Thricelings are born incomplete. They emerge from the womb not as living things, but instead, as motionless, beige mounds with the consistency of bread dough. These formless masses rest on porcelain slabs in nurseries, warmed and nourished by the heat of the fires beneath them. Should they survive this process for two weeks without melting or crumbling, they will be considered viable, and allowed to progress to their second birth.

The name “thriceling” arises from the process that follows: these loaves of organic material are loaded into a third, mechanical parent that completes their creation. This device is central to every thriceling tribe; it is a tall, metallic cylinder with a single opening that glows orange with geothermal fire. Some think of it as an oven, while others think of it as a goddess, but all among them accept it as their second mother. Bottles of green wine and bouquets of colorful mushrooms are often left at its base as gifts.

Once the “infant” is loaded inside, a host of armatures begin folding the substance over itself like a confectioner handling taffy. It is kneaded, pounded, thickened, churned, and sculpted until it looks less like a lump of undifferentiated clay, and more like doll of a human child. This figurine is then injected with a crimson mixture of vital humors, which slowly separate into their correct reservoirs. The last, but perhaps most important step, is the delicate formation of organs from the leftover material, which must be completed before the bones congeal and harden into place. Once this task is finished, aside from a few snips and adjustments, the body is thenceforth allowed to cool, until awakened with an electric current.

The whole process takes around nine hours to complete, after which the initial pair of parents can claim their completed child. Each newborn thriceling is designed according to the tribe’s needs; miners can be identified by their elongated left arms, and scholars, by their ovular pupils (which can focus on entire pages at a time). The machine mother keeps track of the births and deaths of her children, so that she always knows exactly what is necessary, and when. Males and females are usually maintained in equal number, though sometimes the scales are tipped when the risk of overpopulation is increased.

What is perhaps most curious about thricelings is that despite their bizarre, asymmetrical forms, they are, in fact, genetically human, and contain all of the necessary code for the mechanisms to give birth on their own. They have long forgotten an era where such things were possible, however, and the machine mother seems entirely uninterested in allowing such genes to be expressed.

Exiled thricelings sometimes volunteer to undergo the antichimera process.

Strange things happen when gremlins tangle with a machine mother.

Thricelings who deal with bone traders are shunned as traitors.