"The Final Edict left to us by Ninhursag said that we should show compassion to the orphans of Babel. I must agree. Though they came to the Five Nations as aggressors, they truly believed they were doing the will of the Gods. We did not have that excuse. These are not conquerors. Their people live in mud huts and only one child in a dozen is able to shape. They are starving, frustrated, and slipping into madness. Our righteousness died in that fiery mountain that we made, and I hope the Gods never return to witness our shame."
— Arbiter Ivernus, Sherdasa and Its People
Whatever world the Udug were first placed upon by the Gods must have been horrific. They share the characteristic humanoid shape common to all of the Godly species on Adin, but the similarities end there. All of the others carry a gene that adapts their levels of melanin to their climate, allowing for some varying protection from the harsh UV of Adin's suns. An Udug's coloration does not shift, being influenced only by its bloodline.
They range from a bitumen black to alizarin red tone, with thick, leathery skin. Udug are completely hairless, with a variety of horns in different placements on their heads, typically two but sometimes four horns, and rarely up to six. These horns can be rounded nubs, sharp protrusions, or curled like the horns of a ram. Their ears are long and pointed, often reaching past the top of their head. They stand a little shorter than Adinites, similar to the Children of the ELF in stature.
The teeth of the early Udug were similar to Adinites, judging by skeletal remains. They have suffered several mutations through their generations on Adin, and one of these has caused their teeth to grow irregularly, small and pointed with gaps, with long fangs that continue growing throughout their life. As this can cause problems with eating or speaking, most Udug will file their fangs to make them more comfortable and functional. Many also file their smaller teeth to make them sharper and more pronounced.
The nasal bridge of the Udug is flattened and wide, and the extension of the nose is extreme in comparison to the other species of Adin, often reaching down past the upper lip or protruding straight out from the face. The eyes are slightly sunken with darker skin around the eye.
The Psychology of the Udug
Udug are cunning and mischievous people, highly intelligent but often perceived as cruel and sadistic by the other species. This reputation is well-earned. When the Gods first placed them upon Adin in their small corner of Babel, the Udug were naturally inquisitive about Adin, the Gods, and everything around them. They had an inherent urge to hoard things that were shiny or looked useful. While this was an intended characteristic that all the Gods' creations share, its purpose is for these people to recognize valuable materials and collect them as tribute to the Gods. The Udug felt no such compulsion, gathering caches of colorful stones and shells, stealing them from each other, and even taking choice pieces of equipment that the Gods weren't watching closely enough.
This abberent behavior was done with the utmost cunning and stealth, and the Gods never suspected the Udug of being somewhat flawed. Originally created for a much different world than Adin, the conditions of this world magnified this personality in ways that would become troublesome for all the other peoples of Adin.
As with the other orphaned species, they began in a small city of 300 Udug, with 60 of their most talented individuals recruited to join the Gods on their short expedition to the heavens. They would be returned as immortal heroes, and all of the Udug would then be carried off to a world more suited to their form, a promised paradise.
Once the Gods left Adin less than a year after founding the colony, the Udug culture immediately started to deteriorate. Their compulsive behavior led to overeating and overbreeding. Their genes were already becoming damaged by the unsuitable conditions on Adin for their species. Udug births were dangerous, usually giving birth to twins but with some females in this first generation having up to six children at once.
Their population expanded exponentially, but out of each brood of children it was common for only one of the offspring to attain any ability in shaping materials. At first, this was overlooked. There were plenty of menial tasks for these talentless Udug to perform, and they were integrated into the society and taken care of.
By the third generation, the shapers and hunters could no longer keep up with the needs of the burgeoning population. Those without shaping skills were sterilized and banished from the city after their second year, as they reached adolescence. They were permitted to return if they brought significant tribute that would offset the costs of feeding and housing them.
The cunning Udug-Ri, as the exiles were called, banded together into small outlaw groups. They would attempt to sneak back into the city and steal goods from the Udug to pay their way back in. They also attacked groups of Udug away from the city, trying to liberate valuable materials they were gathering.
These raids often ended in failure, with the inexperienced and desperate Udug-Ri outmatched by skilled shapers and well-equipped warriors. Udug-Ri that were caught or killed in these daring raids were returned to the city, but not in the way they desired. The dead were butchered and eaten by the ever-increasing numbers of hungry Udug. The living were given to the kursu of the Underworld to be killed and have their fresh souls permanently bound to their bodies and used as eternal laborers that required none of the Udug's precious food.
The wiser of the Udug-Ri avoided the Udug city altogether, scouring the land nearby for caves, exposed veins of ore, or herds of animals to report to the Udug to gain favor. Very few won their way back into the city.
The Udug-Ri began to range further and further from their territory, eventually discovering the agricultural fields and wide roads cleared by the giant Netillim that lived nearby. These scouts realized they had something of great value here, and observed the Netillim for weeks before returning back to the Udug with a hostage giant. On nearing the city, they forced the Netillim to his knees, and the victorious Udug-Ri rode on the back of the giant as he crawled through the gates to the steps of Lugal Sherdasu's palace.
Sherdasu was pleased with this tribute, and confirmed a suspicion that he had long pondered about the Gods. Udug were cunning, and Sherdasu was made an immortal Lugal because he was the most cunning of all. The Gods were testing him. They had been told they were the only intelligent species on Adin, yet here was this formidable giant that spoke the language of the Gods. Obviously, the Gods had not returned because Sherdasu had not yet fulfilled his destiny.
Preparations for War
Of all the Udug-Ri, these were rewarded and exalted most of all. They had been meticulous in their scouting, and provided their Lugal with crude maps of the Netillim territory. They had marked out where the crops were, where livestock were kept, and where each of the giants lived outside of their city. The Netillim had plentiful food, and Sherdasu was pleased with this news. He had his kursu dismantle the captive giant, learning about their biology and looking for weaknesses. Many of the Udug-Ri that lurked near the city were called back and conscripted into service as warriors.
Chopping Down the Giants
The Udug marched on the Netillim lands, but were understandably wary of facing the giants in combat. They opted for stealth and deception, stealing their livestock and uprooting crops at night, running supplies back to their territory constantly. They attacked targets of opportunity, drawing lone Netillim into the woods with strange noises and then capturing or killing them. Udug looted the homes of giants outside the city, setting fire to them as well as some of the fields.
The timid Netillim cowered in their city, their shapers quickly throwing up walls of stone around the perimeter. None of the giants had yet spotted the Udug and returned to tell the tale. The Udug surrounded the city, and Lugal Sherdasu and his advisors strode up to the gates to demand surrender. The Netillim's Lugal challenged Sherdasu to a duel, and he gleefully accepted. As soon as the giant stepped out of the gate, the Udug revealed their secret weapon.
A Blast from the Past
One of the trinkets the Udug had stolen from the Gods was a sonic-driven rifle belonging to Ninurta, a warrior God who enjoyed hunting the various creatures they discovered on worlds they visited. Though they had not realized what the weapon was at first, it had soon found its way into Lugal Sherdasu's treasure vault and the wise leader figured out how to use it. He had his shapers make copies and ammunition, and twenty of the Udug hiding in the woods were outfitted with these.
The Netillim Lugal, the gates, the wall, and several other giants that were too slow to react were shredded by the hail of metal spheres. The Netillim surrendered, and were driven back to Udug lands in chains. The Udug put them to work for labor, primarily for large construction projects and expanding their crop lands to support the growing Udug numbers, as well as their new captives.
A New Mission
The Udug-Ri that were conscripted were not allowed back in the city to a life of luxury. They were fed and given some supplies, but they were still Udug-Ri. Lugal Sherdasu tasked them with scouting further out from their lands and mapping the continent, with a focus on finding more species like the Netillim.
Almost immediately, another was discovered. One group of scouts started to move towards the ELF tower that had been known as an artifact of the Gods, though they had been instructed never to go there. The thin metal tower was visible on the horizon from the Udug city, but as the scouts got closer they saw that a second tower of stone encased the lower parts of it. As they watched from afar over the next few days, the stone tower was rising higher above the trees. They had found the Children of the ELF, and the Udug marched again.
Overwhelming the Neighbors
With a group of Netillim to bear their supplies and carry Lugal Sherdasu across many leagues, the Udug pushed through the forest and into the territory of the elfs. A small group of elfen hunters attacked once from the trees, but only succeeded in killing three of the Udug and wounding two of the Netillim slaves. The Netillim were put down, and their burdens shifted to the remaining giants.
They marched up to the ELF tower, cornering the vastly outnumbered elfs on rooftops and in their high temple. The elfen Lugal had died in an earthquake, along with much of their early population, and they did not have the numbers to resist the Udug horde. Seeing the throng of Udug walking through their streets, they immediately surrendered.
Assimilating the Elfs
Unlike the Netillim, Sherdasu did not see much use in the elfs. The Children of the ELF were impressive builders, and they could jump really high, but what use was that compared to the Netillim? They took a few hostages, including many of the children, and left a small occupying force of Udug there to force tribute of food and wealth from the elf city.
A Higher Vantage Point
Lugal Sherdasu ordered construction on the ELF temple to continue, and when it was done he returned. His Netillim carried him to the top, and Sherdasu surveyed his land along with his closest advisors. From the rotunda atop the ELF temple, they saw signs of two other areas that had been cleared of trees by yet-undiscovered people.
These new targets were further away from Udug lands, and Sherdasu used the ELF city as a staging ground for his armies. In time, they managed to defeat both the Nommo and Sulmu people, and united all the orphaned species under the flag of the Udug. With all of the other Lugals defeated, he pronounced himself Nam-Lugal of his new kingdom of Sherdasa. (Sorry, this will be expanded later once I complete the Nommo and Sulmu.)
A Sour Victory
Once unified, Lugal Sherdasu believed he had fulfilled his destiny, that these other species were placed as test of his prowess and dedication to the glory of the Gods. He prayed incessantly, with the help of his most trusted En, and boasted of his victory whatever Gods were listening. Still, they did not return.
Decades passed, and the glory of battle faded into history. Sherdasu pulled away from public life, despondent and with wavering faith. His kingdom was vast and mighty, and had expanded across the entire continent with the help of his versatile servants. But Lugal Sherdasu was a warrior, the strongest and most cunning of the Udug, not an administrator. He brooded in his palace while provincial Ensi managed the people.
New Hope for the Udug
A group of the shapeshifting Nommo that had been exploring the deep oceans then made a startling discovery. An Adinite ship that had strayed off course in a storm had sailed too close to Sherdasa. The loyal Nommo captured the ship and sailed it back to Sherdasan shores, and brought the luckless Adinite crew to Lugal Sherdasu.
Sherdasu could barely contain his excitement. He brought them directly to their Underworld, and interrogated the Adinites while his kursu tortured them. Five united nations, each with their own Lugal, awaited him across the great sea. This is what the Gods wanted. He would prove himself the strongest Lugal on Adin, no matter the odds.
Plans for the Great War
These Adinites would be a challenge. They were taller than Udug, and claimed to have been the chosen ones that were made specifically for this world. Their people were spread out over three continents and more than a hundred cities, and most of them still had the shaping abilities that the Udug had mostly lost through the generations. This was a true test of his mettle.