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From the Archives: Pinning Down the Dusk Queen’s Shadow

From the Archives: Pinning Down the Dusk Queen’s Shadow

Last year, the kobolds put out Shadows of the Dusk Queen, written by none other than Kobold art director Marc Radle. A tale of a mysterious queen in a dark tower, the adventure is set in “a forest of shadows.” The location is deliberately ambiguous, so the Shadow Forest can be dropped in anywhere that a GM needs it to be, in any sufficiently spooky woods. But the book is definitely Midgard material as the Dusk Queen herself is a shadow fey originally of the Winter Court. So obsessive Midgardian cartophile that I am, I’m going to try and place it on the Midgard map and talk about ways that Shadows of the Dusk Queen can be worked into your larger Midgard campaign.

In the backstory to the adventure, we are told that the Dusk Queen met a “powerful wizard from a land of pitiless, burning sun and endless sand,” and the two fell in love. The Sun King, as he came to be called, and the Dusk Queen lived happily together for a time until the Dusk Queen created or commissioned a magic mirror. This mirror, infused with her own essence, greatly expanded her powers and her ambition to bad effect. When the Sun King discovered that his lover planned to invade his own homeland, he trapped her in a “hidden and unknown prison” and smashed her mirror. However, the prison was weakened by the Sun King’s own lingering love for his queen. It has degraded over time, and she has recently escaped. Now, the Dusk Queen seeks the broken shards of the mirror, hoping to reconstruct it and regain her full powers. However, the shards, when combined on their own, can create a powerful magic item by themselves. PCs travel through the Shadow Forest collecting the shards, finally confronting the Dusk Queen in her tower at the conclusion of the adventure. Afterward, they may or may not find a hidden treasure: a sentient spellbook called the Shadow Grimoire, a gift given to the queen long ago by the Winter Court.

There are a lot of fun elements in this adventure. The story itself seems as easily portable as the setting and could make a fun culmination to a short arc inside a larger campaign dealing with the fey, the Shadow Realm, and forest environments. So with that in mind, let’s tackle the number one rule in real estate—location, location, location!

At first glance, the Margreve Forest seems an excellent choice for setting Shadows of the Dusk Queen. It is the obvious choice for sure, but the obvious isn’t necessarily the best. I would argue that with Tales of the Old Margreve, several Warlock Lairs, the Warlock Guide to the Shadow Realms, Courts of the Shadow Fey, and Return to Castle Shadowcrag, the Margreve is actually getting rather crowded. It’s hard to imagine that an expatriate of the Winter Court could set up shop and rule in the shadow fey’s backyard without their objection or that such a thing would go unnoticed by the other powers in the forest—Baba Yaga most especially. So I’m going to scout beyond the Margreve for adventure placement. But the Margreve is a tremendous setting, and if you were going to place Shadows there, then I’d recommend locating the queen’s tower in the upper right corner of the Eastern Margreve, to the east or southeast of the Cave of Sorrows. That area is not as populous as the western, central, and southern sections of the forest, and with the Cloudwall Mountains to the north, might explain how a fey could set up shop there without drawing too much unwanted attention from other Midgard “bosses.” And indeed, there are mountains bordering the northern edge of the map of the Shadow Forest provided with the adventure, so it can slot right in and fit aesthetically.

But leaving the Margreve and looking to the west, the Ghostlight Forest would be an interesting choice. Originally cultivated by primitive giant druids and now infested with will-o’-wisps after the fall of Ankeshel, it definitely qualifies as spooky. Additionally, it’s south of the Magocracy of Allain, so perhaps some Bemmean scholars have tasked your players with recovering the Shadow Grimoire of the adventure, and indeed, one of the potential hooks for Shadows of the Dusk Queen states, “The party wizard, for example, might hear of a powerful, intelligent spellbook hidden somewhere in the forest and decide to investigate.” The Shadow Grimoire is both powerful and intelligent! The forest’s proximity to the port city of Barsella also explains how a “a powerful wizard from a land of pitiless, burning sun” might have come to a forest so far north of the Southlands of Midgard. And the Ghostlight Forest is far enough but not too away from the Margreve for a shadow fey from the Winter Court to choose it when striking out on her own. You just need to add a few with will-o’-wisps to your adventure, an apropos choice for spooky woods, and you’re good to go.

The Wormwood might make for an interesting choice as well. To the east of the Margreve and the shadow fey’s stomping grounds, it’s the domain of the Neimheim gnomes. Perhaps the Shadow Queen’s reign dates to long before the gnomes of Neimheim fell afoul of Baba Yaga. Now that the queen has returned, they don’t need two evil powers breathing down their backs at once. Adventurers caught trespassing in the Wormwood could be offered a choice by King Redbeard: “Serve as our next sacrifice to our infernal masters or rid us of this meddlesome fey queen (and then be sacrificed to our masters—oh wait, did I say that out loud?).” If we choose this location, the Shadow Queen’s former lover could even have hailed from the Mharoti Empire. Could the Sun King be dragonborn? Fascinating.

Speaking of the Mharoti Empire, the Winewood is described as “largely untouched,” and it does border the Griffoncrags, so conceivably you could set it there. All we know about the Winewood is that it was the birthplace of the wizard Arshin the Enchanter, whose ruined tower still stands in its northern region. Perhaps the Dusk Queen didn’t build her tower but occupied Arshin’s. For all we know, it was Arshin’s magic mirror before it was the Dusk Queen’s. When she returns, the ruins repair themselves.

The Roatgard Forest of the Goblin Wastes is another good choice. Close enough to the Margreve to make sense, spooky enough to work. We are told in the Midgard Worldbook under the entry on Molovosch, “Following the Black Sorceress’s Revolt, the mages of House Galbrion traded arcane secrets to the shadow fey in exchange for the powerful levitation ritual needed to rip their city from the earth and raise it into the air.” Molovosch crashed to the ground long ago, but perhaps the shadow fey in question with whom they traded secrets was the Dusk Queen, bargaining with her knowledge in exchange for resources or permissions to set up shop in this region.

The Arbonesse and Tomierran Forests are too much a province of the Imperatrix and the Grand Duchy of Dornig for my tastes, but you never know. They are certainly big enough to contain hidden secrets, and the rulers of Dornig would want any returned shadow fey queen rooted out and removed quickly. Perhaps an island rises in the sea, a haunted vestige of the Lost Arbonesse itself, swelling up from the sea bottom with the return of the Dusk Queen.

Heading north, Björnrike is one enormous pine forest. Mayhap an exile from the Winter Court would seek out winter woods. The Reaching Mountains provide a nice northern or eastern border. Perhaps the King of Bears himself has sent adventurers to investigate this shadow fey’s return.

But surprise surprise, my favorite location for Shadows of the Dusk Queen might not be on the Midgard map at all. I am going to propose setting it not on Midgard but in the actual Shadow Realm itself. The realm is certainly big enough. We are even told in the Warlock Guide to the Shadow Realms that Corremel, City of Lanterns, supports a population of 50,000 souls. And time and distances being what they are in the Shadow Realm, an expatriate from the courts could easily carve out a corner in that plane or a demiplane to set herself up as queen for a time. By placing Shadows of the Dusk Queen in the Shadow Realm, we can see how the Sun King could have easily traversed from the Corremel of Midgard to the Corremel of the Shadow Realm to her tower.[1]

The more I thought about it, the more I liked this location enough that I checked in with the designer, Marc Radle, for his blessing. Marc responded, “Interesting idea about locating it in the Shadow Realm. I see it more like a transitional area between Midgard and the Shadow Realm. It might even move throughout Midgard—a small village wakes up one cold, mist-filled morning to find the foreboding forest on what was an open, grassy plain the day before…”

The Dusk Queen’s Shadow Forest as a sinister Brigadoon? Oh, that’s nice. And it means you could drop the adventure into any of the forests I’ve recommended above or any forest, which was of course the intent. In fact, with a few tweaks, you could even drop it into a jungle in the Southlands. So perhaps the forest itself transitions around the world of Midgard, never staying in one place for any length of time. At the close of the adventure, the dark tower collapses, forcing adventurers to flee. Perhaps the whole pocket realm vanishes as well, and if they can’t escape its fading borders in time, who knows where they’ll end up next.

However you use Shadows of the Dusk Queen, there’s a lot here to weave into a larger campaign. If you run Courts of the Shadow Fey, then perhaps the Queen of Night and Magic wants to check up on her once-subject or retrieve the Shadow Grimoire that she gifted her long ago. Perhaps the Weft of Shadows—introduced in Mike Welham’s Warlock Lairs triptych “Wrath of the Bramble King,” “Pride of the Mushroom Queen,” and “Shadow’s Envy”—seeks the grimoire for its own purposes. Perhaps the Weft even has one of the shards. Or having aided the NPC Daesanderena, introduced in those three adventures, the summer elf again turns to the PCs for help against this new threat. Certainly, the mages of Bemmea or Zobeck’s Arcane Collegium would want to examine the Shadow Grimoire. Or a Light Eater patron might send their warlock to claim such a legendary wondrous item for their own evolving schemes in spreading darkness to the world. And just who was the mysterious Sun King? And is he still around? Perhaps he returned to his “land of pitiless, burning sun and endless sand” where, heartbroken and corrupted by his former lover’s shadowy influence, his own path turned toward darkness and conquest. Perhaps he was even called… dare I say it… Tiberesh?

Whatever you decide, Shadows of the Dusk Queen may not be assigned a location on Midgard, but it fits wonderfully into Midgard wherever you want to use it. Happy gaming!



Lou Anders is the author of Frostborn, Nightborn, and Skyborn, the three books of the Thrones  & Bones series of middle grade fantasy adventures, as well as the novel Star Wars: Pirate’s Price and the upcoming Once Upon a Unicorn. He has written RPG material for Kobold Press, River Horse, and 3D Printed Tabletop. You can find out more about him and his works at www.louanders.com and visit him on Facebook and on Twitter @LouAnders.


[1] I’ll add that we are told that the Dusk Queen’s mirror allowed her to “magically transport herself or her minions to the farthest locations.” Since the Midgard setting frowns on long-range teleportation spells, placing the tower and thus the mirror in the Shadow Realm, where time and distances are fuzzy, alleviates some of this GM’s anxiety about the queen reaching those “far locations.”)

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