“What was fallen will be great again.”
Nasus is an imposing, jackal-headed Ascended being from ancient Shurima, a heroic figure regarded as a demigod by the people of the desert. Fiercely intelligent, he was a guardian of knowledge and peerless strategist whose wisdom guided the ancient empire of Shurima to greatness for many centuries. After the fall of the empire, he went into self-imposed exile, becoming little more than a legend. Now that the ancient city of Shurima has risen once more, he has returned, determined to ensure it never falls again.
Nasus’s brilliance was recognized from a young age, long before he was chosen to join the ranks of the Ascended. A voracious scholar, he read, memorized and critiqued the greatest works of history, philosophy and rhetoric within the Library of the Sun before he’d seen ten summers. His passion for reading and critical thinking were not passed down to his younger brother Renekton, who was quickly bored, and spent his time fighting with other local children. The brothers were close, and Nasus kept a protective eye over his younger brother, helping to ensure he didn’t get into too much trouble. However, it wasn’t long before Nasus was welcomed into the exclusive Collegium of the Sun, leaving home to take up his place in this prestigious academy.
While the pursuit of knowledge would always be his passion, Nasus’s grasp on military strategy and logistics ensured he became the youngest general in Shuriman history. While he was a competent soldier, his genius lay not in fighting battles, but in planning them.
His strategic foresight became legendary. In war, he was always a dozen moves ahead of the enemy, able to predict their movement and reactions, as well as pinpoint the exact moment to push the attack or pull back. A deeply empathetic man who took his responsibilities incredibly seriously, he always ensured his soldiers were well provisioned, paid on time, and treated fairly. Every loss of life pained him deeply, and he often refused to rest as he planned and replanned his troop movements and battle dispositions until they were perfect. He was loved and respected by all who served in his legions, and he guided the armies of Shurima to countless victories. His brother Renekton often served on the front lines of these wars, and the two of them quickly garnered an aura of invincibility.
Despite the acclaim Nasus won, he did not enjoy war. Though he understood its importance - for now at least - in ensuring the continued progress of the empire, he firmly believed his greatest contribution to Shurima was in the knowledge he gathered for future generations.
At Nasus’s urging, all the books, scrolls, teachings and histories of the cultures he defeated were preserved in great libraries and repositories throughout the empire, the greatest of which bore his name. His hunger for knowledge was not for selfish reasons, but to share wisdom with all of Shurima, to enhance understanding of the world and bring enlightenment to the empire.
After decades of dutiful service, Nasus was cruelly struck down by a terrible wasting sickness. Some say he encountered Amumu, a long-dead child-king said to bear a terrible curse; others believed he was laid low by the evil magicks of an Icathian cult-leader. Whatever the truth, the emperor’s own physician declared, with a heavy heart, that Nasus was incurable, and would be dead within a week.
The people of Shurima went into mourning, for Nasus was its brightest star and beloved by all. The emperor himself begged the priesthood for an augury. After a day and night of communing with the divine, the priests declared it the will of the sun-god that Nasus be blessed with the Ascension ritual.
Renekton, now a great war-leader, raced back to the capital to be with his brother. The terrible sickness had advanced dramatically, and Nasus was little more than a skeleton, his flesh wasted away and his bones as fragile as glass. So weak was he that as the golden light from the sun disc streamed onto the Ascension dais, Nasus was unable to climb the final stairs and step into the light.
Renekton’s love for his brother was stronger than any sense of self-preservation, and he nobly bore Nasus onto the dais. Ignoring his brother’s protests, he willingly accepted oblivion in order to save Nasus. However, Renekton was not destroyed, as was expected. When the light faded, two Ascended beings stood before Shurima. Both brothers had been deemed worthy, and the emperor himself dropped to his knees to give thanks to the divine.
Nasus was now a towering, jackal-headed being of great strength, his eyes glittering with fierce intelligence, while Renekton had been transformed into a heavily muscled behemoth bearing the likeness of a crocodile. They took their place alongside the other rare Ascended beings of Shurima, and became its protectors.
While Renekton had always been a great warrior, now he was virtually unstoppable. Nasus too had been gifted with powers far beyond the understanding of mortal men. The greatest boon of his Ascension - his newly extended longevity, which allowed him countless lifetimes to spend in study and contemplation - would, after the fall of Shurima, also prove to be his curse.
One side-effect of the ritual that disturbed Nasus was the increased savagery he saw within his brother. At the culmination of the siege of Nashramae, which finally brought that ancient city under Shuriman rule, Nasus witnessed the victorious Shuriman soldiers butchering everyone they came across and setting the city ablaze. Renekton led the massacre, and it was he who set fire to the great library of Nashramae, destroying countless irreplaceable volumes before Nasus was able to contain it. This was the closest the brothers ever came to bloodshed, standing in the center of the city, weapons drawn against each other. Under the stern, disappointed gaze of his brother, Renekton’s bloodlust waned, and he finally turned away in shame.
Over the following centuries, Nasus bent his every effort to learning all he could, scouring the desert for years in search of ancient artifacts and wisdom, eventually going on to discover the legendary Tomb of the Emperors hidden beneath the Shuriman capital.
Nasus and Renekton had both been lured away when the Ascension ritual of Emperor Azir went terribly wrong, the young emperor betrayed by his closest advisor, the magus Xerath. The brothers returned as fast as they could, but were too late. Azir was dead, along with most of the capital’s citizens. Filled with rage and grief, Nasus and Renekton battled the malevolent being of pure energy that Xerath had become.
Unable to kill Xerath, they sought to bind him in a magical sarcophagus, but even that was not enough to hold him. Renekton, perhaps attempting to atone for Nashramae years earlier, grabbed Xerath and bore him into the Tomb of the Emperors, bidding Nasus seal them in. Nasus refused, desperate to find another way, but there was no other option. With a heavy heart, he sealed Xerath and his brother within the fathomless darkness, locking them away for all eternity.
The Shuriman empire collapsed. Its great central city sank into ruin, and the holy sun disc fell from the sky, drained of power by Xerath’s magic. Without it, the divine waters flowing from the city ran dry, bringing death and famine to Shurima.
Bearing the heavy burden of guilt for having damned his brother to darkness, Nasus took to roaming the sands, accompanied only by the ghosts of the past and his grief. A melancholy figure, he stalked the now dead cities of Shurima, watching as they were slowly swallowed by the desert, lamenting the fallen empire and its lost people. He embraced isolation, a lean, solitary nomad who the occasional traveler claimed to glimpse before he disappeared into a sandstorm or an early morning haze. Few believed such stories, and Nasus became little more than a legend.
Centuries passed, and Nasus all but forgot his old life and former purpose, until the moment when the now buried Tomb of the Emperors was rediscovered, and its seal broken. In that moment, he knew Xerath was free.
Ancient vigor stirred in his breast, and as Shurima rose from the sands, Nasus traversed the desert, angling toward the newly reborn city. Though he knew he had to battle Xerath once more, hope stirred within him for the first time in millennia. Not only was this potentially the dawn of a new Shuriman empire, but he dared believe it might also herald a long-awaited reunion with his beloved brother.
Nasus walked at night, unwilling to face the sun. The boy followed in his wake.
How long had he been there?
Those mortals who caught a glimpse of the monstrous vagabond always ran, all save the boy. Together, they wove a path through the bygone tapestry of Shurima. Self-imposed isolation chipped at Nasus’s consciousness. The desert wind howled around their malnourished frames.
“Nasus, look, above the dune sea,” said the child.
Stars guided the pair’s sojourn across the desiccated expanse. The old jackal no longer wore the armor of the Ascended. The golden monuments lay buried with the past. Now a hermit dressed in tattered fabric, Nasus scratched at his matted fur before slowly raising his head to observe the night sky.
“The Piper,” said Nasus, his voice low and graveled. “The season will change soon.”
Nasus put a hand on the boy’s tiny shoulder and looked down into his sunburnt face. There, he saw the soft lines and curves of Shuriman lineage, worn ragged by travel.
When did it become your place to worry? Soon we will find you a home. Wandering between the ruins of an extinguished empire is no life for a child.
This was the nature of the universe. Brief moments unfolded into the endless cycles of existence. The heady philosophy weighed upon him, but it was more than just another stone in his endless tally of self-imposed guilt. In truth, the boy would inevitably be changed if he was allowed to follow. Remorse darkened Nasus’s brow like a thunderhead. Their companionship sated something deep within the ancient hero.
“We can reach Astrologer’s Tower before dawn. But we’ll have to climb,” said the boy.
The tower was close. Nasus pulled himself up the cliff face hand over hand, the climb memorized to such perfection that he took great liberties with each handhold, tempting death. The boy clambered up by his side, his agile form utilizing every nook and cranny offered by the blemished rock.
What would happen to this innocent if I gave in to death? The thought troubled Nasus.
Wisps of fog rolled through the crags of the upper cliffs, each threading the narrow rocks like tiny mountain paths. The boy scurried over the top first. Nasus followed.
In the distance, metal clanged against stone, and voices could be heard through the haze — they spoke in a familiar dialect. Nasus was shaken from his reverie.
The well at Astrologer’s Tower occasionally attracted nomads, but never this close to the equinox. The boy stood perfectly still, his fear palpable.
“Where are the fires?” asked the boy.
A horse’s whinny pierced the night.
“Who goes there?” asked the boy. The words rolled through the darkness.
A lantern sparked to life, illuminating a band of riders. Mercenaries. Raiders.
The jackal’s eyes snapped wide.
He saw seven of them. Their curved blades remained sheathed, but the look in their eyes spoke of martial training and guile.
“Where is the caretaker?” asked Nasus.
“He and his wife are asleep. The cool evening prompted them to retire early,” replied one of the riders.
“Old jackal, my name is Malouf,” said another rider. “We have been sent by the Emperor.”
Nasus stepped forward, betraying the briefest hint of anger.
“Does he seek acknowledgement? Then let me give it. There is no emperor in this fallen age,” said Nasus.
The boy stepped forward defiantly. The dark messengers backed away from the lantern. Long shadows obscured defensive stances.
“Deliver your message and leave,” said the child.
Malouf dismounted and stepped forward. He reached a calloused hand into the folds of his shirt and produced a dark amulet bound to a thick, black chain. The geometry of the metal sparked recollections of magic and destruction in Nasus’s mind.
“Emperor Xerath sends offerings. We are to be your servants. He welcomes you to his new capital at Nerimazeth.”
The mercenary’s words fell on Nasus like a hammer on glass.
The boy promptly knelt and snatched up a weighty rock.
“Die!” cried the boy.
“Take him!” said Malouf.
With a heave, the boy hurled the rock through the air, its perfect arc threatening to shatter mercenary bone on impact.
“Renekton, no!” roared Nasus.
The riders abandoned their half-hearted deception. Nasus knew then that the caretaker and his wife were dead. Xerath’s greeting would come in the form of cold steel. Truth began to eclipse illusion.
Nasus reached for the boy. The child tore into shadows of memory that dissipated across the starlit ground.
“Goodbye, brother,” whispered Nasus.
Xerath’s emissaries fanned out, their horses bucking and snorting. The Ascended was flanked on three sides. Malouf did not hesitate, drawing his blade and piercing Nasus’s side with it. Pain rippled through the ancient curator’s body. The rider attempted to withdraw his weapon, but it wouldn’t budge. A clawed hand gripped the blade, keeping it agonizingly buried within Ascended flesh.
“You should have left me to my ghosts,” said Nasus.
Nasus tore Malouf’s sword from his hand, shattering fingers and tearing ligaments.
The demigod pounced on his attacker. Malouf’s body cracked under the jackal’s enormous weight.
Nasus leapt to the next rider, pulling him from his saddle; two strikes ruptured organs and stole the wind from his lungs. His broken form spun off into the sand, a ruined mass of agony. His horse reared and fled into the desert.
“He’s mad!” said one of the riders.
“Not any longer,” said Nasus, approaching the mercenary leader.
A strange fragrance filled the air. Dead flowers spinning on lavender colored threads followed in his wake. Malouf twisted on the ground, the broken fingers of his right hand withered, skin sagging like wet parchment. The barrel of his chest caved in on itself like a rotting spine fruit.
White-knuckled panic overtook the remaining mercenaries. They struggled to keep their mounts under control, if only to retreat. Malouf’s body lay abandoned in the sand.
Nasus turned east toward the ruins of Nerimazeth.
“Tell your ‘emperor’ his cycle nears its end.”