Shadow World

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Warning: This page concerns archaic world setting information from the I.C.E. Age of GemStone III. It is not canon in contemporary GemStone IV, nor is it canonical for Shadow World as the details may be specific to GemStone III.

Shadow World was the original world setting of GemStone III. The game was set on a world called Kulthea, which translates as "Shadow World" in the archaic language of Iruaric. While the modern history of "Elanthia" superficially resembles the broadest outlines of Shadow World history, they are essentially incompatible and lead to misunderstandings when mixed together. It has been obsolete since late 1995, with the end of the I.C.E. Age. With only a few unusual exceptions of homages, such as Bonespear Tower or the Eye, these archaic references are almost always in the Wehnimer's Landing region.

The Shadow World timeline consists of three major eras and a huge dark age called the interregnum. The First Era is dominated by a nearly godlike race called the Lord of Essaence. The Second Era begins around 100,000 years after the fall the Empress Kadaena, when a surviving essence lord named Andraax begins civilization again with the Elves. This period of Elven dominance is destroyed by the Dark Gods in the Wars of Dominion, and gives way to a mannish dominated age in the Third Era. Civilization is once again under threat by forces of darkness such as servants of the Unlife.

Major Continents

The early work on Teras Isle was premised on introducing it as Uman Island, which in Shadow World is located south of Emer between the southern hemisphere continents of Thuul and Falias.

  • Jaiman (Iruaric: "Gifted Land"; The Land of Twilight): The continent used in the I.C.E. Age. Home of Lorgalis, The Iron Wind, Kelfour's Landing, and the Library of Nomikos. Northern hemisphere, central.
  • Emer (Iruaric: "Heart"; The Great Continent): Immediately south of Jaiman. Home of the Changramai, various places later retconned to be part of the Turamzzyrian Empire. Equatorial, central.
  • Thuul: Near the Wall of Darkness, possesses Pillar of the Gods. Very little relevance to the game; next to Karilon, Uman Island. Southern hemisphere, west side.
  • Gaalt: Near the Wall of Darkness, opposite side of hemisphere. Possibly relevant to the story of Nyrdru, near island of the Oracle (seemingly visited in 1994). Northern hemisphere, east side.
  • Folenn: Still mentioned out of context by a town NPC, no modern reference point. Southern hemisphere, east side.
  • Numerous other continents with even less relevance to GemStone III.

Superficial Parallel

The Shadow World and Elanthian timelines can be read as very loosely parallel to each other on the major plot points. However, this is misleading as they are both parallel to the overall structure of Lord of the Rings, with Elanthia adding in the kinslaying and banishment between the Elves. In this case the First Age ends with the war of Morgoth, followed by the Second Age ending with the war with Sauron, and ultimately the Age of Elves giving way totally to the Age of Men after Sauron returns from his temporary banishment. This is served by the Faendryl/Ashrim War rather than the return of Despana.

This table is grossly over-stating the resemblance on purpose, some of these modern details were first written only years later. It is only by abstracting away all the details of both settings and cherry picking the plot points that any parallel can be constructed at all, which shows that it is superficial and that drawing connections between the two settings (as has sometimes been done) is highly misleading.

Shadow World Timeline Modern History of Elanthia
First Era (~ ? - 113,000 years ago)

(1) Despotic rule of the Lords of Essaence, experimental manipulation of lifeforms.

(2) The Lords of Orhan become totally absent from the world.

(3) The Empress Kadaena unleashes demons, destroying the world in a civil war.

(4) The Lords of Orhan secretly transport races, flora, and fauna to their moon.

(5) The Eyes of Utha are built to seal the Void.

Interregnum (~ 113,000 - 13,000 years ago)

(6) The world is badly wracked following the war. Andraax and his associates hunt down the remaining forces of darkness and seal the dangerous portals that remain.

(7) The Lords of Orhan heal the world and repopulate it, then disappear again.

(8) Dragons wield much power while the world is largely uncivilized.

Second Era (~ 13,000 - 6,000 years ago)

(9) Andraax founds the Loremasters with the Iylari Elves to re-start civilization.

(10) Lesser races chaff under the dominance of Elves.

(11) Warlords and demonic powers nearly destroy civilization in the Wars of Dominion.

Third Era (~ 6,000 years ago - Present)

(12) Civilization takes over a thousand years to recover.

(13) Elven rule is effectively ended, men become more dominant.


(14) Civilization emerges again 5,000 years ago from present.

(15) Elves becoming marginalized, oppressed by mannish races.

(16) Lankan Empire of men becoming powerful and expansionist.

(17) Theocracy of Klysus (Luukos) in Lankan Empire increasingly disrupting world affairs.

(18) Increased aggression from the Dark Gods and sinister orders.

(19) Northern Eye of Utha failing. Ondoval/Schrek attempting to end the world.

(20) World vulnerable to malevolent otherworldly powers.

The Age of the Drakes: Age of Darkness, Part I (~ ? - 105,000 years ago)

(1) Despotic rule of the dragons, lesser races subjugated by the Drakes.

(2) The Arkati become totally absent from the world.

(3) Eorgina unleashes demons, destroying the world in the Ur-Daemon War.

(4) The Arkati L'Naere saves lesser races from the Ur-Daemon War.

(5) The Eye of the Drake is built to seal The Rift.

The Arkati-Dominated Age: Age of Darkness, Part II (~ 105,000 - 55,000 years ago)

(6) The world is badly wracked following the war. The Arkati emerge as the dominant power, and begin healing the damage from the wars.

(7) The Lords of Liabo nurture their own chosen lesser races as patrons.

(8) Inchoate civilizations begin forming in the absence of dragon rule.

Second Age (~ 55,000 - 25,000 years ago)

(9) Linsandrych Illistim founds the Loremasters, beginning of civilization.

(10) Lesser races chaff under the dominance of Elves.

(11) Civilization almost destroyed by Despana and demonic powers in the Undead War.

The Age of Chaos (~ 25,000 - 10,000 years ago)

(12) Civilization takes thousands of years to recover. War, darkness, little else.

(13) Elven rule is effectively ended, men become autonomous in the west.

The Fourth Age (~ 10,000 years ago - Present)

(14) Modern Era begins 5,000 years ago from the present.

(15) Elves further fracture following kinslaying in Sea Elf War. Dark Elves anathema.

(16) The Age of Men. Rise of Turamzzyrian Empire.

(17) Empress Anodheles rumored to be backed by Luukosian cult.

(18) Increased aggression from the Dark Gods and sinister orders.

(19) Eye of the Drake fails. Terate attempts to end the world into the Rift.

(20) World vulnerable to malevolent otherworldly powers.

Behind the Scenes

DragonRealms was first developed during the I.C.E. Age of GemStone III, and was released shortly after the split from Iron Crown Enterprises. Various aspects of the DragonRealm lore are conspicuously closer to Shadow World than our own contemporary lore. For example, the "Thirteen Immortals" are regarded as formed on another plane, rather than a race of former dragon servants. The thirteen "Lords of Orhan" greatly pre-dated the dark gods in Shadow World. The closest moon of Xibar is in the position of Varin, but there is no moon that can be Xibar in GemStone. Tilaok is missing in DragonRealms.

The Shadow World setting was first formulated in the late 1980s. The first edition of the Shadow World Master Atlas is copyrighted 1989. Major details of the world setting existed in earlier I.C.E. books. In the case of studying the earliest parts of the game, such as The Graveyard, the discrepancies in these books (such as with the Wars of Dominion) with vestigial or retconned texts must be read very carefully.

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