Shambles are quiet varied in their configurations, appearance, and, attitudes. The broad, flat backs of the Shambles are of varying sizes, but most are around
30 miles in diameter 1-3 miles in diameter. Shambles walk on four gargantuan legs, with a slow, rolling gait. Those who live on the backs of Shambles don't notice the gentle roll, but people who are on a Shamble for the first time often get shamblesick for a few days. Most people call the settlement atop the back of a Shamble a city, but the collection of farms, open land, and houses more closely resembles a large city with a few outlying villages. Sometimes these villages have names; sometimes they are referred to by their location on the Shamble (eg. Southern Andath). Caravans coming to visit a Shamble might very well get atop and then spend a week or two traveling about the back of the lumbering beast trading at various stops along the way.
For more see the Shambles, An Update post.
Shambles walk at a rough pace of 1 mile every hour. This coupled with the randomness of their routes makes it very hard for any cities to be rebuilt in the land below. The ecosystem of Vernlarum has been so devastated by the Shambles, that sand and dust are the prevailing ground cover. Spots of green dot the known world, but not many. And those that exist tend to be in mountainous areas, for Shambles do not climb into the mountainous terrain. One Shamble, Tagot, has been attempting to climb into the Mountains of Sorrow for a generation but mostly rams his head into the mountainside at a constant rate.
Shambles stop and go at intervals that, if not random, are so convoluted as to be the next best thing. They walk around 400-500 square mile areas over the course of a year. Their migration is reasonably predictable, with just enough erratic changes of course to prevent wildlife or civilization to take root in the less walked places. Each Shamble walks about in its own territory, with no overlap, though they do walk along side one another with some regularity, which gives the people atop them time to trade and interact.
Arkers and golem-pact warlocks all say they can commune with the Shambles to varying degrees. They claim the Shambles have different personalities or at least, project different emotions. Many believe the emotions of the Shambles impact those living on their backs. Many also believe those who believe anyone can talk to a giant force of magic and nature are touched in the head and the simpler explanation is the priests are picking up on the emotions of the city and think that is coming from the animated rock or iron. But few argue that Shambles don't have some semblance of a mind of their own.
One thing people tend to agree on is the Shambles have genders. Some Shambles, like Gaena and Bratta, are referred to as female, while others like Mandith and Andath are thought of as male. There is some disagreement from time to time, but such a disagreement is rousing tavern talk and not more. But people long ago ceased referring to any individual Shamble as "it"; "he" or "she" are much more socially accepted.
A humanoid attacking a Shamble is like a common ant attacking an elephant—the best possible outcome for the ant is that the elephant won't notice. Early in the days after the Shambling, people tried to control or destroy the Shambles. Some tried to control through inflicting damage upon the creatures. Those attempts all ended with the Shambles shaking the people from their backs or trod ding upon them. Stories tell of aggressive citizens from one Shamble trying to harm another Shamble as the two passed. The damaged Shamble is said to have reared up, at great cost of life to its own population, and scrapped every trace of people from the back of the other Shamble. No one has tried this tactic in living memory.
Lightning rods are scattered about the backs of these creatures. These rods are made of more conductive material than the rest of the golem, and they lead down into the heart of the creature. Some theorize lightning strikes provide a continually renewing energy source. Arkers believe those rods are there for the safety of those who live on the golems' backs, and that the golems have no need for a refreshed energy source. No one has ever journeyed far enough into the heart of a Shamble to be sure.
Shambles are created out of various materials, resembling all kinds of lesser golems. The more popular ones are made of rock or clay, which makes growing somewhat easier. There are Shambles made of the stitched together flesh of more creatures than most can imagine. The Shamble Mandith is constructed entirely out of bones, including a great many dragon bones as well as bones none can identify. Other Shambles, like Thonk, are made of iron and steel. Gaena is constructed out of all manner of shaped wood.
Whatever material comprises an individual Shamble, it is all hard, dense, and resilient. Gaena is no more susceptible to fire than Thonk, nor is he more susceptible to rust than she.
Life Atop a Shamble
Those who live on the backs of Shambles are able to sustain themselves reasonably well. With the aid of druidic tenders, enough food can usually be grown. Top soil has been cultivated and laid atop the backs of the creatures, and druids have grown enough plants to keep erosion from causing irreparable harm, though regular attention by an order of druids is still required. Wildlife thrives in the groves on the backs of Shambles, and druids keep careful track of hunters. Those who kill more than the stated limit are usually dealt with in a harsh manner. Some Shambles even have lakes or a smattering of ponds along their backs, and the druidic orders on those Shambles allow some fishing.
When two Shambles come within proximity of each other there is a flurry of trade activity. Traders and merchants all flock to the front of their Shamble to be let down on long, thick ropes attached to large gear and pulley systems. Once on the ground, they begin trading with those who have been lowered to the ground from the other Shamble.
A Trade Day lasts until the Shambles have almost left,
often about a day and a half, and then there is a scramble to be lifted back atop the rear of the Shambles. Trade Days are festive, chaotic affairs, with people scrambling to find and procure goods that can't be found on their own Shamble. Trades are often haggled very quickly, as time is the one commodity no one has enough of. Many merchants do not sleep through the course of a Trade Day for fear of missing a potential sale. Some shoppers try to wait until the last possible moment to buy goods, preying on the merchant's exhaustion and fear of missing a sale.
There are few tall buildings atop Shambles—the swaying motion of a Shamble's pace destroys any building that gets too tall. Most craftsmen and builders try and match the material of the buildings on their Shamble to the construction material of the Shamble itself. This can be relatively easy in the case of clay or rock Shambles, and it can be disturbing in the case of Mandith, the bone Shamble. When a building material is less feasible, like iron and steel on Thonk, many residents still use that material as an accent to the building's decor.