Proper name of the Magic: Automata sometimes called Magimechanical
Name of mages: Automicant or Mechanician (a more rarely used title)
Current Status: There were never many Automicants and the magic was considered extinct until recently. When Misha Brightleaf recovered and restored Madog it showed that he had the potential to become one.
Automaton magic is the magic used to create, maintain and enhance items that move and do other preprgrammed tasks using a mix of magic and technology. These are not robots (which are strictly technological) or golems (which are completely magical), but often the more sophisticated ones do the same things as robots and are actually intelligent and self-aware. Self-aware automatons cannot be created without the use of a living soul; no automicant, no matter how skilled, can create this essential spark. In ancient times the automicants would use the souls of animals and humans to awaken their automatons; Madog, for instance, was created using the soul of a fox. The intelligence of an automaton is not necessarily limited by the intelligence of the creature it was made from; Madog's technomagical brain has much more processing power than the brain of a fox, and Madog's intelligence has grown to near-human levels in the centuries since his creation. but Madog still thinks like a fox on many levels and can be frustratingly difficult to understand at times.
At its most basic levels (without the use of a soul) an automaton can do simple tasks like open a door mechanically or play music. Automatons like Madog represent the height of such power and are a mix of very sophisticated technology and magic.
One severe restriction on Automata is the use of souls to run the most sophisticated automatons. This had led to it being banned by the lothanasi, ecclesia, the Rebuilders (it is perhaps the only thing the Eccesia and Rebuilders agree upon!) and the Yehudim. See Religion for more info. In later centuries the invention of mechanical computers will allow Automicant's to build more sophisticated automata without the use of a living soul.
Another restriction: The use of exotic materials and metals in the automatons is common place. One part found on the recently discovered automaton was made of alloy of 12% brass, 28% gold, 20% silver, 15% electrum, 10% mithril and 15% jade. Another part was made of 2 materials that were themselves alloys of a dozen other materials. This results in even the smallest part in an automaton being complex and expensive to make.
At the moment there are only four truly self-aware automata in existence: Madog , Omega , salona and Bolva. There is the possibility that others do exist hidden and lost someplace, but no one knows for sure.
There is only 1 known Automicant at the moment; Misha Brightleaf and his exact skill level is unknown. As of late he has been studying the magic with Madog's help and has already repaired the automaton twice.
The Marigund Mages Guild recently organized a department of Automatia and have several people who are energetically studying the magic but have not displayed skill levels equal to Misha - yet. They are working with Misha and are also doing in depth research in all surviving records for any clues. They are known to pay very large sums of money for even the smallest automaton part. They have amassed a good sized collection of bits and pieces and have only recently reassembled salona .
Several other groups of mages are believed to be studying Automaton magic but very little is known about them.
In the west:
the history of Automaton magic is sketchy and little known. There have been several mages and at least one group devoted solely to it's practice. The most well know of which is the Amber Order. The order was destroyed centuries ago. The recent discovery of an Amber order stronghold in Metamor Valley by Misha has led to the hope that the orders missing library will soon be located.
A second organization is known only by a single reference to a book called "The Handbook of Aretrex Mechanisms." That book itself is long lost. Nothing else is known about Aretrex and who or what it was.
Suielman Empire: The Suielman Empire had a mixed history with Automatons. Some emperors openly using them and others banning them or even actively hunting them down. Ironically it was the empires penchant for writing down everything that allowed most of the tales and what few books that are left to survive. Most surviving books on Automatia were either written by Suielman or are Siuelman copies of older texts.
In the east:
It was known to have been practiced extensively by the xenophobic Lom Shi'Un Dynasty. The organization was known as the CoKhi Phuong. Exactly how long it was used and to what extent is little known. Almost nothing is known about the CoKhi Phuong except rumor and legend. The Lothanasi outlawed the use of souls in automaton magic when they came to power in western Galendor, which greatly limited the usefulness of automata. In Lom Shi'Un, which is dominated by the church of Lilith, the religious establishment never had any moral compunctions about using this sort of magic, provided that it was done with proper supervision by Lilith's priesthood.
The knowledge is believed to have been at its height during the Dragon war (-1780CR) when hundreds of automata including many who flew were used. But a large number of the Automata were lost in the fighting and never replaced. Use of the magic faded slowly after that but exactly when it went extinct is unknown. There are reports of Automaton as late as -200CR and legends still persist of automata in hiding somewhere in the giantdowns .
Rumors and Legends:
Automaton magic has always had an air or rumor and legend about it. Tales tell of automata 100 feet tall and capable of destroying whole cities. Most legends speak of a hidden/lost stash of automata just waiting for some adventurer to find it. These tales are like the real World tales of Atlantis, Mu and Troy - common knowledge but not fully believed by all.
Garashel the terrible: This legend is little known outside of the giantdowns where it is a common story among some lutin tribes - ("Behave or Garashel will get you!" ) Garashel is supposed to be an all metal griffin with claws of silver and wings of gold. Legends speak of her being able to become invisible and to slaughter whole tribes. There is no solid information about her being an automaton or that she even exists but the legend must have some basis in fact. Perhaps a distant memory of some automaton from the Dragon war.
The Emperor's Eagle: A beautiful automaton believed to have been owned by the emperor Claudius (ruled circa -229? to -204?). Shaped like an eagle it's said to have been able to fly and shoot lightning and fire. Very little solid information is known about it and only a handful of drawings depicting it survive.
The Bronze man: This very old legend is believed to be Arysnian in origin. The legend tells of a man of bronze called Nawiran. In some tales he is a destroyer and slays whole armies. In other tales he helps a hero in some impossible task like digging a river in a single day. Whether these tales are true or not is unknown but there are at least 4 places in the Southern Midlands that are supposed to be Nawiran's resting place. None have been investigated as of yet. There is no way of telling exactly what Nawiran was (if he existed at all) but it is worth mentioning.
Heron of Alendanria: Famous as one of the first Automicants.