The Clockwork Undead
Art of the Mortificers
Morthagi (mor-THAW-ghee: singular and plural noun) is an old term, as old as the practice that first created them. Morthagi can be any of a wide variety of constructed entities that combine once-living tissue with mechanical components, mystical elements, and clockwork, in order to achieve a profane, though admittedly impressive, semblance of life. The most remarkable of them show true intuition, analytical capabilities, and situational cunning. Indeed, the limits of the Morthagi's potential for thought are beyond knowing.
Mortificer is the term for those who invented and built the Morthagi, in antiquity. You read their stories, and if you're lucky stumble upon some of their original texts, scrawled in archaic scripts. Most academics are helplessly taken with their achievements, and we certainly see the value of Mortificial components and mechanisms in such fields as medicine and masonry. The art of Mortificing is sadly lost to our world, and though many have sought to revive it, all have failed. The children of the Mortificers, their constructs, 'live' on, self-propagating, preserving the legacy of their creators.
They may be destroyed by willful violence or exceptional accident, of course, but otherwise Mortificial devices and the Morthagi in particular tend to remain operational indefinitely. They appear almost universally capable of interfacing with each other, performing mutual repair and maintenance to sustain each other over infinite generations of people. To most scholars, this suggests there's an elegance to the schematics of the Mortificers that we are simply not comprehending, a simple repetitive principle that allows them all to exist, iterate, and interlock. Myself, I've analyzed their stunning capability to form links where none would've seemed conceivable, and I've attempted to observe the nature of their complex and holistic maintenance, and after doing so can only hypothesize that it's based on critical thinking more than original design: they study and solve problems with their 'minds', applying thought-skills that are perhaps owed to the lost magics interwoven with their joints and gears at their inception, back when such things may have been possible. Indeed, I see not the consistent reliable markings of manufacture, but truly the inspired and creative asymmetry of art.
That is not to say that the Morthagi are not essentially tools, or that there is no pattern to their form and function. Many an explorer has written of finding machines in deep tombs and forgotten caves. Often they're discovered employed in some mundanity, working at whatever it is they were directed to do, all those ages ago. Such constructs are often reported to have unique designs, and some are suspected to be exaggerated or wholly fabricated by those giving the account... but certain designs seem to be timeless, repeated by every practitioner of the artform. And few of them are defenseless.
Some of the simpler Morthagi must be powered by an external mystical or mechanical means, and can fall dormant in the absence of such a power source. Others, though, must have been designed to harvest their own power supply from their surroundings, giving outstanding credence to the notion that these Morthagi, for purposes that remain delightfully and tantalizingly opaque, were intended to outlast the civilizations and genius minds that birthed them. What they harvest and use appears opportunistically selected, ranging from naturally occurring resources and oil deposits, to living matter refined for whatever essential fuel such matter can produce. Regardless, it is never safe to assume that a given Morthagi is dormant, or, indeed, that one exhibiting harmless behavior might not suddenly turn aggressive.
There is so much about the Morthagi 'Ecosystem' we do not yet know. The hunt for knowledge rides by day and night! It never rests!