The City of Sanctuary
Sanctuary is a seaport, and its name goes back to a time
when it provided the only armed haven along an important
caravan route. But the long war ended, the caravans
abandoned that route for a shorter one, and Sanctuary
declined in status—but not in population, because for
every honest person who left to pursue a normal life
elsewhere, a rogue drifted in to pursue his normal life.
Now, Sanctuary is still appropriately named, but as a
haven for the lawless. Most of them, and the worst of them,
are concentrated in that section of town known as the Maze,
a labyrinth of streets and nameless alleys and no churches.
There is communion, though, of a rough kind,
and much of it goes on in a tavern named The Vulgar Unicorn,
which features a sign in the shape of that animal
improbably engaging itself…
- From the writings of Sister Yvette of the Fortress Covenant
Sanctuary is a highly prized city due to its location and connections. At the moment, the Rankans are the ruling power, with the ousted Ilsig trying to regain control, and other smaller factions who wish to rise up.
The gods pay close attention to Sanctuary and its residents, trying to influence events directly. This draws powerful people into the conflict, and Sanctuary becomes a swirling mass of strength, desperation,and daring. The city’s inhabitants, both residents and visitors, hail from a wide variety of cultures, making the city a hub for trade and politics, not to mention the back dealings of both.
Someone is always scrambling to get to riches or targets or information before someone else does, angling for the best deal in the process. Sanctuary is no place for the unwary or the timid.
The Rankan Era is a cataclysmic one, though it has only just begun. The gods fight openly over the city’s fate, and the destinies of several kingdoms are uncertain. In these years, legends form: Tempus Thales, Jubal the Shadow King, and others walk the streets, and those who cross their paths are forever changed. Several forces vie for power, and most people must choose sides.
The Rankan Era is full of brash mercenaries, arrogant thugs, sly assassins, and potent sorcerers. Mages fight secret wars in the streets and magic weapons are sold from small shops that mysteriously appear within the Maze. Everything is larger, bolder, louder, more colorful, more potentially profitable, and more dangerous.
We are the people of Sanctuary, and we can smell that there is blood to be had.
Sanctuary has always been valuable. Even before Ranke opened the Great Pass, Sanctuary still had importance, if only for its ships and its position at the edge of the Rankan Empire. Kingdoms, nobles, temples, and even the gods themselves watched Sanctuary closely and fought for control over it.
The first thing to remember is that Sanctuary is tough, and has been tough throughout its history. The city was founded by men and women who defied an entire nation while armed with little more than rocks and determination, and by farmers and fishermen who fought the land and sea for survival. Sanctans inherited the grit and determination of their forbearers. Nothing has ever come easily to Sanctuary except death, and some of the city’s inhabitants like it that way. This is not a place where you can let your guard down and hope to survive. The strong, the fast, and the clever can carve out nice lives here, but it takes work — and most of the successful residents appreciate that. The effort makes the reward that much sweeter, and too much success would make them soft and careless. People here are hard, and that’s how they survive events that would destroy lesser men.
Sanctuary is constantly in flux. Regimes and power balances — political, religious, military, financial, or social —change overnight. Shops open and close. Travelers enter and depart. The city is forever in a state of change, expanding and contracting like some vast heart. Even the walls change. Sanctuary tears down its defenses and rebuilds them when the need arises, or for no apparent reason at all. Many residents consider the city a living entity, and like a shark, it is never still for an instant. No matter the hour, someone is awake in Sanctuary, and the wise ones are watching for the latest changes and incorporating them into their own plans.
Another vital industry in Sanctuary is the retail of religion. Gods and their ilk have long been a presence in Thieves’ World, moving their minions like pawns through the streets of the city or fighting outright battles in the heavens. As a crucible of cultures, Sanctuary sees the birth and death of new religions and cults almost on a daily basis. In fact, so many gods have been (and are still) worshipped in the city that it’s sometimes difficult to tell from what pantheon they descend.
Though the Rankans have settled into Sanctuary and the years of war and strife are over, the political world is somehow in greater upheaval during this time. For all his faults, and despite all his detractors, Prince Kadakithis is a known quantity. He has the power of Ranke at his back and the Hellhounds at his side. Disobeying him is foolish, and defying him is potentially deadly.
Nevertheless, the Rankan’s only understand the power of a fist. The Prince is usually at the front line of a war and has not stopped to govern in quite some time. He has the power, but little experience at using it. Courtiers of different political inclinations actively attempt to deceive, humiliate, and otherwise weaken the Rankan aristocracy, and with the Mages working daily to find a way to break the Wizard Wall, everyone is waiting to see if war is in the cards, and what weakness such a battle might reveal. The city is poised on the brink of civil war, and such a fight would be extremely ugly. Back the right candidate, and you could wind up set for life. Pick the wrong one, and your future will be short and painful.
Life in Sanctuary
Most would tell you that crime is the number-one industry here. Sanctuary has more than its fair share of crime lords, protection rackets, drug dealers, smugglers, and more. But Sanctuary has legitimate business, too.Throughout its history, Sanctuary has enjoyed a thriving fishing industry, with a fleet of ships capable of harvesting a catch that could feed almost the entire city at peak season. Sanctuary is also a natural port for trading ships from island nations to the south, Rankan merchants to the north, and Ilsigi traders from the west.The constant influx of people and cultures has made Sanctuary into a melting pot, and a city with demand enough for the dimmest tradesman to turn a profit.
In a city buckling under the weight of poverty, stricken by crime, and threatened by war, natural disasters, and supernatural threats, people drink. People drink a lot. Sanctuary has many diversions for those wanting to get away from their drudgery and escape the constant and oppressive burden of a miserable life. For those with a few spare coins, there’s bound to be something to take your mind off your worries.
This city literally thrives on criminal enterprise. It seems that, no matter their station or social class, everyone in this city operates outside the law.Pickpockets and cutpurses prowl the bazaar and Caravan Square. Gangs roam the Hill and the Maze, taking by force what they refuse to earn through honest means. Drug lords and their armies of pushers make addicts of the innocents and weak-willed, preying on children, both of body and of mind. Beggars, assassins, slavers, and worse combine to make Sanctuary’s streets dangerous, regardless of the hour. This section highlights a few of the more profitable businesses and notorious criminals.
Sanctuary has a reputation for being a lawless place, where personal codes are more important than some dusty old edict hidden away in a records office of the Hall of Justice. And while custom tends to flout the laws, and bribery is the surest means for getting by any nuisance, there are some things that are illegal even here. However, codifying these laws is difficult, for they tend to change with whomever is in power. Furthermore, despite appearances, honest people do outnumber the criminals, and most folks want to get crime out of their neighborhoods for good.
Sanctuary never sleeps. In every hour of every day, in every neighborhood, something is going on. Footpads skulk in the shadows of buildings, waiting for the perfect passerby with a fat purse to filch. Assassins rule the rooftops, watching their quarries on the winding streets below. Prostitutes offer delights from balconies to those with enough coin. At night, the Promise of Heaven stirs with the desperate, the hungry, and the frightened. Beggars stare with bleary eyes, noting every detail. The neighborhoods and larger districts of Sanctuary are based more on common activity than formal distinctions or borders. All vary widely in size and shape, and may grow, shrink, or twist from year to year.