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Photo of HomunculusThe Land

Homunculi have no land of their own, but live among humans as servants, guards, slaves, and craftsmen. Most serve a ritualist (or a whole cabal), alchemist, or similar mystic power, bound by law or by magic to follow the orders of their master. They are most common in areas where magicians are common, such as major cities and centers of learning. Homunculi are found in every nation, but are most common in Tarsikka by far. In Tarsikka, body parts of criminals are often used to create homunculi bound to the service of the local lord or cabal. They are a common and accepted part of daily life in Tarsikka. While in other lands one can go a lifetime without seeing a homunculus, such is not possible in Tarsikka. They are rare in the Principalities, Oresund, and Akathia, where they are usually only found serving wealthy ritualists. In Gaunt and Athral Isle, they are all but unknown.

Though commonplace in Tarsikka, homunculi are second-class citizens at best. Most Tarsikkans assume any homunculus they meet is a criminal receiving his just punishment. Those bound to a particularly powerful individual, such as a member of a influential cabal, are afforded more respect, but this is respect for the homunculus's master and not the homunculus itself. By the laws of Tarsikka, any homunculus bound to someone else is the property of that master, and ownership may be transferred at the master's discretion. Freed homunculi are distrusted and forced to live on the edges of civilization, though a small handful have made themselves useful enough to break through this barrier. Despite the existence of free homunculi, any homunculus on his own without a token of his master or proof of his freedom receives rough treatment from the authorities, if not outright arrested. Only the Tharici treat homunculi well, seeing them as kindred spirits and targets of undeserved prejudice. Tharici do not believe in binding homunculi magically, though there are exceptions.

In the Principalities, homunculi are only allowed under certain agreements with the Redwood Throne, due to their connection with ritual magic, which is itself illegal outside the auspices of the Church. These allowances for homunculi, called writs of bondage, are only available to those with significant political, economic, or magical influence. Writs of bondage can only be issued by bishops or higher echelons of the clergy, and the paperwork necessary to secure one takes years. Naturally, the time required is inversely proportional to the amount of money and political capital one spends. Most writs of bondage are owned by ritualists approved by the Redwood Throne, but a few are in the hands of powerful alchemists. In the history of the Principalities, a handful of homunculi have earned writs of bondage for themselves, allowing them to exist without Church interference, but these have each been extraordinary events. Homunculi without a writ of bondage are killed in short order, usually by burning. These practices vary some from Principality to Principality; they are generally ignored in the Duchy of Western Trempa and the Free City of the Hulder, but homunculi are treated with even more suspicion in the Prince-Bishopric of Brezha. Indeed, there have been some calls to make homunculi completely illegal in Brezha.

The Caliphate of Dusk is in many ways the most accepting of the homunculi, largely due to the efforts of Caliph Nazik Isveren, who was the Royal Alsimist before becoming Caliph. Caliph Nazik Isveren had been served for many years by a homunculus named Kayli, who had become the Caliph's friend over that time. This loyalty, combined with the devotion Kayli showed the Isverens over centuries of service, earned Kayli her freedom, and the Caliph declared that homunculi were no longer slaves, but instead indentured servants. Homunculi in the Caliphate are bound to their creator and his descendants for a period of no more than fifty years, after which they are free. This began at twenty years, but political pressure and other difficulties made it expedient for the Caliphs following Nazik Isveren to lengthen the term of service. Homunculi are still second-class citizens within the Caliphate and reviled by polite society, but they enjoy the same access to the Caliph's justice as other citizens. Freed homunculi are the most common in the Caliphate of all nations, proportionally speaking, but there are few homunculi overall.

On Athral Isle, homunculi are few and far between. Most Athral ritualists see the ritual to create homunculi as a disgusting abuse of the dead, and thus homunculi are something created by grave robbers and other villains. Though ritualism is openly practiced among the Athrals, ritualists with homunculi are likely to be treated poorly; those Athral ritualists who possess them keep them in secret, away from population centers. Homunculi have no official legal standing on Athral Isle; they are less than people or property in the eyes of the law. Freed homunculi are unknown on Athral Isle.

The Gauntish are people of extremes when it comes to homunculi; they either respect them for their strength, or see them as abominations to be destroyed. There is no in-between. Homunculi are rare enough in Gaunt that few actually have to make this choice. Homunculi in Gaunt need be extremely careful, as the Gauntish are a superstitious people, and a man made of corpses obviously enflames such fears. Those homunculi who prove themselves before giving away their nature earn a place among the warriors of Gaunt with their great resilience and strength. A number of free homunculi have fled the Principalities or Tarsikka to find a new life among Gauntish raiders. The Gauntish are less concerned about where the homunculus comes from and more concerned about what it can do, allowing it to earn a place among the Gauntish if it is skilled enough. However, a homunculus made from the remains of a Gauntish warrior or using such remains to repair himself is giving a grave insult and will be killed.

Given the number of ritualists in Oresund, it is unsurprising that the largest population of homunculi outside of Tarsikka can be found in that frozen nation. The laws regarding homunculi in Oresund were established centuries ago by the royal decree of King Arhem Rosskjel. They are the property of the ritualist or cabal that created them. These laws have been used as political weapons over time; some historians or warrior kings weaken them to annoy the ritualists, only to see the old laws reinstated when a ritualist king sits on the throne. This political gamesmanship has died off during the rule of the last few kings. Homunculi are common in the urban areas of Oresund, but rarely seen elsewhere. Currently they are as much fashion accessories as servants among the Oresund cabals. Their owners dress them in foppery and make body modifications to them on a whim to stay with the latest trends. There are no legally recognized free homunculi in Oresund; all homunculi belong to a ritualist or a cabal, and any caught roaming free are either auctioned off or used as a political gift to a cabal in need.

While the homunculi have no nation of their own, they do rule one settlement. The hamlet of Eurst, located in the wilds of the Skattenmark in the Principalities, is populated almost entirely by homunculi, many of whom fled their masters to live there. This settlement of several score remains free of outside interference, leading some to believe that the local lord, Herras Orrin, is somehow in league with the homunculi. Some rumors also cite Eurst as the home of the murderer called the Copper Serpent, but thus far that villain has not struck near Eurst. The homunculi of Eurst keep to themselves, farming the surrounding lands, harvesting lumber, and trading alchemical goods and forge magic with neighboring villages. Neighboring villages have blamed the inhabitants of Eurst for everything from kidnapping children to curdling milk, but none of them have felt strong enough to make a move against the homunculi.