Shade Cycle

The Shade Cycle is a family of folktales and legends gathered in the Southlands region that are all attributed to the Shades of Arumthar as either inspiration or actual source. They form the bulk of what little scholars know about the shades. The most commonly cited tales in the cycle are the Tale of Dered and The Shifter, the Tale of the Man who Talked to his Shadow, the Tale of the Dusk Man, the Tale of the Wolf of the Rynwode and the Tale of the Sad Lady. All of these describe the nature of the shades with varying detail, but all paint a few similar traits, and call them equally monstrous.

Dered and the Shifter

This tale from southern Arumthar, is common to the people of the Dominate of Fael They, and has been heard around Khold and Dône. It has been suggested that the Tale of Dered and the Shifter belongs to a greater family of folk tales revolving around the Shades.

There was once a poet called Dered, a traveller who boasted of being the bravest and most gallant spinner of tales of his time, he even went so far as to swear over a crowded bar that his every tale was true, and that every heroic exploit he claimed to have performed was the whole truth. One night his friends grew tired of his boasting, and so they challenged him to prove his bravery and skill. In a nearby cairn there lived a creature known only as the shifter, this creature had stalked the cairn for as long as the people of the town could remember on moonless nights, and hated living things with a jealous rage. Dered would have to sit on the creature’s cairn on a moonless night and write a poem, and he could not return until the poem was complete or he would lose the challenge and could never boast of his bravery again.

The next night Dered bid his friends farewell and made his way to the cairn as the sun set. There he sat and began to write a sonnet to the night sky. For hours he sat and wrote, and as nothing happened so his spirit grew bolder and he laughed at the shifter, and called it a coward, and said it daren’t come forth because it had herd his reputation. But as he penned the last lines the creature rose up, howling into the night in an unearthly tone. It began to slowly but surely pull itself out of the cairn. Dered wrote feverishly, determined to finish his sonnet, and just as it was nearly upon him he wrote the last line, threw aside his quill and ink and fled with the shifter on his heels. For miles he ran, until he arrived at a roadside shrine and fell to his knees to pray to whichever divhi would hear him, for salvation from the shifter. It reached him, and prowled around the shrine howling until the morning dawned, then it fled. Dered returned to his friends triumphant with his poem in hand, and they begged him to tell the tale of his night, but for the rest of his life Dered refused. He would never boast of his bravery again, for fear of again having to prove it.

The Dusk Man

This tale from souther Arumthar, is common to the people of the Ordinatry of Aerisfin all the way to the Dominate of Fael They. It has been suggested that the Tale of the Dusk Man belongs to a greater family of folk tales revolving around the Shades, and is typical of the cautionary tales that revolve around these mysterious creatures.

On moonless nights, when the shadows loom over all things, and the howling of the winds in the trees takes on an unearthly quality, mothers warn their children of the Dusk-Man. They say that once the Dusk man was a mortal man, an evil and twisted man, who was unable to bear the laughter of children, so they say he moved from town to town cutting the throats of sleeping infants, often with their parents mere yards away. Eventually a great hunt rose up to find the dusk man, and when they tracked him down he was bound and the angry crowd beat and stoned him to death. But even with his dying breath the Dusk Man called out to the powers of the night to aid him, and while his body lay tattered and bleeding, destroyed by the wrath of the townspeople, the darkness that lived in the very heart of his soul stepped from the body and crept off into the night.

Now they say that his evil spirit stalks the night, looking for crying children to slay. They say that his hand, once quick and nimble, has now become the razor with which he once spilt blood, and that no lock is proof against him, that no barrier can slow him, and that no man can harm him in his grisly task. The tales also tell that before he strikes his victims always hear the scraping of his razor-hand on the walls, and always hear him mutter his mad song in rasping, metallic voice “Hush child hush, don't wail your fear. Hush child now, though your cry is clear. A pass of my hand, you shan't make a sound. Soon you’ll be resting, under the ground.”

The Man Who Talked to His Shadow

This tale from southern Arumthar, is common to the people of the Ordinatry of Aerisfin. It has been suggested that the Tale of the Man who Talked to his Shadow is one of the more fanciful accounts of possession by a shade by those scholars who collect these tales.

Not so long ago, not so far away, in a little town, too small to even bear a name, lived a man called Neirath. He was a pauper and had not trade nor coin to his name, yet he was deeply in love with the daughter of the local lord, whom he saw now and then giving alms to the poor. One night while he lamented his lot he heard a voice from alongside him in the old hayloft that served as his home. “I know how you can win fair lady’s hand” it said, but though Neirath strained his eyes he could not see the speaker, yet still the voice continued “She is rich, so first you too must be rich.” And Neirath realized to his amazement that his unknown companion was in fact his own shadow - but not his own shadow, for this one was tall, fair, graceful. The contours of its face were high-cheeked, full lipped, and fine, and the drape of its attire suggested the finest silks. “But how can I be rich o' shadow?” he pleaded, and the shadow said "You will have my fine silks, my jewels and my purse, and all I ask in return are your rags. Days later the lord’s daughter came to the village to find Neirath in silk and finery, staying in the finest room in the finest home, but when he came to her she ignored him. Neirath returned to his rooms dejected and again lamented his lot, but again the shadow spoke, saying “You will have the girl yet, she is beautiful, so you too must be beautiful.” and when Neirath asked how, again the shadow said "You will have my fine cheeks, my well-turned legs, my full mouth, and I will take your crooked face and bent back". And when again the lord’s daughter came he went, his silk and finery decorated a strong and handsome frame, but still she gave him not a word, and he returned home dejected and lamented his lot, and again the shadow spoke, and it said “you will have the girl yet”, and Neirath cried out “How? What must I do to make her heart mine” and his shadow said “She is strong of spirit, so you too must have a strong spirit. I will give you mine, and in return I will take your weakness and your piteousness” and Neirath eagerly agreed. Yet the next time the lord’s daughter came, no one spoke to him at all, no one even seemed to see his passing, and the lord's daughter spared him not even a glance. And Neirath returned home and lamented his lot, and he spoke again to the shadow, saying "Now it is as if no one can even see me! Oh why shadow, why will she not love me?" And his shadow spoke to Nierath one final time, saying "Why Neirath, how could a woman of blood and flesh ever love you? For you are just my shadow."

The Sad Lady

This tale is well known is eastern Arumthar, told around fires in the farming communities around Eyeth and Carreth along the coast of the Aruman Sea. It has been suggested that the Tale of the Sad Lady belongs to a greater family of folk tales revolving around the Shades and the Pale Plague.

There was once a lady who lived in the woods near the little town of Sherelyn. For many years she prayed for a child, but yet her womb remained barren, and each night she wept bitter tears. For years she took sacrifices of fruit and grain to the square of the divh in the town, and offered up anything they might want if only they would give her a child. Then one day her husband left her for a younger girl who would bear him strong heirs. In a rage the woman cursed the divh and pushed down their shrines, and burned their offerings, and when she got home that night a tall pale man was waiting for her. The pale man told her he could give her the child she desired, and so she bedded with him and when morning dawned the man was gone and she was with child.

Long months passed, and the people whispered that the woman had done something unnatural to conceive the child, who grew fast and strong in her belly. When the babe was born she was the happiest mother in the world, and even the suspicious townsfolk had to agree that hers was the fairest and fittest that they had seen. But on the eve of the child’s first birthday when they returned from the town’s festivities they found the pale man waiting. He demanded his child, for he wanted hi heir to continue his legacy, and try as she might the woman could not fight him off, for he was nimble and strong, and so she appealed to the divhides for mercy, and they smiled upon her despite her disrespect and sent down a shaft of light, but a shaft only large enough for she or the babe. With the last of her strength she thrust the child into the light, and the pale man let out an unearthly shriek of rage, saying that if the child could not be his, then she would have to do, and he made her into a creature of the shadows like him, for he was one of the unholy creatures that stalks the night. Ever since the sad lady has moved about in the night, peering into houses where garlands signify a first birth, looking for her baby. Those who fear her coming keep their babe’s bed well lit, and listen in fear for a tapping from a hooded figure at the window.

The Wolf of the Rynwode

This tale from central Arumthar, around the Rynwode is told most commonly in Eyeth, Loen and Vanefyr along the coast of the Aruman Sea. It has been suggested that the Tale of the Wolf of the Rynwode belongs to a greater family of folk tales revolving around the Shades, and may be a valuable source of information about the creatures if it were proven true.

Many years ago, when the Rynwode was young, the rolling hills and hidden tracks were stalked by a great pack of wolves, the like of which have not been seen elsewhere since the days of Larkhan the wolf lord. Among this pack, not hunter was greater and no fighter stronger than Graal, tall, proud and powerful, he was marked across the muzzle with a strip of pure white where the rest of his pelt was deepest black, and every huntsman in the forest sought his pelt for their fireside. One day the legendary hunter Kirisae came from the south-lands to claim Graal’s hide. For weeks the hunter stalked his prey, he was a man of legendary skill, with the heads of a hundred exotic beasts mounted above his hearth, but he found not a trace of his foe. One evening, exhausted, tired and disheartened by his fruitless hunt the huntsman collapsed in the shade of a broad tree, where even the moonlight did not fall to prepare his gear for the return home. Just as he had given up hope, a wolf the size of a pony bounded onto the nearby rise and let loose a monstrous howl at the full red moon. The huntsman raised his bow ever so silently, but before he could let fly with an arrow the creature was gone. The huntsman pursued, but to no avail, but his faith in his quest returned, and he continued the hunt. All the next day he found not a trace of the creature, but as night fell the wolf appeared again as he made camp, howled and fled. For over a month this went on, the huntsman drawing closer and closer to his prey, but Graal always fleeing before the huntsman could loose a shot, and every night the huntsman could swear that the wolf’s white muzzle grew smaller and smaller, until the red moon waned and the silver waxed. On the night the silver moon was full the huntsman again saw the wolf on the rise, not far from his camp, but this time he drew right to the edge of the ridge, and his quarry turned to face him, and he saw that only the faintest traces of the creature’s signature white marking remained. This time when the hunter drew his quarry just turned and stared at him. He took careful aim and fired, hitting the creature right in it’s white-framed eye. The creature rose onto it’s forepaws then fell, but at the same time it’s shadow rose up to take it’s place and bore down on the hunter and tore him asunder with it’s shadowy claws.