Deep sentients

What is it that makes a Goblin better than a Troglodyte? For in the darkness of caves, each is given over to his own savagery; each will take in an instant the life and water of the other for himself. This is Nature’s Highest Law. It is likewise the case that a scorpion in a cave may sting and happily kill either, for that is the scorpion’s nature. But deep in the fabric of our consciousness, we weep for the plight of the stung Goblin, while we only jeer at the stung Troglodyte. We have thought for many days in silence and darkness on this matter, and we have come to a conclusion:

The Troglodyte, in all his life and ways, is satisfied with the dark warmth of the deeps. His longings and his actions aim for that which defines him and that which he understands—he wants only the world as he already knows that it is. The Goblin, full of life, will sacrifice everything for the singular moment of sun-filled escape. His life may be given over to fear of that which he does not understand, but he is willing to chase after those shadows. Ultimately the Goblin leaps at the chance to grasp the Unknown. Let this therefore be a lesson to you, Novices; though blind when first you walk the tunnels of life, reach out, reach upward, and snare your moment of sunlight.
-Shroom-knee, Renouncer.

Lizardfolk, Vishkanya, Serpentfolk, and Troglodytes are the reptilian sentient. Given a mixed blessing—cold bloodedness—by their biology, they remain in the warm, dark depths of the Vulcan rim, their bodies straying as far from the warmth as they dare before inevitably returning to the comfort of the deeps. In contemporary times, it is the Lizardfolk who are most adventurous: stealing an occasional journey “upward” to raid the Goblin forest above. All of these species, however, inhabit a territory which is both too harsh—there is precious little standing water—and too confined for the other sentient.

It would, however, be a mistake to call these the lowest-dwelling Sentient, for far beneath them, ancient cities abound in water-filled caverns whose size defies reasonable explanation. The inhabitants of these cities are a dark mirror’s reflection of the sun-chasers above. Moored on the sunless oceans below are Drow, Duergar, and Drider marvels: ancient floating leviathan-cities carved from more-ancient megaflora.

Greatest among these floating cities, the great Drow ‘city’ Lotus is the largest gathering of humanoid life on the red planet. Its room-like caverns—populated by nearly a million mortal souls—are carved from giant fibers older than the languages of Men and stand as a mocking monument to the short-lived-ness of animal life. One tradition holds that there are a sect of ashen-skinned Drow monks whose order is dedicated to chronicling the seemingly infinite rooms of the Lotus. As a monk grows older and more respected, he is tasked with winding through the passages of that ancient “flower”, touching each wall with a ritual brand and a brief invocation to a Drow Male God in thanksgiving for the miracle of the horizontal depths of the deep.

Beside Lotus in the depths of the Deep Dark, there is the Great Web: a labyrinth of unending complexity watched over by the many-legged Driders. Many a Drow noblewoman has chosen to spend her years in study of the Web, believing that the dark spider-goddess who has no name shall grant to her a boon. On rare occasions, when the Driders inevitably bring the empty-shell-of-a-corpse back to Lotus, families whisper of the Goddess’s call, and express their hope that the work begun by their Daughter will continue; that the Lady who is unnamed may be placated in her lust for their children. There is, however, a hidden truth in these stories, for the corpse that is buried is not the corpse of the Drow who perished. Rather, the Drider who brings the news is the child herself, transformed by the secret fleshwarping arts of the most feared Drow and relieved of even a Drow’s humanity. She knows nothing of her former self, but is forever remade in the image of the goddess she pursued.

At another exit to the Great Web stands the great Cavern-City of the Duergar. Its name and navigation are given only to the most trusted Drow, for the Duergar are small in number but large in ambition. Given over to daily bouts of ritual enlargement, these stocky humanoids take from the naked rock of their cavern all manner of the world’s ores. Then, in a process which is only taught to those who cannot speak it—for their tongues are first removed—the ore is transformed into gleaming metals which rival the purity of the most toxic forges of the higher races.

But again, to call the Foul and Mighty of Lotus and its kin the deepest dwelling is to err, as beneath the dark still waters there lurk other older minds. The finned horrors known as Aboleth rest here; their alien intelligence having chosen to slumber in mindful dreaming for years beyond number for a singular event which will disturb the peace of the world. Beside them, in tomb-like caverns which have held them against their will, are the last of the great Darkworms—the wild and eternal progenitors to all Dragonkind whose bodies are willing vessels for powers greater than themselves. Thoughts of whether the bound Darkworm and sleeping Aboleth have conversed in the Eon since their arrival from the First of All Worlds, and what dark whisperings they have shared would be enough to keep scholars the world over sleepless to the point of madness if only they knew.

Deep sentients

Red Mourning BenjaminBuckmaster BenjaminBuckmaster