The Rune Wars was the era of warfare between Noxus and Demacia that employed the use of magi as living weapons. The decision to do so would ravage the land of Valorian and force an uncommon band of magi to stand up to the two Waring city-states in an attempt to create the Institute of War and end the abuse of magic.
The two forces stood opposite each other as the gentle wind kicked up life in the banners each side presented. To one side, the banner of Noxus, a tireless war machine of a city-state. Marching armies all across Valoran in its flex of military strength, the Noxus advance was yet again stopped by its loathed adversary, Demacia. With its own banner held high and with a strong sense of pride, Demacia was the first to respond to the Noxian display of power, sending intercepting battalions to where ever Noxus struck next. Demacian soldiers quietly stood fast before their longtime enemies, both sides waiting for the call for charge.
The small valley between the armies is scarred by the battle that took place only a few days before. The battle was fierce and brutal, yet no side was able to get the edge over the other. It seemed that the rivals knew too much about the others tactics, and the inevitable stalemate drove a wedge between the two forces. Now the two commanders ride toward the field again. A Demacian warfare tradition that is meant to show the humanity and sportsmanship in war, however, the Noxian leaders use the opportunity to show its strength and to intimidate its enemy command with strong and towering officers.
As the commanders finish trading what little there was to say, the Noxian soldiers began to cheer and cry. Unwilling to wait much longer to spill Demacian blood, the Noxian troops bash their sword, shield, and spear together. The Demacian side shows no ware in their moral; their spirits soar higher in belief that their opponents were acting childish and uncivilized. However something on the Noxian side catches the eyes of the Demacian command. A single man, wrapped in black robes, slowly makes his way to the front of the Noxian formation. His face hidden, the man stops his advance before flinging his arms into the air. Simultaneously the earth shakes. The Demacian line does not waver in anticipation as to what the Noxian war machine has concocted this time in the depths of its city.
The shaking ceases, seemingly to no effect, and as the Demacian command begins to laugh at another failed Noxian ploy, the magic takes hold on the land. The earth beneath a section of the Demacian soldiers gives way sending a handful of men to the depths of the world. With another violent gesture by the black robed man, the earth shakes again. This time the earth jets upward from the ground with unseen force, sending Demacians flying through the air. The Noxian command witnesses something that hasn’t been seen by its Demacian rivals since the early days of the war. The Demacian formation breaks. With the call to charge given by the Noxian command and its own lines broken, Demacia signals a retreat.
This event was just the first of many skirmishes that ended up as a loss for Demacia, and as the reports reached the Demacian Council and its King, the conclusion was made that Noxus has harnessed the power of magi as living weapons. What Demacia saw as an unjust use of power, Noxus saw as the perfect weapon to get an edge in the war. The Demacian Council reluctantly made the decision to employ its own magi for military use to stay on par with Noxus.
The war had changed. Skirmishes between Demacia and Noxus grew more and more violent with the addition of more magi. Battles became a struggle of magical superiority. Magi would demolish columns of their enemy soldiers with single spells. In an effort to prevent the instant loss of men, both sides planted magi within the forces of soldiers to protect them from the magic of the enemy. The chaos that ensued in the engagements would leave the surrounding areas scarred with the backlash of magical energies. The ground and air itself would change, turning grassy fields into rocky ravines, mountains into lakes, and forests into deserts.
What would come to be known as the Rune Wars would ravage the land of Valoran for hundreds of years. Slowly changing the lands, the vast amounts of magical energy left behind after every engagement would leave some of the surrounding land uninhabitable. Neither side would relent on its use of magic in battle; instead the abuse of magic would only increase making the land even more hostile. The magical energies that built up to extremes would have sparks of powerful outbursts that would create unnatural natural disasters. Tornadoes fueled by the energies of a recent battle would destroy local small towns and roads or tectonic shifts would drain lakes and rivers.
This was a time of the war between Noxus and Demacia that would still have no victor. Both sides unwilling to stop using magic, both sides reluctant to call a truce. It would not be until the rule of King Jarvan I in Demacia and General Boram Darkwill of the Noxus High Command some hundred years after the Rune Wars began that a band of powerful magus from both sides would intervene with a proposal of the Institute of War in an attempt to regulate the magic that was being abused. Eventually bringing an end to the Rune Wars and beginning a new era of quasi-peace between Demacia and Noxus. However, without the looming threat of Demacia to stop them, Noxus found this opportunity to show its strength elsewhere on Runeterra and would set its eyes on the peaceful island nation of Ionia.
*This is unofficial lore, it may not reflect official lore*