Shi'hadara

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Shi'hadara is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Shi'hadara: The Erithi Masque

GM Note 2021-05-15: Originally written by GM Auchand back when he was a player and found on his (now-defunct) website, this document was initially released unofficially in-game in 2004 when the story was told during HSN events. All credit goes to him. All I did was some spit and polish on an incredible creation. It then got lost for several years, and I'm excited to bring it back and make this all official. ~GM Xynwen

Shi'hadara: The Erithi Masque
Excerpt from The Art of Theatre: Mummery, Masques, and Madmen, a dissertation by Scholar Ashariko of the Yachan Dai

Overview

The erithi masque, shi'hadara, is a traditional form of theatre popular among some circles. A version of mummery, shi'hadara can be found throughout our recorded history as well as in tales of generations long past. Indeed, we believe it to have originated with the Agan Dai, and those of the Eloth Dai occasionally dub it the Sabrinthe Masque after one Sabrin'ako, generally believed to have been the founder of the artform in ages past. It is important to note, however, that the original shi'hadara has changed several times, and its current form is obviously influenced by exposure to other races and cultures over the past several hundred years. Also important for non-erithi to understand is that the shi'hadara is not representative of erithi life or erithi beliefs. We are most often the opposite of this mummery, and perhaps that is why its popularity has been maintained throughout the centuries.

An integral part of many erithi's cultural lifestyle, the shi'hadara begins with an invocation to Jastev and his mastery of fate and the providence of chance. This is a newer addition to the art. No one performance of shi'hadara is quite like any other, as variations in character and theme lend themselves to nearly endless permutations on even the simplest issue.

The foundation of shi'hadara lies in its varied cast of characters. There exists a set number of characters. In rare instances, a character’s inherent personality mutates, and the character is either renamed or a new character evolves and the old character retains its original characteristics. These changes can be driven by social or political winds. All characters are represented by distinctive masks, upon which only limited variations are permitted. Distinguished and wealthy performance companies utilize rare metals and precious gems in the construction of their masks, while the poor commonly make use of wood, cheaper metals, paints, and colored glass. Almost all shi'hadara masks are vividly colored.

Most masks also include a hidden interior marking, typically using an agate special to the wearer. This can be a chip of beetle agate inset on the interior edge of the mask or a full inlay edging of dream agate, for example. In addition, it is quite in style now for troupes to develop a special gem inlay representing the troupe as a whole and to include that somewhere on the interior of the mask. Examples of this include a thin inlay of sunset beryl etched with a lotus blossom or a small triangle inlay of summer agate. While agates may be used on the exterior of the masks themselves, it is more common to use other gems. Agates hold a special connection to the soul for most erithi, and these characters are often the antithesis of who we are. Thus it is fitting, but not required, to reserve the use of agate for these personal and troupe markings that represent the self and the collective versus the character.

Color and beauty are a major component of erithi mummery. All characters are separated into floral Orders based on their classical characteristics and stations. The lower Orders are as follows: Blaeston, which contains servants and those most closely bound to the land; Hyacinth, whose members are generally merchants and soldiers of a lower class; and Cothinar, reserved for priests, heroes, royalty, and their ilk. The higher Orders belong to creatures of nature elevated to a status beyond worldly power, such as demons, spirits, and powerful magicians. They are: Lotus, for lesser demons and spirits who frequently interact with the world; Orchid, under which are classified many minor local gods and powerful demons; and Hawthorn, frequented by holy avatars of the Arkati and other forces beyond mortal ken.

The actors and their characters, mystical and mundane, build the scenes of the shi'hadara, but they must have a framework upon which they might limn their expressive arts. In houses of erithi theatre, large six-spoke wheels are used to determine the unique composition of an evening's scene. The wheel is spun once to dictate the number of characters in a scene, which cannot exceed six. Next, the wheel is spun to choose the Order from which characters will be picked. If, for example, the wheel chose four characters in the beginning, it would be spun four times, one for each character, to select the Orders. The actors then choose which characters from each chosen Order will appear.

Characters are also organized into elemental Classes for ease of reference. The elemental Classes are not quite so restrictive in nature as the Orders. No set number of characters must be organized under any single Class. Fire suggests that a character's influence is destructive, while Air hints at flightiness and swiftness of action. Water lends itself to tranquil characters and bringers of unavoidable, slow change, and Earth is emblematic of the implacable and unshifting. Finally, Anima represents a powerful tie to mortal emotion and spirit. The Order of Elements is a recent convention, but already, each character has been assigned a distinctive Class sigil. It has become common in recent years to accent a mask with a sliver of jade representative of the elemental class (lavender jade for water, brilliant blue jade for air, pale red jade for earth, and black jade for fire).

While characters are typically referred to by a specific gender, this is more for convenience and generalized performance notes rather than an immutable rule. We prefer to focus on the characteristics and the performance itself, allowing for fluidity in who assumes a particular character's role and how that role is portrayed.

While the masks of the shi'hadara clearly define the art form, it is the requisite participation of the audience that truly distinguishes the erithi masque from other schools of theatre. Erithi theatre-goers are expected to mentally compose a situation or set of situations in which the characters must act. New and clever concepts are expected, as most artists take offense at simplistic or overly common ideas. The key behind successful audience participation in the erithi masque is that the actors must feel challenged by their work, but not to the point where the artistry itself is compromised. Thus, the shi'hadara is a study in symbiosis: theatre-goers provide an audience and an idea, while the actors provide entertainment and the fruition of fantastical concepts that previously lurked only within their viewers' minds.

The Masks

Masks are used in several variants of erithi theatre, but none so prevalent and elaborate as within the shi'hadara. What follows is a limited accounting of masks, and thus, of characters, most frequently represented on the shi'hadara stage. Each of the characters involved in shi'hadara is listed by floral Order. Subsequently described are the elemental Class of the mask, the distinctive sigil used on the character's qakoni (Erithi for mask), and details on the mask's appearance as well as some prominent information about the character.

Blaeston, Order of Servants

Chunig - Earth. A pickaxe lying on its side. The impoverished servant Chunig is lazy. His prime motivation is garnering food, but he is too enervated by his self-imposed inactivity to find simple cures for his problems. He composes elaborate plans and fantasies constructed about his continued laziness. These plans usually fail. His mask is usually pale ivory with a pronounced brow, but its prime characteristic is its comically gaping maw.

Lankura - Water. A plump grey hare. Lankura is always pregnant at some point in a play, often to comical effect. She is an uneducated servant who tries to win food and supplies for her growing brood. Over the years, Lankura has grown to become a sort of comic hero. Despite her shortcomings, she usually wins out against the odds. Lankura's mask is pleasingly chubby with a sheen of jeweled sweat striking across her brow and jowls. She has flushed cheeks.

Muranti - Air. A pale shape on a silver background. To escape their low status, Muranti disguises themself as a wealthier member of society. Despite obvious transparency, only rarely are these guises discovered. Their mask is choked with bright splotches of paint, metal fragments, and gemstones.

Zoloce - Air. A grimy palm clutching golden coins. Zoloce is a shiftless thief willing to betray anyone and anything for the warmth of gold. He is as charming as he is untrustworthy, and many times has been the downfall of trusting souls. His mask has aquiline features with cheeks dusted unnaturally white and a gilded nose.

Setosh - Fire. A lock of raven hair twined about a rusted chain. Setosh's legendary mishaps are a product of his physical perfection. He lives to entrance women of higher rank, striking at their hearts while reaching for their coin purses. When Setosh's dangerous liaisons backfire, he is punished severely by these women's powerful relations. Golden brows arc over his mask, which is trimmed in white jade or jewels.

Hyacinth, Order of the Common Man

Senisha - Air. A pair of emerald green slippers. Senisha is the daughter of a successful merchant who fancies herself an artist of various and sundry skills, often in the field of dance. She is incurably clumsy and untalented. Her mask is of a vivid emerald hue with a tiara of gold and silver crowning its brow. The mask is fashioned to resemble a bovine visage.

Danisos - Fire. A black fist clutching a single lock of pale hair. Loud and boisterous, the young priest Danisos is a disgusting lecher despite preaching about the lofty morals and standards he claims to embody. His mask is twisted by a coarse smile and closely resembles a hunting cat. A semicircle of round white gems winks along its brow.

Obela - Earth. A slightly bent silver sword clutched by a rusted glove. Long-winded about her accomplishments and prowess, Obela is secretly very self-conscious about her lacking a knack for warfare. It is customary for her to engage in duels and win through a combination of accident and good fortune, which only serves to deepen her self-loathing. Her mask is steely and studded with gold, its lips a startling red.

Grijino - Earth. A bouquet of drooping poppies coiled by a whip. This character is a master of torment, aggressive and often cruel. His saving grace is that he suffers from a sleeping sickness, which makes him an easy target for pranks and mockery. His face is broad with an orcish semblance. Brutishly thick eyebrows further this image. He is easily distinguished by an oversized bronze nose ring, much like a bull's.

Bikuru - Wind. A purple orchid caught in the beak of a red tanager. The honored concubine Bikuru is a servant to kings, queens, and handsome young nobles. According to the dying old traditions, they choose their custom. Bikuru is regal and wise, unafraid of taking the highborn down a notch when the need arises. Their mask features brightly rouged cheeks and an amethyst-set silver forehead gem dangling at their brow.

Cothinar, Order of the Highborn

Raephe - Water. A broken golden crown horizontally encircling a white tree. The character of Raephe is a bastard. His high birth has not shielded him from poverty. Raephe is a bringer of changes, though his influence is not always welcome. He is usually the hero of pieces in which he is involved. Raephe's mask has raised scars across his nose and along his jaw. The scars are lined with jewels and glisten wetly. He also bears a sapphire earring.

Inagri - Water. A silver orb crowned by a green eye. The seer Inagri is gifted with true foresight. They see all that will or might be. They are emblematic of Jastev, or in some rare cases, the Silent Goddess Gosaena. Their mask is of an owl's visage patterned with jeweled feathers about its brow. Despite Inagri's lack of extravagance, their mask is often unusually ornate and comprised of a striking conglomeration of hues: gold, cream, violet, and sapphire.

Ninkure - Air. A triad of teardrops falling toward a dark bronze ring. Depressed over all of her losses, Ninkure perennially weeps for her lost loves. She is wealthy and middle aged in most incarnations. Ninkure pushes herself upon unsuspecting males and preys on their sympathies while lavishing them with expensive gifts. Her rodent-like mask features a spray of crystalline tears down its right cheek.

Simblin - Water. A crooked wooden staff capped by a rough amethyst. A sage who has lost his powers to a mind addled by age, Simblin experiences rare moments when his wit is as sharp as a rapier's tip. He mostly contents himself with telling antiquated tales. His mask is greyish and wrinkled, with a bright beard of jeweled shards. Its features are unnaturally elongated, as if wrought of molten wax.

Draeg - Fire. A burning black censer puffing virulent green smoke. Draeg is an addict of the worst sort, consuming his princely wealth on every manner of base wants. He often delays his unquenchable longings with burning herbs. Because of Draeg's desperation, he is an easy target for ruffians, thieves, and others skilled in the arts of duplicity. His mask is a sickly pale celadon with blued lips and crystalline kohl about its eyes. A single ruby burn-mark adorns the mask's left upper lip.

Lotus, Order of the Immortals

Gilandiri - Anima. A crimson-eyed black fox pawing a broken sapphire. The influence of Gilandiri is often prophetic, appearing in characters' nightmares. She is the diametric opposite of Morvin, always spreading fear and terror. It has been rationally suggested that Gilandiri is an avatar of Sheru, but her thirst for dominance suggests Eorginite ties. She wears a vulpine mask in varying shades of red. Her ears are prominent and pointed.

Morvin - Anima. A blue-eyed wolf gnawing on a shattered ruby. As a giver of dreams, Morvin is a servant of the night who strives to aid those lost in the darkness. It is rare for Morvin to act as a main character. They more frequently act as a symbolic being whose reality is questionable. Their mask is blue and scaled, with silvery veins.

Qualys - Water. A silver bow nocked with a sprig of white-berried holly. Qualys acts as a patron of the lost, especially those who are trapped in the woods. She has a grudging appreciation for the mischief of other woodland spirits. Her nature resembles that of the common sylvan. Her mask is radiant gold with emerald creepers at the temples and a heliotrope set into its brow.

Khagayena - Fire. A crimson-eyed white hart with a black crown. Khagayena's powers are nearly as lacking as her sense of self-importance is overgrown. She is known for her distinctive cackle and unimpressive threats of death and destruction, which are liberally doled out upon any who cross her. When confronted, she slinks away to fume. Her mask is predominantly iron grey, with a trio of red gems at her brow and a lower lip set in patches of lightless black.

Raonju - Anima. An open black gate set with a golden key. As a disembodied spirit, Raonju is a voice and manifestation from beyond the grave, which cannot physically affect any mortal characters. They interact freely with avatars. Their mask is pale and featureless save for unusually large eyes highlighted by mother-of-pearl lining.

Shaiha - Fire. A blooded silver sword caught by a black fist. The murderous spirit Shaiha is culled from a relatively recent elven tale. She appears to those who have been wronged or who are zealous believers in their own causes and fills them with bloody urges. She is considered righteous by many, although misguided. Her mask is black and set with dark amethyst; its lips are silver.

Orchid, Order of Daemons

Taro - Earth. A sprig of thornwood bearing a solitary golden fruit. This trickster daemon has their roots in the forest, but is not bound to the woodland realms. They resemble a gremlin in action and visage, causing trouble without malice or cruelty. Taro's mask is vivid royal blue outlined in hunter green, with bright carmine lips and big white teeth.

Jumara - Air. A dark-paned hand mirror inlaid with a silver moon. The beautiful nymph Jumara is a target for masculine affections, but the truth is that she has only two lovers: the water and her own face. Jumara has been known to use her powers against mortal men who struggle too hard to impress her. She is represented by a silver mask with a dark green mane. Pale crystal scaling further lends to her exotic beauty.

Vyrail - Fire. A triplet-bloom black rose with blooded thorns. Brutal and terrible despite a lovely exterior, the daemon Vyrail seduces the unsuspecting and makes use of his influence to drain them of their will. He inflicts all manner of grave ills upon his willing victims and their families. His mask is opalescent with blushing cheeks and carmine lips. A spiral of silvery tattoos climbs up the left side of the mask.

Chessekaro - Anima. A quartet of black spiders sharing a single ruddy body. Chessekaro is one of four heavenly beasts that feature prominently into the Sabrinthe Masque. He is a spirit of treachery, well-known as a twisting influence in mortals. Chessekaro's mask has four grey spider's heads protruding from its sides. Its length is studded with ruddy stones.

Leyura - Water. A many-limbed blue kraken. Leyura is the second of the four heavenly beasts of the Masque. She is the crushing fury of the ocean whipped to storm and raises madness and mindless fury in her targets. Leyura's mask is draconian, with an elongated snout. Royal blue stones scale across its pallid surface, which is set in a constant snarl.

Defegros - Fire. A golden leopard wrapped in bat-like coppery wings. Defegros is the third of the Sabrinthe Masque's heavenly beasts. Their power lies in the crushing might of self-doubt, turning others' best qualities into weaknesses with the clever manipulations of a devil tongue. Defegros's mask is bright golden, with ebon dags across its surface. It is wrought with an odd conglomeration of bat-like and feline features.

Tuv - Earth. An immense white-bodied worm. This last of the heavenly beasts is slow and plodding, representative of the slow march of pestilence spreading through a plagued society. He brings diseases that end only with his defeat. Tuv's mask has blunt, worm-like features. It is set with streamers of milky stone that froth about its lips.

Hawthorn, Order of the Unseen

Quithe - Anima. An hourglass filled with grey sand strung from a golden chain. Quithe watches time and, to an extent, controls it. He is the giver of second chances. As a neutral daemon, he offers no more than what is asked, which occasionally induces chaos. His mask is grey with violet markings and sweeps of gilt highlighting his cheeks.

Thanus - Fire. Twined tentacles surrounding a golden eye. Representative of Marlu and Fash'lo'nae, Thanus is summoned to reveal hidden knowledge or make unholy bargains. Nearly without exception, these agreements end poorly for their makers. Thanus's mask is black and glossy, with a mane of coiled tentacles. Its eyes are rimmed in gold.

Tichondryon - Earth. A circle of flames around a stone heart. The character of Tichondryon is a high daemon. His powers over chaos and destruction are unrivaled. He is often summoned in plays by those foolish enough to believe they can control his power. Summoners of Tichondryon perish. His mask is onyx and molten, a sanguine crown upon its brow.

Eyufa - Air. A white tiara set with topazes. The radiant avatar of light and air is a sage teacher and, occasionally, a terrible warrior against the darkest of daemons. Her mask is often sunlight yellow, bearing an elegant circlet of silver set with small golden stones.

Ravilis - Water. A blue trident twined in a length of rope. This River Lord is a master of the waters, a placid spirit called upon to bless the fields and mortals with fertility and good health. Ravilis only does violence when his realms are threatened. His mask is pale periwinkle, fringed in royal blue, and possessed of branching antlers.

Other References