The Rune Wars destroyed the gods and spirits who taught mortals the first magic. Yet at the bottom of the Guardian’s Sea, a new nexus has appeared, aligned with divine energy. Its miraculous discovery seems to fulfill the ancient prophecies of four factions of Runeterra that one day divinity would return to Runeterra.
Each faction now seeks control of the nexus, that they might realize their prophecies and bring their oldest myths back to life.
The Age of Divinity
Before the Rune Wars, and the Age of Mortals, there was the Age of Divinity. Gods and great spirits ruled Runeterra, and taught mortals the ways of magic. But they failed to respect mortal ambition, which soon fashioned new spells, known as rune spells. Rune magic warped the arcane foundations of Valoran and poisoned the magic that flowed through the once-blessed land. The great spirits, beings of pure magic, could not endure this plague. Some perished, some fled to planes beyond mortal knowing, and some went mad. A rare few survived in small islands of safety, where their followers could sustain them.
Shurima had been the last great bastion against the chaos of the Rune Wars. Its mages had devised the one form of magic that could resist even runespells. Whereas runespells tore leylines apart and unleashed their raw power in magic of indescribable brutality, the Magi of Shurima reinforced the natural patterns of the planet into defensive bulwarks that neither the Magelords nor the Protectorate could break. Though runespells had badly distorted Runeterra’s natural magic, the Shuriman Rite of Ascension stabilized divine power in corporeal form. When even Shurima finally broke apart from within, it seemed that the last trace of the divine had been scoured from Runeterra.
The League Era
By the founding of the League, divine magic had all but vanished. Scholars spoke of its echoes in the arcana that followed, but they were faint imitations—some would say mockeries. The Ionians, devoted to the study of astral magic, could at times reach beyond the stars to higher planes, though primarily to observe divinity rather than to channel its energy to reshape the mortal realm. The Shuriman Ascended who still walked Valoran held within them something like divinity, but Shurima itself was dead, and no new magic could flow from it. (Or so it seemed.) The Icathians went beyond the mortal plane, but sought not divine power but the space between dimensions, and the infinite hunger that lurked there. And a rare few in Bilgewater still followed the ways of Nagakabouros, derided by most mages as primitive trickery. They were little better regarded than the yordles, who exalted their “Mothership”. Academics could write esoteric papers about the influence of divine magic, or draw allusions to divine magic in their studies of contemporary thaumaturgy, but Shurima had been the last place on Runeterra where divinity could actually exist—or, at least, the last such place larger than a cramped backwater altar maintained by a hedge witch or a wild hermit.
For years, the League was derided as little more than a temporary armistice between Demacia and Noxus. But it persisted, and held the great powers of the League together in, if not perpetual peace, then at least an understanding that never again could they resort to the world-breaking magic of the Rune Wars. The Summoners took it upon themselves to begin the work of mending and purifying the land, but lamented that the deepest damage could never be undone. When an ocean spirit appeared, naming herself Ceruleana, most saw only a trickle of the power that once flowed in great streams. (And, some were quick to remind the romantics, it was perhaps better that mortals were no longer the playthings of gods.) Tinkering with the last remnants of Shuriman magic, which had filtered into the grains of the pyrikhos, allowed the yordles of Bandle City to refuel their Mothership for a flight to the moon—but what should have been the fulfillment of yordle religion’s greatest quest produced only some interesting sensor readings, and left them restless, wondering, well, what was next? The priests of Nagakabouros called up great serpents to fight back the Black Mist, but the great powers took little notice of a primitive shaman’s monster-summoning.
And then Shurima returned. Those who said the divine could never come back were proven wrong when the God-Emperor Azir reclaimed his throne, and unleashed celestial wrath upon the armies of Noxus and Piltover.
It is a fundamental axiom of magic that like attracts like.* Some of the Institute’s theorists asked whether the return of Shurima could remain an isolated event.
In April of 26 CLE, possible Void phenomena were detected in the Guardian’s Sea, off the coast of Bilgewater. Initial investigations were interrupted when demons of the Void attacked, turning Bilgewater’s ancient and sacred lighthouse into an energy beam that tore open the ocean floor. The attack was repelled with the help of the Freljord. But manastorms and other Void disruptions continued, leading the yordles of Bandle City to seek help from Icathians who said they could protect them. In exchange, the yordles agreed to leverage the Council to restrict activity in the Guardian’s Sea to research only. The situation is delicate, the Icathians told the yordles, and the League’s myopic attempts to “purify” the area would only expose the Bandle City merchant fleet to greater danger. The phenomena, presently tethered to Illaoi’s temple to Nagakabouros, might even be pushed far enough out to sea that they would latch on to the next nearest major source of extradimensional energy: their own Mothership.
By late April, the League had authorized limited research into the Void phenomena. The expedition was led by Zaun, which established a research base out on the open sea. Dr. Merricurry herself led the laboratory, and brought with her the Prism Shard, recovered from Kalamanda, a former Shuriman province. The unified extradimensional theory developed by Zaun during the Hextech Revolution, brilliantly applied by Merricurry, enabled the researchers to use the Prism Shard as a sensory filter that could decode the shifting thaumic patterns.
Late at night on 18 May, 26 CLE, alarms woke Merricurry from her cot. She came into the lab to see dials swinging wildly off the scale.** They had been working day and night decoding countless thaumic resonance patterns, twenty-nine of them thus far, and trying to explain them with one underlying solution. Now it seemed that they had aligned themselves, into one angry red waveform burning itself onto the glass of the main screen. The extradimensional energy was self-amplifying toward singularity and dimensional rupture. In a flash of (desperate) inspiration, Merricurry went down into the sensor core herself, and converted the Prism Shard sensor array into a focusing lens. She threw the switch and took the full force of the Void resonance into the lens. The research lab was destroyed, and its inhabitants cast into the sea. All eleven of the researchers survived; how remains a mystery.
What is known is that the Prism Shard—now nowhere to be found—split the self-amplified waveform into four currents, each of which linked to an all-but-forgotten pattern of divine magic. The lab crew reported visions of the Mothership, of Ylsa’s Memory, of Nagakabouros, and of the lost Icathian city of Uun’Zek’Nare.
On May 19, the resonance was gone. The League pronounced that its efforts had been successful, and another disaster had been averted through the cooperation of nations. But Merricurry, who had demanded copies of the latest reports brought to her in the infirmary, was unconvinced. She soon identified a new pattern in the data: four leylines had shifted, so as to meet beneath where the research station had been.
On May 23, a Bilgewater harpoon-ship, the Bloody Crown, discovered something at the site of the research station—a new nexus, radiating divine energy. A nexus is a source of great power, and never before had Summoners seen a nexus with celestial alignment. Every member-state in the League pressed the Council to award them control over it.
In the end, the Council determined that the four factions associated with the nexus prophecies would be admitted to the dispute.
Icathia and Bandle City see the nexus as a gateway to the heavens. To Icathia, it is the return of the sky-spires of Uun’Zek’Nare, the lost city which touched the stars. To Bandle City, it is the fabled Launch Pad, from which the Mothership can achieve true launch.
Bilgewater and the Freljord see the nexus as a manifestation of the divinity of the natural order of Valoran. To Bilgewater, it is the nest of a great serpent avatar of Nagakaborous, who hid from the Rune Wars deep beneath the sea. To the Freljord, it is Ylsa’s Memory, a three-part pendant cast in honor of their shared mother long ago, holding the essence of the Freljord’s spirit.
Which prophecy will be borne out shall, it seems, depend upon which faction gains control of the nexus. And that, the Council has decreed, shall be resolved on the Fields of Justice.
The Quest Begins
Until control of the nexus is finally adjudicated, the League has restricted access to the zone around the nexus to these four factions. The thaumic radiation from the nexus is intense: only individuals such as Champions and Summoners can endure it, and sending more than a few at a time seems to provoke exponentially greater thaumatoxicity. Scouts have also sighted the deep ocean monsters that drove the Marai and Atlanteans nearly to annihilation swarming around the nexus.
Bandle City has established an ocean-floor base modeled on their moonbase technology. A fleet of submarines explore the area from this port.
Bilgewater’s presence is as varied as the confederation itself. Gangplank and Miss Fortune each have their respective fleets on the surface, while Nami oversees a Marai camp on the ocean floor.
Icathia has created a floating geometrical tower of pyrikhosian glass that tips this way and that and seems like it should be breaking apart, yet its parts slide around, flex, and realign to keep it together.
The Freljord’s ice-fortress drifts on a glacier, conjured by Lissandra using a mirrorwater-enchanted crystal ball as the central focus.
*: Of course, sometimes like cures like. And sometimes one thing attracts its opposite. One can play an interesting game at uninteresting Institute parties by counting how many sentences it takes to get a Summoner to proclaim, “It’s complicated, alright?!”
**: Fortunately, Zaunite instruments are typically built with multiple well-labeled regions of “off the scale”. It is said that experienced Zaunite researchers can distinguish between (1) “The readings are off the scale!” (2) “The readings are off the scale!!” and (3) “The readings are off the scale!!!”—although examples of the third category are usually found only in badly burned black-box recorder footage.