As a preface, it's been a few months since I've really written something I've been proud of, and did this as part of a series of stories inspired by and set to music from Two Steps from Hell. If people like it, I've already concepted a few more stories starring other champions.
Set to: "El Dorado" by Two Steps from Hell.
As she crested the last tall, forested hill between the mountains and flatlands, Quinn stopped to survey the area, looking around her and noting the marks on the trees and bushes. Her target had passed through here no more than an hour before her. She was close. Shrugging her cloak off her shoulders she turned to the nearest tree and began to climb, her cloth and leather armor barely making a noise as she made her way up the scarred old oak tree.
Passing above the canopy, Quinn pulled herself up to a thickly-leaved branch and crouched down to make any distant eyes blind to her presence. She glanced up at the majestic blue eagle on a branch above her as he rustled his feathers. "We're almost done, Val," she said softly. "We'll be home soon." He gave an almost imperceptible nod, his piercing stare focused on something in the distance. The assassin.
Quinn turned back to the flatlands to figure out their next move, shifting her weight on the branch and adjusting the strap that held her crossbow against her back. The midsummer sun was still rising over the horizon, but the trading outpost at the edge of the forest was already alive with hundreds of people, creatures and yordles. Beyond the outpost and stretching out in every direction were the flatlands which would eventually give way to the hilly lands around Piltover in the Northeast and the arid wastelands around Zaun to the Southeast. "He's in the bazaar," Quinn said, more for her own sake than Valor's. The bird already knew where he was, never taking his gaze off of him. "We need to get him onto the flatlands. Chase him away from the crowds. Then we'll take him down."
She waited for another moment, letting the silence of the sunrise linger before slowly but expertly descending through the canopy, back to the forest floor. Her cloak lay where she had let it fall, and for a split second she thought to leave it before changing her mind, picking it up by its tattered hood and quickly putting it on. The ranger made her way down the wooded hillside quickly and quietly, always aware of her surroundings in case her target had set a trap for her. As she reached the bottom of the hill, with the sounds of salesmen and raucous travelers beginning to fill the air around her, she unclasped her quiver and reattached it over her cloak. It was time.
Breaking the edge of the trees, Quinn ran to the side of one of the buildings on the outskirts of the bazaar, quickly and silently climbing it as she had the oak earlier, and deftly removed the crossbow from its strap. She kept herself crouched low in the middle of the roof to keep herself invisible from the crowds below, absently polishing the brass paneling of her worn, wooden crossbow as she waited, counting down slowly from 10. The sounds of the people below seemed to fade as she concentrated. Five. The sun climbed higher in the sky, finally bathing the outpost in golden light. Four. Quinn loaded an arrow into the barrel and three more into a magazine she had gotten designed for her that would allow her to load and fire bolts simultaneously with the pull of a special trigger. Three. Slowly, the ranger stood to her full height, holding her crossbow in a ready position and examining the crowd. Two. A gentle breeze floated past her as she stood completely still, watching the crowd with the severity of an eagle's gaze. One.
A sudden, piercing screech shattered the wall of noise surrounding the bazaar, and in the second after it, everything seemed to slow down. Countless eyes turned to the sky to see what had made the noise. Shady salesmen attempted to snatch loose coins from the hands of shoppers, unsavory travelers reached for suddenly-unguarded goods on vendors' tables. Quinn saw it all, but quickly focused on the one man who was different. When Valor drew the attention of innocent eyes, he adjusted the hood on his head as if to hide further underneath it and turned to the nearest door. Silently, calmly Quinn aimed her crossbow, and watched her target's reaction as her steel-plated bolt slammed into the door, embedding itself an inch deep into solid oak.
The hooded target turned and sprinted down the middle of the bazaar's main street, pushing through startled shoppers as Quinn and Valor followed him on either side, blocking any attempt to turn into a shop or building and chasing him to the flatlands beyond the outpost's far walls. Quinn stopped on the rooftop of the last building, watching the man sprint through the gate and preparing to drop to a hay bale below as a flash in the corner of her eye caused her to tense up. She leapt past the hay, rolling as she hit the ground to avoid the force of the impact and sprinting hard out the gate. "Talon! Stop right there!"
Sounds of chaos and outrage in the bazaar behind her grew to a crescendo as she stared ahead, her crossbow aimed at Talon's chest as he turned to look back at her. Beyond the assassin, Valor had knocked the target to the ground and now glided above him, prepared to dive again if he tried to stand. "What are you doing here?" Quinn asked with all the authority she could find. "This man is my captive."
Talon appraised her in silence for a few moments before the sound of galloping horses took his attention. He and Quinn turned to the sound together, taking in the ranks of bandits charging toward them, maybe twenty in all, armed with knives and lances and clad in a motley of armors and cloaks taken from their victims. They must have been hiding, Quinn realized, waiting for a traveler to dare pass beyond the safety of the outpost's walls.
"Valor!" Quinn shouted, her call to attack coming as she impaled one of the oncoming bandits, killing him instantly and causing his horse to trip and fall as its rider's corpse fell under its hooves. With a pull of her secondary trigger, the ranger swept her crossbow in a tight arc and watched as three bolts found their targets in three more bandits, dropping them instantly as Valor screamed across the front line of bandits, clawing at the horses and startling them into rearing up and tossing their riders from their saddles.
Talon appeared without warning in between two horses, his knives already impaled deep in the chests of both riders, and he turned as the rest of the bandits flashed past him, throwing deadly shuriken after the ambushers and taking out the legs of the back lines. Quinn aimed down the sight of her crossbow at the last two bandits, standing her ground and watching their approach. High above, Valor gave a loud screech, and streaked down in a dive of dizzying speed as Quinn's steel bolt embedded itself in the heart of one bandit. The leader of them, the last on his horse, kept charging at the ranger, raising his lance high in preparation to strike. Quinn smirked. Like a bolt of blue lightning, Valor flashed past the bandit leader, taking his lance and right arm with him.
Easily dodging the still-charging horse and its wounded rider, Quinn took in the area again. Bandits who weren't dead or too injured to move were already running away into the flatlands. Valor started to climb into the air again. And with a sense of dread Quinn realized that her target had recovered and taken off for the forest, Talon following but quickly gaining on him. Taking off in a sprint, already breathing hard from the just-finished fight, Quinn ripped off her cloak and tossed it away behind her, aiming for the trees. She knew she would never outrun her target or Talon in the open fields, but in the trees she couldn't be matched. Valor streaked ahead of her, to follow the chase from the air and take any chance he could find of stopping the target.
The ground began to grow harder and rockier as she reached the treeline, and as she expertly dodged roots and closely-grown trees Quinn realized why - the man was running straight for an abandoned quarry, and if he couldn't stop himself he would never survive the fall. "Talon!" she cried out, trying to give some warning of the quickly approaching cliff as she could hear the sounds of his cloak clinking together, ever closer. She was gaining on them, and hoped she wouldn't be too late. "Valor!"
There was the edge, and Talon grabbing her target's arm before they both disappeared over the edge. "Valor!" Quinn shouted again, not hesitating before diving over the cliff face after them. Grabbing her crossbow by its curved steel limb, she held it down toward Talon as far as she could. She watched in the freefall as he stabbed at it with one of his knives, embedding deep in the wood as Valor swooped down and grabbed the quiver on Quinn's back, thrusting down hard with his powerful wings to ease their fall. As their momentum slowed, Quinn stared down at her crossbow, splintered down the barrel by Talon's blade. Her weapon had cost her almost all the money she owned, and she knew this damage would be impossible to repair.
Valor managed to set the three down with only a slight bump at the base of the quarry, and flew off to an old lamppost to perch there and recover his strength. Sitting on the ground and panting heavily, staring at the knife that still sat in her crossbow, Quinn could hear Talon checking on the unconscious target. "Why are you here?"
"Following you," Talon said simply, turning to look at her.
The assassin walked over to her and reached down, slowly pulling his knife out of her crossbow. "I don't really care about being followed or being wanted," he said, sheathing the blade, "but if I don't have to deal with that, it makes my job a lot easier."
Quinn nodded quietly, standing and staring at him. "You owe me a weapon."
Laughing, Talon turned away and started for the quarry's exit. "Next time then."
Valor watched the assassin leave, and Quinn couldn't tell whether the eagle just didn't like Talon, or was upset he never got a 'Thank you' for saving his life. She smiled a little and strapped the crossbow onto her back. "Let's go home, Val."
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