A new Piltover story page is up, including new stories and a bio for Camille!
Table of Contents
- Welcome to Piltover
- [12/7] Free Piltover Summoner Icon
- [12/7] Champion Tales
- [12/1] The Medarda Heirloom
- [12/1] Progress Day
- Camille Biography
- Tea With the Gray Lady
- The Weakest Heart
- Coming Soon
- Comment Section
Welcome to PiltoverWith Camille set for release in 6.24, a PILTOVER story page has emerged! This page includes several new stories on Piltover and related champions, a free summoner icon, and more!
"Piltover is a thriving, progressive city whose power and influence is on the rise. It is Valoran’s cultural center, where art, craftsmanship, trade and innovation walk hand in hand. Its power comes not through military might, but the engines of commerce and forward thinking. Situated on the cliffs above the district of Zaun and overlooking the ocean, fleets of ships pass through its titanic sea-gates, bringing goods from all over the world. The wealth this generates has given rise to an unprecedented boom in the city’s growth. Piltover has - and still is - reinventing itself as a city where fortunes can be made and dreams can be lived. Burgeoning merchant clans fund development in the most incredible endeavors: grand artistic follies, esoteric hextech research, and architectural monuments to their power. With ever more inventors delving into the emergent lore of hextech, Piltover has become a lodestone for the most skilled craftsmen the world over."
While the page includes room for a slew of upcoming stories and pages, the debut of the page includes a Camille biography and two Camille stories - Tea with the Gray Lady and The Weakest Heart.
On December 1st, the page was updated with the Progress Day story and The Medarda Heirloom map.
On December 7th, the page was updated with new bios and stories for Piltover champions - Caitlyn, Ezreal, Jayce, Orianna, and Vi + a free Piltover summoner icon!
These new stories and biography can be found on the Universe page::
Free Piltover Summoner Icon[Added 12/7]
A new Piltover summoner icon is now available for free simply by visiting the Piltover page.
Piltover page [FOR YOUR ACCOUNT'S REGION - LOOK AT URL / REGION] and click the FREE PILTOVER ICON button.
"IMPORTANT: To register for your icon, please make sure that this site's URL (region/language) matches your account's server region.
Unlock for your account by 12/13/2016 at 23:59 PT.
*Icons will be granted up to two weeks after December 13, 2016 at 23:59 PT."After redeeming this free icon, the message notes to look for the icon to be granted by 12/27/2016.
Several brand new champion bios and stories for various Piltover champions unlocked on the Piltover page! While they are all listed and linked from Piltover, these are all housed on the Universe champ pages .
"A determined and skilled investigator, Caitlyn is one of the sheriffs of Piltover, the City of Progress. She is a fiercely intelligent woman with a strong sense of justice and a resolute devotion to the law. Armed with a magnificent hextech rifle, Caitlyn is a patient hunter and the bane of criminals throughout her city.
Born to a wealthy and influential family of hextech artificers in Piltover, Caitlyn swiftly learned the social graces of city life, but preferred to spend her time in the wilder lands to the south. Equally adept at mingling with the moneyed citizens of the City of Progress or tracking a deer through the mud of the forest, Caitlyn spent the bulk of her youth beyond Piltover’s gates. She could track a bird on the wing or put a bullet through the eye of a hare at three hundred yards with her father’s Bilgewater repeater musket.
Caitlyn’s greatest assets, however, were her intelligence and willingness to learn from her parents, who reinforced her innate understanding of right and wrong. Though the family’s engineering skills had made them wealthy, her mother always warned of Piltover’s seductions, of how its gilded promises could harden even the kindest heart. Caitlyn paid little attention to her mother’s warning, for Piltover was a city of beauty to her, a place of order she would cherish after each trip into the wild.
All that was to change one Progress Day, five years later.
Caitlyn returned from one of her long forays into the woodlands to find her home ransacked and empty. The family retainers were all dead, and no trace could be found of her parents. Caitlyn secured her home, and immediately set off in search of her mother and father.
Tracking quarry that does not want to be found within the confines of a city was very different from hunting in the wild, but, one by one, Caitlyn located the men who had invaded her home. None of these men knew the true identity of who had hired them, only that they had acted via a proxy with the initial “C.” The trail eventually led Caitlyn to a secret hextech laboratory where her mother and father were being forced to work for a rival clan under pain of death. Caitlyn rescued her parents, and the wardens, acting upon Caitlyn’s information, arrested the clan leader behind the kidnapping. She and her parents returned home and began to rebuild their lives, but something fundamental had changed in Caitlyn.
She had seen that Piltover could be a dangerous place, where ambition and greed were as deadly as a cornered beast. During the course of her investigation, Caitlyn had seen beneath Piltover’s veneer of progress and science. She had seen people in need of help, a host of souls lost and alone. And she had seen that she could help them. Though she loved her parents, Caitlyn had no desire to follow in their footsteps as an artisan, and looked for a way to earn a living in the sprawling metropolis. She established herself as an investigator of sorts, utilizing her skills as a superlative hunter to act as a finder of lost people and retriever of stolen property.
For her twenty-first birthday, Caitlyn’s parents presented her with a hextech rifle of exquisite artifice. The weapon was a thing of beauty, with specialized shells that enabled it to shoot with greater accuracy than any rifle she had ever owned. The weapon could also be modified to fire a variety of different ammunition types, and went with Caitlyn whenever she took a case.
Caitlyn knew Piltover’s nooks and crannies as thoroughly as the forest paths of her childhood, and turned a tidy profit in a profession that brought her into contact with the many and varied layers of society. Her profession exposed Caitlyn to a great deal of strange encounters that taught her, first-hand, the dangers of untested hextech and rogue chemtech development. Over the next few years, she quickly made a name for herself as someone to go to for help in matters both mundane and esoteric.
One particularly traumatic case involving a missing hextech device and a series of child abductions led to Caitlyn working closely with an agent of the Piltover Wardens; one who, like her, had developed something of an affinity for stranger cases. Caitlyn refused to give up, even when the trail grew colder with every passing day. She chased it like a dog would a bone, and eventually, broke the case. Caitlyn and the warden rescued the children after a battle with a host of rogue chimerics in the employ of a lunatic chem-researcher driven mad by his own concoctions. As she and the warden shared a celebratory drink, he offered her a job as a sheriff. At first, Caitlyn refused, but eventually came to realize that, with all the resources the wardens had to offer, she could potentially get closer to discovering the identity of the mysterious “C,” the only person involved in the attack on her family home she had yet to apprehend.
Caitlyn now works as a highly respected officer within the ranks of the Piltover Wardens to keep order in the City of Progress - particularly in areas where overzealous hextech artisans cross the line of what is acceptable in Piltover. She has recently partnered with a new recruit from Zaun, the brash and reckless Vi. How such an unlikely pairing came to be, and has proven to be so effective, is the subject of numerous wild rumors and tavern speculation among their fellow wardens and those they haul away to jail."
Caitlyn Story - The Thrill of the Chase
"Even three bells after the Sun Gate had closed, Piltover was still full of life - life that was currently getting in her way. Caitlyn sprinted down Mainspring Crescent, weaving a path between midnight revelers strolling down the fashionable promenade of cafes and bistros. The supper clubs were emptying, as were the nearby theaters inside the Drawsmith Arcade, so this street was going to get a whole lot busier. If they didn’t catch up to Devaki soon, they were going to lose him.
“Do you see him?” shouted Mohan from behind.
“If I could see him, I’d already be drawing a bead on him!”
The hextech rifle slung over Caitlyn’s shoulder was loaded and ready to shoot, but she needed a target, and Devaki was more nimble than a spooked doe. He’d robbed three clan workshops (that they knew of) in the last five weeks, and Caitlyn had him pegged for two others. Working a hunch that something big was in the works, she and Mohan had been keeping watch on one of House Morichi’s workshops, and sure enough, Devaki had shown. Though they hadn’t known it until the city lighters had worked their way down the street to ignite the glow-lamps and Caitlyn caught his reflection in the glass of the cafe across the street. Devaki had seen her in the same instant, and took to his heels like a startled wharf-rat.
Caitlyn skidded to a halt at the next junction. The caged flames atop the fluted lampposts bathed the dozens of surprised people staring at her with a warm, amber light. Her pale blue eyes darted from person to person, seeking Devaki’s distinctive silhouette.
A young man crossed the street toward her, his cheeks ruddy with a night’s enjoyment. He waved at her.
“You looking for a man on the run?” he asked. “Fella with a big hat?”
“Yes,” said Caitlyn. “You saw him? Where did he go?”
The young man pointed left and said, “Down that way at a good clip.”
She followed his gaze and saw cheering theater-goers spilling from the Drawsmith Arcade, a vaulted structure of colored glass and ironwork columns. They mingled with stall-holders selling refreshments and promenade-girls looking for a wealthy mark.
Mohan finally caught up to her, sweating and breathing hard. He bent at the waist and propped himself up with his palms on his knees. His blue uniform coat was askew and his hat tipped back over his head.
“Figures he’d try to lose himself in the crowd,” he said between gulps of air.
Caitlyn took a moment to study their public-spirited helper. His clothes were finely-tailored and must once have cost him a pretty penny, but the cuffs were frayed and the elbows worn. Her eyes narrowed as she took in last season’s colors and a collar that hadn’t been in style for a year.
Wealthy, but down on his luck.
Mohan turned toward the busy street and said, “Come on, Caitlyn! Let’s go or we’ll lose him.”
Caitlyn dropped to one knee to look at the street from a different perspective. The cobbles were slick from the evening rain and were well trodden. From this angle, she saw the scuffs of heel marks on stone that only a running man would leave. But they weren’t heading left, they were heading right.
“How much did Devaki give you to tell us that?” said Caitlyn to the unfashionably dressed young man. “If it was less than a gold hex, you were swindled.”
The young man put his hands up and said, “It was five, actually,” before turning tail and running toward the crowds with a laugh.
“What the...?” said Mohan, as Caitlyn sprinted in the opposite direction. She’d lost valuable seconds, but knew exactly where Devaki was going now. She soon left Mohan behind, her sometime partner a little too fond of the sugared pastries the District-Inspector’s wife made for her husband’s officers.
Caitlyn ran a winding path through the city, along seldom-traveled alleyways and crooked paths between the gables of tall, brick-fronted warehouses. She cut across busy streets, drawing cries of annoyance from those she barged out of her way. The closer she came to the great canyon bisecting Piltover, the narrower the streets became, but she was betting she knew the shortcuts of Piltover better than Devaki. After a dozen twists and turns, she emerged onto a crooked street of undulating cobbles that followed the jagged line of the cliff. Known locally as Drop Street thanks to the wheezing hexdraulic conveyer at the end that ran late into the night, it was deep in shadow.
The iron-framed cabin hadn’t yet opened, the lozenge-patterned grille still in the closed position. A group of fifteen Zaunites, a great many of whom were intoxicated, gathered around the ticket booth. None of them were the man Caitlyn was looking for. She turned and dropped to a crouch, resting the barrel of her rifle on a packing crate bearing the brand of Clan Medarda. Stolen property, no doubt, but she didn’t have time to check it.
Caitlyn thumbed the rifle’s primer switch to the upright position. A gentle hum built within the breech as she worked the action to ready a shot. She pulled the butt of the rifle hard against her shoulder and slowed her breathing. Her cheek pressed into the walnut stock and she closed one eye as she took aim through the crystalline lenses.
She didn’t have long to wait.
Devaki swung around the corner, his long coat billowing out behind him and his hat a tall silhouette. He appeared to be in no hurry, but then, he believed he had shed his pursuers. He held a heavy brass-cornered case in his metal-clawed hand; a crude thing Vi said he’d had done in one of Zaun’s ask-no-questions augmentation parlors when he was a foolish youth.
Caitlyn focused her aim on the pneumatic monstrosity and squeezed the trigger. A searing flash of orange-red exploded from the weapon’s muzzle and Devaki’s hand vanished in a pinpoint blast. He cried out and fell back, his hat toppling from his head as the case fell to the ground. Devaki looked up, his eyes widening in pain and surprise as he saw Caitlyn. He turned to run, but Caitlyn had been waiting for that. She toggled a thumb-switch on the breech and pulled the trigger again.
This time the beam struck Devaki in the back and exploded in a web of crackling energy. Devaki’s back arched and he fell, twitching, to the ground. Caitlyn powered down her rifle and slung it over her shoulder as she walked toward the fallen Devaki. The effects of the electro-net were dimming, but he wouldn’t be getting up anytime soon. Caitlyn bent to retrieve the case he’d dropped and shook her head with a tut-tut sound.
“H-h-h...how?” said Devaki, through the spasms wracking his body.
“How did I know where you were headed?” asked Caitlyn.
Devaki nodded, the movement jerky and forced.
“Your previous thefts were meaningless in themselves, but when I looked at them as part of a larger scheme, it seemed like you were gathering components to build a version of Vishlaa’s Hexylene Caliver,” said Caitlyn.
She knelt beside Devaki to place a hand on his rigid body.
“And as we all know, that weapon was outlawed as being too dangerous, wasn’t it? No one in Piltover would dare touch that kind of banned hex, but someone, maybe in Noxus? They’d pay handsomely for that, I imagine. But the only place you could get something like that out of the city is through one of Zaun’s less reputable smugglers. This is the only quick route down into Zaun that’s still running at this time of night. Once I saw you weren’t going to try and hide out in Piltover, all I had to do was get to the conveyor before you and wait. So you and I are going to have a long talk, and you’re going to tell me who you’re working for.”
Devaki didn’t answer, and Caitlyn grinned as she reached over his prone body.
“Nice hat,” she said."
"A self-assured explorer with the uncanny ability to find his way out of trouble, Ezreal traverses Runeterra in search of adventure. Armed with a magical gauntlet procured from the ruins of ancient Shurima, he tempts fate daily by seeking out treacherous, uncharted places and daring to untangle the world’s most cryptic mysteries.
As the child of two renowned traders whose work often required journeys to dangerous and remote destinations, Ezreal was left in Piltover under the care of his uncle, Professor Lymere. The Professor did not enjoy having to wrangle such a rash and unruly child, and to ease his burden, assigned the strictest tutors to teach him subjects like techmaturgy, hextech mechanics, and archeological history. Ezreal had a knack for absorbing information, and found laborious study a waste of time. He passed assessments easily with little or no preparation, which infuriated his uncle.
Ezreal’s appetite for exploration was irrepressible, and he took great pleasure in evading authority figures to roam the grounds and uncover its hidden places. His extraordinary spatial awareness allowed him to easily navigate labyrinthine tunnels beneath the university and cross its rooftops, allowing access to the most secluded vaults filled with strange and mysterious treasures. Ezreal polished his lock picking skills by sneaking into professors’ offices to rearrange their belongings for his own amusement.
The boy’s parents returned to Piltover periodically to sell whatever remarkable wares they’d acquired from afar. In his quest for increasingly rare and magical treasures to trade, Ezreal’s father was determined to discover the location of the lost tomb of the mage Ne’zuk, an ancient Shuriman whose head was crowned with twisted horns. The tomb was rumored to contain a magical gemstone that allowed the user to jump instantly from one place to another. If Ezreal’s father could obtain the priceless relic, he joked that wherever he was traveling, he would simply drop into Piltover for dinner each night.
Ezreal longed to embark on adventures with his parents, but they cited the many dangers they encountered daily. As the boy grew older, the time between his parents’ visits grew longer and longer until one year, they did not return at all.
Professor Lymere heard that the couple had ventured deep into the ruins of Shurima, and were never seen again. He told Ezreal his parents had most likely perished, but Ezreal was convinced his family was still alive somewhere, trying to return to him. He would often prolong dinners as long as possible, hoping his father and mother would appear bearing the magical stone of Ne’Zuk.
Though he told no one, Ezreal was determined to find his parents, or at least learn what had happened to them. His only clue to their whereabouts was the last place his father had searched for: the lost tomb of Ne’Zuk.
Over the years, Piltover had become Ezreal’s playground, with no workshop or laboratory closed to his exploits. Ezreal spent weeks collecting supplies from the university; celestial diagrams, translations of runic sigils, detailed guides to burial practices of Ancient Shurima, and a pair of protective goggles. After leaving a note of farewell for his uncle, he snuck onto a supply ship bound for Nashramae, a harbor city in Shurima.
Halfway through the voyage, the ship’s steward discovered the stowaway, and the captain threatened to throw Ezreal overboard. While balancing on a wooden plank, Ezreal told the captain he planned to abandon ship anyway; his chances were better in the ocean than aboard their doomed vessel. He revealed his star charts, showing that they were headed for a perilous rocky shoal notorious for dashing ships to pieces. Ezreal was instated as the chief navigator, the ship's drunken navigator cast into the sea in his place.
After the ship docked in Nashramae, Ezreal began his search for the tomb of Ne’Zuk.
For months he ventured deep into cavernous ruins and lost temples that had been sealed for centuries. He relished in the boundless freedom of the unknown as he mapped out routes through ancient catacombs and escaped from untold horrors guarding hidden chambers. With each step, Ezreal imagined himself following his parents’ path, growing ever closer to solving the mystery of their disappearance.
In the underground crypt of a long-deceased emperor, Ezreal noticed the mosaic tiles covering the floor were perfectly smooth, as if they had been added only recently. He eagerly chipped away at a corner of the floor, revealing the edge of a portrait which had long faded from its original bright colors.
Ezreal removed each tile with growing excitement. He uncovered an enormous fresco of a man with Ne’Zuk’s characteristic curling horns protruding from his head. The mage’s gaping mouth opened to a sinkhole of churning sand. Ezreal secured a rope and dove in, blindly feeling his way around the tomb as his lungs begged for air. He emerged wearing a heavy bronze gauntlet with a bright azure amulet inlaid at its center.
As Ezreal pulled himself from the tomb, the walls around him shook with powerful tremors and began to collapse inward. Though he could no longer see his escape route, he visualized himself standing in the cavern entrance just above. He felt power build in his gauntlet, and as the amulet glowed he was instantly teleported to the location he had just envisioned.
The gauntlet, which retained potent energy within its crystalline core, proved to be the perfect escape tool. Ezreal learned it could channel beams of magical light after he mistakenly destroyed the foundations of a stone bridge. With the glove, he broke free from a band of nomads convinced he was the reincarnation of an Ascended warrior, survived a brutal desert storm which buried him beneath crushing layers of sand, and blasted a horde of Xer’Sai into oblivion.
The relic was not without its limits, however; it took long moments to recharge its power and only allowed for teleportation between short distances. Worse, Ezreal could not help but feel that if his parents were still alive, he would not have found the gauntlet at all. Unbeknownst to him, the glove had a twin that had been excavated from the tomb years before. Ezreal vowed to carry on his parents’ tradition of exploring the world and chasing thrills of the unknown.
Armed with his magical gauntlet, Ezreal tempts danger with nail-biting, narrow escapes. He fearlessly seeks out the most exciting and perilous corners of Runeterra, trusting in the luck that has favored his travels thus far and never failing to answer his true calling: adventure."[NOTE: Ezreal already had a new story premiere with the Universe page!]
"Jayce is a brilliant inventor who has pledged his life to the defense of Piltover and its unyielding pursuit of progress. With his transforming hextech hammer in hand, Jayce uses his strength, courage, and considerable intelligence to protect his hometown. While revered throughout the city as a hero, he hasn’t taken well to the attention it brings. Still, Jayce’s heart is in the right place, and even those who envy his natural skills are grateful for his protection in the City of Progress.
A native son of Piltover, Jayce was raised to believe in the principles that made the city great: Invention. Discovery. Not going to Zaun if you could help it. With a knack for understanding machinery, Jayce earned the honor of being the youngest apprenta to ever be offered patronage by Clan Giopara, one of Piltover’s most respected ruling clans.
Utterly unsurprised, Jayce took the offer, and spent most of his early years constructing potential hextech devices and designing transformable multi-tools for Piltover’s working class: a wrench that transformed into a prybar, a pickaxe that could morph into a shovel, a hammer that could turn into a demolition beam, if only it had a sufficiently powerful battery. Everything Jayce touched put his contemporaries to shame.
Most things came easy to Jayce, and he could never understand why his peers had so much trouble with what, to him, were simple concepts. As a result, nearly everyone who worked alongside Jayce found him arrogant, dismissive, and unwilling to slow his pace to help his colleagues catch up. As time went on, his patience became shorter, while at the same time, a chasm grew between decorum, charm, and Jayce’s natural demeanor.
Only one person ever managed to match Jayce’s intelligence while also maintaining a healthy indifference to his superior attitude.
His name was Viktor.
The two met at a mandatory Progress Day party, and immediately bonded over how little either of them wanted to be there. They started working together shortly after. Viktor expanded Jayce’s intellectual horizons and challenged many of his assumptions. While Jayce sought to improve humanity via versatile technology, Viktor sought to solve problems inherent to humanity itself, such as physical decay or illogical prejudices. They constantly argued with one another, but their conflicts never got personal – though their methods were different, the two colleagues knew their ultimate goals were very much the same. More than that, they both knew what it was like to be ostracized by their colleagues: Viktor because of his unconventional thinking, Jayce because of his rudeness.
Together, Jayce and Viktor invented a mechanized construction suit for Piltover’s dockworkers – something hearty enough to enhance the wearer’s strength, but light enough that its wearer wouldn’t immediately drown upon falling overboard. However, the two reached an impasse when Viktor’s design for the next version of the suit included a chemtech implant that would increase the wearer’s strength output by tenfold, while also preventing them from getting tired, panicking, or disobeying instructions from their superiors. While Viktor considered this feature a brilliant means of reducing the frequency of construction accidents, Jayce found its indifference toward free will immoral. The two nearly came to blows over the design and ultimately, after Jayce warned the academy of Viktor’s invention, Viktor was stripped of his honors and ostracized from Piltover’s scientific community.
Viktor was the closest thing Jayce had ever really had to a friend, and distraught over their falling-out, went back to working on his own. He grew more insular. His patience toward others grew even thinner.
As Jayce studied in solitude, Clan Giopara’s explorers discovered a raw, blue crystal deep within the Shuriman desert. Though Jayce volunteered to experiment on it (specifically by suggesting the clan’s other scholars wouldn’t be smart enough to get anything out of it), his lack of tact in doing so prompted Clan Giopara to give it to their better-mannered scholars as a form of punishment. Yet, after many months, the scholars reached a unanimous conclusion: the crystal was worthless. A power-drained hunk of rock. The disappointed clan leaders finally handed the crystal over to Jayce, assuming that even he, with his remarkable intelligence, wouldn’t be able to learn anything from it.
Something inside the crystal called to Jayce. No, more than that – it sang to him. He couldn’t explain why, but he knew the Shuriman gem still held mysteries yet to be discovered.
He spent many months running every variety of test on the crystal. He braced it into a cogwheel centrifuge; he superheated it and deep-froze it; he tinkered, and observed, and hypothesized, and beat his head against his copper pantograph. Quite simply, Jayce wasn’t used to working hard: this damned crystal was the first thing that had ever resisted his considerable mental aptitude. For the first time, he realized how his peers must have felt, trying so hard to solve a problem, only to bump against your own limitations. It felt frustrating. It felt unfair.
And it probably felt much, much worse if you were working alongside an arrogant inventor who dismissed your every effort.
Jayce realized that despite how dismissive he’d been toward his fellow scholars, none of them ever gave up. None of them ever stopped seeking the very things that defined Piltover: Progress. Discovery. If they wouldn’t give up, Jayce decided, he wouldn’t either.
And maybe he’d try to be nicer.
Jayce approached the problem from a completely different angle. Rather than trying to experiment on the crystal as a whole, he wondered, why not run more invasive experiments on a smaller shard? Jayce chiseled off a piece of the crystal and suspended it in a liquid alloy. As he sent a voltaic current through the liquid metal, Jayce’s eardrums nearly shattered from the booming baritone note that blasted from the shard. Heat radiated from the crystal and, with a flash, it glowed bright enough to nearly blind him.
This was unexpected. This was potentially dangerous. But this was progress. Jayce couldn’t erase the smile from his face as he worked well through the night, into the dawn.
The next day, Jayce was surprised to find his old friend Viktor on his doorstep. Alerted by the massive power spike from the crystal shard, Viktor had a simple proposition.
Since his expulsion from the Piltovan scientific community, Viktor had commenced work on a secret project in Zaun. He’d finally learned how to achieve his dream – how to eradicate disease, hunger, hatred. If Jayce joined him, the two would accomplish more than anyone from Piltover or Zaun could have dreamed of: they’d save humanity from itself.
Jayce had heard a monologue like this before from Viktor. He never liked where it led.
Viktor told Jayce that he only needed one thing for his Glorious Evolution – a power source like Jayce’s crystal. Jayce disagreed, informing Viktor that what he truly needed was a moral compass. Viktor, who had long grown tired of Jayce’s rudeness, leapt upon him, grabbed the crystal and knocked Jayce unconscious with it. When Jayce awoke hours later, he noticed that though the Shuriman crystal was gone Viktor hadn’t seemed to notice or care about the smaller shard.
Jayce knew whatever Viktor was planning, he would only resort to these measures if he were close to completion. Even though he didn’t know what Viktor’s Glorious Evolution consisted of, it probably didn’t have a lot of respect for the free will of others. Without wasting a second, Jayce retrieved the suspended shard and installed it into a massive, transforming hammer – a demolitions invention he’d abandoned years ago for lack of a strong enough battery to power it. Though he had no idea where Viktor might have taken the crystal, he could feel the hextech hammer vibrate, pulling him not north, south, east or west, but down, toward the undercity of Zaun.
The shard, eager to be reunited with the crystal from which it was chiseled, eventually led Jayce to a warehouse in the depths of the sump. Within the cavernous building, Jayce found something horrifying. Dozens of corpses, their skulls sawed open and hollowed out, their brains transplanted into an army of immobile metal soldiers, hooked up to the now-pulsing crystal.
This was the first step in Viktor’s Glorious Evolution.
Jayce’s stride grew less confident as he approached Viktor. He and Viktor had not always seen eye to eye, but this was something else entirely. For the first time, it occurred to Jayce that he might have to kill his old friend.
He called out to Viktor, flinching as the army of robots stood to attention. Jayce asked him to look around – to see what he was doing. Whatever this was – this Evolution – wasn’t the progress they fought for in their youths. He even, to Viktor’s surprise, apologized for acting like such a jerk.
Viktor sighed. He had only two words in response: “Kill him.”
The automatons sprinted toward Jayce, breaking free of the wires connecting them to the crystal and introducing Jayce to another new emotion: panic. He gripped the hammer tight, realizing he’d never actually used it before. When the first golem was within reach, he swung as hard as he could, feeling the shard’s energy surge through his muscles, accelerating the hammer’s movement until Jayce was worried it might fly out of his hands.
It slammed into the automaton, all but exploding it into a hail of metal. Despite the obliteration of their comrade, the other machines didn’t even pause as they rushed at Jayce, trying to pummel him into unconsciousness.
Jayce analyzed the formation of the mechanical wave coming at him and attempted to quickly calculate how to take out the largest number of them with the fewest amount of swings. It was pointless; they were on him before he could swing even once. As he fell to the ground under a storm of their blows, Jayce saw Viktor looking on, not with triumph, but with sadness. He’d outsmarted Jayce and ensured humanity’s future, but he knew that future came at a cost: he couldn’t let his old friend live. Jayce vanished under a sea of swinging metal limbs.
That’s when Jayce, for the first time in his life, decided to stop thinking and just break stuff.
No longer caring for his own safety, Jayce used every last bit of strength he had to break free from Viktor’s automatons. He sprinted to the glowing crystal, and struck it with all of the hextech-enhanced force his hammer could muster, crushing the mystical object.
Viktor cried out in horror as the crystal shattered to fragments, the shockwave blasting them all backward as the army of automatons collapsed lifelessly to the floor. The very foundations of the warehouse shook, and Jayce barely managed to escape before the entire building toppled.
Viktor’s body was never found.
Upon his return to Piltover, Jayce informed his clan masters of Viktor’s nefarious plans. Soon, Jayce found himself a topic of discussion in both Zaun and Piltover alike. Hailed for his quick thinking in a time of crisis, Jayce became a beloved figure (at least, amongst those who hadn’t met him), earning himself a nickname: the Defender of Tomorrow.
Jayce cared little for the adoration of his fellow Piltovans, but took the nickname to heart. He knew that Viktor was still out there, plotting his revenge. One day – maybe someday soon – an awful lot of trouble was headed for Piltover.
And Jayce would be waiting."Jayce Story: A Quick Fix
"Any fool could have predicted that Viktor would strike back at some point. If one weren’t a fool, one might predict the exact date and time of an attempted counterattack.
Jayce was not a fool.
He stood in his workshop, bathed in sun rays from his skylight, surrounded by dozens of artifacts of his own genius: Gearwork boots that could cling to any surface. A knapsack with articulated limbs that always kept the user’s tools within easy reach.
Greater than all these inventions, however, was the weapon that Jayce now held in his hands. Powered by a Shuriman shard, Jayce's transforming hextech greathammer was renowned throughout Piltover, but he tossed it from hand to hand as if was any other tool from his workshop.
Three sharp taps echoed from Jayce’s door.
They were here.
Jayce had prepared for this. He'd run experiments on Viktor’s discarded automata. He'd intercepted the mechanical communications. Any second, they’d beat down his front door and try to rip away his hextech hammer. After that, they'd try to do the same with his skull. “Try” being the operative word.
He flicked a switch on the hammer’s handle. With an energetic sizzle, the head of Jayce’s masterpiece transformed into a hextech blaster.
He took aim.
Stood his ground.
Watched the door open. His finger tightened on the trigger.
And he almost blasted a seven-year-old girl’s head off.
She was tiny and blonde and would have seemed adorable to anyone who wasn’t Jayce.
The girl pushed the door open and walked in with shuffling, tentative steps. Her ponytail swished to and fro as she approached Jayce. She kept her head down, ever avoiding his gaze. He had two hypotheses regarding why she might refuse eye contact: she was hugely impressed to be in the presence of someone so acclaimed, or she was working for Viktor and about to surprise him with a chem-bomb. Her blushing indicated it was likely the former.
“My soldier broke,” she said, proffering a limp metal knight, its arm bent backward at a perverse angle.
Jayce didn’t move.
“Please leave or you’ll probably die.”
The child stared at him.
“Also, I don’t fix dolls. Find somebody with more time on their hands.”
Tears began to well up in her eyes.
“I don’t have any money for an artificer, and my muh–,” she said, stifling a sob, “mother made him for me before she passed, and–”
Jayce furrowed his brow and, for the first time in quite a while, blinked.
“If it’s so precious to you, why did you break it?”
“I didn’t mean to! I took him to the Progress Day feast and somebody bumped into me and I dropped him, and I know I should have just left him at home–”
“ –Yes, you should have. That was stupid of you.”
The girl opened her mouth to speak, then stopped herself. Jayce had seen this kind of reaction before. Most everyone he met had heard the stories of his legendary hammer and his unyielding heroism. They expected grandeur. They expected humility. They expected him to not be a massive jerk. Jayce inevitably disappointed them.
“What is wrong with you?” she asked.
“Most facets of my personality, so I’ve been told,” he replied without hesitation.
The child furrowed her brow. She shoved the broken doll into his face.
“Fix it. Please.”
“You’ll just break it again.”
“Look,” he said. ”Little girl. I’m very busy, and–”
Something flitted across the skylight, casting a quick shadow on the two of them.
Anyone else would have assumed it was nothing more than a falcon passing overhead.
Jayce knew better. He fell silent. A wry smile spread across his face as he yanked the girl toward his workbench.
“The thing is,” he said, “machines are very simple.”
He lifted a large, thin sheet of bronze and began to hammer its corners with sharp taps.
“They’re made of discrete parts. They combine and recombine in clear, predictable ways.” He beat the sheet over and over until it took the form of a smooth dome.
“People are more complicated. They’re emotional, they’re unpredictable, and – in nearly every case – they’re not as smart as me,” he said, drilling a clean hole into the top of the dome. “Now usually, that’s a problem. But sometimes, their stupidity works in my favor.”
“Is this still about my doll, or–”
“Sometimes, they’re so insecure in their inferiority – so desperate to take their revenge – that they make a foolish mistake.” He grabbed a shining copper rod, and screwed it into the center of the dome.
“Sometimes people fail to protect their most precious assets,” he said, nodding at her tin soldier before holding aloft the newly-formed metal umbrella. “And sometimes, that means instead of assaulting my workshop through the more obvious front door, they try to take…”
He looked upward, “...the more dramatic approach.”
He handed her the umbrella, which took all of her meager strength to keep aloft.
“Hold this. Don’t move.”
She opened her mouth to respond, only to yelp in surprise as the skylight shattered above her. Glass bounced off the makeshift umbrella like rain as a half-dozen men leapt down to the floor. Tubes of bright green chems protruded from the base of their necks, connecting to their limbs. Their eyes were dead, their faces emotionless. They were definitely Viktor’s boys, alright: drugged punks from Zaun’s sump level whom Viktor had pumped full of hallucinogens and hypnotics. Chem-stunted thugs who would follow Viktor’s every whim whether they wanted to or not. Jayce had been expecting to see automatons, but Viktor likely couldn’t have gotten so many through Piltover unnoticed.
Still, these chem-slaves were just as much of a danger. They turned toward Jayce and the girl.
Before they reached the pair, however, Jayce’s hextech blaster exploded with voltaic energy. An orb of hextech-powered lightning shot out of its core and detonated in the middle of the group. The chem-slaves slammed into the workshop's immaculate walls.
“So much for the element of surprise, huh, Vikto–”
A hulking brute of a machine leapt down amongst the pile of unconscious chem-slaves.
It looked, Jayce thought, like a cross between a minotaur and a very angry building.
“Watch out,” the girl yelped.
Jayce rolled his eyes. “I am watching him. Stop panicking. I have the situation well in-ow!” he said, interrupted as the metal beast rammed him in the chest.
The beast sent Jayce hurtling backward. He landed on a rolling cart, his back cracking from the impact.
Grunting, he pulled himself to his feet as the beast charged again.
“That’s the last time you touch me,” he said.
Jayce swung his hextech weapon as hard as he could, transforming it back into a hammer mid-swing. The minotaur lowered its head to ram Jayce again, foolishly ignoring the weapon’s arc.
The hammer found its mark with a resounding crunch. The minotaur, its head caved all the way back into its metal neck, collapsed to the floor. A cloud of escaping steam hissed from its carcass.
Jayce pulled back the hammer again, readying for another attack. He watched the skylight. A few minutes passed. Soon enough, he seemed satisfied the assault was over.
He tried to step back toward his workbench, only to double over in pain, grasping at his stomach. The girl rushed to his side.
“Still hurts where he tackled you, huh?”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have let him,” she said. “That was stupid of you.”
Jayce raised an eyebrow at the kid. Her eyes widened, unsure if she’d crossed a line. A slow smile crept across his face.
“What was your name?”
Jayce sat at his workbench and grabbed a screwdriver.
“Gimme the doll, Amaranthine,” he said.
A massive grin broke out on her face. “So you can fix it?”
Jayce smirked at her.
“There’s nothing I can’t fix.”"
"Orianna is a technical marvel comprised entirely of clockwork, but it was not always so - she was once a girl of flesh and blood. As a young child in Piltover, Orianna fell ill, and her dying organs were replaced with elaborate prosthetics until she became the first fully mechanized person. Her closest companion is the mechanical ball she created to serve as her protector and friend. Introspective and curious about her place in the world, Orianna seeks her true purpose.
Growing up in a wealthy district of Piltover, Orianna was sheltered from the cruelties and injustices of the outside world by her father, renowned inventor Corin Reveck. His elaborate designs were so beautifully detailed that even those without a medical need sought his clockwork and mechanically powered augmentations. Patrons swore his work had an uncannily lifelike quality, as if he wove magic into his creations amongst the cogs and gears.
Eager to learn his craft, young Orianna trained tirelessly as his apprentice. Her father was brilliant, but reclusive, and relied on Orianna to interact with his customers. With her inquisitive and friendly nature, she soon became the face of their business.
Though she seldom ventured beyond her neighborhood, Orianna often stole away to the theater, where she watched dancers portray stories through leaps and pirouettes from lands beyond Piltover. Epic adventures unfolded before her eyes: an ageless mage who wandered the desert in search of a spell he'd lost a century ago, a maiden who disguised herself as a rock in a magic-infused jungle, a pilgrim who longed to climb an impossibly tall mountain that healed all who ascended its peak, and dozens more stories of faraway places that thrilled her imagination.
Entranced by the dancers’ tales, Orianna dreamed of one day visiting these strange and distant lands. From the theater balcony, she’d study every movement and detail, then return to her father’s workshop to create miniature figurines that recreated the dazzling show.
One quiet day in the shop, after Orianna fitted an elderly woman’s mechanical hand, the patient mentioned a terrible accident that had occurred in Zaun, the city over which Piltover had been built. An explosion had released a cloud of noxious fumes, poisoning the air in the surrounding streets. Left untreated, the chemicals would cause organ failure and a slow, lingering death. Those infected were sequestered to a medical encampment in the heart of Zaun.
Thinking their skills could help those suffering from the foul air, Orianna urged her father to descend into Zaun and aid the victims. Corin knew exposure to such toxicity was too risky and forbade his daughter from visiting such a dangerous place. But Orianna was not to be dissuaded, and just before dawn, she snuck from her home. She bore as many respirators as she could carry, and donned a protective mask before riding the hexdraulic descender into the depths of Zaun.
Orianna was shocked at the devastation; debris filled the streets at the site of the explosion, and Zaunites walked through thick pooling clouds of toxins with their faces covered by no more than oily rags. Never in her life had she witnessed such suffering. Orianna joined a group of volunteers tending to those most affected by the fumes. She returned, night after night, to repair broken breathing equipment and install esophilters in her patients, allowing them to breathe the noxious fumes safely.
After giving away all her respirators, Orianna noticed a young child with deathly, labored breathing. Without a second thought, she removed her own filtration mask and gave it to the child, donning a handkerchief to cover her own face. Within days Orianna fell ill herself, and soon struggled to breathe even the clean air of her home. Every breath was anguish as her lungs deteriorated from within, and she was forced to face her own mortality.
Devastated at his daughter’s failing health, Corin threw all his efforts into developing his most ambitious project yet: replacing Orianna’s dissolving lungs with automated replicas. Corin used the finest bio-mechanical filtration materials, normally reserved for his highest paying customers. After weeks of sleepless nights developing an exquisite device of clockwork, Corin embedded it within Orianna’s chest. Wanting to prevent Orianna from exposing herself to danger again, Corin installed a mechanism to power her lungs with a key only he could wind. The artificial lungs worked perfectly, and soon Orianna was back to tinkering in the shop.
Sadly, Orianna’s fortune would not last. After a few months of good health, her condition worsened as the blight spread to the rest of her body. Orianna and her father worked feverishly to develop clockwork replicas of various organs, and as each body part failed, it was replaced.
As her anatomy was inexorably altered, Orianna grew more uncertain of her own identity. Over time, more and more of her body was exchanged for whirring cogs and gears. She retained most of her human memories, but felt a peculiar distance from her former self. Her father, too, noticed the change; Orianna sometimes heard him crying late at night. He bought her tickets to the Piltovan theater to cheer her up, but Orianna insisted on leaving halfway through, saying she had already learned everything she could from the show. Devastated at the gradual loss of his daughter’s personality, Corin tried to help Orianna recall her old memories and former demeanor, correcting her when she strayed too far from her past behavior. Orianna followed his instructions, but increasingly grew to resent his interference, wishing she could simply be herself.
Within a year, Orianna was almost entirely mechanical, save for her heart, which remained miraculously untainted by the creeping toxins.
During the years of Orianna’s decline, Corin had focused solely on his daughter, neglecting many of his wealthy clientele, and losing most of their patronage. Without funds to keep their business afloat, Orianna and Corin were forced to sell what possessions they could and move down into Zaun. They set up shop above a chemtech lab halfway down the canyon wall, and soon found work modifying breathing devices to filter the infamous Zaun Gray.
Orianna’s skill in crafting mechanized clockwork was better than ever, for her hands no longer tired under the meticulous work and her inhuman mind needed little rest. She had no need for measuring devices, for she could glance at a gear and immediately know its exact dimensions, and was able to solve complex formulas that would normally take hours in a matter of seconds. Orianna learned to maintain her own body, greasing cranks, replacing worn parts, and fixing jammed clockwork as needed, though she relied on her father to wind her whenever her gears slowed.
With wheels and gears ticking endlessly within her body, Orianna often became frustrated that time never seemed to move forward - at least not for her. As the months passed, new creases appeared on her father’s forehead and gray hairs grew at his temples. But Orianna’s gears maintained their constant rotation, and she experienced little change. She wondered if her life would continue forever on its steady, immutable course, and felt the loss of all the things she might never experience.
With most Zaunites accustomed to breathing chem-rich air, people visited Corin’s workshop only occasionally, and business slowed. Compounding that problem, Corin had developed agonizing chest spasms since their move to Zaun and was forced to rest often.
One day, Orianna noticed a young sumpsnipe who frequently passed their shop, and spent an afternoon crafting a mechanical figurine for him. The tiny clockwork gentleman tipped his hat and bowed when his key was wound. The child was delighted. Thinking that life in Zaun could use more joy, Orianna designed a series of elaborate figurines. In a place where most objects were purely functional, her wondrous creations brought smiles to many Zaunites. The figures sold faster than she could make them, and the renown of Corin’s workshop grew. Once again, they could afford more expensive materials, even a rare hextech crystal.
With notoriety came more visitors, but not all of them were welcome. Thugs employed by Petrok Grime, a formidable Chem-Baron, stopped by one day to offer Corin their unwavering protection from thieves, scoundrels, and general mayhem in exchange for coin. Corin turned them down, believing it better to stand up to criminals than appease them. But that night, Corin’s shop was raided and all their money was stolen. Orianna spent the next month developing a tool to serve as their protector: a brass sphere that could radiate powerful energy, causing its target tremendous pain. Corin noticed that the ball assisted Orianna in her work automatically, as if they had some unseen connection.
As Corin’s health continued to deteriorate, Orianna was forced to obtain costly tonics to treat his pain. She tended to him as best she could, but a Zaunite sawbones confirmed that the chem-rich air had infiltrated Corin’s bloodstream and poisoned his heart.
Despite their advancements in bio-mechanical clockwork, neither Corin nor Orianna had yet developed a mechanism elaborate enough to reproduce the intricacies of the human heart. Her own live, healthy heart had proven especially resilient throughout her illness. Yet it was also an unbreakable link to her past, freezing her in time.
Orianna knew her father loved the daughter he once had, but she no longer felt like that girl. Perhaps giving her heart to her father would keep his daughter’s memory alive, since she no longer could. If she could create a mechanical heart for herself powered by hextech, her lungs would no longer need a winding key. Maybe then, time could move forward.
Orianna slipped her father a sleeping draught and crafted her new clockwork heart using the hextech crystal they recently obtained. The bespoke organ hummed with delicate machinery that drew power from the ever-renewing gemstone. It was beyond the scope of anything she or her father had ever created. With help from the ball, she removed the key from her back and installed the new device, knowing her hextech-powered heartbeat would never again depend on someone else. She then cut open Corin’s chest and replaced his failing heart with the last remnant of the Orianna he had known and loved.
Orianna listened to her father’s steady heartbeat through the night, and at dawn, she left for good. Though she still loved him, she wanted to see the world. She had become something entirely new, a lady of clockwork, and now that she was entirely mechanical, she was free.
Corin woke to find his workshop filled with hundreds of miniature figurines: clockwork people who could balance upon a string, sing folk tunes, or even juggle tiny silver balls. With such a rich inventory he could return to Piltover in no time. But there was one figure he vowed never to sell: a golden dancer with no winding key, who pirouetted in a dance without end."
Orianna Story: Fieram
"Orianna walked through the fairground, empty and still in the evening gloom. Sir Feisterly’s Fantastical Fair opened its gates to delighted crowds of Zaunites but twice a year, and Orianna did not want to miss her chance to see its wonders. She had waited until everyone had left for the day, and the rowdy laughter and accordion tunes had fallen silent. Only the low hum of nearby pipelines pumping steam through the chem district disturbed the quiet. Detritus lay strewn along the ground; colorful streamers and bright balloons mingling with crumpled wax paper that once held sweet jam pastries.
Orianna’s clockwork ball hovered beside her as she passed a stall overflowing with roses, which according to a sign, smelled like each day of the week. She walked by a wind-up monkey holding a pair of cymbals, and a cart laden with sugared apples. None of these Zaun-born delights piqued her interest; Orianna had eyes only for the glass cabinet tucked into a secluded corner at the far edge of the grounds.
A glimmering wink of metal flashed in the moonlight. It came from the mechanical boy sitting behind the glass. Orianna had seen nothing like him, and drew closer, intrigued.
He was clad in a midnight-blue suit and a silk hat. His skin was a shell of pure porcelain that masked the delicate clockwork gears below, and his eyes shone with glints of silver thread. As Orianna approached him, his lips rearranged into a smile.
“Can you keep a secret?” the boy said. His voice reminded Orianna of softly chiming bells.
“Hello,” she said. “Of course.”
“What say we make a trade. My secret, for your name.”
“That seems fair. I am called Orianna.”
“Or-ee-AHN-uh,” he repeated. “Such soft sounds.”
Orianna could have sworn his porcelain cheeks blushed.
“I suppose it’s my turn. My name is Fieram. My secret is that I fear the outside world, though I long to see distant shores and far-off mountains.”
“Is that why you live in a cabinet?” she asked. “Because you are afraid?”
“From here, the world visits me,” said Fieram. “Behind the glass, I am safe. I’m very fragile, you see.” He pointed to a hairline fracture on his forearm. “There it is. I’m getting old.” Fieram’s mouth opened into a lopsided grin.
Orianna giggled and shrugged her shoulders, a gesture she had recently acquired, though she wasn’t quite sure if she had used it correctly.
“Oho! You haven’t seen my tricks yet,” said Fieram. He reached into his sleeve and produced a bouquet of daisies with a flourish.
“Ta-Da!” he exclaimed. “And...”
Fieram removed his hat and dipped his head in a nod. A half-dozen mechanical pigeons fluttered from beneath the brim. He brought his hands together in a clap and the entire cabinet filled with opaque red smoke. By the time it dissipated a few seconds later, the pigeons were gone.
Orianna applauded in delight. The ball whirred, impressed.
“Wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Like magic.”
“And that wasn’t even my best execution. Fumbled my sleeve a bit,” he admitted, folding his hands. “But small miracles are my specialty. Like you finding your way to me, in this great city! You, above all others.”
“You winked at me.” said Orianna. “Why?”
“We are kindred spirits, you and I. But you already knew that,” said Fieram. “It’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” He shuffled his feet. Orianna marveled at the subtlety of his movement.
“It is just that I have never seen another like you,” she said.
“I’m one of a kind, aren’t I? Same as you,” said Fieram. He gestured toward her mechanical frame, and winked again.
Orianna smiled. Fieram leaned in against the glass.
“Your smile is—”
“Fabricated?” she said. “Yes. I am still mastering certain expressions.”
“... beautiful,” said Fieram.
“Well now you are going to make me blush.”
Orianna’s ball, hovering at her left shoulder, nudged her gently.
“Not now,” she told the ball. She lifted the mechanical monkey from its stall nearby and turned its key. It scuttled about the floor, eyes lit with a red glow, clashing its cymbals together at every third step before slowing to a halt.
“You are not like him, are you, Fieram? All wound up at the turn of a key?” she said.
“You have a mind. You have thoughts.”
“I may be comprised of cogs and wheels, but I have dreams, like anyone.”
“I know you dream of leaving this place. Surely you are lonely behind this glass. Come with me. We could leave now, together,” Orianna said.
“Leave?” Fieram’s expression fell. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.”
“You have no doubt listened to the restless bustle of Zaun, or heard of the grand marvels in Piltover?” Orianna asked.
Fieram cocked his head.
“I like to ride the Rising Howl at dusk to catch the last of the day’s golden rays,” Orianna said. “From the very top you can see the harbor beyond the sea-gates, and the endless glistening ocean. From up there, you can imagine the smell of faraway lands.”
Orianna’s ball whirred as it spun in the air and nudged her again.
“I suppose now is as good a time as any,” she said. “Fieram, would you like to see the world? We could leave together, right now. I can protect you.”
“I can’t think of anything more wonderful,” he said.
Orianna circled the glass cabinet in search of an opening. An iron padlock secured a small door at its base. She raised a fist and brought it down upon the lock, smashing it open.
A watchman approached them.
“Hey! Stop that!”
With a glance from Orianna, the ball shot toward the watchman. It clanged upon impact with his helmet, then hovered in the air as if waiting for a command. Orianna nodded and the ball radiated waves of coruscating power. Caught in the energy flux, the watchman raised his baton and bashed it into the ball, which spun in midair before returning to his target.
A second watchman ran toward Orianna. She tried to pull Fieram through the door but his chair jammed in the opening.
“Fieram! Can you repeat your trick?”
The ball reverberated with energy as it whirled around the first watchman. His metal helmet fizzled with sparks.
“My tricks?” Fieram reached into his sleeve and pulled out the bouquet as Orianna spun away from the watchman.
“No, the other one!”
Fieram replaced his bouquet.
“The very last trick,” she said. “Quickly!”
The mechanical boy drew the bouquet from his sleeve once more.
Orianna spun toward the watchman, her metal dress fanning out in a flurry of sharp blades until the man backed away, baton raised.
“Get away from him, you!” said the watchman. “That’s our property you’re tampering with!”
“From here, the world visits me,” Fieram said.
He tipped his hat and pigeons poured out. The watchman aimed his baton at Orianna’s head, and she ducked just as Fieram clapped. The baton shattered the side of the glass cabinet and crimson smoke poured from the opening, obscuring all movement.
The first watchman had responded to the ball’s galvanic attacks with rageful abandon, throwing all his weight into every punch. The ball was relentless, however, and shot a final blast of energy toward his helmet, and the watchman fell down, unconscious.
Whirring in satisfaction, the ball flew to Orianna. It unleashed voltaic waves toward the second watchman, rendering him motionless.
Orianna stepped into the smoke-filled cabinet. She lifted the mechanical boy from his chair but his legs would not flex to stand.
“Fieram! Fieram, we must leave.”
“Leave? I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.” A pair of metallic pigeons flew through the broken glass, but dropped to the ground a few feet from the door.
“Fieram, stand up so we can go,” Orianna said, her face falling. “Please.”
“Oho! You haven’t seen my tricks yet.” He pulled the bouquet from his sleeve.
Orianna ignored Feiram’s attempt to tip his hat and dragged him, still fixed in a seated posture, from the glass enclosure. Outside, her ball had cornered the second watchman, who had collapsed in a buzzing heap.
“And that wasn’t even my best execution. Fumbled my sleeve a bit,” said Fieram.
“You are not... your voice is... repeating?” Orianna said. His head lolled back awkwardly and she held it upright.
“My secret is that I fear the outside world,” he said.
Orianna noticed the embroidery lining his jacket.
Sir Feisterly’s Fantastical Fair
He was nothing more than a simple automaton, a spectacle for the crowds.
“I was certain you had a mind. Had thoughts. Like me,” she said.
Fieram looked up at her with eyes that glinted with silver. “I’m one of a kind, aren’t I?”
He shuffled his feet nervously, though they were in midair. “Same as you.”
The ball returned to Orianna and whirred gently.
“We should go,” she whispered. She set Fieram back upon his chair, which she placed just outside the shattered glass cabinet. “I wish you well.”
“Small miracles are my specialty,” he said. “Like you finding your way to me.”
“Goodbye, Fieram,” said Orianna softly. The two watchmen lay unconscious on the ground. The ball hovered at her side as she walked away.
She did not look back until she was clear of the park’s towering gates. As she turned, she thought she saw a glint of metal winking in the distance."
"Once a criminal from the mean streets of Zaun, Vi is a hotheaded, impulsive, and fearsome woman with only a very loose respect for authority figures. Growing up all but alone, Vi developed finely honed survival instincts as well as a wickedly abrasive sense of humor. Now working with the Wardens of Piltover to keep the peace, she wields mighty hextech gauntlets that can punch through walls and suspects with equal ease.
Vi remembers little of her childhood, and what she does remember, she wishes she didn’t. Running with the sumpsnipe gangs, she quickly learned to use her wits, as well as her fists, to survive. Developing a thick skin was just as important, and everyone who encountered Vi knew her as someone who could punch or talk her way out of trouble.
More often than not, she chose the former.
None of the old timers from Vi’s youth could tell her anything of her parents, with most assuming they had simply died in one of the industrial accidents that were, sadly, all too common in Zaun. A few vaguely claimed to remember her as one of the brats from Hope House, a crumbling orphanage cut into Zaun’s cave-riddled cliffs. On his deathbed, a notoriously mad sump-scrapper claimed to have found Vi adrift in a bassinet large enough for two in the ruins of a collapsed chem-laboratory. In the end, Vi gave up on any notions of learning anything about her parents, figuring some things were better left unknown.
Wilder tales than that soon came to surround Vi as she garnered a reputation among the undercity’s gangs. With her wild pink hair, Vi was a distinctive sight on the streets of Zaun; hightailing from angry shopkeepers in the glittering arcades of the boundary markets, swaggering through the colorful bazaars of the Lanes or hitching rides up into Piltover aboard the hexdraulic conveyors. Wherever there was a scrape to be gotten into or a scam to be run, odds were, Vi was in the thick of it. Despite her reputation as a troublemaker, she followed a code that meant she never stole from those that couldn’t afford to lose what she took and never hurt those that didn’t deserve it.
As she got older, the capers of childhood became more audacious and daring, with Vi forming a gang of her own. Brash and quick to anger, she still liked to use her fists a little too much, and though she was usually the last one standing in any dispute, her eyes were frequently black and her lip split from fighting. Over the years, Vi formed a friendship with the owner of a bar on the edges of the Lanes, and he was able to temper some of her more self-destructive tendencies. He reinforced her code and showed her how to fight with discipline, as well as teaching her ways to better direct her simmering anger.
Despite his steadying influence, Vi’s gang ran riot across Zaun, with the Chem-Barons tolerating their antics only because they knew she and her crew were sometimes useful. Vi became known as someone who got things done, no questions asked. Despite her life as a lawbreaker, Vi’s sense of morality began to trouble her ever more frequently as she saw the damage she and other gangs were leaving in their wake.
The final straw came when she worked alongside another gang on a smash and grab heist at a chemtech facility that had just struck a rich seam. Listening in on miners’ chatter in the bars, Vi learned when payment for the ore was being delivered, and hatched a scheme to relieve the mine’s owner of his gold. The plan required extra bodies to pull off, so Vi reluctantly brought the Factorywood Fiends in on her score. The job went to plan until the leader of the Fiends used a chem-powered mining golem to kill the owner with its oversized Pulverizer Gauntlets. His men drove the workers into the mine as he started demolishing the opening, driving the golem into an overload. This wanton slaughter and destruction infuriated Vi. It had been a perfect score and now these psychotic idiots were ruining it!
Grabbing their share of the gold, the Fiends made their escape, but the miners were now trapped below ground and would soon run out of air. Vi could not leave them to die, and swiftly donned the overloading golem’s powered gauntlets before it tore itself apart. The wrist mechanisms clamped down on her arms, but Vi endured the agony long enough to smash a path through to the miners and save them from certain death.
With the miners free, Vi and her gang fled with the rest of the gold. And the following day, Vi paid a visit to the Factorywood Fiends. Still wearing the powered gauntlets, she administered a beating to the entire gang that is still spoken of with awe by the gangs of Zaun to this day. The debacle of the mine robbery was the last straw for Vi, and she swore never to work with anyone she didn’t fully trust. She kept the Pulverizer Gauntlets, and had them modified so as not to burn her whenever she used them to break into supposedly impregnable vaults or ambush heavily armed convoys of gold, tech, or whatever else she decided to steal.
Vi disappeared from Zaun during a time of great upheaval, a time when tensions between the two cities were at an all-time high. Rumors circulated between the gangs that she had been killed in a huge explosion in the heart of Zaun, but so too did stories that she’d struck out for distant lands. The truth finally came to light when Old Hungry’s Scars, a vicious gang whose murder sprees had spread to Piltover, were finally brought down by the Sheriff of Piltover and her new ally... Vi. The former gang leader of Zaun was now in the employ of the wardens, and she’d had an upgrade. She’d replaced the chem-powered gauntlets with a pair of prototype hextech gauntlets. She also seemed somehow older, as if she’d seen and done things that had changed her forever. The Vi from the streets of Zaun, who’d use her fists before her wits, was still there, but she’d grown up some and seen that the path she had been on had only one ending.
No one yet knows how Vi came to be working alongside Caitlyn, but whatever secret binds them together can only be guessed at. Given the personal nature of a recent crime wave sweeping Piltover, speculation runs rife that it involves a certain blue-haired hellion from Zaun..."
Vi Story: Interrogation 101
"Vi stifled a yawn as she moved through the gilded chamber at the heart of Piltover’s Hall of Law. Dawn was less than an hour old, and the place was quiet. A few drunks were sleeping it off in the shaming cells, and she’d heard there were a couple of chem-augmented thugs in the deeper, more secure lock-ups. She’d ask around later, see if she could provide any insight as to what they were doing up in Piltover.
She rolled her shoulders, the muscles there stiff after a hard night’s work. It had been a long shift, and her forearms were aching from the pressure of her powered gauntlets. All she wanted to do was go back home, get them off, and bathe her fists in ice water. Maybe throw back a few glasses of something strong and sleep some, but the pnuema-tube from Caitlyn had been full of imperatives about getting herself down to the district house on the double. Vi had cocked an eyebrow, tossed the message and given it an hour before leaving her cramped home in the dressmakers-quarter to answer Caitlyn’s summons.
“Hey, Harknor,” she said to the desk-warden when she reached the cells. “What’s so important Caitlyn has to drag me from an erotic dream about—”
“Ah, ah, stop right there,” said Harknor without looking up from his elevated desk as he ran a finger down the list of prisoners brought in during the night. “I’m not in the mood to hear another of your lurid fantasies.”
“You sure?” grinned Vi, leaning on his desk and blowing a loose strand of pink hair from her eyes. “This was a good one. Had a plot and everything.”
“Quite sure,” said Harknor, looking away and holding out the charge sheet. “Caitlyn and Mohan brought in a hextech thief last night. He hasn’t said a word to anyone, but she thinks you might be able to get him to talk.”
Vi arched an eyebrow as she scanned the page.
“Devaki? You’ve been a very naughty boy,” she said, rolling her eyes and curling her metaled fingers into a fist. “Yeah, Devaki and I knew each other back in the day. I’ll get him to talk.”
Harknor shook his head, saying, “Listen, Vi, I don’t want to have to call the surgeon back here again. Caitlyn wants this fella to able to speak when he goes before the procurator.”
“Where is she anyway?” asked Vi. “She isn’t even here to say hello?”
“Chasing down a lead at the docks,” said Harknor. “Said she figured you could handle this one on your own. She wrong about that?”
“Nope,” said Vi, turning and sashaying toward the cells. “Which cell’s Devaki in?”
“Number six. But remember, he’s got to be able to talk!”
Vi nodded and said, “Yeah, yeah...”
She reached cell six and slid back the locking bar. Normally, another warden would secure the door, but Vi didn’t need anyone at her back. She knew Devaki from the old days, even worked with him a few times before the job with the Factorywood Fiends went bad. Devaki was a thief, not a fighter, and if she needed backup to restrain his scrawny frame, then it was time to find a new line of work.
Devaki was sitting on the edge of the chipped hunk of stone they called a bed with his back to the wall and his knees drawn up to his chest. He cradled one arm close to his body, the limb ending at a bandaged stump where his hand ought to be. He looked up as she entered, and his eyes widened in surprise.
“Piltover’s finest,” she said with a petite curtsey that, despite where he sat, made Devaki smile. “What happened to your hand?”
“Your damn sheriff shot if off,” he said. “What happened to yours?”
“I got an upgrade,” said Vi, holding up her hextech gauntlets. They hummed with a low buzz and she turned them around to let Devaki see just how powerful they were. “Fully customizable with variant levels of hurt. I can punch through walls with these babies.”
“Yeah, I heard what happened to the Ecliptic Vaults,” said Devaki with an easy smile, as if he was talking to the old Vi, the Vi from the Lanes. He wasn’t bright enough to know that Vi wasn’t the one standing in front of him.
Devaki held up the arm ending in a stump. “I’m gonna need an upgrade too. This was a high-end augment from Bronzio’s. That sheriff didn’t need to shoot it off.”
“You can bill her,” said Vi, closing the distance between them in two strides and lifting Devaki off his feet. She threw him against the opposite wall, rattling his bones and sending plaster dust billowing into the air.
Devaki slid to the floor, shocked and gasping for breath. “They’ve been playing nice so far, but now they send you in? What gives?”
“I’m the one they send in when asking all polite doesn’t get you anywhere, cupcake,” said Vi, letting the power build in her gauntlets. “I’m the one who’ll go to town on you with these beauties. Unless, of course, you tell me what I want to know.”
“Whoa, wait! Vi, what are you doing?” spluttered Devaki, holding his remaining hand out before him as he scrambled to his feet.
“I’m interrogating you, what’s it look like?”
“But you haven’t asked me anything!”
Vi cocked her head to the side. “Yeah, I should probably get on that.”
She reached down and hauled Devaki to his feet, applying a growing pressure to his shoulder.
“So, who was gonna buy that stolen hextech?”
Devaki winced in pain, but didn’t answer.
“Come on, you’re tougher than that,” said Vi, releasing his bruised shoulder. “You want to see what happens to a face when I don’t pull my punches?”
“No!” cried Devaki.
“Then tell me what I want to know.”
Vi tapped a finger on her chin, as if weighing whether to punch him again. She smiled, the expression worrying Devaki more than the thought of her fists.
“Be a shame if word got round the Lanes that you’d been informing on all your criminal friends for the last couple of years.”
“What?” said Devaki, spluttering in pain and indignation. “That’s a lie!”
“Of course it is,” said Vi, “but I know all the right people to talk to down there. A lot of folk’ll listen if I let it slip that you’re in the wardens’ pocket.”
“I’ll be dead in a day if you do that,” protested Devaki.
“Now you’re catching on,” said Vi. “Tell me what I want to know. I’ll make sure it gets about you resisted arrest. Even give you a black eye so it looks like I beat it out of ya.”
Devaki’s shoulders slumped, knowing he had no defiance left in him.
“Fine, I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
“Excellent,” said Vi, “Now we’re getting somewhere.”"
The Medarda Heirloom[Added 12/1]
The Medarda Heirloom is an extensive map of the region - you can zoom around on the map page for additional details, notes, drawings, and more!
Here's a closer look at the notes from the top of the map:
Progress Day[Added 12/1]
Piltover Story - Progress Day
"Tamara forces herself to rise early - an easy habit to get into when the earth is your bed and fallen leaves the only blanket. Less so when the mattress is stuffed with goose down and the sheets woven from soft cotton. The curtains are pulled back, and warm light pools on the floor of her third floor boarding room. She’d closed the curtains on her first night in Piltover and had slept two hours past dawn, which worried her so much, she has never closed them since.
Swinging herself out of bed, she strides naked to the window and taps the colored glass with a callused fingertip, black with sooty residue from the workshop. The light shimmers on her skin, her frame wolf-lean and wiry-muscled. Despite that, she rubs a hand across her belly as if fearing it has grown soft. Below her, the cobbled street is already busy with stall-holders setting up to catch Progress Day’s early trade. Colorful bunting to celebrate this auspicious day is strung between every building, giving the narrow street a festive atmosphere so unlike the city Tamara calls home. Cog and key banners of gold and crimson silk hang from the distant towers glittering on the upper slopes of the clan districts. It is there the rivers of gold said to flow through Piltover’s streets have their source.
Tamara grins at the thought and turns from the window. Her room is meticulously tidy, a place for everything and everything in its place. Notebooks are stacked at one corner of her workbench, alongside carefully arranged tools, hex-calipers and folded schemata. Yesterday’s lunch of black bread, cheese and dried fruit sits unopened in muslin wrapping next to her tools. A small metalworking forge is ingeniously built into the brick wall, the fumes carried to the roof via a twisting series of iron pipes. At the center of the desk is a wooden box in which sits the device that has taken her many months of effort to construct, working from the plans etched into rolls of wax-paper she keeps hidden beneath her mattress.
She reaches under her bed for the chamber pot and relieves herself before quickly freshening up with the powders and tinctures provided by her host. She dresses in the rugged clothes of an apprenta; simple leggings, an undershirt equipped with numerous pockets and a wrap-around doublet with an ingenious system of hooks and eye fasteners that can be ripped off with one quick pull. She’d been puzzled at the need for this until Gysbert had blushingly told her it was to make it easier to get off in the event of it catching fire in a workshop.
She checks her reflection in a polished glass mirror hanging on a brass hook on the back of her door, brushing her long dark hair back over her ears and securing it with a leather thong and copper hair-clips. Tamara runs her fingers over her high cheekbones then along the line of her chin, and is satisfied by what she sees. Colette keeps telling her she could do more with her looks, but her friend is young and hasn’t yet learned the danger of being memorable.
Tamara places the wooden box in her shoulder bag, together with the muslin wrapped food and a selection of notebooks and pencils. She’s nervous, but that’s understandable. This is a big day for her, and she doesn’t want to fail.
She removes the chair wedging her door shut and turns the locking wheel to release the bars securing it in place. Compared to where she comes from, Piltover is a safe place, its violent crime rate absurdly low. Its inhabitants are untroubled by the everyday violence of most other cities, but they are not so foolish as to believe they can do without locks on their doors.
Especially in the weeks leading up to Progress Day.
Tamara locks her door and pauses on her way down the stairs to empty her chamber pot in the boarding house’s central chute for the disposal of night-soil. She used to wonder where it ended up, before realizing that shit only ever flows downward. Somewhere below in Zaun, there’s a garden that likely blooms like no other. She places the pot in its assigned cubbyhole for cleaning, and makes her way down the winding screw-stair to the communal dining room. A few of her fellow apprenta are either breaking their fast or frantically tinkering with the devices they hope will finally get them noticed by one of the clans. Tamara places a hand over her shoulder bag, feeling a sense of pride at what she has made. She’d followed the plans exactly, even though the finishing touches went against the grain of her stoic professionalism.
She waves in response to a few weary hellos, but doesn’t stop to talk. Few of them will have slept more than an hour or two a night for the last fortnight, and she will be surprised if some of them don’t fall asleep during their auditions today. She’s out the door to the street before anyone can delay her, and the brightness of the sun pulls her up short.
The high buildings of her street are constructed of square-cut limestone and chamfered timber. Embellished with bronze facings, leaded glass and copper eaves, dazzling sunlight glitters from every surface. The streets are busy and loud, filled with moderately well-dressed men and women moving back and forth. Couriers push between apparitors, victuallers and tallymen, who shout after them and wave their fists. A few vagabond tinkers ply their suspect wares on canvas cloths atop barrelheads, ready to run at the first sight of a warden. Sumpsnipes who’ve hitched a lift on the Rising Howl from Zaun lurk at the edges of the street, scanning the passing trade for someone to cutpurse. These are the younger, inexperienced ones, forced away from the easy pickings of the cross-chasm bridges by the older, stronger kids.
Tamara keeps a wary eye on them as she moves down the street, her steps precise and measured. She has little enough worth stealing, but the last thing she needs today is a sumpsnipe picking something he shouldn’t from her. The smell of roasting fish and fresh-baked Shuriman sunbread from an open dining hall makes her mouth water.
Instead, she stops a woman pushing a wheeled barrel encircled by hissing pipes and purchases a hot tisane, together with one of the sugared pastries she has come to love a little too much.
“Happy Progress Day, dearheart!” says the woman as Tamara places a silver gear in her hand and tells her to keep the change. “May the cogs turn clockwise for you today, my lovely.”
The woman’s accent sounds oddly lean and leisurely to Tamara, as if she has all the time in the world to voice what she wants to say, yet it is not uncommon this close to the Boundary Markets: a blend of Piltovan affectation and the looser familiarity of Zaun.
“Thank you,” replies Tamara. “May the Gray never rise to your door.”
The woman taps her head and her heart, a sure sign that she is born of parents from above and below. As much as the citizens of Piltover and Zaun like to pretend they are separate entities, both are far more intertwined than they might openly admit. Tamara wolfs down her pastry and follows the road to its end, exactly twenty steps distant, where it meets the larger thoroughfare of Horologica Avenue. She turns right, finishing her tisane and counting her steps as she crosses each intersecting street. The buildings here are grander than the apprenta quarter where she’s billeted, fashioned from polished granite and ironwork columns.
Many boast flickering chemtech lamps that give the morning air a crisp, actinic flavor. It seems pointless to burn them given the early hour, but Tamara has learned a great deal of Piltover society is dominated by perceived wealth and power - one being a factor of the other. It’s everywhere she looks: in the cut of the clothes people wear, the vividness of the colors and the extent of their publicized philanthropy. Tamara sees numerous couples taking their morning constitutional; well-appointed men and women adorned with subtle augments. One woman wears an implanted cheek-plate with a gem-like hextech loupe over one eye. Her arm is linked with a man bearing a metallic gauntlet that flickers with traceries of light. Across the street, another hunched man in overalls wears what appears to be some form of breathing apparatus on his back - tanks filled with bubbling greenish liquid that vent puffs of atomized vapor.
She sees people look on in admiration and wonderment, but her gaze has been trained to notice what others do not.
The two hextech augments are fake.
Tamara has studied Piltover’s emergent technology closely enough to know what is real and what is not. The cheek-plate is molded silver glued to the woman’s face, and her loupe is nothing more than a lapidary’s lens engraved with a maker’s mark she assumes is fictional. Her beau’s hand is an ordinary bronze gauntlet with glass channels filled with bioluminescent algae scraped from one of Zaun’s cultivairs. Only the breathing apparatus is genuine, and the bloodshot redness of the hunched man’s eyes, combined with the tougher, hard-wearing nature of his overalls, tells Tamara he is from a deep level of Zaun.
She travels from Horologica Avenue to Glasswell Street, along the winding Boulevard of a Hundred Taverns and thence into Sidereal Avenue to Incognia Plaza, where Zindelo’s great sphere sits inactive as it has done since the inventor’s mysterious disappearance last year. Crowds gather around the latticework artifact; gaggles of would-be inventors, artists and pallid, hack-coughed Zaunites who have traveled up-city for the day.
Deep in his cups, Gysbert has told her Progress Day is viewed very differently down in his hometown of Zaun, which he insists was the original City of Progress before Piltover came along. Above, Progress Day marks the moment the Sun Gates opened for the first time, allowing trade to pass easily between the east and west of Valoran. It also marks the moment when taxation on that trade turned the trickle of gold entering the city’s coffers into a fast flowing river. Below in Zaun, it is a day to remember those lost in the geological upheaval that created the east-west passage and submerged entire districts underwater.
One day, two very different perceptions.
Tamara passes through the square, avoiding sprinting pneuma-tube runners as they race to bear messages to their destinations. A promenade courtier, Noami Kimba, waves to her and blows her a kiss. They have met three times in the sultry air of evening, and each time Kimba has offered her a chance to spend the night in her arms. Tamara has refused each time, too busy for any diversions, but if she is able to stay longer than today, she may take her up on the next offer. She makes her way to the plaza’s northern archway as a massively bearded man with metaled shoulder guards and an iron skullcap enters. His arms are pneumatic, piston-driven monstrosities, and Tamara recognizes one of the nameless hierophant cultists of the Glorious Evolved. He grunts at her, before entering the square to harangue passers-by with his zealous blend of theology and techno-sorcery. She leaves him to it and turns onto Oblique Lane, heading toward Techmaturgy Bridge, counting her steps as she goes.
The city opens up before her, revealing the great split that divides northern and southern Piltover. The yawning chasm looks as though it ought to be ancient, the result of natural geological forces, but it came into existence within living memory and nothing natural created it. Man’s hubris and desire to master the elements wrought it. Tamara admires the strength of will it must have taken to enact a plan of such audacity that the splitting of the earth and the destruction of half of Zaun was seen as an acceptable price to pay for future prosperity.
The great tower of the College of Techmaturgy rises arrogantly from the wide canyon, anchored to the upper cliffs by swaying suspension bridges and thick iron cables that thrum like musical strings when the winds blow in hard from the ocean. The main bridge is an arched wonder of steel and stone, thronged with people moving between Piltover’s two halves and cursing the vintners and purveyors of sweetmeats whose rival stalls have created a bottleneck at its center. Revelers still drunk from the night before are shepherded onward by wardens in blue jackets, gleaming boots and checkered trousers.
In any other city, they would look ridiculous, but here their gaudy appearance actually seems normal. Sumpsnipes with razor-rings dart through the crowds and more than one reveler will be returning home with what remains of their purse slit and emptied.
The north of the city is where the bulk of the clans have their mansions and heavily guarded workshop compounds. Most of the traffic today is heading in that direction. She sees a good many apprenta making their way across the bridge, each bearing their invention with the care of a mother bearing a newborn babe. She seeks out the familiar faces of Gysbert and Colette, but there are simply too many people to pick out her fellow apprenta. Tamara reaches the end of the bridge, and takes a breath. Normally, she is not scared of high places, but the dizzying scale of the height difference between Piltover and Zaun is breathtaking.
Two statues of robed officials flank the road onto the bridge, one representing the spirit of wealth, the other the essence of honesty. Tamara digs out a bronze washer and places the coin in the outstretched palm of the first statue. The weight of it triggers an internal mechanism and the fingers close over the coin. When they open a moment later, it has gone.
“I always go with the other one,” says a man appearing beside her. He is handsome, dark-haired, and smooth-skinned, which means he is rich. His breath reeks of last night’s shimmerwine. “I find it helps to pay for the things I don’t have.”
Tamara ignores him and carries on her way.
He moves after her, made persistent by the dulled senses of a hangover and too much money in his purse.
“Here, now wait a minute, there’s no need to be rude, young lady.”
“I’m not being rude, I have somewhere to be and I don’t want to talk to you,” she says.
He follows her onto the bridge with a laugh that tells her he sees her as a challenge, someone he thinks he can buy with a few gold hex.
“Aha, you’re an apprenta, aren’t you?” he says, finally recognizing her clothes and seeing the bag on her shoulder. “On your way to the auditions, eh? Hoping to catch the eye of an artificer and be snatched up by one of the great houses, are we?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes,” she answers, hoping against hope that he will hear the brusqueness of her tone and leave her alone. Instead, he increases his pace and stands in front of her, blocking her passage across the bridge. He looks her up and down, as though examining a piece of livestock he’s thinking of buying.
“You’re a fine looking specimen, my girl. A bit bony, but nothing a few meals at Lacabro’s wouldn’t sort, eh? What do you say? It’s Progress Day, everyone should have a bit of fun, eh?”
“I’m not interested,” says Tamara, moving to push past him. “Get out of my way and leave me alone.”
“Now listen here, lass, my name is Cella Allabroxus, and I know a few of the bigwigs on the north side,” he says, continuing to block her way. “Spend the morning with me and I’ll put in a good word for you, make sure your audition gets a bit of a boost, if you know what I mean?”
“No, thanks,” says Tamara, and she can see what’s coming next. He reaches for her arm, but she catches his hand before it makes contact, twisting it around and drawing a surprised gasp of pain from him. If she applies even a fraction more pressure, his wrist will snap like kindling. She uses his pain to maneuver him toward the bridge’s parapet. Her fear of heights quite forgotten, she presses Cella Allabroxus back against the waist-high stonework.
“I asked you nicely to leave me alone,” she says, pressing hard on Allabroxus’s wrist and drawing a whimper of pain from him. “Now I’m asking again, albeit not so nicely. Leave me alone or I will push you off this bridge and when they find what’s left of you spread out over the rooftops of Zaun, they’ll think you were just another drunk who couldn’t walk a straight line over the bridge. Are we clear?”
He nods, in too much pain to speak.
“I don’t need your ‘good word’ or any kind of ‘boost’. I’m pretty damn good at what I do, and I’ll stand or fall on my own, thank you very much. Now smile at me, walk away and go home. Sleep off the wine and remember this moment any time you feel like being discourteous to a lady.”
Cella Allabroxus gasps as Tamara releases his wrist. For a moment she sees he is tempted to retort with something offensive, but she cocks an eyebrow and he thinks better of it. Cradling his wrist, he scurries back the way he came and Tamara lets out a weary sigh. She catches the eye of a sumpsnipe gang loitering on the other side of the roadway and nods in the direction of the fleeing Allabroxus. The footpads take her meaning and race after the man.
“What was that all about?” says a young voice behind her.
The tautness drains from Tamara’s body and she lets a looseness return to her limbs. The cold determination Allabroxus saw falls from her face, replaced with an open smile.
“Nothing,” she says, turning to see Gysbert and Colette. “Just a drunk who thought he’d try his luck.”
“You’re late,” says Gysbert, pointing over the parapet at the dulled metal sides of a mechanized clocktower a hundred feet or so below the level of the bridge. “Look.”
“What are you talking about?” answers Tamara. “I don’t think Old Hungry’s told the right time in years.”
“True,” he says, and though he’s trying to look angry, his eyes speak only of infatuation.
“But we agreed to meet before Old Hungry’s shadow was past the Techmaturgy tower.”
He points to where the dark outline of the mysterious clocktower has fallen across the lower laboratory levels of the tower, where greenish-gray fumes leak from hornpipe vents. “See?”
Tamara smiles and puts her hand on his shoulder. He glances down at the point of contact and any anger he might actually be feeling vanishes.
Colette rolls her eyes and says, “Come on, let’s get going. Gysbert might be foolish enough to forgive your lateness, but Clan Medarda won’t. They shut the gates at third bell and they rang the second before we reached the bridge.”
The manor house of Clan Medarda is not far from the northern end of the bridge, but the streets are busy and there will be many others seeking entry to display their creations at the auditions.
“You’re right,” says Tamara, hefting her shoulder bag and patting the device within. “Let’s go and show those rich sons of bitches what we can make.”
The gates of Clan Medarda’s mansion house are imposing creations of tempered steel set in a high wall of alabaster white stone. Bronze busts of its illustrious family members sit in numerous alcoves along the length of the wall, including the clan’s current head, Jago Medarda. Scores of eager apprenta are gathered by the opened gates, each bearing a prized invention they hope will see them secure a contract of servitude with this illustrious house. The politeness on display is endearing to Tamara, with each apprenta being careful not to jostle their neighbor’s creation.
Men in the clan’s colors, armed with swords and pikes, guard the entrance, checking the authenticity of each supplicant’s paperwork before allowing them entry. Tamara watches them as they work, admiring their professionalism and thoroughness. A few apprenta are turned away, their papers incorrectly stamped or fraudulent. They don’t protest, but simply walk away with a resigned shrug.
When it’s their turn, Tamara, Colette, and Gysbert are allowed in without a hitch. Colette had taken it upon herself to ensure their papers were in order, and the youngster is a stickler for details. It’s a trait Tamara believes will stand the girl in good stead in the years to come.
Just as they pass through the gates and third bell rings from the Piltover Treasury building, Tamara feels the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She has learned to trust this instinct over the years and pauses, as if to adjust the straps of her shoulder bag, looking back to the street. Sitting on the rim of a marble fountain is a woman wearing the loosely tied jacket of a Piltover sheriff, a customized cap pulled low over her shadowed features. One leg is cocked at an angle, her elbow resting atop it as her gaze sweeps the throng of apprenta. There’s a long-barreled rifle over her shoulder, one with what looks like a gleaming gemstone enclosed in a lattice of silver wire. Her gaze pauses on Tamara, who turns away before it can linger too long.
Tamara knows that look: it is the look of a hunter.
The gates shut and she catches up to Colette and Gysbert, who stand in a twenty-strong crowd staring in open-mouthed wonder at what seems at first glance to be a simple carriage. But then Tamara notices the underslung hextech pod and the knot of gold and silver cabling linking it to the front and rear axles. A soft light glows within the pod and Tamara tastes copper on her tongue.
“It’s a self-locomotor,” says Gysbert. “One of Uberti’s designs, if I’m not mistaken.”
“It can’t be,” says Tamara. “She works exclusively for Clan Cadwalder.”
“Not for long, I hear,” says Colette.
“What do you mean?” asks Gysbert.
“Scuttlebut around the workbench says one of Medarda’s agents stole a copy of the schematics,” says Colette, her voice dropping to a whisper. “Rumor has it things got pretty bloody. Bodies all cut up, that sort of thing. Folks are saying Clan Torek are looking to lure her away, but Clan Cadwalder won’t admit anything, of course.”
“Well, they wouldn’t, would they?” says Tamara, as the lacquered black doorway to the manor house opens. “A public admission that their head artisan’s designs were stolen would make them look weak.”
A steward bearing a long black staff and liveried in the crimson and gold of Clan Medarda ushers the hopeful apprenta into the manor house. Tamara hears sighs of wonderment as he leads them through its vaulted antechambers, luxurious reception rooms and grand galleries. The clan’s conspicuous wealth is displayed for all to see in gold-framed portraits that fill entire walls, giant sandstone statues of beast-headed warriors conveyed at enormous expense from Shuriman tombs, and crossed weapons that bear the hallmarks of Ionian design. The floors are gleaming marble flagstones, the grand staircase wide and crafted from the whorled boles of Freljordian Ironwood trees.
Tamara sees that everything in this house is artfully crafted to intimidate and remind the visitor just how little their achievements matter in the face of what Clan Medarda has acquired. She looks up in time to see a woman in a floor-length gray dress and crimson-tasseled pelisse glide being escorted across a mezzanine level by another steward. The heels of her boots click with a strange metallic cadence, and she looks down upon the herd of apprenta with the ghost of a smile creasing her lips as she passes from sight.
Eventually the steward halts their march in a moderately sized waiting room with a herringbone-patterned floor and a Revek clock fashioned from ivory and mother-of-pearl that keeps time with metronomic precision. An imposing set of black-lacquered doors with a hatch at eye level leads onward, but the steward raps his staff on the wooden floor and indicates that they should sit on benches set against each wall.
“When your name is called, enter the proving chamber,” he says. “Move to the lectern and state your name. Give a short explanation of what you will be demonstrating, followed by a brief - and I cannot stress that word enough, brief - explanation of its workings. You will be judged by the learned artificers of Clan Medarda, so assume they know more than you. My advice is to keep your answers short, as they bore easily. If you are successful, take the left door onward. If you are unsuccessful, take the right door onward. That is all. And good luck.”
The steward has given this speech many times before, but Tamara hears sincerity in his last words to them. She places a hand on her shoulder bag, knowing that on any other day, the device within would be enough to secure her a place at any one of Piltover’s clan houses. She shares a look with Gysbert and Colette. Both are nervous, and she is surprised to find her own heart racing. She has spent so long preparing for the Progress Day audition that the thought of stumbling at this last hurdle makes her sick to her stomach. It has been a long time since she felt this way, and she smiles, welcoming the sensation. It will keep her sharp and focused. She reaches over to take Gysbert’s hand and gives it a squeeze. Sweat dapples his brow and he smiles weakly in thanks. Colette is staring straight ahead, scanning the faces on the other side of the room, no doubt wondering who might make the cut and who will fall by the wayside.
The hatch in the black door slides back and everyone tenses. A name is called, and a young girl across from them stands. The door opens from the other side and she shuffles nervously through it. A musty smell of aged wood and charged atmosphere gusts from the proving chamber, and Tamara tries to imagine what it will be like.
Another six apprenta pass through the door before one of their names is called. Colette is first, and she stands with determination, lets out a breath, and walks through the door without a backward glance.
“She’ll be great,” says Gysbert under his breath. “I know it.”
“So will you, Gys,” says Tamara, though she suspects his nerves will likely get the better of him. The kid from Zaun is skilled, but more than just his nerves will count against him in the grand halls of a Piltovan clan.
Two more apprenta are called. Looking at the clock, Tamara sees each audition is getting shorter. Are the learned artisans of Clan Medarda already getting bored? Will that count for or against those yet to demonstrate their devices?
Gysbert all but jumps off the bench when his name is called. He almost drops his bag, but catches it at the last minute, his face red with worry and dripping in sweat.
“Take a deep breath,” Tamara advises him. “You know this stuff. Your work is good.”
“But is it good enough?” he asks.
Tamara thinks she knows the answer, but nods and says, “It is.”
He passes through the door and more apprenta are called until only Tamara remains. The room is empty, but she can’t shake the feeling that she is being watched. When her name is finally called, it is a relief, and she takes a moment to compose herself before turning and stepping through the door into the proving room.
The chamber beyond is circular and illuminated by glowing spheres of glass that float above sconces carved in the shape of outstretched hands, as though giving light to the world. It’s all Tamara can do to suppress a sneer at the rampant self-aggrandizement. It is a lecture theater, with tiered benches rising in concentric rings to the back wall. A plain wooden lectern and workbench sit in the center of the room, and two doors lead onward. Left for success, right for failure.
The tiered benches are capable of holding at least a hundred people, but only five sit before her. Two men and three women, all wearing the crimson robes of masters. They are scratching on great ledgers with gold-plated quills that echo noisily in the chamber’s excellent acoustics. Every one of them bears a genuine hextech augment, and she senses their eagerness to be done.
“Name?” says one of the women without looking up.
“What will you be demonstrating?” asks one of the men. His lips do not move, and his voice grates artificially from a mesh-fronted neck brace.
Tamara sets her bag down on the workbench and removes her creation, an arrangement of wirework struts arranged in a cube with an acid-engraved sphere at its center.
“I call it the Hex-Armillary Amplifier.”
“How do you hope it will function?” he asks again, and Tamara tries not to show how much his mechanically-rendered voice disturbs her.
“By harnessing the properties of a crystal and exponentially increasing its output beyond anything that’s been achieved so far.”
She says the words neutrally, but the arrogance of what she says does not go unnoticed.
Every one of the masters now fixes their gaze upon her. They are likely used to hearing grand claims from apprenta, but the confidence in her tone clearly piques their interest.
“And how will you do that?” asks a white-haired man with a gem-faceted eye set in a porcelain plate upon his burn-scarred face.
“The geometries of a crystal are vital, as is the axis upon which it spins,” says Tamara, opening a delicate hatch in the sphere to reveal a precisely engineered cradle. Thin chains, like those of an expensive necklace, hang down, ready to secure a power crystal.
“My device reads the speed and angle of spin, adjusting it to achieve optimum power delivery.”
“Absurd,” says a woman with an artificial arm and the penetrating gaze of an academic who has heard every wild idea from her students and dismissed them all. “There is no time in the discharge of a crystal’s power to adjust it with any degree of control. Praveen tried the same thing two years ago and almost brought down half the goldsmithing district.”
“Respectfully, ma’am, I disagree.”
“Your disagreement is irrelevant, apprenta. Can you prove it? Can you demonstrate what you claim?”
“I believe so,” replies Tamara.
“Belief is not the basis of science,” says the woman, as if speaking to a confident but ill-informed child. “Empirical evidence is what is demanded.”
“I can do it,” promises Tamara.
The woman looks unconvinced, but nods and says, “Very well, you may begin.”
A hatch slides open in the workbench beside Tamara. A fretwork stand rises from below, holding a small, faceted crystal of sapphire blue that shimmers with its own internal light.
A hextech crystal.
The crystal is no bigger than her thumbnail, but it is the future.
This is what could make the clans of Piltover rulers of the world if they so desired. Or, if not them, whoever can craft it more efficiently and without the years of work to produce a single item. This crystal has only a low level of power left in it, but it is still immeasurably powerful and outrageously valuable.
She hadn’t anticipated it would also be so beautiful.
“Well, go on then,” says the burn-scarred man. “Dazzle us.”
She lifts the crystal from its holder. It’s warm to the touch, vibrating at a level almost too subtle to detect. It is far heavier than she expects. With exquisite care, Tamara places the crystal within her sphere and fastens it with delicate chains. She checks it is secure and seals her device. The mechanism atop the cube is movable and she twists its interlocking parts to arrange the cardinal points of contact into their engaged positions.
Her device starts to hum as the conduits find a source of power in the crystal, and a soft blue glow emanates from within. Tamara grins as her device spools up. The hum builds and the taste of metal in her mouth grows stronger. It is getting louder now, unpleasantly so, pulsing in waves.
The light spheres around the hall pulse in concert with the rise and fall of the bass thrum coming from her device. It is moving across the workbench, the vibrations jittering it left and right, up and down. Crackles of energy flicker around the sphere, flaring from its upper surfaces like lightning running in reverse.
“Turn it off, Mistress Lautari!”
Tamara reaches for her device, but a whip of blue light lashes out, carving an angry red weal over the back of her hand. She flinches and backs away from her rapidly overloading device.
“I can’t,” says Tamara in dismay. “It’s optimizing too fast!”
She always knew this was going to happen, but she’d hoped the changes she made to the design wouldn’t fail quite as catastrophically as this. A bolt of blue fire arcs out of her machine toward one of the light spheres. It explodes in a shower of magnesium-bright sparks.
Another follows, then three more. Soon the only light is the violent blue glow of Tamara’s crackling device. The woman with the hextech arm stands and makes a fist.
With a rush of sliding metal, the entire workbench falls into the floor, which promptly seals up after it. The outline of the trapdoor is briefly limned in light and a hard bang of detonation echoes from far below.
“A safety chamber,” says Tamara, relieved her device didn’t explode a few seconds earlier.
“Yes, Mistress Lautari,” says the woman, sitting back down and picking up her golden quill. “Do you think you are the first apprenta to come before us with a potentially lethal invention?”
“I suppose not,” answers Tamara. She is disappointed, but not surprised. This was always the intended outcome, despite the best efforts of professional pride to sabotage her purpose.
The man with the hextech eye writes in his ledger and speaks without looking at her.
“I think you know which door to take.”
Tamara’s exit from Clan Medarda’s mansion is far less grand than her entrance. The rightmost door opens into a bare stone corridor that winds downward through the rock of the cliffs until it reaches a steel door with enough reinforcement to withstand a siege ram.
A heavily muscled enforcer type with hexdraulic arms and a helmet she’s not sure is actually a helmet opens the door. She’s barely through it before it’s slammed shut behind her.
It opens onto a side street lower down the city, one that leads back to the cliffs. Not quite Zaun, but not entirely Piltover. The street is paved with mismatched cobbles and foggy with low lying scraps of the Zaun Gray. Gysbert sits opposite on a crumbling brick wall, the smashed remains of his device lying strewn at his feet.
He smiles as he sees her and says, “It didn’t go well?”
His eyes widen in surprise. He laughs, then claps a hand over his mouth. “Sorry, shouldn’t laugh. Exploded?”
She nods and grins. He laughs again.
“At least all mine did was fall apart,” he says. “Not that it matters. As if Medarda would let a Zaunite into their hallowed ranks!”
She ignores his bitterness and asks, “Have you seen Colette?”
Gysbert’s eyes light up at the prospect of delivering good news.
“I haven’t. I think she made it.”
Tamara lets out a sigh of relief.
“Well, at least one of us got in,” she says. “So… shall we drown our sorrows? It’s Progress Day, after all. I think we’ve earned a few after nearly blowing up the learned masters.”
A figure moves into view, lithe and silhouetted against the light at the end of the street. Others are with her, but they’re clearly deferring to her since she’s the one with the long-barreled rifle pulled tight to her shoulder. The weapon’s muzzle is unwavering, its sights firmly aimed at Tamara’s head. “Sorry, Mistress Lautari,” says the sheriff she’d seen earlier today, “but I don’t think you’ll be getting that drink.”
Gysbert’s protests are brushed aside as the sheriff and her men lead Tamara away. He hasn’t the courage to follow her, and she’s glad of that. She doesn’t want him dragged into this. She’s frogmarched toward the edge of the cliff, and for a wild moment she thinks they’re going to throw her over the edge.
But this is Piltover. They do things by the book here. Back home, she’d already have a knife in her guts or be sailing through the air on a long drop to the spires of the city below. Instead, they turn into a narrow overhanging street that winds along the line of the cliffs toward the great funicular that leads down to the busy wharves on the ocean passage through the city.
“Are you arresting me?” asks Tamara. “What did I do?”
“Really? You’re going to play dumb?” asks the sheriff. “We searched your room and found everything. The hextech journals, the schematics.”
“I’m an apprenta,” says Tamara. “I’m supposed to have schematics.”
They reach an iron-mesh platform attached to a collimated series of rails angled down toward the ocean and docks below. Hundreds of ships throng the wide channel, moored in the shadow of the titanic form of the Sun Gates that allow sea transit from east to west. Some are just passing through, while others berthed offload goods before filling their holds with the bounty Piltover and Zaun have to offer. Tamara sees Freljordian ice-runners, Noxian troop barques, Shuriman grain-galleys and even a few vessels that look suspiciously like they’ve recently sailed from the thieves’ haven of Bilgewater.
Watching over them all are Piltover’s warship squadrons: sleek, ebon-hulled vessels with twin banks of oars and iron-sheathed rams. Rumor has it they’re powered by more than just the strength of their oarsmen and that each is equipped with a battery of powerful hextech weaponry. Tamara doesn’t know if that’s true, but that people believe it is true is all that matters.
She’s jolted from thoughts of warships as three of the sheriff’s men bundle her onto the elevator, holding her tighter and more painfully than they need to.
“Maybe so, but I don’t think many apprenta have such detailed maps of Piltover hidden within their work. I’m Caitlyn, and I’ve walked a beat for more years than I care to count, so I know this city’s streets better than most. And I have to say, you did a damned accurate job. Even Vi could walk blindfold around Piltover with those plans and not get lost.”
“I don’t follow,” says Tamara, as Caitlyn pulls a lever and the angled elevator begins its juddering descent to the city’s lowest levels.
“Yeah, you’re more a trailblazer than a follower, aren’t you?”
“What does that mean?”
The sheriff doesn’t answer, and Tamara shakes her head, her eyes filling with tears.
“Look, I swear I don’t know what this is all about,” she says, her voice cracking and her chest heaving with sobs. “Please, I’m just an apprenta trying to catch a break. Signing a contract with Clan Medarda was my last chance to make something of myself before my father’s money runs out and I have to indenture myself to one of the Zaun Chem-forges. Please, you have to believe me!”
Her pleas fall on deaf ears, and neither the sheriff or her men bother to answer her increasingly histrionic pleas for compassion and understanding as their descent continues. When the elevator lurches to a halt on the dockside, it’s in the shadow of a Shuriman galleon riding high in the water, its holds freshly unloaded. Tamara sees all her worldly possessions stuffed into a metal cart used to haul grain from the holds of such vessels. Her journals and rolled up plans are inside, pages ripped and torn, months of painstaking work discarded like junk. She smells oil and knows what’s coming next. She throws off the grip of the men holding her and falls to her knees before Caitlyn.
“No! Please, don’t,” she weeps. “Please. I’m begging you!”
Caitlyn ignores her and walks over to the cart. She lifts a smoking pipe from a passing stevedore and tips its burning contents into the cart. The oil-soaked paper of Tamara’s books and plans bursts into flames with a whoosh of ignition. The fire consumes them swiftly, burning everything to ash in a matter of minutes. Smoke curls from the remains of Tamara’s work, and she spits at Caitlyn’s feet.
“Damn you,” she snaps. “May the Gray forever be at your door!”
“Nice try,” says Caitlyn, dragging her to her feet. “You’re pretty tricksy with that accent.
It’s good, I’ll give you that. Just enough slang, just enough roughness, but I’ve heard every voice in this city, from top to bottom, and yours just doesn’t fit, you know? A little too much of the soot and spite from your homeland to really pull it off.”
“What are you talking about?” protests Tamara. “I was raised in upper Piltover. I’m a Goldview Lass! Born in sight of the Ecliptic Vaults! I swear I’m not lying!”
Caitlyn shakes her head. She’s tired of this game.
“No, your accent’s good, but it can’t quite cover that guttural Noxian superiority,” she says, punctuating her words with a finger jabbing into Tamara’s chest. “And I know what you are. Yeah, I’ve heard the fireside tales of the warmasons, the warriors who sneak into enemy territory and scout it out. You map out the terrain, find the best ways for an army to advance, laying the groundwork for invasion.”
Tamara doesn’t get the chance to deny the accusation as Caitlyn’s men march her up the gangway and onto the galleon. They hand her to two swarthy Shuriman bladesmen, hard-eyed killers who’d sell their own grandmother for half a silver gear.
“You don’t come back to Piltover,” says Caitlyn, resting her rifle in her arms. “If I see you again, I’ll put a bullet in your head. Understand?”
Tamara doesn’t answer. She sees Caitlyn means every word she says.
“Keep her below, then dump her somewhere unpleasant in Bel’zhun,” says Caitlyn to the shipmaster. “Or throw her overboard once you get far enough out, I don’t care.”
The ship is far out to sea by the time they let her up on deck. Too far from land to swim, but Tamara has no plans to get wet. She watches the glittering jewel of Piltover slide away over the horizon, sad to be leaving, but pleased her mission is finally over.
A shame her artfully prepared plans and schematics went up in smoke, but that was always a risk, and she can recreate them from memory. She closes her eyes and runs through the mental exercises that allow her to conjure walking Piltover’s streets at night, counting steps and mentally mapping every junction, street and winding alley.
She ponders which of the breadcrumbs she left in her wake allowed Caitlyn to draw the net around her, but supposes it doesn’t matter now. The sheriff of Piltover is clever, but Tamara has a nagging sensation it wasn’t actually Caitlyn who discovered her. That worries Tamara, as it means there is someone in Piltover she doesn’t know about who has cunning enough to unmask a warmason.
Whoever it was, and no matter how much they might think they know about the secretive Order of Warmasons, there’s one thing they haven’t yet realized.
That warmasons work in pairs and sometimes it pays to burn one to embed another more deeply in foreign lands.
Tamara smiles to herself, already imagining the valuable intelligence Colette will be gathering for Noxus in the heart of Clan Medarda.
She lies back on a bed of empty grain sacks and settles down to sleep."
Camille BiographyCamille Biography
"Weaponized to execute outside the boundaries of the law, Camille is an elegant and elite operative who ensures the Piltover machine and its Zaunite underbelly runs smoothly. Camille's true strength is her adaptability and attention to detail, viewing sloppy technique as an embarrassment that must be put to order. Raised among manners and money, she is the Principal Intelligencer of Clan Ferros, tasked with cutting down her family's darker problems with surgical precision. With a mind as sharp as the blades she bears, Camille's pursuit of superiority through hextech body augmentation has left many to wonder if she is more machine than woman.
Camille's family gained most of its wealth through a rare crystal harvested from a creature native to the sands of a distant valley. These first hex-crystals, or “first crystals,” contained power normally reserved to those born with innate magical ability. Camille's Great-Great Aunt Elicia lost an arm, and nearly her life, during one such early expedition. Her sacrifice was celebrated, and it set an expectation that is still reflected in the Ferros family motto today, “For family, will I give.”
The creatures Elicia Ferros found, the Brackern, were not an unending resource, and Camille's family had to look for ways to augment the crystals they had accumulated. Utilizing certain shadow investments in chemtech and runic alchemy, the Ferros family brought to market the less powerful, but easier to procure, synthetic hex-crystals. Such power often comes with consequences, and the production of synthetic crystals is rumored to be a heavy contributor to the Zaun Gray.
Born into one of the wealthiest houses in Piltover's illustrious Bluewind Court, Camille was the sixth child of Rhodri and Gemma, then Masters of Clan Ferros. However, Camille and her younger brother, Stevan, were the only children who survived to adulthood.
With the family's focus set upon Camille as the eldest surviving child, no expense was spared in her education, instilling both her aristocratic attitude and sense of duty at an early age. With so many of Valoran's finest visiting Piltover, Camille had no shortage of exceptional tutors. Accordingly, she speaks the Zhyun dialect of Southern Ionia and Ur-Noxian fluently. As a child, Camille was encouraged to take an interest in Valoran history, and learned to read and write Ancient Shuriman while assisting her father on digs in the Odyn Valley. Camille also became quite an accomplished musician and plays the cellovinna at a concert master level.
Among the leading families of Piltover, it is customary for one of the younger children to take up the mantle of the family's principal intelligencer, the sword and shield of their clan. Those chosen are tasked with operating in the best interest of a Piltover family, working with the clan master to secure the family's continued success by any means necessary. Clan Ferros, with its wealth of secrets, has always taken this position seriously, putting forward considerable resources to ensure its intelligencer was always the best. Camille's brother, Stevan, had been born with a weak constitution and was considered ineligible. Her parents—her father especially—were extremely proud when Camille took Stevan's place as the principal intelligencer for the clan. Stevan's jealousy simmered as he watched Camille embrace her additional training and tutoring. She became quite adept in combat, espionage, and interrogation. Camille's favorite techniques were fighting with the Shon-Xan footed glaive, gaining intelligence through classic inquisition, and rappelling from a certain broken clock tower with a grappling line and hook native to the Western Serpent Isles.
When Camille was 25, she and her father were attacked by a band of augmented thugs. The gang was determined to move up in Zaun's underworld by laying hands on some of the family's more lucrative secrets. Both Camille and her father were wounded. Camille recovered, but her father succumbed to his wounds. Camille's mother passed away soon after, unable to bear the anguish that settled over the house. The title of clan master passed to Camille's brother, Stevan. Young, impetuous, and eager to prove himself as a strong leader of the family, Stevan doubled the already extensive Ferros research in human hextech augmentation.
After a year of mourning, the Ferros house was decorated resplendently for the next Progress Day auditions. Stevan personally oversaw the induction of Hakim Naderi as the lead artificer for the family, a promising young crystallographer from the Shuriman coastal city of Bel'zhun.
Shaken by her inability to protect her father, Camille requested a hextech augmentation from Hakim to push her power beyond that of her human body. When Hakim met Camille, he was instantly enamored and was determined to draw Camille out of the darkness surrounding her parent's death. They bonded over the work at hand and late night stories of the sands of Shurima. After months of intimate work together, Camille could no longer deny she returned Hakim's feelings. As the day of Camille's augmentation approached, they grew reckless in their affair, as they knew the surgery would mark the end of their time together. Hakim would move onto other projects for the family, and Camille would once again be fully committed to her duty as principal intelligencer. More than that, Hakim worried that in carving away Camille's heart, he might cut too deeply and deprive her of her humanity as well.
Days before Camille's operation, Hakim's reservations about the procedure boiled over. He proposed marriage and begged Camille to run away with him instead. He painted a picture of their future--wandering the sun-kissed sands of Bel'Zhun, uncovering the ruins of Ancient Shurima, raising their children together--a future far away from the duty that bound Camille to her house. For the first time in her life, Camille was torn.
Stevan's position as clan master depended heavily on Camille's ability to execute his vision. When he learned of the secret proposal, he saw his principal intelligencer dangerously close to slipping away, and by extension, his control over the Ferros family.
Stevan devised a plan to remind Camille of the duty she swore to their father. Stevan set himself up to be attacked the next time he knew Camille and Hakim were to be together. Using the fragility that had once denied him his place, Stevan presented himself bloodied and beaten to his sister, preying on her dark memories of the night she failed her father. Camille could not deny the evidence that stained her hands, proof of what could happen when the intelligencer's attention was divided.
Hakim pleaded with Camille, but she would not have it. Hers was a duty going back generations, one that if she had been better prepared could have saved her father's life and should have prevented injury to her brother. Camille insisted her surgery go forward and ended her relationship with Hakim.
Hakim still loved Camille and knew that he was the only one who could perform the surgery safely. Unable to let the love of his life die on the operating table, he cut away Camille's heart as she asked. Once he was sure that her new mechanical heart would beat without him, Hakim resigned. Camille awoke to find the lab she and Hakim had shared empty and abandoned.
Camille threw herself into her work, taking on further refinements in the form of bladed legs, grapple-spindled hips, and other, minor hex-augmentations. Each addition pushed Camille and the ever more ambitious technology to the limits. This led some to wonder how much of the lady was still left. As Clan Ferros amassed more power and wealth, the missions Camille ran for her brother became darker and more deadly.
Thanks to the rejuvenating vibrations of her hex-tech heart, time passed for Camille without age, and soon, Hakim Naderi became a distant memory. The years were not so kind to her brother. Stevan's body grew more frail, but that did nothing to loosen his iron grip on the title of Clan Master.
On a recent assignment, Camille uncovered a naïve Piltovan's ill-fated engagement and with it a series of events that exposed the depth of Stevan's treason. The lies that drove Hakim away now threatened to destroy Camille and the clan. She saw his greedy machinations for what they were; selfish and no longer in the best interest of the family. In that moment, she discarded the last sentiment she felt toward her brother and took control of Clan Ferros.
Camille now runs the family's public affairs through her favorite grand-niece she installed as master of the clan. This allows Camille to continue the more shadowy operations that ensure her family's success. Committed to her role as a solver of difficult problems, Camille has embraced her more-than-human transformation and the cutting judgment it affords her. With hex-crystal energy coursing through her veins, Camille has never been content to sit idle, and instead gains invigoration from well-executed industrial espionage, a fresh-brewed cup of tea, and long walks in the Gray."
Tea With the Gray Lady
"The first sound I heard was the scrape of sharp metal against rock. My sight was blurred, my vision still swimming in murky darkness, but something in the back of my mind registered it, that knife-edge slide on wet stone. The rasp was the same as my mason when he marks out which rock to cut away from the cliff. It set my teeth on edge. The fog in my brain receded, but it left me with only one panicked thought as I strained at the ropes binding my hands:
I was a dead man.
In front of me, there was a grunt and a heavy wooden creak. If I squinted, I could make out the bulk of what I guessed was Gordon Ansel sitting across from me. So much for hired muscle. It looked like he was coming around as well.
“Oh good. You're both awake.” A woman's voice, refined, polished. “I was just about to put the tea on.”
I turned toward her. Half of my face felt fat and bruised. The corners of my mouth were stuck together. I tried to move my swollen jaw and a coppery taste pooled on my tongue. I should have been thankful I was still breathing. The air had a lingering chemical smell, like it would singe off your nose hair if you inhaled too deeply.
Just my luck. I was still in Zaun.
“One of you knows who is responsible for the explosion at the docks,” the woman continued. She had her back to us; a flickering bluish light illuminated her slim waist and inhumanly long legs. There was a faint slosh of water as she set a glass kettle above the near-invisible flame of a chem-burner.
“Go pound a sump, lady,” Ansel groaned.
Leave it to Ansel to make a bad situation worse.
“Baron Grime's men always have such a way with words.”
The woman turned to face us: It wasn't a lamp that lit her figure, but something within her that gave off an unsettling light. “You will tell me what I want to know as if your life depends on it.”
“I ain't saying nothing,” Ansel snarled.
Metal scraped the floor as she shifted her weight. She was deciding which of us to carve from the quarry first. The sound made no sense until she began walking toward Ansel, and then I understood. Her velvet shadow separated from the silhouette of the table. Mystifying blue light pulsed from her hips, leading my eye down her lithe form... to twin blades. She was a high-end chimeric, unlike any I'd seen in Piltover or Zaun.
“Do not insult my courtesy, Mr. Ansel. Others have. They are dead now.”
“You think them legs of yours scare me?”
The woman stood in front of my thick-headed acquaintance. I could hear the water in the kettle start to boil. I blinked and there was a flash of silver and blue. The rope that bound Ansel's hands fell to the floor.
A hoarse laugh escaped my bodyguard. “You missed, darling.” Our captor seemed to be waiting patiently. Ansel leaned forward a few inches, an arrogant smirk plastered across his weather-beaten face.
“You can lick my—”
The woman spun around. This time, the razor-sharp blade of her leg sliced cleanly through Ansel's neck.
The severed head rolled to a stop in front of me just as the kettle whistle blew. Ansel always had a big mouth. Now it lolled open, silenced at last.
I kept telling myself Ansel was dead, but his eyes still stared at me in horrified surprise. The fear in my brain climbed down my spine, stopping to throttle my gut until I was convinced whatever was left inside was going to end up on the floor.
“Now, Mr. Turek, we are going to have a cup of tea, and you will tell me what I wish to know,” she said, her words unhurried.
The woman sat down at her table and smiled. A whisper of steam escaped as she poured the boiling water into her porcelain teapot. She looked at me with an imperious pity, like I was a schoolboy too slow at his figures. It was that smile that I couldn't look away from. Deadly. Knowing. It scared the piss out of me.
“Tea?” I nearly choked on the word.
“Oh, my boy,” she said. “There is always time for tea.”"
The Weakest Heart
""You should have killed her.”
My brother settled two cubes of sugar neatly in a slotted spoon suspended on the fine lip of his teacup. His gleeful attention turned to the pouring of the tea. The wrinkles on his face pulled back into a smile and a delighted giggle escaped as he watched the shapes melt and fall into each other. Unable to flee, the last remnants of sweetness collapsed under the dark brew.
“Lady Sofia will not be a problem,” I said.
Stevan batted a hand in the air, annoyed. “Today maybe, but tomorrow? Emotions fester if left unchecked, sister.” He looked up at me, questioning. “Better to snuff the spark before it sets the house on fire, no?”
“I have spoken to the Arvino’s principal intelligencer—”
“You intelligencers and your deals. I still say she betrayed her house and should pay for it with her life—”
“There may come a time for that,” I said, softening my tone. “But I have made the agreement. Adalbert will see she stays out of trouble. She is his responsibility.”
My part in the discussion was over. Stevan leaned back in his chair with a look of begrudging acceptance and picked at the blanket laid over his lap.
“That man could use another pair of eyes installed in his head,” Stevan harrumphed quietly. In Stevan’s view, it was never about the pursuit of a solution, just the end result.
For my brother, the fixes I doled out could make many problems in Piltover disappear.
Rarely did he consider the choices leading up to those decisions.
I held my cup in one hand and let the other drift absently to my hip, taking comfort in the grapple line spooled there. Stevan was partially right. End results were nice, but I much preferred the chase.
I watched Stevan through the steam of my drink. He pursed his lips as if deciding something. The pressure whitened the skin on his chin and highlighted the age spots that crept up past the silk wrapped around his neck.
“There is something else,” I said.
“Am I that obvious, sister?”
I think he would have blushed if his weak pulse had allowed it. He smiled painfully instead and pulled a folded piece of paper and a beaded chaplet from a drawer in the desk between us. Stevan rolled his wheeled chair back, coughing with the effort. On the chair, he turned small levers, the modest effort driving little cogs that drove bigger cogs, until the clockwork mechanism pushed the wheels toward me, and him with it.
“Lady Arvino’s short-lived engagement was not the only thing uncovered during this mess,” he said. “This was found on one of the Baron’s men during the clean up.”
I set my cup down in its pale saucer and took the scrap of paper and chaplet he offered. I shifted the balance of the blades beneath me, and their sharpened points dug deeper into the rich carpet.
The edges of the note were charred, and a greenish hue wicked through the paper from the ragged singe. The chaplet had been well loved; the facets of the glass prayer stones were burnished and smooth.
My brother only said my name like that when he was serious. Or when he wanted something. I unfolded the note, a waft of Zaun’s acrid unpleasantness rising with it. I took in the strong lines. The diagramming was neat and orderly, the flowing script precise. My eyes found the artificer’s mark just as Stevan confirmed it.
“If Naderi has returned—”
“Hakim Naderi is gone.” The words fell from my mouth, a reflex.
It had been more than just years since the crystallographer had served as lead artificer for our house, it had been a lifetime.
Stevan contemplated his next move. “Sister, you know what this is.”
“Yes.” I looked down at the paper; the diagram mirrored the mechanical and crystalline construction that pulsed within my chest.
I held my own heart’s design.
“We thought them all destroyed. If this exists, others could as well. I could finally be free of this chair,” he said. “To walk about my house as the master of his clan should.”
“Perhaps it is time to let another take on the responsibility of clan master,” I said.
It had been many years since Stevan had been able to navigate the halls on his own.
Something his own children and grandchildren never let him forget. This wasn’t just a piece of paper and a string of prayers. For Stevan, this was a map to immortality.
“This is only one schematic,” I continued. “You believe if we uncover the rest of Naderi’s designs, our artificers will be able to recreate his work. There would still be the question of how to power it—”
I looked at my brother. Time had not been kind to a body born frail. But his eyes, after all these years, his eyes were still like mine, the Ferros blue. That deep cerulean couldn’t be watered down by age or ailment. His eyes were the same luminous color as the hex-crystals lighting the drawing I held before me. His gaze pleaded with me now.
“You and I, we have led this house to greater success than Mother and Father ever dreamed,” he said. “If your augmentation can be repeated, this success—our success, Camille—it can go on forever. This house will ensure the future of Piltover. Indeed, we will ensure progress for all of Valoran.”
Stevan always had a flair for the dramatic. Coupled with his weaker constitution, it had been difficult for our parents to deny him anything.
“I am not the intelligencer for all of Valoran. I may find nothing.”
Stevan gave a relieved sigh. “But you will look?”
I nodded and gave him back the schematic, but kept the chaplet, tucking the twisted loops into my pocket. I turned to leave the study.
“And Camille? If he’s alive, if you find him—”
“It will be as it was before,” I said, stopping my brother before he could unearth more of the past. “My duty, as always, is to the future of this house.”
The late afternoon crowds near the North Wind Commercia still swarmed in anticipation of the Progress Day revels. The people’s faces were flushed with the effort of making ready for the city’s annual observance of innovation. However, it was not they, but a foreign trader tottering from drink that revealed my second shadow.
“By an Ursine’s frozen teat,” the trader said, frustrated with the press of the crowd. He pushed away those who had stopped to assist him. “I need no help.”
Piltover’s worker bees thrummed around us, all except for one blonde drone at the edge of the square. I kept her in view as I leaned down to the trader in front of me.
“Then get up,” I told him.
The Freljordian looked up at me. His annoyance had him reaching for the carved tusk dagger at his waist. I met his glare and watched it slip down past the hex-crystal in my chest to my bladed legs. The man released his grip on the knife.
“There’s a good boy,” I said. “Now get out of my way.”
He nodded dumbly. The trader backed away, and the mercantile hive mind of Piltover broke and reformed around him as he stumbled his way across the street. Only my shadow escort remained still, watching me from a distant market stall.
I continued through the crowds, the people parting easily before me. When the opportunity presented itself, I ducked into a blind alley and fired my barbed grapple lines into a high wooden cross brace above the corridor. I drew myself up into the darkness above and waited.
A moment later, my escort entered the alleyway. Her clothes were layered and nondescript enough not to draw attention in the promenade levels of Zaun, but the ornamented whip at her side said Piltover, or at least a very generous sponsor. I let her walk a pace forward into a shaft of light that would blind her. Once she was in position, I dropped in behind, the tips of my blades slipping neatly into the cobblestone gristle.
“Did you lose something, girl?” I said, letting a low growl roll over my whisper.
Her hand crept toward the black leather handle of her whip. She was tempted, but good sense seemed to win out.
“It seems I’ve found it.” The girl raised her open hands to her shoulders. “I bring a message.”
I arched an eyebrow.
“From your brother, ma’am,” she said.
Stevan’s drama was going to be the death of someone if he wasn’t careful.
“Give it here.”
The girl kept one hand up and used the other to pull a small note from her tightly cuffed sleeve. The wax seal carried the Ferros sigil and Stevan’s personal mark.
“Move more than an eyelash, and I will slit your throat,” I said.
I opened the note. I could feel my annoyance rise like a fever. Stevan had taken it upon himself to hire me a helper. In case my inquiry stirred up any “lingering sentimentality” that prevented me from seeing to my duty.
I told myself he meant well, but even after all these years, it seems he did not trust me with Hakim. It was cowardice to hide these feelings behind his lap blanket and not tell me this to my face before I left.
“I should kill you for delivering the insult,” I said, weighing her response. “Your name.”
“Aviet.” She kept her hands and voice even. She was young, not even an augmented finger.
“And you took this assignment knowing the possible consequence of my irritation?”
“Yes, milady,” she said. “I hoped if I pleased you, there might be a more… permanent position within your house.”
I turned my back to her and began walking out of the alley, giving her an opportunity to come at me if that was truly her intention. I could hear her exhaled breath and a raspy jangle as she brushed the coiled steel of the whip at her side. Her footsteps followed.
“Do we have a destination, milady?”
“Church,” I said, patting the chaplet in my pocket. “Keep up.”
The First Assemblage of the Glorious Evolved was technically still within Piltover, but only just. Here, past the Boundary Markets, the pernicious odors of the city below outweighed the celebratory smell of roasting meats and sweet cakes. The Zaun Gray rolled in like a low tide. It lapped at one’s legs and condensed along soot-covered merchant awnings into puddles of clouded muck.
I turned to the girl. “You will stay here.”
“I’m to follow you,” Aviet said. “Your brother’s—”
“You will stay here,” I said again, leaving no room for argument. My patience for my brother’s game was thinning. “The Glorious Evolved are fervent believers. They do not take kindly to the unaugmented.”
I looked over my new assistant, daring her to respond. Aviet shifted her weight slightly to her back foot. She still itched for a fight, to prove herself, but was unsure if this was the moment.
I smiled. “There’s time enough for that later, girl.”
The entry of the old building gave way to a dim foyer set back from the main hall by an iron lattice. Through the diamond patterns of welded metal, several clusters of yellow-orange therma lamps illuminated the congregation. The 50 or so people there murmured in rolling unison, giving the impression that a great machine breathed beneath them. Velveteen fabrics in dark colors were draped over the parts of their bodies that were still flesh, while their metal arms and augmented legs were exposed to the warm light. Here, high-end augmentations mixed with those of a more utilitarian function. Piltovan or Zaunite, it didn’t matter to the Glorious Evolved. These designations were secondary to their higher pursuit. In the center of the group, a young woman with mechanical elbows reached out to a man with a sleek metal jaw.
“The body is frail,” she said to the man. “The flesh is weak.”
“The machine drives us forward,” the group responded together. The words echoed in empty air above them. “The future is progress.”
I hadn’t come to bear witness. I kept to the shadows, ignored by the augmented flock, and continued my search.
I heard the soft gurgling of Brother Zavier’s esophilter before I saw the man. His balding head was tucked down to his chest as far as his breathing apparatus would allow. He was kindling a few spark lights on the corners of the side chapel’s altar.
Watching over him was an imposing figure outlined in cold lead and frosted glass. The Gray Lady, holy patron of the Glorious Evolved. The stained-glass window glowed from within, lit eerily by the arc lamps outside.
I approached the shrine. There were jars of organs. Single eyeballs floated like pickled eggs. Bundled offerings were wrapped in linen, some of it fine, some of it oily and ragged. A few flies buzzed among the discarded pieces of the congregation. One of the wrapped bundles moved. A little plague rat poked its nose out shortly after, daring me to take away its prize. The gauze of the newfound treasure caught on the edge, and the rest of the bundle tumbled away, revealing a desiccated finger. The rat scampered down, but Brother Zavier shooed it back into the darkness.
“Camille,” he said. I could hear the smile in his voice underneath the wet burble. “Have you come for contemplation?”
“Information, brother.” I pulled the chaplet from my pocket, the glass beads tangling with the wire chain.
Brother Zavier turned to face me. His eyes were also under glass, magnified like those in the jars, although unlike those, his darted with life. I handed him the chaplet.
“Where did you find this?” He shook his head as he inspected it and then clucked his tongue. “Never mind, I should know by now not to ask those questions.”
He went back to attending his votive lights. “Several weeks ago, I met a man carrying this. He came to light a spark and ask her favor for the coming Progress Day.” Brother Zavier nodded toward the figure depicted in the window. The Gray Lady’s cloak was a mosaic of ash-violet glass, oxidized cogs, and blackened pistons. Her epithet was often invoked when an inventor felt at a loss due to inability or failure. Hers was a blessing that often required sacrifice.
“He had the tanned skin of the desert dwellers. Older than the usual foreign apprentas who pursue the auditions,” Brother Zavier continued.
“Do you know which clan he sought?”
“He said he was staying at a pay house near Clan Arvino.” The factory hum of the congregation fell away. “This evening’s testifying is over. My duties call.”
Brother Zavier patted my hand. He gathered his dark robes and made his way back to the main hall, leaving me to my contemplations.
Hakim had returned, but had not sent word. Not that the last conversation we shared had detailed how best to reach one another. I picked up the brittle finger from the floor and placed it back with the other offerings. It annoyed me, the idea of him petitioning like an ordinary apprenta. Hakim was spheres above Clan Arvino’s artificers. Through the cut-glass triangles and diamonds of the side chapel’s window, I could see Aviet standing beneath a streetlamp. She was still following orders… for the moment.
My indulgent silence was broken by a shuffling scrape, small, but much larger than a rat. I felt the hex-crystal in my chest vibrate in anticipation as I turned to face the threat.
“Are you her?” a small voice asked.
From the darkened corner near a metal bench, a little girl stepped forward. She could not have been more than six or seven.
“Are you the Gray Lady?” she asked again. Closer now, my hex-crystal pulse slowed, lighting her face in a soft, blue glow. In one arm, she carried a bundle wrapped in gauze, all too similar to the ones stacked behind me. The opposite sleeve of her dark dress hung empty.
Balanced as I was, I towered over her. I knelt down, bringing my face to her level, and gently touched the metal bench to arc some of the crystalline energy off my fingers. The girl watched the anxious spark reflect in the polished metal of my blades.
“Did you give up your legs for Progress Day?” she asked.
The Glorious Evolved celebrated the old Zaunite tradition of sacrificing something personal for Progress Day in the hopes the next iteration of invention would be better. It was a practice that could be traced back to the old days of the city, when the people of Zaun had to face rebuilding their lives after the devastation of “the incident.” The wealth and growth of Piltover on top of those scarred ruins served as evidence to many that the tradition had merit.
I looked at the little girl. It was not my legs that I had given up on a Progress Day long ago, but something far more dear.
“I chose these,” I said. “Because they better served my purpose.”
The girl nodded. The blue light between us had dimmed, but I could still see the black spider veins on the little fingers that clutched her bundle. It was rare for the blight to affect one so young in this part of the city. The Glorious Evolved often took in the sick, seeing the removal of dying flesh as a key to transforming a person’s life and faith through technology.
“Brother Zavier said it gets easier,” she offered.
“It does,” I told her.
The physicker attending her had been remiss his duty. The girl should have had both arms taken at once. I’m sure the surgeon explained away that lack of courage when holding the knife as a kindness, but waiting would do the girl no favors. If she did not have the other arm cut away soon, those spider veins would creep closer to her chest, eventually blackening her heart. The chances were slim she would live to see the next Progress Day.
The young girl bit her lip, hesitating before the next thought. In that moment, my eye caught movement through one of the larger stained-glass panels. I stood and watched several dark shapes approach. Aviet was no longer alone.
I stepped into the dim corridor to make my way outside.
“Do you miss them?” the little girl called out.
I didn’t turn back. I knew the girl’s hopeful face wavered like the row of spark lights on the altar. I knew because I remembered my own trembling doubt. So many years ago, Hakim had demanded of me a similar question. My heart? Him? Would I miss any of it? I touched my hex-crystal augment, assuring myself it still vibrated evenly. Just to the right of the Ferros sigil’s angular engraving I felt a small, fluid lettering. It was the mark of Hakim Naderi.
“No,” I lied."
Aviet was ready to fight, her blonde hair lit up like a halo under the streetlight. There were five men circling her like dock sharks. Their utilitarian augmentations cut jagged shapes in their silhouettes.
“Give us that pretty thing, and maybe we won’t kill you slow like,” the smallest one slurred loudly, eyeing the whip in Aviet’s hand. All the vexations of the day compounded, from Stevan’s brotherly chiding to my new unnecessary companion to the thought of Hakim having returned. I could feel the pent-up energy crackle down my spine, impatient to find release. A pompous miscreant and his dog-eared crew would do nicely.
“You didn’t say please,” I called out.
The mouthy one with the twitching nose looked up. “Ay, boys,” he said. “No worries now. Looks like there’ll be more than enough to go around.”
“Nice of you to join us, milady,” Aviet said.
“Yes, we was about to indulge in a little Progress Day remuneration,” one of the big ones with a copper augmentation said. His twin-sized partner tugged the brim of a dirty woolen cap over his fluid-filled eyepiece and sneered. “Your Grace.”
My arrival had distracted them, allowing their circle to become lopsided and a small breach to open up.
It was more than enough.
Speed and decisive thinking have always been my most cooperative allies, and I sprinted in toward the break, catching the lanky one across the shoulder with a long sweep. My bladed leg cut through the dirty tweed, a line of darker red blossoming quickly in the cloth, but it was the arcing blue of the subsequent hex-crystal energy that knocked him unconscious.
The chubby one and the one with the Sump accent took to Aviet, while the tall ones approached me. I let a dark smile spread across my face; after so much contemplation, this was exactly what I needed.
My two dance partners were not amused. Both had heavyset shoulders as thick as the double bells that rang out over the Iron Sand Commercia. They still had not decided who would approach first, and their indecision was my opportunity. I would take them both.
I stepped in toward the one with the eyepiece, letting my back leg rake down the coiled tubes of his copper-plated brother. He had misjudged my reach and scrambled to reconnect the sliced hoses to a sputtering chempump. A low swipe rendered his partner’s leg useless from the knee down. I waited a moment for the copper one to come back with his working arm. They always thought they could outmaneuver the second strike.
They were always wrong.
“Now collect your broken bits, and get out of my sight,” I told him. His brother was already limping into the shadows, his worthless leg dragging in the muck.
The metal of Aviet’s whip rang out in the alleyway. There was another wire-taut snap, and sparks rained down on the chubby one as he cowered, his face to the cobbles, tears streaking his grime-covered cheeks. That was only four.
I looked around. The rodent-faced one with the oversized ego was missing. I found him slinking back toward the Assemblage Hall.
The barb of my grapple line sunk deep in the angled stone above the hall’s entrance. I dropped in quickly on my Sump rat, tucking his and my weight together into a tidy roll.
When we came to a stop, I was on top. His fetid breathing was fast and shallow.
“Did you really think you could run?” I asked, low and even.
His head shook out a terrified no, but his greasy hand fingered a stick knife at his belt. He squinted from the blinding radiance of my hex-crystal so near his face. He was desperate to drive the knife into my thigh, anything to get me away from him.
“Go ahead,” I whispered.
His eyes widened in surprise, but he didn’t let my permission linger long. The tip of his knife pierced the dark leather, but went no further, stopped by the metal of my leg. Surprise registered on his face just as his hand slipped down with the force of the blow, driving the flesh of his closed fist along the edge of his own blade.
He did not swallow his scream like the others, and it rang out on the damp stone of the buildings.
I looked up as it echoed from the Assemblage Hall. The stained-glass window of the Gray Lady towered above us. A small face was pressed to the colored glass, watching.
I leaned in and let the blade at my knee almost kiss the fluttering pulse in the neck of the man beneath me.
“Hunt here again, and I will end you,” I promised.
Realizing he had been granted an extra life, my prey pulled himself away in an awkward crab walk. Once there was enough distance between us, he got up, clutching his dripping red hand, and ran for some dark hole to lick his wounds.
I could hear Aviet winding the metal of her whip.
“I heard you didn’t have a heart under all those mechanics,” she said, her interest sparked. “Perhaps the rumors are mistaken.”
“Mind your manners, girl,” I told her coldly as I walked out of the alley. “Or I’ll mind them for you.”
The Boundary Markets and the Assemblage Hall were always steeped in shadows, overwhelmed by so much progress towering above them. But it had truly become night by the time we reached the pay house nearest Clan Arvino. After some proper encouragement, the innkeeper became quite generous with his detailed ledger, although his handwriting left much to be desired. Naderi was either somewhere in the basement or on the third floor. I left Aviet to the cellars, while a grapple line gave me access to an open window on the third floor.
The small forge at the back of the room had burned down to embers smoldering under a crust of ash. I crouched through the window and stepped inside. The room was dim, with only a single lamp lighting a small desk. But it was the man asleep at the desk that caught my breath, the curls of dark hair and the desert-tanned skin. The vibration of my hex-crystal stuttered. Perhaps he, too, had stalled time for himself.
“Hakim,” I called out softly. The shape at the desk moved, waking slowly from sleep. He stretched with the grace of a cat and turned. The young man wiped the sleep from his eyes in disbelief. He was so much like Hakim it hurt.
But it was not him.
“Mistress Ferros?” He shook himself more awake. “What are you doing here?”
“Have we met?” I asked.
“No, not exactly, milady,” he said, almost embarrassed. “But I have seen your face often.”
He went back to his desk and shuffled some papers, pulling out one that was slightly older and more worn than the others. He handed it to me.
The lines were strong, the inkwork neat and orderly, and the shading precise. It was Hakim’s work, but it was no diagram. Instead, it was a drawing of my face. I couldn’t recall posing for it. He must have sketched it from memory after working in the lab one night. My hair was down. I was smiling. I was a woman in love.
The sting was so sharp, I couldn’t help but take a breath. I didn’t say anything to the young man in front of me now. I couldn’t.
“It could have been drawn yesterday, milady,” he said, filling the silence.
He meant it as a compliment, but it just magnified the acres of time that stretched on in my mind.
“My uncle carried this with him until he passed.”
“Your uncle, he’s dead?”
“Yes, Hakim Naderi. Do you remember him?” he asked.
“Yes.” The word stuck in my mouth and wrapped itself around a selfish question I had carried for far too long. One I was never sure if I wanted the answer to. If the pain of memory was to overwhelm me with a thousand little cuts, better to open them all at once and be done with it. I looked at the young man who looked too much like Hakim. “Tell me, did your uncle ever marry?”
“No, milady,” he said, unsure if he was going to disappoint me. “Uncle Hakim said that to love your work was more than we could ask for in life.”
I had wept all my tears long ago, and so there were none left to come to me now. I picked up the stack of papers and set the drawing of my face on top. The lines of ink wavered in the blue light of the machine that replaced my heart. What I was. What I gave up. All the sharp-toothed sacrifice that made me who I am today. All of it was rendered in painstaking detail. I could hold the past, but never have it again.
“This is all of it? All of the work?” My words came out a dark whisper.
“Yes, milady, but…” His voice trailed off in disbelieving horror as I set the bundle on the banked coals and blew gently. The oiled parchment ignited and quickly burned a red-orange. I watched the past bubble and darken until nothing but cinders and dust was left. It was the young man that pulled me back to the present.
Hakim’s nephew shook his head slowly, his disbelief palpable; I understood how the shock of losing so much so quickly could be overwhelming. He was numb. I escorted him down the stairs to the street below. He adjusted the leather satchel on his shoulder and stared at the cobbles.
He looked back to me; the air of defeat was replaced by one of growing fear. Having been so lost in my own past, I took less notice of the shadows on the street. I barely heard the metallic jangle of wire. The lash of the whip came fast, binding my arms to my side.
“That’s far enough, milady,” Aviet said. Her voice was smug. I watched her look Hakim’s nephew over.
“Is this what my brother paid you for?” I had suspected as much. Aviet had been watching for an opportunity all evening. My distraction at finding Hakim’s nephew seemed as good an opportunity as any.
“Yes,” she said. “All of us.”
Two big men stepped onto the cobbles, their repaired augmentations catching the streetlight. The chubby one and his little rat-faced counterpart followed behind. They were the same men from the alley behind the Assemblage Hall. The chubby one shoved a knife at Hakim’s nephew, while the other smiled his rodent smile and bound and gagged the young apprenta.
The juggernaut with the newly connected chemtubes stepped forward. His fingers twitched, eager to return the violence I had visited on him earlier.
“Mind the crystals, Emef,” Aviet said. The whip tightened, and I felt metal cuffs close around my wrists. She walked around to stand next to Hakim’s nephew. “We’re to collect them and Naderi, or no one gets paid.”
Was all of this for my brother’s jealousy? I knew Stevan felt the tide of years slipping away and saw me standing near immortal in all of it. But he truly had no idea the cost of my duty to the family. Could he not see what it would cost him now?
“And the rest?” the copper man asked, smiling at me as if he were about to tuck into a Progress Day feast.
“All yours,” replied Aviet.
“It was nice of you, Your Grace, to demonstrate your talents earlier,” he said as he pulled his augmented arm back into a fist. He obviously felt no need to hide the telegraph when facing a bound opponent. His grin widened. “It will make this go much quicker.”
The metal knuckles connected with my jaw. He expected me to fight it, but instead, I let the punch take me down to a knee. The inertia forced his heavily augmented arm to come down to the ground with me. I tasted my own blood on my lips, but it was he who was off balance for the moment. The rest of the gang’s prattle went silent.
“You haven’t seen all my tricks,” I said as I stood.
The energy of my hex-crystals coursed through me, the power building up like a wall.
The juggernaut’s brother attempted to step in, bringing his own augmented fist down on the glowing buffer. The shield popped and hissed, but held. It was my turn to smile.
Aviet grabbed the trailing handle of the wire whip, hoping to shake me free of the energy field. She yanked hard to pull me off balance. She had no idea how long I’d lived my life on a knife’s edge.
My hands still bound, I leapt forward into a spinning kick, slitting the throat of the second juggernaut and coming down to impale the first. The tail of the whip snaked out of Aviet’s hand. She called to the two who still held Hakim’s nephew.
“Abandon the job, and I’ll kill you both.”
“Do you still think I have a heart now?” I asked her, her two goliaths lying dead at my feet.
Aviet was unsure, but stood her ground.
“I am the sword and shield of Clan Ferros,” I told her, ice enunciating every word. “My brother seeks to kill me to extend his brittle life for a few more selfish moments. His desires have betrayed his duty and our house.”
I felt the crystals pulse faster.
“And you will not live to see the morning,” I said.
I channeled the crystal’s energy for a moment, building its intensity until the shield that had once surrounded me became an electrified prison. There would be no escape.
I leapt into the air, higher than before, and came down hard, shattering the metal that bound my wrists and the cobbles between us. The force of the impact knocked over Aviet, her two remaining thugs, and Naderi’s nephew. The street had ruptured in a crater, and dust hung in the air. The fight Aviet had been looking for since we met, to prove herself to my brother, was not going as planned. The heels of her leather boots scuffed the stone of the street, her body announcing her retreat before even her mind had fully agreed to it. I read her fear as she stood facing me. Whatever my brother had told her of me, she had sorely underestimated. Aviet saw that any trace of the mercy I carried before had been boiled away by the full revelation of my brother’s betrayal.
I stepped forward and let my back leg arc around. I leaned into the blade as it connected. Aviet struggled to keep what was in her belly from spilling out, but it was a futile effort. I made short work of her last two goons, and the alley behind the pay house was quiet again. I picked up Aviet’s blood-soaked whip from the street.
The nephew of Hakim Naderi had backed himself against a wall in his panic. The young man’s breath was coming in panting waves through the dirty cloth that gagged him. I approached him as you would an animal you didn’t wish to startle. I untied the bindings at his wrists. I offered him my hand, and his fingers trembled at my touch. As soon as he was set upon his feet, he let go.
He had seen the violent face of my duty, what I could never bring myself to show Hakim, and I had let it happen. The softhearted woman I once was had truly been burned away, leaving only a cold darkness and gray ash.
“The tests,” he said, his chin quivering with a different kind of terror. The reality of the evening was coming to bear as he realized none of this was a dream. “What am I to show the artificers tomorrow?”
“You studied under your uncle?”
“Yes. He taught me everything, but the designs—”
Hakim’s nephew knew his options, either come to work for me or give up his life’s work. My position as intelligencer would not allow the knowledge he possessed to fall to another house. In his frightened eyes, I saw his innocence of the world sacrificed. I was a murderous savior and a dark protector. In this moment of cruel understanding, I had become his Gray Lady, a steel shadow to be feared and venerated.
“You will build them better tomorrow,” I said.
Unable to process his thoughts into words, he nodded his head and stumbled into the night. I prayed he would rebuild his resolve before the dawn. Otherwise, there would be nowhere to run that I could not catch him.
I stood and looked out over the balcony of my brother’s study. A chilled breeze ruffled the pennants that hung from the eaves of the house. The entire city stretched out before me.
The doors to the study opened, and for a moment, I could hear the preparations for tomorrow’s influx of apprentas. In those voices and quickened steps, I heard the years behind me unfolding, all of them too similar to separate. All of them save two: The one where a handsome man from the Sands danced away with my heart. And the one where I demanded the same man carve it away.
How often had Hakim come here with me between those two slivers of time? The breeze that teased the pennants would catch the curls of his hair as he stood on the balcony.
“Such promise,” he would say as his eyes danced over the glittering towers of the city, the glow of Zaun lighting the buildings from below, “such a delicate machine, all these parts working together.”
I told him what my father told me, that this was the promise of progress, the promise of Piltover. It moved our city forward, but, I cautioned, one ill-shaped gear could threaten it all. One cog that rejected its role could destroy the entire machine.
Stevan’s chair creaked along the carpet. My fingers ached for the curls of Hakim’s hair or even the solace of the chaplet’s polished glass in my pocket. Instead, I coiled Aviet’s whip into tighter circles in my hands. Hakim so wanted to draw me out of this darkness, only realizing too late that my work, my duty to my family, was something I could no more cut away than my own shadow.
I said nothing, unable to tear my eyes from the fragile view and my even more fragile thoughts of the past. The clockwork mechanism ticked, and the wheels of Stevan’s chair brought him up behind me.
“You’ve returned,” he said. “Aviet?”
I tossed Aviet’s whip on the woolen blanket laid over his lap.
“She served her purpose,” I said.
“That being?” For having sat so long in that chair, my brother was an artful dancer. He plucked at the wire of the whip.
“To remind me of mine,” I said.
“Your purpose?” Stevan’s initial nervousness slipped into agitation. He knew he would die tonight. He had been caught, and he couldn’t run, especially from me. His only consolation was to try and wound me just as grievously before his time expired. Bound as he was by his frailty, the only weapons left to him were words.
“Your duty is to me,” he said. “Just as it was to our father.”
Duty. My father. The right words could cut more deeply than a knife.
“You are here to serve me,” he growled.
“No, I swore to serve this house.” The oath I had taken pricked fresh in my mind, the oath of all intelligencers. I repeated it now without effort or remorse. “To this house, I will be true and faithful, putting its needs before my own. To this, I will commit mind, body, and heart.”
They were the same words I told Hakim the night I had ended things between us. I could not be his, for I had promised myself to another.
“That duty of intelligencer was meant to be mine.” Stevan’s voice wrenched me back to the present. He gripped the arms of his chair until his knuckles whitened. “You swore an oath to our father, and what did you do? He died because you were not strong enough. And then you nearly deserted this house. For what? Love? Attention? Where was your duty then?”
He spat the words in the space between us. These spider veins, this blight, I had let it fester far too long. What kindness had I shown this house in ignoring his madness?
“I cut out my heart for the family. For you, Stevan,” I said. “I have given all that I am. After all these years, can you say the same?”
Stevan sputtered like a wet spark, desperately trying to flare to life, but knowing there was little left to catch fire.
“Father just gave this to you, but I was the one who spent my entire life proving to him I deserved it,” he said. Disgust weighed on his words. My brother’s anger ran faster, the toxicity poisoning the air like a chem spill. “You may see me as your betrayer, but you are the one responsible, sister. If you could be trusted to make the right decisions, I would not have to step in.”
I had let him become this monster. I tolerated his grim plots and motivations all because I was unwilling to face a future without him, a future where no one remembered the woman I was. If I had been stronger in my resolve, I could have ended this years before. I had chiseled away parts of myself, but in all that time, I never had the courage to cut away the piece I knew would blacken our house.
“That night, I would have run away with Hakim if you had not made the effort to remind me of my duty,” I said.
He had come to me, bloody and broken, forcing me to confront a reality where I had abandoned my charge. Even when I discovered the truth years later, that he had been behind his own attack, I had been relieved. On the brink of a decision clouded by sentiment, my brother had given me the hard push that let me separate honor from emotion. I knew that, without it, I might have given up who I was meant to be. It was his dark encouragement that let me take on fully the mantle I wore now.
I moved toward him and let my fingers rest on his shoulder. I could feel his aged bones beneath the rich silk and parchment skin. The vibrations in my chest built. Stevan looked up at me, the blue of his eyes hardening like chips of broken glass as the energy around my augmentation grew.
“You have always been my responsibility, brother.” The chill in the air entered my words. “Stevan, I will fail you no longer.”
I could feel the charge electrifying the hair at the back of my neck. I let my hand drift from his shoulder to the edge of his face. The boyish lock of hair that fell over his temple had thinned and disappeared years ago. The spark arced through my fingertips and enveloped Stevan.
It didn’t take much to push his heart over the edge, the atrophied muscle that drove my brother to such dark places finally seized in his chest. His eyes closed, and his chin sagged in my hand.
The vibration of the crystals in my chest slowed to an even rhythm. I turned back to face the city. Tonight’s cold would settle in her metal bones, but tomorrow, she would continue to push forward, to pulse with life. To progress.
Such a delicate machine."
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This article was last updated December 7th.
- [12/7 Update: Champion Tales added (Caitlyn, Ezreal, Jayce, Orianna, and Vi) + info on new summoner icon!
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