Qasceile Settlement in Etrea | World Anvil


WIP - Summer Camp 2023

— Author
  At the very north of Etrea lies a huge sheet of permanent ice known as the Expanse. Underneath the Expanse is miles of dark, cold water, with large ice pillars extending down to the seabed that anchor it in place. In the centre of the Expanse, under the ice, lies the merfolk city of Qasceile, the largest merfolk settlement in the world.  


The merfolk city of Qasceile sprawls out across the ocean floor, its foundations carved into the bare rock underneath the Northern Ocean. It lies on a steeply sloped bit of sea bed, which drops off dramatically at the edge of the city. The deepest part of the city is just over a thousand metres deep, right on the limits of the merfolks' diving ability.   Barely any light falls on the city of Qasceile, as above it is a thick layer of ice that is, at its thinnest, several metres thick. Any light the city does get is from the bioluminescent algae that covers the underside of the Expanse and its massive ice pillars. They glow with a faint blue light, and gain their nutrients from the surrounding water rather than from photosynthesis. Several holes are maintained in the ice above, allowing some light through and giving safe passage to the surface.
  Due to the abundance of bioluminescent algae, the area surrounding Qasceile is surprisingly full of life. The algae sustains a large population of zooplankton and starlight shrimp, which in turn support a wide variety of other species.   Being at the extreme north of Etrea, the temperature in Qasceile rarely rises above zero degrees celsius.  


Despite only boasting a population of ten thousand, Qaseile is the largest merfolk settlement in the world. The population is made up only of a specially adapted group of polar merfolk who can survive in the deep, dark, cold city, the Qasceine.  


With its inhabitants being, on average, thirty feet in length, Qasceile is - for lack of a better word - large. Throughways are wide to allow the passage of multiple merfolk at once, lit every ten metres or so by globes of cultivated algae.   The buildings that fill the city are made up of dwellings, places of industry, public meeting spaces, and storage areas.   The architecture of all the buildings is similar across the city. Made of stone, they have sloped walls to ease the impact of unexpected ocean currents. There are no windows. Dwellings and storage spaces have only one entrance, barred by a stone door. Other buildings may have more than one entrance, depending on their purpose. There are no windows. Buildings are often decorated with carvings, shells, and bones.   All buildings have a tall domed roof, which acts as an air reservoir. Air is brought down by specially designated workers, who travel several times a day up to the surface to fill bags made of whale skin. Most of these reservoirs are often filled with seawater, as only the most elite of society can afford to have air brought down to fill their reservoirs regularly. Public air reservoirs are therefore important buildings scattered throughout the city, to allow all residents to get their required air without having to surface. Unbreathable air is siphoned out before the air is replaced.  


Qasceile is divided into three different areas, despite the similar architecture present throughout the city. The area closest to the drop off is where most of the population of Qasceile live. The city is darkest and coldest here, and some find the constant exposure to water pressure uncomfortable. Whilst most of the dwellings are still built for a single family, right on the edge of the drop off are dwellings stacked on top of each other, to crowd more people into the limited space.   The middle section of the city is where the places of industry are, and most of the city's storage. People from the deeper district have to travel here to get their daily rations from the food stores, unless they choose to hunt for themselves.   The shallowest section of the city is where the elite live. Their dwellings are larger and more spaced out than those of the lower section.  


Qasceile relies on its natural defences to keep it safe. With a large icy barrier above and miles of dark, open ocean between the city and the edge of the Expanse, not many would try to attack it.   The city employs a ring of sentinel around the city to watch for dangerous or curious sea creatures that may venture too close, such as polar mosasaurs.  


The city of Qasceile is ruled by a single family, known as Clan Sceilon. Their bloodline has been the leaders of Qasceile since its founding over one thousand years ago. Every important role in the city is filled by a blood-related member of the clan. Blood is very important to the clan, with those who join via romance or adoption considered lesser members.   The current head of the clan is Sceilon Kaveh. He is responsible for the wellbeing of the city, and for passing judgement upon lawbreakers. Other members of the clan are responsible for other aspects of the city, such as the sentinels, the city's hunters, the air gatherers, and the mine.  


Being extremely isolated, Qasceile rarely trades with outsiders. The exception to this is in the few summer months when the nomadic Kanai merfolk return to their northern hunting grounds. At this time, Qasceile sends out envoys to trade and barter for goods. Qasceile usually provides weapons and armour made out of whale bone and tough shark skin, trading for more aesthetic resources such as shells and gemstones.   Though Qasceile has a monetary system, money is not required for either food or housing, which are provided by the city. Each person born into Qasceile is guaranteed a place to live and a daily ration of food. Money is used for all other goods and services, including the very important air gathering.   To provide enough food for the city, about a tenth of the population are employed as hunters. About twenty percent of the population work as farmers in the farms to the east of the city, some cultivating algae, and others rearing various fish and crustaceans for a more sustainable source of food.   To the west of the city, in shallower water, is a large quarry where rock has been mined over the centuries to build Qasceile. Whilst the main purpose of this quarry is for building material, the sea bed here is also rich in gold veins. Much of this gold is entrusted to the Kanai for trade with the rest of Etrea; the Kanai get a share of the profits/resources in return.  


Qasceile was founded over a thousand years ago by a splinter group of the Kanai who no longer wanted to live the nomadic lifestyle. Despite this split, they have maintained a cordial relationship with the Kanai over the years, barring one brief, bloody conflict four hundred years ago.   There have been several rebellions in Qasceile's past, all sparked by a lack of food.  

Points of Interest

The Sceilon Complex - Nestled in the heart of the elite district, the Sceilon Complex is a sprawling estate where the core of Clain Sceilon live. It is the most ostentatious of all the buildings in Qasceile, decorated with intricate carvings, shells, gemstones, and even gold.   The Forum - A large building in the elite district where people can seek audience with members of Clan Sceilon for their grievances.

Cover image: by Juha Lakaniemi


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Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
4 Jul, 2023 07:42

The idea of the air reservoirs is fascinating. Love this.

Cait x
4 Jul, 2023 10:08

Thank you! <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
4 Jul, 2023 07:55

I love the city. There's so much detail about how it works while being underwater! The air reservoirs is a great addition to the city, as well as using bubbles of bioluminescent algae as light. I wonder, they have a tenth of their population hunting but have they ever thought of a sea equivalent of farm animals? Also what happens when a period where hunters cannot hunt enough for the whole city? I'm guessing the higher ups get food and then it's reparted to the "lower" inhabitants, but has this caused commotions sometimes? Has it ever happened?

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4 Jul, 2023 10:10

Ooo, thanks for the really good questions. <3 I'll definitely be answering them in the next iteration. I'm sure there has been some rebellions in times of low food. I'll think about farming. Some kinds of fish or crustaceans would work really well.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
4 Jul, 2023 17:01

Ohhhh, I love the imagery you evoked with the big merfolk and the bioluminescent algae and the domed houses, it looks very pretty. Is any part of the city or the bioluminescence visible from the surface? Where does the air come from, do they dig reverse ice holes for it?

4 Jul, 2023 17:05

At the moment I am picturing them coming out through an ice hole and filling whale balloons with air. Maybe a kind of pump system. I like picturing them struggling down again with the full air sack haha.   I don't think it would be visible from the surface. Maybe if you are peering down an ice hole and the water is super clear.   Thank you! I am really looking forward to making art for this.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
20 Jul, 2023 00:04

A city like this sounds like something that'd be so cool to actually see... Beautiful descriptions. <3

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20 Jul, 2023 09:14

Thank you! I am really excited to do some art for this place.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
21 Jul, 2023 07:59

I love your focus on Merfolk and the Oceans this SC! The whole concept of Qasceile is super well thought out and makes me want to work on my own oceans so much more... Also I feel like Janet would love the Dinosaurs that you briefly mention ;)

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21 Jul, 2023 10:42

Hehe, she probably would!! Thank you, I have been having a lot of fun expanding on merfolk this SC. Will have to do dragons or shapeshifters next year. :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
30 Jul, 2023 23:18

For some reason, I thought the merfolks would be content to swim around in groups and hunt for food. I'm so happy I was wrong. This city you described sounds beautiful, complex, and full of life!

31 Jul, 2023 10:04

Thanks! I would love to visit it. :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
4 Aug, 2023 12:15

So much detail! This is very well thought out and you've hit all the important parts!

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4 Aug, 2023 12:35

Thank you <3

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
10 Aug, 2023 05:07

Oooooh I love this! The light being stained by the ceiling of ice is such a cool touch for a civilisation that - forgive me - is :bangs the steel drums: UNDER THE SEA   Living beneath that when you can't breathe, though? When you're wholly reliant on others? That's kind of terrifying!

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10 Aug, 2023 13:49

They definitely put a lot of trust in the people who gather air!   UNDER THE SEEEEEEA~

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
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