A little bit different this time around. If I have lots of these, I may just set up some unified thread.
In any case, reader, enjoy this short tale from the plagued streets of Zaun!
[CENTER]Shadow Riders - The Reunion[/CENTER]
The city-state of Zaun. An ecological hellhole, its citizens and top scientific minds more than willing to sacrifice everything in the name of progress. Home to more deadly substances than the rest of Valoran combined. And, for some reason, a favourite meeting spot for a certain pair of bandmates.
Two pairs of hands were locked in a conversation. One was large and armoured, the other feminine and far more delicate. The two members of Pentakill enjoyed this style of communication immensely, if only because of the privacy it almost magically created. Few insane scientists bothered learning the language, after all:
“It grew so fast!”
“It does that when you give it lots of attention.”
“And it’s so large, too.”
“Those special chemicals Singed gave us helped. Best product on the market, truly.”
“So,” the maven looked up with hope in her eyes, “do you think it will bloom soon?”
“At this rate? Can’t take more than a few weeks.”
A wide smile decorated her lips. The gifted flower was something very special to her, she had been taking care of it for almost a year. Pentakill had grown exponentially, as well, adding two more members and further solidifying its position as the number one within Zaun and, therefore, Valoran. Everything seemed to be going well.
Suddenly, in the distance, screams could be heard. Both turned to see people running to clear a path for... something. The sound of hooves impacting the stone paths of Zaun soon dominated the air. But what emerged from those alleyways was far more than some ordinary horse.
The creature was equal parts man, equine and wraith. Blue flames burned along its skin, in place of its eyes, hair and most prominently within a demonic maw, seemingly carved directly into its flesh. Something metallic shone in his hands. The horseman accelerated after sighting them, came to a final, screeching halt mere metres away and stood on his hind legs. The Master of Metal stood firm, while she readied her etwahl behind him.
The front hooves impacted the pavement, crushing the stone under their weight. A massive glaive was pointed directly at the metallic titan. Both demonic faces seemed to cackle. The inhabitants of Zaun watched on from a safe distance. The beast-man spoke, his voice deep and booming:
“I could feel your touch from a few miles away! Didn’t think I’d see you again so soon.”
“Is that so?” Mordekaiser replied, with just as much aggression. His mace was still casually rested by his side.
“Oh, indeed. Do not presume that I have forgotten about our last meeting, or about what I still owe you,” the onlookers watched the creature reach for a small pouch tied around his waist. He threw it to the titan, who caught it with a clang, as metal hit his armour. The glaive assumed a less dangerous position and the horseman finished, “the darned thing bloomed a week after you left.”
Everyone around started to loosen up a bit.
“That’s why you don’t bet against an expert.”
“Too true,” and with that, they both laughed for a good minute, dispelling any remaining feelings of danger. Life around them returned back to normal. Their fists clashed against each other, “long time no see, old friend.”
“Too long, some might say,” the Maven of Strings literally stepped out of Mordekaiser’s shadow, attracting the horseman’s gaze. Mordekaiser turned soon afterwards, “Sona, this is an old, nay, ancient friend of mine. Hecarim. Hecarim, this is Sona Buvelle, Runeterra’s most skilled musician.”
“The pleasure is all mine, my lady,” he bowed down to a man’s height. She returned the gesture, though not as extremely. And with a slight hint of red on her cheeks.
“To avoid an awkward situation in the future, she is unfortunately mute,” she nodded.
Hecarim barked at the Master of Metal in an irritated tone:
“Oh, I can still hear it now!”
Mockingly, the horseman continued:
“Oh, Hecarim! Why would you ever need sign language! Don’t even bother with it!”
“That was sixteen years ago,” an armoured finger pointed at the horseman’s head, “and you know it. Besides, if I could learn it, the great and mighty Hecarim shouldn’t have any problems with it.”
The other cackled:
“I missed that condescending tone.”
Sona kept listening to this conversation. So far, she had giggled three times.
“Brings back memories, doesn’t it? What exactly are you doing here, anyway?”
“I have two reasons for travelling so far. First, the Isles have changed. A bit too much for my tastes.”
“Too many left. First Evelynn, then you, then that one gravedigger, can’t remember his name. Of course,” he made a dangerous swipe with his glaive while gesturing. The blade flew a few inches above Morde’s head, making Sona flinch. The Master of Metal seemed to be used to such behaviour, ”the darned ghouls followed him, because the only attributes they have are hunger and stupidity. Suddenly, the zombie population skyrockets. They now have rights, because they’re in the majority,” another slash, this time close to the right shoulder, “I mean, zombies with rights?! It’s absurd. I’m not existing in a place where wraiths are no longer superior to a mere walking corpse!”
“You can’t stop progress.”
“No, but I could kill zombies once.”
“A fair point. Still,” their gazes were locked, “I know you. Some petty rights can’t get in your way. Why are you here, old friend?”
He sighed and the glaive finally assumed a relaxed position:
“I kept thinking about our last meeting,” he looked up at the chemical-infested skies of Zaun. They seemed so much like home, “I can see it before my eyes. You, standing next to me on a dead zombie, talking about faraway lands. About the unusual plagues some of its denizens carried. About eternal glory upon some artificial battlefield. Yet I was not impressed.”
“And that’s when we parted ways.”
“But that day has been stuck in my memory ever since. The longer I stayed alone, the more I realised there simply wasn’t a place for me on the Isles anymore. As you said, I couldn’t stop progress,” he looked back down to the pair. Sona seemed sad, “so here I am, to find a place for me on this eternal battlefield.”
“Wait, you seek the League of Legends. Why are you this far north?”
“Well, I must have taken a wrong turn. Then I felt your touch on some surroundings. And the rest, you know.”
“That I do,” he turned to his bandmate, “let’s show him the way to the warp station, what do you say?”
She answered in their speech:
“He seems like such a nice person. Of course.”
The nice person quickly chipped in:
“Warp what? And what was that?”
“Warp station. A dedicated summoner can transport you to another such station instantly.”
“And Sona thinks you’re horrifying.”
The maven was prepared to shoot an angry look at her bandmate, but the horseman’s laughter made her look up, instead:
“Thank you, my lady. I bet some foolish cavalrymen would agree with you.”
“Well, I may have charged through-,” an incredibly loud crash suddenly spread across all of Zaun, “what was that?!”
Sona pointed into the distance and the two followed her gaze. Not too far away, a new, unwanted pillar of smoke was rising from an industrial structure. Mordekaiser spoke, his gaze on Sona:
“That factory... that is Singed’s, isn’t it?” a nod.
“You’ll see. Come, I bet he could use our help.”
After a short run through Zaun’s twisting streets, they reached what had once been a factory wall, now replaced by a large, gaping hole. Strange liquids leaked from within the structure, carrying every colour. Figures in black robes with gas masks were running back and forth, desperately trying to scoop up the undoubtedly unhealthy fluids and put out fires.
In the midst of it all stood an almost skeletal shell of a man, wrapped in bandages and missing his almost trademark shield. The humongous flask still rested on his back, providing him with everything he needed to survive. The same chemicals which had destroyed the rest of him. Another robed apprentice stood nearby, taking notes. As the trio approached, the junior chemist looked up, while the master kept talking:
“And we really need to make sure we build explosion-proof walls. Acid resistance just isn’t enough these days.”
“Master Singed,” the scribe pointed towards them and Singed turned
“Ah, splendid,” he came closer, his gaze first resting on the two he knew, “Mordekaiser, lady Sona,” before finally moving to the horseman, ”and I believe we haven’t met before.”
“Hecarim. And I presume you are the one known as Singed.”
“In the flesh! Well, the flesh I have left. In any case, you come at a most ideal time.”
“I can tell,” the Master of Metal looked at the gaping hole in the wall, “what happened here?”
“I added too much crystallised drakefire. That’s not the problem, though. I have a special squad trained to clean these things up.”
“I’m afraid to ask. What’s the real problem?”
“Well, I may or may not have had a large group of test subjects present within holding cells behind that now-missing wall. Perfectly legal, willing test subjects. Not that they would have told you otherwise.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s one,” he motioned to a carcass on the ground, being pulled by two apprentices. It was crimson-red ant, almost as large as a horse, “I managed to stop it. At least I know my growth serum works. Forgot Ionian Solar Ants could spit acid, though. An honest mistake.”
“Wait,” Hecarim already sounded excited, “so we have an army of giant, acid-spitting ants loose in the streets?”
“Twenty-nine of them. And a, well, rather questionably obtained Emperor War Beetle from the Plague Jungles. That one does not spit acid, though.”
“Please tell me we get to smash things,” the glaive slashed through the air, though nowhere near anyone for once.
“Calm down, four-hooves,” Morde’s mace, however, was also ready, “so, do we get to smash things?”
“Ideally before they cause too much damage, yes. As far as we could tell, they were heading for Cauldron Square. Oh, Lady Sona, may I also request your healing talents? Some of my apprentices were injured in the blast.”
After a nod, she turned to the titan, her hands speaking:
“Be careful out there. Both of you.”
“Don’t worry. They don’t stand a chance.”
Then, she slightly lifted up his helmet and gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
“For good luck.”
“They are really dead now.”
She smiled, then left for the factory with Singed, leaving two old friends together.
The more bestial of the two was grinning:
“I take it you two are close?”
“You could say that. Problem?”
Hecarim’s hands made a defensive gesture:
“Of course not. Just saying, you always were into the musical types.”
“You piece of...”
“I can still hear the siren sisters now, when they found out you were going out with both at the same time! Nearly shook the isles in half, that shriek.”
“You always remind me of that. I hate you.”
“Much obliged. Now,” the horseman seemed to kneel, then motioned towards his back, “come on!”
“You sure, old wraith? You seem rather frail.”
“Shut up and get on. Just like old times.”
“Brings back memories, eh?”
With one impressive leap, the half-horse was mounted. Annoyance ensued, after a grunt:
“What have you been eating, man?”
Morde grabbed onto the wraith’s left shoulder, his mace firmly in his right hand:
“Whiny little babies! Now come on, we have a city-state to save!”
“A few buildings, more like. Guide me.”
He stood on his hind legs and roared to the sky, forcing his rider to hold on with greater intensity. And in the blink of an eye, they were off, charging through the rather vacant streets of Zaun.
The Master of Metal shouted the directions and soon, they reached their destination. Cauldron Square, now overrun by a force of organic siege engines. The six-legged menaces spewed its acid at everything but themselves, more than easily damaging surrounding structures. Two of them immediately noticed the approaching duo and moved to intercept.
“Aren’t they cute, trying to stop us,” with incredible speed, Hecarim’s glaive sailed through the air, neatly cutting through flesh and chitin, “hahaaah!”
Five in total. The horseman turned to deal with two, while the rider, with a single movement of his palm, released a powerful shockwave of energy, turning the rest into little more than meat. Acid began raining from the sky and Hecarim took evasive action, smashing an unfortunate ant under his hooves for even attempting to stand in his way.
Rider and ridden stood in the middle of Cauldron Square and soon realised they were surrounded from all sides. And that the ants looked pretty angry. And both grinned at the same time. With his voice full of delight, Mordekaiser shouted:
“Ready, metal lord!”
In perfect unison, their hands moved. The Master of Metal touched Hrcarim’s back, while the Shadow of War carried his demonic, blue flames into the air. Within moments, their immediate surroundings were filled with razor-sharp chunks of steel and haunted by unnatural flame. And the maelstrom moved, consuming any foe in their path, leaving behind even less than meat.
Three still remained when the storm finally died down. The duo charged forward, glaive slashing, mace smashing and laughter echoing. And finally, there were no more overgrown ants within the square. Hecarim admired their handiwork:
“That was fun! Just like old times. If you replace ants with... well, anything.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I feel as if we have forgotten about something.”
Without warning, a monstrous form suddenly burst through a nearby wall. Nearly half a metre taller than them, the beast’s massive, jet-black pincers seemed ready to easily snap them in half.
“I think that’s it.”
“You’re still observant, wraith,” the monster screeched, “we need a new battle plan.”
“You don’t say,” as they were charging away from the pursuing creature, the horseman got an idea, “oh, I know! Combo attack!”
“You mean the Metal Comet Strike?!”
“Overkill. Let’s do this. Dodge to the side!”
A swift change of direction made the massive insect crash right into a building. Swiftly, the Master of Metal stood up on Hecarim’s back, his mace already pulsing with destructive energy. Just as the beast started turning, the horseman briefly knelt. Then, with incredible speed and force, he kicked upwards with his hind legs.
Mordekaiser was sent soaring into the air and raised his mace even higher. The abomination below was still fixed upon the other warrior. With a cackle, he descended, ready to strike. A shockwave spread across the streets of Zaun, as a few tonnes of metal and flesh impacted the ground with the power of an inferno bomb. There wasn’t much left of the Emperor War Beetle after that. Just a large, round crater in the pavement.
The duo ended the battle not with words, but a meeting of their palms high in the air.
The robed ones soon filled the square, gathering and cleaning the leftovers of the battle. The scribe was among them, counting the damage. The two champions approached him and Hecarim asked:
“Are there going to be problems for Singed?”
He would have looked amused, had he not been wearing the gas mask:
“Master Singed? Oh, no, perfectly fine, as long as we pay for the damage. Even if we didn’t, the Council of Progress wouldn’t stay angry for long.”
“And why’s that?” the horseman inquired.
“Singed practically owns over half of Zaun,” Morde knew the tale only too well, “his factories are the sole entity capable of meeting the city-state’s massive demand for various chemicals. Basically, no Singed, no experiments.”
“And no experiments, no progress,” the scribe finished, “it’s simple, really, the world of Zaunite politics.”
In the distance, a calming melody could be heard. And with it, came the master chemist’s voice:
“Great work, gentlemen,” he closed the distance and patted both on the shoulders, though Hecarim’s was almost too high to reach, “I am in your debt. If you ever need some special concoction, you know who to turn to.”
“We’ll keep that in mind. Now, I do believe,” Sona came within reach and so, he gently lifted her onto Hecarim’s back, much to her surprise, “that a lady should never have to walk. What do you think, old friend?”
“I think that compared to your armoured arse, she feels like a feather. Now, where is this warpal state or somesuch?”
Scribe and master watched them vanish around the corner, the largest two still bickering.
“A fascinating group, isn’t it?”
“Indeed, master Singed. Now, where may we put these,” the apprentice motioned to several filled carts, “remains?”
“Oh, those? Just drop them by the vats, they’ll be safe there,” suddenly, his keen eye noticed an unusual fluid leaking from an unconnected limb. Immediately, he snatched it from the pile, “on second thought, bring them to my lab. I need to test this.”
And he ran ahead, making sure not to spill the precious liquid. The scribe commented:
“Another day in Zaun.”
A reply came from among the others:
“Not as annoying as the tickling drones old Nalik released last week, though.”
“True. And also less destructive.”
And with that, the sun slowly started sinking into the horizon. But no one saw that through the thick smog.
I thought I replied to this the day you posted. Love it when my comments are devoured like that.
I meant to mention that I enjoyed reading, but I'm not surprised. I think the last line was my favorite. perfect ending, but kept it realistic for the area the story took place. Didn't lose sight of your surroundings, even in the end. Good job
This is so cool, it needs to be read by Riot right now. Though never read this kind of work before, and as 'not-so-involved-in-readings' i must say i liked this one a lot, and, for the surroundings this story took place, i felt identified that you imagined those surroundings almost the same way i did, of course with your own tweaks. surely a +1 to this, Mr D. Tensei!
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