A lone figure trudges down the street. It’s about noon; the sun blazes from high overhead, casting a wretched shadow beneath him. There’s no hint of a breeze to steal away the oppressive heat – his cape trails forlornly behind his worn boots, tattered and frayed. He walks with a pronounced limp. From recent battle or age-old injury, he can’t recall.
Gods of Runeterra, he is weary. Bloodshot eyes barely open, barely able to take in his surroundings.
He doesn’t notice when he wanders in front of a gathering crowd. He stumbles, colliding with someone’s back. The aggrieved party wheels on him, preparing an expletive-ridden barrage, but the words are stifled when the man appears to recognise his accidental assailant. The slightly-bruised but otherwise unharmed victim hurries away. He throws a final scowl at the mantled individual, who can only shrug in silent apology.
Jeering and derisive laughter draw his attention back to the crowd. People are standing outside a building, mocking a ragged heap of men lying just beyond the entrance. One more is added to the pile, landing heavily upon his comrades and eliciting muffled groans from beneath him. Loud cheering erupts from the bystanders as they applaud the efforts of the bouncer. Having removed a few unruly patrons, she stands in the doorway and dusts off her hands. An imposing figure. There are few who would question her authority; however occasional lapses in better judgement could be attributed to her attire. When one takes on the visage of a rabbit, complete with fluffy tail and graceful long ears, it’s understandable that you probably won’t be taken seriously 100% of the time. Even if you call yourself a ‘battle’ bunny.
The commotion subsides and the crowd starts to thin, revealing shiny, stained windows bearing the lettering: _“Heart of Gold, Bar & Bistro”_. As good a place as any to rest weary feet, he decides. Maybe even have a drink or two. Gods, but he could use a drink. He heads for the door, side-stepping a few straggling gawkers and gabbers.
“Why’s it called the Heart of Gold? Is that even a thing anymore?” a person queries.
His friend explains. “Well, supposedly it’s a reference to the owner being notoriously generous. Regulars often get free drinks, no nagging about paying bar tabs, that sort of thing.”
“Really.” The first fellow sniffs. “I rather think it has more to do with ‘generous’ gold generation.” He guffaws at his own wit.
The hooded one pays no mind to the exchange, instead heading inside.
It’s dark. The low lighting provides welcome relief from the harsh glare of the noon sun. His eyes begin to adjust as his nose is assailed by the sour odour of spilled booze on cheap carpets. Not so bad, he thinks, although the full effect may be dulled by his impaired sense of smell. Too many cigars over the years. But you may as well have a vice or two, when your entire life revolves around battle. When you never know if you’ll be coming back from the next fight, what’s the point in worrying about clean lungs and a clear nose? Not like he plans to live forever. Glancing to his left, he sees the bouncer perched atop a stool. Riven studies him for a moment, assessing any potential trouble. She can nearly make out his features from within the depths of his cowl, not lowered despite being indoors. But she appears unconcerned, and instead gives him a pitying look. A sorrier sight she has not beheld, at least not today. She gives him a slight nod towards the bar area straight ahead. Directly opposite Riven’s position, on the other side of the corridor, is a stairway leading to a second level. As he steps past, raised voices can be heard from upstairs.
“Sir, I’m sorry but as I told you yesterday - and the day before that - the VIP lounge is reserved for members only.”
“Sir. Members ONLY.”
With a roll of her eyes, Riven hops off her tall stool and heads up towards the impending disorder.
At the bar sits Shauna Vayne, alone as usual. It’s rare to catch the Night Hunter out during the day, although the _Heart of Gold_ is certainly dark and dingy enough. She orders – “Two shots of lemonade.” Raised eyebrows at that. Behind the counter, the bartender attends. A gleam in his eye and a smile on his lips, he does his best to persuade his stoic customer to partake of a more exciting beverage. And a more expensive one at that.
“Might you like to try a Matcha Soulstealer? Very popular this season! Great value for money! No? Perhaps a Needlessly Large Rum? Finish your first and get the second at half price!” He falters at Vayne’s impassive gaze. “A Lightbringer? New item on our menu, and I know you’re probably thinking – doesn’t suit your personality, right? _Light_ bringer for a _Night_ Hunter? Eh? Well, it… um.” He trails off as Vayne’s gaze narrows. He clears his throat and bravely forges on. “It, er, it's a cocktail of dark liquors, in spite of the name… and, and it comes with this cool Rabadon’s cocktail umbrella..!” He hastily locates a sample from under the counter. Triumphantly, he brandishes it for her to inspect. Indeed, a miniature and decidedly cute version of the Deathcap is clutched proudly between two fingers. It would make an interesting garnish to any drink. Unfortunately for him, Vayne looks decidedly uninterested.
“What about a Banshee’s Ale?” he blurts out, desperation creeping in. Stony silence. Defeated, the bartender’s shoulders droop and he lets out a deflating sigh. With resignation, he mumbles “Right. Two shots of lemonade. A double Lift, coming right up.” He slumps away to fetch Vayne’s drink.
Drink in hand, the Night Hunter nods her thanks. The bartender is dejected, but has no time to mope as he spots the newcomer taking a stool at the other end of the bar. He remakes his welcoming smile and makes his way over, measuring the customer. Halfway across he abandons his cold read and by the time he’s standing front and centre, his face has lost any trace of friendliness. He stares into the hood, arms crossed high on his chest.
“Sorry, friend; no service”. Blunt, bordering on rude. A half-sneer now adorns the barman’s features.
“What? What d’you mean, no service?”
“Hard of understanding, are we? It means you’re going to have to be leaving.”
Incensed, he pushes to stand off his stool. “Listen here, you-”
“No, _you_ listen here” interrupts the bartender. He leans across the counter, faces inches away from the angry eyes regarding him. “We don’t serve the likes of you here, so you’d best find a bar that does. Nothing personal, just policy. And if you’re thinking of causing a fuss, just bear in mind that I won’t even need to bother Riven over there – I’ll drag you out myself.” He smirks at that, and the newcomer’s eyes seethe. “Besides, you’re on call.”
The bartender points down at the bar. The newcomer finds himself staring at his own hand, gripping the counter tightly in outrage. There’s no sign of the expected white knuckles and throbbing blood vessels that signify his rising temper; instead, his hand is taking on an ethereal, incorporeal form. He holds it in front of his face. It pulses, seeming to fade in and out of existence. A faint blue aura surrounds the appendage and he can only stare in bewilderment.
“Like I said – you’re on call,” the bartender continues. “Most of the people who come here are.” He gestures across the room – the spot that Vayne had only moments ago occupied is now empty, replaced with the same blue aura. That same incandescent glow that has spread across his entire body. He continues to stare at his hands – or where his hands used to be, now virtually indistinguishable within the haze of light. His mind is going blank. As he blips in solid one last time before winking out and vanishing completely, he can hear the bartender’s grumpy voice droning in his ears:
“I mean really, how could we serve a minion? We serve one, then we gotta serve ‘em all or we get hit for discrimination! And there’s just no end to the blighters, know what I mean…”
And then, a new voice…
“**MINIONS HAVE SPAWNED**.”