Maleun, the Dead City

All this water and not a drop to drink.  
— Sodai, Kaia
  Once the mighty capital in the Khālī Region, Maleun is now a ruin drowning in poison. The many waterlogged caverns that were the seat of its power have flooded over, filled with industrial run-off and Blight. The toxic marshland of Maleun is now a by-word for a wretched and cursed place. Few venture here to scavenge the from the old homes, braving poisonous gas and toxic water.   Most shun the Dead City, for it is a place of grim, bleak death.      


  Maleun is centered in a single vast cavern before sprawling off into endless smaller ones on all sides. Polluted water is everywhere, from stagnant pools ankle-deep to lakes of poison. The caves below the city have all flooded, but most of the city clings to the surface of the water - just barely. Much of the ruins are barren, the stone seared by acid and venom, but not all. Mutated flora have adapted to the toxic waters and twisted, corrupted things make their home in the murky depths.        


  The caverns at the outer parts of the city are only partially flooded, no more than knee-deep at worst. These once housed ranches, farms, hattick-tanners and the poorest in Maleun. Others were garbage dumps or empty, too small or too poor to be of use. Save for the clouds of venomous gas that drift in from the rest of the Dead City, the Outskirts is not so deadly to visitors. The flooded passages that go to lower parts of the city are flooded and the still surfaces sometimes fool explorers in the dark.  

Most caves are smaller than deeper inside the city and has seen less work. The one exception road that connected Maleun to other regions, but it has since caved-in along the route.   Most are barren, anything that grew in them killed by the venomous pollution, but not all. Some old garbage or farm tunnels still house particularly tenacious or mutated life.
There is little wild-life here, but some mutants trek to the outskirts of Maleun to nest, breed or lay eggs before returning to the toxic muck.
  There is little left in the outskirts of Maleun. Scavengers have picked the homes clean and still use the upper-most caverns to launch expeditions deeper into the Dead City.    

The Choking Ruins

  Deeper into the city, the caverns fill with toxic water and rivers of sludge flow to the lakes below until they fill and flood the broken bones of the city. These caves held the old city of Maleun, the homes and businesses. Many of the structures have disappeared under the water while others can still be found, caverns hidden beyond a flooded passage. The waters in them ebb and flow, a movement mimicked by fortune-seekers and scavengers.  

Such tides often leave rot and sludge behind, coating the Ruins in a black residue that cling like tar and stink like a dead body. In some parts, the sludge gathers in ponds and festers.   It is easy to slip and become entangled in the muck, so practiced scavengers try their best to stay above it. Eating the sludge is certain death.  
  When the waters are low, the tunnels of the lower city become accessible for those able to traverse the sludge. The drowned ruins below are still full of muck-coated from vaults and workshops yet untouched by scavengers. Such expeditions must move fast, as the waters inevitably returns.    

The Dead City

Out of all the places I've seen, nowhere has frightened me as much as Maleun. I can only hope it is not a vision of our future.  
— Sodai, Kaia
  Once the core of the city and the beating heart of its industry, the Dead City is a waterlogged ruin. The central cavern that had been carefully expanded over centuries have filled with water and only the bones of the city's monuments remain above the surface. Sickly gas drifts across the water and is belched out from the depths, regularly filling the entire cavern before dissipating. Venom still seep out from below and the source of Maleun's woes still bleed like an open wound. Despite this, Maleun is not empty.  
The acidic waters are slowly gnawing away at the large pillars were left in place or constructed to support the ceiling of Maleun's grand hall. One have already snapped and sunken beneath the water.
  Mutant fungi and rotting vines cling to the walls and ceiling, while insect hide in make-shift nests that drift on the waters. The city and its ambitions are dead, but nature - twisted and corrupted - as moved to fill the ruins.        

Flora & Fauna

Nothing here is right anymore. That includes to people.  
— Sodai, Kaia
  With time, everything in Khālī has warped and changed to adapt to the new environment of toxic death, or it has perished. Most creatures has not survive, making those that remain especially tenacious and adaptable. They have learned to feast on venom and wallow in corruption. Sickly, twisted things that used to be the city's breeding stock of animal haunts the waters and claim nests along its shores. A keen eye might still see what form they used to have.   Outside the corrupted, few things remain. More than the pollution and the poisonous gas, there is little left to eat or drink for healthy animals. The mutants eat either the pollution in Maleun or each other. Some hope this cycle of consumption will eventually cleanse the waters and return the caverns to their previous state. Those familiar with Maleun's industrial practice are less optimistic.        

Race to Ruin

A tale of greed and folly; so just another day in Araea then.  
— Sodai, Kaia
  Maleun was once one of the greatest city-states in the Outer Shell, with access to water that none of their neighbors could rival. After centuries, success had made them careless and the people of Maleun began to take more than the caves could regenerate. A thriving industry produced wonders of artifice and a steady drip of pollution that was studiously ignored as a problem for later. When the end came for Maleun, it was as tragic as it was predictable.  

Those that fled Maleun often tell of a sudden, cataclysmic end but the death of the city-state was slow and painful. Pollution crept into the waterlogged wells and caverns, slowly robbing Maleun of its power.   Colonies and villages that relied on Maleun's water to survive and had been kept under heel that way either withered or defected.
  Starvation, always a worry in the underworld, became frequent and desperate as crops failed and caves became barren. Some sensed the impending collapse and tried to flee, but the city-state rulers were soon barred from leaving by riots and uprising. In an attempt to find fresh water to replace that which had been tainted, miners dug recklessly. Caves were breached haphazardly and water began to pour into the city. With everyone too busy killing each other, it was too late once anyone looked up to notice it.   Maleun's demise is still no more than a couple of decades removed. Since then, the water has become fouled even more as it spread into old workshops and forges or flooded garbage tunnels. Bubbling chemicals and rotting garbage have filled the caverns with dangerous gas. Every year, Maleun slips further into decay.
Khālī Region   A region of the Outer Shell, Khālī was notable for its rich supply of waters and ready access to the Surface. Human greed and folly saw the end of that and it has become a polluted, barren cesspit only suitable for tainted, unwholesome life.   Maleun is at the center of the region, like a festering wound.   Read More About the Khālī Region

Water, Water, Everywhere

  Nearly all water found in Maleun is tainted and vile, making thirst a true foe of any explorer into the Dead City.   Water must be brought in from other regions in any real quantity and often act as a limit on how long anyone can stay in Maleun. Such concerns often lead to haste, with dangerous consequences.  
Exactly what is in the water by now is a matter of debate. Heavy metals, industrial chemicals, rotting garbage are all part of the vicious brew, with Maleun's waste management being notoriously reckless and careless.

Visiting the Grave

  Fearing the poison would spread, many of Maleun's neighbors have collapsed the trade-roads that connected them. It was an act that stranded many refugees in the dying city-state or forced them to venture into new, unknown tunnels in hopes of escaping.   Few were successful, but enough that such routes into Maleun remain somewhat of an open secret that few care to exploit.    

The Suru

  Other than the scavengers that come to pick the bones, most have abandoned Maleun and tried to forget it, but not all. The Suru are a small group dedicated to preserving and when needed restore caverns to life.     In better times, they advice city-states and settlements. When times are bad, they face the insurmountable task of bringing a shattered cycle of life back together. They've become experts at taking a task that seem too big, too difficult and too complex, and breaking them down into component parts.   Some of Maleun's noble elite that fled the catastrophe have funneled considerable wealth into the group, in hopes of one day reclaiming their ancestral homes: and none more than House Revyera.  
Who they are and why they have taken this task to heart is subject to rumor and malicious whispers, with claims that range from reasonable to ridiculous.   A Suru favorite is the theory that they are time-travelers, escaping a future where all of Araea has become as barren as the Surface.

Fools and Scoundrels

  The only thing still resembling a permanent settlement in Khālī is the make-shift camp of Rawa. It occupies a few caves at the very edge of the region and has a small transient population of looters, scavengers and assorted fortune-seekers.   The camp has a well-deserved reputation as a dangerous place and not only toxic gas that occasionally floods the tunnels.  
Only two kinds of people come here: fools and those who profit from them.

Wealth Beyond A Few Dreams

  Much of Maelun's wealth remains within its broken ruins. Belongings of those who didn't have time to flee or thought the crisis would pass gather muck in sealed, waterlogged vaults. The true prize of any enterprising scavenger in Maleun are the old estates of Maleun's noble elite, imagined to be full of gold and jewelry that have resisted corrosion.   So far, these treasures have eluded capture. Scavengers are now beginning to experiment with crude, sealed containers or suits that will see them safe to the bottom of the poisonous water.        
Misery to some is business to others. There is a small but growing enterprise that still treasures Maleun's vaunted waters, but not as sustenance but as a weapon.   These scavengers make short trips into the Dead City to capture water in jars, which they then sell to anyone who will use it as a terrible chemical tool of war.


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6 Sep, 2019 19:21

I really love the amount of detail you go into describing this, especially how you describe the impact it has on the people like having to flee. The only critique I can give is that I'd love to know what the toxic fumes/ gas and the posion is made from and what happens if a person is to digest or breathe it. It would make for a great material article! All in all, I wouldn't want to live in Maleun for sure! Haha.

6 Sep, 2019 19:42

Thank you! :D   I'll see what I can do about that - I try to keep the writing 'in-universe', so I try not to use words that the people in the world wouldn't. It was really hard not to use the word "ecosystem" in this one.. Haha.   But I think there's room to add something. It's basically a mix of various chemical runoff and industrial pollutant, mixing together and reacting. As a result... Probably nothing good happens to those who breathe it in :)   Thank you for the read and the comment! <3

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
6 Sep, 2019 20:25

Yeah, I know that struggle haha. But wow those pollutants sounds like a terrible thing to get into your system haha.

10 Apr, 2022 23:48

The last bit about people selling the polluted water as a weapon is great! Classic humankind move!

28 Apr, 2022 07:47

We're a real creative bunch when it comes to creating weapons. :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.