The Exiled

A fate worse than death. They are never prepared for it.  
— Sencha, Blight-Tracker
  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 Shell

So 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 Shell

With 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.
  Exile tend to become more prevalent in times of civil strife or political unrest. Just the distance to reach the Surface makes the sentence expensive, but equally more terrifying for those who have never even seen the sun.  
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.

Life In Exile

  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.  

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.
  Not all Exiles devolve into rapacious marauders or cannibal mutants. Some adapt and survive, eking out a miserable existence collecting water from glaciers and hunting the things that live beneath the ice or haunt the wasteland. They squat where it is safe until hunger forces them to move again. Others become true nomads of the wastes, traveling between pockets of safety to avoid the attention of hungry beasts- or other Exiled. The Surface is vast, and many Exiled simply disappear without a trace.  
by Nicola Danese

Savage Survival

  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.
by Far Cry Primal
  The Exiled hunt and forage for most of their food. The soil of the Surface is blasted or irradiated beyond hope for healthy plants or viable agriculture. Some lucky Exiled locate shallow caverns where they can grow fungi and herd insects. Less fortunate Exiled find themselves in part of the Surface almost devoid of life and must scratch the barest survival from endless glaciers or Blighted swamps. Even the food found is often tainted with Blight and slowly poison those who eat it.  
Forbidden Zone cover
by Alvin Lee

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.
  Meteorites often bombard the Surface, further threatening those who are caught out in the open. Even the craters left behind hold dangers for the unwary, both in the form of star-spawned devils and greedy star-chasers hoping the impact has left treasure behind.   Almost every Exile must learn through trial and error what works and what doesn't on the Surface. When every mistake can be fatal, only the cautious and clever survive.
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 King

  Once, 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 Fear

  To 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.


  One 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.

The Third-Eye Tribe

  Whatever crimes cast the ancestors of the tribe to the Surface have been long forgotten and little remain of those early, unfortunate souls. The Third Eye Tribe is perhaps the most successful Exiled ever, having survived on the Surface for generations - longer and more tenaciously than mankind was ever meant to.  
Thanonorok Desert cover
  No longer entirely human, the Third Eye Tribe has spent ages wallowing in Blight and living under the sun. It has twisted them, with festering tumors and abominable mutations, and they have become something else. Something more.   Read More About The Third Eye Tribe    

Language and Dialects

  Most Exiles speak the language of their homes. Those who have spent generations on the Surface sometimes develop their own dialects; the most extreme case belongs to the Third Eye Tribe, whose language has become wholly removed to what they once spoke in the caves and unrecognizable to anyone outside the tribe.    
Shrouded Lands cover
  The first steps into the wasteland


Author's Notes

Please ignore the gasmask! It was the best picture I could find on short notice.   Changelog: 2018-07-10: Fixed some typos. 2018-07-12: Added an image + quote

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9 Jul, 2018 16:21

Jesus, this was like reading a messed up collision of Fallout, Metro, and Outlast. Very well done, chilling.


Check out my worldbuilding in the Ethnis Universe!
9 Jul, 2018 16:30

Thank you kindly! :D

Constance Watson
9 Jul, 2018 16:24

Oh wow, scary stuff! Do any Exiles ever find their way back underground and manage to remain there?

9 Jul, 2018 16:29

Sometimes. It's a big world and if they can hide their brands, they can usually pass as surface prospectors, adventurers or other neer'do'wells. Discovery is a constant risk, but it beats eating radiation poisonong for breakfast, lunch and dinner to most (particularly those innocent of the crimes that sent them upstairs). I'd imagined that Exile might be a player character type, probably. :)   And thanks for visiting! I'll add more as things go along, possibly after the camp. :D

9 Jul, 2018 17:08

What an interesting concept, dragging them to the surface, it has a very eery vibe to it.

GorgeFodder - Former Forge Father & Former Community Director of World Anvil
9 Jul, 2018 17:30

I wanted to put a spin on the usual dynamic, where the bad place is underground and that's where you send people. :)

9 Jul, 2018 17:36

Thank you for commenting- sounds like I hit the right notes if it is eerie. :D

Master OctoGod
9 Jul, 2018 17:08

Wow, this is terrifying, especially with the idea that Exiles aren't always guilty! Because on one hand, you want to pity them, especially when they were innocent of the crime they were accused of, but on the other hand... Cannibalism man. And mutations. Exiles must be terrifying to look at I imagine - which, along with the brand, would make it even harder to manage to come back to the caves. This was very nice!

9 Jul, 2018 17:32

It's pretty much a shades of grey situation. Who's worse, the people who have to go to extreme lengths to survive, or the people who forced them to do so for reasons that vary from bigoted to petty?   Once I have some time and aren't so far behind on the prompts, I think I'll revisit this to expand a bit on this answer: I hope to include more examples of groups of Exiles.. And not all of them will be bad!

9 Jul, 2018 17:32

And thank you for your comment and kind words! :)

9 Jul, 2018 17:11

When I read about desolation, I didn't realize your world was almost entirely underground; that sort of adds a new spin to the way I understand the disease. I'm going to have to go read more about your world, because it's a super cool idea! I really like the little asides in this article, they add a nice extra touch.

9 Jul, 2018 17:29

My geography intro prompt should give you a pretty good overview of how the world is structured, if you are curious ( )   It's pretty much vertical instead of horizontal, with my main inspiring prompt being- pretty much- what if the surface was just always an uninhabitable place?   Thank you for the kind words and comments, I appriciate it!

9 Jul, 2018 17:12

Ooh, i find it interesting how the status is divided depending on how close they are to the surface! It's an interesting look at how people could be blamed even though theyre innocent and have to suffer. Nice layout as well; I wish there were images or something at the side bar since there's a lot of space, but your formatting is still lovely!

9 Jul, 2018 17:34

I will make a note of that and try to find some more pictures to spice things up! Thanks for the feedback!!   I'm still figuring out how the BBC code and all the layout stuff works, so hopefully I'll be able to address that once I've done so!   Thanks for the commend and kind words, I really appriciate it!

9 Jul, 2018 17:38

Of course! The article still stands great on it's own, but it could be nice flavor/mood for the piece. BB Code was hard to learn, but I'm sure you'll learn quick! I've done a lot of trial and error and then previewed all like "Oh did this work--OH NO IT BROKE EVERYTHING." :'D so, be prepared for that if you mess around!   And no problem at all for the comment, I want to foster a good environment : D (Plus I know how excited I get when I see I have notifications LOL )

31 Jan, 2020 21:07

Two years later, I went back and added images to the side bar :p

Journeyman Sloqush
Sloqush the Sloqush
3 Feb, 2020 20:21

Absolutely awesome article I really love it. Given that the people of the Inner Shell only exile a small number of people to the surface is there an analogous punishment where they just sent the criminals further down towards the Far Deep?

Explore Sloqush's bleakdark sandox: Cenorad
3 Feb, 2020 20:44

Thank you so much and thanks for the comment!   And that's an excellent point. That's very likely, and should probably get either a mention or an article of its own. I'm sure there are fierce debates among the denizens of Araea about who's most doomed: the ones going up, or the ones going down. :D

Journeyman Sloqush
Sloqush the Sloqush
3 Feb, 2020 23:08

Looking forward to that article :D   Maybe let soon-to-be exiled throw a coin to determine if they are sent to the Horror above or the Hell beneath :)

Explore Sloqush's bleakdark sandox: Cenorad