All who live must die, though many attempt to cheat the reapers of their due. Magic can extend life to unnatural lengths, resurrect the departed, bind souls to lifeless forms, or animate the dead. Violating death's law is not without risk, however. Wayward souls live in constant fear of the reapers' mortal servants, the shades, whose sole purpose is to shepherd the undying to their rightful rest.
Becoming a Shade
Shades earn their name by passing through the shadow of death and returning changed. Only a person who has had a near-death experience may become a shade. Sometimes this is a chance occurrence; a person with a fatal wound or terminal illness mysteriously recovers as a shade. Other times, it is intentional. Coteries of shades have been known to induct others into their ranks by burying them alive or having them drink lethal poisons.
The method seems to make no difference, and there is never a guarantee of survival. Regardless of the wishes of other shades, the reapers keep their own council in choosing new servants and never indicate how they make such a determination. People who have led lives marked by death seem to be favored: Soldiers, executioners, survivors of great tragedies, even gravediggers and undertakers. None can be sure of putting one foot in the grave and stepping out again, however, nor do any but the shades themselves know what sort of bargain is struck at death's door.
Shades refer to their calling as the Harrowing. From the moment they rise from the shadow of their own death, shades devote themselves to hunting those who have defied death. This includes the walking dead, ensouled constructs, those with unnatural lifespans, the resurrected, and the spellcasters who perform such magic. At times, this may be accepted in civilized lands, such as when shades slay necromancers or the undead. Shades are commonly shunned, however, because victims of the Harrowing are often seen as innocent.
Shade must be willing to kill at all times, which means shades must be flagged for PvP at all times. Being unflagged calls the shade's conviction into question and may result in a loss of status.
Shades cannot slow their aging or extend their natural lifespan by any means, nor can they be animated as undead, changed into constructs, or resurrected. Characters who already meet this description (e.g., graefward, golems, vampires, recipients of resurrection) cannot become shades. Doing any of these things, willingly or not, likewise brands the shade as a target of the Harrowing and forfeits their status.
Reapers may compel shades to kill those who have forestalled or reversed the natural order of death. A shade who resists such an order may be punished or lose their status.
Shades and Healing: Though many shades hold a leery view of the healing arts, reapers have always remained silent on the issue short of resurrection. It is believed that preserving life is considered the province of the living, so shades may accept magic that mends wounds or resuscitates, and even perform it themselves. Those who perform or receive resurrection, however, become targets of the Harrowing.