Lance delivers Samuel to Gythia…
On the last day of his months-long journey, Samuel dove to look into the eye of Archelon. Lance waited on shore, remembering the day that he had passed this same test: the eye gleaming at him, far wider than he was tall. When Samuel surfaced, gasping, Lance hunched down to help him out. “Did you gaze into his eye?”
“I saw it, and it saw me,” said Samuel, drawing on dry clothes.
“What did Archelon say to you?”
Samuel’s brow cocked. “I do not speak whatever burbling beast language he speaks.”
“You heard nothing in your heart?”
“I also do not speak whatever burbling beast language the heart speaks.”
“Well enough; you have presented yourself to Archelon and so you are one of us. Come.” Lance led him around the shell shore, pausing to rub the heads of sea trolls when they poked through the surface. “Archelon is too large to swim through Bladed Bay. At dawn, I shall escort you to the city by barge.” In the Gythian language he continued: “Your destiny is also mine.”
“I did not think to hear that language from an Archelion,” said Samuel also in Gythian, his words cutting sharp corners. On the docks where the barges hung, children took air in little sips before diving for pearl oysters, dripping nets dangling round their necks.
Lance led Samuel inside the cabin of one of the barges. “Long ago, when I was a young man, a Gythian like yourself bought passage on Archelon to see the world during his last year. He was a knight with a good heart.”
“Nothing like me then,” said Samuel.
“He taught me to wield the lance and shield and live by the knightly tenets of justice, courage, mercy, decorum, honesty, honor, loyalty and character.” A beatific light shone in Lance’s eyes. “And he told me about the city’s rich history of music and passion, enough beauty to inebriate the soul.”
“Did he forget about the wars, corruption and ruthless politics in his dotage?”
“It is true; there is much in the world to be set aright. How can I stay on Archelon when my duty is elsewhere? Look: When my teacher passed on, he gave me these.” Lance lit candles round the cabin and, as the light flickered a warm air of the sacred, opened a hidden compartment under the floorboards where armor, shield and a lance laid in repose. “Since then, I have made it my life’s work to collect Gythian artifacts.”
He hefted up the shield to display, but Samuel rifled through a neat pile of kitchen tools, a bronze candelabra, long-outdated maps and recipes, plumed carnival masks and a brass door knocker in the shape of a lion’s head. He plucked up a rusted garlic press, snapped it open and closed. “Beautiful shield, and not a scratch on it,” he said. “Your fabled knight did not see enough battle to find those tenets difficult.”
“War is not the whole of a knight,” said Lance, unwavering. “I vowed to one day protect a Gythian, and in doing so earn knighthood for myself.”
“I do not need protecting.” Samuel threw the garlic press back to its spot. “I am not the Gythian of your dreams. I have not even seen the city since I was four years old.”
“You are he. I know it.”
“You do not know me, and you do not know Gythia, for all of your careful study of its garbage. Who bakes the best crusty rolls on Via Lucia?” Samuel grabbed up a book and paged through it fast. “The knighthood is just old families clinging to faltering fortunes. It has nothing to do with … what was that ludicrous list? Justice, honesty, decorum …”
Lance took the book from Samuel’s hand as if handling a sleeping baby. “That ludicrous list has everything to do with me.”
And so, at the first gray light, Samuel sat on Lance’s barge, folded in bad posture inside his dark cloak. Lance, wearing the full armor of a Gythian knight, steered the sea troll that pulled the barge through the treacherous black-toothed mouth of the city. The mist parted and a rose-gold light bathed the gleaming fountains and sculpture, the towers and spires, the churning water wheels. Lance’s breath caught in his throat; tears sprang unbidden to his eyes. His plain barge pulled up to the dock between luxury steamboats where a grand reception of dignitaries in elegant finery waited.
Samuel moved like an unwilling shadow behind Lance’s great steel bulk as they disembarked. Lance held up his hand in greeting, but all eyes locked on the hooded young man. The woman in the center stepped forward, one hand heavy with rings appearing beyond long silk sleeves to show her palm in proper greeting. “Welcome home, Samuel,” she said. “We feared the worst.”
“My thanks, Mother,” said Samuel.
To be continued…
INTERVIEW WITH CIDERHELM
Lance’s concept came in the wake of Phinn’s release. Phinn broke a lot of boundaries in design: he’s always immune to crowd controls; he can pull an entire enemy team on a short cooldown; he has a burst of damage and an AOE stun on a basic ability. It works. And it showed us just how far we can push boundaries on tanks and roams, both in terms of gameplay design and in kit power. So Lance started off as a simple request for Chainsaw: I wanted to create a polearm tank, and I wanted to push some boundaries.
The result is a hero who offers an entirely different tanking experience. His basic attacks and abilities feel heavy and impactful, he feels like a Gythian knight, yet he feels smooth and his moment-to-moment decisions are tactical. To excel, you need to be aggressive, you need to stay in the fight, and you need to chain your abilities together. For players who are just starting out with him he’s pretty simple to pick up — his Impale lets him initiate and set up opportunities for allies and his Gythian Wall lets him shove enemies off his allies. At the same time, players who fall in love with this will find a deeper experience to master, and will start seeing skirmishes and teamfights in an entirely new light.