Hulubalang Tanah, translated literally as Earth Guardians, are guardian spirits. They are often found in spiritually-rich localities that also have statues or sculptures, leading these spirits to assume those forms. Throughout the years many have confused them with the Jembalang Tanah, which are Earth demons. The biggest difference is that Jembalang Tanah are often found in virgin forests and are usually its guardians, responsible for protecting trees and wildlife from human encroachment. The Hulubalang Tanah, on the other hand, have only been found near settlements and/or areas where the spirituality has a focus.
A Hulubalang Tanah can come in a myriad of forms, but most forms it chooses to adapt are ones designed for mobility. Depending on where it gained sentience, this form may be adapted for speed, flexibility, or simply power. There have been stories of Hulubalang Tanah in the shape of giants and tigers, with some speculation that the heads on Easter Island are forms of old Hulubalang Tanah who have decided to give up on this life.
However, it would be fatal to think that once a Hulubalang Tanah has assumed a form, that it is its true form. A Hulubalang Tanah can shapeshift and adapt to a different form if it desires, though this happens rarely and stories of Hulubalang Tanah shapeshifting in a matter of heartbeats are mythical legends at best. The shortest recorded time it has taken a Hulubalang Tanah to shapeshift is approximately 30 minutes, with most changes actually taking between 2 hours to five days, depending on the start shape and the desired shape. Hulubalang Tanah also cannot simply imagine a new shape - they must refer to a living model, and certain forms it seems, are forbidden to them. Returning to its preferred form will always be quicker and can be done without requiring a living model.
A Hulubalang Tanah usually cannot leave the area in which it is born. It can expand the range of how far it can go by training and practising, but this is a long process. Some new Hulubalang Tanah can barely travel over 50 metres from the location where they gained sentience. Others have been known to travel over 1,000km from the place where they were born. Still some have been reported to be able to travel to completely different continents, with enough preparation.
Death of a Hulubalang Tanah
Studies have shown that even if the original reference shape for the Hulubalang Tanah is destroyed and the area razed to build houses, buildings and cities, the Hulubalang Tanah can still exist if it so desires. However, it can be injured and through these injuries, sustain mortal wounds that eventually take its life. In absence of injuries though, a Hulubalang Tanah can live for millennia and beyond. Rumours abound of Hulubalang Tanah that have been around since the Ice Age, but this has not been independently verified.
Most Hulubalang Tanah are employed by Jabatan Sihir to guard various locations throughout the country. In Muddy Estuary, a large proportion of them are employed to manage the Holding Cells in the lower levels of Loyal Park. Hulubalang Tanah employed here are all spirits local to the area, with some being strong enough to come from forgotten forests twenty kilometers away.
Hulubalang Tanah are solitary creatures by nature but have grown to adapt and live communally. Each Hulubalang Tanah is given several days off a month to visit the locale where they gained sentience in order to strengthen their connection to the land and keep existing.