Kakes (pronounced /ˈkɑːki/ or, occasionally, /ˈkæki/) are a diverse group of life forms found throughout Nanben, which are frequently imprisoned within special magical coins, and called forth to fight for or otherwise serve the coins' possessors. On many worlds, wild kakes abound; on others they are found almost solely in captivity.
There are thousands of different known widespread breeds of kake, not counting those breeds local to particular worlds. They vary widely, some appearing animal, some vegetable, and some mineral, and come in all sizes and in a wide range of levels of power. Among the most powerful of the kakes are the daino, an enormous thing like an oversized brain with various limbs and organs emerging from its folds; the serpentine jeen, with two mouths on long stalks; and the stout tetor, with four legs, four arms, and a four-jawed mouth on the top of its body. The weakest kakes, on the other hand, include the gelatinous ko and the wormlike ooge. The breeds of kake do not actually form any sort of taxonomic clade, but are scattered between many different taxa; what unites them as kakes is not common descent, but enchantment and magical definition.
Many breeds of kake are capable of appreciation into other, more powerful breeds. The circumstances necessary for appreciation differ between breeds; in some cases, it's just a matter of time; in others, it requires contact with certain substances; in still others, it requires the intercession of other breeds of kake to bring the appreciation about. One common condition is the acquisition of keki, a sort of special energy that all kakes possess; when one kake subdues or otherwise defeats another in combat, it can leech its keki, adding it to its own store. Once a kake accumulates a certain amount of keki, however, it can't, except perhaps under some very special circumstances, permanently lose it; the losing kake will gradually regenerate the stolen keki.
Not all breeds of kake occur on every world, even discounting the local breeds that only occur in limited areas. Some breeds are certainly more widespread than others, but even the most pervasive of breeds may not occur on certain worlds. There isn't necessarily any obvious pattern to which breeds of kake exist on which worlds; just because one particular set of kakes occurs together on several specific worlds doesn't mean they'll all be found on another.
Kakes are captured within talismans called spirit coins, which resemble simple metal discs with various glyphs on their surfaces. The capture of a kake simply involves firmly pressing the coin against the kake's surface for a period of about ten seconds, though for some larger kakes a proportionately longer time may be required. For a wild kake, naturally, this is much more easily said than done, and usually a wild kake must be knocked unconscious or immobilized before it's possible to capture it.
On a kake's capture, it is essentially sucked into the coin, shrinking and distorting until it seemingly becomes a picture on the coin's surface. A captured kake can be called forth to do the bidding of its captor, whereupon it is compelled to obey his commands. Although they don't necessarily have to, these commands often involve combat; in many places, formalized kake battles are a common sport. The kake may resist a command it particularly objects to (because it puts the kake in great danger, for instance), but it takes considerable effort for it to do so. Once captured, kakes are bound to the coin they are captured in, and can easily be recalled to the coin without even the need to touch them—although the kake's master may at (almost) any time he chooses release the kake from the coin and from captivity. A kake already bound to one coin may not be captured in another, except in a coin of greater power; there are seven different kinds of spirit coin, of ascending power levels.
Generally, it is very difficult for anyone to call forth a kake from a coin except the person who originally captured it; apparently there is something imprinted with the capture that relates specifically to the captor. When a coin is willingly given away, the new owner may be granted the ability to call forth its occupant, but a coin lost and found or taken by force may not yield its occupant easily.
One spirit coin can contain two kakes, one on each side. In this case, one of the kake, when called forth, may be granted certain powers, called obverse powers, depending on the breed of the other, though in this case the other kake may not be brought forth from the coin until the first is recalled. (The empowered kake may not be released while the empowerment is in effect.) If a spirit coin contains only one kake, then it will show the front or face of the kake on one side, and the back or rump of the same kake on the other; if two, then it will show the face of the first kake captured in it and the rump of the second, though which kake shows the face and which the rump seems to have little practical effect.
Although the origin of kakes remains uncertain, the current predominance of evidence appears to point toward them having formed more or less spontaneously from collections of makins, perhaps responding to the subconscious wishes of ellogous beings for servants. If this is true, it seems clear that at least some types of kake formed after their surroundings or upon ideas formed in nearby minds, based on their resemblance to certain beasts or to internal organs or other familiar objects. In any case, kakes have been around for at least ninety thousand years, and possibly longer. They may have originated on the world of Tamanshan, though some magobiologists suggest that while they came early to that world, they in fact came there from a different one, or perhaps from another plane entirely. Whatever the case, after their appearance they spread and diversified rapidly.
New breeds of kake continue to appear today, some conscious creations of powerful mages but some, perhaps, again formed by subconscious ideas, in response to new philosophies and zeitgeists. The rate of formation of new kakes is relatively slow, however, and on most worlds the same familiar contingent of breeds has existed mostly unchanged for tens of thousands of years.
Many types of kake are capable of natural procreation, when not contained within spirit coins. This, in general, can only occur between kakes of the same breed; kakes of different breeds are too dissimilar genetically for such reproduction to be possible. The details of the reproductive process depend on the breed, just as those of other organisms vary by species.
However, there are other means of propagating kakes that do not depend so directly upon their genetics. When an empty spirit coin is placed near one containing two kakes, there is a chance that some of the keki from the imprisoned kakes will leak into the empty coin and combine into one or two new kake, which are considered children of the original kake. Somewhat confusingly, this process is usually referred to as "coining" a new kake, though those less familiar with kakes might mistake the term for referring to a kake's capture within a coin. On rare occasion, if the two kakes in the parent coin are of different breeds, the new kake will take after neither but form a new breed of its own. More often, however, the child kake will be of the same breed as one of its parents, though it will nevertheless inherit some characteristics from the other parent as well.
Coining is a slow process, requiring the two coins to be in contact for at least a week or so, and for the captured kakes not to be called forth from their coin during that time.