As Riot introduces Nilah, The Unbound Joy, to the Summoner’s Rift, League of Legends lore maniacs would be thrilled to know that Nilah channels the power of a "Demon of Joy" to slay mythical beasts and defeat her enemies.
The ancient Demon of Joy is none other than Ashlesh, an ascetic warrior from Kathkan, a country in South and Southeast Asia. According to League of Legends lore, Ashlesh is a member of "The Ten Kings", who pushes joy to its hideous extremes, feeding on the dark, inverted aspects of the emotion, like delirium and obsession.
The Ten are the oldest and most powerful demons in existence. Nilah practices a strict code of rite and ritual that gives her power over Ashlesh, the demon of joy who was sealed away eons ago.
Nilah has harnessed Ashlesh’s power to do well. Lore suggests that she is an epic, monster-slaying hero who is turning out to be a legend of her own, day by day.
"Ashlesh annihilated Nilah's entire emotional spectrum besides joy," claims League of Legends' narrative writer, Carnival Knights
Nilah did not have her otherworldly powers right from the very beginning, as once upon a time, she was a normal girl with a normal life. Like Ashlesh, Nilah too originates from Kathkan, a place of dazzling colors, rich history, and ancient myths like legends of heroes, gods, demons and monsters.
Kathkan is located in the southeast of (and was once a rival of) ancient Camavor. Riot's Principal Narrative Writer Jared 'Carnival Knights' Rosen explains,
“Nilah goes beneath her home city and disappears for a decade. When she emerges, she immediately starts putting down demi-gods and giant dragons that are bigger than mountains. She’s fighting creatures that should not be able to be defeated.”
But wielding Ashlesh’s immense power came with a heavy burden as Nilah was erased from living memory. There is no record of her ever being born. She is a stranger to all she ever knew, even her own family. Noting that Nilah’s unflinching positivity is completely involuntary, Carnival Nights says,
“She returns not as this bookworm, but as a wiry stranger with heroic strength. She has no past and her future is unwritten. She’s literally lost herself to joy. Ashlesh annihilates her entire emotional spectrum besides joy. She can observe that she is feeling other things, or that she wants to feel other things. There’s a lot of sadness and loss in her life, but she can’t feel anything but positivity towards it, which is conflicting.”
Nilah's character drew inspiration from the ancient Indian mytho, Ramayana
Nilah's League of Legends name and attire has been inspired by India, as she is donning a saree. Thus, it was evident that her weapon must be an ancient Indian sword. In a Reddit post a few days ago, Riot's Lead Gameplay Producer Ryan "Reav3" Mireles confirmed that Nilah’s weapon is an Urumi, a historic South-Indian whip sword.
League of Legends lore descriptions suggest that Nilah truly lived her best life in Kathkan, whether she liked it or not. Carnival Nights also mentioned that her character drew inspiration from the ancient Indian mythological epic, Ramayana.
“Very much like a hero from the Ramayana, she has given up everything for this incredible power and uses it to protect the world from ancient threats that have been long thought invincible.”
Nilah's motif, "Seven," is an honorary portrayal of The Seventh Layer organization that guards Ashlesh’s spiritual prison
In Kathkan, Nilah is pledged to a powerful organization called “The Seventh Layer.” According to League of Legends Lore, the organization consists of a group of heroes that guard Ashlesh’s spiritual prison and protect the Kathkani people, who have long lived in peace.
These heroes, who all have a connection to Ashlesh, help keep the Demon of Joy weak so it cannot escape its prison. Honoring the Seventh Layer, "Seven" is a motif that can be seen a lot with Nilah, both in her looks and in her abilities. League of Legends' concept artist Nancy "Sojyoo" Kim explained,
“Some of the design elements that we tried to put in her outfit were the seven hands that represent the Seventh Layer. You can see it in the jewelry that she has…One of them is engraved in her kneepad. Because she’s a very nimble character, we wanted to make sure her outfit wasn’t restricting and it was light and it allowed her to do a lot of jumps and tricks.”
Sojyoo clarified that the art team wanted to convey Nilah’s ascetic warrior identity while keeping her clothing practical for slaying mythical beasts. Now, the wider world of Runeterra will bear witness to Nilah's legendary powers.
Who are The Ten Kings? Did Fidlesticks awaken Ashlesh?
Little is known about the Ten Kings' beginnings from League of Legends lore, despite the fact that they are among the oldest and most enigmatic demons in all of Runeterra, having existed long before mankind.
Poems and legends have been passed down through the ages for generations to either frighten kids or lend a sense of mystery to League of Legends folk tales, however, few people genuinely believe these stories to be true.
The term "Ten Kings" is derived from an old Demacian poem by an unidentified author, in which the demons are referred to as monarchs seated on thrones. The First of Ten, Fiddlesticks, is the oldest and most powerful of the ten kings in the poem, yet it is the only one without a crown.
The Ten Kings' reign of terror came to an end at some point, probably because they were imprisoned, but this took place long before it was possible to document it in history.
Fiddlesticks is the only one who has awakened thus far since then. It lurks in eastern Demacia and preys on people by playing on their greatest fears, mimicking their calls for aid, and emerging as a skeletal puppet made of metal and cloth.
While searching Runeterra, Fiddlesticks kills any victims it comes across and presumably looks to awaken its other brethren as well so that the two of them might once more terrorise the inhabitants of the world.
This other brethren can be presumed to be Ashlesh, the Demon of Joy, who erased Nilah's memories to achieve some unfulfilled goals.
Nilah arrived at Bilgewater to seek information on Viego
In Nilah's official trailer, released on June 19, Nilah could be seen arriving in Bilgewater from some other region. Lore explained that after Ruination, Nilah left Kathkan and decided to cross the ocean to Bilgewater to seek information on Viego.
Carnival Nights says:
“This is one of the most powerful women on the planet, and she spends almost all of every day sitting around in the dark, reading books or reciting prayers to make sure that she’s not possessed by a demon. And then occasionally she gets up, kills like a 40-story tall sea serpent and then goes back to doing the thing she was doing before."
Nilah’s goal is to serve the good, wherever she goes, expanding the epic tale of her life and to keep up with her ritual prayers. The daily rituals are practiced as she stays in full control of Ashlesh.