Cult of Forgotten Shadow
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The Cult of the Forgotten Shadow, a group considered heretical by most, believes that dark energy practitioners are just as vital to the survival of life and reality (which they call "the Shadow") as wielders of the Light. The cult preaches balance, mandating that shadow priests must never forget the dangers of falling too deep into the dark energies they manipulate, for it is often too hard to find one's way back to the Shadow from the deep reaches of the darkness.
After the First War, Natalie Seline, a bishop from Lordaeron, began to delve into workings of the orc necrolytes who had poured through the Dark Portal and desecrated their hallowed dead. While at first this was done in order to provide Azeroth with the knowledge it needed to fight against such dark magic, the bishop's studies over the years became increasingly obsessed with finding out why such dark energies existed at all, and why she began to see the ebb and flow of such energies in the world around her. She began preaching about the necessity of balance between dark and light, but after her death, her books were locked away in the Kirin Tor's vaults in Dalaran.
The cult was created through the (re)discovery of the teachings of bishop Natalie Seline by Forsaken priests in Lordaeron after the capture and refurbishing of the Undercity. They teach that one must first know the light before one can know the dark. Shadow priests generally do not practice openly, and not all members are Forsaken, although they formed the cult. Within the last few years, the number of non-Forsaken (and non-Horde) members within the cult has grown sharply, making the Cult open to members of all factions.
While many priests draw on powers such as the Holy Light or the goddess Elune, shadow priests turn to dark energies to accomplish their goals. The Light is often said to bring about feelings of positive emotion— hope, courage, comfort— and the like. Shadow abilities are just the opposite, able to impart feelings like despair, doubt, and panic. In a poetic sense, it can be said that the emotions which the Light brings about come from the "heart," whereas the emotions manipulated by shadow are often based on survival logic, and therefore affect the "mind."
Members of the Cult consider faith in themselves is what separates them from others, and that with their powers, they will cause great change in all of Azeroth, the weak will come to lean on them, the lepers will call them Lord, and the ignorant will look to them for guidance.
In the RPG
The Forgotten Shadow is a corrupted reinterpretation of the beliefs and traditions practiced by the Holy Light, and is the religion of the Forsaken. The religion of those who follow and use the shadow is called the Cult of Forgotten Shadow. It is a religion of divine humanism (see below).
Forsaken who once followed the tenets of the Holy Light often alter their philosophy upon their transformation. Former priests of the Holy Light lost their faith when they became undead. Lost and hurt, these priests founded a new religion based on a self-centered version of their former faith. Dubbed the Forgotten Shadow, this philosophy centers around self-empowerment and a desire to balance life with death. Many of the virtues and principles of the Holy Light exist within the Forgotten Shadow, but are twisted to an egocentric view. While small, the Cult of Forgotten Shadow grows in popularity, especially among Sylvanas’ dark rangers. The cult claims Deathknell as its home, as well as a section of the warrior sector in the Undercity, but it is not yet organized enough to claim much control over anything.
The Forgotten Shadow is the dark interpretation of the Holy Light's teachings, and many Forsaken find truth in its doctrine. Forsaken turn to the Forgotten Shadow for different reasons. Forsaken who feel isolated and outcast might join their brethren in support of the Forgotten Shadow to obtain a sense of solidarity, of belonging. Forsaken who feel betrayed by the Holy Light's failure to protect them sometimes find that turning their backs on the Holy Light is not enough; they throw aside the Holy Light and embrace its dark twin out of spite. Finally, some Forsaken simply see the value and practicality in the teachings of the Forgotten Shadow. A Forsaken of any class might emulate the values of the Forgotten Shadow, but devoted church members are usually priests. Some become lightslayers, and others become shadow ascendants. Even some dark rangers have joined the ranks of the cult.
The curse of undeath proved especially brutal to those humans who once followed the philosophy of the Holy Light. Their lives as Forsaken seem dreary, hateful and unspeakably cruel. Many allowed anger and bitterness to foster in their souls. They had believed in the teachings of the Light, and now find themselves shrouded in eternal darkness. Such Forsaken founded the Cult of Forgotten Shadow.
Priests of the Holy Light who become Forsaken alter their beliefs to more adequately reflect their new existences. Practitioners of the Forgotten Shadow believe that the actions and emotions of the self have the capacity to change the universe. The Forgotten Shadow shapes reality. There is no inherent bond between self and universe; a bond exists only when a Forsaken imposes her will on the universe. By strengthening her personal power, a Forsaken can impart greater changes to the world around her. Exceptionally strong Forsaken can literally shape the world. Forgotten Shadow priests refer to this central tenet as Divine Humanism.
The Cult of Forgotten Shadow plays an important role in Forsaken society. Shortly after the emancipation of the Forsaken and the formation of their culture, the Forsaken indulged in a momentary backlash against necromancers. Necromancy was seen as the art of slavery, the tool of the Scourge, and its use was repulsive to the newly liberated undead.
The most serious failing of the Cult of Forgotten Shadow is its lack of organization. Dozens of different interpretations of the three or four virtues exist, and no two priests seem to be able to agree on how the faithful should follow the Forgotten Shadow. A single city can hold several different cult leaders, all in disagreement on their philosophy. Members of the Forgotten Shadow spend almost as much time arguing with other members as they do practicing the tenets they believe.
A particularly charismatic and intelligent Forsaken may draw all the disparate branches of the cult together someday. A united front of philosophically aligned Forsaken would be a dire threat to the Church of the Holy Light. Priests of the Forgotten Shadow can gain access to the Death, Destruction and Power Domains.
The cult is loosely organized, with a hierarchy defined by power and experience. Novice acolytes work at menial tasks, while a single shadow priest serves as bishop for a community. Dark priests are more like archbishops ruling over wide territories. There are exceptions to the rules, as they haven't formed a strict organization as of yet. Lightslayers are the assassins of the religion sent out to kill enemies of the cult, as well as destroy practitioners of the Holy Light whenever possible. Shadow ascendants are those that have ascended beyond physical world, and have taken on a form between physical and spiritual, they are often used as spies, priests or assassins.
The Three Virtues
The Cult of Forgotten Shadow preaches three virtues: respect, tenacity, and power.
The universe is the physical manifestation of other's wills. Thus, for a person to denigrate the universe is to ignore the personal power of those around them. This is not only disrespectful, it is dangerous. A follower of the Forgotten Shadow must develop his personal power in order to exert his will on the universe, but seeking too much power too quickly puts him in conflict with other, stronger beings. Only a foolish follower seeks to challenge his superiors right away. Showing respect ensures a measure of self-protection.
Followers of the Forgotten Shadow put even greater stock in the virtue of tenacity. It may at first seem impossible for a person to change the universe when countless others seeking to do the same surround him. Through unwavering perseverance and tenacity though, they may triumph.
Power is the third virtue of the Forgotten Shadow, and the most difficult to attain. A Forsaken who grabs greedily for power might encounter power too great for him or her to handle, and die in their attempt to master it. A Forsaken who succumbs to despair and seeks no personal power has no reason to exist; he craves nothing, desires nothing, he sits alone and pines for his old life. To the cult, Forsaken who do not seek to better themselves might as well still be part of the Scourge. The quest for power requires caution, forethought, and a subtle touch.
Some branches of the Forgotten Shadow consider death to be a fourth virtue; most consider it sub-virtue of power. Additionally some members of the Forgotten Shadow still show a limited yet twisted version of the virtue of Compassion (one of the Holy Light's main virtues).
A Forsaken reaches the pinnacle of power when he masters death itself, transcends it. This power over death requires the same delicate touch of any other power. A Forsaken must not kill indiscriminately, nor can he withhold death from the weak. To kill wantonly escalates the Forsaken's risk of encountering power too great for him to overcome. It also robs him of his strength; a Forsaken who spends all day slaying wildlife and human peasants might exhaust his power, and be left defenseless when a true threat arises. Likewise, a Forsaken who shows mercy to the weak and forgoes regular exercise of his power may gain a reputation for weakness himself. This draws predators and offends the cult. He must always preserve a balance.
Despite their mercenary outlook, the cult possesses a streak of compassion. The living world fears and shuns the living dead, and who can blame them? The cult understands the plight of the Forsaken and wishes to ease their burden if only a little. This compassion tempers even the most heartless priest - though the compassion they show is only towards other Forsaken.
The ultimate goal of practitioners of the Forgotten Shadow is to ascend. Ascension occurs once a person achieves complete control over herself and the power to transcend death. A Forsaken who ascends becomes invulnerable, invincible and eternal. In essence, he becomes a god.
The Cult of Forgotten Shadow teaches that the Forsaken of Azeroth were too weak to ascend. Their undead state is a curse brought on by that weakness. Once the Forsaken learn to master themselves and control the world around them, they shake off that curse and become what they always should have been. Those on the path to ascension often become shadow ascendants.
Instead of seeing both a self and a universe and seeking to create a bond between them through compassion, the Forgotten Shadow preaches a much more self-oriented idea. Priests preach that the self has power over the universe, and the universe revolves around the self. They preach that if an undead was powerful enough to rise from the grave on their own free will, and become sentient, the undead may strengthen themselves by increasing their control of the world around them, thus becoming more godlike. Many priests dub this concept "divine humanism".
Divine humanism is the concept that the self shapes the universe. In essence, each sentient creature in the world is a tiny god, able to exert their will to manifest small changes in the universe. A minor example of divine humanism might be something as simple as mood. The Holy Light teaches that to be happy, one must work to better the universe, and the effort of reflecting joy back through the universal bond spreads happiness. However, divine humanism notes that an angry individual who shows their rage triggers anger in those around them. They do not change some insubstantial universe "out there" - they make a choice and others sense the strength of their emotions and change themselves. In short, the Holy Light teaches that by changing the universe, you change those around you. The Forgotten Shadow teaches that by using your power, you can change those around you and change the universe. Power is key, not some mythical bond.
Balance between Light and Shadow
While the undead generally hate users of the Holy Light, are hurt by it, and have learned how to use the Shadow, they also preach that there must be a balance between Light and Shadow, and that they must learn the Light as well, but never forget they were born from the Shadow.
- ^ a b c d e World of Warcraft: The Magazine Issue 4, pg. 84
- ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 3
- ^ Horde Player's Guide, pg. 161
- ^ Horde Player's Guide, 154
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- ^ Horde Player's Guide, 88
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- ^ Horde Player's Guide, 47-48
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- ^ a b Horde Player's Guide, 160