A shadow is a malevolent spirit that haunts the Plain of Glittering Stone. In the world of Hsien, they are referred to as the Host of the Unforgiven Dead, and in the Shadowlander language, they are called skildirsha. Although they range greatly in size and lethality, shadows are united in their loathing of all life and relentlessly pursue its destruction, attacking at every opportunity. Shadows kill quickly but cause their victims incredible agony before they perish. As Murgen recorded in She Is The Darkness:
|“||The corpses the soldiers were planting bore the stamp of shadow death, they were all shriveled up, with skin darkened several shades. Each dead man's mouth was open in a screaming rictus. The bodies were curled. They could not be straightened.||”|
Able to pass through the tiniest pinhole or crack, shadows are repelled only by light and by magic, which can be used to both control and destroy them. Wizards able to control and direct shadows are known as Shadowmasters. In an ancient age, a now-forgotten Shadowmaster referred to as the First One or the Master of Time altered many shadows, transforming them into much more intelligent, derivative entities called Unknown Shadows.
Origins and the Plain Edit
|“||When I looked back at the toppled throne I saw the hall as it may have appeared a thousand years ago. Or more. When a band of cruel priests were making the original shadows from prisoners of war. It was there for just an instant but that moment was long enough to tell me that this had been a very ugly place once upon a time, long before the advent of the twelve Free Companies.||”|
The shadows were created by wizards, "a band of cruel priests", in an ancient time long before the Free Companies of Khatovar. Located in the main hall of the Fortress With No Name, they tortured and sacrificed human prisoners of war in some kind of ritual sorcery to produce the shadows. This was done near the end of an escalating war between two now-forgotten enemies across the Plain of Glittering Stone. The participants, and the results of that war, were long lost to history, but somehow the shadows wound up on the Plain and were locked in by shadowgates (one for each of the sixteen worlds), where they remained imprisoned for countless ages. Where once the Plain had been used for commerce and discovery, the horrendous entities permanently denied the proper use of the Plain to everyone in all of the sixteen linked worlds.
After a long period of time, a method of passing through the shadowgates and traversing the Plain was invented by sorcerers. "Keys" like the Lance of Passion, when properly used, allowed safe passage by generating an invisible shielding which was impermeable to the shadows. But over time these shadowgates and the keys were largely forgotten and abandoned, and apparently remained so for untold generations until a group of male Shadowmasters, including Longshadow and Shadowspinner, crossed from an unspecified world into the world of Hsien and conquered it.
In the AnnalsEdit
The Books of the South and the Books of Glittering Stone feature shadows heavily. Longshadow used the violent entities to terrorize whole territories of the homeworld and to attack the Black Company. First, he sent his shadowweavers to unleash shadows: first, small shadows to coordinate troop movements; and later, larger ones for assassination missions. After the deaths of his three fellow Shadowmasters, Longshadow began employing hundreds of thousands of the entities, including those that "dwarfed cattle".
By far the most effective weapons against the entities were the bamboo fireball projectors invented by the Company. These weapons were absolutely indispensable in the Company's survival in the Shadowmaster wars and their victories over Longshadow throughout She Is The Darkness.
During Water Sleeps, thirteen Company members and allies were killed by feral shadows on the Plain when the Captured were imprisoned in the Cave of the Ancients by Soulcatcher. Some shadows were later tamed and used by Soulcatcher herself, during her reign over Taglios, called the Protectorate.
Invasion of the Voroshk world Edit
The shadows of the Plain sensed an unprecedented opportunity to feed when Croaker tricked the Voroshk into crippling their own shadowgate. With a whole world of victims to feed upon, virtually the entire population of shadows poured out from the Plain and invaded the Voroshk world. There, they devoured countless wildlife, livestock, and what Croaker estimated to be 99 out of 100 peasants. Some from the Voroshk family fought back with fiery sorcery, reducing the shadows to less than one-tenth of their original number. And on the Plain, only a small number of tiny, frightened shadows remained.