“Blood and vengeance.”
Renekton is a terrifying, rage-fueled Ascended being from the scorched deserts of Shurima. Once, he was his empire’s most esteemed warrior, leading the armies of Shurima to countless victories. However, after the empire’s fall, Renekton was entombed beneath the sands, and slowly, as the world turned and changed, he succumbed to insanity. Now free once more, he is utterly consumed with finding and killing his brother, Nasus, who he blames, in his madness, for the centuries he spent in darkness.
Renekton was born to fight. From a young age he was constantly getting into vicious brawls. He had no fear, and was able to hold his own against much older children. It was often pride that led to these confrontations, as Renekton was unable to back down, or let any insult pass. Every evening, he came home with cuts and fresh bruises, and while his more scholarly older brother, Nasus, disapproved of his street-fighting, Renekton relished it.
Nasus soon moved away, having been chosen to join the elite Collegium of the Sun, and in the years he was absent, Renekton’s skirmishes became increasingly serious. On a rare visit home, Nasus was horrified to see his bloodied young brother return home from yet another street fight. Fearing Renekton’s violent nature would see him imprisoned or in an early grave, Nasus helped him enlist in the Shuriman army. Officially, Renekton was too young for this duty, but his older brother’s influence smoothed away this detail.
The discipline and regimentation of the army was a blessing for Renekton. Within a few years, he rose to become one of Shurima’s most feared and capable war-captains, and he fought on the front line in numerous wars of conquest to expand the empire. He garnered a reputation for ferocity and toughness, but also for honor and bravery. Nasus became a decorated general, and the two of them served in a number of campaigns together, remaining very close despite their inherent differences and frequent disagreements. Nasus’s skill lay in strategy, logistics and history; Renekton’s lay in battle. Nasus planned the wars, and Renekton won them.
Renekton earned the title Gatekeeper of Shurima after fighting a desperate battle in one of the mountain passes bordering Shurima. An invading force had landed on the south coast, striking toward the isolated city of Zuretta. If it was not halted, the city was certain to be razed, and its populace massacred. Outnumbered ten to one, Renekton and a small contingent faced these aggressors, determined to buy time for the city to be evacuated. It was a battle that none expected Renekton to survive, let alone win. He held the pass for a day and a night, long enough for a relief force led by Nasus to arrive. With barely a handful of warriors left standing, none uninjured, Renekton was hailed a hero.
Renekton served on the frontlines for decades, and never lost a battle. His presence was inspiring to those fighting alongside him, and terrifying to his enemies. Victory after victory were his, and such was his reputation that some wars were won without a sword even being lifted, enemy nations surrendering as soon as they heard Renekton was marching on them.
Renekton was of middling years, a grizzled and battle-scarred veteran, when word reached him that his brother was close to death. He raced back to the capital to find Nasus a pale shadow of his former self, having been struck down by a debilitating wasting malady. The sickness was incurable, similar to the rotting curse said to have cut down an entire noble line in antiquity.
Nevertheless, Nasus’s greatness was recognized by one and all. As well as being a highly decorated general, he curated the great library of Shurima, and penned many of the finest literary works in the empire. The priesthood proclaimed it to be the sun’s will that he undertake the Ascension ritual.
The whole city gathered to witness the holy rite, but the tragic illness had taken a terrible toll, and Nasus no longer had the strength to scale the stairs to the Ascension dais. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice and love, Renekton lifted his brother in his arms, and climbed the final steps, fully expecting to be obliterated in the process by the holy energies of the sun disc. He deemed his sacrifice a small thing to ensure that his brother would live on. He was just a warrior, after all, albeit a talented one, while his brother was a peerless scholar, thinker and general. Renekton knew that Shurima would need Nasus in the years to come.
Renekton was not destroyed, however. Beneath the blinding radiance of the sun disc, both brothers were raised up and remade. When the light faded, two mighty Ascended beings stood before the onlookers, Nasus in his lean, jackal-headed body, and Renekton in his immense, crocodilian form. Their forms seemed apt; the jackal was often regarded as the most clever and cunning of beasts, and the fearless aggression of the crocodile fit Renekton perfectly. Shurima gave thanks to have these new demigods as guardians of the empire.
Renekton had been a mighty war hero before, but now he was an Ascended being, blessed with power beyond mortal understanding. He was stronger and faster than any regular man, and seemed virtually immune to pain. Though Ascended beings were not immortal, their lifespans were dramatically increased, so that they might serve the empire for hundreds of years.
With Renekton at the head of the Shuriman armies, the empire’s military was all but unstoppable. He had always been a ruthless commander and ferocious fighter, but his new form gave him power beyond belief. He led the soldiers of Shurima to many bloody victories, neither giving nor expecting mercy. His legend spread far beyond the borders of the empire, and it was his enemies that gave him the name Butcher of the Sands, a title he embraced.
There were those, Nasus among them, who came to believe that a portion of Renekton’s humanity had been lost in his transformation. As the years progressed, he seemed to become crueler, relishing the spilling of blood more than was natural, and whispers circulated of atrocities he committed in the name of war. Nevertheless, he was a staunch defender of Shurima, and he faithfully served a succession of emperors, ensuring the security and greatness of Shurima for hundreds of years.
During the reign of the Emperor Azir, word arrived that a magical being of fire had escaped the magical sarcophagus that bound it in its underground prison. It had laid waste to a Shuriman town, before fleeing across the desert to the east. Renekton and his brother Nasus set forth to recapture this legendary foe. While they were absent, the young emperor, guided by the manipulations of his magus, Xerath, attempted to join their ranks and become one of the Ascended. The results were catastrophic.
Renekton and Nasus were a day’s ride from the capital, but even so, they felt the shockwave as the Ascension ritual went awry. Knowing that something terrible had come to pass, they raced back to find the glorious city in ruins. Azir had been killed, along with most of the city’s populace, and the great sun disc was falling, drained of all its power. At the epicenter of the ruin, they encountered Xerath, now a being of pure, malevolent power.
The brothers sought to bind Xerath in the magical sarcophagus that had held the ancient being of fire. For a day and a night they battled, but the magus was powerful, and would not be held. He shattered the sarcophagus, and assailed them with spells fueled by the power of sun disc, which crashed to the ground as they fought.
Knowing that they could not destroy Xerath, Renekton finally wrestled him into the depthless Tomb of the Emperors, and bade his brother seal them inside forever. Knowing there was no other way to stop Xerath, Nasus reluctantly did as his brother ordered. As Renekton and Xerath fell into darkness, Nasus sealed the tomb for all eternity.
In the darkness, Xerath and Renekton continued their battle. For uncounted years they fought, as the once-great civilization of Shurima collapsed to dust in the world above. Xerath whispered poison in Renekton’s ear, and gradually, as the centuries rolled on, his viperous words and the ever-present darkness took its toll. The magus implanted the notion in Renekton’s mind that Nasus had sealed him in on purpose, jealous of his success, and unwilling to share his Ascension.
Piece by piece, Renekton’s sanity cracked. Xerath drove a wedge into these cracks, corrupting his mind and twisting his perception of what was real and what was imagined.
Thousands of years later, the Tomb of the Emperors was opened by the mercenary Sivir, freeing Renekton and Xerath. Renekton roared his fury and thundered out into the Shuriman desert, sniffing the air for the scent of his brother.
Renekton now roams the deserts, seeking the death of Nasus, the traitor he believes left him to die. His grip on reality is tenuous at best, and while there are moments when he resembles the proud, honorable hero of the past, much of the time he is little more than a devolved hate-maddened beast, driven on by the thirst for blood and vengeance.
Am I a god?
He no longer knows. Once, perhaps, when the sun disc gleamed like gold atop the great Palace of Ten Thousand Pillars. He remembers carrying a withered ancient in his arms, and them both borne into the sky by the sun’s radiance. All his hurts and pain were washed away as the light remade him. If this memory is his, then was he once mortal? He thinks so, but cannot remember. His thoughts are a cloud of duneflies, myriad shattered memories buzzing angrily in his elongated skull.
What is real? What am I now?
This place, this cave under the sands. Is it real? He believes so, but he is no longer sure he can trust his senses. For as long as he can remember, he knew only darkness; awful, unending darkness that clung to him like a shroud. But then the darkness broke apart and he was hurled back into the light. He remembers clawing his way through the sand as the earth buckled and heaved, the living rock grinding as something long buried and all but forgotten heaved itself to the surface once again.
Towering statues erupted from beneath the sand, vast and terrible in their aspect. Armored warriors with demonic heads loomed over him, ancient gods of a long dead culture. Bellicose phantoms rose from the sand and he fled their wrath, escaping the rising city as light blazed and the moons and stars wheeled overhead. He remembers staggering through the desert, his mind afire with visions of blood and betrayal, of titanic palaces and golden temples brought down in the blink of an eye. Centuries of progress undone for the sake of one man’s vanity and pride. Was it his? He does not know, but fears it might have been.
The light that once remade his flesh now pains him. It burned him raw and seared his soul as he wandered the desert, lost and alone, tormented by a hatred he did not understand. He has taken refuge from its unforgiving light, but even here, squatting and weeping in this dripping cave, the Whisperer has found him. The shadow on the walls slithers around him; always muttering, always conspiring to feed his bitterness. He presses long, gnarled hands that end in vicious, ebon talons to his temples, but he cannot shut his constant companion in the darkness out. He never could.
The Whisperer tells tales of his shame and guilt. It speaks of the thousands who died because of him, who never had the chance to live thanks to his failure. A part of him believes these to be honeyed falsehoods, twisted fictions told often enough that he can no longer sift truth from lies. The Whisperer reminds him of the light being shut away, showing him the jackal-face of his betrayer looking down as he condemned him to the abyssal dark for all eternity. Tears gather at the corners of his cataracted eyes and he angrily wipes them away. The Whisperer knows every secret path into his mind, twisting every certainty he once clung to, every virtue that made him the hero revered as a god throughout...Shurima!
That name has meaning to him, but it fades like a shimmering mirage, remaining bound within the prison of his mind by chains of madness. His eyes, once so clear-sighted and piercing, are misted with the eons he spent in the endless dark. His skin was as tough as armored bronze, but is now dull and cracked, dust spilling from his many wounds like sand from an executioner’s hourglass. Perhaps he is dying. He thinks he might be, but the thought does not trouble him overmuch. He has lived an age and suffered too long to fear extinction.
Worse, he is no longer sure he can die. He looks at the weapon before him, a crescent bladed axe without a handle. It belonged to a warrior king of Icathia, but a fleeting memory of breaking its haft as he had broken its bearer’s army returns to him. He remembers remaking it, but not why. Perhaps he will use it to slice open his ridged throat and see what happens. Will blood or dust flow? No, he will not die here. Not yet. The Whisperer tells him fate has another role for him. He has blood yet to spill, a thirst for vengeance yet to slake. The jackal-face of the one who condemned him to darkness floats in his mind, and each time he sees it, the hatred carved on his heart boils to the surface.
He looks up at the cave walls as the shadows part, revealing the crude daubings of mortals. Ancient, flaking images, so faded as to be almost invisible, depict the desert city in all its glory. Rivers of cold, clear water flow in its pillared thoroughfares and the life-giving rays of the sun bring forth wondrous greenery from a newly fertile landscape. He sees a king in a hawk-headed helm atop a towering palace and a dark-robed figure at his side. Beneath them are two giants in armor wrought for war, one a hulking, crocodilian beast armed with a crescent-bladed axe, the other a jackal-headed warrior-scholar. In the reptilian form, he recognizes a mortal’s awed representation of his ascended incarnation. He turns his gaze upon the remaining warrior. Time has all but erased the angular script beneath the faded image, but enough is still legible for him to make out his betrayer’s name.
“Nasus…” he says. “Brother…”
And with the source of his torment named, his own identity is revealed like the sun emerging from behind a stormcloud.
“I am Renekton,” he hisses through hooked teeth. “The Butcher of the Sands.”
He lifts his crescent blade and rises to his full height as the dust of ages falls away from his armored form. Old wounds seal, broken skin knits afresh and color returns to his supple, jade crocodilian skin as purpose fills him. Once the sun remade him, but now darkness is his ally. Strength surges through his monstrously powerful body, muscles swelling and eyes burning red with hatred for Nasus. He hears the Whisperer speak once again, but he no longer heeds its voice. He clenches a clawed fist and touches the tip of his blade to the image of the jackal-headed warrior.
“You left me alone in the darkness, brother,” he says. “You will die for that betrayal.”