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 is a round city ringed by tall stone walls. Its inhabitants casually break the city into four large generalized wards:
Whitewall’s most industrious neighborhood is nearest the city gates (i.e. the farthest south) 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 here.
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 were built within the last 500 years. The city’s stables as well as most of its inns and many teahouses are located in Foretown, as it is where traders lodge when in Whitewall. Thus this is the most cosmopolitan and “multicultural” district of the city.
During the Months of Fire, Foretown is a bustling, crowded bazaar; full of stalls where 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 College of Agriculture are located in here, as is the tallest building in Whitewall, the Solar Manse at the exact center of the city. The Manse plays little part, if any, in the day-to-day lives of Midtown’s residents.
Except for small areas that show minimal damage, Midtown’s First Age architecture is still intact here.
Farthest from the gates is 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, underground 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. This is where Whitewall’s small underclass lives, but 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 toWallportis commonly called “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. Bizarrely wide by the standards of the Second Age - almost 20 metres 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.
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. Though these lights 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.
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 to break the Thousand Year Pact. Some suggest the violator would be sent to Malfeas, but it has never yet happened.
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.
THE PEOPLE OF WHITEWALL
Whitewall is a city that values comfort and stability. 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. Use of intoxicants is legal, but the substances themselves, especially alcohol, are taxed so heavily their use is quite rare. Public intoxication is 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 theSolar Manseat 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 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 polite, industrious and clean; built around the concept of order 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 middle class vastly outnumbers the rich and the poor combined by a factor of several to one, but even the city’s middle class enjoy a standard of living 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’s laws are put forth in a civil charter that all residents are expected to memorize by age 12; failure to do so results in a substantial fine for the child’s parents.
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, 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.
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.
The city-state of Whitewall maintains a delicate strategic balance between enemies and potential enemies. To the East lies the enormous shadowland called Marama’s Fell. In the West, the Fair Folk lurk in the Wyld zones of dark forests and rugged mountains. The Realm presses for Whitewall to accept a closer and more subservient relationship. Icewalker tribes often pass by the city to trade their furs and extort a little tribute. The city’s three divine rulers, the Syndics, negotiated treaties with all sides that leave Whitewall neutral.
Nevertheless, the Syndics do not rely on diplomacy alone to protect their city. Whitewall also has a formidable military.
Every adult citizen who can bear arms undergoes basic military training. In an emergency, therefore, this city of 700,000 could field a remarkably large militia. What’s more, Whitewall also has a cadre of professional warriors, the Guardians, who battle incursions by the Fair Folk, barbarians, bandits or the dead that take place despite the treaties. Not only are the Guardians all highly trained soldiers, but they include a higher percentage of Essence-wielders than can be found in any other military of the North... at least among humans. If war comes, the Syndics intend to field the largest, best-equipped and best-trained army in the North, with the best magical support their side of the Realm.
Whitewall’s territory includes mines of white and blue jade as well as iron, coal and many unusual ores. Whitewall’s extensive arms industry produces all manner of weapons, whose quality few nations can match. Every soldier in the Guardians carries a superior weapon of Fine quality, while their officers wield Exceptional weapons bearing minor Enchantments, or actual artifacts made in Whitewall itself.
Whitewall armor boasts similarly high quality. Every citizen in the active militia owns at least a breastplate and a pot helm, and many of them own a target shield. Guardians routinely wear lamellar armor or reinforced breastplates, possibly of Fine quality. They eschew slotted or masked helms, to make it harder for a creature of darkness to pose as a Guardian. Officers wear articulated plate or even superheavy plate—or, again, perhaps an artifact.
Militia members favor simple weapons such as straight swords, pickaxes, hammers and spears. For ranged combat, they prefer javelins, long bows and self bows. Rank-and-file Guardians carry the same weapons as ordinary citizens, but their officers often wield unusual signature weapons (reflected by Archery, Martial Arts, Melee or Thrown specialties).
The Syndics actually discourage standardization among the Guardians: diverse threats call for diverse weapons used in response. Both militia members and Guardians wear bronzed armor and some sort of crow-and-falcon feather token to show they are city protectors on duty, not just some guys clanking around armed.
Frequent clashes with the Fair Folk prompt Whitewall’s warriors to maintain a supply of iron weapons. These cannot be exceptional weapons: the special alloys used in Whitewall’s superior weapons lack the special, baneful power against the Fae that pure iron possesses.
Naturally, Whitewall produces a broad line of tactical and strategic artillery. The expense of firedust prevents the use of cannon, but the city’s artisans build a variety of ballistae, onagers and other sorts of catapults. Whitewall’s weaponsmiths incidentally craft special catapult ammunition for use against the Fair Folk and the dead: most notably, shells filled with salt or iron pellets (see Chapter Six for details).
STRATEGY AND TACTICS
Whitewall follows a defensive strategy with occasional forays to punish groups that break the various non-aggression pacts. Such forays are small, brief and carefully targeted to prevent any faction, mortal or supernatural, from feeling as if the city has declared a general war against them. So far, it works; it helps that the Fair Folk, the dead and the barbarians are all highly factionalized themselves. Indeed, all three groups see Whitewall’s punishment-attacks as opportunities to gain advantages over their immediate rivals. When the Guardians seek a band of marauding raksha or a gang of ghost brigands, the Guardians often find other Fair Folk or ghosts coming forward to volunteer information. Sometimes the tips even turn out to be true.
The militia can move quickly to any place in Whitewall’s territory. Any mission into the wilderness, however, goes to the elite Guardians. Whitewall seldom musters more than a talon of Guardians for such a raid. The Guardians try to exterminate minor foes in one pitched battle. If an enemy’s power or numbers make that course impractical, the Guardians merely try to inflict enough damage to make the enemy think twice before attacking Whitewall again. They seek every advantage they can find, including setting traps and ambushes: Whitewall’s position, surrounded by enemies, turns notions of fair play into a luxury the city cannot afford.
The city’s famous walls form its most obvious defense. These massive walls of white granite would present a formidable obstacle even to the largest cannon or trebuchet (14L/20B soak, 50/100 health levels). What’s more, a mighty Zenith Caste hallowed each stone as it was laid, rendering the walls proof against the powers of demons, ghosts, raksha or other creatures of darkness. Sorcery or mundane force could destroy the walls, but not the supernatural powers of these entities. Nor can creatures of darkness pass the walls unless a citizen invites them in.
Ironically, Whitewall’s hostile neighbors become an outer layer of defense against attacks from further afield.
No mortal general would dare march an army through Marama’s Fell. The Fair Folk would likewise view any army marching toward Whitewall as intruding on their territory. Safety lies only on the god-blessed Traveler’s Road that connects Whitewall to the Inner Sea... a narrow conduit indeed.
Whitewall already has a school of thaumaturgy, the Lotus Mind College of Thaumaturgical Sciences. When the Guardians know they must soon fight a ghost, raksha or other supernatural creature, local thaumaturges enchant their weapons for extra efficacy against that sort of foe. The Guardians can also call upon a variety of alchemical drugs, warding talismans and other products of thaumaturgy. These elite warriors also keep a sorcerer or two on retainer: service to the Guardians is a precondition to practice any sort of magic legally in Whitewall. The Syndics seek additional supernatural resources, such as more sorcerers or a dojo that teaches supernatural martial arts.
Behind the shared masquerade, the three Syndics are all powerful members of the Celestial Bureaucracy. Any human force that tried to conquer Whitewall could suffer grave misfortune. The three gods would face censure and heavy fines for stepping outside their official duties, but a sufficiently grave threat could push them to act despite the personal loss.
Perhaps more importantly, Whitewall began in the First Age as a monastery-city dedicated to the Unconquered Sun, and the King of Heaven still counts as the “city father” or presiding deity. (The Syndics are gods in Whitewall, but they are not the gods of Whitewall—a distinction the Syndics insist that every citizen learn and observe in even the most casual speech.) The Unconquered Sun pays little attention to Creation these days, but wrecking his city might prompt awesome retribution. The return of Solars to Creation gives him a less drastic option: instead of acting personally, he might task any nearby Lawgivers to defend the city. People who pay attention to such things believe the Syndics have already recruited one Solar to defend the city—maybe more.
THE WHITEWALL MILITIA
From ages 17 to 37, every able-bodied citizen becomes part of the active militia. Every day from Descending Earth through Ascending Air, except for Calibration, 1/28th of the active militia drills at dedicated practice-fields. Militia members can go years without seeing real combat, though.
The most frequent reason to mobilize the militia is that some creature of darkness has tricked its way into the city and the Guardians cannot quickly stop its rampage. In that case, the city shuts down while the active militia arms to search for the intruder, room by room, house by house and block by block. No one expects the militia to fight such a dangerous intruder—merely to flush it out and leave no place to hide.
All the older citizens arm themselves as well, but only to guard their homes and families.
Militia members train in squads of five. Ten squads make a maniple, with a Guardian as its captain (locally called a lochagos) and drill instructor. Twenty maniples, in turn, form a cohort, under the command of a junior Guardian officer. In this manner, the Guardians serve as the officer corps for the militia, and the militia acts as a force multiplier for the Guardians.
Every member of a maniple carries the same weapons. For instance, everyone in an infantry maniple might carry three javelins, a chopping sword and a target shield, while members of an archery maniple might carry a longbow with a hammer as a backup weapon. A cohort, however, always includes several kinds of maniple.
A maniple usually includes citizens from several neighborhoods. Cohorts draw their members from throughout the city. Shared loyalty to a cohort helps somewhat to counter class differences and bind the population together.
When the Guardians need the militia as backup for a raid, the Guardians usually draft just a few maniples with whatever equipment the commanders think might become useful. In a full mobilization to search the city, each cohort has an assigned neighborhood. One or more maniples surround a building while squads led by Guardians search it for an intruder. Once a building (or area of Whitewall’s Underton of caverns and tunnels) is certified as clear, the cohort leaves a squad behind to stand watch.
By order of the Syndics, the city government subsidizes the cost of weapons and armor. Any active member of the militia, no matter how poor, can afford a Resources 1 weapon and receives the loan of a breastplate and helm for his period of service.
Guardians receive the use of weapons and armor worth up to Resources 4, or Resources 5 for officers. Such weapons are city property, though Guardians can buy their weapons on an installment plan that takes years.
Artifact weapons and armor are always city property, merely on loan to a Guardian, unless the Guardian somehow supplies them herself.
SAMPLE MILITIA MANIPLE: MIDTOWN LANCERS
Description: This maniple’s members come from some of the lower-income neighborhoods in Whitewall. Although they are poor, they have considerable esprit and pride in their maniple: six years ago, the maniple helped a squad of Guardians corner and kill a rampaging nemissary, and the soldiers want to regain the fame they briefly enjoyed for that feat. They are more than willing to take on any threat.
Commanding Officer: Simla of Jadebrook
Armor Color: Bronzed steel breastplate over warm wool clothing, pot helm with a raven feather
Motto: “City, Syndics and Scrip.”
General Makeup: 50 light infantry with spears and self bows
Formation: The Midtown Lancers usually engage their foes in relaxed formation, but Guardian Simla can order them into close formation. She certainly does this when she wants the militia to block streets and so prevent an enemy’s escape.
Despite their enthusiasm, the Lancers are merely extras, and they cannot act effectively without Guardian Simla’s command. She is their only special character. Simla herself wears a reinforced breastplate and pot helm, and carries an Exceptional mace. Since their adventure with the nemissary, all the soldiers carry bags of salt with which to draw lines against the dead.
THE WHITEWALL GUARDIANS
Whitewall has some 6,000 Guardians, operating from 28 precinct houses scattered throughout the city (including four in Underton). Most of the time, they keep the peace as... well, not ordinary city guards. Not only do the Guardians’ combat skills and weaponry surpass those of most city guards, every Guardian also receives basic training in questioning witnesses and gathering evidence (represented by Investigation).
Guardians also know how to follow trails, in town or outside the walls (Survival). Guardians enjoy many perks, but the Syndics expect a great deal from the Guardians in return. The militia might deal with barbarians and other mundane foes, but Guardians must find and fight everything from a runaway spine chain to ravager-gangs that kidnap citizens for their raksha master.
Even though the Guardians receive every advantage the Syndics can provide, the Guardians often battle creatures that are far more powerful.
Similar to the Whitewall militia, the Guardians operate in squads of five and maniples of 50. Guardian cohorts, however, are ad-hoc groupings of maniples placed under the command of a senior officer. Each squad includes a corporal who leads the team, while a lochagos commands each maniple with the help of four sergeants. Senior officers—centurions, tetrarchs or dekarchs, depending on whether they may command two, four or 10 maniples—form the Guardians’ command staff.
The city government offers signing bonuses and a fast track into command for citizens (or potential citizens) who can channel Essence. Not only do the Guardians boast a few dozen outcaste Terrestrial Exalted, but the officer corps also includes numerous small gods and God-Blooded, Ghost-Blooded and Fae-Blooded mortals (who are exceptionally useful in dealing with the dead and the Fair Folk). A merely mortal parentage is no impediment to command, though any mortal soldier who shows enough skill to become a lochagos has her Essence activated by the Syndics, becoming an enlightened mortal.
Not every lochagos commands a maniple, though. The Guardians include special squads in which every member can wield Essence. Such elite teams train to use their Charms, artifacts or other powers together in combat, much as a sworn brotherhood of Dragon-Blooded. An elite squad may consist of individuals with diverse combat abilities, or members might follow a theme. For example, one team might specialize in fighting the dead using enchanted weapons and the Arcanoi of Ghost-Blooded members. Another team might all practice the same Terrestrial martial art.
FIFTH PRECINCT SNOWCATS
Description: The Guardians of this maniple carry about equal numbers of straight swords, axes, hammers and short spears, with a scattering of tridents and other weapons. They also carry long bows with iron-tipped target arrows and salttipped fowling arrows. All Guardians are elite soldiers.
Commanding Officer: Lochagos Iselsi Ruvan
Armor Color: Bronzed steel enameled with a snowcat
Motto: “Safety, Peace and Order.”
General Makeup: 40 heavy infantry, variously armed, with pot helm, target shield and reinforced breastplates or lamellar armor; five uniquely-armed champions
Formation: The Snowcats move between relaxed and close formation, as needed. Iselsi Ruvan is an outcaste Water Aspect who knows he’d better stay outcaste if he wants to live; the Syndics trust him with a short jade powerbow. His fighting chain and the weapons of his four sergeants are all Fine and carry an elemental benediction. The sergeants are heroes who can command double squads if necessary. Every component squad has at least one thaumaturgically enchanted weapon and one talisman or potion.
Whitewall has no standing army as The Syndics ruled it would be 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.
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.
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 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 ill fortune 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,Gethamaneimports grain from Whitewall in exchange for strange ores and gemstones produced inGethamane, 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 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.
Whitewall is the icewalkers favorite city to visit, much to the dismay of the city’s inhabitants. Whitewall’s entire view of the world is built on the pillars of comfort and order. To residents of the walled city, the life of an icewalker seems unthinkably, and pointlessly, barbaric. The kindest Whitewall citizens see the nomads as “rustic” or “noble savages,” while most commonly regard them with thinly veiled disgust and contempt.
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.
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. 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.
SECRETS OF WHITEWALL
WHITEWALL IN THE PRESENT