- The brightest lights cast the deepest shadows.
"You say you want to know of the Mallori, the Walkers of Shadow? Yes, of course I know the story. It is a familiar one to me, well-trodden, spoken of often, with sadness and melancholy each time.
"Are you sure you wish to hear it? To make me speak of lost Kael Ghalean yet again, to endure that loss once more?
"Several centuries ago, there was a prosperous city in the pass of a mountain range that bridged the trade routes between two great nations. The city was called Kael Ghalean, and its people were primarily humans, though a few other races shared the community.
"One winter solstice, in mid-day, a stranger strode through the city's welcoming gates. Those who saw him say he bore a large pack upon his back, his clothes travel worn, his face unshaven, and all later agreed, he carried a haunted look in his eye. No one paid him any mind, and he exchanged no words with anyone. He stopped in the city's central market square, dead in the center, forcing traffic to bustle around him. He ignored the commotion this caused and at precisely high noon, placed his pack upon the ground, removed a long-snouted plague mask from it, and put it on.
"Needless to say, the passers-by were concerned, and many asked him what he was doing. The wisest among them went immediately to fetch the town watch. But with no warning, without even saying a word, the stranger reached once more into his pack and removed a terrible orb of utter, dread darkness.
"The orb was large, nearly two feet in diameter, and more than being simply black, it pulled light into it hungrily. The stranger held it over his head in his hands, his covered face betraying no emotions or motives. The crowds in the town square started to draw away from this awful thing, but it was far too late.
"The orb pulsed a single time at the strike of noon, and the town changed forever.
"The winter sun overhead seemed to turn watery and its light seemed diminished and inconsequential. The air, a moment ago bitingly cold, now held not even a briskness. It was still cold, but it seemed somehow only nearby -- a rumor of cold.
"The town's many buildings, proudly maintained, their whitewash fresh from the previous spring's Sun Day celebrations, now stood hollow. The bright colors faded into pale and subtle ranges, and their hearths lost their comforting warmth."
"The roads, cobble and slate, maintained fastidiously at all times to promote the trade routes that kept the town alive, became as clay, their substance diminished, as if they could no longer be bothered to hold the world aloft on their unyielding strata.
"And the people! The people blanched with pallor. Those nearest the stranger felt their panic wash out of them, to be replaced with a sense that there should be something more, but whatever that thing once was, it was now gone. Busy inhabitants stood slack-faced, children stopped their play, laborers set down their tools, and the whole city, struck dumb, stared at this new colorless place and despaired.
"Shortly thereafter, the inhabitants of Kael Ghalean abandoned it, many not even pausing to pack their most cherished things once they saw how all luster and sentiment was stripped from them. Some packed provisions of flavorless foods or listless livestock, but everyone left the city within days. After a week, no one remained to explain the abandoned city and its pallid buildings and dismal parks and diminished roads. As fewer and fewer travelers and tradesmen came, following the memory of roads more than actual thoroughfares, they wondered at the sort of folk who would have willingly called such a pale place their home.
"Of the stranger who doomed Kael Ghalean, there was no trace. No clue as to his intent, no indication if his plan turned out the way he had intended.
"The people of Kael Ghalean spread into the neighboring lands, carrying their pale, sunken, expressionless hearts to lands they hoped would restore them somehow. And to some extent, they found new hope in these lands. They made new homes, and somehow, they brought new life, wan and hollow as they were, into the world. They made friends and joined new communities. Their hands picked up tools once again, and labored to create and contribute.
"But something was different. Something never came back. Something important.
"They call themselves the Mallori. It is a Common word, a translation of this signatory, from the dread language of Tenebri. Do not watch it too closely, my sober admirers, it is a fell thing. It means 'homeless' or 'seeking hope', and their ties to the plane of shadow are unmistakable.
"That is the story of the Mallori, my newly saddened friends. I warned you it was a somber tale, did I not? Come, rouse yourselves, and ask me for another tale, I know many.
"Oh? You wish to hear of the Fisherman's Daughter? Well, now, there's a tale sure to banish the gloom from your heart at least, if not mine…"
The cursed race of the Mallori still look quite similar to human. But in truth, they are one of the most alien of humanoid races, the bleakness and shadow that infuses them affecting their minds much more than it affects their bodies. To a Mallori, the world is a shifting array of shade, a billion and one shades of gray. Mallori can identify colors as easily as any other race, but to a Mallori it is the gradient and texture of the shadow that distinguishes colors, not the actual color itself. Similarly, Mallori see much more in shadows than any other race. To a Mallori, light and darkness are completely different than they are to other races. Bright light and true darkness are both impenetrable to their vision, while they treat dim light and normal darkness as bright light.
Even more profound, a Mallori sees much more in shadows than other races. Mallori can explain the concept of "depth of shadow" to non-Mallori, but cannot explain why a seven-deep shadow is better than a three-deep shadow. A Mallori can explain how the Umbra is different from the Penumbra, but cannot say why they seek the Umbra. Saturation and Hue mean entirely different things to Mallori than they do to other races, and other races aren't even sure what Mallori are seeing when they describe such things.
No Mallori has ever been able to explain dappling the way they perceive it, but dappling is critically important to Mallori because compatible dappling is required if they wish to spawn a new Mallori. This last illustrates the depth of the alien-ness of the Mallori: They do not mate or marry at all. When any two Mallori meet, there is a small chance that their dappling (whatever that is) is compatible. If they have compatible dappling, there will be a surge of shadows between them, and moments later a third Mallori will step from the shadows, fully grown, after which, the dappling of all three of them changes to something else, leaving them incompatible with each other.
Where this new Mallori comes from is a mystery. If asked, Mallori explain their childhood in vague terms of growing up in a shadowy city, until they stepped through the shadows and into the world. Mallori have no families, and no need for them either.
In keeping with their strange origins, Mallori look like no other race. They have sharp features, and tend to be either slender or emaciated, depending on how you view such things. Their colors are all muted. Their skin ranges from utter dull white to deep dusky stone-grey, and can appear both greenish and bluish in tone under certain light. Their hair is almost always dull, and usually grey as well, although usually darker than their skin. Their hair can have very dark dusky blue tones, or green tones, and even the darkest, sootiest black imaginable, a hair color they call 'fuligin', or the color darker than black. Their eyes are frequently either very dark, or eerily, awfully white, with very dark greens and blues interspersed with very pale greens and blues. Their irises are frequently ringed with silver-white, various greys, or deepest blacks, always in contrast to their regular iris colors. Their gaze tends to be extremely hard and unsettling because of this unworldly appearance, and few races want to get into a staring contest with a Mallori.
Despite their wildly alien biology, Mallori are flesh and blood and they still eat and drink and breathe as normal. Mallori feel all emotions weakly, if at all, and suffer little from loneliness or melancholy, nor do they experience the heights of joy or happiness. They are, however, keenly aware of this absence, and often seek out experiences that might elicit an emotional response, no matter that their own response will be dimmed.
Growing Up Mallori
Mallori don't 'grow up' at all. They have no childhood and do not age. They spend a few years after they appear in the world settling in and establishing their lives, as if they've just moved in from 'somewhere else', and then take up a profession or go adventuring. Mallori tend to clump together in loose bands, because they are so alien that there is nobody else to really talk to about the things that interest them most. Two Mallori can talk for hours about the shadows around them, a topic that is endlessly fascinating and infinitely variable.
Mallori in a settlement create new Mallori at a 'birth rate' roughly equivalent to Dwarves, namely, at widely spaced but fairly steady intervals. Each Mallori sets out on their own as of the instant of their creation, and are able to fully support themselves from their very first moments.
Many Mallori settlements are based around the service industry, and many Mallori are innkeeps, scribes, sages and other learned repositories of knowledge. They seek out such roles to interact with a wider variety of people than a more solitary job, such as mining or leatherworking, might bring. Mallori like people, and thrive in environments where information, gossip and news are freely shared.
Mallori are frequently in positions of brokering information. They hear many stories, meet many people and are fascinated by all of them. They are fully aware that knowledge is power, and they seek out roles in society that place them at the hub of gossip and the exchange of ideas. Mallori work in libraries and temples, and are frequently key members of thieves' guilds and moneychanger houses. Mallori can be found at the right hands of kings, and behind strong men everywhere. Mallori seem to have a gift for retaining things they've heard and inferring things they've only glimpsed.
As a result, Mallori are often in positions of comfortable wealth, and are prized by those for whom they perform these lore-keeping duties. Though Mallori can be quite capable in more physical pursuits, they are stereotyped as the smiling masters of secrets. While such a stereotype might suggest that people guard their tongues around Mallori, this can be quite difficult, as Mallori are frequently gifted at putting people at their ease, and are inveterate conversationalists.
Mallori rarely seek positions of prominence, as they tend to have little in the way of hubris or pride to drive such ambitions. They are quite comfortable allowing someone else into that role, and serving as adviser or vizier.
Mallori greatly enjoy stories, both the telling of them and the hearing of new ones. Stories often elicit emotional reactions in their listeners, and the Mallori seem to feel a racial need for such things, either in themselves or witnessing them in others.
Mallori also enjoy making sculptures of unusual shape, but with depths, impressions and excavations which create bizarre and wildly complex shadows in and around themselves in an appropriately-lit environment. Some such sculptures are keyed off the time of day or a day of a season, relying on the exact placement of sun or stars to display their true majesty. Others are simply revealed when lit from overhead or with the irregular light of torches.
Similarly, Mallori develop deep friendships and passionate relationships, though they are often quite confusing and difficult when with members of other races. Other races find Mallori to be reasonable and faithful companions, but have trouble understanding the thin palette of emotions the Mallori is endowed with. The Mallori, on the other hand, working with this narrow band of feelings, joins in kinship with an almost reckless abandon, finding commonality and companionship a little too easily for the more conservative races to be fully comfortable with.
Lifespan and Burial
Mallori enter the world fully mature and grown, though one must speculate that they probably have a childhood somewhere, just not here. Nonetheless, there is no cultural concept of a childhood, and even any notion of adolescence or schooling. Mallori who enter the world already know a trade or two, and are skilled in various areas of life. Mallori do not have a middle age or a senescence. Instead, they are fully vigorous up until they day that they cease to exist. On that day, they simply vanish, often in mid-sentence or mid-act. They leave no corpse, and many people around them find themselves with only a vague fondness of the Mallori who has passed, as though the grief of losing them has already occurred. Note that Mallori who are killed through violence or mishap leave a body and can be resurrected as normal.
Because they leave no corpses behind, and because their friends and relatives are immediately well-adapted to their loss, there is no notion whatsoever of burial custom in Mallori society.
Relations with Others
Mallori are quite personable, and most of them go out of their way to remain well-loved in their communities. While they are not as natural at this as a Changeling, they are still adroit diplomats.
Most Mallori live among the other races, rarely interacting with other Mallori beyond their initial entrance to the world. Mallori are not rare, but they tend to be thinly spread throughout the civilized races. On rare occasions, however, a community of Mallori will be found in a box canyon somewhere, having carved an impossible lacework into the stone and built an architecturally impossible city of shadows. The locations of these places are, by their nature, hidden, as they are cities of shadow after all. However, the locations seem more about finding a region in which the Umbra is "right" than anything else. If asked, the residents of such places will admit, if pressed, that such cities remind them of their lost Kael Ghalean. Some scribes speculate that these efforts are an attempt at undoing whatever ill befell them so long ago.
Strangely enough, Changelings rarely, if ever, settle in proximity to groups of Mallori. This may be simple economics, or maybe they can't stand each other and are each too polite to say anything. Other races seem to find Mallori useful to have around, and most actively enjoy their company. Even Bru-kin see the wisdom in a Mallori's council. Halflings seem to find Mallori a little vapid or disconnected. Gnomes, however, take great pleasure in the endless parade of stories a Mallori can tell.
Starting Height and Weight
Gender Base Height Height Modifier Weight Weight Modifier Male 4 ft. 9 in. +2d10 in. (4 ft. 11 in. – 6 ft. 5 in.) 100 lbs. +(2d8×7 lbs.) (114 – 212 lbs.) Female 4 ft. 5 in. +2d8 in. (4 ft. 7 in. – 5 ft. 9 in.) 70 lbs. +(2d8×4 lbs.) (84 – 134 lbs.)
Adulthood Intuitive Self-Taught Trained 0 years +1d2 years (1 – 2 years) +1d4 years (1 – 4 years) +2d4 years (2 – 8 years)
Mallori have no class or alignment restrictions.
Standard Racial Traits
All Mallori have the following Standard Racial Advantages:
- Attributes: Mallori may choose to gain one of the following ability score bonus sets when creating their character. No ability score may ever be modified above a 20 or below a 7.
- +2 to two different ability scores, -2 to one ability score
- +2 to one ability score, +1 to three different ability scores, -2 to one ability score
- +4 to one ability score, -2 to one other ability score
- Size: Mallori are Medium creatures and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Type: Mallori have the Humanoid type, with the Outsider subtype.
- Base Speed: Mallori have a Walk speed of 30 feet.
- Languages: Mallori begin play speaking Common and Tenebri.
- Bonus Languages: Characters with a positive Intelligence modifier gain one bonus language per +1 of their modifier, selecting from the following list: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Orc and Tengu. Once the character's intelligence is high enough to have acquired all six of these bonus languages, they no longer gain bonus languages for increasing their Intelligence. Characters can also learn new languages by placing ranks in the Linguistics skill.
- Shadowsight (Su) Like all races, Mallori can't see in True Darkness, but they are equally as blind in Bright Light. However, they can see perfectly in dim light or darkness with no range limitations. Most Mallori that want to get along with normally-sighted races wear smoked goggles to tame bright light, turning any bright light into dim light. These goggles are subject to disarm attacks and can also be stolen with the proper combat maneuver.
Major Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Major Racial Traits:
- Walk in Shadows (Su): Once per encounter during combat, a Mallori with this racial trait may teleport (as Lesser Teleport) up to their Walk speed as a move action. At 11th level, when the Mallori uses Walk in Shadows to teleport adjacent to one or more enemy creatures, those creatures are considered Flat-Footed to the Mallori until the end of the Mallori's current turn. (Note that, because the creature isn't actually flat-footed, creatures with roles, such as threats and heavies, who normally have partial or total immunity to conditions, are not immune to this effect.) At 26th level, this racial trait may be used up to once per round (instead of once per encounter). This ability may not be used outside of combat.
- Shadowcloak (Su): Mallori with this racial trait can shunt some of the physical damage they take into the realm of shadow, granting them 1 point of physical damage resistance (DR 1/-). This bonus increases to DR 2/- at level 11, DR 3/- at level 21, and DR 4/- at level 31. This stacks with DR x/- gained from class abilities feats, magic items, armor, equipment and spells.
- Shadowsoul (Su): Mallori with this racial trait have energy resistance (ER) versus negative energy (energy, uncommon). The value of the ER is 5 + the Mallori's character level. This ER stacks with other sources of ER/negative, but not with any other types of ER (like ER/Common or ER/-). In cases where two different types of ER could each be applied to mitigate negative energy damage, only the highest available value is used.
- Clarity (Ex): Mallori with this racial trait gain Perception as a natural talent, allowing them to remap it to the ability modifier of their choice, instead of the modifier normally used by the skill. In addition, they improve their chances of a critical success with Perception by 1 (requiring a natural result of 19 or 20 to crit with the skill check, instead of only a natural 20). Furthermore, a Mallori with this racial trait gains a training bonus to initiative of +2. The initiative bonus improves to +3 at level 11, +4 at level 21, and +5 at level 31.
- Shadowstalker (Ex): Mallori with this racial trait suffer no penalty when moving at full speed while in a Stealth stance. Furthermore, they can run while maintaining a stealth stance, but suffer a -10 penalty.
Minor Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Minor Racial Traits:
- Storyteller (Ex): Mallori with this racial trait gains the Perform (Oratory) skill as a natural talent, allowing them to remap it to the ability modifier of their choice, instead of the modifier normally used by the skill.
- Town Gossip (Ex): Mallori with this racial trait gain a +1 training bonus to both the Diplomacy skill and the Sense Motive skill. This bonus improves to +2 at level 16, and to +3 at level 31.
- Homeseeker (Ex): Mallori have a deep-seated desire to find their way home. Mallori with this racial trait may put ranks into the Naturalism bailiwick skill even if it is not normally available to their class, and add a +1 training bonus to their checks. This bonus increases to +2 if they have 11 or more ranks in the skill, or +3 if they have 26 or more ranks in the skill.
- Thin Emotions (Su): Mallori with this racial trait gain a +2 training bonus to saving throws against fear effects. This bonus improves to +3 at level 11, +4 at level 21, and +5 at level 31.