Beyond the Wall
Welcome to Respite, the Safehold. In the days of yore Respite was part of a great city, the capital of a vast empire. The seat of kings, the center of civilization. Then, in more recent history there was a great cataclysm. Known to our people as the Unleashing, the event changed everything nearly destroyed all civilized people. The stars went dark, and then followed the Great Night, for an entire year the people of the world survived in near total darkness, with only the moons to give them light.
Gods and Monsters rained down on Malaan and swept over the land like a plague. The great city fell to a Fell God known as Gerius the Master of easts, the few survivors hid in the darkness for months. The rest of the world fell to a thousand other Gods and went silent.
Eventually the stars returned and he survivors moved into the abandoned citadel and the merchants, and millers, harlots and apothecaries took up the arms of the fallen, and began to flush the monsters from within the walls. For a generation, then two, they carved out a safe haven in the shadow of ultimate peril. Year after year the monsters threw themselves at the gates, some years they pushed in and killed many, but eventually they were repulsed. The walls have held, and the gates have been rebuilt. The city of Respite is the last stand of man against the beast.
Over the years a few ships have braved the violent seas to crash on the rocky shores of the city and its sailors were welcomed into the ranks. Other pockets of survivors were also glimpsed, ranging ranchers and farmers on the mainland side of the city occasionally trade with the people of Respite willing to brave the city’s canyon-like roads. A small band of dwarves, neither friends nor foes, abides deep in the subterranean bowels of the city, and will occasionally trade with those from the city. Others, known as “maze rats”, scrape together a meager existence from the city’s ruins, sometimes trading with the people of Respite, more often raiding the remains of those who venture out. Occasionally sails are spotted in the seas, but rarely does a boat try to enter the haunted harbor. Respite, itself, is an orderly place with a strict laws ensuring the survival of the people. Everyone serves in the defense of the city, everyone is armed at all times, from childhood people are drilled in its defense. It is the law. Fighting among the survivors is not tolerated within the walls. The magistrates arbitrate disputes, or the disputants are invited to leave the walls and resolve it themselves.
A few brave inhabitants occasionally venture outside the walls to gather scrap, artifacts, or hunt. Those adventurers are a rare breed, treated with some respect but mostly confusion.
The Primaries are the outer walls of Respite. They are enormous sixty foot high, forty foot thick barriers a thousand years old. They are build of strong stone, and have never been penetrated, except at the weak points (the gates). The primaries extend well beyond the city proper into an area called the King’s Wood, a thick and somewhat wild small forest within the walls. The primaries are manned by the regular army, and patrolled on a regular basis. Service “on the wall” is compulsory for all healthy citizens at some point in their lives.
The Secondaries are the inner walls. These are garrison walls and serve as a back up should the primaries be penetrated. Most people spend their lives inside the secondaries, and feel reasonably safe inside. There are former parade grounds that have been planted with food crops, and fortifications that have been converted to basic civilian use. Inside the secondaries the sheriff is in charge, though in times of emergencies the generals can declare martial law.
The typically people of Respite are deathly afraid of everything outside the walls. They do not leave the confines of the secondaries if they can avoid it, and never leave the primaries unless forced. After their initial compulsory service in the regular army, all citizens maintain a reserve status for the rest of their lives and continue to train. There are few very old people in Respite, when they can no longer wield a weapon, most Respiters leave the city for the final march and presumably die in the wilds. Some old folk stay in the city and are treated with some discomfort by the people.
Irregulars and Outwallers:
Every now and then, Natives and Refugees alike feel claustrophobic and trapped in the city. They decide that they need to venture out into the wilds of the city. Most leave quietly with little fanfare and never return. Some head out briefly and return to stay, telling tales of the horrors they saw out there. Others, make a habit of leaving and returning. They serve a valuable purpose for the city. They find salvage in the city, or bring trade in the form of grain and other goods from the wild rangers on the far side of the city. If they hope to remain citizens of Respite they can serve as “Irregulars” and perform missions for the city outside the walls instead of serving in the regular army. Or they can become the rarest of all, the “Outwallers” who somehow live outside the walls and only visit the city for short periods. both of these are treated with some suspicion by most folk for their queer ways. The latter type is watched carefully for fear that they might be part of the Shadowmeld (a band of bandits who live outside the walls) or some kind of shapeshifter intent to wreak havoc in the city. (Not unheard of).
This term refers to the time in the recent (two generations or so) time when the skies darkened and the stars vanished (the stars are returning slowly) and the Gods, Demons, Devils and Angels fell to earth. It was the time that the city was beset by trials and death. The city was taken over by thousands of beasts, effectively destroyed. Most of the human population was killed or fled. Only a small number survived, hiding in the shadows until they were able to sneak out and retake the citadel that became Respite.