Who do you follow?
Who do you follow?
Child, child, foolish child,
I follow my hunger,
I follow my hunger...
That ditty has been spooling in my head for years, yet I haven't found a way to work it into my Geren books, yet. In Geren's time, it's a child's game, played rather like 'Duck Duck Grey Duck'/'Duck Duck Goose' is played today. (I have no idea what that's called outside of America--the 'grey duck' variant seems to be limited to portions of Minnesota.)
Anyway, the reason I start there is because it's indicative of the trouble the Shado and its kind have given me from day one. Confession time--I didn't even learn the name of the Shado's race until 2016 or so, because it refused to tell me, and t'DoL can't tell me what he doesn't know either!
So, it should not be surprising to my readers that the emergence of the Shado as a prominent character in my Geren books (and sequels, where it's even more important) took much longer than the quicker coalescence of t'DoL and the first part of the Geren story, both of which were pretty well laid down in my mind by 1994.
The Shado's name is a nickname as well, though getting into the matter of its 'real' name is Geren book 5 spoilers. Just as a reminder--the Shado was dubbed 'The Defender's Shado' by the hyarmi historians/lore-gatherers, who were amused by the way it seems to, heh heh, 'shadow' t'DoL. t'DoL himself adamantly refuses to call it that, instead using the term Sister-born. (And I get to yell at myself whenever I slip and put 'the Shado' in his dialogue.)
It took me a while to get as far as any sort of name myself. t'DoL reaching the Sister is on my very oldest timeline from November of 1994, but the Shado isn't specifically mentioned in that entry, nor on any timeline until around or after 2004 when I added an entry to mention its first coming to a Council meeting (years after it made its first in-story appearance in 'Masterstone's Warder'). So, I have no idea when I came up with that name, except that I knew it by the time I drew my remake of t'DoL and Shado in 2000.
I knew from fairly early on that there was a sentient race on the moon (which I would decide to call the Sister, in hopes of warding off readers having an expectation of it being the same as our moon). But the role of that race, and its identity and physical appearance, was far, far removed from what it would later become. You will probably chuckle at my first depiction below of this whole aspect of things (February 12, 1994). A simpler world--t'DoL brings back from the Sister an army of these creatures to fight for the hyarmi. (This is still at a point where t'DoL can't Heal himself, hence the bandage.) This was also in the day when I thought he might try to relocate the entire hyarmi race to Oversea, where at least they'd be safe from human depredations. It's amazing how long it took me to get rid of even the idea of suggesting such a thing. (Go ahead, laugh!)
Marker and colored pencil, image slightly larger than scanner bed
And yes, they did rather look like dogs at first. I was having too much fun drawing my own version of white-and-red hell hounds at the time, inspired by the descriptions of Susan Cooper and Stephen Lawhead. I even had some cut out and taped along the wall above my dorm window for a time.
The Shado's race evolved in some more foreboding directions next, though I had no grasp on their appearance at this time. I'm thinking it was my latter college years (1996-1997) and shortly afterward--the concept of them as a fairly rigid culture with incredible abilities with mind magic: mind-shields, illusions, mind-defenses and offensive abilities. They refused to recognize t'DoL as a sentient when he does get to the Sister at first, because he can't match their abilities. At some point in all this wandering about in my head with the whole concept, the Shado finally began to emerge as an individual. My memory is rusty, but at first I think it was the one of the aliens most intrigued by t'DoL and more inclined to recognize him as something different but equal, and fascinated by his own abilities--shapechanging for real, not just looking like it through illusion!
That all went out the door as well. I started understanding more about the relations, history, and origins of the races (Geren-sequel spoiler issues) which invalidated this conception of the Shado's people. I don't know how I can describe some of this without giving some of those matters away...so I guess I won't.
I graduated college (1997) with no fixed idea of the Shado's appearance or personality. Somewhere between that year and writing 'Master-Stone's Warder' in 2000-2001 is when the Shado's current abilities and appearance emerged. I can tell the story of its appearance, but not so well the rest, in part because there were large gaps in my knowledge even until I wrote The Fourth Emissary. The Shado still is very skilled with mind-magic, and it is a peerless master of illusion (yet ever perplexed/thwarted/fascinated because t'DoL's ability to perceive infrared light helps him get past some of its illusions). I don't know if people have noticed it yet, but in the time of Hope's Passage and the Triune stories, the only kind of illusion that exists is simple invisibility illusion. Even centuries later in 'Hened Ascendant,' t'DoL can't use illusion to change the color of his eyes so Hened doesn't know who he's talking to--he has to actually change them as a shapechanger.
This is because illusion is an 'extra-terrestrial' ability brought into t'DoL's world by the Shado in 405 AK. The Shado, of course, didn't teach it to t'DoL; t'DoL intuited it out by observing it, then passed it on to the Council mages as he does most of his knowledge in the use of power. But I didn't even know that much until I wrote The Fourth Emissary.
So for example, in Geren book 1--t'DoL watches over Geren in Princeton in the form of a dog, but when the Shado comes through periodically and harasses him, it's only bearing the illusion of a dog's form, not the reality. Hence Copper's experience of incredible strength when Savage slams into his mage shields--the bulk that's actually hitting them is much larger than any dog. (And hence Rag's intervention, because if the mages had started mocking/toying with Savage at that point, they might have ended up quite dead.)
The Shado's chief ability with power is not illusion, but something else as specific to its kind as shapechanging is to the avarii and Healing to the hyarmi. It's hinted at in Geren book 4 but doesn't come to light until the end of book 5. Even if t'DoL ever got a chance to learn it (which he doesn't), I doubt he could do it without taking the Shado-kind's form.
I knew at least a little about the Shado before I started on its novel. Its race is hermaphroditic, so when a pair mate (no lasting bonds in this stage of their history) each one is impregnated by the other. They lay eggs, but those born are unlikely to ever know their siblings from the other parent. This is because of the extreme harshness of survival on their world. Sharing territory is asking for starvation. Eating offspring/siblings when times get hard can be quite common. They also migrate a great deal on the strong winds raised by the extreme temperature swings on a world where a night is about a fortnight in our own time, and a day likewise. Having a secure place where one can safely shelter through one of those nights is very important--they often fight each other to gain access to one. That long tongue which the Shado so loves trying to wrap around t'DoL's neck (because he can't stand it) is excellent at detecting scent and heat--for tracking prey in a world where the atmosphere is so thin that sound carries poorly, and finding life-giving heat in a world where being caught out unsheltered in the cold, long nights is the greatest cause of mortality.
Figuring out what the Shado looked like drove me just about around the bend in my post college years. Rather like with Geren--by sketching I could figure out what it didn't look like, but trying to narrow down such an alien creature is a bit more difficult than with a human.
I made some sketches shown below, and gave up in disgust because my brain was screaming 'WRONG! WRONG!' And since it was a failure, I didn't date it.
Pencil, photographed as it's too big for my scanner
The one detail it does reveal is that I already knew about the Shado's nearly impenetrable, overlapping, pangolin-like scales at this point.
I gave up on working out the Shado's appearance for some time. Then providence stepped in. I was browsing eBay ogling gargoyles for my small collection, or had wandered off eBay--not quite sure anymore, and I don't want to spend hours searching paper journals for something I probably failed to write down anyway. And I came across the critter photographed below (there were two or three different poses, but that was the one that shouted at me). And I about jumped out of my skin with excitement, because it so reminded me of the Shado.
Photo of my inspiration
Thankfully, I do have a time period, because once I got that in my grubby little hands, I made a pencil sketch of it, and thankfully dated it as June 12, 1999. Now, I knew the moment I clapped eyes on that lovely little figure, that it possessed several features which didn't work with the Shado's race. But it served as the kick in the pants with overall physical structure that I desperately needed.
April 7 - 23 of 2000 (interrupted by a house-sitting stint) was when I made the t'DoL and Shado picture from which I derived my default avatar (and first-ever animation).
And that's more than long enough already.