Denizens of the Plane of Probability (book)
I sit here in my Crossing home comfortable, well-fed and gazing at a warm fire that fights back the chill of winter. So many others, peasant and royalty alike, are probably doing the same right at this moment. There is a comfort in feeling safe. Security is one of the base psychological needs that every race has, whether they be covered in scales or fur or a journeyman's cloak. At first glance, it doesn't seem unwise to desire this, to strive for it, and to at least partially achieve it.
The danger comes in assuming that this sensation of safety is always real.
Chapter One: The Plane of Probability.
From the day we set foot in a guildhall and take those first trepidations steps toward a lifelong career, we are trained to tap the Plane of Probability through trance and self-hypnosis. As we grow, we learn to make sense of the swirling seas of chance, and to comprehend the flood of information. Further, we are able to garner even more knowledge by divining, and, some say, meditation on this wealth of possibilities.
In olden days, it was believed this other plane was the same as the Void. Modern planar theory debunks this belief, and we now believe the Plane of Probability to be a place filled with shadows turned solid -- a place where shadow takes the role that the elements do in the Plane of Abiding.
Touching this world of shadows for divination is not with- out hazard; even such small contact with the Plane of Probability can result in the most unpleasant experience of being "visited" by the bat-winged skull vision. Some claim that this is the consciousness of the Sorceress Tezirah Eilsina, eternally seeking egress from her exile. While this may or may not be true, I believe that this universal vision is the psychic manifestation of anything, sentient or otherwise, attempting to enter the Plane of Abiding from the shadow world. Unfortunately, there is little chance to test this hypothesis.
Not all contact with the Plane of Probability is overtly obvious, as it often plays a significant role in our lunar magic. A case in point is the Moongate spell. The formula for the spell, and the incantations to invoke it, clearly reference points and computations taking place within the Plane of Probability. It doesn't take a Moon Mage to know that the three moons are cyclic, rising and setting on their own paths. Without the calculation to correctly link the Moongate spell through one of the moons, the spell would forever fail, or worse, open rifts into the shadow world. This last threat is a deadly possibility with the spell even with these computations should the casting mage make an error
When such failures do occur, several things can and have occurred. One such effect is the vaporizing "black flame,” which I surmise is in reality shadow of the purest form. Another risk is the appearance of the creatures known as "Voidspawn," their name given during the days when scholars believed the Plane of Probability and the Void were one.
Ironically, the methods that cause such a monstrosity to appear are similar to the spells Shadowling and Shadow Servant, albeit those other methods are more controlled and directed. Some mages suspect that it is the conjuring magic which determines what form the shadow lifeforms take -- a Shadowling entity could easily have been a Voidspawn if the spell formula was perverted. From this grows the "Summoned or Created" argument which to this day remains in debate.
Chapter Two: The Exile of Tezirah and Appearance of Shadow Beasts
Few would argue that some of the most talented shadow mages are those in the Progeny of Tezirah. Theirs is a history of interest, as some of the greatest successes in shadow magic come from their ranks -- as well as some of its most massive failures.
We are all familiar with the events that transpired around the legendary exile of Tezirah to the Plane of Probability. For details on that, I would like to recommend the reader to another of my works, "A Study of the Progeny of Tezirah."
Several things are of note regarding this notorious incident. Foremost is the confirmation in recent times that this portal was indeed an opening to the Plane of Probability. The first recorded incident of the 'bat-winged skull' which plagues Moon Mages to this day occurred after the breech had opened. I believe that this 'bat-winged skull' is a semi-physical manifestation of something -- be that sentient or otherwise -- partially or fully entering the Plane of Abiding from the Plane of Probability. The events with Grandmaster Taramaine Ennis-Braun on Taisgath lend some support to this theory.
It was during the battle between the Imperial Inquisitors and Tezirah that we have the first documented reports of sentient beings from the Plane of Probability. Unfortunately, few details remain intact. We have confirmed that the scattered writings from this time refer to at least four, perhaps five, different species of shadow spawn. Of these, we have only identified the gaunt shadow masters, the umbramagi, the shadefield eviscerators, and the voidspawn.
The Moon Mage Guild suppressed this information for years, only recently declassifying it enough to allow scholars and students to study. At the time this incident was recorded, the eviscerators were the ones which were given the greatest amount of notation, perhaps due to their sheer numbers. One scribe who survived had described these as "hundreds of towering shadowy things, clearly two Togs high, with heads like skeletal cattle and numerous claws like a mantess [sic]." There are some further statements by the scribe that these were "clearly elite troops, but under [the] whims and directions of the shadow masters, obeying like puppies following their master." It is surmised from the reading of these accounts that the eviscerators communicate with an uncharacteristic 'cooing,' clacking of their bone blades, and sudden blood-curdling screams. Like all such creatures from the Plane of Probability, the eviscerators fade into nothingness once killed. This in itself is interesting for it implies that their forms on the Plane of Abiding are only held together by their life forces, whatever those may be.
However, there is much debate on this being the first actual account of violent shadow creatures visiting the Plane of Probability. A century before Tezirah's exile -- or execution, as the case may be -- Emperor Chezarek was killed by something purported to be a "demon of unknown origin." Descriptions of this beast are eerily similar to how we modern sages describe shadow denizens. Though there are parallels to a typical shadow master in the skeletal features, there are also some remarkable differences. This beast was thought to have, asone observer wrote, "the extensive head of a slug with a row of eyes only on the left side" and was "nimble beyond reason, moving with a wonderful grace that made [all of us] shift uneasily just to maintain our footing." If additional accounts are to be assumed unexaggerated, this foul thing was also far more dangerous than a standard shadow master. In this case, we have what may be an entirely new species, thankfully rare and unknown in our times.
Chapter Three: Classifications
If there were a hierarchy that we could assign to the known shadow lifeforms, we find that the more complex individuals are inevitably the most violent. Whether this is a trend of evolution on the Plane of Probability or simply what small fractions we have been exposed to is unknown. It is clear to see that Shadowlings and Shadow Servants are the most benign and harmless of sorts, while Devourers have some questionable potential. In fact, it is this tendency of Devourers to meld which may eventually lend us further insight into how shadow creatures behave on their own plane. This function may in fact be a means of evolving into a more complex form.
Voidspawn do not show this tendency to meld, and this is easily confirmed since they are among the most common of the violent shadow things to study. On the other hand, Voidspawn will shatter into Tenebraelings, which begs questioning if a Voidspawn is an evolved collection of Tenebraelings. The answer is not clear, as, despite their rage, Voidspawn seem only slightly more intelligent than Shadowlings.
In the years past, during a time when the infamous Mirror Wraith Prophecy was concluding, the Moon Mage Guild was unfortunately witness to first hand interaction with the Shadow Masters. The first appearance was the result of a highly dangerous group prediction in the Middens near the Crossing Guildhall, when a single Shadow Master managed to form. This foul thing killed scholar, student, warrior, and bystander indiscriminately, and it wasn't until the timely arrival of a Paladin-led force did the Shadow Master finally fall. Though many lost their lives in this grievous event, it did present a rare opportunity to study the nature of the shadow creatures -- an opportunity that would later turn out to be not so uncommon after all.
Shadow Masters are clearly the leaders, summoning other such beings (or creating them; it would be reasonable to assume that whatever method they use is similar to our own for Shadowlings and the like). In this regard, they act as generals, directing the other lesser creatures toward targets. Additionally, the Shadow Masters also show a gestalt nature, splitting into smaller but no less lethal forms when struck.
The Shadow Masters themselves are also capable of communication, having been shown to speak on occasion. Usually nothing more than threats of further violence, it is likely this is done solely to cause morale to fail. In other instances, especially during incidents where the Shadow Masters managed to hold their ground from all foes however temporarily, these beings have been known to carve sigils upon available surfaces with their claws. The purpose of these sigils may be magical; some scholars feel that if left alone long enough, these carvings would eventually open a larger rift back to the Plane of Probability and allow reinforcements. Others believe it is nothing more than harmless graffiti in the Shadow Master tongue, likely further insults or declarations of ownership.
Only one other shadow being has show the capacity for true conversation: the Umbramagus. These two-headed beings are dreadful in many other ways, bearing a resemblance to particular ancient icons of the G'nar Pethians and other groups. Though it is the equivalent of blasphemy to say, some even feel that the legendary Kir Dir'na'torna was possessed - or at least influenced -- by such an Umbramagus during his vision quest.
One of the most horrible aspects of the Umbramagi are their obvious ability to predict the future. This is not really surprising given their origins; some might say it is more surprising that other shadow beings do not possess this ability. As of this writing, all such observations of this phenomenon were used solely to help turn the tides of battle in favor of the shadow creatures. The eradication of an Umbramagus from a force of shadow denizens should be of paramount importance in any combat scenario, which is, of course, completely at odds with studying the beings further.
Rumors have been spoken in quiet tones and out-of-the-way corridors of the scholarly halls of Throne City lately. Unsubstantiated reports that discussions with Umbramagi were had by our Guild on some occasions, and that the Shadow Masters and their ilk are justified in their wanton attacks. This war, as it is called, was begun by the banishment of Tezirah and construed as an attack on their plane. Since we have no way of knowing what Tezirah did upon her arrival to the Plane of Probability, it is entirely possible that such an incursion would technically be the fault of our peoples.
What the future holds for the coming relations between the Plane of Abiding and the Plane of Probability is obscured to scryers. Into this dark time, we all move forward blindly.