Shards are a special race of malevolent artificial construct that were invented by the Empress Kadaena. They can be thought of as twisted "tree golems" with a taste for the brains and bowels of those they slaughter, made from the warped bodies of men and elves. Their blood is poisonous, which they use to great effect, with each sub-race having its own kind. In the Shadow World history they are infamous for their barbarism and are often called "demonic", with one account calling them "cruel beyond hate." It was said that the commander above all other Shards, Shar-Bu, killed one of the three founding Loremasters during the Wars of Dominion and consumed his brain on the battlefield. Though the story is fantastic, almost implausible, it still had to be regarded as possible by experts.
When Kadaena ruled over the region that would eventually become called Claedesbrim Bay (Darkstone Bay), northwest Jaiman was under the command of a Shard called Shar-Ti. These Shards were dormant until approximately two thousand years ago, when they were reawakened by the evil priests of The Iron Wind. These were the Cults of the Dragon and Snow Lion from Mur Fostisyr, the ones who would in principle be behind the Council of Light. They were tasked with the destruction of the forest realm of Lu'nak, which was the "Blue Forest" extending from the Bay across the northern reaches of the continent of Jaiman. It was the recent conquest of a mannish empire builder named Ugus Fost, who had displaced the local Elven population with his war wolves in the Third Era.
The conqueror was killed in what came to be known as the Black Forest of Dir, which was in the northwestern corner of Lu'nak, adjacent to the High Plateau and immediately south of Quellburn. This corresponds to what adventurers call Danjirland, and as far west as the Spider Temple. Shar-Ti ate the brains and bowels of Ugus Fost, and the sorcerous priests divided the lands. The Shards would implicitly have been the force of terror in the "Red Forest" that vexed the Elven Village, as well as their Iylari masters, though that is an intentional archaism because this was made after the I.C.E. Age ended (tree spirits were originally with darkwoodes.) The Ilvari as murderous faux children was a premise that went unimplemented for about two decades, until it was released as a coexistent area with warped tree monsters on opposite ends of the continent. Shards were responsible for displacing the gnolls south to Stonehold (Cavernhold), though they became isolationist after the fall of Quellburn.
The Shards are organized in groups called "lats." There are six "i-lats" which each contain six lats of Shards, ruled over by Lord Shards called the "I-lat Norg." Kadaena only interacted with these six highest ranking Shards, and their commander Shar-Bu, who had the unique power of being able to kill his enemies with his smile. Within each i-lat is a sub-race with their own characteristic poison, as well as different kinds of bolts fired from the gem eyes of their greater shards. They were supposed to attack by throwing poisoned discs, but the "greater shards" of GemStone III had stingers. They were Level 25 creatures in the game, which back then was one of the most powerful.
|I-lats||Lord Shard||Lord's Poison||Bolts|
|Aarn Voru||Leste Kii Lormas||Muscle||Energy|
The Shards hunt their prey in groups of six, with five lesser shards obeying a single greater shard. They have the senses of Elves and are somewhat cunning, but above all else they are cruel and without mercy. They will only attack when they were stationary, but they can start and stop virtually instantaneously, changing directions on a whim while moving extremely fast. Unless you are in a position to kill the whole lat, encountering Shards in a forest is almost certain death.
"Beware of wooden pedestals, thrones hewn of ancient woods unbright. (five lines missing) And if there should be a stone, Run and seek safety in the open light. For with a glow and a mist of rouge there will be no right. First Six, then One, then all will war, the land torn by blight. -- JOURNALS OF UGUS FOST TE 4166 (LAST ENTRY)
The Shards are summoned using strange wooden pedestals resembling enormous tree stumps. These are hollowed out trees with backs that are never less than eight feet tall. There are always six of them together with a huge gemstone in the back with the color of the i-lat. The Shards are inhibited by daylight, but are blindingly fast arboreal hunters. What Ugus Fost was saying in his last journal entry was that if you see one of these thrones, recognizing it by the gemstone, you will want to find open daylight as quickly as possible because you cannot outrun the Shards. The I-lat of Dir is known to use the color red, and the "glow" refers to the fire bolts from their eyes.
The ritualistically tortured and slaughtered trees of the darkwoodes near Smatoth (Sentoph) are remarkably similar in theme to the Shards. Unlike the Shards, the black stalkers (dark shamblers) really were unambiguously demonic, being demon possessed assassins in the Rolemaster bestiaries. These dark assassins were residing in a forest controlled by the priests of the Iron Wind, and thus were probably also related to the story of its masters (unless totally devoid of context.) The Spider Temple was founded instead by refugees of Quellburn who fled south.
In the Shadow World history the Shards are sometimes called "tree demons" or otherwise described as being demonic. In the Annals of Kuriac Su as transcribed by Loremaster Elor Once Dark, the story of Ugus Fost is that his men were holding off the armed forces of the Priests Arnak for almost a year. It was not until the Shards were unleashed that the several thousand soldiers were swiftly killed, with only a few attempting to escape and none making it out of the forest. The story says these Shards were made from "the Fustir and the Demon", where the Fustir were a local mannish race, implying that there is a demonic element in the construction of Shards. Consequently, Shar Ti was made by the Empress Kadaena, but some of his I-lat were made by himself rather than being awakened.
Behind the Scenes
Implicitly, the tower in Danjirland belongs to the priests behind the Shard invasion, who would have to be necromancers to have bone golems. When the black reaver was released from a box found there it contained a letter from Zenon, the sorcerer who was corrupted by the Iron Wind to destroy Quellburn. There was later established canon in the Shadow World lore that said one of the high priests had a tower where the Black Forest of Dir meets the northwestern corner of the Blue Forest. There is also a decapitated bear in one of the caves, which is naturally accounted for by the Shards. The Navigators had an obelisk in this part of the forest according to a map in the Jaiman source book. The obelisk exists in this spot in the game, and modernly became functional for transporting to Talon Isle.
Shards were hunted for a short period of time outside of the Spider Temple, but are far too iconic to Shadow World to be allowable in the modern history of Elanthia. The Elven Village does not make direct reference to them or the Council of Light, but can be thought of as an homage to the ethnic cleansing of the Erlini from the Blue Forest by the Iylari of the Iron Wind, though the lore is different. Shards are more important in Shadow World history than they were treated in GemStone III. Table-top campaigns into what we call Danjirland would encounter them and forces of the Unlife.