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The Perse Hollows:

The Curious

Depths of Sele

Part 2: Anthropological History & Development

Underneath the Galan capital city of Sele are the majestic, sprawling Perse Hollows—a veritable subrelurian world, a system of caverns vast and small, an extension of Sele spanning roughly two miles deep.

Last week I briefly discussed the natural characteristics of the Hollows, and talked about the feasibility of Sele's own rapid development, which also applies to the development of Galan aedes inside the Hollows.

This week I'm going to describe the anthropological history of the Perse Hollows, and outline the purposes of Galan development therein!

A Brief Anthropological History of the Hollows

Throughout known history, the God Sourros, God of Logic and Wisdom, has kept his domain underneath the Landstorm, with which he is associated. The historic village of his chosen people, Ieik, was always believed to be the epicenter of the God's Realm, specifically the village's Fateful Well, whose Bore descends far into Relance and has never been fully plumbed.

But in fact this isn't the whole story, and there are other ways into the Depths of Sourros. One of these—and the only one known to be traversable by the Kindred—is quite a ways north of Ieik, at the very edge of the Landstorm on the Shos Plateau, bordered by the Cliffs of Raglan that overlook the Sodaplains. It was here that Galavar, as a young adult, having toured the world and returning to his home village at last, with the Imperial DeLatia alongside him, was confronted by Sourros and commanded to build what we now know as the City of Sele, to serve as the capital of Galavar's ambition, and the Fortress of Galadrim, to stand upon this particular entrance to the God's domain.

While no society on Relance possesses a truly definitive account, it is nonetheless fair to say that this entrance to the Depths was never widely recognized as such—that very few people ever knew of it. Given the passageway's deadliness, most who entered likely never returned.

Thus, it is a bit of an irony that, just a short ways away, the upper entrance to the Perse Hollows—which has no connection at all to the Depths of Sourros—was mistaken frequently throughout history for an entrance to the sacred realm. Many people over the millennia have found the Hollows by way of its two known entrances and believed that, by the Hollows' glowing stone, they were on the road to the heavens.

Indeed, the two entrances to the Perse Hollows were routinely discovered and lost throughout history. Too far away from any major economic activity, lacking immediately recoverable valuable resources, and situated in an extremely remote part of the world, for thousands of years they were only useful to specific travelers who came upon them by chance and used them for shelter or other fairly basic applications.

With a few exceptions. For example, one known long-term utilization of the Perse Hollows came over a thousand years before the Galan Era, when a king named Kidguno, ruling over one of the Sodaplains' many nomadic peoples, discovered the vast cavern immediately past the lower entrance and ordered a temple be built here to store his treasures—some of which were lost and subsequently recovered by Galan archeologists and construction workers all those centuries later. This legend also survived in Sodish and Davoranjan culture, helping to inform the legend of Silence's piracy in the years prior to ATH, with some saying that she was Kidguno's descendant, or even his daughter, made immortal (like Kidguno himself).

Another, much older long-term utilization of the Perse Hollows came almost twelve thousand years before the Galan Era, during the Imperial Renaissance, when the Emperors of Panathar sent kings to rule over all the world. One of these, named Shva (sometimes known as "Uta," or "Foremost," Shva), was said to have been one of the Empire's greatest citizens, and to her was given the dictum to tame the Sourran Landstorm and reclaim it to life and verdure. She was a real figure—her arrival, name, and imperative are all documented in the records of the Ieikili—and she befriended the Ieikili, for the Empire has always been sworn to Sourros, but she did not seat herself, choosing instead to plant her capital much farther south, closer to the Empire. Yet she catalogued and personally toured the entire Landstorm, including the discovery of the Perse Hollows, which she (like many others) mistook for an entrance to the Depth of Sourros. It was said she commissioned an outpost in the Hollows, and later ordered a temple built there. The Galans actually found the temple's ruins during their exploration—now nothing more than a few crumbling columns and some caved-in, dirt-filled vaults. Clearly, she never did tame the Landstorm.

For the most part, however, virtually everyone who entered the Perse Hollows swiftly realized their mistake, and either quickly departed or perished therein for lack of water.

Admittedly, Galan historians cobbled the Hollows' anthropological record together on the basis of hearsay and speculation extracted from written records and oral tales spanning numerous cultures across several millennia. It's entirely possible—and the Galans recognize this—that the record they constructed is incorrect in parts, especially when considering the Landstorm's abundance of cave systems, which creates the possibility that tales of certain caves attributed to the Perse Hollows were actually caves in different locations. For example, there is a tale of a plunderer, his name lost to time, who built his hall inside a cave on the plateau above the Cliffs of Raglan, which should be the Perse Hollows, but Galan scholars were able to prove that this actually happened in a completely different cave far to the southeast, not on the Shos Plateau at all.

The key distinguishing factors helping to inform the verification of the chaotic written record are an account of the luminous persestone, iorila; the lower entrance's size and the enormity of the first cavern chamber therein; and the upper entrance's proximity to the entrance to the Depths of some good old-fashioned history, research, and verification.

It is notable, though unsurprising, that deeper inside the Perse Hollows any evidence of prior discovery or habitation falls off rapidly, and most of the exceptions are in the form of skeletons and material remains suggesting that many people became lost in the Hollows and died there for lack of food and water. Significantly, there is no evidence that anyone to explore the Hollows (before the Galan surveyors themselves) managed to discover that the upper and lower entrances are part of the same system.

The Purpose of Galan Development in the Perse Hollows

By themselves the Perse Hollows are pretty neat and would certainly be worthy of "national park" status, or the Galan equivalent. But it is the edificial development in the Hollows that is especially remarkable.

The Initial Surveying, Naming, and Planning

For Gala's purposes, the upper entrance to the Perse Hollows was discovered even before the first groundbreaking occurred in Sele.

In those days there was no civil engineering administration. With only a handful of exceptions, the first people to inhabit Sele were Ieikili villagers, and the system of government in Ieik was suited to a society of peaceful contemplation that did not pursue intensive industry.

Galavar, already firmly installed as the leader of his ancestral people, appointed two people to "figure out" the caves: the respected Ieikili philologer Savory, and one of the few immigrants present at the time, the Imperial civil engineer and artificer August Alkhiba, who—like DeLatia—had become a friend of Galavar's during his years of study in the Empire.

Due to a shortage of matepower in Sele, Savory and August conducted the preliminary surveying almost entirely themselves. They quickly established that the cavern system was very large, and so they limited their initial work to the first three caverns, after which a bottleneck served as a useful terminus for the first stage of surveying.

They were able to prove that the caverns were structurally sound and environmentally safe to spend time in—no noxious gases, no invasive germs, no dangerous thermal gradient or geological activity, and no dangerous levels of (what we would call) radiation. They also documented the perse glow from the iorila that would soon give the Hollows their name.

Their first report was an extremely promising one: Not only were the caverns safe; they were incredibly valuable: The shallow series of caverns beyond the entrance would provide normalization from the extremes of weather under the Sheer. Essentially, these caverns would make good havens, and good locations for anything that needed protection from the fierce winds and bitter cold so frequently associated with the Landstorm.

From this report, it was even briefly considered that Sele, excluding Galadrim (which, by divine edict, had to be situated exactly where it was), might be built almost entirely inside the Hollows. And while that ended up not being the case, economic development inside the upper Hollows nevertheless began from the time that Sele itself began.

A public forum was held to name the caverns as a whole, plus the immediate caverns therein. "The Perse Hollows" was overwhelmingly chosen for the former, while for the latter it was a little more interesting: By then, further surveying had shown that the Hollows were truly extensive. Therefore a precedent was established to name the caverns in groups, after the currencies of the world. The three major caverns nearest the surface were given the names Astoria I, Astoria II, and Astoria III, plus five more associated caverns that had since been discovered. Beyond the Astoria neighborhood, the first two caverns in the Benezar neighborhood were also named at that time, and that subseries would eventually rise to forty-one caverns named Benezar. So it would continue, over the years, all the way to the final system of caverns, named after the lowly riut, the currency of a small nation in the Middemesne.

From the onset, the initial report by "Savory & August" (who by then had formed a survey company) was used to inform the economic development inside the Astoria caverns. Astoria II and III in particular were initially treated as safe havens, before the premium nature of the space caused them to be redeveloped. Astoria I, meanwhile, developed predominately as a continuation of the Butter Bowl District—the above-ground district of Sele where the upper entrance to the Perse Hollows is located. I'll talk more about it next week!

Silence's Vision

Many years later, the arrival of Silence Terlais in Gala and her eventual interest in the Perse Hollows would fundamentally broaden the nature of development there.

Up till then, the Hollows had mainly been developed sequentially, and only as needed, with market forces primarily determining whether, when, and where development would occur. The bottom line was that development had been relatively slow and uninspired.

Silence, however, quickly became renowned in Gala for her large-scale vision. Not only was she the principal artificer behind her prototype sandship, the Dread Fury; she was also—much more consequentially—one of three principal artificers behind the design of Galadrim, who collectively re-envisioned the development and shape of the Fortress, which was not originally intended to become nearly so grandiose or vast as it eventually became.

She also had a hand in the city's urban planning, and was one of the driving forces behind the incorporation of technology into the city's design, importing many advanced ideas into the city, such as the moving platforms of Ieik's Tal Tie Escalader Bridge, while inventing other marvelous ideas on her own, such as the Industrochemical Thingamajig, whose reactor could separate and combine different types of molecules in a chemically-agnostic fashion (an invention that she attributed to a stray thought one day about the power to change one's mood). In a city populated by people specifically chosen for their meritorious potential for making contributions to the Galan cause, Silence was by no means the only great innovator in Sele, but she was certainly the most accomplished of them, rivaled by only a few others.

On learning of the sedate environmental conditions inside the Hollows, Silence conceived of a massive life support system drawing materials into the Hollows and waste products out, and reprocessing whatever could feasibly be reprocessed. She designed and ordered the installation of countless escalades, elevators, lifts, and other conveyances to ease the vertical passage of people and materials. She worked with Galavar, her engineering peers, and Sourros himself to expedite surveying of the Perse Hollows—it was under her direction that the full-scale comprehensive survey was completed and the realization made that the upper and lower entrances were connected. It was her initiative to greatly diversify the economic development therein.

She proposed and approved numerous industrial works—farms and ranches, workshops, factories, mines, plants, and refineries—designing many of them herself, at least initially or in collaboration, and she also became adamant on establishing the Perse Hollows as the seat of applied scientific research and artifice in Sele. She identified anyone whom she deemed worthy of a research directorate, and established dozens of independent research facilities, appointing those individuals as their directors.

She had an incredible knack for creating systems and populating those systems with competent people to oversee them. It became said of her that she knew every star in Sele, and installed them in her glimmering Perse underworld, where they would, unseen, contribute the great innovations to Gala that would eventually make the Galance Ideal possible to achieve.

Thereby did most of the Perse Hollows become given over to agricultural, mining, or industrial purposes, and scientific research and development.

Living Underneath a Rock

Over time, the Perse Hollows became home to a small but significant minority of the Selish population, and gained a reputation together with the Fortress of Galadrim as the most prestigious districts of the city to work, for most of the people employed in the Hollows were the best of the best, able to make dizzying and extensive contributions to the technological and economic development of Gala.

That's all for this week. Join me next week when I take you on a tour of the upper and lower entrances to the Perse Hollows, and some of the major highlights inside the Hollows themselves.

Until then, may your own personal thingamajig reactor never let you down.

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O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!