Age of Twilight
A Dark Beginning: the Tale of the Dragon
No Human can remember the beginning of this story, for Shadowbane was fashioned before the first Sons of Men beheld the dawn. The saga begins in the Age of Twilight, before Time and before days, when the World was young, and bathed in eternal twilight, lit by the glimmering stars and the mingled light of two Moons, one of Gold and one of Silver. It was during this timeless age of peace and beauty that the Dragon, most ancient of evils, Terror of Terrors, stirred from its long sleep deep under the ground. None, not even the All-Father, can say how long the Terror had slept there, but its waking was a calamity the likes of which the World had never known. Thurin the Shaper and the All-Father Himself were there in the dark when the Dragon stirred, and fought the beast when it awoke. So terrible was their struggle that the earth heaved and cracked, and all the bright cities of the Elves were unmade in a whirlwind of destruction. So did the Elves come to first know death. King Gilliandor, Lord of the Sidhe, First King of the Elves and oldest Child of Braialla, met his doom when his mighty palace, taller than the trees, was shattered and fell in upon him.
At last the Horror burst forth from the deeps, and the force of its rising toppled mountains. The Elves were filled with rage and despair, and all the might of the Twilight Kingdom rushed forth to meet the Dragon on Hennan Gallorach, the Field of Sorrows. All the sons of Gilliandor rode at the head of the army, weeping tears of rage for the death of the father, and singing fell songs of death and vengeance. What army shall ever match the power of that Elvish host, mighty in arms and in magic, the firstborn of all the peoples of the World? All the light of the stars glimmered on their armor as they came, and a bright flame shone in all their eyes. As one the host attacked, the great Blade Weavers unleashing their dance of fury as deadly arrows filled the sky, thicker than raindrops in a storm. Fire and lightning exploded forth, along with all the sorceries the greatest Magi could muster. But the Dragon was untouched, and roused itself, larger than the mightiest of mountains, and its vast wings blotted out the sky. The Terror laughed, and all the Elvish host quailed in fear. The Dragon's wrath fell on the Elves like a cyclone upon a wheat field. Much of the great host was slain in a brief instant, smashed by the shock of the beast's woeful tail, spitted upon its teeth, or seared to ashes by the fumes of its foul breath. The shattered remnants of the greatest army ever known fled in terror, crying that the Doom of the World was at hand.
It was then that the All-Father and Thurin emerged from the earth, and attacked the beast with all their might. Even Thurin's great axe, which had been the bane of a Chaos Lord, could not rend the Dragon's hide, and the All-Father's mighty fists could not dent the Dragon's scales. Though His blows were for naught, the All-Father's assault stilled the Dragon's fury for a moment. The Terror turned from its slaughter and regarded the All-Father. Its eyes met His, and the Beast spake: "I know you, Son of Lion," it hissed with a voice that was Death itself. "You are a fool to rouse Me from my slumber, for now you and all your Children shall bleed for it." The beast turned from the fleeing Elves and smote the All-Father, lashing Him with its terrible claws. Dismayed, the All-Father leaped into the sky, hoping to draw The Dragon after Him and trap it in the Void, far away from the newborn World.
Yet the Dragon followed Him not, but instead breathed deep, and let fly all the flame from within its foul heart, rushing forth with the fury of a volcano. So fierce was its fire that all the fleeing Elves that looked back were struck blind by the radiance of the Dragon's breath, and in the wake of its deafening roar all the World fell silent. But the All-Father was swift, and evaded the hellish blast. The flames reached high into the sky, even unto Vollianth, the Golden Moon, which bore the full brunt of the Dragon's fury. The moon kindled, and thus was born the Sun, which burns to this day with the blinding flame of wyrmsbreath. In that moment, our World was changed forever.
Volliandra the Golden Lady, Goddess of the Golden Moon who the Elves named Gwergelind, Mother of Dreams, was consumed in her palace by the hellish flames and died in hellish agony. Malog her husband, the Companion to the All-Father known as the Warrior, was also there on Vollianth when it changed from Moon to Sun, and as he tried to shield his beloved from the flames they burned him unto the bone, disfiguring him for all eternity. And as Volliandra died her sister Saedron felt her pain, even in her palace of ice on the Silver Moon, and the torment drove her mad. So was one of the Gods themselves slain, and two more nearly unmade. Malog fell from the inferno, a blazing comet with a tail of flame, and plummeted into the sea where the fire was quenched. So great were his wounds that he never joined the fateful battle.
The light of the newborn Sun shone full in The Dragon's eyes, and dazzled them. And so the All-Father dove down and grappled with the beast, and His strength held the Dragon fast. The Terror unlashed hurricanes with the thrashing of its wings and sought to crush the All-Father in its dreaded coils, but still He held the Dragon at bay.
Just then the sound of a mighty horn echoed over the Hennan Gallorach, and the All-Father laughed even as He struggled, for He knew aid was at hand. And so it was that Kenaryn the Hunter came to the Field of Sorrows, his ebon steed running faster than the wind. Drawn from his Long Hunt by the tumult of the Dragon's rising, a rage was in the Hunter's eyes, and the point of his great spear flashed in the light of the new Sun. Even Thurin smiled to see his trusted companion. Kenaryn uttered a battle cry, leaped into the air, and smote the Dragon full in its great eye with his dreadful spear. Callanthyr was that weapon's name, the Spear of Kolaur the Dark Lord, which Kenaryn had taken as his prize when the All-Father and His Companions defeated the hordes of Chaos before the World was made. Born of Chaos and enchanted with power beyond reckoning, Callanthyr's point bit the Dragon, and sank deep. So even The Dragon was wounded, and knew pain at last. Its foul blood flowed forth, black as deepest night and bathed in sanguine flame, hotter even than molten steel. The Dragon shrieked in pain, and its thrashing was too great even for the All-Father to hold. The metal shaft of Callanthyr snapped in Kenaryn's hands, and the Dragon fled back beneath the ground into the deeps, back into its foul lair. The Terror fell again into a deep slumber, from which it has never stirred. There the Dragon lies still, bleeding its foul blood into the cracks of the deeps, the point of the Demon Spear still lodged in its eye. So shall it lie until the last days, when all the World will be unmade and even Death shall die.
On the surface the All-Father and His Companions looked in wonder upon the newborn Sun. All were wearied by the great battle, and the All-Father's wounds were grievous indeed. Kenaryn mourned the loss of his mighty spear, won in battle against the Hosts of Chaos, and Thurin's axe had melted at the touch of the Dragon's blood. And yet, the three Gods were filled with joy, for the Doom of the World had been averted. And so all the Elves emerged from hiding, there beneath the newborn Sun, and praised the name of the All-Father, who had driven this terror from them. But one mighty Elf-Lord, Sillestor of the Endless Wood, was dismayed. "This new Sun brings light unto the World, and its light is good and fair. Yet even in this light, a shadow broods in my heart. For how can I know that this Terror will not rise again, to wreak an even greater havoc? All our sundered cities, even if they reach their former glory, will stand ever in the gloom of a Lurking Fear. How shall we escape this shadow?" The All-Father was silent, and thought long. At last spoke Thurin, the Shaper, Father of the Dwarves. "Fear not, forest child," spake he, "for though this fell beast casts the Shadow of Doom, it has kindled the Sun, greatest of lights. So shall it kindle another light to drive away all shadows." And Thurin took up the broken shaft of Callanthyr and went back into the earth, to the mansions of his children. There he began his greatest work.
The Blade and the Hilt: The Forging of Shadowbane
For four Ages of the World the Dwarves have labored in the deeps, and every day they sing the tale of Shadowbane's mighty forging.
Fresh from the Field of Sorrow did Thurin return to the Halls of Haganduur, the greatest stronghold of his children, and stood before his mighty forge at the core of the World. To him he called the seven Forge Masters, oldest of all the Dwarves, greatest in skill and craft of his children. Long they worked, grinding adamant, truesteel, and truesilver from the Bones of the World, and stoking the fire in Thurin's forge until it shone as the newborn Sun.
Thurin melted the shavings of those mighty metals, and fusing them into a new metal altogether. Into the mixture Thurin cast the shaft of Callanthyr, which had been wrought in the Void of Chaos out of dark elements outside the Universe. The alloy which was born in Thurin's forge was never given a name, and never again has the World seen its like. Thurin sang a great song as he worked, and put all of his strength, the strength of Earth, into the metal. And at the last, when the blank was made and the mold broken, Thurin took the metal to the First Anvil, and set to forging a great blade. So strong was the brand that Thurin's hammer could barely dent it, even when it shone white hot. And so Thurin took his forging hammer in both hands, and all the seven Forge Masters held the tongs, for it took the strength of all seven to hold the blade in place against the force of Thurin's blows. A thousand thousand times the blade was hammered, then heated, then folded asunder and hammered again. And all the while the Dwarves watched, and learned, and sang songs praising their father's craftsmanship.
When at last the mighty blade was finished, Thurin picked it up in his bare left hand and wandered far in the deeps, the hot steel shining like a torch. Finally he came near to that cave where the Dragon lay, wounded, bleeding from its eye. Thurin found a stream of the Dragon's blood and dipped the blade in to quench it. The touch of the white hot steel had not caused the Shaper the slightest harm, but the blood of the Dragon was too much even for Thurin's fortitude to withstand. The foul blood burned Thurin's hand unto the bone as he held the metal in, but never did the Shaper wince or flinch. As so was Thurin's left hand scarred, and he did go forth after with that hand gloved. Thus quenched in Dragon's blood Thurin drew out the great blade, and the metal was charred, black as the deepest shadow.
Once the mighty blade was finished, Thurin sent his children to seek Malog throughout the deeps, while the Shaper himself remained at Haganduur and wrought a great gift for his brother Godling. The Dwarves wandered far, and finally found Malog lying wounded in a cave by the sea, writhing in pain, hiding his ruined face in darkness. Thurin went to his brother, and learned how terrible Malog's wounds had been. The Warrior also told the Shaper of the crushing sorrow that lay upon his heart. "My bride is cruelly slain, and the Golden Moon that my heart so loved is no more," the Warrior said, "what cause have I to live now?"
"Life is its own cause." the Shaper answered. "I was never blessed with a wife, so I cannot fathom your distress. You live, brother. Let that be your comfort, for as long as you live, Volliandra's memory shall endure." And then Thurin gave to Malog the mask that he had wrought, a wondrous gift of gold and silver. "Wear this, my brother, and not a creature in the World can deny that you are the handsomest of the Gods." Thurin's words and his gift brought comfort to Malog's troubled soul, and he gave the Shaper a gift in return: a lock of Volliandra's golden hair that the warrior had clutched tight in his hand even through the inferno. It was the only fragment of the golden Moon to survive the Dragon's Wrath. "Your gift does me great honor, brother," Thurin spake, "and I shall use it to avenge the wife you have so cruelly lost."
Thurin took his leave of Malog and returned to Haganduur. At his forge he took the lock of the Goddess' Hair and spun it into wire, bright and fair yet harder than steel. Thurin melted the wire in his forge and fashioned a hilt for his masterwork, cruelly barbed yet fair to behold. And as he worked Thurin sang mighty spells that coiled around the hilt, spells of Light, of Law, and of Power. When the work was done Thurin joined the hilt to the blade, and the gold shone forth with the mingled light of the dead Moon and the newborn Sun. Seven Runes of Power were graven on the blade, each the life's work of one of the seven Forge Masters. Thurin honed its edge on the Bones of the World. The darkness of the blade was balanced by the radiance of the hilt, and the Chaos stuff of Callanthyr was bound forever into a new form, ordered by the Shaper's will and vision.
At last the mighty effort was finished, and the time had come to test the blade. Thurin took the sword and held it high, then brought it down upon his great anvil, the heart of the First Forge. And lo! There was a flash like lightning and a shock like thunder, and the World itself did tremble. The Dwarves were hurled from their feet, and when they rose, they saw that the shining blade had cleaved through the entire anvil, wrought of solid adamant, and cut even through the great granite stone beneath it! The Dwarves wondered at the power of this mighty blade, and finally Thurin spoke, breaking the heavy silence.
"Never again shall I make so wondrous a work," spoke Thurin to his children, "and never again shall I put hammer to an Anvil. I must go now. Mine hand is ruined, my forging days are done." And the Dwarves mourned this news, but Thurin spoke further. "I bid you, good my children, to remember well all that I have taught you, and to build new forges. In them craft more great weapons like this one, so that the children of the All-Father might prevail against The Dragon should the Terror ever rise again." And so Thurin drew out the blade, took it from the forge, and walked out of the Halls of Haganduur. And ever after, from that day before days unto this, Thurin's children have worked in the shadow of the First Anvil, forging mighty weapons at their father's command.
And so Thurin came again to the surface of the World, and found the lands withering in the heat of the New Sun. Long he sought the Elves, and found them at last dwelling far from the Plain of Sorrows, where the trees still stood thick and twilight still ruled. There came he at last to Caras Gallinon, the New City, where he found Sillestor seated on the Throne of Stars. Sillestor welcomed Thurin with great ceremony, and told him of the strife that had befallen the Elves in the days since the Dragon's defeat. All of the heirs of the First King had fallen before The Dragon's wrath, and where at the World's flowering there had been one mighty folk, now four of Elves nations vied for mastery. Thurin cared little for the intrigues of the Elves, however. The Shaper told the fair king that he had come to keep his oath, made at Hennan Gallorach beneath the newborn Sun. And then Thurin drew forth the sword, with blade was dark as midnight and a hilt that shone with the Sun's brilliance, and all the Elves were struck dumb with wonder.
"Here is the greatest blade that ever shall be forged," Thurin spoke, "a light to hold back the Shadow of Oblivion. To a sundered weapon of Chaos I have brought Order, and what I have wrought cannot be unmade. All the strength of earth and wrath of fire is bound within its edge. Tempered in the Dragon's Blood, its light is the light of the Golden Moon, which the Dragon's fire destroyed. Its edge will cleave the flesh even of that great Terror. Stand in the shadow of fear no longer, fair Elf Lord. Now you and your folk are free."
Sillestor rejoiced, and took the blade. "Shadowbane I name you," the Elf-King said, "may you be the doom of all that is evil." And so Thurin left the Elves, and wandered long both on the World and under it.
A Fell Reckoning: The Treason of the Elves
That race of Elvenkind that Sillestor ruled came to call themselves the Dar Khelegur, the High Lords of Ice, for they made their kingdom in the far North where the winters are long and the winds are cruel. And always did Sillestor bear Shadowbane, carrying it as an emblem of his kingship, and his people called it the Second Sun, the Light within Twilight. This was an era the Elves recall as the Times of Parting, when the folk of the Twilight Kingdom were divided into four great nations, each with its own dreams and desires. The Dar Khelegur were ever the greatest and mightiest of the Elvish peoples, and their wizards delved long into the deepest secrets of creation and destruction. Slowly they grew decadent, and their hearts turned wicked. Sillestor dreamed of restoring the glory of the Twilight Kingdom, lost when the Sun was kindled. So Sillestor led the Dar Khelegur into a bitter war with the nations of their kinsmen. Ever did Sillestor bear Shadowbane at the vanguard of his army, and neither the mightiest Warriors nor the strongest Wizards could withstand him. So was a weapon of hope turned to slaughter, and the blade fated to destroy evil destroyed much that was beautiful and fair. Only one Elf nation escaped Sillestor's ambitions, the Khalinviri, the Children of the Sun who by choice stayed in the searing deserts that grew under the newborn Sun, still fixed in the sky. Sillestor crowned himself ruler of the Deathless Empire, the second great kingdom of the Elves.
Long did the Deathless Empire endure in that latter part of the Age of Twilight. It is told how as their memories of the Dragon faded, many Elves of that mighty kingdom began to spurn the name of the All-Father, blaming Him for first rousing the Terror, or for not defeating it sooner, when so many might have been saved. For the birth of the hateful Sun they blamed Him too, for the Elves mourned the death of the eternal twilight and missed their beloved stars. Some went even so far as to claim that the Elves were not born of His blood at all, and all Elvenfolk therefore owed this great Vagabond no honor or obedience. Thus began the Great Betrayal, when the folk of the Deathless Empire abandoned the All-Father's great temples, and instead worshipped the Beast Lords: cunning Wolf, mighty Bear, wicked Serpent, and many others whose names have been forgotten. Their Magi pierced the veil of Chaos, and trucked with Demons called from beyond the Void.
The All-Father is just, and wise, and generous, but even to His patience there is an ending. At last He returned to the lands of the Deathless Empire, and he chided the Elves for their wicked ways, commanding them to return to the path of righteousness. But the Elves mocked Him, and called up the avatars of the mighty Beast Gods, so that they might rend Him to pieces or drive Him away forever. To the All-Father's aid came Kenaryn the Hunter, and all the Centaurs with him, and thus was joined a bitter conflict. The All-Father called down his host of Archons to subdue the strength of the Deathless Empire while He fought the great Beast Lords with his bare hands. So Avatar fought Avatar, and the Maker of Men subdued the Lords of the Beasts one by one. This great war is remembered as the Time of Taming, one of the greatest conflicts the World has ever seen. And Sillestor bore Shadowbane into the fray, and the blade was so mighty that not even the Archons could withstand its fury. Loromir, Archon of Peace, was slain by Sillestor's hand, and all peace died with him. There are those among the Wise who believe that all of the strife, pain, and war that has troubled our broken World was born in that instant, and that since Loromir's death true peace is impossible.
The blood of an Archon was still hot on his hands when the mighty Elf King turned upon the All-Father Himself. The All-Father saw Sillestor not, for He stood locked in deadly combat with Wolf, most clever of all the Beast Lords. Sillestor raised Shadowbane to strike down the Father of the World from behind, but suddenly Thurin was there, Thurin the Strong, most loyal of all the All-Father's companions. Thurin blocked Sillestor's stroke with his left hand, the very hand that had been maimed when Shadowbane was made. The enchanted blade bit deep, and severed the maimed hand at the wrist. So it was that the hand of the Shaper was twice betrayed by that which it had wrought. And again Thurin made no noise and winced not, but took Sillestor by the throat with his right hand, and squeezed with all his strength, and held him until the Elf king, senseless, dropped Shadowbane unto the ground. Then Thurin took up Shadowbane and in one mighty stroke cleaved Sillestor's head from his body. Only then did he speak: "Foulest of traitors, you bade this blade be the death of all that is evil. And so it is."
Thus did the All-Father prevail against the great Beasts, and against the treachery of His first children. When the fight was done, He rebuked the Elves for their wickedness, and judged them unfit for the mastery of the World. So He departed to fashion Men, his true children, and left the Elves to repent their sins. And Thurin bore Shadowbane away, proclaiming that none in all the Deathless Empire was fit to bear it. Many Elves returned to the All-Father's worship, but still there lingered some whose hearts were filled with spite at their defeat. So the Treason of the Elves was broken, and with it the power of the Dar Khelegur. The Sea Elves, the Gwaridorn of the West, came to rule the Deathless Empire afterward. Giliander the Bold, named for the First King of the Elves, wore its crown of truesilver. Mighty as Giliander was, so was he proud, and he did not heed the words of the All-Father. When at last the All-Father created the first Men, who lived as Titans in the Lost Realm of Ardan, the Elves, jealous of their younger brothers, made endless war upon them, and finally cursed the First Men with a plague of madness. Hurled into the pit of ignorance, the Sons of Men became as beasts, and were enslaved. Long is that tale, and hateful in its memory, but it need not be told here.
As for Shadowbane, Thurin bore it way from the field of the Taming. The Shaper returned to the realms of his children, and gave them the sword to hold in trust. The Dwarves rejoiced at the return of their father, and took Shadowbane and placed it within a great armory, filled with the weapons they had dutifully forged since Thurin had departed. The seven Forge Masters showed their teacher how they had grown in their craft, and fashioned for Thurin a hand made of silver, strong and fair, to replace the hand he had lost. Thurin was glad, but never again did he return to his forge. At last Thurin departed again, to walk down roads that none may name. And so the Dwarves held Shadowbane, and it shone in the darkness of their vaults for an Age of the World, lost to the hands of Elves or Men until Beregund the son of Beredir crept into the Halls of Haganduur like a thief and stole it from its guardians, bearing it away to a grim and glorious destiny.
Now you have heard the legend of Shadowbane, from its end unto its beginning. Three times has it vanished into darkness, and twice returned, borne by a hero.
There are those who say that the final chapter of Shadowbane's saga has yet to be written...