There are five gemlink (g as in 'green'. The word is from their old language, meaning literally 'intelligent reptile'.), or dragons currently alive. They are powerful, and able to generate their own magical power, which has allowed them to maintain themselves as a governing force even under Emrikalen control.
Not much is known about their true biology. From legend and old histories, we know that they live for thousands of years, and breed only rarely. They are enormous creatures. Amna, the largest, is a hundred feet long, with a wingspan three times that. They are capable of flight, but given the confines of their size and the city, it's very rare that they will take to the air while in their true forms. They are, being very powerful magical beings, able to take other, more convenient shapes, most often either a smaller version of their true form, or various bipedal guises.
They collectively hold a seat on the House Council. Each possesses enough wealth to play a fair hand in city-wide affairs. Truth be told, the dragons could probably have Anserona if they wanted it. They appear content to keep their own organizations running, and matching forces in the gladiatorial arena. The old draconic culture involved a constantly shifting hierarchy, with barely ritualized combat determining rank. Shortly before the Great War, the diminishing number of dragons brought a shift from personal combat to the practice of pitting one's military resources against another. Thus, we have the arena.
Lethal gladiatorial combat has remained legal for centuries, because of draconic influence. The games are made public, and the dragons bring in quite a lot from admission fees and concessions. The gladiators are trained and often raised from birth in their roles, and form an isolated culture of their own, which will be addressed later.
Each of the surviving dragons sustains an armor suit, which acts as some sort of magical battery, enabling them to tap their own energy. The dragons are easily identified by their armor, and are commonly referred to by the following.
Iron Dragon – Amna
The Iron Dragon lives among the vedrig, and her business is tied with theirs. Her palace stands prominently near one of the northern sun towers, and her influence is strong among the trade guilds there.
Her suit is constructed of red and black iron, incorporating a system of furnaces and boilers, thus augmenting her natural fiery breath with scalding steam. As far as what's known about the dragons goes, she is thought to be the oldest among those who survive.
Glass Dragon – Oseraxesiaricour
The Glass Dragon lairs near Amna's palace, and appears to be closely aligned with her, though their competition in the arena is especially fierce. It's been said that Oseraxesiaricour is obsessed with her. Why he is, is anyone's guess.
Green Dragon – name unknown
The Green Dragon surrounds himself with rubble and scrap material. Its suit is an amalgamation of various fasmat materials, predominantly green, along with bits of metal.
The Green Dragon is, as far as his kind goes, believed to be fairly young, and primarily concerned with the study of magic and natural philosophy. His associations, when he chooses to associate with anyone, are with those in his area of interest. His lair is secret, but he is most often found in the center of the city.
Silver Dragon – Hasisendira
The Silver Dragon is covered with elaborate armor made of thousands of jagged silver blades. She associates with the jaunx and the whitesilver mine, Mestraud. Utterly unfriendly to the other dragons, she is difficult to approach by anyone not in her organization. Hasisendira has taken out entire guilds that crossed her or so much as stood in her way, and is wealthy enough to handle any legal ramifications of doing so. Her underworld ties are almost certain.
Forest Dragon – Yailisindre
The Forest Dragon uses all of her resources to construct and maintain an underground garden, the last forest in existence. Her suit is made of the plants of her beloved forest. She is covered in wood, plants and moss. She rarely leaves her home, usually to compete in the arena or to handle matters of importance to the dragons alone. Those who have been given free passage to her forest say that she is a gentle creature, and the state of the city pains her to such an extent that she cannot bear to see it.
Zombies are, essentially, living golems. A dead body is healed and reanimated with another spirit. The interesting difference lies in the fact that a zombie's brain has been used before. They retain snippets of memories from their body's previous life, made hazy by death. They also have memories of other lifetimes, and of the world beyond, about as distant as those of other golems.
Sometimes, zombies occur naturally, when a free spirit inhabits a corpse, for whatever reason. In such cases, without magical intervention, the resulting creature does not last long. Any damage that caused the death of the host remains, and the body is still quite dead. If decomposition doesn't cut the zombie's "life" short, it is usually preyed upon by fellow zombies hungry for magic, or starves to death for want of the same.
Artificially created zombies are better off. With modern medical magic, it is possible to heal and restore life to certain corpses. Most brain damage can be repaired, enough to make the corpse a suitable host for a complex spirit, without the need for a crystalline brain replacement. Corpses that were killed by blood loss suffer from an intense craving for what they lost, and are unsuitable for reanimation.
As it stands, all zombies, regardless of origin, require two things to sustain themselves - magic, and meat. Naturally occurring zombies usually fill this need by consuming the newly dead, or by picking off living victims. All mortals, and especially mages and telekan, possess a trace amount of magical energy - actually the presence of their spirit - within their brains. By consuming this, the zombie consumes the energy as well, and is able to exist a little longer.
Artificially created zombies are, or should be, fed an adequate supply of meat and magical energy, or they get "hungry", and become berserk and impossible to control. Zombies are infamous for having a tentative control on their natures, and are seen with more fear than golems, partially because an artificially created zombie can't be told apart from a normal mortal until they snap.
Zombies are animated for any number of reasons, usually as servants to the rich, or as expendable minions. Since they've already died, people don't have as many qualms with killing them again. as with golems, there's the risk that a zomibe's spirit will come back, angry, if mistreated, and so they're given grudging respect, rather like the berth given a caged beast.
Especially prized zombies often have their spirit transferred over to a more permanent, golem shell. This is a reward many owned zombies strive for, as it affords them greater status and less chance of getting hungry or dying.
Zombies, being property, cannot own property or become citizens, unless they can hide their nature for long enough to pull it off.
Like golems, zombies can sense the presence of magical energy, and have empathy with fellow spirits, including normal mortals. They can sense the presence of spirits, and, sometimes, basic emotions. Their abilities in this regard are generally weaker than a golem's.
Zombies might not retain the instincts and personality of their host race.
Golems are spirits bound to some physical shell. Their bodies can be made out of anything, usually stone, metal, or some fasmat material. It can be virtually anything. Their brains are crystals specially sculpted to house their spirits. Depending on the skill of a golem's creator, and the power the proto-golem possessed as a free spirit, it might be quite intelligent, or barely sentient. Some golems, mostly immobile devices, are inhabited by lesser spirits - perhaps this is their first incarnation - which aren't sentient at all.
Intelligent golems have usually been incarnated so many times that they don't remember anything more of their spiritual selves than any other person. Their ties to their true nature, however, are a bit stronger. They can sense the presence of all types of magic, and have a basic empathy with all fellow spirits, mortals included. The sensations with which they perceive the presence of a spirit vary. Most perceive it by sight, but this isn't universal. Magical energy of an opposite elemental alignment causes a golem discomfort, varying in intensity depending on the strength of the energy. Some golems can sense basic emotions.
A golem's quality of life depends on the purpose for which it's created. It might be a guard, a clerk, a librarian, a child's companion, a gladiator, a knight, an adviser, a house servant, even an automobile. Some golems are granted something akin to freedom by their owners, but, by Anseronian law, golems cannot be legally free. Any protection they have under the law protects their owners from loss of property. Unlike zombies and vosk, a golem's owner is easy to mark and trace within the structure of the crystalline brain.
Golems do tend to be respected, however. Obvious artificial constructs are something of a mystery to most of the population, who cannot otherwise afford regular contact with magic. Unlike a mistreated mortal servant, the spirit inhabiting a golem could very well come back to enact vengeance on a cruel master, after being "killed", so their status is usually high, as far as valued and dangerous property goes.
Golems are dependent on their creators. They must consume magical energy daily, in order to survive. Otherwise, their control over their physical shells deteriorates, and they go berserk, attacking any source of magic they can sense, before finally abandoning their physical shells. To some constructs, this is a great shame.
Vosk are soldiers. The kenaki made them to battle against the vedrig, about three hundred and eighty years ago, when the vedrig wouldn't turn over the areas in Anserona under their control.
The kenaki tried to mimic the speed and strength of the wolf-people, and came close to matching that, but only in body.
They made the vosk from canine stock. There were no wolves alive when they did this, and they had to use the domestic dog, instead. Vosk are dogs. Their instincts and their thoughts are simple. Obey, run with the pack, eat, mate, fight. People say that they're not self-aware, and most vosk don't seem capable of carrying the debate in conversation, but they can speak, and feel, and act to preserve their own lives, at any rate.
They are not a free race. The kenaki don't consider their work with the vosk complete. They would rather the dog-people be more intelligent, and are currently breeding for that. In the meantime, the vosk are totally enslaved, and considered property.
Vosk are the common fodder of the gladiatorial arena. People don't expect much from them, save numbers, so vosk are rarely the main attraction, and rarely live long.
Vosk don't live very long, regardless, only about forty years. Female vosk give birth to litters of three to five children. Male vosk don't always take an active roll in raising them.
The Emikalens employ vosk as guards and grunt law-enforcement, but never in leadership positions. Vedrig hate vosk, which confuses the vosk. Vedrig smell like vosk, to them, and react in much the same way.
They lack manes, and cannot breed with vedrig. They resemble roughly bipedal dogs, and the differences between vosk and vedrig are quite readily apparent.
Tenebre-Bok, Carosen and Khibakrhi.
The tenebre-bok love the carosen. Protecting them is their life and their highest calling. They do not talk often, but they aren't stupid. They are, in fact, quite eloquent, if one can persuade them to speak, or, as proves easier, write.
Shetthis Nor wrote, "We know the kenaki made us this way. The khibakrhi are lying, cheating, cruel beasts, but the kenaki made them that way. We know the kenaki made the carosen to hide the cruelty, but the carosen are innocent of that. We and them, we are kindred, souls trapped in bondage on this dying earth, and by whatever gods hear our words, we will let nothing happen to our charges. This world would crush them if we weren't here. They don't even realize the world is as horrible as it is, and if all we can do is to help maintain that illusion, then we will."
Carosen mean more to them than even their own children. Tenebre-boks are asexual, and, once reaching the age of four, lay several eggs every year. They give the eggs to the carosen to raise. A tenebre-bok is given a carosen to protect from the moment of birth onward.
With luck, a tenebre-bok will not ever lose its charge. The kenaki made them to only live as long as the carosen they've bonded with. This is a biological self-destruction, triggered by the grief of the loss, and it's possible to override it with drugs or magic, but most tenebre-bok choose to pass on such treatment.
They are not free-willed creatures, but in their artificially imposed purpose, they seem to find a sort of freedom. Many tenebre-bok endeavor to consciously extend their protectiveness and fairness to all, regardless of their imperative to only protect carosen. Some tenebre-bok take it upon themselves to create all manner of beautiful art, to entertain their charges, and perhaps to foster some hope in the others. Some tenebre-bok go mad.
Artificially imposed drives, it would seem, can decay. Rogue tenebre-bok are rare. When they do occur, it's usually because their carosen has been killed, but not always. Rogue tenebre-bok are usually harmless, and want to be left on their own, but some actively hunt the very creatures they were made to protect. This frightens the carosen beyond words, and so the other tenebre-bok do not speak of this to them. They simply kill any rogues they find.
Tenebre-bok are ten foot tall, bipedal insects. They have simplistic, armored faces, without much in the way of expression - just two tiny eyes peering out from a flat, blue-gray mask. They have a bony, jagged red crest atop their heads, and, like the carosen and khibakrhi, have two fingers and a thumb, and two toes. They have no tails. Most tenebre-bok shroud themselves in huge cloaks, stitched together from shaggy jench hides or fasmat leather.
Carosen are everyone's best friends. They were made to be that way.
The kenaki realized, soon after the creation of the khibakrhi, that their children were useful, and gifted, and cunning, but not exactly approachable. The carosen were developed to fill in the gaps.
They don't judge people. They have no concept of privacy, or personal space, or secrets. Some would argue that they have no concept of self, but this is a misunderstanding. I posed this argument to a carosen, once, and she told me, "Of course we know who we are! Is there a better way to know who you are than to know who everyone else is, too?"
They love the kenaki as much as they love anyone else, especially since they're legally free, now. Most people can't stand to hurt them. This actually has more to do with their tenebre-bok servants than their cute-little-animal charm.
Tenebre-boks are their best friends. No carosen is without a tenebre-bok for very long. Other carosen make sure of this. Tenebre-boks are enormous, and carosen are often seen riding on their shoulders. They'll do anything a carosen asks them to do, because the kenaki made them to protect the innocent carosen.
Some carosen don't like that the tenebre-bok are instinctively bound to them, and are petitioning to have this removed. They insist that their friends would still like them, regardless, and are, generally, more passionate about this than they are to get their own instinct of loyalty to the khibakrhi removed. The latter isn't likely to happen. The kenaki made the carosen on commission, for the khibakrhi, and the khibakrhi are not swayed by big eyed rat creatures.
The story goes that when the khibakrhi commissioned the carosen, they tricked the kenaki, and only paid part of what had been asked. In retribution, the kenaki made the carosen lifespan short - only twenty years. The carosen shrug this off, and don't believe it. In truth, their short lifespans are more likely a result of their rodent blood.
The kenaki did push for their legal recognition, and even made the tenebre-bok for free. Kenaki cruelty is or lack thereof is hard to determine.
Carosen families are enormous. If something happens to a carosen's parents, someone else in the family readily takes the child in. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, visitors and just about anyone else can and is accepted into a carosen's family. Carosen children are raised communally, in large households, and reach maturity quickly. At four, a carosen is mature enough to hold a job and wander around the city on his or her own. They usually get free train and taxi rides, because they just don't take up enough space to justify it.
Some are religious, and those who are tend to be fervently so. The kenaki and khibakrhi tend to say that there are no true gods, and that magic, gods and spirits included, is just the conscious manipulation of objective reality. The carosen take better to the idea that every race gets a god who created them, and even though the carosen were created by the kenaki, they get a god, too. Most favor Ginjan.
The Keahbehal branched off the Abioni Ginjan faith, and took on elements of just about every other religion it came into contact along the way. It emerged as the most accepting and inclusive religions entity in the city. Most carosen are members, even if they don't follow the dogma. Anyone else can join. They don't mind. Keahbehalites wear scarves and wide brimmed, black hats. For every year a devotee is a member of the church, they receive a bead to sew to their scarf. They hand scarves out liberally, and are known for their charity as far as warm coats and mittens go, as well.
They look like bipedal mice. Their muzzles are blunt, and their mouths are wide, like a pug dog's, but with less wrinkling. Their ears are huge, and need to be covered up outside, lest they get frostbite. Like the khibakrhi, they have two fingers and a thumb on their hands, and two toes with a smaller claw, on their feet. Their tails are long, but not especially dexterous. Their fur is short, and usually sandy brown. Male carosen have darker brown patches around their eyes, and a white stripe down their nose. Female carosen have white eye patches, and a brown stripe. Some carosen hide their faces behind hoods or masks, and paint spirals in their fur. These carosen, called Acaren, willingly give themselves up to the kenaki to learn about the fluidity of their forms. They say that they trust their creators implicitly.
Khibakrhi are a construct race, created five hundred years ago by the kenaki, their first and best loved effort in this little hobby of theirs.
The khibakrhi were created to be merchants, and they fulfil this purpose well. Countless gythe were hacked to pieces to provide the raw materials in their creation. They find pleasure and peace in work, but they are not gythe. Creativity and cold cunning are their principal strengths. Their emotions are closer to those we are familiar with, and they possess a great deal of manipulative empathy, but not much in the way of sympathy. They do not experience remorse, nor do they honor any emotion that does not serve themselves or their masters.
Once created, the khibakrhi quickly earned their freedom, by way of deliberately playing on their creators sense of pity and fairness. If they do their job willingly and well, they say, why should they be slaves?
They are legally recognized as a free race by the Emrikalen government. They can own property and slaves, and can form and join guilds. They have a history of carefully minding their behavior, so that their legal status doesn't come into question. They focus, instead, on benefiting from trouble other people cause. Most manage the finances and business of the kenaki, the Emrikalens, or the guilds.
The kenaki simply adore them, but the khibakrhi know that their creators aren't bound by that, and will take action if they become more trouble than their worth, so they remain, largely, loyal. The implanted instinct to obey has been removed from their minds as a gesture of trust.
Khibakrhi stand three to four feet tall. Their skin is covered with short, furry fuzz over pale skin, like a baby mouse. Their features are somewhat equine, but juvenile, like a young foal, instead of a grown horse. They appear, simply put, deceptively and disarmingly innocent. Their manes are mops of hair, usually a few shades darker than their fur. Their hands have two fingers and a thumb, and their feet have two hooved toes, with a vestigial claw further up the leg. Their tails are long, thin, and prehensile, with a tuft at the tip.
The vast majority are in the employ of kenaki, or another khibakrhi. The males tend to hoard wives, and the wealthy ones will keep harems. The eldest child is expected to take over the family business, with the younger children assisting or starting similar buisness or branches, or marrying a khibakrhi of parental choosing.
Despite their tendencies, male and female khibakrhi are seen as equal by each other in business and culture. There's no shame in being supported by a male khibakrhi, provided one doesn't become idle.
They usually own or employ at least one carosen, who are instinctively disposed to obey khibakrhi. This instinct is so strong, in the carosen, that even khibakrhi not actively employing one will almost always have a few in tow.
Their diluted gythetic heritage has given the khibakrhi both an unusual vulnerability to mental magic, and the inability to use it. Khibakrhi cannot use Lun magic, but can instantly detect the presence of silver or black magic, which is slightly painful to them.
The techniques exist to create artificial life, sentient or no. Only the kenaki have the knowledge available to create viable races, a process which takes hundreds of years to complete.
Creating a unique creature is a bit simpler. A knowledgeable, specialized mage could piece together two or more creatures to create a new being in a matter of weeks or months, with the added complexity of wholey unique attributes lengthening the time spent in research and creation.
For example, it's currently popular for the upper class to commission pets combining various small animals, such as mice and sparrows. The creation of a mouse-sparrow involves either the death of both, in which case the resultant creature would then be reanimated with a new spirit, or by killing one and combining the material with the living other. This second process is much simpler, but cannot produce a creature which behaves any differently than the original being. A mouse given sparrow wings will still behave like a mouse, but a mouse-sparrow with a combined brain will be able to tunnel and fly. It's possible to alter the brain of a living subject, so that modifications become functional, but this is apparently more complicated than the other method, and so it's reserved for modifications made directly to clients. The exact process is beyond me. The art requires devotion.
Of course, it's possible to give a person, say, wings, if they have the money for it. Provided their death and reanimation isn't involved, people with magical modifications retain their status. The cost involved makes a few specific modifications stylish and desirable. Tail and ear modifications are gaining in popularity, and unusual or changing eye or hair colors have been common in the upper class for centuries.
I have my hair modified fairly often. It burns a little, but I can't say anything else about the experience. For about fifty kibik, your hair can be whatever color you like, with little trouble.
My older brother had horns for a few years, and it cost him more to have them removed than it did to have them done. More complex modifications are possible. Conceivably, someone could even change their appearance to that of another race, but such extremes are considered tasteless and suspicious, at best.
There are more Telekan in the city than most would care to admit. The only place they are appreciated at all is in the gladiatorial arena, and the only reason telekan continue to exist is because the dragons breed them for combat. Some telekan have escaped, or been set free, drifting away to find other roles within the city, but none are considered legal citizens. Telekan slaves are not valued for their rarity, and when not owned by the dragons, are often not permitted to breed, sometimes physically. They have either caused or been blamed, at some point or another, for every major conflict in known history. Their innate mental magic abilities frighten people. The Vedrig, especially, have an innate fear of the Telekan that most don't bother to overcome. Their abilities have made them a target. They are considered beasts, and not truly sentient, by many. Since they are not legally recognized as people, they cannot ever legally be free. An escaped or freed Telekan might, at any time, be claimed as property, no matter how much they've fought for their freedom.
We of the Church of Ginjan support legal recognition of the Telekan people. They may not be well liked, nor entirely safe to have within the city, but they are here, and while they are here, they should be given the same chances as anyone else.
They are not mere animals. They are cunning, and often quite bright. Their abilities grant them a keen insight into the minds of others. At the very least, they can sense strong emotions from others. The most powerful Telekan can see right into someone's thoughts. This is why they are considered so dangerous. It is very hard to lie to them.
They believe that they possess two souls, the spirit of their consciousness, and the spirit of their guardian, inseparably bound until death. This is why, they say, they can walk in the minds of others, and why all Telekan are family. A Telekan might believe a new acquaintance to have a spirit bound to hers in a previous life. The Telekan are very insistent in this belief. It is possessed by all surviving racial groups, regardless of their geographic origin.
There are several of these racial groups, and many of mixed heritage. Above all, Telekan accept their own as Telekan. Distinctions of breed are not important to them. The dragons, however, favor breeding Highlander Verak, who are covered with shaggy black fur, with large, sharp horns and even sharper tusks. Their fearsome appearance is popular with audiences. Along with Lowlander and Nomad Verak, Highlanders are from Madavia. Lowlanders' fur is shorter and less course, and their tusks are much smaller, rarely showing from under their lips, except in old males. Nomad Verak are shaggy, usually brown, and have no tusks at all.
Ormeel come from Emrikal, and resemble musk-oxen, with downward sloping horns and a slightly shorter, stockier build than Madavian Telekan. This is rather inconsequential, since all Telekan are huge - eight to ten feet tall. All races are hoofed, horned, covered in fur, with a bovine appearance and tail. Their feet are cloven hooves, the sign of mind magic. Their hands are more dexterous, but each of their three fingers is topped with a hoof-like nail. They live to be, at most two hundred, if left to their natural span, which, sadly, isn't often.