The rich, wonderful, and unmistakable smell of blood filled Warwick's keen nose with its delicious scent. The scent that made his heart pound within his chest in a manner that seemed like it would burst with its vigor. His once yellow eyes now showed like red, hellish embers within the sockets of his skull. His black lips were raised and peeled back, showing his white, bared fangs for all to see with his snarl. And this was all because he was nearing in on the one man he had spent so agonizing long hunting.
For the greatest while had the Blood Hunter tracked this particular chem-baron from outside the polluted and corrupt landscape that was the city of Zaun. Knowing the feared Howler was on his tail the chem-baron had fled to Ionia, a peaceful, but by no means undefended island nation across the sea. He did so by boarding the first ship he could get on, leaving the bestial vigilante and would-be killer behind on dry land.
Not that it stopped Warwick from pursuing his prey.
For one whole day and one whole night Warwick swam across the choppy, salty ocean water that separated Ionia from the continent of Valoran. Without tire he broke through the coming waves and continued his chase, all for the want of sinking his sharpened fangs into that chem-baron's wretched throat. The occasional shark or other underwater predator would be drawn up to the surface by his partially-canid silhouette, hoping to make a meal of him. Their hunger and curiosity was met with a gruesome end at the chimera's struggling claws and jaws, or else fled to seek out other, less well-defended prey.
Warwick was nearing total exhaustion when he reached land. But the hunt, still on, beckoned him to continue. Shaking the saltwater off of himself, he left the shore in a swift few bounds and entered the forest dwelling beyond it without a care for his well being; the scent of his prey so near now, he could practically taste him.
He traversed through the wilds of the foreign place, not stopping for even a second to gaze at any section of the beautiful, untouched landscape surrounding every step he took. Not stopping to realize just how different it was from the smoggy and befouled world of rampant technology and mad alchemy he knew as Zaun. After another several hours of traveling without rest he finally located his prey calmly walking along a dirt path, blissfully unaware of his coming fate until a bloodcurdling howl erupted from Warwick's fanged maw.
The look of sheer, unexpected surprise and terror shining in his glassy eyes brought a rotten sense of pleasure to the chimera, but it was pleasure nonetheless. Even without the repugnant scent he left, Warwick would have known from sight alone that he was a Zaunite and definitely not an Ionian. His body was more a walking pile of whirring, perverted and dark machinery than flesh, and what little of it there was that wasn't metal was large, rippling muscle, lined with thick and exposed veins alight with a sickly green glow, indicating their strength was granted alone by the foul chemical steroids his kind were known and made infamous for producing.
Though he was caught off guard, the chem-baron was far from defenseless. Upon witnessing Warwick's coming lunge he had drawn his weapon, a great sword, electrically charged by a small generator running along its hilt. Small sparks crackled along its top, and soon over fur and flesh as the device pierced the Howler's thick, scar-covered hide with a huge swing that would have easily felled a normal man.
Alas for the chem-baron, Warwick was a man no longer. He was something more now, but also something less. And if there was anything he was made for, it was pure and simple slaughter. Though at first letting out a hurt whimper from the impact of the blow, the noise was swiftly replaced by a roar.
Warwick swiped and bit, clawed and bellowed. With his wicked talons of metal and natural making he tore open the chem-baron's steel body as though it were tin, and with his powered sword the chem-baron cut a savage gash that wrenched off a hunk of flesh from Warwick's abdomen. The struggle was intense and fierce, and much blood, metal parts, and chem fluid was spilled upon the plants and ground of the once-tranquil area. In the end Warwick won the dispute by ripping open the cruel machine-man's throat with his fangs, finally spelling his deserved doom.
Seeing nothing but red from the amount of pain he had endured and blood he had smelled and tasted, the chimera was far from done with his foe. Even as the chem-baron was entering his helpless death throes, Warwick brutally assaulted his body with the tenacity of a maddened dog, ignoring his unbound exhaustion and the wretched wounds he had accrued in favor of taking his misery and wrath out upon it.
Warwick did not feel the true pain that the wounds themselves entailed until he finally finished beating, tearing, and gnawing at what little remained of the chem-baron. Finally regaining as much control of his bestial self as he could a great many minutes later, he spat out a chunk of twisted metal and gore in his teeth, wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his left arm, and stood up, panting hard and occasionally coughing up a wad of crimson saliva from his torn insides. Placing a claw down to his lower side, he felt the gaping and bleeding wound ripped into his body. Not only was there the fiery agony, but also grogginess from the amount of stamina he had exerted throughout the beginning of the trek, all the way from Zaun's shore to this one. And yet, through it all, there was an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that tickled his battered brain like a soft feather. The chem-baron tried so hard to escape him, but now he was as dead as a doornail.
Dead, dead, dead! Oh, how the gruesome words sounded so lovely to him now! One more rancid, ruling chem-baron taken permanently off the streets! One more criminal facing proper justice at his claws and teeth! One more hunt fulfilled, nice and neat!
Warwick repeated these words like a demented song, or at least words similar to it within his feverish mind as he began limping away. His injuries were grievous, but with all the rancid chemicals burning through his veins, he would heal from them. He just needed to find a place of as much comfort as he could experience. A place where he could rest and recuperate. And so, for nearly an hour afterward, he lurched forth through the woodland of Ionia, searching for a place to lay down and properly recover. As he entered one area that seemed nice and uninhabited, which to say was what appeared to be a grove of sorts, a strange noise suddenly came into his large ears.
It sounded like a... pipe-related instrument. Not the chiming of workplace machinery and factories that constantly made an awful, loathsome ruckus back in Zaun, but something soft. Soothing. It was some time later that he finally remembered what the name of the instrument possibly making it. A flute.
The melody took a hold of Warwick's mind, and before he knew it he was lying upon the grassy ground of the grove, struggling to stay awake. He quickly lost the battle with the music and his weary mind, and so, with a hint of reluctance in his lowering eyelids, he slowly faded into unconsciousness and knew no more.
* * * * *
The thick, metallic, and unmistakable smell of blood filled the clear air like a foul pollutant infecting the enchanted, precious and sacred grove one particular individual called her home. Lifting her head as soon as she detected the scent, Soraka took the lip plate of her wooden flute from her mouth and paused her performance; the choir of birds in the trees overhead suddenly going silent. The horrid smell was thick and fresh, and somewhere close by. Her grove was a place of shelter and respite, and if she ever found herself with company, it was normally in the form of the wounded and sick who sought her out to cure their terminal maladies.
Soraka stood from her log seat to her feet and began walking hurriedly through her grove to locate the source of this disturbance. The celestial being herself bore a form not unlike that of a human woman, possessing long, black, tied hair that fell from the back of her head, and pallid skin etched in tattoo-like markings that seemed to radiate with mystic power. Currently, she was cloaked in an extensive and dark blue dress at her base that hid her legs and feet completely away within its fold, while the manner of clothing around her upper body was covered in a light, and somewhat regal type of reddish Ionian regalia, with several symbols on it representing the stars from whence she came so long ago. In her hands, having picked it up as she left, was the celestial staff she owned that had the golden symbol of the moon at its tip, and served occasionally as a conduit for her magical skill when using her hands to process it wasn't enough. A mere minute had passed when she finally discovered who she was seeking, and when she laid her eyes upon it, they widened slightly in shock.
Breathing in ragged gasps that gave away how hurt it was, was a great beast far larger than she was, possessing dark fur all over its muscular and battered body. It had the basic form of a canid being, mixed with some form of humanoid, and had a variety of unnatural machinery augmented into itself, running mostly along its spine and actually within its right arm. From its rear, which was covered in the remains of an old and dreadfully worn pair of brown pants, extended a long, bushy tail, resembling that of a fox's. On either side of its head, its ears were exceptionally large and pointed, as a bat would have. He, as Soraka quickly assumed, was a creature the likes of which she had never seen.
And he was horribly, horribly wounded.
Soraka, without hesitation, approached the being and stared down at him with an expression of pity. Holding her staff close, she knelt to the ground to get a better view of the area on him that was bleeding the most. While descending to her knee, the base of her long, flowing dress settled over the terrain like an ocean's water spreading over a neighboring shore. It didn't take her long to locate the source of his worst laceration, which to say was a gaping, torn-open spot of flesh on his abdomen - clearly given in a fight and not gained by some form of accident. Without hesitation, her thin arms extended and her hands grew close to the wound; their still fingertips glowing in a greenish tint. The moment that she touched him, the beast let out a wicked snarl and unconsciously swiped his left claw forward, striking it across Soraka's shoulder.
But it did not harm her. Soraka was a Starchild - an immortal being, and one who had lived her life for the sole purpose of healing others. Lest she performed a deed that brought intentional harm to another, she would remain as she was. Enduring the blow that could effortlessly rend flesh from bone, instead of being sliced into bloody ribbons, her limb remained intact as it was and she felt nothing. She scarcely flinched from the lightning-quick reaction to her soft touch to begin with, and had on a face only showing sorrow for the creature's plight.
Soraka's fingers once more pressed forward until they again touched the bleeding edge of his wound. The beast snarled again as he felt something alien and soft come over him, but as a brief few seconds passed, his growling turned into a long, slow whine from the soothing sensation swirling through his otherwise inactive mind.
Focusing, Soraka closed her eyes and silently called upon the stars to aid her. Channeling her magic, she directed it out of her hands in a greenish stream and onto the body of the creature, restoring what was lost and sealing what had been torn and sundered. Within the span of a dozen seconds, the red trail of blood flowing from his body ceased and the mortal-looking injury was mended; restored in a way that left it looking like it hadn't been damaged to begin with. Not a single scar remained where there had once been a series of nasty gashes. Her work done and newest guest cured of his horrible ailments, Soraka was satisfied.
Picking up her celestial staff and using it to get back from her knees to her legs, she walked over to the front of the creature and sat down by his head. With hands moving as gentle as possible, she lifted his head and moved herself under it, then allowed it to fall over her warm lap. "You are not from here, are you?" she tenderly whispered to the being, leaning her staff over her shoulder with one hand as the other stroked the fur over his scarred face. "You poor creature. There is no need to fret now, for you are safe here. All who dwell within my grove are safe from injury, and you, even through such a fear-inspiring visage, are as well."
Sitting there the ground of her grove, with the beast's great head propped over her lap, Soraka let the once-ailing creature sleep peacefully; hoping only that his dreams were pleasant after the ordeal he must have gone through. To help him along with that, Soraka began to hum a song. It was a lullaby she had learned from a desperate mother nearly one-hundred years before, when she had brought forth her sick child to be cured by the Starchild. She remembered hearing the mortal woman use it to rock her baby to sleep in her arms, and Soraka saw it now as a perfect way to ensure that this beast got his own deserved rest.
In the end, Soraka spent a grand and long while singing to her visitor. She stayed with him through the entire day, even as the sun set and the moon, shaped in a thin white crescent, rose high in the black sky; a black sky riddled from one horizon to the other in glittering stars. Stars that seemed to shine down upon their child with a sense of pride.2: A Healer's Care
Unconsciousness only just beginning to leave him, the first thing Warwick could discern from reality and his dreamless slumber was a heavenly warmth that overcame every nerve in his body. It was a warmth that settled over him like a wonderful fleece draped over his hide. Comforting him in a manner longer and greater than he could ever hope to remember. His tongue rolled about within his closed, saliva-rich mouth, moving over his fangs and across the interior of his black lips.
He could detect something else. It was a sound. A voice. A song; a beautiful, beautiful song hung around his ears, filling his half-conscious mind with its grace. Filling it with images. Images of the past. Memories.
Warwick knew all too well of the only memories his mind was able to keep after his transformation. Fear and hatred took hold of his body at the idea of remembering those forsaken times. He wanted to forget them all. He wanted to forget his time spent on the operating table. Being carved and cut into, the metal augmentations that replaced many of his bones, being injected with every alchemical ingredient meant to cause pain and acting as nothing more than a guinea pig for that damned mad chemist who made him into this. At last, the images he so greatly loathed to reimagine faded before he could truly experience them.
The song, however, seemed to notice his growing tension. It grew in volume, replacing his anxiety. The hum of that angelic voice soothed every muscle in the chimera's mutated form. A moan left his mouth as he felt himself relax, the last of his worry leaving him like a departing storm.
His eyes opened at last, and a faint ray of sunlight was the first sight to greet them. Getting used to the gleam, he realized that there was a shape looming over him, cloaked in a dress of sorts. It looked female. It looked human. Her skin, pallid as snow, was highlighted in marks imprinted upon her that resembled curling celestial symbols. Smooth, raven-black hair fell finely from her head, and Warwick eventually came to the realization that one of her hands was stroking at the fur on the side of his neck in a tender motion. It accompanied the song that emerged from her lips in a fluent motion, matching it splendor in every fathomable way.
And her eyes... her eyes were something else entirely. Something inhuman; golden and beguiling. Half-open, they stared down at him, into his own. Compared to the rest of what he saw in her so far, they looked like a pair of glittering stars in a sky of infinite void and blackness. He found himself getting blissfully lost in them as she ran her wandering hand over his forehead until it ventured behind both of his ears, getting at the perfect spot where a scar lay which he often spent many an hour itching at. With her gentle touch, any ailment he possessed, major or minor, seemed to... vanish.
For a time, Warwick simply stared into her calm, otherworldly eyes and at the impossibly warm smile she possessed. He didn't know how to react to this sort of situation in the slightest. Was it fear that clenched at his mind as he gazed upon this unperturbed being? Anger? No... the alien feeling of all his negative emotions having left him was far, far too clear to ignore. Was it... pleasure? No, it couldn't have been that either. Were he to have ever felt something like that ever again without it being given during or after a rush of blood and violence, the unnatural chimera probably would have just sprung up onto his feet, unleashed a bellowing roar at her and then flee the scene. And yet, with the vexingly delightful sensation of her hand stroking the fur around his face and snout as the other cradled his head upon her lap... he felt heavily inclined to resist the action. And for a time he did.
After what seemed like an eternity of vacuous ecstasy, the strange individual who cared for Warwick so ungrudgingly stopped singing and instead spoke. "Those wounds you possessed were fairly gruesome to observe. I managed to mend them with my power, so you should feel as good as new now," she whispered in a tone as soft as down, and one that felt to Warwick like a wonderful, rare beam of sunlight falling upon his body on a cold day in Zaun's smog-infested streets. Still paralyzed by his conflicted mind, all he could do was emit a long and high pitched whine that ended in a sigh.
"How curious it is for someone like you to visit my grove, really," she came again. "You resemble a creature with great intelligence, but I do not know that for sure. I wonder, can you speak?"
"Sp-sp-speak?" Warwick found himself having to form enough willpower just to talk. His voice itself was low and guttural to the point that it sounded more like an animalistic growl, but still the being above him remained unmolested. "I... I can speak."
"So you can," she chuckled, the laugh itself mirthful and filled with nothing but happiness. Its insidious effects were like the enthralling song from before; it forced out a sense of gratification that burned within Warwick's chemical-infused blood to match the excruciating level of agony granted by fiery pitch. "How very interesting this is. And how very fortunate for you to have stumbled into my domain. You looked minutes away from meeting the Eternal Hunters, given those injuries you possessed. You were out of it for a day and a night."
However dulled his senses were, Warwick noticed at last that his physical pain was truly gone. It was either his biology's doing, or this being's mentioned magic that had done it. Either way, Warwick also noticed that for this he cared not. This place was not his own. He knew, for all the treatment he had received, that he had to leave. Of course, such an action had to start with him sitting up and getting a better grip on things.
When he finally gained the fortitude to perform the deed upon sucking in a deep breath of the fresh air around him, he did so, albeit sluggishly. He shut his eyes, clenching their lids together tightly against the sting of the dry rheum that had gathered between them while he slept. Grunting, he rolled himself off of her lap and landed upon his rump, inhaling a deep breath while his tail swished about where it extended behind him with new life.
The winsome healer slowly rose to her feet to join him, her shape still quite small compared to the creature simply sitting before her. "My name is Soraka. Who, or what, are you, if I may ask?" Her voice was innocently curious, and Warwick heard the question well enough. She went on, "Though I have a theory, I have never seen any creature with quite a resemblance to you before."
Warwick was quiet for a moment, as though thinking deeply on this query. "I... am a monster," he eventually growled. His eyes traveled down to the metal claws sticking from the flesh of his fingers on his right arm, and he stared at them long and hard; knowing just how far the metal within the bone there went. Knowing of the tortuous pain it constantly gave off that he had to get used to, after repeated attempts to violently rip the metal from his augmented limb manually proved futile. "That is what you should know me as. That is all I am. That was what I was created to be. And that is what I will die as."
Soraka's brow lowered skeptically, an easy smile snaking upon her lips. "Nobody is born a monster. Surely you were not." The bottom of her staff dug around in the soil below it as she twisted it around in her grasp. "Who were you before you so rashly declared yourself as such a twisted thing? A warrior? An artist? Surely you were not always what you claim to be..."
"Do not presume for a second that you even think you know who I was. I have no reason to tell you a single thing," he argued, snapping the words at her. "What I am now is a beast that stalks a place far from here. My prey is the corrupt and the vile. And I hunt them. That's all that matters to me."
"You only hunt those you see as cruel and foul?" Soraka inquired once more. "So, you see yourself as a being of vengeance, then?"
"One could... say that I am," he agreed, uneasy as it was with the character who had, thus far, refused to give off even a hint of intimidation by how he looked and sounded. He turned his shoulder to her, his left ear twitching twice in annoyance at her prying antics. "As I said, I am not from here. I live in a place ruled by scum. I am the only force there that... cares enough to do anything about it. To bring... justice to those who deserve it."
"Your 'justice' is to hunt them? Slaughter them?" Soraka's fingers wrapped a little tighter around her staff, a note of slight disturbance clinging to her words.
"It is better for the likes of them to bear the brunt of my savagery more than anyone else," Warwick responded, his hazy memory going back to the kills he committed in the not so distant past. "The only people I ever want to kill are them. I won't hurt the ones who have done nothing wrong, if I can help it. I lose myself the moment I smell the blood of the guilty. It's like... something gnawing at my brain, telling me to tear apart everything around me. Sometimes... sometimes I go into a frenzy."
Soraka processed all this with a hum, still seeing no reason to despise him. She tried to place her hand upon the chimera's shoulder in a friendly gesture, but he quickly pulled it away from her. Quietly sighing, she only looked his way with deep thoughts circulating in her mind until she released them.
"Even before you told me this, I knew you are not native to this place. Though your outward appearance is uncanny to theirs, I know you are not a member of the vastaya," she decided to speak next, making mention of the secretive people living in of Ionia whose ancestral ties left them with a mixture of animalistic features. "The truth is... that you were a man once, weren't you?" The second Warwick heard this question, his face snapped to his healer in a vicious glare and he snarled aloud. This instantly told Soraka that she was correct in her assumption, otherwise he might not have given off as upset of a visage as this.
His claws anxiously curling into his palms until they dug into the soft flesh there, the chimera stormed up to the Starchild with quick and purposeful steps while she in turn simply stood there unflinchingly. He stared down at her, teeth bared, a growl reverberating from within his throat and a look of red-eyed murder adorning his expression. In turn, she calmly looked up to him with no fear on hers. It was when Warwick's wrathful visage started to fade back into what it was before when he spoke once more. "I was a man. A man who did wretched things. A man who could never run from the sins he committed when he tried. And after that man became who I am, I killed him first!"
The sound of the roar he used to end his sentence was loud enough to startle several birds sitting in the tops of the green trees surrounding them from within the grove, and their little, colorful forms tweeted in panic as they fled from the area. Soraka watched them fly off with a lowered brow, keeping her composure and waited patiently for silence to return before speaking again. Warwick's heavy breathing was the only sound going out now, but it, too, soon halted.
"I will let you leave, if that is what you wish. Should you ever find yourself in Ionia again, hurt or otherwise, I will be here," she said to him. "I truly hope our pathways cross again. I would like to get to know a person like you more. I honestly do."
Warwick would have none of her blandishments. "Bah!" he could not help but puff, waving an uncaring claw her way from behind his back. "I'm not so much a person as I am an animal. Save your honeyed breath for another passerby who gives a damn for it..."
His tail flicking as he moved away from her the final time, Warwick began to depart. Quickly falling onto all fours and breaking into a bounding pace, he abandoned the grove and the strange, kind being who resided within it. Soraka watched him leave, unworried by his harsh words. As a matter of fact, that smile on her face seemed even more radiant than before. Knowing he was gone, and with the birds returning to their places in the trees they were once scared from, she began to return to the denser folds of her sacred territory. But as she left, a peculiar, hopeful thought tickled her brain.
Somehow, a part of her knew he would return. Somehow, that odd creature would come and visit her grove once again; his reasons for inevitably doing so unknown to the Starchild, but the truth all to clear to her. Somehow he would come back to her, and murmuring a chuckle to herself, she could hardly wait for it.
* * * * *
Upon arriving to the sand-laden beach and the glimmering blue ocean he once emerged from, Warwick took a final look at the land he traversed through. On his way back here he paid the Ionia's features some mind, but only just barely more than before. He thought to them for a few seconds, admiring them as well as he possibly could, and then entered the briny waters before him. With great and reinvigorated strokes, he began swimming. It took as long to traverse as when he crossed it in search for his prey, perhaps even longer due to lacking a quarry to pursue. Either way, the time it took to cross the sea paid off for him, for eventually, after a day and a night of treading water, the chimera reached the murky shores his home.
Quickly leaving the machinery-plagued coast, Warwick entered the thick city in its fullest. Lurking, leaping, and otherwise sneaking through its shadows, he could see that Zaun was still the infested cesspool he freshly remembered it being. Having clambered upon a tall-standing house to get a better view of his surroundings, he took in a deep breath of its fume-filled air. Its towers were tall and its streets were filled to their overcrowded brim with pedestrians; workers; marketeers, both honest and otherwise; cutthroats-for-hire and good-for-nothing scoundrels aplenty.
From its largest factory's tallest, purple smoke-spewing chimney stack, to its smallest and most lifeless (though at times lively) green puddle laying near the drainpipes of its most uninhabited district, it was Zaun. It was all its outside reputation was, and more. Ruled by the corrupt and given life by the downtrodden or ambitious, Zaun was a one of a kind place in the already wide and rough world of Runeterra. Had he not been the wrathful vigilante he was, it would not have been Warwick's first choice for locale. But its familiarity to him was... enough.
Eventually dropping down from the building and traveling further onward, Warwick soon reached the location that led to his home. It was a large, crusty, white-tinted pipeline that formed an entrance to the sewer, sitting in between one of the many local dumps and a bakery that had been built who-knows-how-many years back. With caution in his movement, he slunk inside before anyone could claim to have witnessed the dreaded 'Howler' - one of many great and terrible names he had been given since gaining notoriety for his deeds. A few dozen meters of walking through knee-high sludge later, he reached his den held within the sewer's labyrinthine depths. His home, if he dared even call it that.
Aside from being constructed on dry ground that went above the gunk his feet currently traipsed through, his abode was nothing special. Carved deep into the brick-laden wall, its quarters were rather cramped for a large creature such as he. Pieces of random scrap and junk he had collected over the long months, equally from his victims and the trash, littered the den at random like ruined trophies. He had enough intelligence to form a bed from the more comfortable parts he stole or gained from the scrap-pile, but that was its biggest feature by far.
Drying off his rear paws, he entered the lair, pushing aside that which was in his way until he reached and collapsed upon his bed. He felt weary from his travel from Ionia to here, and for right now, he wanted nothing more than to sleep. But no matter how weary he was, it just barely escaped his grasp. To aid him in it, he tried to imagine something pleasant. Something to soothe him. And the first image to pop up that matched that description was when he was under the care of the strange, magically-attuned woman from that odd, peaceful grove; Soraka, he delightfully remembered her name being.
His thoughts drifting to it, to that wondrous moment when he laid upon her lap as she sung to him, he soon and finally fell into a deep sleep.3: Cunning Concoctions
The so-called 'Mad Chemist' known only as Singed was, for the moment, in a very contemplative mood. Over his willowy and fragile-looking body was an old, thin coat of a dark texture, a plain shirt that laid underneath it, long trousers, and, lastly of deserving notice, a pair of simple, but thick boots covered his feet.
With heavy steps in his stride upon the road leading up to it, he eventually came to and opened a thick metal door sitting before him and entered his main laboratory, hidden away within the deepest, most desolate and lightless recesses of Zaun. It was from here where he practiced all of his demented sciences with zeal and efficiency. The lab itself bore the mien of a large, grim and dimly-lit room, its floors made of aged wood and walls of dense, faded-red brick. To the alchemist, it was a place of beauty. Beakers, vials, distillation flasks, and other assorted sets and chem-tech filled with perverse chemicals of nearly every imaginable color rested at seemingly every corner.
The many glass objects bubbling with the chemicals they were infused with, Singed walked casually past them all and approached a small cabinet that a rack filled with unused vials sat upon. Opening its topmost drawer, he sifted through it for but a moment before getting what he wanted. What he pulled out were some old scraps of paper, their surfaces filled with detailed notes and sketches. He had kept these around for some time, and quite often he liked to look at them and ponder on the unconscionable deeds they entailed.
As of right now, they also served as a way to prepare for the future. The Mad Chemist ran a bony hand over his mouth as he cast a pensive stare toward his old notes. Strips of loosened and scarred flesh occasionally poked through the bandages he wrapped around it; a side effect from the numerous times he ingested his own potions and experimented on himself. Improving upon his human flaws till few remained.
All the countless tests he had run on his own body had taken their toll as the years drew on. His skin had long since turned rubbery and pale. His head, once as filled with hair in his youth as nearly any other, was smooth and bald. Save for the minuscule black dots that were his pupils, his eyes bore an unhealthy impression; his left one actually exuding a sickly green glow. Even his lean figure was queer in shape, giving him the appearance of an excessively thin and gaunt individual, though deception was ripe in his build. From his rancid and unethical concoctions he had gained not only a prolonged life, but strength, endurance and dexterity extending far beyond that of a normal human's natural bounds.
Of course, Singed rarely ever disclosed that sort of information to those he knew. No, he much preferred to have his opponents on both the work and battlefield underestimate him. Though by selling and lending his works and expertise to others had granted him immense fame that had the potential to give his rivals a chance at sneaking around his carefully-placed defenses, he still kept his greatest potions and brews for himself; chiefest among them, and the one he bestowed his most pride in creating, being his aptly-named 'insanity potion'.
But now was not the time to reflect on his most flawless achievements. Now was the time to reflect on what was perhaps his greatest failure - and success. Placing the papers upon a clear spot atop the cabinet so he could view them all at once, his eyes scanned over each and every one of them, his mind going back to when he first created the documents.
Long ago Singed had a thug of some sound conviction under his employ. He was a former gangster who would often go out on his orders to bring him specimens from around the world. The man eventually quit his services after a few years of carrying out the deranged alchemist's will, apparently having wanted to settle down and find a new purpose in life. Seeing no more use in a helper who wanted to willingly aid him in his tasks no longer, Singed decided to... grant that new purpose to his former underling. He had, twinkling in his clouded eyes, one particular experiment he had been working for weeks on, and to do it in the first place, he required a fresh, warm, live body to operate on. A body of a good man. A body few would miss if it were to disappear from public eye.
After encountering and apprehending him with little effort, Singed brought him to his old lab and began. Strapping him down upon his operating table, he performed what could only be viewed as unspeakable deeds upon his sufferer. He did what every good alchemist sought to do, and conducted transmutations - albeit upon the man. With the aid of the chemicals he had grown used to using throughout his whole life, he changed the very flesh that the man possessed to resemble that of the aspects of various creatures, specifically taking their known talents and leaving their weaknesses. As if the effects after this weren't horrific enough, Singed surgically augmented him with pneumatic claws with great patience in his strokes, even as the limb he had cut off to do so regenerated, growing back and over the prosthetic (an unnecessary, but not unwelcome outcome). Installing a chemical chamber on his back and integrating it into his nervous system, he added pumps and hoses onto and into his form that would aid in the process of delivering them to his bloodstream; to force out the greatest of his anger and savagery.
Most of all the various things he put into the once-man was pain. Pain was the catalyst that held his work together and gave it purpose. With its aid, by the end, Singed successfully reached his goal of bringing out the deadly beast resting within every good man. It was just as he was adding the cherry on top of his grotesque masterpiece that the strained life of the creature the man had become suddenly gave out. During an attempt to escape, his heartbeat stopped, and upon uttering a name Singed tried hard to remember from the rush of it all, his final breath was given. Disappointed, Singed hastily disposed of the corpse in Zaun's Sump.
But, as what had been going on since then and well into present day could attest to, things were rarely as they seemed at the time when he got rid of his supposed failure. As he was away on business in the warlike, power-obsessed nation of Noxus, he eventually returned to find his old lab had been thoroughly trashed, no less than the night prior to his arrival. The culprit left behind a swathe of destruction that spared none of his old equipment, some still bearing claw marks that could only have been given by something of metal. Those marks, combined with other evidence it had left behind, gave Singed the answer he wanted: His subject had survived after all and was now on the loose in Zaun.
Months had passed since then, and evidence of his creation's doings were very frequent. And very bloody. Disreputable criminals of any rank, high-profile chem-barons and notorious kingpins alike had become prey for his roving claws and jaws, as detailed in the city's news. Sometimes, the grisly pieces of whatever was left of them after their passing were in such poor condition that the law officials were unable to even fully identify the remains, if at all. Their only clue to who did all this were the sounds of howling and the occasional sighting of a hairy beast witnesses stated to hear or see before each act of carnage was committed.
Singed knew it was his experiment responsible for their deaths, somehow. He connected the dots. The viciousness... the tenacity... the drive to kill... these feats were all he had hoped to see bloom in his work and more. While troublesome in the long haul due to the oh-so little fact that he wasn't under his or anyone else's control, it impressed Singed to no end. As did the sheer level of terror the scum of the city began to feel following these repeated, planned attacks. Yes, Singed also noticed that the beast still had a man's mind, however little of it there probably was, and interestingly enough, the more innocent of individuals seemed curiously unscathed by any form of assault from the murderous antics of his abomination.
Eventually, the Mad Chemist grew tired of setting his mind upon his greatest conundrum for the moment, thinking to put his mind back to use crafting his potent products. He put the papers away in the drawer from whence they came, closing it with an audible squeak of the old hinges attached to its aged wood. He turned his focus now onto a nearby station and the chemicals held there, thinking of crafting an advanced formula for clarity that an associate of his had requested from him not a day ago. He brought out a few alchemical ingredients and tools and began to work on it with passion in his fluid movements.
"Mix, mix, swirl, mix," he said to himself in a steady rhythm, his deep, smooth voice keeping in tone with his meticulous brewing. "Mix, mix, swirl, mix."
* * * * *
Red as a glowing, irradiated cherry fruit in the polluted atmosphere of Zaun, the sun rose enough for its full celestial body to be witnessed. If only just barely observable from the clouds that surrounded it, it signaled morning had come at last. Though its light failed to grace the dank interior of his den, Warwick, unleashing a mighty yawn from his great jaws as his body stirred, awoke with it. Getting up with a creak of his stiffened muscles and metal parts protruding from his body, he stretched himself out and prepared for the day. Knocking the last of his weariness from himself, the unnatural beast left his home and moved to Zaun's teeming surface.
The City of Iron and Glass never rested, even for a moment. As he slunk throughout the darker corners of it, Warwick could see the life it possessed in its fullest. Men and women of all ages trudged off from the Slums to the degrading factories from which they toiled out their menial lives. Seeking attention, up-and-coming thugs butted their thick heads against each other like rams vying for the attention of an ewe while the professionals flaunted their tech-augmented bodies to all who saw them. The delinquent youth of the city, so-called the 'Lost Children of Zaun', performed their rebellious antics that only went as far as defacing public property or snatching purses from the rich and cruel - far too young and their crimes far too innocent or insignificant for Warwick to even consider extending his wrath upon.
But for this morning, he had not intentionally come to exact his usual vengeance just yet. Having felt his stomach demanding nourishment of any sort, Warwick had departed from his den for the day to the bustling surface not to yet find a victim per se, but to discover a good meal. Where he had snuck off to first, a great distance away from his home, was a butcher's shop sitting on the southern side of the densely-packed Bridgewaltz market. The meats on sale, made from freshly-slaughtered animals, were of all manner of size, shape, type and health. Some, as its vendor claimed with what appeared to be inflated pride, were even vat-grown.
Whatever the hell that meant...
Warwick always remembered him as the type who tossed out whatever meat that had gone, in his eyes, too bad to sell. Where he abandoned them were the mold-coated metal dumpsters behind his shop, located in a small alleyway few ever visited from the incredibly foul, rotting stench it radiated. The chimera was unperturbed by it, and so turned the opportunity to his advantage. Upon reaching the alley containing the dumpsters after a short trek, he spotted a sight he did not expect to witness. Amidst the horrid fetor and the clouds of flies buzzing about in it, two smaller, canid shapes were there in the back, beside the trash, fighting over a great and uncovered chunk of meat he himself had come to gorge on.
Upon a quick inspection, Warwick realized that the two creatures were dogs. One was a gray, thin-furred hound, nothing more than skin and bone, and the other was a much smaller mongrel of a decidedly more brawny and reddish-colored build. They pulled on each end of the titanic slab, neither ever yielding in their tug of war for even a moment. Growling and barking over it from behind their misshapen teeth with desperation only hunger could provide, it seemed like there would be no winner. Their conflict came to an end, though, as they both stopped immediately when a new scent entered their dry noses. With a quick turn of their mangy, flea-bitten heads, they spotted the great and fearsome shape of Warwick stepping toward them.
One simple baring his teeth was all he needed to earn their submission. Their tails tucked between their legs, the two mutts walked to the corners of the alley with hushed whines, not even making a single attempt to defend the sustaining food they were once fighting so frantically for. His lips lowering back over his fangs, Warwick approached the slab of meat, stretched his long, sinewy and thick arms out to grab it, and brought it close to him. As he looked over its torn, but intact surface, the dogs watched him with envious glowers. Their tongues lolled out of their mouths as they panted in the putrid heat surrounding them, thick droplets of hungering drool dripping onto the slime-coated concrete floor they stood upon. Warwick would have eaten the whole thing himself right there as they could only watch him, but the chimera, as much as he tried to deny the notion himself, was not without pity.
With a swift motion of his claws over the slab, he tore off two sizable lumps of the stuff. Holding them carefully and flicking his wrist twice their way, he tossed each hunk to the strays that watched him, replacing their forlorn visages with ones of surprise. At first distrusting of this gesture, the short-haired hound began to crawl cautiously toward his chunk of delectable food, followed by the other mongrel to his. Finally deciding it was well and truly safe, and the enticing lure of the free meat calling to them like a siren's song, the dogs fully went after their pieces and wasted no time in tearing into them, filling their empty mouths and malnourished stomachs on it. As the sounds of the pair digging and ripping into the stiff meat went out, Warwick focused on his own portion.
He eyed its dull red complexion for a short while, tracing a claw over its cut surface. It was as the minute ended that he opened his jaws and took a bite from it. As he tore off his first chunk of the meat and slowly chewed it, he let his mind go back to that wondrous place. To Ionia. To Soraka and her divine smile. Every time he imagined it his heart would pound within his chest with immense force, beating with the most intense fury, like the effects of engaging in a spectacular hunt against the most deserving of vermin to inhabit this world. Every day he would go back to that wonderful spot in his imagination. Every day he would see it, even now, as he ground up the meat in his teeth and swallowed it.
A little over a month had passed since that day. As though someone had placed a meddlesome hex on his perception of time, every week that followed his return to Zaun felt like a year to Warwick. In fact, as well as he could begrudgingly believe, every passing day made him miss the memory of being in that place more. He wanted to go there once again, but so long as criminals roamed these streets or else pulled their miserable strings from the sidelines, he knew he could never return; not unless another fled to the island nation in a vain attempt to evade him. Was it all because it was an actual good memory he gained from there? A memory devoid of pain, hatred and bloodshed? Perhaps so, but he never bothered to answer those questions. They were just too infinitely complex for him to trouble himself over.
After a short time, Warwick had gnawed his meat down to its bone. Licking his lips and wiping a hairy forearm over his lupine snout, he departed the alley, leaving the strays to finish their meals in peace. Stalking around unseen, he wandered over to the more populated parts of the Bridgewaltz. Usually saving his hunts for times past nightfall, but feeling up to it at the current moment, he decided today was a good time to look around for the most horrid of scum possibly drifting out in the open of the daytime they felt oh-so safe in from his wrath like the fearful stragglers they were.
He crawled atop a tall cathedral that had long since been converted into a small-time processing plant, where he had a nice view of most of the market before him. So long as he didn't fully expose his body and start making an attention-grabbing ruckus, no one would see him. But he would see them. Laying down upon its smooth tile surface, he waited patiently with just his face peering over the rooftop's edge, hoping to see or hear a criminal of any ranking who he could ambush. As his eyes roved around for such a sight, he observed all that went on below.
Visitors of the neighboring, rival city of Piltover wandered the markets alongside the native Zaunites and looked over all the goods and arts on sale and display, sticking out like sore thumbs amongst the crowd with their rich and classy attire. The Evolved, seeking new members of their growing flock, preached their words about the Glorious Evolution and all the joys of bargaining their humanity and aging flesh for longevity and purpose only complete technological augmentation could provide. The Lost Children of Zaun made an appearance as well, dashing through the crowded streets with hoots and hollers, annoying punks and merchants alike, and banging sticks and pipes against whatever would resound with a sharp sound; a grand showcase of their youthful energy.
Hours passed. Morning evolved into noon, and things remained relatively still. He was nearly about to give up hope that he would discover someone worth killing, when his large ears perked up, hearing a commotion. Now, the markets of Zaun were ripe with commotion, but what he heard now was something else. An angry curse, swiftly followed by a pained shout given from another voice. Discreetly descending from his perch, Warwick hopped from building to building in its direction until he located the source of the noise. Growing closer to his current rest's edge, the first thing he saw was a tall, lean man, standing over and apparently tormenting a shorter, fatter individual in wine merchant's clothing from just outside of what he could see was his shop. The latter individual was currently trying to pull himself up from the filthy ground with a whimper while the former continued to shout rude and threatening remarks his way, pulling out some sort of small, chem-powered firearm, jabbing it close to him once or twice as he yelled for him to get up faster, and then pocketing it back into its holster. He was a fellow in a hood with a grimy black beard, dressed in a filthy brown longcoat covered in a great many stitches, patches and stains. He was screeching at the merchant over a bottle of Graggy Ice-brand brew that had 'nearly poisoned him' after he bought it, or something of that nature.
It took Warwick a few good minutes of watching and listening in to the scuffle, but soon he was able to piece together just who this ragged character was with a sense of glee, recognizing his tanned face from numerous wanted posters plastered over every nook and cranny of the city. The charges he was wanted for, as far as Warwick knew or cared to memorize, were something to do with several murders and a robbery-or-two. Just from where he stood Warwick could detect the foul odor that clung specifically to him. He smelt of beer, chems, and aged blood. He carried the smell of a killer. He carried the stench of those deserving of his claws.
Before he could so much as form a thought to halt himself, Warwick prepared to leap. A howl sounded from his opened maw as it pointed to the sky, its pitch long and deep. Many of the people on the streets, at first collectively silent as they listened to the sudden sound, heard the noise slowly grow faint. The first scream of realization sounded when it became apparent at just what sort of feared creature made it, and more soon joined in on it like a choir. As the dark shape of Warwick flew through the air and landed on the ground with a resounding crunch of the brick beneath his weight, bodies scattered from view, each participant of the stampede scrambling over one another in their effort to get away from the fabled monster. Among the panicked throng was the man, who abandoned the wine merchant and his quarrel with him in favor of preserving his own worthless life.
Warwick would not allow him to escape so easily. Swinging his arm, he smashed aside a wooden stand laying in his way into splinters in his haste to reach his quarry. Lunging up multiple times and landing a varying distance in front of where his prey ran off to, he cut him off on several spots, separating him in particular from anyone until he was alone. Knowing he could not outrun the creature, the man was turning around in his stride to try and take a shot at his monstrous pursuer with his unholstered weapon, when he slipped on a large puddle of collected rainwater he had just traipsed over, losing his gun to its murky haze when he fell into it. Shouting a stream of curses as he fumbled around for it, Warwick took a small pounce his way and was upon him.
The man failed to grab at his only defense from his foe before Warwick sent his normal, left claw at him, grabbing him tightly by the shoulder and lifting him up into the air by it. He stared into his prey's gasping, soggy face of horror with a snarling grin of amusement. The kill was so easy. He could practically taste the gore that was about to fall and drip over his fangs as soon as he tore out his throat. Warwick's sheer lust for blood activated the alchemical devices he was forever bound to, transforming the green chemicals flowing in the chambers on his back into a sinister orange; primed and ready to agonizingly deliver their burning contents directly into his veins and trigger him into a mindless, bestial frenzy. And yet, as his mighty jaws opened to their widest, a thought came to him. And came to him with such force that it knocked out the murderous idea he had just formed.
In that one, fateful moment, his mind had once again, somehow, gone to the island nation sitting so far away from the polluted and addled cesspool that was Zaun. The image of Ionia and its beautiful, untouched landscape. Of the peaceful grove he healed in. Of... Soraka. He returned to the present after being consumed by these images for maybe a second, but he spent enough time in its presence that from it, an idea struck him like a bolt of lightning. The chemicals on his back's chambers returned to their green tint as clarity, however queer the sensation of it seemed, returned to him. Transforming his thoughtful visage into a glare aimed at the man in his grasp as the last of the people who happened to still be in the area abandoned the streets, he spoke.
"Go... to Ionia."
Whimpering like a child, complete with a stream of tears falling profusely from his bloodshot eyes and into his beard, the cowering man only registered the guttural words after he realized he had yet to violently die as he anticipated. "Wh-wh-wha-?" he squeaked, unable to properly form the complete word in the sheer terror he was experiencing.
"Go to Ionia," Warwick growled directly into his ear a second time, his volume lowering and grip around his shoulder squeezing harder to a painful degree, though with just enough care in his grip to keep a claw from piercing the flesh that laid beneath his clothing. To draw even a meager ounce of blood would be more than enough to drive him into a rampant frenzy that would surely rend his freshly-made plan into as many ribbons as this criminal would have become. "Go to Ionia, now. Go to the docks by the bay. Catch the first ship leaving for there this second, or I'll tear you to shreds. Right here."
"D-d-docks? I-Ionia?" mewled back the man under the pressure of the chimera's grasp, clearly overwhelmed by not only his fear, but his rapidly-changing scenario as well. He eventually ceased his pitiful, weak struggling in Warwick's powerful paw, wanting more than anything to escape this awful fate, even if it meant listening to the creature he had thought less than intelligent until just now.
"Yessss..." Warwick hissed with a wide grin, hot, rancid spittle flinging from his maw and onto his would-be victim's face. Lifting the man just a little higher above him and growling, he tossed him back to the ground with immense force, though he made sure to put enough care in the action so that it wouldn't break any of his bones. The breath left the man's lungs, but his mind raced. Crying out with a wheezing gasp as he regained all control of himself, he looked up at the towering shape of the Howler of Zaun with a bleak, shocked look.
"Well?" Warwick raised his mechanically-imbued arm in a threatening motion, striking his metal claws into the ground directly in front of his quarry and shedding sparks from them as an act of incentive to get on with it. "Go! Go!" His final roar was near-deafening in pitch. The man didn't need to be told another time.
Scrambling to his legs in a most clumsy fashion, he fled down the street with a shriek, pushing aside whatever or whoever was in his way or else tripping over it. As he ran for his life through the entirety of Zaun to its bay, where the ferrying ships were all docked, Warwick stealthily followed behind him at a fast rate. It was a little while before he managed to reach them, but as he constantly turned his view behind himself in a paranoid manner, he did nonetheless. Warwick watched with glee as he saw him approach and babble to the ticket vendor, practically throwing his money at him from his pockets after demanding to be let on the first ship leaving for Ionia. Not understanding his cause for alarm, the vendor accepted the gold and presented a ticket to him, upon which the man snatched it away and got on the appropriate vessel.
A half-hour after he boarded, the ship began to set sail with the loudest of bellows from its great steam engines. Seeing his chance, Warwick leapt, unseen, into the sea and began to furiously paddle his way toward the ship. Reaching the departing vessel in a matter of seconds, he sent out and set his claws upon its stern, piercing its thick hull with minimum effort. Climbing up just enough to not drench himself in the salty surf below, he got a firm grip on the side and clung there like a tick on the hide of an unwitting deer.
He had given himself a reason to go to Ionia once again. A perfectly valid reason. All he had to do now was wait...