The Kahdayho Emblem were first created (most likely) during the Alchemical Arms Race that characterised the Intermediate Period of the Mage Wars. They are a form of enchanted tattoo that grants the wearer certain abilities. Most are meant to be protective, but some provide increased strength or stamina. An Emblem is a magical enchantment that combines artistic elements with enchantments to produce magical designs.
Enchantments in the form of Emblems (instead of Runes), began to appear in the late First Chaotic Period. These were less powerful, but easier to produce as they only required painting, as opposed to etching. Emblems could be applied to wooden objects (such as shields and bows) without compromising the material, which etching a rune would. There are accounts as far back as the early Intermediate Period of warriors being painted with emblems directly on their skin before battle. As the technique was difficult and time-consuming, tattooing became the next logical step.
Kahdayho Emblems are first mentioned in the Intermediate Period. It is thought that, while the capability to produce them may have been invented sooner, they did not appear because earlier civilizations did not have the resources to devote to the high degree of artistry required to complete the technique.
Emblems vs. Runes
Runic enchantments antedate High Tower and are found all throughout the Mage Wars and continued into modern times. However, they require precise etching into a hard surface, which leaves them ill-suited to human flesh. In the First Chaotic Period, though rare, there are examples of individuals having runes carved into their bones (no doubt causing great pain). Emblems, by contract, use sacred geometry and precise proportions to each other. In other words, the enchantment is created by the sum of its parts, not spelled out like a language. This means that as a person ages and its body changes, the Emblem, if still recognizable, will still function.
While an emblem can very simply be created with a precise array of lines and shapes, the key element that drove their production was the ability to combine those elements with artistic compositions, allowing someone to bear a marking that was both functional and highly aesthetically pleasing. A good inscriber could produce the desired enchantment in just about any design.
While surviving examples are non-extant(since the images were done on human flesh) many descriptions exist. The art reached its zenith during the Intermediate Period and remained strong through the early Dynastic Era. By the mid Dynastic era, the power-base had largely shifted to a political nature, with Reincarnation and combined age having taken on a greater importance than individual power. Kahdayho emblems continued to see use, but were reduced from an absolute must-have to more of a status symbol.
The rank-and-file battling sorcerers, who could not afford the services of a Kahdayho Master Inscriber, took to having much cheaper spell-form Kahdayhos. Those that could afford it would then go to a mundane tattooist and have a "nice" artistic image placed over it. By the late Dynastic Period, basic, all-black line-drawing Kahdayhos had become extremely popular, with even mundane artists producing kahdahyo-inspired designs as a fashion.
The art was mostly lost when the First Chaotic Period began. The massive disruptions of the time and the large-scale migrations of people, coupled with the destruction, nearly put an end to the ability altogether. The rise of Cardinalism in the earlyGolden Age was considered the death-knell, as the religion forbade marking one's body.
During the Golden Age, academic interest in the practice arose (though modern practiononers were unknown). Scholars of the era incorrectly deduced from extant records that all Kahdayho were the late-dynastic enchantment-under-mundane-tattoo style, a belief that persisted for many Ages.
Around the second-age, battle monks from various hard-line sects of the Cardinal Clerics began to adopt the simple line-and-shape Kahdayhos as part of their religious practices. The monk's interpretation of the scripture held that the Book of Law forbade "distinctive markings for the purpose of identification of individuals". The sects practicing Kahdayho Emblem inscriptions required rigid adherence to to set design-patterns, and believed that it made their warriors LESS distinctive, and was thus in line with their practices.
During the Fifth Age, it was discovered that the old-style "art" kahdayo were quietly being produced, and had been all along, in Sindall. While available to anyone who wanted one, they were extremely expensive and often had years-long waiting lists. The Master Inscribers living in the region were also notorious for refusing rich socialites seeking an "especially unique, mundane tattoo", and often reserved their services for those who actually had use of a body enchantment.
In Rowen, the practice of both simple line-form and art-enchantment kahdayhos is common (though Rowens typically get theirs in Sindall). Curiously, the markings are never worn openly, and always placed somewhere that can be easily covered by clothing. Since typical Rowen-dress involves long pants and long sleeves, its not uncommon for outsiders to be completely unaware of the practice. Indeed, most modern accounts of Rowen do not mention the practice at all.
Lina Rowen has one on her lower-back and along her spine that looks like a recurved bow firing an arrow, that takes the form of ropes of flames that also form roses. The technique is subtle and the coloring blends somewhat with her natural skin-tone. She has admited that it is an artistic Kahdayo done by a master inscriber she met in Sindall.