The Watch of the Sleepless

watchtowerA line runs from the River Eblis, on the western edge of Narugor, through Thistle Hold, then onward west to River Kastor (which flows into the River Eanor in the bristling edge of Bright Davokar, between Thistle Hold and Melima). Along this line, every 1000 paces (or roughly 1.5km), a rough tower of dark wood timbers rising high above the ground, on a level with the treeline not so far away to the north. In total one-hundred and sixty towers, in various states of construction and repair, stand along the line, each manned by a constant guard and commanded by a tornföra, a temporary assignment of guard duty rarely seen as anything more than punishment. Captain Dekamedo particularly seems to take particular relish in assigning soldiers with temperament issues to a month or two at Post.

Service in Post receives such vilification because of the Sleepless. The death magic of the enemy in the war that sundered Alberetor did more than just render the soil infertile and raze whole cities to dust. That same magic created an endless battle for soldiers loyal to the Queen, as the forces of the enemy rose time and again from mortal wounds, serving until reduced to little more than shredded flesh and shattered bone. The very same magic spread, like a contagion, to the common people – and they traveled north with the great wave of refugees. The sickness became apparent only after time – though became most apparent when falls in the mountains passes or starvation failed to stop people from waking with the dawn and slogging onward once more.

The dead stand. The dead watch. These are not abominations. The dead continue to seek fulfilment, continue to exert free will and purpose. Yet they are cold, without breath or flowing blood. They do not tire – and despite unsettled public sentiment in this, they serve a valuable purpose. The resources simply do not exist to man or resource a defence across the entire southern expanse of Davokar. The Sleepless serve, by light of sun and moon, to ward the boundaries of the great forest and warn of impending threat upon civilised lands.

Two of the Sleepless serve as the Watchers in each Post. Sixteen tornföra serve their time, each responsible for ten towers, judging each for its need of repair, refreshing the oil in the beacons or replacing the Sleepless who decay beyond use. Each man owes his allegiance to both Duke Junio Berakka and Mayor Lasifor Nightpitch, though they swear their oath to the former and receive coin from the latter. Those with good sense seek to serve their term well in the hope they might return to duties in Thistlehold or one of the other settlements punctuating the length of the east-west road. If not that, aspiration to a term in the more comfortable surrounds of either Otra Senja or Otra Dorno serves to help a bone-chilled tornföra through the dark nights of a lunar cycle (the basic measure of a term at Post).

Construction

The construction of a Post is not dissimilar to the form of the windmill on page 249 of the Core Book, with a considerable increase in height. Across the array of towers, the construction varies considerably, with similarities only in the most basic skeleton of construction.

As many of the trees on the outskirts of Davokar rise to 50 meters in height, each Post must also rise to the same and more. A wide flat base of packed dirt and stone serves as a solid foundation for the tower. The corner posts of each tower consist of whole tree trunks sunk into the base. Most commonly, the trunks come from the towering Tetch or dark wooded Ironbone trees, transported from the lumberyards on the edge of the Volgoma and carried, by sail, up the Eblis. Most trees on the southern bounds of Bright Davokar run too green for construction purposes, though they’re fine for weatherproofing and furnishing the interior.

The majority of towers have an ‘office’ for the tornföra in the lower section and an observation platform at the top. Each section of the tower consists of reinforcing cross-beams and/or platforms at roughly 3-meter intervals (not replicated in the very rough sketch which shows a highly foreshortened image). Ladders or stairs serve to allow access to the highest level, with the observation platform just short of the top above which nestles a beacon. The beacon only burns in case of emergency. To light a beacon at any other time would be to invite unwelcome visitors from Davokar or the ire of the witches – who seem to tolerate the posts much of the rest of the time.

The most basic towers use wood throughout aside from the stone foundation. Some will reinforce the lower levels of the tower with rough or worked stone, creating something closer to a fortification. Further development often involves digging a trench or ditch around the base, to mire and slow attackers. In such cases, the lower habitable area will often extend to the base and the furnishings will include a plank or board to assist with entry.

watchtower-post

The Sleepless

The observation platform at the peak of each Post holds two undead soldiers – euphemistically called The Sleepless. While most civilians would not consider the dead warrant special attention or equipment, keeping them from decaying necessitates a baseline level of equipment. Much of the time they wear light and sturdy all-weather clothing with leather jerkin and half-helm. They carry bows, with which they display dependable expertise. As the Sleepless literally don’t sleep, they have plenty of time to improve their skills, though they lack the flexibility in their muscles to achieve masterly control or expertise.

As well as access to the beacon – which the team at the Post keep clean, cleared from bird waste and topped up with oil – the observation platform has a rope or chain connected to a bell in the office below. In the event of an impending attack of any kind, the bell provides a warning to the officer without immediately drawing awareness toward the Post.

The Sleepless normally serve until deterioration renders them incapable of serving their purpose – and, more importantly, their Queen. Those who have reached the end of their usefulness may take a final role as scouts with Ranger units or hunters roaming the bright edge of Davokar. Better to go out fighting than decay into dysfunction.

Note: This is a living post, certain to be extended with additional details, including – statistics for the soldiers and commanders of the Posts; maps of Otra forts at the end of the line; improved maps of the Posts.

3 Comments

  1. Awesome! The party I GM for is just setting out on the road from Thistle Hold, so I was thinking of having them encounter the watchtowers and the woodsward trench. I love the idea of having undead manning the watchposts!

    I’ll probably have my party get company from an army sergeant escorting a pair of soldiers who have been sent to tornföra-duty. Should set up for one NPC who can provide exposition, one NPC who can be snarky and resentful, and one NPC who can be freaked out at the idea of serving with the Sleepless.

    Might look to Tyrion’s journey along with the men sentenced to serve in the Night’s Watch for inspiration.

    • The Night’s Watch definitely seems a point of inspiration and I definitely see it as an act of punishment to assign anyone to the thankless task of tornföra. It could be possible to run a small group as the tornföra and two Sleepless played as characters, defending a Post or handling the tasks associated with maintaining one – especially one close to a settlement. I imagine some of the Posts have become the centre of one or more villages.

      • Yeah, especially with the playable undead in the Player’s Handbook. Sleepless Watchmen could be a great way to give the non-corrupted undead a role in society – even if they are functional pariahs and effectively secret.

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