In times of old and in lands far away, demons and undead creatures of untold horror plague the people and kingdoms they lived in. Knights and heroes alike tried to brave the dangers and exterminate these evil beings but none survived. Either being killed in battle or possessed/reanimated into an undead being, adding to the ranks of the unholy army.
In the southlands, the tribes of the Dim-Sii heard of the creation of 5 great warriors crafted by the Archmage Zorad. Constructed beings so powerful that they single handedly turned the tides of battle. However, beset by the brunt of the force of the Army of Darkness, the shamans of Dim-Sii could not understand how the Archmage had created these beings so powerful. When they learned that their crafting had required the use of a rare material never found in the Southern lands, they did not dispair. Instead they turned to a different solution.
Each man and woman, young or old, crafted themselves a doll in their likeness, if much smaller. They were made of common materials available to each person. The rich chose hard metals, or precious stones, like gold silver, opal and pearl, but most made theirs out of sticks and straw. The pilings of last years collapsed rooftop. A spare horseshoe from their pack mule.
The Shamans of the Dim-Sii tribes went about linking puppet to owner. Familiar to master. A cut on the hand here, a piece of hair here. They moved quickly. The Tribes of the Dim-Sii were feeling the brunt of the asssault. They did not have a month if they were to survive.
In only two days, were the border holds finished, although theirs were the most quickly done, the most hastily created. When the Army of Darkness attacked the next hold, it was slaughtered. Overrun by a legion of forces the Dark Army easily destroyed everything in their path. To the Dark Lords however, something was wrong. Strange reports of small, animated puppets, weilding knives, and odd weapons, fighting the horde. A minor note, but curious. And something else. The army had suffered losses.
None had been raised.
It would have made little difference, but the next assault led to similar results. Few losses, but no gains. Still a loss. And the next as well. And as they laid waste to hold after hold, the Army found that these puppets were becoming more and more elaborate. Solid wood, and not just sticks and straw. Some with real weapons. Some made of metals or gems even, who could cast spells. The men were no longer afraid to die. They seemed to relish in it even.
Their advance became more greuling as the Dark Army advanced, until one day, they lost. At the Hold of Niadel, the Army of Darkness was held back by a militia of farmers and puppets. The Tribes were bolstered. The first known victory in this province, and the turning point for a string of losses that followed the Army of Darkness out of the Southern Lands.
The puppets are not towering figures of vengeance or power. They are small puppets and dummies a few feet high that cannot speak. Light weight, and they can be strapped easily to the back of the owner. Their combat prowess is a shadow of their owner, although it can be honed in time. Certainly, there are puppet heroes, who are as skilled as many of the heroes of legend, if shorter, and filled with rice.
Only puppets made with precious gemstones and rare metals can use spells. There is a natural cap to the potency of these spells, and time spent in the sun is required to recharge them. Only the most carefully, and most finely crafted puppet familiar can become a powerful spellcaster.
There are three simple requirements for the spell of linking. The owner has to create his own puppet familiar. Something personal must be embedded within the dummy. And some of their blood must be used in the ritual.
If worked successfully the puppets will take on life after the death of their owner, but only if the familiar is being carried by the owner. The puppets do not have the memories of their owners, however, they do know what they are fighting to protect, and they also have many traits of their previous lives.
They can be easier or harder to kill depending on the construction. Death is assured when the heirloom is separated from the body. Their fighting prowess is not what makes them important. Their importance is that the soul of the owner is secured, and untouchable. A person cannot be raised into life or unlife after a puppet familiar has taken on their likeness. Not even when the puppet is destroyed. The soul does not go into the afterlife in the normal way. It must be sent there through ritual.
After the war, the creation of these puppets is still practiced in some places, although most do not carry the puppet with them unless heading into war. Some of these puppets turn their attention to helping around the town where they can, but many maintain their single minded vigilance. They act as a militia, a sentry, and occasionally, a silent officer of the law. They are highly revered, and outsiders who make jokes, practical or otherwise, at the expense of these puppets, are likely to be quickly run out of town.
Each puppet has it's own personality, and several have become quite well known. There are many references in culture to famous puppets like Juju, famous for frequenting houses of ill repute, and groping women, or Yasgi, who can frequantly be found sitting in front of an untouched plate of food, or famous Hurat, who carries a sword twice his size, and can fell almost any adventurer.
But underlying all of these quirks, is the inborn knowledge of what they are protecting. Their family, their loved ones. The people know this. These puppets are sacred, and if they sometimes have a strange or bothersome quality, the people accept it graciously as an oddity, not an insult.
Note: This submission was inspired by mimic12455's post "Puppet Warriors"