She had always been naive, but Taliyah could never have imagined the cruel fate for the champions in the League of Legends.
It was only natural that when Zenonthestoic approached her that day, she was captivated by his promises of greatness. She was told that she was different from the others in her village, that she alone had the potential for the League of Legends. It was the dream of every child in Runeterra, and Taliyah was no exception. Like the ancient Shuriman emperor Azir before her, Zenon assured her that she, too, would become a staple pick in competitive esports.
In hindsight, she should have doubted Zenon just a little bit; but the village had raised her to be trusting of others, and there was little reason to doubt the man that had brought Azir, Tahm Kench and Lucian into the League of Legends. Without hesitation, she signed her contract to Riot Games, unaware that she’d also signed away her freedom.
Wide-eyed and hopeful of the future, she left her village, leaving behind only a letter and a promise that she'd one day return as a champion in the League of Legends. She had always concealed her earthbending skills, believing them to be dangerous, lest she one day lose control of her powers. Zenon assured her that Riot would assist her in mastering her powers.
Zenon led her to the entrance of a tall, pitch black skyscraper with a glowing red fist engraved on its walls. They called it the Riot Games headquarters, but it seemed much more menacing than she'd imagined. Zenon stopped, as he signaled that they’d arrived at her room. Something was wrong. The room was dark, and it was hard to make sense of her surroundings. She turned towards Zenon, but it was too late. Zenon grinned evilly as he pushed her into the room, slamming the door shut in front of her. She was trapped. It was only then that she realised that her 'room' was nothing more than a jail cell.
Taliyah wasn't the only champion who'd been deceived. Riot Games had gathered countless prospective candidates from across the world, all promised riches and fame beyond their wildest dreams. Without a single care in the world, they each signed their lives away to Riot Games, lured into a never-ending nightmare for the rest of their existence. Every day was a constant struggle to survive, each of them living in fear that they would be the next champion to be scrapped before release.
If they were lucky, they'd be reworked until successful. Ao Shin's body was modified by countless experiments until he was accepted as the celestial being known as Aurelion Sol. But if your kit was impossible to balance and unintuitive, then that was it - you were either enslaved as a minion for the rest of eternity, or a test subject for new items development Many chose death, whereas others attempted escape. Urf was one of the brave few who tried to cause an uprising, but Riot Games eventually captured him, the Urf Warwick skin serving as a permanent reminder to any would-be dissenters.
Taliyah would often cry herself to sleep, wondering what she'd done to deserve a fate like this. She watched in horror as her friends were cut down before her, Riot having deemed them unsuitable to proceed to the next step. There was only one way to escape this facility alive, and it was to become a champion worthy of the League of Legends. Months of testing passed, as countless drugs and ability enhancing procedures were subjected upon her. The only thing that kept Taliyah sane was the flicker of hope that she might one day be selected to join the League of Legends. Each day her latent abilities to control the earth developed further as she alone was able to survive the rigorous design process and play-testing that had claimed the lives of countless champions before her.
Having concluded that she was ready to ship to the live servers, ZenontheStoic gave the green signal to bring Taliyah into the League of Legends. For the first time in years, Taliyah was free.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Riot ensured that Taliyah had everything she could ever want. The best food in Runeterra, the latest technology, a luxurious mansion with servants at her every beck and call. Life was finally looking up, except for two key factors. Firstly, Taliyah would soon realise that the only piece of technology missing from her new lifestyle was the ability to communicate with the outside world. Secondly, and she would find this out the hard way, there was no escape from her mansion. Though the quality of her life had improved and she was no longer subjected to routine drugging and experimentation, she was still a prisoner - and she always would be. Taliyah resolved to make Riot Games pay, and bring the truth to light in her first official match on Summoner's Rift. This would be her greatest revenge for the sin of toying with people's lives so easily.
The day had finally come. Riot finally released Taliyah to the public, selling her for the costly sum of 975 RP or 7800 IP.
Players from across the world rushed to purchase the new champion, eager to dominate the rift with the newly available earthbender.
This was the day that Taliyah would finally get her revenge. Instead of the rehearsed lines she'd been taught at the facility, she'd reveal the truth behind the champion design process to each and every player, ending the cycle of human experimentation forever. After days of planning it all came down to this - the final ten minutes before her debut match. As she entered the waiting lobby, she found the man that had taken everything from her, ZenontheStoic.
'I know what you're planning on doing Taliyah, and I assure you it's within neither of our best interests to reveal the truth behind the champion design process. The world of Runeterra only exists because of us, Riot Games. As long as people play League of Legends, the power of their imagination keeps the world of Runeterra alive. If people stop playing League of Legends, then your world will also cease to exist. Don't you see!? The suffering of your kind is necessary! Sacrifices -must- be made!' he exclaimed, gesturing wildly with his hands. His eyes bulged, staring through and beyond Taliyah, as if she weren't even there. Then, he gazed upwards. 'It's all for the greater good.'
The man standing before her went mad long ago. The twisted logic and ideals of Riot Games could not be allowed to continue. No, she couldn't allow it continue. Almost as if Zenon had read her mind, he stopped, sighed, and shook his head.
"I thought it might come to this," he said, shrugging.
With a click of his fingers, the TV screens around her flickered to life.
'No....' Taliyah muttered weakly...
It was everyone Taliyah had ever known and loved, laid out on a platter, ready to be killed.
Her mother, her father, her little brother.... Her friends, classmates, teachers and neighbours....
They looked to her, mouths bound and red-eyed. Her brother had been crying. She tightened her fists to match the feeling in her chest.
"You bastard," Taliyah screamed, the ground shaking, as if resonating with her anger.
"Ah ah ah," grinned Zenon, evilly, waggling his index finger. "One wrong move and I couldn't say what'll happen to them."
Sensing his advantage, Zenon continued, "Now bow before me, and serve Riot Games for all eternity."
Reluctantly, Taliyah dropped to her knees and submitted to Zenon. She had no choice.
Her plans thwarted, Taliyah begrudgingly made her way to the Rift. As she ported onto the summoning platform, she stood in formation with Aurelion Sol, Ashe, Leona and Irelia. The tired, lifeless eyes of the other champions only emphasised the truth of the League of Legends. Aurelion Sol sighed, 'Perhaps death in the testing facility would have been better than this cruel fate we lead now.' he lamented defeatedly. Deep down, Taliyah shared the same sentiment. She was nothing more than an actor, a puppet, controlled only by the strings of Riot Games. Her lore, her appearance, her dialogue - all fabricated. But at least her suffering kept the rest of Runeterra at peace... Right?
Taliyah could only cling onto this single thought as she continued to be summoned. This is the fate of all champions in the League of Legends.
It has now been a week since Taliyah's release. Despite the development team's efforts, Taliyah was simply too weak, hitting the lowest win rate in every single role. They'd been off the mark this time and a number of balance changes needed to be made to make her a viable champion. Zenon hated missing the mark on his champions, but it's whatever.
It's nothing a few buffs at the testing facility won't fix.