Vuulari

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Vuulari
Racial Characteristics
Hair Color: White, silver
Eye Color: Red, violet
Other Information
Country of Origin: Elvendeep-area
Significant Populations: Unknown
Major Religion: The Vermin Lords
Related Races: Elves, Gulanadurians


Commonly known as dark elves to surface-dwelling races, The Vuulari are a group of elves that splintered away from the rest of the elven nation in the distant past as a result of the ancient wars between elves and the dragons. They turned to a pantheon of insectoid deities and forsook the surface to dwell in the deep places of the World Underneath.

Even many thousands of years later, the Vuulari's schism is still an open wound in the long elven cultural memory that evokes a great deal of animosity on both sides. Surface elves commonly refer to Vuulari as Lurkers, Apostates, Kinslayers or even less pleasant epithets. Both sides consider the idea of interbreeding repulsive and a sign of deviance.

Chath'z'ress fell to the combined assault of the Gulanadurians and Dol Druuni in the Year 487, resulting in the loss of its largest population center, as well as the deaths and dispersion of a large number of its peoples. They are currently in a state of turmoil, with most cities scrambling to shore up their defenses and create alliances with age-old enemies. Whether or not they are successful remains to be seen.

Race Origins

In the most ancient days of elven civilization, when the world was still young, the Vuulari were merely one of the various elven nations scattered across the world. In those days, dragons were far more numerous, and with the aid of tribes of lizardmen that worshiped them as gods, they carved out wide swathes of territory as their domain. The empires of the elves were expanding, and as they claimed new lands, they came into conflict with the dragons and their reptilian minions. The elves felt that the dragons claimed far too much land and did not leave enough for others. The dragons, for their part, resented the intrusion and had no more wish to negotiate with these little pests than a farmer wishes to negotiate with the crows in his field. And as the conflict grew, the elven knowledge of magic flourished as elves looked for a way to battle their foes and even the odds. Eventually, this led some to the exploration of dark magics, such as necromancy and demonology. The Vuulari were at the forefront of the research into the dark disciplines, so heavily besieged by the dragons and their servitors were they that they began to build their cities underground to protect them from dragon's fire. Maldrathass revealed herself to one such student of fell arts, a sorceress named Vic'inid, offering the Vuulari great power in return for becoming her chosen children.

The terrible powers offered by Maldrathass and the other Vermin Lords allowed the Vuulari to win smashing victories against the dragons, binding them to earth with her black arts so that they could be set upon by Vuulari warriors seeking vengeance. The faith of Maldrathass and the other insect Spirits spread throughout the Vuulari nation, at first existing beside the elves' traditional practices, but gradually eclipsing them. In time, the Vuulari ceased to pay homage even to the great Celestial Divinities, calling the Weaver of Webs their mother.

Due to the far-flung nature of the ancient elven nations, the other elven peoples were not aware of the extent of the changes that were occurring among their brothers and sisters until it was far too late. While elves who were in regular correspondence with the Vuulari expressed concern for their willingness to consort with demons, and about nature of the magical innovations coming from their wizards, the worst tales of what was occurring within their borders were dismissed as wild rumors. The Vuulari noble houses, now dominated by priestesses of Maldrathass, did their best to conceal the truth from the wider world until they could start making converts in other nations

No longer content with merely removing the threat to their borders, the Vuulari went on the offensive against the dragons, attacking their strongholds, and slaughtering the dragons' servitors without quarter. And as the servants of Maldrathass attempted to infiltrate other elven nations and turn others to the worship of the Spider, they were surprised that their advances were rebuffed, and that other elves were repulsed by the change that had come over their brethren. This led to increasing hostility between the Vuulari and other elven nations, whose pleas for the Vuulari to abandon their dark ways and return to the light of the Celestial Court only offended the dark elves. Tensions between the Vuulari and other elven nations escalated until a group of Vuulari soldiers attacked a Symaru settlement under questionable circumstances, shedding the blood of their elven kinsmen.

The alarmed leaders of the elven nations convened a council to resolve their differences and avert the war looming on the horizon. At the council, many distinguished elven orators entreated the representatives Vuulari to see the error of their ways, and to reconcile with their fellow elves. They made empassioned pleas to avoid a fratricidal war that would only weaken them, and leave them open to attack from the dragons. The representatives of the Vuulari sat stone-faced throughout the long hours of orations, and when called upon to give their response, they berated the representatives of the other nations for their stupidity. For had they not offered the means to achieve final victory over their adversary, only to have their gifts spurned? They derided the assembled council for their blind faith in weak and useless gods, and concluded with a litany of blasphemies, rejecting the Celestial Court and each of the great bird Spirits that served them.

As the stunned silence in the council chamber gave way to howls of outrage, the priestesses leading the delegation of the Vuulari announced that they would have nothing further to do with those unworthy of the name of elf, and that they were leaving them to their deaths at the end of a dragon's claws. They departed from that last council, and not long after, the entire nation abandoned the surface, conducting foul rituals to the Vermin Lords before setting fire to their remaining holdings on the surface. Under the infernal glow of the conflagrations, they turned their back on the sky and the Celestial Court forever, delving deep into the earth to conquer a harsh land pleasing to their terrible gods.

Religion

Surface elves refer to the Vuulari pantheon as the Vermin Lords, believing them to be twisted and evil counterparts of the bird Spirits venerated by surface elves. Each of the deities are associated with an insect or arachnid, usually predatory species or carrion eaters. Some human scholars have speculated that a connection exists between the Vuulari deities and the insectoid demons that plague the continent of Mwayambi, though this remains unproven.

Maldrathass, the Spider

Known as the First, the Mother of the Vuulari, and the Weaver of Webs, Maldrathass is the queen of the Vermin Lords and most widely venerated of Vuulari deities. She is associated with magic, wealth, power, and victory. Maldrathass was the first of the insect deities to reveal herself to the Vuulari, and the one to put in motion the events that led to the sundering of the dark elves from the other elven peoples. Maldrathass is cunning, patient, and a master manipulator, at the center of a thousand byzantine plots. Worshippers of Maldrathass believe that the cosmos is one grand chess game for the Mother of Spiders, and that they willingly play their part in her schemes for a share of the glory in her victories. The Vuulari are her chosen people, and that they must constantly prove themselves worthy of her blessings. Prayers to Maldrathass do not impore her for aid, as that would be an indication of weakness, but rather offer their triumphs to her that she may be pleased and grant them greater favor. This is not without risk, as Maldrathass is more than willing to sacrifice some of her followers to achieve her ultimate aims.

Priestesses of Maldrathass dominate the noble houses of most Vuulari cities, and therefore occupy a dominant position in the dark elven society. Priestesses of the Great Mother are known for their skill at summoning her infernal minions to possess beasts, slaves, or even occasionally themselves, creating terrifying abominations. The public temple to Maldrathass in any Vuulari city is immediately recognizable by its grandiose architecture and opulent furnishings, and public rituals to Maldrathass are grand spectacles, calculated to fill worshipers with awe for the glory of the Weaver of Webs.

In the summer of 489, Maldrathass's presence withdrew from her temples and clerics without explanation. Those followers left behind maintain their devotion, but the priestesses understood that something cataclysmic had occurred. No matter how they tried to divine an explanation for the Mother of Spiders' disappearance, they came up with nothing.

Wehl'inidia, the Mantis

Maiden of Destruction, the Patient One. The daughter of Maldrathass and Vierjss, Wehl'inidia is an ambitious deity that one day intends to supplant her mother as ruler of the Vuulari pantheon. Like her insect totem, Wehl'inidia is endlessly patient, and her faith preaches that one must wait for the moment of opportunity, possess the wisdom to recognize it, and the strength to make a decisive strike. Wehl'inidia believes that her mother is enamored with her own cleverness and makes things needlessly complicated with her endless elaborate schemes. Maldrathass, on the other hand, believes that her daughter is too much like her father and lacks imagination and subtlety. While the abilities of Maldrathass' clerics tend to be oriented toward manipulation, control, and conjuration, priestesses devoted to Wehl'inidia command more destructive magic. Wehl'inidia is the patroness of arcane magic, and all Vuulari wizards give her homage. Still, despite their differences in philosophy, Wehl'inidia's faith is intertwined with that of Maldrathass. While mother and daughter might intrigue against one another, they present a united front against the encroachment of other deities against their position of supremacy. Clerics and sorceresses of Wehl'inidia exist side by side with priestesses of Maldrathass in noble houses, and religious rituals venerating one will also offer praise to the other.

With her mother's disappearance in late summer of 489, Wehl'inidia seized upon the opportunity to take control of the Vermin Lords in her mother's absence, unaware that this was precisely Maldrathass's intentions.

Umraerra, the Ant

The sister of Maldrathass, the power of Umraerra's faith is second only to that of the Spider. She is known among the Vuulari as the Queen of Cities, Sovereign of the Law, and the Mistress of Battle, and her faith preaches the power of organization and the strength of numbers. While a single ant may seem insignificant, their ability to act in concert allows them to accomplish amazing achievements--like killing prey many times their size and tearing it to pieces to carry back to the nest. Umraerra's faith is responsible for the rigid, hierarchical nature of Vuulari society, in which each individual has a proper place, and knows who is above them and who is below them. The divine struggle between Maldrathass and Umraerra embodies the constant tension in Vuulari society between each dark elf's quest for individual power and the strength of the community as a whole. Umraerra is also considered the patroness of common Vuulari, as Maldrathass is so closely associated with the noble houses. Each of Umraerra's temples supports a militant order called the Ilvaere that maintains order within the city, and acts as the nucleus of the city's military along with the private armies of the noble houses. Serving as one of Umraerra's generals is one of the few paths to power in a Vuulari city for a commoner with no clerical or arcane magical abilities.

Orgoll'il, the Beetle

Called the Devourer of the Dead, Orgoll'il is the Vuulari deity of necromancy and death. A foul and bloated deity that is more feared than venerated, Vuulari believe that the Devourer consumes the souls of the dead not claimed by other deities. This is yet another reason behind the Vuulari obsession with accumulating power and wealth, since those who do not impress one of the other deities enough to be taken on as a servitor are doomed to annihilation. Necromancers are viewed with suspicion and mistrust by other dark elves, but there are always those to whom the Devourer's offers of power are attractive. Intelligent undead are considered the servants of Orgoll'il, granted eternal unlife as a reprieve from his endless hunger. As such, they are ruthlessly exterminated where they are found.

Vierjss, the Scorpion

Known as the Lord of the Wasteland and the Stalker in the Lightless Depths, the Scorpion is the only nature god that the Vuulari worship. The Scorpion represents the harsh and unforgiving expanses of the Depths, and the predatory nature of life in the world underneath. The Scorpion cares little for the intrigues of the other gods, bestowing his favors on anyone strong enough to thrive in the wild regions outside the safety of the cities. For this reason, the Stalker is worshiped in equal measure by trade caravans and the bandits that prey on them. When a supplicant approaches one of the Stalker's temples, he or she is given a simple test. They must venture out into the wilds of the Underneath with meager supplies and no support, to survive and hunt a trophy impressive enough to win the favor of Vierjss. Success means joining the fellowship of the temple. Failure means a return to the city in shame, or death out in the wilds. Sacrifice is an important part of the Scorpion's religious worship, though his faith considers the hunt as important as the kill. Sacrificial rituals to Vierjss resemble pit fights in which a member of the temple's fellowship battles a dangerous beast. Regardless of which combatant is victorious, the loser's corpse is laid out before the statue of the god as an offering. The Stalker's temples are usually located just outside the walls of a Vuulari city, and travelers stop to pay homage to the Scorpion at the start of a journey, and perhaps hire one of his rangers as a guide. His temples also organize hunting parties to keep the trade routes clear, and keep monsters from encroaching on the cities. There are reports that the Stalker has gained a foothold on the surface, and that corrupted druids in the Elgar Forest have turned predatory and begun to worship the dark scorpion god.

Shyntril, the Cockroach

Called the Hidden One, Shyntril is a mysterious deity with a thousand faces, each of them equally false. He or she is the god of secrets and deception, the patron of thieves and assassins. While temples to the Cockroach are a constant annoyance to Umraerra's church, his/her worshipers are as resilent as their patron deity's totem insect and are impossible to root out. Their continued existence is in part aided by their appeal to the noble houses, who pay handsomely for the services of the Cockroach's network of spies and assassins to do jobs they don't want to dirty their own hands with. Shyntril's church functions more like a criminal syndicate than a religious organization, and also does a brisk business in smuggling (such as providing illicit weapons to the Houseless) and usury. Temples to Shyntril are usually hidden in the homes of followers, and religious objects are made to be quickly disassembled into easily portable and innocuous looking objects.

Solda'tar, the Centipede

While Maldrathass sits at the center of her web of plots and waits for her plans to come to fruition, the Centipede is a constant blur of activity, eternally trying to extend his influence into new spheres and gain more worshipers to increase his power. In artwork, he is depicted as a many-armed individual wielding a variety of weapons, or bearing sorcerous accouterments and symbolic representations of the four elements. His spheres of influence often border on those of other Vuulari deities, a tactic intended not necessarily to steal worshipers away from other gods, but make his name venerated along with those of other gods. For example, while Maldrathass is associated with wealth, the Centipede is associated with luck and with making money, making his worship popular among merchants, adventurers, and thieves. And while Umraerra is the goddess of war, he is associated with martial prowess. It is something of an open secret in Vuulari society that the Merchant Houses are the backbone of his followers.

The Centipede is a thorn in Maldrathass' side, challenging her rule by offering power to males and undermining her established social order. His mythology depicts him as a trickster fixture, always surviving his adventures intact, no matter how impossible the odds might have seemed. Umraerra seems to tolerate his encroachment better than her sister does, perhaps seeing Solda'tar as a welcome distraction that may enable her to supplant her sister as the ruler of the pantheon some day. In a few rare Vuulari cities, worshipers of the Centipede have succeeded in overturning the rule of Maldrathass' priestesses and males hold the positions of power. These cities are if anything more prone to cruelty and paranoia, since Solda'tar's church is constantly looking for signs of Maldrathass and Wehl'inidia's resurgence.

Society

The Vuulari are not a unified nation, but rather a group of loosely allied city-states separated by great distances of lightless wasteland in the Underneath. The locations of several Vuulari cities beneath the continent of Veth are known, and several more are suspected to exist. Cities are known to exist near near Kazamki in Rashnad, near Bahrkul in Bahr, near Ra'Kuul in Zul Kiras, and beneath the Soranion of Elvendeep. The city-state near Drache in Arangoth, Chath'z'ress, has been overtaken by the Dul Druuni and Gulanadurians recently. Due to the relative isolation of Vuulari cities, significant differences in law and customs can exist between one city and another. It has been said that the distances between cities do as much to prevent greater conflict among the Vuulari as it does to prevent closer alliances. That said, there are several general observations that can be made about Vuulari society, united as it is by common history and religion.

There are relatively few sites in the Underneath capable of supporting a substantial population, and those that possess the right combination of valuable resources are often fiercely contested. Vuulari cities are therefore heavily fortified, designed to repel assaults both by roving predators and other intelligent races. A city may have a few small satellite outposts that protect resources or guard trade routes, but the majority of Vuulari spend their lives safely behind the walls of their birth city and rarely if ever leave.

Stone is by far the most common building material used in Vuulari cities since it is in ready abundance. Wealthy Vuulari may live in grand estates within walled compounds or towering fortresses built into cavern walls, while the poorest of the Houseless live in densely packed warrens or even mud brick hovels that are little more than a place to sleep and store their few meager possessions. Timber must be imported from the surface, so its use in construction is rare due to the expense involved. Since the temperature is stable year round and there is no precipitation, shelter from the elements is not a primary concern in Vuulari architecture as much as protection from opportunistic thieves.

In the many long millennia of life underground, the Vuulari have adapted to the harsh and sunless world of the Underneath, and excel in coaxing sustenance from an environment that others would consider a barren wasteland. A significant portion of any Vuulari city's food supply comes from a network of ponds or tanks where laborers raise fish and shellfish. Edible species of fungi are another staple of the Vuulari diet, raised in compost created from the city's refuse. More affluent Vuulari also enjoy meat and dairy products from the rauv'eyl. The wealthiest Vuulari supplement their diet with expensive delicacies such as produce and grains from the surface world.

They have displayed considerable ingenuity in animal husbandry, selectively breeding a number of species to serve them. The kyorilta is a species of flightless giant bat that Vuulari employ both as a guard animal and a tracker, as its keen sense of smell and echolocation ability makes it ideal for pursuing quarry through the lightless depths. The rauv'eyl is another species of bat that fills a vital niche as a cattle animal in Vuulari settlements. It provides not only meat and milk, but its fur is regularly sheared and spun into yarn, and its hide tanned into leather. Vuulari also commonly employ giant spiders and scorpions as guard animals, and dog-sized giant ants as beasts of burden.

Vuulari society is matriarchal in nature due to the influence of the faiths of Maldrathass, Wehl'inidia, and Umraerra. While the difference in status between males and females is most pronounced in the Noble Houses and becomes increasingly irrelevant among the poorer strata of society, even the poorest Houseless Vuulari tends to assume that it's natural for women to occupy positions of power.

The Vuulari have not only survived but thrived in the inhospitable Antipodean world, and their harsh environment has shaped their culture just as much as their devotion to their dark gods. Mercy and compassion are not virtues highly regarded by most Vuulari, and are often perceived as a sign of weakness. While Vuulari might describe themselves as strong and pragmatic, a surface elf would say that they have become cold and cruel like the vermin gods they venerate. Vuulari society is very strictly stratified, and each resident of a dark elven city knows their place in the social hierarchy. Vuulari are driven to raise their station in life and win the favor of their gods with their actions, though avenues for advancement are often limited by the longevity of the elves. Assassination, therefore, has become a time-honored method of social climbing, though Vuulari society is hardly the orgy of bloodletting that some of the more lurid tales circulating on the surface might lead people to believe. Vuulari usually belong to one of four social strata, which are detailed below.

Noble Houses

The Noble Houses dominate a Vuulari city, and control much of the wealth and property within the city's boundaries. A Noble House is a network of patronage and influence centered upon a ruling Matron Mother. The Matron is almost always a priestess of Maldrathass, who is advised and assisted by the other priestesses of the Spider in the House, often her close blood relatives. Several other important figures make up the House's inner circle, often males. Among them is the House Wizard, who is the ranking arcane magic user and serves as the Matron's personal court wizard. The Master of Arms heads the House's private guards and oversees the security of the House's property. The House Assassin is the enforcer of the Matron's will and maintains discipline within the ranks of the House. These positions are generally considered too dangerous to place in the hands of female Vuulari, as it would give them resources to make a bid to take over the House. Males, on the other hand, tend to be more loyal to the Matron because their exalted positions within the House's hierarchy are entirely dependent on the Matron's continued favor. Matrons usually rule their Houses with an iron fist, as any sign of weakness could lead to their downfall. Many stories of the excesses of Vuulari cruelty stem from Matrons trying to maintain control of their House.

While priestesses of Maldrathass usually dominate the upper echelons of power within a Noble House, exceptions certainly occur. Vuulari believe that power belongs to those who can maintain their hold on it, and that the priestesses of the Weaver of Webs must demonstrate their worthiness to rule. It is commonly considered a rebuke from Maldrathass that her priestesses have been found lacking when someone outside their number seizes control of a House. Most frequently, Vuulari sorceresses have the resources to stage a coup, and these mistresses of arcane power are often derisively called Witch Mothers by other Houses. They are frequently priestesses of Wehl'inidia, or are ordained to the Mantis' clergy shortly after seizing power. Very rarely, a Vuulari with no magical aptitude may rise to the position of Matron, but the interference of Shyntril or Umraerra is often suspected in these cases.

Below the Matron's court are the nobles, several families related to the Matron by blood, and below them are soldiers, artisans, merchants, minor mages, and other commoners whom have been adopted into the House and owe their loyalty to the Matron. At the lowest rung are the slaves, who may live lead lives of brutal toil in mines or on farms, or lives of relative comfort in the Matron's Household. Membership in even the lowest Noble House in a city is highly prized among Vuulari, both for the prestige it brings as well as the protection it offers.

The First House of a city enjoys a place of particular prominence. The Matron Mother is granted the right to use the title Basilissa, though her rule over the city is far from absolute. The Basilissa has the right to appoint the temple staff of the city's public temple to Maldrathass, ensuring a degree of influence over the populace. She also gains the authority to summon and dismiss the city's ruling council, consisting of the Matrons of the Noble Houses and the High Priestess of Umraerra, who usually only convene to discuss matters of importance to the city as a whole, such as war.

While open warfare among the Noble Houses is rare, life in a Vuulari city is rife with subtle conflicts as the Houses attempt to show up their rivals and increase their prestige at the expense of other Houses. Noble Houses commonly make ostentatious displays of wealth to affirm their status in the city, often funding public works or lavish entertainments such as gladiatorial games, religious festivals, or stage plays. In addition, Houses often attempt to covertly sabotage their rivals' business, or humiliate them in the city's law courts. When violence erupts among Noble Houses, it is often after decades of preparation to make a swift and brutal strike and win a decisive victory before any other parties can intervene. When a Noble House is destroyed, a new one is created at the bottom of the order of precedence, and those who had ranked below the defeated House rise accordingly. The Basilissa of the city has the first choice to divide her property and appoint a Matron of the new House, or can pass it on to another House. This is often a convenient opportunity for a Matron to get rid of troublesome relatives and potential rivals by relegating them to the new House.

Merchant Houses

Below the Noble Houses are the Merchant Houses, whose power derives from wealth. While the Noble Houses often have monopolies on a city's natural resources and certain prized goods, the Merchant Houses make their fortune in trading and money lending. The enterprising merchants organize the trade caravans that traverse the dangerous paths of the Depths to trade with distant Vuulari cities, other subterranean races, and even the surface. Despite the Vuulari's well-deserved reputation on the surface, the Merchants always find someone willing to trade with them, and ensure a steady, if covert, flow of goods in both directions. Timber, surface delicacies, and alcoholic beverages fetch high prices in Vuulari cities, while Vuulari goods such as spider silk, precious stones, rare metals, poisons, drugs, slaves, and spell reagents find a ready market on the surface.

Even though caravans are required to hire bodyguards from Noble Houses, hire guides at the Temple of Vierjss, and pay taxes to the Church of Umraerra, the Merchant Houses still have little trouble finding ways to make a profit. The internal politics of a Merchant House can be just as byzantine and cutthroat as any Noble House, but since the ability to make money is paramount, Merchant Houses are just as likely to be led by Patron Fathers as Matron Mothers. And although members of Merchant Houses dutifully worship in the temple of Maldrathass and make offerings to Vierjss for safe passage through the Wastes, it is an open secret that Merchant Houses form the core of Solda'tar's worshipers.

The Church of Umraerra

The Church of Umraerra is a powerful force in any Vuulari city, one that even powerful Noble Houses must take into account. The Church of Umraerra draws its members primarily from the Houseless, periodically holding martial tournaments. These tournaments are public affairs, and the temple staff offers odds and takes bets on the contests. The victors are offered a place in the Ilvaere, and often receive competing offers from Noble Houses to join their private guards. Induction into the Ilvaere is the starting point for any servant of the Mistress of Battle, and the Masters and Mistresses of the Law, the city's General, and even the High Priestess all began as lowly foot soldiers in the Ilvaere. New recruits are given a harsh indoctrination designed to break down individuality and accustom a Vuulari to thinking and acting as part of a cohesive group. Members of the Ilvaere wear identical arms and armor, giving them an eerie uniformity as they patrol the cities. Life in the temples is highly regimented, and the temple staff all follow a strict communal schedule of meals, prayer, rest, and training.

The Temple of Umraerra also contains the city's courts, and Umraerra's clergy sit in judgement of trials. Vuulari law is notoriously complex, intentionally designed to be exploited by clever advocates. Trials are theatrical affairs, where oratorical skill and creative interpretation of the law are often far more important than matters of guilt or innocence. The inbuilt loopholes of the law usually ensure that members of Noble Houses will not be convicted of any serious offense unless their crime was particularly odious in nature or incompetent in execution.

The priests of the Queen of Cities pride themselves on ensuring that the city's air and water supply remains pure and clean, as well as keeping track of the passage of time in the unchanging darkness of the Depths. They signal the opening and closing of the city's markets for the day, as well as mark the progress of the calendar to make sure that religious holidays are celebrated at their proper time.

The Church presents itself as a beacon of order in the chaos of the world underneath, dedicated to maintaining the peace and stability of the city at all costs. In the rare instances in which open war breaks out between two Houses, the Ilvaere will look the other way for a finite amount of time. If the conflict is not settled swiftly, the High Priestess will order the Ilvaere to intervene before the fighting threatens to destabilize the city. It is a carefully calculated decision whether to aid the attacking House or the one under attack, but neither House considers it a favorable outcome. The Church of Umraerra will claim a portion of the slaves and spoils of war as the price for their aid, and the victorious House will suffer a loss of prestige because they were not able to win the battle without outside aid.

The Houseless

The very bottom of the Vuulari social ladder, the Houseless are a class of dark elves who do not belong to a House or to a religious organization. Even slaves belonging to a noble house are considered to have a higher status than a Houseless Vuulari. Desperate poverty is the norm among the Houseless, and other Vuulari consider them a rabble to be abused or exploited as need be. Houseless often have few opportunities for employment available, and throngs of Houseless crowd the marketplaces every day for a chance to be hired for menial day labor jobs by the Noble Houses or Merchant Houses.

The Houseless are crowded into cramped, crime-infested districts in Vuulari cities, which the Ilvaere patrol with a heavy hand. Vicious crackdowns by the Ilvaere are common when Houseless street gangs become unruly or when the temple treasury needs an infusion of cash. Houseless Vuulari brought before the judges in the temple of Umraerra are often sentenced to outrageous fines, and then sold into slavery to satisfy the debt. The most common way for a Houseless Vuulari to escape their bleak existence is to display magical aptitude, which ensures quick adoption into a House. For those without the blessing of magic, a few rare opportunities exist, and those are fiercely competed over.

Typical Racial Characteristics

Vuulari possess dark skin that ranges anywhere from ashen grey to coal black. Their hair is frequently white or silver, and their eyes most commonly red or purple, but many hair and eye colors found among surface elves have some degree of expression in Vuulari communities. The Vuulari language has diverged significantly from surface elven dialects in their millennia of separation, and the two groups have difficulty communicating with one another when they wish to do more than exchange insults and threats. Many surface races feel that the Vuulari tongue has a much harsher sound than the melodious tones of surface elven races.