Shadow World Earthwardens and their Works.

Most of the major works of the Earthwardens are dated throughout the Interregnum 50,000 to 70,000 in the past. The planet was still in turmoil from the Galactic Civil Wars so it’s expected that some of their work has been lost to the still changing planetary surface.

Xa’ar has some new material on the Earthwardens, but I thought I would explore the most significant endeavors built by the Earthwardens.

Coral Roads:

  • Ancient submarine “highways”
  • Above ground entries to the network are cleverly hidden in rocky coastlines or lonely atolls. follow island chains and undersea ridges, always in shallow water.
  • Inside, the roads are arched corridors made up of coral and shell; some areas are translucent to allow filtered sunlight to illuminate the tunnels by day.
  • Access via Earthwarden artifacts.

I hope that many GM’s have introduced the Coral Roads in their SW games/campaigns. Not only is it a great SW “element”, but it does allow the players to travel safely from one area to another and enforces the broader concept that Kulthea has many secrets.

Inspiration for a Coral Road

ENIGMATIC ANCIENT STRUCTURES:

The Earthwardens left many mysterious structures around Kulthea. Some have been repurposed or cities and towns have sprung up around them without the people even knowing the age or provenance of these buildings. Almost all are built with interlocking stones of Cavarite.

Essaence Towers. Often built at the nexus of an Essaence Foci, the towers can be seen as power conductors or antennae: they can focus and control nearby Flows. The use of these towers is beyond most today, but a few hold this secret knowledge…

Essaence Spheres. It’s believed that the Earthwardens built undergrounds complexes to store and protect powerful artifacts and knowledge.

Block Tombs. It’s not clear what their original purpose was, scholars believe they were actual tombs for Earthwardens (they don’t date back to the 1st era) or they could be an artifact of some unknown Interregnum civilization. Either way, the surviving ones have been co-opted by the the Z’taar Priests to be used as their Chapter Houses.

SEA TUNNELS:

It is believed that dozens of tunnels were created to facilitate travel, but only a few survived and some remain hidden or their entrances blocked by tectonic activity. The Tunnels are a marvel of ancient power–their flows reversing direction on a regular schedule and allowing for ship transit in both directions. The Tunnels resist damage and blockages. Three of them are:

Imarij Sea Tunnel in Agyra. The southern entrance is found at the base of Nontataku and is a major hub of commerce for Agyra.

Grotto Path in Emer. A critical path for trade, the Tunnel is now a dangerous transit due to the presence of Krylites.

Naichon Tunnel. East/West tunnel between Bokorean Kingdon and Ur Jujuy in Falias. Hidden and rarely used.

Guardians:

One of the final legacies of the Earthwardens was the creation of guardians placed throughout the hemisphere.  Five of these Golems were built, powerful enchanted warriors who could be utilized by those with access to ancient knowledge.

GuardianTypeLocation
Zarin DeyroainKregora GolemEarthwarden ruins in Red Dawn Pass, Falias
Arestiis LanedriLaen GolemIsle of the Turning in Mythenis
Elezyii Ankyra,.Diamond GolemEarthwarden ruins in NE Kelestia
Renia AthosTitanium GolemEarthwarden temple under Nontataku in Agyra
Yanie SteraiadEog GolemEarthwarden temple in Vog Mur

MEGALITHS, STANDING STONES AND CIRCLES:

These structures are found throughout Kulthea, mostly in wilderness areas. They are mysterious and avoided by locals, although they are meant as safe havens against dark forces; especially Demons. These structures can be single monoliths, dolmens are stone spirals but typically have similar powers. The stones will often glow whenever a Demon or servant of the Unlife is near…

These are just a few examples of the legacy of the Earthwardens but the possibilities are endless!

Shadow World: Dawn of the Xiosians.

I had a few messages regarding my most recent post on Earthwardens & Dragonlords, so I thought I would revisit another of my SW topics: the Xiosians. I’m reposting this from a Feb 2018 entry with some changes.

One of the more dense and information rich sections of the Shadow World Master Atlas is the timeline. By the 3rd Edition of the Master Atlas, the timeline has reached 25 pages and would be much longer if it incorporated all the local and regional timeline material found in other SW books. In any event, the timeline is a rich resource for a GM, not only offering unlimited adventure hooks but providing endless opportunities to explore Kulthea in different times. Sprinkled throughout the time though are many unanswered questions, cool hints and vague references that Terry has yet to explain or explore in detail. One of my favorite:  the Xiosians.

Xio (I. Shield) Cadre

def. A monastic warrior cult formed in the First Era by the Ka’Ta’Viir ruling families to use as loyal household guards and special forces.  The Xio combat techniques became the foundation for most other martial forms that followed.

(P. Xiosians  a.k.a. Xo, Xso, Xsosians)

The Xiosians were first mentioned in the original Master Atlas: Warrior-Priests that were servants of the Masters of Emer and rode flying magical chariots. In Emer I we got a few more pieces of the puzzle with several mentions:

Warrior-mages on huge steeds begin purging the wilds in central Emer, driving out the ubiquitous Gark and Lugrôki hordes. These knights are harbingers of the coming of the Masters.

They rule through an order of warrior-mages (the Xiosians)

It is believed that the Changramai are disenchanted Xiosians who left
the service of the Titans
(In fact, some are

I thought this sounded like another group of mysterious warriors that fly on magical steeds and purge the wilderness: The Cloudlords of Tanara.

I wanted to tie together a number of loose ends: the origins of the Changramai martial culture, ancient militant orders with ties to the Althans/Ka’ta’viir, mysterious warrior cults and the genetic origins of special warriors like the Cal-chah and Guarlu. I had an idea that tied them all back to the 1st Era.

The Althans and the Ka’ta’viir are primarily an advanced intergalactic imperial society. But there is also a strong oligarchy element of immensely wealthy merchant families. It’s not a leap to assume that both leaders and powerful “Houses” would have their own security force to provide defense, corporate espionage and personal protection. This is not an original idea. The Romans had their “Praetorian Guards“, the Emperor had his Royal Guard, and in Dune every Major House had it’s own army, formally independent from the Emperor‘s own military forces. (the Dune setting fit’s well with the Althan/Spacemaster/Kulthea dynamic).

History:

Few organizations in the Shadow World’s early history have had a greater impact on the development of Kulthean martial culture.  The Xio Cadre were the personal bodyguards of the Ka’Ta’Viir during the First Era.  Originally Althans, the Xiosans pursued aggressive eugenics programs and genetic and physical modifications to create the most adept warriors in the Althan Empire.  Too few in number to be an effective military force, the Xiosans became an extension of ruling Ka’Ta’Viir political power.  While serving primarily as bodyguards, Xiosan Cadres later became a symbol of personal wealth, extravagance and power among the ruling families.

Initially one central organization, the Xio Cadre grew into several dozen Cadre “Temples” each under the patronage of a particular Ka’Ta’Viir family.  Over time the temples reinforced patron loyalties and developed distinctive styles of dress and appearance.  While Xio warriors were adept in modern combat systems, the Ka’Ta’Viir would have their Xiosan guards attend public ceremonies in distinctive cultural garb: shining armor, swords and flying mounts that played upon Althan classical mythology and heroic memes. Xiosans warriors performed in elaborate athletic and martial performances during Ka’Ta’Viir social events and were used to mediate family or business disputes in proxy combats.  A few individual Xios became celebrities in their own right, either through martial or athletic prowess.

The Legacy of the Xiosans:

Scattered remnants of the Xio Cadre survived the First Era: either with their Ka’Ta’Viir patrons in cryogenic hibernation, or were off planet during the worst of the conflicts.  During the Interregnum, refugee Xiosans merged with indigenous cultures or established new settlements, slowly diluting their singular genetic traits. Still, interbreeding passed along many beneficial aspects of the Xio physical traits: the Zedrahin, Zor, Udahir and Shay all possess some of the size, physical characteristics and strength of the Xio warriors.  It is believed that pure Xiosans still survive in the Eastern hemisphere with their Ka’Ta’Viir Lords, but out of a dozen Cadre Temples in the West only a handful of facilities and warriors survived:

  1. Vale of the Merisia.  The abandoned Sunlords Temple in Tanara still held armor, weapons and the offspring of their Steardan mounts when it was discovered and occupied by a Rhakaan expeditionary force during the Second Era.  Using the equipment they found, the Zorians assumed the role of the mythical “Cloudlords”, emulating their Xiosan predecessors.
  2. Changramai Monastery. The Changramai monastic order was a rebirth of the Xio discipline.  The monastery was built upon the bones of a ruined Cadre temple.  The Halls are intact, but the knowledge to access the security door has been lost.  (The key is interred with Master Changramai). 
  3. Votania. Sun Cadre.  The Masters of Emer built their palaces alongside an abandoned Xiosan Cadre Temple.   The Masters repopulated the temple with their own servants. Adopting the flying chariots and weapons of the Sun Cadre.
  4. Western Thuul.  The Temple was reoccupied in early second era by a splinter group of Xiosans.  They attempted to build a new settlement on Barzu-chaa (South Eastern Thuul) but the City-State was destroyed after conflict with surrounding cultures.  The surviving Xiosans fled: some moved permanently to the Cadre Temple located in the Sullen Mountains while others fled east to the Gufu Rainforest where they are believed to be an offspring of a lost giant race.  While still large of stature, most of the surviving Xiosans are a product of mixed heritage and have lost many of their defining physical attributes.
  5. Mur Fostisur.  The Mountain Enclave of the Udahir was originally a Xio Temple. Now the Udahir and their flying mounts occupy the vast hold.

Scholars whisper of a darker chapter in the Xiosan history. It is rumored that some Xiosans were ultimately bent to the will of the Unlife and became its most feared warriors: Heralds of Night.  More chilling stories are spoken among the Loremasters: that Kadeana performed experiments on her own Imperial Cadre.  Six and sixty Xio warriors she used for her most terrifying creation: Shards.

{Note: Terry actually establishes that Kadaena created the Shards via “Elor’s Text. MA 4th Ed. p.192. It’s logical to me that she would use her “super soldier” Imperial guards in that horrifying experiment!}

The Ka’Ta’Viir were not naïve to the physical threat of the Xiosans.  Their proximity to the inner sanctums of the Ka’Ta’Viir and the Lords’ own paranoia made them cautious. Part of the genetic modifications included behavioral conditioning: Xiosans cannot attack a Ka’Ta”Viir and indeed had to submit to their will.  Additionally the Xiosans were made more susceptible to the Essence (which only the Ka’Ta’Viir controlled at that time) and they themselves were not able to tap the powers of Essence.

Xio Cadre Summary

CADRE:  Imperial (Xio-And)

PATRON:  House Kaedeana

LOCATION:  ???? 

FOCUS:  Modern Minimalist/Technology.

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, muscular, black hair, dark eyes.

MOUNTS:  Lesser Black Dragons

ARMOR:  Dark red poly-steel armor and seamless visor less black helms.

WEAPONS:  Laser Pistols, Energy Swords

NOTES: Less ostentatious than the Cadres of the lesser ruling caste, the Imperial Cadre were the personal guard of the Empress Kadeana.  Their training center was a closely guarded secret and the Cadre rarely participated in ceremonial displays.  Despite Kaedenas defeat by Doenku and the Soulsword, the Imperial Cadre had already made a pact with their mistress.  In a lengthy process, the Imperial Cadre volunteers became immortal servants in a new incarnation: that of the Shards.  The Cadre Commander, Shar-Bu is now lord of the I-Lat.

CADRE:  SunLords (Xio-Kygar)

PATRON:  House Tessananta

LOCATION:  Vale of Merisia, Tanara Jaiman

FOCUS:  Althan Classic Mythology

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, muscular, blond, blue-eyed.

MOUNTS:  Steardan.

ARMOR:  Golden Plate & Greaves

WEAPONS:  Hand Axes, Sunswords

NOTES: This abandoned facility still held armor, weapons and wild Steardan when it was discovered and occupied by a Rhakaan expeditionary force during the Second Era.  Using the equipment they found, the Zorians assumed the role of the mystical “Cloudlords”, emulating their Xiosan predecessors

CADRE:  Lightning (Xio-Pizik)

PATRON:  House Terra

LOCATION:  Changramai Monastarey, Choak Mnts, Emer

FOCUS:  Martial Arts, Athleticism, Adrenal Focus

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Varied.

MOUNTS:  Anti Grav Bracers

ARMOR:  Black cloaks, Black Masks w/yellow bolts.

WEAPONS:  Changa,

NOTES: The Lightning Cadre were perhaps the most dedicated to the physical arts.  Athletic ability, acrobatics and unarmed combat were the focus.  The cadre put on elaborate displays of martial prowess combined with amazing ariel feats using their anti-grav arm and leg bracers.  They could seemingly “fly” through the air.

CADRE:  Claw (Xio-Raax)

PATRON:  House Centarus (still exists as a powerful trade and banking conglomerate…)

LOCATION:  Mur Fostisyr

FOCUS:  Berserker Troops.

PHYSICAL TYPE: Large, dark-haired, and heavily muscled. Claw Cadre was feared for their combat prowess and mercurial nature.

MOUNTS:  Fire and Ice Dragons.

ARMOR:  Spiked Plate and Force Armor.

WEAPONS:  Over-sized battleswords. In modern combat they wielded heavy laser cannons and disentagrators.

NOTES: The Temple was discovered and settled by the Udahir but had been looted long before. 

CADRE:  Steel (Xio-Tok)

PATRON:  House Letrati

LOCATION:  Votania, Emer

FOCUS:  Deception, misdirection, subterfuge

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, dark hair, grey eyes, light skin

MOUNTS:  Anti-Grav Chariots

ARMOR:  Grey Armor, Chamelion Cloaks

WEAPONS:  Wide leaf bladed short swords

NOTES: The Masters of Emer built their palaces alongside a Xiosan Cadre Temple. It’s not known whether any original Xio pledged service to the Masters or the Temple was repopulated by others.

CADRE:  Onyx (Xio-Uxya)

PATRON:  House Thorenian

LOCATION:  Sullen Mountains, SW Argyla

FOCUS:  Tribal, Physical Form, Animalistic

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Dark skin, silver eyes, silver/white hair

MOUNTS:  Kith

ARMOR:  Silver metallic armor, Jewelry

WEAPONS:  Black Laen Longsword & Shortsword

NOTES: The Temple was reoccupied in early second era by a splinter group of Xiosans.  They attempted to build a new settlement on Barzu-chaa (South Eastern Thuul) but the City-State was destroyed.  While still large of stature, most of the surviving Xiosans are a product of mixed heritage and have lost most of their defining physical attributes.

PC’s as Xiosans

Obviously, playing a pure Xio warrior or even a partially full blooded Xio could be unbalancing. But I incorporated 2 significant drawbacks for Xio: behavioral inhibitors against Ka’ta’viir and the inability to use Essence and an increased susceptibility to Essence effects. Of course, a player with only a small amount of Xio ancestry would have less inhibitors but conversely would have less genetic benefits as well.

CONCLUSIONS:

I like tying “current” Shadow World elements to the ancient past. Terry used the word “Legacy” a lot and much of the Shadow World story is tied to the Althans and Ka’ta’viir from the 1st Era. The Xiosians’ legacy can be found in the martial skills of the Changramai and the physical stature of many of the races found on Kulthea.

Earthwardens & Dragonlords

Two of my favorite elements of Shadow World are the Earthwardens and the Dragonlords. Both groups represent incredibly mysterious but powerful influences in Shadow Worlds history. Until the Xa’ar supplement, which delved into the origins of the Earthwardens in more depth, we only knew that both groups sprung up in the early Interregnum without further explanation.

However, it was the Dragonlords that really fired up my imagination but while they are ubiquitous in Shadow Worlds history, there has never been an “origin story”. It wasn’t until the Xa’ar supplement that a solution clicked in my head and tied up quite a few loose ends. I would cite the following excerpts from various SW books:

One such group actually became trapped in the event horizon of a singularity and suffered a time dilation of many thousands of years before they were able to escape.

These K’ta’viiri built enchanted places of guardianship to help protect these weaker races, and came to them as teachers and counselors. They would become the Earthwardens, and they inhabited the Shadow World for a period sometime between 70 and 50 thousand years ago, though almost certainly not for that entire period. Apparently after a time they felt they had done all they could, and departed again for space. However many of their structures survive, some of an enchanted stone, and some—like the Coral Roads—are living legacies.

Note: This establishes that the Earthwardens are actually Ka’ta’viir that returned to Kulthea during the middle of the Interregnum period.

c. 1500: Founding of the Four Orders (Elder, Oak, Nya, Thorn), Elven animistic groups dedicated to protecting the natural order and combating demonic and other evil forces (demons remain relatively common,trapped in this plane after the Wars of Dominion; and within a few centuries the order will face the threat of the Unlife). The original founders are four remaining Earthwardens who elect to stay behind. They do not divulge their true nature to their Elven followers; nor do they fully reveal the powers of the Isle of Lost Magic. They teach the ways of nature and related professions. Each possesses a staff of the named order, and they (and their Elven successors) are called the Guardians
of those staves.

Notes: This establishes that not ALL of the Earthwardens left as mentioned in the first section above. Not only did they establish the Four Orders, there is a Druidic/Animistic legacy created.

re: Taranians. Over time they added settlements on other continents
and connected to them via a high-speed underground rail system, which they referred to as the Subshuttle. Exactly why they went to the expense and trouble of constructing a tunnel system under the ground and beneath the oceans is unclear, but it is believed that either the skies were unsafe because of a proliferation of hostile creatures and/or beings,

Note: Something was happening on the surface that motivated the Taranians (and Worim) to build underground. Were Dragons ruling the sky and the lands of Kulthea?

There were only a few hundred of them, along with
mates and offspring, but they decided to remain on
Kulthea and do their best to restore their world to its
former beauty. They would keep a low profile, remain
aloof from politics and power, but they would aid the
fragile peoples in need where they could. They built
protected roadways, and constructed magical guardians
who could be summoned to fight against the terrible
demons that now walked the earth. They kept apart
from the Jinteni and Wôrim and the Elves for the most
part, and faded into legend as those civilizations rose.
Like all the K’ta’viiri, the Earthwardens were powerful
masters of Arcane Essænce, but in particular they were
able to tap the Channeling power from the earth like
few others
. Thus they had great ability to manipulate
nature as only the most talented Animists can today.

Also, when they returned to Kulthea, they abandoned
most technology in favor of Magic—though both were
somewhat unreliable in the fi rst fi fty millennia or so
after the fall of the empire.

Notes: The Earthwardens went from Arcane magic to “Channeling from the Earth”. This should not be confused with Channeling from Orhan as it appears the Althans and Ka’ta’viir were unaware or perplexed by the Lords. “Channeling from the Earth” should be seen as a tapping of primal power from the planet: Flows, Foci etc.

Earthwardens, who spent most of their energy on rebuilding the planet’s
ecosystem. They received unexpected help in that from the Fey Folk of Orhan: Naiads, Dryads, Oceanids and others. They came to respect these spirits and work in cooperation with them, though even they never fully understood the nature of these ephemeral creatures, created by the hidden Lords of Orhan.

Notes: Again, we see a collaboration between the Earthwardens and “Fey” powers. Very Animistic/Druidic.

Around 40,000 years before the beginning of the
Second Era, most of the Earthwardens decided that
their work was done, and wanted to resume their travels.
Their ship had remained in orbit during this rebuilding,
and they hoped to embark on a great journey to another
galaxy. A handful—and their descendants—remained
on the Shadow World to continue their efforts. A few
survive on Kulthea to this day
, but most have retreated
to a simple, reclusive way of life.
Some like to refer to
themselves as ‘The Elders.’
One is the Storm Wizard;
he was always the most talented at creating magical
golems.

Notes. Quite revelatory! Here we see conclusively that “some” Earthwardens stay behind.

[ Andraax gives one of the Dragon Rings, the
Daath Leerssoi (K. “Maker of the Shadow Drakes”) to
Tev Yu’um, a Lotana Mentalist who is also a clanlord
in the T’sai steppelands of NE Mulira. This ring
allows Tev to assume the form of a blue Air Drake.

It becomes apparent to Tev over the centuries that
the ring has other powers than allowing its wearer to
assume dragon-form: he gains knowledge of the Great
Drakes—including their language—and is granted a
lifespan akin to those creatures.]

Note: The Daath Leerssoi are basically the opposite of the Dragon Helms. They allow mortals to assume the shape of Great Dragons (while the Helms allow the Dragons to assume mortal form). But this is not just a physical change but imparting of knowledge and language.

[Yu’um knows that people are growing suspicious of
his secretive ways and mysteriously long ‘lives,’ and he
fears that he is losing the ability to control himself in
Dragon-form
.

Note. Using the Dragon ring risks him being subsumed by “Dragon-form”; becoming more creature. We should assume that this risk exists for the other rings as well. Are some Dragons in SW actually mortals lost to their rings power?

A Blue Dragon is spotted several times …. [It is in fact Yaalc Muul awakened, but his mind is unstable: most of the time he does not remember that he is actually human.]

And:

In dragon form now he is more animal than man, and he rarely reverts to his human state any more except to go back into slumber.

Note: Again, there is this idea that the transformation into Dragon kind subsumes a “humans” personality and memories.

Tev Yu’um was given one of the Daath
Leerssoi (K. “Maker of the Shadow Drakes”) by Andraax.
It is a ring that allows a human to assume the form of a
dragon, with virtually all the powers and abilities of that
dragon.
He was given the Kodul ring, which transformed
him to a Blue Air Drake: a fl ying dragon, but with a
breath weapon comparable to those of the Great Drakes

Note: Here is is even more clear that the rings are akin to the Dragonhelms and the powers of a Great Drake.

Ssoiayig Saer (K. ‘Caves of the Drakes’ Birthplace’), the ancient
secret breeding caves overlooking the Silver Scales Lake.

Note: A clue to the origin of Drakes? Does this ancient place preclude the idea that Dragons were another experiment of the Lords of Essence?

[The Dragon Helms are completed, and the Six gather. What
they do not know is that Krelij, using the knowledge gleaned
from Oran Jatar, has also made six rings
. These rings, which he
names the Daath Leerssoi (K. “Makers of the Shadow Drakes”),
allow a human wearer to assume the powers of a dragon.

Note: The Rings are created at the same time as the Helms by Krelij.

So what should we make of all this?

  1. Dragons, Great Drakes and Dragonlords were “birthed” sometime during the Interregnum and probably not a remnant of the 1st Era or a product of Orhan.
  2. The Earthwardens slowly assumed new “earth and elemental powers” and worked with the Fey creatures and Elves to rebuild Kulthea.
  3. Some of the Earthwardens stayed behind on Kulthea while the rest left about the same time as the emergence of the Dragonlords.
  4. Around the time of the Dragonlords appearance, the skies of Kulthea became dangerous and non-terrestrial races (Taranians and Worim) were forced to build/hide underground?
  5. The Dragonlords are avatars of Kulthean earth powers: elemental creatures that can “ride the flows” and control great powers.
  6. There are magical helms and rings that have similar but opposite powers: one to turn Dragons into men and the other to turn men into Dragons.
  7. RM Companion I references the “Ritual of Ascension” that allows a Mage to transcend into a Drake/Dragon.

Terry never circled the square, but is it reasonable to argue that the 6 Dragonlords were Earthwardens that underwent the “Ritual of Ascension” to become permanent guardians of Kulthea? After the Ritual the “nature” of being Dragonkind overwhelms their past memories and Althan/Ka’ta’viir background and they become more “wild” and elemental; even being construed to be “evil”. Certainly, some of the Dragonlords more than others, but as Terry notes: their motivations and behaviors are unfathomable to mortals.

That’s my theory and solution. Have any SW users come up with something else?