wed before the year was out, yet this was only the third time they had spoken. There was an understandable awkwardness between them, for they were barely more than strangers. Dozens nearby watched and listened, but if she was being honest with herself, she was mainly conscious of Ledros, standing statue-still at her side.
As if sensing her thoughts, Hecarim glanced again at Ledros, lingering on the severed head still clasped in the captain’s hand. Kalista wondered if he was going to say something about a lowborn bondsman denying him the honor of that kill. Instead, he smiled. It was warm and lit up his face.
“Will you walk a moment with me, lady?” Hecarim said.
“Of course,” she answered.
He turned and held out his arm. Kalista passed her spear to an attendant and stepped beside him, placing her hand lightly upon his ornate vambrace.
We must make a strange sight. A leisurely afternoon stroll through a garden would perhaps have been more fitting for a betrothed couple, but here they were, walking among the dead and dying. Hecarim’s appearance was spotless, and Kalista was acutely conscious of the fact that she was covered in blood, dust, and sweat.
“Don’t ever say I don’t take you to the nicest of places,” Hecarim murmured, a smile in his voice. “If you’re lucky, next time I may take you to a charnel pit. Or a swamp. Chaperoned, of course.”
Kalista was pleased to see he had some wit about him. She felt the tension between them ease a little, and she looked up at him. How were his teeth so perfect? she wondered idly.
“It is good to see you smile, lady,” he said softly.
She glanced around them. “It surprises me that I am able,” she admitted, “given the circumstances.”
“You have won a convincing victory this day. A victory for the ages.”
“In the king’s name, glory be upon him.”
The ranks of the Host stood at attention as they walked by, saluting sharply.
“They really do adore you, don’t they?” remarked Hecarim.
“They appreciate a general who doesn’t treat them as chaff.”
Hecarim grunted. Kalista wasn’t sure whether he was amused or he’d never really considered the notion. In truth, few nobles had.
“There are those who worry you hold too much sway with the common masses,” he mused.
“Because I don’t lead them to slaughter, like cattle?”
“Because there are a lot of them,” replied Hecarim, scratching his chin. “Populist monarchs have come to power in the past through lowborn uprisings.”
Kalista laughed. “Anyone who thinks I am plotting to take the Argent Throne is an abject fool,” she said. “I have no desire to rule, and I detest court politics. I’ll stick to the battlefield.”
Hecarim smiled. Ancestors, but he is a good-looking man.
“And you lead your soldiers well,” he said. “But in a void of decent gossip, there are plenty who feel the need to manufacture it. Though declaring your best bondsman soldier Kingslayer, well, that is perhaps not going to do much to quell such talk.”
Kalista frowned. “I really don’t care what they whisper behind my back,” she declared. “The court is a mass of vipers.”
Hecarim’s expression became more serious, and it was like the sun dipping behind a cloud. He stopped and turned to face Kalista, taking her hands in his own. It was the first time they had ever really touched.
“My apologies, noble lady,” he said earnestly. “It was not my intention to cause you upset. I had merely come to ensure that you were unharmed, and to offer congratulations for your strategic mastery today.”
Kalista felt her cheeks blush. “Thank you,” she murmured.
Hecarim released her hands, and they continued in silence until they came full circle, returning to where they had started. The knight’s squire still held his angry ebony steed, and she looked relieved to hand back the reins.
“I must leave you, dear lady. The king has ordered that the city not be sacked, and I want to ensure that that decree is followed,” said Hecarim. “There will be a triumphal feast held within the walls. Will you do me the honor of being seated at my side?”
“The honor would be mine, my lord.”
Flashing a final smile, Lord Hecarim remounted his immense steed. He wheeled once, then rode off, attendants following in his wake, like leaves in the wind. He rode like one born to the saddle, as if he and his furious warhorse were one.
His knights cheered as their Grand Master rejoined them. With a blare of a horn, the one known as the Iron Harbinger signaled their advance, and the order rode for the conquered city.
Dust rose behind them, and Kalista’s expression darkened. The city of Santoras would not be sacked, but there would still be some degree of looting and plundering, despite what Hecarim said; there always was in the aftermath of battle. And she knew that any who resisted would be slaughtered.
Ledros spat onto the ground.
“He rides well enough,” he said. “I’ll give him that.”
Excerpt from Anthony Reynolds’ Ruination: A League of Legends Novel reprinted by permission of Orbit.
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