The Mordache are the last very important thing to know about this setting before I can go into detail about how the people of Vastii live, and like the other topics (food, light, environment) they are essential to understanding the basics of this city.
The Mordache are a race distinct from humans for three reasons: the first is their ability to live comfortably in the cold. While humans will be bundled up in several layers of fur, the Mordache have indulged in fashions that leave their backs and arms bare, their heads free and their hands unencumbered. A Mordache that does not keep humans in their home may simply go without heating. That isn’t to imply that they can withstand temperatures on the surface (even Mordache will freeze up there) but in the relative warmth of the city they can survive quite comfortably.
The second distinction is that pureblood Mordache are gentlemen, nobility, and royalty. They rule the cities, and the humans work under them. This is particularly true in the city of Vastii. Pureblood Mordache are Mordache that have not interbred with humans. The partial-breeds are called Mordache Bastards, and are noted because they have Mordache traits with the exception of human coloring: any Mordache who do not have snow-hued skin is called a Bastard, regardless of their parentage and legitimacy. Bastards can also be nobility, but it is not common.
It should also be noted that occasionally pureblood Mordache will have variant traits: tails, strange ears, claws, scales, horns, fangs, and perhaps most dramatically, large feathery wings. The last of these are especially rare, and such children often kill their mothers in childbirth.
To have a human in that sort of position is very rare. Humans are considered good for menial labor, craftsmen, merchants, and slaves, even advisers, doctors, and second-in-commands. But they are not the rulers, nobility, or heads of state. As far as the Mordache are concerned, they never will be. A city that is not ruled by the Mordache is seen as a backwards, primitive, unwashed place. The humans who live there are known as troglodytes, cave boys, and it is generally assumed that each instance of troglodyte communities will result in finding the same backwards people. (I’ll post more about the people outside of the Mordache’s rule later, if I have time).
The last, and probably the most important difference between the Mordache and the humans are that the Mordache have access to The Art, the magic in the novel (of sorts– it’s actually much more complicated than that). Without going into the details of the Mordache Art yet, only the Mordache can use it, and it is a dangerous practice. A small child who is not quick to grasp control of it will die. Thus, the Mordache’s mortality rate is not far above the humans, despite the difference in wealth.