The Deep Cities

In the world of the Shine Cycle, the Deep Cities are an important group of underground cities. They began as a short-lived confluence of several inter-universal portals several miles west of the eastern coast of the Wild Continent, in what would later become the country of Warding (see the map. While a few of these portals were on the surface, most were in a cave complex within the coastal mountains. The first dwarves arrived through these portals.

The dwarves first began to build homes for themselves nearby, turning the most spacious of the caves into a subterranean city—in fact a fortress, since they did not know what the local conditions would be like. Using excavated rock, they built defenses and farms on the surface, but as dwarves tend to do they poured most of their efforts into building underground.

Not knowing whether the new world in which they found themselves was an old or a young world, they tunneled widely and delved deep, albeit carefully, to see what they could learn. And as their tunnels spread, they found other suitable places to live, so they founded further colony-cities.

Over the course of the subsequent centuries, these fortresses became the great “library cities” for which the dwarves of that world are justly famous, where the dwarves’ most valued treasure, their vast store of knowledge, is preserved. Most of this knowledge is written in their concise rune-based language in books bound from sheets of thin, flexible, but durable metal, and stored either in the few library buildings outside their caves—which are built (of course) of stone and are generally “squat” buildings with vaulted ceilings for the comfort of taller visitor—or in the central chambers of each of the Cities. Less durable documents—paper or parchment, for example—are stored in smaller caves that have had air-tight doors and windows fitted and additional machinery installed to carefully control their “climate” conditions.

At the time of the War of Power (described in [last week’s précis(https://shinecycle.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/shine-cycle-prcis-the-stone-of-power/)), the most irreplaceable and valuable parts of the libraries were evacuated with most of the population. But large numbers of dwarves volunteered to stay, so the architecture of the Deep Cities was slowly adjusted, in the decade after the evacuation, to nigh-impenetrable defense, archival storage (so that anything learned in the “bubble” would survive until rescuers to dig it out of the ruins if the Deep Cities were overrun), and expanding armories and training spaces. And thus it was that, for the first time in the world’s history, elves, men, centaurs, and Danani, as well as dwarves, carried dwarven crossbows into battle.

When all was restored after the end of the War of Power, the libraries were again filled, but the armories and training areas remained, as did the underground farms lit by skylights that the dwarven engineers had developed in their “decade of preparation,” and other less spectacular improvements made during that time. (Armories and training need only so much space, and there is only so much that can be done in the way of fixed defenses before they become a liability, so the architects and engineers had plenty of time to work on their own pet projects.)

All in all, the Deep Cities are a vast network of caverns, partly natural but with all architecture now supervised and guided at need by dwarven architects and engineers, beneath the mountains of the eastern Wild Continent (and even, some say, stretching in their deepest and westernmost extent beneath the gulf that has always been called the Continental River). Their entrances are not hidden, since the dwarves are pleased to make much of their accumulated store of knowledge available to the world’s foremost scholars, but are conspicuously guarded by entrances that are fortresses in their own right as well as imposing edifices. Since the War of Power the Deep Cities grow most of their own food, with at times long skylights connecting many of the higher caves (often adjacent to the “upper guardrooms” that look out over the mountainsides) to the light they use to grow their crops. They are the homeland, in the world of the Shine Cycle, of the dwarves, and could if they liked become a major political power in their own right.

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