_(DISCLAIMER: This is very much fan fiction and in no way represents Riot Games, League of Legends or any official lore!)
It was just another day in the squalid backalleys of Bilgewater. The stench of rotten fish, the jarring screech of seagulls in the air, the constant splash of the sea: there was no mistaking the harbour-city.
Graves took in a deep, appreciative breath. Yep, Bilgewater was the place to be, he thought contentedly to himself. A scrawny ship’s cat mewled pathetically and rubbed its ribs against his boots, and Graves gave it a dismissive look before turning his attention back to the task at hand. It was the quiet day of the week; the day when the ships rocked quietly in their berths and the shouts and noise of the market and the wharves could not be heard.
He didn’t have long if he wanted to get this done before Twisted Fate found out, but if he rushed he ran the risk of being spotted by undesirable eyes. Graves’ fingers subconsciously trailed along the lines of his trusty double-barreled shotgun, Destiny, as if to reassure himself of its presence, and then he moved forward through the shadows. He had done this countless times before, and still he had a moment of doubt as he made his way along the familiar route down the dark alleyways. What if one day he got caught? What would be his fate, what would happen to his reputation, the great Malcolm Graves, if one day he was ambushed and his actions exposed to the world? He darted from shadow to shadow, trying to shake the lingering concern that accompanied his movements. Finally he was where he needed to be, and there was no more time to waste on thinking and worrying, just on action. He stepped boldly out into the open, ready for the onslaught.
A dozen small, loud voices and the furious pattering of several pairs of feet dashed towards him, and Graves hid a grin as all at once he was ambushed on all sides by tiny bodies flinging themselves onto him. Graves’ grin finally broke through and he gently lowered several children to the ground.
‘Easy, partners,’ he said in his slow drawl. ‘Is everyone here?’ As the children chattered excitedly around him, Graves did a silent headcount and came up good. ‘Alright, let’s get this show on the road.’
He sat down on the dusty ground, the shacks around him quietly busy with the bustle of families preparing meals, fixing roofs, and the general busywork of keeping a poor household in Bilgewater afloat.
The children slowly settled down and sat themselves at his feet in the dirt. One of them had produced a chalkboard and a stick of chalk and now they watched him with wide eyes as Graves began to scratch some letters onto the board.
Graves had been visiting the slum children for several months now. They lived, these Bilgewater urchins, as he had done when he was their age, anchorless and vulnerable and with little hope for the future. Graves knew that if they learned to read, and write, and use numbers well, then they could at least hope to reach greater heights than their parents before them, and maybe even make it out of the slums one day. He didn’t want any of them to suffer as he had suffered, both as a child and later in the miserable hold of the Locker, abandoned and tortured in repayment for a life of crime.
As the lesson on letters finished, Graves pulled out a small, ornate leather-bound book with gold-leafed pages from his pocket and handed it to the oldest child, a doe-eyed girl with a mane of dark, matted hair. She took it from him reverently, as if he were handing her a sacred tome, and opened it. It was a book of Demacian fairytales, a priceless heirloom that he and Fate had lifted in a recent heist. Graves knew full well that Fate had seen him slip the volume wordlessly into his pocket on the day of the robbery, but had been wise enough not to challenge him. Every lesson ended with one of the older children reading aloud from the book, the younger ones sitting around with wide eyes as the fables set in a gleaming, heroic, far-flung Demacia played out. Eventually the reader came to the end of the chapter, and as the child closed the book with a proud flourish, Graves heard a sound from the shadows, a familiar throat clear. A figure stepped from the shadows and the children looked up in alarm.
‘Playtime’s over, Graves.’ Twisted Fate tipped his hat to the children huddled together. Graves sighed and stood from the dirt, gently retrieving the gold-leafed book from the doe-eyed child.
‘Alright kids,’ he said quietly. ‘Carry on practicing those letters for next time, ok?’ And with that, Malcolm Graves followed Twisted Fate back into the dark underbelly of Bilgewater, back to the life he was trying so hard to save the slum children from.