Take a gander folks!
No word of Kalista's lore but keep a look out!
**HUGE EDIT BE WARNED WALLS OF TEXT INBOUND:** Because some folks are having problems seeing these, I'll post them in full here.
**EXTRA EDIT OF DOOM:** Looks like there's some formatting errors; these weren't supposed to come out today! They'll be back up soon, with Kalista's lore included too. Keep an eye out over the next few days folks!
HECARIM – The Shadow of War
“Break their ranks and ride them down without mercy. Crush the living and feast on their terror.”
Hecarim is an armored colossus who charges from the Shadow Isles at the head of a deathly host of spectral horsemen to hunt the living. A monstrous fusion of man and beast, cursed to ride for eternity, Hecarim revels in slaughter and crushing souls beneath his armored hooves.
Born into an empire long since gone to dust and forgotten, Hecarim was squired to a legendary company of knights known as the Iron Order, a brotherhood sworn to defend their king’s land. There he endured the harshest training imaginable, a punishing regime that schooled him to be a formidable warrior.
As Hecarim grew to manhood, he mastered every form of combat and war-stratagem with ease. He quickly outstripped his fellow squires in mounted warfare, and the Knight Commander of the Iron Order saw greatness within the young man and recognized a potential successor. But as the years passed and Hecarim won victory after victory from the back of his mighty warhorse, the Knight Commander finally recognized a growing darkness within his lieutenant. Hecarim’s thirst for wholesale slaughter and obsessive hunger for glory was eroding his honor and the Knight Commander knew the young knight must never become the master of the Iron Order. In his private chambers, he told Hecarim that he would not be his successor and though his lieutenant was furious, he bit back on his anger and returned to his duties.
When the Order next rode to war, the Knight Commander found himself surrounded by enemies and isolated from his fellow knights. Only Hecarim could ride to his aid, but in a moment of rancor, he turned his mount away and left the Knight Commander to die. At battle’s end, the surviving knights, oblivious to what Hecarim had done, knelt on the bloody ground and swore to follow him as their master.
Hecarim rode to the capital, and met with Kalista, the king’s general. Kalista recognized his exceptional nature, and when the king’s wife was wounded by the poisoned blade of an assassin, she tasked the Iron Order with staying at the king’s side while she sought a cure. Hecarim accepted, but being given what he perceived to be a menial task planted a seed of resentment.
Hecarim remained with the king as he descended into grief-induced madness. Gripped by paranoia, the king raged at those who sought to separate him from his dying wife and despatched the Iron Order to quell what he saw as dissent throughout his kingdom. Hecarim led the Iron Order in bloody suppressions of discontent, earning a dreadful reputation as a ruthless enforcer of the king’s will. Villages burned and the riders of the Iron Order put hundreds to the sword. The kingdom was in darkness, and when the queen died, Hecarim spun falsehoods around the king, speaking of how he had uncovered the truth behind her death, seeking sanction to lead the Iron Order to foreign lands and earn yet more dark renown.
Before he rode out, Kalista returned from her quest. She had found a cure for the queen’s malady upon the legendary Blessed Isles, but was too late to save her. Horrified at what had become of the kingdom, Kalista refused to share what she had discovered and was imprisoned for her defiance. Hecarim saw an opportunity to win yet more favor and visited Kalista’s cell. Promising to keep the king from any rash actions, Hecarim persuaded Kalista to reveal what she knew. Kalista reluctantly agreed and guided the king’s fleet through the glamours veiling the Blessed Isles from sight.
Hecarim led the ruined form of the king to the center of the magical island, where he met with its guardians and demanded their aid. The guardians offered their sympathies, but told the king his wife was beyond their help. Enraged, the king ordered Kalista to kill the guardians one by one until they relented. Kalista refused and stood between the king and the island’s inhabitants.
Hecarim recognized a crossroads in his life and made a decision that would damn him for eternity. Instead of supporting Kalista, he drove a spear through her back and commanded the Iron Order to slay the inhabitants of the Blessed Isles. Hecarim and his warriors slaughtered the guardians until a lantern-bearing wretch finally led the king to what he sought - the secret to resurrecting his wife.
But when the queen returned to life she was a horror of decayed meat and maggot-ridden flesh who begged to be allowed to die once more. Repulsed at what he had done to his beloved wife, the king enacted a spell to end their lives and bind them together for all eternity. His conjuration was successful, but unwittingly empowered by the many potent magical artifacts stored on the island, its power was increased a hundredfold.
A hurricane of black mist surrounded the king, spreading across the island and killing everything it touched. Hecarim abandoned the king to his doom and led the Iron Order back to their ships, killing all in their path as the spirits of those slain by the black mist arose as undying wraiths. One-by-one, the knights were dragged down into undeath until only Hecarim remained. As uncontrolled sorcery filled him, he and his mighty steed were fused together in a monstrous abomination that reflected the true darkness of his soul.
Howling in rage, the titanic beast known as the Shadow of War was wrought in an agonizing transformation, a brazen monster of fury and spite. The sins of his former life were heightened by the maelstrom of dark magic, birthing a creature of endless malice and terrifying power.
Now Hecarim is bound to the Shadow Isles, patrolling its nightmare shores and killing all before him in a mockery of his former duty. And when the Black Mist reaches beyond the Shadow Isles, he and the spectral host of the Iron Order ride with him to slaughter the living in the memory of glories long passed.
**NO ONE LIVES**
Icy waves crashed on the bleak shore, red with the blood of the men Hecarim had already butchered. The mortals he had yet to kill were retreating over the beach in terror. Black rain doused them and stormclouds boiled in from the mourning heart of the island. He heard them shouting to one another. The words were a guttural battle-cant he did not recognize, but the meaning was clear; they actually thought they might live to reach their ship. True, they had some skill. They moved as one, wooden shields interlocked. But they were mortal and Hecarim savored the meat-stink of their fear.
He circled them, threading crumbling ruins and unseen in the shadowed mist rising from the ashen sand. The echoing thunder of his hooves struck sparks from black rocks. It gnawed at their courage. He watched the mortals through the slitted visor of his helm. The weak light of their wretched spirits was flickering corposant in their flesh. It repulsed him even as he craved it.
“No-one lives,” he said.
His voice was muffled by the dread iron of his helm, like the corpse-rasp of a hanged man. The sound scraped along their nerves like rusted blades. He drank in their terror and grinned as one man threw down his shield and ran for the ship in desperation.
He bellowed as he gallopped from the weed-choked ruins, lowering his hooked glaive and feeling the old thrill of the charge. A memory flickered, riding at the head of a silver host. Winning glory and honor. The memory faded as the man reached the dark surf of cold breakers and looked over his shoulder.
“Please! No!” he cried.
Hecarim split him from collarbone to pelvis in one thunderous blow.
His ebon-bladed glaive pulsed as it bathed in blood. The fragile wisp of the man’s spirit sought to fly free, but the mist’s hunger would not be cheated. Hecarim watched as the soul was twisted into a dark reflection of the man’s life.
Hecarim drew the power of the island to him and the bloody surf churned with motion as a host of dark knights wreathed in shimmering light rose from the water. Sealed within archaic plates of ghostly iron, they drew black swords that glimmered with dark radiance. He should know these men. They had served him once and served him still, but he had no memory of them. He turned back towards the mortals on the beach. He parted the mists, revelling in their terror as they saw him clearly for the first time.
His colossal form was a nightmarish hybrid of man and horse, a chimeric juggernaut of brazen iron. The plates of his body were dark and stamped with etchings whose meanings he only vaguely recalled. Bale-fire smouldered behind his visor, the spirit within cold and dead yet hatefully vital.
Hecarim reared as forking traceries of lightning split the sky. He lowered his glaive and led his knights in the charge, throwing up giant clumps of blood-sodden sand and bone fragments as he went. The mortals screamed and brought up their shields, but the ghost-knights charge was unstoppable. Hecarim struck first as was his right as their master, and the thunderous impact splintered the shieldwall wide open. Men were trampled to bloody gruel beneath his iron-shod bulk. His glaive struck out left and right, killing with every strike. The ghost knights crushed all before them, slaughtering the living in a fury of thrashing hooves, stabbing lances and chopping blades. Bones cracked and blood sprayed as mortal spirits fled broken bodies, already trapped between life and death by the fell magic of the Ruined King.
The spirits of the dead circled Hecarim, beholden to him as their killer and he revelled in the surging joy of battle. He ignored the wailing spirits. He had no interest in enslaving them. Leave such petty cruelties to the Chain Warden.
All Hecarim cared for was killing.
**Karthus – The Deathsinger**
“Death is not the end of the journey, it is just the beginning...”
The harbinger of oblivion, Karthus is an undying spirit whose haunting songs are a prelude to the horror of his nightmarish appearance. The living fear the eternity of undeath, but Karthus sees only beauty and purity in its embrace, a perfect union of life and death. When Karthus emerges from the Shadow Isles, it is to bring the joy of death to mortals as an apostle of the unliving.
Karthus was born into abject poverty in the sprawl of dwellings built beyond the walls of the Noxian capital. His mother died at the moment of his birth, leaving his father to raise him and his three sisters alone. They shared a crumbling, rat-infested almshouse with scores of other families, subsisting on a diet of rainwater and vermin. Of all the children, Karthus was the best ratter, and regularly brought gnawed corpses for the cook-pot.
Death was commonplace in the slums of Noxus, and many mornings began with the wailing of bereaved parents who woke to discover their child cold and lifeless beside them. Karthus learned to love these laments, and would watch, fascinated, as the tally-men of Kindred notched their staffs and bore the bodies from the almshouse. At night the young Karthus would sneak through the cramped rooms, seeking those whose lives hung by a thread, hoping to witness the moment their soul passed from life to death. For years, his nightly travels were fruitless, as it was impossible to predict exactly when a person would die. He was denied witnessing the moment of death until it reached his own family.
Outbreaks of disease were frequent in such cramped confines, and when Karthus’s sisters sickened with the plague, he watched over them intently. While his father drowned his grief, Karthus was the ever dutiful brother, caring for his sisters as the disease consumed them. He watched each of them as they died, and a sublime connection seemed to reach into him as the light faded from their eyes - a yearning to see what lay beyond death and unlock the secrets of eternity. When the tally-men came for the bodies, Karthus followed them back to their temple, asking them question after question about their order and the workings of death. Could a person exist at the moment where life ends, but before death begins? If such a liminal moment could be understood and held, might the wisdom of life be combined with the clarity of death?
The tally-men quickly recognized Karthus’s suitability for their order and he was inducted into their ranks, first as a digger of graves and pyre-builder, before ascending to the rank of corpse collector. Karthus guided his bone-cart around the streets of Noxus to gather the dead every day. His dirges quickly became known throughout Noxus, mournful laments that spoke to the beauty of death and the hope that what lay beyond was something to be embraced. Many a grieving family took solace in his songs, finding a measure of peace in his heartfelt elegies. Eventually, Karthus worked in the temple itself, tending to the sick in their final moments, watching as whatever death had laid its claim upon them took its due. Karthus would speak to each person laid before him, ushering their souls into death, in search of further wisdom in their fading eyes.
Eventually, Karthus reached the conclusion that he could learn no more from mortals, that only the dead themselves could answer his questions. None of the dying souls could tell of what lay beyond, but whispered rumors and tales told to frighten children echoed of a place where death was not the end - The Shadow Isles.
Karthus emptied the temple’s coffers and bought passage to Bilgewater, a city plagued by a strange black mist said to draw souls to a cursed island far out at sea. No captain was willing to take Karthus to the Shadow Isles, but eventually he came upon a rum-sodden fisherman with a mountain of debts and nothing to lose. The boat plied the ocean for many days and nights, until a storm drove them onto the rocks of an island that appeared on no charts. A black mist rolled out from a haunted landscape of gnarled trees and tumbled ruins. The fisherman freed his boat and turned its prow in terror for Bilgewater, but Karthus leapt into the sea and waded ashore. Steadying himself with his notched tally-staff, he proudly sang the lament he had prepared for the moment of his own death, and his words were carried on a cold wind to the heart of the island.
The black mist flowed through Karthus, ravaging his flesh and spirit with ancient sorcery, but such was the force of his desire to transcend mortality that it did not destroy him. Instead, it remade him, and Karthus was born anew in the waters of the island as a fleshless revenant.
Revelation filled Karthus as he became what he always believed he should have been; a being poised at the threshold of death and life. The beauty of this eternal moment filled him with wonder as the wretched spirits of the island rose to behold his transformation, drawn to his passion like predators scenting blood in the ocean. Finally, Karthus was where he belonged, surrounded by those who truly understood the boon undeath truly was. Filled with righteous zeal, he knew he had to return to Valoran and share his gift with the living, to free them from petty mortal concerns.
Karthus turned and the Black Mist bore him over the waves to the fisherman’s boat. The man fell to his knees before Karthus, begging for his life, and Karthus granted him the blessing of death, ending his mortal suffering and raising him up as an immortal spirit as he sang his lament for passing souls. The fisherman was the first of many such souls Karthus would free, and soon the Deathsinger would command a legion of unliving wraiths. To Karthus’s awakened senses, the Shadow Isles was in a state of apathetic limbo, where the blessings of death were squandered. He would galvanize the dead in a crusade to bring the beauty of oblivion to the living, to end the suffering of mortality and usher in a glorious age of undeath.
Karthus has become the emissary of the Shadow Isles, the herald of oblivion whose laments are paeans to the glory of death. His legions of unbound souls join with his funereal dirges, their haunting song reaching beyond the Black Mist to be heard on cold nights over graveyards and charnel houses all across Valoran.
BURIAL AT SEA
The sea was mirror-smooth and dark. A pirate’s moon hung low on the horizon as it had for the last six nights. Not so much as a whisper of wind stirred the air, only that damned dirge carried from who knew where. Vionax had sailed the oceans around Noxus long enough to know that seas like this only ever presaged ill-fortune. She stood on the Darkwill’s foredeck, training her spyglass on the far ocean, searching for anything she could use to plot their position.
“Nothing but sea in all directions,” she said to the night. “No land in sight and no stars I recognize. Our sails are empty of wind. The oar decks have rowed for days, but no matter which way we turn, land never comes and the moon neither waxes nor wanes.”
She took a moment to rub the heels of her palms against her face. Thirst and hunger growled in her belly and the constant darkness had made it impossible to accurately gauge the passage of time. The Darkwill wasn’t even her ship. She’d been it’s first mate until a Freljordian reaver’s axe had split Captain Mettok’s skull and given her a sudden promotion. The captain and fifteen other Noxian warriors were laid within sewn-up hammocks on the main deck. The growing stench rising from the bodies was the only consistent measure of time’s passing.
She lifted her gaze to the open ocean and her eyes widened as she saw thick black mist rising from the water. Shapes moved in the mist, lambent suggestions of clawed arms and gaping mouths. That damned dirge rang out over the water again, louder now and accompanied by the dolorous peals of a funeral bell.
“The Black Mist,” she said. “All hands on deck!”
She turned and vaulted down to the main deck, running for the quarterdeck and the ship’s wheel. Not that she could do anything to move the ship, but she’d be damned if she’d be found anywhere else. A haunting lament for lost souls drifted over the ship as men stumbled from below decks, and even as terror shivered her spine, Vionax couldn’t deny the poetry in the sound. Tears pricked her eyes and ran down her cheeks, not in fear, but from infinite sadness.
“Let me end your grief.”
The voice in her head was cold and lifeless, the voice of a dead man. It conjured the image of iron-rimmed wheels on a corpse-heaped cart, a knife cutting yet another death mark on a staff. Vionax knew the tales of the Black Mist; she knew to avoid the islands brooding beneath the darkness in the east. She’d thought the ship was far from the Shadow Isles, but she was wrong.
She pulled up short as black mist boiled up over the gunwale, bringing with it howls and screeches of dead things. Wraiths spun overhead, a swirling chorus of the damned, and the Darkwill’s crew cried out in terror at the sight of them. Vionax drew her pistol and cocked the hammer as a figure loomed from the mist; towering and wide-shouldered, robed in tattered vestments like an ancient prelate, yet his shoulders and gaunt skull were armored as a warrior. A chained book hung at his waist and he carried a long staff with its haft notched by countless tally-marks. Spectral light shone at its tip and burned like a fallen star in the palm of his free hand.
“Why do you cry?” said the creature. “I am Karthus, and I bring you a great gift.”
“I don’t want your gift,” said Vionax, pulling the trigger. Her pistol boomed and fire exploded from the barrel. The shot struck the monstrous wraith, but passed through it without harm.
“You mortals,” said Karthus, shaking his helmeted head. “You fear what you do not understand and would turn away from a boon that is freely offered.”
The monster drifted closer, and the dark radiance of his staff bathed the ship’s deck in pale, sickly light. Vionax backed away from the wraith’s chill as her crew fell before the light, their souls drifting like steam from their bodies. Her heel caught on one of the laid out hammocks and she tripped, falling backwards onto her haunches. She pushed herself away from Karthus, scrambling over the bodies of her fellow sailors.
The hammock beneath her moved.
They were all moving, squirming and writhing like fresh-caught fish gasping for air at the bottom of a boat. Tendrils of mist rose from tears in the canvas and between the rough stitches the ship’s sailmaker had used to sew them shut. Faces moved in the mist, faces she’d sailed with for years, men and women she’d fought beside.
The wraith towered over her and the dead crew of the Darkwill stood beside him, their spirit forms limned in moonlight.
“Death is nothing to be feared, Mistress Vionax,” said Karthus. “It will free you from all your pain. It will lift your eyes from your mundane existence and show you the glory of life eternal. Embrace the beauty and wonder of death. Let go of your mortality. You do not need it.”
He held his hand out and the light there swelled to envelop her. She screamed as it pressed through her skin, into muscle, through bone, down to her very soul. The wraith clenched his fist and Vionax cried out as she felt herself being unwoven from the inside out.
“Let your soul fly free,” said Karthus, turning to carve another notch in his staff with a sharpened nail. “You shall feel no pain, no fear, no desire to feel anything but the beauty of what I have to show you. Miracles and wonders await, mortal. Why would you not crave such rapture...?”
“No,” she said with her last breath. “I don’t want to see.”
“It is already done,” said Karthus.
**THRESH, THE CHAIN WARDEN**
“The mind is a wondrous thing to tear apart.”
Sadistic and cunning, Thresh is a restless spirit who prides himself on tormenting mortals and breaking them with slow, excruciating inventiveness. His victims suffer far beyond the point of death, for Thresh wreaks agony upon their souls, imprisoning them in his lantern to torture for all eternity.
In an age history has all but forgotten, the man who would later be known as Thresh was once a member of an order devoted to gathering and protecting knowledge. The masters of this order tasked him with guarding a hidden underground vault filled with dangerous and corrupted magical artifacts. Thresh was incredibly strong-willed and methodical, which made him well-suited to such work.
The vault Thresh guarded was buried deep beneath the citadel at the center of an island chain and protected by runic sigils, arcane locks and potent wards. Spending such time in the presence of dark spells began to affect Thresh as the magic sought out his innate malice. For years the relics preyed on his insecurities, taunting him with his deepest fears and feeding his bitterness.
Thresh’s spite surfaced through wanton acts of cruelty, as his talent for exploiting vulnerability bloomed. He slowly tore pages out of a living book, binding it back together when it was all but spent. He scratched the glass of a mirror bound with the memory of an ancient mage until it was opaque, trapping the man in darkness, only to polish it anew and repeat. Just as a secret wants to be told, a spell wants nothing more than to be cast, and Thresh denied this each day. He would start to recite an incantation, then let the words trickle off his tongue, halting just before the last syllable.
He became exquisitely skilled at covering all evidence of his cruelty, such that no one in the order suspected he was anything other than a disciplined guard. The vault had grown so vast that no one knew its contents as completely as Thresh, and the lesser artifacts faded from the order’s memory, as did Thresh himself.
He resented that he had to hide his meticulous work. Everything under his watch was evil, or corrupted in some way - why shouldn’t he be free to do as he would?
The vault held many peculiar magical artifacts but no people, until one day when a chained man was dragged into the sunken catacombs. He was a warlock who had infused his body with raw sorcery, which gave him the power to regenerate his flesh, no matter how grievous the wound.
Thresh was delighted at his new ward - a being who could feel the full range of human suffering, but would not perish, a plaything he could torment for years to come. He started methodically separating the warlock’s skin from his flesh with a hook, and used his chains to lash and tear the open wound until it healed. He took to wearing the chains as he patrolled the vault, reveling in the warlock’s fear at the long, dragging sound of his approach.
With ample charges to torment in the vault, Thresh became even more distanced from the order above. He began to take his meals in his underground chamber lit by a single lantern, rarely emerging from the catacombs. His skin developed a pallid complexion from lack of sunlight, and his face became gaunt and hollow. Members of the order avoided him, and when a series of mysterious disappearances plagued the order, none thought to investigate Thresh’s lair.
When the disaster known as the Ruination struck, magical shockwaves claimed the lives of all who lived on the isles and transformed them into a state of undeath. While others screamed in anguish, Thresh reveled in the ruin. He rose from this cataclysm as a spectral abomination, but unlike many who have passed into the shadow world, Thresh did not lose his identity. Rather, his penchant for cruel torture and ability to discern weakness was only heightened.
He relished the chance to continue his cruelty without fear of reprisal, unfettered by the limits of mortality. As a wraith, Thresh could torment the living and the dead endlessly, delighting in their despair before claiming their soul for an eternity of suffering.
Thresh now seeks only particular victims: the most clever and resilient, and those with a strong will. His greatest joy comes from tormenting his victims until they lose any last glimmer of hope, before facing the inevitable hook of his chains.
A horrible scraping of metal chains drifted over the fields. Outside, an unnatural fog rendered the moon and stars all but invisible, and the regular hum of insects fell silent.
Thresh approached a ruined hovel. He raised his lantern, not to see his surroundings, but to look inside the glass. The interior of the lantern resembled a starry nightscape with its thousands of tiny green glowing orbs. They buzzed frantically as if trying to escape Thresh’s gaze. His mouth twisted in a grotesque grin, teeth glinting from the glow. Each of the lights was precious to him.
Behind the door, a man whimpered. Thresh sensed his pain, and was drawn to it. He knew the man’s suffering like an old friend.
Thresh had only appeared to the man once, decades ago, but since then the spectre had taken everyone the man held dear: from his favorite horse to his mother, brother, and recently a manservant who had become a close confidant. The specter made no pretence of natural deaths; he wanted the man to know who caused each loss.
The spirit passed through the door, scraping his chains as they dragged behind him. The walls were damp and ingrained with years of grime. The man looked even worse: his hair long and matted, his skin covered in scabs - angry and raw from clawing. He wore what had once been fine velvet clothes, but were now little more than torn, tattered rags.
The man shrank from the sudden green glow, covering his eyes. He shook violently, backing away into the corner.
“Please. Please, not you,” he whispered.
“Long ago, I claimed you as mine.” Thresh’s voice creaked and stretched, as if he had not spoken for an age. “It is time I collect...”
“I am dying,” the man said, his voice barely audible. “If you’re here to kill me, you’d best hurry.” He made an effort to look at Thresh directly.
Thresh stretched his mouth wide. “Your death is not my desire.”
He set the glass door of his lantern slightly ajar. Strange sounds came from within - a cacophony of screams.
The man did not react, not at first. So many screams emerged that they blended together like scraping glass shards. But his eyes widened in horror as he heard voices he recognized plead from Thresh’s lantern. He heard his mother, his brother, his friend, and finally the sound he dreaded most: his children, wailing as if being burned alive.
“What have you done?” he screamed. He scrambled for something to throw - a broken chair - and threw it at Thresh with all his strength. It passed through the spectre harmlessly, and Thresh laughed mirthlessly.
The man ran at Thresh, eyes wild with fury. The spectre’s hooked chains whipped out like striking snakes. The barbed hooks struck the mortal’s chest, cracking ribs and piercing his heart. The man fell to his knees, face twisted in delicious agony.
“I left them to keep them safe,” the man cried. Blood gurgled from his mouth.
Thresh wrenched his chains hard. For a moment, the man did not move. Then the ripping began. Like a rough-spun sheet being slowly torn, he was excruciatingly pulled from himself. His body convulsed violently, and blood sprayed along the walls.
“Now, we begin,” said Thresh. He pulled the captured soul, pulsing brightly from the end of the chain, and trapped him within the lantern. The man’s hollow corpse collapsed as Thresh departed.
Thresh followed the curling Black Mist away from the cottage with his glowing lantern held high. Only after Thresh was gone, and the fog dissipated, did the insects resume their nightly chorus and stars once again filled the night sky.
_Hm...dunno what happened but Mordekaiser's has been taken down. Not sure what's up with that, I'll keep an eye out._