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.
Approx 10 000
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.
- A large building in the elite district where people can seek audience with members of Clan Sceilon for their grievances.