The Underdwellers are a race of psychomantically gifted humanoids who inhabit subterranean regions of Pargon. All Underdwellers have at least three eyes, with the number of extra eyes an individual possesses being equal or superior to the number of tiers of psychomancy he or she has access to.
Note: Underdweller culture is adapted from a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Norse culture.
In the early days of the world, there lived in the far north a tribe known as the Caldering. These were a fierce people, raiders by sea and land who lived between the call of battle and the great feasting halls of their Jarls, keeping to the oracles given out by the Völur. These seeresses who heard the voices of the gods guided the fates of that people.
Then the sickness came: an affliction that putrefied the bodies and minds of the people, put growths upon their organs and strange visions before their eyes. Hundreds failed and died, infants in their mothers’ arms and snow-haired elders all alike. With dread they watched the budding of the third eye upon the brow of loved ones, final sign of the disease they called the Rot. Unbeknownst to them, this taint manifested nothing other than their own inmost natures: the otherworldly force of the Void dwelt within them, and now quickened to bear fruit their mortal bodies, as they were, could not sustain.
A great lamenting arose from the Caldering, piercing walls between the realities. And so there came the day when the Völur spoke of a new call, proceeding not from the heavens but from the depth of the earth. They told the gathered people of an ancient being that had fled the ending of its own world. Of the curiosity that had drawn it to their own nascent world of Velmaneth. They told of a promise. It would save them, free them from this terror; it would make them whole, refine their being and open their inmost natures to mastery over the matter of reality, if they would but teach it of this world, joining with it in a compact of knowledge. It was then that the clan divided, those who chose to remain on the surface remaining the Caldering, and those who would in time become the first of the Underdwellers following the Völur to the lands beneath.
Led by the three Völur most sensitive to the call of the Ür-Mind, these last entered caverns that took them far from the sunlit world, descending, it seemed to them, far beneath the ocean floor. For days they travelled through the subterranean realms, passing fields of crystal and winding valleys of rotting stone, until, in time, they came to the edge of a lightless sea. From the stillness of the waters there emanated a strange sentience, and to it they felt themselves drawn. The three foremost among the Völur stepped into the waters, and knew this black ocean to be the manifestation of the Mind That Called. Their names were Sigfrid, Alfhild, and Inkeri, these women who would found the ruling bloodlines of the Underdwellers. There they first awakened to their natural psychomancy, their inner eye unveiled and bonded to the sight of the Ür-Mind by way of tithe, such that it would peer from within them for the remainder of their lives. Behind them, their people followed.
So by the Sunless Sea they dwelt, making it their holy place. They built themselves a city on its shores, its halls hewn from the living rock, gilded and adorned with fiery rubies lapped in sapphire and graven with the scenes of alien worldscapes. Sinnheim they called it, and for almost two centuries did not return to the realm above.
In the present day, the Underdwellers are led by the descendants of the original three Völur, each generation producing at least one outstanding psychomancer per bloodline capable of merging with the will of the Ür-Mind. The improvement of their psychomantic potential has been achieved through both the regimented cultivation of their relationship to the Ür-Mind, and careful selection of mates among the three bloodlines to produce individuals most attuned to its call. Three households have sprung up about the bloodlines, forming the secondary governmental assembly of Underdweller society called the Witan or Witenagemot, advising the rulers regarding legal and political matters beneath the call of the Ür-Mind. The current rulers form the highest council, and are as follows: Wulfric, son of Hrodgar, and father of Aedelhild, Cenhelm and Acha, of the blood of Sigfrid. Morwrei, daughter of Eormenhild, mother of Aetheldred and Hengist, blood of Alfhild. Sighere, son of Aesc, father of Leofric and Hilla, blood of Inkeri. It is technically possible for an individual from outside these lines to be called to rulership, and this has indeed happened a couple of times in Underdweller history; however, it is generally improbable due to the enhanced capacities of people of the blood. Members of these lines directly related to a ruler are known as aetheling, meaning “belonging to nobility.”
Through a powerful act of ritual bonding to the Ür-Mind, Aetheldred, daughter of Morwrei, has recently joined the Völur.
The Völur (singular Völva or Vala)Edit
These have retained their ancient name as seers, owing to their deep connection to the Ür-Mind, and continue to rule over Underdweller society from their seat in the city of Sinnheim. A Völur holds office for life and is selected upon the death of the last Völur through a decision of the Mind that causes the individual chosen to manifest full psychomantic potency, part of their will becoming inextricably merged with the Mind’s. They and their lines are produced through applied eugenics. In the event that a Vala should be chosen from outside the three bloodlines – something that is theoretically possible – it is ruled that this individual should subsequently be mated to a member of the houses in order to maximise the psychomantic potential of the next generation of leaders.
The Witan or Witenagemot advises the rulers regarding legal, martial and political matters beneath the call of the Ür-Mind. It is composed of the Netherrealm’s most important individuals (thegns, aeldormen, and particularly rich merchants – as many of these statuses are accorded to members of the Völur’s own families, they are often in attendance).
An aetheling is the family member of a Vala.
The ruling nobility, ranked second only to the aethelings. An aeldorman is the Völur’s viceroy in the most important regions of the Netherrealm beyond Sinnheim, and governs those for them. An aeldorman is a greater thegn (see below.).
The thegns are Lords. Each governs a portion of the Netherrealm beneath the Völur, and would act as military leaders in time of war, providing men and armaments at the Völur’s command. Together, twelve senior thegns form the Underdweller high court.
Most of Underdweller society. Artisans, artists, soldiers, fungus farmers and merchants are instances of those fitting into this category. They are independent citizens and landowners, and are beneficiaries of legal rights in the same manner as the nobility. A Freeman who accumulates enough wealth and influence may become a thegn.
Property individuals. Generally goblins captured during raids on the near-surface, the descendants of human slaves brought from the North, or simply people working off a debt they were unable to pay.