|“||Once upon a time there had been an actual fortress with outbuildings and a genuine gate here... There were little more than grass-grown foundations left now. Everything had fallen ages ago... The stone that had been used to construct the fortress was not a native rock. It was a greyish sandstone not only foreign to that slope, it was unlike any stone I had seen back in the direction from which we had come. It was not like the stone Longshadow had imported to build Overlook, either.||”|
The shadowgates were 16 inter-dimensional portals connecting the glittering plain with as many different worlds. The shadowgates were sealed with prehistoric sorcery and required special "keys" in order to be traversed without being killed. One such key was the Black Company's own battle standard: the Lance of Passion; another was the golden pickax. The gates were created by ancient sorcerers to seal away the lethal shadows from the inhabitants of each of the 16 worlds. Long before the time of the modern Annals (Croaker's lifetime), the shadowgates had been reduced to unremarkable, crumbling masonry, little more than foundations and abandoned stonework.
The following describes noteworthy passages across, and incidents involving, the 3 shadowgates visited in the Annals.
Homeworld shadowgate Edit
The Shadowmasters Edit
Longshadow, Shadowspinner, and the shadowweavers were overthrown and exiled from the world called Hsien (this occurred roughly 20 years before the events of Shadow Games). After fleeing across the glittering plain, they crossed the homeworld shadowgate. Not long afterward, the two Shadowmasters and some native disciples unintentionally damaged the ancient sorcery powering the shadowgate. Disastrously, shadows began sneaking through. Longshadow used the power of his true name to crudely patch up the damage. Since his death would unravel the sorcery and invite an apocalyptic influx of shadows, none of his enemies or rivals dared kill him. Over the next years, the Shadowmasters would very carefully retrieve shadows from across the shadowgate and "tame" them for use as supernatural messengers and assassins. They simultaneously militarized the local populations and established the Shadowlands in the southern continent. Also, Longshadow would cruelly execute some of his subjects by sending them across the shadowgate, where they were defenseless, effectively feeding them to the feral shadows.
Soulcatcher's crossings Edit
Later, unseen by anyone, Soulcatcher traversed the homeworld's shadowgate several times using the golden pickax as her key. Not even Longshadow, fanatically keeping watch from Overlook, observed her movements. She explored the plain and the fortress with no name during these visits. Then, after she accidentally caused the earthquakes that rocked Kiaulune at the end of Bleak Seasons, she crossed back through the shadowgate undetected a final time. Narayan Singh – guided by his goddess Kina – stole the pickax from Soulcatcher, preventing her from crossing the shadowgate again.
The Black Company's crossings Edit
At the end of She Is the Darkness, Croaker led a band of Black Company members, allies, and prisoners across the homeworld shadowgate. Only Soulcatcher and Willow Swan would cross back over, as everyone else had been trapped on the other side and would be referred to as the Captured for 15 years. Sleepy would finally lead her Company band across the shadowgate in Water Sleeps. Importantly, after her crossing, the homeworld shadowgate was changed such that it could only be safely opened from the glittering plain. At least 4 years later, in Soldiers Live, this shadowgate was extensively repaired and expertly fortified by Tobo.
Hsien shadowgate Edit
The shadowgate to the world of Hsien was watched by the monks of Khang Phi, who, like the rest of the people in that world, feared the return of the conquering Shadowmasters. Instead, it would turn out to be the Black Company that crossed over (at the end of Water Sleeps). They would cross back and forth several times, retrieving members of the Captured from the fortress with no name until they were all freed. The Company maintained a tenuous alliance with the local warlords and built a small city, called the Abode of Ravens, not far from the Hsien shadowgate. Once they were sufficiently prepared and reconstituted with thousands of well-trained recruits from Hsien, the new Company traversed this shadowgate en masse, to overthrow the Protectorate in the homeworld.
Voroshk world shadowgate Edit
The shadowgate to the Voroshk world was penetrated by the shapeshifter Lisa Daele Bowalk, in her forvalaka form, without the aid of a key. Her passage caused a tear in that gate's protection through which some feral shadows crossed. The shadowgate was later disintegrated in a rheitgeistiden explosion orchestrated by Croaker to punish the Voroshk in Soldiers Live. This permitted the shadows to pour into that world and utterly wipe out most human and animal life. A few courageous members of the Voroshk family fought back with sorcery and greatly reduced the shadows' numbers. Not long afterward, Shivetya used his powers to rebuild the Voroshk world shadowgate, which caused the virtually all of the surviving shadows to be trapped within that world, unable to travel back into the plain.
The other 13 shadowgates Edit
All 16 shadowgates, including the 13 ones that were not detailed in the modern Annals, were eventually visited by Tobo and Suvrin during their exploration of the plain. This took place in the 4-year gap between Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live. Each was discovered to be in one or another state of disrepair. One of the 13 mysterious shadowgates must have opened into the unnamed world from which Longshadow, Shadowspinner, and the other Shadowmasters originated, before they conquered Hsien.