The Labyrinth of Deep, Dark Fears
Before Saratheas became the capital of Ivendarea it was a holy temple city for many centuries. Before that though, the city had an enitrely different reputation that is still alive through the meaning of its name today: "The city of trial". In the times before Aman rose to godhood and their teachings changed the country's view on up until then common religious practises, Saratheas was the capital of justice. What is today the Palace of Saratheas used to be a temple dedicated to Julanor, the god of justice. In the center of the city lay the entrance to the underground catacombs of the so-called Canthoreas: a sub-terranean labyrinth that became the trial, prison, and grave of Ivendarea's most feared an vicious criminals, deemed irredeemable and at the mercy of the gods entirely.
Purpose / Function
In its conception, the Canthoreas was intended as the ultimate solution to decimate the crime rate in the initially chaotic newly founded nation. New laws weren't clear to everyone yet, some simply refused to obey the new authorities - and sometimes terrible things simply happened and the people demanded justice. The Avon Julanor wasn't founded until much much later, and the Iovana deemed that the worst criminals should not be judged by mortals at all, but only by the will of the gods. Initially the "worst" criminals were murderers, but with time more and more offenders such as rapists, particularly persistent thieves, and others who kept committing the same crimes even after being punished were sent to the Canthoreas. It was sometimes dubbed "the ultimate prison", but really it was basically equal to a death sentence. Criminals were sent down into a dark labyrinth that stretched wide and deep underneath Saratheas. Its name and official purpose are a "trial of deep fears". The offenders are locked into the labyrinth and told that with the mercy of the gods they will be able to escape - but if the gods don't deem them worthy of redemption, this is their death sentence. Not only is the labyrinth mostly dark and incredibly intricate, it is also filled with an abundance of deadly traps and magical constructs and creatures that would make survival difficult for anyone trapped inside for longer periods of time. While escaping is possible in theory, as there are several secret exits outside the city limits of Saratheas, it is highly difficult to succeed and survive the way out. There are only 2 known cases of criminals who managed to find the way out, but one of them fell to his death immediately after stepping into freedom. What became of the only other survivor is unknown, only that they were free to go after having survived the trial - partly to the dismay of the authorities and citizens alike, partly accompanied by the joyful cheers of those that considered them blessed by the gods for making it out alive. Official records with numbers of how many criminals exactly found their end in the Canthoreas are only vague and incomplete. It is estimated though that between 5,000 to 10,000 bodies lie in the ruined labyrinth beneath the city until today.
After a few centuries of the labyrinth existing below Saratheas, it was questioned if the traps and the general structure of the labyrinth would need regular maintenance. The catacombs originally weren't designed with maintenance access, because these could potentially be used by locked up criminals as illegitimate exit routes. Eventually it was agreed upon to send a group of guarded engineers into the labyrinth, equipped with the construction plans of the labyrinth, to see how the underground structure was holding up after actually being used for a while, and if there were any problems. Several smaller accidents occured during this examination, and when one of the guards was killed by a trap that wasn't part of the construction plans, the mission was aborted. Whether the plans were inaccurate or the workers during the construction phase hadn't stuck with the plans couldn't be determined, and the labyrinth was deemed too dangerous to be entered by civilians. From what the engineers had seen though, even after several hundred years the labyrinth still was in a state that was as good as new, apart from the growth of some vegetation in the more humid passages. Immediate repairs or the introduction of maintenance shafts after all was deemed unnecessary at the time. Over time the justice system changed and fewer and fewer criminals were sentenced to be sent to the Canthoreas, the last of them in the year 6,008 EE. The labyrinth remained a viable means of punishment by law, but eventually was abolished entirely after it hadn't been used in more than 1,000 years. In 7260 EE the currently reigning Iovana ordered to have the entrance to the lower levels of the labyrinth sealed and the topmost level turned into a regular prison. This prison is still in use to this day. Any exits leading out of the labyrinth have been sealed as well. It is unclear if the magical creatures dwelling in the labyrinth are still present or if their magic faded over time, and once the labyrinth had been sealed it was abandoned and intended to not be opened again.
The Canthoreas was carved into the sheer rock below Saratheas, entirely with the help of magic. The tunnels range from being several meters wide and high to tiny crawl spaces. The labyrinth encompasses nine levels, of which only one is still in use today as a regular prison. The interior design and architecture of the prison is much more modern, since it was established millenia after the labyrinth's original conception, so it is not representative of the original design anymore and looks vastly different compared to the lower levels. There is a variety of chambers within the labyrinth, some bigger, some smaller, and all were usually connected to some kind of trap or had a creature roaming them. Old notes mention deadly obstacle courses amongst other things. The lowest levels are partially filled with water that originates from Saratheas' subterranean wellspring.
The Trial of Deep Fears
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