Before Shadowgate is a prequel book published by Scholastic Corporation in 1991 as part of the Worlds of Power series of Video Game Novelizations. It is written under the pen name 'F.X. Nine'. It is the preqel of the Shadowgate series of games.
The story and the videogames take place on the world of Tyragon, a planet orbited by several moons, the fifth of which is the crescent-shaped Traal. Jairen is introduced as a 15-year old orphan from the town of Wooddale, who is bullied by other children. He bears a crescent birthmark on his cheek and for this he is called "Traal-faced". Jairen was cared by his aunt Delma, until went to apprentice under the smith Thurl. As he runs away from a bunch of bullies, Thurl shows up from the smithy and drives them away, then takes Thurl inside to finish a job. As Jairen works the bellows, he ponders on his past.
One day, while Thurl was absent to the town, an old man shows up on a lame mare, and requests from him to make a shoehorse. Jairen is at first reluctant as he had never shoed a horse alone before. The stranger insists as he is in hurry to the Western Forest. Jairen does the job and the stranger pays him with a half-darius, said to be valued enough to be fed for weeks. Jairen is then sent to bring back his staff.
As he touches it, he teleports into a castle. He enters a hall with hundreds of statues, each one bearing the face and name of a past King. The last one however has no features and the name is blank. Jairen finds the view unsettling and tries to leave. An iron gate opens in front of him and looks at a tall distant mountain. His thought is lost and understands that he must go there to find the king. On this thought, he is brought back to the smithy, holding the stranger's staff. As the stranger leaves into the night, he says that they will meet again. For some obscure reason, Jairen packs his stuff and leaves the town, in order to find the mountain Gatekeeper.
Jairen continues his journey, thinking about Thurl and the life he lives behind. He passes through the village of Brookmead and reaches a forest. He stops at a grove of "dindin" trees and decides to climb one for its fruits. He hears a voice below who "thanks" him for the fruit he dropped. It is a fenling, a 3-foot tall person. Suddenly the fenling hides, as a band of angry men approach: they are looking for a thief who stole a hen from a red-bearded man. Jairen wishes them luck and the fenling reappears as they leave. The fenling, Fezlyn Quickfoot, is a thief, and he stole the hen to feed a poor family.
Jairen is woken up in terror as he hears the voice of the red-bearded man, threatening him for hiding the thief; only to see that Fez, who can mimic voices, makes a prank to him.
Following the road they leave the woods and reach the Farming Plains. They grow hungry and steal some "pentabeans" (fruits with five "fingers" with vivid purple color, streaked with red) and start to look for fruits in an orchard of "tikka" trees. There, thirty dwarves dressed in armor of leather and steel and carrying small axes, come toward the orchard. As dwarves and fenlings don't go well along, Fez responds hostile to them but the fight is averted by Jairen. The leader of the dwarves say that they come from the great council in the city of Rivlyn.
As the dwarves finish their snack, the leader, who introduces himself as Avadale, leader of his tribe, lights his pipe and tells about the council. Evil threatens the peaceful existence of the people, as goblins, orcs and changelings have alerted them. The council hosted representatives of Tyens, druids, and all of the races. Jairens's questions make Avadale to narrate to them the whole history of Tyragon, something that Fez comment the dwarves love doing:
- Tyragon and all life was created by the all-powerful One. The Elverdan (Elves) were the only sentient people and prospered during the earliest known age the Barbaric Age. When the Elverdan began to worship new gods, the One brought forth the Portent of Doom, a flaming star which brought floods and earthquakes. The Elverdan fled into hiding:
- Those who had fled to the caves became short and stooped and learned to work with the ores and minerals beneath the surface; the dwarves.
- Those who fled across the southern deserts and learned to band together in tribes and tame the beasts, became the humans.
- Those whoe went into the north cold wastes were strengthened fighting the element, and are called barbarians.
- Those who fled into the swamps, grew short and agile, the fenlings
- Other Elverdan became other races, including a few true Elves.
- During the Age of Enlightenment, all the races grew and prospered and explored the world. They formed the Circle of Twelve, a council of knowledge that met at the Castle Shadowgate within the Gatekeeper Mountain.
- During the Great Expansion, there were many wars over boundaries and Kal Torlin was founded. This led to the War of the Races. , when one member of the Circle turned evil and turned each race against the others. He was banished and named Tykl Droelyn or Warlock King. At the Dark Age that followed, the races attempted to rebuild themselves, but the the Warlock King begun the Rage Wars against everyone with trolls, orcs, goblins and other creatures. The Time of Chaos came and the Circle gathered strength to help the kings of their lands to defeat the Warlock King. He was put in the caverns below Castle Shadowgate and when the Circle disbanded, Lakmir the Timeless stayed behind.
- The Rebuilding Years were followed by the Time of Sorrow, when almost all of the Elverdan disappeared mysteriously, and the last of the DelDanian seers died.
- The most recent age was the Light Age, a good time for all races. But then, a group of foolish dwarves liberated the Warlock King from his prison.
Jairen learned that Lakmir the Timeless is looking for the one who will defeat again the Warlock King: the future hero's statue is unfinished in the Great Hall at the Castle Shadowgate. The night had fallen and Jairen kept questioning Avadale, who warned him that the Death Wraiths are also looking for the future king.
On the morning Jairen woke and found the dwarves gone. Fez was waiting for him on a branch of a tikka tree. As he ate, Fez inquired on why Jairen seemed so interested in the dwarf's story. They resumed the journey and Jairen told Fez about his vision and quest to Gatekeeper to find the faceless king. He also told him about his aunt Delma and the Traal-shaped birthmark.
They followed a road between through fields and orchards, with the Western Forest next to them, which reached out toward the Farming Plains, seeming dark, gloomy quiet, with a musty smell unlike the forest near Wooddale. Jairen was startled by a flash of movement, and Fez tried to lighten him up, until he too was frightened by something.
Eventually the road headed straight into the forest. They left sunlight behind. The walk was going quietly until they heard goblin howls. They were surrounded as they started running. They burst into a small clearing following by the goblins. There, Jairen saw the gray-bearded stranger sitting by a small fire.
The stranger, keeping a mysterious calmness in the middle of the clearing, welcomed the two people. Goblins entered and he took them out with lightnings, fireballs and spells that controlled roots and branches. However large amounts of goblins continued to enter, and the stranger took the two and flew on a tall branch. The goblins ended up fighting each other. When everything went silent, the trio dropped again to the ground and left the forest.
There, the stranger told them that he is none other than Lakmir the Timeless and promised to teach Jairen some of the simplest spells. At night, Jairen woke up feeling a dark figure above him. Lakmir told him that it is a Death Wraith, searching for something, which it won't find tonight. Feeling safe, Jairen fell asleep again.
Once more, Jairen wakes up late, and sees Fez warming a root on a fire, a "ground apple" which he eats for breakfast.
In the afternoon they passed the plains and reached the Olden Stand, a dark but beautiful and welcoming forest. Jairen notices the breezes and birds inside the forest. They are surprised by elves who suddenly appear next to them. Fez is captured, and the elves tie them with vines, saying that their King wants to see them.
The band arrives at a clearing. Jairen is sent to an old stump which opens, and inside sees the throne of the elfin King, to whom he describes his quest. He notices his birthmark and says that he is of true blood. He names him Lyth'n K'tarr, meaning "Seed of Prophecy", and orders his men to guide them through the forest safely.
Jairen and Fez continue to walk through a land which is not farmed. Fez says Jairen that they are near the swamp of Darkmire occupied by terrifying creatures. Soon darkness falls. Fez notices a campfire nearby and smells roasted "shippu". Fez runs to steal some and the two approach the camp, but they find out that the campers are seven trolls. Fez is noticed and the two are captured. The trolls find them a fine addition to their shippu dinner.
The troll who captured Jairen approaches him to the fire to roast him. Then Jairen remembers the fire spells taught by Lakmir, and manages to put it out. The camp is engulfed in moonlit darness but the troll doesn't set him loose. The trolls shout to eat both of them without cooking. Then he sees a dark figure, armed with a pair of scimitars, entering the camp and attacking the trolls. Jairen falls down and runs away, seeing the silhouette of the stranger dancing around, slaughtering all the seven trolls. Jairen lights again the fire and approach the stranger, who does not talk much. His name is Hawk and refuses to say anything about his background. Believing that they are met for a reason, he says that he will come with them for some time.
The trio make a camp for the night. Jairen notices Hawk who stays vigilant by the fire as the two of them sleep. In the morning they wonder how come Hawk did not take a rest all night. Jairen offers a tikka to him which he devours hungrily. They he shyly asks him to train him and become a warrior, which Hawk eagerly does.
They resumed their journey and the afternoon they passed through open plains on their right and dismal swamps on their left. Suddenly Hawk notices a black smoke towering at the distance. The three run towards the smoke and find a village that has been burned down, with crying women and children and barking dogs. After helping some of the villagers anyway they could, Hawk explains it is the work of Death Wraiths, who killed or abducted the men. He tells him that the Lord of the Death Wraiths is to be killed by one of the line of ancient kings.
As they walked away from the ruined village, Jairen stops and vows to his companions that he will not stop his quest until the Warlock King is stopped. Further away, they notice a band of Tyens (a race of lionmen) resting near a rock. Their leader wakes and approaches him, only to hear the funny remarks of Fez. Insulted, he calls Fez to a fight to the death for his honor and does not accept his apology. Hawk, whom the Tyen recognises, offers to fight for Fez.
During the fight, the two prove equal warriors and seem to fight for ever until both of them fall by their wounds. Then the Tyen steps on a puddle of blood and falls down. Hawk refuses to kill him and helps him stand, but the Tyen says that he must take his own life. Jairen intervenes saying that he is worthy of many more battles. The Tyen then offers his loyalty to Hawk.