The Lore Inside the Cards: Gangplank and History of Bilgewater
It’s impossible to talk about the history of Bilgewater without also talking about Gangplank, the one who ruled over all the gangs who reside in this twisted place. The story of Gangplank’s rise and downfall had a profound effect on the city and the shockwave, that the explosion that ripped his ship asunder caused, can still be felt to this day. As you might expect of someone who controlled a city full of cutthroats and outlaws, Gangplank is a vile men and cares for nobody but himself. He didn’t put the other pirates under his thumb by sending them flowers and asking nicely, he earned his position by murdering and pillaging his way to it.
The Rise and Fall of Gangplank, The Saltwater Scourge:
Nothing is known about where he came from, but he makes up for it with a long list of exploits. Gangplank started out as just another lowly pirate from Bilgewater, a lawless safe haven for all those who would probably be hanged if they docked in any other harbor. Over the years he accumulated vast wealth by raiding trade routes all over Runeterra’s oceans. But this wasn’t what earned him the title The Saltwater Scourge. Over and over again Gangplank managed to defy the most powerful people in all of Runeterra, that no other pirate would dare to disturb, always managing to avoid their bloody wrath.
He ransacked a temple of the Order of Shadows, a ionian clan which teaches forbidden techniques, headed by the shadow assassin Zed. Gangplank even put a dent in Swain’s pride, by stealing the noxian mother of all warships, The Leviathan. This is one of the few times where the always calm and confident grand general of Noxus lost his composure, swearing the he would get revenge for this embarrassing defeat.
Still, even so Gangplank was being hunted by a order of assassins and the most powerful empire in the world, not to mention the horde of bounty hunters breathing down his neck, nobody could bring him down. Gangplank wasn’t invulnerable however and one day, Miss Fortune would do what even Noxus or the huge swath of Gangplank’s enemies couldn’t do.
Miss Fortune hired Twisted Fate in order to infiltrate one of Gangplank’s warehouses, where he stores his immense wealth. There he was to retrieve a Crimson-Coil dagger for her. However, after sneaking past the patrols, Twisted Fate encountered his old friend Graves in the warehouse. They used to be partners in crime, until Twisted Fate betrayed Graves during a heist and this was the perfect chance to get revenge. In his rage he started shooting at Twisted Fate and his former friend had no choice but to defend himself with equally deadly force. It didn’t take long until the entire Warehouse was engulfed in flames and even Bilgewater itself took a hefty amount of collateral damage. When learning of the destruction of his Warehouse, Gangplank himself intervened and captured both men.
Gangplank wanted to make an example out of them and planned to execute them in front of the whole city. Unbeknownst to him, Miss Fortune was pulling the strings from the background this entire time, soon Gangplank would finally be punished for murdering her parents. On the day of the execution, Graves handed one of Twisted Fate’s cards to him, which he had picked up in the fight between them. They were about to be thrown into the cold depths, while a crowd of gawkers at the harbor would be reminded of why you should never cross Gangplank. Twisted Fate used the card to teleport away, confusion spread among the onlookers and Gangplank only had a split second before realizing that this was a set up.
Flames engulfed the ship, effortlessly tearing the Dreadway’s hull into a billion bits. Gangplank and his crew were turned to ash in a brilliant explosion orchestrated by Miss Fortune, ironically on a day that was supposed demonstrate his power. Everyone presumed he was dead, but they were wrong. Gangplank survived the explosion, with his body covered in scars and his left arm blown away by the shockwave. He managed to drag himself to his former love, the prophet Illaoi. She deemed him worthy to continue living in the eyes of her god, the Bearded Lady and nourished him back to health. He received a new metallic arm and immediately set out again, to reclaim what Miss Fortune had taken from him.
A new Sheriff in Town:
It may be hard to belief but after Gangplanks apparent death the lawless city of Bilgewater became even more lawless and descended into chaos. Various gangs tried to fill the vacuum that was left and started decimating former rivals, as everyone vied for control over Bilgewater. The Corsair’s Conclave was formed by the 4 strongest pirate crews in order to return a semblance of peace. Miss Fortune was one of the founding captains of this alliance but the other members quickly started to plot against her.
Miss Fortune however is no rookie when it comes to handling the Bilgewater underground. She attempted to manipulate the Corsair’s Conclave with the same strategy she used to pull the strings behind Gangplank’s demise, by trying to seduce one of the captains. This plan backfired, she had underestimated just how wary the other pirates were of her already. The captain she tried to seduce used her own pistols against Miss fortune, after she had surrendered them to the doormen. She managed to escape narrowly as a hail of bullets filled the air with lead around her.
This wouldn’t stand and Miss Fortune realized she would have to change her ways, if she wants to survive. She understood now that if she wanted to triumph over her rivals, she would have to fight fire with fire. These were violent men, who prefer to solve their problems by beating it to a bloody pulp and Miss Fortune made herself vulnerable by trying to be diplomatic and subversive. Miss Fortune will have to claim Bilgewater by drowning the docks in the blood of her enemies, instead of cooperating with them, just as Gangplank did before her.
After Miss Fortune had escaped the assassination attempt, the other captains met in a abandoned warehouse at night. A doormen stood at the entrance and confiscated all weapons they carried, as they always do in Corsair Conclave meetings. They had all received a letter from another conclave member which asked them to appear in this place. What they didn’t know was that Miss Fortune had send them these letters and signed with a fake signature. This was a simple ruse, but Miss Fortune just simply needed them all in one place so her guns could do the work. The captains quickly realized they had been tricked but it was too late, the doormen was Miss Fortune in disguise and gunned them down with the pistols they had just surrendered to her.
She had done it, after a short bloody act nobody was left alive that could oppose her rise to power. But Miss Fortune was also disgusted by her actions, because they mirrored how Gangplank conquered Bilgewater.
Miss Fortune sadly realized that pirates and gang wars were one of the lesser problems that threatens to tear the city apart. Something far more deadly was looming beyond the horizon. A dark mist riddled with undead monsters was spreading out from the Shadow Isles, eager to purge the souls residing in untainted lands beyond the ocean. Bilgewater was unfortunate enough to be one of the closest cities to the Shadow Isles and all the murderous horrors that reside on them. The mist stretched out towards this ample source of living souls and eventually, a wave made out of the undead erupted from these cursed isles and rapidly closed in on Bilgewater.
On the night the Harrowing would come, Olaf, the berserker from Freljord, was also present in Bilgewater. He hunted sea monsters with his crew, seeking a glorious death but unfortunately for him, he survived the hunt and sold a giant Krakenwyrm to a slaughterhouse. On the docks of Bilgewater was also a champion from LoR, Lucian, a knight from Demacia who lost his wife Senna to a the collector of souls, Thresh. He knew that the Harrowing would descend on Bilgewater this night, following it so he could purge as many undead from this world as he could and satisfy his lust for revenge for the death of this wife. Illaoi, a Bilgewater native and prophet of the Great Kraken, sensed the arrival of the undead surge and warned Miss Fortune, advising her to seek the protection of her god.
Then it arrived. Hundreds of undead flooded Bilgewaters streets and claimed the souls of every single living thing they could find. Chaos spread through the city as panicked people ran for their lives, trying to find cover from the Harrowing. Amidst the slaughter a enraged Lucian hunted down Thresh, who was seeking out new souls to capture within his lamp in Bilgewater. A fight started between them but Thresh escaped unscathed, the soul of Senna still firmly in his grasp. Lucian would have to fight another day in order to save the soul of his wife but for now, he would unleash his rage at the undead haunting Bilgewater.
Amidst the brawl, Lucian came upon Olaf and Miss Fortune by chance, who were also fighting back against the tide of the undead with all their might. Miss Fortune recalled what Illaoi had said to her earlier and together they made their way to the temple. Hecarim intercepted them before they could cross the bridge to the temple, a fearsome opponent that could easily slaughter them all. They barely escaped the wrath of the shadow of war and finally reached the temple, where they found some of the survivors praying with Illaoi for protection against the undead scourge.
The horrors of the black mist followed closely behind Miss Fortune and threatened to purge anyone alive within the temple. That was when Illaoi invoked the power of her eldritch gods and drove of the Harrowing back to the Shadow Isles. After this event life continued on normally for the citizens of Bilgewater. They already had it rough in this region full of pillaging pirates, murderous gangs and titanic sea monsters, the Harrowing would be just another in a long list of hardships they have to endure. Our champions parted ways after the black mist retreated, with Lucian still hunting down Thresh and Olaf seeking out new glorious battles. Miss Fortune had her resolve tested and came out more determined than ever to protect Bilgewater from this new threat.
The Lore Inside the Cards, the Champions of Bilgewater:
Now this would normally be the section where I use the things I learned about Gangplanks lore in order to make interesting predictions about the future of Legends of Runeterra. This is the last lore article about the new champions however, so I’m going to shake up things in order to celebrate the final of this series of articles. We are instead going to explore all the champions of the Bilgewater region that haven’t yet been featured in LoR, packaged in a little list that quickly goes over their most important aspects. I just wanna point out quickly that I find it quite ironic that Gangplanks main weapon are powder kegs in LoR, even so he was blown to pieces himself by them.
Illaoi, The Kraken Priestess:
Her faith in the elder god is just as strong as her amazonian body. Illaoi is a devout prophet of Nagakabouros, also called The Great Kraken or the Mother Serpent, but most commonly known as the Bearded Lady, probably because of her endless amount of tentacles, by most superstitious sailors from Bilgewater. It’s no wonder her arms are packed with muscles, as she bears a heavy burden literally in the form of her main weapon, the massive Eye of God. Illaoi was given this holy relict because she serves the gods directly as the so called Truth Bearer. Despite her xenophobic tribe she swore to protect the city of Bilgewater from the Harrowing and even had a affair with Gangplank.
In League of Legends, she makes herself known by the presence of invisible, ephemeral tentacles that spawn all over the summoners rift, the telltale sign of her many tentacled god. Why the ridiculous amount of tentacles in Illaoi’s religion, life and gameplay? Because something something Lovecraft.
Pyke, The Bloodharbor Ripper:
Let’s move on to another champion, who had the lucky opportunity to come in contact with a elder god at the bottom of the ocean. Pyke used to be a sea monster hunter, who track down huge creatures of the depths in order to harvest their organs for their customers. One day, he was paid to hunt a jaull-fish for its extremely valuable sapphilite sacs, which unfortunately are located in its gigantic maw and need to be removed while it’s alive. They managed to capture a big one with their harpoons and Pyke jumped straight into its maw. His captain for the hunt was a coward however and when the beast started to fight against its constraints he cut the life line that connected Pyke with the ship.
The Beast then swallowed him whole and carried him to the deepest depths of the ocean, while Pyke was chilling in its stomach. Down in the endless dark he was changed, cursed and malformed into a twisted being with a insatiable desire for murder. A similar story to Nautilus, it’s possible that the same being from the abyss transformed both of them. In League of Legends
Graves, The Outlaw:
Twisted Fate’s partner in crime. Malcom Graves was a urchin from the wharfs of Bilgewater. There he learnt all the essential skills you need for life, like stealing, smuggling and how to kill. It was these years that gave him his rough personality and iron will, which he likes to enforce through his oversized, double barreled shotgun.
While trying to pull of a heist with Twisted Fate he was captured while his partner escaped unscathed. Nobody knows what exactly happened that night, but it was severe enough that years down the line they would attempt to kill each other and burned down one of Gangplanks warehouses in the process. Both were captured by Gangplank but managed to escape just before the pirate and his ship were blown to pieces by Miss Fortune.
Tahm Kench, The River King:
There are two more champions, which aren’t directly tied with Bilgewater but fit well within the region. One is Tahm Kench, a demon with a catfish-like appearance and a insatiable hunger for fresh meat. Demons are supernatural evil spirits, which were forced into existence through negative human emotions such as greed or pain being experienced on a massive scale. Naturally, the very first tales of Tahm Kench originate from the serpent isles, the home of the outlaw city of Bilgewater. The gambling, stealing and excessive drinking may have fueled the appetite of Tahm Kench and now the demon prowls the rivers of Runeterra, trying to make deals with greedy souls and then devouring them later with his massive maw.
In Legends of Runeterra the champion takes full advantage of his appetite and big mouth. He can consume minions and enemy champions, after striking them a certain amount of times, and can then spit them out again like a projectile. He can even carry allied champions in his stomach to safety or into battle.
Nami, The Tidecaller:
The Vastaya are a ancient and magical race of animal-human hybrids, who are closely tied to the spirit realm. They have a wide variety of appearances, some of them are even amphibious and resemble fish-tailed mermaids. Nami belongs to a tribe of mermaids called Marai from the ocean west of targon. She inherited the magical tidecaller staff, which allows her to control the water around her and even move on land. For hundreds of years, her tribe has regularly traded a abyssal pearl for a moonstone from a ascended targonian called Diana. They need the moonstone in order to keep the horrors from the deep sea away from their village, but last time they tried to do the exchange, Diana was nowhere to be found. Nami took upon herself to find the targonian and safe her village from certain doom.
Thanks for reading the final champion-lore spotlight, until the next expansion is released of course. Follow us on Twitter so you won’t miss any future articles about the world of Runeterra.