The Sprawl

If you can't reach it through the Sprawl, is it really worth going there?  
— Popular merchant saying
  The Sprawl is a vast region of the Outer Shell, with tunnels that spread like roots to a great number of different parts of the depths, making it a well-traveled hub. But despite centuries of travel and habitation, much of the sprawl is uninhabited beyond waystation and small towns. Many of the tunnels are still unexplored and lead to places yet unknown.      


    Living up to its name, the Sprawl stretches across several levels of caverns with tunnels and roads that connect several city-states with one another. The flat, open caverns are ideal for carving roads from the stone while the daring brave shorter, more dangerous routes to beat the competition. One of the largest regions of the Outer Shell, it has no defining trait beyond its vast size and reach. Everything from frozen, ice-coated caverns to steaming springs can be found within the Sprawl.    

The Tamed Tunnels

  Sometimes referred to as the Roads or the Civilized Tunnels, the tamed tunnels are just that: the part of the Sprawl where humanity has staked its claim and so far refused to give it up to the encroaching wilderness. These tunnels are reasonably safe from wild beasts and malicious fungi, with the greatest threat coming from other people. Most waystations are stationed along these roads, near any source of water or food that make habitation and resupply possible.    
Roads   In the deep, roads are carved and hacked from the cavern floor to create a relatively level path for wagons and Khtam to travel. Gaps and depressions are filled with the debris and the way is lit with nests of Ahi bugs or bioluminscent mushroom. Creating such a path is a time-consuming and dangerous endeavor, and they are not very common.
  For the most part, the civilized tunnel is consist of the tunnels and caves that were easiest to subdue. While not always pleasant and sometimes dangerous, the civilized tunnels make for easy travel with no abrupt changes in environment or dizzying drops into some abyss. The civilized, tamed tunnels have been thoroughly explored and its hazards are well known. Even so, every so often there is some fool who takes a shortcut they shouldn't have or the wild tunnels encroach on the lit roads and people go missing.    

The Wild

        Beyond the light of the roads and the domain of civilization lie the Wild. Sometimes called the Wild Tunnels or the Dark Sprawl, these caverns encircle much of the sprawl. Most are unexplored and some are simply too dangerous to settle, either flooded , irradiated or infested with dangerous beasts. Despite the ages that humanity have spent in the sprawl, the unknown tunnels still outnumber the civilized roads. The Wild see no lack of Kaia eager to explore them for new glories and fresh riches.  
Besides the dangers posed by lurking monsters and other hazards, the Wild is dangerous for another reason: it is a popular place for the bandits to hide. Brigands plague the Sprawl at irregular intervals and often use the least dangerous parts of the Wild to hide and hide their plunder. But every now and then, only their bones are found in the dark.
  Like the Sprawl, the wild tunnels vary greatly along the stretch of the region. From gas-choked tunnels to caverns overgrown with hostile, dangerous flora, the Wild holds any number of exciting ways to die.    

The Kēnib Lake

      Right in the center of the Sprawl lies the frozen Kēnib lake. It is a shallow, freezing lake that is the basin from which many waystations and minor settlements draw their water and cut their ice. The cold has made it almost entirely desolate of life save for a few strange creatures that thrive in the frozen, light-less waters. Passing the lake can be a considerable shortcut, but a dangerous ones. More then one traveller has ended their journey in the lake.  
With water sometimes no more than knee-deep, the people who work the lake, there's a term they use for those who get lost and perish out on the ice: "drowning in the Kēnib" is spoken as a biting insult for those careless enough to head out in the frozen lake without the means to make the journey.
  The lake has several work camps on its shores at any given time, hauling ice and water. Work on the lake is dangerous and unpleasant, with risk of both frost bite and bandits ambush. But where there is profit, there is people.    

The Salt Flats

  The largest single landmark of the Sprawl are the salt flats, a lifeless region. Even more than the frozen lake, shortcuts across the flats are ill-advised, with no water nor food to be found anywhere in the flat. It is a quiet, lifeless place. Travelers here face no great battles or dangerous beasts, but only slow starvation and thirst.  
The flats are not entirely uninhabited. Large, long-legged creatures make an seasonal journey to the flats to lick the salt for sustenance and mate. The beasts visits are so punctual that the salt-miners use them a a way to track time.
  Vast quantities of salt are hewn from the flats, refined and set on the road. Once quarried, it is shipped up and down the Sprawl, going as far as the great city of Mharaji.    

The Far End

  At the very end of the Sprawl and at the very edge of the unknown lies the town of Far End. A frontier town in every sense of the world, this rough and tumble settlement is about as far away from the known world as you can get without plunging into the Far Deep.   Read more about the Far Deep        

Traveling the Sprawl

  The Sprawl is important for many city-states, a invaluable hub for merchants, traveler and on occasions armies to make their way. Fortunes are made and lost on the roads of the Sprawl, and it is one of the most traveled region in the entire Outer Shell. While the entirety of the Sprawl is too vast for any one power to control, the importance of the region means that conflict inevitably arises over particularly lucrative paths or sections. Between guilds and city-states both, battle visits the Sprawl every now and then before once more returning to the steady, regular rhythm.   In the end, as long as the roads remain open and coin continues to change hand, everyone is happy.
The Outer Shell   The Outer Shell are the caverns and tunnels located closest to the Surface. Canyons and fissures sometimes connect to these subterranean paths and open shafts greet the sun. The spaces here are typically smaller then those found at greater depths and there are more tunnels devoid of life. In both regards, the Sprawl is an exception.   Read more about it

Infested Tunnels

  Some parts of the Wild are so overwhelmed with aggressive flora and fauna that they are shunned. They are a constant hazard to the other parts of the Sprawl, as they spill out onto the roads or migrating beasts disrupt the traffic. Some caves have garnered such a notorious reputation for their inhabitants that several attempts have been made to cleanse them. So far, each attempt have been a costly failure and the roads that pass close to the infested tunnels remain some of the most dangerous parts of the Sprawl.      

Thieves Road

  Banditry is constant hazard along the Sprawl and claim more victims than most beasts. The Thieves Road is a section of the Sprawl where captured or killed outlaws are put on display as a warning to others, left in gibbets, hung or crucified to stone. While the Thieves Road is the only stretch of the sprawl specifically selected for this purpose, the practice sees use elsewhere along the sprawl.   The grisly display has done little to deter the banditry in the region, however.    
Waystations   The combination of an inn, a rest-stop and a trade post, Waystations dot the routes along the sprawl. They serve travelers and merchants with a place to stay and rest, to refill their supplies and often to help break up the monotony of travel with any number of distractions.   The typical Waystation will consist of a single building for the owner, a couple of buildings for guests and a stable for any Khtam and their cargo.

New Discoveries

  Some of the Wild tunnels have recently been explored to their end and the Kaia speak of routes to caverns entirely new and unexplored. Such news travel quickly and already many are making their plans to head into the unknown gloom.          

The Varāḷa Resort

  One of the more unusual attractions of the Sprawl is the Varāḷa Resort. Located near a series of heated pools and springs, the resort treat their guests to restorative baths in the steaming waters. Medikari on staff provide massage, acupuncture and a carefully selected diet for recovery and vitality. For those who can afford it, it is a popular luxury destination.    
The Tipu Gang   The Sprawl has any number of bandit gangs troubling its roads at any given time. When one is hunted down and slain, others rise to seek fortune at the expense of others. The Tipu is one such gang, soldiers who abandoned their posts in the face of starvation and turned to banditry to survive. They've kept at it since, filling their ranks with stragglers and desperados.   Read more about the Tipu Gang


Please Login in order to comment!
3 Dec, 2018 10:19

Hey Q! Feels good to read one of your articles on Araea again ^^

I like how all of your world feels coherent. Without knowing that you would continue it, and not having read anything of Araea for over 2 months, I immediately recognized it anyway.
I would suggest that you keep your teasers for other pages shorter. They drag out your article, making it quite hard to read in one piece (especially considering the continuous texts in the side bar, in opposite to just having bullet points).
My question for you is: If I was really eager to cleanse an infested tunnel, which options would I have?

3 Dec, 2018 11:05

Thanks! :D That's really encouraging to hear, especially as it grows!   Your options would be various sharp and pointy pieces of metal, perhaps fire and maybe you could find some poisonous shrooms/such to help out. It'd be equivalent of a village in the dark ages or ancient times deciding to head out into the forest and kill all wolves: not easy.   I am going to look into making the quote text smaller, which I think will help a lot too. We'll see! :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
3 Dec, 2018 10:25

the Sprawl is stretches across several levels -> a wild is appears!   I found the concept of the Sprawl really interesting, a network of tunnels that almost seems like its own country! I like how you described both locations and the people who live down there.   At first, I felt a bit confused. Where/what are the Outer Shells? Specifying the location of something is helpful, but it's also confusing if the reader doesn't know where that is. Maybe a tooltip would be enough?   Anyway, great job as always. See you around! :)

[they/them] Creator of Black Light, a science-fantasy universe.
3 Dec, 2018 10:45

Whoops! The evil Is has been defeated and safely quarantined. :D   That's a good point. I'll add a side panel that points out what the Outer Shell is! Thank you! <3

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
3 Dec, 2018 10:49

Do any of the tamed tunnels have railroad tracks (or similar) methods of getting through them quickly? I could imagine such technology working really well here.

Author of Ravare.
3 Dec, 2018 11:00

Roads, in the rough shape they come in, are about as good as it gets. I'll have to do some research how far stuff like that got in ancient times, but I could see some sections of the Sprawl having grooves for wheels cut out from the ground, perhaps. But on the whole, they're stuck relying on draft animals (like the Khtam) and wagons.

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
3 Dec, 2018 15:20

The subterranean feel of the Sprawl really gives a grimdark feeling to Araea, and it would definitely be a valuable asset to hold even a part of.

  How feasible is travel between many of the city-states without use of the Sprawl? Roughly what percentage of travel opts to take this less convenient method? Why would they, what are the advantages of not taking the sprawl?

11 Feb, 2019 15:39

It sort of depends: between natural and artificial tunneling, you can probably get around without using the sprawl and some places can't be reached by it.   The main advantage of not using the sprawl is stealth, surprise, skulduggery, etc. The difference between taking the paved road or hike through the woods. If people expect you to come down the Sprawl, you can surprise or bypass them.   Larger trade convoys, it's a bit less fesible than smaller parties. Since they carry a lot of stuff, they need tunnels wide/large enough to allow them through. They're set on using the sprawl, or smaller areas that have road-tunnels. :)

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.