Skinlodgers are individuals granted a second chance at mortal life. Their souls are temporarily bound in the body of another, after the death of the original owner of the host body.
I look in the mirror and no longer recognize myself. After a lifetime of mastering magic I no longer have the stamina or Imperium to even perform my daily magic exercises, and every time it rains I grow depressed thinking about Sylanika. Who is Sylanika? But worst of all, the mere scent of my beloved Fyreflower Tea turns my stomach. How am I to live this second chance without my spiced tea? Sometimes I wonder if death would have been half as bad as this, but I cannot in good conscience ascend and leave my work unfinished.
Skinlodging officially occurs when a soul is bound within a body that originally belonged to someone else. If the prior soul of a body in salvageable condition declines the opportunity to return, and releases the body for reuse, that body can still be treated by Curative Magic and then either assigned to a dying individual approved for a body transplant or else stored Cryonically until needed. To align the body with a foreign soul Necromancy is used to draw the soul into the body, with Rune Magic tattooed upon their skin to bind the soul in place. These tattoos are carefully regulated to allow the soul the opportunity to depart the body of its own free will, but to otherwise bind the two together until a conscious decision to ascend is made. (Failure to do so permanently binds the soul, transforming the individual into an Undead upon the death of their new body).
Skinlodging allows an individual to continue to enjoy a mortal life upon the death of their original body. Their new body will degrade faster than their prior body as their soul will never perfectly take the place of the body's original soul, but aside from a shorter lifespan this does not negatively impact the skinlodger. Body dysmorphia is also fairly common, particularly in newer skinlodgers, as they adapt and adjust to life in an unfamiliar body. Adding to the confusion, the host body retains some level of memory and recognition of its original life, and will periodically feed these memories to the skinlodger if exposed to the proper stimuli. Skinlodgers are therefore regularly bombarded with memories which are not their own, requiring a strong mental fortitude to retain their full original personality and sort their own selves from the echoes of their host body's former life.
Physically skinlodgers require regular Curative Magic sessions to maintain the health of their new body, and annual check ups with a necromancer to verify their rune tattoos binding them to the new body. Properly performed these are meant to draw energy from the individual's own Imperium rather than require regular maintenance, but since any problems could result in the skinwalker's death these runes are still verified periodically to ensure they continue to function properly. All Skinwalkers are also enrolled in personal therapy, to assist them in working through not only the trauma of their death but also the adjustment to life in a body which is not their own. Mental exercises are provided to help retain their sense of self and sort their true memories from their host body's. These therapists also serve as case workers, helping their patients identify and obtain any additional assistance required for a smooth transition to their new life. Due to the scarcity of bodies available for the procedure options and choices are limited, and many skinlodgers find themselves in a body of a different gender or even species than their original. Therapists help identify needs to help adjust to these differences, including physical therapy and magic instructors if the new body's capabilities vary too much from the skinlodger's original form. These therapists can also help fledgling skinlodgers develop methods of coping with their own acceptance of the new body. Sometimes superficial adjustments such as dying hair and altering eyes to more familiar colors are sufficient, while other skinlodgers are able to satisfy themselves with a mastery of Transmutation. Some, however, require more severe treatments such as surgery to help adjust to their own skin. In particularly severe cases the genetics of the new host body may even be altered through Zokinesis, to better match the genetics of their original body. This practice is a last resort and used sparingly, as this will reduce the lifespan of the host body at an exponential rate to the level of changes applied, but the trauma of adjusting to a brand new body is universally recognized. Therefore no skinlodger will be refused the opportunity of happiness in their own skin through zokinetic manipulation, provided all other standard options have been pursued first.
Bodies in the necessary pristine condition for a soul transplant are difficult to acquire, even accounting for modern day advances in Curative Magic. When a suitable host body is identified the former occupant will generally decide to retain their ownership, for resurrection or burial. As a result skinlodgers remain a rare sight, and are largely viewed with curiosity if noticed by those around them. Some cultures romanticize the condition as an opportunity for a new beginning with a more ideal body, leaving the unfortunate skinlodger to field questions about why they chose that particular body when in actuality their current host was likely the only available option. Other cultures view skinlodgers with wariness and superstition, convinced the skinlodger will pursue them for their own body in an effort to slow the degradation of their current host.