The Twenty-First Century
The world of London Above is frightening to anyone who’s been to London Below. They go unnoticed by anyone save for other Denizens of the Below; at best, they can make themselves known for a brief period of time before the residents of the Surface forget them. Denizens have no real status on the Surface anymore, which likely frustrates and angers anyone who has any real ties left in London Above.
While some people are born in London Below, most Denizens make their way to London Below from the Surface, having been forced into a kind of exile, or possibly even making the conscious decision to leave the Surface.
The Great Houses of London Below believe that the underground exists outside of natural reality, considering its proximity to places spoken of only in myth, such as the Egyptian necropolis of Neter-khertet, a suburb of The ’Neath, and the Christian Hell (and the Brass Embassy, where devils are given diplomatic immunity). Not to mention the Echo Bazaar, a sprawling marketplace made up of almost every mythological “faerie” or “demonic” marketplace in every culture that the British Empire has ever touched.
All of these things considered, it makes sense that the Denizens would go ignored by Surfacers. How could they reconcile their beliefs with what actually exists, not one hundred yards below their feet?
Still, there are important things that a Denizen can do on the Surface. Many Denizens flee to the Surface to escape potential assassination; likewise, many Denizens go to the Surface for the sole purpose of assassination. There are things on the Surface that can be traded for much greater value in the Echo Bazaar. Surface currency, for instance, is worth its weight in easily accessed memories. Since the Bazaar solely trades in echoes of those things that might have been forgotten once (hence the name), Surface traders can make quite a lucrative living.
In theft, of course. If a Surfacer has no clue a Denizen is there, how else are they to receive anything from them?
This makes Surfacers incredibly simple marks, of course. However, one must be careful. Too much exposure to London Below, whether it be from exposure of oneself too often, or through the sale of things that “shouldn’t possibly exist,” can turn a Surfacer into a Denizen against his or her will. If a Denizen introduces a Surfacer to the world of the Below, then they are oath-bound to watch the fledgling Denizen for at least a year and a day, unless the new Denizen sells herself into indentured servitude to the Brass Embassy, Church or any of the other hundreds of factions and gangs that exist in The ’Neath (which is often suggested as the only course of action by callous or cold Denizens who want nothing to do with teaching a fledgling how to survive).
If one’s charge ends up dead or abused, then the Denizen who was supposed to watch her is at fault, just as parents would be with their children.
As such, the Houses suggest great caution; even the devils, angels and enshrouded Egyptian dead suggest caution when dealing with London Above. Best not place oneself into a sticky situation, after all.