The Ratskin people have lived in the ruins of Underhive for as long as time itself, and Ratskins regard the place as their ancestral home. They know almost nothing about the world that lies above their heads or beyond the hive. Ratskins have lived apart for so long that they have developed their own language, and only the few who visit Underhive settlements to trade bother to learn the common tongue of the hive.
Ratskins possess senses uniquely adapted to the conditions of the Underhive. Their sight is incredibly keen and it is commonly supposed they can see in pitch darkness. A Ratskin can smell out tiny differences in air quality, and can track other hivers or hive creatures by scent. Their hearing is also finely attuned to the hive. The slightest sounds tell them where others might be, whether a tunnel is safe, or if dangerous creatures lurk nearby.
Ratskins care nothing for Hive City or the hivers that come from above. They do not understand the hivers’ insane lust for scrap metals and glittering stones. Most of all they are baffled by the foolish manner in which settlers eat toxic fungus, fall down holes, blunder into roof falls, and generally act in a senseless and dangerous fashion.
Although the outsiders puzzle and often anger them, the Ratskins are content to leave hivers alone so long as they leave the Ratskins in peace. Adventurous Ratskins trade with the hivers and sometimes hire themselves out as guides or trackers, but they are a self-sufficient and proud people who neither need nor want much from anyone.
Ratskins know their way around Underhive better than anyone else. They know about the main tunnels, the small crawlholes, and the shifting drains and sumps of the effluvial flows. They know ways into and through Underhive which the hivers are utterly ignorant of. They can find paths into domes which remain undiscovered and buried to ordinary men. Ratskins move through the hive effortlessly and mysteriously, disappearing almost magically, appearing as if from nowhere.
The Spirit of the Hive
To the Ratskins, Underhive is a living place inhabited by sacred spirits. It is a place with which they feel a natural harmony, a place which is great and beautiful in their eyes. Ratskins respect the hive as a mighty god, generous in its bounty and merciless in its vengeance. In their eyes, the Underhivers often anger the hive by causing rock falls or caving in tunnels with their clumsy excavations. Sometimes hivers go too far, trespassing into sacred places or poisoning the native pools.
Ratskins live in small communities that are hidden from settlers and explorers. They cultivate cane spore, which provides food as well as reed-like building material, and they hunt the rat herds that infest the hive. For the most part they avoid the foolish intruders whose heathen ways often offend the spirits of the hive. Most settlers soon succumb to predators, toxic fungi, roof falls or some other inherent danger, which all goes to show that the hive is intolerant of those who fail to show the spirits proper respect.
Ratskins and Hivers
Some Ratskins hire out as guides or trackers and a few become semi-civilised as a result of contact with hivers. They can be found and hired in the larger settlements such as Dust Falls, Glory Hole and Dead End Pass. There are few expeditions that would venture into unknown wastezones without the expert aid of a Ratskin tracker.
Sadly, some Ratskins are attracted to the strange ways of the hivers, and acquire a taste for intoxicants, gambling and riotous living. These troublesome individuals hang around the settlements until the inhabitants lose patience and throw them out into the wastes. Bands of Ratskin renegades are a nuisance to settlers and their own kin, and have a well deserved reputation for savagery.