The Changramai were a mystical order of warrior monks with a quasi-religious devotion to Cay (Kai) in the Shadow World history. They were founded in northern Emer in 2500 Second Era as a disenchanted offshoot of the Xiosian warrior priests who served the Titans, a group of demi-gods who chose to reside on the planet rather than Orhan (Liabo) and ruled over the continent for a few thousand years. In practice their order is less of a monastery and more of a training school, with no organized religion within the compound of the citadel. It is the source of the paradox that they are famous principally for being mercenaries.
While some were purely martial in their techniques, others were trained to be superb mentalists. The Changramai were masters of unarmed combat who would, despite their ascetic lifestyle, hire themselves out as bodyguards and security specialists. These were never roles of being a soldier proper, as it would be far too expensive. It was the mark of very wealthy individuals and major institutions to have Changramai as staff.
The Changramai Citadel was founded in the Choak mountains of Tai-Emer, their school named for a legendary master named Changrama. While this was the mythical inventor of their mind/body fusion techniques, it was actually founded by the Loari Loremaster Tanris Dekdarion. His grandson is the famous Loremaster and Changramai Master T'vaar Dekdarion, the Master of Defenses for the College of Karilon. It is the only school known to exist and its location is remote, near what would become the Pochantos empire and the Forest of Ash. Devout youths would travel there to learn the arts of mind and body control.
The Changramai are famous for running up walls, making tremendous leaps, punching through stone walls, and performing seemingly impossible acrobatics while engaging in unarmed combat. They will grab arrows out of the air and defeat half a dozen armed men with their bare hands. It is rumored that they can tell a liar by the sound of their voice. In manner they are stoic and only socialize with each other, not even with other workers wherever they have been hired long-term. Those who reside at the Library of Nomikos (Biblia), their largest customer, never leave the library complex to visit the port below.
The Changramai are willing to allow entry to essentially anyone, regardless of gender, except that they will only accept an elite minority who can pass their rigorous testing. It is uncommon for anyone older than a young adolescent to be admitted as an initiate. While the monastery takes in orphans from infancy, they may only train if they show sufficient aptitude. Initiates are tested for aptitudes and preferences for five years. They begin as a "First Veil" monk in a progression that ends with the tenth veil, each of which is designated by its own color. These are earned with a physical and spiritual trial judged by a tribunal of masters, which means it is not a purely objective matter of ranking.
There is a second form of designation related to their two basic schools of martial arts. The "Talshya method" is focused on striking attacks, whereas the "Renshya method" focuses on unbalancing and throwing. These each possess four ranks, which are earned independently of each other. There is more curriculum if the monk wishes to become proficient in mental magic. The veils would correspond roughly to ten level increments for our world.
The Changramai wear simple white robes that will not hinder their motion. However, they can be identified by subtle distinguishing markers, such as a colored collar band corresponding to their veil. Their rank in striking methods is represented by triangular pips on the left side of their collar, and throwing or unbalancing maneuvers by pips on the right side. When they pass their first veil they are given an intricate, enchanted small red triangular tattoo on the back of their left hand. Some will optionally choose to have a second such triangle pointing down tattooed under their left eye. They use a unique three-bladed throwing knife called a Jata. It is a circular weapon that slashes as a broadsword but is thrown as a spear.
With the exception of the visible tattoo, however, the monks will never wear their rank or veil insignia while working. It would only serve to reveal to others any potential weaknesses in the bodyguards protecting their clients. They will only hire out monks who have passed the third veil with at least four ranks in martial arts (at a minimum of 10 gold per day), with much higher fees depending on the level of expertise and experience. The monks must pay a 50/50 split with the monastery. It is possible to identify them by their all wearing black or gold metal wristbands as well. In a cold environment they may instead wear long black hooded robes with boots, instead of their usual practice of wearing pants and being barefoot.
Behind the Scenes
The Order of Vult
In the I.C.E. Age GemStone III was set in roughly 6050 Third Era, the "present" according to the Shadow World timeline. In 6039 Third Era the Lankan Empire (Kannalan Empire) of high men, the theocracy of Klysus (Luukos) in northeast Emer, conquered the Pochantos. The borders of the theocracy were such that the outlying provinces were now next to the doorstep of the Changramai monastery. It is possibly the case that the Order of Vult (Voln) had actually acquired its martial arts training from the Changramai, and that the original backstory of the order was intended to be related in some way to the recent expansion of the theocracy. The Lankan Empire has a major role in the intrigues surrounding the Eyes of Utha in the 6050s, and the Jerak Ahrenreth set about forming an opposing force a couple of decades earlier to counter its power. This would have had the potential to interface with the false "enlightenment" background in the Council of Light, where the "adversary" of Poohbah should be the rival conqueror Lorgalis who has ties with Klysus and performs similar false personas. Such a storyline would have been made obsolete by the end of the I.C.E. Age several months after the society was introduced.
The story the monks tell of their founding is impossible for multiple reasons in its original context. Lord Fasthr K'Tafali (Iruaric/Erlini: Lord of the Half-Heads) would have been a blood relative of Akalatan (Amasalen), or else himself a military conqueror of the theocracy to be a manor lord of an outlying province. The manor lords also resided in the capital city, rarely if ever on their landed estates. It is utterly implausible that they could have run such a monastery within the theocracy of Klysus for thousands of years. The Lankan Empire did not exist in the year these events supposedly happened, and the Lords of Orhan (Liabo) were entirely absent from the world in that period. In fact, 1300 was the exact year the Empire of Emer was founded, with the whole continent united under a single ruler. It was the height of civilization following the Wars of Dominion, with unprecedented peace and stability. Their origin story is thus a very blatant lie by the monks, but its purpose was apparently never developed.
The concept of an elite order of martial warriors who hire themselves out as expensive bodyguards was reintroduced to GemStone IV with the Palestra. It is unclear whether the guard at the Voln monastery in Wehnimer's Landing was intended to be Changramai. White robed monks tend the field, while others wear black, but the Grandmaster wears blue robes. Their "Voln fu" nominally came from the favor of their gods, but their backstory is dishonest in its original context. There may have been a political agenda or something otherwise unexpected, revealed later in the Path to Enlightenment.
[Monastery, Meditation Room] This small room is quiet and restful. A beautiful geometric pattern has been inlaid in the west wall, with four plain stone benches facing it. Obvious exits: east >look pattern The complicated geometric design has been worked directly into the polished stone wall using various precious metals and gemstones. The whole mural seems to draw the eye towards a large lapis triangle at the center. >look triangle The multihued iridescence of this triangle, crafted from lapis lazuli, is almost hypnotic in its beauty. >look bench The plain stone benches are angled toward the intricate mural on the wall.