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Companions of the Shell -- Company Structure & Joining Up

by Tristan Dunigan

The Company itself has many different positions within its organisation. The commander of the organisation is called the Lord of the Shell. Under the Lord of the Shell is a Lord Companion; an adviser and second in command. There will be only one Lord of the Shell and Lord Companion at any given time. After the Lord Companion, come a varied number of Companions at Arms, also known as Shell Sergeants who, in turn, are in charge of a varied number of Associate Companions, or Shell Sentinels and Postulant Companions. While the organisation is fundamentally, "For-Tortles, By-Tortles", it is not unheard of that a member of another race could become what is called a Companion Ally.

Companion Allies are just that; allies of the company. Members of the company travel far and wide on their missions. Naturally, they are bound to meet and befriend other people of other races and cultures. From time to time, these new- found friends wish to help the Tortles in their endeavours. Upon the discretion of the most senior ranking Tortle present, these people may be welcomed into the adventuring group as Companion Allies. Normally, once a given mission is completed, the Allies return to their normal lives, but on rare occasions, the Allies are allowed to stay on as they possess a rare gift or talent that the Tortles find helpful.

Postulant Companions are those Tortles who have undergone the Test of the Shell and have proven they have the potential to some day become valued members of the company. A Postulant Companion's mission is one of self enlightenment. Adventuring is one way to gain this self enlightenment as well as experience and is highly recommended by the Company for Postulants. Once a Postulant has proven his worth, they are sponsored for promotion and a vote among the Associate Companions is held. An Associate Companion will look for Postulants to display an understanding of the traits handed down from the Company as well as demonstrating personal initiative in their own development and Esprit de Corps for the Company as a whole before sponsoring them for promotion. Once the vote is taken, and a Postulant is recommended to the Shell Sergeant and, if accepted, is then fully promoted to Associate Companion.

Associate Companions, or Shell Sentinels are the backbone of the Company. They must set an example for the Postulants to follow and set standards to which the Postulants must strive to meet. They act as instructors of any organised training and are also tasked with the well-being of the many Postulants in their charge. It is also the Shell Sentinels to whom the Chariot Training falls to. It is their responsibility to ensure that the Postulants learn this art before time comes for their promotion. Many times an Associate Companion will accompany a group of Postulants on adventures to offer leadership and guidance. Unlike Postulants, Associates can not be promoted in the field. When an Associate is ready for promotion to the next rank, the Companions at Arms hold a selection board at the Fort at R'nak. Usually this board is held once a year, but it can be called to order as need arises. Each Shell Sentinel appears before this board to answer a battery of questions and to tell of their deeds and accomplishments. Based on the results of the board, the Companions at Arms make a recommendation to the Lord of the Shell, who ultimately makes the decision. Once an Associate becomes a Shell Sergeant, they learn that the Scute of Honour is in the possession of the Company. In a promotion ceremony, the new Companions are required to touch the Scute and pledge that they will follow the Code of the Shell to the best of their ability.

Companions at Arms, or Shell Sergeants, are the over-all supervisors of the Company and possess the most freedom of action. As more often than not, a group of Companions will be out adventuring, The Shell Sergeants have major responsibilities for the welfare and training of their subordinates. These adventures can include anything from digging a new irrigation ditch, to seeking the lost Scutes of Chelona. They are often the only "commander" some Companions see, thus they must ensure the ethical conduct of all the Tortles beneath them. They ensure that the guidance that the Associate Companions are giving the Postulants is correct and in keeping with the companies values and traditions. They also act as mentors for the Associate Companions; preparing them for their next promotion. Companion at Arms are also responsible for devising and executing plans for the training of Postulant Companions and they are also the Administrators of the Test of the Shell. In addition they also have the authority to promote Postulants to Shell Sentinels in the field. They must know where their Associates and Postulants are at all times. If a group should go missing for long periods of time or the entire company had to rally, knowledge of this nature could be the difference between success and failure.

From here, one of two things may happen to a Shell Sergeant. They can be selected by a sitting Lord of the Shell to become the Lord Companion, if the slot is vacant, or, if the Lord of the Shell position is vacant, be voted on to be the next Lord of the Shell.

Lord Companion, or the Shell Captain, is an adviser and go between to all the levels of the Companies chain of command. He is also seen as the voice of the Lord of the Shell in the actual Lord's absence and overall second in command of the Company. His most important tasks are the administrative duties. The company is largely funded by donations and a percentage of any treasure found by adventuring Companions. The Shell Captain must keep track of the funds both incoming and outgoing. All in all, a very tough job. Diego Delfino is the current Shell Captain.

The Lord of the Shell is the overall commander of the Company. Currently, Takoda holds this position. Among his many tasks include choosing which groups of Companions are assigned to certain quests and ensuring those quests are within the "ethos" of the Company. He is the judge of all disputes and the administer of justice. He is also responsible for relations and meetings between company officials and Tortle dignitaries or foreign powers. Finally, the Lord of the Shell is responsible for organising major events and ceremonies that involve the entire company. The most important of these events is known as the Renewal; an annual trek to the Monoliths of Zul to renew their vows. As this occasion is one of the few occasions, outside emergencies, that the entire Company is gathered, it is an extremely important time. Most promotions are held during this time as well as updates on the ongoing quest for the Scutes of Chelona.

The Lord of the Shell is usually voted on from among the numbers of Companions at Arms and the Lord Companion. Every Tortle in the company who is willing, available, and sane of mind, regardless of rank, is eligible to cast a vote. In the event of a tie vote, the Lord Companion will take command until the tie can be resolved. If a tie can not be resolved, the Lord Companion will run the company until the next full moon, where another vote will be taken. This process continues until a Lord of the Shell is finally selected.

Joining the Company

It is considered a high honour among Tortles to be selected to become a member of the Company and serve their community. The selection process takes place when ever a group of wandering Companions find interested Tortles wishing to join their cause. Unlike most Honourbound Companies, Warriors are not the only ones eligible. Any Tortle from any walk of life may petition for induction, but usually the head of a family group will choose one, or in rare instances two. The Trial of the Shell as it is called, is never the same from year to year and is mostly a test of a Tortles character. The process lasts for several days as the Company's leaders "make up" situations which will test a Tortles stamina, wisdom, resourcefulness, compassion, and lastly combat skill. To do this they enlist the help of the members of the community to "role-play" situations a Tortle Honourbound might encounter during the course of his duty.

Those passing the Test of the Shell must then make the Journey of the Circle. The Journey of the Circle is a ceremonial journey as well as a final test of stamina. From the location of the test, the hopeful Tortles make a "pilgrimage" to the Monoliths of Zul. After this long, gruelling trek through the desert, and upon arriving at the Monoliths, the Tortles meditate for three days and three nights, in honour of the battle Chelona sacrificed herself in. After this period of reflection, the Tortles are given their symbols of the Honourbound and the red circles are painted on the front of their shells. They are then officially Postulant Companions of the Company of the Shell.; a temporary title, much like an apprentice, that allows them to prove their worth further to the Company hierarchy. For the Postulant the true test begins; that of real life and field experience. Many years and many adventures may pass before a Tortle becomes a full Associate Companion.