In the dark Second Age, a city with high white walls stands in the North, a beacon of stability and civilization in an increasingly savage region. The city’s history, once glorious and inspirational, is now a curiosity known only to lore-masters and savants. While the city’s modern inhabitants are thankful for the walls that surround them and the Traveler’s Road that safely leads to the Inland Sea, they have no idea where the walls or the road came from, who built them, or the true purpose of these structures.
WHITEWALL IN THE PRESENT
Whitewall is the largest city in the North, and with good reason. It offers a quality of life that is missing from most of Creation. It is a polite, industrious and clean city; built around the concept of order, and order is emphasized in the daily life of the city’s citizens. A woman can walk alone from one side of the city to another with no fear, which is more than can be said for nearly all others of Creation’s cities in the Age of Sorrows. Sober, somber and strict are three words frequently applied to Whitewall, but these words fail to convey the city’s appeal. Residents of Whitewall happily trade a modicum of freedom for great gains in comfort and security.
Whitewall’s laws are put forth in a civil charter that allresidents are expected to memorize by age 12; failure to do so results in a substantial fine for the child’s parents.
Whitewall’s middle class vastly outnumbers the rich and the poor combined by a factor of several to one, but even the city’s middle class enjoys a standard of living that the rich of many other cities would envy.
All this industry, all this order is the result of several centuries of effective social engineering by the city’s powerful spirit patrons, the entities that brought Whitewall back from the brink of abandonment seven centuries ago, and that still guide Whitewall still today.
Whitewall is a round city ringed by tall stone walls. Whitewall’s inhabitants casually break down the city into four large generalized wards: Foretown, Midtown, Afton and Underton.
Whitewall’s most industrious neighborhood is the section nearest the city gates (i.e. the farthest south). This is where the city’s famed artisans, jewelers and craftspeople live and work, making the neighborhood relatively wealthy. The college of mining and metallurgy is also located in this section of town. For obvious reasons, Foretown is also the section most heavily patrolled by Whitewall’s guardians.
This section has the fewest remnants of the old First Age architecture; most of the shops here have been built within the last five centuries. The city’s stables as well as most of its inns and many teahouses are located in Foretown, as this is the section of town where traders lodge when they’re in Whitewall. Therefore, Foretown is the most cosmopolitan and “multicultural” district of the city.
During the summer, Foretown is a bustling, crowded bazaar full of stalls from which dealers buy, sell and trade all manner of weapons, armor, enchanted goods and other merchandise. From dawn to well past dusk, the streets are packed to capacity all summer long, and the aromas from the food kiosks mix with the earthier smells of livestock as the citizens of Whitewall trade what they have for what they need.
At the peak of the summer trading season, the Whitewall bazaar may even spill out beyond the city’s gates, in which case a large contingent of armed guardians (and innumerable torches) keep the area relatively safe from the depredations of the Fair Folk and the dead once night falls and the gates are shut.
The largest, most populous section of Whitewall is home to the city’s middle class.
Farmers, teachers, bakers, mid-level merchants and younger miners make their homes here, as do many of those who make their money trading in Foretown who don’t want to live there. The Jewelers College and the College of Agriculture are located in this section. Except for small areas that show minimal damage, Midtown’s First Age architecture is still intact here.
The tallest building in Whitewall, the Solar Manse at the exact center of the city, is located in Midtown, but the Manse plays little part, if any, in the day-to-day lives of Midtown’s residents.
The farthest from the gates is home to the Syndics’ hall as well as Whitewall’s richest citizens (successful miners, skilled jewelers and armorers). Non-Dynastic Dragon-Blooded and most of the city’s “special” guardians (i.e., the God-Blooded and minor gods) live here in tranquil splendor.
Afton is also the site of the College of Architecture and the Lotus Mind College of Thaumaturgical Sciences (this last institution is as close to the Heptagram as most mortals are likely to get). Whitewall’s First Age architecture is entirely intact throughout all Afton.
Pronounced “Unt’n,” Underton is the city’s smallest district, comprising the portion of Whitewall that lies underground. This is where a small system of orderly tunnels and caverns creates a modest undercity. A First Age lighting system keeps the area well lit with a warm, golden glow. While Underton is where Whitewall’s small underclass lives, it’s also where the public baths are, so it’s constantly busy with foot traffic. Guardians patrol down here regularly to safeguard order and proper conduct.
Being destitute in the Second Age is never easy, but as such things go, it’s far better to be among the poor in Whitewall than in any other city in Creation: there’s always a roof overhead, it’s always warm because of the proximity to the hot spring and there’s no reason not to bathe because the public baths are in the center of Underton and open to everyone. (Although the poor are expected to visit the baths late at night, after the residents of Foretown, Midtown and Afton have already bathed).
THE TRAVELER'S ROAD
The road that links Whitewall to its distant port on the Inland Sea is commonly called either “the Traveler’s Road” or “the Great Northern Road”. As with the First Age buildings of Whitewall, each paving stone was individually hand-carved from white granite.
This Road is almost bizarrely wide by the standards of the Second Age - almost 20 yards from edge to edge. It has weathered the passing of the centuries well. Only the slight rounding of the road stones suggests that the road wasn’t built longer than a year or two ago.
Because of the road’s enchantments, it stays warm, as though the sun were shining on it constantly, all day, all night, all year round. Neither snow nor ice ever builds up on the road, even during the fiercest blizzards.
One aspect of the Traveler’s Road that is uncommon knowledge is that the souls of those who die along the road immediately fall into Lethe. No one who dies along the Holy Road need worry about becoming a ghost of any sort, even along the stretch that passes through the shadowland.
More recently, the Syndics negotiated “the Thousand Year Pact” with the Fair Folk and the Deathlords. This agreement was possible only because of the relative strength of the Syndics at the time, the inexperience of the Deathlords and the terrible defeat the Fair Folk had just suffered. This agreement stipulates no violence is allowed on the road by any party, mortal, fae or otherwise. Once all three parties agreed to it, the Syndics performed god magic to make fate itself enforce the pact. Those breaching the pact suffer each according to their natures. Mortals hang themselves from the columns of the road (or keep trying until they succeed), ghosts fall instantly into Lethe and Fair Folk are shunted into the Deep Wyld and barred from entering Creation ever again. It is unknown what would happen to a spirit, a god or an Exalt were one to break the Thousand Year Pact. Some have suggested that the violator would be sent to Malfeas, but it has never yet happened and, with luck, will not.
With just over 200 years left in the Pact, the Syndics are wondering whether they’ll be able to negotiate as strong an agreement when it comes up for renewal. They can only hope that Creation, or at least Whitewall, will be stronger then than it is now. Their city’s trade (and, therefore, future) depends on it.
In the First Age, even in the first centuries of the Age of Sorrows, the stone pillars that rise from the road in pairs every 40 yards used to glow with a warm, golden light that kept away the undead as per the spell Light of Solar Cleansing. Although the lights on these columns haven’t worked for over 500 years, they could be made to do by any Solar wishing to take the time and effort to repair them.
The Syndics and the civil charter they established, are the ordering principle around which the rest of Whitewall’s government has oriented itself. The day isn’t long enough for The Syndics to handle every aspect of city governance, so they delegate many of the responsibilities of rulership to other positions, most notably:
- the city’s judges (who oversee breaches of the civil charter and mete out justice),
- the guardians (who form the city’s law enforcement forces)
- the inspectors (who maintain the integrity of the civil charter by ferreting out corruption and more subtle violations of the civil charter).
There is some overlap between the duties of the judges and the inspectors, but whereas judges administer justice when actual crimes have been committed, inspectors guard civil order and administer municipal policies in subtler areas (like making sure streets are kept clean, seeing that citizens maintain their homes in good repair and checking to see that trade agreements are honored).
Appointed by the Syndics themselves, judges are tasked with administering Whitewall’s civil code. Judges hear cases, impose fines for lesser crimes, banish those deemed guilty of greater offenses and generally defend the public order for which Whitewall is known. Judges have a great deal of latitude to administer justice, but in difficult or unusual cases (usually those dealing with disputes between two guardians, spirits, or Exalts), the judges may send the cases to the Syndics for their judgment.
Whitewall has no standing army. The Syndics ruled a standing army is an unacceptable drain on the city’s resources and a potential threat to public order. However, the city does have a large and well-trained militia, whose function is to defend the city should the need ever arise. All citizens are given ample training in basic melee combat starting at the age of 12. The Whitewall philosophy of civil defense is simple: “If you can use a hoe or a pick, you can use a sword and a shield.” The city’s guardians teach martial arts that emphasize the use of farming and mining implements as melee weapons.
If the city could be considered to have an army, the Guardians are it. Other than the Syndics, the guardians are the most personally powerful citizens in Whitewall. Their ranks are drawn from the city’s combat elite and many guardians are outcaste Terrestrial Exalted, lesser gods, or God-Blooded. At least one guardian is a Solar; the Syndics would very much like to recruit more.
It is the task of the guardians to keep the citizens of Whitewall safe and secure, from Fair Folk incursion or crimes of passion committed by residents. Whitewall is an orderly city, and the guardians have little tolerance for thievery, dishonesty or predatory or malicious behavior.
Guards mounted atop the city’s wall scan the horizon in all directions watching for approaching enemies, particularly behemoths. An array of anti-siege weapons sits atop the city’s wall, constantly maintained in a state of perfect readiness in case the alarm is ever sounded.
The ranks of the guardians change from time to time, and, at times, the city doesn’t have enough sufficiently powerful guardians to protect the city from behemoths, at which point Whitewall resorts to hiring mercenaries, usually Terrestrial Exalted from Lookshy but, sometimes, even from the Realm (in which case, they keep Pethisdotter as far from the Dragon-Bloods as possible). In the summer, Whitewall deploys guardian scouts around the perimeter of the city’s farmland to repel attacks by Fair Folk, though summer is traditionally the season of fewest Fair Folk attacks.
These government officials check buildings for structural integrity, monitor accounts to see that proper taxes were paid and test enchanted items to see that they are truly enchanted. They consider themselves guardians of public safety, and take their duties seriously. Attempting to bribe an inspector is grounds for a summer exile.
LIFE BEHIND THE WALL
Whitewall is a city that values comfort and stability. The burghers of Whitewall create within the city the kind of stability that the city itself, surrounded as it is by enemies and ice, lacks.
Public disorderliness, poor hygiene and blatant rudeness are all misdemeanors under Whitewall’s civil charter, lumped together as “offenses against public civility”; the city has gained a reputation for being stern and humorless for its aggressive enforcement of these laws. Residents of the city itself don’t see these laws as either stern or humorless and appreciate the order and civility these laws provide.The use of intoxicants is legal, but the substances themselves, especially alcohol, are taxed so heavily that their use is quite rare. Public intoxication is also heavily fined, so those who indulge had best do so in the privacy of their own homes.
It is expected that public life be highly formal and polite. All citizens are expected to be at least civil with one another, and anything less is grounds for a stiff fine.
Hostile, strange or eccentric behavior in public is a short path to bankruptcy (from fines) and social ostracism.
Further strengthening the separation of the private and public worlds is the absolute discretion that Whitewall residents exhibit with regard to everything that happens in the privacy of the home. Nothing that takes place behind closed doors is discussed outside those doors, and there are no laws or social expectations whatsoever with regard to what takes place within the walls of one’s home, unless an injured party makes a claim to the guardians or judges. The privacy of one’s home is absolute so long as the city’s defenses against its enemies are not compromised.
This lends a sense of gravity to any invitation to a private home. One neither goes to the home of anyone one does not trust implicitly nor does one invite others to one’s home without knowing them very well beforehand.
Much of the social life of Whitewall’s residents, consequently, plays out in the city’s many large teahouses.
Business, shared meals and social functions alike can take place in the teahouses (while trysts typically take place in the adult sections of the public baths). In fact, tea with milk and butter is the traditional drink of Whitewall.
Those not from the city often find these additions somewhat unorthodox. This surprise is one way to discern a native from a visitor, something every Whitewaller is very attentive to.
THE PUBLIC BATHS
Whitewalls public baths are one of the city’s noted treasures. A hot spring provides the city with a regular flow of both hot water and steam. This water is diverted into a large complex of bathing pools, where the city’s residents gather to socialize and bathe themselves.
Cleanliness is held in high esteem by residents of Whitewall, and frequent bathing is held to be a sign of good citizenship.
Though private, the baths fall under Whitewall’s definition of public space. Children bathe in one section, adults of marrying age in another and elders in a third.
While residents of Whitewall are quite proper (even prudish), nudity in the baths is expected. Friends, neighbors, co-workers and others, male and female, are accustomed to seeing one another here without clothes, and the residents of the city accept that as a matter of fact.
Distant steam-drenched alcoves of the baths are often used as trysting spots for adolescents or young adults, but that is considered part of the standard courtship rituals of the city rather than acts of indecency. Though adults may wag their fingers, cluck their tongues and complain about the moral turpitude of the young, Whitewall’s civil charter is concerned with maintaining civility and stability, not the prudish constraints of its self-appointed moral guardians.
Truth be told, most of them likely had their first liaisons in those very same alcoves.
Adults often visit the public baths to steam, to bathe and to be anointed with perfumed oils. For a fee, a visitor to the baths can be scrubbed, shaved (if necessary), groomed and tended to in other ways.
The population of Whitewall varies. It reaches 700,000 each winter, usually around Resplendent Water, after the winter’s exiles have been sent out and the season has taken its toll on the infirm. Starting around Resplendent Earth and going until Resplendent Fire, caravans of traders begin showing up to bid on the best of the winter’s accumulation of gems, ore, minerals, arms, armor, jewelry and talismans.
Usually sometime around Descending Earth or Ascending Wood, the first of the “Calibration babies” are born (so called because of the popular belief that making love during Calibration wards off evil forces), thereby launching the next cycle of births as children conceived in the long, cold months of winter finally make an appearance. Thus, at the peak of summer, Whitewall's population is usually around 900,000.
Education is taken very seriously in Whitewall, and graduating from even the least of Whitewall’s academies instills an ample understanding of language, mathematics and basic crafts that allows an individual to make her way in Creation quite handily. The literacy rate in Whitewall is just over 90%, which is unheard of in the Second Age. The city is also known for its five colleges, dedicated, respectively, to the study of mining and metallurgy, lapidary, architecture, agriculture and, at the Lotus Mind College of Thaumaturgical Sciences, thaumaturgy.
Whitewall is still known for its produce — what little the city can part with these days — but most of the city’s financial clout comes from the mines, which are both more dangerous to work than the fields and more distant from the city. The city’s output of blue and white jade alone eclipses the revenues brought in through the sale of produce — and that’s ignoring the money brought in by the odd ores sought after by the Lookshy and the Heptagram and the large quantities of iron and silver the city’s mines produce.
In exchange for the goods it exports, Whitewall has to import tea, textiles, rice and most fruits and vegetables (except cherries and apples).
The city conducts trade on two major roads: the rocky, mountainous pass to Gethamane and the Traveler’s Road due south. The Traveler’s Road leads due south from the gates of Whitewall, where goods are either loaded onto ships or sent east along the coastal trade route to bypass Marama’s Fell. Ninety percent of traffic to or from Whitewall goes via the Traveler’s Road.
Farming was Whitewall’s raison d’être in the late First Age; the topsoil shed by the nearby mountains, not to mention some moderately potent Wood and Earth aspected Manses in the region and some Essence effects from the Solar Manse at the center of the city, made for uncommonly fertile fields.
In the Age of Sorrows, those fields remain uncommonly fertile — in fact, they’re more fertile now that they have to lie fallow for six months of the year than they were when they were farmed all year round — but the climate prevents them from being worked over half the year. Furthermore, the amount of work required to tend the fields is much greater than it was in the First Age when automata and spirits could be bound on a regular basis to help farmers; farmers now tend about half the acreage that their First Age predecessors did. Consequently, the fields that used to provide food for Whitewall and communities within a radius of nearly 500 miles now produce just enough for the citizens of Whitewall with a little left over for export.
Rice no longer grows around Whitewall. Wheat, rye, barley and oats account for half of the crops raised in the fields nearest the city, with potatoes, radishes, sugar beets, apples and cherries accounting for most of the rest. Alfalfa (hay) for animals is grown in the outer fields.
Cherries are the only produce Whitewall exports in quantity anymore, and they are held to be the sweetest in Creation and prized on the Blessed Isle.
Mining is the hardest and most dangerous of the trades practiced in Whitewall. It is also the most lucrative. The demand for the ores in the mountains around Whitewall, especially blue and white jade, is rising slowly and steadily as demand for sturdy and more advanced weapons increases with the growing instability in the Time of Tumult.
Two kinds of mines are found outside the city: the old mines and the new mines.The old mines were dug during the First Age under the direction of Queen Tenrae, and, to this day, they’re safe, incredibly deep, sensibly laid out and well lighted. Owing to reconnaissance performed by earth elementals serving Whitewall’s First Age rulers, most of these mines benefit from comprehensive three-dimensional subterranean maps showing all the ore within reach of each mine tunnel as well as the direction of veins of ore that haven’t even been tapped yet. The problem with the old mines is that many of the exotic substances mined back when the mines were dug (with the exception of blue and white jade and a tiny amount of orichalcum) have no widespread use in the Age of Sorrows. Certain minerals held to be extremely valuable during the First Age have no widely known (or useful) properties in the current Age — or at least none that are understood by any but the greatest sorcerers of the Heptagram, the sorcerer-engineers of Lookshy or the Mountain Folk. Those three groups, however, have been known to pay truly astonishing fees to get some of those rare ores — enough, in fact, to make it worth the time to enter the old mines. While Lookshy pays more for these ores and minerals, the Heptagram is much closer, being just across the Inland Sea, and, therefore, is a much more reliable trading partner.
The new mines, on the other hand, are wholly a product of the Second Age. They are shallower and poorly lit, many of them seem unusually prone to cave-ins (aided, no doubt, by the efforts of the Fair Folk) and a handful have shown a tendency to explode. These are the mines from which iron, zinc, quartz and silver — as well as a myriad of semi-precious gems and a small quantity of exotic metals and jades — are extracted. These are the more common fruits of the earth that have established Whitewall as one of the key metallurgical cities in Creation. The enormous quantity of iron, in particular, is a boon to Whitewall because the iron supplies the city’s armorers with crucial raw materials for making the iron weapons with which Whitewall defends itself against the Fair Folk.
The miners work through the winter, daring the dangers of the mines in anticipation of the long line of buyers that shows up every spring and into the fall to buy their ores, metals, minerals and gems. In some cases, getting to the mines, not working in the mines, presents miners with the greatest difficulty. The Fair Folk resent Whitewall’s unending supply of iron and routinely target miners on their way to or from the mines for the fae’s most devastating assaults.
ARTISANS AND ENCHANTERS
During the last century, Whitewall has become known for its finished goods as well as its raw ores. With ready access to many rare metals and minerals and with a notable discount on raw components, many artisans have found that buyers would rather leave Whitewall with a few panniers full of finished goods than a wagonload of ore.The artisans of Whitewall are known for both the spectacular weapons and armor produced there. The city’s denizens take pride in their work and produce uncommonly sturdy armor and blades. The prevalence of thaumaturges allows the best goods to be made even better through Enchantment, which also benefits the city, since an artisan selling an enchanted blade is going to bring in more money to the city than a vendor of mundane weapons.
Jewelry is the last of the exports for which Whitewall is famed. Meticulous jewelers work in well-lighted shops for hours to create astonishingly detailed and beautiful items, many of which are subsequently enchanted with an array of protective and lucky properties. Air and Earth aspected Dragon-Blooded are known to pay exorbitant sums for jewelry made from Whitewall’s blue and white jade.
Whitewall is exceptionally diplomatic in its dealings with everyone, from Deathlords and Fair Folk to the Realm and Gethamane. A great deal of the stability and high quality of life for which Whitewall is known is a direct result of the walled city’s cherished neutrality and the exceptional diplomacy of the Syndics (and their envoys).
Less obviously, the Syndics are highly skilled at playing enemies against each other to Whitewall’s advantage.
At the southern terminus of the Traveler’s Road is the town of Wallport. This port town is surrounded by walls exactly like Whitewall’s, only smaller. Also founded in the First Age, Wallport’s sole function is to provide a place for the loading and unloading of ships conducting business with Whitewall.
Wallport is the filthy, stunted twin of Whitewall, lacking any of Whitewall’s stability and seeming at least as dirty and chaotic as any other city in the Threshold and worse than most.
The population of Wallport is just under 2,000 people. Of these, 1,800 are men making a living by loading and unloading the ships that come here to trade with Whitewall, though some are smugglers, port officials or prostitutes. The few women citizens of Wallport are officials, prostitutes, physicians, appraisers and a few hardened dock workers. It is a hive more than a city, a place where the lowest common denominator is well represented and vice is the favorite pastime.
The town of Wallport is located atop a long stretch of black basalt cliffs. Goods are brought up from the docks along the steep (and often slippery) stone stairs or via an elaborate block and tackle system to the warehouses in Wallport. In the First Age, even through the end of the Shogunate, goods were raised and lowered using Essencefueled Artifacts. Though those Artifacts are still in place, they don’t work, and no one in Wallport currently knows how to power, operate or repair them.Wallport is largely populated by those who have fled Whitewall (or been exiled). They are the outcastes, the dropouts and the rejects who have fled the affluence of Whitewall for any number of reasons. Though Wallport has been a town in its own right since the First Age, this town perpetually has the feel of a frontier town. For its younger citizens, Wallport is a place for immaturity and excess, a place of lawlessness and criminal misadventures and, often, a place for those who can’t imagine a future for themselves. For its older citizens, Wallport is a place of nihilism, despair and bottoming out. The population shrinks by several suicides every year as dock workers get too old and too tired to keep doing what they’ve spent their life doing but don’t have anything to show for the scars, the fatigue and the interminable ache in their backs and shoulders. Life in Wallport is frequently made tolerable only through heavy use of alcohol and other intoxicants.
The local constabulary, while technically a garrison of Whitewall’s guardians, tends to be so lazy (or “forgiving” as they put it) that all but the most extreme crimes go uninvestigated and unpunished. The one exception to this rule is theft. Anything that impairs, impedes or threatens trade with Whitewall is dealt with quickly and harshly by a garrison of five dissolute Dragon-Blooded guardians. Though they’re lazy, they’re well-trained, and they work together as a team. None of these Terrestrial Exalts is Fire-aspected, as the danger to the warehouses is considered too serious.
Much of the space within Wallport’s walls is taken up with sturdy stone warehouses but built between, on top of and behind the warehouse buildings are wooden shacks that operate as bordellos, saloons, opium dens, flophouses and similar establishments.
Wallport would have grown more, and probably would have outstripped Whitewall long ago, if Wallport had a better harbor. The entire stretch of coastline located south of Whitewall is relatively hostile to any sort of large-scale port community. The harbor in Wallport is large enough for four good-sized boats to dock at any one time, or more vessels of a smaller size. During the busy spring and summer months, ships may have to anchor in the choppy, siakainfested seas outside the harbor while boats are loaded and unloaded, and, depending on the cargo, that can take between two and 12 hours. Wallporters long ago stopped keeping track of the number of vessels that have sunk under such circumstances. As part of the trade agreement with Whitewall, the Realm navy sends in a contingent of Water-aspected Dragon-Blooded once or twice a year to bring up anything of value from these rotting hulks and cut down masts that could pose a threat to navigation.
There is one more reason Wallport hasn’t grown larger than it has: it stinks. Enormous pipes run under the Traveler’s Road from Whitewall to Wallport carrying away excess water from the hot spring and wastewater from the city’s public baths, as well as all of Whitewall’s sewage, and spits them into the ocean in a noisome outpouring of filth just half a mile west of the harbor. When the wind blows in off the ocean (as it often does), the entire town of Wallport is awash with the stench of sewage. During the summer months in particular, the smell is overpowering.
In the First Age, this outflow was transformed by Essence effects into pure, fragrant water over the course of its 700-mile journey south; where the water plunged into the ocean, the water resembled nothing so much as a beautiful waterfall. That hasn’t been the case since the Great Contagion, unfortunately, and unless some crafty savant stumbles on a way to fix the filtration system, Wallport is destined to smell like a sewer for the rest of its days.
The Syndics never particularly took the Scarlet Empress seriously. While Whitewall made a few noises about loyalty to the Realm, the Syndics made it clear in pleasant, non-confrontational personal correspondence to the Empress that they were unwilling to pay tribute to the Realm and that, if she forced the issue, she would be biting off more than she could chew. (Uvanavu was prepared to reassign all health from the Realm to the Threshold if hehad to, although that would have been grounds for a Celestial audit and, very likely, a substantial fine). Ultimately, it was Yo-Ping’s divine negotiation skills that once again won out. The Empress conveyed that she was content with the appearance of fealty so long as trade with Whitewall was preserved, which it was.
The Realm and Whitewall both benefit from the cool neutrality between the two powers. The Realm pays handsomely for the high-quality blue and white jade from Whitewall’s mines, and Whitewall imports food and some raw materials from the Realm.
Relations with Gethamane are cordial, but the two cities have little in common and interact far less often than their proximity might suggest.
Popular Whitewall wisdom holds that Gethamane is a cursed place, though that may have more to do with the illfortune that seems to plague trade convoys traveling between the two cities. Attacks by Fair Folk, the undead and less understood horrors are common threats to those traveling the road between Whitewall and Gethamane, and the cost of providing security to the caravans going between the two cities eats away the profits of the endeavor, making goods prohibitively expensive.
Nevertheless, Gethamane imports grain from Whitewall in exchange for strange ores and gemstones produced in Gethamane, but the residents of Whitewall consider even these materials to be unlucky and usually trade them away to other trading partners. (The Realm, in particular, pays handsomely for Gethamane’s violet diamonds). Importing anything grown in the fungus gardens of Gethamane is expressly forbidden and grounds for a summer exile.
Whitewall has only minimal dealings with Cherak, which Whitewall sees as little more than an extension of the Realm. For its part, Cherak sees trade with Whitewall as too much effort for too little payoff, especially when it’s functioning as the trade nexus between the Realm and the Haslanti League.
Of more concern to the Syndics is the placement of the Pinnacle of the Eye of the Hunt, an old fortress northeast of Cherak that is home to the foremost outpost of the Wyld Hunt in the North and East. The fortress’ leader is known as a raging zealot, and it is unknown what actions he might take should he hear that Whitewall is guided by three powerful spirits — or that it is a veritable sanctuary for the Anathema.
Of all the cities the icewalkers visit, Whitewall is their favorite, much to the dismay of the city’s inhabitants, who see the nomads as a vaguely exotic nuisance. The kindest of Whitewall’s citizens see the nomads as “rustic” or “noble savages,” while most citizens commonly respond with thinly veiled disgust and contempt. Whitewall’s entire view of the world is built on the pillars of comfort and order, and to residents of the walled city, the life of an icewalker seems unthinkably, and pointlessly, barbaric.
On the other hand, the icewalkers find the residents of Whitewall pampered and soft. Still, the nomads have no choice but to approach all dealings with the city from a position of weakness, as the nomads have little that the city needs; there’s little they can do against the city in light of its enormous walls and superior numbers.
The icewalkers covet the high-quality metal weapons and gear produced in Whitewall, and at certain times of year (usually late spring, early fall and midwinter), they set up camp just beyond the city’s fields (or just outside the walls in winter) to trade with the city. Unfortunately, except for meat, which they can only supply in modest quantities, and mammoth ivory, which gets used in jewelry and talismans, there’s little that the icewalkers have that Whitewall’s citizens need or want. The icewalkers have been known to act out of desperation at times, offering even First Age artifacts that they’ve found (or stolen or killed for) in exchange for enough grain (of even the worst quality) to last out the winter. Although such occurrences are rare, some farmers have taken to setting aside a portion of their winter crops with this in mind, as even a single artifact of orichalcum or moonsilver can help them retire in luxury in the city’s Afton district (see below).
At times, the Syndics subsidize the citizens of Whitewall to trade goods to the icewalkers in exchange for the latter launching raids on either the undead or the Fair Folk (whichever group The Syndics feel is growing too powerful).
The icewalkers hate this, as they are not interested in being the city’s soldiers-for-hire — and such attacks inevitably result in reprisals. But there are times when the nomads desperately need something produced by Whitewall (usually grain for the winter or well-crafted metal weapons), and their desperation results in their doing nearly anything the city asks of them.
Some young Whitewallers see the icewalkers as “exotic” or at least see their existence as a sharp and intriguing contrast to the safe, boring life the young residents have in the city. Some Whitewallers grow bored with the safe life and actually leave the city voluntarily to travel with the icewalkers. The life expectancy of such adventure-prone souls is not usually very long, but some have made it back to the city once again to describe the myriad wonders, horrors and dangers of the icewalker life, after which the adventurers happily return to their “boring” existence. This practice inspired the phrase “to run off with the icewalkers,” which means to abandon one’s proper responsibilities in order to do something wholly irresponsible or irrational.
The stories told by the icewalkers (and those who have traveled with them, however briefly) give the nomads a pronounced mystique, especially among the city’s adolescents and young adults; it is these impressionable young citizens who are most likely to give in to the temptation to run off. The icewalkers would rather not take on a liability like a soft, spoiled Whitewall kid, but they let it happen, especially if the runaway comes wellequipped with nice armor, exceptional weapons and warm furs. It would, of course, be a shame if the kid died within the first year he was with the tribe (which happens about half the time), but at least he would leave the tribe with a respectable legacy.
Whitewall recognizes Lookshy as the last remaining vestige of the Shogunate and aggressively seeks ways to improve relations with them. Relations are cordial, but the distance between the two powers, both physically and philosophically, prevents them being more closely linked.
Lookshy is Whitewall’s most distant regular trading partner. Every spring when the thaw facilitates travel, well-educated savant-traders arrive in Whitewall to look over the exotic ores pulled from the old mines and bid on those needed to maintain the Seventh Legion’s aging military forces.
Lookshy pays handsomely for the resources traded by Whitewall. The miners and artisans of Whitewall would love to do an even greater volume of trade with the Seventh Legion, perhaps even importing some Shogunate Essence technology, but it is likely to take more diplomacy, and a lot more available ore and blue jade, before that comes to pass.
THE WINTER FOLK
Technically speaking, Whitewall is within striking distance of two tribes of Fair Folk. Marama’s Fell, ironically, protects the city from direct strikes from the so-called Lions of the Snow, the larger of the two tribes of fae.
Attacking Whitewall in a direct strike from their Freehold would require the Lions of the Snow to venture through the core of the shadowland, a feat they tried once and are unlikely to attempt again.
The closer, and by far the more dangerous, fae operate out of a Freehold only 50 miles west by northwest of Whitewall. They call themselves “The Winter Folk,” perhaps intending to sow confusion or else finding it amusing to refer to themselves by the name given them by mortals.
The Winter Folk do not amuse the mortals who know of them in any way. The Winter Folk are utterly alien, and the legends of their guile and cruelty are well-known throughout the North, especially in Whitewall. The bargain struck in regard to the Traveler’s Road allows the Fair Folk to travel on the road, but the fact of the matter is that the Fair Folk don’t especially care to go anywhere the road goes. If they’re on the road, they’re unquestionably there to lure travelers away.
Three types of Winter Folk swarm out of the Wyld zone when they hunt:
- the coldly beautiful cataphractoi
- hobgoblins with wolfish features
- hobgoblins that look like jagged sculptures of misshapen children hammered out of ice.
Their favorite hunting grounds are the road leading to Gethamane and the roads leading to the mines outside Whitewall. The Fair Folk would love nothing so much as to disrupt the flow of iron from those mines, but the citizens of Whitewall have seeded both sides of the road with iron caltrops and a number of other, even more ingenious, traps devised by Whitewall’s engineers.
The Winter Folk have domesticated two animals, reindeer and ice weasels, both of which allow the fae to hunt mortals with devastating efficiency. The reindeer allow the Fair Folk to travel without tiring, and they use ice weasels as malevolent hunting hounds. The Fair Folk themselves are perfectly dangerous enemies even without their beasts, however. The fae can walk across even freshly drifted snow as though it were solid ground, giving them a pronounced advantage when pursuing mortals through the Northlands.
Fortunately for the city of Whitewall, it is the source of much of the iron in the North. All of the arrows used by the guards atop the wall are iron-tipped, as are their melee weapons, armor and the shoes of their war horses.
Whitewall’s proximity to Marama’s Fell is hardly the only threat Whitewall faces. While few mortal armies would be able to successfully lay siege to the city, the Realm’s legions or other armies led by Exalts could potentially do so. The greatest risk of all, however, the one the Syndics fret about in their private moments, is an attack by a behemoth from the nearby Wyld zone. As creatures of chaos, often shaped by the will of Fair Folk, behemoths at times possess abilities that make them threats even to a city like Whitewall.
The wall of Whitewall, though ancient and supernaturally sturdy, could potentially fall before a substantial enough attack, and the First Age techniques that built the wall are not practical in the Second Age. Without the great wall to protect Whitewall, the city would be doomed.
The Fair Folk regularly launch new, strange behemoths against Creation’s cities. Whitewall, as one of the best protected and nearest to a significant Freehold, often gets the brunt of these bizarre attacks. To deal with the threat of behemoths, then, Whitewall keeps constant vigil against approaching monstrosities and sends its most powerful guardians out to intercept such beasts before they can evenreach the city. These parties are almost always composed of the Exalted. In recent years, they’ve been bands of outcaste Terrestrials led by the Solar Macha Pethisdotter, and they’ve slain over 10 behemoths, the closest only 100 yards from the city’s gates. Most such attacks take place in the winter when patrolling is more difficult and the Fair Folk have a greater chance to catch the monster hunters once they’ve become bogged down in the snow.
In recent months, the Fair Folk’s most accomplished sculptor of behemoths has been promising his people something truly spectacular, although he has yet to unleash it against Creation. In Whitewall, monitoring the lands around the city are among the most serious duties a citizen can undertake.