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Nomad VFX Underland: The Last Surfacer Universes Characters The Trilogy Concept Art & Design

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NOMAD VFX When we were kids we dreamed of being like the heroes from the big movies. We founded Nomad to make those movies and create our own heroes. The Underland Trilogy is our first step in this direction.



As part of a civilization of survivors trapped deep beneath the ground, Numa is entrusted a deadly mission. He must ascend to the Earth’s surface and confirm whether it is once again inhabitable. But above ground he finds that the sun is not extinct as they were told, nor are they the only survivors. Everything that they believed was a lie. At the Gorge in the desert, Rela reveals Numa the truth: the Citadel that rules this part of the world has kept his people enslaved for centuries to provide them with clean energy from the planet’s core. Numa is determined to gain access to the Citadel and head down to the Underland to change the fate of his people. But he will carry princess Desal back with him, unaware of the fact that she truly is his people’s worst enemy.



THE UNDERLAND DIG DEEP, WORK HARD, DIE YOUNG According to the Elders, mankind has lived in the Underland ever since the sun began to die and the last survivors sought shelter in a giant geode 30 miles underneath the Earth’s surface. For centuries, they have worked tirelessly extracting energy from the Earth’s incandescent core. The energy they need for survival is at the same time their burden. In the Underland, nobody lives past the age of forty. At the end of his productive life, each worker hands his trade over to someone younger and then retreats to die alone. In a symbolic ritual, he boards a fragile stone raft and sails down a river of lava that sinks deep into the Earth. There are no ranks or castes in the Underland, only trades. There are pipers, who extract energy from the Earth’s core; there are hydros, who produce food, clean water and oxygen; and there are handies who build, cure and construct. Nevertheless, there are rules in the Underland. The Elders are ancient and ethereal beings, direct descendants from the surface, who govern and administer law among their people. Since Prince Oeris and Princess Desal rarely allow themselves to be seen, they are worshiped almost as if they were gods. The hollow geode inhabited by this race of men is completely sculpted. Every wall, floor and ceiling of the Underland has been carefully carved, leaving not even a gap of unaltered rock. These engravings speak of their origins, their yearning for a land that no living man has ever seen, and the undying hope that keeps them going on day after day. For as long as they remember, each year the Elders descend from their chambers to perform a ritual ceremony. The princess selects one man from among Underland’s best and entrusts him with a deadly mission. He must ascend to the barren surface and confirm whether it is once again inhabitable. The people call him surfacer. They hope for the day when the chosen one will come back to guide them into the light. But in almost a thousand years, no surfacer has ever returned.


Every wall, floor and ceiling of the geode has been carefully engraved with the history of the Underland.

THE GORGE A L L C R E AT U R E S S H A L L B E M E N D E D The Gorge is a natural formation in the desert used as a disposal site for the Citadel’s technological waste. Today, it is inhabited by the Myths, a young society made up of beings that are half human and half machines. All Myths come from the Citadel and were all disposed of along with the scrap during their childhood because they were born with malformation and physical disabilities. Until “Father” arrived, the discarded children of the Citadel would die from the fall, or if they survived the impact, they would die of hunger and cold in the unforgiving humidity of the Gorge. Father was an engineer from the Citadel who decided to go into exile with his blind-born son to try to save him, or to die at his side. In order to survive, Father taught the orphans to replace their defective parts, recycling the technological garbage and using it as prosthetics. Long after Father died, a garbage vessel dropped its load at the Gorge, and the Myths set eyes on Rela for the first time. She was much older than the usually discarded children and there was something different about her. Although she was missing a leg, she emerged proudly from among the scrap, supporting herself with a piece of metal. Rela was mended just like every other Myth, but she kept on experimenting with repairs. First, she removed her other leg and replaced it with another prosthetic. Then she pushed it further. Rela did not stop until almost all her body had been transformed into a machine. The Myths became inspired by her and emulated her. Rela restored the Myths’ dignity, and taught them to accept themselves as a proud race of unique machines. In return, they called her “Mother”: the Myths weren’t orphans anymore. But as a race, the Myths’ chances of survival depend as much on the Citadel’s technological waste as on the children disposed of along with it. And the city garbage vessels are no longer dropping garbage at the Gorge. To escape from extinction, Rela and the Myths must constantly explore the desert looking for new disposal sites.


In the desert, instead of sand, the ground is covered with crushed garbage that humanity has been dumping there for centuries.


T H E C I TA D E L W H AT Y O U D O N ’ T K N O W W O N ’ T H U R T Y O U Levitating as the energy released from its base repels the ground, the Citadel floats in the air. An elite of men and women, who enjoy a privileged and indolent life, inhabit its luminous spaces. What the citizens have either forgotten or have stopped asking is how they obtain these privileges and at what cost. They are only concerned with their own well-being. In order to preserve their fine sense of class, they elevate values such as physical perfection to the level of religion. In the Citadel, no one must experience deterioration or death. When the citizens’ health begins to decay due to old age, they voluntarily hide themselves from the sight of others and their bodies are connected to a system that maintains their minimal vital signs so that their minds are still accessible. Likewise, deformity is not tolerated. Newborns with physical disabilities and children who suffer permanent injuries before the age of five are surrendered to the authorities. They are thrown out along with the city’s waste, abandoned in the desert disposal sites, left to fend for themselves. But when an older citizen is injured, he is not disposed of. Instead, he is urged to preserve his dignity by committing suicide. No family is exempt from this law. King Aserion governs the Citadel and has kept the society in balance by using lies and deceit. Only the royal family knows the true destiny of the children who are thrown away, and only they know that it is the energy collected in the Underland that keeps the Citadel’s systems working properly. In fact, all of the Underland culture is based on the elaborate lies that Aserion’s ancestors created and that Prince Oeris and Princess Desal uphold in order to keep the underground workers enslaved and ignorant of their fate. Throughout the centuries, the selection of the surfacers and their escorts has been meant to weed out those individuals capable of leadership or other skills who could potentially lead the Underland to a rebellion.


The energy released from its base repels the ground, causing the Citadel to float in the air.





Though he was born and raised in the Underland, Numa has defied every established rule of his society ever since he was a boy. Unlike other children of his race, Numa chose his own trade. Once he set his mind on becoming a piper, he did not stop until Iloy, a fatherly figure of his childhood, reluctantly accepted him as an apprentice. Numa also would have liked to be elected surfacer like his own father, who left the geode before Numa was born and never returned. But to achieve this, he needed to be more obedient to the rules, like the rest of the people of the Underland. But it is too late for that. Numa is one conviction away from becoming a reject of the Underland rather than one of its best. If he ever must pledge his life to escort a surfacer, he will be happy to die a free man, rather than living blindly as a slave to rules and laws like the rest of his people. “We strive for the survival of our race. Yet as a race we have lost our will to live.�


As a royal of the Citadel, Desal perpetuates the lie that keeps the people of the Underland providing clean energy to the city. Every time she is forced to descend to the Underland, Desal feels as if a heavy grip tightens around her heart. At first, she thought it could be mental anguish, but it was only underground pressure crushing her frail body and making her nose bleed. Desal loathes the Underland and its sullen people because they are a constant reminder that privileges have a cost. And Desal has stopped taking costs into consideration, since she caused the accident that took Rela’s leg and, consequently, her life. Not only was she not held responsible for it, but Desal became second in line to the throne after Rela’s early death. Now that she knows how to get what she wants, she cannot stop until she gets it. No matter the cost. “Why should I take a different course when I am way past redemption?” 22

“They call me Mother because they are all orphans.�

RELA MOTHER OF THE MYTHS Rela was a princess of the Citadel until she lost a leg in an accident. Due to her physical impediment, her destiny by law should have been a dignified suicide. But King Aserion faked her funeral and sent her daughter to live among the Myths, in order to spare her life. When she arrived at the Gorge, the Myths mended her leg just as Father had taught them. Every day Rela now has to face the children that the king has severed from their families. But what strikes her as even worse is that she is as responsible for it as her father. Had Rela come to the throne of the Citadel, she would have disposed of the deformed children just like her predecessors have always done. But she is one of the Myths now and, as a punishment, she exerts herself to become as monstrous as she possibly can. As the Myths become inspired by her radical changes and start to call her Mother, Rela realizes that the only way to make amends is to take in all the children of the Gorge as her own.


Along with Rela, another adult arrived at the Gorge. When Captain Faeon was dropped, tons of scrap metal crushed his back. Also known as Commander among the Myths, he was once a powerful military strategist and loyal advisor to King Aserion. He handled the defensive matters of the Citadel as well as princess Rela’s personal security. When he was casted out to the Gorge to keep Rela safe, Commander felt that he had been punished. He had always thought of himself as a powerful man, but now he felt like a servant. When his spinal cord was injured, Commander would have rather died out of self-pity than allow the Myths to mend him. Converted into a monster, he now sees that he has always been a servant and that he will forever be one if he doesn’t start to seize power for himself. Now, for a flying monster, seizing power is as easy as catching a prey. “I did not ask for this. You should have let me die.” 24

ASERION & OERIS THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING King Aserion is one in a long history of kings that have been maintaining balance in the three worlds for centuries. His forefathers taught him how: peace can only be attained with lies and deceit. Father to Rela, he lost his first queen, Alis, when the child was born. Aserion and the orphan princess bonded profoundly and the king prepared her to be his successor. Soon after, the king remarried and Oeris and Desal were born. But Rela was always a favorite in Aserion’s eyes, even over his new queen, who withered away in sadness. After Rela’s “death”-the whole Citadel believed she was dead- Aserion never recovered and he failed to choose another successor. It was too late to bond with Oeris, and he never really tried to reach out to Desal. Now that his days are over, he has to renounce the throne in favor of Prince Oeris, hoping that the wisdom of the ancient kings will not be lost. However, the heir to the throne has different plans for the Citadel’s future. “I was taught that it is better for the people not to know what they cannot change.”




Since the first time Numa saw princess Desal in the Underland, he has secretly desired her, even though he knows that there is no way that she could ever notice him. But as the princess browses the group of rejects eligible as escorts for the surfacer, she unexpectedly sets eyes on Numa and selects him. To his surprise, princess Desal secretly whispers in Numa’s ear the key to complete what always has been a deadly mission. When the ritual amulet around his neck begins to irradiate an intense blue light, Numa finally makes sense of the princess’ words. Cybernetic cerberuses come out of nowhere, and a constellation of blue lights appear around him, beaming from the necks of all the surfacers who had been ambushed to death in the past. Numa manages to escape to the surface alive and he discovers that not only is the air breathable but also that the sun is not extinct, as they were told. A door closes behind him, trapping Numa on the surface, unable to get back to the Underland. Numa wanders through an endless desert without food or water. A group of Myth explorers finds him on the verge of death. The Myths are surprised to see a complete man with no metal body parts and they decide to take him back to their camp. Numa meets Rela and Commander, who are looking for the garbage disposal site of a nearby Citadel. They intend to rescue the malformed children that the Citadel disposes of along with its technological waste. Having regained his strength, Numa travels with an advance party to the disposal site and helps rescue a child who survives the fall from the garbage vessel. When they return to the campsite, they find it devastated by a sentinel robot from the Citadel. Accustomed to the harsh conditions of the Underland, Numa’s body feels stronger, lighter and faster above ground. The Myths watch in awe as he terminates the sentinel. They take their plunder back to the Gorge where Numa is given a hero’s welcome.


Rela reveals Numa that they share a common enemy. Numa’s people live in the Underland unaware of the fact that they have been enslaved by the Citadel for centuries to provide them with clean energy. Devastated, Numa joins the Myth’s cause against the Citadel. But in retaliation for the destruction of the sentinel, the Citadel is now killing the children before loading them to the garbage vessels. Broken by the discovery, Rela confesses that she was born a princess of the Citadel and she exhorts the Myths to charge together against the city to negotiate with her father. The Myths prepare for war. Let down by Rela’s lies, Numa decides to find a way back to the Underland on his own. Rela discloses the remaining truth to stop him from leaving. Everything that Numa believes about his world is a lie. His helpless princess Desal is no other than her half-sister who has been manipulating him from her chamber in the Citadel. Commander flies Rela to the city to meet with King Aserion. But the king is powerless: it is Desal who plans to take over the Citadel’s throne. She has already helped Numa reach the surface and now expects to trick him into assassinating the heir prince Oeris under the excuse of liberating the Underland, leaving her first in line for the throne. Numa, cornered by sentinels, attempts to jump across to the Citadel, but is intercepted mid-air by Commander, who plays for both sides. They heatedly struggle with each other as they fall. When Numa finally enters Desal’s chamber, he is carrying the bloody wings that he ripped off Commander’s back. The princess cleverly displays all her charms to persuade Numa and when she fatally wounds prince Oeris pretending to save Numa’s life, he has no doubts about her allegiance. Rela catches up with them as Numa blindly follows Desal to a trap. Torn between his two loyalties, Numa is forced to confront Rela in order to protect his princess from her sister’s rage. As Rela lies injured after the struggle, she watches Numa carry Desal’s unconscious body back to the elevator that leads to the Underland. With Commander at her side, Rela reclaims the throne of the Citadel, marking a new era of coexistence with the Myths. Meanwhile, Numa desperately heads down to liberate the Underland, unaware that he carries along his people’s worst enemy.


Two queens govern from both ends of the world. Back in the Underland, Numa is torn between his love for Desal and his sense of duty towards his people. An army of sentinels are preparing to invade his world in order to secure the Citadel’s only energy source. But Numa knows that cutting off the surface’s energy supply will also put the Underland at risk. He will try to negotiate with Rela, now queen of the Citadel, in an attempt to guarantee the safety of his people and that of his unborn son. But Rela is no longer who she was: there is only bitterness in her heart now. A civil war will put an end to her reign and a violent change of power in the Citadel will prevent any peaceful way out for the Underland.



The Citadel’s new government establishes a police state in the Underland and represses the rebels, who constantly search for a way to cut off the energy source without putting the Underland at risk. Numa, along with Rela, resists the Gorge’s siege, while Desal gives birth to Numa’s daughter in the Citadel. A new and horrifying lie is uncovered in the Underland, exposing a weak link in the energy supply system. The rebels escape to the surface and join Numa in the fight. Desal finally sees a clear path to the throne, and she declares herself ruler in the name of her daughter. The final battle for the Underland will be fought both above and below the surface.




01. The desert 02. Rela’s Fall 01.



03. Commander 04. Subsiding grounds 03. 14.




The gorge

05. Aserion’s chambers 06. The underland





The final battle

07. The spy 08. Campsite in the ruins





Hall of the Temple

Ruins in the desert




Design development




Design development



Final design

Design development



Render test

Design of parts and components



Design development

09. Preliminary design 10. Citadel’s Collapse 11. Render test

C I TA D E L 09.




12. Partial view 13. Main entrance of the Temple




14. Hall of the Temple 15. General view 16. Rocky walkway 14.




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Copyright Argentina 2012, by NMD VFX SRL. Al rights reserved.


Editorial "Undrland"  

Editorial realizado para la productora NomadVfx

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