The senate building is filled with beautiful art pieces, including a high number of statuettes. However, those are not merely there for decoration but are responsible for the safety of the senators. Indeed, they constitute the best example of Sérannian magical defensive artefacts!
Isabelle is a young French woman who was brought through a magical portal to Sérannie, hit with translation magic, and told to help the Séranniens beat their Dark Lord. Only, once the questing party triumphed, she was forced back to the normal world. She is rather bitter about that.
While looking for a way to go back, she writes journal entries about her time in Sérannie to not forget what happened and to prepare for her return.
The history of the statuettes
So, there are lots of stories and legends related to the senators and the senate since they're so important to Sérannie, what with them being the heads of the Sérannian noble families and leading the country at the side of the king. Among those, the most prominent story is apparently that of the statuettes of the senate.
Created during a crisis
Calendre is the one who told me that story, but I also heard some variations from local people during our travels. The main idea is that during a big civil war a few centuries ago, all senators were massacred. The noble families were, of course, not happy at all about that and terrified that it would happen again. So, for once they forgot all their petty quarrels, and they came together and pooled their knowledge to create lasting defences. What resulted from this was the invention of automation magic. This magic is infused into objects and brings them to life to fight on their masters' behalf.
Thanks to this, a first batch of 150 statuettes was created and put up in the senate chambers. Their only orders are to protect the senators at all costs! Nobody else better be around while they're activated, I guess...
The senate by Cesare Maccari (Cicero Denounces Catiline)
This invention has allowed the senate to remain unchallenged, no matter the wider unrests in Sérannie. There have been a few occasions for the statuettes to demonstrate their properties, and their brutal efficiency convinced everyone else of the foolishness of directly attacking the senate chambers.
This magic also had consequences on the political constitution of the country. Indeed, after making that first statuette batch, all the noble family made another one together that they donated to the royal family. This placed them under the protection of the senate—and thus forcing them to answer to the senators.
After this however, the noble families separated, all now in the possession of the automation magic. They all immediately started making their own statues to protect themselves against rival noble families. This led to a constant development of the manufacturing process that ended up with each family having their own secret techniques, resulting in the owner of each statue being easily identifiable—which is apparently why the Dark Lord himself could only use cheap knock-off statues, or he would have revealed his secret identity.
Despite this constant innovating, the first batch of statues is considered to be still unequal in quality thanks to the full cooperation between all families.
The dragon magical statuette by AmélieIS
In all of this, one point really surprised me. The invention of those automated statuettes really had the potential to completely changed the face of warfare! And yet, this has not been the case at all... From what I've learned, the main manufacturing secret did indeed somehow filter out from the noble families to the rest of the Sérannian mages. So why are there not automated armies running around everywhere rather than poor people being forced into the royal or dark armies?
Of course, the noble families managed to keep a few aces up their sleeves, and their own statues are of a better quality than those made by commoners, but still. I think the explanation is a mix of two factors: first, the automation magic is complicated to do, and so this limit the number of mages who can practise it and increase the fee they ask for it.
But second and most important IMO, is that most mages refuse to make automated statues in series, preferring to do a few highly perfected ones. Although no one is saying this directly, I'm sure this comes from the prevalent mentality that automated statues are an elite thing and that they should be kept as such.
Sérannie is such an elitist and hierarchical society...
As directly taken from the mouth of the royal family:
Those are damn useful when someone's trying to invade the palace! They're much more efficient than any human guards could hope to be—and you don't even have to pay them salaries or worry about their delicate sensibilities and whether they're gonna betray you if you're a tiny bit rude to them!"
Such diplomats all of them, really...
Presentation of the statuettes
Calendre told me that the statuettes are still in the building where the senate meets. But that, rather than be all hidden in some secret place where nobody can interfere with them or study them, they've been scattered all over the buildings, decorating absolutely all corridors. They've even been elevated on pedestals to place them at eye-height, standing as a sinister warning to all visitors...
All senators are guaranteed free access to the statuettes at any time, so that they can confirm they're working properly and that their safety is ensured. The twelve most important statuettes are even always visible with their pedestals lining the wall just behind the speaker's podium.
Contrary to what you'd think, the statuettes themselves are not very imposing despite their importance, being only about the height of a forearm. They are, however, extremely heavy and cannot be moved with magic, as it would interfere with their own. That's not very practical, but they were not meant to be. At least, this ensures that nobody can easily leave with one in their pocket...
Calendre said that when they were doing renovations of the royal palace, four people were required to lift one of the statuettes kept there, but that, even then, it was a struggle. The exact material they're made of has been forgotten to time, but modern automated statues are made in marble. However, modern replicates are not as heavy, and so they can be sculpted to have a much bigger height. This is often done as them being seen from afar while in the middle of armed soldiers is a good intimidation tactic.
Just like ancient Roman statues, all automated statues and statuettes are covered in paint. You'd think it would not be a high priority for weapons, but leaving them around where all visitors can see them also gives them a huge value as a status symbol, and so everyone is competing with each other to make theirs as striking as possible.
That paint is not very flashy, but there is some kind of magic there, as it always appears to be very fresh no matter the age of the statues. The goal of the painting is to make the statues as lifelike as possible, to make it seem that the mages have literally breathed life into stone rather than just put puppeteering magic on it.
I've seen a few statues myself: those in the royal palace where I stayed during my last week in Sérannie, but mostly the few that were used in the battles against the Dark Lord's army in the south of the kingdom, as those statues were also sometimes patrolling the big cities there. When you meet them without any warning, it's impossible to tell that they're made of stone. It's only when examined from up close that a sense of disquiet appears, betraying the danger held within...
The feline statuette by AmélieIS
Each statue is unique and represents something different, with the mage making them thinking of themselves as incredibly gifted sculptors and painters making a masterpiece. This is also the case for the 150 statuettes in the senate and those in the palace. The best of them all are considered to be the twelve main statuettes standing in the senate chambers. Those all represent different animals, but I don't know exactly which ones, apart from two of them being a dragon and a big feline, as those two animals are often used in plays to represent the senate.
The rest of the 150+ statuettes are more varied. A few of them even represent human soldiers bearing weapons—though their height is the same as the other statuettes. Those are used in plays to subtly ridicule the senate by representing them as small but arrogant and power-hungry people.
Calendre said that the statuettes can only be activated by one of the senators, as they are linked to their family lines—not even the royal family can control the statuettes in their own palace!
To activate one, a senator has to put a drop of their blood in the statuette's eyes and mouth. The activation triggers a kind of sonic and magical boom that doubles as an effective warning against any enemy. To deactivate a statuette, any senator has to breathe on their eyelids. The statuette will then move back to its initial position and freeze in sleep.
A frankly terrifying aspect of the statuettes is that the magic gives them a form of sentience. Once activated, they're apparently able to identify any non-senators or royals around themselves and immediately attack them unless commanded otherwise. They can only be calmed and controlled by the touch of a senator. And of course, both activating and controlling the statuettes is magically demanding, so you better stay in the senators' good grace for them to think you're worth expanding the effort...
All high-quality statues—and so all statuettes—are swift and completely silent when moving, something that makes them all extremely eerie. They've strong magic that will create a protective shield when they're attacked directly, resulting in their adversaries being projected away. The statuettes can physically attack their adversaries—with their claws or weapons—or some of them have special magical attacks too, like apparently the dragon being able to breathe fire.
The archer statuette by AmélieIS
Comparison with other statues
Calendre said that modern powerful statues are super hard to distinguish from statuettes. The difference is in the strength of their magic, with the statuettes having an incredible ability of going through all wards and shields, whereas their own are extremely difficult to breach. On the other hand, the difference with cheap knock-off is that high quality statues have a really clean magic, which makes them harder to sense. This is the mark of true masters fully understanding what they were doing and how to perfectly optimise the magic.
And indeed, I've seen a lot of knockoffs, and all of them were oozing magic all over the place. They all had masses of magical threads swirling in and out of each other and forming knots and confusing dead ends—a complete loss of efficiency and magical power.
So that means that the most effective weapons in the kingdom are all kept in the hands of the same noble families, thereby making them unchallengeable no matter what happens... And indeed, the Dark Lord opting against direct assault until left with no other choice proves this. Unfortunately, this also means that whatever reforms the kingdom has to go through, it will only have a chance of success if nobles or the royal family are involved...