The ShadowKin were created by the Lords of Jernos to fill the need for reliable, trustworthy, and efficient spies, bodyguards and assassins. Two clans were selected to serve in this capacity, the Jyn clan and the Li clan. Over the generations, selective breeding and magical experimentation gave the two clans a special relationship with the shadows. The Jyn clan developed the ability to pass through shadows as if they were doors (shadow stepping), as well as travel within the shadow realm itself (shadow walking). The Li clan developed the ability to manipulate and control shadows, including giving them substance and freedom of movement.
Over the intervening generations, the two clans became something of a race apart from normal humans, the ShadowKin. Nearly all children born to ShadowKin parents have one of the two abilities (those who don’t are typically killed as soon as it becomes obvious that they are untalented). The two clans have become so intermingled as to be considered the same. The clan name a child is given is now dependant on the talent they have (Jyn for shadow walkers, Li for shadow users). It is considered an unbreakable tradition for alternating generations to marry within the ShadowKin (to keep the shadow magic strong) and for every other generation to marry straight humans (to keep from becoming inbred.) The clan leaders once had arranged marriages for all Kin, but that tradition is dying out, and Kin are now generally allowed to choose their own mates.
ShadowKin are literally born to serve. They are always sworn into the service of the lords of Jernos upon reaching adulthood (14-15), and often before. Depending on the current ruler of Jernos and the prevailing attitude, the ShadowKin are looked upon as extremely valuable (and thus well paid) servants, or as slaves of the ruling class. However, the ShadowKin code of honor stresses loyalty to the clan and Kin first, and the lords second.
There are two physical types. The Jyn tend to be fair almost to the point of being albino (they usually have dark-colored eyes). The Li are typically the opposite, with dark skin and hair and light eyes. As a rule, Kin are tall and slender, although there are always exceptions.
The ShadowKin have no homeland save Jernos, and no defined territory. Most are born in the capital and assigned all over the kingdom. Each child recieves extensive physical and martial training as soon as they can walk, and also recieves speciallized training in skills necessary for postings as spies or assassins.
Shadow magic works in particular ways. Shadow walkers can step through any shadow big enough to cover them, but not their own shadow. They may then travel along the shadow, through any connected shadows. Staying too long in the shadow realm could prove hazardous, as it may be impossible to find one’s way back. The length of time it is safe to stay in shadow depends on the stamina of the individual walker. Only grayscale can travel through shadow; colors must be covered up completely. It is possible for a shadow walker to take someone with them, but it is very tiring, and makes the risk of becoming lost to the shadows that much greater.
Shadow users can manipulate their own shadow or any shadow theirs is touching. They can make them take any shape and extend them a fair distance, although they cannot change the area of the shadow (extending it will make it porportionately thinner, for example). They can give shadows substance and make them lift off the surface they were cast on, although the strength of the shadow is dependent on how distinct the shadow was to begin with. A solidified shadow is very elastic and slightly amorphous, like warm taffy. They can be used to wrap around or hold objects or creatures, depending on the skill of the user.
ShadowKin always work in pairs, a walker and a user to a team; their abilities complement each other. A typical application is for a user to throw a shadow that a walker then travels along to a location they might not otherwise be able to reach. If teams become separated, both members often become very nervous without the other.