Nightsdeep: The Lay of the Land
The wall was built over four generations ago over a period that cost the lives of tens of thousands of thrall workers. It towers four stories high and is wide enough along the top that an army of 200 can march along it without being in danger of falling. Siege equipment can be moved from one side to the other along specially built rails. These rails allow a small crew to move a catapult where it would have taken a large squad. The wall is a technological marvel and a testament to the dire straights that humanity is driven to. Though it protects those within from the horrors beyond it, the citizens are essentially in a self made gilded cage.
The Wall Towns
All along the wall are small towns and villages who were instrumental in the building of the wall. These towns and villages also provide a place for Veggr to relax and unwind when they aren’t on duty. Most of these towns are built literally into the wall and may grow vertically as well as horizontally. Being so close to the wall, the wall towns tend toward the more strict and organized. Often, there are curfews to keep the people safe from any possible incursion. Still, it’s been a long time since the last hollow crossed the wall and many take a more accepting view of their position. They are the last line of defense before the Hollow overrun the land.
This town is more of a fort than a city. They maintain the wall and mine metals that get distributed to the rest of Darkholm. Vaggr is the main hold of the Jotunnheimr vampires. Huge men and women who used to hide in mountains and under bridges but now live among humans. Vaggr is a mass of tunnels, above ground homes and below ground areas. The people of Vaggr claim that they’d forgotten what the sun was like long before the last sunset.
Interestingly, Vaggr is farthest from Darkholm and the Jotunnheimr don’t care much for politics or intrigue. As such, inhabitants of Vaggr are allowed to say whatever they wish without fear of reprisal. All the Jotunnheimr want is to be left alone. So, the metal flows out of the mines, the Jotunnheimr receive their tithe and the people get to be left to their own. Every once in a while however, the Elder Jotunnheimr awaken and everything changes. A strong work ethic is of the utmost importance to the people of Vaggr. They look down upon those who do not perform manual labor as weak and soft.
The long sleep is what many people from Vaggr call death. It has also come to mean the deathlike state that many vampires enter. The long sleep is important as it’s seen as a rest and reward for all the toil and effort of a life well lived. For some people, celebrating the day that a person entered the long sleep is more important than celebrating a birthday.
The Black Forest
On the west coast, between Vaggr and the serpentine river is an enormous forest called The Black Forest. Once, it was a place for brigands and thieves to hide and assault the carriages that crossed the road, now the road is used less and less. The reason for this are the children of the forest. In the cold winters of Nightsdeep, many families have more members than they have food for. Often, the only solution that could be found was to abandon the child in the forest. Sometimes, the abandoned child would have some food with them, sometimes not. The hope was that some passerby would be able to take the child in and give them the life that his or her parents could not.
The truth is far worse. Most children die within the first couple of days due to hunger or exposure to the elements. Those that survive often do so by relinquishing their humanity and becoming one with the pack. Hundreds of hollow eyed, feral children live and hunt in the Black Forest. These children have long ago lost any semblance of their past humanity. Their ragged hair, sharpened nails an indicator of the beast that resides in that body. They tend to prefer to walk on all fours and are afraid of fire. Though most of the children avoid the few carriages that pass through the forest, during some particularly harsh winters the children have hunted, murdered and presumably ate unwary travellers. Many times, calls have gone to exterminate the children of the forest but those attempts have met with failure to find them for the lucky. The unlucky are found by the children.
The eastren wood is considered the safe route north. The paths are relatively well worn and highwaymen are few. Oftentimes a traveller can make the entire trip without really having any trouble. Lodging is plentiful along the roads as many hamlets and small towns dot the landscape. Most people in the towns make their living off of logging and it is quite common to see carts filled to the brim with logs on their way to the mill.
There is however the common tradition of attempting to swindle the traveller for anything that you can. It’s common to have a carriage driver take a “short cut” off the main path to funnel travellers to inns that pay the driver. The scam is so common that “taking a short cut” is slang for cheating. It isn’t all bad however, one can avoid many of the worst pitfalls by just knowing the common prices and negotiating. Avoid dressing fancy and most pople will leave you alone.
Skaldfel was home to quite a few quiet academics and skilled craftsmen even before the last sunset. Now, it is a vital stop along the way between Vaggr and Darkholm. This town become a major city itself due to the massive about of trade and important port leading to Dranet and the “net towns”. Skaldfel is mostly below the sea level but it’s inhabitants have adjusted to this by building canals throughout the city.
The stonemasons of Skaldfel are legendary and have chiseled out beautiful buildings of white marble and walkways of granite blocks. The iron-workers of Skaldfel, while not as skilled as those of Vaggr, have managed to use wrought iron in all manner of construction projects from the great locks of Skaldfel port to the Enormous “tower of triumph”. The tower was once a symbol of triumph over the Hollow Ones, now, a symbol of their new position as sheep. Skaldfel is the lesser seat of the Skald. These vampires watch over Skaldfel and constantly search for rebellious groups so that they can be destroyed from within.
Skaldfell is known as the city of light. The system of lamps that run the city is only part of the reason why. Skaldfel is a place where someone can find something to do at any time day or night. It is also a place where many plazas and fountains dot the landscape. Skaldfel is a city where form is sometimes more important than function. Lavish balls and celebrations are the order of the day in Skaldfel where parades, bands and wedding parties can become all night affairs. There is also the tradition of the wedding surprise. Once a month, the mayor of the city chooses a random wedding and attends himself. Often, he brings quite an impressive gift.
After Elrick the younger united the tribes, he established the city of Zweitenholm. This city was to serve as the seat of the new empire and the center of politics in the newly united kingdom. Zweitenholm was a triumph of glass from the far east, iron from Vaggr and stone from Skaldfel. It boasted enormous churches to Saluwan with clerics coming all the way from Helmir to preach and study. Today, Darkholm remains a powerhouse but it’s luster is faded. The churches have been torn down or re-purposed and clerics haven’t been seen in far too long.
The city is now a technological powerhouse in Nightsdeep. Gas from Dranet is piped in to Darkholm to power the gas lamps that light the street and gas ovens that heat the citizen’s food. Water wheels turn the wheat from nearby farms into grain at rates that were impossible before. Darkholm is the very center of the advancements that keep the cities behind the wall alive. Behind it all, the Skald in their towers and the Draugr in the sewers manipulate events to keep their power strong all the while competing against each other to rule Darkholm.
Once, the technological marvel that kept the peace in Darkholm, the ticktock men were automatons made of gears that moved through the city with clocklike precision. The ticktock men were made to look like real men and women. So much so that many believe that the ticktock men are made using the bodies of living people. When they weren’t patrolling the streets, they were standing atop their copper platforms like strange dolls. The ticktock men have been acting very strange lately.
The ticktock men have begun protecting a few city blocks that made up a neighborhood called the Ash Quarter. In the ash quarter is a large church called the Blar Kurkja or the black church. It used to be one of the largest churches to Saluwan but had been converted into an administrative office for the government. In a miraculous occurrence that many have attributed to Saluwan himself, the skies just above this building are clear. The sun streams down and strikes the church, bathing it in a light that people haven’t seen in generations. The ticktock men have made it clear that they will allow no one vampire or mortal to harm another within the bounds of the ash quarter. Because of this, the ash quarter is now known as sanctuary.
The Island- city of Dranet is home to the Draugr. The Draugr keep a low profile and stay out of political affairs. A strange fact is that Dranet has a law stating that all people on the streets after dark must wear masks. This law has led to the city being considered quite “modest” by anyone’s standards. Most people in Dranet prefer to have no skin exposed. They tend to see exposed skin as being scandalous and look down upon the people of Skaldfel especially because of their “showy” behavior. The lack of exposed skin doesn’t mean that the people of Dranet are dull and lacking in creativity. There are a wide variety and colors of cloaks, gowns, hoods and all manner of accessories. Dranet is often considered to be the place where high fashion is born.
Since the showing of skin is considered so scandalous, many people of the upper classes and even many bondi have taken to wearing masks. These masks are considered an expression of the true “face” of the person and as such are often quite elaborate. One can see everything from beautiful ceramic faces painted in excruciating detail to quite frightening masks that make the wearer look like a demon or monster. Those who can afford it will commission many masks and have quite the collection. Those who cannot tend to craft their own.
The vigil holds special significance in Dranet as what is typically a very sombre week for most is actually a week full of festivities. A carnival atmosphere dominates the streets where one will find the people wearing their best masks. During Vigil, most houses on Dranet hold luxurious balls and compete to be the one to hold the best ball. These balls are often decorated in macabre or whimsical fashion.
The Net Towns
From one side of the wall, extending out into the black sea and all the way around to the other side of the wall is a net of sorts. It’s primary purpose is to keep the hollow ones from drifting inland and arriving at the shores of Darkholm. Along the net, there are small settlements whose purpose is to capture the hollow ones that get caught in the net and move them further out to sea or repair any parts of the net that need mending. These towns don’t get many visitors and prefer it that way. It’s the kind of place that one learns a slow pace and ones neighbors are almost like ones own family.