This file was originally written by Yalai the Stave (formerly Impa @ Zelda MUSH) for the second permutation of Legend of Zelda MUSH. It is a not a part of Sinistar's/Rauru's original news files.
Assassins and bodyguards. Couriers and spies. Shadowy figures that are there one moment and gone the next, like smoke on the wind. Few think of these figure that serve the royal family, who proudly bear a weeping eye in red on their clothing. Those that do tend to view them with mistrust and even fear.
But these misconceptions could not be further from the truth. To the royal family, the Sheikah are the most absolutely trusted of Hyrule's allies.
It isn't known when or how the first of the Sheikah came to be, and some say that the Sheikah themselves may not know. Yet this ancient people have managed to create a rich and unique culture, with elements not found anywhere else in Hyrule.
Sheikah place great value in their own culture, and great value in associating amongst themselves. Even so, there are no active taboos on consorting with members of other races, and the Sheikah do not generally ostracize half-breeds as other races may. However, half-breeds are not fully trusted, either. If they choose to take on the Sheikah duty of defending the royal family, they are watched carefully until they are deemed trustworthy.
Only the most esteemed Sheikah will bear a mark that only shows their weapon. The Royal Shadow is entitled to his or her own mark: Three triangles along the cheekbone, below the eye, points facing downwards. This mark never changes, and denotes their leader.
Unlike most tattoos, the Sheikah marks are of a unique ashen colour. The composition of the ink is a mystery, and one jealously guarded by those who create it.
Hair styles run the gamut. Most prefer their hair short to keep it out of their way in battle, particularly men; though some Sheikah women wear their hair long, if it is not a hindrance.
Behavior & Society
As a people accustomed to living in the background, the Sheikah are naturally introverted and quiet. They place great value on obedience and on the group as a whole. Adherence to and acting for the betterment of the group, rather than the individual, is encouraged. As the saying goes, "The nail that sticks up must be hammered down."
Despite their violent lifestyle and behaviour that rarely reveals it, the Sheikah are a greatly spiritual people. They believe that drawing unruly attention to their beliefs through wild ritual is an insult to that which they worship. As a whole, the Sheikah do revere the goddesses of Hyrule, particularly Nayru and her wisdom, though some can be found that cherish Farore and her courage.
Their ceremonies are somewhat sedated and stately; relying more on order and everyone knowing their place, than in chaos or mindless fervor. Events are often led by the Lorekeeper. This Sheikah, often selected for an excellent memory, is the one to whom the Shadow Folk entrust such knowledge; it is the Lorekeeper that leads them in these ceremonies.
The tongue of the Shadow Folk is one of the most complicated langauges in Hyrule. Few try to learn it, and even fewer offer to teach it.
As a spoken tongue, it is devilishly subtle, and given to many different shades of meaning. There are many different levels of formality, chosen based on whom one addresses. As a fairly equal blend of consonance and assonance, the sounds themselves are also considered difficult to pronounce, though when spoken well they are fluid and graceful. Grammatically, it is considered frustrating for its grammatical mutations, the complicated way in which adjectives and adverbs are handled, and the sheer level of vocabulary required even for a simple conversation.
As a written language, the Sheikah rely on swirling, graceful script that looks more like artwork than letters or glyphs. It is almost as difficult to learn as the spoken language, with many different symbols and protocols for writing various messages. There is also a need for copying symbols exactly as they are supposed to be — some symbols are quite similar, and even small deviations may make a word mean something else entirely.
Many Sheikah take pains to learn enough Hylian to converse with the common folk of Hyrule, but their mastery is often less than perfect.
To draw a real-world counterpart, Sheikah names are often Middle Eastern to the ear, and fewer sound like Far Eastern names. Sheikah names are often short and of the sort that rolls off the tongue — to their ears. The greater people of Hyrule find some Sheikah names difficult to pronounce, with some names having difficult combinations of consonants and vowels.
Some examples would include common Arabic names: Akila, Basira, Fakhri, Isam, Khaled, Malak, Nadir, Rais, Sakhr, Tariq, and Zaira.
There are of course a wide variety of names. Some Sheikah use Hylian names, while others may have heard something interesting in their travels, and named their children after that. The Shadow Folk are a mysterious people. Sometimes, it just isn't clear what their reasoning is.
A Note on Bynames
Many Sheikah also have second titles. These are not surnames, but bynames earned as a show of their prowess. Often Sheikah will be called as their weapon: Yalai the Stave is name after the quarterstaff she wields, for example. Sheikah with such names will introduce themselves as such.
For those exemplary Sheikah whose reputation preceeds them, some answer to their byname, giving their true name only as a sign of trust. The Lorekeeper is the one who issues such names, and it is his or her task to remember these bynames.
Habitat & Settlements
The Hidden Village is the only settlement unique to the Sheikah. Many of the Shadow Folk are stationed all over Hyrule, serving as scouts and spies, but their true home is a secret place. Though once found in the mountains of Lanayru Province, they have since dispersed, relocating in the wake of the twilight that consumes Hyrule.
Normally, Sheikah serving at distant posts are rotated out and allowed to return home at some point during the year. Here, they can rest and recover from their hard work for a short time, before returning to their posts. It isn't unreasonable for a Sheikah to travel great distances to do this. The prospect of long travel will rarely bother them.
Most Sheikah consider the Hidden Village sacred, insofar as it is their greatest secret, and jealously defended. It's a very, very rare honour for an outsider to be permitted into the Hidden Village. Very few exceptions are made to this. In most cases, when an outsider is brought to the village, they will be questioned by the Lorekeeper. If they are accompanied by a Sheikah, the Sheikah will also be questioned.
The visitor will be sworn to maintain the secrecy of the village's location, or blindfolded for the trip in. If they've done a great service to the Shadow Folk, as is most often the case for bringing a visitor "home," there may be a small feast given in their honour.
Given their role in life, it should come as no surprise that the Sheikah have assigned a great deal of importance and mythology to warfare. They place incredible value into their weapons, revering them almost as one might revere a lesser god. As such, they take excellent care of these tools of war. It's almost unheard to find a Sheikah with ill-cared for equipment.
It's extremely rare for a Sheikah to entrust their weapons to another. Doing so is considered a sign of close friendship, respect, and trust. In most cases, few Sheikah are willing to lend their weapons or even allow others to touch them.
The Sheikah hold no particular beliefs where blood is associated; they do not consider it sacred, nor do they consider it a spiritual "contaminant." It is what it is, and when the Shadow Folk make war, they strive to cause the greatest damage rather than spill the greatest amount of blood.
They take fighting quite seriously, and in most cases, they will seek to end a conflict as soon as it's started. There are extremely harsh punishments against Sheikah physically fighting one another outside of ceremonial pursuits; there are simply too few of them for their lives to be wasted.
For the Sheikah, death is an inevitability. Despite the elevated risk they put themselves at, they hold many beliefs and rituals surrounding the end of life. When a Sheikah dies, almost always killed in combat, there will always be an effort made to retrieve the remains. These will be brought to the Hidden Village, if possible.
Two or more Sheikah, usually immediate family, will accompany the body, wrapped in an elabourate funerary shroud. There, a feast held in the deceased's honour. The more important the deceased, the more Sheikah in attendance, returning home from the far-flung corners of the kingdom. The body will then be interred into the Hidden Village's cemetary. Outsiders are never permitted into the graveyard.
If the body cannot be returned to the Hidden Village, the Sheikah will build cairns. These are marvelously subtle structures, as expected from the Shadow Folk, and are often indistinguishable from the natural landscape. Generally, only the Sheikah themselves will know where a cairn of their making is located.
The Weeping Eye
The Weeping Eye is the red symbol that nearly all Sheikah wear. The design itself is fairly simple, consisting of a central eye-like figure, three separate triangles above and angled symmetrically above the eye, and a teardrop shape below the eye. The Weeping Eye is always worked in red thread.
In recent memory, the Weeping Eye was blue, and lacked its teardrop motif. The Sheikah suffered a great betrayal at the hands of Agahnim, and ever after, they changed the emblem of their race to represent this betrayal. The Eye weeps, and they will remember through this shed blood. They will also see that such a betrayal never happened again.
Despite their secrecy concerning the ways of their people, the Sheikah will speak freely of their emblem. The Weeping Eye represents a serious betrayal and breach of loyalty. Even though some time has passed, to a people who have such difficulty trusting, a betrayal on such a scale is an event that shakes them to the core.
The leader of the Sheikah is known as the "Royal Shadow" due to their closeness to Hyrule's royalty. Regardless of what his or her name was before attaining that post, the Sheikah of Hidden Village will always refer to him or her by this title.
Only a few are permitted to call them by their given names: The royal family, their own blood relations, and those who share exceptionally close bonds, such as mentors.
Currently, the holder of this title is Impa. She has been leader for many years, though no one is quite certain of her age; she also serves as their leader in war, in light of the strange twilight slowly engulfing Hyrule. Her duties are twofold; she serves as leader to her own people, and in the absence of the king and queen, she also serves as a trusted advisor to Queen Zelda.
Fear, suspicion, and even hatred surround the Shadow Folk. These sentiments of course vary by individual, but almost every citizen of Hyrule regards the Sheikah with a certain prejudice. They are not well liked by the average citizen, and it takes a great deal of work for a Sheikah to gain any kind of loyalty or trust.
Those closest to the royal family are regarded with the greatest suspicion. Some go so far as to blame the loyal Sheikah for the coup, regardless of the fact that it was a very real betrayal. Others claim them to be servants of darkness, insisting they're only waiting until the time's right to seize Hyrule for good. These rumours couldn't be further from the truth, of course. To imply disloyalty to any Sheikah in the wake of the royal family's murder is a great insult. In the wake of Agahnim's assault, they have done much to save Queen Zelda.
Sheikah are extremely hesitant to trust outsiders, and in turn will often treat them with a certain level of suspicion. It takes a great deal to get a straight answer out of them, particularly in regard to personal matters, or matters pertaining to their people.