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C. 2007 by Joseph CalkinsC. 2007 by Joseph Calkins

The barrier between the Shadow World and the Daylight World is breaking down on many fronts. Laws of nature and physics can no longer be counted upon. What better time to start a Shadow World campaign?

Before Deismaar, the "Shadow World" was a realm of faerie that paralleled Cerilia known as the Spirit World. This was the home of the halflings, who frequently travelled between the two worlds, hence the name halfling, since they were half of this world and half of another. The Spirit World was inhabited by many beings unlike humans. Spirits of many kinds, tricksters, malevolent, and benign, all dwelled in a world where natural laws like those in our world did not exist or were subject to change at the whim of the will of those present.


Unlike Cerilia the Shadow World was mutable in nature, rivers could change course in moments, mountains rise or fall overnight, days could pass in mere moments or travellers could spend months exploring the Shadow World and re-enter Cerilia mere moments after they had left. This mutability was called the Seeming, experts note that although the seeming changes from moment to moment, and can reputedly be 'disbelieved' into reversion to a previous change, it is at all times real - a pasture that becomes a lake can drown someone if they try to walk over it rather than swim for example.

Certain beings, typically those with strong minds, could shape the Shadow World to their whim, or at least anticipate its changes. Of all the gods, Azrai was by far the most able at shaping the Shadow World, it is said in some elder texts that he was a creation of the shadow world itself, formed from the nightmares of the gods as they rested after shaping the world. Whatever the truth of the matter it is clear from the surviving religious texts of Azrai that a major aim of his war against the other gods was to merge Cerilia and the Shadow World "so that he might perfect the forms of the peoples of Cerilia". It was this aim that caused most elves to break their alliance with Azrai at Deismaar, not, as some Anuirean scholars of the time suggested, recognition of the nobility of the human spirit.

When Azrai's physical form was destroyed at Deismaar, some small part of his soul survived in the ethereal realm of spirit which the halflings inhabited. This was at first no more than an evil taint; Azrai was not conscious, and for all intents and purposes did not exist as a self-aware entity at this time. He was only the memory of evil, but that proved to be enough to corrupt the halfling's idyllic realm.

Over the course of the three or four centuries immediately after Deismaar, Azrai's spirit spread throughout the spirit world, much like a drop of oil spreading a corrupt sheen over the surface of a lake. This evil grew more and more powerful, until finally it gained the ability to manifest a physical form once again. This was the Usurper or the Cold Rider, a malign will given body and form in the spirit world. His increasing presence twisted the spirit world into the Shadow World, and the halflings left.

For the next few centuries, the halflings' migration continued as the Shadow World worsened. At this point, the Cold Rider was still a figure of mystery and ill will, not consciously malevolent, but more of a harbinger of evil to come. He became a "Flying Dutchman" of the Shadow World; appearing at random times, drawn to extremes of evil or good, leaving doom in his wake.

In the last four or five centuries, the Cold Rider has come to understand that he is the direct heir of Azrai's evil, and as he has grown stronger, more and more of Azrai's personality, powers, and memories are reappearing.

The Shadow World is separated from Cerilia by a barrier called the Evanescence, this can usually only be pierced by certain spells or by halflings however the barrier is thin in places such as the province of Sideath near Tuarhievel and in the Battle Fens of Vosgaard. The barrier also seems weaker in places frequented by the undead, and places where there has been great suffering and death.



Not all of the Shadow World is a distorted, dark shadow of Cerilia. A great faerie realm remains in its ancient otherworld, known as the Seelie Court. Many other faeries, powerful enough to resist the Shadow, at least in the immediate area of their home, also preserve a little something of the primordial faerie realm.

This otherworld has always been a spirit world, and many kinds of spirits still travel, or even dwell, in the Shadow World. Some, like the Dispossesed have nowhere else to go. Others, like the Shadow warriors continue their struggle against the Shadow in the Shadow World. Those attuned to the realm of spirits and dreams find the Shadow World full of spirits both malevolent and benign.

Most familiar, because most terrifying, the Shadow World is dominated by the Twilight realm of corrupt powers, including undead, fiends, and the old minions of Azrai. What dark powers hold the most sway in the Twilight realm, the Cold Rider, the Lost, something else? No one knows.

These realms are not places, for place has no meaning in the Shadow World, but rather they are conditions brought on by powerful encounters. Encounters with with a Waff, an image of your own dead self, or a Sluagh, the unforgiven spirits of Cerilians who have died with unspeakable crimes on their consciences, are horrible and terrifying. Encounters with spirits can leave one tormented in spirit as much as in body.


The Shadow World is full of terrible and frightening things to behold. In the discussion of each realm, certain effects are discussed. Most notable, in the Twilight realm, there are rules for shock, weariness, illness, despair, obsession, fear, taint, and madness. This collection of conditions, with their rules effects, can reinforce the the sense of the Shadow's encroachment and the dread which that presents.


Currently the Shadow World is inhabited by many strange and mystical beings. Aside from the nightmare-beasts that form from the dreams of natives to Aebrynis and dissipate from time to time the realm is home to many halflings (those who did not migrate to Cerilia), generally ruled by the Lost, ancient sorcerers loyal to Azrai who were drawn into the Shadow World at Deismaar, other inhabitants include the Seelie and Unseelie, powerful spell-casting spirits akin in many ways to elves.

As the spirit of Azrai corrupted and tainted the Shadow World, many of the inhabitants have drifted towards the fey lands (those areas untouched by the taint of shadow) or the tainted lands and the Shadow World in these two areas is increasingly distinct. Many inhabitants trapped in the tainted lands are beginning to migrate to Cerilia through Shadow-gates; these include gnomes, pixies, and other fey creatures that are uneasy in the tainted lands. These creatures will most likely lose many of their magical gifts over time but tales of the halflings suggest that this fading could take generations.

Elven legends state that when the humans began driving the elves from the forests of Cerilia that some of the elven realms "disappeared into Shadow" and a few elves still hope that these elves will return to assist them in reclaiming Cerilia. Human explorers in the shadow world tend to scoff at such tales, as many magical beasts hunt elves in particular in the Shadow World and the Lost would surely never tolerate an elven realm within the tainted lands.

[top]The Cold Rider

The original authors changed this fellow's name from the Shadow Lord to mask his identity; it would have been too obvious that he was the reincarnation of Azrai, the Shadow, if we had let the name stand. Although he is the spirit of Azrai, it's important to note that he is not yet a god again, and doesn't have divine power or worshipers. Instead, consider the Cold Rider to be the spirit, essence, or consciousness of the Shadow World. He is the voice of darkness, the harbinger of doom, and the living incarnation of the perverse ironies and corruption of the Shadow World.

Think of the Cold Rider as a Randall Flagg or Hitch-hiker figure, a dark horseman who watches travelers from a windswept hilltop before turning away. He doesn't directly attack intruders, but those who encounter him end up meeting the most dramatic and ironic manifestations of the Shadow World's evil. No traveler has ever reported a conversation with the Cold Rider, but it might be that he only speaks to those that are doomed to never return to the sunlit world again.

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