One thing that can surely be said about the Golden Age of Cilagros is that it outshone those of all other cities of Haracon’s Archduchy, and its neighboring kingdoms. An era of relative peace and freedom from religious persecution ushered in an age of gnosis and the rapid advancement of a cultural awakening. An age of “experimentalism” ensued. Sculpture, painting, poetry, dance and all other forms of art took flight in the zeitgeist of “living in the moment”. A rediscovery of ancient texts and wisdom only further fanned the flames of this renaissance. At the fore front of the enlightenment was new forms and styles of painting, which took huge leaps forward, and as different styles were invented and improved upon, various schools of artists formed and came together to define, redefine, and master the techniques.
One such school formed when a group of wealthy and bored young nobles, decided to reinvent and perfect Shadow Art. The charismatic Baron Dandolo Bic’Arcre was the inspirational leader of the group; a master painter who had grown bored of his own works and set upon exploring revolutionary ideas in light, shade and form. The fact that he was also an aspiring wizard, despite his advancing age, only further intoxicated the young members of the new troupe. What Dandolo, and therefore the Tenebrists, had not realize at the time, was that Dandolo’s own inspiration stemmed from the Swollen Shadow’s Taint with which Gazzo Sleep-Eye had returned to Cilagros, after escaping death’s jaws on the pocket plane of the Swollen Shadow.
On a particularly cold autumn day, fittingly at dusk, when the shadows grew longer and danced among the canals and archways of Cilagros, Dandolo gathered his hand-picked acquaintances in the backroom of the famed Dark Cormorant Inn, and began to lay out his plans for a brand new, revolutionary form of art. There were five members gathered that evening, and when all was said and done, these five aspiring artists and Dandolo formed a new school of thought, naming themselves “The Tenebrists”. Being young, wealthy, and all of noble blood, minor or otherwise, they were quite dramatic with the ideas they set forth, full of romantic notions, pseudo-arcane theories, and esoteric ritual. Hence, their first order of business upon forming was the taking of appellations they had each selected with great flourish. Dandolo Bic’Acre became “Gloomwing” or “Gloomking”, as the other members affectionately called him. Taiana Coimtre became “Dusk’s Daughter”, Vondre Oroffio, “Twilight’s Spawn” Balois and Fosco, the Nerteaux twins, dubbed themselves, “Demon’s Gray” and “Sepia’s Son”, and Praslin Toc’Remmo, the youngest and perhaps most naturally talented of the six became “Daylily Shadowmaster”, naming himself after the exquisitely rare and beautiful flower.
The Tenebrists decided they would impact the art world with their new techniques and styles of painting, as no artists school had ever before. Each member set out to make his or her “shadow masterpieces” for the great exhibition they were planning for the masses, which would take place during the Time of Festivals. Their techniques were simple but sublime. They explored the Umbra and Penumbra, the stages of light and darkness, silhouettes, gloom-filled landscapes, nebulae, Chiaroscuro, black, white, and as Dandolo said “all the wonderful shades of gray in between.” Their works swept the art bourgeois of Cilagros off their feet during their first exhibition. Practically overnight the Tenebrists became the new darlings of the art community. Their paintings became highly sought after, commanding exorbitant prices. The Tenebrists set the latest trends among the nobility, both in fashion and thought. Countless other schools of art sprung up seemingly overnight. They had become the trailblazers of a cultural revolution striving to achieve artistic perfection. Incidentally, another interesting “group” came together around this time, perhaps spurred on by the “Shadow Revolution”, The Painters Guild but the two are not to be confused.
The Tenebrists were not yet satisfied or content, though their fame fueled their already substantial egos. Dandolo had become obsessed with fully exploring the “True Realm of Shadow” and began to arouse the imaginations of the other Tenebrists with tales of the lost and forgotten Shadow Magic, which even the mages of Cilagros’ arch-guild, the Seven Towers Society, had long considered forbidden, with only a few of the said mages practicing this ancient path of wizardry in seclusion and privacy. Dandolo convinced his colleagues that through the perfection of their art they would transcend themselves into a new breed of sorceror. They would become masters of the antediluvian Shadow Art.
Their clandestine studies soon began in earnest. Poring over tomes and folios in Cilagros vast library, apprenticing themselves with established wizards they had bribed with their seemingly endless coin to learn the rudiments of general magic, and painting, always painting to attempt to break through to the “secrets” of the Shadowrealms. The six Tenebrists eventually became capable of minor shadow magic.
Several years later, despite all their obsessive study, only three of the six, advanced beyond the basic parlor tricks and cantrips. Dissension among the members soon followed as well. The Nerteaux twins were the first to quit the Tenebrists after a particularly spirited disagreement with Dandolo and the others on the direction of the group. Balois and Fosco decided pure art was their first love, and denounced the pursuit of forbidden magic. Much later, the two Nerteaux twins in fact became the most celebrated artists in all of Haracon, but that is a tale for another time.
The next penultimate event in the lives of the Tenebrists was the oncoming madness of Praslin Toc’Remmo. The youth, as mentioned, was perhaps the most talented of the group, both in art and in his aptitude for magic, even greater than Dandolo’s prowess. At first, the Tenebrists celebrated Praslin’s talents, but it soon became apparent that the young man was disturbed. The culmination of his lunacy, as far as the group was concerned, occurred one night during a “shadow séance” the Tenebrists held once a month. Chanting from ancient texts he had managed to unearth, Praslin somehow momentarily summoned a gruesome creature of shadow, right in front of the eyes of his comrades.(A Haint!!). The creature only materialized for several agonizing seconds, but it shook the group considerably and instilled true fear in them. It lingered briefly but all three Tenebrists swore that the shadow “whispered” to Praslin before departing. The apparition and the seeming “joy” with which Praslin summoned the foul phantom frightened even the “Gloomking” Dandolo. After that night nothing was the same again.
Taiana , Vondre, and Dandolo began to fear Praslin and did everything in their power to dissuade him from further forbidden wizardly pursuits. But “Daylily Shadowmaster” would not be dissuaded. After the Haints whipers, he truly plunged down the deep end of sanity. Redoubling his research, Praslin spent all of his time studying the shadow arts, and began work on his “Final Masterpiece”, an inexpressible work of art. Using a huge, floor-sized canvas of human skin, which he had secretly purchased from the dubious Embalmers Guild, Praslin feverishly painted a macabre, grisly, maddening scene of shadow juxtaposition. It was at this point, the other Tenebrists expelled Praslin in absentia from the school, but he cared naught, spending his waking hours either working on his painting, or indulging his morbid facination with all things shadow.
It was at this time, while aimlessly wandering the streets and babbling to himself, that Praslin witnessed a street performer’s shadow-puppet show. Intrigued, Praslin approached the eccentric old man, and an unscrupulous friendship began to blossom. It was several days later when Praslin overheard Gazzo Sleep-Eye speaking of forgotten legends and telling tales of past exploits inside the taproom of the Dark Cormorant for coin, that Praslin finally knew he had found a kindred spirit.
Gazzo Sleep-Eye told Praslin tales of the fantastic and mythic Chiaroscuro, City of Shadow, and in turn Praslin told the puppet-master of his “visitation” and how the Haint inspired, and almost forced him to begin work on a gruesome masterpiece of shadow art. When completed, Praslin claimed the creature spoke of a gate to shadow that would form, allowing young Praslin, to explore hidden secrets and attain true power. Gazzo for his part kept his motivations a secret from Praslin, but goaded and nurtured the madman’s pursuits, himself eager to learn, how much Praslin had discovered, and whether or not return to the City of Shadow was indeed possible.
It is not only possible but probable, without some timely intervention! As Praslin feverishly works on completing his Shadow-Masterpiece painting, he is unwittingly creating a plane-portal, which the Swollen Shadow plans on using in order to safely plane-step and conquer Cilagros as it had Chiaroscuro
The PC’s initial interaction with Praslin Toc’Remmo and/or Gazzo Sleep-Eye is the key to beginning the adventure. Perhaps the PC’s attend the Shadow-Works Exhibit, put on by the Tenebrists. Perhaps they overhear Gazzo telling tales, during one of his shadow-puppet street performances. Perhaps they meet a Tenebrist in the dusky confines of the Dark Cormorant and Praslin’s madness is revealed to them for the first time.
The PCs can also run into Chrisia of Chrisia’s ShadowShop fame or “accidentally” find her shop. She is a wily woman, who is friendly with both Gazzo Sleep-Eye and even with some of the snobbish Tenebrists.