His prodigicus head was covered with red bristles; between his shoulders rose an enormous hump, which was counter-balanced by a protuberance in front; his thighs and legs were so strangely put together, that they touched at no one point but the knees, and, seen in front, resembled two sickles joined at the handles; his feet were immense, his hands monstrous; but, with all this deformity, there was a formidable air of strength, agility, and courage, constituting a singular exception to the eternal rule, which ordains that force, as well as beauty, shall result from harmony. He looked like a giant who had been broken in pieces and ill-soldered together.
—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Cursed and Abandoned
They are called the Naeflings, the Broken. Said to suffer the curse of the Fallen God, these creatures are hunched and deformed, reviled by the world of men. They live in the mountains or deep in caves beneath the earth, in fierce and brutal tribes where they war and labor in the shadows.
Human children born with the curse are called Stoneborn. They are abandoned in the wild, an offering to the Broken God to stop the spread of the curse. In some cultures they are left alone, crying on the barren cliffs. In others, they are abandoned in the twisted woods, or set adrift into the swamp in a basket of reeds. Orphans of humanity, the Broken are watched over by the gods and spirits, and brought into the places where others of their kind dwell.
Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things
Stunted, maimed, or twisted, the Naeflings are a parody of men. There is an unsettled quality about these creatures. They are often gangly, hunchbacked creatures, with broad, thick shoulders and long arms. Their skin is the color of earth — gray, brown, black, or ashen, often cracked and warty. Their large knotted hands appear strong and they move with an agility that belies their awkward shape. They have big, bright eyes – either blue, green, red, or amber, like glowing gemstones. Their ears are small and somewhat pointed. Many have long beards, or are covered with shaggy hair.
Though born of men, the Stoneborn share little with the humans that abandoned them. They have their mysterious ways, and they worship their own gods. Some worship the Golden King, deep in the earth, while others worship the Mother in the Mountain, and some make pacts with ghosts and spirits.