Though relatively small compared to the other clades, the beings that make up the ranks of the Exanima
are no less diverse. Whether transformed by the gates, summoned by magic rituals or artificially created through alchemy, the sole unifying characteristic of all Exanima is that they are not "alive" in the strictest sense of the term. Many do not require air, food or water to thrive; some are not even composed of organic matter. Though many can appear as male or female-bodied, such a distinction is completely superficial as all Examina are incapable of breeding and feel no drive to do so whatsoever.
The most infamous and commonly encountered Exanima are the Undead,
a motley collection of creatures generally reviled and feared throughout the Brightlands. Continually associated with death, decay, and disease, the Undead are generally encountered in locations such as battlefields and grave sites where spiritual "miasma" is highly concentrated--particularly the dark energies that necromancers and Oni priests tap into--or in benighted lands like The Fade where little else survives. Interestingly the Undead contain many former Humies among their numbers, anatomically unaltered aside from their status as living dead. Despite many centuries of study the reason for this remains unknown.
Thanks to Zombies teeming in the wastes, the Undead as a whole have received an undeserved reputation for being violent, ravenous and dim-witted. Although rarely considered pleasant company by the living--due to their foul rotting odor and social quirks more than anything else--much of Camboria's Undead citizenry is unfairly maligned and frequently misunderstood.
The Undead are loosely grouped into several informal castes based on their level of intelligence, autonomy and magical acumen/spiritual power. At the very bottom of the hierarchy are Zombies
which are little more than shambling corpses capable of only the most rudimentary functions, existing in a perpetual state of undying necrosis. Slow-moving yet tirelessly persistent and gifted with a good sense of smell, Zombies dine almost exclusively on flesh--preferably that of the living, though they are not terribly picky eaters and will sometimes even try to consume each other if there is nothing else available.
"Wild" Zombies are among the most social of Undead and are frequently found in large groups. The roaming hordes lack any sense of coordination or unity and will advance on any food source they find as a disorganized rabble--often tearing each other apart in the process. Despite their oblivious stupidity, a herd of hungry Undead should not be underestimated thanks to their relatively high durability and complete immunity to fear and pain. A badly wounded Zombie with several amputated limbs--sometimes even after the head has been severed--will continue to crawl after its quarry completely undeterred by the damage. Though fire is frequently employed by magic users to exterminate the Undead, even after being engulfed in flame it can take up to several minutes for a Zombie to cease its attack. For this reason the most effective non-necromantic means for disposing of an unruly Zombie is to freeze it solid, thus rendering it immobile.
While many Zombies are Humies (or "Humie-like") it is possible for almost any Gateworld species in any state of transition to become a Zombie. However the Zombies themselves are rarely contagious, despite a very popular misconception likely carried over from the Humie world about their origins. It is far
more likely--though still relatively rare--for the dead to be raised as Zombies en masse through necromancy, working as mindless servants under their new master. When summoned this way, the Zombies are only a danger if ordered to attack and will frequently ignore even fresh meat in order to complete their assigned tasks.
If their master dies it is possible for the summoned Undead to achieve a level of intelligence and autonomy as they carry out an imitation of their past lives, banding together in small villages and homesteads. The Humie variant of these beings are frequently referred to as Ghouls,
while the mindful Gateworld Undead are dubbed Wights.
Though it is less common, both Ghouls and Wights can be new arrivals or created through alchemy as well.
Outside the company of their kin both forms are more aware of their malodorous nature and avoid other races, tending to relatively peaceful hermit-like existences. Though they can eat virtually anything without fear of being poisoned, many refuse to prey on living creatures and instead scavenge for carrion and compost to satisfy their appetites. Some make a honest living as undertakers and street cleaners, doing work that many would find menial or unsavory. Others look into various academic studies, particularly alchemy in order to either reverse or cease their body's slow decay.
Just as durable and resilient as Zombies, Ghouls/Wights are often found living well outside civilization and in rather hostile environments with only extreme cold or humidity posing problems for them. To prevent parasites from burrowing into their skin and keep parts from rotting off they often wrap their bodies in bandages, sometimes taking on a mummy-like appearance. Appropriately enough, the Vasssshaz Desert is a rather popular destination for Ghouls/Wights as the extremely dry air helps keep their flesh preserved--it is possible for them to survive in this fashion for hundreds of years.
A common adage among those who study the Undead is that for every hundred Zombies there will number one Ghoul; and out of every two hundred Ghouls there may rise a Lich
. Nobles and aristocrats among the Undead, Lich are extremely rare beings that have achieved immortality by ritually binding their spirit to a location or object, or even the land itself. As a result they lead a very powerful yet limited existence, unable to travel far from where or what they are bound to. Lich can continue surviving without a physical form, but they are imprisoned until they are able to find a living being to possess. Once within a body they are completely immune to natural aging and no longer need food or drink to sustain themselves, though their host's flesh and hair will often take on a ghostly bluish or greenish pallor before long.
Due to their defiance of death itself, Lich are widely considered to be among the most powerful sorcerers in Camboria's history. Even the Highbloods
of Orcheus will wage war on Lich in Purgadian territory and destroy anything in their domains, considering these highly intelligent and devious Undead one of their few major sources of competition. Mostly specialized in the suppressed dark art of necromancy, Lich are able to call upon scores of Undead to do their bidding, building great castles and necropolises within the lands they have made their own and raising armies from the grave to defend them accordingly. In addition to Zombies, the dreaded Dullahan
often serve under a Lich as their personal "knights," obeying their commands without hesitation.
Despite their terrible reputation as tyrannical and depraved overlords, many Lich are relatively isolated due to their limited range and pose little threat to the outside world. Some will even negotiate treaties with local townships and fiefdoms of the living if it is in their interest to do so. However over centuries their necromantic influence will gradually spread, altering nature itself into a horrifying perversion of "un-life." This can only cease after the Lich's physical body has been obliterated and its spirit sealed away. Though it is virtually impossible to completely extirpate a Lich, once entrapped they are essentially powerless.
Similar to Lich in the sense that they are often bound to a specific location, Ghosts
(AKA phantoms, bogeys, poltergeists, etc.) are restricted even further to a non-corporeal state and are unable to physically interact with their environment directly. However they often have a very strong magical affinity, and use their energies to create illusions and levitate objects. Some Ghosts are capable of limited verbal communication, though due to the strange nature of Delingo most can only form disassociated words and phrases rather than coherent speech.
Ghosts are commonly created through one of two means. A new arrival can become a Ghost through the power of the gates, either dying immediately and coming back in spectral form to continue their transformation into another race; or dying midway through their change and remaining locked in that state after becoming a Ghost. The second method typically involves a death curse, which roots the victim's spirit to a single location after their physical form is killed. Though impossible to revert a Ghost back to flesh and blood, it is
possible to sever the curse and lay the afflicted spirit to rest if its caster agrees to do so.
Though Ghosts are not inherently dangerous or violent they are often emotionally unstable, initially unaware of their condition--it is considered unwise to expose their new form as they may become quite distraught and very unpredictable. More "mature" Ghosts that come to terms with their state of being are often very beneficial; those bound to haunt certain residences serve as house guardians and form an affection for the families that claim them. Roaming or "free" Ghosts are much less magically potent than their domestic kin, but the latter will rapidly weaken and partially disintegrate into an ill-defined mist if they travel too far from their homes.
Perhaps the least maligned Undead though still greatly feared and respected, the enigmatic, wandering creatures known as Banshee
have a strangely graceful appearance. Similar to Humies except of a snow-white complexion and hair along with an extremely gaunt androgynous build, Banshees are often associated with the Fae
despite the two having little to no contact with each other. This is perhaps due to their unexplained connection to the sinister Unseelie--sometimes as allies, but more often bitter enemies. Though believed to be essentially immortal Banshee are equally likely to appear old and hag-like as they are young and beautiful, and frequently wear dark cloaks to hide their features. Despite being Undead, they do not exist in a state of decay and thus lack the overpowering stench of Zombies and Ghouls.
Due to their nocturnal habits and generally secretive natures, precious little is known about Banshee society. Only a scant few transformations have ever been accounted for by researchers--it is said to be a gradual yet relatively quick process, with most new Banshees formed after several nights of living in the Gateworld. They are commonly seen in the magically flourishing Wyldefree region but they can also be found walking in graveyards and tombs, especially in the night(s) following a burial.
Entering a coma during daylight hours, Banshees are active solely from dusk to dawn. Both "males" and "females" (any differences are skin-deep at best) are renowned for their enchanting voices; they often serve a vital role as funeral singers and mourners. Their wordless songs are said to herald the death of rulers and nobles, along with soothing angry spirits. Banshees are also responsible for creating the latter as their ear-piercing shrieks rapidly drain the life out of their victims and curse them to an eternity as Ghosts. Fortunately Banshees rarely need to feed and this crueler aspect is not often witnessed but it is still prudent to avoid invoking the wrath of these capricious Undead, lest you end up on the receiving end of their unearthly wail.
Though there is frequent dispute among naturologists over whether they are "true" Undead or simply a form of organic Construct, the macabre reanimated patchworks categorized as Flesh Golems
are often confused for Ghouls and Wights. Typically large and lumbering humanoid monsters made up of various tissues and organs stitched together and bonded through magical and alchemic processes of the most haphazard variety, a Flesh Golem's appearance depends entirely on the species it was reconstructed from. Many are undead chimeras of a sort, with parts scavenged from several races.
Usually possessing fairly limited sentience, Flesh Golems are slow and somewhat clumsy but incredibly strong with a vast resistance to pain. To this end it is relatively common for their creators to employ them as assistants and laborers. In exchange they are often rewarded with the preservative chemicals and elixirs needed to keep their bodies functioning and free of rot. Unlike the aggressive Zombies, Flesh Golems are even-tempered, obedient and slow to anger--whether this is due to their dulled awareness or another side effect of the procedure used to create them is uncertain.
Flesh Golems that break free from their creator's control are another matter entirely. Though often naive and bumbling in their initial attempts to socialize, if met with even token resistance they can be driven to towering rages and are nearly impossible to calm. In addition to their tremendous capacity for destruction Flesh Golems have a relatively high resistance to sleep spells and other non-lethal magical means, leaving elemental attacks as the most reliable way to stop their rampages. Due to a long history of incidents like these Flesh Golems are frequently banned from Brightlands cities and towns, and the "dark arts" of reanimation and necromancy have largely been allowed to lapse into obscurity.