This post announces a lore event that will conclude the Black Winter arc and lead into the next storyline. Summoners who participated in Black Winter may cast a vote that will affect their faction’s decisions in the closing days of the Black Winter, and will in turn influence Runeterra’s future.
Polls posted 26 February, 27 CLE. Polls will be open for at least 72 hours.
The Black Winter
The Harrowing of 26 CLE brought Runeterra under the veil of the Black Winter, a prolonged Black Mist-like phenomenon. At first, each state approached the crisis in their own way, but these scattered efforts failed. In late November, the traditional time of Harrow’s End, a special session of the League was convened, with the declared purpose of developing a common plan of action. Two approaches had proven effective thus far: the Demacian approach of banishing the undead with holy magic and the Ionian approach of calling on ancestral spirits to mediate with the Harrowed. A League dispute began, during which both sides would operate in the territories of their adherents, while contending on the Fields to decide which solution would ultimately be adopted across Valoran.
Noxus, however, maintained that it wanted no part of this enterprise. Its legions had secured its territory, from the capital to Shurima to the ports of its ally Bilgewater, and the High Command neither wished, nor desired, nor would permit Demacians and Ionians to come tromping through.
Over the course of the dispute, Demacia aggressively purged the Black Winter from Piltover and the Freljord. In so doing, it uncovered evidence implicating Zaun, Noxus, and agents of the League of Legends itself in the crisis. Expeditions into the Freljord corroborated reports from the Inqusition that necromantic cults had proliferated across the tundra, and debris from a destroyed Zaunite factory showed thaumic readings consistent with the fusion of hextech and necromancy. Vayne returned from a foray into Zaun with a confession from a Zaunite megacorp executive who had been experimenting with outlawed Shuriman-Icathian necromancy. She argued that this could never have remained undetected so long without collaboration from high-ranking officials at the Institute of War, which monitors traffic in dangerous artifacts.
While Demacia waged its war against the undead, Ionia called upon ancestral spirits and strove to mend connections between the worlds. Connections between Ionia and Bandle City had strengthened during the Divinity dispute, and with Ionian aid Bandle City withstood the worst of the Black Winter. Ionia faced greater difficulties, however, both at home and abroad. Demacia’s aggressive use of holy banishing magic interfered with Ionian efforts to mediate with the restless spirits, and soon Ionia was facing a resurgence of the Black Winter in the wartorn southern island of Shon-Xan. Desperate local leaders turned to Syndra, who led a movement to commune with the long-shunned spirits of the “dishonored dead”. Troubling though these developments were, Ionia devoted most of its strength to Nyroth, where it waged a costly campaign to hold back an undead invasion from the isles of Daeyux and Neritum.
Demacia ultimately prevailed on the Fields. On 11 January, 27 CLE, it was decreed by the Council of the League of Legends that Demacia should have authority to direct Valoran’s resources to bring aid to all areas still under the curse of the Black Winter:
Hear ye and be warned!
The Council of the League of Legends hereby proclaims that, contests of arms having been duly conducted upon the Fields of Justice, and Demacia having been victorious therein, it is to Demacia that the authority and responsibility for ridding Runeterra of the Black Winter shall be given.
Be it therefore resolved that Demacia shall appoint a Special Emissary to the League to oversee its efforts and coordinate the might of the nations of the League toward this crucial common purpose: to banish this darkness from our lands and secure our people against calamity.
Be it known that the authority of this Special Emissary shall not extend to Demacia, nor to Ionia, nor to Noxus, or any of the territories of the aforementioned powers, which have already overcome the Black Winter.
Let the word of the League be as law, lest all the powers of Runeterra array themselves against ye. There may be no appeal.
Now Demacia must select its Special Emissary to coordinate the League’s crusade against the Black Winter, while Ionia faces domestic strife as Syndra consolidates power in Shon-Xan.
And this is where you come in. You may be a jaded power-broker of a half-dozen League disputes, or a wide-eyed rookie who just excitedly wrote home with news that you had been summoned to the royal court of King Jarvan III or the Ionian Council of Elders. Either way, you are about to play a part in a crucial moment in history.
Demacia will lead the League’s fight against the Black Winter, through the person of a Special Emissary chosen by the King. This effort will require intervention in Zaun, which is expected to turn up evidence of Noxian involvement. The King could appoint Sir Honnan Laurent, a moderate diplomat inclined to compromise with Noxus in exchange for assistance in reining in Zaun, or he could appoint Lector Livien Crownguard, a zealous inquisitor who would attempt to bring Noxus down with the chem-barons.
Once again, it falls to Demacia to defend the innocent from the wicked. Though the League of Legends has been instrumental in preserving peace between Demacia and Noxus, it has also become a grotesque monument to greed and arrogance. Mages, corrupted by arcane temptation, have (in some cases quite literally) sold their souls in the pursuit of power. Whereas Demacian knights proudly lay down their lives for the greater good, these craven Summoners will go to nearly any length to extend their own lives, even in a wretched state of undeath. Vayne’s claims of corruption within the League, long dismissed, became harder to casually deny when the League gave formal member-state recognition to the Shadow Isles in 23 CLE.
The Black Winter, which has claimed thousands of lives and submerged the entire world in terror, is a literal and symbolic consequence of mortal corruption. The undead monstrosities that now haunt Runeterra represent the perversion of the human spirit by avarice and fear, and they were brought here not by chance but by the reckless schemes of power-hungry mortals.
Demacia’s victory upon the Fields has given it the right to name a Special Emissary to the League. This Special Emissary will be empowered to direct and regulate the deployment of Valoranian resources to drive the Black Winter back from all regions still affected. Most critically, this Special Emissary will have considerable power to enter Zaun and root out the sources of the Black Winter. It is expected that this will turn up further evidence of “NecroTek” development by Zaunite megacorps. Pinning blame on Zaun has often proved difficult in the past, as the weak Council of Zaun can often convincingly (and indeed honestly) claim ignorance of particular wrongdoing, and the downfall of one megacorp is typically followed in short order by others snatching up its former share of business.
This time, however, there are also hints of Noxian involvement, such as assets flowing from Noxian Shurima, and personal participation by members of the High Command’s inner circle. Noxus is ruled by a regime much more centralized than the virtual anarchy of Zaun, and Grand General Swain has nothing like the insulation enjoyed by Chairman Magnus Dunderson. (In addition to these political differences, it’s hard for someone with Swain’s reputation as an all-knowing mastermind to claim ignorance.)
Two names have come forward as candidates for Special Emissary: Sir Honnan Laurent, an experienced diplomat who would compromise with Noxus to maintain geopolitical stability, and Lector Livien Crownguard, a fierce ideologue who would attempt to expose Noxian involvement.
“It shall soon be three decades that the League has endured, but I fear to ask whether, should this difficult compromise between Demacia and Noxus unravel, Runeterra would survive but a single year. Let us vanquish the Black Winter, under which so many now suffer. Let us in so doing ensure that Zaun’s reckless experimentations, which could well provoke a recurrence of this catastrophe, are decisively brought to an end. But let us not, by overzealous prosecution of Noxian involvement, risk the dissolution of the League and a calamity of far greater magnitude than we now face. I therefore submit to Your Highness that the most expeditious and secure means of achieving our necessary aims would be an arrangement with Noxus whereby we confirm that we shall seek no prosecution against the High Command in this affair, in exchange for Noxian information and assistance that will ensure the final and total expurgation of necromantic techmaturgy within Zaun.”
Sir Honnan Laurent is a veteran diplomat and statesman. He was instrumental in the founding of the League, most notably in persuading Demacia’s conservative elements to cooperate in forging a deal with a foe as hated as Noxus. During the Black Winter dispute, he chastised Zaun for abusing the sovereignty it had gained through the League’s founding, and successfully convinced the majority to authorize Demacian and Piltovian forces to enter Zaun to root out the sources of the necrotic plague and the chem-zombies that assailed Piltover.
As Special Emissary, Sir Honnan would be expected to strike a deal with Noxus. (In contrast to some brash members of the younger Demacian generation, Sir Honnan has first-hand experience with the terrors of a Rune War, and appreciates the necessity of cooperation between Demacia and Noxus.) If Noxus agrees to cooperate with Demacia’s investigation, Sir Honnan would be inclined to avoid further embarrassing those Noxians who were involved in Zaun’s NecroTek operations. He is well-acquainted with certain conservative elements within the upper echelons of Noxian society who view Zaun as a ramunctious upstart, and would not mind seeing those lunatic chem-barons chastised by the League. Though bearing no love for Noxus, he is convinced that diplomacy and international law can maintain global stability. In contrast, he sees Zaun as an unaccountable rogue element incompatible with the League regime, and which may well bring about its collapse if not kept in check.
Selecting Sir Honnan offers a greater chance of reining in rogue Zaunite megacorporations, with a lesser chance of a potentially disastrous clash with Noxus.
“Enslaving the dead to conquer the living! Plucking the blackest necromancy from the Isles, and reformulating it for mass production, packaged for sale to the highest bidder! It must be understood that such wicked, profane acts as these bring the wrath of Demacia. The guilty must be seen to pay for what they’ve done. Justice might no longer be within our reach—enough good, innocent people have suffered under the Black Winter that I doubt the culprits can be made to experience even one hundredth of the pain they’ve inflicted on others. But I want them, and others like them, to understand that while we may not be able to give them all the agony they truly deserve, we will try. I call for the King’s justice!”
Lector Livien Crownguard is a rising star within the Demacian Inquisition, and a League-trained former Summoner. Her arcane talents and resourcefulness are remarkable, as is her zeal for eradicating corruption. She played a pivotal role in finding a cure for the necrotic plague, and overseeing the ultimately successful Demacian intervention into the Freljord.
Livien Crownguard openly declares her belief that Demacia should enter Zaun in force, and that those responsible—whatever their national allegiance—should pay dearly for a catastrophe that endangered all of Runeterra and cost thousands of lives. She sees the League not as a truce between Demacia and Noxus but the next, and indeed the final, step in the conflict. She maintains that the destruction of Noxus is essential, whether accomplished by political or military means. Only when Noxus has been vanquished, she believes, will it be possible for the peaceful League regime to endure.
Selecting Livien Crownguard offers a chance to strike back at Noxus and put it on the defensive, setting Demacia up for future actions to check its influence. And if the League is itself complicit, she fully intends to reveal the truth.
Pyrikhos in Shurima
Mike proposed that, seeing as the next arc takes place in Shurima, this would be a reasonable time to ask Demacia for an updated decision about the disposition of its pyrikhos fields from Hextech Revolution.
During the Hextech Revolution, Demacia acquired control over a significant share of the pyrikhos in Shurima, second only to Zaun’s share. King Jarvan III ordered that these pyrikhos fields be cordoned off and kept secure, declining suggestions that Demacia either sell it to Piltover or destroy it.
During the Black Winter deliberations, Emperor Azir’s delegates arrived at the Demacian royal court to request that Demacia “exorcise” the pyrikhos fields under its control. The thaumic radiation from this pyrikhos seemed to exacerbate the Black Winter phenomenon. It also interfered with Shuriman magic, from which it was partially derived, and made Shurima more vulnerable to Void incursions. The Emperor indicated that he would consider it an act of friendship from the Demacian king, and that it would enable Shurima to check the spreading influence of Zaun and Icathia in the region. Jarvan III’s own advisors agreed that this would be the safest course of action.
Piltover’s ambassador in turn requested that Demacia consider selling access to the pyrikhos to Piltover for industrial use and hextech research. The construction of Piltovian mines would put Piltover on more even footing with Zaun with regard to pyrikhos-driven hextech, and while there would be certain dangers, Piltovian scientists might perhaps find ways to combat these risks, over time. Further, this would provide a welcome influx of currency to Demacia, a powerful kingdom with a great deal of land and population that nonetheless had always been cash-poor.
Demacians: Vote Here
This vote is open to all Summoners who fought for Demacia in the Black Winter arc.
The Demacian crusade across Runeterra ends the Black Winter, but complicates matters within Ionia. Demacia’s banishing spells push back the ancestral spirits summoned by Ionian priests to mediate between the living and the dead, weakening their influence and rendering communication more difficult. Ionia’s connection with the spirit world remains stronger than before, but this connection retains something of a darker character, with a greater prevalence of spirits with ambivalent motivations.
The problem is most acute in the southern island-province of Shon-Xan. The recent war with Noxus over this island took many lives, and the wide-scale use of techmaturgic weaponry poisoned the land both physically and spiritually. During the height of the Black Winter, Ionia began to lose control in Shon-Xan, overwhelmed by its legions of tormented spirits, and in the midst of this chaos the dark sorceress Syndra saw an opportunity. She proclaimed that Ionia did have the strength within it to overcome this crisis, but only if it discarded its softer, gentler attitudes and resumed the veneration of powerful but ruthless ancestral spirits. Her cult of the “dishonored dead” called upon ghosts of mighty leaders and warriors long reviled as “tyrants” and “butchers”. These spirits proved eager to lend their strength to Ionia in exchange for recognition and worship. Moderate-minded clan leaders, uncomfortable with Syndra and her movement but seeing no viable alternative, pushed aside the objections of their traditionalist priests and joined Syndra’s cause.
As Ionia prepares to weather the aftershocks of Demacia’s widescale deployment of holy magic across Runeterra, it has two principal options with regard to the Shon-Xan situation.
Recognizing Syndra as Shon-Xan’s overseer would institutionalize this “cult of the dishonored dead”, and establish her influence within this region. It would also give the Order of the Shadow a recruiting ground and base of operations. Ionia would gain strength, but at what some would see as a significant moral cost. Less abstractly, the dark magic Syndra and her followers employ could trigger a new crisis, with unpredictable (but probably unpleasant) results: merely to begin with, a return of the Black Winter in Ionia would be grounds for Demacian intervention. Some even think that Syndra would be inclined to call upon Noxus for aid.
Opposing Syndra would give a chance of reclaiming orthodox leadership of Shon-Xan, and might push Syndra’s cult back into the shadows. It is not impossible that this policy would lead to open clashes between Syndra’s forces and those loyal to the Council of Elders. (Odds of Syndra smashing a mountain into the sea would noticeably increase.) Unity might well be restored, and the purity of Ionia’s divine and arcane traditions maintained, but some have begun to ask if this conflict is precisely what Syndra has been readying herself for.
Ionians: Vote Here
This vote is open to all Summoners who fought for Ionia in the Black Winter arc.