the two weeks later, beginning of Summer
There were all sorts of fumes in the air, some charcoal black while others green or red, rising from the dim depths below and curling around the copper pipes that permeated the side of every building. This was the Edge, the transient land between two cities, vertically speaking. Above stood Piltover, a shining city of progress and innovation, a beacon of culture that attracted the brightest minds and the craftiest hands. Below was Zaun, a place of permanent shadow, like the deepest parts of this ocean of metal, where the fumes blocked nearly all of the scant rays that could dribble down through all the layers of machinery and in this permanent twilight, the green hextech lamps created the characteristic Zaun feel. It was a place where the business was even shadier than the streets and where people lived, fought, bickered and died without once seeing the true light of the sun. And so, between Piltover and Zaun, there was the Edge, a place built out of the need for communication between the worlds below and above and the constant mutual distrust that forged a buffer zone where rules would be followed, but not always, and people would be robbed and killed, but not all the time.
Today was a quiet day for this particular shop, as not many denizens had emerged from Zaun to sell their contraband, and even fewer had descended from Piltover to look at his wares. The yordle scratched his head, perched over a blueprint of an ingenious contraption, a metal crayon behind his ear. The door of the shop opened with a sharp mechanical beep that pulled his attention out of the schematic and onto the two hooded figures.
“Ah, welcome, welcome… what can I do for you, travellers?” he bumbled under his thick mustache.“I have a schematic that needs to be built… looking for a skilled craftsman” said a male voice under the first hood, stepping closer to the counter.
“Well, I do believe I can tackle most things, gentlemen, but I’ll need to take a proper look to tell ye for sure.”
The man dug his hand into an inner pocket and produced a parchment that he carefully handed to the shopkeeper. The yordle unrolled it on the counter and examined the design.
“Hm, it certainly looks doable… a charged crystal, miniature container, some pneumatics… yes, I can do it. Will need to purchase some supplies.”
He rolled the parchment again, letting it rest on the edge, thinking. An experienced shopkeeper, he knew better than to ask stupid questions about what the thing was supposed to do or why they needed it. Questions invited trouble. And he didn’t need no trouble.
“I’ll need 3 copies” said the man.
“700 gold pieces. 4 days.” answered the craftsman after a short deliberation.
“900 gold. Two days.”
They locked gazes for a moment, but it was clear it wasn’t really a negotiation. The yordle noded and pocketed the design. He would have to spend some of that money to pull some strings down below, but still, it was good business.
“Come darling, we’re done for now.” said the man, taking the other figure by the hand and leaving the shop.
It was not a surprising thing in the Edge. The yordle got to work.
56 hours later...
It was late afternoon, the street outside bustling with people climbing home from either the factories below or the docks. Inside the bar it was quiet, the sounds from outside filtered by the heavy brass door and the few early visitors keeping mostly to themselves. In a secluded corner, a woman was polishing her hextech rifle, a one of a kind model that had made her infamous in the high Piltover districts.
She didn’t move when the two hooded figures entered the room, her boots still on the table and her hand relaxed on the side, though a keen eye would have spotted her rifle subtly shifting direction as it followed their movements. She took another sip of whiskey from her glass and continued to eye them as they approached towards her table.
“We have some information that might be of interest to you.” said the first figure, pulling back his hood. It was a tall man in his thirties, with a beard and a Ionian braid. What really attracted her attention though was the insignia on his robes, showing that he was part of the Institute. “May I sit?”
Now she took down her boots, gesturing to the chair across from her. The other figure remained with hood on, staying slightly behind which made it difficult for Caitlyn to see his face. No matter - all in due time.
“Let’s hear it”.
The man sat on the chair. “We have very serious reason to believe that an extremely dangerous individual has arrived in Piltover from the Shadow Isles and is plotting something. Judging by our sources, she may have accomplices.”
“She?” the sheriff raised an eyebrow.
The man nodded.
“That’s not possible.” she reclined on her chair again. “That woman is smart. She’d never leave the safety of her home to venture into the hands of her enemies. Your informants have gotten things mixed up.”
The man stared at her silently for a while, then reached into one of his inner pockets and placed it on the table. It looked like a piece of ragged white cloth… no. Caitlyn picked it up and ran her fingers along the silky web.
“This was found at the harbour.”
She looked at the man and squinted, thinking. If things were as serious as they looked…
“I have to warn the rest of the force.”
She stopped in her tracks as she was rising from her chair. “Explain yourself”.
“We’re from the Institute, but I’m sure you’ve already figured that out. Alarming the force would only cause panic and the target might flee. No. We have enough informants and we’ve invested a great deal of resources to track her down in secrecy. With your expert tactical skills and traps, I’m confident we can capture and take her away without any commotion. It is the best way.”
Caitlyn hesitated, unsure to what extend she could trust the stranger. He looked and acted like a Summoner, and everything he told her was logically sound - if Elise had left the isles to pursue some evil plot in Piltover, it was more than likely that the Institute would try to capture her. Once she’d left that cursed land, she would no longer benefit from the protections of the Treaty… but still, there was something that rang off, something about that man that made her pause and think.
“You can trust him” said a female voice as the second figure approached. She didn’t remove her hood, but shifted her face just enough towards the light to give her a glimpse… Caitlyn gasped.
“What are you doing here? I thought you’d gotten into some sort of legal trouble.”
“I did… it’s a long story. Helping them track her is part of my amends.”
The sheriff noded. Yes, it made perfect sense that they’d bring more strength, in case things went south…
“So what’s our plan?”
“An informant has told us that Elise would be meeting one of her accomplices tonight, at the docks. We set our traps, wait for her to establish contact… then capture both her and the accomplice. If a fight breaks out, the three of us should be able to handle it.”
The sun was setting over the docks, the reflections on the copper pipes and valves giving the whole place a cold metallic sheen as the night breeze whistled between the metalworks. Perched on a warehouse rooftop, Caitlyn scanned her surroundings. There were fewer and fewer workers on the coast, the ships harboured for the night and the wares houled into town by the conveyor belts and steam machines. She had laid a handful of traps around the area, undetectable to all but the keenest of eyes. On her side, the two hooded figures were waiting, tense. The minutes turned into hours.
It was already after midnight when a figure appeared in one of the small streets below, darting from shadow to shadow and avoiding the green hextech glow of the lanterns. Caitlyn immediately knew that it was the target. They set to move, quietly jumping from one rooftop to another as they followed from a safe distance.
“We wait for her to make contact, then we move in to capture both.” whispered the summoner. The sheriff nodded.
The suspicious figure lingered near a door frame for a while, seemingly waiting. Then, after a while, another figured appeared in the distance, heading its way. A cold lump stuck in Cait’s throat. Even in the darkness, it was hard not to recognise that silhouette. The cocky posture, the swaggering strut as it walked, the two big hextech gauntlets on her hands. In a silent terror, the sheriff watched as Vi made her way to the hooded figure and the two began to chat.
“We have to act, now!” hissed Fiora behind her.
Caitlyn could barely move, but her companions didn’t wait any longer and, moving on to a closer rooftop, descended upon the small street. Putting all of her efforts into breaking her trance, she pointed her rifle at figures below and shot a metal shell that exploded into a net halfway through its flight.
Startled, the two figures managed to dodge, leaping into opposite directions. Vi ran a dozen feet towards the shore, pausing to look back at the thing that had almost trapped her. The other figure darted towards the city and the mechanical belts that hauled merchandise up to Piltover and down to Zaun.
Caitlyn tried to track her with the scope of her rifle, but after a short sprint the figure suddenly transformed, changing shape and sprouting additional legs, then the giant spider leapt towards a copper pipe and descended somewhere into the darkness. The sheriff grimly lowered her scope.
Meanwhile, in the corner of her eye, Vi charged towards a hooded figure which dodged in the last moment, letting her gauntlets crash into a nearby warehouse wall, leaving a giant hole. Caitlyn turned just in time to see the summoner cast an exhausting spell, snaring her partner in a cloud of brown and green energy that slowed her movements and sapped her energy. It was time to react. The shot was clear, but she didn’t want to make the decision. Vi was her friend, she would never betray her… or would she? the crippling doubt invaded her mind. Though reformed, Vi had originally been a criminal flom the slumps of Zaun, impulsive and reckless and petty…. but there would be time to sort things out later.
The sheriff raised her rifle and pulled the trigger, another nead spreading mid air, this time dead locked on Vi. It hit her with full force, pinning her to the wall and tangling her limbs. The muscular girl began to struggle, using the enhanced strength of her hextech equipment to tear and pull at the iron ropes that bound her, using their heat to burn through. In a swift movement, a shadow moved next to her, dashed, jumped, and struck a blow to the back of her head. Vi’s limp body fell on the ground.
She looked at her friend, lying unconscious, her body tangled in the remains of the charred net.
“We better get her to a safe location before she wakes up.” said the man, now standing next to her.
“The station?” she replied with a weak voice.
“No. Too public, and, you will forgive my being forward, too personal between you two. I’m taking her to the ship.”
Caitlyn clenched her fist. “Then I’m coming with you.” She didn’t need to say the rest, and the summoner looked at her and nodded.
“Very well. Once we have finished interrogating her, we can return to chasing down the criminal. Though I’m afraid now that she is alerted to our presence, it will be much harder to corner her in a tight spot.”
They moved silently, picking up the unconscious woman and, having relieved her of the two large hextech gauntlets, carrying her to one of the nearby ships where they left her in a small cell under the deck.
Caitlyn was told that her friend would be out cold for at least another six to eight hours, so she reluctantly accepted to get some sleep in one of the cabins as they waited. It had been a very long night and it was going to be an even longer day, she could feel it in her bones. As the ship was gently rocked by the waves of the Piltover shover, Caitlyn laid on a simple sailor’s bed, the rifle propped on her side. Had her partner really betrayed her? Or was there something deeper going on. It was pointless to stay awake and ponder, so she closed her eyes and dreamt.