Date: 4 October, 21 CLE
Aside from the vaguely human shape within the shattered remnants of his sarcophagus, there is very little indication that the being called Xerath was ever a man. His presence is cold and unfeeling, with nothing to be read upon the iron mask one might call his face.
He does not pause to observe the hallway around him. Xerath approaches the massive doors to the Reflection Chamber and, with a sweep of his arm, they open before him.
The doors had only just closed behind Xerath when a sandstorm obscured his vision. Violent, stinging wind surrounded him, and he realized in horror that it began to eat away at his very form. The shattered pieces of his sarcophagus withered into wisps of sand. Worse still, Xerath felt himself grow weak. As his prison disappeared into the storm, the arcane energy that made up his form faded with it, replaced by flesh and bone.
The sands of time had turned against him. He was human again.
Around him, the storm took shape in the darkness. He recognized the sandstone walls and the statues that rose from the floor to the ceiling. These regal figures clasped scepters to their chests, and their eyes, plated in gold, gazed eternally down upon those below them. He was in the Temple of the Falcon, where all the mages of Shurima practiced their craft.
The peers of Xerath's youth sparred beneath their Magi ancestors. They threw fire and ice and twisted magic into the shapes of blades, honing the arcane into weaponry. Such was the charge of mages: the greatest masters of magic would stand victorious over Shurima's conquered foes.
Xerath watched silently at the temple's wall, entranced by the light from their spells. Nothing whetted his thirst for understanding as the pure arcane. Its dull glow called to him, and in its depths he knew there lay a thousand secrets.
"Why do you not join them, Xerath?"
The voice broke his focus. Tabia, one of his fellow mages, stood beside him. Her sudden appearance and the look of her smile made him stumble with his words for a moment. "Ah... well... we have our differences."
"You are a mage of Shurima," Tabia said. She moved closer to him. "We have the same path. What differences do you mean?"
"The way they bend their magic," he replied, turning his gaze back to the other mages.
"They make weapons of it, but they don't understand. The more you force your control over it, the more you lose your true connection to the arcane."
"Magic is chaotic. You know the lessons. Without a mage's guiding hand, we can only hope to control what the arcane does and does not destroy."
"Yes, but if it's pure power we want..." Xerath cupped his hand. In the curl of his slender fingers, a blue-violet flame sparked into existence. He knew he could shape it as he wished, but he simply let it burn.
On its own, with only the slightest prodding, the flame grew. Soon it burned fiercely in his hand, its raw power coursing through him and warming his very core.
"All it needs is a vessel," he said.
He turned his gaze up from the flame to see Tabia looking at him, not his magic. She smiled again, and her beauty drew his mind away from the arcane. Between them, the flame grew stronger...
...and then reality blurred around him.
The temple darkened and Tabia's face faded from his view. For a moment he remembered the summoners' trick and the Institute of War, but pain drew him back into another memory.
Sheer, limitless power set him aflame from the inside out. Deep within, at his very core, he felt a searing agony where the fire burned too hot, threatening to burn its way to the surface, to consume and destroy him.
The arcane needed a vessel... but his frail human form could only hold so much.
Xerath grimaced. "I will not allow this mortal body to stop me." He held out his hand. Arcane fire sprung from his fingertips, crackling with power as it formed runes that hung briefly in the air.
The burning, blinding-white magic quickly grew to a tumultuous wind around him. An ancestral statue shattered, its pieces crashing to the ground and shaking the foundation of the temple. It took all of his strength and will to hold the spell. Even then it swelled and flared, threatening to break free.
But a voice rose above the chaos. "Xerath! Stop!"
Xerath's hold over the ritual wavered as he turned towards her voice. She stood at the foot of a Magi ancestor, her dark hair a stark frame to her pale, beautiful face.
"You mustn't do this," she shouted, her eyes burning fearlessly. "It will consume you. It is killing you already, and you would only let it do its work faster!"
"Tabia," Xerath pleaded, his voice hoarse and trembling. "Please, you don't understand..."
The spiraling arcane twisted and pulsed like a storm above them. Xerath felt it slip further from his grasp.
"You do not need this," she said, and there was pleading in her voice, too. "Stop it now, and you can heal. You can have life again. I can help you," she paused. "Come home."
Xerath's will faltered. Perhaps she was right. He imagined himself at home, away from the Magi and the arcane forever, and all the pain it had caused him. The way it had eaten at him from within, all gone. Perhaps...
Tabia mouthed something, but Xerath could not hear her. The statue above her shuddered and began to collapse.
At the sound of Tabia's scream, the rest of the statues and the Temple walls began to crumble with the force of Xerath's spell. He'd lost control. At its center, he covered his face with his hands, shouting her name in agony. His brief vision of home and escape from the arcane had been lost as soon as he'd found the strength to reach for it.
It was too late to stop the spell. It would consume him, too, and he trembled in terror at the prospect. All of his efforts for naught... everything he'd worked for, lost.
Unless he finished the ritual.
He hesitated. Part of him wished to accept death, but a greater part still remembered what he'd set out to do—to become something greater. To transcend the mortal body that held other mages back.
He had nothing left but this. Though his whole body ached with weakness, Xerath steeled himself.
I will become eternal... or I will die.
He raised his arms and the writhing mass of magic above him again gained some semblance of form, but still it expanded, destroying the remaining Magi statues and the temple's walls. Xerath pulled the spell inward with all the strength he could muster, blocking out what he could see of the temple collapsing around him.
For a moment, in the chaos of the arcane, he could see a reflection of himself: a pale, emaciated man, aged well beyond his years.
As the spell engulfed him, Xerath's eyes were full of fear.
In an instant, the chaos subsided. Xerath was back in the Reflection Chamber, and a hooded summoner stood before him.
"All that power," said the summoner, "And now you are a prisoner."
"An inconvenience," Xerath replied, his voice echoing through the chamber.
"Yet not what you envisioned when you took control of that spell. Do you have regret, Magus?"
"I do not."
The summoner scowled. "You sacrificed yourself, your people, and the woman you loved... all for power. Power you can no longer reach."
"As I said," Xerath continued. "An inconvenience. I will be free."
"Why do you want to join the League, Xerath?"
At this, Xerath paused. "The burden of my prison was brought about because the mages of Shurima could not comprehend what it was I pursued. I will not allow my goals to be misunderstood again. Consider my work with your League, summoner, a show of good faith."
The summoner regarded him quietly for a moment before giving a curt nod. "As you say. How does it feel, exposing your mind?"
Xerath turned away. "I am no longer the naïve student you have exposed," he said, "My previous existence means nothing."