They Guard the King of Garuda from the Shadows
he Kings of Garuda have long been protected by a selective sect of shadow fueled warriors known as Shadowtails.
The exact origin of shadow invocation is still a mystery. Some researchers have said the originators wanted to stay anonymous, not wanting to be associated with the dark art they had created. The most cited rumor is that it was an invocation gone wrong. A young and inexperienced invoker
attempted to channel elements beyond his ability and in a twist of fate tapped into an unknown void. Whether it was by design or accident, someone could successfully and repeatedly invoke from a nameless void, and gain abilities by doing so.
As with any standard invocation, channeling a higher being’s Etherforce
brings supernatural abilities and more. The shadows, however, are a bit different because it’s not a singular being or element that you are tapping into, it’s a plane. The void exists both within and outside of the world humans know. Some have described it as feeling like an invitation, or others have said a challenge. Either way, the shadows are not like elements that let anyone powerful control them, nor are they gods that need to be served and pleased to allow invocation of their massive Etherforce. No, the shadows choose who they allow into the void. The criteria are unknown though many whisper that only the wicked are picked by the umbra. Shadowtails
say those rumors are simple jealousy over being denied a power that whisperers wanted so badly to obtain.
Sometimes when I'm in the nothingness, it feels like those living shadows, the Shadowcats, are just watching me, waiting a mistake so they can pick my bones clean. The shadow realm is not your home, no matter how quiet it may be
All invocation comes at a cost, it’s just the nature of channeling a cosmic energy through the mortal body. Naturally, drawbacks to shadow invocation were completely expected. At first, it was the standard effects such as fatigue and nausea after repeated invocations. However, as the art grew within the shade of the Ilun Valley
, a heavier price was to be paid. Rumors of creatures the hue of twilight spread across the Valley. One witness described hearing what sounded like the roar of a large cat as they watched a helpless victim be pulled screaming into their own shadow. A new type of creature was found in the darkness. Shadowcats
Restricted by Daylight
These dark ambushers would plague the night and dark corners of the Valley for years. Finally, in 1780 D.A, a young shadow invoker confessed to the The Divine Order of the Phoenix
what the other shadow users had secretly known for years. That high-level Invocation can break the barrier between worlds, giving the horrific monsters the ability to swim in the shadows of our world. After learning the deadly secret of Shadow invocation, the King had the art banned throughout all of Garuda
, with the punishment for breaking the law being exile or death. Some of the greatest Celestial Shield
, as well as The Holy Armada
, were brought in to find and exterminate all the remaining Shadowcats
Umber, the City of Darkness in the unnamed shadow realm
Resurrected by the Ring
After the discovery of Shadowcats
via shadow invoking, the art went unused for almost a hundred years. However, at around the 1780s, the alliance of Garuda’s nobles, the Chosen, formed. This alliance would become known as The Ring of the Chosen
, and they felt they needed their own protection. After using Celestial Shield
for fifty years, members of the Ring complained that they needed a more incognito bodyguard. For the first time in decades, shadow invocation was mentioned as a feasible solution. The idea spread and within a year the Chosen were thinking about allowing the forbidden art to be practiced with their own personal guard. The oversight branch of the The Divine Order of the Phoenix
, The Eyes of Garuda
, criticized this move. Their warning about the seductive nature of the shadowy profession fell on deaf ears as the Ring passed an internal vote to allow the practice under the purview of the Ring of the Chosen.
School of the Night
In 1835 D.A. the Ring of the Chosen
reduced the practice of Shadow Invocation to a restricted art. They also approved the established of a formal School of Shadow Invocation. The users of this art would become known as Shadowtails
. The goal was to teach and refine the art of shadow manipulation in such a way as to eliminate the biggest threat, the accidental summoning of ravenous Shadowcats
. They quickly discovered through a series of unfortunate and fatal incidents that the dark felines couldn’t be tamed or even befriended. In a typical cat fashion, the Shadowcats chose whom they served and when they obeyed. This is a personality trait that can be cute in small domesticated cats, but terrifying when possessed by a 700kg phantasmal beast. This caused some of the higher ranks of shadow invocation to be forbidden due to the increased risk of Shadowcat summoning. The long-term effect of this was a decrease in the combat focus of Shadowtails, and instead an increased focus on the more spy-like elements of the art.
What the Ring did was not only a violation of the trust the people put in them but an insult to the gods they see each day. As King, I take responsibility for not seeing how their own greed and selfish desires were coming before Garuda’s best interest. As of this morning, I have removed Shadowtails from the control of the Ring of Chosen. Never again should those of destined blood abuse what makes us strong.
For a time the controlled system placed on Shadow Invocation worked. Shadowtails focused on using the shadows for movement and stealth instead of strikes. One of the principle abilities would be Shadesense, the ability for a Shadowtail to sense where someone’s shadow is. Like how a cat can smell and sense its prey, this would evolve into the ability to not only sense but to travel through the shadow realm itself and appear from the prey’s very own shadow. In the hands of the Ring, Shadowtails became the ultimate covert agents, silent spies who didn’t need visual confirmation to find a target. Eventually, the secret world of noble shadow games would be exposed in 1902 when the Ring of the Chosen member Amadi Farsiight
was assassinated. An investigation by The Eyes of Garuda
would determine that her assassination occurred at the direction of another Chosen member. They arrested a Shadowtail who was paid for the hit, confirming the doubts of the public. For the second time, Shadowtails became synonymous with cold-blooded murder.
The King’s Shadow
After the murder-for-hire scandal rocked the The Divine Order of the Phoenix
, several changes were made. The first one was access to Shadowtails being revoked from the Ring of the Chosen
. The king at the time, King Omola Ludan
, personally made the decree. She famously chided the Ring in a public address where she apologized for their blatant misuse of power. The Shadowtails returned to being the personal bodyguard of the king, their mission: protect the king and any nobles present at the royal residence, the capital, and the other royal properties. This move angered many of the Chosen, who fancied themselves the equal of the royal family. The illusion of equality was dispelled, leaving some nobles displeased at their drop in perceived power. Some scholars cite this as one of the primary reasons for Amma Zencora's
rise to King in 1976 after the death of the last Ludan matriarch.
In the School of the Night, various abilities are learned although the bulk of the training is around mastering the effective use of Shadow Invocation. Unlike other disciplines, fast and precise was the best method. Leaving yourself open to the unnamed nothingness complicated an already complex invocation. Shadowsense, the ability to sense and track shadows, is a mandatory ability for graduation. Most other applications involve hiding in shadows and in some cases, the dimming of light using shadows. Beyond that, the majority of abilities are deemed forbidden.
Mmobo, the Shadow Leopard
The leopard god of shadows. Few know about the Night King, and even less is known about him. Mmobo only appears to those he deems worthy of saying his name.
Umbra, the Nothingness
A call to the darkness itself. Some Shadowtail are said to have gone to the mythical city of Umbra, though none can confirm it. Navigation through the shadow realm is a tricky one, and even those who claim to have gone are unable to show others the way back.
A Shadowtail in full armor
The Divine Order of the Phoenix Official Flag
What does Shadowtail mean?
Students of the art say the name has to do with the Shadowcats that populate the nameless shadow realm. A subtle callback to the umbral beasts that complicate the art. Dissidents within the Divine Order are more sarcastic about the name. They jokingly say they're named after the way they can always be found at the King's shadow, tail wagging like the shady individuals they are.
Other Associated professions
The qualifications for becoming a Shadowtail are somewhat fuzzy. To be accepted into the School of the Night you have to be an exceptional candidate. Physically and mentally. The rigors of invocation strain the body immensely, so a strong student is needed. However, the Shadowcat's themselves have the final vote. The first time a student successfully invokes the shadows is when they will know whether the umbral cats approve of them or not. For those denied, further invocation would only risk death.
Shadowtails are the individuals allowed to use shadow invocation. Beyond this sect of King's guard, the Hekan art is banned with extreme prejudice. Anyone caught practicing or teaching it outside of School of the Night faces charges of Treason. For that the punishment is either death or eternal imprisonment
After the murder of a Chosen at the hands of a paid Shadowtail, the issue of payment has been a sticky one. Since there are no independent Shadowtails, all of them are effectively paid by the Divine Order. The amount paid or other benefits are unknown, kept under wraps and known only to the King or the Eyes of Garuda. This minimizes the impact of bribery and corruption in the future.