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((FULL)) Crack Shadows Over Loathing

The shadows are malevolent, immortal human 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.

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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 and later Soulcatcher 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.

The shadows were once the human soldiers of a tyrant who sought to conquer all of the sixteen worlds which are linked by the glittering plain. This now-forgotten tyrant used the pretext of a massive religious war to march millions in an ancient time, long before the Free Companies of Khatovar. Toward the end of this escalating war, many of the soldiers were captured on the plain by "a band of cruel priests" who were wizards. Located in the main hall of the fortress with no name, these priests tortured and sacrificed their human prisoners of war in some kind of ritual sorcery involving chanting (vocal magic) and heated torture implements. The result was the en masse transformation of the captives into shadows. As planned by their creators, the murderous shadows infested the plain and wiped out all subsequent invading armies. 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 safely 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.

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. Millions of shadows were wiped out by these weapons during the Battle of Lake Tanji and the Siege of Overlook.

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.

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. 041b061a72




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