The Wild Coast is aptly named. For centuries its cities have spurned the yoke of kings and emperors alike. They quarreled with each other, raided more settled lands and clung stubbornly to their squalid, precarious freedom. Empires rose and fell, petty lords came and went, but the cities remained – corrupt, violent, dangerous, but free.
Until the Greyhawk Wars, that is.
The armies of Turrosh Mak, so-called Emperor of the Pomarj, burned through the cities of the Wild Coast like wildfire. Now Fax, Badwall and Elredd lie crushed beneath the Mak’s heel, while Narwell struggles to rise from the ashes of its destruction. Only one city stands unscathed – a city that now more than ever seems to live up to its name: Safeton.
Safeton is closest to the expanded Orc Empire, and has a population of 6,100. Fishing, trade, laboring, quarrying, and mercantile seamanship are the sources of income here, but life is hard for most.
Settlements and Locations within the Holdings of Safeton:
- Bright Tower Keep
- Castle Sulafrait
- Sevant’s Tower
- Stalkara Estates
This closeness to the humanoids gives Safeton an atmosphere of paranoia and fear with everyone on edge and ready to take out their aggression upon any humanoid that pops up. Word travels fast in the city, with rumors that start in the docks reaching the other side of town in minutes. Everyone of the residents knows the use of at least one weapon, and a disproportionate number of semi-capable adventurers live here; for the people of Safeton, going adventuring usually means sneaking into the Buffer Zone or (for the brave or foolhardy) across the northern-boundary of the Orcish Empire, looting ruined villages (which has poor returns nowadays) and searching for ore patrols. The ruined but occupied castles of Leraizen (held by an unknown person-possibly the former owner, a necromancer who was thought to have died-who has magical power and a dislike of being disturbed) and Sulafrait (held alternately by bandits, orcs, or orogs, and said to have great treasure within) are popular targets. A few groups with real experience have gone so far as to scout over a hundred miles into orcish territory to the town of Fax, which has been greatly damaged and is now occupied by orcs, goblins, bugbears, ogres, gnolls, and other humanoids. The people of Fax were driven out in 584 CY and would like to return, but most have lost hope.
Safeton is subject to military rule by the 550 Greyhawk militiamen, with nighttime curfews outside the notorious Dock District (where the militia do not patrol). Three war galleys are stationed at Safeton, and Hardby Marines are training Safeton men in the hard military duties expected of them under the new conscription law. Life is tough and bloody here; many of the native folk are of evil alignments and some of them are as brutal as any ore bandit pillaging and slaying farmsteads.
Because of this threat, Safeton has become a fortress town, with active military visible at all times on and within its walls. Made mostly of stone, many of its buildings (and parts of its walls) are centuries old. The outer wall has been reinforced, with arrow slits and parapets added. Many of the outer streets of the town have traps that can be easily set in case the walls are breached. Safeton’s defenses are being strengthened as a matter of priority. A complete wooden stockade wall has been erected, and within that, a stone wall is being built with two massive entry gates. Sea defenses are strong, but the land threat is the greatest, so slave labor is being used round the clock to construct the walls. Slaves always existed in Safeton, and many used to be sold to the Pomarj, a horrible irony. Greyhawk law does not allow slavery, but the slaves have been appropriated as workhouse-billeted people for this essential construction work.
Districts of Safeton:
Safeton’s climate is that of typical temperate seaboard, with one notable exception. During Goodmonth and Harvester each year, a powerful southeasterly wind blows in from the sea (50% chance each day, 75% chance if the gale blew the day before). The Safeton Physic, as the gale is known, begins to blow just after noon and continues until late in the night. It takes its name from the belief that the wind blows away disease and detritus from the poorer parts of the city. It makes piloting and sailing out of port somewhat more hazardous.
History: About half a century after the Suel Imperium was burned to ash by the Rain of Colorless Fire, a band of Suloise wanderers settled atop a low ridge overlooking an inlet of Woolly Bay. Exiles and vagabonds all their lives, they were determined to claim a new home for themselves and in some small way live up to the dimly remembered glories of their grandsires. Quarrying the abundant local stone, the Suel fortified the settlement against the unnumbered bands of marauders that roamed the lands. The settlers were fierce in the defense of their new home and after several attempts to storm the high stone walls came to bloody grief, the place came to be known as Safe Town (later shortened to Safeton).
From the very beginning, many doubted how well the name suited the place. Certainly, the loose alliance of families that came to form the town’s nobility ensured that it remained safe from attack from without. However, the haphazard attitude of the Old Families (as the nobles are called) to lawmaking meant that walking the streets of Safeton could be anything but safe. Might made right and the Old Families had might to spare. So, along with fishing, quarrying and trade, brigandage and, later, piracy filled Safeton’s coffers. Like their forefathers, the Suel of Safeton used slaves to work their quarries and their fields.
Down the long centuries, though two-bit strongmen and petty despots have risen and fallen, no tyrant has established himself long in Safeton. A decree by the founders of the city forbidding dynastic succession is regarded as sacred and would-be dynasts have time and again found their ambitions (and their line of succession) cut short by an assassin’s blade.
The last of Safeton’s strongmen met a slightly different end, however. Styling himself the Szek of Safeton, his small private army of brigands terrorized the northern Wild Coast in the middle years of the current century. The szek’s fatal error was to kidnap a Gynarch of Hardby and then murder her when her family refused to pay ransom. Retribution was swift and bloody. Two of the dead gynarch’s grandchildren – Deirdre and Oscar Longland – rode into Safeton alone and rode out with the szek’s head, which they mounted on a pike over the gates of Hardby.
The szek’s untimely (and extremely violent) death left Safeton without a single strong leader until one was imposed on the city by outside circumstances. In early 584 CY, the half-orc warlord Turrosh Mak united the monstrous tribes of the Pomarj. The cities of Eldredd and Badwall were stormed and sacked in quick succession. As refugees flooded into Safeton with tales of the seemingly unstoppable advance of the Pomarji horde, the Old Families quickly saw that their ancient home could not weather such a storm unaided. So in Coldeven 584 CY, they signed a Pact of Association with the Free City of Greyhawk that placed Safeton under Greyhawkian rule in return for military support.
This did little to reassure Safeton’s population. When news came of the fall of Fax, panic gripped the city. Rumors spread like wildfire – Safeton’s small population of orcs, hobgoblins and half-orcs were in league with the Mak. Angry mobs took to the streets and, in what is known as the Night of Terror, killed every orc, half-orc and goblinkin that they could lay hands on. Order was only fully restored when a force of 550 Greyhawk Militia and three fully crewed war galleys of the Hardby Marines arrived nearly a week later. They were led by Safeton’s new military governor, Turin Deathstalker, late of Greyhawk itself, whose reputation as an orcslayer and goblinkin is exceeded only by his infamy as a cold-blooded assassin.
Turin looks over this city with a cold eye. He is determined that, when the battle for Safeton comes, he will send thousands of humanoids to their deaths. He gains resources as he can; his tax revenues may be owing to Greyhawk, but Safeton receives more moneys in aid than it generates in taxes. Turin is not beyond coercing any adventurers useful to the construction work, or in Safeton’s militia, into service through trumped-up legal charges if the need arises.
Turin set about fortifying Safeton with characteristic pragmatism. All men of fighting age were immediately conscripted into the city levy and given arms and armor. Safeton’s practice of slavery was outlawed under Greyhawk law. However, the freed slaves were immediately put to work as indentured laborers to pay off their purchase prices building a stockade (and later a stone wall) to enclose those parts of the city that spilled beyond the original town wall. Imprisoned convicts were pressed into the Penal Militia. Many were chained to watchtowers and sea defenses as sentinels, their cooperation ensured by the knowledge that they would share the same fate as the rest of Safeton should the city fall.
Turin is also the man who devised the Penal Militias. These are forces of convicted criminals that serve one of two roles. The most hardened of them are shackled to lookout posts and sea defenses, where they will be given arms only if the need is desperate. As lookouts, they know their fate will be the same as everyone else’s if Safeton is overwhelmed, so they perform their duties. A handful have actually been released into conscription into the Hardby Marines, so this gives them something to look forward to.
Others are given as (virtual) slaves to communities within the Wild Plains, where they serve as (shackled and manacled) guards and border lookouts. Many die there if raiders attack the communities, but they’re considered expendable. Life in the Penal Militias is often brutish and short, but the men within them are usually black-hearted brigands.
As it happened, the Mak’s assault on Safeton would not come for another five years. In 589 CY, a large force of orcs and goblins assailed Safeton, concentrating their attacks on the uncompleted sections of the outer walls. However, Turin Deathstalker had foreseen this stroke, and the orcs and goblins found themselves charging into long prepared killing grounds, laced with traps and lethal dweomers. Three Pomarji assaults were thrown back from the walls before Turin unleashed a sally that routed the demoralized orcs. Rout turned into slaughter and even today, the Orcslayer Field, as the area outside the southern walls of the city is known is strewn with bleached orc bones.
The following year, Turin launched a retaliatory strike against the orcish base at Cantona, and left it a smoking ruin. Several years of raids and skirmishes followed, before the Mak struck north once more – but at unprepared Narwell rather than at the fortress that Safeton has become. Outraged, Turin immediately sent forces to cut off the orc’s line of retreat south. If tales circulating around Safeton are to be believed, Safeton’s governor infiltrated the orcish camp on the eve of their final battle with the Greyhawk forces and took the heads of the orc warleader and six of his captains. Not for nothing is Turin Deathstalker so named.