The Horizon Zero Dawn Blanket: The Shadow Carja Stalwart

The HZD Blanket

Y’all, I am getting very excited at how close I am to being done, and very nervous at how not close I am to being done.

Does that make sense? Has anyone ever run a marathon before? I’m basically at the twenty mile mark. The Heartbreak Hill, if you will. It’s crazy that I’ve already been running (or, in my case when I was doing these things, going back and forth between walking and light jogging) for twenty miles, but I’ve still got six fucking miles left! And a month and a half left to do it! Yeah, the panic is starting to set in. Let’s try to calm down by talking about…

The Shadow Carja

Also known as the Carja in Shadow, they live at the western edge of the map in a place called Sunfall. Smack in the middle of Bryce Canyon, actually.

As a complete aside: go to Bryce Canyon. If you’re planning a Grand Canyon trip, Bryce is only about five or six hours north in Utah and it’s just…bizarre. Like, the Grand Canyon is amazing, of course, but Bryce is otherworldly. What you see in the video game is not an exaggeration. In fact, it’s toned down from reality because what appears in the game is half buried. The hoodoos in the real world are much taller. The Grand Canyon is definitely worth the hype, but I was fucking overwhelmed in Bryce Canyon.

Anyway, back to the game.

Remember the shitrat insane king we talked about, Jiran, and the civil war that led to his death and his son Avad taking over the kingdom? Yeah, you didn’t really think all of the Carja were happy about that, did you? These may be humans in a far-flung future, but they’re still humans, and there’s going to be a percentage of them that think they and maybe thirty close friends are the best and everyone else can suck it and die. Hence, the Shadow Carja.

These motherfuckers were 1000% behind Jiran’s slavery and bloodsport and didn’t want it to end. So when it did end they packed up all their shit and splintered off the Carja, becoming their own tribe fueled by greed, hatred, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, a blind belief in a corrupt religious system, casual murder, and paid murder. And they’re doing great!

I’m kidding. They’re very slowly dying.

Nothing but dust and sadness

While the aforementioned corrupt religious leaders and former Carja nobles seem to be doing okay, the common folk who either came along or got dragged along for the ride are all slowly starving to death. The Shadow Carja ran off with a lot of convictions and not a lot of solid ideas on how they were going to sustain themselves. In fact, it sounds like the only solid idea they’ve come up with to deal with the problem is ‘creep into the camp in the night and kill the oldest and weakest.’ Turns out the blood of the murdered doesn’t water crops. Who knew.

At the beginning of the game, the Carja and the Shadow Carja are locked in a sort of Cold War standoff, but like the way it was in the sixties where one false move could make it go hot at any moment. Also, just like the Cold War, it really seems to me like the whole conflict is vastly one sided. I’m pretty sure if the Carja got their shit together they could take care of the problem over the weekend. The Shadow Carja do have super-buff troops, but there’s no way they have enough. And then the general population is, again, slowly starving to death. I think Avad is looking for a peaceful way to end things to minimize resentment, but I wonder if he actually got to see that camp if he’d realize he was taking the coward’s way out. The religious nuts and the nobles are going to be pissed, but they’re always pissed about something, so fuck ‘em. March in there and save those dying people.

Striking Shadow Carja

Finally, the last time I have to plug ‘notable’ into At least until I make a blanket for Horizon Forbidden West and drag you all into that, too. Anyway, we’ve really only got one to talk about, and that’s…


Vanasha isn’t even actually Shadow Carja, she’s a spy for the Carja. And I really think she should have been caught by now because she’s the only one over there who doesn’t show signs of malnutrition. Vanasha is reporting directly to Avad’s main CIA guy Marad while she pretends to be a handmaiden to Nasadi.

Actually, let’s talk about Nasadi for a second, because it’s super fucked up. Nasadi was King Jiran’s wife when all this bullshit went down, but she’s not Avad’s mother. In fact, she looks like she’s roughly the same age as Avad, which means Jiran was not only shitrat insane but also your standard middle-aged creep who got himself a second wife half his age and immediately knocked her up. It’s not entirely clear how Nasadi and her son, Itamen, ended up going west with the Shadow Carja (if its in the available lore in the game, I missed it) but what is clear is that if it were up to her, Nasadi and Itamen would have fled back to Carja months ago. The religious nutjobs are holding the two of them hostage, and pretending that Itamen – literal four year old – is the actual Sun King who is totally giving power to the religious leader of his own free will, you guys.

So, Vanasha shows up to ingratiate herself as Nasadi’s handmaiden and get dirt on what’s going down over in Deathville, but almost immediately discovers that Nasadi would rather be in actual hell than Sunfall. Her new mission quickly becomes Get Nasadi and Itamen Away from the Crazy People.

Vanasha is criminally underutilized in the game for how fucking awesome she is, and I seriously hope we see her in Forbidden West. She’s cool under pressure, flirts with Aloy nearly as hard as Petra does, and my God, those abs.

This is relevant to all our interests.

And, for the fans of the game, yes, there is another very important person in the Shadow Carja. But I’ve avoided talking about the main plot of the game for this whole series and damn it, I’m not going to break now.

The Outfit

Every single person in the Shadow Carja may be terrible people all the way down to their soles and souls, but holy shit do they know how to keep to an aesthetic.

While the Carja love wearing as many colors as possible without looking like a clown, the Shadow Carja have dedicated themselves to sunset colors. Shades of purple and dark reds, baybee, who would possibly wear anything else while living in a place called Sunfall? It’s practically a uniform. In fact, remember Ahsis, the tube of dick cream running the Hunting Lodge and making Talanah’s life a living hell? Take a look at what he wears, even while being in Carja proper:

To the surprise of no one.

The Shadow Stalwart armor seems to be a mixture of the Carja Blazon and the Shadow Carja Kestrels’ armor. It’s the only outfit in the game that needs to be worn in a specific place – namely, Sunfall, because you may have gathered that these people aren’t going to be impressed with nosey strangers who ask a lot of questions and punch dudes in the face. On top of this, the outfit itself also gives Aloy immunity to machines that have blinding and sonic effects. Also, it looks dope as fuck.

The Squares

The Shadow Carja are the only tribe in game that only have the one outfit, so I made two variations of the same square. In preparation for making these patterns, I went on and bought a skein or two of every shade of purple they have, because I wasn’t sure which shades I would ultimately use and I am a sucker for purple. You’d never know it now, but when I was in high school I was one of those ‘I’m not like other girls’ type girls who refused to do anything girly and hated ‘traditional’ girl shades. And now I’m in my thirties like ‘pinks and purples are my life.’ Message to any teenage girls out there: If you’re doing the ‘I’m not like other girls’ thing to protect yourself from what you think society wants you to do, you’re still being controlled by society. There is no escape. Always do what you want and don’t pay attention to the teenage boys who for whatever fucking reason think their opinions about you mean dick. Because they don’t.


The pattern I went with is called Dahlia, and is very similar to the two patterns I used for the Carja Blazon and Blazon Master because there are similarities in the outfits. Instead of using contrasting lights and darks, though, I went with a gradual colorway either going in or out, to fit the sunset aesthetic that the Shadow Carja are going for. I prefer the ones with the light colors in the center, but I love how the interchanging squares look.

Also, this seems like an excellent time to talk about…

The Importance of Blocking

Let me tell you a story of little baby writer Shannon who thought she’d never have to edit anything and could just ‘get it right’ on the first draft every time until the day she finally admitted to herself she was an idiot and that editing was a vital part of writing and could potentially be the most fun part.

That’s it. That’s the story.

I also had the same opinion about blocking at first, and I was equally as wrong. Luckily, thanks to my experiences with editing, I realized how wrong I was way faster and have since gotten TWO separate blocking kits.

Blocking, for those who don’t crochet or knit, is the process of getting your work wet, lying it flat in the shape you’re trying to achieve, and then pinning it in place while it dries. For a larger shawl I made over the summer I laid it over the blocking foam and used a spray bottle, but with these squares I just put them under the tap. Some people will use a wool wash or starch, but for these squares simple water has been working fine for me.

For my Nora squares, which were made from the bottom up in rows, the blocking helped to take the curls off the corners. Meanwhile it almost completely changed the shape of my center-out squares, taking away the wrinkles and making them bigger by at least a half-inch in every direction. It also makes the squares softer overall, even without the wool wash.

A weird fear I had was that once the pieces were dry they would eventually curl and resume their pre-blocked shape, but that hasn’t yet and at this point I don’t think it will. Blocking is essential to getting some pieces to be their best.

And those are the Shadow Carja squares! We’ve only got a few more articles, folks. I’m looking at one for Meridian, Sunfall, and Sunstone Rock, another for the specialty border squares, and then one for how I’m stitching everything together. I’ve got a month and a half until Horizon Forbidden West comes out. What do you think? Can I do it?

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