The shadows are malevolent spirits numbering in the millions that haunted the glittering plain for millennia. 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, shadows are united in their loathing of all life and relentlessly pursue its destruction, attacking at every opportunity. The shadows were used as a profoundly dangerous enemy against the Black Company during the later Annals, most prominently during She Is the Darkness. They later laid waste to the Voroshk world in a nightmarish apocalypse during Soldiers Live.
Overview and abilities Edit
|“||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... He was shriveled like an old mummy. His mouth was open in a scream that would never end. He seemed to have suffered a lot of bruises before he died. Those would have been self-inflicted during his final struggle.||”|
The millions of shadows on the glittering plain are referred to "feral shadows". 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. Those which are under the direction of wizards like the Shadowmasters are known as "tamed shadows", the smaller nonlethal ones being used as supernatural messengers, and the larger ones as gruesome assassins. In an ancient age, a now-forgotten Shadowmaster referred to as either 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 en masse. This was done near the end of an escalating war between two now-forgotten enemies across the plain. As planned by their creators, the shadows kept further invading armies from crossing the plain. Eventually they were sealed into the plain 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 and the golden pickax, 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. Initially, he sent his shadowweavers to unleash them: 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 Lady for 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.
In the immediate aftermath of She Is the Darkness, thirteen Company members and allies (like Sindawe and Big Bucket) 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. Even the Voroshk patriarchs tamed a handful of shadows that had entered their world alongside Lisa Daele Bowalk.
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, over time 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.