A fate worse than death. They are never prepared for it.The Exiled is a term for those who face one of the harshest punishments in Araea: Exile from the caverns and to the unforgiving Surface world. Branded on the face or chest, they are forever marked as Exiled, then thrown out into the sun. Others are born into their hopeless fate, the children of other Exiled. Few ever make their way back into the world below. Most soon perish in the face of the harsh elements, skulking beasts or unseen poisonous Blight, but some cling to their lives with vicious tenacity. It is a world meant for monster and mankind are not welcomed here.
Exile to the Surface is a punishment reserved for the most heinous crimes, at least in theory. In truth, there are many ways for an unfortunate to greet the sun, from malice to political manipulation. Once on the Surface, there is no way back, no matter what brought them there. Tales of the terrors that stalk the Surface are commonplace. They are stories of the horrifying infinite chasm above with no ceiling or end, of the terrible blazing sun, of Blight and mutation. Parents tell their children of the Exiled, driven to madness and cannibalism, always eager to devour the disobedient. Surface Exile is both a punishment and a threat - a fate worse than death.
From the Inner ShellSo far from the Surface, execution or indentured servitude are more common punishments than Surface Exile. From the Inner Shell, both are considerably easier for the authorities to levy. Exile is a sentence that sends a message; to rabble-rousers, to enemies of the rich and powerful or other undesirables.
At the Outer ShellWith easier access to the Surface, magistrates and vengeful nobility quicker to issue the sentence of Surface-exile. Most of the Exiled hail from the Outer Shell, with only a handful from deeper within the caverns. It has become a tool for the powerful to dispose of malcontents and misfits as well as true criminals.
War-Exiled On occasion, bitterly fought wars have lead to spiteful conquerers banishing entire lineages or villages out into the wastelands above, declaring them all Exile. Such things are rare, but the infamous Third Eye Tribe owes its cohesive structure to ancestors who were all exiled as one.
The Surface is a harsh wasteland. Food and water are scarce, the sun blinds eyes accustomed to dark caves and gloomy tunnels, and frigid nights threaten to freeze solid any Exile cannot find shelter. Irradiated blight-zones or dust storms threaten at all times. Any Exile who survives long enough are doomed to develop debilitating mutations or cancerous lesions. Life on the Surface is a constant struggle to survive, even more than in the darkness below.
Life In Exile
Most Exiles live nomadic lives, fleeing from storms and monsters, or searching for new resources. When Exiled meet, they sometimes join together, forming small tribes. Their numbers are rarely great, and child mortality on the Surface is high. Most die out within a few generations - some remain long enough to forget all aspects of their life within the caverns. Other times, one of the two becomes a meal for the other. Exiled are lurking threat to prospectors and adventurers who brave the Surface. Necessity and desperation drive the Exiled to see them as sources of food, and equipment they can't otherwise get. Cannibalism is common among Exiled, and some become raiders and brigands that plague Surface settlements.
No matter where they came from or what customs they once held, Exiled codes of conduct center around simple survival. In some tribes, strength is all, and the leader holds power and controls all resources, but to the extent that they can keep it. In others, the customs are of trust and kinship to the tribe and to each other. Never steal food, never abandon someone to sun-madness, and similar rules. Cast out of old homes, at least the Exiled have each other. Justice on the Surface is brutal and swift for those who break this trust.
With no access to forges and smithies, most Exiled must content against the Surface with simple tools and weapons. Bone, leather, carapace, and stone are the most common materials used by the Exiled. Metal is rare and almost always acquired from visitors from beneath. Some trade for it, but most are stolen or taken by force.
Weather on the Surface rarely give comfort. Hallucinatory skies and irradiating storms can devour entire groups of Exiled before starvation has a chance to slay them. Even the sun is a serious threat to newly-arrived Exiled, and they frequently fall prey to sun-sickness. In places like the Aschar Region, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent. Beasts like the Chūduk lurk in the ground while Mahu'ca emerge from the Shrouded Lands with the force of a storm. The same creatures the Exiled must hunt and kill for food, and raw material are more than capable of making a meal out of them.
Much of an Exiled fate is determined by exactly where on the Surface they are cast out.
The Surface Blighted and barren, the Surface of Araea is a hostile and alien world in which mankind are only visitors. There are many ways to die on the Surface, and none of them are pleasant. The beasts here have learned to live in poison and fear neither sword or spear, while continent-spanning storms regularly scour the Surface. The Exiled are forced into this hell for the rest of their usually short lives. Read More About The Surface
The Exile KingOnce, the Exiled struck back against those who condemned them to the Surface. The Exile King, also known as the Mad Mutant, managed to unite a vast tribe of Exiled under his banner and lead a campaign of bloody, mad retribution against the city-states of the Outer Shell. Read about the Exile King
Superstition and FearTo the average citizen of the deep, the Surface is a place of mythical terror. The Exiled have likewise become legends - akin to walking dead or boogie-men, waiting to creep back into the caverns to steal children and wreak havoc. Other stories cast them as noble, stoic victims damned to an inevitable demise. No matter the tale, the Exiles are always depicted as the "Other." Strange, different, mutant cannibals who drink blood and worship the sun, cursed and damned, and so on. Any Exiled who do find their way back into the darkness have to go to great length to hide their brands or face immediate and severe judgment.
Despite its many dangers, the Surface is not entirely abandoned. Prospectors, hunters, and desperate souls seek fortune among the Blight-riddled lands.
BlightOne of the most pervasive dangers of the Surface, Blight is an invisible poison that spreads by the wind, infects water and dust, or suffuses entire regions. Some parts of the Surface, like the Shrouded Lands, are so Blighted that even the hardiest explorer do not last long there without protection. Blight covers most of the Surface like an ever-shifting ocean of venomous mist. Too often, Exiled do not even realize they have trekked too far into the Blight until they grow ill, and their hair falls out in bloody clumps. Read More About Blight
For every Exiled guilty of murder or worse, there is one who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.