After the Great Unweaving unraveled the threads of Story, the Realm was plunged into a dark age during which much wisdom and knowledge was lost. No one can say how long these Broken Years lasted, because in that time, time itself was torn asunder.
The seasons no longer followed the yearly cycle that folk had lived by since time began. In some storylands winter refused to give way to spring. In others, summer lingered on and on, drying up rivers and withering crops. In many places the stars disappeared from the night sky, and the sun and moon rose at strange times and according to no rhythm or pattern that anyone could have faith in. Folk found that they had lost days, or years, out of their lives. Stories that had once been places of harmony and order descended into war, famine, and ruin. Many precious, irreplaceable stories, and storytellers, disappeared into silence.
It was during the Broken Years that the men and women known as loremasters first appeared in the Realm and fought against the darkness and the silence. They did not fight with swords or spears or devices of metal and fire. Their weapon was knowledge.
The loremasters journeyed through the Realm, learning all that they could of the ancient time of the Stewards, and sharing that lost wisdom with all they met. It was the loremasters who discovered the forgotten knot-paths that linked far-flung regions of the Realm, and the hidden refuges for travelers known as snugs. It was the loremasters who carried the light of the fathomless fire through the dark so that it did not utterly go out. And it was the loremasters who kept the memory of Story as it had once been, and could be again. With their tales and songs they rekindled hope, and mended the wounds of the Great Unweaving, and the shadows of fear and ignorance slowly drew back. It was said in later ages that these great loremasters told the disordered seasons into harmony once again, and even restored the sun and moon to their proper round in the heavens.
In the most lightless lands, the first star to reappear in the empty night sky was named the Waylight, in honour of the nameless loremaster who had gone about with his lantern, driving the creatures of darkness away and promising the people that the night could not last forever.
Malabron, the Night King, had been defeated by the Stewards, but not destroyed. He retreated into his kingdom of shadow, but during the Broken Years his power began to grow again. Much of the terror and loss of that time can be attributed to him. Malabron once more began to weave a story of his own into the fabric of the Realm, a tissue of lies that painted him as a saviour, a bringer of light who had been exiled by the jealous Stewards. And many who gave in to fear and despair in this time believed his story, and submitted to Malabron and became his willing servants.
It is the destiny of all mortal things to die and rejoin the Weaving, from which they may some day return, in new bodies and forms. Malabron deceived his followers with the lie that the Weaving did not exist, that there was only death and darkness beyond the grave, but if they followed him they could live forever. And so they refused the Weaving, and came to Malabron’s shadow country, and he did give them a life beyond death, but it was the lifeless, hopeless existence of the fetch.
Malabron hated the Tain Shee, the Fair Folk who had stood against him with the Stewards. But he hated and feared the loremasters almost as much, for they woke people up to his lies. So he sent his servants to hinder and destroy them. There had once been many loremasters, for they shared their treasure of lore with anyone who wished to learn it. But in time, as Malabron’s hunters did their evil work, few dared openly call themselves loremasters anymore. The few who survived and carried on did so at great peril and often in secret. They came to live in out-of-the-way places, and were known to folk only as farmers, tinkers, cobblers, healers… and toymakers.