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A short story I've written shedding light on one of the League's most enigmatic personas.
"There! Now you can have your Void-blasted shield!" With a sneer of disgust, the large, pink shopkeeper flung the wooden shield to the stone floor. The tiny champion shook her disproportionately large hammer at him in a rage.
"You expect me to pick that up, you disgusting cretin?" she cried. Her voice was surprisingly full for a Yordle, lacking the squeaky quality the shopkeeper was accustomed to hearing from the little people. Later, he would wonder whether she had developed this trait herself in her role as Bandle City emissary to Demacia, or if it came naturally. "I'd sooner smash it to bits than stoop to picking up after you!" And she raised her hammer threateningly.
"Do what you will, you snobbish churl," the shopkeeper replied. "I've already got your gold, it makes no difference to me."
"Swine!" she screamed, stepping forward, her blue skin tinged red. As she did so, her teammate, the tall Stanpar warrior, Pantheon, clasped a restraining hand on her shoulder. The mighty warrior jerked forward, having difficulty holding her in a dignified fashion despite her size. "Slime! Sewer rat!"
"Hey," protested Twitch, standing nearby. The Plague Rat's sarcastic personality made it difficult to tell whether he was joking or really hurt.
"It's not worth it," Pantheon insisted sternly. "Now come, Champion Poppy. Let us take the top lane." Poppy glared at the shopkeeper for a beat with a look that was in danger of burning down his shop. The shopkeeper returned her look with annoyance fast dissipating into indifference. With a final snort of anger, Poppy whipped around, as if she could not stand the sight of the Manbaconian any longer. Noticing the shield, she gave it only a moment's thought; then, with a flick of her hammer, she sent the wooden armament spinning into Pantheon's shield. It hit by its iron rim and bounced off with a twang, straight back into Poppy's waiting grasp. Without looking back to see if the shopkeeper had noticed this symbolic feat, she strode off, Pantheon walking behind just in case she changed her mind.
The shopkeeper turned his attention to Twitch, the only champion on the team who remained. He was a truly foul creature, wearing rags, perpetually dirty. The shopkeeper, however, was not going to make the covers of any magazines himself. He was large, about seven feet tall, and very rotund as well. He wore a simple purple robe for its comfort, which hid most all his body but his face - pink, with a large snout, and yellow eyes.
"Women," the Plague Rat said, baring his row of rotted teeth in a wicked grin. " What the Void are you gonna do, huh? Just give me one of Doran's fine blades and a pot, kind sir." The shopkeeper, pleased with Twitch's courtesy (faintly mocking as it did sound), completed the transaction without grimacing at the champion's foul smell. As the Zaunite abomination slithered away, a wispy projection of a woman in fantastic robes appeared before his shop.
"What's going on down there?" she asked. "Poppy's summoner is frothing at the mouth, and the match hasn't even started!"
"The little imp tried to haggle down my prices," the shopkeeper said.
"But those prices are set by the League," replied the projection.
"Well, I think she knew that from the years she's been here. Just wanted a little early advantage, is all." The summoner sighed, raising her hands to massage her temples.
"I'm not agreeing with her, but if you had just shown the champion a little respect, I'm sure this could have been avoided." The shopkeeper shrugged.
"Who do I care whether it's avoided or not?" he asked. "If one of these champions wants to rile themselves up arguing over League-decided prices, that's their business." The summoner, clearly having a bad day already, shook her head and ended the projection. The shopkeeper allowed himself a smug smile as he settled back in his booth, and reflected on his last two sales. He was satisfied that both proved he had acquired what he'd come to the League for: power.
Manbaconians were not, as a race, an industrious lot. Ambition, by the standards of the other civilized races, was seen as a sign of vanity. Generally the Manbaconians preferred to get the unpleasantness of work out of the way so they could indulge in their favorite pastime - relaxing. This could take many forms: mudbaths, naps, idle chatter in their oinking native tongue. This last hobby was often accompanied by the most popular activity, which was smoking. A strong tradition among Manbaconians, their finely crafted smoking pipes (a craft which, being also a hobby, was not technically work) were much prized in the region.
In this lethargic but generally pleasant culture, the young swine who would eventually become the shopkeeper of the League of Legends never really belonged. Although he showed some early interest in blacksmithing which his parents lackadaisically encouraged, he always seemed to fall into capitalistic pursuits his fellows found unseemly. Whether it was selling worms as a piglet, or hawking his own line of homemade feeding troughs as a teenager, he was always striving in endeavors that alienated him from others. Yet by the time he was told, shortly after his successful chain of mudbath facilities starting attracting too much notice, that other societies might more value his ambitious tendencies (the somewhat half-hearted Manbaconian version of exile), he had learned a valuable lesson: if people depend on what you're giving them, then you have power over them.
The match was over. The shopkeeper had not paid much attention, and did not know who won. He didn't care. As he packed up his booth, stuffing items into an enchanted sack which never ran out of space and never grew heavy, he reflected on those free-spirited days in which, as a young Manbaconian, he had travelled Valoran seeking power through mercantalism. He had several mementos which he always kept in his booth - the dinged shoulderplate of a set of armor, a relic from his days trading in the Demacian military surplus market. A stick wrapped in horse fur with a worthless fake gem set at its head, from a series of shameless scams he'd pulled on the Freljordians.
He smiled at the memory of fleeing across the tundra, a dozen angry barbarians at his back, equal parts terrified and exhilarated as he shouted over his shoulder, "No refunds!" Despite those fondly-remembered adventures, the Manbaconian was a merchant at heart, and being a con man left a bad smell in his snout.
His booth was nearly packed. He grabbed up a final memento and turned it over for a few moments in his hands, making sure it still worked. It was a timepiece, nearly as big as his hand, which he'd been given in Zaun. The city-state, with its rivers of industrial vomit and dirty, crumbling buildings, had been the only place where he'd almost felt at home. It was there he learned being a merchant could be respectable. The Zaunites needed capitalism, perhaps more than any other people, their city-state being driven by chemists and inventors in need of a wide range of materials. There, the Manbaconian's industriousness had earned him the respect of a local summoner, who had gifted him with the timepiece. How it functioned, the shopkeeper couldn't begin to guess, so he simply took the best care of it he could and hoped it didn't stop ticking before he did.
Of course, once the Manbaconian was in with summoners, all roads led to the
League of Legends. In years to come, his worldliness made him a trusted advisor when the League assembled its official shop inventory for the Fields of Justice. And once this shop was ready, he was a natural pick to run it. Set in a Field of Justice for the whole world to see, protected by the League and protected from the rabid fighting on the field, it was perhaps the safest place to set up shop in Valoran. And since the arena combat had to be strictly controlled in the interests of fairness, so did his prices. It was a dream job, and, for a merchant, a position of unassailable power.
His booth packed, the shopkeeper turned to amble to the summoning platform and return to the Institute of War. He started when he found Twitch blocking his path, along with several minions. "Hello and well met, friend shopkeeper," the rat squeaked at him. "I hope you enjoyed the match."
The shopkeeper wondered how Twitch was so successful in stealth when he had such a smell about him. "I don't watch the matches," he replied, and began to walk around him. The Plague Rat moved quickly to block his path.
"Not so fast, friend. I know you're a smart man, so I have a business proposition for you. And I hope you'll consider it, as a favor to a fellow Zaunite." The shopkeeper stiffened. Why hadn't Twitch been teleported back to Zaun? Where was his summoner?
"See, it's about my health," Twitch continued. The shopkeeper seriously doubted a champion known as the Plague Rat was really concerned about his physical wellness. "It's tough on the Fields of Justice these days. Some real crack summoners out there. I'm starting to stress out, lose my edge. It would be a load off my mind if, say, we could drop those prices a bit."
"Those prices are set by the League and-"
"Yeah, yeah, of course. This is just between us, though," interrupted Twitch, drawing closer. "You put it down in the books I paid full, but on the field, cut me a little break. Come on, I told my friends you were a smart guy. Don't embarrass me in front of them," and he gestured to the minions nearby.
The shopkeeper's mind reeled. He was being threatened right on the Twisted Treeline! He certainly didn't feel like being beaten and possibly killed, but could he live under the thumb of a wretch like Twitch? Was this what his life of adventures seeking power had come to?
"I think you should back away from the shopkeeper," a voice rang out. A very full female voice. All eyes turned to find Poppy walking up to the platform, her armor dented and dirty from a spirited League match.
"What are you still doing here?" Twitch spat at her.
"Just get on the platform and have the summoner you've bribed or coerced into helping you do this teleport you back to Zaun, rat," Poppy said.
"I don't think so. Keep in mind, little yordle, there're no summoners spinning reanimation magic here anymore. And you're outnumbered." At this, the minions began to creep forward.
The shopkeeper barely saw her move. In a flash, she had crossed the distance, five yards atleast, between herself and the first minion. BAM! The creature had seemingly teleported from where it had been standing into a crater in the stone wall shaped around its body. The next minion took a step forward. With a fluid overhead swing, Poppy brought her hammer down on its head, and in the next moment that same head was buried in the stone floor of the platform. The shopkeeper had only a second to wonder whether the minion's cranium was hidden from him at his angle or had been transformed into Justice Jelly when the last minion struck at Poppy with its mace. With an effortless movement of her tiny shield arm, she deflected the weapon before burying her hammer into the creature's rib cage. Hearing the wet crack of bones snapping, in a rare moment of empathy the shopkeeper thanked any higher powers that existed that the magically-constructed minion had no mind to receive that pain.
The creatures dispatched, Poppy turned her attention on Twitch - just that moment teleporting out of the arena. She gave a dissatisfied hmph before taking a moment to relax and rotate her weary neck and shoulders. "Wh-why..." the shopkeeper stammered.
"I came here," she explained, "to apologize. For my behavior at the beginning of the match. I was not acting like a champion of the League." The shopkeeper stared at her for a moment. Getting no response, she held up a small object- the wooden shield from earlier. "This is of half-decent make, for the shoddy materials used," Poppy said. "Even saved my life early on. Sion, the ugly brute, caught me flat-footed. If this shield had broken under his blow, I would have been out of the match for some crucial moments." She paused. "I was sure it would. Break, I mean.
"I understand a smith named Doran makes these. Are you him?" The shopkeeper made no reply. "I think that you are," Poppy continued, undaunted. "My father was a smith, you know."
"I take pride in my work," the shopkeeper said simply. Poppy nodded and placed the battered shield on the otherwise-empty booth.
"It will probably be easier if we just don't mention this whole thing to anybody," she said. "Without enough witnesses, proving Twitch tried this will be tough. If you want to pursue it though, I'll corroborate your story." And with a shimmer of light, she was gone.
After she had teleported away, the shopkeeper moved back to his booth. No, he decided, he would not pursue it. The Plague Rat wouldn't try anything so rash again, now that he figured the shopkeeper had tough allies like Poppy around. He picked up the shield. Sure enough, a large crack in the center showed where the shield had nearly splintered beneath Sion's strength. With a smile, the shopkeeper added the shield to the other mementos in his bag. Twitch would have to keep buying from him, every match, and would never speak of the incident.
When people need what you have, the shopkeeper thought, that's when you have power over them.
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