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The Race of the Shades For a long time, we’ve wanted to release a full summary of the race that Nicku Crestshade is a part of. Drawing inspiration from many sources and being comfortably unique from the usual fantasy races (of elves, humans and dwarves) we hope you’ll enjoy this explanation and maybe learn a thing or two. The following is an account of the race of shades from Icarus Forde from both his hands on experience and his time being their ambassador. The history of the shades begins on the same continent as the humans of Vennterria. Native to the country of Rivergate, the dense forest and rich biodiversity made it a lush haven for the shades. While the humans and dwarves fought ceaseless wars with each other, these nature loving creatures were happy to live their lives in peace, singing and playing in their secluded groves. Then, around the time the Mantisphere began to leak it’s magic radiation, an event occurred that is still shrouded in mystery to this day. Suddenly every male shade in the world had vanished (presumably dead), and without their other half the shades were faced with extinction. They were biologically immortal, meaning they did not experience aging due to senescence like most living things, but they were still smaller and weaker than the other beasts and sentient races, and had no formal military whatsoever, meaning they were still very capable of death. They had no choice but to drain their “home-trees” (the center and lifeline of each shade settlement) with magical flora capable of birthing new shades. With only female shades to base them from, however, only female shades were produced. They figured it was worth it though, for for now they were not the last of the shades. Tragically, this proved to be only a temporary fix, and soon they lacked the magical energy to create life on such a consistent scale. The “birthing-buds” began to wilt, and the home-trees were plagued with necrosis. Once again their existence was in danger, and their homes were dying all around them. Soon they were too weak for even their most basic magics and they called for desperate, horrible measures. In a last ditch effort, the queen-chief of the shades decided that the latest brood were cursed, and had stolen all of the home-trees’ life. It was quickly agreed that a sacrificial ritual would release their stolen energy and return life to the home-trees and birthing-buds. Nicku Crestshade, and her closest friends and family were among the most recently born and were marked to be sacrificed. And so would’ve been their fate, if the black spirits of Calpheon hadn’t intervened. They had tried stealing the bodies of the inhabitants of Vennterria before, most notably Agista Rustero, 'the Reaper' of Kingstone. When she managed to rid herself of their influence and enslave her captor, the black-spirits hoped that the shades, a non-violent and benevolent race would be more susceptible to their grasp. On the day of the ritual, however, the shade magic and black magic collided. The shades’ ritual did not kill them, as the shades had planned, nor did it send them to Calpheon, as the black-spirits had planned. Where they had landed was Everneth. In a dense forest adjacent to the ruins of Hartgaard. Nicku and her fellow sacrificial lambs quickly detected and cast away the weakened black spirits. Deciding that this new land would be a perfect new home, set to the production of a new home-tree. And the rest, as they say, is History. [For more information on specifically Nicku’s story, check out her character profile, here.] [To keep up with the shades, remember to frequently check on The Royal Kingstone Library.] 1. Introduction The shades are a peaceful, nature-loving race of sentient creatures wielding druidesque powers that can shape both flora and fauna to their will. They use these powers primarily to nature’s benefit, but also to construct their villages. “Home-trees” for instance, are colossal trees that glow with powerful nature energies. Along with providing shades a place to collect and store their power, it is a powerful religious monument and will be protected by them to the death. Slumbering inside these home-trees are massive earth golems awaking and defending the shades only when shade blood is shed by a foreigner on their homeland. They also use their powers to tame beasts, usually to heal and rehabilitate them but also to keep them as pets, or trophies if it is a particularly deadly beast. 2. Specialties They use their flora magic to become masters of alchemy and agriculture. They sow and harvest plants that can’t be grown anywhere else, resulting in them having a stock of unique fruits, flowers, vegetables, and nuts that are skillfully crafted by the shades into powerful, sweet tasting ales like the famous “Iron Brew” or medicines capable of healing cuts overnight. Anyone who has ever met a shade will testify to their warm, sweet smelling scent which results from the several hundreds of types of perfumes, soaps, and shampoos whose ingredients are grown and mixed in their forests. As such, shades are known in the human settlements as masterful craftsmen of all types of luxuries including exotic pets, tasty drinks, delicious food, sweet smelling lotions, and even stolen goods from all over the world. 3. Stealing and Stealth The shades aren’t thieves, per se. Thieves steal out of necessity, thrill-seeking, or greed. The shades were raised in a culture completely secluded from yours or mine, and in their world, mother nature provides everything and takes everything in a free flowing circle. If you fancy taking a roll of warm bread from the market stall, then go ahead, it was the baker’s passion to bake it, and the baker is certainly welcome to one of your berry drinks if they would want it. They are just things, and the earth will reclaim all the things in the end anyway. This, paired with their incredible stealth have kept them safe from any kind of punishment, so they haven’t felt a need to change. 4. Clothing Shades, like most tribal settlements living in a warm climate, are completely naked. They have never known human prudeness and even when it snows in the winter the hot baths, dense tree canopies, and magical aura in the air keep it a comfortable 25°C (77°F) in their settlements at all times. Human merchants famously sell clothes at shade borders, just to find them discarded on the ground again on their way home. Thus the term, “shameless as a shade” was coined. 5. Bathing Partially due to their skills at soap making, and partially due to their love of a good soak, you can’t walk 10 feet without finding another bathhouse or hot spring in a shade village. Not just for hygiene, a shade will find any number of excuses to bathe, including cooling down when they're angry, warming up when they're cold, to try out a new shampoo, or to eat an especially important pastry. A shade would be a very shocking sight to most humans, and in the past shades have even been hunted by mobs, claiming they were “she-devils” or succubi. The first thing you would notice about a shade is their height. No shade in recorded history has ever been measured taller than 4’7’’. Along with a short stature, all shades have a pair of front-facing horns protruding from the sides of their skulls above the ear, and a soft, furry tail which they retain full control over, much like a monkey would. Despite their furry tail, a shade is covered in a dark-colored, tight layer of skin. Due to their short stature and dark skin, they are incredibly stealthy. Their hair, however, can naturally be any hue or shade on the rainbow, presumably due to their close and intimate lifestyle with nature, taking on the color of flowers. Despite being no longer capable of hyper-sexual reproduction due to the extinction of the males, evolution has not found it necessary to discard their reproductive organs. Their nipples and the inside of their mouth are the color of their hair, albeit a bit darker, and they are naturally free of any hair below their neck, due to the warm climate negating the necessity for body hair. They appear petite, but they have a dense bone structure capable of withstanding great impacts, making up for their lack of strength. They also have incredible hearing and night vision, leaving some shade settlements to be entirely nocturnal. It wasn’t long after Nicku and the rest of her people had set up her home-tree that it was destroyed. Regrettably, it was probably due to the influence of the Apple of Discord when I arrived at the Evernethian coast. Regardless of what caused it, a few years after I had met the shades the ground trembled beneath their village and the cataclysm swallowed up all their homes, leaving behind a crater containing a portal to purgatory itself. The shades were able to tame those lesser demon which escaped into our world, and the mages of Kingstone were able to stop it’s corruption, but the shades wouldn’t last long without a home-tree. They agreed with us that the forest was no longer safe, and used their nature magic to raise a new forest from the depths of the ocean. With a barrier that made the village invisible from the outside, we thought they’d be safest. They called it ‘the Dawn Isles’ and were happy for a time. Then the war with Solis began. It must’ve been Murphy that the island was raised perfectly in between Kingstone and the Solisian Capital. Meaning, they wouldn’t even need to see the island to accidentally run into it and the Kingstonian shades that lived there. Between the dangerous location of the Dawn Isles, and the sand rejecting the creation of a home-tree, soon the shades were homeless again. After General Bael was defeated, most of the ghasts that the shades had tamed from the underworld suddenly died, and the portal that was kept at bay with intricate magical wards and locks went silent. Furthermore the banishment of that great evil ushered in an even greater amount of the nature energy that powered the shade’s magic. From there it was clear that the shades were to reclaim the forest and today there isn’t even a hint of the crater that once dominated it. And from the soil of their newly reconquered land sprouted up a home-tree like the shades had never seen. From it’s power the forest grew denser and denser, with a thick fog which can only traversed with the help of a shade. Now formally known as, ‘the Shade Forest’, it is home to nearly a hundred shades who finally get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Literally. [Nicku and I would both like to thank you for reading through this explanation of the shades. It's been years in the making and the shades still have a long road ahead of them, but we hope you enjoyed and are happy to answer any further questions in our DMs on Discord, @Nicku Crestshade#3918 or @RashE#6503] [The title banners were made by me, RashE, with the Illustrations of Nicku being drawn by him. I wrote this with his help since the shades are wholly his creation, with minimal guidance and advice from me.]