Armed with the power of Runeterra's gales, Janna is a mysterious, elemental wind spirit who protects the dispossessed of Zaun. Some believe she was brought into existence by the pleas of Runeterra's sailors who prayed for fair winds as they navigated treacherous waters and braved rough tempests. Her favor and protection has since been called into the depths of Zaun, where Janna has become a beacon of hope to those in need. No one knows where or when she will appear, but more often than not, she's come to help.
Many of Runeterra's sailors have strange and unusual superstitions, which is no wonder as they often live or die by the tempestuous whims of the weather. Some captains insist on pouring salt onto the deck so the sea doesn't notice they're from the shore. Others make sure to throw the first fish they catch back into the water as a show of mercy. It's not surprising, then, that most implore the wind itself for steadfast breezes, calm seas, and clear skies.
Many believe the spirit Janna was born out of these prayers.
She started small. Seafarers would sometimes spot a bright bluejust before a healthy tailwind billowed their sails. Others could swear they'd hear a whistling in the air right before a storm, as if to warn them of its approach. As word of these benevolent omens spread, sightings of the bird grew more common. Some swore they had seen the bird transform into a woman. With tapered ears and flowing hair, this mysterious maiden was said to float above the water and direct the wind with a flick of her staff.
Seafarers created ramshackle shrines of seasparrow bones and shining oyster shells which they tucked into the bows of their ships. The more successful vessels built their shrines as figureheads on their masts, hoping their more ostentatious displays of faith would be rewarded with even better winds.
Eventually, Runeterra's seamen agreed upon a name for this wind spirit: 'Janna', an ancient Shuriman word meaning 'guardian'. As more sailors came to believe in Janna and made increasingly elaborate offerings to gain her favor, she grew ever stronger. Janna helped explorers traverse new waters, blew ships from treacherous reefs, and - on particularly starless nights - wrapped the comfort of a warm breeze around a homesick sailor's shoulders. For those sailing with ill intent - pirates, raiders, and the like - Janna was sometimes said to blow them off course with sudden squalls and storms.
Janna took great joy in her work. Whether helping people or punishing the deserving, she felt happy to watch over Runeterra's oceans.
For as long as Janna could remember, a single isthmus separated the western and eastern oceans of Valoran. In order to move from the west to the east, or from the east to the west, ships would have to brave the long, incredibly dangerous waters around the tip of the southern continent. Most ships subsequently made offerings to Janna for strong winds that would expedite their perilous journey around the rocky coast.
The city fathers of the bustling trade city on the isthmus' coast tired of watching ships make the long trek around the southern continent, which could often take many months. They hired the most innovative scientists to use the rich chemical resources recently discovered in the area to create a massive waterway that would unite Valoran's major seas.
Word of the canal spread like a pox amongst sailors. Such a passage would open up boundless trade opportunities, allow for easier passage through dangerous waters, reduce time at sea and introduce the transportation of perishable goods. It would bring the east to the west, the west to the east, and above all: it would bring change.
With the canal in place, sailors wouldn't need Janna's winds to keep their ships safe from Valoran's cliffs. They wouldn't need to build elaborate shrines or watch the stormy horizon for bluebirds. Their ships' safety and speed no longer depended on an unpredictable deity, but the ingenuity of man. And so, as construction progressed over the decades, Janna fell out of favor. Her shrines grew ragged, picked apart by gulls, and seldom was her name whispered, even as the waters grew sharp and choppy with winter.
Janna felt herself weaken and her powers fade. When she tried to summon a squall, she'd only conjure a light draft. If she transformed into her bird form, she could only fly for a few minutes before needing to rest. She'd meant so much to those at sea only a few years prior - was this how easily they could forget someone who just wanted to keep them safe and honor their prayers? Janna was saddened by her slow decline into irrelevance and, as the canal reached completion, all that remained of her was a faded breeze.
The opening of the canal was a joyful celebration. Thousands of chemtech devices were placed across the isthmus. The city fathers gathered for the ceremonial igniting of the charge as travelers from all over the world watched and waited, smiles on their faces and pride in their hearts.
The devices activated. Chemical fogs of molten rock bloomed. Booms echoed through the isthmus.
The cliff faces began to crack. The ground began to shake. Those assembled heard a roar of water and a hiss of gas.
That is when the screaming started.
In the years to come, no one would know the exact cause of the disaster. Some said it was the instability of the chem bombs, while others argued it was a miscalculation by the engineers. Whatever the cause, the explosions caused a chain reaction of earthquakes that shook the isthmus to its core. Entire districts collapsed into the ocean, and nearly half of the city's denizens suddenly found themselves fighting for their lives against the clashing currents of the western and eastern seas.
As thousands sank beneath the tides, they begged for help, praying for someone to save them. They called out for the name that, until recently, their hearts had always beckoned in times of great danger on the high seas:
Struck by a sudden surge of desperate pleas for aid, Janna felt herself materialize with greater power than she'd ever felt before.
Many of those who had fallen into the water had already drowned, but as clouds of toxic chem-gas leaked from cracks in the streets, poisoning and suffocating the hundreds of people unlucky enough to breathe them, Janna knew how to help.
She disappeared into the bleak, billowing gas, its acrid grasp overwhelming the helpless victims of the great canal's birth. Holding her staff high, she closed her eyes as wind swirled around her, the vortex so powerful that those who had summoned her feared they might be swallowed whole or ripped to pieces. Her staff glowed a brighter and brighter blue until she finally slammed it down, blowing the gas away in one ferocious burst of air. Those who had summoned Janna caught their breath and looked upon the woman who had saved them, vowing never to forget her again.
With that, a gust of wind blew through the streets, and Janna was gone... though some swore they saw a bright blue bird make a nest high atop the iron and glass spires overlooking the city.
Years after the city called Zaun was repaired and the shining town of Piltover was built above it, Janna's name endures in countless stories that tell of the wandering wind spirit who appears in times of great need. When the Zaun Gray grows thick, some say Janna blows it away, then vanishes as quickly as she came. When a Chem-Baron's thug goes too far or a victim's screams go unanswered, a fearsome torrent of wind might sweep through the alley and aid those who others are unwilling to help.
Some say Janna is a myth: an optimistic fairy tale that Zaun's most desperate tell themselves to bring an ounce of hope to their hour of need. Others - the ones who think of Janna when the wind whistles through narrow corridors of the city or huddle around handmade shrines (now crafted of scrap and gearworks rather than bird bones) - know better. When the gust rattles the shutters and blows the laundry off the line, Janna is surely in the air. Every Progress Day, no matter how cold the weather, the believers throw open their windows and doors so Janna can blow away the stale air of the year past and welcome the new. Even skeptics can't help but feel their spirits lift when they spy a curious blue bird swooping through the streets of Zaun. Though none can be sure when, how, or if Janna will appear, most everyone can agree on one thing: it's nice to have somebody watching over you.
- Deep Breath
They think Zaun is where the losers live.
They won't admit it, of course - they'll smile through their teeth and pat us on the back and tell us that Piltover would be nowhere without Zaun. Our hard workers! Our bustling trade! Our chemtech that everyone in Piltover pretends they don't buy, except they constantly do! Zaun is a vital part of Piltover's culture, they'll say.
All lies. Obviously.
They think Zaun is where the idiots go. People too stupid to make it in Piltover's golden towers.
People like me.
I spent months dealing shimmer so I could afford to apply for Clan Holloran's apprenticeship. I studied every crusty, dog-eared book I could find on gearwork machinery. I built a prototype gearbrace for people with broken or arthritic wrists that increased their mobility. I did everything I could have done to earn an apprenticeship in Piltover. I even made it to the final stage of the vetting process: a face-to-face meeting with Boswell Holloran himself.
They said it was a formality. Just a way to welcome me to the family.
He entered the room, looked down at my Gray-stained clothes, and laughed a strangled, joyless laugh. He said "Sorry, my boy - we don't take sump-rats here."
He never even sat down.
So now I'm back here. In Zaun. One more idiot.
The Gray rolls through the streets, welcoming me back. Most days, it's thin enough that you can breathe deep without coughing up something wet. Today, though, is what we call a Grayout. You choke with every breath. Your chest feels tight. Can't see much past your fingertips. I want to run, but I know there's nowhere to run to. The Gray feels like it's closing in on me, crushing me, smothering me.
These are the times I pray to.
Not everyone in Zaun believes she's real, but my mother always had faith. She told me ahovered outside her window on the day of my birth, and she knew - she knew - it was Janna telling her I was going to be fine.
She was wrong, of course. I wasn't fine, in the end. Couple of years ago, she - my mother - died while sump-scrapping, and I had to raise myself with the few gears she left me. Then, the usual: couldn't make friends. Got beaten up a lot. Boy I loved didn't love me back. Tried to study, tried to think my way up to Piltover. Couldn't. Figured Janna had forgotten about me.
But I still keep the pendant my mother gave me: a wooden engraving depicting the bluebird she saw. Just in case of moments like these.
So I sit on the wet ground because I don't care enough to find a bench, and I take out the bluebird pendant I always keep tucked in my shirt, and I talk to Janna.
Not out loud, of course - don't need people thinking I'm some chem-burnt freak - but still, I talk to her.
I don't ask her for anything. I just tell her about my day, and the day before that, and how scared I am that I'll never become anything worthwhile and that I'll die down here knee-deep in the Sump with nothing to show for it just like my mother, and that sometimes I just want to run away somewhere I can breathe and stop being so frightened and not feel like crying all the time and how I hate myself for feeling like I want to cry because I have it so much easier than some other people, and how sometimes I think about throwing myself into the chem pools of the Sump, just throwing myself in with my mother where I'd let myself sink to the bottom and my lungs would fill with fluid because then it'd be over, at least. I tell Janna I hope she's okay. I hope she's happy, wherever she is.
That's when I feel the breeze caress my cheek. Just a light flutter, but it's there. Soon, I can feel it blow hair across my face. The wind whistles loud and fast, and soon it's whipping my coat in the air and I feel as though I'm at the center of a maelstrom.
The Gray swirls before me, pushed up by a breeze that seems to flow from everywhere at once. The fog slowly dissipates, and I can see other passersby on the Entresol level watching it float away.
The wind stops.
The Gray clears.
I can breathe.
Not just small, cautious gasps, but deep breaths that fill my lungs with cold, fresh air. No longer veiled in Gray, the sun shines past the towers of Piltover into Zaun itself.
I can see the Piltovans above, peering down at us. Without the Gray clouding their view, they can see us from their lofty bridges and balconies. I don't think they like it very much. Nobody wants to be reminded they live above a slum; I see a few scowls.
That's when I see him again: Boswell Holloran. Holding a sweetcake in his hand, looking down at me again. An expression of disgust on his face, just like before.
I'm so busy staring at his contemptuous face that I don't notice the presence behind me until her hand is on my shoulder.
"It's okay", she says, and I know without turning who it is.
She squeezes my shoulder, then kneels and crosses her arms in front of my chest, pulling me into a hug.
"It's going to be okay", she says.
Strands of her hair fall onto my shoulders. She smells like the air after a long rain.
"It might not be okay now. You might not be okay for a while. And that's fine. But someday, without knowing exactly when or why or how it happened, you'll feel happy", she says. My face is warm and wet and I don't know when I started crying but it's a relief, like the clouds are clearing, and I hold her arms and she holds me, just telling me over and over that it's okay, that she's here, that things will be better.
I don't know how long she holds me, but soon I see everyone on Zaun's Entresol and the balconies of Piltover above are staring.
Before I can say anything, she says, "Don't think about them. Just take care of yourself. Will you do that for me?"
I try to speak, but instead I just nod.
"Thank you", she says, and she kisses my wet cheek and gives me one last, quick squeeze.
She rises and glides past me. For the first time, I see her in her entirety - a tall, ethereal figure that I would've assumed was from my imagination if she hadn't just touched me. I notice her long, pointed ears. Feet that don't touch the ground. Hair flowing in the wind, even right now when there isn't any. Eyes so blue I feel a little cold just looking at her.
But then she smiles, winks, and says, "You'll want to watch this next part."
There's a massive gust of wind, so fast and sharp I have to cover my eyes. When I open them again she's gone, but the wind is still blowing. It blows up toward Piltover and its gawking citizens.
It whistles as it picks up speed and strength, and the Pilties run for cover but it's too late, the breeze hits them full force, sending their frocks sailing and mussing their hair. Boswell Holloran shrieks in terror as the wind launches him off the balcony.
It seems as if he's about to plummet toward certain death, but another gust of wind shoots up toward him, and his descent slows significantly, as if the wind is guiding him down. You wouldn't know it to look at him, though. Even though he's falling with all the velocity of a tumbling leaf, he screams the entire way down. Very high pitched. Very undignified.
His clothes flap upward, smacking him in the face as he descends, until he's hovering a few inches above a puddle.
"I --- ", he begins, before the wind disappears altogether and he plops ass-first into the puddle, ruining what I assume was a very expensive ensemble. He yelps in a mixture of surprise, pain, and irritation, splashing around like an angry child. He tries to get to his feet, only to slip and fall back down all over again. If I'm being completely honest, he looks like an idiot.
And I can't stop laughing.