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Shadowgate by Didier Graffet

Fanciful interpreation of a Shadowgate by Didier Graffet.

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.

Murgen, She Is the Darkness ch. 77

The Shadowgates were 16 inter-dimensional portals connecting the glittering plain with as many different worlds. They 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; others were the ancient golden pickax and Tobo's new keys. 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[]

The Stranglers' crossings[]

In the distant past of the homeworld, in the lifetime of Mahtnahan dan Jakel, some Stranglers crossed their homeworld Shadowgate to deposit large stores of treasure and the Books of the Dead beneath the fortress with no name. They were soon nearly exterminated by a ruler named Rhaydreynak. The descendants of the few Stranglers who survived would come to doubt that the Books of the Dead even existed. They also lost all knowledge of their central cult relic known as the golden pickax and its whereabouts (deep beneath the Vinh Gao Ghang Temple of Ghanghesha).

The crossings of the Free Companies[]

All but one of the Free Companies of Khatovar entered, then exited, the homeworld Shadowgate after brief visitations from Khatovar. Their passages were recorded by the librarians of Kiaulune. The first of them appeared roughly 600 years before the events of the modern Annals. The last Free Company, the Black Company, remained in the homeworld for centuries.

Murgen stated:

Near as I’ve been able to find out, when the first Free Company came off the plain, almost six hundred years ago, that event marked the first time our Shadowgate had been used in at least eight centuries.

If Murgen was correct, and if the story about the Stranglers depositing the Books of the Dead during the lifetime of Rhaydreynak and Mahtnahan dan Jakel is true, then it might be the case that Rhaydreynak ruled ~1,400 years before the modern Annals.

The Shadowmasters[]

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 using Longshadow's lost key. 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 southernmost reaches of 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[]

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 modern Black Company's crossings[]

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[]

In the far distant past, grim sorcerer priests from the world later called Hsien created the shadows at the feet of Shivetya in the fortress with no name. Later, according to Murgen, the Shadowgates themselves were constructed to trap the entities within the plain.

Shadowmaster and Nyueng Bao crossings[]

Later, the Hsien Shadowgate was penetrated by "many lean, pale bonesacks" who were "invaders from another world" and who "brought no wives with them", including Longshadow and Shadowspinner. These men, the original Shadowmasters, subjugated Hsien so cruelly that the many peoples there began to collectively call themselves the Children of the Dead. To escape religious persecution, a subset of the Children of the Dead who worshiped Kina manufactured the Nyueng Bao ancestor key and sent a group of families across both Shadowgates and into the homeworld. Their key was sent back to Hsien for future use, but it disappeared. It may have been captured by Longshadow and could be one and the same as Longshadow's lost key, which he utilized to flee Hsien and follow the footsteps of the Nyueng Bao upon his exile.

The Black Company and Hsien[]

In the era of the modern Annals, the Shadowgate to the world of Hsien was watched by the monks of Khang Phi. They, like the rest of the people in that world, still called themselves the Children of the Dead and still feared the return of the conquering Shadowmasters. Instead, at the end of Water Sleeps, it would turn out to be the Black Company that crossed over. 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 (the File of Nine) 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 using Tobo's Shadowgate keys to overthrow the Protectorate in the homeworld.

Voroshk world Shadowgate[]

Sending out the Free Companies[]

Khatovar, a city dominated by Kina cultists, sent out the Free Companies of Khatovar across their Shadowgate into several worlds, including most prominently the homeworld. They all returned back across their Shadowgate except the last Free Company, the Black Company, which remained in the homeworld for centuries.

The forvalaka[]

The Shadowgate to the Voroshk world was penetrated by the shapeshifter Lisa Daele Bowalk, in her forvalaka form, without the aid of a key. This occurred at the end of She Is the Darkness but was only revealed later. Her passage caused a tear in that gate's protection through which some feral shadows crossed.

Voroshk-related crossings[]

Lisa Bowalk crossed the Voroshk shadowgate, assassinated One-Eye, and then crossed back in Soldiers Live.

The Voroshk's Shadowgate was later disintegrated in a rheitgeistiden explosion orchestrated by Croaker to punish the Voroshk, the allies of Lisa Bowalk. This permitted the vast majority of the plain's shadows to pour into that world and wipe out most human and animal life. A few courageous members of the Voroshk family fought back with fiery sorcery and greatly reduced the shadows' numbers. Not long afterward, Shivetya used his vast powers to rebuild the Voroshk world Shadowgate, which caused virtually all of the surviving shadows to be trapped within that world, unable to travel back into the plain.

Later, this Shadowgate is traversed by Croaker, Shukrat, the white crow possessed by Soulcatcher, and some Unknown Shadows in their rescue of Arkana from Rhuknavr. The Tologev brothers were ambushed and defeated there.

The other 13 Shadowgates[]

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.