Elise is a deadly predator who dwells in a shuttered, lightless palace, deep in the Immortal Bastion of Noxus. Once she was mortal, the mistress of a once-powerful house, but the bite of a vile spider god transformed her into something beautiful, undying, and utterly inhuman. To maintain her eternal youth, Elise preys upon the innocent, and there are few who can resist her seductions.
The Lady Elise was born many centuries ago to House Kythera, an old and powerful family of Noxus, and swiftly learned the power of beauty to influence the weak-minded. When she came of age, she plotted to marry the scion of House Zaavan to augment her house's power. The match was opposed by many within Zaavan, but Elise beguiled her intended husband and manipulated her detractors to secure a betrothal.
As Elise had planned, her influence upon her new husband proved considerable. House Zaavan grew stronger, which in turn saw House Kythera's star rise. Elise's husband was the face of his house, but those in the know understood who truly wielded power. At first, Elise's husband tolerated this, but as the years went by, his discontent festered as he became a light joke among Noxian families.
Eventually, his resentment grew ever more rancorous until one night over a typically frosty dinner, he revealed he had tainted her wine with a disfiguring poison. He offered his terms; withdraw from society and stay out of his way as he took up the reins of power and he would give her the antidote. Refuse, and he would watch her die slowly and painfully. With every breath the poison did its evil work, dissolving her flesh and bone from the inside out. Believing he would have the antidote somewhere about his person, Elise palmed a sharp knife and played the role of remorseful wife to the hilt. She wept and begged her husband to forgive her, using every wile in her arsenal to approach without alerting him to her deadly intent. All the while, the poison was wracking her body, discoloring her flesh with grotesque lesions and filling her limbs with agony.
When Elise reached her husband, he realized - too late - just how badly he had underestimated her disdain. She leapt upon him and rammed the knife through his heart, twisting the blade slowly as she watched him die. Elise found and drank the antidote, but the damage was done. Her face was monstrously disfigured with grotesque weals and necrotic flesh, like a cadaver given hideous animation.
Elise was now mistress of House Zaavan, and such was the nature of Noxian politics that she was lauded for cutting a weakness from the empire. Yet so entwined were her particular notions of beauty and power that she retreated from public life and took to wearing a face-covering veil. Eschewing daylight, and turning away all allies and petitioners from her door, her once powerful house began a slow descent into obscurity. Elise roamed the empty halls of her palace in isolation and became a denizen of darkness, only ever venturing beyond its high walls at night.
On one of her midnight wanderings, Elise was approached by another veiled woman, who pressed a waxen sigil of a Black Rose into her palm and whispered that the Pale Woman would greatly value her talents. Elise pressed on, but as she walked away, the woman's voice echoed after her with the promise of being made whole again. However absurd she told herself it was, vanity and the hope of her beauty being renewed drove Elise to investigate further. She prowled the streets for weeks until she saw the Black Rose sigil again, etched onto a shadowed archway leading into the catacombs beneath Noxus.
Following the hidden sigils brought her to the Black Rose, a secret society where those who dabbled in the darker powers of magic shared hidden knowledge and secrets. Elise became a regular visitor, going unveiled among its members and swiftly establishing a close rapport with the Pale Woman, an agelessly beautiful individual of great power. Elise embraced the society's ways, but always sought the gift she had been promised; her beauty made whole again.
The Pale Woman spoke of a haunted place known as the Shadow Isles and a serpent-bladed belonging to one of her acolytes who had been slain in the lair of a voracious spider god. The dagger was imbued with powerful magic, and if it was returned to her, then she would use its magic to restore Elise's beauty. Elise immediately accepted and led a group of Black Rose devotees to the shunned island, knowing there would be a blood price to pay for such a prize.
Elise found a desperate, debt-ridden captain willing to bear her and her fellow pilgrims across the ocean. The ship sailed for weeks until a craggy island loomed from seething banks of black mist. Elise came ashore on a beach of ashen sand and led her followers deep into the island's haunted depths like lambs to the slaughter. Many were stolen away by spiteful wraiths, but half a dozen remained by the time they reached the web-wreathed lair of the Spider God.
A bloated, monstrous creature of chitin and fangs erupted from the darkness and feasted on the screaming men and women. As they died or were swept up in streams of web, Elise saw the dagger the Pale Woman sought - held in the grip of a desiccated corpse. She snatched it up as the Spider God sank its envenomed fangs into her shoulder. Elise fell forward and the blade of the athame pierced her heart, its powerful magic flooding her and mixing with the lethal venom to wreak terrible changes on her body. Elise was transformed as the magically-empowered venom renewed her flesh, transforming it into a form even more beautiful than before. Her scars vanished and her skin became flawless and porcelain smooth, but the god's venom had ambitions of its own. Elise's back writhed with undulant motion as a host of arachnoid legs pushed their way from her flesh.
Elise rose, breathless with the agony of her transformation, to find the Spider God looming above her. Shared power flowed between them, and both immediately sensed how they might benefit from this unexpected symbiosis. Elise returned to her ship, untroubled by the island's spirits, and set sail for Noxus. When her ship arrived at the docks in the dead of night, Elise was the only living thing aboard.
Elise returned the athame to the leader of the Black Rose, though the Pale Woman warned that the magic maintaining her restored beauty would eventually fade. The two sealed a pact; the Black Rose would provide Elise with acolytes to offer up to the Spider God, and she in turn, would return any artifacts of power she discovered upon the isles.
Elise once again took up residence in the neglected halls of House Zaavan, becoming known as a beautiful yet unreachable recluse. None suspected her true nature, yet fanciful rumors cling to her, wild tales of her immortal beauty and a terrifying creature said to lair high in her dilapidated, dust-wreathed palace.
Centuries have passed since her first voyage to the Shadow Isles, and whenever Elise sees streaks of white in her hair or crow's feet at her eyes, she ventures forth to cull easily swayed souls from the Black Rose and set sail for the isle of black mists. None who accompany her ever return, and with each voyage, it is said she is renewed and invigorated, bearing another ancient artifact for the Pale Woman.
- Strand by Silken Strand
The weeks spent on the ocean had made Markus feel dizzy and weak, so he was glad to be back on dry land. The path leading from the basalt shore had a slick, oily quality, making it treacherous underfoot. The crooked trees to either side were wretched, blackened husks that wept yellowed sap from where it looked like some panicked animal had clawed them ragged. Soft light shimmered between the trees, dancing like the corpse candles that flickered over marshland and drew unwary souls to their doom. The branches were hung with what looked like canopies of ragged muslin, and it took Markus a moment to realize they were swathes of cobwebs.
Wiry bracken clogged the undergrowth on either side of the path, rustling with the motion of unseen creatures shadowing their passage through the forest. Perhaps the rats infesting the ship had followed them. Markus had never caught sight of one, beyond a fleeting glimpse of a swollen, black-furred body or the skittering sound of claws on wood. He'd never been able to shake the notion that it sounded as if these rats had a few too many legs than any normal rat should have.
The island's air was heavy with damp, and his finely tailored tunic and boots were sodden with clinging moisture. He held a scented pomander beneath his nose, but it did little to disguise the stench of the island, reminding him of the charnel pits beyond the walls of Noxus when the winds blew in from the ocean. Thinking back to his homeland, he felt a brief twinge of unease. The revels in the catacombs far beneath the city had been a deliciously illicit thrill, a reward for following the secret symbol of the black-petaled bloom. Within the darkened sepulchers, he and his fellows gathered as devotees.
Where she awaited.
He looked ahead, hoping for a glimpse of the beguiling woman whose words had brought so many of them to this place. He caught a flash of crimson silk and swaying hips before the mist oozing between the trees obscured his sight of her. He'd thrilled to the sermons of her ancient god, and had been overjoyed when he and the others had been chosen to join her on this pilgrimage. It seemed like a grand adventure when they boarded the heavily laden barque at midnight, under the still gaze of the mute and hooded steersman, but being so far from Noxus had begun to dull his enthusiasm.
Markus paused and turned to look back along the path. His fellow pilgrims pushed past, like vacant-eyed cattle en route to the slaughterman's hammer. What was wrong with them? Behind them came the steersman, gliding over the path as though his feet barely touched it. His robes were undulant with motion and suffocating fear flowered in Markus' breast at the thought of being near this repellent figure.
He turned away, only to find himself face to face with her.
" Elise... " he said, and the breath caught in his throat. He instinctively wanted to push her away and flee this awful place, but the intoxication of her dark beauty overpowered any thought of rejection. His sense of revulsion passed so swiftly he wasn't even sure he'd truly felt it.
"Markus", she said, and the sound of his name on her lips was divine, sending a surge of pleasure down his spine. Her beauty transfixed him, and he savored every detail of her perfect form. Her features were angular and sharp, framed by lustrous crimson hair, like that of a highborn girl he once knew. Full lips and eyes of dark radiance drew him deeper into her web with the promise of raptures yet to come. A cloak of sable, secured by an eight-pronged brooch, mantled her rounded shoulders. It rippled with motion, though there was no wind to stir it.
"Is something the matter, Markus?" she said. Her smoky tones soothed his fear like a balm. "I need you to be at peace. You are at peace, aren't you, Markus?"
"Yes, Elise", he said. "I am at peace."
"Good. It would make me unhappy to know you were not at peace when we are so close."
The thought of displeasing her sent a jolt of panic through Markus and he dropped to the ground. He wrapped his arms around her legs, her limbs slender and alabaster white, smooth and cold to the touch.
"Anything for you, mistress", he said.
She looked down on him and smiled. For an instant Markus thought he saw something long, thin and glossy shift beneath her cloak. The motion was sickening and unnatural, but he didn't care. She hooked a sharpened, obsidian-black fingernail under his chin and drew him to his feet. A rivulet of blood ran down his neck, but he ignored it as she turned and led him onward.
He willingly followed, all thoughts save pleasing her vanishing like wind-blown smoke. The trees thinned out and the path ended before a rocky cliff carved with time-weathered symbols that made his eyes sting. A shadowed cave gaped like a vile maw at the base of the cliff, and Markus felt his certainty waver as a sudden sense of dread uncoiled in his gut.
Elise beckoned him inside, and he was powerless to resist.
The interior of the cave was unnaturally dark and stiflingly warm, a clammy, fever heat that reeked like offal swept from a butcher's block. A voice deep inside was screaming at him to run, to get as far from this hideous place as possible, but his traitorous feet carried him still deeper into the cave. A droplet from somewhere high above landed on his cheek and he flinched at the sudden, burning pain of it. He looked up at the cavern roof, seeing pale, grub-like shapes hanging overhead and swaying with frantic, trapped motion. In the translucent surface of the fresh-spun web, a human face screamed in mute horror against the suffocating, silken net.
"What is this place?" he asked, the veils of deceit woven around him falling away.
"This is my temple, Markus", said Elise, reaching up to unfasten the eight-pronged brooch at her shoulder and letting her cloak fall away. "This is the lair of the Spider God."
Her shoulders squirmed as two pairs of slender, chitinous limbs unfolded from the flesh of her back; long, dark and tapering to razored talons. They lifted Elise up as a grotesque, bloated mass shifted in the darkness behind her. Colossal legs heaved its corrupt body forward, the faint light from beyond the cave reflecting on the myriad facets of its eyes.
The vast spider's bulk was enormous, furred and scabbed with wet, mutant growths. The terror of its nightmarish appearance shattered the last of Elise's hold on Markus, and he fled toward the cave mouth with her cruel laughter ringing in his ears. Ropes of sticky web struck the rock beside him. Glutinous strands struck his flailing limbs and his pace slowed as he became more and more entangled. He heard the clicking of clawed limbs in pursuit and wept at the thought of her touching him. Yet more strands of her web snared him as something sharp stabbed his shoulder with astonishing swiftness. Markus fell to his knees, paralyzing venom spreading through his body and locking him in a prison of his own flesh.
A shadow fell across him and he saw the mute steersman with his arms outstretched. Markus screamed as the steersman's hooded robe collapsed, revealing that this was not a man at all, but a writhing nest of innumerable spiders given the semblance of a man. They fell upon him in their thousands, and his screams were choked to muffled grunts as they crawled into his mouth, clogged his ears and burrowed behind his eyes.
Elise swung into view above him, borne aloft by the jointed limbs at her back. She was no longer beautiful, no longer even human. Her features were alight with a ferocious hunger that could never be sated. The looming form of her monstrous spider god lifted Markus from the ground with its razored mandibles.
"You have to die now, Markus", said Elise.
"Why...?" he managed with his last breath.
Elise smiled, her mouth now filled with needle-like fangs.
"So that I can live."