Patala, the Descent Geographic Location in Araea | World Anvil

Patala, the Descent

Our masters say we are the first ones here, that we stand unopposed, but I've seen the bones, and they say otherwise.  
— Aldara, Kaia
  Patala stands on the edge of the known world, a dangerous precipice before a plunge into darkness. Though the trek to reach its perch is long and arduous, fortune and glory call the greedy and ambitious to explore its winding, canyon-like halls and brave its antediluvian mysteries. In the gleaming caverns of glass and crystal, or endless drops into an unknown abyss, explorers and settlers stake a claim for themselves among the ruins of a long-forgotten past.    

Geography

No step as steep as the first one.  
— Aldara, Kaia
  Patala is a vast, cavernous realm of steep slopes into the dark, towering hallways and immense hollows. Only fragments of the region have seen the light of an explorer's torch, but every expedition plunges deeper into the gloom, and those who return bring home tales of new wonders.  

The Perch

The first thrust into the unknown, the Perch is a colossal platform at the top of the region with tendrils of paths traveled and undiscovered snaking down into Patala proper. For early explorers and settlers, it has served as a relatively safe base of operation, far enough away from the dangers below but not so far to make travel to meet it ardous. As tales of adventure and riches reach the world beyond, the Perch has become a bustling hub of activity - large enough for the city of Vicitra to find purchase but too small for the ambitions housed within.  
No matter how much blood such ambition spills, the Perch and the city on it are the safest places in Patala. It is connected to the rest of Araea through a complex corkscrew cavern that has until recently shielded the region from prying eyes, now exposed after a calamitous collapse.   With the path cleared, settlers from Vataam and the Abyss were the first to strike out into the region, with others, further away, following in their footsteps. Trade and travel between Patala and the rest of Araea remains brisk, despite the dangers, with the wealthy and powerful beginning to take note and fund their own expeditions. So far, no other way into Patala has been found but through the Perch, though rumors persist.
Warnings that such a collapse could come again and trap those within Patala are usually ignored when there is still wealth to find.
  From the Perch, winding, sloped tunnels burrow down to Patala below, along with a wide, steep decline commonly known as the Tumble. Over a mile long, pock-marked with burrows and spires of stone that connect the high ceiling, the Tumble is the most popular (and most taxed) way down into lower Patala, usually through a series of ropes, steps, and elevators. With the construction of the immense Cage, an elevator meant to ferry entire expeditions and their supplies at once from the Perch to their destination below, travel has become easier, if much more costly.  
The drop is so called for the fate of the over-eager and careless, as any slip will make for a long and painful plummet doen the slanted cavern.
 

The Grey Halls

After landing at the base of the Tumble, explorers reach the Grey Halls - cavern paths with sharp, angled walls that range in height from forcing a crawl to disappearing into the gloom. The Grey Halls are snake deep into the heart of Patala, like vast and terrible canyons. The naked stone has the grey color of a rotting corpse but is frequently marred by the strike of tool or claw, mold, vines, or shining seams of crystal. Though hot and humid, the air cloying with the stench of fungi and spores, the Halls are blessed with a faint, regular breeze that screams through its dark corridors like the breath of a great beast.  
Such winds are assumed to come from somewhere deep within the Far Deep, though few wish to guess its exact nature.
 
The cave floor is frequently uneven and broken, sometimes ending in sheer drops leading to yet another canyon-like tunnel network. It is difficult, dangerous ground to cross, made worse by the inhabitants within the Halls. The snake-like trapdoor wurms have become a frightful myth among explorers, descending from moss-covered hiding places far above to snatch their prey away.   Every so often, the Halls open into expansive, open caverns or terminate in flooded grottos. The latter is both a hazard and a resource, drowning those who mistake a deep reservoir for a shallow pool while providing water for explorers and wildlife alike. It is those wide, open caverns that are the true prize of any would-be settlers - enough space to make a home, enough life to make a profit. The very same things that make them so attractive for settlers make them home to some of the hall's most ferocious or dangerous wild life. Rarely is a settlement or camp established unopposed, and more than a few have disappeared without trace.
by Unsplash (Adam Bixby)
As such, any oasis is likely to be contested; not only by the beasts that dwell in the dark, but by other settlers too. So far from civilization, wealth and desperation are the fuel for any number of blood-soaked atrocities, hidden from sight in some far-away cavern.
  Every now and then, explorers stumble on pits of bones, weathered cairns, or halls hewn by tools. Some hope to find an ancient folk still there, somewhere deep in the dark, thriving. Others are less keen to share the region's wealth, and most have come to the bleak conclusion that whoever may have lived here before has since long faced extinction.  

The Descent

As if hewn apart by some titanic blow, the Descent is a rift in the stone, angled at a steep slope and countless miles in depth. The journey to the Descent is longer than the Grey Halls, leaving the Perch from the opposite side and through a long, winding series of tunnels. At their end, the path opens to a leviathan cavern, with the Descent beckoning at its end like the maw of a devouring beast. Few have dared to test its hunger, and those who have reported that its abyss seems to know no end. It is commonly believed that the Descent continues all the way into the Far Deep, and all the monsters that lurk there.  
One explorer returned from the Descent with a most curious find - a mummified corpse, secured to the side of the chasm. Whatever other else might have marked its burial there had since long rotted and rusted away, leaving the body as the expeditions only trophy.
  The same wind that dances through the Grey Halls as a breeze howls up through the Descent with maddening fury. Such winds sometimes carry fragments of metal with them, hurled up from the abyss like spikes ranging from a nail to a javelin. These spikes are among the most prized of all the things found in the Patala region, made from the strange and valuable Thought-Metal.  
Sama - Thought-Metal
Material | Jul 27, 2022

Gleaming, iridescent metal, shaped more by thought and memory than by a blacksmith's hammer.

 

The Unknown

Some say the unknown is terrifying, but to us, it is an irresistible lure!   I'll admit, the lure is sometimes attached to a predator.  
— Sodai, famous Kaia-Tene, Light-Bearer
  For every step taken into Patala, a thousand more seem to remain before any end is in sight. Humanity's presence here is a flickering candle in a sea of hungry darkness, ever in danger of blowing out. Even the most well-traveled parts of Patala are thin lines on a blank map. Several teams of Kaia have begun to operate in the region now at the behest of wealthy patrons, eager to find and seize the most valuable parts of Patala for themselves.  
by Rawpixel.com (Freepik)
Most notable of these are a veteran team of Seekers known as 'the Fearless Five'. Their arrival has sparked a frenzy within Vicitra, with some scrambling to secure what they can, others trying to curry favor or exploit the more successful. The more level-headed know that there is no end in sight for Patala and won't be any time soon.  
But that hasn't stopped the blood from flowing.
  Beyond the Grey Halls, beyond the Descent, countless tunnels lead to parts unknown. Some are accessible through the Perch still, and it's only a matter of time before someone braves them. Others are more difficult to access, requiring travelers to pass through other parts of Patala first to reach them. No matter how many lives are swallowed by the dark, it is still insatiable.
 

Flora & Fauna

What's that?  
— Last words
  Patala is home to a wide array of wildlife spawned from the trickling waters and gathered pools of the Grey Halls or emerging from the wind-blasted depths of the descent. From a crawling and fast-growing mold that cakes the walls of the Grey Halls like rot to the snapping jaws of the trapdoor wurm, humanity shares the caves with strange and terrible things. No matter their ambitions and dreams of mastery over the region, mankind is prey as any other to the hungry things that hide in the darkness.  
Beyond fungi, mushrooms, mold, and long tangled vines that uncoil from the ceiling to snap up anything that comes within their grasp, Patala is home to a number of unusual species of blooming quartz and metal-streaked crystal. Somewhere between living and dead, these gemstones behave like plants when left to grow alone and collapse into inert death when hewn from their roots.   Others, beasts and plants alike, seem to have formed symbiotic bonds with the Thought-Metal native to the region. Amalgamations of thought, flesh, and metal, these abominations are unlike anything most have seen before. Only those who have met one of the Star-Marked have anything to compare them to.
  Like any other part of Araea, Patala has introduced humanity to a new and exciting spread of plagues and terrible woes. The mold within the walls of the Grey Hall regularly blooms, reaping a harvest of bloody, frothing coughs and weeping sores, while the Calling beckons the afflicted to fates unknown, far from the light. Other things have followed humans into Patala, and there is a slow but growing population of Khtam brought here to carry the burdens of their masters.  

Into the Unknown Dark

Only in death does ambition end. Usually, one hastens the other.  
— Aldara, Kaia
  Lethal predators, strange plagues, and the wickedness in the heart of men are but some of the many dangers that the settlers of Patala face every day. Even its safe havens sometimes feel like cities under siege, beset by calamity. Only through greed or ambition have humanity weathered the many trials of Patala or been forced to do so through the aspirations of others. Despite Vitricra being only a couple of decades old, there are already whispers among the settlers here to be something more than a colony for more established powers. Under the surface, tensions between the different forces and the patrons that back them are sharpening.  
by Pixabay
Among the merchant-princes who have invested in the city, figures like Muradov the Merciless have emerged as particularly hated taskmasters, suspected of murdering several burgeoning settlements to claim the lands for himself. None can prove it, and even if they could, no one yet dares to do much about it, but murmurs of discontent are growing. Muradov's Iron Spider mercenaries keep him safe for now, but as his cruelty and appetites grow, so does the hatred for him and his ilk.   In distant lands, those who have invested in Patala watch and make their own plans. More mercenaries have begun to arrive in Patala, more than any expedition can really sustain. In their haste to tighten their grip on what they have, these mercenary lords invariably create new enemies. A storm is coming for Patala, and every faction within is preparing to take what they think is rightfully theirs.
The Inner Shell   Far below the Surface but still above the dangerous Far Deep, the Inner Shell is home to most of humanity. Vast caverns, endless labyrinthine tunnels, forests of fungi and mushroom are all features of this underworld realm, where city-state carve out their dominion among darkness and monsters.   Patala tetters on the edge between the Inner Shell, and the alien Far Deep.   Read More About The Inner Shell
by Wikimedia Commons ( Petr Lyubimov )
 

Vicitra, the First City

Established first by explorers and settlers seeking a foothold in Patala, Vicitra has since grown into a ramshackle, dangerous place. It is a young and small settlement, the kind that lures those with ambitions to stake an early claim and make their mark. Buildings sprout like fungi across the Perch, with quarrels over space and placement already killing just as many the region's own dangers.  
Vicitra, the City On The Perch
Settlement | Jul 27, 2022

The first thrust into the unknown Patala region, Vicitra is a city too small for the ambitions of those within it.

The Cage

A recent addition to Vicitra, the Cage is a massive elevator meant to make travel to and from the Perch easier. Made on commission by the merchant-prince Khandozhk, it has become a vital lifeline that connects people and goods from above to below - and enshrined Khandozhk's influence in the region as a result.  
The Cage Into Darkness
Vehicle | Jul 27, 2022

A massive, if ramshackle, elevator that takes explorers from the safety above to their probably demise below.

The scraping of metal against stone as the cave descends follows it like thunder, and those who travel within can hear the ringing for days after unless they take precautions.
 

Hall of Shards, Plains of Glass

Hidden deep within the Grey Halls, the Hall of Shards is a canyon path overgrown with bright and jagged quartz, shining and colorful crystal, and half-melted glass that burst into mesmerizing color when light ir brought to bear. Such breathtaking beauty is no protection from industry, and already the argument rage for mining the walls until they are barren.   Beyond the Hall of Shards, a long, flat plain of glass stretch out into the dark, further than anyone has ever gone.  
Everyone who have tested the Plains of Glass come back with the same sensation - beneath the glass, something moved.
   

The Bone-Pit

When explorers first found the Pit, they thought it some graveyard of beasts from the region, until they found the first skull. Others swore since that they'd seen tracks of something meant to bar the way here, old rusted remains of locks, boulders hoisted into place before breached by the explorers. Ever since, the question has raged throughout Patala - whose's bones are those, locked away in a pit so deep that you could drown in them?  
by Unsplash
 
And why were they locked away?
 

The Seekers

A guild of Kaia based out of the grand city of Mharaji, the Seekers always strive to bring light into darkness and knowledge where there is ignorance. Though their presence in Patala is recent, they have already begun to establish themselves in the crowded city of mercenaries and cutthroat competitors.  
The Fearless Five are Seeker veterans of many expeditions, and have their eyes set on proving exactly where the Descend ends - and what riches lie beyond it.
 
The Seekers
Organization | Mar 11, 2019

The Seekers are one of the largest Kaia guilds today, with headquarters in many different city-states.

   

The Called

Not all are so fearful of the strange abominations born from the thought-metal. The Called have heard its song in their dreams, they see it in the gleam of metal, in the quiet hours of contemplation, and they have answered. They're still disorganized, each lost soul still reaching out to find others like them through the song, but it has already begun. Under the new leadership of Radayan, an former merchant and explorer from Dūbavum, the Called are gathering under a new banner, with new intent.    
The Called
Organization | Jul 28, 2022

There is a song in the darkness, in the metal that bears the will of something divine. The Called have answered it, giving their flesh and their thoughts to something greater.

 

Patallians

Enough time have passed for children to have been born knowing no other home than Patala. Others have lived here for decades now, working and bleeding like any other. Although no city-state have claimed Patala as their own, many of the expeditions there have been funded by powerful patrons from elsewhere. In the brutal shadows of Patala, some are reforged, and see themselves as something else.   The Called claim to be reborn by the divinity within, those who have made their wealth here see an opportunity to rule, and others still have found a home, away from whatever haunted them. This unusual confederation are linked loosely by their desire for Patala to find its own fate - preferably under their control.    
Patallians, the New Folk
Ethnicity | Jul 27, 2022

The Folk of the Patala region, no longer content to serve the great powers of Araea, but instead look to a future they can forge for themselves.

It may only be a matter of time before war comes to Patala, and the scavengers have begun to gather, ever-ready to pick over the corpses.
by Jennifer Martin (Unsplash)


Articles under Patala, the Descent



Cover image: by Unsplash (Jonatan Pie)

Comments

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Jul 2, 2022 18:25 by Annie Stein

This is incredible! I love how the tension slowly builds up and brews as we read. It seems that despite all the great natural dangers of Patala, the one that's most likely to get you is your fellow man.

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 3, 2022 05:49

As is so often the case in Araea, it's a real damned if you do damned if you don't :)   Thank you so much :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 2, 2022 18:36

Lots to love here (including the aesthetic) but I particularly like the quotes by Sodai and Aldara

- Hello from Valayo! Featured work: How to Write Great Competition Articles
Jul 3, 2022 06:02

Thank you! I think ALdara will be one of the sort of region-iconic characters here :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 2, 2022 18:38

This was such an enjoyable reading! I found it soo intriguing with the tension building up, like Nnie says.

Check out my On the Shoulders of Giants article: Satlonia
Jul 3, 2022 06:55

Thank you so much! :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 2, 2022 18:49 by Starfarer Theta

How can anything move beneath glass? Seems like some runaway imagin- oh, I get it now.   Great article. :)

Jul 3, 2022 06:02

Dun dunn dunnnn!!!   Thank you :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 2, 2022 21:04 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Fascinating article! Like always, you leaves tons of little hints of things going on in the background an dangers lurking. I want to cite so many things I love, but I'll settle on the pit of skulls and that creature in the far deep that's creature that thought metal XD

To see what I am up to: my Summer Camp 2024.
Jul 3, 2022 07:10

Thank you :D It's going to be fun writing about evil metal mind critters (of doom)! >:D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 2, 2022 22:00 by Ty Barbary

Holy cripes this is such a beautiful and lush article!! I'm in awe that you made something this lore-rich so quickly.

(Commenting is hard, so please know that my enthusiasm is genuine, even if I can't muster a lot of words at the moment!)   My Bestiary February 2023 - 28 fantastical creatures
Jul 3, 2022 07:08

Aw, thank you so much!! :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 3, 2022 14:58 by JRR Jara

I always admire how you create the feeling of a place. I really see what you describe and while most of the time is pretty scary it's also fascinating. I bet nothing wrong will happen here with all the factions and mercenaries trying to get a piece of the treasures in Patala.

Creator of Hanzelot and many more.
Jul 3, 2022 15:01

Aww, thank you so much :D   And nope, nothing at all! I'm sure they'll all work it out peacefully... :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 4, 2022 00:22 by Grace Gittel Lewis

NICE, real rad to read more from Araea again!

Jul 4, 2022 09:46

Thanks!


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 5, 2022 18:11 by Ryn C

This is just so epically cool! I love the physical layout of the article, the feeling of *knowing* this place like you've heard about it from well-worn travellers, and the spookiness of it all.

Jul 6, 2022 06:38

Thank you very much! :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 22, 2022 20:17 by Marjorie Ariel

I'm getting... Carlsbad Caverns combined with the Wild West. Definitely a unique take on the prompt. I particularly like the quote about death and ambition.

Jul 22, 2022 20:28

Thank you :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 23, 2022 22:00 by Paul Fijma

Oh man. My article feels lackluster compared to this piece of art :-) very very inspirational. and proove that i need to up my game !! Awesome!!!

Akimotos, worldbuilder.
Jul 24, 2022 06:37

Thank you very much :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Aug 6, 2022 23:17 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Nope nope nope nope no thank you.   I really feel as though your writing has stepped up this Summer Camp. Your way of wording things is just magnificent.

Aug 7, 2022 07:14

Awh, thank you :D I'm glad to hear that


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Mar 5, 2023 16:08

How far is the furthest anyone has ventured down the descent and lived to return from it? Do things get progressively worse/more dangerous as you go deeper, or is it a game of chance and the longer you spend the higher your likelyhood of danger is no matter the depth?   Lovely spooky vibes you lay out in this article and then reinforce again and again! I hope I never have to set foot near Patala or the edge ;)   Best of luck to you with the WAWA vote btw, I am one of your competitors it seems ^^

Yours truly, Nino.
Its Worldember!I am building out a spooky world, which you can read about here! (psst, its a link)
To learn about my main world click on this link! (if you want to ;) )
Mar 6, 2023 10:56

Pretty far! All the way to the Far Deep, in fact - an unknown part of it that lurks under Patala, like a shark beneath murky waters. And yes, the further down you go, the bigger and scarier everything gets!   Thank you! And best of luck to you as well. :)


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.