The Abyss is no place for those used to an easy life with solid ground beneath their feet.The Abyss is a vast ocean deep within the Inner Shell, sprawling across titanic caverns and labyrinthine tunnels. The black waters of the Abyss span far beyond reckoning and the denizens of Araea can only begin to guess at its true size. It is a world all of its own, of unfathomable depths and endless open waters. Nowhere else is like it and all of humanity's accomplishments could drown within its darkness.
Far from an unbroken stretch of water, the Abyss is a jumble cavernous systems and rivers. Water runs through rapids and form waterfalls, with sprawling tunnels and sections where the cave ceiling drops to only a few feet above the surface. Much of the Abyss has no shore, ending in a sheer cliff wall. Countless tunnels snake away from the Abyss and into other parts of the Inner Shell, while the open waters of the ocean itself seem to head inexorably towards the Far Deep.
The Abyss is far from empty. Colossal aquatic mushroom break the expanse of dark water together with stalagmites, islands or coastlines along the cavern walls.
Chern, the Silent SeaThe freezing waters of Chern lie far from any human settlement and it has become the place of fearful legends. It is significantly colder than most of the already cold Abyss, with ice forming along the cavern walls and ceiling. These occasionally break off and drift away into Chern's water, occasionally into the other parts of the Abyss. Chern is nearly lifeless, with the few things that live here almost all live deep below. Most think of Chern as cursed and humanity's reach into the region is pitiful. Only a few mad explorers and greedy prospectors have ventured into Chern and few return. Chern is quiet and still. The currents here are nearly imperceptible and wild life is rare. Explorers into Chern have only what they've brought to sustain them. There is a coast of sorts, of broken ice and jagged sharp stone, to the far west of the region and some claim that there are lands beyond. Every so often, madness claims another soul and another expedition leaves for Chern.
Sumendi, the Sea of ColorWarmed by countless geothermal vents beneath the surface, the waters of Sumendi are warmer than elsewhere in the Abyss. Spires of coral and barnacle-hives grow to breach the water where it is shallow, or crawl along the seabed where it is not. The Sea of Color is home to waterlogged caves that house colonies of pale fish and corpse-eating aquatic fungi. Bioluminscence is common here, enough that the seabed near the shores can sometimes be seen.
The coral in Sumendi come in a variety of colors and shapes, giving the Sea its name. These coral are of a particularly predatory kind, able to move and hunt to supplement whatever food they filter from the water. No matter the kind, they are all similarly ravenous.The shores are more pronounced and more common, often infested with colonies of predatory coral or stalk-like fungi groves. The later can be found across Sumendi, choking the waters with their roots. Sumendi is more hospitable to life, but the discharge from the geothermal vents can make the water foul-tasting and occasionally dangerous.
The Abyssal OceanMost of the Abyss belong to this singular region, encompassing the vast distance of open water between cave walls. Along the boundaries, the Abyssal Ocean snakes into side passages and half-drowned caverns, forming rapids and waterfalls. Its dark waters are almost completely still and a ship can row for days and see nothing but water. The parts of the Abyssal Ocean that have been mapped follow routes more easy to navigate by, such as along the cavernous walls or where the ceiling dips low enough to be easy to follow. The Abyssal Oceans contain wide stretches of empty, black ocean with small concentrations of life. Islands, drifting fungi or drifting ice from Chern form the center for fish, octopi, Nebiri-Shi, the Devil-Shrimp and other creature to cluster around. Such islands on occasion hold human settlements, while other are simply bleak and desolate rocks being slowly eaten away by the water.
The waters here impenetrably dark, but strobes of bioluminscent light on occasion pulse from unknown depths. What these are or what creatures cause them is not known, with some laying claims of submerged coral cities, lighting up the depths.There's little weather here and only a slight wind, mostly from Sumendi. When the waters do move, it is because something is moving it and those who know the region know waves usually means danger. Whatever forces that cause the Abyss to move are too far below the water for humanity to recognize, with gods and devils blamed instead.
The Deep AbyssAs the caverns descend into unknown darkness, the Deep Abyss begins. It is the most distant part of the Abyss, with a surface several miles below the rest. It is a ocean of massive waterfalls and dangerous waters, entirely beyond any explorer's reach. A maze of churning waters drives the Deep Abyss further downwards and is the only way to reach it. There are no way back and the Deep Abyss is almost entirely unknown. Some speculate that it leads directly into the Far Deep while other think it is a route straight to the afterlife. Only the bravest or most desperate would wager on an expedition here.
Flora & Fauna
It might look empty to us, but I reckon there's more things down there than on dry land.The Abyss is home to countless forms of life, most too far below to ever be seen. Fish, cephalopods, insects, fungi and more all make their home across the ocean. Crustaceans prowl more shallow water, and all manner of amphibian creatures lurk among the shores. Skimmers share the surface with floating colonies of mushroom and darting Slivers, while Nebiri-Shi hunt below it.
Jellies are common sights both below and above the waters, swimming in water or floating in the air. Bats and other flying critters make homes along the shores or in the hollows of coral spirals, in turn preyed on by leaping fish and aquatic reptiles. Parasites, both malign and symbiotic, can be found across the Abyss in number with some fish becoming little more than bloated, dying homes for innumerable invaders. Most life in Abyss will perhaps never be seen by human eyes. The black depths are home to things that only occasionally visit the surface. Such visits are rare and terrifying, each creature often mistaken for either devil or god at first.
There is a sickness in the Abyss, a parasitic octopus that burrow into other beings and control them. Even once released, the transformation begins and turns the victim into something more in the likeness of its parasitic master.
The Abyss is home to numerous human settlements, ranging from tiny fishing villages to city-states like Dūbavum. Its waters feed many more beyond the oceans through submerged tunnels and long, winding rivers. The Abyss offers a reliable source of fresh water and food, though fishing the Abyss is a dangerous occupation. Most settlements of any size are located on the cavernous coastlines, with many island settlements becoming sullen, isolated places. While travel across the Abyss is a dangerous proposition, many chose to take the risk. The waters can shorten a journey to another part of the Inner Shell by weeks, if not months or even years. Trade is slow, but steady and bind disconnected parts of Araea closer together. Adventurers and explorers brave the Abyss and to uncover its secrets, but they are like children fumbling in the darkness.
The Inner Shell The Abyss lies in the Inner Shell, the region of caverns well below the Outer Shell and the Surface. Here, the cavernous halls grow vast and the tunnels labyrinthine. Most life in Araea can be found here, fighting to survive in an uncaring world of stone, fungi and darkness. Read more about the Inner Shell
The Deep SeasEven for the nations who live by the shores, naval technology is particularly crude in Araea. Making boats of any size from Hattick is a time-consuming and expensive process that few have mastered. Most crafts are small and simple, with even warships rarely holding more than perhaps a dozen or so. The typical craft is either a canoe made from a single large Cave-Capped Hatter with place two, maybe three people or rafts. More advanced ships do exist, but they are expensive and rare. With winds and current unreliable, they are powered by rowing.
Explorers who brave the water consider themselves a separate breed from the Kaia, but most consider them no less crazed.
The FogChern is troubled by a deep fog that drift across the water in defiance to the still winds. Sailors who have been lost in the fog say it is unnatural, speaking of whispers and moving shapes. To be caught in the fog is a bad omen, with superstition claiming the fog to be everything from an angry god to the souls of sailors lost to Chern's waters.
The Dreaming-Curse Some dream of Chern. Sailors who have skirted its shores, explorers who have read about its legends and fishermen who strayed too close. It starts small with dreams of the still waters and cold fog, then something beyond the broken coast. Those stricken cannot exactly articulate the cause of their obsession, but most feel a need to brave the Silent Sea and find what lies beyond their insistent dreams.
The ShallowsThe Shallows are an large area of Sumendi where the water is at most a ten meters deep. Submerged tunnels and grottoes dig deeper into the seabed. Much of the Shallows is covered by coral and fungi. Where they meet, the waters turn bitter with poison as each try to kill the other. In other places, fungal weed grow from the ceiling and down into the water to drink and feast on refuse. Some parts of the Shallows or near the coast where the ceiling is low, the fungi can grow into thick veils that divide the ocean for surface travelers.
More than any region of the Abyss, Sumendi has a tempestuous climate. The underwater vents can erupt or explode, causing devastating waves and terrible storms. Wind from caves along the shore can whip out across the waters at great speed in the right circumstance. Outside of rapids and waterfalls, Sumendi can be one of the most difficult parts of the Abyss to sail.
Hungry DarknessAmong all the drifting of fungi and coral, there is one that have acquired a dread reputation for consuming all it encounters. Called the Akkhatha, it is a large mass of living coral, fungi and flesh that have fused together to a single hive-like entity. Limbs sprout from between the hard coral to paddle the waters or strike intruders, crafted from whatever the creature has devoured. It is in a constant state of flux with flesh, coral and fungi warping and shifting into new configurations. Where the Akkhatha drifts, everything is prey. They are consumed and made part of its whole. Worse, human faced have been seen on the island of flesh. They emerge from the roiling meat, eyes and mouths still moving.
Pirates!Whether through desperation, circumstance or simple greed, there are some who survive by pillaging and raiding. The pirates of the Abyss typically use smaller, lighter crafts to get close to their prey undetected before striking. It is a hard and dangerous life, apt to any number of grisly ends. Many pirates strike from their villages or towns, raiding to supplement whatever they have managed to fish and harvest. Metal tools and weapons are particularly valuable for impoverished and disconnected settlements, but just as often it is simply to stave off famine. Other pirates work only for themselves, taking what they want and damn the rest.
While raiders from Dhanû may be the most prolific naval raiders, none are as infamous as the Raiders of Śaba. The Raiders sail the Abyss on a hollowed out corpse from an monstrous ocean beast, using its rotting visage to strike terror into their victims. Read More About The Raiders of Śaba