Heimatstadt Settlement in Ulskandar | World Anvil


Once the jewel of a nation, now a grim reminder of glory long past….
Extract from Maximilian Hoherberg von Zottehal’s History of the Known World.   For centuries the city of Heimatstadt was the capital of the Kingdom of Reinhart , but after the cataclysmic collapse of the kingdom, and the emergence of the Mountain Principalities in its place, the city has been left ruined and abandoned. Now only those hoping to make a fortune from looting and salvaging the riches and wealth of this once mighty city dare to go there, and many of them do not return….


When it was a living city, Heimatstadt was home to a thriving community, which was heavily weighted towards the upper and middle classes of Reinhart’s society. Although many lower class people did indeed live and work there, and would have made up at least 50% of the population, the unusual concentration of wealthier individuals has made a lasting mark on the ruins of the city, which are dominated by the lavish town houses and mansions that the wealthy classes built for themselves across the city. This weighting towards the upper end of the social scale is easily explained given that Heimatstadt was once the capital of the old Kingdom of Reinhart, and therefore attracted representatives from all of the kingdoms influential families to settle there, so that they were near the royal court.   Now that the city is ruined and abandoned, in theory no one officially lives there, though in reality this is not the case. Semi-permanent campsites that are used as bases by groups of looters regularly pop up across the city, and these looters claim, to varying degrees of exaggeration, that there are communities of ‘wild folk’ who still live permanently in the city, and that are thought to be the descendants of those people who decided not to leave Heimatstadt when it was abandoned, but who attempted to continue their lives there. There are also claims that malevolent, intelligent creatures originating from the Underdark have made their homes in the tunnel and cave networks that are spread beneath the entire city, and that they prey on both the looters and ‘wild folk’ for food and slaves.


As Heimatstadt was constructed first and foremost on an island, there were never any serious plans to build an extensive defensive network, nor indeed was a city-wide network of defences, such as walls or other physical fortifications ever constructed during the years that it was inhabited. Instead, Heimatstadt relied on a network of blockhouses, designed to hold small garrisons of Royal Guard, that were spread across the city, and which were intended to act as focuses for peacekeeping and policing activity, as opposed to military defence.   The one area that was fortified was the area immediately around the Royal Palace, which was fortified by a large defensive moat, with a fortified guard tower positioned every third of a mile around its perimeter. Four bridges with fortified gatehouses offered access across this moat, each positioned at one of the cardinal points of the compass. The reason for choosing a negative defensive feature, as opposed to a positive one such as a curtain wall were purely aesthetic, as the royal household of Reinhart did not want to spoil the view from the Royal Palace to the Royal Deer Park beyond.


Given that it was a purpose built capital, Heimatstadt is well equipped with large public spaces, market areas and buildings that once upon a time would have been incredibly grand, and fitting of the capital of one of Turoza's great kingdoms. At one point there was a network of public fountains that provided water to the entire city, which have all since stopped working as the pipe and pumping system has decayed with age and ill-repair. Given that the city has so much coastline, and was reliant on importing all of its food and produce from the rest of the kingdom, Heimatstadt had an enormous network of ports, jetties and wharfs that lined almost all of the islands shoreline. Much of this infrastructure still exists, though it has long ceased to be serviceable for any form of heavy activity or usage. There is a large, circular area of what was once parkland that surrounded the Royal Palace, and which at one point was used as a Royal Deer Park to provide sport hunting for the royal family, their guests and retainers. Now, this long neglected park has become massively overgrown, and the herds of deer have spread out across the whole city, and have grown so large that they attract large predators to the island to hunt them.   The Royal Palace itself, even in its ruined state still stands as an imposing landmark over the city, and is the most untouched part of the city. This is because it was meticulously trapped and protected through both mundane and magical means when the ruling classes began to move out of Heimatstadt, in the hope that the royal possessions, legacy and, most importantly, the royal tombs remained intact for when whoever successfully manages to claim the throne of Reinhart returns in triumph. Although these traps and enchantments have managed to ward off the worst of the looting activities that have taken place throughout Heimatstadt over the course of the centuries, areas of the palace have been compromised by the most persistent of looters and treasure seekers, who are still slowly nibbling away at the remnants of a great royal court, and all of its lavish, and lucrative trappings.


The city of Heimatstadt came into being officially in 53S.E. at the same time that Baroness Eleanora Viermetz declared herself to be Queen of Reinhart, before the assembled tribal heads and minor rulers that she had either bribed, coerced or subdued in the area of the Felsspitze Mountains. Queen Eleanora’s self-coronation was accompanied by a proclamation that a new city, the largest in the entire kingdom, would be constructed to become the capital of Reinhart, mostly to ensure that no one area of the kingdom felt that they were being preferentially treated by their home settlement being converted into the nation’s capital. As the large island in Schwarze Lagune, from which Queen Eleanora made her declaration was unpopulated, it was decided that it would be the location of the new capital, which was named Heimatstadt.   The actual construction work to build the city, did not begin until two years later in 55S.E., when ground was broken for the first time in the centre of the city, in what would become the Royal Palace. The delay in the start of the construction was due to the fact that Queen Eleanora was forced to lead her army against the peoples living in what is now the Isles of Neufeld and the Principality of Rheinnacht, who had rebelled against her coronation, and claim of domination over them. With the conflict now over, and the rebellion crushed, Queen Eleanora was able to direct much of her military force to help with the construction of the city. By about 80S.E., most of the main infrastructure, including the Royal Palace, Royal Deer Park, a large portion of the dock infrastructure and a large number of official buildings that came to house the different parts of the Queen’s government had been constructed, and the rest of the city was slowly, but surely being populated by people arriving to build their own dwellings. Indeed there was a sharp influx of new residents after Queen Eleanora and the royal court officially took up residence in Heimatstadt’s Royal Palace in 82S.E., with most of Reinhart’s influential families competing to build large, showy residences as close to the area of the Royal Palace as possible. Unfortunately for Queen Eleanora, she only lived to see out a single year of residence in the palace that she had commissioned, but she had resided there for long enough, and enough people had by that point either moved to the city permanently, or constructed additional residences there that it remained the capital of the kingdom, and the seat of royal power in Reinhart until the kingdom’s collapse.   The city continued to grow steadily in size and population for the next 300 years or so, and by the year 350S.E., the city of Heimatstadt had taken up all of the available building space on its sizeable island in Schwarze Lagune. By this point, the population was well over 150,000 souls, making it the largest city in Turoza at the time of its occupation, and is also a record that has yet to be beaten on the continent. However, the closing years of the 4th century S.E. saw several cataclysmic events that set in motion the collapse of the Kingdom of Reinhart, and the eventual abandonment of Heimatstadt.   To begin with, as a city that relied entirely on food imported from other areas of the kingdom, apart from the fish stocks that the surrounding lake could provide, Heimatstadt was particularly hard hit by the Great Famine that rocked the Kingdom of Reinhart between 392-394S.E., in which it is estimated that over 50% of the population died directly from the famine, with another 30% being left permanently affected by health issues that dogged them for the rest of their lives. The political instability which came in the year 394S.E., and that saw the deposition and death of Wulf XII and the placing of his young son Wulf XIII further weakened the city, as hundreds lost their lives in the factional fighting and street violence that proceeded and followed the coup. During the unstable years of Wulf XIII’s short reign the city did manage to just about bring itself to a point where the population size was no longer free-falling, though factional violence was still a deep problem across Heimatstadt, and continue to claim hundreds of lives as supporters of Wulf XIII and those of his deposed father continued to fight for supremacy in the streets. However, the premature death of the young King Wulf XIII in 397S.E. plunged Heimatstadt into another crisis, one from which it could not escape.   As Wulf XIII died childless, a bitter argument over the succession to the throne of Reinhart began in the Royal Palace of Heimatstadt. Wulf’s body was barely cold and in his tomb beneath the palace before the situation began to spiral out of control, with all of the major families in Reinhart that had a title now claiming that they had a claim to the throne of the whole kingdom. Initially this was confined to unprecedented levels of factional violence across the capital city, which not only saw huge numbers of innocent people being killed as collateral damage, but also saw an enormous fire break out, which engulfed huge swathes of the north-eastern part of the city, which was only stopped by a fortuitous downpour of rain that lasted for several days, and ended up flooding part of the south of the city. In 398S.E, after months of unremitting violence, with no faction being any closer to gaining dominance, the noble families and their retainers abandoned the city and retreated to their own territories to begin the war of succession for the throne of Reinhart in earnest, an act which finally sounded the death knell of the kingdom of Reinhart and saw the emergence of the Mountain Principalities that still exist and war with one another today.   As for Heimatstadt, it only lasted as a population centre for a couple of more years after the noble families left. With the new nations of the Mountain Principalities as a whole, and the ones surrounding Schwarze Lagune no longer concerned with sending food and goods to Heimatstadt, the majority of those that were left starved, or left to find a better life in one of the many micro-nations that had once made up the Kingdom of Reinhart. By 402S.E., the city was judged to be abandoned by the nations of the Mountain Principalities, and from that time on it became the target of looting and salvage activities that still fuel a murky, underground industry that has been enriching the micro-nations that surround Schwarze Lagune and the city-state of Ravendorp in particular. Because of Heimatstadt’s size, there are still many treasures left to uncover, particularly in the Royal Palace, where only the boldest of salvagers and looters dare to go, for fear of the meticulous traps and wards that have been placed upon it.


The city of Heimatstadt is built on the largest of the islands in Schwarze Lagune, a body of land with which was entirely covered by the city, and is still covered by its ruins. This means that whatever name this island might have originally been given has been lost in the mists of time and for centuries people have been using the name Heimatstadt to refer to both the city and the island on which it is based. The island itself is relatively flat, which means that the vast majority of it was able to be built up relatively easily, something that the Kingdom of Reinhart took great advantage of in the city’s heyday. However, like the bed of Schwarze Lagune, the island is riddled with natural tunnels and caves that lead deep underground, and in Heimatstadt at least have been recorded to enter the Underdark. Although most of these tunnels are flooded by the waters of the surrounding lake, it is widely believed by the people of the Mountain Principalities, especially those that live around Schwarze Lagune that it is still possible to get to Heimatstadt through these tunnels in the Underdark, one just has to pick the right one. One noticeable problem with the island of Heimatstadt being pockmarked with so many subterranean spaces is that it makes the city very prone to sinkholes appearing, often without warning. Because the city has been left untended and un-repaired for so long, these sinkholes have appeared across the city, some so large that they have practically decimated some districts.


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Cover image: by Chris Pyrah


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