[UPDATE 1/26: Free ZAUN summoner icon available through February 2nd + new stories & bio for more Zaun Champions: Jinx, Mundo, Blitzcrank, and Viktor!]
The Piltover page now descends into Zaun - several new Zaun stories and champion bios are up!
The Piltover page now descends into Zaun - several new Zaun stories and champion bios are up!
Table of Contents
- Welcome to Zaun
- [ADDED 1/26] Free Zaun Summoner Icon through 2/2
- City of Iron and Glass
- Zaun Champion Tales
- [ADDED 1/26] Dr. Mundo
- [ADDED 1/26] Jinx
- [ADDED 1/26] Blitzcrank
- [ADDED 1/26] Viktor
- [Comment Section]
Welcome to ZaunThe Piltover story page has been updated and now descends into ZAUN!
"Zaun is a large, undercity district, lying in the deep canyons and valleys threading Piltover. What light reaches below is filtered through fumes leaking from the tangles of corroded pipework and reflected from the stained glass of its industrial architecture. Zaun and Piltover were once united, but are now separate, yet symbiotic societies. Though it exists in perpetual smogged twilight, Zaun thrives, its people vibrant and its culture rich. Piltover’s wealth has allowed Zaun to develop in tandem; a dark mirror of the city above. Many of the goods coming to Piltover find their way into Zaun’s black markets, and hextech inventors who find the restrictions placed upon them in the city above too restrictive often find their dangerous researches welcomed in Zaun. Unfettered development of volatile technologies and reckless industry has rendered whole swathes of Zaun polluted and dangerous. Streams of toxic runoff stagnate in the city’s lower reaches, but even here people find a way to exist and prosper."From here you can move down into ZAUN for a story on the city itself, the BEAUTY BELOW, and ZAUN CHAMPION TALES. There is also room for additional stories and champions as well as free Zaun icon!
On January 18th, the page was updated with a new Warwick story and updated bio.
On January 26th, the page was updated with new stories for Jinx, Dr. Mundo, Blitzcrank, and Viktor. A free Zaun summoner icon is also available through 2/2 (be sure to switch to your regions page!)
The top half of the page still includes all of the Piltover stories and champion tales but we've split the coverage up into Piltover and Zaun here on Surrender at 20.
Descent into ZaunAs you descend into Zaun from Piltover, there is much to see in the background:
"THE BRIDGEWALTZ: Zaunites and Piltovans alike flock to the Bridgewaltz market for a taste of everything that makes the undercity great. The best in music, food, and artisanal chemtech creations can be found here every night."
"HEXDRAULIC-CONVEYORS: Travel between Zaun and Piltover usually entails a long and tiring climb, but towering elevators exist that allow for swifter transit."
"CULTIVAIR: The wealthiest in Zaun maintain isolated crystal-houses known as cultivairs that contain trees and plants as a symbol of their power and a source of clean air."
"VENT STACKS: The Gray is a by-product of the proliferation of chemtech industry throughout Zaun. It is believed to be the cause of the lung blights that afflict many Zaunites."
Free Zaun Summoner Icon through 2/2
"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 2/2/2017 at 23:59 PT.
Icons will be granted up to two weeks after February 2, 2017 at 23:59 PT."
Warwick Bio & StoryUpdated Warwick bio and new story to go with his large scope champion update in 7.2:
Bio:Warwick, the Uncaged Wrath of ZaunBio
"Warwick is a monster who hunts the gray alleys of Zaun. Transformed by agonizing experiments, his body is fused with an intricate system of chambers and pumps, machinery filling his veins with alchemical rage. Bursting out of the shadows, he preys upon those criminals who terrorize the city’s depths. Warwick is drawn to blood, and driven mad by its scent. None who spill it can escape him.
Though many think of Warwick as no more than a beast, buried beneath the fury lies the mind of a man—a gangster who put down his blade and took up a new name to live a better life. But no matter how hard he tried to move on, he could never escape the sins of his past.
Memories of that time come to Warwick in flashes before they’re inevitably lost, replaced by searing echoes of the days he spent strapped to a table in Singed’s lab, the mad chemist’s face looming above him.
His world a haze of pain, Warwick could not recall how he fell into Singed’s grasp… and even struggled to remember a time before the suffering began. The scientist patiently carved into him, installing pumps and hoses to inject chemicals into his veins, seeking what an alchemist always seeks: transmutation.
Singed would reveal his subject’s true nature—the deadly beast hidden within a “good man.”
The chemicals pumped into Warwick’s veins boosted his healing, allowing Singed to gradually and painfully reshape the man. When his hand was severed in the course of the experiment, Singed was able to reattach it, augmenting it with powerful, pneumatic claws, and bringing Warwick ever closer to his true potential.
A chemical chamber was installed on Warwick’s back and integrated with his nervous system. Whenever he felt rage, or hate, or fear, it would drive liquid fury deeper into his veins, fully awakening the beast within.
He was forced to endure it all, every cut of the mad chemist’s scalpel. Pain, Singed assured his subject, was necessary; it would prove to be the “great catalyst” of his transformation. Though the chemicals enabled Warwick’s body to heal through most of the physical damage, his mind was shattered by the unending agony.
Warwick struggled to recall a single memory from his past... All he could see was blood. But then he heard a little girl screaming. Screaming something he couldn’t understand. It sounded like a name.
He’d already forgotten his. He sensed that was for the best.
Pain soon overwhelmed all other thoughts. Blood was the only thing left.
Though his body and mind were broken after weeks on the slab, Warwick stubbornly resisted the chemicals transmuting him. Toxins leaked from his eyes in place of tears. He coughed up gobs of caustic phlegm that sizzled against his chest, before burning shallow holes in the floor of the lab. Restrained against the cold steel of the table, Warwick writhed in agony for hours on end, until his body finally gave out.
With the untimely death of his subject, Singed disposed of the corpse in a charnel pit deep in Zaun’s Sump, before turning his mind to the next experiment.
But death proved to be the true catalyst needed for Warwick’s transformation. As he lay cooling atop the pile of corpses, the chemicals could finally complete their work. The chamber on his back began to pump.
His body contorted unnaturally, bones bending and snapping, teeth growing, sinews tearing and then healing with a faint alchemical glow, dead flesh replaced by something new and powerful. By the time his heart started beating once again, the man Warwick had been and the lives he’d lived were gone.
He awoke to hunger. Everything hurt. Only one thing mattered.
He needed blood.
First, it was the blood of a nearby sump-scrapper, rooting through the charnel pile. And then a priestess of the Glorious Evolved, seeking a member of her flock. Then a Piltovan apprenta taking a shortcut, and a philter-faced merchant avoiding a gang, and a dram-dealer, and a tallyman, and a chem punk...
He set up a den not far from a place that itched at the back of his now-animal mind.
There, he continued the slaughter, not caring who fell to his claws. So long as blood dripped from gnashing teeth, he would feel nothing but a smear of red on his conscience, the hunger in his gut overwhelming any concern for his random victims.
Yet, even as he surrendered to the beast, glimpses of his past began to haunt him. He saw a bearded man reflected in the eyes of a beggar as he tore out his throat. The other man looked somber, somehow familiar; there were scars on his arms. Sometimes, as he fed in dark alleys on stray gangers, the flash of knives would remind him of an old blade covered in blood. Blood passing from the blade to his hands. From his hands, to everything he touched. Sometimes, he remembered the girl again.
And still there was blood.
It had always been there, he realized, his entire life, and nothing he did could wash it off.
He’d left so many scars that even if he didn’t remember his past, the city would. When he peered into the eyes of Zaun’s criminals—the gang bosses, murderers, and thieves—he saw himself. The chamber on his back would fill his body with hate. His claws tore out of his fingers.
No longer content to kill indiscriminately, Warwick now pursues those already covered in the stench of blood. Just as he was the day he was dragged to Singed’s door.
He still wonders if he’d truly wanted this. He can’t remember details, but he remembers enough. Enough to know Singed had been right all along—the good man had been a lie, before disaster had burned it away, revealing the truth.
He is Warwick. He is a killer.
And there are so many killers to hunt."
Warwick Story - If They RunIf They Run
"I find her near the Black Lanes, where merchants and thieves do business. Anything is for sale. Everything is stolen. I could kill them all.
Do they think the shadows hide their misdeeds? The gleam of their knives? The deals they make, shrouded in darkness? I can smell the shimmerwine on a beggar’s breath from across this wretched city.
I know their crimes. I can taste them.
Then I see her. She’s taking a message from one of Baron Spindlow’s men—the lump-faced one, all scars and scowl—and placing it into a pneuma-tube. He mutters instructions to her.
Who knew the dob could even speak, let alone write a message? I’ve only heard him scream. The last time we met, I took his leg. Its replacement is already rusted.
The cogs clink as they pass from the thug’s meaty hand into the girl’s. I can smell the blood on the gear-shaped coins. The pain that passes from person to person. If you want something in this city, it doesn’t matter how many cogs you have. Pain is the true currency.
I remember a man who knew this—the blood and cogs on his hands—but that man is gone.
I growl, and the two figures flinch in surprise. Even the shadows seem to draw back as my augments cast a sickly, green glow. The girl takes one look and flees, but not deeper into the alley. She’s a pneuma-tube runner. She clambers up, into the darkness, taking a path few can follow.
Afraid. Fast, but vulnerable. Carrying a pneuma-tube with a chem-baron’s seal. The gangers will come for her.
I begin the hunt.
We move so quickly, the city is a blur—my claws cutting through the smoke, scrabbling for purchase as I leap across rooftops, following the pneuma-tube runner. Carving a path so deep through the city, it seems to bleed chemtech, toxic puddles gathering in the alleys.
She tries to double back, skittering beneath a cart full of tinctures. She knows the city almost as well as I do. She knows where I’m driving her. Away from sanctuary, toward a place all the runners fear, where only the Zaun Gray escapes.
I need to remind her to be more afraid of me than what lies in the darkness. I land ahead of her, roaring with rage, my claws tearing a chunk out of a steam conduit. She hesitates, but only for a moment, before turning back into the depths. Where I need her to run.
I can hear the gasps of effort as she scrambles up walls and slides down railings. She’s praying to the wind goddess to save her. Perhaps I should do the same. The animal inside me wants more than murder. It wants meat.
I could kill her right now. It would be so easy. I feel my claws emerging, greedy for flesh. I forget why I should spare her, until I draw closer. Close enough to see my reflection in her eyes, as she stumbles on a ledge and looks back.
Her eyes brim with tears.
It’s all so... familiar.
I pull back and howl into the darkness, driving the girl forward. She drops down into a maze of pipes built for the ancient pneuma system. I follow behind her, hanging back as she reaches the dead end.
The girl thinks I’m going to kill her. That her pale throat is the reason I bare my teeth. But she is only the bait. This is where she’ll lure out my true prey.
Those who’d prey on her.
“Well, well. Look what fell outta the Gray,” says a ganger emerging from the darkness. He and his friends surround the girl, their blades catching what little light survives in these depths. I recognize their tattered rags. The Gray Nails. A dead man once had dealings with them.
There was another girl...
I shake away the memories. I don’t want them.
“I know you,” says one of the Nails, her face ringed by piercings. “You run for Boggin, eh? One ’a Spindlow’s mugs. What’s that krovin’ psycho got to say that he don’t want us to hear?” She pokes the pneuma-tube with her dagger and smiles.
“Please, you don’t understand!” the girl sobs, scanning the gray darkness behind her and trying to rush past.
“Neither do you,” the first ganger says. “We’re gonna have some fun.”
I hesitate as the thug knocks the pneuma-tube from the girl’s hands. It’s worth more cogs than their own lives. It’s their ticket out of this miserable pit, to a slightly less miserable one.
I thought the pneuma-tube would distract them for the moment I needed. It cracks against the alley stones, Spindlow’s seal broken.
What have I done?
The runner cries out as a Nail grabs her roughly. There’s a struggle, a flash of steel, and then...blood.
Its scent enrages me.
The chamber on my back pumps, and I am lost.
A roar fills the darkness.
“It’s him! The Howler!” a Gray Nail cries out as I race into the clearing, trying to focus on the punk. I slash into him, and the alley wall steams with red mist. He crumples to the stones.
Where is the girl? I’ve lost track in the mayhem. Surrounded. Blades stabbing like clumsy teeth. Claws a metal blur. Jaws clamp down, and bones crack along with armor.
I taste blood. And still there’s more.
I see her now. One of the Nails hovers above the girl, his shiv raised. I can stop him.
But the machine pumps again, and my limbs surge with power.
The red haze fills my mind. Everything is a blur. Everything is forgotten.
Everything is blood.
I don’t know if I saved the girl. I don’t know if I killed her. I’m still biting through flesh when the surviving Nails flee into the darkness.
I turn, following them into the night. I have no choice.
They are the monsters I hunt. And I am one of them."
Zaun: City of Iron and GlassZaun Story - City of Iron and Glass
"“Hurry up, Wyn!” shouted Janke. “The Rising Howl’s on its way!”
“I know!” he shouted back. “You don’t need to tell me!”
Wyn could hear the squeal of greased iron and the taste of metal tingling on his teeth. The interior of the vent pipe he was climbing vibrated with the hexdraulic elevator’s approach.
He pushed his back against the beveled ironwork, keeping his cramping legs braced on the opposite side. Looking up, the square of light that was the way out of the pipe seemed impossibly distant. A head appeared above him; his older brother, Nico.
“Almost there, little man,” said Nico, reaching back to offer his hand to Wyn. “You need me to come down?”
Wyn shook his head and dug deep, pushing with his spine straight as the muscles in his legs burned. Step by step, he inched upward until he was close enough to reach for his brother’s hand.
Nico grabbed his wrist and hauled, pulling him from the pipework. Wyn landed badly and stumbled, falling flat on his face in the cliff-side alcove known to every kid in Zaun. The space was barely wide and tall enough for them to stand next to each other with a sheer drop at the edge. Maybe ten yards beyond the edge were the elevator’s three support columns, each two yards wide and wrought from heavy ironwork.
Feen stood at the farthest part of the ledge, looking down with a manic grin. The wind billowed around him, his patchwork clothes flapping and his hair wild. Kez stood next to Nico, her cheeks flushed with excitement. Janke beat a nervous tattoo on his thigh with the palm of his hand, glowering at Wyn.
“You almost made us miss it.”
“Howl ain’t here yet,” snapped Wyn. “We ain’t missed nothing.”
Janke glared at Wyn, but with Nico here, he didn’t dare say or do anything. Back at Hope House for Foundling Children, Janke was a bully, but a bully it was sometimes handy to have around when low-rent Chem-Baron thugs fancied kicking downward.
Kez reached to help Wyn up. He smiled and took her hand.
“Thanks,” he said.
“My pleasure,” she said, leaning in to be heard over the noise.
Wyn smelled the caustic soap she’d washed with that morning - like chemical lemon juice. Given the nature of this excursion, she’d made an effort with her clothes too, digging out an old dress from the boxes of clothes discarded by kids who’d outgrown them, or who’d left the foundling home when they got too old. Wyn had beaten the worst of the dust and grime from his own threads, but he suddenly felt acutely scruffy next to Kez.
“I’ve never ridden the Howl,” she said, still holding tight to his hand. “Have you?”
The screeching roar was getting louder. The clattering rattle of the elevator’s
mechanisms echoed deafeningly from the dripping, algal-green walls of the alcove. Feen was looking back at him and Janke had an ugly grin plastered over his face. Fear of looking like a dumb kid made the lie easier to tell.
“Me? Yeah, loads!” he said, knowing instantly it was a mistake. Wyn glanced over his shoulder. The others were gathered at the edge; legs braced, leaning into the wind.
Wyn leaned close to Kez’s ear.
“Sorry, I don’t know why I said that,” he said. “I ain’t done this before. Not never once. Don’t tell the others, but I’m crapping it.”
She let out a relieved breath.
“Good. I didn’t want to be the only one.”
Riding the Rising Howl was one of many rites of passage for the kids of Zaun. Like reaching the top of Old Hungry with all your limbs intact, cutpursing a baron’s man or playing knock-and-run with a stilt-walking sump-scrapper. Zaun had a seemingly endless procession of insanely dangerous tests you had to pass to truly count yourself a hard-bitten street kid.
But gathering his courage to leap from the rocky ledge, this test seemed to Wyn to be the craziest. The scream of the approaching elevator was getting louder, filling the alcove with the shriek of metal on metal and the boom of ratcheting gears.
Nico stood, leaned out and stared down, turning back with a crooked grin and a thumbs up. He bent his knees and threw himself out from the cliff. Arms and legs flailing, he vanished from sight. Not wanting to be shown up, Janke went next, hurling himself from the ledge with a wild whooping yell. Feen followed his friend, laughing like a maniac.
“Ready?” yelled Wyn, his words drowned out by the Rising Howl.
Kez nodded. No way she could hear him, but she got the message. She still hadn’t let go of his hand. He grinned, and they ran toward the cliff edge. Wyn’s heart was in his mouth, beating like a pneuma-hammer against his ribs. His step faltered, but it was too late to stop now. He reached the edge of the cliff and leapt into the wind, yelling a defiant roar of fear and bravado.
The ground vanished beneath him. Only empty air between him and the lower levels of Zaun, hundreds of yards below. Sheer, undiluted terror seized Wyn. It clamped him in a smith’s vice and squeezed the air from his lungs. Wyn saw himself tumbling to the ground, windmilling his arms as if he might suddenly learn to fly like the cliff-shrikes.
He looked down. The ovoid, glass and iron shape of the Rising Howl was below him, coming up fast.
Nico, Janke, and Feen were already on it, clinging to its baroque latticework frames or braced against its structure. Wyn slammed into the thick glass and rolled. He flailed for a handhold, sliding down the curve of the outer windows. His sweaty palms slipped. His feet scrabbled for purchase. Anything to slow his descent.
“No, no, no...” he gasped, sliding over the curved topside toward the edge. “Janna’s mercy!”
An updraught of wind flipped him over onto his front and he saw a bronze hook standing proud on the giant elevator’s side. He threw himself at it, and it seemed the wind at his back gave him just enough of a push to reach it. His fingers closed on the metal and his sliding descent to oblivion halted.
With the threat of a long fall, followed by a hard stop, averted, Wyn was able to get his feet under him and looked around for Kez. He saw her higher up, laughing hysterically at having survived. Wyn felt the urge to laugh, and couldn’t stop grinning like a lunatic as he clambered up to where the upper surfaces of the Rising Howl were less angled.
Nico gave a whoop when he saw him and punched Janke in the arm.
“See? Told you he’d make it!”
Wyn clambered to his brother, his legs rubbery as a shimmerfiend’s after an all-night bender. He sucked in a great draught of clean air. Down in the Sump, the air had texture, but getting higher, it had a sharp clarity that made him pleasantly light-headed.
“Not bad, little man, not bad,” said Nico, giving him a slap on the back. His older brother coughed and spat a wad of gray phlegm onto the glass. Nico wiped his lips with his palm and Wyn couldn’t help but notice the brackish residue left on his hand.
“Yeah, no bother,” said Wyn.
Nico laughed at his bravado. “Worth it though, eh?”
“It’s beautiful,” said Kez.
Wyn had to agree. Far below, this part of Zaun spread over the rocky floor of the canyon in a glittering, bottle-green swathe of light and color. Vapor rainbows arced over the Factorywood and spiraling plumes of shimmering smoke danced over the chem-forges.
From up here, sump pools wavered like emerald mirages and the winking hearth-lights in the darkness were like the stars he rarely saw from Hope House.
Tears pricked Wyn’s eyes, and he told himself it was the keenness of the wind. High above, Piltover shone in towers of ivory and bronze, copper and gold. Beautiful also, but Zaun’s beauty was lived in. Its streets were filled with life and vitality, every one bearing a heaving, bustling mass of humanity. Wyn loved Zaun. For all its faults, and there were many, its sheer unpredictability and exuberance gave it a pulse you didn’t often find up in Piltover.
Wyn looked down through the glass beneath his feet to see scores of people staring up at him. The passengers of the Rising Howl were used to folk hitching a lift upward, but that didn’t mean they liked it. A few were Zaunites, but most of them were well-heeled Pilties, returning after an evening spent in the gaslit commercia arcades, glass-ceilinged food parlors, or pounding music halls of Zaun.
“Bloody Pilties,” said Janke. “Coming down to slum it in Zaun. Think they’re living dangerously, but at the end of the night they run back up to Piltover.”
“Be a lot less coin flowing down in Zaun if they didn’t,” pointed out Kez. “Pilties do well outta Zaun, and we do well outta them. And how many grand days out we had up in Piltover? Remember the fireworks over the Sun Gates last Progress Day? Remember that Piltie girl you were sweet on? You talk big, Janke, but you’re the one always wants us to head up top.”
They laughed as Janke went red.
“I’ll give ‘em something to look at!” said Feen with a grin. The scrawny lad shucked the braces from his shoulders, dropped his trousers, and planted his ass on the glass ceiling.
“Hey, Pilties, there’s a new moon out tonight!”
And like a dog dragging its backside along the ground, Feen let himself slide down the glass with his ass-cheeks splayed for the viewing pleasure of the people below.
They laughed uproariously at the horrified expressions of the elevator’s passengers - men covering the eyes of children and shaking their fists at the filthy Zaunites.
“We’re not going right up top,” said Nico, getting his breath back and wiping tears from his eyes. “Babette’s is on the Entresol level.”
“We ain’t even sure Mama Elodie’s gonna be there,” said Janke.
“She’ll be there,” said Wyn. “I saw the playbill on her desk. Painted picture of her singing on stage, sure as Gray follows Day. But we gotta hurry, she goes on at eight bells and it’s already gone six!”
Mama Elodie was the mistress of Hope House, a foundling home dedicated to the welfare of the many orphans created in the wake of the disaster that tore Zaun apart.
Initially funded by the families who would go on to become Piltover’s clans, more than two hundred orphans had been cared for within its walls. But in the century or so since its opening, the institution’s fortunes had waned as the money from the newborn city on high stopped flowing. The wealthy upsider families eventually decided they’d assuaged their guilt with enough gold, and that was that.
Mama Elodie was the only member of staff to stay on when the funds dried up, a dark-skinned woman who said she was an Ionian princess. Wyn suspected that might just be a story to charm donations out of the Chem-Barons, but he liked it when she told how she’d chosen to see the world instead of living a boring life in a palace. Wyn couldn’t imagine turning your back on wealth like that, but he’d never met anyone else from Ionia - even when he’d run errands for seafarers down at the docks.
Every waif and stray in Hope House had heard Mama Elodie singing as she cooked and cleaned. Her voice was extraordinary, and Wyn had fallen asleep to her lullabies more than once as a babe in arms. Wyn had been delivering a cup of herbal tisane to Mama Elodie when he’d seen the folded playbill for Babette’s Theatrical Emporium tucked under a sheaf of dog-eared letters. He’d only had time for a quick look, but swore on a chest of golden gears that it was Mama Elodie, dolled up in her best finery and singing on a footlit stage. She’d seen his look and sent him on his way with a cuff round the ear and a sharp rebuke for being nosy.
He told the others what he’d seen, and within the hour they’d formed a plan to sneak out and see her sing.
“Look!” yelled Wyn, nudging Nico in the ribs.
Nico looked down and nodded, seeing the uniformed conductor shouting into a flexible speaking tube.
“He’s warning the staff above to watch out for freeloading Zaunites,” said Nico. “But it don’t matter. Remember, we ain’t riding it all the way to the platform.”
“So where we getting off then?” asked Feen, clambering to his feet and, mercifully, hauling up his trousers.
“There’s an old winch mechanism just below the embarkation platform,” said Nico, pointing upward. “The cowl’s nice and flat and wide, and next to it, there’s a vent pipe that’s lost its cover.”
“We’re going to have to jump again?” asked Wyn.
Nico grinned and winked.
“Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem for a seasoned pro like you, eh?”
Wyn let out a shuddering breath, his palms bloody where they’d grabbed the rusted cowl of the winch. His second jump into thin air had been just as gut-wrenchingly terrifying, but at least this time he’d known he could do it. The Rising Howl continued upward on its way, and Wyn was glad to see it go.
At least heading back down to Zaun would be easier. They’d take the steps cut into the sheer rock or slide down the dizzying screw-stairs plunging through the overhanging structures cantilevered from the side of the cliffs.
The winch cowl was right next to an open vent, just as Nico had said it would be. The inside reeked of toxic runoff, but at least it was mostly dry. Thankfully, it was large enough to stand upright, which meant it had likely carried a whole lot of gunk and deposited it down into Zaun.
“Where does this end up?” asked Kez, careful to avoid the greenish slime that pooled in depressions in the iron.
“Comes out just behind the Bonscutt Pump Station, I think,” said Nico.
“Don’t you know?” said Janke. “I thought you’d done this before?”
“I have, but it was about a year ago and I ain’t too sure the layout’s gonna be the same as it was.”
They followed the pipe as it rose and twisted through the rock. The metal groaned and creaked with the movement of the cliffs.
“The cliffs are muttering again,” said Kez.
“What are they saying?” asked Wyn.
“Nobody knows,” she answered. “Mama Elodie once told me the rock was still sad about what happened when they split the land to make the canal. She said that every now and then, when the rock’s sorrow gets too much, it sobs, and that’s what shakes the earth.”
“So for all you know, this might end in a wall of rock or a barrier of twisted metal?” said Janke.
“Could be,” said Nico. “But I doubt it. Look.”
Nico pointed to thin spars of light up ahead. Swirling motes of dust hung in the air, and Wyn saw a rusted ladder rising into a square-cut channel in the pipe.
“Looks like we got ourselves a way out,” said Nico.
Wyn had only traveled to Zaun’s Entresol level a couple of times in his life, and on each occasion it had left a singularly vivid impression on him. Situated just below the notional border between Piltover and Zaun - a fluid and ever-changing line at best - the Entresol was a flourishing hub of cosmopolitan commercia arcades, supper-clubs, recital halls and joy houses, making it one of the most populated districts of the cities. It was also widely regarded by the people that lived and toiled there as the place where the real work of Zaun got done.
Emerging from the pipework, they’d quickly got their bearings and navigated toward one of the main thoroughfares. Wyn and Kez were the only ones who could read well enough to decipher the cursive street signs, and Kez led them to a wide boulevard thronged with the most amazing people Wyn had ever seen.
Men and women from Piltover and Zaun happily mingled on the cobbled street, dressed in colorful finery and plumed hats. The women wore pleated dresses with scoop-lined necks and brightly colored sashes. The men looked dashing in their long frock coats and polished boots that wouldn’t last a day in the muck below.
“Everyone is smiling,” he said, feeling the corners of his mouth twitch upward in imitation. “And laughing.”
“You’d laugh too if you weren’t struggling every day to feed yourself,” said Janke.
Wyn started to reply, but Nico shook his head. Janke had come to Hope House older than most foundlings, and was on the verge of having to leave and find his way in the world. Small wonder he was bitter.
Wyn understood that bitterness. After all, who didn’t want more than they had? Who didn’t want to live somewhere nicer if they could? The harsh reality of the world was that folk lived as high as they could afford. Most folks were content with their place in the grand scheme of things, but Wyn yearned for a life spent in a place where he could walk hand in hand with a beautiful girl, take in a show, and eat a meal under the moonlight whenever he wanted.
On impulse he took Kez’s hand, and when she didn’t pull away, his heart beat harder than it had when he made his first jump. With Nico in the lead, they strolled down the center of the street like they had every right to be there. Which, of course, they did, but the stares their grimy attire attracted made it clear that, while no one was going to kick them back down, they weren’t exactly a welcome sight.
For a moment, Wyn fantasized that they could stay here forever, walking along a street of glowing chem-lumens, surrounded by people who could direct them to the best delicatessens with the creamiest crag-duck confit, or advise which plays they simply had to see. He pictured himself dressed like a dandy, greeting his fellow citizens and doffing his hat to visiting clan representatives.
“Is that a cultivair?” said Wyn, pointing to a latticework dome of smoky glass leaning out from the edge of the cliff.
“I think so,” said Kez. “I’ve only ever seen them from below.”
An iron bridge and taut cables tethered the glass dome to the rock, and they paused to take in the beauty of what it contained. Behind the glass, a small forest of tall trees with broad leafy canopies were tended by a robed gardener with a tattooed and shaven head. A riot of flowers, with petals of red, gold, and blue stood out in contrast to the greenery within. Wyn had never seen anything quite so beautiful in all his life. He waved to the gardener, wishing he could walk with Kez through the forest, smelling the perfumed blooms and feeling the soft grass between his toes.
The gardener smiled and waved before returning to his duties.
A series of bells rang out. Wyn counted seven in total.
“Come on,” he said urgently. “The show’ll be starting soon.”
Janke turned to Nico. “You sure you know where this place is?”
“Babette’s? Yeah, I know it,” said Nico, covering his mouth as he coughed again. “I took Aleeza there once, when I had a few coin to my name after I beat that merchant from Bel’Zhun in a drinking contest.”
Wyn remembered that night well, watching in disbelief as his brother threw back shot after shot of kouaxi, a potent spirit the Shuriman had said was made from fermented goat’s milk. They reached twenty shots before the merchant finally keeled over. Nico was hungover for a week before he could spend his winnings.
“It’s just up here,” said Nico, as they entered a cavernous plaza hollowed out from the cliffs.
People thronged the wide open space, talking, negotiating and haggling over who knew what. A few people with metallic augments strolled through the plaza, each bearing the sigil of one of the Chem-Barons, but they were few in number and attracted more than their fair share of wary glances.
At the far end of the plaza stood a grand structure of vivid color and noise. Barkers shouted inducements to enter and handed out playbills. Fluted columns of black marble veined with gold formed the building’s giant portico, over which was a series of statues of wild animals, dragons, and armored warriors. Greenish chem-lights illuminated them, and the wavering flames made it look like they were alive.
“I give you Babette’s Theatrical Emporium,” said Nico, taking a deep bow and pointing to the brightly-lit structure.
“What do you mean we can’t come in?” said Nico.
The two doormen were well-dressed, but no amount of finery could conceal their experience in hurting people. Snaking tattooes covered their necks and wrists, and one of them had a mechanized arm that buzzed with something energized. A shok-club maybe? Or something even more deadly? Or perhaps it just wasn’t working very well.
“We can pay,” said Kez.
“It ain’t the money, girly,” said the first doorman, a man Wyn mentally christened Chem-Breath.
“Then what is it?” she demanded.
“You ain’t dressed right.”
“Indeed,” chimed in the second doorman, the one with the buzzing, mechanical arm.
“Mistress Babette expects a certain level of... hygiene in her guests’ sartorial selections. Your attire falls somewhat below the expected standard, I fear.”
“Yeah, so go and crawl back to where you came from,” said the first.
“Where we came from?” said Kez, incredulous. “This is Zaun ain’t it? This is where we come from, you stupid sump-sucker!”
“Get lost, ya snipes,” said Chem-Breath. “This part of Zaun ain’t your Zaun.”
“Fine,” said Nico, turning and walking away. “Let’s go.”
“Wait, what?” said Wyn, as he and the others followed Nico. “We’re just going home?”
His brother waited until they were out of earshot before responding, making sure the crowds at the entrance obscured them from the two doormen.
“‘Course not,” said Nico. “Stupid of me. Forgot the first rule of the Sump: Only marks go in through the front door.”
They traversed the length and breadth of the plaza for ten minutes before finding what they sought. Wyn kept one eye on the theater doors. People were still going in, so the show probably hadn’t started.
“There,” said Feen, pointing to a sudden plume of emerald smoke gusting from a nearby roofline. Feen worked for Gray-Scrape Malkev, a ductwork maintenancer who threw a couple of cogs the scrawny lad’s way to worm through the narrow ducts and clean off the scum when the breather pipes got too clogged.
The source of the smoke was an eatery that looked as if it served a fusion of Zaun street food and upscale Piltovan cuisine. The diners were languid, artist types, and the food looked almost too beautiful to eat.
“That’s a shared pipe if ever I sniffed one,” said Feen. “See, you can smell the food from the kitchens and the burn-off from the crystal burners up at Babette’s.”
“I knew there was a reason we brung you along, Feen,” said Nico, leading them down the alley cut through the rock between the eatery and the theater. Heavy crates hauled up from the docks were stacked against the wall, and hissing, groaning pipes sagged overhead. Burly men hauled crates inside, grunting with the effort. None of them paid the kids so much as a second glance.
Feen traced the routes of the ducts with his fingers, counting and listening as they gurgled and rattled. He sniffed the air and grinned.
“That’s the fella,” he said, pointing to a narrow vent that passed into the rock-face.
“You sure?” asked Janke. “I don’t wanna find you picked it wrong and we get flushed out over Zaun.”
“I ain’t wrong, sump-raker,” said Feen. “You crawl through enough soot and slime like I have, you get a nose for what leads where.”
They waited until the men working for the eatery took a break before using the crates to climb up onto the roof. Feen quickly found them a crawl-hatch on the side of the pipe and prized it open. Wyn blanched at the fumes leaking from the hatch.
“Is that safe?” he asked.
“Safe enough for a sump-snipe,” said Feen. “Trust me, you’ll get more grit on your lungs walking the Black Lanes than you will from the fumes in there.”
Wyn wasn’t so sure about that, but Feen crawled inside, swiftly followed by Janke and Kez. Janke went next, and Nico gestured to the pipe.
“Your turn, little man,” said Nico.
Wyn nodded and climbed inside, following the sounds of scraping knees, cursing and coughing. Feen was right about one thing; the air in here was pretty rank, but nothing like when the Gray closed in and made every breath a battle. Nico climbed in behind him and he settled into a rhythm of shuffling forward on his elbows and knees. Light filtered in through cracks in the metal where it had split, but that ended the minute the pipe plunged into the cliffs.
“How much farther?” called Nico from behind him, the sound resonating weirdly in the pipes. He received no answer, only echoes. Wyn tried not to think of all the reasons why there was only silence. Had the pipe emptied them out over the cliffs as Janke had feared? Had the others hit a pocket of gas that had knocked them out or suffocated them?
Or maybe the rock hereabouts was sad too, and had chosen to crush the tiny figures crawling through it.
Just before the thought of being crushed to death by melancholy cliffs paralyzed Wyn with fear, a hand reached down from above and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.
“Got ya!” hissed a voice as he was hauled up through a hatch that had been invisible in the darkness. He cried out in alarm and struggled before he realized it was Janke pulling him up. He was deposited on a wooden floor in a lightless room. No, not lightless, a thin bar of light shone from beneath a nearby doorway. As Wyn’s eyes adjusted, he saw the myriad paraphernalia of the performer’s art stacked haphazardly around the room; shelves upon shelves of masks, garish costumes, theatrical backdrops and fake props.
Feen was laughing as he pranced around the room with the top half of a horse costume on his head. Kez wore a golden crown with paste-gems studded around its edges and a bright red stone at its center. Janke swung a wooden sword, its blade painted to look like gleaming silver.
Wyn grinned as Nico climbed from the pipe behind him. He felt light-headed, but couldn’t tell if it was from the fumes or the elation of getting inside.
“Nice work, Feen,” said Nico, dusting himself off and coughing out a wad of gray phlegm.
Feen threw off the horse costume and beamed at this unaccustomed praise. He started to speak, but then they heard the beat of drums and the skirl of pipes.
“It’s starting,” said Kez.
The interior of Babette’s was no less impressive than its exterior. The main hall was adorned in colorful fabrics, gilded balconies, and a vaulted ceiling decorated with stunning vistas of sweeping forests, soaring mountains, and achingly blue lakes. An enormous chandelier of sparkling crystals hung from the center of the ceiling, wheeling constellations that sent beams of splintered light through the chamber.
Hundreds of people filled the space, revelers in fashionable attire and dancers who had shed their coats and inhibitions both. A raised stage at one end was home to musicians who played from the heart, a pounding, driving beat that shivered the blood and got your feet tapping. The music was infectious and Wyn laughed as Kez dragged him onto the dance floor. The sight of five sump-snipes anywhere else might have provoked a reaction, but here, amid the spinning dancers and singers, it barely raised an eyebrow.
They moved with the ease of those who knew how to slip out of a Piltover warden’s grip in a heartbeat. Feen stomped and threw his arms around like a madman, all elbows and knees. Janke shuffled and bobbed his head, lost in his own private world of music. Nico danced in a weaving pattern, smooth as you like, pausing every now and then to flirt with a pretty girl. Wyn waved as he and Kez twisted across the dancefloor, spinning each other around with euphoric abandon.
The music was so loud they couldn’t speak.
He didn’t care.
Chemlights threw a rainbow at the chandelier and it exploded in a dazzling borealis of colors in splitting lozenge patterns. Wyn lifted his hands, as if trying to catch the light.
Kez threw her arms around his neck and reached for the lights as well. He smelled her soap and sweat, the perfume of her hair and the heat of her body. He never wanted this moment to end.
But it did.
A meaty hand came down on Wyn’s shoulder and he felt the crushing disappointment of a moment that might never come again being snatched away from him. He cursed at the interruption, but the swears he was about to unleash died when he saw Chem-Breath the doorman looking down at him.
“Didn’t I tell you to go back to the Sump?”
He glanced over at Kez and saw her chest heaving with excitement. She nodded, and the answer to his unasked question was in her outstretched hand.
Wyn laced his fingers in hers and yelled, “Run!”
He squirmed from Chem-Breath’s grip and they bolted toward the heart of the dancefloor. Kez gave a wild yell and they wove through the dancers as if they were playing hook-dodge in the Sump. They ran hand in hand, Chem-Breath right on their heels. He barged through the dancers, but Kez and Wyn had run the streets of Zaun since they’d learned how to use their legs. They’d given the slip to wardens, chem-thugs, and vigilnauts alike.
A fat doorman was no challenge at all.
They heard Chem-Breath’s enraged shouts even over the music, as if he were singing along to it. They led him on a merry chase, ducking between the gyrating dancers and singers. Kez held tight to his hand. Wyn couldn’t help but laugh even as they let Chem-Breath get close. Then, just as the man’s hand reached for his shoulder, Chem-Breath fell to the dancefloor, smashed in the face by Feen’s flailing elbow.
They left him rolling on the ground. Wyn couldn’t remember a feeling this intoxicating.
His every dancing, running step was in time with the beat of the music. Each soaring chorus felt like it had been written especially for this moment. They laughed like lunatics through the light and sound, united in a way they’d never known before.
Then the music stopped. The lights were extinguished and a single chem-burner focused its illumination upon the stage. The suddenly stilled dancers gave a collective sigh as a woman rose from the center of the stage. Magic or stagecraft, Wyn didn’t know or care, it was a magnificent entrance.
“Mama Elodie,” said Kez.
Wyn knew it was her, but still couldn’t match the stern, matronly mistress of Hope House with this goddess before him. She wore her long hair tied up in an elaborate series of braids threaded with beads of mother-of-pearl and jade that glittered like newborn stars.
She wore a radiant green gown that hung in sweeping folds and which shimmered like silken spider-skin.
She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
Mama Elodie raised her head, and the music built from a slow, glacial pace to a rising heartbeat. Her head lifted in time with the music and her dark skin shimmered with diamond dust. Her eyes swept the crowd, seeming to fix everyone in Babette’s with her soulful gaze. She smiled, as if surprised to see so many people, and the warmth of her almond eyes reached everyone who saw her. Wyn felt her goodness enfold him, feeling as if burdens he didn’t know he carried were being peeled away, layer by layer.
And then she began to sing.
The words were unknown to him, but they flowed like honey, half spoken, half sung.
Every note drifted like leaves on a warm, summer night, flowing in spirals around the room. Her voice rose in pitch and volume, and Wyn felt his skin tingle with its touch. He let Mama Elodie’s song wash over and through him. Wyn felt a swelling feeling of connectedness between him and Kez. Her eyes met his and he knew she felt the same.
But it was more than that.
Wyn felt a connection between him and everyone in the audience, a sense of oneness and harmony he’d never known or dreamed was possible. Mama Elodie’s hands sculpted the air as her powerful voice filled the chamber with harmonies that penetrated skin and bone and made every edge within them smooth. Sweat sheened her skin, and veins stood out on her neck.
However she was making this music, it was clearly taking a toll.
The light filling the chamber dimmed as her voice grew softer and softer. The notes melted like snow in spring, sunset over a winter ocean. Tears flowed down Wyn’s face, and he knew he wasn’t the only one crying. Dozens of men and women wept, reaching toward Mama Elodie and imploring her to continue. She swayed on the stage, the song nearing completion.
Slowly, so very slowly, she descended through a trapdoor into the stage until she was gone. Mama Elodie’s voice grew softer and softer, until it was little more than a whisper.
Soon, even that was gone.
The chamber was entirely dark now. Wyn let out a shuddering breath as the house lights gradually came up. He blinked as his eyes adjusted, seeing how low the chemlights had burned. How long had Mama Elodie’s song lasted? Hours? Minutes? He had no way of knowing for sure. Wyn felt exhausted, but renewed at the same time. His thoughts were lighter, his lungs feeling clearer than than they had in months. He turned to Kez, and saw she too felt the same sense of rejuvenation. The audience members were smiling; friends and strangers alike embracing in the shared magic of what they had just experienced.
Nico, Feen, and Janke came over, and every one of them had experienced some profound revelation. What that was, Wyn couldn’t know, but that every one of them felt changed was clear.
“Did you...?” said Wyn.
“Yeah,” said Nico.
They hugged, five orphans from Zaun, sharing a brief moment of belonging they would never know again. By the time they broke apart, it was to see the two doormen, Chem-Breath and Buzz-Arm, standing with their hands balled into fists. Chem-Breath’s nose was askew on his face. An improvement, thought Wyn.
“I believe we told you to go home,” said Buzz-Arm.
“Bloody sump-rats,” snapped Chem-Breath, still nursing a bleeding nose. “Think they can give us the runaround.”
He thumped one meaty fist into his palm for extra emphasis.
“It’s time for you to leave, and I can’t promise it won’t be painful,” said Buzz-Arm, sounding almost apologetic.
“There’s no need for that,” said a melodious voice behind them.
Wyn let out a relieved breath as Mama Elodie put a hand on the back of his neck. Her fingers were warm and he felt a calming sensation flow through him at her touch.
“They with you?” asked Chem-Breath.
“They are indeed,” replied Mama Elodie.
The two doormen looked as though they wanted to take this further, but came to the conclusion that arguing with the headline act in front of her bewitched audience probably wasn’t a good idea. The doormen backed away, making eye contact with each of the kids to let them know that they may have escaped a beating this time, but coming to Babette’s again would be a really bad idea.
Wyn turned to face Mama Elodie, but whatever magic she had woven on stage was now entirely absent. The Ionian princess was gone and the Zaunite housemistress was back. She glared at them with hard, flinty eyes.
“I should have let them give you a good beating to teach you all a lesson,” she said, ushering them toward the front door of the theater. The others nodded in mute acceptance of her anger, but only Wyn caught the glint of amusement in her eye. Even so, Wyn could see a great deal of menial labor in all their futures.
“You were amazing,” said Kez as Mama Elodie marched them from the theater and turned toward Drop Street. The late-running descender to Zaun had a station there, so at least they’d be spared more jumping onto elevators or a lot of stairs. Nico, Feen, and Janke waved and ran off, old enough to head home on their own without needing to ask permission. Wyn didn’t mind; he was with Kez and Mama Elodie, so he’d enjoy this moonlit descent to Hope House.
“Where did you learn to sing like that?” asked Kez.
“My mother taught me when I was a girl,” said Mama Elodie. “She was of... an old Ionian line, though her voice was far superior to mine.”
“It was a beautiful song,” said Wyn.
“All the Vastaya songs are beautiful,” said Mama Elodie. “But they are also sad.”
“Why are they sad?” asked Wyn.
“True beauty is only beautiful because it is finite,” said Mama Elodie. “That is why some of their songs are too sad to sing now.”
Wyn didn’t really understand. How could a song be too sad to sing? He wanted to ask more, but the farther they walked from Babette’s, the less important it seemed.
He looked up. Chemlights and reflected stars shimmered on the city of iron and glass as they navigated the cliffside streets toward home. Wyn saw a sliver of moonlight peeking out from behind the clouds, and took a deep breath of clean air, knowing it might be his last for a while.
“You know you’re all scrubbing floors and pots for the rest of the week, yes?” said Mama Elodie.
Wyn nodded, but didn’t mind. He was still holding Kez’s hand. A week of scrubbing seemed like a small price to pay.
“Sure,” he said. “Sounds good.”"
New Champion Tales
Zaun added and merged into the Piltover page, a new batch of champion stories and updated bios are now available, including room for many more in the near future!
Bio: Ekko, the Boy Who Shattered TimeEkko Champion Bio
"A prodigy from the rough streets of Zaun, Ekko manipulates time to twist any situation to his advantage. Using his own invention, the Zero Drive, he explores the branching possibilities of reality to craft the perfect moment. Though he revels in this freedom, when there’s a threat to his friends he’ll do anything to defend them. To outsiders, Ekko seems to achieve the impossible the first time, every time.
Born with genius-level intellect, Ekko constructed simple machines before he could crawl. Amazed by these displays of brilliance, his parents, Inna and Wyeth, vowed to provide a good future for their son. In their mind, Zaun, with all its pollution and crime, was no place for a child of his genius. They toiled through long factory hours and worked in dangerous conditions in order to forge a path for their son to have opportunities in Piltover.
But Ekko saw things differently.
He witnessed his parents aging beyond their years, trying to make ends meet with small wages while their handmade goods were sold to wealthy Piltovans for exorbitant profits, profits they’d never see thanks to the greedy Factorywood overseers and their shrewd buyers. Pilties wandered over to the Promenade for good, cheap times or down to the Entresol to indulge in “everything goes” type clubs. No, his parents’ vision of Ekko living a good life in the privilege-filled City of Progress was one he didn’t share.
Zaun, however… Where his parents only saw the oppressive layers of choking pollution and a blight of criminality, Ekko looked beyond and discovered a dynamic city overflowing with energy and potential. It was a hotbed of pure innovation, a melting pot of faraway cultures, immigrants united by a single desire to pioneer the future. But even they could not hold a candle to the native Zaunites. Not the tech-augmented thugs or bottom-feeding scum whose wicked deeds dominated Piltover newspapers; but the sump-scrappers, the chem-jacks, the horticulturalists that tended to the cultivairs. These, and so many more, were the heart and soul of the city. They were resourceful, resilient, and industrious. They built a thriving culture out of catastrophe and flourished where others would have perished. That Zaun spirit enchanted Ekko and drove him to build his machines exclusively out of junk no one else valued, and spurred him on to test them on himself.
He wasn’t alone in possessing that spirit. Ekko befriended scrappy orphans, inquisitive runaways, and anyone whose thirst for excitement was as infectious as the grey-pox.
Each had unique talents: from climbing to sculpting, from painting to planning. Many Zaunites eschewed formal education in favor of apprenticeships, these self-dubbed Lost Children of Zaun looked to labyrinthine streets to be their mentor, and as such wasted time in glorious, youthful fashion. They challenged each other to footraces through the Border Markets. They dared each other to climb the precarious routes from the Sump to the Entresol and up to the Promenade. They ran wild and free, answering to no one except their own whims.
To stand out from criminal gangs and other chem-punks, he and his friends opted to keep their bodies whole. Augmentation was, to them, a waste of money and frowned upon. So was stealing from anyone who had nothing or less than they had. This made uppercrust Pilties and tech-enhanced bullies such enticing targets for their mischief. They adorned their secret hideouts with pilfered goods and works of art painted directly on walls. The Lost Children of Zaun felt invincible.
As he grew up, Ekko’s inventions became more fantastic and complex, requiring exotic components that needed to be “liberated” from the scrapyards. Good thing he subscribed to a conveniently flexible view of trespassing. Soon, tech-enhanced vigilnaut thugs and unnervingly aggressive security guards were constantly on lookout for Ekko and his misfit crew, and often gave the teens a merry chase. It always amused him how Piltover laboratories and Chem-Baron factories fiercely guarded their junk. It’s not like they were using these discarded bits of tech for anything. He, on the other hand, could put their trash to good use with a little ingenuity.
One night, while Ekko scoured the rubble of a recently demolished laboratory, he made an astonishing find: a shard of a blue-green gem that glittered with magical energy. He quickly searched and discovered other fragments of the glowing jewel. The shards hummed like they were trying to sing a broken melody, the song growing louder when near other pieces. He painstakingly searched for every splinter of the broken crystal, though some were buried deep beneath tons of debris that required him to squeeze and wiggle between chunks of smelly rubbish. Every child of Zaun heard tales about hextech crystals. They powered weapons and heroes. They could create energy on their own.
Hextech crystals had the potential to change the world. Now he held a broken one.
Before he could celebrate his find, the place was crawling with vigilnauts scanning the ruins, searching for something. Ekko knew it was the pieces of the crystal he held in his hand. He barely escaped detection.
After meticulous study, Ekko noticed that faint traces of energy surged when the crystals were brought closer together; the edges crackled and sent waves of rippling distortion through the air. When he pulled the pieces apart, a magnetic-like resistance fought his efforts. It was as if the splintered crystals remembered being whole. Even curiouser, Ekko felt the strangest sensation; a haunting feeling of remembering a moment, only slightly differently.
His hands couldn’t keep up with the ideas his mind had for the crystal. During one of his less-than-scientific experiments, the gem exploded into a vortex of shimmering dust, triggering eddies of temporal distortion. Ekko opened his eyes to see several splintered realities—and several “echo” versions of himself— staring back in sheer panic amid the fractured continua.
He’d really done it this time.
After some tense coordination between Ekko and his paradoxes, they contained and repaired the doozy of a hole he’d torn in the fabric of reality.
Eventually, Ekko harnessed the shattered crystal’s temporal powers into a device that would allow him to manipulate small increments of time — well, at least in theory. Before he could test his latest machine, his friends badgered him into climbing Old Hungry to celebrate his name day – so Ekko slung the device over his shoulder and brought it along.
They trekked out to the old clockwork tower in the heart of Old Zaun, and climbed, occasionally stopping to paint an obscene caricature of a prominent Piltie or two. They were near the top when a handhold gave way causing one of his friends to slip and fall off the spire. Instinctively, as if he’d done it a thousand times before, Ekko activated the crystal-containment device. The world shattered around him and he was wrenched backward through swirling particles of time.
The hair on his arms tingled with electricity. A strange wooziness clouded his mind. Then he saw his friend reach for the rotting plank to repeat his soon-to-be-fatal error. CRACK! The plank gave under the boy’s weight, but Ekko reached out and grabbed his plummeting friend by the shirt collar and swung him to a nearby ledge. Unfortunately, he misjudged the trajectory and tossed his friend into the clockwork tower’s grinding gears.
Numerous rewinds and some adjustments for windshear later, Ekko saved his friend’s life. To others, it looked like Ekko had the reflexes of a god. Instantly, his status was elevated. He told them about the crystal and the time manipulation and made them swear to keep quiet. Instead, they shamelessly exaggerated their friend’s exploits and dared each other to attempt increasingly reckless stunts, knowing they would be kept safe. With each trial (and so much error) the time-warping device – which he’d dubbed the Zero Drive – grew more and more stable. Ekko found he could pilfer components, clobber imposing chem-punk bullies, and even get pickup lines right, making a good first impression every time. The only limit was how much his body could take before exhaustion set in.
Rumors and tales of Ekko’s time-bending antics reached the ears of certain powerful people within the twinned cities. Viktor, a much respected (and feared) Zaunite scientist, has a keen interest in an audience with this defiant genius, and outfitted several of his low-level enforcers with powerful enhancements to encourage the boy to join his services. Piltover-renowned innovator Jayce, meanwhile, was eager to size up the Boy Who Shattered Time and reverse-engineer his technology. However, Ekko values his independence too much, and has no desire to be a part of anyone’s agenda. A few pursuers might catch a glimpse of Ekko before being thwarted, often embarrassingly so, by the sump-snipe with a preternatural knack for pinpointing their exact weakness.
In his wildest dreams, Ekko imagines his hometown rising up to dwarf the City of Progress. Piltover's golden veneer would be overshadowed by the sheer ingenuity and relentless spunk of a Zaun born not from generations of privilege but from utter daring.
He may not have a plan yet, but Ekko has all the time in the world to make his dream a reality.
After all, if he can change the past, how hard could it be to change the future?"
Ekko Story - LullabyEkko's story LULLABY was previously released with the launch of Universe but is included on the Zaun page.
Bio: Janna, the Storm's Fury
"Armed with the power of Runeterra’s gales, Janna is a mysterious, elemental wind spirit who protects the dispossessed of Zaun. Some believe she was brought into existence by the pleas of Runeterra’s sailors who prayed for fair winds as they navigated treacherous waters and braved rough tempests. Her favor and protection has since been called into the depths of Zaun, where Janna has become a beacon of hope to those in need. No one knows where or when she will appear, but more often than not, she’s come to help.
Many of Runeterra’s sailors have strange and unusual superstitions, which is no wonder as they often live or die by the tempestuous whims of the weather. Some captains insist on pouring salt onto the deck so the sea doesn’t notice they’re from the shore. Others make sure to throw the first fish they catch back into the water as a show of mercy. It’s not surprising, then, that most implore the wind itself for steadfast breezes, calm seas, and clear skies.
Many believe the spirit Janna was born out of these prayers.
She started small. Seafarers would sometimes spot a bright blue bird just before a healthy tailwind billowed their sails. Others could swear they’d hear a whistling in the air right before a storm, as if to warn them of its approach. As word of these benevolent omens spread, sightings of the bird grew more common. Some swore they had seen the bird transform into a woman. With tapered ears and flowing hair, this mysterious maiden was said to float above the water and direct the wind with a flick of her staff.
Seafarers created ramshackle shrines of seasparrow bones and shining oyster shells which they tucked into the bows of their ships. The more successful vessels built their shrines as figureheads on their masts, hoping their more ostentatious displays of faith would be rewarded with even better winds.
Eventually, Runeterra’s seamen agreed upon a name for this wind spirit: “Janna,” an ancient Shuriman word meaning “guardian.” As more sailors came to believe in Janna and made increasingly elaborate offerings to gain her favor, she grew ever stronger.
Janna helped explorers traverse new waters, blew ships from treacherous reefs, and – on particularly starless nights – wrapped the comfort of a warm breeze around a homesick sailor's shoulders. For those sailing with ill intent – pirates, raiders, and the like – Janna was sometimes said to blow them off course with sudden squalls and storms.
Janna took great joy in her work. Whether helping people or punishing the deserving, she felt happy to watch over Runeterra’s oceans.
For as long as Janna could remember, a single isthmus separated the western and eastern oceans of Valoran. In order to move from the west to the east, or from the east to the west, ships would have to brave the long, incredibly dangerous waters around the tip of the southern continent. Most ships subsequently made offerings to Janna for strong winds that would expedite their perilous journey around the rocky coast.
The city fathers of the bustling trade city on the isthmus’s coast tired of watching ships make the long trek around the southern continent, which could often take many months.
They hired the most innovative scientists to use the rich chemical resources recently discovered in the area to create a massive waterway that would unite Valoran’s major seas.
Word of the canal spread like a pox amongst sailors. Such a passage would open up boundless trade opportunities, allow for easier passage through dangerous waters, reduce time at sea and introduce the transportation of perishable goods. It would bring the east to the west, the west to the east, and above all: it would bring change.
With the canal in place, sailors wouldn’t need Janna’s winds to keep their ships safe from Valoran’s cliffs. They wouldn’t need to build elaborate shrines or watch the stormy horizon for bluebirds. Their ships’ safety and speed no longer depended on an unpredictable deity, but the ingenuity of man. And so, as construction progressed over the decades, Janna fell out of favor. Her shrines grew ragged, picked apart by gulls, and seldom was her name whispered, even as the waters grew sharp and choppy with winter.
Janna felt herself weaken and her powers fade. When she tried to summon a squall, she’d only conjure a light draft. If she transformed into her bird form, she could only fly for a few minutes before needing to rest. She’d meant so much to those at sea only a few years prior – was this how easily they could forget someone who just wanted to keep them safe and honor their prayers? Janna was saddened by her slow decline into irrelevance and as the canal reached completion, all that remained of her was a faded breeze.
The opening of the canal was a joyful celebration. Thousands of chemtech devices were placed across the isthmus. The city fathers gathered for the ceremonial igniting of the charge as travelers from all over the world watched and waited, smiles on their faces and pride in their hearts.
The devices activated. Chemical fogs of molten rock bloomed. Booms echoed through the isthmus.
The cliff faces began to crack. The ground began to shake. Those assembled heard a roar of water and a hiss of gas.
That is when the screaming started.
In the years to come, no one would know the exact cause of the disaster. Some said it was the instability of the chem bombs, while others argued it was a miscalculation by the engineers. Whatever the cause, the explosions caused a chain reaction of earthquakes that shook the isthmus to its core. Entire districts collapsed into the ocean, and nearly half of the city’s denizens suddenly found themselves fighting for their lives against the clashing currents of the western and eastern seas.
As thousands sank beneath the tides, they begged for help, praying for someone to save them. They called out for the name that, until recently, their hearts had always beckoned in times of great danger on the high seas:
Struck by a sudden surge of desperate pleas for aid, Janna felt herself materialize with greater power than she’d ever felt before.
Many of those who had fallen into the water had already drowned, but as clouds of toxic chem-gas leaked from cracks in the streets, poisoning and suffocating the hundreds of people unlucky enough to breathe them, Janna knew how to help.
She disappeared into the bleak, billowing gas, its acrid grasp overwhelming the helpless victims of the great canal’s birth. Holding her staff high, she closed her eyes as wind swirled around her, the vortex so powerful that those who had summoned her feared they might be swallowed whole or ripped to pieces. Her staff glowed a brighter and brighter blue until she finally slammed it down, blowing the gas away in one ferocious burst of air. Those who had summoned Janna caught their breath and looked upon the woman who had saved them, vowing never to forget her again.
With that, a gust of wind blew through the streets, and Janna was gone… though some swore they saw a bright blue bird make a nest high atop the iron and glass spires overlooking the city.
Years after the city called Zaun was repaired and the shining town of Piltover was built above it, Janna’s name endures in countless stories that tell of the wandering wind spirit who appears in times of great need. When the Zaun Gray grows thick, some say Janna blows it away, then vanishes as quickly as she came. When a Chem-Baron’s thug goes too far or a victim’s screams go unanswered, a fearsome torrent of wind might sweep through the alley and aid those who others are unwilling to help.
Some say Janna is a myth: an optimistic fairy tale that Zaun’s most desperate tell themselves to bring an ounce of hope to their hour of need. Others – the ones who think of Janna when the wind whistles through narrow corridors of the city or huddle around handmade shrines (now crafted of scrap and gearworks rather than bird bones) – know better. When the gust rattles the shutters and blows the laundry off the line, Janna is surely in the air. Every Progress Day, no matter how cold the weather, the believers throw open their windows and doors so Janna can blow away the stale air of the year past and welcome the new. Even skeptics can’t help but feel their spirits lift when they spy a curious blue bird swooping through the streets of Zaun. Though none can be sure when, how, or if Janna will appear, most everyone can agree on one thing: it’s nice to have somebody watching over you."
Janna Story: Deep BreathDeep Breath
"They think Zaun is where the losers live.
They won’t admit it, of course – they’ll smile through their teeth and pat us on the back and tell us that Piltover would be nowhere without Zaun. Our hard workers! Our bustling trade! Our chemtech that everyone in Piltover pretends they don’t buy, except they constantly do! Zaun is a vital part of Piltover’s culture, they’ll say.
All lies. Obviously.
They think Zaun is where the idiots go. People too stupid to make it in Piltover’s golden towers.
People like me.
I spent months dealing shimmer so I could afford to apply for Clan Holloran’s apprenticeship. I studied every crusty, dog-eared book I could find on gearwork machinery. I built a prototype gearbrace for people with broken or arthritic wrists that increased their mobility. I did everything I could have done to earn an apprenticeship in Piltover. I even made it to the final stage of the vetting process: a face-to-face meeting with Boswell Holloran himself.
They said it was a formality. Just a way to welcome me to the family.
He entered the room, looked down at my Gray-stained clothes, and laughed a strangled, joyless laugh. He said, “Sorry, my boy – we don’t take sump-rats here.”
He never even sat down.
So now I’m back here. In Zaun. One more idiot.
The Gray rolls through the streets, welcoming me back. Most days, it’s thin enough that you can breathe deep without coughing up something wet. Today, though, is what we call a Grayout. You choke with every breath. Your chest feels tight. Can’t see much past your fingertips. I want to run, but I know there’s nowhere to run to. The Gray feels like it’s closing in on me, crushing me, smothering me.
These are the times I pray to Janna.
Not everyone in Zaun believes she’s real, but my mother always had faith. She told me a bluebird hovered outside her window on the day of my birth, and she knew – she knew – it was Janna telling her I was going to be fine.
She was wrong, of course. I wasn’t fine, in the end. Couple of years ago, she – my mother – died while sump-scrapping, and I had to raise myself with the few gears she left me. Then, the usual: couldn’t make friends. Got beaten up a lot. Boy I loved didn’t love me back. Tried to study, tried to think my way up to Piltover. Couldn’t. Figured Janna had forgotten about me.
But I still keep the pendant my mother gave me: a wooden engraving depicting the bluebird she saw. Just in case of moments like these.
So I sit on the wet ground because I don’t care enough to find a bench, and I take out the bluebird pendant I always keep tucked in my shirt, and I talk to Janna.
Not out loud, of course – don’t need people thinking I’m some chem-burnt freak – but still, I talk to her.
I don’t ask her for anything. I just tell her about my day, and the day before that, and how scared I am that I’ll never become anything worthwhile and that I’ll die down here knee-deep in the Sump with nothing to show for it just like my mother, and that sometimes I just want to run away somewhere I can breathe and stop being so frightened and not feel like crying all the time and how I hate myself for feeling like I want to cry because I have it so much easier than some other people, and how sometimes I think about throwing myself into the chem pools of the Sump, just throwing myself in with my mother where I’d let myself sink to the bottom and my lungs would fill with fluid because then it’d be over, at least. I tell Janna I hope she’s okay. I hope she’s happy, wherever she is.
That’s when I feel the breeze caress my cheek. Just a light flutter, but it’s there. Soon, I can feel it blow hair across my face. The wind whistles loud and fast, and soon it’s whipping my coat in the air and I feel as though I’m at the center of a maelstrom.
The Gray swirls before me, pushed up by a breeze that seems to flow from everywhere at once. The fog slowly dissipates, and I can see other passersby on the Entresol level watching it float away.
The wind stops.
The Gray clears.
I can breathe.
Not just small, cautious gasps, but deep breaths that fill my lungs with cold, fresh air. No longer veiled in Gray, the sun shines past the towers of Piltover into Zaun itself.
I can see the Piltovans above, peering down at us. Without the Gray clouding their view, they can see us from their lofty bridges and balconies. I don’t think they like it very much. Nobody wants to be reminded they live above a slum; I see a few scowls.
That’s when I see him again: Boswell Holloran. Holding a sweetcake in his hand, looking down at me again. An expression of disgust on his face, just like before.
I’m so busy staring at his contemptuous face that I don’t notice the presence behind me until her hand is on my shoulder.
“It’s okay,” she says, and I know without turning who it is.
She squeezes my shoulder, then kneels and crosses her arms in front of my chest, pulling me into a hug.
“It’s going to be okay,” she says.
Strands of her hair fall onto my shoulders. She smells like the air after a long rain.
“It might not be okay now. You might not be okay for a while. And that’s fine. But someday, without knowing exactly when or why or how it happened, you’ll feel happy,” she says. My face is warm and wet and I don’t know when I started crying but it’s a relief, like the clouds are clearing, and I hold her arms and she holds me, just telling me over and over that it’s okay, that she’s here, that things will be better.
I don’t know how long she holds me, but soon I see everyone on Zaun’s Entresol and the balconies of Piltover above are staring.
Before I can say anything, she says, “Don’t think about them. Just take care of yourself. Will you do that for me?”
I try to speak, but instead I just nod.
“Thank you,” she says, and she kisses my wet cheek and gives me one last, quick squeeze.
She rises and glides past me. For the first time, I see her in her entirety – a tall, ethereal figure that I would’ve assumed was from my imagination if she hadn’t just touched me. I notice her long, pointed ears. Feet that don’t touch the ground. Hair flowing in the wind, even right now when there isn’t any. Eyes so blue I feel a little cold just looking at her.
But then she smiles, winks, and says, “You’ll want to watch this next part.”
There’s a massive gust of wind, so fast and sharp I have to cover my eyes. When I open them again she’s gone, but the wind is still blowing. It blows up toward Piltover and its gawking citizens.
It whistles as it picks up speed and strength, and the Pilties run for cover but it’s too late, the breeze hits them full force, sending their frocks sailing and mussing their hair.
Boswell Holloran shrieks in terror as the wind launches him off the balcony.
It seems as if he’s about to plummet toward certain death, but another gust of wind shoots up toward him, and his descent slows significantly, as if the wind is guiding him down. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, though. Even though he’s falling with all the velocity of a tumbling leaf, He screams the entire way down. Very high pitched. Very undignified.
His clothes flap upward, smacking him in the face as he descends, until he’s hovering a few inches above a puddle.
“I –,” he begins, before the wind disappears altogether and he plops ass-first into the puddle, ruining what I assume was a very expensive ensemble. He yelps in a mixture of surprise, pain, and irritation, splashing around like an angry child. He tries to get to his feet, only to slip and fall back down all over again. If I’m being completely honest, he looks like an idiot.
And I can’t stop laughing."
Bio: Zac, the Secret WeaponZac, the Secret Weapon, Bio
"Zac is the product of a toxic spill that ran through a chemtech seam and pooled in an isolated cavern deep in Zaun’s Sump. Despite such humble origins, Zac has grown from primordial ooze into a thinking being who dwells in the city’s pipes, occasionally emerging to help those who cannot help themselves or to rebuild the broken infrastructure of Zaun.
A group of Zaunite children first encountered Zac when they were out skimming rocks over a sump pool and some of the stones were thrown back. The “Returning Pool” became well-known to Zaun’s Sump dwellers, and eventually drew the attention of a shadowy cabal of chemtech alchymists. Over the protests of the local residents, the alchymists pumped the contents of the pool into vats and carried the substance back to their laboratories for experimentation.
Via a series of experiments designed to test negative and positive reinforcement techniques, the alchymists discovered the coagulate mass within the pool appeared to have psychotropic tendencies. Simply put, it mirrored whatever stimulus was provided to it. If treated well, it responded with childlike glee and playfulness, but when its response to pain and aggression were tested, the alchymists lost numerous augmented sump-scrappers in the ensuing destruction.
Most of the alchymists attributed this to nothing more than a simple reflex response, but two among their number weren’t so sure. They questioned the morality of experiments that seemed entirely driven to produce a creature of unmatched aggression. When the pair dug further, they discovered the project was being funded by Saito Takeda, a Chem-Baron with a notoriously violent temperament and reputation for bloody gang warfare.
The implication was clear; Takeda sought to develop a fighter who could shrug off mortal wounds, squeeze into places humans could not and who would obey any command. They also discovered the project’s true name; the Zaun Amorphous Combatant.
As they pondered the best course of action, the two dissenting alchymists saw more than just a mirroring of whatever stimulus was applied to the viscous gel. They saw behaviors manifest without any obvious stimulus - behaviors consistent with sentience. They came to know the creature as Zac and concluded that he exhibited the behaviors of a thinking, feeling being. They brought their findings to the spindle-limbed leader of their research team, but their concerns were ignored.
Unwilling to let the matter drop, they began their own covert efforts to counter the violent teachings of the rest of their team. They sought to show Zac right from wrong, exposing him to acts of altruism and generosity. Their efforts bore fruit, with Zac showing sadness when one of the researchers hurt her hand and reacting badly when another killed a rat in the laboratory. Eventually, they could no longer tolerate the cruel experiments being done to Zac by their fellow alchymists.
One night, during Zaun’s Progress Day remembrances, when the laboratory was empty, they drained Zac into a wheeled septic tank and dragged him to a far distant part of Zaun. When their act was later discovered, the footsoldiers of Baron Takeda sought them out.
But Zaun is a big place, and the researchers were able to hide from their pursuers. They had thought to give Zac his freedom, but Zac did not want to be released, for he now considered the two researchers his family. They alone had shown him kindness, and he wanted to learn more from them. In truth, they were pleased by his reaction, for they had become so fond of Zac that they considered him their adoptive son.
To stay hidden from Takeda’s men, they changed their identities and appearance, taking up residence in a remote part of the Sump, far from prying eyes. Zac learned to mimic their voices, and quickly adapted to shift his gelatinous mass into the required shapes to form sound. He lived alongside his adoptive parents for many years, hiding when necessary in sump pools or in the cracks in the cliffside rocks. His ‘parents’ told Zac of the world in which he lived, how it could be beautiful and full of wonder. They showed him the moon rise over the Sun Gates, the play of rainbow light on the stained glass roofs of Zaun’s commercia halls, and the bustling, vibrant beauty of their city’s heart.
They also explained how the world could be cruel and harsh, and Zac learned that people were sometimes mean and unkind, hateful and prejudiced. Zac rejected such behaviors and helped his parents where he could as they used their skills to aid the people around them without attracting undue attention.
They did what they could to treat the sick, mend broken machinery or otherwise put their chem-knowledge to benign use. These were golden years for Zac, and he roamed Zaun through its almost limitless network of pipes and through the many cracks in its bedrock.
As much as Zac was a sentient being, too much stimulus from his environment could sometimes overwhelm his senses and cause him to temporarily absorb the dominant emotions around him, for good or ill. Oft-times he couldn’t help getting involved in aiding the oppressed and downtrodden against thuggish bullies; leading to rumors of his presence spreading through Zaun. Though the majority of tales were of him helping, others attributed destructive events to Zac; a factory destroyed or a crevasse ripping open in a Sump neighborhood.
Eventually, those rumors reached the ears of Saito Takeda, and he sent a band of augmented thugs to retrieve what he saw as his property. His alchymists had been attempting - without success - to replicate the process that had created Zac from droplets left behind in his vat. Takeda wanted the creature returned, and his augmented heavies surrounded Zac’s parents’ home and attacked. They fought back, for they were chemtech researchers and not without esoteric means of defending themselves, but their defiance could not last forever and eventually they were killed, despite Takeda’s order that they be taken alive.
Zac had been exploring subterranean seams far below Zaun, but sensed his parents’ distress and raced back through the pipes of the city to the rescue. He arrived too late to save them, and the fury that overwhelmed him upon seeing their bodies was unmatched by anything the baron’s men had ever seen. Zac attacked in a ferocious display of stretching, smashing, and crushing. In his grief and anger, he demolished dozens of nearby dwellings, and by the time the battle was over, all the augmented thugs were dead.
When the heightened emotions of battle drained from Zac’s consciousness, he was overcome with remorse for the homes he had destroyed, and vowed to continue the good work done by his parents. He helped rebuild what he had destroyed, but as soon as the work was done, he vanished into Zaun’s vast network of pipes.
Now Zac lives alone, dwelling in the tunnels and caverns threading Zaun, and bathing in the emotions of the city’s inhabitants. Sometimes this enriches him, but other times it saddens him as he takes on both the good and bad of the city. He has become something of an urban legend among the people of Zaun, a mysterious creature that sometimes emerges from cracks in the rock or a section of damaged pipework. Most times this is to help those in need, but in times of trouble, when the city’s moods turn grim, his appearance can be cause for trepidation."
Zac Story: Protection
"The golden hour between fifth and sixth bell. That’s my favorite time of day. It’s when most people in the Factorywood finish their work shifts. They’re bone tired, but they’re done for the day. Work is behind them. A hot meal and home are ahead. The people here are nice, and I always feel good squeezing my gelatinous body through the cliff-cracks seaming the rocks around the Factorywood. I feel love emanating from a man going home to his newborn son. I relish the anticipation of a married couple looking forward to a romantic dinner in the Boundary Markets.
Their thoughts soak into me. It’s nice, like a warm bath, though I tend to stretch out pretty thin when things get too hot. There’s always a few people in the mix who aren’t so happy. After all, life in Zaun can be hard. Some people are nursing broken hearts, while others can’t stomach the thought of another shift and feel nothing but seething resentment. I absorb the good and the bad, because that’s the way I was made. The bad feelings sometimes make me angry, but there’s nothing I can do about that. My parents taught me it’s okay to feel bad sometimes. Without the bad you can’t properly savor the good.
I follow the crowd until people start to go their separate ways. A few lingering bad feelings drift through my thoughts, so I decide to do something good to push them out. I seep down through a network of cracked vents I’ve been meaning to fix for a while, but just hadn’t gotten around to. I collect fragments of metal in my body as I go, extruding them from my amorphous form wherever there’s a crack, then heating my outer layers to weld them in place. With the cracks sealed, clean air from the pump station higher up in Piltover flows once again. Which hopefully means fewer cases of lung blight in a good many of the streets below.
The bottom of the pipe brings me out in the upper reaches of the Sump level. Things aren’t so nice here. Lots of people don’t have much of anything, and there’s plenty who want to take even that from them. The sump pools, full of toxins and runoff from the chem-forges, remind me of the time I spent alone as a specimen in a laboratory. I try not to think of that time, because it makes me angry. And when I get angry I sometimes break stuff, even though I don’t mean to. I don’t like feeling like that, so I ease myself into my favorite cleft in the rock, the one running beneath the twisting rookeries of the Skylight Commercia. It’s always nice there. People out together, browsing the galleries, meeting friends, dining or going to see one of the companies of players that tour the undercity with their satirical works. The atmosphere warm and friendly, it’s the perfect place to bask in all that Zaun has to offer.
But as I pass beneath the outlying streets, a spike of anguish ripples through me. A tremor of fear and pain disturbs my liquid flesh. I don’t like it. It feels out of place, like something I’d expect to find deeper down in the Sump. That’s the place where bad things happen more often than good things. It shouldn’t be happening here! I get angry as more of the bad feelings soak into me. I follow them down, wanting to stop them from spreading.
I push my body from the corroded pipes running below a metalsmith’s shop. My bulk fills the space under the warped floorboards. Light shines in angled beams through the louvers of a grille set in the floor. Angry voices come from above. Shouts and the sound of a weeping man. I press my body against the grille. My gelatinous mass breaks apart, only to reform on the other side. I push hard and quick, re-establishing my form inside the shop.
The owner of the shop is on his knees beside a woman who bleeds from a deep wound in her belly. He kneels at her side, one arm outstretched toward the four men standing in the wreckage of his shop. I know these kinds of men. I see them all the time in the Sump; thugs who force good-hearted people to pay up or face seeing their livelihoods smashed.
The interior of the shop is lit by chem-lanterns, one of which is held by a man wearing a butcher’s apron and who has a meat-hook crudely fixed to the stump of his other hand. The other three are mere brutes, slab-muscled simpletons in canvas overalls and thick magnifier goggles. Their eyes grow stupidly wide with shock at the sight of me rising over them. I bloat my body, greenish limbs swelling with power as I form a mouth where I think it ought to be.
I want to really hurt these men. I know it’s their emotions I’ve been feeling, but I don’t care. I just want to hurt them as badly as they hurt these people.
“This is gonna get messy,” I say.
My right arm shoots out, smashing the first thug from his feet. He slams into the metal stanchion by the door and doesn’t get back up. A second thug swings a heavy iron club, a sump-scrapper’s oversized wrench. It hits me in my middle and is promptly swallowed by my pliant flesh. I reach down and pluck him from the ground, hammering him up to the latticework girders of the ceiling. He drops back down, his limbs bending in ways even I can tell they shouldn’t. The third thug turns and runs, but I reach up and stretch my arms toward the girders. I spring forward and hammer my feet into his back. I squash him to the ground as their leader slices the blade of his butcher’s hook down the center of my back.
It hurts! Oh, how it hurts. The pain causes my body to lose cohesion. I fall to the floor in a shower of liquid green ooze. For a moment, I lose all sense of spatial awareness, seeing and feeling the world from a thousand different perspectives. The thug stands over me, a gap-toothed smile splitting his stupid face. He’s glad he killed me, filled with pride at his destruction of a living thing.
His pleasure at this destruction courses through me like a hateful elixir. I don’t want to feel like this, it’s not what I was taught, but to help these people I need to use the wrath that fills me. I must turn it against these men. My scattered globules reform in the time it takes him to realize he hasn’t killed me as thoroughly as he thought. I surge from the floor and crash into him, altering my density to that of a thundering piledriver. We smash into the wall of the establishment, the flesh and bone beneath me disintegrating at the force of impact.
I peel myself from the bloody wall, feeling the anger slowly drain from me. I form my body into something man-shaped as I feel the mixed emotions emanating from the couple behind me. The man looks at me with a mixture of fear and trepidation. His wife smiles at me, though I can feel her tremendous pain. I kneel beside her and she takes my hand. It is soft. I am immediately soothed by her gratitude.
I nod and place my hand on her stomach. Heat spreads from me as I ease a sliver of my form into her wound. I’ll be leaving a piece of me behind, a piece I’ll never grow back, but I give it willingly, knowing she will live because of me. The portion of my body within her repairs damaged flesh, knits ruptured tissue and stimulates regenerative growth in her stomach lining. Her husband wipes his hand over her wound, and gasps to see her skin is pink and new.
“Thank you,” she says.
I do not answer. I cannot. Expending such power drains me, leaves me thin. I allow my cohesion to loosen, flowing back down the grille and into the pipes. It is all I can do to maintain my form as I pour down through the cracks in the rock, heading toward the places I know will be awash with good emotions. I need to renew myself. I need to feel all the good Zaun has to offer.
I need to feel alive.
I need to feel."
Bio: Dr. Mundo, the Madman of Zaun
"Utterly insane, unrepentantly homicidal, and horrifyingly purple, Dr. Mundo is what keeps many of Zaun’s citizens indoors on particularly dark nights. This monosyllabic monstrosity seems to want nothing more than pain – both the giving of it, and the receiving of it. Wielding his massive meat cleaver as if it were weightless, Mundo is infamous for capturing and torturing dozens of Zaun’s citizens for his nefarious “operations,” which seem to have no overall point or goal. He is brutal. He is unpredictable. He goes where he pleases. He is also not, technically, a doctor.
Stories differ as to the first sighting of Zaun’s unpredictable purple madman. Some say they first saw him as a baby, crawling through the Piltover marketplace and terrifying the upper-class aristocrats with his foul smell. Others say he was born in Zaun and spent the first years of his life sloshing through the sewers and choking the life out of sumprats.
Only one thing is for sure: when he was roughly three years old, he arrived on the doorstep of the Zaun Asylum for the Irreparably Troubled.
The other inmates of the asylum kept Mundo at a distance, but the asylum staff found the boy a source of constant fascination. They looked at him not as a child to be raised, but as a patient – a thing to be studied. Why was he purple? Who could have survived giving birth to someone of his size?
Within a year of his arrival, the doctors realized his skin was never going to change from its shockingly bright shade. When Mundo turned four, they discovered the extent of his unprecedented strength when he accidentally crushed an orderly’s windpipe for not bringing him his favorite type of candy (toenails). When Mundo turned six, they discovered he had a relationship to pain that was... unusual. To say the least.
Specifically, Mundo didn’t seem to mind pain. More than that, he actively sought it out. If left unsupervised, he’d stick sharp instruments into his shoulders. If he was placed anywhere near other patients, it’d only be a matter of minutes until one or both of them could be heard screaming in agony.
Soon the asylum staff tired of merely observing Mundo. It was time, they decided, to start experimenting. Whether they began their tests out of medical curiosity, a desire for scientific breakthrough, or sheer boredom is unknown. Whatever their reasons, the doctors unquestionably put a great deal of effort into understanding the purple enigma before them.
Over the next several years, they tested his tolerance for pain. They’d stick needles into his fingernails, and he’d giggle. They’d put hot irons to his feet, and he’d fall asleep. Soon, scientific curiosity gave way to outright frustration: they couldn’t get Mundo to react negatively to pain at all, and they couldn’t understand why. Not only that, but whatever damage they could do to him invariably healed itself within a few hours.
Throughout his teenage years, Mundo’s life consisted of complete isolation and routine torture.
He’d never been happier.
He came to see the doctors as aspirational figures. If pain was Mundo’s passion, it was seemingly these doctors’ life work: their myriad attempts to push beyond his pain threshold grew more unconventional as the years went on, including dipping his feet in acid and throwing flesh-eating mites on his face.
The asylum doctors were initially amused when the purple teen began to refer to himself not as “Mundo,” but as “Doctor Mundo.”
He’d steal a syringe from an orderly and fill it with a mixture of cavernberry juice from breakfast and god-knows-what from his chamber pot. “Mundo make medicine!” he’d happily exclaim before jabbing the concoction into his own forehead.
In time, however, Mundo grew tired of experimenting on himself.
Later, many would speculate what Mundo’s motivations were. Some assumed he was taking revenge for the years of torture he endured at the hands of the asylum staff. Others thought he was merely a psychopathic monster with no sense of morality.
The truth was much simpler: Mundo had decided it was time to put his research into practice.
One night, Mundo snuck into the kitchen. There, he found a massive meat cleaver.
“Medical” blade in hand, Mundo proceeded to go from room to room, “operating” on every “patient” he found with no logic to his method of “treatment” other than what would amuse him the most at any given moment.
By daybreak, every single person in the asylum was “cured,” save for Mundo.
He donned a physician’s coat from one of his victims, his massive muscles ripping it as he pulled it over his gargantuan frame. Mundo had realized his dream. He was a doctor! As a new member of a long and illustrious line, he had to share his medicinal skills with the rest of the world. His work had just begun.
He barged through the locked doors of the asylum and past the steps where he’d been left so many years ago. Mundo walked into the streets of Zaun, a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
The doctor was in."
Dr. Mundo Story: Do No Harm
"It has been while, Mundo thought, stroking the massive purple tongue that hung from his mouth like an executed criminal swinging from gallows, since Mundo made a housecall.
He rolled out of his bed (a large wooden box filled with sharpened knives and rusty nails), brushed his teeth (with a nail file), and ate breakfast (a cat). Mundo felt exuberant.
He felt alive.
Today was a fine day for practicing medicine.
He spotted his first patient hawking shimmerdrops just outside Ranker’s Limb Maintenance. The man limped around in a circle, shouting at everyone within arm’s length about how shimmerdrops would make their eyes roll into the backs of their heads and how if they didn’t buy some right now, right this second, then they were damn idiots and did you just give him a condescending look? Because he’ll kill you and your family and your family’s family.
Mundo took out his notepad, a tool he often used to mark down observations about his patients, both past and present. The notepad was large, yellow, and imaginary.
Patient exhibits signs of mania, Mundo would have written if he hadn’t been tracing random squiggles in the air with a meaty finger. Possible infection of nervous system via cranial virus, he might have inscribed if he were capable of such multisyllabic thought.
“MUNDO CURE HEAD AND FACE AREA GOOD,” he said to himself.
Rank was just about to pack up his shimmerdrops and head home for the night. He needed to get new shoes. These ones rubbed his feet raw when he walked, and at the end of a long day’s work, hadn’t he earned the soft leather of grayeels?
As Rank was thinking this, a huge purple monster jumped out of the shadows and yelled, “MUNDO HAS RESULTS OF YOUR BLOOD WORK.”
Mundo left his first patient more or less as he found him (save for a few limbs) and took to the Commercia Fantastica, a market specializing primarily in gearwork toys. Though most of the shops were closed, Mundo spied a lone Zaunite teetering to and fro as he stumbled down the path. The Zaunite sang a song of a Piltovan beauty and the shy boy from the undercity who loved her, except he seemed to have forgotten most of the words apart from “big ol’ eyes” and “gave it to her.” An empty bottle dangled from his hand, and he looked as if he hadn’t had a bath in months.
Was this man afflicted by the same disease that had ravaged the shimmerdrop dealer?
Was this a virus? An epidemic in the making? Mundo had to act fast.
This was clearly a man in need of medical attention.
“TAKE TWO OF THESE AND TALK TO MUNDO IN MORNING,” the purple monstrosity said as he tossed a meat cleaver into the drunk’s back.
Mundo descended into Zaun’s Sump level. If there was a virus going around, chances were it originated here. There must be a patient zero somewhere. If he could just cure the first sufferer of this mystery disease, Mundo knew he could cure the rest of Zaun.
But how was Mundo to find one specific patient in the sprawl of the Sump level? What steps would he take to isolate, quarantine, and fix this most suffering of Zaunites? How would he–
Mundo heard something. Footsteps, and a rhythmic clang of metal against metal.
He followed the noise as carefully and quietly as he could – wouldn’t want to spook the patient into running away and infecting even more people – and found exactly what he was looking for.
A young boy. No older than fifteen, probably, with a shock of white hair and a large metal sword-looking-thing in his hand. He had some sort of hourglass tattooed onto his face. Maybe a warning? A symbol that he was not to be approached under any circumstances?
Mundo knew he’d found him. Patient zero.
It would be a complex operation, requiring skill, planning, a careful eye and–
“YOU MIGHT FEEL A LITTLE STING,” the creature said, leaping out. His enormous purple form hurtling through the air, massive cleaver in hand, tongue flapping in the wind.
The boy was surprised, but not unprepared. Anybody hanging out in the Sump knew to be ready for trouble at a moment’s notice, and the kid had plenty of time to prepare.
Nothing but time, in fact.
No two ways about it: this was a troublesome patient.
He refused to answer Mundo’s questions about his medical history, and repeatedly evaded Mundo’s attempts to make him take his medicine. He repeated himself over and over again (perhaps suffering from a case of physical amnesia?) and had no respect for Dr. Mundo’s authority.
The two scuffled over the child’s sickness for what felt like hours. Mundo made what he thought were very salient points about the merits of treatment, but the child constantly evaded Mundo’s attempts to help him.
Mundo grew tired of arguing with the boy. He mustered up one final attempt at treatment, wielding his precision scalpel with the artistry of a Demacian duelist. The words of his medical vows – “MUNDO FIX ALL THINGS, MUNDO DO MEDICINE VERY HARD” – ran through his head again and again. His desire to cure this child filled him with purpose and determination.
He swung with all his might.
The treatment was a success.
But then – somehow – the treatment reversed itself. Whatever good Mundo had accomplished in his last attempt at a cure was suddenly undone. To Mundo’s utter confusion, the child scurried away, utterly uncured.
Mundo screamed in irritation.
“WHY CAN’T MUNDO SAVE THEM ALL?” he screamed to the sky.
Not every operation was a success. Mundo would be the first to admit that. Still, Mundo tried to focus on the positive. Apart from this most recent patient, Mundo had helped an awful lot of people. He’d done a full day’s work, and now it was time to rest.
As the sun came up, Mundo retired home and tucked himself into bed. Who knew what tomorrow might bring? Another patient to help. Another epidemic to stop.
A doctor’s work was never done."
Bio: Jinx, the Loose Cannon
"A manic and impulsive criminal from Zaun, Jinx lives to wreak havoc without care for the consequences. With an arsenal of deadly weapons, she unleashes the loudest blasts and brightest explosions to leave a trail of mayhem and panic in her wake. Jinx despises boredom, and gleefully brings her own chaotic brand of pandemonium wherever she goes.
No one knows for sure exactly where Jinx came from, but many urban legends and folktales have sprung up around her. Some have her as a young gang member who fell in with the wrong crowd and was either traumatized by one too many killings, suffered too much at the hands of an enemy or was simply driven insane by sump fumes. A few of the old timers in Zaun remember a young girl who might fit Jinx’s description, but the girl they speak of is a far cry from the one who became Piltover’s bane. This girl was sweet and innocent, a tinkerer with big ideas, who never quite fit in and came to a bad end. Some even whisper that Jinx isn’t even human, that she is some kind of avenging spirit of mayhem, come to wreak havoc upon Piltover in revenge for the thousands who died when Zaun sank into the earth.
Jinx made her first appearance on Roguery Night, a barely tolerated annual tradition where youthful girls and boys throughout Piltover play practical jokes on their family and neighbors. Jinx hijacked the occasion to unleash the first of many crime sprees; bridges were blocked with stampeding livestock freed from Count Mei’s menagerie, scores of roads were shut down by explosions that made them impassable, and every street sign in the city was moved and placed somewhere new. Jinx had succeeded in spreading chaos throughout the streets and bringing the city to a halt. It had been a good day.
The wardens attributed her crimes to chem-punk gangs, rounding up dozens of known troublemakers and sending them back down to Zaun. Having others get the credit for her manic schemes didn’t sit well with Jinx, and so she made sure to be seen at every future crime scene. Reports circulated of a mysterious, blue-haired Zaunite girl, but talk of her carrying chemtech explosives, a shark-mouthed launcher and a repeater gun were dismissed as preposterous. After all, how could a Zaunite chem-punk possibly obtain such lethal firearms?
The crime spree escalated in lunacy until Jinx detonated a series of explosives simultaneously throughout the city. A great many of the civic art structures erected by the Piltover clans were destroyed in fiery conflagrations that lit the sky in blazing pyrotechnics until dawn. Due to the late hour, no one was hurt, but numerous clan leaders were outraged at the sight of their great works reduced to rubble.
Jinx’s crime wave continued for weeks, with the wardens’ attempts to catch her thwarted at every turn. She tagged her crime scenes with insulting graffiti and taunting messages directed at Piltover’s newest ally in the fight against crime, Enforcer Vi. These bright pink tags finally revealed the name of Piltover’s newest troublemaker; Jinx.
With every bold crime, Jinx became ever more legendary, with people in Zaun divided as to whether she was a hero for sticking it to the Pilties or a dangerous lunatic that would bring the full force of the wardens down to the undercity. That moment came even closer when Jinx sabotaged the Sun Gate and delayed the flow of ships by several hours – costing the city’s ruling clans vast sums of lost revenue.
Having seen exactly which buttons to press, Jinx offered a challenge that couldn’t be ignored – she threatened Piltover’s money. She daubed the walls of the Ecliptic Vaults, one of Piltover’s most secure treasuries, with a caricature of Enforcer Vi, together with details of exactly when Jinx planned to rob it.
An uneasy sense of anticipation settled on Piltover and Zaun in the weeks leading up to the appointed date of Jinx’s heist. Many doubted Jinx would have the guts to show up and risk almost certain capture. When the day of the heist arrived, Vi, Caitlyn and the wardens were taking no chances and had prepared a trap for Jinx around the treasury. The clocktower bells rang at the appointed hour, but nothing happened. It seemed Jinx had chickened out, but she was one step ahead of her would-be captors.
Jinx, despite the seeming recklessness of her actions, had a plan and it had been in motion for days. She had hidden herself within a modified coin-crate at the Toll Towers of the Sun Gates and had been delivered to the vaults two days previously. Jinx was already inside, and was even now wreaking havoc, leaving her signature pink tags on every gilded wall, swinging from the chandeliers and leaving explosive surprises in every lockbox.
Hearing the cacophony from within, Vi realized what was happening, she stormed inside the building, ignoring Caitlyn’s order to go in as a team. The battle they fought tore the vaults to pieces in a back and forth chase of explosions and demolition. Eventually Jinx and Vi confronted one another in the deepest, most secure vault. No one knows what passed between them, for Vi had pursued Jinx far ahead of the others. With the two of them trapped together underground, Jinx fired her rockets into the ceiling of the vault, and the entire structure collapsed. The wardens in the upper reaches of the vault escaped before the building came down, but Vi was left trapped inside. Only by hiding in the same lockbox Jinx had used to break in was she able to avoid being crushed to death.
Eventually she punched her way out from the ruins, wondering for a moment if Jinx lay dead somewhere in the ruins, only to see one last tag left in the patterns of destruction – a final taunt daring Vi to catch her. No trace of the blue-haired hellion could be found, and to add insult to injury, not a single coin had been taken from the vaults.
Jinx remains at large to this day, and is a constant thorn in Piltover’s side. Her actions have inspired copycats among the chem-punk gangs of Zaun as well as numerous satirical plays, sayings and the like throughout both cities. Her ultimate end-game (or why she is seemingly obsessed with Vi) remains a mystery, but one thing is certain; her crimes are continuing and growing in sheer audacity."
Jinx Story: The Wedding Crasher
"Jinx hated petticoats.
Corsets too, but she grinned at how she’d put the space under and within the stolen dress to good use. Her long blue braids were concealed beneath a ridiculous feathered bonnet that was the latest fashion in Piltover. Jinx sashayed between the wedding guests, keeping her smile fixed and trying not to scream at the dead-eyed people surrounding her. It took an effort of will not to grab each one by the shoulder and try to shake them awake.
Jinx had come here to get all explodey on the observatory atop Count Sandvik’s mansion, but when she’d seen there was a wedding underway... well, that was too good an opportunity for mayhem to pass it up. The count had spared no expense in making his daughter’s party a grand spectacle. The cream of Piltover society was here; the heads of the major clans, lauded hextech artificers, and even fat Nicodemus had managed to finagle an invite. The Warden-Prefect looked like an overstuffed poro in his dress uniform, chest puffed out and beady eyes ogling the sprawling buffet table. Music from a small orchestra drifted over the wedding guests, so slow and ponderous it made Jinx want to yawn. She’d take the foot-stomping, spin-around-till-it-made-you-sick music of Zaun any day.
Hexlumens fitted with rotating zoetropes and oddly-angled lenses projected spectral dancers onto the floor that pirouetted and spun to the delight of laughing children who’d never known a moment of hunger, pain, or loss. Mimes and sleight of hand artistes moved through the crowd, delighting the guests with the fingerwork of their card tricks. Jinx had seen better. The sump-snipes of the Boundary Markets would quite literally give any of these performers a run for their money.
Pictures of Piltover’s bigwigs hung on walls paneled with oak and inlaid with geometric copper fretwork. The men and women in the portraits looked down on the people below with haughty disdain. Jinx stuck her tongue out at each and every one of them as she passed, grinning as they tutted and turned away. Windows paned with colored glass patterned the mosaic floor with rainbows and Jinx skipped merrily over every bright square as she made her way to a table heaped with enough food to feed a hundred families in Zaun for a month.
A liveried waiter passed her, bearing a silver tray of fluted glasses filled with something golden and fizzy. She took one in each hand, spinning away with a grin. Flying foam stained the backs of dresses and frock coats of nearby guests and Jinx sniggered.
“Drink up,” she said and knocked back what was left in the glasses.
She bent awkwardly and set the glasses on the mosaic floor, right in the path of oncoming dancers, and burped the opening bars of Vi is a Stupid Fathead, a tune she’d only just made up. Cliques of society ladies turned to sneer at her coarseness, and Jinx covered her mouth in mock, wide-eyed embarrassment. “Sorry, I accidentally did that on purpose.”
She skipped on and helped herself to some weird looking fish-things from another waiter’s platter. She tossed them into the air and managed to catch at least one in her mouth. A few fell into her enhanced cleavage and she plucked them out with the glee of a sump-scrapper who’d found something shiny in the ooze.
“You thought you could get away from me, fishy-fishes!” she said, wagging a finger at each morsel. “Well, you were wrong.”
Jinx stuffed the food into her mouth and readjusted her dress. She wasn’t used to this much up top, and stifled a giggle at what she had stuffed down there. The hairs on the back of her neck bristled, and she looked up to see a man staring at her from the edge of the chamber. He was good-looking in a stiff sort of way and wore nice, formal clothes, but was so obviously a warden that he might as well have had a sign around his neck.
She turned and pushed deeper into the throng of guests filling the chamber.
She reached the buffet table and sucked in an impressed breath as she saw the towering wedding cake; a frosted masterwork of pink fondant, whipped cream and lacework caramel. A replica of the Tower of Techmaturgy in sponge, jam, and sweet pastry. Jinx reached out, lifted a ladle from the punch bowl, and scooped out a cave in the sponge. She tipped it out onto the floor, licked the ladle clean and tossed it back onto the table. She saw a number of the guests looking at her funny and bared her teeth in her best, manic grin. Maybe they thought she was mad. Maybe they were right.
Jinx shrugged. Whatever.
She reached down into her décolletage and pulled out four chompers. She stuffed three deep into the hole she’d scooped in the cake and dropped the other in the punch bowl.
Jinx strolled along the length of the table, pulling out another two chompers and depositing them in various dishes. One went in a copper soup tureen, the other replaced the apple in the mouth of a suckling pig. Her dress was a lot looser without the additional baggage upstairs, and as she pulled down the side zipper, Jinx spotted the good-looking man she’d earlier pegged as a warden making a beeline for her through the guests.
“About time,” she said, spotting another four, gussied-up wardens, three women and a man, converging on her. “Oooh, and you brought friends too!”
Jinx reached around to the small of her back and pulled the knot securing the petticoats around her narrow waist. The bottom half of her dress sank to the floor as her corset fell away to surprised gasps of the men and women around her.
Revealed in her pink leggings, ammo-belted shorts and vest top, Jinx ripped off the bonnet and shook her hair loose. She reached down and swung Fishbones up from where it had been concealed beneath her dress, and hoisted the weapon up to her shoulder.
“Hey folks!” she yelled, leaping onto the buffet table and drawing Zapper from her thigh-holster. “Hope you’re all hungry...”
Jinx spun on her heel and fired a crackling bolt of energy down the table to the chomper in the pig’s mouth.
“‘Cause this buffet is to die for!”
The chomper exploded, draping the nearest guests in ribbons of scorched meat and fat. A chain reaction of detonations followed. The tureen blasted into the air to drench scores of guests in hot beef soup. The punch bowl blew up next, and then the climax of the detonations; the wedding cake.
The three chompers inside detonated simultaneously and the towering confection launched into the air like a rocket. It almost reached the stained glass ceiling before it arced over and nosedived back to the floor. Guests scattered as the giant cake exploded on impact, and fondant fragments flew in all directions. Screaming guests ran from the blasts, slipping and tumbling in patches of gooey cream and sizzling punch.
“Seriously folks,” said Jinx, blowing a loose strand of blue hair out of her face. “Screaming helps, not at all.”
She skipped down the ruined buffet table and fired a rocket from Fishbones that blew out the nearest window. Iron bolts from hand crossbows flashed past her to embed in the walls, but Jinx laughed as she leapt through the shattered window frame to land in the garden beyond. She rolled back to her feet and pulled up short. She’d had an escape route sort of planned out, but looking toward the Sandvik Mansion’s entrance, she saw a tall, gleaming ring-rider that looked like it’d be a ton of fun to steal.
“Now, that I gotta try...”
She slung Fishbones over her shoulder and elbowed a host of gawping Sandvik footmen out the way, settling into the disc-runner’s hand-tooled leather saddle.
“So how do you start this thing?” she said, staring at the bewildering array of ivory knobs, brass-rimmed dials and gem-like buttons on the control panel in front of her.
“Time for a little trial and error!”
Jinx hauled back on the nearest lever and hit the biggest, reddest button she could see. The machine throbbed beneath her, spooling up with a rising whine and hum of building power. Blue light spun around the outer edges of the wide disc as the main doors to the mansion slammed open. Stern voices yelled at her to stop. Like that was going to happen! The stabilizer struts retracted into the gleaming frame and Jinx whooped with manic glee as the disc-runner shot away from the mansion like a super mega death rocket.
“See ya!” she yelled over her shoulder. “Awesome party!”"
Bio: Blitzcrank, the Great Steam Golem
"Blitzcrank is an enormous, near-indestructible steam golem originally built to dispose of hazardous waste in Zaun. Evolved beyond his primary purpose, Blitzcrank selflessly uses his strength and durability to protect others. Able to see past false veneers and artifice to the truth of an intention, Blitzcrank moves to help those in need.
Shortly after the development of hextech, inventors and scientists flocked to Zaun, a place where they could experiment with volatile materials undeterred by the stringent regulations and rules of Piltover. Their experiments often ended in disaster, with entire buildings destroyed and toxic chemicals spilled into nearby streets. A team at the College of Techmaturgy developed steam-powered golems who would remove the hazardous debris, a task deemed too dangerous for even the most desperate of Zaunites.
The golems labored tirelessly through the streets, carrying waste to the growing number of disposal sites around the city. Even among such hardy machines, accidents were common, and the automatons were frequently sent back to the college in pieces.
Dredging up slime at the bottom of Zaun was no easy task, and acidic, noxious chemicals gradually wore down their metal shells.
An ambitious young inventor known as Viktor longed to create a durable machine that could clean more effectively and eliminate the need for costly repairs. He gathered broken parts from the retired golems, avoiding the flashier components popular among his peers. Even employing an assemblage of unwanted materials, Viktor designed a more resilient machine.
He named his creation Blitzcrank, hoping the golem would quickly eradicate all waste and become far greater than the sum of his discarded parts. After instilling in Blitzcrank a relentless desire to serve the people of Zaun by removing the toxins in their path, Viktor sent him into the Sump to help.
The golem took Viktor’s ideology to heart, believing self-sacrifice and altruism could lead to true greatness for the entire city. Blitzcrank joined the other machines in their cleanup program, leading scouting efforts far past the usual areas of pollution. He fearlessly cleansed toxic neighborhoods of the most noxious chemical spills without any need to return to the college for repairs.
As Blitzcrank encountered other civic dangers, he developed increasingly ambitious plans for his crew of golems, but found his own design was limited such that he could not extend his work beyond cleaning chemical spills. One night, he borrowed Viktor’s prized toolbox, and wrenched open his own steam-engine. He reconfigured his mechanics and removed all limits to his function so that he could make an even greater difference in the city.
In the following weeks, Blitzcrank orchestrated neighborhood-wide evacuations to help people avoid toxic fumes, redirected a food distribution system to increase its efficiency, and repaired an elaborate filtering system to dispense clean water into a community well. With every good deed, Blitzcrank’s sense of his own purpose solidified, and he gained a consciousness that no other golem had yet achieved.
Viktor noticed the unusual changes in his creation, and sought to replicate Blitzcrank’s profound sentience and self-sufficiency in other machines. But Blitzcrank never revealed what had caused his awakening, and without that knowledge, Viktor could not replicate his success.
Blitzcrank roamed the streets of Zaun at all hours, refusing to pause or rest when there might be people in need. His assistance extended beyond just humans to street animals and even broken-down automatons. When a gas fire devastated the Davoran Clocktower, he rescued a family of mechanics and their soot-black cat with his enormous crank-like arm — even stopping to recover a miniature mechanical dancer from a child’s bedroom.
No task was too small for the steam golem - in a single day he stopped a chem-punk robbery, caught a child’s icefruit before it fell to the pavement, and rounded up a lost poro from a traveling circus before it collided with a malfunctioning velocipede.
As time passed, Blitzcrank learned that several of the people he had previously saved succumbed to illnesses after their exposure to noxious chemicals. Anxious at his inability to help, he turned to his creator. Viktor, who had an interest in evolving humanity beyond its frail mortality, was eager to assist. He promised Blitzcrank that, with his developments in techmaturgy, they could defeat death.
Blitzcrank convinced a family of sump dwellers to try Viktor’s approach, and worked with the inventor to install machinery that seamlessly integrated with their bodies to eliminate the disease.
At first, the transition was a success, and the family regained the mobility they had lost since falling ill. But after a few months of good health, their bodies began to fail. Viktor and Blitzcrank worked tirelessly to try to find a cure, but their efforts only delayed the inevitable. Before long, the entire family was dead.
Saddened by their failure, Blitzcrank knew this way of helping people was not his. He parted ways with his creator as a friend and peer, hoping to make the greatest difference he could for the people of Zaun.
While some view Zaun as a chaotic place where reckless experimentation and lawlessness run rampant, Blitzcrank sees only its infinite possibilities. He searches Zaun for ways he can create change for good, paying extra attention to those forgotten or discarded by society. With a bit of axle grease, Blitzcrank believes Zaun will grow into the greatest city Valoran has ever seen."
Blitzcrank Story: Ensemble
"The plump belly of the Rising Howl looms before me, churning with its endless gears and elaborate ironwork. Some say the Howl is named for the wrought iron wolf that cries atop the apex of the hexdraulic descender; others swear the ghost of a black-veiled gentle-servant haunts the cabin, and when the Howl lifts him away from his lost love in Zaun, the sounds of his moans reverberate and shake its metal core. Many Piltovans, convinced as they are in their own sound judgment, are sure the name refers to nothing more than the cold wind whistling between the crevasses below their city.
But to me the Howl is not a single lone cry. It is an orchestra of noise, a melodic blend of a thousand unique sounds. It is why I am drawn to the machine.
The multi-tiered elevator, supported by three vertical structural beams which span the height of the city, descends to the Promenade level and slows to a lurching halt.
“Disembark for the Promenade!” the conductor announces, her voice magnified by a bell-shaped sonophone. She adjusts her thick goggles as she speaks. “Boundary Markets, College of Techmaturgy, Horticultural Center.”
Passengers pour from the descender. Dozens of others board and spread throughout its floors: merchants traveling to Zaun to trade in the night bazaars, workers returning home to sleep, wealthy Zaunites visiting night blooms in glass-domed cultivairs. Then there are the unseen riders who have made the Howl their home. I spy them scurrying in the shadows: plague rats, shadowhares, and viridian beetles.
Sometimes I climb down the crevasses to descend to the Sump, but tonight I long for the harmony of noise I know the descender will create.
Instead of entering through the doorway, I swing around the outside and lock my grip on the bottommost bar where ridged steel brackets frame the glass windows. My metal plates clank as I clamber onto the Howl, drawing stares from the passengers and what looks like a grimace from the conductor. My knowledge of facial expressions grows each day.
Most passengers ride within the compartment, away from the cold and soot, but outside, in the open air, I can hear the satisfying click-clack of mechanical parts snapping into place and the soft hiss of steam releasing as we sink into Zaun. And besides, I don’t easily fit through most doors.
A small boy clings to his sump-scrapper father’s hand and gapes at me through the window. I wink at him and his mouth opens in what I estimate is surprise. He ducks behind his father.
“Going down!” says the conductor. She rings a large bell and adjusts the dials on a bright red box. I can almost feel the commands buzz as they surge through wires into the descender’s engine.
Below us, the iron pinnacles of Zaun’s towers and green glass cultivairs glitter like candles in the dimming light. The Howl whirs and creaks as its cranks spiral down against the three towering beams, weighted down with iron, steel, and glass. A blast of steam whistles from the topmost pipe.
Inside the cabin, the sump-scrapper and his child look on as a musician tunes his four-stringed chittarone and begins a sonorous melody. His tune synchronizes with the clacking gears and whirring machinery of the Howl. The father taps his foot to the rhythm. A beetle snaps her pincers as she scrambles away from the man’s heavy boot. A gang of chem-punks lean against the wall in soft repose, a pause so unlike their usual frenzied jaunts through the city.
The Howl whirs in its perfect fusion of sounds during our descent. I marvel at the symphony around me and find myself humming along to the deep buzzing tones. The rhythm thrums through me and I wonder if those around me feel it.
“Entresol!” the conductor calls out as the descender slows. A pair of couriers carrying parcels wrapped in twine disembark, along with a crew of chemtech researchers and a crowd of chem-merchants. A merry crowd of Zaunites from the theater district steps aboard.
“Down we go!” she says, ringing her bell, and the Howl responds with a whir. The descender sinks and the windows mist as vapor pours from pipes above. Beads of water spread across my metallic chest as the harmony of clanking machinery and whooshing steam begins anew.
A discordant murmur interrupts the pattern of sounds. The vibration is subtle, but I can tell something is off. The descender continues as if all was normal, until a jarring clunk breaks its perfect rhythm.
Though I have never dreamed, I know a break in the pattern this abrupt is a machine’s most frightening nightmare.
The spiralling gearway is jammed, and the cabin’s iron brackets grate against it with a horrible screech. Many lives are at stake and I feel the machine’s pain as it braces desperately against the support beams. The entire weight of the Howl heaves against its bending columns and the cabin tilts at a lurching angle. Rivets burst from their seams as metal is pulled away from itself.
We wobble for a moment, then drop.
Inside the cabin, passengers scream and grasp at the nearest railing as they plunge. This is a different kind of howl.
I tighten my hold on the cabin’s bottommost platform. I extend my other arm, launching it toward one of the three vertical structural beams. The iron column is slippery in the mist and my grip misses it by inches. I retract my arm and steam blasts from my back as I try again, whizzing it toward a second beam. Another miss.
Time slows. Inside the cabin, the chem-punks cling to a ledge while the viridian beetle flies out an open window. The sump-scrapper and his child brace themselves against the glass, which fractures under their weight. The boy tumbles out, scrabbling at the frame with his fingers before he slips and falls.
I reach up and catch the boy in mid-flight, then retract my arm.
“Hold on,” I say.
The child clings to the plates on my back.
I fire my arm up toward the support beam once more, and this time my hand meets solid metal with a resounding clang as I secure my hold. My other arm is forced to extend as it’s wrenched down by the plunging cabin, so much that I feel my joints might fracture. Suspended in midair, I try to steady my grip.
With a great jolt, my arm jerks as the descender halts its freefall. It shakes from the sudden stop, now supported only by my arm. The boy shudders as he tightens his grip on my back.
The Howl is still fifty feet above the ground, hovering over the Sump-level buildings. My overlapping metal plates groan as they strain against the weight and I concentrate all my efforts on holding myself together. If I fall, the Howl falls with me, along with all its passengers.
While locking my arm onto the support beam, I slide my arm down the pillar. We drop ten feet and the cabin sways precariously before stabilizing again.
“Sorry about that!” I shout. Statements of empathy can be reassuring to humans in moments of crisis.
I must try again. I must be strong.
I release my grip on the support column ever so slightly, and with a piercing screech we gently slide down the remaining forty feet to the ground. My valves sigh as they contract.
Passengers echo my sighs as they stumble through the doors and broken windows into the Sump level, leaning on each other for support.
The boy on my back breathes rapidly as he holds my neck. My arms whir as I retract them and lower myself to the floor, crouching down so the child can touch the ground. He scrambles back to his father, who embraces him.
The conductor emerges from the descender and looks at me.
“You saved us. All of us,” she says, her voice shaking from what I think is shock. “Thank you.”
“I am simply fulfilling my purpose,” I say. “I am glad you are not hurt. Have a good day.”
She smiles, then turns to direct the crowd of Zaunites who have gathered to offer their assistance to the passengers and begin repairs. One of the chem-punk girls carries the musician’s chittarone for him as he crawls from the descender. Several of the theater-folk comfort an elderly man.
Two Hex-mechanics stumble toward me and I direct them to a medical officer who is setting up a tented repair station. The murmurs of the passengers and the hissing groans of the wounded descender blend with the whirrs and churning of the Sump. The steam-engine within my chest murmurs along, and I am moved to whistle a tune.
The boy turns and waves shyly at me.
I wave back.
He runs to catch up with his father, his heavy boots tapping a rhythm on the cobblestones. Shifting wheels sing and gears click-clack within the belly of the Rising Howl. The viridian beetle snaps her pincers in time with the beat as she zooms away into the Sump."
Bio: Viktor, the Machine Herald
"The herald of a new age of technology, Viktor has devoted his life to the advancement of humankind. An idealist who seeks to lift people to a new level of understanding, he believes that only by embracing a glorious evolution of technology can humanity’s full potential be realized. With a body augmented by steel and science, Viktor is zealous in his pursuit of this bright future.
Viktor was born in Zaun on the borders of the Entresol level, and, encouraged by his artisan parents, discovered a passion for invention and building. He devoted every waking minute to his studies, hating to interrupt his work even to eat or sleep. Even worse was having to rapidly relocate if there was a nearby chemical spill, accidental detonation or incoming chem-cloud. Abandoning his work, even for a short time, was anathema to Viktor.
In a bid to impose a level of order and certainty on his world, Viktor researched Zaun’s many accidents and came to realize that almost all of them were the result of human error, not mechanical failure. He offered his services to the local businesses, developing inventions that made them far safer working environments. Most turned him away, but one - the Fredersen Chem-forge - took a chance on this earnest young man.
Viktor’s inventions in automation reduced the number of accidents in the forge to zero within a month. Soon, other establishments sought his work and Viktor’s designs became common in Zaun, improving production with every innovation that removed human error from a process. Eventually, at the age of nineteen, he was surprised to be offered a place in Zaun’s prestigious Academy of Techmaturgy. But Viktor’s work had attracted the eye of Professor Stanwick of Piltover, who convinced him to leave Zaun and travel to Piltover’s academy instead. There, he could work in the most advanced laboratories and gain access to all the resources the City of Progress could offer. Thrilled to be singled out, Viktor accepted his offer and took up residence in Piltover, where he refined his craft and sought to perfect his theorems in ways that would benefit everyone.
Viktor worked with Piltover’s best and brightest; including an insufferable genius named Jayce. The two were equally matched in intellect, but where Viktor was methodical, logical and thorough, Jayce was flamboyant and arrogant. The two worked together frequently, but never truly became friends. Often, the two would butt heads over their perceptions of intuition vs logic in the process of invention, but a level of mutual respect developed as each saw the flawed brilliance in the other.
In the midst of his studies in Piltover, a major chem-spill devastated entire districts of Zaun, and Viktor returned home to offer his help in the rescue efforts. By grafting a sophisticated series of cognitive loops upon existing automata-technology, he crafted a custom-built golem, Blitzcrank, to help in the clean-up. Blitzcrank was instrumental in saving scores of lives and appeared to develop a level of sentience beyond anything Viktor had envisioned.
Even with the spill contained, Viktor remained in Zaun to help those afflicted by the released toxins. With the golem’s help, he attempted to use his techmaturgical brilliance to save those whose lives had been blighted by the spill. Their attempt was ultimately unsuccessful in preventing more deaths, and the two parted ways. Though Viktor was distraught at the loss of life in Zaun, the work taught him a great deal about the merging of human anatomy with technology and how mortal anatomy could be enhanced with technology.
When Viktor returned to Piltover, weeks later, it was to find that Professor Stanwick had held a symposium on Blitzcrank and presented Viktor’s researches as his own. Viktor lodged formal complaints with the masters of the college, but his impassioned claim that he had designed Blitzcrank fell on deaf ears. He turned to Jayce to verify his claims, but his fellow student refused to speak up, further widening the rift between them, and the matter was decided in Professor Stanwick’s favor.
Bitter, but resigned, Viktor returned to his studies, knowing that his ultimate goal of making people’s lives better and enhancing humanity was more important than one stolen project and a bruised ego. He continued to excel, finding ever new ways to eliminate human error and weakness from his work, a facet of his researches that came to dominate his thinking. He saw human involvement in any part of a process as a grossly inefficient aberration - a view that put him at odds with a great many of his fellow students and professors, who saw the very things Viktor sought to remove as the source of human ingenuity and creativity.
This came to a head during a reluctant collaboration with Jayce to improve the diving suits used to keep Piltover’s docks clear of underwater debris and lingering chemical waste. Viktor and Jayce’s enhanced suits allowed the wearer to go deeper, remain underwater for longer, and lift heavier weights. But many wearers claimed they saw phantom corpse lights in the depths or suffered from chem-induced hallucinations. When divers experienced such symptoms, they panicked and often got themselves or their fellow divers killed. Viktor saw the problem was not technical, but with the wearer’s nerves unraveling in the inky depths. He devised a chem-shunt helm that allowed an operator on the surface to bypass the wearer’s fear response and, effectively, control the diver. A heated discussion between Viktor and Jayce on free will and mental enslavement turned bitter - almost violent - and the two vowed never to work together again.
Jayce reported the incident to the college masters, and Viktor was censured for violating basic human dignity - though, in his eyes, his work would have saved many lives. He was expelled from the college, and retreated to his old laboratory in Zaun, disgusted by the narrow-minded perceptions of Piltover’s inhabitants. Alone in the depths, Viktor sank into a deep depression, enduring a traumatic period of introspection for many weeks. He wrestled with the ethical dilemma he now faced, finding that, once again, human emotion and weakness had stood in his way. He had been trying to help, to enhance people beyond their natural capabilities to avoid error and save lives. Revelation came when he realized that he too had succumbed to such emotions, allowing his naive belief that good intentions could overcome ingrained prejudice to blind him to human failings.
Viktor knew he could not expect others to follow where he did not go first, so, in secret, he operated on himself to remove those parts of his flesh and psyche that relied upon or were inhibited by emotion.
When the surgery was done, almost no trace of the young man who had traveled to Piltover remained. He had supplanted the majority of his anatomy with mechanical augmentations, but his personality had also changed. His idealistic hope to better society was refined into an obsession with what he called the Glorious Evolution. Viktor now saw himself as the pioneer of Valoran's future - an idealized dream where man would renounce flesh in favor of superior hextech augmentations. This would free humanity from fatal errors and suffering, though Viktor knew it was a task that would not be completed easily or quickly.
He threw himself into this great work with a vengeance. He used technological augmentations to help rebuild Zaunites injured in accidents, perfected breathing mechanisms, and worked tirelessly to reduce human inefficiency by decoupling physicality from emotion. His work saved hundreds of lives, yet seeking Viktor’s help could be dangerous, as his solutions often brought unexpected consequences.
But if you were desperate, Viktor was the man you went to.
Some in Zaun, hearing fragments of his philosophy and seeing the successes of his work, saw him as a messianic figure. Viktor couldn’t care less for them, viewing their quasi-religious cult as an aberration; yet another reason to eliminate emotional foibles and the belief in that which could not be empirically proven.
After a toxic event in the Sump saw hundreds of men and women in the Factorywood transformed into rabid psychotics, Viktor was forced to use a powerful soporific to sedate the victims and bring them back to his labs to try and undo the damage. The toxins had begun to eat away portions of their brains, but Viktor was able to slow the degenerative process by opening up their craniums and employing machinery to slowly filter their bloodstreams of poison. The technology available to him wasn’t up to the task, and Viktor knew many people were going to die unless he found a way to greatly enhance his purgative machinery.
As he fought to save these people, he detected a surge in hextech energy from Piltover and saw immediately that this could give him the power he needed. He followed the powerful energy surge to its source.
Viktor demanded Jayce hand over the source of this power, a pulsing crystal from the Shuriman desert. But his former colleague refused, leaving Viktor no option but to take it by force. He returned to Zaun and hooked the strange crystal to his machinery, readying a steam golem host for each afflicted person in case their body gave out under the stress of the procedure. Empowered by the new crystal, Viktor’s machines went to work and, gradually, the damage from the toxins began to reverse. His work would save these people - in a manner of speaking - and had Viktor retained more than a fragment of his humanity, he might have celebrated. As it was, the barest hint of a smile was all he allowed himself.
Before the process could complete, a vengeful Jayce burst in and started smashing the laboratory with an energized hammer. Knowing an arrogant fool like Jayce would never listen to reason, Viktor ordered the automatons to kill Jayce. The battle was ferocious, and only ended when Jayce shattered the crystal Viktor had taken, bringing the entire warehouse down in an avalanche of steel and stone, thus ending the existence of those Viktor was trying to save. And for this, Jayce returned to Piltover, feted as a hero.
Viktor escaped the destruction of the laboratory, and returned to his mission of bettering humanity by ridding it of its destructive emotional impulses. In Viktor’s mind, Jayce’s impetuous attack only proved the truth of his cause and strengthened his desire to unburden humanity of the failings of flesh. Viktor did send chem-augmented thugs to raid Jayce’s laboratory not long afterward. This was - Viktor told himself - not for revenge, but to learn if there were any more shards of the Shuriman crystal he could use for the advancement of mankind. The raid was unsuccessful, however, and Viktor thought no more of Jayce.
Instead, he intensified his efforts to find ways in which humanity could be shepherded beyond their emotional weaknesses and brought into a new, more reasoned stage of their evolution. Such researches sometimes transgress the boundaries of what would be considered ethical in Piltover (and Zaun), but they are all necessary steps in bringing about Viktor’s Glorious Evolution."
Viktor Story: House on Emberflit Alley
"Viktor’s third arm emitted a thin ray of light that welded metal into his left arm with steady precision. The smell of burning flesh no longer bothered him, nor did the sight of his left wrist splayed open, veins and sinewy muscle fused with mechanical augments.
He did not wince. Instead, he felt a sense of achievement gazing at the seamless blend of synthetic and organic materials.
The sound of children shouting gave Viktor pause. Rarely did anyone venture down the fog-bound confines of Emberflit Alley. He had chosen this location for that very reason — he preferred not to be interrupted.
Keeping his left arm immobile, Viktor adjusted a silver dial on his iridoscope. The device contained a series of mirrored lenses that angled light to allow him full view of the street outside his laboratory.
Several children were violently shoving a malnourished boy toward Viktor’s wrought iron gates.
“I doubt Naph will last a minute in there,” said a girl with imitation gemstones embedded above her eyes.
“I bet he comes back with a brass head,” said a boy with a shock of red hair. “Maybe then his brain won’t be dull as the Gray.”
“You better return with something we can sell, or we’ll be the ones to give you a new head,” said the largest one, grabbing the small boy by the neck and forcing him forward.
The other children backed away, watching.
The young boy trembled as he approached the towering gate, which screeched as he pushed it open. He passed the front door encrusted with interlocking gears and shimmied through an open window. An alarm blared as he fell to the floor.
Viktor sighed and pressed a switch that quieted the ringing.
The skinny boy stared at his new environment. Glass jars, containing organic and metal organs floating in green fluid, lined the walls. A leather gurney stained with blood, upon which lay a mechanized drill, sat in the center of the chamber. Dozens of automatons stood motionless against every wall. To Viktor, his laboratory was a sanctuary for his most creative and vital experiments, but he could imagine it might seem frightening to a child.
The boy’s eyes widened in shock when he saw Viktor at his workbench, arm splayed open on the table. He ducked behind a nearby crate.
“You will not learn anything from that box, child,” said Viktor. “But on top of it, you will find a bone chisel. Hand it to me, please.”
A trembling hand reached to the top of the crate and grasped the handle of the rusted metal tool. The chisel slid across the floor to Viktor, who picked it up.
“Thank you,” said Viktor, who wiped off the instrument and continued work on his arm.
Viktor heard the boy’s rapid breathing.
“I am replacing the twisting flexor tendons — ahem, the broken mechanism in my wrist,” Viktor said, reaching into his arm to adjust a bolt. “Would you like to watch?”
The boy peeked his head around the crate.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” said the boy.
“No,” said Viktor. “When one eliminates the anticipation and fear of pain, it becomes entirely bearable.”
“It also helps that my arm is almost completely mechanized. See for yourself.”
The boy stepped away from the crate and sat across from Viktor without a word, eyes fixed on his arm.
Viktor resumed welding a new boltdrive onto the tendons beneath his skin. When he had finished, he sealed the flaps of dermis onto his arm. He drew the beam of light across the seam, cauterizing his flesh and fusing the incision.
“Why did you do that?” the boy asked. “Didn’t your arm work fine as it was?”
“Do you know what humanity’s greatest weakness is?”
“No...” said the boy.
“Humans consistently ignore the endless infinity of possibilities in favor of maintaining the status quo.”
The boy gave him a blank stare.
“People fear change,” Viktor said. “They settle with fine when they could have exceptional.”
Viktor walked to his stovetop. He mixed a blend of dark powder and Dunpor cream into a saucepan, heating the liquid with his laser.
“Would you like a glass of sweetmilk?” said Viktor. “A weakness of mine, but I have always enjoyed the anise flavor.”
“Um... you’re not going to saw off my head and replace it with a metal one?”
“Ah. Is that what they think of me now?” Viktor asked.
“Pretty much,” said the boy. “I heard one kid had theirs replaced just because they had a cough.”
“Did you get this information directly?” said Viktor.
“No, it was my neighbor Bherma’s cousin. Or uncle. Or something like that.”
“Ah. Well in that case.”
“Would replacing someone’s head even get rid of a cough?” asked the boy.
“Now you are asking the right questions,” said Viktor. “No, I imagine it would not be much of an upgrade. Coughing stems from the lungs, you see. And to your earlier point, I am not going to saw your head off and replace it with a metal one. Unless, of course, you want that.”
“No thanks,” said the boy.
Viktor poured the thick liquid into two mugs and passed one to the boy, who stared longingly at the hot drink.
“It is not drugged,” said Viktor and took a sip from his own mug. The boy gulped down the sweetmilk.
“Are the others still watching outside?” said the boy through stained teeth.
Viktor glanced through his iridoscope. The three children were still waiting by the front entrance.
“Indeed they are. Do you wish to give them a scare?” Viktor said.
The boy’s eyes lit up, and he nodded.
Viktor handed him a sonophone and said, “Scream as loud as you can into this.”
The boy gave an exaggerated, blood-curdling shriek into the sonophone. It echoed along Emberflit Alley, and the other children jumped in terror, quickly scattering to hide. The boy looked at Viktor and grinned.
“I find that fear is more often than not a limiting emotion,” said Viktor. “Tell me something that scares you, for example.”
“The Chem-Barons are feared because they project an air of dominance and often the threat of violence. If no one feared them, people would stand up to them. And then where would their power go?”
“Away. Exactly. Think of how many Chem-Barons exist compared to how many people live in Zaun. Fear is used by the powerful few to control the weak because they understand how fear works. If someone can manipulate your emotions, they can control you.”
“I guess that makes sense. But I’m still afraid of them,” said the boy.
“Of course you are. Patterns of fear are carved deep into your very flesh. Steel, however, has no such weakness.”
Viktor retrieved a vial containing miniscule silver beads floating in milky fluid.
“That is where I may be able to assist,” he said. “I have developed an augmentation that eliminates fear altogether. I could let you try it out for a short time.”
“The implant will dissolve in twenty minutes.”
“You’re sure it’s not permanent?”
“It can be, but not this one. You might find that without fear, your friends out there lose their grip. Bullies feed on fear, you see. And without it, they will starve.”
The boy nursed his drink, considering the offer. After a moment he nodded to Viktor, who inserted a thin needle into the vial and injected one of the silver beads into the skin behind his ear.
The boy shuddered for a moment. Then he smiled.
“Do you feel your weakness falling away?” Viktor asked.
“Oh yes,” said the boy.
Viktor walked him to the door and twisted a dial to unlock it before waving him out.
“Remember, you can always return if you wish a more permanent solution.”
A wave of fog created a ghostly silhouette around the boy as he emerged from the laboratory. Viktor returned to his workbench to watch the experiment through his iridoscope.
Emberflit Alley was empty, but as soon as the boy walked out his companions emerged.
“Where’s our souvenir?” asked the red-haired boy.
“Doesn’t seem like little Naph has held up his end of the deal,” said the girl.
“Guess we have to punish him,” added the large boy. “We did promise him a new head today, after all.”
“Don’t you touch me,” said Naph. He raised himself to his tallest height.
The bully reached for Naph’s neck, but Naph turned and punched him square in the face.
Blood streamed from the bully’s nose.
“Grab him!” the bully screamed.
But his companions were no longer interested in grabbing him.
Naph stepped toward the bullies. They stepped back.
“Get away from me,” he said.
The bullies eyed each other, then turned and ran.
Viktor closed his iridoscope and returned to his work. He stretched the fingers of his newly repaired arm and tapped them on his desk in satisfaction."
Zaun ArtLast up we have a few bits of Zaun related art to share from the page!
Piltover/Zaun Full Background Art
This article was last updated on January 18th. Future updates & edits will be noted below.
- [1/12 - Publish] Zaun page added. Zaun story, Janna Bio/story, Zac bio/story, Ekko bio.
- [1/18 - Update #1] Zaun page updated with Warwick story and bio.
- [1/26 - Update #2] Zaun page updated with Free Zaun icon + new Jinx, Viktor, Blitzcrank, and Dr. Mundo stories