The Catacombs Settlement in Kelbonnar | World Anvil

The Catacombs

When most people think of the Imperial Capital, Meltaro, the jewel in the crown of the Empire of Turelion, most think of the wide paved streets, lined with grand ornate residences and the centre piece building such as the Grand Canthartic Temple and the Grand Imperial Palace  Few, however think of the thousands of people forced to live beneath the surface, deep underneath the city in the Catacombs, a now much extended network of tunnels that was once lined with tombs for the city’s ancient dead, almost all of which have now been repurposed as dwellings for the section of the city’s populace, that the Imperial Prefect and the Imperial Bureau would rather forget about.   Indeed, the area of the Catacombs has become so large that it is now regarded as being a seperate entity to city of Meltaro above it, a fact which enables the authorities of the Imperial capital to ignore it and its inhabitants all the more readily.


The Catacombs is universally populated with the poorest and lowest income residents of the Imperial Capital, Meltaro. Most of the residents and their families that have lived and died in the area where driven there as accommodation became too expensive in the surface areas of the city, driving them to go underground and either displace the dead to find somewhere to live, or carve their homes out of the very bedrock beneath the metropolis by hand.


Theoretically, governance of the Catacombs comes under the jurisdiction of the Imperial Prefect, who is in charge of the rest of the Imperial Capital. However, only a handful of the Imperial Prefects over the years have been interested in actually governing the Catacombs, and they are happy to leave the area as a generally lawless area, with any semblance of authority provided by the actions of the major factions that dominate there, such as the White Fangs.


The Catacombs have no dedicate defences, with even the Meltaro Guard only venturing down there when absolutely necessary, generally when it is clear that the security of the rest of the city depends upon it. However, as the Catacombs are beneath Meltaro proper, they are relatively well defended from any immediate dangers that might threaten the city as a whole, as there are no known exits from the Catacombs to the outside world beyond the city, or at least there are none that are common knowledge.   However, the labyrinthine nature of the Catacomb’s streets and the depths below the ground that some reach mean that there are entrances into the Underdark beneath the city, which allow creatures from the depths of the world to creep up and prey on the Catacomb’s inhabitants, though the Imperial Bureau vehemently denies that such access points exist.

Industry & Trade

There is no dedicated industry in this region of Meltaro, with most of the people that dwell there making a living either through toiling in low paid jobs on the surface, through selling goods to other residents, or through criminal activities. Several hundred of the Catacombs residents have found employment cleaning and maintaining the sewer tunnels that service the city, but there are no other large official employers.   There is enough legitimate trade in the Catacombs as one would expect to allow an urban population to survive, but the largest body of trade that takes place in the region is through the numerous black markets, dominated by the activities of the Black Waves Smugglers, who buy and sell luxury or restricted goods for much cheaper prices to those from the Catacombs as well as those from the above ground portions of the city, who venture down there.


The Catacombs are not blessed with any dedicated infrastructure of their own, but instead have to make do with services that are intended for the use of the main city above them, but which can be accessed beneath the ground. The main two in this regard are the sewers, which often run as open floes of slurry and waste through the regions that make up the Catacombs, and the water pipes, which again were not built specifically for the use of the Catacomb’s residents, but can be accessed to provide fresh water to them.   Some organisations, the Makalites foremost amongst them, have specifically gone out of their way to install dedicated water pumps and wells for the Catacomb’s communities, and certain buildings controlled by the factions that claim ownership over certain regions have their own water supply, but these are few and far between.

Guilds and Factions

Because it is an overwhelmingly poor, and in many places poverty stricken area, one of the largest factions that holds sway in the Catacombs are the White Fangs, who not only run most of the cheap grotty drinking dens with their blood sport entertainments that provide the main diversion for most of the residents, but also act as local loan sharks and as a protection racket. The sway the White Fangs holds over the area means that it is very easy for people to get drawn into their operations to the point where they are basically enslaved by their debts to them.   Another faction with a great deal of influence in the district are the Black Waves Smugglers, who provide a vibrant black market to the area, allowing the Catacomb’s residents to buy more expensive, exotic or sometimes dangerous goods for a fraction of the price that they would sell in the above ground districts of Meltaro. Though they are less risky to deal with than the White Fangs, residents of the Catacombs do have to be careful when it comes to trading with the smugglers, as buying any contraband from them carries a risk of severe punishment if caught by the authorities, though for the most part their activities are ignored by the Meltaro Guard.   In addition, whilst the Imperial Church of Canthartism largely ignores the district, the Makalites have established a temple within the area, with their priests offering vital spiritual and physical aid to those in need. A number of Hedge Mages also reside in the area, providing magical cures and solutions that would otherwise be beyond the purchasing power of the Catacomb’s residents.


Because they are cut into the bedrock on which the city of Meltaro stands, the majority of the buildings are roughly hewn humanoid-constructed caves, for want of a better word which can take a variety of shapes, sizes and layouts. Most dwellings will have a large central room that is excavated first, with their occupants nibbling away at the walls to create additional spaces as necessary, though this can bring households into confrontation with their neighbours if they inadvertently punch a hole into a pre-existing room that they did not know was there.   Whilst many of the dwellings and businesses in the Catacombs, especially the district’s lower levels have been specifically excavated for that purpose, there are a large number in the upper levels that have repurposed rooms that were originally constructed as sepulchres and tombs to house the city’s dead. Buildings that have been repurposed in this way tend to be neater in their construction and layout, as a lot of money would originally have been spent ensuring that someone’s ancestors were given an appropriate and respectful burial place. Many of them still retain the wall paintings or marble cladding that originally decorated the tomb, which makes these dwellings highly coveted amongst the residents of the Catacombs.


The Catacombs are a sprawling underground mass of streets carved from the very bedrock beneath Meltaro, which have been constructed with little regard for forward planning or infrastructure. Streets sit on top of one another, some have been built with a downward or upward slope and some are so steep that steps have had to be carved down them to provide access to the dwelling there.   Underground rivers, mostly created by overflow from @Meltaro's sewer network, also cut across the expanse and several naturally occurring caves have been incorporated into the construction of the district. Sewers that serve the main city above also crisscross through the district, blanketing the surrounding streets with their pungent stench.
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