The Secrets of the Darkness
There is great power in the Darkness – and the Darkness holds the secrets of the Underworld. During the Great Darkness, Ezkankekko – a powerful Darkness entity - offered his protection and friendship in exchange for tribute and acknowledgement. He offered more as well - Ezkankekko offered to teach people the secrets of the Darkness so that they could survive in the Darkness.
Few people took up this second offer until Varzor Kitor accepted and learned at the feet of Ezkankekko the deepest secrets of the darkness. Varzor then taught others – humans, dragonewts, wind children, and anyone else who would learn - how to pray, make sacrifices and learn these secrets. Kitor's followers learned prayers that halt uz, dehori and anything born of the Underworld (as long as it is of the dark). They learned the secrets of the darkness of night and the darkness after death. These initiates of the Darkness formed a separate people who – regardless of their origin – were called the Kitori.
Ezkankekko greatly favored the Kitori and allowed them to reside with him in the Palace of Black Glass. Ezkankekko made the Kitori his envoys to the peoples of Kethala and Kerofinela and gave them the privilege of collecting the Shadow Tribute – tribute owed to Ezkankekko from every tribe, settlement and group in Kethaela and Kerofinela for their survival in the Great Darkness. The tribute was not onerous and was fixed by ancient tradition. Failure to pay the Shadow Tribute meant swift and deadly retribution from the Kitori – and because failure to pay was oathbreaking, the guardians and tribal gods would not protect the community.
The peoples subject to the Shadow Tribute were called the Shadowlands or sometimes the Kitori Empire. It was an empire of tribute-collection, without governors, government, central laws or rule. The tribes and cities paid the tribute owed Ezkankekko and Ezkankekko offered them protection from the Darkness – especially the Darkness creatures loyal to him: the many thousands of uz of the Shadow Plateau and in the handful of uz trading posts. The Shadowlands coexisted and overlapped with other kingdoms and empires – the Heortling kings and high kings, the Esrolian Grandmothers, the Arstolan Forest and the Gemborg dwarves. But all acknowledged Ezkankekko's sacred authority: a carefully circumscribed and ceremony authority, but authority nonetheless.
The Kitori were the most visible representative of Ezkankekko's authority, and they were commonly called the "Shadowlords". They wore distinctive garb so that all knew their status: black fur-lined cloak and hood, leaden mask, and ebon spear; and they were often accompanied by trolls or even more frightening darkness entities. Feared and respected as sorcerers and magicians, many viewed the Kitori as the rulers of Kethaela.
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