She’s sweating in the late afternoon heat, and there’s the start of a sunburn on her neck, her arms, her legs. The hessian sack is tearing the skin from her palms, causing an ache in her back, and every step is a stagger. But she will not falter. She’s on a schedule.
The city’s coffers are overflowing once more, this time not with gold but with silver. The Mint has been on overtime to press coins in commemoration of the monumental find: Piltover’s gear on the obverse, and a proud dragon rampant regardant on the reverse. Parliament has decreed that every single Piltovian citizen will be issued with one of these coins. They can afford such generosity - for once, Piltover has more than enough to go around. The dogma would be worth more poured in silver than it would be in gold.
For those in Noxus who were claiming that construction and education would not be a suitable enough repayment, wagons of silver ore certainly silenced them. Food and drink and silver. Piltover keeps its word. All it needed was time. The rest of the repayment would appear in short order, now that there were funds to propel the people and the projects forward.
The Grand had been an unmitigated success. Representatives the world over had not merely come to marvel, they had availed themselves of Piltovian luxuries with gusto. Requests for holiday visas were being received in great numbers, and the integrated resort itself was booked solid for the foreseeable future. An environment of opulence that was well within an affordable budget. The games of chance, the fine cuisine, the well-fitted apartments and rooms all called to those to taste and see what the high life was like.
Not a year and a half ago, Piltover had been teetering on economic collapse. Now, they were more than just recovering. They were thriving.
And it didn’t stop there. The Thunderbird was due back any day now. That was the reason Caitlyn was trudging over the uneven ground. She didn’t have a lot of time.
In her opinion, it had been far too long already.
The air in the clearing is somehow much cooler than one would expect. The eight standing stones cast long shadows, and the grass brushed wetly at her ankles. She felt like she’d been the only living thing to tread here in generations.
Such a thought was probably not wrong.
She hefts the sack in her arms, catching her breath, then steps into the middle of the circle. Slowly, she turns, presenting the bag to each stone, bowing as low as the ballast allows. It was heavy, and she was tired, but she had to do this right.
That done, she turns, and climbs down from the ring, and with no regard for her boots or her clothes, she strides into the marsh. It gets harder, with every step, as the mud sucks at her feet, and weeds and unseen debris wraps itself around her. She gets up to her waist before she judges one more step will have her falling, tripping, and drowned.
She upends the sack into the water.
For a moment, the gleaming ore lingers on the surface, impossibly buoyant. Caitlyn waits, watching, scarcely able to breathe. Would this even work?
One of the fragments slips below the marsh surface with a wet slurping sound. And then another. And then like a mouth, the marsh swallows all the rest. Caitlyn feels the tangleweeds unwrap from her legs, and the mud harden under her boots.
In ages past, the appropriate sacrifice would have been blood. But what king, crowned or not, doesn’t like a little silver? And this, this was dragon-forged. Powerful and rare.
Caitlyn bows, her curl dipping into the water, before she turns and takes long strides back to the bank.
This should be enough to earn forgiveness for the iron the Bird was bringing home. And, perhaps, enough to keep Piltover safe from disaster. The truce hadn’t been honoured for a few generations, but…
… well. All they needed was time.