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Crafting the Mysteries Below

Discussion in 'World Building' started by OberonLordofSylva, Jul 24, 2020.

  1. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

    Heyo. So I finished naming all my fairy nobles for a side project and one of them has the secondary duty of "the Duke of the Mysteries Below". When I wrote that I was thinking something akin to the Underdark from the Forgotten Realms, a massive convoluted labyrinth of tunnels, underground lakes, and portals to the more cosmic realms of darkness. I want it to be gorgeous and terrifying at the same time, but I don't think my writing or world building ability is up to same level as my vision. Can you guys help me out?
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    When imagining what a place might be like, I ask myself a few questions based on the senses.

    What does the ground feel like beneath my feet? (Damp, Dry, Jagged, Soft)
    What does the wall feel like? (Natural or Artificial)
    What does the flora feel like? (Rough, Spongy, Soft, Springy)
    Is it Hot? Cold? What is the temperature like most places?

    What sorts of sounds would I hear closing my eyes? What causes those sounds?
    What sort of ambient noise is close by?
    Can I hear running water?
    Can I hear the calls of any fauna?

    What does the place smell like? (Musty, Sulfur, Dry, Sandy, Fragrant)
    What do the plants/flora smell like?
    What do the communities smell like?

    What do your natural food products taste like? (Bitter, Sweet, Acidic, Bland, Spicy etc.)
    If I breathe with my mouth open, what does the air taste like?
    What flavor palettes does the local cuisine use?

    SEE: (notice I did this one last, because many authors focus on what they SEE before anything else)
    What does the place look like?
    What are your sources of light?
    What sort of color palette is naturally found in the place?
    What sort of flora and fauna do I see?
    What does the communities look like?

    Answering these questions often helps me figure out the ambience of a given place.
  3. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

    Oooh I like this game! Ok let's go in the order you went in, that feels right. The ground is damp thanks to the drops of water coming off the stalactites as well as the various rivers and lakes that form their own aquatic labyrinth within the greater maze. The walls are natural and can get rough at times but the dwarves, who are obsessed with perfecting their masonry, often take to "fixing" the walls. As such, things tend to be smoother and more open closer to dwarves cities. Since the sun doesn't shine in the Mysteries Below, the flora is mostly mushrooms. Aquatic plants, like reeds, often act as a signpost for the nearby bodies of water. Algae is also common in these areas. The Mysteries Below are cold because the Green sun of the Fairy Realm doesn't shine down there.

    Now for sounds: The noises you hear really depend on whether you're in nature or in a city. In the city, the Dwarves, Brownies, Dark Elves, and Goblins, living and working there in subtle harmony create an almost symphonic hullabaloo. Outside the cities, you don't really hear much. The skittering of bugs, the ploop-ploop of dew falling the ceiling, the gentle murmur of the water, and other ambient noises are common in the wilds of the Below. Dire bugs are rare, but threatening to all things that live in the Mysteries Below. You know a dire bug is near you by the clanging of it's exoskeleton, a sound akin to the clang of forged armor except far more organic and terrifying.

    Smell is next, this should be easy. Since everything is made of stone, the Mysteries Below are very dry and kinda bland. The things living in the Below are far more interesting. The city folk do their best to clean themselves and smell nice to impress but all their perfumes and scented soaps combine to create an overpowering aroma unique to each settlement. The wilds are much are much more interesting. The spores in the air give the region(s) a very musty scent and the dire bugs aren't helping either.

    Now for taste: The mayor's of the cities will often sponsor hunts for dire bugs. The most powerful warriors are chosen in a tournament to form a ten person squad alongside experts in tracking, ecology, and biology. Once the monster is killed, a public feast is made of the remains. Oftentimes, if the bug itself isn't large enough for the feast, it's eggs will be captured and cooked as well. Aside from the hunts, normal insects, fish, and mushrooms compose the diet of all things living in the Mysteries Below, in varying quantities. Rice is also grown by the Rainseeker Elves who build their communes underneath lakes. The rice is the only grain grown in the Mysteries Below, usually bread is imported from the surface. Either way, it's quite expensive so many children go without ever knowing the wonders of cake. Meat and dairy is imported from the surface, or stolen from the mortal worlds.

    Finally, sight. Here we go! So the stones that make up most of the Mysteries are sort of purplish-gray. The crystals that are found randomly in the Mysteries are a variety of colors, some even in colors not visible to the naked eye such as ultraviolet. These crystal structures are called Kaldion, or "Radiant Bones" in the Godtounge. The Kaldion are the primary source of light in the Mysteries Below and are farmed by dwarven prospectors. The Kaldion also contain magical and thermal energy and thus are used as power sources in the city. Kaldion reactors are the the most fortified part of every city, even more than the mayor's estate. Even with the Kaldion's extreme light, cities are often draped in muted colors in order to camoflauge with the the rest of the stones. It is tradition to use the colors of a city's heraldry as accent colors in the city's exterior, especially on holidays. Out in the wilderness the dire mushrooms and dire insects are in proud, disgusting display. The ugliness of these organisms are in the way of an otherwise beautiful underground environment. Because of their ugliness, and threat to to the ecosystem, these monsters are frequently culled. The dark Cavernbound Elves, with their sorcery and snake-like adaptions, are perfect for this job. Indeed, dire snakes are the true apex predetor of the Mysteries Below. They feed on everything and their venom can kill even the hardest dwarf in a matter of moments. However, dire snakes were once hunted to near extinction and now are raises specifically for the purpose of hunting dire bugs. Even dire spiders, which are the penultimate of the monsters of the Mysteries Below, are matched by dire snakes.

    That game was fun! I've definitely got a basis for the place now. Thanks a bunch for giving me some food for thought.
    Saigonnus likes this.

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