The Shang are a legendary order of fighters that are skilled not only in all manner of weaponry, but in a number of hand-to-hand battle techniques. They may come from all over the world, but they are trainined in a hidden facility located in northern Maren. They are nomadic sort, and tend to roam the lands and see all there is to see. When they get older some Shang settle down to an everyday life, return to the Shang school for teaching or become judges.
- "...the Shang system is pretty much the same as the Chinese and Japanese temples where martial arts was taught (except mine admit women)."
- "The stories she'd heard about the Shang came nowhere near the truth. The Dragon went from blow to kick in a blur. When he struck a man, that man stayed down."
What outsiders know of the Shang is typically very little - they like to keep to themselves, they do. The school for educating and training new Shang warriors is hidden in northern Maren. They are required to master many kinds of weapons and, more interestingly, a number of barehanded techniques of fighting; If something happens to their weapons, they can still protect themselves and anyone else who comes along. In this sense, they are better warriors than, say, a knight, who is pretty much wholy dependent upon their weapons.
They are taught all manners of herb-lore, in case of the likely event where they get caught needing healing and with no healer nearby. It is reasonable that they probably also know of poisons, but as that is an assassin's tool and not congruent with the teachings of the Shang, they probably do not use the poisons. No need.
From what Liam Ironarm told Alanna, Shang train whenever they can, starting at or before dawn. Because Shang discipline is reportedly more harsh than than of Knight training, it is reasonable to assume that they probably trained all day, every day.
The students are taught from ages 4-7 until - usually - their late teens, where they must take an ordeal. If they pass their ordeal, they must then successfully live on their own in the world for a year.
At this point in time, it is not known what the ordeal of the Shang consists of. It is reasonable, however, to assume that it convers all of the teachings of the Shang, including bladed combat, hand to hand combat, and herblore. It is also possible that - like the ordeal of the the Tortallan knights - the Shang ordeals target students' weak points and hammer on them.
No one is Gifted in Shang. "The Gifted use their magic for a crutch," according to Liam Ironarm. "They won't surrender to Shang study, because they know the Gift can always win them an escape. If their Gift was taken away, they'd be helpless."
The Shang do allow healers to work on them, but the students are Giftless. Not so much because the Masters think people use it for a crutch as because they know training a Gift takes students' attention away from other things. When you follow Shang, you follow only Shang - if you are to succeed.
Who May Join
The Shang accept both boy and girl children, no older than seven years of age and as young as four, to study their hard way of life. They come from all over the world, though, obviously, they typically come from locations close to Maren. Typically, nobles don't join the Shang without having been thrown off by their families first - and in the stories, none of them are lasses.
Each Shang warrior receives a combat name after having successfully passed their ordeal and year of wandering, and the name is always an animal. Warriors named after mythical beasts - unicorn, griffin, dragon - are the best of their order: the Dragon being the very best of the best.
Women of the Shang prefer names they don't think are "flashy." That means not that many Lionesses or Dragons. Liam Ironarm's mentor in kick-fighting was the Wildcat. She always said that if the men wish to attract attention, that was their problem.
Mythics beasts are flashy by nature, but it's rare for someone to enter their ranks.
Because of their fighting prowess and the mystery that surrounds who they are and what they teach, the Shang are often seen as legends, the stuff of fables and myths. Many, when encountering a Shang, are in awe of them.
Some believe the Shang to be upped-up folk, on par with nobles and the like. As such, they tend to not believe that the Shang would associate with 'ordinary folks.' However, if someone tells you that they are Shang, it is generally wise to listen to what they say. As it is a crime to impersonate a Shang, the veracity of one's stating they are a Shang can usually be instantly known.
Most people welcome Shang because, as notorious drifters, they go from place to place, picking up information and current news. People like to talk to them, and find out what's going on in outside lands. They also like hearing the stories that the Shang has to share.
- Hakuin Seastone, the Shang Horse
- Eda Bell, the Shang Wildcat
- Joesh Valany, the Shang Falcoln
Liam was born at the very beginning of the fifth century, the younger son of a farmer. He was about four or five when the Shang Bear came to his village and examined all of the children; out of all of them, the man said that he "might do." Liam proved to be an exellent student, so much that he became the Shang Dragon, the best of the best. He was in his mid-thirties when he met Alanna and travelled to the Roof of the World with her. He became romantically involved with the Lioness, but their romance was short-lived. Despite this, he wound up travelling to Tortall with her. It was during his stay that the forces of Eldorne and Tirragen made a bid to secure the throne for the Duke Roger, and Liam perished in the defense of King Jonathan IV. Despite dying in battle at a young age, Liam lived a long life by standards of his vocation. He was the oldest Shang Dragon in over a hundred years, with none living to be over forty years of age.
Kylaia al Jmaa
During the fifth century of the Human Era, Kylaia was the Shang Unicorn, one of the best of the best. She was from a faraway land, perhaps Carthak,or a neighboring country, and her family was a wandering tribe. She taught herself to fight, like the ostriches, the lions, the zebras, the giraffes, and other savannah did. She was 'discovered' by the Shang Falcoln of the time, Joesh, who took her on as his student "despite her advanced age," considering it an honor to teach so inventive a young lady. She was described by Liam Ironarm as "The most beautiful thing on two feet, all silk and steel and lightning." However, she did not consider herself to be as beautiful as her sisters, and it's probable that Liam's assessment of her beauty had more to do with grace, strength, and martial arts skill than conventional standards of beauty.