Stoneclads (STŌN-klad) are powerful rock creatures and protectors of the forests, vistas, creatures, and natural elements of the earth. They can be still for long periods of time (up to hundreds of years) and then awaken, lift their heads, stand up, and then move with great swiftness to crush an enemy of nature.
The origin of ancient stoneclads is unknown, but some believe they are part of the mountains themselves and burst free from the rock, creating canyons, arches, and rock formations of enormous size. Today, stoneclads are once-human Wizards who have used powerful magic to transform themselves into large creatures with stone plates for skin. Stoneclads gain access to the elemental power of the earth, and are invulnerable to most attacks. Their power appears to derive from their many talismans.
To become a stoneclad, a Wizard undergoes a grueling ritual that involves embedding an enchanted stone under the skin and branding themself with mystic runes. It appears that some magi choose to become stoneclad for various reasons, but there have been cases of prisoners or other people being captured and taken through the ritual against their will. Since the end of the Magma Wars, forcible conversion to stoneclad has been strictly illegal and is considered shameful and highly unethical. After the Magma Wars, the appearance of new stoneclads has declined greatly.
Any type of stone can be used in the stoneclad ritual, with tougher stones like granite being the most common, although obsidian is also favored. During the ritual process, up to five different stones or gems are embedded into the Wizard’s flesh to form talismans. Over the next several decades, the stone will grow until it completely envelopes the Wizard’s skin. Once the stone completely covers the skin, the human underneath ceases to exist and the transformation is complete. The talismans remain outwardly visible as part of the finished stoneskin. The stoneclad’s internal biology also changes as the stone spreads. They become stronger and more able to withstand damage. They lose much of their sense of touch, but gain new senses, including being able to sense magnetic fields. Their respiration and digestive systems adapt to their new form, until they no longer need to eat or excrete. It is believed that they obtain nutrients from the elements, including sunlight, rain, and wind.
After becoming a stoneclad, a Wizard will no longer be able to perform magic in the manner to which they were accustomed. The size, quality, and type of talisman will determine the nature of the stoneclad’s powers. Some of them are fairly straightforward (rubies grant fire powers; diamonds can grant temporary invisibility), while others are more subtle.
The stoneclad’s talismans provide power, but are also their weak spot. The talismans are clearly visible on the stoneclad’s dermis and flash when they are used. If they are damaged or removed from the stoneclad, then they lose access to that power. Once a talisman is lost to a stoneclad, it cannot be reattached nor can new talismans be added to a stoneclad after the original ceremony. If the stoneclad loses all of its talismans, it turns into a statue.
Stoneclads are not immortal as commonly thought, though they have an average lifespan of 300-350 years. They regenerate from damage, except for their talismans, and they do not suffer from disease. They do age, however, in a most peculiar way. As the stoneclad ages, the stone in its skin gets progressively thicker until the stoneclad can no longer move and becomes an inanimate statue. There are charms that can slow this process, but it cannot be halted or reversed.
Stoneclad are considered people and are generally accepted into the magical community. As they age, however, they seem to lose more and more of their humanity, thinking and acting in ways that are quite strange. When they start to harden, they will travel off into the wilds to solidify alone. Some Wizards of the Thunderbird Province deliberately become inunnguaq when they solidify. Not all inunnguaq are solidified stoneclad, however. There is a theory of a lost stoneclad graveyard somewhere in the wilderness where the land is littered with statues that were once people, but nobody has ever found evidence of such a thing. It is possible to turn someone into a stoneclad against their will, although doing so usually kills the victim in the process. It is also possible for a child or adolescent to become a stoneclad, though doing so will permanently fix the child in their current age and size. Many Wizards have experimented on turning animals into stoneclad with no success. There is debate within the cryptozoological community on whether a sapient cryptid could be turned into a stoneclad, although there is no evidence that it has ever happened.
Stoneclad do not reproduce. There is no special term for a child who becomes a stoneclad or a newly created stoneclad. Stoneclads prefer to use the same collective nouns as humans; the collective noun “quarry” is considered offensive, as is calling a stoneclad a “golem,” which they obviously are not.
Stoneclads can withstand the elements and have no need for shelter. However, they still prefer to live in simple dwellings within Magimundi communities. Many stoneclad prefer to live with their family and friends, but they do eventually tend to congregate into smaller sub-communities within the Magimundi areas. These communities are often called stonetowns or stone ghettos, although there are those who feel those terms are offensive.
Stoneclads have a thick coating of stone as their dermis. Their bones and muscles are changed from human to support the weight of their skin. They still breathe and eat, but they no longer sweat, and have to release heat by panting.
Stoneclads can consume and digest rocks, which are necessary for their survival, but they still require some animal and vegetable proteins and nutrients, as well. Stoneclads eat larger meals and more often than humans as their metabolism requires more energy to support their weight. However, once a stoneclad has become completely petrified it no longer needs food or nutrients of any kind.
Stoneclads are often employed as guardians or fighters. Some find work as explorers or dealing with other situations that normal humans find too hazardous. The stone skin of a stoneclad, as well as its talismans, seem to have their magical properties attached to the stoneclad and become null-magic items (not useful for any rituals, charms, or potions) when removed. The internal organs of the stoneclad have some magical uses, but they are rare and specialized.
Note: Stoneclads are considered a protected species by the North American Council of Five. They are considered sentient beings with intelligence equal to humans. Harvesting a stoneclad for parts carries with it the same penalties as harvesting a human for parts would.
Stoneclad are powerful, strong, difficult to damage, and resistant to magic. Their eyes, ears, and open mouth are the most vulnerable parts of them. Their powers are tied to their talismans and removing and/or destroying those talismans will significantly weaken the powers of the stoneclad. Removing or destroying all their talismans will kill the stoneclad. Stoneclad are vulnerable to spells that affect rocks, especially ones that transform them into other forms.