Races of the Hollow Earth: Demihumans

And God said, Let vs make man in our Image, after our likenesse: and let them haue dominion ouer the fish of the sea, and ouer the foule of the aire, and ouer the cattell, and ouer all the earth, and ouer euery creeping thing that creepeth vpon the earth.

So God created man in his owne Image, in the Image of God created hee him; male and female created hee them.

Genesis 1:26-27

MOST people are unaware that the World is home to other species of intelligent life beyond humankind, and has been home in the past to even more. Those learned people who have discovered the sometimes terrible truth that we are not alone have wondered that there is a similarity between the world’s intelligent species (at least those thus far discovered) which clearly differentiates them from beasts, beyond simply the faculty of language and the ability to use tools. All intelligent species outwardly resemble each other to at least some extent: they are possessed of two arms, two legs, a head, opposing fingers and thumbs, and broadly similar organs. The primary intelligent species of the world resemble each other so closely that we can call the non-human species “demihumans” to mark their very close resemblence.

Humanity is the only species of intelligent life which inhabits the surface of the world in modern times. Although it is split into various races and nations, most starkly divided between Old World and New, all humans are much alike when considered against the other, less well-known peoples of the Hollow Earth. In its hubris, humankind fancies itself the master of the world, but only very few understand even the smallest part of the truth of this world, and one cannot be master of that which one does not understand.

Most of the world’s intelligent life appears to have been created by the Engineers, an incredibly advanced race which disappeared from this orb untold millennia ago. It is possible that the similarities which exist between humans, dwarves, elves and halflings are due to a common creator. Perhaps the Engineers formed us all in their image, with only small deviations to differentiate us?

Dwarves

The dwarves were created by the Engineers who built the Hollow Earth in the time before time. They were created as servitors to maintain the creation of their masters, but over the eons most of the truth of their origins has been forgotten, leaving existence bereft of meaning for most dwarves. There is nothing for most dwarves but work, endless work, as time allows chaos to encroach upon the perfect creation of the Engineers. Ironically the dwarves know too much; they know enough to know that what is most important to know has already been known and long since forgotten. This is their curse, the terrible knowledge which slowly murders their race, killing the joy of life, and with it the love between dwarves which leads to the birth of successive generations.

Unlike the other inhabitants of the Hollow Earth, it is common knowledge amongst the dwarves that the world is hollow and that they live on the inside of it. The dwarves know that they are custodians of this hollow world for the Engineers. The Engineers are the closest things the dwarves have for gods, but they have been gone for millennia, and beyond a few artifacts and the world itself, the dwarves have nothing left of the Engineers. Access to the Great Archive of the Engineers was lost dozens of centuries ago, when the elves invaded the hollow earth by means of magic, occupying the island the elves now call Tír na nÓg, which had been forbidden to the races of the hollow earth, for it lay above the Great Archive. The dwarves fought to defend the Great Archive against these invaders, but since the Engineers had not created them with the ability to use magic, the dwarves were gradually pushed back by the elves. Eventually, the dwarves were forced to make a terrible decision – collapse the subterranean passages beneath Tír na nÓg on top of the fighting armies and in so doing cut off their only access to the Great Archive, or allow the invaders access to the forbidden knowledge of the Engineers. Their duty ingrained in their DNA, the dwarves protected the Great Archive even at the cost of losing their own access to it forever. Over the years the collective memory of the contents of the Great Archive has passed into dimly remembered mythology as successive generations of dwarves fail to pass on everything they remember to the generation which succeeds them.

The dwarves know there are no gods, and that all the world is but a mechanism whose designers have long abandoned it, a mechanism whose maintenance is their responsibility, against whose inexorable decay their endless work is ultimately futile.

The dwarves are spread almost everywhere through the Hollow Earth, unlike its other species, living mostly hidden from view between mountains, linked by a subterranean network of tunnels. The continents were once linked through such tunnels by high-speed transports and cables which carried communication signals across great distances, but after the dwarves lost access to the Great Archives they gradually lost the ability to maintain such high technology, and the great train and communication networks of the Engineers run through the veins of the earth no more. The dwarves do the best they can, travelling these tunnels to tend to the ancient mechanisms which maintain the world’s gravity (to both the inner and outer world), and filter its atmosphere, but these too are losing battles, for as the ancient machinery develops faults not encountered in generations, the dwarves can no longer consult the Great Archive to find the appropriate maintenance procedure.

The dwarves are not just maintenance staff – they are also zoo keepers, charged with keeping the various civilizations of the hollow earth intact and more or less separate from each other. Here too they have not been as successful as once they were, finding it especially difficult to counteract the abilities of magic users since the Engineers, in their wisdom, designed the dwarves to be incapable of wielding magic (and thus incapable of challenging the supremacy of their now absent masters). Historically the dwarves have only directly confronted the inhabitants of the Hollow Earth when they have felt there was no other option – generally they prefer to work in the shadows to contrive to keep each species to the area assigned to it by the Engineers, or to at least prevent their further spread. When the sea monsters around Tír na nÓg proved inadequate to prevent the elves spreading to the surrounding islands, for example, the dwarves built fleets for the Fomorians, and gave them maps sufficient to navigate to Tír na nÓg and the new elven colonies, working through proxies where possible, hoping that the Fomorians would further dissuade the elves.

The few dwarves who become adventures are those who throw off the malaise of the rest of the culture, and deny the doom of their people, determined to live in the world they know to be dying, and to enjoy it while they can. They are still hesitant to share the secrets of their people and the Hollow Earth with the non-dwarves they befriend, however, because to do so would break not only a deep-seated cultural taboo, but also every instinct written into their DNA by the Engineers in the time before time.

Elves

The elves are creatures of Chaos, bathed in the arcane fires of magic. They once ruled the surface of the world, but retreated into the Hollow Earth through eldritch sorcery in the earliest days of humanity. The Tuatha Dé Danann, sometimes called sidhe, fairy folk, or elves in the mythology of those who dwell in our world, once inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the first humans, the Gaels. Having just been involved in a cataclysmic war with the Fomorians, the elves retreated to the Hollow Earth, which they call the Otherworld, rather than fight the human settlers. They have lived in the Otherworld for untold millennia and although they are ageless, few if any elves still live who can remember Ireland before the first men.

The elves have many gods, chief amongst whom is the mother goddess Danu. Tuatha Dé Danann means “the peoples of the goddess Danu”. Once they reach adulthood, elves are effectively ageless, maintaining the appearance of eternal youth. For this reason the part of the Otherworld they call home is called Tír na nÓg, meaning “Land of Youth”. Elves have also settled on a few nearby islands, and there is some trade by sea between these colonies and Tír na nÓg, although elves prefer not to sail long distances due to the risk of sea monsters and Fomorian sea raiders. Although they left Ireland and the rest of the world of humans in the time before history, elves have often interacted with humans through magical means, which led to them becoming an integral part of the pre-Christian religion of the Irish. Many elven kings, queens and other leaders have become “gods” to the pre-Christian Gaels or figures in modern Irish folklore, although naturally many of the stories and depictions are distorted through their retelling over centuries. Amongst the elves, there are stories of elves who travelled from the Otherworld back to the world of humankind – none of them have ever been known to return.

The elves live in Tír na nÓg with the Brownies, their halfling servants. Although long-lived, halflings do age and die. Most elven families have been served by halflings of the same lineage for centuries. Halflings do most of the housework, farming, gardening, and other manual labour, leaving the elves to pursue martial, cultural, spiritual and magical pursuits.

Although generally peaceful, the elves are occasionally called to arms to defend their homes against the Fomorians and other residents of the Otherworld. Like the elves, the Fomorians once lived in Ireland, but were driven into the Otherworld or destroyed after the death of their warlord leader Balor. The Fomorians raid elven lands from the sea, taking slaves, looting, and destroying homes. These violent incursions recur frequently and stop the elves from sinking into total decadence. They also serve to thin out the numbers of the otherwise undying sidhe. The elves have also fought against other residents of the Otherworld, although far less frequently.

In the earliest days of their time in the Otherworld, the elves fought a war with a race of short, gruff, bearded warriors who lived underneath the mountains of Tír na nÓg, who had been determined to drive the elves into the sea. Instead, thanks to their use of magic, the elves drove them from the surface and chased them into their subterranean lairs, and all that stopped them chasing their adversaries ever deeper beneath the surface of the earth was a massive collapse, triggered by the retreating enemy to stop further incursion, crushing what remained of their own armies as well as those of the elves.

Halfling

Halflings, or Brownies as they are sometimes called, live in the Hollow Earth, mostly in the elven homeland of Tír na nÓg. Most live as the servants of elven families. Since elves are immortal and halflings are not (living about one hundred years on average), it is common for halflings to serve the same elven master as their parents, and their grandparents and great-grandparents before them, going back many generations. They are not slaves, and are generally well-looked after by their elven masters, for if they would not, they would leave. They do not have their own language, and instead speak the tongue of their masters. They perform most of the manual labour for the elves, but are nevertheless characterized by elves as self-indulgent, because halflings spend their free time frivolously, in the judgement of elvenkind, eating, drinking, playing games, and generally being merry, instead of the “higher pursuits”‘ of the elves.

Halflings generally have their own homes nearby the homes of their employers, and tend to be very house proud. In larger elven settlements, there tends to be a Brownie district, where the homes of all the halfling servants are found. All of the generations of a halfling family live under one roof. Generally speaking the adult males, unmarried females, and females whose children are grown will all work for the same elven master – it is rare that halflings from one household work for different elves. The roles they perform for the elves change over time, with older halflings generally employed in less physically demanding roles. Most halflings retire sometime in their nineties. Most halfling males will live in the same home for their entire life – the females will move only once, when they are married. Halflings like to say that the reason for their bare feet is that they don’t like to walk very far so they don’t need shoes – in reality their feet are naturally hard and insulated against the elements so as to render shoes redundant, but it does illustrate the halfling attitude about straying too far from home.

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