Updated: Mar 29
Readers first experience The Hidden King through scenes of life in the Maze... the gritty and often violent home of the protagonist, Áed. Here we take an insider look at the history and culture of the Maze.
Alternative Name(s): Smudge
The enormous majority of the population is impoverished; at lease a quarter struggles to survive day-to-day. The Maze is peopled with humans--with only one known exception.
The average life expectancy of a resident of the Maze is thirty six, but this takes into account enormous infant mortality; approximately thirty to forty percent of children die before the age of five. Religion is practiced personally--most people believe in the Gods, but many believe that the Gods don't bother themselves with human affairs. Illness is one of the leading causes of death.
Though officially under the jurisdiction of the King, who rules from the White City, the Maze experiences no real governmental oversight.
Industries include farming and some fishing. Small shops exist, each suited to fit only its own niche (i.e. cloth selling, meat mongering, etc.), but many residents subsist solely by thievery or scavenging. The Maze has very little means to travel, is geographically isolated, and therefore experiences trade with no other settlements.
Much of the Maze's infrastructure is old and in disrepair, and consists of roads, docks, several small plazas, and one old citadel which serves as the central courtyard of the city. Torches line the edges of the docks, and they are one of the few elements of infrastructure that are maintained. The upkeep of infrastructure is enabled by whichever gang holds the territory in which that infrastructure exists.
Centuries ago, the Maze and the White City were one, but they drifted apart over time due to geographic barriers and shifting cultures. Over the years, the connection was lost, and the means of travel between the two cities fell into disuse and was forgotten. In the Maze, the White City has achieved an almost mythical status.
Wattle and daub constitutes many of the smaller buildings, while the larger constructions, such as tenements, are frequently brick or stone. The streets are cobbled in most locations, and any adornment of homes or shops is personal and understated; it's a mistake to advertise one's wealth through any means.
The Maze is situated on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Red Sea, which is polluted by an extremely mineral-rich seabed near the coast. The land is mostly flat, though it creases into low hills on the western side, and a sheer limestone cliff cuts off the Maze from the higher plateau.
The land to the west of the city, less tainted by salt, is the most useable for farming, and foodstuffs--predominantly oats in the summer, and carrots, peas and onions in early spring and late winter--share the land with small farms of hogs, sheep, or cows. Because of the mineral pollution, fishing can only happen farther out in open, cleaner water--making it possible for only a few to undertake. Wood is scarce but can be scavenged in wooded copses by the base of the cliff.
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