Previous Update: The Harrowing
by Montesque64 (edited by CupcakeTrap)
This is from the second round of island explorations.
In the darkened halls of the Shadow Isles, initial interest in the island known as Daeyux was minimal. The frozen Nyrothian’s sketch of the island indicated some sort of healing power, a distasteful prospect unlikely to serve their interests. The records of the Nyrothians in the floating city above Yoroth corroborated this theory: it seemed that Daeyux was known principally for restorative life magic.
Magical scrying and firsthand observation revealed the truth of the island to be much different from the Nyrothian’s memories. It seemed to harbor no life whatsoever. Where they had expected to find a healthy, thriving human society, they found a lifeless wasteland overflowing with necromantic power.
They received permission to explore the island from the League, and the experiments began. Thresh and Mordekaiser brought a barge filled with captured pirates to the coast of Daeyux and whipped them ashore. The captives ran for their lives…but were dead within minutes. This was a promising sign.
Karthus observed the nuances of their demise. Stab a man to death on Valoran, and his spirit will be released as his body fails: it might traverse the cosmic barrier to an afterlife of one sort or another, or drift about as a tormented specter, or be seized and transformed by the skillful application of necromancy, but whatever the case the death of the body triggered a sharp break between the corporeal and the ethereal.
Not so here. The island’s energy did not drain their life away, nor simply extinguish it. Instead, it mutated the vital force and distilled it into necromantic power. Karthus sensed the inverted after-echoes of sophisticated healing magic, originally designed to prolong life and repair the body, and understood.
And so, here on Daeyux, every death was instantly followed by a resurrection, a transformation into an undead creature. It was not particularly refined, producing near-mindless zombies and skeletons from the captives, but it was remarkable all the same.
The Champions and Summoners of the Shadow Isles traveled inland—the latter protected by necromantic enchantments from the island’s anti-life field—and the Black Mists followed, flooding Daeyux in a dense cloud much thicker than the wisps that had begun to creep over the mainland and the other islands. There they discovered native undead of various levels of sentience, organized into cities and enclaves. Though devoid of life, it seemed that Daeyux still maintained an organized society clearly influenced by human civilization.
The story came together piece by piece. When the cataclysm blasted through Daeyux and distorted its nexus, the most powerful mages had been transformed into liches, and had quickly garnered some degree of control over the other undead. (A remarkable discovery: the spontaneous conversion of living humans into stable lich form, with full control of their faculties.) The liches had coalesced into a council of mages, each lich with their own domain upon the island, each sharing a border with the lands surrounding the ruined nexus which still pulsed with dark, deathly energies.
The nexus itself, ruptured by the shock of the cataclysm, bled distorted necromantic energy tainted with wild flashes of life magic, creating a marshy environment not unlike the Shadow Isles. It swarmed with a peculiar form of undead, apparently mindless yet resistant to control by even the most powerful necromancers—presumably the result of the life magic contaminating the energy flow. The liches had repeatedly attempted to regain control of the nexus, in order to wield its great power, but had been driven back each time by these wild undead.
The council of liches that ruled over the blighted island of Daeyux recognized their kindred spirits from Valoran. Karthus soon won them to their side. It was agreed that the forces of the Shadow Isles, reinforced by the hordes of zombies which the liches maintained, would venture into the core of the island. If they could seize control over the nexus, the necromancers of the Isles could use what they had learned in Monsku to repair the nexus and complete its realignment, ridding the aura it projected of the life magic contamination, while still retaining the remarkable property of spontaneous resurrection.
Mordekaiser decreed that he would lead his forces set out into the interior of Daeyux. So they did, flooding over the land like a dark tide, marching in time to the metallic footsteps of the Murder King.
As Mordekaiser’s army crested one of the low ridges which rippled across the darkened land, he caught sight of the foe: a blind, leaderless mass of undead, stumbling about after wispy threads of life magic mixed obscenely with the dense fog of reanimating necromantic power. Every so often, a thin mist of life magic, an echo of long-lost healing spells, would drift out from the nexus, and the staggering horde would groan with the distant memory of pain. He reveled in the delicious sensation.
While his Summoners recoiled from the revolting mixture of opposed magics, Mordekaiser bellowed a haunting laugh. He hefted his mace as Thresh whipped his undead slaves forth into battle. Such carnage awaited!
One of the wild undead had clawed its way to a deep pool of life magic that bubbled up from the ground near the nexus, drinking of its ethereal waters and regaining some semblance of humanity. Its memory of who it was had long since rotted away, but there was magic in its bones, suggesting a lifetime of arcane study. It bolstered nearby undead and began preparing a spell as Mordekaiser charged forward. It would have been most interesting to see what sort of twisted magic this being might unleash in the depths of its madness, but Mordekaiser found its screams sweeter still. One blow from his spiked mace crushed the life out of the deformed ghoul, and its rebellious spirit became his tormented slave.
Mordekaiser’s metal fist touched the side of the nexus, and drew in its power. He could only hold contact for a few seconds before a pulse of life magic shot up through him, and the Master of Metal recoiled with a cry of pain—a most remarkable experience. He channeled his power into his undead army, which was so far holding back the wild masses. Nocturne slithered through the fog and slashed the corpse-horde apart with great sweeps of his blades. They had a touch of life only, but just enough to perceive the nightmares he brought.
A pair of Summoners, Ares the human and Kelt the yordle, worked hastily to resolve the mystery of the nexus. It proved difficult, and the life magic from the nexus began to distort Mordekaiser’s necromancy.
“FASTER, YOU FOOLS!” he commanded, but was met with panicked Summoner-talk about thaumic matrices and leyline cross-bindings.
His own minions began to falter, turning on him, joining the crazed horde. They were losing ground. The Murder King saw Elise dragged down by a swarm of skeletons, only to burst forth as a great black spider, spearing undead foes with skittering legs. Even this form was was not strong enough, and he watched as she vanished once more beneath the throng. The undead pressed in on him, until even his powerful magics could not keep them at bay any longer. As the last of his army ascended the ridge behind him, his mace crashed to the ground before him, cracking the earth and slowing their advance. Then, his breastplate creaking with the fury fuming within, the Murder King retreated.
RETREAT. Mordekaiser’s metallic bellow echoed over the battlefield, and his troops began to stream back the way they had come. Mordekaiser stood firm, waves of metal clearing the ground in front of him, making room for his troops to retreat back to the fortresses of the Council of Liches. Nocturne and Evelynn were nowhere to be seen.
To a mortal army, the casualties suffered in the failed invasion would have been crippling. Nearly all of the troops raised for the assault had been destroyed on the black plains. For the Isles, it was merely a setback. Most of the disbanded souls from the destroyed undead came racing back into Mordekaiser’s clutches, and would merely need to be given a new form to inhabit. And when his armies were rebuilt in greater numbers, Mordekaiser vowed to return and bring desolation to the rebellious undead of Daeyux.
More significant were the losses of Champions that the Isles suffered. Elise, Evelynn, and Nocturne soon returned via teleportation spells worked by Ares and Kelt. Life magic contaminated the spell-streams, and all three returned in greatly weakened form.
Mordekaiser brooded upon these losses at the top of what had been a Lich’s tower. Unfortunately, the Lich had shown insufficient respect to the King of the Shadow Isles, and his bones now decorated the walls of his erstwhile fortress. The Murder King was unused to defeat, and found it not to his liking. His attendants shrank back as he stared northwards, toward the center of the island, eyes slowly glowing with an infernal light, as if hellish fires were stoking within his metallic shell. Soon their numbers would be replenished. Soon they would set out once more. He would not know defeat again.
WE WILL HAVE VENGEANCE, his voice echoed over the tower top. SHE WILL BE OURS.
Next Update: Emain Ablach