The T'lark (an orcen/Kuglimz Seitre word meaning "Blood Defender") is the name of the war buckler carried by every Kaaer'dár'shín warrior. The shield functions as a personal defense in battle, is light weight and small, and is believed to protect not only against physical harm, but spiritual harm as well. Each war shield is created and decorated according to the preferences of the warrior bearing it, and is a sacred item that is buried with the warrior so that he may keep it with him in the afterlife.
The war shield is a small buckler made of wood and the hide of a
Tsor-Shotak lizard. The shield is
typically round or oval shaped with two heavy leather straps on one side where
an arm could be inserted and snugly positioned.
The shield is slightly concave in shape and is approximately one fore and two palmspans in diameter. The outer frame is formed of wood from a young sapling found in the Themed'lon Forest, the tribe's main colony. The outer frame along with a cross tie of two saplings are made in the center, slightly bent outwards, to make the concave shape.
The second phase of shield creation is the actual material that forms the shield itself. The toughest natural material among the Kaaer'dár'shín is the hide of the large Tsor-Shotak mountain lizard found along the Imlith Mountain range on the far south borders of the tribal homeland. When a warrior is found to be worthy of a shield, he is tasked to journey alone to the mountains and hunt two adult sized lizards and to take their hide.
Once the hide is brought back, the shaman blesses it and gives it to a weaponsmith to cure and dry. The hide is hung on a tree to dry in the sun for a period of six days before being cured with tree sap to maintain the hide's water resistant exterior. The wooden shield is then brought forth and the hide is stretched over the outer skeleton. For best results, two hides are used for extra durability and toughness. The skin is stretched over both sides of the shield and riveted in place with strips of hide along the outer edges spaced every five nailsbreadths.
The shield is allowed to cure some more in the sun before attaching the arm harness. The harness is made of the same lizard hide cut into two strips six nailsbreadths in length (sometimes shorter or longer depending on the size of the warrior's arm). The strips are tied to the inner shield tested on the warrior's arm for a secure fit.
Once the shield is finished, the warrior prays an oath over it to defend and honour the tribe at all costs while the shaman blesses it once more. The shield is then given to the warrior for use.
Usage. The war shield is meant to be small and to provide cover for the hand and forearm. The shield is a simple and effective defensive tool and weapon, often combined with a short sword or dagger. It provides effective defense against a sword, club or axe blow and is small and lightweight enough that a typical Kaaer'dár'shín warrior can move and fend off blows quickly. The one disadvantage of the buckler is that it is not as effective against ranged attacks, such as arrows, due to the small size of the shield.
The shield is worn over the warrior's forearm with the first strap gripped in his fist and the second strap secured over the forearm. The warrior still has use of his hand for riding and wielding a small weapon. During combat, the buckler provides several means of offensive and defensive capabilities:
The buckler's curved center gives the warrior effective means to deflect sword blows allowing the warrior to move in with a rapid counter attack. The buckler is not heavy and bulky and can be maneuvered easily in close combat.
The buckler can be used to block an opponent from seeing the warrior's sword or dagger hand thus the weapon hand is blocked from view keeping the opponent from guessing the warrior's next move.
The war buckler provides a warrior a means to record his victories by decorating
the inside surface with paint, feathers, animal hides, or pieces of bone.
Usually, a warrior will paint symbols upon the inside of his buckler after each
victory in a war party or against an opponent. Each warrior must testify to the
shaman before doing this or have witnesses to his victory so as to keep the
warrior "honest" and not embellish his victory record. A highly decorated
buckler is a sign of a veteran warrior, one with many victories, and it is from
these warriors that a future tribal leader is chosen.
Upon the death of a warrior, the shield is buried along with the body for the warrior to use in the afterlife. The Kaaer'dár'shín believe there is never a respite from war, even in death, and the shield will serve the warrior well against any evil spirits that he may encounter during his afterlife journey.
Origin/History. It is believed that the famous Kaaer'dár'shín warrior Temejin Tartar and his son first discovered the effectiveness of a small buckler as a means of defense for an agile, strike and run warrior. The practice of stealth and rapid offensive techniques were also methods of warfare devised by Temejin as the burgdeoning half-orc tribe still number far less than their Osther-Oc relatives during his initial calls for revolt. He thought it best to use small groups of warriors, lightly armed and fast moving, and use ambushing to strike the larger, bulkier orcs. Temejin recognized that a warrior needed a means of defense in close quarters battles without the bulky shields used by the orcs.
Temejin's first offering was a buckler made of simple wood strapped to the arm. However, this shield proved to be weak against continuous weapon blows and the wood soon splintered and broke after only a few uses. Working with his son Torroth, also a warrior, they two devised a way of using the hide of the Tsor-Shotak lizard as a shield covering. The hide was beginning to see effective use as a light body armour and Temejin adopted its use on the buckler and, to his joy, the shield was much tougher to break given the hide's extremely tough and durable scales.
The buckler's origin as a spiritual means of defense came much later when the Kaaer'dár'shín had become an independent tribe and adopted the worship of the spirits. The shaman would bless each war party as the warriors applied paint upon their faces and body. Legend has it that one such warrior instead applied the paint to his buckler and asked the shaman to bless it and ask the spirits to keep his buckler from breaking and to shield him from weakness and cowardice. The shaman did so and the warrior returned victorious. Word of the warrior's deed soon became a popular tale and from then on the tribe's warriors all have their bucklers blessed. The warrior made more marks upon his buckler after each victory as thanks to the spirits for protecting him. This has been practiced ever since.
Myth/Lore. The war buckler holds special significance for the tribe both physically and spiritually. Temejin Tartar himself once told of how he received inspiration to create the buckler from the Great Spirit himself. At the time, he had abandoned the old traditions of the Kuglimz gods and sought other means of divine protection and inspiration. His tale was never written down, but told by mouth for generations and it goes something like this:
orcs bring upon us biting steel and
gnashing of teeth. I remember sitting and looking upon the shores of the
sea, asking for ways to fight the blood cousins. They take from us and
rape our women. No longer! I wept freely. I knew there was no hope.