Skorne saved from the Void by an ancestral guardian but not evaluated as worthy of exaltation by an extoller become revered companions. The status of a revered companion varies depending on the circumstances of preservation. If a great warrior dies in battle and becomes exalted, revered companions fallen in the same battle will be linked to him as companions. This most often happens when a tyrant achieved exaltation; in the tradition of many houses, all revered companions who served the fallen leader are linked to him. Otherwise, those preserved in this way become companions to the ancestor who saved them from the Void. Many of these revered companions will become immortals and receive their own vessels so they can fight alongside their ancestral guardian. Over the centuries, an ancestor can build a court of companions plucked from dozens of battlefields. Together the ancestor and immortals fight beside the living, with the guardian silently communicating with his cohort to direct them in battle and welcoming fallen warriors in an undying chain of fealty.
Even before ancestral guardians gained the ability, extollers would follow behind an army in battle and seek to preserve warriors who distinguished themselves with their prowess and dedication to hoksune. Those below the status necessary to earn true exaltation were nonetheless saved from the Void and interred in lesser sacral stones as revered companions. These sacral stones would then be fitted to stone bodies within the tombs of their exalted rulers.
It was once rare that these lesser exalted were given forms expected to rouse to movement. But in time the statues afforded the revered companions were improved, and extollers sought to awaken them as well, allowing these warriors to also contribute to the wars of their houses. During the War of the Exalted, the number of revered companions grew. The extollers discovered the process whereby an ancestral guardian could be empowered to collect the spirits of the worthy slain, and the body of each guardian was set with receptive and empty sacral stones for just this purpose. It was discovered that proximity to an ancestral guardian quickened the will of these companions, and more of them joined battle as the war continued.
Shortly after the War of the Exalted, the revered companions who could animate their stone bodies became known as immortals. Houses with large numbers of immortals deployed them alongside their ancestral guardians, where they could shield the guardian from attacks and gain strength from its presence. The chance of losing the sacral stones of these lesser exalted was considered well worth the risk when weighed against their combat effectiveness.
Immortals are largely constructed of obsidian, a black stone found only in areas of past volcanic activity, such as the volcano Karrak in Tor-Halaak, but lesser stones that are reactive to spiritual energies may also be used in the crafting of an immortal. This allows immortals to be created far more quickly than guardians.
The exact form of an immortal is less important than that of an ancestral guardian, and less precision is needed in their construction. Still, a gifted mason is needed to carve the bodies, and an extoller must be present to awaken the ancestor within the sacral stones. Most immortals resemble skorne warriors of ancient times, although there are slight variations from house to house.
The bodies of immortals are often destroyed in battle, but if the sacral stone can be recovered, a new body can be constructed. In some cases, an immortal who has fought and survived numerous battles is gifted with a more elaborate form to reflect its greater status.
Because of the reverence the skorne have for exalted ancestors and the relative ease with which sacral stones can be transferred from vessel to vessel, many skorne houses do not go to the effort of repairing damaged vessels, seeing it as a slight against the ancestor. Instead, they simply have a new vessel constructed. The ancestral guardians and immortals fighting alongside the Army of the Western Reaches do not always have the luxury of such replacements, however, requiring skilled masons to repair the bodies they already inhabit.
Before the War of the Exalted, immortals were used to protect sacred sites and noble estates. When they became more common after this conflict, immortals were deployed on the battlefield to protect ancestral guardians.
At first, immortals were deployed in small numbers, usually no more than a datha, to serve as an honour guard to an ancestral guardian. Often, these immortals were the same warriors who served the guardian in life. As the ranks of immortals grew, they were deployed in larger numbers, as many as a taberna. Such a force would include two or three ancestral guardians acting as officers. In modern times, the number of immortals deployed with each ancestral guardian has increased. Dozens or even hundreds of immortals might be led in battle by a single guardian. Some houses have enough immortals to field an entire decurium: a daunting sight to any enemy.
Some venerable ancestral guardians have been fighting alongside the same immortals for centuries. In such cases, the immortals act as a kind of honour guard to these revered ancestors, and they are never separated from one another.
Immortals are armed with a great stone blade made of any stone that can channel sacral energies, similar to those employed in the weapons of ancestral guardians. These weapons are far heavier than living skorne could wield, and they kill more by crushing than by cutting an enemy. Immortals are deployed in small units and fight in formation, presenting an impenetrable wall of stone bodies and blades.
Although powerful and skilled, immortals are slow and can sometimes be outflanked by a more nimble foe. This flaw can be mitigated by the presence of an ancestral guardian, whose sacral stone augments the immortals’ own spiritual energies, giving them greater speed and agility.
The living, reminded of the chance to avoid utter destruction should they fall, find courage in the silently marching ranks of immortals. Skorne soldiers without hope of true exaltation aspire to join the immortals and thereby cheat death itself.