“You have broken… what could not be broken. Hope is broken.”
– Merlin the Magician, Excalibur
The Unknown Future
For three great Ages of the World, our History and fortune have felt Shadowbane’s edge. Nothing under Heaven has escaped its searing light: Gods, Dark Lords, Archons, Kings, and Heroes have all been humbled by Thurin’s great blade, while the fate of the World grinds slowly on. You have heard the tale, and yet I see you still have questions. Nearly one hundred years have passed since the Day of Woe, when Cambruin’s sword became his downfall, and the bane of all the World. In all that time, what has become of the sword? What does the future bode for Shadowbane, and how will the next chapter of its saga affect the sundered World? There are no certain answers to these questions, but that has not stopped legions of the wise and curious from speculating. Such is the stuff of rumor and theory, prophecy and legend…
The Age of Strife and the Final Destiny of Shadowbane
Shadowbane has not moved since the Traitor dealt the Woeful Stroke: it remains locked in the stone bark of the Tree of Life, which the Elvish Sages of old named Yllgandir. In the confusion following the sack of Kierhaven and the tumults of the Turning, those of Cambruin’s Champions that still lived searched for the High King with dread in their hearts. Finally, as the skies darkened overhead a group of Knights led by Sir Mardiock the Gallant, came upon the Stone Tree and found the Cambruin’s body there, pinned to the eldritch oak with the blade of Shadowbane. The sword had passed through the High King’s heart, and though each Knight tried with all his strength, none of them could pull it free. Hesitant at first to strike the tree, desperation finally led them to try to crack the stone bark and free the blade, but none of their blows so much as scratched the alabaster tree. The Champions prayed to the All-Father for guidance, but received no answer.
After three days of waiting, Zeristan came upon them, and bid the Champions consign Cambruin to the flame. At the Wizard’s advice the Knights built a pyre around Cambruin’s feet and burned his body. The flames consumed the High King’s mortal remains, but did no harm to Shadowbane or the transformed tree. Afterward, Zeristan bore away the High King’s arms, ashes and bones, and entombed them in a hidden place. Rumors abound that Cambruin’s tomb has been plundered in the years since, and many Cathedrals claim to hold one or more of the High King’s bones as holy relics. The Champions then tried to return to their homelands, but found all the roads blocked, for the Turning had broken Aerynth into fragments, each drifting on its own course through the Void. The rest of the World waited nearly fifty years to learn the High King’s fate, when the new science of Traveling finally unlocked the Runegates. The few Knights who survived and remained true to Cambruin’s Code have searched ever since for Cambruin’s heir, but their quest has so far been in vain.
In the troubled decades that followed, countless Warriors, Heroes, and Questers journeyed to the ruins of Kierhaven, making pilgrimages to the Tree of Stone so that they might see the blade, and some risked their lives and souls by trying to draw Shadowbane from the tree in hopes of mending the World. Tyrants, Knights, Warlords, Bishops, even Magi have all tried without success. Thirty years ago the processions to Kierhaven ended abruptly when a mighty Drake took the ruins of Kierhaven as its lair, and now the way has almost been forgotten. The last quester bold enough to make the journey returned with a strange tale: the Tree, he raved, was gone! Where once there stood Mount Telorinadreth, with the ruins of Kierhaven and the Stone Tree upon its lower slopes, now there is only a yawning chasm. Magi theorize that the fragments of the World may be breaking again, and that Yllgandir and Shadowbane may be lost somewhere in the Void. Some have lost heart at the notion, lamenting that Shadowbane’s light has at last gone out, while others stay true to their faith, and keep the flames of Hope burning. Shadowbane passed from the face of the World once, they reason, and was brought back by Caeric the Paladin. In time, the Third Quest for the Sword will begin, and the World is only waiting for a Hero to accomplish it.
If Shadowbane still exists, and if a way to the sword could be found, what will happen if it is finally drawn? Speculation has continued unabated since the Turning. Will Shadowbane’s light drive back the darkness that has engulfed the sundered World? Many think so, but what of Beregund’s Curse? Some believe that the curse is broken, washed away by the blood of three monarchs (Ithriana, Valdimanthor, and Cambruin himself). Others speculate that the Turning has rendered the Curse moot: what Hero need fear death in this Age, when Spirit returns so quickly to flesh? Few who now seek the blade fear Beregund’s Curse, and as the years pass some wonder if the entire tale of the Curse was not invented by the Elves, or by Zeristan, who hoped to steal the blade away for himself.
From the day of the Turning, rumors and legends have sprang up among the commonfolk, and have only increased since the Stone Tree was lost. The tale of the Lost Child is the most common and most popular. Many think that only Cambruin’s rightful heir can draw Shadowbane from the tree, and that when that Hero comes the High Kingdom and all its Laws and justice will finally be restored. The new High King will call the All-Father back unto the World, and He will walk among His children a third and final time and repair the broken pieces of the World. A new Age of Paradise will begin, and the sins and follies of the past will finally be undone.
Other tales are far less hopeful. Some believe that pulling Shadowbane from Yllgandir would be like pulling an arrow from a wound, and that the blighted World would only bleed more for it. Others believe that Beregund’s Curse endures unbroken, and that Shadowbane cannot be pulled from the Tree of Life at all. The sword will remain there until the End of All Days, when the Dragon shall finally rise from its wounded sleep and take its vengeance. Terror, fire, and madness will consume the World, and all of the All-Father’s creations will be destroyed. Thus the folly of Men and Elves will have undone all of Thurin’s designs, for the one weapon that might have saved the World will sit idle while all that is Good or Evil perishes. Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Law and Chaos: just as the struggle between these primal forces has steered Shadowbane’s history, they dominate the blade’s suspected futures as well. Perhaps all of these notions are flawed, and the truth will never be foretold.
What is Shadowbane’s final destiny? The All-Father alone could say, but His voice has long been silent.