When Earthen Man and Mantleans existed in a parent-child harmony, the Mantleans aided the evolution of man, gave the species speech, art, war, and concepts of governing. Mantleans freely traversed the planet and were welcome among the Earthen Men.
Unfortunately, as man became more conscious of itself and its inherent limitations, whole governments united over their fear of the Mantleans. Being that Mantleans were peaceful, despite being tremendously powerful, most receded into the Earth’s Mantle. Their infinite knowledge and life spans had taught them to favor practicality and simplicity, thus, they dubbed themselves Mantleans, the people of the Mantle. Others who felt justice must be served, decided that they would be “gods” among the Earthen ones. When it didn’t work, the pettier Mantleans used their dying breaths to curse the humans, haunting, tricking, corrupting and enslaving them.
Eventually, in an attempt to find some semblance of peace, the human governments who were willing to negotiate with the Mantleans helped develop the Mythical Treaty. The belief behind the treaty was that any conflict would lead to the inevitable annihilation of all Earthen Man and a substantial number of peaceful Mantleans. Ironically, all of the human governments that helped write the treaty were killed off or assimilated by other nations who were afraid of Mantlean knowledge perverting their way of life. Earthen Man would remember this period as the Dark Ages. All texts and advancements relating to or arising from the existence, knowledge, and registration of Mantleans were burned as heretic sciences. Mantleans were to be killed on sight, since their mere existence was blasphemy and undermined the will of humanity’s ‘true’ gods.
The Forthie Tunnels in Oxmark Cave, as the natives refer to it, connect to a network of caverns around the planet that serve as roads between the “Mantle”: the proper name for Earth as it exists under the surface. Over time, as races of Mantleans lost their powers and connection to the other side, The Abyss, they were cast out into the world under the expanse of space. The Mantle, inconceivable by human science, has its own sky and unit of time. The size of the Mantle is roughly one 16th of the Earth’s size, since it exists beneath the oceans, but above the Earth’s outer core.
Unlike the surface world, The Mantle has no continents, countries, or territories. There is no one dominant race, despite certain races being better suited for life closer to Earth’s core. The vast species of Mantleans tend to exist in a reasonable amount of harmony, each having their own culture and governance without being divided themselves by race or religion: a black gnome is a gnome, an un-horned or multi-horned unicorn is a unicorn, and a wingless dragon is still a dragon.
Unfortunately, prejudicial sentiment does exist. Mainly, socioeconomic prejudice. As one Mantlean put it, “Prejudism prefers the penniless.” As ordained long ago, species that cannot transform into surface-dwelling creatures, or breathe water or lava, are prohibited from leaving the Mantle without one who can shapeshift, like Leld. Though the law is meant to protect Mantleans, some species have used it as a tool to assert hierarchy.
Shapeshifters, in general, either live among humans to prevent the death of the species or for personal gains, be it knowledge, sexual relations, or power they would not otherwise. Some species have made it a point to compete with each other by using humans as proxies for their own disputes, but that is rare. Ironically, the most prejudices exist among the races who can do nothing else except shapeshift, since they are the only ones capable of blending in with humans and have been most influenced by their thinking. As such, money, the ultimate tool of human governance, has become the preferred method of order to the Mantleans.
Lars, being that he is from a species that cannot reproduce on its own since all offspring are male, has found that gnomes can only breed with virgin, human women. In order to breed with women of quality, they need to live among humans, which requires human currency. Ironically, most gnomes are human-averse by nature, and have an inherent desire to protect a women’s purity. As a result, Lars is one of the voices for his species. He and the other heads of The Council of Gnomes (CoGs) have expansive networks of Mantlean and human connections. Their main goal is to keep gnomes and their culture alive.