The Depths of Safeharbor

Mouse tried to control the shaking, her body reacting as if it knew something she didn't. There was no immediate danger. The lights attached to their rifles illuminated a long hall, a sloped corridor that took them deeper and deeper.   Progress was slow. Lethe and Oracle took every step with care, cautiously feeling out with their feet before committing.   Mouse did the same, careful to mimic their every move. She lost track of time. They must have been traveling for hours.   They stopped at a door, opened it, and Mouse lowered her rifle, suddenly taken aback by a sight that filled her with wonder.   They entered a cavern, one that stretched for miles. Mouse could see sunlight through cracks of all sizes in the metal roof. She saw basement levels of buildings on the surface, walkways and bridges linking every possible path, none of which had any form of railing.   She stepped forward and looked over the side of the walkway they stood on. It was black, a pit of nothing that went on for who knows how many miles.
We fear the deep. The very concept of depth instills terror. It implies complexity. It represents something we can't control, but more than anything else, it reminds us of the unknown.   The depths of Safeharbor contain all that allows this city to function. Everything from its gravity, its climate and weather patterns, even the atmosphere of our planet is the result of technology beyond our understanding.   The potential for knowledge is great, possibly endless in scope. Just as well, the depths are not unlike a bottomless pit, for none are brave, nor foolish enough to shed light on that darkness. We are human, after all. Who are we to contend with infinity?
by Adobe Stock


There are five planets labeled "ecumenopolis" in the galaxy, according to Eden records. They are all fairly similar. An ecumenopolis is built for efficiency. They look at the dirt underfoot, the miles of rock beneath it, and call it wasteful.   An ecumenopolis is practically hollow. It needs some form of gravitational field manipulation just to keep everything together. While some of the original planet remains, it only serves as a foundation. An anchor for colossal metal plates. Even the oceans aren't natural, the water placed in what amounts to a massive bowl.   While rare, these plates can fall. Entire districts can end up as nothing more than craters and ruins. Even the plates that stand the test of time can fracture, the rust falling to the depths and leaving cracks that stretch for miles.


As dangerous as the fauna living in the depths can be, they are not as much of a concern for the likes of Homebound. A gun will bring any beast down, if given the time.   "What is it then?" I hear you ask. "What haunts the dreams of our best and brightest?" The sound of running water, of course. Safeharbor has a remarkably wet climate. It often rains, and for long periods of time. So much water... where do you think it goes when the rain falls?   The rain floods the depths of Safeharbor, making travel even more dangerous than before. Imagine it: one moment you're fine, and soon the water sweeps you off your feet. There's only one way to go. Down...

Mouse heard a sound, like wind moaning down the corridor behind them. Oracle turned around and listened.   Mouse looked at Lethe, a sudden panic overwhelming her and freezing her in place. Mouse's eyes were wide, pleading for help beneath the visor of her helmet.   Lethe met her gaze, then turned her attention to the roof above them. Mouse squinted her eyes to see.   Water flowed down through the fissures and cracks. For miles across the chasm beneath them, waterfalls appeared with no explanation. The roar grew louder. Water trailed down from the corridor. It soaked their feet, and traveled over the side of the walkway, hurling itself into the abyss below in steady, narrow streams.   Oracle and Lethe exchanged a look. Oracle shouted, "Move," repeating it over and over as he ran forward and pointed to a stone slab nearby.   Lethe noticed Mouse staring down the corridor and frozen in fear. Lethe grabbed her and pulled her along. They rushed to high ground, everyone scrambling up the slap. Each found a place to sit on the massive structure.   Just as Oracle pulled himself to safety, the drone and moaning grew to a mighty roar. Waves of rain water crashed down the corridor, pouring out of the door and into the depths below.   Mouse wrapped her arms around her legs, an attempt to make herself as small as possible. Even the water meant death down here.   Lethe placed a hand on her shoulder and pointed to the many streams around them. Some came from the surface, others flew down walkways and out of tunnels. She shouted to be heard over the rushing water, "I know it's scary, but now that you're safe, it has a kind of beauty to it, yeah?"   Mouse struggled to nod in response, a lie she told herself as much as Lethe. "I guess."   Lethe chuckled and removed her helmet. The others did the same. Mouse took hers off, revealing tears trailing down her face.   Lethe smiled and pointed to the abyss below. "The rain is gathered in reservoirs. Pollutants from the surface are removed, and the water is pumped to the surface, heated, evaporated, and the cycle repeats. We think the weather is planned, but we don't know the patterns. The planet is too big. Too many storms to track."   "How long does it usually last?" Argus asked.   Oracle shrugged. "Depends on the day. Takes a while, from what I hear."   "Yup," Lethe added. "We're gonna be here for a minute."

The Deep Roads

As one delves into the depths, they will begin to notice signs of intelligent life. Surviving the rain is an everyday concern, but soon you will run into those who were cast out of our society. These outcasts will kill anyone from the colonies without a moment's hesitation. In their minds, the depths belong to them.   The deep roads are a network of corridors that likely served as maintenance tunnels for the city. Through this network, the outcasts can travel safely. The dangerous creatures below seldom enter these tunnels.   The wayfarers try to avoid contact, but firefights are common. The outcasts hate us. Some are members of a cult, others are criminals. Some are merely those who favored life on the frontier. They left the security of our colonies in favor of freedom.

Pipe Roaches

Many creatures plague the depths. None are more feared than the pipe roach. Pipe roaches are foul, unsettling things. They are actually mantids, their reputation as a pest on the surface leading to their name. People of Safeharbor kill them on sight. It's not just the idea of sharing your home with such creatures, it's a matter of safety.   Pipe roaches have a curious life cycle. Adults move to the surface to lay eggs, to breed. They then abandon their young. The brood will hatch and enjoy their numbered days in the sun. As they age, their eyes fail to tolerate harsh light. The older they are, the deeper they dig. The deeper you go… the bigger they get.   There are pipe roaches living in the deepest levels that are centuries old. No longer able to breed, they live out their long lives in search of food, driven mad by their lack of purpose.
by Adobe Stock
The rain stopped, and soon after, the floods subsided. They put on their helmets and slid off the slab, each careful not to slip on the wet metal underfoot. Mouse froze at the sound of gunfire in the distance. Like thunder, it rolled across the chasm in bursts.   Lethe and Oracle ran down the walkway. The others followed, making their way down steps and up ladders. They came to a large opening carved into stone.   Mouse could smell the rain in the air, a breeze blowing down the tunnel beyond its gaping maw.   Mouse saw muzzle flashes, yellow bursts of light among the blue and white she was used to. She tilted her head, "They're using weapons from earth?"   Lethe answered, "Outcasts. This is an entrance to The Deep Road. Their guns are old, their tech outdated, but they kill just as easily."   "How do they still have bullets to fire?" Roadrunner asked.   "Same as us." Lethe replied, "They make more." She made a note of their position on her HUD, plotting the path to their destination. "We have another day of walking, at least. That's just to make it to the right level."   "How many levels are there?" Mouse asked.   Lethe shrugged. "Who knows. No one's ever mapped it all out. We can only estimate things like depth and travel time.   Mouse took a step forward and turned at the sound of chittering. A creature the size of a small dog stepped out from behind a rock.   "Pipe roach," Oracle called, "juvenile."   Mouse raised her rifle, willing to live and let live if the creature would do the same. Its bladed arms were raised. Its mandibles twitched as the wings on its back lifted and fluttered to make it look bigger than it was. It was being defensive.   Lethe fired, a sudden flash of blue lighting the area around them as the rounds cut through the air. The sound was not unlike the repeated crack of a whip. The creature didn't make a sound, the rounds killing it instantly.   Mouse narrowed her eyes and shouted, "what the hell?"   Lethe nodded and held out her hand. "Trust me. Never spare a pipe roach small enough to go down without a fight."   Mouse scoffed. "It wouldn't have attacked us. It was defending its home." She turned away and took a step forward. She didn't notice the rusted metal plate she was stepping on.   "Rhey," Oracle screamed. He ran forward, reaching out and grabbing Mouse's arm. Mouse felt the ground shift, the metal bending and breaking under her weight. Time slowed the moment she felt herself falling. She grabbed ahold of Oracle's arm on instinct. She didn't know it would only bring him down with her.     They fell. Mouse slammed into a sloped floor below and felt herself slide further down, the slick surface still wet from the rain. She tried to anchor herself but nothing was in reach.   She heard Oracle behind her as she gained speed. She screamed, pushing her body against the metal. She saw the end of the slope, and the obvious fall that came after.   They couldn't stop. They both flew off the edge. The moment their bodies hit the level below, the metal bent and broke free. It sent them falling deeper.   Mouse whimpered as she fell, she was shrouded in darkness, the only source of light being the lights attached to their rifles which spun in the air above them. The wait was agonizing, the adrenaline making the fall seem to last ages.   When she hit the bottom, she was surprised at how soft the landing was. The ground seemed to bend under her weight. Oracle landed beside her as did their rifles.   Broken pieces of metal both big and small reached the ground, tearing through the soft and flesh-like material. A sliver of steel cut into Mouse's left arm. She shrieked in pain and felt herself falling again. The fall was short. She landed flat on her back against stone six feet from where she was before.   Mouse was afraid to move. She felt warmth on her arm, the blood slowly flowing from the wound. For the moment, all was quiet.   Oracle groaned in pain on top of the fleshy roof. He rolled over, tossed his rifle down and waved playfully at Mouse. "You good?"   She tried to slow her breathing. Still too scared to move. "I don't really know," she replied, staring up at him as he tried to stand.   She noticed the slightest movement in the darkness beyond. Something was hurtling down toward them, something big.   "Matt, look out," she screamed. Her body acted on it's own, thinking far quicker than she did. She rolled to the side and out of the way as a large metal plate crashed onto the roof and into the room below. She heard Oracle scream, a sound that went silent well before he intended.

Cover image: by Adobe Stock


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10 Jul, 2021 23:03

Yer prose is always so wonderfully rich!

Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
11 Jul, 2021 01:04

Thank you rissa!

11 Jul, 2021 17:39

ORACLE DED?!?!?! or did you pull a Hollywood and just knock him out?   I find it interesting that the water can be so unpredictable; maybe folks should start mapping out 'washes' where the water tends to go when it rains, though mapping and navigating a 3-dimensional space as deep as this would be a challenge in of itself.   Are there any rivers on safeharbor, other than the ones that are spontaneously created whenever you get a storm?   Honestly, hearing your description of the dangers of the depths have left me significantly less averse to exploring under there. I feel like westley after rescuing buttercup from the lightning sand; I already know how to deal with everything in there; everything is either killable or has a clear warning before it happens; "What about the BOUS's?" I hear you say. "Bugs of unusual size? I don't think they exist..." *panicked screaming*

Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
11 Jul, 2021 18:34

No rivers. There are a few oceans though.     Lol love the analogy, and that's kind of the point. It's scary but everything can be handled if you know how. I mean this only covers what people know is down there. Theres more to come. The real problem is its unpredictability. These things appear out of the blue. One wrong step and down you go or uh oh here's a giant bug. There are also reports of smuggling operations that other species have set up, you got rogue drones, dangerous machinery, and tons of other hazards. This merely covers the basics for the purpose of the story.

13 Jul, 2021 15:37

Um, a clifhanger like that is illegal. I'm sorry i don't make the rules, I need answers now. Wonderful job :)

You should check out the The 5 Shudake, if you want of course.
14 Jul, 2021 00:50

I love the way you write, but oh no, Oracle! D: Poor guy. I guess he's dead now. Dang, that makes me rather sad actually. But excellent writing as always!

~TimeBender~Check out the first chapter of my newest book on World Anvil (Spoiler I'm posting the entire book for free): 1/The First Rule of Monsterborn Adoptions
16 Jul, 2021 06:10

Woaaaaaaah, what a terrifying region. The deep roads are absolutely fascinating, and I can immediately picture all kinda of tales of terrifying excursions into them.   And that final bit of prose! Just damn. Amazing!

Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
16 Jul, 2021 06:33

Why thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Sage Rynn19
Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)
16 Jul, 2021 06:39

Oh no! Oracle is death? And Mouse, she is way down below, far into the depths. Oh, this is not good. I think I have mentioned it before, but I really can see these articles in a nice hardcover coffee-table book. How prose and information are mixed in together is something I love so much.

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
Sage Rynn19
Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)
16 Jul, 2021 06:41

Oh, Oracle's death made me forget, but I always thought the biggest dangers in the Depths would be monsters. I never thought about the water and exiles. But it makes so much sense.

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
16 Jul, 2021 06:46

Ooooo yes. They are certainly in a pickle. Whukenthe podcast is certainly something I wanted, the more I work at this setting, the more I agree. I actually plan on maybe compiling it in book form, maybe some original art as well. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks it would be a good idea. Thanks so much for the kind words! Were nearing some critical moments for the story now. It's going to get crazy. I hope I dont disappoint.

Sage Rynn19
Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)
16 Jul, 2021 19:03

I'm sure you won't disappoint. :)

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
6 Aug, 2021 19:33

NO, ORACLE!!!   Wonderfully written article, absolutely terrifying place, but also NOOOOO.

8 Aug, 2021 23:00

This is so unique and compelling!

12 Aug, 2021 09:34

Oh fuck is Oracle ok?? Ah shit I'm panicking :'0 other than that your prose is just so beautiful and easy to read, this is really wonderful and I love the way you build narrative from your worldbuilding. Gosh this is really just great :'0

Author of Arda Almayed - check out my SummerCamp articles here!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
12 Aug, 2021 17:52

Thank you so much!

Sage Timepool
Garrett Grace Lewis
13 Sep, 2021 01:51

THIS IS VERY COOL! A new top tier article! Lots of great details and ideas that flesh out the locations, from there being outcasts (who use old weaponry!), to the roaches, to the water— this is top shelf stuff!   RIP Oracle?

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