Shadespire also known as the Mirrored City or the City of Mirrors was a grand city founded in the Age of Myth as a waypoint for travellers crossing the Desert of Bones in the Realm of Shyish. After its banishment it gained the name city-between-realms.[1a]
Rise of the Katophranes
Explorers and travellers in the Desert of Bones discovered a series of deep canyons that cut deep beneath the crushed bone sediment of the dunes, this they named the Oasis of Souls. It descended far beyond where anyone would risk their lives to explore but the energies of the realm itself seemed to converge there. Despite or perhaps because of this, shelter, water and life could be found there and soon a shanty town arose both in the caverns and above ground and eventually became a town and then a city.[1a]
During the Age of Myth the city was a mercantile metropolis with many different races living and working within the safety of its walls and as time passed it became known for creating artefacts of power and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these treasures was refined shadeglass, a substance from within the Oasis of Souls that the ruling Katophranes used to live on after death, preserving their essence within the glass itself.[1a] Duardin were employed to provide the city with a variety of mechanisms and devices - including rune-hatches, what appears to be a mere burn mark being actually a concealed door.[4f] The Katophranes, lord-wizards and master inventors of Shadespire, were the first to discover that souls of the deceased could be captured within shadeglass. They swiftly put this knowledge to work, creating a network of soul-mirrors around the city to store their living essence in the event of their own deaths. In this way they could continue to provide their expertise to the next generation of thinkers, and this advantage allowed the city to grow greatly over a relatively short length of time, from a humble desert outpost to a sprawling metropolis filled with innovative wonders.[3a]
Over the centuries, the Katophranes began to further unlock the secrets of the shadeglass, even inventing artefacts that would allow the living to enter the Faneway mirror – the gleaming nexus that linked every fragment of shadeglass in the city – and interact with their ancestors. Further remarkable inventions followed. The city’s outer walls were suffused with the spirits of elite warriors who had fallen in battle – an eternal watch against the manifold threats of the surrounding Desert of Bones. Treasures were produced that were magically linked to the Faneway, so that a grieving relative might converse with their lost loved one via an enchanted amulet or brooch. Shadeglass golems were created, given motion by the soul essence of loyal retainers who continued to serve their masters even in death.[3a]
The Great Necromancer Nagash discovered that the rulers of Shadespire were depriving him of what he considered his rightful tithe of souls and he resolved to punish them for their insolence and defiance. He could have simply laid waste to the city and all within it but Nagash is a master of cold vengeance and so he enacted a terrible fate on it and all its inhabitants. Using the power of the shadeglass itself, Nagash enacted a mighty ritual, shattering the Faneway and banishing the city to the void between the Realm of Ulgu and the Realm of Hysh (known as Uhl-Gysh.
When the city was swept into shadow by the magic of Nagash, many of these objects of power were destroyed, or warped by the power of the Lord of Undeath’s magic. With the Faneway shattered into a thousand fragments, each shard scattered about the Mirrored City – with the nexus of the soul relay broken, no soul could leave the nightmarish prison that held them captive. For thousands of years the Katophranes sought to undo the curse of Shadespire. They hypothesised that recovering artefacts of pure shadeglass, and utilising them to restore the great Faneway mirror, might break Nagash’s spell, but trapped as they were within their soul-storing prisons, they could not carry out this task themselves. At first they attempted to utilize their subjects, the citizens of Shadespire, but madness and paranoia swiftly overcame these unfortunate souls. It seemed as though the city itself was warping and shifting with every passing hour, hiding its secrets away behind illusory walls and impossibly dimensioned chambers. No sooner was a precious shadeglass treasure recovered than another was lost, as the city’s streets shattered and reformed, or a great stairway shifted, sending doomed souls tumbling away into darkness. Minds destroyed by this maddening existence, souls trapped within their decaying bodies, the people of Shadespire shuffled and groaned in the dark corners of the city. They cursed the torture of their eternal undeath, as both their hope and their flesh slowly withered and rotted away.[3a]
Worse still, regions of the city were slowly morphing under the will of Nagash. The image of the Great Necromancer would appear half-glimpsed in a reflection, or slowly form in the architecture of a great tower, his pitiless gaze further tormenting those who had defied his will. Many were driven to terrified insanity, blinding themselves with shards of glass so that they could not look upon his dread visage. Others turned to worshipping Nagash, and claimed great sections of Shadespire as their own, guarding their territory with a ruthless zeal. Believing that only by petitioning the God of Death for forgiveness could they absolve themselves of their prideful sins, they raised monuments and shrines in his honour. They claimed all shadeglass relics as the property of Nagash, and sequestered those they recovered within great sepulchres of bone and wasting flesh, built from the still-conscious bodies of heathens and intruders.[3a]
For many centuries the shadow-cloaked ruins of Shadespire lay dormant, a malevolent scar in the centre of the vast Desert of Bones. During much of that time there were few fresh victims of the city’s terrible curse. Travellers seldom ventured across the deadly, parching wastes to reach the city, as often warded away by the lethal storms that wracked its bone-dust dunes as by the dark stories that had sprung up around the place. Yet some were brave or foolish enough to stray within the borders of the cursed city, and those fortunate few who returned brought back priceless treasures and forbidden knowledge, as well as rumours of haunted mirrors, nightmarish illusions and other strange tales. Avaricious eyes were soon drawn to Shadespire, for the realms are filled with desperate souls who would gladly risk damnation in search of power. Worshippers of foul gods and bands of savage, war-loving orruks fought bloody skirmishes at the city gates, and rat-like skaven skittered through the shadows, scrabbling for relics and treasures to take back to their filth-strewn lairs.
The ruins of Shadespire became a subject of particular interest to the God-King, whose elite champions, the Stormcast Eternals, were deployed in a great crusade against the forces of the Chaos Gods during the Realmgate Wars. His champions had suffered greatly during the long war, and though each was effectively immortal, the mysterious process of Reforging that the fallen went through upon death had taken a worrying toll. Every time a warrior was remade they lost a part of themselves, gradually shedding the vestiges of their humanity, becoming emotionless and uncompromising. The changes wrought by the Reforging process manifested themselves in myriad unsettling ways, and those Stormhosts who had seen constant battle were particularly afflicted. Long had the God-King known of the rumours surrounding lost Shadespire, where once the souls of the dead had been preserved in time. If shadeglass could perform such miracles, might it not also be of use in his quest to salve the trauma that ran rife through his armies? Seeking to learn more regarding the properties of this mysterious substance and the truth of the lost city, the God-King sent forth his agents into the cursed city. These warriors and scholars could not imagine the nightmare they would find.[3a]
Over the long centuries, many of the Katophranes had followed their citizens into despair, driven mad by the futility of their task. Those former masters of the city who retain some semblance of sanity have taken to employing the unfortunate adventurers and warriors who have been transported to the Mirrored City, offering them the secrets of escaping Shadespire and ending the Lord of Death’s curse. Many of the Katophranes are unconcerned by the nature or honour of those they ally with, requiring only that they help them escape their hellish existence. Since the visions of the Malign Portents, the Mortal Realms are stricken by war and disaster once more, the number of unfortunates stumbling through shadowy portals into the Mirrored City had increased tenfold. Some of those now trapped in Shadespire are noble souls, determined to end the curse and deny their fate. Others are savage brutes, for whom an endless cycle of violence is its own reward. There are avaricious looters, frenzied barbarians and sages whose desire for knowledge has led them down dark paths. These disparate souls will clash together as each attempts to escape damnation, and the haunted streets of Shadespire will run red with blood.[3a]
It began with a rumble that swiftly grew to a deafening roar. Pale, despairing eyes turned to the roiling skies above Shadespire, a sickly-green maelstrom streaked with boiling energy and shrieking tempests. The forlorn populace had suffered all manner of torments during their incarceration within this nightmarish place, but they had never seen such a cataclysmic event. All knew at once that something momentous and terrifyingly powerful had struck the city-between-realms. The ground shook and broke apart into grinding teeth of glass. Walls crumbled. Hailstorms of crystal were sent hurtling through the air, propelled by a rushing tempest of magic. Entire sections of the Mirrored City collapsed in a refractive avalanche, torn apart by erupting geysers of spirit energy. Gigantic skulls of living flame lit the streets, engulfing anything in their path. And in the gloomy depths of the city, in the underground laboratories of the ancient Katophranes and the dank, lightless catacombs beneath, ethereal shapes crawled their way into the city from the aetheric void.[3b]
|Time passes differently in different realms. My theory is that Nagash tangled more than the architecture when he cursed this place - I think he twisted Shadespire through time as well. Now it sits at the centre of a vast web of shadeglass made from every piece there ever was or ever will be.
The same deity that had cursed Shadespire to its grim fate worked this destruction. The Shyishian Necroquake had unleashed a torrent of amethyst magic across the Mortal Realms. Even the Mirrored City, hidden in the penumbral domain of Uhl-Gysh, was not safe from this turmoil. Magic had breached the city’s enchanted walls and pierced the layers of obfuscation that had kept Shadespire as little more than a whispered tale of dread and horror for so many years. Across the realms, the eyes of mages, visionaries and avaricious beings were drawn to this strange prison of illusions and madness, and the countless mysteries and treasures that it concealed. One by one, disparate beings began to claw their way through breaches in the skin of reality, emerging into Shadespire. In turn, the desperate souls already trapped within its borders began to see flickers of the outside world bleeding through Shadespire’s veil of illusory magic – images of distant cities and far-flung lands, almost tangible yet always agonisingly out of reach.[3b] The Necroquake also had a secondary effect of spreading the Katophrane Curse, splintering reality and reflections of Shadespire has appeared throughout the Mortal Realms.
Opening of the Nightvault
Sigmar's initial forays into the ruins of Shadespire had met with disaster. The Hammers of Sigmar, first amongst the God-King’s grand Stormhosts, had lost many warriors during an ambush by Chaos-worshipping raiders, and as they battled through the time-worn remnants of the city, more had disappeared seemingly into thin air. The Stormhost’s commanders reported back to Azyrheim that a curse lay over Shadespire, a malicious enchantment that was spiriting away those who entered its borders. To unbind this enchantment Sigmar dispatched an elite force of Stormcast Eternals from his secretive Sacrosanct Chambers, arcane champions who brought with them the power of the celestial storm. Led by the veteran Knight-Incantor Averon Stormsire and well-versed in the ways of fell magic, these scholars identified the loci of the curse that had claimed Shadespire – cursed gateways and malevolent, haunted artefacts crafted from corrupted shadeglass that dragged the unwary into a hidden realm of torment and madness. Realising that the only way to end this ancient evil was to enter the Mirrored City, Sigmar’s agents willingly stepped through one of these dark portals, determined to see the God-King’s will done or die in the attempt.[3b]
Nagash, already filled with cold fury at the corruption of his great ritual and the disruption of his perfectly ordered plans, was further incensed to discover trespassers straying into his domain, seeking to disrupt his prison. Such bold transgression required a fitting punishment. Reaching his dominating will into the Mirrored City, Nagash located a bitter aura of hatred and self-pity emanating from the lowest levels of the city. There he found the sprawling subterraneon dungeon known as the Nightvault, where spirits of dissidents were imprisoned by the Katophranes aeons ago. Nagash broke open the chains and enchantments that bound these shackled spirits, though he had no intention of granting them freedom. They would find no peace at the God of Death’s hand. Instead, he shaped the Nightvault’s bitter and hateful denizens to better suit his needs, giving them forms of spectral matter, and weapons to freeze the hearts of their victims. These spirits were then granted the freedom to stalk the shadow-shrouded streets of Shadespire, yet Nagash ensured that they retained a memory of their long agony, leaving them haunted by the pains of injuries and tortures long past. Thus did the Great Necromancer ensure the wretched creatures’ hatred and jealousy of the living would never fade. Order would be restored in the Mirrored City, at any cost. This vengeful spirit army commenced the cleansing of any outsiders foolish enough to stray within the city’s borders. All intruders would be dragged down to the Nightvault and imprisoned for their insolent crimes. The spectral dead delighted in the chance to inflict the same torment they had suffered upon the living, and the streets of Shadespire soon echoed to the sounds of terrified screams and cruel, mocking laughter.[3b]
Following the War of Light and Death, the power of the Necroquake was driven back and the Katophrane Curse that rode upon the wave of unchecked death magic was broken. Some of those trapped in its crutches were freed, though the horrors they endured would never leave them. Lesions in reality affected by the curse eventually scabbed over into shadeglass deposits. Howevever, the curse was so potent that it could not be entirely broken, and the phenomenon known as Arena Mortis, where warriors rose to life mere moments after falling, remained a threat.
The Mirrored City
The ruined city of Shadespire remains within the Desert of Bones within the underworld of Penultima. However, the Mirrored City of Shadespire, which lies beyond the looking glass is found within the twilight subrealm of Uhl-Gysh.[4b] The Mirrored City cannot be described as a city, but rather many cities, crashed together and twisted on themselves. Like a reflection within a reflection, stretching in all directions at once. Nagash twisted the Mirrored City through time itself,[4h], which can result in unusual effects upon causality. The shadeglass reflects every moment, and these reflections are reflected from a hundred thousand mirrors, each one carving subtle - and not so subtle - differences in one's possible future. All that has, will or might yet occur plays out across the shattered surfaces of every shadeglass mirror within the city.[4d] Due to the twisted nature of time within Mirrored City, one may find themselves fighting their past or future selves.[4k]
Ilesha Dune of the Collegiate Arcane theorises that the city is connected to all Realms and throughout time but has begun to change and evolve, so much that even Nagash is unsure of what it might become and there is neither day or night, simply an eternal twilight. Above and around the city swim massive creatures of the void.[4h] Nothing can truly die in the city, not even the Stormcast Eternals,[4a] and those stuck within have no need to eat or drink, although many still do so. Katophranes still gather groups of people together, mostly newcomers who still have hope - these they bid gather shadeglass to rebuild arcane devices or merely to trade with others of their kind.[4g]
The air is cold, stale and still and seems to tremble as does the myriad of mirrors that are strung beneath archways and in wall niches. Dust clings everywhere, spilling down and drifting up across the armies of statuary, many of which hold more mirrors.[4a] Ilesha Dune compiled five hundred and thirty seven maps of the city, none of which matched, some merely had one or two streets different, others were radically different.[4h]
A massive subterranean dungeon where the opponents of the Katophranes were imprisoned. The Nightvault was continuously expanded as it was filled with thousands of prisoners and additional levels were built below patrolled by soul-powered automatons. It was said that prisoners were used in the experiments of the Katophranes and the most infamous of them were imprisoned in shadeglass prison chambers to suffer for eternity. The Nightvault was opened by Nagash who turned its prisoners into tools to deal with the increasing number of trespassers into the city after the necroquake.
The Dreadfane is a shattered coliseum that lies at the heart of Shadespire. The city's Katophrane rulers once used it as a testing ground for their creations. Here, towering weapn-constructs once duelled, trying their might against each other, and against the deadly hazards of the arena itself. Those unfortunate, brave, or foolhardy adventurers who set foot within Shadespire are drawn through the veil between realms and trapped within the Mirrored City. Some, seeking a route out, find them,selves within the perilous confines of the Dreadfane. Others enter the arena willingly, hopinh to claim the relics sequestered there. Soon enough, the intruders see the nature of their doom. Yet there are those who will not accep their fate without a fight, and amongst the swirling echoes of ancient conflicts, they are not left waiting long.
- The Carnelian Path: One of the few remaining stable causeways in the city, it had been a garden pathway created to allow the Katophranes to travel between palaces without coming into contact with the common citizens.[4g]
- Dust Keep: Once the highest part of the south wall of the city it overlooked the Sea of Dust and large docklands that saw extensive trade with Cadow and Helstone. After the curse it would become a stronghold of the Sepulchral Warden, the repentant Katophrane Makesh and those who served them. [4e]
- Gloaming Path
- Jasper Palaces: Their ruined courtyards were used as base for those in service to Sadila Hausa. [4d] It was too dangerous to live inside the actual buildings as they shifted and changed without warning and people could be lost. [4e]
- Statues of Nagash: A vast titan like statue formed shortly after the curse was enacted and now sits on one edge and many more can be found throughout, watching and waiting.[4h]
- Street of Spices: In the southern districts, well known for its ginger from the Realm of Aqshy. [4a]
- Thanatological Gardens: Glass-domed halls once filled with vibrant flowerbeds and lush plantations. Now there are only fields of choking mould and towering clusters of Deffcap Mushrooms.
- War-Gardens: Where blade-slaves competed for the amusement of their masters. [4a]
Many of the inhabitants have gone insane over the intervening thousands of years, their decaying bodies animated but still decaying, their souls trapped within. Some turned to desperate worship of Nagash, hoping that he might have pity and at least end their torment. Great rotting sepulchres of the tormented and undying celebrate their newfound devotion to the Great Necromancer.
Newcomers still arrive, some are refuges from the wars that rage through the Mortal Realms, others determined to loot the fabled city for their own purposes. Some simply look to explore, some like the Fyreslayers of the Vostarg lodge look to repay their ancient pledge to defend the city – hoping to release all within from their torment. The original inhabitants, other than those Katophranes trapped within the shadeglass continue to decay until they are nothing but skeletons at which point they join the ranks of those who serve the Sepulchral Warden. [4c]
|I simply....awoke. Whole. Sound. With every instant of my death seared into my memory. The pain, the sight of my own body toppling backwards. All of it. Nothing dies here, mortal. Not men, not orruks, not us. Even those cannibals we killed - they will rise again, as hungry as ever.
Other than the various warbands that pass through the Mirrored City, there are a number of notable residents:
- Deadwalkers: Sometimes vaults are opened and unleash a horde of those Nagash has allowed to die, unlike normal deadwalkers they return threefold when slain like multiple reflections. On occasion, Nagash will remove large numbers of them.[4i]
- Collegiate Arcane
- Free Peoples
- Petitioners: Masked penitent followers of Nagash, [4c] they collect shadeglass to raise monuments to their god. [4i]
Flora and Fauna
- Deffcap Mushrooms: These mushrooms favoured by the Moonclan infest what was once the Thanatological Gardens.
- Glass Spiders: A huge horse sized gleaming arachnid with a dark body, it spins vast webs of shadeglass. [4g]
- War Golems: The Kataphranes commissioned powerful animated statues of shadeglass for use in battle, especially large ones were fitted with a sun-stone to burn their enemies from a distance with powerful beams of pure white light. [4j]
A number of warbands have made their way to the Mirrored City:
- 1: Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Skirmish
- 1a: Shadespire's Curse pg. 8-9
- 2: Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire, pg. 3-9
- 3: Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault
- 4: Shadespire: The Mirrored City (novel) by Josh Reynolds
- 5: Underworlds website, Warbands
- 6: Eyes Warband Focus on the Warhammer Community website
- 7: Gitz Warband Focus on the Warhammer Community website
- 8: Warband Focus: Mollog’s Mob on the Warhammer Community website
- 9: Warband Focus: Godsworn Hunt on the Warhammer Community website
- 10: Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault
- 11: Lady Harrow's Mournflight Card
- 12: Warhammer Underworlds: Beastgrave - Arena Mortis, pg. 2
- 13: Warhammer Underworlds: Harrowdeep - Shadowed Legacies, pg. 10
- 14: Warhammer Underworlds: Dreadfane - Background