Widely viewed as aberrations, Shades are easily the most distinctive and the most mysterious of the breeds of Humanity, if they are indeed a "breed" at all. Unlike the Aelfborn, Shades are not hybrids born of mixed blood: both of a Shade's parents are Human. Also, a Shade's physical appearance does not depend on the race of his parents. Whether born to a pale Northman or an Irydni with skin the color of pitch, Shades are uncannily uniform in appearance. Often called "the Stillborn" or "the Children of the Damned," Shades seem touched by death itself. The skin has a pasty, corpse-grey pallor, with sunken eyes that give their faces a drawn, skull-like appearance. Few can look directly into the strange, pitch black eyes of a Shade for very long. Shades are born hairless, and never grow any hair throughout their entire lives, even lacking eyebrows. A Shade's flesh is cold to the touch, like the flesh of a corpse. Shades have thin, chilling voices that rarely rise above a whisper. Despite their light skin, Shades show an uncanny aptitude for stealth, and blend easily into darkness or shadow. Shades creep through the dark so easily, in fact, that many simple folk believe them to be practitioners of evil magic.
Except for their bizarre and frightening appearance, a Shade's physiology differs only slightly from their Human parents. Shades are slightly weaker than the average Human, but are slightly more agile. Shades also show a profound weakness of Spirit, having even less spiritual aptitude than the average Aelfborn. Some claim that the Shades' lack of Spirit contributes to their greatest flaw - Shades are incapable of siring or bearing children. Magi who have researched the issue claim that the spark of life of a Shade is too weak to transmit life into a child.
Shades are also the youngest of the Children of the World, having only appeared in the wake of the Turning. Shades were born rarely at first, but have become more and more common as the Age of Strife has ground on. Why some infants were born Shades while others (even in the same family) were not was a mystery at first, but eventually the patterns were surmised by Magi and Loremasters, who now understand the method (if not the cause) by which an unborn Human is transformed into a Shade. If a Human man is slain while his child is yet unborn, there is a chance (each expert disagrees as to the exact likelihood) that the child will be born a Shade instead of Human. The more often the father dies and returns to flesh, the more likely the transformation becomes. If a woman who is with child is slain, when she returns to flesh the unborn child inside her will almost certainly have changed into a Child of the Damned. As time has passed since the Turning, the number of Shades in the World has risen sharply. Whether this is simply a product of the endemic wars of the Age of Strife, which slay so many mothers and fathers-to-be, or whether some other force might be at work remains unknown. The Shades themselves do not seem to know or care.