he Celestial Shields are more than just warriors. They're part scholar, part Pangool acolyte, and all protector.
Its hard to say when the tradition of Shield Arts started in Garuda
, however, we know that it started off slow and small. The earliest origins of Celestial Shields trace themselves to the small See'er villages that were largely forced to stand on their own. Through generations of defense, various shield art and styles started to develop. However, these various disciplines were merely small locally focused styles, all hinging upon protecting citizens or loved ones. While shield defense is prevalent throughout Tikor
, the isolation the See'er people enclose themselves in makes them more apt to handle matters internally. This has ranged from religion to food and trade, and of course self-defense. While the use of shields in conflicts is a general staple of Tikor, the See'er simply developed it from a tool to full art.
See'eran shield arts would truly transform though upon the discovery of Sigil Temples. Within the hallowed halls of these mysteries temples, the voices of the most ancient Pangool became clear. While The See'er
have been in communication with the Pangool
since the beginning of their history, the See'er could not hear all of them yet. Each Sigil Temple is attuned to a specific god, making it the ideal place to communicate with these ancient figures. The first invocation a Celestial Shield often does is to the patron Pangool of their temple. However invoking a Pangool is not that simple, or safe for the unpracticed. When the first Sigil Temple was finally unlocked after 50 years of denial, attempts were made to communicate with its Pangool. Yet, it was quickly discovered that the magnitude of an Ancient Pangools Etherforce
was too much for low ranking Hekan users to handle, resulting in a number of deaths. The need for stronger practitioners was clear, and what better place to train them than the temples themselves.
There are regular people problems, like timberwolves that-have-wandered-too-close-to-town problems. That's dangerous, but we can handle that ya know? Then there's 8-foot-tall-brain-suckin -Nandi-Bear-that-has-been-stalking-the-town kinda problems. THAT'S why we let him stay for free.
Hidden Temple, Secret School
Initially, the merging of shield arts and temples came as part of a bodyguard program. Shield warriors, as most Tikor warriors, were already highly attuned to the deities as well as being skilled Hekan users. They would protect or assist any Diviners or Spirit Mediums given how vulnerable they could be while connecting to the spirit realm. Over time it became clear that in essence, it was the shield warriors themselves that were most capable of dealing with the enormous spiritual pressure. The first shield school to be established in a Sigil Temple would also become its most famous, the legendary school, Sangomar. This staple academy is generally hailed for integrating the Sigil Temples into shield arts, a trend that continued as more temples were unsealed. While each temple has become a Celestial Shield school, each is also a bit distinctive, based largely on the Pangool it serves. Sangomar, for instance, is the Sigil Temple of Engolum, the Pangool of Discipline and Rationale. The school as such as adopted a feeling of strict order and rigorous work on fundamentals.
Early on it was decided that not only combat but general education was important to future protectors of See'er
r life. These studies include local and world history, philosophy, cosmology, math, and divination. These are balanced in equal amounts by more physical pursuits such as hand-to-hand combat training, weapon training, physical and spiritual conditioning. The idea is that no matter the type of person, be it a warrior or scholar, an equal study of the universe as a whole is important. Nonetheless, another problem reared its head, adults were considerably harder to train in that they skewed toward one side of study or another. It was noted though that children excelled at balancing the two halves considering they had no experiences to make them resist. While this decision was met with much vitriol from the older crowd the sheer lack of successful adult students underscored the point. Eventually, the decision was made to move toward developing the students at a younger age where they would be more apt to absorb the new information.
The interior of a Sigil Temple
Formation of Flames
The status and access of shield warriors were elevated when the first King of The Divine Order of the Phoenix
brought a proposal to The See'er
elders, The Saltiguine
. While a few See'erans were a part of the Order, the kingdom as a whole was not. King Ludan was not only interested in the See'er joining the Order, but she also wanted something else. See'er shield warriors had gained notoriety over the years for their fierceness in battle yet fairness in life. The Order had grown to the point of attracting enemies and the famous shield warriors of the Adras Mountains
sounded like the solution to a burgeoning problem.
For what was undoubtedly a tall order the King made an offer that was almost too good to pass up. In exchange for the See'er lending some of its finest warriors, the Order would pay tribute to the temples, essentially paying for the services. The See'er people culturally looked down on the hawkish approach of trading, so the concept of pure tribute was ideal. With that, a separate wing of the Order was created, The Celestial Shields of the Eternal Flame
. King Ludan bestowed the title of Celestial Shields onto the largely nameless warriors, in a move that she called "Overdue reverence to an already established art".
In See'er culture the Pangool
stand as not only deities and gods but effigies of emotion, sentiment and See'er
life. These ancient gods are not simply meant to be worshipped, they are meant to be heard and understood. Its been a long-standing tradition that a young See'eran child pick a specific Pangool to be their patron before adolescence. This bond is meant to signify a person's path in life as well as their commitment to an ideal. This is not only a tradition but a requirement at Celestial Shield schools. The full power of current shield arts is only truly reached when done in combination with Invocation.
That means not only tapping into the Etherforce
of a Pangool but controlling the torrent of godly energy into a manageable form. This comes with not only years of practice, but with a successful connection to a Pangool. By picking a patron, this pre-establishes a connection, a halfway completed magical circuit. This patronage is a two-fold process though, the deity themself has to decide whether to accept or reject the patron. If the shield is rejected they may choose another Pangool, but the rejected deity will be off-limits for an indiscriminate amount of time. What makes a god accept or decline is largely unknown, but generally, they only like to align with those they find a kindred spirit.
Engolum, Takhar, Tiurakh, Lagan, Mindiss, Noxona. Come to us for we are dead. Pangool of the sky and celestial bodies, make us your shields.
Becoming a full-fledged Celestial Shields takes around 10 years, with the students coming in as children and leaving as adults. From their entry to the school till their graduation, the students spend their time in the Noot or nest. The Noot serves as a dormitory for each class of students. A simple wood and stone building, the nest is built outside of the temple, usually in the surrounding woods. The Noot is the only home fledgling shield warriors will know until the end of their schooling. Countless hours of studying and reading will be done within its modest walls. Countless hours of grueling and demanding physical training is done in the fields encompassing it. Once a day they'll enter their Sigil Temple to receive guided lessons in Hekan and specifically, invocation.
At around 10 years in, the class begins to be tested to see if they are ready for graduation. Once every shield student has chosen and been accepted by a patron as well as passed all written and physical tests, the class is ready to graduate. In a token of symbolism and the beginning of the rite of passage, the Noot is burned down. From there, the students move to the Sigil Temple where they undergo their Rite of Initiation. In the Temple, under the watchful eye of their Templemasters and any available nearby Prime Shield, they invoke each of the Celestial Pangool. These are the Pangools in which every Temple studies and connects with. The students are ritually cut during this process, in which they are expected to show no fear and no quiver. Shields are symbolically killed to show that they have no fear, they are the very shield and vessel for the Pangool. This last stage is where any failure means failing to become a Celestial Shield as a whole, as there are no second chances at this final stage.
Contract or Freelance
After the Rite of Initiation, the students are officially Celestial Shields. From here are a number of paths a shield may take. The most common one is to become a contract Celestial Shield for a town or village. This most often is the warrior's hometown, allowing them to go back to the home they've had to spend so much time away from. Some shields go to other villages in need of a local shield, become the bodyguard of a noble or some else of vague notoriety. The other common avenue is to become a freelance shield. Garuda is a huge region and dangers lurk in my corners and the Order doesn't have enough reach to address them all. Freelancers will often migrate to these parts and deal with these threats in exchange for currency or room and board.
The last path is also the most exclusive yet well compensated, and that's joining the Eternal Flames. Or more correctly, being chosen by the Eternal Flames or member of The Divinity
. Either way, it's the Shield's choice, although some temples actively discourage joining The Celestial Shields of the Eternal Flame
. While its no doubt that the See'er and Sigil Temples as a whole have benefited from the arrangement, not all citizens think it was the most honorable of choices.
Family, Glory or Rich and Lazy. Take your pick, choose wisely.
The Sigil Temple of Lagan
What defines Celestial Shields from the previous generation of shield warriors is their ability to invoke Pangool during combat. The third path of Hekan , Invocation
, is about weaponizing the etherforce of spirits and deities. In the case of Celestial Shields is less of weaponizing it like a weapon and turning it into a multi-faceted tool. While there are a number of Pangool
that one can draw from, the main 6 or "Celestial Pangool" are considered among the most powerful. The of the main consistencies among Shield schools is that all five Celestial Pangool invocations are considered mandatory for graduation.
The Pangool of Discipline and Rationale is one of the most common invocates used due to its tactical possibilities. Through Engolum , a Celestial Shield gains an unnatural like hardiness. The skin hardens and a sure grip is all but ensured on anything the shield grabs. A clear sense of calm washes over the Celestial Shield, making them any calm wall in the storm. When things are tough and its time to dig down and find grit, Engolum is the one they call.
While Celestial Shields are about protection, there is always a time when justice is needed, or vengeance doled out. Invoking the Pangool of justice and vengeance, Takhar makes it capable of returning the punishment taken by victims under its watchful eye. This allows the Celestial Shield to deflect or even reflect damage back to the assailant. In some cases, the user may even be able to return damage already taken if strong enough. Some Primes are even said to be able to transfer wounds from a victim back onto the one responsible.
Within the Pangool Tiurakh is unusual in that he is admired and despised in almost equal amounts, usually by the same people. The Pangool of wealth and material belongings is called on for its luck. Being wealthy is sometimes a stroke of luck meeting careful preparation. When Tiurakh is invoked the luck of the user is magnified. The difference a lucky hit or last-minute dodge makes, can save one's life or turn the odds.
When a Celestial Shield needs to see the whole situation, Lagan is the Pangool to the call. The Pangool of Knowledge and Thought allows the user to see the whole battlefield, the whole picture. Invoking Lagan peaks all the senses and gives the sense of time slowing down. In reality what is happening is that senses are gathering so much data that the users can predict their abilities with stunning speed and accuracy.
The Pangool Mindiss is seen across the Kingdom of See'er as a protector. She protects the country some harm within and out, and the Shields expect that when they invoke her. This forms a protective bubble around the user that can be moved at will. This is most often used by Celestial Shields to protect vulnerable people during battle, escorts or otherwise. This is one of the shortest duration Invokations available to shields, lasting a few minutes at a time, but its uses are worth the cost.
Pride is the strength of Celestial Shield, proudness in what they stand for and what they fight for. Their pride empassions and strengths their resolve. This causes the invocation of Noxona, the Pangool of Pride and Fearlessness, to strengthen the shield. This often comes through as an increase in physical strength or short burst of speed used to overpower an opponent, or use brute strength to power through a situation. Its also often used as a quick kill strike. Some often call it "The Pride of the Lion", and is often the most flashy of abilities, making it even more fitting of its moniker.
Above all else, Celestial Shields are champions of the Pangool
and subservient to their goals. The Pangool, though, truly want the best for all of Ro'og's children and strive for humans to persevere.
This is why one of the main purposes of a Celestial Shield is to protect innocents from harm and fighting in battles that no one else can.
Celestial Shields sit in a caste of their own. They are generally recognized worldwide, with more than few leaving Garuda in search of adventure. Like most See'er traditions, this is not something is that either encouraged or discouraged. In the end its all about the honor you bring to your people and your patron deity. In these foreign lands, Shields are often treated with respect and a modicum of awe. The stories about the Celestial Shields often reach distances the Shields themselves thought impossible.
In Garuda, for the most part, they're treated only a few steps below the King. For some towns, Shields are their only line of defense when the divine aren't paying any mind.
While Celestial Shields may use any number of tools depending on the job, there is one item that is synonymous with the honorable protector, the Star Shield.
The Star Shield is the culmination of decades of work from Dihoma Forgewhisperers and an invaluable tool for Celestial Shields. The shield is capable of changing into all the various shields used by the warriors. This, combined with Pangool Invocation, allows a Celestial Shield to be ready for any situation as it unfolds. Through years of practice, shield warriors have learned to be able to change shield types in effortless and in motion.