This is my attempt at retelling the story of the events that lead to the creation of the Shadow Isles, filling it in with lore bits and I suppose is mostly headcanon. Sorry for the wall of text but I think this was as concise as I could get all the details in that I wanted in. Enjoy!
Part 1. The Revenant
"The powers that govern life and death are not to be trifled with. The Shattered Crown is a king’s reward for defying the shadow’s embrace. I believe we are meant to ponder mortality through poetry and verse, not enslave it to our will.”
Before the Shadow Isles was the accursed and vile land it is now, it was home to a sacred forest, filled with natural energy and teeming with all forms of life. Many species of animal and spirit called the place home, and for a long time it was untouched by human hands. When man did come upon the Isles, conflict was born between them and the native spirits, who wanted to keep the paradise safe from the greedy hands of men. Magi and soldiers battled against the spirits, and the conflict brought death to both sides. Seeking a peaceful solution, one man sought out the most powerful spirit, their leader. He managed to negotiate terms that would allow the settlers to make a home for themselves on the Isles, so long as they left the sacred forest alone. This man would become the King of his human settlers, and began to grow their settlement into a powerful kingdom.
However, one spirit was not so quick to forgive the humans for their violence against his brethren. He wanted nothing more than to exact cruel vengeance against all mankind, to revel in their pain and eternal anguish. His vendetta consumed him, and his hatred corrupted his very essence. This spirit began a rampage against all humans, killing them indiscriminately. It wasn't long before the king's magi managed to subdue the spirit, but just as they dealt the death blow, the spirit used his power over life energy to vex his own soul. For a moment, he was dead, but suddenly his soul was revived, twisted and undead. The magi had no means with which to kill an undead spirit as it was something they had never seen before. The spirit's gambit wouldn't pay off, however, as the still superior magi would bind him to a hollow suit of armor, trapping him within it. They hid the possessed, immobile armor beneath the King's palace.
There, the revenant would wait, stewing in his hatred. Hatred for humanity, and hatred for his spirit brethren who he believed abandoned him. The legends began to refer to this spirit as Mordekaiser, and he would remain imprisoned for many years to come.
Part 2. The Ritual
"Once, he was a noble king, until grief overcame his reason...in the end, it was no his blade that stole our lives."
Years later, the revenant's opportunity for vengeance would arrive. The King, whose name has long since been lost to history, was deep in the depths of despair. His beloved Queen had succumb to a sudden illness, and was no longer among the living. All he knew now was sorrow and mourning, and his lack of leadership was beginning to worry his people. His soldiers knew the kingdom would be vulnerable to attack from invaders and marauders who so often made land onto the Isles, and his magi were just as uneasy. The only orders he gave them were to scour the spellbooks to find some way to bring back his beloved, anything to return her to him.
It was one calvaryman, however, that brought the solution to the King. He reminded the King of the revenant, Mordekaiser, with mastery over the magic of life energy, sealed beneath the palace. The King ordered the cavalryman to bring him the spirit, and when he did, the King attempted to make a deal with the revenant. Mordekaiser confirmd that he could return the Queen from death's grasp, but that the cost would be massive. He would need to sap much life energy from the greatest pool available: the sacred forest.
The King knew this would destroy the carefully crafted peace he had with the spirits, but it mattered not to him. He ordered his mages to follow the every word of the revenant and perform the ritual. The Queen's body was placed upon a ritual alter, with the revenant beside her, and the magic ceremony began. The sky outside the palace grew dark, as the life-force of the spirit's home was slowly drained. The runic circles beneath the ritual altar glowed, filling up with essence, and soon were brighter than the obscured sun outside. Suddenly, a force like a blast emitted from the altar, knocking down the magi and King. The Queen's body floated off the altar, and the self-sustaining ritual began to complete. A dark mist started to rise from the ground, swirling and growing every second. It lurched, and spewed forth into the nearby armor of Mordekaiser, filling it with the stolen life energy. At the same time, the mist rose and consumed the Queen in a pillar of dark magic. The magi and the King could only watch as the revenant's prison shredded apart, turning into a storm of metal shards and black mist. Mordekaiser's victorious laughter filled the room, as the armor began to coalesce, changed into something large and fearsome.
The Black Mist spread, soon overtaking the palace. The revenant's armor began to march, approaching the magi and the King with a newly acquired mace. Metal shards still swirled around his new form, and the magi were helpless to halt the crushing weapon as it descended upon them. The King drew his blade, and attempted to strike down the revenant, but was met with a blow that sent his broken body to the floor. The pieces of his crown scattered, and the barely conscious King could only glimps at the altar where his beloved's form was slowly being released by the mist and lowered back down. Mordekaiser left the ruined king were he lie, and left the palace.
The bodies of the King's magi were consumed by the Black Mist, twisting into undead shades that fled the palace to search for anything living to destroy. The Black Mist spread, and all that fell within it were similarly cursed. All the while, the King could only slowly claw his way toward his beloved.
Part 3. The Ruined King
The eyes of the Queen opened. She tried to sit up, quickly felt a surge of sudden pain. Her hands gripped her stomach, as a hunger she had never felt before ravaged her. She could only turn over on the altar on which she lay, crying out in agony.
"My beloved," she heard a voice speak to her. It was the King, kneeling before her. The Queen lowered herself from the altar to be beside her husband. She could see he was bleeding, and she reached out to touch him. The pain in her body subsided slightly, but her agony was still apparent.
"Wh-...what happened here...?" The Queen managed to speak between pained gasps.
"I brought you back to me," the King's voice was soft, as nothing happening around him mattered more than seeing his Queen alive again.
But the pain returned, and the hunger tearing through her was all she could feel. She doubled over in agony, nearly weeping with the torment of her new existence.
"What is this...I was dead..." she realized. "The disease, it, it took me. I was finally at peace, then..."
Another rush of pain, and the Queen looked up at her King with rage in her eyes.
"You did this to me," she spoke through gritted teeth. "Why couldn't you just let me go?!"
She stood up, her indignation growing inside her.
"Why did you do this?! Why would you curse me like this?"
The King looked up at his Queen, saw her hair starting to rise on its own, and her visage slowly turning into something different, unnatural.
"I hate this!" She cried, failing to notice her transformation. "I hate you!" The Queen screamed at her King.
"Darling," he said, trying to stand and reaching out for her, "I just wanted to be wi-"
"No!" She yelled, and grasping at her head with clawed hands. Suddenly, her channeled hatred became solid, rising as black spikes from the ground. The King was impaled, forced up off the ground by the force of his Queen's powerful hate. She gasped as she felt a rush of pleasure and her pain was instantly alleviated, but it was short lived as she saw what she had done to the King.
The Queen fell to her knees again, and the spikes disappeared. The King fell to the ground, fatally wounded. Tears rolled from the Queen's eyes, and she could no longer bear to look at her husband. She quickly got up and fled, running as fast as her legs would carry her.
With the last of his strength, the King reached towards his wife's fleeing form before she disappeared into the shadows, and spoke his beloved's name:
And the King was no more.
Artwork by VegaColors