The Devil’s Throat

The densest population in all of the One Land are those desperate to enter the slums of Yung Zhi.

by Ali May Sang

When I think of the suffering of our people since Chaos brought down his anger on our world, I think of a canyon winding between the chaotic Wastes and the streets of Yung Zhi. In the journey from the edges of the Iron Reaches to the outer perimeter of the City, within the mountain gorge that protects it from invaders, lies a canyon known as the Devil’s Throat. Little is known about what awaits at the top of the gorge as those who have climbed out of the Throat have never been seen again, but there are plenty who can tell you about life within the Throat. I have seen it with my own eyes and it haunts me to this day to have seen so much suffering jammed into so large an area. More than ten times the population of Yung Zhi huddle in makeshift tents and narrow caves carved into the side of the Throat call this home as they slowly shift closer and closer to the official border and find a place within the Shell.

Stationed at the entrance to the Throat, a garrison of well-armed qi warriors and thugs from Xang’s personal retinue provide transportation to those entering Yung Zhi on official business. Lead by a massive reconfigured truck with a cowcatcher mounted at the front, those invited to meet with one of the City’s gangs or seek to do business them (at a price) may enter without the burden of making their way through the crowd. Refugees eager to make the inner sanctums of Yung Zhi their own leave these convoys alone and some who cannot get out of the way in time pay the ultimate price. Of the three times I have come to the Throat, only once did I dare cross by foot. It took me three months to reach the City.

While many consider themselves part of Yung Zhi, they receive no official protection from Xang or any of the gangs. So they have adapted to create their own civilization modeled after the familial organizations in the City. Upon their first arrival within the Throat, newcomers can either make camp wherever they can find a bare spot on the rocky ground or along the thin ledges etched along the side of the canyon. Various semi-permanent structures have been erected over the years, each claimed by a pack who mark them based on a colour code. As space slowly becomes available, refugees enter new pack domains under a new colour and must make new protection arrangements or join the local pack in order to earn a chance at a share of the food and water they bring their territory. A cross between brutal gangs and caring community leaders, these packs run the full gamut with over a hundred of them operating from one end of the Throat to the other. As these pack leaders are able to move closer and closer to their aspiring home in the Shell, others take over and the pack undergoes a dramatic transformation. It is believed most packs will only exist for about six months at a time.

Without any natural sources of food or water available in the Throat (the once mighty river that floating through here from Yung Zhi’s mighty waterfall is now dry as dust), packs conduct raids on other packs further out from their true goal. Meaning those who have spent less time living in the Throat are vulnerable to savage attacks from those growing more and more desperate to stay alive long enough to make a home in the Shell under the feint protection of Xang and her seven families. Some daring raids have even occurred within the Shell during desperate times of famine and open war between the packs.

There are permanent structures within the Throat, mainly religious temples carved into the sides of the canyon. While some have been converted into makeshift hospitals and soup kitchens, other continue to serve as monuments to the faithful of the Elemental Spirits. Perhaps those worshipping inside do so with empty prayers simply to take shelter from the harsh wind and crowded life of a refugee, but the monks tend to these people as their predecessors did before Chaos’ Wrath. All temples are viewed as neutral ground from the packs and have been used to negotiate truces between warring packs in bloody times and trade between the peaceful ones. Rumours exist of secret tunnels providing undiscovered access to the Shell and the sewers until the Pearl, Yung Zhi’s elite district, but I have not yet been able to substantiate those stories.