Note: Making Undead is a series of posts. If you missed the last post, here it is, and if you'd like to catch up from the beginning, here is Making Undead #1.
Aviadins are a unique race to WotA, but similar to other fantasy birdmen races in form such as the aarakocra of D&D and Arakkoa of WoW. Where they differ is how they fit into the world of WotA (and also the fact that they can't do much more than a controlled slowfall, whereas most birdmen are able to fly to some extent).
After the Seal of the Archmagi was broken, the ancient saurian citadels returned to the Realm of Ao. The long dormant magicks seized upon the closest relatives to the saurians still alive, a variety of species of birds, and attempted to imbue them with the forgotten power of their proud race.The aviadins were the result.
So the aviadins have a few different physical characteristics to play around with and pervert for the purposes of making undead creatures. The unholy fusion of saurian (which were a collection of intelligent species of dinosaurs at their most basic) and bird alone could leave me with a blog filling up the rest of the night.
Let's start with a fossilized aviadin. The fossilized remains of the saurians are one of the great power sources for aviadins, so it makes sense that avish shamans grasping for more power might ritualistically fossilize their bones to try to impart more saurian magick into their bodies. This is accomplished through a variety of horrific methods, but in order to avoid mindlessness must be done while the shaman is still alive. If the aviadin is killed or dies before the procedure, they become a lost fossil.
The newly dead shaman (or rapidly dying) then has fossils of power pressed against what flesh of theirs remains or placed directly against exposed bones. The cadaver is then placed into a specially prepared chamber (generally unique to each that wishes to rise; if a chamber is shared, it may result in a jealous fossil) designed to encourage the rise of undead energy and facilitate the merging of ancient and new fossil (if the new or old fossils reject each other, then a rejected fossil occurs).
Finally, after at least several days, and usually several weeks, the fossilized aviadin rises newly empowered and returns to its former life. Fossilized aviadins are generally slower and less agile than living aviadins, but their flesh (if it remains) and bones become as hard as stone and they have significantly more magick than the average shaman. They are recharged when sleeping in their specially prepared chambers (which require saurian fossils built into the walls), and can come back from catastrophic injury/damage if they are able to return to the chamber (or are brought to it). The worse off they are, the longer it takes for them to recover, and super-injuries may cause permanent weakening (until they are further empowered). To guarantee permanent death of a fossilized aviadin, its special chamber must be destroyed and whatever fossils existing there or in the bones of the fossilized aviadin must be properly lain to rest or destroyed.
A lost fossil is one where the avish spirit has been disconnected from the body. The lost fossils wander the hallways of ancient saurian citadels and new avish temples, seemingly without purpose. It has been shown that they respond to stimulus and will defend themselves, but most aviadins rarely even acknowledge their existence. There is even the absurd hypothesis that the lost fossils have acquired ancient saurian spirits and that these have some sort of agenda they have been slowly working on. Although lost fossils usually do not reuse their original chambers, the fossils of those chambers slowly disappear and the different lost fossils of a citadel will be known to congregate together mindlessly.
A jealous fossil can be created for a variety of reasons, but frequently is motivated from desperation. If a shaman lies dying before its own chamber is prepared, then one who loves the deceased may rush forward to use a chamber promised to another (or even its own), or the one who is dying may break into the chamber and use it for its own purposes. Eventually, and sometimes immediately, the sense of bliss upon being recharged from a shared chamber lessens and goes away. Additionally, benefits of the fossils used in the creation of the chamber/fossilized aviadin may lessen or be shared between them even if they haven't used the chamber.
There is a well-adjusted fossil where a special chamber is successfully shared between two fossilized aviadins. In these cases, their powers are complemented and empowered instead of lessened.
A lost jealous fossil are an unfortunate common side effect of trying to grant the fossilized aviadin status to one already dead. In these cases, the original fossilized aviadin may find themselves stripped of their powers altogether or their special chamber returned to its base state with no power remaining to continue to recharge the fossilized aviadin.
A rejected fossil has many of the characteristics of fossilized aviadins, but the saurian and avish components of the creature are constantly jarring against each other and causing great explosions of pure magick. These are more likely when the shaman is not powerful enough to absorb the energies of the saurian fossils it would like to. The creation of a fossilized aviadin requires a fine balancing act between the old energies and the new until the undead monster adapts and expands its powers. If the saurian fossils far outstrip the powers of the shaman, then they eventually destroy the avish consciousness and become a lost fossil. Rarely, the aviadin is able to regain control and becomes a true fossilized aviadin, but these pitiable creatures are both ostracized by successful fossilized aviadins and usually grow to fear becoming more powerful in case of another rejection event. Finally, those rejected fossils that remain in the rejection state are driven mad and begin attacking others on sight. Their explosions are uncontrollable at first, but the dual consciousnesses may reach an accord mentally even as they struggle against one another physically, or one learns how to manipulate the other into being able to create the explosions at will.
An ascended fossil is a fossilized aviadin that has succeeded at unlocking the mysteries of saurian magicks and power and is able to utilize the powerful elemental magicks of the ancient saurians as well as the shamanistic magicks of the aviadins. These creatures usually manage lesser fossilized aviadins, controlling who has access to the ritual as well as their large-scale plans. An ascended fossil may work alone in a dictatorship over the other fossilized aviadins or a group of them may control in an oligarchy.
A little on the culture of aviadins. Aviadins build their entire race up as living gods, to which the shamans are the gods of the gods. Still, much of the everyday decisions of avish communities are decided by powerful or influential members of the lesser castes, where the shamans only interfere to get the aviadins to do something that would be beneficial to them. Otherwise, the shamans usually keep to their own devices in the retrofitted saurian citadels they call home. Similarly, fossilized aviadins have the same type of relationship to the shamans, and stay in the lower, subterranean floors (or upper floors for many-story citadels) and only interfere with shamans to guide one into becoming a new fossilized aviadin or to acquire something they want. Finally, ascended fossils control the fossilized aviadins when it suits them, and have their claws into many aspects of everyday life. Base-level aviadins and even shamans and new fossilized aviadins are frequently unaware of the existence of the ascended fossils.
Speaking of fossils, is this as cool as it looks? Stumbled on it while looking up dinosaur bones.
Imagining an aviadin that wants to fly like a bird prompted me to create the flightless:
These rare avish undead want nothing more than to fly through the air. Overcome with the desire to feel the wind in their wings, they run and jump futilely until able to jump off cliffs, flapping arms that frequently have decayed to the point they are even unable to glide or slow their fall. Crashing below, they are left a mess of decayed flesh and bones. If not eaten by wandering monsters (symbiotic undead: flightless stomach), then they continue to try to raise up off the ground, lurching upwards as their destroyed bodies prevent movement. Eventually, the energy of undeath will reconstitute their bodies to the point that they try to jump and fly in place before repeating their previous folly. Even more eventually, flightless tend to congregate in the lowest point of a region, unable to escape and constantly jostling to try to raise up off the ground (possibly turning into a flock of flightless).
A flightless stomach is the result of either very stupid creatures or those with an indomitable stomach eating on the remains of a helpless flightless. Sometimes, the creature will pass the undead monster with no significant complications, but frequently the undead energy spreads throughout the animal from the stomach until the animal dies and both it and the original flightless in its stomach are fused into one unholy abomination. If the animal possesses wings, then the creature may become a flying flightless.
If the animal does not possess wings, then it becomes dangerous (most flightless aren't) to those around it. Enraged by its grounded nature, the animal stampedes about, savaging any and all life in the region. Especially despicable to it are winged creatures, which the outer animal always eats to transfer the body to the inner flightless. Very difficult to kill, the flightless stomach will remain "alive" even if the animal body receives what appear to be mortal wounds. The only way to put down the thing for good is to destroy the flightless within. These monsters frequently synergize to the point they acquire an inner mouth, although the original flightless creature remains firmly ensconced in the beast's belly.
The creature eventually begins to resemble a horror show amalgamation of bird and the original type. Its claws may begin to resemble talons or grow additional ones, and great bird wings with claws will sprout from its back. However, because of the aerodynamics of the beast, these wings are rarely able to achieve flight. Instead, the monster uses them in battle to become more and more powerful. If it does possess wings, then it may transition to the personality of a flying flightless over the years, although this is a rare occurrence.
A flying flightless is a very happy sort of undead. Being an amalgamation between a flying animal and a flightless, the creature takes to soaring for days at a time, always filled with a euphoria that leaves it relatively defenseless. Occasionally, the decay caused by undeath will cause the creature to lose its flying ability, becoming a fallen flying flightless, and more commonly, larger flying creatures will eat the unsuspecting flying flightless, repeating the process again and again, becoming a matryoshka flying flightless.
A fallen flying flightless is much more cunning and dangerous than a normal flightless stomach. The time spent soaring through the air has tuned its mental faculties and the creature may even reach levels of intelligence the aviadin had in life. These creatures begin to have "normal" desires and wishes, implementing plans and stratagems in order to acquire what they desire. They will frequently continue with the goal of trying to fly again, but it is not an all-consuming one, and even if successful in becoming a risen fallen flying flightless (should I just call it an oxymoron?), they do not revert to the defenseless euphoria of a flying flightless, and in fact, are fine with landing and carrying out their plans on the ground.
A matryoshka flying flightless (named after the Russian dolls, for instance these ninja ones) continues to grow stronger and stronger (and has access to both the fallen and risen fallen subtypes) as more animals eat it. Eventually, only the largest animals are able to eat the flying flightless, but the undead energy grows stronger each time and is able to turn each subsequent creature. Depending on the particular matryoshka, the outer creatures may amalgamate into one hybrid, or each individual becomes the same as the original aviadin existing in the stomach at the very center. Amalgamated versions usually become more intelligent and are even able to overcome the senseless euphoria to be predatory.
Finally, a flock of flightless is either a swarm undead or an amalgamation trying to rise up and fly. As more flightless find their way to the flock over the years, the flock may accept or reject the new creature. Even if accepted, none of the flock wants to see any other member rise up, and so they are constantly pulling each other down while trying to lift up themselves. Their endless turmoil rarely ends, and even hunters of undead may allow a flock to continue existing out of hatred for the creatures. The only way for a flock of flightless to overcome their prison is by growing large enough to spill over the edges. By this time, they are nearly always an amalgamation and fused together.
Now, what about aviadins that tap into their heritage to devolve / evolve to pteradon like beasts in undeath?
Flying horrors have bat wings stretching from their torsos to their arms with fewer and fewer feathers as they continue to decay. They fly around devouring animals and small prey. They are opportunistic and indiscriminate and will bring down living creatures no matter what the creature is, or they will feed on carrion. They roost as birds and are attracted to places of old saurian magick. They are considered pests by shamans inhabiting saurian ruins and citadels. When flying horrors appear in groups, they will work together to bring down larger game (such as aviadins and other humanoids). They are very craven and easy to scatter when alone.
Well, that's it for physical corruption of aviadins. We've gone through all the requests of undead, but this is by no means the end. I'll continue updating from time to time and work my way through dwarves, minotaurs, centaurs and aviadins with a different impetus to make undead each time (for instance: magickal corruption, religious/cultural corruption, and more). If there's a race of WotA that you want to see undead made for, please feel free to request it!
I'll be updating the wiki more soon so that people are able to get more of an overview of the races, creatures and locations of WotA.
Thanks for reading!