Blood, Truth, Death's Daughter
The fist slams into my face again. I go down hard, hitting the deck of Gangplank's ship. Pig-iron cuffs dig into my wrists.
I'm hauled back upright and forced to kneel alongside T.F. Not that my legs would hold me if this pox-ridden mob made me stand.
The massive, slab-muscled bastard that hit me swims in and out of focus.
“Come on now, son,” I slur. “You're doing it all wrong.”
I don't see the next one coming. There's just an explosion of pain, and I'm back on the deck. Once again, I'm lifted up and forced to kneel. I spit out blood and teeth. Then I grin.
“My old ma hits harder than you do, boy. And she's been dead and buried five years now.”
He steps forward to knock me down again, but a word from Gangplank stops him in his tracks.
“Enough,” the captain says.
Swaying slightly, I try to concentrate on Gangplank's blurred outline. Slowly, my eyes clear. At his waist, I see he's wearing that damn knife that T.F. stole.
“Twisted Fate, huh? I heard you were good, and I've never been one to look down on a good thief,” Gangplank says. He steps in close and glares at T.F. “But a good thief knows better than to steal from me.” He hunkers down and looks me square in the eye.
“And you... If you'd been two shades smarter, you could have put that gun to work for me. But we're past that now.”
Gangplank stands up and turns his back to us.
“I'm not an unreasonable man,” he continues. “I don't expect folk to bend the knee. All I ask is a modicum of respect - something you boys pissed all over. And that can't go unpunished.”
His crew pushes in, like dogs waiting for the order to rip us apart. I ain't rattled, though. I won't give them the satisfaction.
“Do me a favor,” I say, nodding toward T.F. “Kill him first.”
Gangplank chuckles at that.
He nods to a crewman, who starts banging away on the ship's bell. In answer, dozens more across the port city ring out. Drunks, sailors, and shopkeeps start pouring onto the streets, drawn by the ruckus. The bastard wants an audience.
“Bilgewater's watching, boys” Gangplank says. “Time to give 'em a show. Bring out Death's Daughter!”
There's a cheer, and the deck drums with the clamor of stamping feet. An old cannon is wheeled out. It may be rusted and green with age, but it's still a beauty.
I glance over at T.F. His head's down, and he ain't sayin' nothin'. They took his cards off him... once they found 'em all. They didn't even leave him his stupid, dandy hat - some little inbred bastard in the crowd's wearing it.
In all my years of knowing T.F., he's always had an out. Without one, here and now, he looks defeated.
“You're gettin' what you deserve, you son of a bitch,” I snarl at him.
He stares back at me. There's fire in him still.
“I ain't proud of how things went-”
“You left me to rot!” I interrupt.
“Me and the whole crew tried to break you out. And they died for it!” he snaps back at me. “We lost Kolt, Wallach, the Brick - all of 'em - just trying to save your stubborn ass.”
“You made out alright, though,” I reply. “You know why? It's because you're a coward. And nothing you'll ever say can change that.”
My words hit him like a punch in the guts. He doesn't argue. The last glimmer of fight in him goes, and his shoulders slump. He's done.
I don't think even T.F. is this good an actor. My anger fades.
I feel tired suddenly. Tired and old.
“Everything went to hell, and maybe we're both to blame,” he says. “I wasn't lying, though. We tried to get you out. Doesn't matter. You'll believe what you want anyway.”
It takes a moment for that to sink in. It takes a moment longer to realize that I believe him.
Damn me, he's right.
I do things my way. Always have. Whenever I pushed it too far, he had my back. He was always the one with the out.
But I didn't listen to him that day, and I haven't since.
And now, I've killed us both.
Suddenly, T.F. and I are yanked to our feet and dragged toward the cannon. Gangplank pats its muzzle, like it's a prized hound.
“The Death's Daughter's done well by me,” he says. “I've been wanting to give her a proper send off.”
A heavy chain is dragged forward, and sailors begin looping it around the cannon. I see now how this is gonna pan out.
T.F. and I are shoved back to back, and the same chain is run around our legs and through our manacles. A padlock snaps shut, binding us to the chain.
A boarding gate in the ship's bulwark slides open, and the cannon's rolled into place in the gap. The wharfs and docks of Bilgewater are now packed with gawkers, here to see the show.
Gangplank rests the heel of his boot on the cannon.
“Well, I can't get us out of this one,” T.F. says, over his shoulder. “I always knew you'd get me killed one day.”
A laugh escapes my lips at that. It's been a long time since I laughed.
We're dragged toward the edge of the ship, like cattle to the slaughter.
I guess this is where my story ends. I had a good run for a while there. But nobody's luck lasts forever.
It's only then that I know what I should do.
Carefully, straining against my manacles, I reach into my back pocket. It's still there; the playing card T.F. dropped back in the warehouse. I'd aimed to shove it down his bastard throat.
They checked T.F. good for cards – but not me.
I nudge him. Chained back to back, it's easy to hand the card off to T.F. without being seen. I can feel him hesitate as I pass it to him.
“You two will make a meager tithe, but you'll serve,” says Gangplank. “Give the Bearded Lady my regards.”
With a wave to the crowd, Gangplank kicks the cannon over the side. It hits the dark water with a splash, and sinks fast. The chain on the deck spools out after it.
Now, at the end, I believe T.F. I know he tried everything to get me out, like he did all those times when we ran together. This time, for once, I've got the out. I can at least give him that.
“Get outta here.”
He starts going through the motions, spinning the card around his fingers. As the power starts to build, I feel an uncomfortable pressure in the back of my skull. I always hated being close to him when he did his trick.
And then, he's gone.
The chains binding T.F. drop to the deck with a crash, and there're shouts from the crowd. My chains are still locked tight. I ain't getting out of this, but it's worth it just to see the look on Gangplank's face.
The cannon's chain yanks me off my feet. I hit the deck hard, and grunt in pain. In an instant, I'm dragged over the edge of the boat.
The cold water hits me, stealing my breath.
Then I'm under, sinking fast, dragged down into the dark.
The Plunge, A Fight with Darkness, Peace
The card Malcolm puts in my hand could easily get me to the wharf. I'm so close to shore, and from there, the huge crowd's just perfect for me to vanish into. I could be off this rat's ass of an island inside an hour. This time, no one would ever find me.
Then all I can see in my mind is his pissed-off face disappearing into the depths.
Son of a bitch.
I can't leave him. Not after last time. There's no running away from this. I know where to go.
The pressure builds, and then I shift.
In an instant, I'm right behind Gangplank, ready to make my move.
One of his crew spots me – he looks baffled, like he's trying to figure out how I got there. While he thinks about it, I punch him square in the face. He collapses into a crowd of bewildered deckhands. They all turn on me with cutlasses drawn. Gangplank leads the attack, slashing straight at my throat.
But I'm faster. In one deft move, I slide underneath the arcing steel and lift Gangplank's prized silver dagger from his belt. Behind me, I hear cursing that could split the mast in two.
I leap to the deck, stowing the dagger in my britches as the end of the chain tears toward the edge of the ship. I stretch and grab the last steel link just before it disappears overboard.
The snap of the chain hauls me over the side, and now I realize what I've done.
The water is coming at me fast. In that frozen moment, every single part of me wants to let go of the chain. Being a river man who can't swim has plagued me my whole life. Now it'll be the death of me.
I take one final gulp of air. Then a musket shot rips into my shoulder. I yell out in pain, and lose my last breath just before I'm dragged under.
Frigid water punches me in the face as I sink into the suffocating blue.
This is my nightmare.
Panic wells inside. I try to quell it. It's almost too much. More shots pierce the water above me. I'm still sinking.
Sharks and devilfish circle. They taste the blood. They follow me deeper into the abyss.
Everything is terror. No pain now. Heart pounds in my ears. Chest burning. Gotta keep the water out. Darkness coils around me. Too far down. No way back. I know that now.
But maybe I can save Malcolm.
Below me, there's a thud, and the chain goes slack. The cannon's hit the seabed.
I pull myself down the chain into the shadows. There's a shape below. I think it's Graves. Frantic, I drag myself toward him.
Then he's right in front of me, though I can barely see the outline of his face. I think he's shaking his head at me, angry that I came back.
I'm growing faint. My arm is numb and my skull is being crushed.
Letting go of the chain, I pull the dagger from my waist. My hand trembles.
I fumble in the darkness. By some miracle, I find the lock on Graves's cuffs. I work the blade to coax it open, like I have a thousand locks before. But my hands won't stop shaking.
Even Graves must be terrified. His lungs have to be giving out by now. The lock isn't budging.
What would Malcolm do?
I twist the dagger. No finesse - nothing but force.
Something gives. I think I cut my hand. The dagger is falling. Into the abyss. There it goes... Is it glowing?
Above me, bright red. Red and orange... Everywhere. It's beautiful... So this is what it's like to die.
Water rushes in.
Fire and Ruin, A Conclusion, Turn for the Worse
Miss Fortune stared across the harbor from the deck of her ship, the Syren. Flames reflected in her eyes as she absorbed the full level of destruction she had wrought.
All that remained of Gangplank's ship was burning wreckage. The crew had been killed in the detonation, drowned in the chaos, or claimed by the swarming razorfish.
It had been glorious. An immense ball of rolling fire had lit up the night like a new sun.
Half the city had witnessed it; Gangplank himself had seen to that, as she knew he would. He had to parade Twisted Fate and Graves in front of Bilgewater. He had to remind everyone why no one should cross him. To Gangplank, people were just tools used to maintain control - so she'd used that to kill him.
Shouts and tolling bells echoed across the port city. Word would be spreading like wildfire.
Gangplank is dead.
The corners of her lips curled into a smile.
Tonight was merely the endgame: Hiring T.F., tipping off Graves – all just to distract Gangplank. It had taken years to exact her revenge.
Miss Fortune's smile faded.
From the moment he had stormed into her family's workshop, his face hidden behind a red bandana, she had been preparing herself for this moment.
Sarah lost both her parents that day. She was just a child, but he shot her down as she stood watching her parents bleed out on the floor.
Gangplank taught her a harsh lesson: that no matter how safe you feel, your world – everything you've built, everything you care for - can be taken away in an instant.
Gangplank's one mistake was not making sure she was dead. Her anger and her hate had sustained her through that first cold, painful night, and every night since.
For fifteen years, she had scraped together everything she needed; waiting until she wasn't even a memory to him, for him to drop his guard and get comfortable in the life he'd built. Only then would he truly be able to lose everything. Only then would he know what it felt like to lose his home, to lose his world.
She should have been feeling exultant, but she just felt empty.
Joining her at the gunwale, Rafen jolted Sarah from her reverie.
“He's gone,” he said. “It's over.”
“No,” replied Miss Fortune. “Not yet.”
She turned from the harbor, casting her gaze across Bilgewater. Sarah had hoped that killing him would kill her hate. But all she had done was unleash it. For the first time since that day, she felt truly powerful.
“This is just the beginning,” she said. “I want everyone loyal to him to be brought to answer. I want the heads of his lieutenants mounted on my wall. Burn every bawdy house, tavern, and warehouse that bears his mark. And I want his corpse.”
Rafen was shaken. He'd heard words like that before, but never from her.
Red Sky, Chumming the Waters, Reconciliation
I've thought a lot about the ways I'd wanna go out. Chained up like a dog at the bottom of the ocean? That one never crossed my mind. Lucky for me, T.F. manages to pop the lock on my shackles just before he drops the dagger.
I scramble out of the chains, thirsty for breath. I turn toward T.F. Poor bastard's not moving. I twist my hand around his collar and start kickin' toward the surface.
As we go up, suddenly everything lights up bright red.
A shockwave knocks me ass over ears. Chunks of iron sink past us. A cannon plunges by. Then a charred hunk of rudder. Bodies, too. A face covered in tattoos stares in shock at me. The severed head then slowly disappears into the darkness beneath us.
I swim faster, my lungs set to bust.
An age later, I'm at the surface, coughing up salt water and gasping for air. But it's damn near unbreathable. Smoke chokes me and claws at my eyes. I've seen things burn in my time, but never like this. Looks like someone set the whole world on fire.
“Damn me...” I hear myself mutter.
Gangplank's ship is gone. Bits of smoking debris are scattered all across the bay. Fiery islands of wood collapse all around, hissin' as they go under. A flaming sail falls right in front of us, nearly dragging T.F. and me back down for good. Burning men desperately jump from smoldering pieces of wreckage into the water, quietin' their own screams. It smells like the end of everything – sulfur and ash and death; cooked hair and melting skin.
I check on T.F. I'm strugglin' to keep him above water. Son of a bitch is a lot heavier than he looks, and it ain't helping that half my ribs are broke. I find a piece of scorched hull floating nearby. It looks solid enough. I pull us both on top. It ain't exactly seaworthy, but it'll do.
For the first time, I get a good look at T.F. He ain't breathin'. I whale on his chest with my fists. Just when I'm worried I'm going to cave his ribs in, he coughs out a lungful of seawater. I slump and shake my head again as he slowly comes to his senses.
“You stupid son of a bitch! What did you come back for?”
It takes him a minute to answer.
“Thought I'd try it your way,” he mutters, slurring his words. “See what being a stubborn ass felt like.” He hacks up more water. “Feels awful.”
Razorfish and even meaner sea critters are startin' to gather around us. I ain't about to be anything's chow. I pull my feet away from the edge.
A mangled crewman bobs to the surface, grabbin' for our raft. I plant my boot in his face and shove him off. A fat tentacle wraps around his neck and drags him back under. Now the fish have something else to keep 'em busy.
Before they run out of fresh meat, I break off a plank from our raft and use it to paddle us away from the feedin' frenzy.
I pull at the water for what seems like hours. My arms are heavy and hurtin', but I know better than to stop. Once I've put some distance between us and the massacre, I collapse onto my back.
I'm spent like an empty shotgun shell as I look out over the bay. It's stained red with the blood of Gangplank and his crew. Not a survivor in sight.
How am I still breathing? Maybe I'm the luckiest man on Runeterra. Or maybe T.F.'s carrying enough good fortune for the both of us.
I see a body floating by, holding something familiar lookin'. It's Gangplank's little inbred bastard, still clutching T.F.'s hat. I take it off him and toss it to T.F. He ain't even a little surprised, like he always knew he'd get it back.
“Now we just need to find your gun,” he says.
“What, you itchin' to go back down there?” I say, pointing to the deep.
T.F. turns a funny shade of green.
“We ain't got the time. Whoever did this, they left Bilgewater without a boss,” I tell him. “It's gonna get ugly here, fast.”
“You're telling me you can live without your gun?” he asks.
"Maybe not," I say. “But I know a really good gunsmith in Piltover."
"Piltover..." he says, lost in thought.
"Lot of money flowing through there right now," I say.
T.F. figures hard for a moment.
“Hmm. Not sure about having you as a partner again – you're even dumber than you used to be," he finally answers.
"That's alright. I'm not sure about havin' a partner called Twisted Fate. Who the hell came up with that?"
"Well, it's a damn sight better than my real name," T.F. laughs.
"Fair enough," I admit.
I grin. It feels just like the old days. Then I go stone faced and look him dead in the eye.
"Just one thing: You ever have mind to leave me holding the bag again, I'll blow your goddamn head off. No questions."
Fate's laugh dies down, and for a moment, he glares back at me. Then, after a while, he just smiles.
"You got a deal."