"Awake, arise, or be forever fall'n."
– John Milton
Skinchangers or Dyuku as they call themselves are the cursed people of the lost city of Edinnu. Once tasked by their gods to rid the world of deviants and cast out daemons but now forced to live as the worst of them.
Straddling the line between deviant and daemon but ultimately classed as the former, spirit creatures forced to cling to the stolen skins of people or animals lest they be dragged back to Nepheer the wailing depths. Cursed centuries ago, by the Lumeia for siding with the Asuries during the Divine War when the Asuries convinced them to steal the Welkin Flame.
The Lumeia are the first generation of deities, also known as the old gods, celestials and the gods on high. They make their home in the Welkins (the heavens). Even though it was the Asuries who made the human race, the Lumeia sort to control them which sparked the rebellion that causes the Divine War. Once the war was over, they created Nepheer where they threw the Asuries.
The Asuries are the second generation of deities, also known as the new gods, the infernals and the undergods. Despite being generally referred to in plural by their followers, only one Ashurie is known to still exist. After being thrown into the wailing depths they disappeared leaving their hell empty of its devils while the surviving Ashrie went onto to roam the earth.
Annukarta are a loose collection of deities who did not side with either the Lumeia or the Asuries, they are also known the forsaken gods, the earthbound and the gods of the earth. They were not condemned to Nepheer but they were no longer welcome in the Welkins either and so were left to roam the earth as nature spirits. Once they were strong, but they have been severely weakened by deforestation and pollution.
There is an unusual paradox propagating skinchanger existence in that the temporal and unpredictable nature of their subsistence in any particular time or place, they will not be able to put down roots that are guaranteed to last however their longevity on earth albeit not necessarily continuous allows and encourages the settlement of lasting institutions if only to make their existences easier. The result is Demimondes which are maintained not by skinchangers themselves but by human cultists known as votaries. Over time four Demimondes have developed: the Children of Absolution, the Tellurian Warriors, the Chthonic Foundry and the Heresiarches.
"History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
– James Joyce
The Children of Absolution are those who seek to reconcile with the Lumeia by aggressively targeting other deviants, sinful humans and in some cases other skinchangers. They view their history and faith through a Christian and more specifically Roman Catholic lens, using terms and trappings of Mother Church. The Children of Absolution were active during the Victorian era where they perpetrated the Ripper murders. During the Crusades they acted through the Knights Templar, and they were responsible for the Holy Inquisition and stocking the flames that caused the witch trials though most of the actual templars and inquisitors were human. Today they often work through their front Deliverance Landing and its many ministries.
The Tellurian Warriors are those who seek to protect the earth and in turn serve the Annukarta. Choosing their prey selectively and trying to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, they have more than their fair share of zealots. They often work through their front Children of Gaia and to outsiders they would appear like an environmental charity.
The Chthonic Foundry are those who seek to overthrow the old gods by using humanity and seeking out the Asuries to lead them. They often work through their front the Peoples’ Refuge and to outsiders they like a charity helping the homeless and refugees.
The Heresiarches are those who reject all the gods and seek to unlock the secrets of creation itself in order to destroy it and in turn themselves, to end their suffering and take their revenge. They are pretty much universally hated by all other skinchangers and are generally the only ones of their kind that are commonly denied refuge. They often work through their front Nexem Gate and to outsiders they seem like a self-help organization.
CULT OR CULTURE?
Votaries live in and maintain dugouts which act as refuges and safehouses for skinchangers often under the guise of a charitable organisation. Despite the name many dugouts are actually extremely nice and modern places to live with Wi-Fi, semi-private rooms, TVs and more. Every dugout has a hidden chapel area for religious rites known as a chancel though while the rest of a dugout is often open to all skinchangers, the chancel is often closed to all but members of their Demimonde.
Some votaries are also dragomans, those bestowed with abilities known as benefices that allow them to be ‘gutter emissaries’ between the mundane and the spiritual. Some skinchangers will have their own personal dragoman while other dragomans will act as votaries.
Becoming a votary is regarded as a lifetime commitment and members may usually only leave to in order to recruit new members. They are allowed to have partners and children though only from among their number in fact this is encouraged in order to ensure the continuation of the dugout though seldom forced since actual attraction and affection greatly improve the chances of conception and generally improves moral. Each dugout is run by a senior votaries known as a mystagogue, who is often a dragoman. In some cases, a dugout may have more than one mystagogue. Some skinchangers may have a private refuge, known as a bolthole, though they are rarely as well staffed or stocked as a dugout.