Zombies are the undead. They are people who have been raised from the dead by an animator or necromancer. They have no conscious thoughts of their own, and they are not considered beings with rights. They cannot be sustained for very long, unless drastic measures are used.
A dismembered corpse (or the parts of a corpse) can be animated, but obviously it might be useless. Animating a headless corpse will make a perfectly fine zombie, but a headless zombie can't speak or hear or follow orders (same goes for animating a limb). Animating a severed head provides a demi-zombie that can hear and blink, but given the lack of lungs, speaking is out of the question. Upon raising, soft tissue (lungs, vocal cords, muscles, etc..) are fixed up to a fair degree, but bone tissue can only be mended without replacement (EG: Have a corpse with a severed arm, and you have the arm? You can stick the arm against the stump and animation will fix the break, but the arm itself can't reappear if missing).
Feeding a zombie flesh or raw meat will allow it to retain its appearance for a longer period of time. Capturing the soul at death and putting it into a reanimated body will keep the body from rotting. Ghouls are basically zombies, but zombies that somehow raised without an Animator's request, and somehow raised with the knowledge that eating raw meat will sustain them.
To raise the body, the following steps are (usually) necessary.
- Firstly, the animator performing the ceremony must have a death. Usually this involves the sacrifice of an animal, but older dead will need larger beings, sometimes a human. A necromancer can use their own blood for a death. The blood from the sacrifice is used to create a circle around the area where the zombie will be raised. The zombie will not be able to leave the circle, unless the circle is broken. If the circle isn't around the target corpse and also fairly near the target corpse, the circle will determine where the zombie will appear (forced there akin to the force that repels a disinvited vampire from a home, since it'd obviously take hours for a zombie to dig itself up out of its coffin). The circle can be as many feet away from the corpse as the sacrifice's "worth" (based on its Size & Soul), with the zombie taking the easiest route from its resting place to the circle (EG: If you draw the circle on some unlucky prone person's chest, the zombie won't tear through the person but instead will just shamble over and stand on the person). It is this sacrifice that fixes up the corpse well enough to be able to work as a functional zombie; if the corpse to be animated has virtually no damage nor decomposition, then the sacrifice can often be skipped (although most animators still draw a little blood, just in case). Equally, if it's a relatively recent death, but circumstances have whittled the corpse down to mulch and bones, a larger sacrifice is required.
- Secondly, the animator rubs the blood on their own body, usually on the face, both hands, under the shirt, and over the heart. Blood is smeared on the tombstone, and an aromatic ointment is placed on the stone, often containing mold, clove, sage, thyme, cinnamon, and rosemary. The actual tombstone is not needed; the unction only requires to be placed generally as near to the target corpse as possible (bonus points if it's applied directly to the corpse), and placed upon a fairly solid object that is within the aforementioned circle. The savory ointment is used to magically "summon" the zombie up from its grave and into the circle, since it would normally take hours and hours (perhaps even days) for the animated corpse to normally dig its way up through six feet of soil.
- The third step involves a chant by the animator to call the zombie. Blood is offered, because the blood will cause the zombie to recall its former life. If the corpse is of a being with a soul, knowing the name of the being is required, as is waiting three days post-death (an attempted raising before the three days have passed will just summon the body's fairly-useless ghost to the region). If no blood is offered, the zombie is little more than a sleepwalker or a 'plastic catatonic'.
Some success has also been had in skipping the ritual and Raising, and instead going with application of Trioxyn 5, although this has been limited to controlled conditions by private firms.
- When the zombie is ready to be laid to rest again, salt is thrown at the chest, and words akin to 'With salt I bind you to your grave' must be uttered by the animator. The knife used in the sacrifice is passed over the lips, and the animator must say 'With blood and steel I bind you to your grave. <Name>, be at peace, and walk no more". The zombie will return to its grave. One can also just wait until dawn, or make liberal use of fire and/or wood-chippers. The salt nullifies the offered blood from the third step, while the knife-ritual reverses the magic that hauled the zombie out of the ground.
Normally a raised zombie won't do anything that isn't told directly to it by the Animator or Necromancer that raised it. They -can- be told to follow the instructions from another party though, and sometimes (very very rarely) a Necromancer more powerful can usurp the Raiser's control. The corpse's rotting is fixed up by the act of raising, although a seriously trashed or dessicated corpse will take a very good Animator to revitalize it in order for speaking. A zombie can recall everything about its life if directly asked (hope you like playing 20 Questions), but the details about its death are lost. Everything from the moment of death to when the person knew they were going to die is just as much of a mystery as what the zombie experienced in the afterlife. A zombie that died from accidentally shooting itself in the head will be able to relate cleaning the gun and dropping it, but not the shot. A zombie that drowned will be able to relate the boat tipping, but not sinking under the water. A zombie that choked on a bone will recall eating chicken and getting a little something caught in their throat, but not the actual choking. A zombie that was killed after being held at gunpoint for a few hours won't recall those few hours. Zombies also tend to blank out if you remind them they're dead.
A Necromancer can attempt to gain control of a zombie someone else has raised, if the interloper's Willpower+Necromancy is greater than the original Animator's Willpower (plus Necromancy if it's Necromancer vs Necromancer).
Trying to zombifiy a dead shapeshifter will just produce a normal zombie, since viruses don't do much in corpses (even re-animated ones), and it requires critter-form for a shapeshifter to pass on lycanthropy. Trying to zombify a dead fairy will either produce nothing, or will produce a (fairly useless) ghost (thus the hypothesis that fairies have no souls). Trying to zombify a corpse post-death pre-vampire won't do anything. Trying to zombify a vampire after final death won't do anything. Trying to zombify a dormant vampire won't do anything (and wouldn't work anyway, since vampires are dormant during the day and Raising only works at night). Trying to zombify an active vampire will just tick off the vampire. Zombie psychics/sorcerers/faithful/summoners don't retain their tricks, since they don't really "want" their tricks to happen anymore.
Obviously, zombies don't make for the best of player-character types. As a matter of fact, they don't work at all. But it's not unheard of for a PC to ICly die, their corpse to be raised as a zombie, and then that zombie asked about various details. If this should happen, staff will make every attempt in a reasonable period of time (relative to the situation) to contact the player of the dead character so they can run their own answers. But if the player can not be located in time for the scene, staff reserves the right to "fake it" and do the best they can with what they know.