Vicitra, the City On The Perch

What's most dangerous; the darkness below or the city above?  
— Aldara, Kaia
  Clustered on the perch above the unknown and in perpetual danger of spilling down the slopes, Vicitra is the first and only city in the Patala region. What started as the base camp for explorers and settlers seeking to push deeper into the uncharted caverns beyond has bloated into a large settlement. Though the city has grown to cover most of the Perch, it is much too small to hold the ambitions of within.    

Geography

It's amazing how far you can get without a plan.  
— Aldara, Kaia
Vicitra is a patchwork of camps, fiefdom, and shanties that have been forced together by the sheer press of human bodies. As more and more settlers arrive in the region to stake their claim, buildings spring up around every available spot like mold on a corpse. It is a jumble of crowded streets, buildings squashed up against one another, lean-tos and shanties, with people fitting in where-ever they can and living whatever life they can carve out of the crowd. The few streets wide enough to allow carts or Khtam to carry goods are brimming at the edges with squatters, merchant-stalls, beggers, or the hopeful looking for employment. A stench sweat, garbage, and filth cover the city like a miasma, and the overcrowding has made enter of the perch a hot, humid place. The noise is constant, with the clang of tools, the buzz of crowds, shouts and screams of violent argument, or the thundrous metal shrieks as the Cage moves.  
Some of the city's wealthy are trying to clear sections of the city away to rebuild with more of a plan - and benefit to them.
  With the cavern ceiling well out of reach to dig upwards, and the perch packed to the brim, every inch of space is defended with the ferocity of a parent guarding a child.  

The Gate

Though the path to Patala have been known for decades, the narrow tunnels and dangerous trek made all but the most daring consider it a doomed venture - but no longer. The Gate was formed after a calamitious earthquake tore the complex caverns apart, creating a wider and more accessible passage into Patala. With hammer, pick, and brute strength, stones have been shifted out of the way and the winding road made straightened, opening the Gate in full.  
The Gate is plagued by roaming bands of "freelance toll collectors" that masquerade as officials, preying on those who doesn't know better.
 
by Midjourney
These days, the Gate is home to a long, trailing expanse of camps and shanties, where those too poor or too late to find home in Vicitra proper wait their turn. Some work in the city or the caverns around it, traveling to lend their labor and back again to sleep. Like the city itself, fighting over the best space, closest to Vicitra or the farms above it, is constant and vicious.   As the only known path into Patala, the Gate is always busy. Goods leave to be sold in city-states as distant as Mharaji while settlers arrive to find some hope of a better life out there in the unexplored gloom. Some never make it further than the slums around and past the Gate, ekeing out a living by serving those with more fortunate.
  Besides the road to Vicitra, the Gate has grown into a hub of tunnels to caverns along the edges. From remote estates to fungi farm or small mines, they all pass through the Gate.  

The Farms Above

Located directly above Vicitra but seperated by yards of stone, the farms struggle to feed to throngs beneath them. Miles of tunnel connect a series of large, verdent caverns where farmers grow mushroom, fungi, and edible mold. Nearby, ranchers herd crops of spiders, lizards, slugs, and Shroom-Crawler, fed off the offal from the other farms.  
With Patala so recently opened, farmers are still experimenting with native flora and fauna to see what they can make use of, and what'll make food out of them.
 
A small but vital grove of Cave-Capped Hatter provide Vicitra with Hattick, though there is never enough to meet the city's demands. Some of the ranchers have begun to raise larger beasts, to use their bones as an alternative for things like clubs, shafts, handles, and so on.   Much of the produce is lowered into Vicitra from large shafts dug down from above by basket or in barrels. A part goes through the Gate and to sell to the slums there, which is where most of the farm's workers come from. Competition between the different farms and ranchers is fierce, but generally amicable. Vicitra balances on a razors edge with regular waves of famine, and the farmers know what power such hunger affords them if they work together.
Every now and then, something goes wrong. Something, or someone, comes loose from above and goes tumbling down into the city, attracting scavengers to salve what they can from the fallen and whatever might've been hit.
  The merchant-princesses Bhūkha is the mastermind between the occasionally contentious alliance of farms, ranchers, and orchards that feed Vicitra. Sha has never set foot in Patala itself and never intends to, more than content to squeeze whatever she can from the desperation of those below her. As explorers delve deeper into region and establish new sources of food below, her attitude has begun to harden and supply of food turned into her bludgeoning weapon.  

Enclaves

Enclaves are the holds of the wealthy, the powerful, or just the united. They dot the city like spires, rising above the mass of chaos and collect land around them like dying man does scraps of food. By virtue of force, money, or purpose, they find enough room to establish estates and mansion, guild halls and workshops, barracks and lodges.  
by Pixabay
No two enclaves are the same, amalgamations of whatever buildings were around them when they came together, but there are similarities. Many create a shell or perimeter around their chosen mass of buildings to keep the unwanted from encroaching on their space, and combine business venture with living quarters.   Enclaves usually have enough influence and riches find the skilled labor necessary to build both upwards and downwards as a means to escape their limited crunch. Cellars and tunnels are dug right into the foundation of the perch, while the some enclaves rise several stories into the air.   The most prominent enclaves belong to wealthy merchant-princes like Muradov the Merciless or his rival Khandozhk, owner of the Cage. Others are the guild hall of successful Kaia, whose explorations pave the way for others in the unknown reaches of Patala.
Most Kaia, however, prefer to make their homes below the city, closer to the task at hand and away from the smell.
  Not Enclaves belong to the elite. At least one, known as the Warren, is an ungaingly collection of building held together by nail, rope, and faith, belong to a large group of poor workers who found their fortunates improved when working together. It is a cramped den, with families packed into small rooms with little privacy and no luxuries. Despite that, it is an enclave under siege, with more powerful interests looking to seize the space for themselves, seeing little reason for it to linger in the filthy hands of the poor.  

The Edge

The Edge runs along the rim of the Perch, pressed to the very precipice before the slope and the miles long tumble below. Those who live here have usually been pushed out from better spots, further inside the city, until they could find nowhere else. Most homes tetter on the very end of the Perch, ready to fall over the edge with little more than a good shove. It is a desperate place, filled with broken fortunes, betrayals, and bad luck. To those who can take no more, the abyssal fall right by their bed sometimes become too much of a temptation.  
'Gone to the edge' has become a saying in the city for those who's fates have taken a sharp turn for the worse.
  A few homes even go beyond the Edge, clinging to the slope in tiny burrows. These are even less safe than those perched on the edge, always at danger of being knocked loose by some construction project or filled with garbage dumped from the city.  
The City   Everywhere else is simply the city for those who live in Vicitra, who navigate more by local landmarks or a favorite place of business than anything else. People in Vicitra identify by the places they gather - for leisure, for business, or for work - rather than the squalid, choked streets they share.
by Robert Balog (PixaBay)
   

Into the Unknown

You can't say 'nobody knows what's there', and not expect me to go look.  
— Aldara, Kaia
  Vicitra remains a fronteir city, staring into the unknown at the bottom of the cavernous slope upon which it is perched. The tales told to the hopeful and desperate in other cities is of a region ripe for exploration, an expanse neither choked by clouds of fungi-spores or plagued by ceaseless, hungry swarms.  
No story is told of the ancient graves, filled beyond counting with bones.
 
Such fantasies rarely last long. Patala shows no more mercy to the humans who have intruded into its dark than any other region of Araea. Monsters lurk within its grey halls, beneath its plains of glass, and even within the very thoughts of those who dare to enter. Earthquakes still shake the city and throw its ill-constructed contents around like toys. Plagues, living nightmares, and worst of all their fellow men make life in Patala dangerous and potentially short.   As the Kaia plunge deeper into the region, more and more they find proof that this is not humanity's first step into Patala. Though age have worn most of their finds down to little more than traces and scraps, pits of bones and mummified corpses speak of some ancient folk who once, or perhaps still, lived here.
  To Vicitra, all of that matters very little. As long as wealth flows from the depths and into the coffers of the city's powerful, people continue to make their way to Patala and to Vicitra. Gold, in even the faintest light, gleams like the brightest lure.    

Culture

Hark and listen! Cast off the chains of the kings we left behind! A new destiny is forged here!  
— Patallian Crier
Vicitra is a melting pot of the desperate, the ambitious, and the brave. Most of its inhabitants have come from either Vataam or Dūbavum, with a third wave having arrived later from far-away Mharaji. Many of these late arrivals are misfit, people who could not fit into their homes, or dissatisfied with their lot there.  
by Hanhula / Midjourney
  Though diverse, it is their hope for a new life that unites them. The people of Vicitra are industrious and enterprising, almost obsessive about finding their opportunity and the way they'll find a fortune, or even just something better than what they left behind. Though dangerous, the virgin expanse of Patala holds to many a promise they can find nowhere else.   To most, such a promise is a mirage, but that doesn't stop them from trying. Such is the reckless hope that drives Vicitra, from its highest enclave to the lowest slum-dweller.
Or at least, someone's hope. A fair few are indentured servants or even slaves, brought here to toil and work for the benefit of others.
  Though young, the city has found an identity boiled together from its parent city-states and distant homelands. Fish-priests from the Drowning City carry talismans from the Abyss while the Mharaji favorite of Thunk are played across Vicitra. Even so, powerful interests are pushing for something new. A strange amalgamation of independent-minded merchent-princes, religious zealots, and free-spirited revolutionaries have begun to think of themselves as something other than children of distant places. There is a small, but growing population who have never known another home but Patala, and they are beginnint to come of age. More and more, they wonder what fealty they owe to remote rulers.  
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.

   

Government

Money rules here.  
— Vicitra saying
  Vicitra is a disjointed collection of fiefdoms, all independently ruled by local powers that sometimes cooperate, and sometimes compete. Most authority ends at the edge of their domain, after which they must bargain, cahole, or force others to influence matters.  
  As the cityscape has swelled and forced them all into the same domain, it has created chains of cooperation. One fief might only talk to and cooperate with its immediate neighbors, which will in turn negotiate with the next in line.   Such haphazard governance has to extensive corruption, and bribes are a matter of life. Law and order has little place in Vicitra, but it is all about knowing the right person and making the right connections. Criminals are only punished if it is within the power of their victims to do so, though Vicitra has already developed a tradition of mob justice to deal with heinous crimes.
by Midjourney
 
Or, just as often, imagined crimes.
  There are some organizations that extend their influence across the city. Merchant-princesses like Bhūkha, or the sewer-running Bucketeers both command considerable leverage in the city, able to make demands few could. Others, like the Kaia, are respected enough that their advice carry much more weight than their political power would indicate. A few, like the Fearless Five or Aldara, a local Kaia of some renown, have enough sway to change the course of the city, though they rarely do.    

Industry & Trade

Vicitra's industry is still unformed, mostly centered around extracting raw material from the depths of Patala and sending them elsewhere on the endless caravans of Khtam and wagons. There is still considerable excitement in cities like Mharaji over the novelties found in Patala, such as the trapdoor wurm whose pelt and fangs fetch handsome prices, or the chromatic quartz from deep within the grey halls. Every new discovery brings fresh fortunes to those who find it.  
Violence and murder over fresh claims is a constant peril in the tunnels beneath the city. Explorers must not just find their claim, but also defend it.
 
Seams of metal ore, gemstone, crystal, and quartz dot the tunnels further away from city. Here, the hints of ancient civilization work in Vicitra's favor, with mine-shafts and spiral pits already dug, though in disrepair.   The city still imports most of its tools and weapons, with attempts being made to establish a forge-city somewhere in Patala proper, but the danger of such has still proven too great. Cadaverurgists have had greater luck, with the beasts of Patala being an unfortunately plentiful resource. With never before seen monstrosities comes the opportunity to create rare and new items from them, with a master as far away as Izhaso having recently arrived to test her mastery.
  The gleaming, rainbow-hued thought-metal has attracted attention far and wide, both for its beauty and its form-bending properties. Artisans can shape the metal by thought, creating intricate and wondrous shapes, unmatched by any hammer and anvil. Others are experimenting with more practical application, hindred by its rarity and high price - most who find it are eager to turn it into profit for themselves. Last of all, there is a rarified market for the hints of something antediluvian within Patala. Any scrap of something ancient is highly sought after by a few select clients in the city and beyond, a hunger that counterfeit are attempting to fill along with the real artifacts.    

Military

Get up, grab whatever you can swing, and hurry!
  Though Vicitra face few external threats, it is a city under siege. The beasts of Patala sometimes surge up from the depth to prey on the city-dwellers, sometimes infesting parts of the city for months, years, or even permanently. While every merchant-prince has their own force of mercenaries or hired hands to fight for them, no unified force exist under the banner of the city as a whole. As such, any threat by monster or bandit is met by whoever can gather the manpower, the weapons, and the purpose to do so. Warlords rise and fall, always opposed by those in the city never keen to see any one person holding too much power.   Besides monsters, the most common conflict within the city are squabbles over terrain, over slights, and over money. Every fiefdom within the city has their own way of dealing with it, and many just gather a muster of warriors when the situation calls for it. Many of the criminals in the city are hardened fighters and cutthroats now, but none are soldiers.
Patala   Vicitra is the first thrust of civilization into the dark unknown of the Patala region. It is a vast domain on canyon-like hallways, plains of glass, and singing metal. From its perch, Vicitra is a gateway for anyone who wished to brave the darkness for fame and fortune.   Read More About Patala
by Midjourney

The Cage

A monstrous contraption of iron, rope, and a fair bit of hope, the Cage is an immense elevator capable of taking entire expeditions or loads of goods to and from the city and Patala. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city, and a vital lifeline for those who'd rather try their luck below than put up with the city.    
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.

 
Only the most unfortunate live around the Cage, as the noise of its shamble down the canyon slope can be felt in the bones.
 

Water

Like food, there is never enough water for everyone in Vicitra. Much is brought in from outside to quench the thirst of the hungry city, with whatever small pools and springs once on the Perch long since exhausted. The farms above hoard their supply of water to feed their crops and beasts, but there's a extensive tradition of theft and smuggling to bring water down to the city.   Below in Patala, explorers are finding more water which may yet supply the city. Until then, they must balance every limits new find with the needs of the city, least they turn the region into a desert.  

Filth & Garbage

Two large, dead-end tunnels on either side of the city serve as Vicitra's dump, with a third being dug closer to the city. Garbage and human waste is brought here by bucket or cart, then emptied into the oozing swamp that the caverns have become.   The work is done by the so-called Shit Bucketeers, a guild of dung-carters and filth-catchers that have come together to exert a surprising amount of power on the city's affair. Those who displease them have found their own homes becoming temporary holding grounds for the days bounty.  
Some city-dwellers just throw their trash over the tumble, and it has been stained with a dark, mold-covered grime in places for hundreds of yards down the slope.
  Along with moving waste, the Bucketeers employee Horoi, Filth-Eating Fungi in great numbers to turn it into valuable water or soil. They maintain a series of specialized caves, covered in the small white fungi, where they extract water from waste.    
Horoi, the Filth-Eating Fungi
Technology / Science | Jul 7, 2022

As civilization spreads, so does its waste.

 
by Rawpixel.com (Freepik)
 

The Called

Ever since the plague of dreams, the Called have been a common sight in the city - zealots who believe that deep down in the heart of Patala, there is something divine. More prey than predator, the Called are seen as an eccentric, harmless bunch, and their belief seen as just another peculiar character trait.   It is only recently that the Called have changed. People who've abused them have begun to go missing, those who might be believers abducted. With a prophet working to unify them, the Called have found renewed, sinister purpose.    
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.

 
Far more than the Called have heard the song that they have, or felt the crawling, scratching of beckoning dreams, but most are much less keen to repeat the experience.
 

Kaia, the Explorers

Professionals explorers and adventurers, the Kaia are found across Araea. They challenge the unknown to reveal its secrets, find new resources for city-states and villages alike, or secure new paths of travel through the dark. Many are also scholars, forever curious about the things they find, and how they might use it to survive.   Though fame and fortune is often theirs, many are motivated by an urge to see what's out there, no matter how terrifying the journey might be. Many never return, but the work of the Kaia lives on as long as there is mystery left in the world.  
Kaia - The Explorers of the Deep
Profession | Apr 29, 2019

Explorers and adventurers, the title of Kaia goes to those that seeks the path and find things in the darkness.

 
Kaia are well-regarded and well-liked in Patala. Their work open the region for the rest of Vicitra, and they can be counted on to go where no one else will, do what no one else dares, and survive where no one else can.
 

Of Kingdoms Near and Far

Save for long-forgotten bones and antediluvian crypts, Patala is a new land, it's fate still closely bound to the city-states and kingdoms that first sent people to settle it.  

Vataam

Often said to be the birthplace of humanity, though mostly by those who live there, Vataam is a venerable stronghold in the heart of the Inner Shell. Though abandoned and resettled several times, it has once again risen to prominence within Araea's fractured world.   Many early explorers came from Vataam to escape, either having run afoul of rising powers and competing ambitions, or finding their own hunger denied by the same. As a result, the powerful in Vataam are keeping a keen eye on Vicitra, and hopes it will turn into a profitable colony for them.   For now, Vicitra is a voracious importer of spidersilk and foodstuffs from Vataam, without which the city would crumble.  
Vataam - the Central Kingdoms - Draft
Geographic Location | Jul 7, 2022

The trice-abandoned Vataam lies deep in the heart of the Inner Shell. Said to the birthplace of humanity, it is a region of long history and forgotten glories.

 

Dūbavum

The Abyss-bound Dūbavum rule their subjects in Vicitra with a relatively light touch, more concerned with their religious loyalty than political power. As such, the early settlers from Dūbavum were of two distinct camps; those seeking to spread their faith, and those seeking to avoid it.   Tensions remain high between the two groups, though open conflict is still rare. Both enjoy enough newfound freedoms and opportunities in Vicitra that neither wish to draw the gaze of their home city to put those in jepordy.  
Dūbavum - the Drowning City
Settlement | Jul 7, 2022

Also known as the Drowning City, Dūbavum lie on the shores of the Abyss. It is their blessing and curse, providing a plenty of seafood and dangerous, violent death.

 

Mharaji

Further away from Patala than the others, Mharaji has since made up for this lapse with a more concentrated effort. Several powerful guilds have united in their efforts to explore and exploit the region, hiring the Seekers to lead the charge.   Though the Kaia are welcomed and their expertise has already proven invaluable to the city, there is a growing fear over Mharaji's influence in Vicitra. Those who are already there cling ever more tightly to what they have, least it is taken away.  
Mharaji
Settlement | Oct 7, 2019

The greatest city in the Deep. Come here and find your fortune.

 

Thought-Metal

Unique to Patala, Thought-metal (or Sama) is an iridiscent metal with a smooth, polished surface and almost organic shape. Spikes of thought-metal is hurled from the chasm believed to lead to the Far Deep, where workers dangle from cages and contraptions to collect it, hoping another gust of slivered wind isn't on the way.   Sama can be bent and twisted by thought, making it an artisan's dream. There are already specialists in the rare gleaming metal, creating wondrous artworks that could only be matched by a theurg's art. That nightmares follow in the metal's wake or its quiet, telepathic song attracts monsters is of little concern compared to the profits.  
Sama - Thought-Metal
Material | Jul 27, 2022

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

by Rawpixel.com (Freepik)
As the city grows, so does the tensions within it. Ambitions are set against each other, like swords in a duel, and everyone is waiting for the first drop of blood to be spilt. Once released, the violence festering in the city may well consume it.
 
by Unsplash

Articles under Vicitra, the City On The Perch



Cover image: by Jorge Jacinto

Comments

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Sage nnie
Annie Stein
7 Jul, 2022 15:23

I love this article so much, it's so evocative and Vicitra is just so damn cool. You do a great job of weaving all the senses in throughout this article. If anything happens to the Warren I will be devastated.

Creator of Solaris & The Morning Realm -— Worldember 2022
11 Jul, 2022 07:36

Thank you so much! <3   But... No promises on the Warren. :)


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
7 Jul, 2022 15:31

This is one fantastic and detailed city article, Q :D I love how much attention you pay to every portion of the city, and how they're tied together. Particularly the Enclaves section. After reading the prior parts of the geography section, heading into the enclaves I could really see and feel and hear these places in my mind. Excellent work :D


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
11 Jul, 2022 08:26

Aw thank you see much! :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
10 Jul, 2022 20:03

Damn, this level of article depth is #Goals!

11 Jul, 2022 07:39

Hahah, I try! I :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
1 Aug, 2022 20:17

This city has a great, grungy undercity sort of feeling to it that I love. Really tackled the concept of a thousand competing factions and ideals all striving against each other and forming a single Vicitran tapestry through that. Great entry for the "City near and Expanse"

2 Aug, 2022 06:39

Thank you! I am pretty pleased with it, and I'm glad you enjoyed it :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
20 Aug, 2022 06:08

Inspiring as always Qurillion, Your articles tend to just be amazing!, Love the amount of details you put into this article, Its inspiring as well!

20 Aug, 2022 11:36

Thank you very much :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Sage RandoScorpio
RandoScorpio
20 Aug, 2022 06:15

You weren't kidding about this being a chonky article!! So much detail and care in the crafting of this unique city. I'll have to take some notes when creating my kingdoms because this is as much a country on its own as a city on the edge. Great article, and so ambitious for summer camp!


Check out my Spooktober Story! 31 prompts in a single story, including drowning a Verti! (bonus articles for extra world building spice are being added!)
20 Aug, 2022 16:55

Thank you1 :D And yes, maybe a little too ambitous... It was a real bear to write, but fun :)


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.