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Maokai is a rageful, towering treant who fights the unnatural horrors of the Shadow Isles. He was twisted into a force of vengeance after destroyed his home, surviving undeath only through the waters of life infused within his heartwood. Once a peaceful nature spirit, Maokai now furiously battles to banish the scourge of unlife from the Shadow Isles and restore his home to its former beauty.
Long before living memory, a chain of islands erupted from deep beneath the ocean tides as blank slates of rock and clay. With its creation, the nature spirit Maokai was born. He took the form of a treant, with his tall body covered in bark and long limbs resembling branches. Maokai felt the profound loneliness of the land and its potential for teeming growth. He wandered from island to island in search of signs of life, growing ever more forlorn in his solitude.
On a hilly isle covered in soft, rich soil, Maokai sensed a boundless energy radiating from deep beneath the ground. He plunged his great roots downward until they reached a spring of magical, life-giving water and drank deeply. From this potent liquid, he grew hundreds of saplings and planted them across the islands.
Soon the land was shawled with verdant forests, groves of towering virenpine, and tangled woods, all steeped in wondrous magic. Magnificent skytrees with expansive canopies and thickly winding roots covered the isles with lush green foliage. Nature spirits were drawn to the lavish vegetation, and animals reveled in the fertile greenery.
When humans eventually came to the islands, they too thrived in the land's abundance and formed an enlightened society of scholars devoted to studying the world's mysteries. Though Maokai was wary of their presence, he saw how they respected the sanctity of the land. Sensing the deep magic within the woods, the humans built their homes in areas not heavily forested, to avoid disturbing any nature spirits. Maokai occasionally revealed himself directly to those he trusted and blessed them with knowledge of the verdant isles, even its greatest gift - the underground spring that could heal mortal wounds.
Centuries passed, and Maokai lived in idyllic contentment until a fleet of soldiers from across the sea beached upon the shores of the isles. Maokai sensed something was terribly wrong. Theirbore the corpse of his queen and in hopes of reviving her, bathed her decayed flesh in the healing waters. Reanimated as a rotting corpse, the queen begged to return to death. The king sought to reverse what he had done, unwittingly casting a terrible curse upon the land.
From leagues away, Maokai felt the first ripples of the disaster that would soon devastate the isles. He sensed a horrific force gathering beneath the soil, and a bitter chill washed over him.
As the ruination spread, Maokai desperately plunged his roots deep into the ground and drank of the healing waters, saturating every fiber of his being with their magic. Before the cursed water reached him, Maokai withdrew his roots, severing all connection to the pool. He howled in rage as the sacred reservoir he had entrusted to men was fully corrupted - the spiraling coils churning underwater until nothing pure remained.
Moments later, the mists surrounding the islands blackened and spread over the land, trapping all living things in an unnatural state between life and death. Maokai watched in helpless agony as all he knew - plants, nature spirits, animals, and humans alike - twisted into wretched shades. His fury grew; the great beauty he had cultivated from tiny saplings fell to ruin in an instant at the careless hand of man.
The enervating mist coiled around Maokai, and he wept as the bright flowers adorning his shoulders crumbled and fell to dust. His body shuddered and contorted into a mass of gnarled roots and tangled branches as the mist leached life from him. But Maokai's heartwood was saturated with the precious waters of life, saving him from the terrible fate of undeath.
As grotesque wraiths and horrific abominations flooded the land, Maokai was overcome by a host of lifeless men. He struck the spirits with his branchlike limbs in manic violence, realizing the force of his blows could shatter them to dust. Maokai shuddered with revulsion: he had never killed before. He flew at the breathless shapes in a frenzy, but hundreds more overwhelmed him, and eventually he was forced to retreat.
With his home all but decimated and his companions turned to deathless horrors, Maokai was tempted to try and escape the nightmare of the isles. But from deep within his twisted form, he felt the sacred waters giving him life. He had survived the Ruination by carrying the very heart of the islands within him, and he would not abandon his home now. As the Blessed Isles' first nature spirit, he would remain and fight for the soul of the land.
Though surrounded by endless hosts of malicious foes and darkening mist, Maokai fights with furious vengeance to conquer the evil that plagues the isles. His only pleasure comes from dealing savage violence to the soulless wraiths who roam his land.
Some days, Maokai subdues the mist and its deathless spirits, breaking their hold on a grove of trees or a small thicket. Though new life has not bloomed in such cursed soil for an age, Maokai strives to carve havens, however temporary, free from regret and decay.
So long as Maokai continues to fight, hope remains, for steeped within his heartwood are the uncorrupted waters of life, the last remaining chance of restoring the isles. If the land returns to its joyous state, Maokai, too, will shed his twisted form. The nature spirit brought life to these isles long ago, and he refuses to rest until the isles bloom once more.
The chill wind whips through cracks in my bark with a hollow whistling sound. I shiver. My limbs have long forgotten the warmth of summer.
The towering shapes around me fracture and fall in the gale. The lives within died long ago; now they are my silent companions. Their brittle trunks remain only as empty husks, rough gray sketches of the lush forest that once bloomed here.
A spirit weaves between the trees in front of me, pale and spectral against the night air. A knot tightens in my bark. Normally I would lash my roots through its heart, but today I hold still, trying not to alert the wraith to my presence. I am tired of resisting. That I exist at all is an act of defiance against the curse plaguing these lands.
Its moonlike eyes are vacant. There is nothing alive and vulnerable to fuel its cold bitterness on this isle of death, nothing to be hunted or consumed. The spirit slips between the trees, leaving me to my solitude.
I look across the forest of shadows and my branches waver. My gaze catches a tiny flame of red growing amid the endless gray. Nestled in a mound of black dirt, the smallest flower bud pushes up from the ground, its petals so bright they burn my eyes.
It is a nightbloom. Long ago, they carpeted the floor of the Blessed Isles, blossoming on the evening of the summer solstice. By morning the flowers wilted, leaving only blackened petals, not to be seen again until the following year. But for one night, they illuminated the forest with blazing crimson, as if the very ground was aflame.
I look around and, for a fleeting moment, hope that if one flower exists there might be others. But there is only the somber gray of these dead isles.
My boughs creak as I take a shaky step forward. I approach the bloom, transfixed, crushing ashen leaves to dust underfoot. My colossal frame towers over its delicate shape. I lean down until my face is inches above the sweet-scented petals. The potent groundwater within my heartwood stirs, awakening in recognition. Life.
The flower's neck is tilted as if curious. Deep vermillion veins spread across each petal, and its pale green stem is coated with hundreds of silvery, velvet-soft hairs. I could spend eternity basking in its every facet.
Every moment it grows and shifts in subtle ways; its stem pushing ever higher while its petals slowly unfurl. I am enchanted by each movement, however minute. I watch as the bloom spreads to reveal the filaments extending from within, its heady scent flooding my mind with color. For a moment I forget the cold, the hollow wind, and my own bitterness.
A pale light flickers and I flinch. A glowing shape approaches. My bark tingles. Nothing from these bloodless woods is an ally.
The cursed spirit is returning, attracted to the lure of movement. Life is not so still as death.
I flex my limbs in fury, no longer eluding violence. I welcome it.
For one night, a living thing will exist on these barren isles unmarred by corrupt forces.
The specter races toward the flower and tries to inhale its fragile life. Before the bloom withers into a lifeless shade, I fling my limbs forward and lash them about the spirit's legs. She screeches, recoiling as if burned, and I roar. The groundwater within me is anathema to such unnatural beings.
She twists and breaks free of my grasp. I hoist my roots and smash them to the ground. The impact splits the barren topsoil and sends shockwaves through the earth. The reverberations strike the wraith and she reels in agony. I laugh bitterly. As she stirs, I sling my limbs through her form and she dissolves.
Dusky mist rises from the ground, accompanied by a foul stench. As the wind moans, dozens of spirits materialize before me, their garish faces gaping silently at the scene before them. The nightbloom and I grow before the wall of shadows. I will not let them destroy this one pure thing amongst so much darkness.
I throw all my rage into my blows, driving them back with furious strength. I cannot destroy every spirit on the isles, but I can hold them off for a time. A wraith tries to dart past me. I howl as I lift my roots to pierce its heart, and it dissipates into mist.
My strength is draining with so many spirits nearby, but I refuse to concede.
The flower grows brightly beneath the moonlight, oblivious to this battle for its very existence. A single crimson petal falls from its perfect blossom like a drop of blood. The lifecycle of the bloom is near its end, bringing death, and with it, respite. But I do not crave it. I feel I could cleanse the entire island of its scourge in my fury.
The cursed mist has risen above the treeline and swirls in great clouds. An endless host of spirits pours from the fog, mouths agape with ghoulish hunger. I rise to my greatest height and slam my limbs into the ravenous spirits, shattering one after another into dust. Still, more come.
I howl as I stir the air into a crudely twisting spiral, and nourish the storm with my wrath until it expands in a tempestuous whirlwind. I revel in the chaos as the maelstrom surges in a frenzied circle around me and the flower. It blasts the spirits violently back beyond the trees. From within this nightmare, I have carved a sanctuary where life can grow.
I turn to the flower. We are silent together at the eye of the storm, still amidst the madness. A second fiery petal falls from the nightbloom, then another. My energy drains into the maelstrom, but I do not falter and the tempest rages on. With each passing moment, the blossom droops further until it faces the ground. It is perfect in its slow, natural decay. I cannot look away as it gradually loses its crown of flaming petals and wilts completely.
It is dead.
I lower my branches and the maelstrom quiets. Above me, the sky is slate gray - as bright as it ever gets in this grim place. The gloom of the mist encroaches once more and the spirits return. Their faces are blank, no longer sensing the illicit life of the nightbloom, no longer anticipating the joy of a fresh kill.
They retreat into the hollow woods. I whip my roots through a specter as it passes me, scattering its essence into the fading mist. The others edge farther away from me as they return to their gloom.
Though the land appears unchanged, these isles are not the same gray wasteland they were yesterday. The waters of life stir within me and the soil beneath my roots is fertile again.
Though its petals decay into dust, the luminous nightbloom burns fire-bright in my mind, igniting my fury. Just as these islands were born of burning rock, I will cleanse them of their pestilence in a flaming blaze.
I follow the trailing spirits as they slip between hollow trees.
They will pay for their wickedness.