This is the history of the Ringed City of Baltor, the Catriona Plague and the formation of the Dispatchers. Baltor is one of the main cities in the Old World and one of the oldest bastions of civilisation in Continent. It was created one night while coming up with cities for my next D&D campaign. Enjoy!
Baltor — A History
The city of Baltor is rife with crime. Multiple thieves’ guilds attack and kill each other in the streets over petty slights and old generational blood feuds. This, as you could imagine creates a large amount of corpses. The undertakers of the city will gather up the lifeless cadavers that lie about the streets and take them to the local coroner’s where the gang members are almost never claimed by family and friends. The coroners or the ‘Dispatchers’ as they are locally known drain the bodies of their blood and then freeze the corpses using arcane magic. Then transfer the dead to the specially designed Tropovich Keep where they will be handled and buried in an unmarked grave.
The Tropovich Keep was the estate of the Rostropovich's, a wealthy family of Baltor who formed the Dispatchers and made their living like many influential families through slave trading. Slavery had been largely abolished around Continent except for a few small villages in the north and the Druegar in the Underbelly. The city of Baltor and its surrounding regions were behind the times and hadn’t abolished the use of slaves. The city of course had been built on the back of thousands of slaves, had it not been for this incredibly valuable commodity Baltor wouldn’t be the most developed and well-fortified city in Continent, do you know of any cities that have three 50 metre tall perimeter walls? But like all civilisations built on the blood sweat and fear of the downtrodden it all turned to shit.
In 3 PCP (Post Catriona Plague) the Catriona plague had swept through from the east and decimated the Apronesian Empire many of the other city states that had ruled. More than 70% of the population had been killed by the horrid disease. Those affected would die a gruesome death, violent convulsions and vomiting of blood and mucus all the while suffering from bloody diarrhoea then dying in agony around 48 hours later. Luckily the high walls of Baltor and the prevention measures of quarantining anyone with a slight sniff in the 3rd ring meant that the Catriona plague found it nigh impossible to get into the epicentre of the city.
An interesting thing happens when you cut off the lower socioeconomic classes from the rest of the population and leave them to die. Especially when you sandwich them between the 2nd and 3rd perimeter walls that they and their families actually built. Unrest spreads like wildfire and it only takes one charismatic and clever orator to incite a rebellion. The slaves who were the lowest of the classes and the large workforce that constructed the city banded together with the next lowest class, the peasants who were the ones who supervised the construction of the city. They began to lay siege on both the 3rd and the 2nd wall felling the forests in the expanse of the 3rd ring to build their siege engines. For months the slave army fought against the state in largely futile efforts to get people over the wall. Every now and again an expedition would get in but they were murdered and thrown back over within hours. Slave sympathisers in the 2nd ring began to arrange to have food and supplies shifted over the wall to the rebellion, many were caught in the act and thrown off the walls like the others but these ones had nooses tied around their necks. If the yanking of their noose didn’t pop their head off their bodies they hung from the battlements for all outside the 2nd ring to see. The siege on the 3rd wall was going far better; the rebellion gave up on scaling the 2nd wall and focused on opening the gate to the outside so they could escape. Cut off from the main forces the small guard unit that protected the gate quickly gave in and met similar deaths on the inside of the 3rd wall that the slave sympathisers did on the outside of the 2nd wall. The gates from the 3rd wall were opened and the rebellion was able to leave. However the centuries of oppression had left its mark and developed a frenzied need for vengeance festering in the rebellion.
In 8 months they returned to the outside of the 2nd ring. Something had happened to them though, they had clearly left and begun preparations for another offensive against the second wall but they were back far too soon and their numbers were significantly less. The rebels that returned looked pale and sickly and they carried with them carts full of corpses. They hastily erected 3 trebuchets, armed them not with rocks or flaming pots but with bundles of bound corpses and flung them over the walls. Much to the citizen’s disgust the corpses hadn’t been killed in battle but were covered in vomit and diarrhoea, they had died of the Catriona plague.
After eight bundles of corpses were thrown the rebels carts were empty and they began to depart — presumably to get more corpses — the state saw this as their opportune moment. Mounting 3 Cavalry units they opened the gate in ring 2 and chased down the sickly rebels as they struggled to escape. None survived and the only cavalry loss was from two horses which tripped over rebel corpses. The citizens and state celebrated that night and all was back to normal until days later, large groups of people began to shit blood and vomit all over themselves. The corpse bundles had done their job. The Catriona plague had penetrated the cities defences and people were dying by the droves.
In fear of the plague reaching the epicentre of the city a desperate measure was taken. Every father in the city was conscripted (except for the wealthy of course) and sent into the 2nd ring where the plague had gripped the surrounding towns. Their task was one of mercy. Find all the remaining citizens. Slaves, peasants, nobles, state officials and kill them. Grant them a merciful death rather than waiting for the plague to take them. No one can come back from there, not even the conscripted fathers. In recompense for agreeing to undertake such a sacrifice the families of all the fathers who had ventured into the second ring were given all of the rights of Freemen and once the plague had been dealt with and the 2nd/3rd rings were safe they would be allocated a plot of land that they would own freehold for them to restart their lives on. An upgrade in class and a plot of land is the apparent value of a father in Baltor and almost every family accepted the offer ending slavery and altering the class system of Baltor overnight. Once the men murdered the residents of the 2nd ring they all gathered and the brave fell on their swords, the cowards were pushed and an entire generation of fathers were lost.
Valcon Rostropovich had arrived in Baltor in 12 BCP (Before Catriona Plague) from his homeland to the east, of Sarnath. He claimed to be a member of the royal Rostropovich family that ruled over Sarnath and appeared to have the wealth of one, commissioning the building of a particularly odd keep on an estate backed onto the inside of the 1st ring. He even purchased the section of wall that his estate backed onto and posted his own guard atop it in a bunker that ran along the whole wall. When the Catriona plague made its way into the second ring he was on the council that decided to initiate the ‘Fate of our Fathers’ plan and alleged that he had a way to immunise people against the plague to conduct the removal of all the diseased bodies once the massacre had finished. Valcon refused to disclose his methods and his offer was mocked and turned down. Four months after the Fate of our Fathers had concluded however the state hadn’t found another way of getting rid of the bodies without risk of infection. Valcon, determined to show his method worked descended the outside of the 1st ring wall and picked up the bloated corpse of a plague ridden citizen. The council called to the wall, watched on from atop as Valcon popped the belly of the corpse and proceeded to take a bite out of the rotted flesh of the dead man. He then sat down and waited, to prove that he wouldn’t become ill. The revolted councilmen left and returned two days later to find Valcon sitting in the same spot no worse for wear than he was in the days prior. Impressed the councilmen gave his plan the go ahead and he rallied 400 men and women that took oaths to not reveal the secretive procedures that Valcon had brought with him from Sarnath.
His force of corpse cleaners worked through the night when it was cool and the smells weren’t as repugnant, stacking and burning the corpses over a period of 18 months from the foot of the 1st wall right through to the gate of the 3rd wall. They were nicknamed the Dispatchers by the populace and after they finished their task almost all of them stayed on as the coroners of the city setting up several posts in each ring of Baltor. Valcon Rostropovich was paid handsomely and heralded as the saviour of Baltor. His estate grew larger and from there he ran his business of the Dispatchers. In 62 PCP Valcon decided to leave Baltor and head back home to see what had become of Sarnath. He left his estate and the Tropovich keep to the Dispatchers and disappeared. He hasn’t been seen around Baltor in over 150 years and is presumed dead. The Dispatchers however continued to thrive and with the city of Baltor getting back on its feet the freemen that pissed away their plots of land now cause trouble for the state and had separated into various guilds of which they rule by a strict code which generally entails killing only guardsman and each other. The dispatchers clean up after their little fights and dispose of the bodies, their business is death and by god business is good.
The Dispatchers hide dark secret, well the populace thinks they do at least. Many claim that the bodies which go up to the keep are never buried and that only the Dispatchers can go up there. The only other people who ever gain entry are the artisans who are handpicked by the Bosco Rostropovich (Valcon’s adopted son) to work on the keep and estate. Given that the bodies go up there and don’t come back, the secretive nature of the Dispatchers and the odd construction of the keep the Rostropoviches and Dispatchers have earned a reputation as cannibals. Although of course no one can prove that. It’s hard to prove a crime when the evidence has been eaten! Also they’re a necessary evil, if it wasn’t for the Dispatchers then the streets would be filled with the bloated corpses of the guild members and the Dispatchers don’t seem to bother with the bodies of the normal townspeople so what’s the harm. If anyone has to get eaten it might as well be the low life thugs right?