The Waking Men were the first mortals to reach the surface of the sphere, and the first known residents of the world's crust. Their history is broad, as they were the orginal explorers of top world of Auld and many sites claim to date back clear to when the Waking Men walked their paths.
A number of the original mortalfolk of the Waking Men would go on to be the husks and hulls for godly entities, with some elevated for their deeds and other condemned to tragedy.
Before that, they were a maturely evolved life form, similar to a kind of mole peoples, living below the sphere's surface. When the first to leave the Underground came to the top, the gods began to see their potential as vestibules of aether.
There are other species, such as the Merish, who predate the Waking Men.