The penultimate lore event of the Nyroth arc is finally here. We’re going back in time for this event, which takes place just prior to the end of the Nyroth dispute. Each faction has a couple days to make any final moves before the League steps in to issue its final determinations.
I have refrained from making specific World Systems connections here, as we’re still working on World Systems generally. These are meant principally as story decisions, which will influence how the arc’s final lore updates are written.
This is the last major lore event of the Nyroth arc. After it’s resolved, we’ll post a summary of the outcome and then open the post-arc poll, which is primarily about each faction’s Summoners setting their faction’s “AI” going forward. Meanwhile, Montesque64 is cataloging all the lore that needs to be written for Nyroth, and we’ll soon start gathering together writers to work on that. And no, we don’t plan on having 20+ lore updates in the next arc; that was one way in which we overextended ourselves this time around.
The Story So Far
Here’s a recap of the Nyroth story. As I write this, I realize just how much happened story-wise during this arc; it was definitely one of our denser episodes. There’s in fact still a lot of lore to be written and revised from this arc. Hopefully, this will tide people over.
Nyroth is discovered
Yordles from Bandle City, having refueled their Mothership with pyrikhos and traveled to the moon, discovered a peculiar distortion in the tumultuous seas to the west of Valoran. Despite centuries of seafaring exploration, Valoranians had only rarely traveled to that region, which was known as particularly dangerous due to its rampant wild-magic storms. Still, the distortion was so large—nearly the size of Valoran itself—that it seemed strange that none had ever noticed in from a terrestrial vantage point. The scholars consulted their records, and indeed found that there had been expeditions in that general area, none of whom recorded anything comparable to what the yordles saw from space.
A League survey soon revealed that this was an enormous wall of arcane distortion, completely encircling something. Behind the screen, explorers found Nyroth, a new continent surrounded by ten islands in an eerily regular configuration. Fearing chaos if all of the League’s member states should together travel to Nyroth, the League decreed that only four factions would be selected to make first contact, explore Nyroth, and establish relations with whatever peoples might there be found. Bilgewater, Ionia, the Shadow Isles, and the Freljord were chosen.
Four factions are chosen
Bilgewater’s maritime presence made it an obvious choice, while Ionia, with its proven commitment to the sovereignty of nations great and small, and its own history of repelling foreign invaders, was selected to safeguard the rights of the Nyrothians. As for the Shadow Isles and the Freljord, the Council was much less clear about its reasoning. Some whispered that Nyroth was being offered up as a sacrifice to the Isles, meant to divert energy from Valoran; it was feared that the Void rift opened in the Battle of Shurima would dangerously amplify the power of the Isles’ necromancers, and better perhaps it would be for Nyroth rather than Valoran to bear the brunt of what was to come. That same battle had left Demacia critically weakened, its armies in disarray and its economy crippled by sanctions almost to the point of famine. It seemed doubtful that the fledgling alliance between Demacia and the Avarosan could long endure: Winter’s Claw raiding parties had already been spotted on the northern border, eyeing the comparative riches of Demacia’s rolling fields of golden grain and well-worked iron mines. By diverting the Freljord to Nyroth, Demacia could be given time to recover, and the Freljord could find prosperity elsewhere—whether by trade or by conquest.
The Valoranians learn of the cataclysm
Initial contact was made with the winged denizens of a hextech city floating above the mainland, who warned the Valoranians that the mainland was flooded with lethal levels of thaumatoxicity. As for the islands, they said they had little contact with them, but what they had seen had led them to believe that they would be better off concealing their presence from whatever monsters had overrun most of the islands. There had been a great cataclysm about one thousand years ago—one the Valoranians soon realized had been caused by a shockwave from the Rune Wars, though they did not share this information with the Nyrothians. The Valoranians soon realized that they were immune to the mainland’s thaumatoxicity, likely due to their generations of exposure to such magic during the Rune Wars, and Bilgewater soon established the port of Stormhaven in the northern part of Nyroth. The other factions set up camp nearby, and they began to explore both the mainland and its islands.
Though the mainland was uninhabited by living organic beings, the explorers discovered many “automata”, sentient machines of remarkable complexity and intelligence. There was something about Nyroth’s mainland that enabled such sophisticated techmaturgy. They also found the lost souls of countless Nyrothians slain in the cataclysm, trapped in a thaumic matrix blanketing the mainland, perhaps the same matrix that allowed the automata to function. Further investigation explained the strange layout of Nyroth. Long ago, the mainland had been created when a great nexus drew ten smaller nexuses into its “orbit” and established a leyline convergence. This network of nexuses channeled the ambient magic of the stormy seas, which ought to have torn any landform apart, into the mega-nexus, which sublimated it into the thaumic matrix. This stable arcane configuration gave rise to a mainland and ten smaller islands surrounding it, each with a nexus at its core. This alignment was thrown askew when a shockwave from Valoran’s Rune Wars struck Nyroth and ruptured the mega-nexus, spilling wild magic through the matrix and poisoning all those inhabitants of the mainland who survived the physical devastation of falling meteors, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other spontaneous manifestations of the tremendous energy coursing through the network of leylines. Though the islands’ submatrices remained largely intact, their nexuses were corrupted by the disaster, and few emerged from the cataclysm as anything more than broken splinter civilizations.
Bilgewater rises to dominance
Under Nami’s leadership, Bilgewater established dominance in the League matches held to adjudicate the exploration of Nyroth. Its victory in the first great tournament of the dispute (and its reputation for generosity in its encounters with the island civilizations) gave it the authority to act as emissary to the Nyrothians, regulating trade and other foreign affairs on behalf of Valoran. It soon planted its flag on the lion’s share of Nyroth’s islands; to the surprise of many, it resisted its more piratical urges and instead treated the Nyrothians fairly, often going out of its way to help them rebuild their broken civilizations. Meanwhile, the Freljord established relations with an arctic yordle civilization on Argyre, Ionia discovered the dangers of reading and made friends with ghost monks, and the Shadow Isles got increasingly spooky.
During this time, the Harrowing came to Runeterra, bringing with it the Black Mists. With the help of several allied nations, Bilgewater fought back the undead onslaught.
Unfinished business from Shurima: Noxus versus Demacia, Piltover versus Zaun
While the League was primarily focused on Nyroth during this time, it also held two sets of matches, each one resolving a lingering matter from the Shuriman dispute. The first tournament was, technically speaking, a jurisdictional dispute, resolving whether or not the League had jurisdiction to enforce the laws of war with regard to the handling of Demacian soldiers and support personnel captured by Noxus in the Battle of Shurima. If Demacia won, they would be considered prisoners of war, and likely soon released under the terms of the truce; if Noxus won, their fates would be left to the High Command’s sole discretion, resolved as a purely “internal” Noxian affair. Ionia and the Freljord backed Demacia, while the Shadow Isles and (surprisingly) Bilgewater endorsed the Noxian position. Noxus won, and Swain ruthlessly enforced his victory, humiliating Demacia on the floor of the Council chambers. (He proceeded to collect a considerable bounty of gold from Bilgewater in exchange for the prisoners’ lives, enough to finish rebuilding the Noxian war machine which was destroyed in the Shon-Xan disaster.) In a rather smaller tournament that still produced the same split among the factions, Zaun won control over a newly discovered pyrikhos deposit outside the formal bounds of the Shuriman dispute.
Watching from the gallery in both instances was the Champion known as Azir, a self-proclaimed emperor of the ancient Shuriman civilization. Representing no recognized modern state, he was not permitted to advocate for either side, but observed the proceedings closely.
Whenever things are going well, someone has to start messing around with powers beyond their comprehension. So too here. The Nyroth dispute erupted into unchecked warfare when the Shadow Isles clashed with the Freljord on the island of Krocylea. Furious at their lack of progress on the Fields, the Isles’ necromancers gave in to the temptation to summon Aatrox to lead their armies. In the ensuing battle, both the Isles and the Freljord resorted to forbidden rune-spells. Aatrox basked in the bloodshed as powers were unleashed that had lain dormant since the Rune Wars. Seething with unimaginable power, Summoners slaughtered thousands in an instant. The Freljord’s incantation cascaded out of control and opened a Void rift which began to consume the island. No sooner had the four factions closed the rift than the Isles turned on the others, hellbent on slaughtering every living Krocylean to raise as undead. Soraka risked her very soul by assuming her ascendant celestial form to battle Aatrox and hold the Isles’ death magics at bay. Still the Ionians fell, and Krocylea would have been lost were it not for a devastating charge of Winter’s Claw boar riders, with Sejuani herself at the fore.
When word reached the League, its member-states immediately agreed to a temporary peace edict over all of Nyroth and its islands while the matter was investigated. A joint Noxian–Demacian peacekeeping force deployed to enforce the armistice on Krocylea, flying the Institute’s banner. The investigation ended with harsh sanctions against both the Shadow Isles and the Freljord. In its role as emissary, Bilgewater, which had largely remained out of the fighting on Krocylea, turned that island over to League jurisdiction and lobbied for heightened sanctions against the Freljord for causing the disaster.
Ionia did something mysterious in Yanti. Let’s go with Ionia so far declining to share details of what transpired there. But they came out of it with some ideas for restoring the mega-nexus in Yoroth.
Entry into Yoroth
For almost the entire dispute, the Council cordoned off the central Yoroth region from exploration. This region, ringed by mountains, was the heart of the great Nyrothian civilization, and contained the mega-nexus which ruptured in the cataclysm. The Freljord appointed Lissandra of the Frostguard as its leader, replacing Ashe, and rallied to unseat Bilgewater in the final tournament. It was thereby granted the right to lead the voyage into Yoroth, where the fate of Nyroth itself would likely be decided. Lissandra invited Ionia to join the expedition—unsurprising, many Freljordians would say, that a bookish scholar like Lissandra would choose so dull a partner as Ionia for this quest.
The Freljord will have primary authority over this expedition, but Ionia will also hold some sway.
When the post-Krocylea peace edict lifted, Aatrox led the Shadow Isles in an assault on Stormhaven, Bilgewater’s principal port. The Marai and Atlanteans, saved by Bilgewater’s creation of a new moonstone, deployed their forces just in time to reinforce the port against the undead horde. It was a brutal fight, but after Aatrox overplayed his hand and got eaten by a kraken, the Isles lost their ground and were driven into retreat.
Decisions for each faction
Each faction’s Summoners have some key decisions to make. They are described below.
Bilgewater is sitting pretty with the adoration of the Nyrothians, frosty drinks from Aeaea, huge bags of money, and control over five, count ’em five islands. Those who doubted the decision to appoint Nami as Bilgewater’s leader on Nyroth, passing over cunning bounty hunter Miss Sarah Fortune and swarthy naval mastermind Gangplank, now look rather silly. Under her leadership, Bilgewater has restored the Lunari Order and forged new moonstones for the Marai and the Atlanteans, allowing those two ancient underwater civilizations to reclaim their domains and join the nascent Bilgewater alliance.
The Northern Confederation
On 21 December of 24 CLE, mere days before the end of the dispute, rumors begin to circulate that the League might not find in Bilgewater’s favor in the Nyrothian dispute itself. Ionia is fighting back with a vengeance on the Fields of Justice, and Bilgewater’s loss in the most recent tournament has set them back significantly. There are rumors from the Institute that Ionia may end up with control over the Nyrothian mainland, leaving Valoranian authority over Nyroth conveniently split: Bilgewater handling foreign affairs and the administration of the islands, and Ionia or the Freljord overseeing the mainland.
That evening, delegates from the Nyrothian islands under Bilgewater’s control (Avalon, Emain Ablach, Mag Mell, and Aeaea, though not Kibu) arrive to parley with Gangplank on board his new flagship—the old one having been smashed to splinters by a certain bone dragon in the Battle of Stormhaven. They respect Nami, but are wary of how she might react to their proposal, given her apparent idealism. After choking on some hospitality rum, they start talking.
These Nyrothians know that it’s possible that the Freljord will restore the Yorothian mega-nexus, making the mainland inhabitable to Nyrothians again for the first time in a thousand years. They are also aware that Bilgewater may not end up with the authority to oversee the mainland; they hear that the League is being won over by Karma’s suggestions of a separation of powers, with Bilgewater managing trade and administering the islands, and another Valoranian power overseeing the mainland. These Nyrothians are not particularly pleased with this idea. They gather that Ionia would want to make them compromise and cooperate with the Krocyleans and the Scherians, or even the Argyrian yordles. They’re not looking forward to trying to form a government with those nutjobs, and they don’t want to be stuck in the middle between Ionia and Bilgewater. As they see it, the League is trying to stifle their growth by giving them two masters and hobbling them with conflicting policies.
The Nyrothians propose that, should the mainland become inhabitable, they will rapidly settle Korag and Monsku, combining these regions into a sovereign Northern Confederation (part of Bilgewater’s commonwealth) that does not recognize Ionia’s authority. They are familiar with Ionia’s history, and doubt that Karma would be willing or able to petition the League for the right to use force to bring them “in line”. Without Ionia’s support, they would need another patron to assist them in getting started, but they believe Bilgewater could fill that role. They’d be willing to pay their dues.
Gangplank will bring this offer to Nami and Bilgewater’s Summoners. It would be quite a catch for Bilgewater, at least in the longer term. On the other hand, it would damage their relations with Ionia, and to a lesser extent with the League itself. Splitting Nyroth in two right from the start could prove harmful to the objective of a stable, unified Nyroth. It would also mean that the Scherians (lunatics), Krocyleans (warmongers), and Argyrians (yordle fanatics) would have unfettered control over the southern regions. Who knows what that would look like. Finally, the Nyrothians might be right to suspect that the “separation of powers” scheme is meant to slow Nyroth’s growth: a unified Northern Confederation, with only one Valoranian power to answer to, could develop much more rapidly into a more cohesive (and thereby more dangerous) civilization.
Voting and Discussion
the Shadow Isles
With Aatrox out of the picture, the Summoners and Champions of the Isles are now free to make their final decisions. Karthus seems to be assuming primary authority over the Isles, but that is far from certain.
Aatrox lost his hold over the Shadow Isles when he was defeated in the Battle of Stormhaven. (Specifically, he was eaten by a kraken. It takes more than a big fish to kill a Darkin, and he did rematerialize not long after, but the spell was broken.) As for the League, it couldn’t care less: neither side did anything likely to cause another magical catastrophe, and the fighting ended quickly. Nobody’s getting sanctioned either way.
The Ancient Nyrothians
The Void rift on Krocylea has torn the dimensional fabric across Nyroth, loosening the ether-bonds that have trapped the souls of the ancient Nyrothians for nearly a thousand years. The Isles could send its necromancers to one of two particularly promising regions.
- Monsku. The haunted forests of Monsku throng with the spirits of many mages and scholars. Some may wish to move on to whatever awaits them in the great beyond, while others may seek a home in the Shadow Isles. This would set the Isles on a path more of scholarship than conquest.
- Korag. The crystal mines and hextech factories of Korag are thick with the souls of miners and laborers who perished in the cataclysm. The intense ambient magic of Korag’s gem deposits and great techmaturgical machines refracted the raw energy of the cataclysm into an especially lethal form, and many of these spirits are but fragments of human personalities. Korag is much less likely to yield intelligent undead beings, but if the Isles are seeking mindless thralls who will serve without question, Korag offers a much richer bounty than the sparsely populated Monsku region.
Wherever the necromancers of the Isles go, they will uncover a terrible force, and another decision.
Aklathos of the Abyss
It had long been assumed that the Nyrothian souls were merely trapped in the damaged thaumic matrix that blankets the mainland. Summoner Kuronan, however, has discovered that this matrix is not so inert as it seems. The shadowy tendrils of a nightmare-beast run through the mesh, seeking prey. Corporeal metaphors such as “feeding” fail to capture the reality of the situation; suffice it to say that this monster is thriving on these souls, and it is not clearly to the souls’ benefit or happiness that it does.
The monster calls itself Aklathos, a name seemingly of Nyrothian origin which the liches of Daeyux do not recognize. Nor do they recall any mention of the monster in the old texts; it is possible that it was summoned, or even created, by the cataclysm, but perhaps it was always there, waiting. If it is a Void demon, it is unlike any yet encountered. It appears that it may be from an extradimensional realm other than the Void.
The Isles could drive the beast back into the dark reaches of the cosmos and free the souls. But it could also be bargained with. The Isles could feed it some of the souls it craves in order to gain an audience, the first step toward harnessing its power. It principally comes down to a question of how the Isles sees its role: is it the master of the souls of the departed, or their shepherd? Which does it value more highly: mortal souls, or a fiend from beyond? Though Aklathos offers great power, the spirits it seeks to consume carry with them precious secrets of Nyroth’s past, which could be forever lost if they are sacrificed to sate the beast’s hunger.
Voting and Discussion
the Freljord and Ionia
The Freljord has one major decision to make, and it’s a big one: what to do with the ruptured mega-nexus in Yoroth? Ionia’s Summoners can make the same basic decisions. Ionia’s decisions will have about half the impact of the Freljord’s.
The Nyrothian mainland is flooded with toxic levels of wild magic. Valoran’s Rune Wars sent a shockwave across the ocean into Nyroth a thousand years ago, rupturing the mega-nexus in the center of Yoroth and poisoning the land. Valoranians are immune, likely due to a thousand years of evolution in the aftermath of the Rune Wars, but organic Nyrothians die in minutes if exposed to the mainland. Before the cataclysm, the mega-nexus sublimed the energy flowing in from the ten island-nexuses, and the Nyrothians harnessed this great power to build their remarkable civilization.
Currently, most Nyrothians say they would rather the Valoranians tried to restore the nexus to its former state. But they are far from unanimous, and some believe that given time the islands themselves could become much more hospitable.
Option One: Stabilize
This would simply lock the nexus into its current state, avoiding any further disasters. The mainland would remain uninhabitable for organic Nyrothians. In the future, someone might discover a means to do something else with the nexus; perhaps the Nyrothians themselves could make that decision after whatever comes next.
This would be a “safe” option. It has the virtue of leaving the matter to the Nyrothians, once the dust has settled from their contact with Valoran.
Option Two: Restore
This would restore the nexus to the way it was before the cataclysm. The mainland would be inhabitable again. It is difficult to predict what would happen next. Nyroth might rise up to its former glory, or the inhabitants of the various islands might fracture into warring factions as they each battle for control of the mainland. If Nyroth is rebuilt, it’s possible that it could develop to the point where it would threaten Valoran—or become a valuable ally.
It must be emphasized: this could go very, very wrong. Runeterra’s mages have only theorized about a leyline convergence of this immensity. There are forces at work here that would decades if not centuries of study to understand. Even with Ionia’s help, the Freljord’s actions could end in disaster. If the leyline convergence were destroyed, it is believed that there is enough energy present to obliterate the Nyrothian mainland and cast the islands into the stormy sea.
What are the odds? It’s hard to put numbers on something like this, with so many unknown variables. Without Ionia’s help, catastrophe would have been the most likely outcome. With Ionia’s sages working with the Frostguard, the odds are significantly improved. The latest estimates put the odds of catastrophic failure at about one in ten, with a significantly better than even chance of complete success, and some remainder possibility of a mixed outcome.
This is the most ambitious option, but potentially the most glorious. Valoran would be undoing the damage that it did long ago, and restoring the Nyrothian civilization to its former splendor.
Option Three: Re-align
One of the resonances from the island sub-nexuses could be mapped onto the central mega-nexus, remaking Nyroth in its image. For example, the Argyre resonance would likely transform Nyroth into an arctic land filled with True Ice. The Freljord could use any of the islands’ resonances, but would need to get permission from the overseer of that island:
- Avalon (Bilgewater): Order, (industrial) technology, automata.
- Emain Ablach (Bilgewater): Nature, growth.
- Argyre (the Freljord): True Ice, resilience.
- Daeyux (the Shadow Isles): Undeath, necromancy.
- Krocylea (the League): Justice, light magic.
- Scheria (Ionia): Duality, change.
- Mag Mell (Bilgewater): Fire, strength.
- Neritum (the Shadow Isles): Command, dominance, tyranny.
- Aeaea (Bilgewater): High technology, automata, the fine arts.
- Kibu (Bilgewater): Extradimensional (non-Void) energy, chaos.
An island resonance would provide a “tested” template for nexus alignment, and spare the need to reconstruct the arcane formulae of the original mega-nexus. The odds of disaster would be reduced approximately by half. On the other hand, even if successful, this would be an alteration of the original alignment, and it could have unforeseen consequences down the road. The original mega-nexus alignment held together for thousands upon thousands of years; this new version might not.
This is a compromise solution: still ambitious, but more predictable than the full restoration option.