Far beyond the Pillars of Hercules, across the great ocean lies the mysterious continent known as Terra Occulta. It is home to the Yucatec, large humanoid lizards that walk upright and are gifted with the ability to reason like men. It is also the former domain of their unfortunate subjects, the enslaved Wild Elves.
The Lizardmen emerged onto the surface only recently, having originally been driven underground by the same cataclysmic event that wiped out the Atlantean civilization, nine thousand years ago. Once a high culture that shared the fruits of their golden age in prehistoric times, they are now reduced to a twisted infernal version of their former kin.
Ever since their re-emergence they’ve brutally reclaimed core territories and repopulated their old abandoned cities where they now preside over all underneath them like butchers over cattle. They worship cruel demonic entities, chief among them Cuculcan and his array of demonic overlords, who are in a constant demand of twitching hearts and freshly flayed skin.
Yucatec armies hold some of the most formidable forces on this plane, such as a warrior caste bred for nothing but extermination; terrorsaurs, gigantic lizard war machines that are deployed to cause mayhem and instill fear in the enemy’s ranks, and a caste of cruel priest-kings who, from atop their jungle pyramids, augur the future, wielding volatile, reality warping chaos magic. With this power they can summon literal demons from the Abyss and open gateways to Tartarus, for all those who would dare to stand in the way of their holy mission; To deliver this entire world as a sacrifice unto their demonic benefactor.
Long ago, when wolves and men were still in their infancy, a mysterious civilization of lizardmen, known as the Yucatec, thrived and rivaled Atlantis in its splendor. But before the rule of Atlantis, during the primordial Golden Age, the Lizardmen reached even beyond the fabled heights of the Atlanteans.
Unequaled in civilisatory achievement, their prehistoric empire spanned the whole width and breadth of the earth, bringing reason and law to people still in the firm grip of archaic ignorance. Primitives bowed at their feet while others feared them for their arcane might.
Their cities were gold decked marvels to behold, shining amidst the green lush of prehistoric jungles, with inventions and machines of magic never since attained. Foremost among these was a gateway system, connecting lands far away through hyperspatial portals, making the influence of the Yucatec omnipresently felt, even beyond this plane. Master architects erected towering pyramids to honor their deities, while their sages predicted the intricacies of the temporal flow with infallible accuracy. It was a time when their priest-king’s ingenuity in the magical arts seemed to know no limits – nor equal. Although the Yucatec empire flourished for tens of thousands of years, it had reached its zenith long past and it all ended abruptly when the Great Deluge came.
When the waves began to raze the surface, the Lizardmen had already succumbed to the corrupting influence of a powerful astral entity. Success can test the mettle of a civilization just as much as a calamity, and the Yucatec, having achieved so much, had grown weary of their equilibrium. Desiring for new horizons and pleasures, their extraplanar excursions pierced ever deeper into the Astral Sea, into forgotten and hidden regions, where they stumbled onto a dangerous anomaly—something that would end their entropic weariness forever.
It was the demon lord Cuculcan, a gargantuan chromatic serpent of flayed skin and shifting geometric patterns, a deity in all but name. Deep within an uncharted layer of the Abyss, they came face to face with the being, as he towered over his domain of gold and blood. He enthralled the lizardmen with miraculous gifts and promises, but more importantly, with displays of his vast reality altering powers. The very fabric of this realm seemed to obey his every whim.
With advanced insight into the nature of the multiverse, the revelation of hitherto unknown laws of magic, and freely given transdimensional knowledge, he was able to gain more than the Yucatec’s mere trust. He convinced them of being their progenitor, the creator of their race, who out of compassion had remained in this lowly existence for millions of years, eagerly awaiting his children’s return. The demon lord claimed that the others of his kind had transcended beyond the astral domain into more sublime and unknown regions of the multiverse. And now, finally reunited with his amnesic children, he could complete his long-delayed journey and join the others. By their sacrifice, the Yucatec could partake in this hallowed event, and thereby be elevated to new apotheotic heights. Just as they had dreamed.
Thus, Cuculcan lured the Yucatec civilization, piece by piece, generation by generation, deeper into a covenant with him, in exchange for promises of evolution and ascendency into godhood at his side. All they had to do was submit to his… more bizarre demands.
The Lizardmen had opened the gates to the Abyss and it began to swallow them whole. Horrific acts were executed in Cuclucan’s name and under the pretense of high magic. The purpose of these blood rituals was not the self-aggrandization of Cuculcan, but the desecration of the Yucatec people, and by extension, of this material world. And so, the demon lord bent the Yucatec’s own reason against them, rationalizing his calls for ritualistic mutilation and murder away with lofty explanations, embedded in a framework of philosophical deceptions. His most ardent followers were beyond the need for these fairy tales, but utterly overcome with the intoxicating effects of this new form of chaos magic, and they embraced it wholeheartedly. Instead of evolution, a devolutionary cascade set in.
Cuculcan, however, was not satisfied with just another civilisation to be pulled into his domain, their supplication barely added to his arcane power—he eyed a grander prize. The earth was to be ripped out of the material universe entirely, and absorbed into his realm. An addition to the countless worlds that hung like bleeding pearls in the skies of his Abyssal domain. And for this, chaos and terror had to be woven into the fabric of the earth until they were one.
In response to the atrocities of the priest-kings, revolts erupted across the empire—desperate uprisings on earth and on far off colonized material worlds—which splintered the Yucatec into warring factions. Some of these abandoned their brethren entirely, to form breakaway civilisations, disappearing deep into the Astral; far away from their insane kin and the reach of the Abyss. Some had no option but to confront the corrupted priest-kings and were either slaughtered or engulfed in a protracted conflict that saw their marvelous cities reduced to ruins. And others still, were not set on rebelling for their freedom, but vying for a position of dominance in the new hierarchy of holy terror.
Miraculous machines, once built under the guidance of Cuculcan’s proxies, which could congeal concentrated thought into matter, now relentlessly unleashed horrors from the most debased recesses of the lizard’s minds. Living nightmares began to walk the earth. The gateway system, once the pinnacle of their high culture, was sabotaged by a breakaway Yucatec faction, in the desperate attempt to foil the plans of the priest-kings and the Chromatic Serpent. The very physiology of the Lizardmen mutated to accommodate the demonic energies coursing through their bodies, with some offshoots resembling demonic abominations rather than reptilians. All this plunged the empire further into chaos and into the ruinous embrace of the Abyss.
The Yucatec civilization, once spanning many worlds, was reduced to isolated pockets of cults; a twisted shadow of their former glory—driven on by the consuming influence of the lower planes and little more. How far they had fallen, from philosophers and explorers, bending space and time to their will, to little more than chaos intoxicated zealots, thirsting for the Chromatic Serpent’s twisted grace.
It was in this time of Yucatec decay, that new powers rose to dominance.
The most famous among these were the legendary Atlanteans, who ruled for 5000 years from their fabled ringed city, the remains of which now rest at the bottom of the ocean. The surviving Atlantean descendants would later form the ill-fated dynasties of Egypt.
Lemuria, a high culture from a now submerged landmass south of Sindhu. The Lemurians were fabled for their mastery of metatronian magic, which allowed them to manifest ethereal matter and mold it into living forms with the power of their voices.
The Land of Mu, a once continent-sized empire of enigmatic thinkers and builders, located in the ocean beyond the far east. The Mu were a very ancient culture of philosophers and mathematicians, who peered beyond the astral into the eternal world of the Noumenon, and achieved collective enlightenment.
Hyperborea, a mystical culture to the furthest North. The mystifying Hyperboreans were a race of giants of which little is known. It is surmised that, following the Deluge, the Hyperborean survivors settled on the Plains of Ash and are connected to its current state of desolation.
All these cultures aspired to fill the void left by the Yucatec’s tragic decline, but were doomed by the promethean audacity of Atlantis. It is said that, in their arrogance, the Atlanteans violated the natural order of the cosmos and their rightful position therein. Legend holds that Atlantis stole celestial fire from the heavens, and as a consequence, all suffered for their recklessness. To this day, scholars argue whether it was the wrath of the gods that struck Earth, or the celestial fire itself that unleashed the world-ending waves. The true nature of this transgression may never be known, but the consequences of the Atlantean presumptuousness are. Titanic waves were unleashed, destroying all in their path and rearranging the very face of Earth. Despite their might and glory, Atlantis, Lemuria, the Land of Mu and the Hyperborean civilization were all wiped out by the cataclysm. As for the Lizardmen in their remaining enclaves—they were forewarned of the impending catastrophe.
Cuculcan, who was not bound by the same limitations of space and time, foresaw the Atlantean doomsday, caused by their meddling in things beyond their understanding. Thus, before the waves began to sweep the earth, the loyal priest-kings were instructed in nightmarish visions to flee deep beneath the earth’s surface, into massive subterranean caverns and tunnel systems, where they should abide until time would turn once more in their favor. And so they did, obediently following their Lord’s will, while the Deluge razed the surface.
After the deadly flood had abated and the sea had retreated, nature claimed the world once more. The ancient Yucatec cities became overgrown with vegetation and new peoples settled on their lands. The Lizardmen name, once venerated and feared across the world, was all but forgotten. Reduced to legends told around campfires—cautionary tales against hubris and the consequences of transgressing against the will of the Celestials. Wild Elves emigrated from the Northern and Southern landmass and took over what remained of the former lizard cities. The Elves flourished in their turn, worshiping nature and living in harmony with the bountiful life around them.
Meanwhile, punished by the harsh conditions of subterranean existence, the Lizardmen had been pushed to embrace ever more demonic ways. Millennia of supplicating Cuculcan, and living in the darkness of the earth, morphed the once sophisticated Yucatec into beings more akin to creatures from the Abyss than to their original form. And so, the Lizardmen waited, dreaming of the day they would return.
Time can reduce kings to beggars and raise the low to glory once more. Everything conforms to the temporal flow, the ups and downs of invisible valleys and hills. This is the art of astromancy, the knowledge of the topology of time. The ignorant assume time to be a featureless medium, like the space through which we move—they couldn’t be more wrong. The Yucatec have always been experts at the art of charting these invisible temporal forces. They knew that no one can go against the will of time, and time was about to turn in their favor at long last.
Once the astromancers of the Supreme Priest-King had divined a favorable time for their re-emergence—the lizardmen, with the pent up fury of untold millenia, erupted back onto the surface. As if in a reverse image of the flood that had once driven them into the earth, they drowned the lands with their bodies, while decimating all in their path. Relentless streams of reptilians swarmed out from caverns below with a frenzied primal rage. It was an apocalyptic horror the surface-dwellers were woefully unprepared for. While the Wild Elves were only proficient in limited tribal warfare, the Lizards hit them with the full brunt force of their hardened troglodytic armies. After the Yucatec had brutally subjugated the Elven kingdoms—little more than livestock to their cruel eyes—they installed them as slaves into their reborn society. But an even worse fate awaited the Elves in the form of the Great Serpent’s sacrificial altars. Which were reawakened atop the ancient jungle pyramids, where now screams of terror once more permeate the air.
Soon after, the legendary city of Calakmul was reconquered, the ancient capital of the Yucatec. In times past, known for its towering twin-pyramids, but now crumbling and overgrown with wild plant life. Exhilarated with the deliverance from the underworld and their immediate triumphs, the Lizards have begun to dream bigger dreams. Their hearts are fervidly set on their dimly remembered Golden Age, and their reascendence under the rule of their Supreme Priest-King Yuknoom K’ab Ix the Great, of the Solar Dynasty. The most powerful ruler in the Yucatec empire, known as the “Splitter of the Sky”; the one who led his people victoriously onto the surface after so many millennia of subterranean torment. Yuknoom K’ab Ix is undisputed in his dominance among the cut-throat politics of the Lizard’s royalty. He is an unsurpassed vessel of Abyssal power, brimming with madness and devotion to the Chromatic Serpent—all beings of Terra Occulta fear to draw his attention.
His right hand is known as Xook the Spine Crusher, of the Eclipse Dynasty. Xook is the most elite warrior within the empire and oversees all campaigns directly. At the left of the Supreme Priest-King stands his 6th wife, Lady Morningstar the Sky Witch, of the Lunar Dynasty. A blind prophetess of invaluable insight and knowledge. Both are instrumental in advancing the Yucatec’s worldly and otherworldly power towards their ultimate demonic goal.
Day and night now, blood runs from atop the twin pyramids of Calakmul, while still beating hearts are held high up towards the sky in an effort to appease the Great Serpent. And so that the nature of the Abyss may be woven into the fabric of this plane. Cuculcan, however, remains aloof to such minor offerings, but his lieutenants, who are particularly insatiable demons, are in a constant need of fear and suffering. It is a source of food for these beings, which the Lizardmen supply assiduously in a never ending stream of sacrificial victims, ritualistically cut out organs and freshly flayed skin; extracted from the forlorn Wild Elves and other unfortunate inhabitants of Terra Occulta. In return for these offerings, dark magical powers and transtemporal insight are bestowed upon the lizardmen, giving them an edge over all their enemies in matters of war and subterfuge.
These beings, known as the ‘Lords of Xibalba’, reside in the “Place of Fright”—Cuculcan’s domain. They function as his hands and eyes across the planes and the material worlds. While they serve at Cuculcan’s pleasure, these high-demons are entangled in a constant war of intrigue with one another; all in an effort to garner the favor of the Chromatic Serpent, and should he ever falter in his strength, to usurp his Abyssal throne and seize all power in the realm of Xibalba. Chief among the over-fiends are:
Cha’ac, worshiped as a god of earthquakes, rain and lightning. Cha’ac demands the “tears of children” to bless the lands with rain and earthly fecundity.
Ix’Chel, rules over matters of fertility and disease, the explosive multiplication of the Yucatec race is her doing. She feeds off bloodletting and the agonizing final moments of women.
Ah’Puch, presides over a portfolio of slow death, darkness and the underworld. Wailing and lamentation is music to Ah’Puch. He demands the extended torment of his sacrificial victims.
Buluc-Chabtan, presides over warfare, sudden death and violence. This demon is supplicated for good fortune in war. He hungers for the hearts of brave warriors, but also cranial bludgeoning and the immolation of his victims.
Yum Kaax, venerated as a god of wild beasts, the hunt and bloodfrenzy. His favor is sustained by the disembowelment and flaying of appropriate offerings.
Ixtab, goddess of planewalking and asphyxiation. She’s a psychopompos, a being that accompanies the souls of fallen Yucatec to the afterlife in Xibalba. Ixtab revels in the strangulation and final moments of the poor souls offered to her.
Itzamna, the four-headed god of sorcery, the sun and creation. He’s the previous ruler of the ‘Place of Fright’ whose throne was usurped by the Chromatic Serpent in aeons past. He now functions as his castrated servant. Itzamna delights in extreme mutilation and the decapitation of royalty.
Various clans within Yucatec society have their patrons among these would-be-gods, but only the worship of the Chromatic Serpent is inescapable. Many more ‘Lords of Xibalba’ exist and are embedded in the ever-changing hierarchy of Cuculcan’s realm, where power shifts frequently and high-level demoncide is a common occurrence, all in line with the brutal nature of the Abyss.
Since their rebirth onto the surface, the Lizards have been feverishly at work in recovering their arcane machines of the past. Although some of these may never see the light of day again, their greatest invention is not beyond salvage. Reconstruction of the gateway system has begun. Minor parts of the network have already been reactivated, but with a peculiar chaotic twist. Now so deeply imbued with forces of chaos, the lizardmen infuse that chaos into all they touch and create. This has led to many unforeseen consequences. The reactivated gateways now have a tendency to switch semi-randomly between locations, and although the gateway system is far from unreliable, it is possible that a step through the portal might lead to the bottom of the ocean, into the inside of a blazing star, just as it might open up to the desired location.
It is said that the subtleties of chaos magic run deep, and that they’re sometimes even beyond the ken of its most fervent practitioners. It is an exceedingly powerful form of magic but at the same time it’s equally as unpredictable. This magic has its own will, a trickster-like personality, that may delight in playing along just as it might enjoy tearing its own practitioners to shreds. There are no rules to this, no law—only raw might, and those who can impose their will on it. Those who wield chaos must withstand its raw power or be fried as if struck by arcane lightning.
And so, the resurgent Yucatec find themselves in a new world, barely recognizable from the descriptions of their ancestors. The gateways have granted the Lizards an advantage in matters of intelligence and information gathering, but they’ve also alerted the world to the presence of a new, unknown power. Wild animals from Terra Occulta, exotic life forms from other material worlds, and even visitors from other planes of existence, have recently emerged all over the earth; all, of course, due to the gateways’ newfound unpredictability. And this has the powers that be spooked while scrambling for the source of these otherworldly ingressions… A foreboding feeling has set in across the world, an instinctive certainty, that this is only just the beginning of high strangeness.
Their demonic alliance and the subterranean exile, in which the Lizardmen found themselves in for so long, have made their minds and designs as maddingly chaotic and impenetrable as the verdant jungle forests surrounding their ancient cities—who will be next to grace their sacrificial altars, in their fanatical drive to turn the entire earth into a mirror image of their Abyssal lord’s realm.
Lizard society is divided into four castes. At the top exists the priest caste, consisting of the most intelligent and arcanely gifted wielders of magic. Astromancers, prophets, sorcerers, shamans, scryers, soothsayers etc. all fall into this group. The priest caste is the most humanoid looking among the different types of Yucatec, yet they are also the most likely to carry Abyssal mutations on their body (additional, limbs, eyes or other deformities). Next comes the warrior caste, composed of nobles and large, thick-skinned, muscular lizards, specifically bred to meet the severity of combat and war. The third caste are the workers, artisans, traders and peasants, their features are more gentle with large eyes and spindly extremities. At the very bottom of the societal hierarchy stands the slave caste, also known as the outcastes. This level of society is mainly composed of Elves and other enslaved races (such as Saurians), but also disgraced Yucatec; they serve as both expendable laborers and farmers, but, in time of need, also as an actual source of food themselves.
Inner Earth and the Plutonic Empires
During their subterranean exile, the Lizardmen were faced with many perils that turned them into ruthless survivors, capable of braving any hardship. After their arrival in the Underworld, sustenance was the foremost challenge to a prolonged stay in this inhospitable environment. Fortunately for the Lizards, there exists an entire alternative ecosystem within the large caverns of the earth, some of which have the size of entire kingdoms and more, able to accommodate the large Yucatec numbers. Exotic mushrooms, sometimes even entire fungal forests, full of insects and even larger animal life, can be found in these caves. Water is also abundant within the earth. Huge lakes and rivers full of aquatic life capable of sustaining a large population, exist here just as on the surface, all illuminated by fluorescent mycelium that grows on the walls and ceilings.
But besides the harmless flora and fauna, there’re also terrifying predators, solitary beings of immense strength, that stalk the tunnels of the deep, ravenous centipedes the size of dragons, poisonous mushrooms of malevolent intelligence, untreatable parasites, arachnid projectors of illusions and more. But most importantly—other empires. Which are, in many regards, just as xenophobic and dangerous as the Yucatec themselves.
Nagas, also known as ‘snakemen’, are such a power. They are natural wielders of magic, who possess anthropomorphic upper bodies and a large snakelike tail. It’s a dichotomy that’s emblematic of the Nagas, and translates from their outward appearance down to their innermost psychological workings. Even so, appearances can vary widely among the different types of snakemen, ranging from the more human and attractive to the downright monstrous. Nagas are xenophobic isolationists, primarily interested in self-cultivation and hedonism, concepts that on the surface seem to have little in common, but are connected through a craving for perfection—be it sensoric or spiritual. Most Nagas look with disdain upon the younger races such as humans, lycans, elves etc., that lack their innate magical attunement or cultural refinement. In conformity with their looks, the snakemen display a geminate tendency in their interactions with others. Both nobility and selfishness, a sense for beauty and cruelty, and a capacity for rigorous discipline as well as debauched pleasure seeking, can be found in equal measure in the Naga race. Legends in the East are full of their evil exploits, only to be matched with many anecdotes praising their capacity for wisdom and benevolence. One of the most remarkable features of the Nagas are their miraculous cities, which are awe-inspiring constructs, made out of the most precious gems and metals the earth can produce. They are of such otherworldly splendor, that some assume they must have been transplanted here from another plane or sphere of existence, for the sheer amount of precious rocks that have been worked into shape to construct these astonishing places. All visitors are captivated with their opulence and grandeur, but the Nagas let them rarely leave to tell the tale… Most famous among these cities are: ‘Atala,’ the Ophidian City; ‘Vitala,’ the Red City; and ‘Sutala’, the Abode of the Cursed King Bali. The beauty of these places is of such excess that it even outshines Carthage’s most decadent royal palaces, but this overindulgence is not limited to architecture. The Nagas are hoarders of treasures, both subtle and gross, and they have a reputation for thievishness and avarice—they may even kidnap people from the surface to play sadistic games, or, on rare occasions, sire offspring with, should the Naga become infatuated with their abductees. But besides worldly treasures, the Nagas also keep priceless tomes of learning and magical artifacts from aeons past inside their vaults; and they will not part easily with their treasures once acquired. Snakemen culture is vibrant and abounds with masterful expressions of creativity that surpasses even the greatest works of art found on the surface. Music, architecture, dance, poetry, sculpting and all other forms of beauty are central to the hedonistic indulgence of Naga society—and they do not suffer anyone standing in the way of their entertainment. But, in line with their dual nature, some Nagas have a deeply ascetic mindset, set on self-cultivation and arcane mastery, that is born out of a very long lifespan. At some point loss of interest in the mere satisfaction of the senses is inevitable, which ultimately leads some Nagas to aspire beyond the material sensorium, earning them their well deserved reputation as outstanding practitioners of the arcane arts and as wise thinkers. Contact with the Naga kingdoms is near unavoidable for anyone venturing into the Inner Earth, as their many kingdoms stretch far across the underworld. Yet their true place of origin is not of this world, but a realm found on the Astral Sea called ‘Nagaloka.’
On a deeper layer dwell mineral lifeforms, sentient crystals known as Orgoliths. They are natural denizens of the deep earth, where they tend to the continuous expansion of their crystal network. Their abodes are enormous caverns full of shining crystalline life, humming in complex patterns and communicating in an incomprehensible alien language of light. Orgoliths form a hive mind when they’re interlinked, but are capable of fashioning autonomous bodies that are able to exhibit individuality, engage in manual labor, and should they feel threatened, to defend their crystalline network. They are quasi-pacifist by nature and will not seek out conflict on their own, but do not take kindly to intruders, and will attack on sight anyone crossing into their domain. Especially organic lifeforms whom they perceive as aesthetically revolting and deeply disgusting, but more importantly as an inherent danger to their existence. Contact with nagas, lizardmen, humans, etc., has taught them to be wary of organics and their fleshy minds, who would see them shattered into pieces and stolen for their luster—only to be experimented upon, or even worse, to be locked away in a lonely treasure chest for the rest of eternity. Inorganic life, on the other hand, or ethereal creatures from other planes of existence, are generally welcomed by the curiose Orgoliths. They possess a vast collective intelligence coupled with an indefinite lifespan; it can only be speculated what kind of secrets and insights this overmind might have accumulated over aeons of deep collective contemplation. Every couple of thousand years, born out of a deep yearning for understanding the universe, the ‘Orgolith Autarchy’ sends forth a swarm of autonomous crystalline bodies to explore the world above, so they can add to the knowledge of the ‘Orgolith Overmind.’ But to their horror, these explorers seldom return… Their innate feeling of disgust towards organic life makes it difficult to interact with these crystal creatures, or establish any form of relationship beyond the most rudimentary. They simply do not care for the evanescent opinions of frail meat bodies. The Orgolith’s primary occupation is cerebral, and lies with the continuous growth of their collective overmind, in the form of ever new additions to the crystalline superstructure. In order to expand their cognitive capacity and continue the philosophical investigation into the true nature of the cosmos, and into the mysterious supradevine entity only known as “Omnius.”
Within the dark innards of the earth, there lurks an extremely dangerous race of psychic predators. The ‘Stygian Spiders,’ also known as ‘Phantarachnids,’ are an illusion casting menace of horse sized spiders that stalk the lightless tunnels of the underworld. Little is known of these elusive creatures, but what little has been learned is most unnerving. These eight-legged monstrosities are known to play tricks on the mind of their prey, they achieve this by first psychically probing the interior of the victim and then casting, through their powerful mental abilities, the deepest desires of the victim into absolutely convincing hallucinations. These can range from bewitching nymphs, to old friends, or to the appearance of the deceased. By this trickery, a Phantarachnid can lure even seasoned adventurers to their premature doom. But should they feel threatened, this ability springs into its opposite direction, projecting the most abhorrent terrors of the attacker’s subconscious mind, which may leave them permanently psychologically damaged or driven insane entirely. Elder Stygian Spiders have developed this ability to such an extent that their projections can manifest as real matter. Which allows them to create temporary avatars of flesh and bone with whom they engage outsiders, all the while sitting inside their lair, dreaming up the illusions from far away. These avatars can take any shape, but usually are outstandingly charismatic, allowing the Stygian Spiders to venture high into the upper realms of the earth and deeply infiltrate their prey’s habitat. Congealing materialized bodies out of astral matter is an arduous task for the arachnids, and requires their full undivided attention. And sometimes, on very rare occasions, due to becoming so engrossed in the illusion itself, the spider might even forget its true identity. A Stygian might in this way live an entire human existence on the surface, all while dreaming forgetfully in the hideous caverns of the earth. They might create families, aspire even to celebrated positions of power, only to one day, at a hint that reminds them of their original identity, dissolve in an instant the phantasm that has entrapped them. The most famous example of this would be the ageless ‘Queen Kubaba of Sumer.’ This phantom ruled for a hundred years in peace and prosperity over the ancient kingdom, until one fateful moment, when in a particular mood of melancholy, the sight of moonlight reflecting dew drops on a web caught her eye, and ripped the regent from her amnesic slumber and atomized her body—dissolving her into thin air—leaving family and loyal subjects in utter shock. Some royal lineages claim their origin with the Stygian Spiders, which, in their ignorance, they presume to be divine. Their mighty psychic capabilities would certainly lend itself to the idea that there’s more at work here than mere natural forces. What has been gleaned through interactions with the arachnids suggests that they live in hives of hundreds, where they worship an unknown deity, called the ‘Dreaming God’ who makes his home on the plane of Styx. At the center of each hive is a grotesquely oversized queen, too large to leave the hive cavern, who’s being fed by swaths of royal guards and other servants. Besides their natural motivations for food and survival, the Phantarachnids remain enigmatic. Ventures into the bowels of the earth should always carry a healthy portion of paranoia, and for that matter, even surface dwellers should from time to time distrust their own mind, or they just might end up as dinner of a dreaming arachnid.
Perhaps the greatest danger of the deep earth are the many flesh-eating fungoid species, of which one stands out and is feared above all others: the extremely dangerous Malcelium, also known as the ‘Brain Blight.’ A parasitic fungus with the ability to turn any unfortunate soul inhaling its spores into mindless zombies, controlled by the mushroom’s malevolent collective hivemind. The mycelial body of the mushroom itself can be identified by its yellow-greenish coloration, of thin pulsating tendrils that cover the walls of caverns and tunnels in a disgusting biomatter decomposing slime. This mass is punctuated by fruit bodies, delicate stalks supporting large bulbous heads full of spores ready to unleash a mind-altering miasma upon the slightest contact, or even a gust of wind. With the tunnels sometimes carrying strong currents of air, these spore clouds can reach far away regions of the underworld to infect the unwitting denizens, turning them all into slaves of the Malcelium. While at first the zombified victim might appear normal and act in a habitual manner, the infection soon spreads to the outside where it no longer can be concealed. The mushroom morphs the flesh, and specifically the skull, into grotesque shapes resembling an unholy merging of the victim with fungal tendrils and fluorescent bulbous stalks amidst rotting matter. These stalks replace the eyes and other senses of the zombified victim, serving as all-purpose sensory receptacles, ranging from sight and sound to even unknown modes of perception. At this point, the infected is beyond remedy and only immediate burning, or dissolution in acid, may prevent further spread of the fungal infection. However, the inhalation of minute amounts of spores will not overpower the self-agency of an organism. Such small amounts will have an intoxicating effect that leads to ecstatic visionary states and a subtle telepathic link with the hivemind. An experience that can seduce the victim to seek out more of the mushroom and in turn be assimilated completely, body and mind, into the Malcelium. The entity itself possesses a malignant alien intelligence that is hostile to all forms of life (except non-biological) and desires to absorb all into its ever-growing mass in an unrestrained desire to consume. Communication with this sentience is only possible through the ingestion of small amounts of the spores or the mycelial body proper. When contact is established, the Brain Blight will conjure up hallucinogenic images of a paradisiac world, united through its tendrils into one harmonious symbiotic web, while radiating waves of unconditional love and bliss—but if this vision is challenged, the mushroom’s collective intelligence becomes enraged. In brief moments, the mask will slip, and it will reveal its true face as a merciless ravager of all life, seeking to infect and consume the entire world and unite it in one titanic body, covering all the surface and inside of the earth as one horrid mycelial growth. And once this has been achieved, the mushroom will turn its attention to the stars and grow its fruit bodies to celestial heights, spreading to the space above and beyond. Thus, the Brain Blight is fought and eradicated by all, wherever it is found, lest the Malcelium achieves its apocalyptic goals and transforms all life into one putrefying cadaver.
The Deep Ones are a race of hyper-intelligent fish monsters that dwell in the chthonic dark of the underworld’s seas. They belong to the group of ‘aquatic races,’ and are related to the treacherous ‘Acolytes of Dagon,’ ill-famed for their devastating assault on all the ancient empires more than a thousand years ago; but also to the ‘Abhorrent Ones,’ singular aquatic monsters of behemothic size that haunt the great oceans with their colossal frames and unfathomable minds. A schism, whose nature has been lost to time, fractured the once unitary race and has seen them evolve into wildly different directions from one another. The Deep Ones resemble multi-eyed fish creatures of dark purple-bluish coloration, ranging in size from whales to even exceeding the proportions of elder dragons. Outwardly they’re a confounding merger of strange alien features and regular sea life anatomy—an amalgamation that either suggests an unholy fusion of different aquatic species, or perhaps their shared genesis point, which would make the Deep Ones the ancestors of various current sea creatures. Explorers who, by an extremely unlikely series of events, brave all the terrors of the subterranean world and reach the crushing depths of the Deep Ones, will be met with severe hostility. Like the Stygian Spiders, the Deep Ones possess immense psychic powers that make even the former look pale by comparison. But where a Stygian would skillfully lure a victim to be devoured, a Deep One might just outright kill an adventurer, paralyzing them with a passing thought, or squash them with a giant invisible hand through telekinetic means; or even rewrite the mind of its victim in such a way as to serve the aquatic monster. Like many inhabitants of the Inner Earth, the Deep Ones are extremely xenophobic and isolationist. They are not interested in contact with the outside world or interactions with beings they see as beneath them. That being said, some of the younger members of their race (tens of thousands of years old), enjoy domineering lesser creatures, and encourage the formation of religious cults with themselves at the center. Compared to their ichthyic brothers, they possess above genius level intellects, not matched by any non-magical life form on this world, making it easy for them to lead such cults; especially considering that many aquatics are not that well developed, mentally, to begin with. Over the aeons, innumerable evil creatures worshiped the Deep Ones as their gods. Today, still many cults survive. Their ranks are composed primarily of lesser ichthyic races such as: the dreadful ‘Xyrryx,’ a race of vampiric manta rays endowed with daemoniac intelligence; nameless giant kraken who make their home in the crushing dark; ‘Nyxcetus,’ enormous proto-sharks that prowl the seas since time immemorial; ‘Paramantids,’ space bending phase-mantis seeking the unsympathetic intelligence of their masters; enormous three-eyed crabs known as the “Exiles of Y’yth;’ and many other inhabitants of the seas, as well as the Inner Earth. All these creatures can be found in the vicinity of the Deep Ones, where they supplicate the mighty beings, in cyclopean temples, awaiting their benediction. So they may be graced through terrible visions with cosmic insight, and elevated by the touch of a Deep One’s mind, or, on very rare occasions, be granted a boon. The Deep Ones are among the oldest creatures inhabiting our world with motives and designs that we can not possibly hope to understand. Advanced mental powers allow them to dream entire worlds into existence, strange nightmares which they co-inhabit with their kin, floating on the border of the material and the astral dimension, like ice shoals, hardened out of plasticid spectral matter. While their colossal bodies drift in the lightless dark as if in an embryonic slumber, their astral shapes are free to roam the subtle domains unfettered. Unlike other inhabitants of the Inner Earth, the Deep Ones are not confined to just the subterranean regions. Tunnels connect the chthonic waters with the great streams of the outer world, yet still they choose to embrace these inhospitable depths. The Deep Ones could easily conquer earth, but for some unknown motive have refrained from doing so. A disturbing conclusion presents itself—could it be that they’re hiding from something or someone… And what horror could force such powerful creatures to conceal their presence—for aeons—in the darkness of the deep? Some scholars argue that all modern lifeforms were seeded by the Deep Ones, and serve as bait to draw down an unknown cosmic predator from the stars. Others press the point that the actions of higher intelligence must necessarily appear as irrational to beings of lower intelligence. Like many mysteries of the Underworld, the true nature of these creatures’ actions continue to remain incomprehensible.
The Yucatec, in their battle for resources and survival, had also to contend with several organized species of large semi-intelligent insects. In particular with ‘Myrmandroi,’ known as ‘Ant-People.’ These insectoids are a race of human-sized, ant-like beings, who possess vaguely anthropomorphic torsos attached to lower insectoid bodies, similar to centaurs found on the surface. Their heads feature an overall triangular shape that culminates in small but complexly layered mandibles; they possess twelve small eyes instead of two large ones, giving them a somewhat unnervingly alien look. Myrmandroi build impressive tunnels and colonies, where they live in cooperative arrangements with other species of large bugs, herding and protecting them like farm animals. More remarkable is their symbiotic relationship with a fungal species that covers parts of their outside anatomy like a layer of moss, and protects the Ant-People from mind-control by the nefarious Malcelium spores. The ‘Illucelium,’ as it is known among scholars of the deep, is an ectosymbiont, with a mossy body from which stalks protrude, carrying fluorescently glowing bulbs, which serve as a source of light and illuminate a small radius around the Myrmandroi. The mushroom provides nutrients to the host which it can not produce or acquire through its own diet, even the air to breathe should the natural supply run out. Myrmandroi who carry a thick coating of this fungus, benefit in many more ways; the Illucelium provides stimulant secretions that make the host work tirelessly and euphorically; wounds are healed, and the ability to withstand damage is greatly increased; astonishingly, even entire limbs can be replaced by substitutes completely made out of fungal matter. It is not unheard of that outsiders try to acquire this astonishing symbiont; being covered head to toe in this fungus is a small price to pay for its many benefits. If not encountered in tunnels, the Ant-People congregate in their astounding hive colonies, which can induce an aesthetic reverie in onlookers due to the enormity of its organic towers and strange architecture, full of swarming chaotic yet somehow orderly life. Construction feats such as these certainly put the Myrmandroi’s animal primitiveness into question. Colonies of Ant-People can hold very large numbers, up to millions of beings. They communicate through glandular secretions, modulation of mushroom fluorescence, and feeler movements which are utterly unintelligible to non-members of their race.
The Myrmandroi do not strive for greatness, nor do they harbor evil, millenia-long machinations, like so many of the Underworld’s inhabitants. They are very much just large insects, and as such they’re chiefly concerned with survival, and their collective, and especially their queen’s, wellbeing. Myrmandroi can be a threat but will usually not attack unless intruded upon or otherwise scared. They can even be befriended, to a certain degree, if large enough quantities of sugar are involved in the establishment of relations. Ant-People are among the luckiest encounters one may face in the Inner Earth, yet still, their sprawling tunnel systems can cause mass death through sudden collapse, and set off earthquakes, affecting those that dwell above them. Anecdotes from Arcadia mention hostilities that spilled onto the surface, after miners had delved too deep. As the Yucatec had to experience, these seemingly benign beings can become quite ruthless if challenged. War can also erupt between colonies, for as little as brandishing differently colored Illucelium symbionts, and once someone or something has been designated as an enemy of the colony, the insectoids will wage a mindless war of extermination until nothing of their foe is left. Various subtypes of Myrmandroi exist, which are easily distinguishable by their symbiont’s coloration. Among these one needs special mention: the ‘Violet Myrmandroi,’ also called “Murex Myrmandroi,” which have been subjugated by an occult spellcaster from the surface, who now claims large territories through his insectoid armies. With the use of ‘orphic magic,’ which involves the application of sound, the sorcerer, only known as “Venenarius,” was somehow able to enthrall these creatures into doing his bidding. At the border of the known world, beneath the desolate Plains of Ash, the sorcerer’s minions have begun the construction of an complex arcane machine, the size of an entire city. Which, once finished, will be able to enslave entire nations through amplified ‘orphic music,’ or, should he encounter resistance, use these very same vibrations to create earthquakes and storms, reducing entire lands to rubble. Orphic magic is known to thin the veil between worlds, what havoc an instrument of this size could wreak can only be guessed; it might set off a cataclysm not seen since the fall of Atlantis. When the wall separating worlds is weakened, a flood, not of water, but of the entirety of the multiverse might come rushing into ours, crushing us unlike the Deluge ever could. Venenarius is surrounded by an inner circle of renegade ‘Black Sun Orcs,’ who were too foul even for their own people, but have sworn themselves to Venenarius’ plans for total dominion. Tireless insectoid hands are assembling his machine, and once it is finished, the dark sorcerer will be able to force every empire into submission, proclaiming himself ‘Rex Mundi,’ the sovereign of Earth.
On the deepest levels of the Underworld, an old enemy of the Olympian gods persists. The Titans, legendary beings the size of entire mountains, possess powers that represent a threat not only to this world but to the entire multiverse at large. A small number of Titans, the former rulers of the holy plane of Mount Olympus, lie buried in the earth, deep below unimaginable amounts of rock. Trapped in their dark gaol, they are damned to forever contemplate the nature of their failure; eternally reminded of their fall, they brood endlessly over the cruel twist of fate that wrought them this doom. Like a fly caught in amber, they are denied even the smallest of movements by the unending rock resting on them while their minds scream in agony. The Titans were defeated during the Cosmogonic War, when the universe was in upheaval and the old cosmic order was in disarray. Divine forces of gods and other Celestials, aided by the avatar of Omnius, battled an assembly of Titans, Abyssal lords, ‘Outer Gods,’ and other long forgotten powers for supremacy. The gods won the primordial battle through sheer guile and cunning; as a result, the Titans were brutally cast out of the upper spheres of existence to the very bottom of the material world. But some Titans have been saved from this catastrophic inversion of their former position; and instead were scattered across the Astral Sea, to the hellish spheres of Infernum, Abyss and Styx, where they now rule like shadows of their former omnipotent stature. A merciful fate compared to their tellurically frozen brethren. These have by now been turned into enemies of the cosmos itself, dreaming of exacting a vengeance unlike the multiverse has ever seen. Driven insane, by the aeons of being confined to their earthly sarcophagus, their hatred has reached unimaginable proportions, and their will for destruction is now indiscriminate. Once unleashed it will not just be the deceitful Celestials that will have to suffer, but the entirety of the cosmos that denied them their rightful status. Some scholars, like Simplicius the Wise and Demokritus of Samos, argue that the entire Earth was originally created for the sole purpose of encasing these immortal beings, like a gargantuan sepulcher, to hold them until time itself would end, since the Titans can not be killed as we understand it. Given their few numbers and their extreme location, finding a way to these beings is next to impossible, but this does not stop reckless creatures, such as an infamous cult of Phase Mantises, called the ‘Scarlet Church,’ from attempting to reach the depths of these cosmos defying forces. By making their bodies quasi-ethereal, a phase mantis can shift through rock like a shark glides through water. If anyone can penetrate such inaccessible depths, it would be creatures with this unique ability. Rumors speak of the mad efforts by the Scarlet Church, and their aim to transplant the consciousness of a Titan into a new artificial body made out of enormous quantities of alchemically altered, ‘living mercury,’ and other strange substances not of this world. The consequences of success would be apocalyptic; freeing a Titan would unravel the cosmic order established so long ago, bringing all the enemies of the gods, old and new, out of hiding. This shakeup would allow the calculating Mantises to be elevated to a new position in the Great Chain of Being—or so they gamble. Cosmolysis, the dissolution of the cosmos, and the coming about of the final days of the universe, are a more probable outcome. Of course, these are likely just fantastical tales, dreamed up by bards for a coin and a bottle of wine, whose veracity, considering the obscure nature of the Underworld, is impossible to judge.
The Inner Earth is a parallel world, with a delicate balance of power, unique forms of life, cultures and complex histories. Although a lot is known about its marvels and its horrors, much more is still left to be discovered. There are rumors of unequaled treasures to satisfy desires both vulgar and sublime. Wonders undisturbed since the earliest dawn of creation, unspoiled by the greed of men. But there’s also whispers of unknown creatures, who have not yet been seen by outside eyes, nor named by mortal tongues. Buried monstrosities from prehistoric times, loathsome evil without name, and other abominations of nature too strange to die…
Considering the hazards of the deep, it becomes apparent how the refined Yucatec were slowly morphed into the troglodytic predators they are now, just as their master foresaw.