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Before the Great Nuclear War, in West Virginia, there were many families who bought or built bunkers for what many thought was an inevitable Nuclear Conflict. Strangely enough, there were many bunkers built in Grant, Hardy, Mineral, and Hampshire Counties. When Kennedy announced the invasion, people flocked to the safety of their bunkers. They were right to do so, as nuclear hell rained down.
In the months after the war, the survivors began to communicate with radios, horns, and semaphore flags. In this way, they coordinated an effort to connect the bunkers, some of which housed multiple families.They used what tools they had to dig tunnels, and immense rooms, creating communal dining halls, new living quarters, and more. Another important construction were the pipeworks, a series of stone, log, and metal pipes which moved water from place to place, as well circulated the air. These underground cities became the most well fortified cities in the area, and people began to flock to them. This lead to the lean times, a period from 1969-1984
The Lean Times, as they are known are the stretching of resources, and the subsequent efforts to become more self sufficient. They came up with a variety of solutions. They dug canals from the rivers into the condensation basins of their cities, providing fish and plants, they created terraced villages of a sort on the mountains and grew crops. These “villages” were moreso large flattened fields, with small homes dug into the side of the mountains, much like a bunker, though these were fine homes structured with wood. They kept goats and sheep within their halls. Refuse, both Human and Animal, was brought to the terraces, and used as fertilizer. Things began to look up, and old trades began to flourish,such as carpentry, metalworking, and most of all, Masonry.
But not everything was good. Even one generation had began to psychologically and physically affect the Hillsmen. Second, Third and Fourth generation's (lifespan was laughably low at around 30 years being a ripe old age) began to be born with inherent, incurable Agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces. In addition, height shrank 7-8 inches on average, and strength dropped to 60-70% normal human strength. As a result, the Hillsmen had become a short, lanky people, with fear of open spaces. Hillsmen on the surface began to feel sickening anxiety, vomiting and sweating profusely. In order to combat this, special goggles were constructed, which limited the sight of the Hillsmen much like blinders, and eased their anxiety. People whom were not Hillsmen began to refer to them as Dwarves and Gnomes, and treated them as somewhat less than human, though Wights received more discrimination than they.
The Hillsmen economy is dependant on their shipping of coal and metal products. Their work is considered very fine, and they exchange this for food in bulk, and in addition, many Gnomes are hired as masons, metal workers and carpenters.
Yor Thuk is the name of the Hillsmen language. The story behind that language is far more fascinating, however. One of the Original Hillsmen was a professor of Linguistics at Roanoke College. He was known for being a paranoid quack of a man, but invariably clever. It was when raids on Terrace Villages became commonplace that a Hillsmen Military was put in order. The Prof, as he was known, became worried that because the Raiders and Hillsmen spoke the same language, they would be at a disadvantage. So he took a rather extreme measure to ensure against this perceived slight, and devised a language for the Hillsmen. Most of the words he developed were military, in addition to basic words of function, such as how to say one was looking for the bathroom. At first, the soldiers resented having to learn a new language, but they picked up on it relatively quickly, as Prof had made the language easy to learn, and they soon began to realize the edge it gave them in combat. Superstitious Raiders began to view them as otherwordly, with a harsh monstrous tongue, and so they stuck with it. Eventually, the State mandated that all Hillsmen learn the language, and so it became so, slowly. People began to add new words, by compounding existing ones, tweaking meaning, and making new ones up entirely. Prof was quite pleased with his work, and believed it gave the Hillsmen and National Identity of sorts.