Animatite is a dense, magical metal that's unique among the elements for having a soul. It can be found worldwide, but is most commonly found in concentrated form far underground or in volcanic regions.
Habitat & Ecology
When found in nature, this element is nearly always mixed among many other elements, and exists in such a diluted form that it simply lays dormant. However, there have been isolated times when a volcanic eruption or some naturally-occurring chance have concentrated enough of this substance for sentience to emerge from within the metal.
At these times, the metal will begin to shape itself experimentally, doing so as if it were a fluid. It is capable of developing body parts and even integrating in body parts from creatures and organic material nearby. In unusual cases, this metal has been known to "steal" eyes, ears, noses, nervous systems, and other sensory organs from other creatures as it continues to adapt to its surroundings.
Animatite of this type has been found most commonly in small amounts, integrating body parts of insects and/or rodents to exist within its environment. While the Animatite itself does not need nourishment, specimens have been known to adopt complex, improvisational biological systems that are capable of maintaining its existing adopted anatomy.
The ability of Animatite to rearrange its composition (and use borrowed anatomy) is believed to be magical -- indeed, the metal does have magical properties. It seems to be able to know how to incorporate organs and body parts instinctively -- even when the new organic system is highly complicated and ingenious in nature.
Like other elements, this is nearly impossible to destroy. It does not need to eat, breathe, or draw from any external resources in any way. However, the metal can be purified by melting it and removing all presence of other metals.
Doing so functionally 'resets' the spirit held within -- or, more accurately, 'removes its corruption'. Even in liquid or gas form, this metal is sentient. It feels pain only in a secondhand form, through the damage of adopted body parts. The challenge remains, however, on how to bring an unwilling piece of this metal to its melting point in the first place.
Sapient Symbiosis With Animatite
Throughout history, there have been many efforts among civilizations and individuals to forge a symbiotic relationship with raw Animatite.
In its purest, most concentrated form, it is generally held that this metal is like a newborn babe -- highly impressionable and malleable. While in this state, many powerful (and/or dying) creatures have allowed the material to take over their body, adopting their bodies and organs as their own. By doing so, they join themselves with the Animatite, and their interests become one.
As this occurs, the Animatite will work relentlessly to preserve its new body and set of organs -- and has demonstrated miraculous propensity for healing the body and curing disease. The mind of the host body often retains intact, and serves as a learning and experiential center for the metal.
However, invariably, what ultimately results is a joining of the two creatures -- which are then formed into an entirely new organism. This new creature will quickly become only a distant shadow of the man it once was -- and the Animatite is often wholly corrupted by the influence of its host.
Sometime in the first age, there were civilizations that mastered the ability to create weaponry out of Animatite. The wielder learned to communicate with the spirit energy residing within the weaponry, and the two formed a cooperative unit that made for an incredible force in battle.
Little is known about this type of warfare, except that the weapon was a formable thing -- one that could (for example) change shape once plunged in its target to maximize damage, pick locks, or reform itself suddenly into a shield. For the Animatite's part, it benefitted by borrowing the senses of its wielder, who lent them through their form of spirit communication. These weapons were loyal to their master, and their bonds were the stuff of legends.
In modern times, there are some exotic forms of weaponized Animatite in existence, but in much cruder forms. Arrowheads, for example, are sometimes filled with the metal and designed so they break inside their target, the assumption being that the functional injection of this metal will wreak havoc on its target's innards. The metal is also sometimes placed inside sage glass, and serves as a hurled weapon under the same pretense.