…many of Balneor’s legends and folktales come from the times before the Aldeaari kings, and they are more or less exclusively incomplete and many times works of rather imagination than reality. The legend of the Shade Knights is one of the most debated one of them all, and this is due to the questionable integrity of the only proof we have of their existence. The official entries tell us of the time of one of the Old Kings, namely Sabredar the Seer, who was believed to have premonitions or ‘visions’ of sorts. Many believed him to be mentally unstable, yet his reign was peaceful and uncontested. One day (supposedly in 154 BA), he ordered twenty of his finest knights to journey beyond the reaches of even today’s realm, into the east, allegedly searching for an artifact, a stone of sorts, that would, according to Sabredar’s visions, bring an end to the world someday. The knights set forth, yet this is where the story ends, for the journey itself was never documented, or if it was, the documents never made it back to Raladia. From here on, we rely on solely gossip and legends: as the story goes, they made their way outside of the realm, and some of my previous findings suggest that they even made it as far as Troiros (which is about 60 kilometers east of the Shade Mountains). The true extent and goal of their journey remains unknown, however: some say that they found the artifact and fell under its curse once they held it, while others say they stole it

from a powerful sorcerer, and he in turn turned them into wraiths, beings of other world of ethereal bodies and unending lives. The idea of them being invincible to any kind of weapon is one of the common points in most of the tale’s variants, as it seems. Most of the stories describe the Shade Mountains (named after the Knights themselves) to be the place they decided to make their home, and that they still reside in an old, abandoned fort lost within the ranges. The problem with this theory, however, is that several expeditions have been sent to the mountains, Raladian, Aldeaari, and private alike, and none of them found any signs of any fortress or even encampment in their vicinity. The locals in those regions to this day swear that the legend is true, and that they have heard stories of how to get to the fort itself, but all of them proved to be incorrect and often extremely dangerous to follow through. According to the lore, the Shade Knights still, and shall forever hold allegiance to the Old Kings, whose lineage, as we know, has been exterminated completely during the time of the Aldeaari Ascension. The reason for their stay in the Shade Mountains is to this day unknown, there is no indication even in the folktales of why they never brought back the artifact — if they had it — to their king. A theory exists that they never acquired the item and that they had stayed out of shame, but most clues and stories point to the other way: there is even a

recounting that tells of a single knight returning to Raladia, bringing only a fragment of the original relic to present to his king, shortly before he perished from his wounds. The Shade Knights have been featured in many of Balneor’s literary pieces and music, and their story has been over-mystified over the last thousand years. Some folktales even include people who found the shade Knights: For example, many of the more obscure renditions of the tale of Janos feature him venturing into the Shade Mountains and finding the Knights, eventually earning their respect and learning their ways, becoming a Shade himself before returning to Balazar. True extent of such stories are unfortunately unclear, and while many pilgrims take it on themselves to travel beyond all borders and to risk their own lives for the legend, most scholars believe that there is no truth to the tales. My findings, on the other hand, lead me to believe that there is certainly truth or at lead historical basis behind it, but to this day, I cannot comment on many of the minor details of the story thanks to inconsistencies and a general lack of reliable information. Whether the original entry from Sabredar’s records was genuine is still up for debate, as most scholars find entries from his reign confusing and nonsensical because of the ‘visions’ and their interpretations by the royal household and their servants… Fulburius