Shugenja


Part priest, part diplomat, part warrior... few in human culture are as famed or respected as the Shugenja. Any mere peasant can entice spirits to his aid through prayer and ceremony, but the Shugenja take it still further. They can shape the land, bend the weather to their will, and call upon the power of the elements in a manner unmatched even by the noble Samurai. While Samurai simply enlist the aid of whatever kami may be found on hand, the noble Shugenja bond with a single one (or in rare and exceptional cases, a small handful) for their entire lives, with the spirit growing and gaining in power alongside the caster.

The vast majority of Shugenja hail from one of the great Orders. Each has their own role to play in society, and all are respected greatly by the people of the Empire. Each carries their own practices and methods, but they share a mission of emulating that which is best in the elements, while working to evade their faults.

The Order of Earth

Earth is strong. It is stable. It is the bedrock upon which society is built. The Order knows this to be true, and it is reflected in the manner in which they channel spells. Many earth-order spells are internalized, boosting strength, speed, or other attributes. Most others relate to endurance or growth in some manner as well, and the casters of the Order are best known in civilian life as laborers, guides, and tenders of plants. Military earth-order casters are paragons of might, leaning strongly towards a preference to engage up close, fighting side-by-side with samurai and using their spells to make up for the difference in skill-at-arms.

The two Sublime Virtues of Earth are Strength and Humility - the examples set by the earth are an inspiration to all.

It is the strength of Earth that holds up the world - even so is it the duty of each and every member of humanity to support their fellows. The creed of the Order of Earth urges each individual to excel, to push their limits, and to never cease their quest for self-improvement. Members of the Order of Earth may choose any profession - what is important is that they perform it to the best of their ability. Some might chafe at the seemingly endless practice extolled by the Order, but those with their hearts truly aligned with the Earth find that self-improvement has a joy all its own.

However, for all its might, the earth is the quietest of the elements. It does not bound from place to place, nor demand attention. It is humble in its strength. The Order of Earth speaks often and earnestly of this - the duty of the mighty is not to demand praise for their might, but to use it to lift up others. Poor in wisdom is the master who holds himself aloft for his skill - for this reason, the Order of Earth has a special respect for teachers of all walks of life.

The Deadly Faults of Earth are Cowardice and Inflexibility.

Just as the earth is humble, so too does it allow itself to be pushed aside with those with the will to do so. It does not move - it does not act. It stands passively as the world around it crumbles and returns to dust. This is unacceptable, and the Order of Earth stresses always the importance of confidence and the power of one to stand against all things. Through courage, all things are possible, and belief in oneself is the key to making one's mark on the world.

And for all the strength of Earth, it does not adapt. A mighty boulder will stand amid a roaring river until it is eroded into nothingness. Even such wonders as the mountains crumble with time. Humanity must learn from the mistakes of the Earth, and not repeat them. No plan is ever perfect - no technique without flaw. To survive and thrive, one must learn that sometimes genius masquerades as madness, and never be afraid to forge ahead and make one's own path to victory.

The Shugenja of Earth identify themselves with the colors of earthy green and gold, and in the spirit of their faith often dress practically and conservatively. Most eschew the flowing robes of the other orders for simple trousers and tunics, and male and female alike often wear their hair very short, or even shaved off completely. Additionally, despite the general prevalence of females in the Orders, the Order of Earth is the one closest to having gender parity, and the only one to have a male Head. In line with their beliefs, earth spirits tend to appreciate the relatively common emeralds above other gems, disliking the ostentation of certain other stones.

Temples of Earth are often schools of trade, and places for people to gather in friendly compilation. Almost every town, no matter how small, hold some form of tourney on the grounds of their local Earth Temple, from martial competitions to cook-offs. Unlike the other Orders, most recruits to the Order of Earth are full adults, the hot blood of youth settled enough to appreciate the teachings of the stones beneath.

Those in the Order have a healthy respect for the Lord Terran, and see him as both an example to strive towards and teacher, to those willing to learn. He is often portrayed as the most sympathetic of the Elemental Elders, and is admired for his willingness to interact with mortals on their own level.

The Order of Air

The air is all-present. The air is all-seeing. Always it roams, seeking new sights, looking, learning, and moving on. True to the element they revere, the Shugenja Order of Air prize knowledge and learning in all its forms, and work always towards opening new horizons to explore. Spells of the Order reflect this, and work with the understanding that sometimes perception is more important than reality. They are the masters of divination, illusion, and rapid transportation. Among civilians, they are best known as scribes, librarians, and entertainers. Slightly more ominously, they are also known to be the eyes and ears of the Capitol, chronicling all manner of events to be returned to the hub of human civilization. In the armies of humanity, the adepts of Air are spies and infiltrators to rival those of the Nerra. When a more direct approach is called for, they teach their foes the terror of facing those who can strike from the sky with impunity.

The two Sublime Virtues of Air are Curiosity and Foresight.

The air covers the world, pouring over every nook and cranny like a good book. It always seeks out new sights and sounds, and carries them to distant lands. The Order of Air realizes that true progress is a product of those willing to look beyond what they see before them and demand answers before a question is fully formed. Humanity has always harbored an ancient desire to know, and the Order knows that all the spears and swords of the world pale before the wonder of that gift. Like the Order of Earth, they revere teachers - but for the questions they kindle, rather then the answers they provide.

Truly, the wind brings tidings of things to come. The calm before the storm, or the myriad scents and sounds forecasting the weather. All elements are reactionary to a degree, but the Air alone reacts to things that have yet to come. This gift of foresight is one humanity must seek to emulate, if it is to thrive in Creation. The ability to look ahead and think things through is valuable beyond words, and can be applied to any situation that is not entirely random. The general who can predict his enemy's actions can save countless lives, and the farmer who plans for the future will prosper while the short-sighted might starve.

The Deadly Faults of Air are Apathy and Solitude.

While the air sees all, it does nothing with that knowledge. It moves for all eternity, uncaring of the land below. This is a path to disaster, for it is not enough to merely know - one must act upon one's knowledge, or the knowledge is useless. The Order of Air encourages its initiates to hold their own opinion on all things - even if it is in opposition to the popular one. Likewise, they frown upon those who simply stand aside and allow injustice to occur. A bystander is merely someone who refused to act.

And for all the winds that flow across the world, they go alone. The wind flies a solitary path, and when two meet, the result is nothing but a cacophonous storm that helps no-one. The Order of Air recognizes the folly in this, for there is strength in unity. After all, it is the bond between a Shugenja and her spirit that allows her to wield her power. A lone warrior cannot stand against an army, no matter how strong - nor can humanity survive should it be fractured and divided.

The colors of the Order of Air are lavender and indigo, and the colorless Air is generally represented with such a soft palette. Given their Order's stressing of the importance of sight and perception, is is perhaps unsurprising that many members of the order take great care of their appearance. While the teachers stress not to allow one's image to be ruled by vanity, there is little harm seen is presenting the best image one is capable of. Air Shugenja therefore have a marked fondness for beautiful trinkets and form-flattering clothes. Perhaps from a extrapolation of this appreciation for the finer things, air spirits have a marked preference for diamonds, the rarest of gems.

Temples of Air are often libraries, counting-houses, schools, and administrate centers. Even the simplest of farmers and craftsmen are encouraged to bring their children to attend, and through the efforts of the Order, a surprising portion of the population is literate - at least, on a basic level. While donations are appreciated, none are ever turned away from lack of ability to pay. In part, this is because it is from these students that the Order acquires most of its initiates - the bright children unsatisfied with simple reading and writing and history offered by the elementary classes.

The Order of Air sees Lord Julian as something of a well-intentioned fool. There is nothing wrong with loving the world, but to overlook Creation's flaws in blind affection is a folly that stagnates any hope of change for the better.

The Order of Water

More than any of its fellows, Water reacts. Left to itself, it is tranquil, calm... but even the tiniest disturbance can send out ripples of action and reaction. The Order of Water realizes that this translates well to the situation of Humanity as a whole. No-one is an island, and every action has an impact on others - for better or worse. The magics of water reflect this - they bear the power to meld and change, but also to repair and restore to peace. Both in and out of military service, the Order of Water are best known as healers, medics, and tenders of plants. There is a tranquility in an honorable death, but it would be blind and foolish to let fellow beings slip into Kamigawa before their time.

The two Sublime Virtues of Water are Empathy and Adaptability.

Humanity will stand together, or it will fall divided. No other truth is so self-evident to those in the Order of Water. Each life is a structure held up by countless others, and none could ever hope to survive totally alone. Like the rivers of the world, they must flow together, and they will be stronger for it. For these reasons, the Order calls always for understanding and compassion of others. It is not weakness to call on a comrade for aid, nor to give it when the same is asked of you. They do not ask that one love one's neighbor... merely that you try to understand them.

And just as the twisting river will wear down the mightiest mountain, humanity must always be adaptable. Knowledge is part of the solution, but more important still is a willingness to accept change - never something easy to do. But things change whether humans wish it or not. It is up to humanity to ensure that when mountains are placed in their way, they flow around them rather than breaking themselves against them.

The deadly faults of Water are Treachery and Impulsiveness.

The bedrock cradles the river, even as it is eaten away. The crops wait for rain, only to be washed away in a flood. Water is chaotic, fierce, wild, untamed... and very, very dangerous. These tales are cautions against the greatest flaw of the element, for Water knows no loyalty of fealty of any sort. Humanity must avoid this at all costs! Lies, deception, and betrayal are the horrific wedges that serve to drive chinks into the armor of the Empire. If we cannot trust each other, then who can we rely on?

In a similar vein, one must not fall prey to Water's rashness. A river will leap gladly into the Mists without a second thought, falling to its demise. Actions must be weighed and measured, and acting without thinking is the surest path to defeat and suffering. It is the blessing of the Oath to Order that the human spirit may never truly die, and one must think not only of the next day or month, but the coming years, decades, and centuries as well.

Shugenja or the Order of Water clad themselves in the deep blues and greens of the rivers of the Isle. Like the rivers they so love, their clothes are often graceful, flowing affairs of light cloths. Most members of the Order likewise wear their hair long, both male and female - though males choosing the path of Water are exceedingly rare in comparison to the other Orders. Water spirits are known for their fondness for sapphires, and their presence is common in the garb of the Order.

Temples of Water are places of rest and healing. Most begin their lives in a temple of Water, delivered at the gentle hands of the place's healers. Many choose to end their lives there as well, the care of the spirits of the river carrying them peacefully to their existence in the next life. To bring violence into a house of healing is a crime so foul as to make even hardened criminals blanch - all recognize the sacred mission represented by these hallowed halls, and their importance to humanity.

The Order of Water sees Suzuchi as a troublemaker... but a relatively benevolent one. The chaos he causes is frustrating and unwelcome, but he means the best with his actions. His Kappa are seen by the "true" water spirits as being rather like the annoying younger sibling who insists on playing with your toys - irritating, but ultimately still part of the family... if one you'd rather not spend more time than necessary around. They try to pretend that they are not in fact as powerful as they are. It would disturb the Water Shugenja greatly to realize that the kappa are more than just mere spirits.
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