The Towering City of Heap
Read about Itharia's history.
The history of the unique oddity known as Heap began when Dane Lightbringer, general of the long-lost nation of Waels, discovered a summoning stone in the Vale of Brennan. At the time it was the only other summoning stone known to exist, the other held by Ret-Talus, the lord of the Fallen Kingdom. Upon finding the stone, Lightbringer resigned his commission with Waels and taking those of his men who would follow, set out with the goal of establishing a military force that had but one purpose: to counter the forces of the Fallen Kingdom. Lightbringer and his men established a base of operations five months after their exodus from Waels. Calling themselves the Vanguards, they built what would later be named the Citadel of the Fist atop a wide plateau. The citadel was many things: monastery, small city, barracks, and its fortifications were amongst the best engineered of its time. It also had the distinct honor of being one of the few points of civilization that did not have a necropolis within three leagues of it.
News of the Vanguards spread far and wide, and after several successful military actions against the armies of the dead, they became legends in their own time. And so something happened that Lightbringer had never considered: the people of Itharia flocked to the Citadel of the Fist in droves. There were refugees of every nation; some merely desiring to protect their families, others the refuse of conquered lands. There were golden-skinned elves from the southern jungles, almond-eyed humans from the eastern grasslands, and every other variance imaginable. They camped at the base of the plateau where they thought the Vanguard presence would provide protection. But what started as a loose collection of camps turned into buildings of stone, and the Vanguards watched as refugees continued to arrive with each day's passing. Soon the plateau was completely encircled. Many of the Vanguard grumbled that they were supposed to be an army, and not parents of wayward children. But chief among Lightbringer's Seven Principles of Justice was the care of those in need, and so the makeshift city and its inhabitants were allowed to stay. The Vanguards kept themselves out of the city's governance but they reserved the right to make military decrees to ensure they would never be hampered by those who sought their protection.
Fear of the undead hordes, of enemies who could teleport into their midst, drove the exiles to build up the side of the plateau rather than outward from it. And so began the strange evolution into what would be dubbed Heap. In the long generations that followed its birth, houses and other structures were built upon each other in termite hill fashion, always seeking to be closer to the Vanguards who were the city's salvation. Time passed and soon a hierarchy developed. The wealthiest citizens built towers to live in, and the poorest dwelt in the bottommost portions of Heap, a district known as the Shambles. In the year 1104 the Vanguards issued a decree that led to the creation of Dane's Highways - four highways that connected the citadel to the base of the plateau below. No part of the city was allowed to obstruct the highways which admitted the Vanguard military to reach the ground without having to wind through Heap's labyrinthine streets. In 1124 the Vanguards heard of plans to build a spire so high it would peer down upon their citadel. They deemed this outrageous and passed a decree stating that no part of Heap could crest the plateau's top. Aside from these two decrees however, Heap's growth has largely been a chaotic and unchecked thing. Travelers nearing Heap always marvel at the bizarre, top-heavy appearance of the city, as if some monstrous creature vomited random stacks of buildings there.
Citizens living in the spires of Heap are often referred to as Ups by those who live beneath them, and most of Heap refers to those who dwell in the Shambles as Grounders. The life of a Grounder is a perilous thing, as often the city's criminal elements will flee to the depths when in straits in the districts above. The Shambles is also home to numerous nests of giant rats that prey on those who wander alone. But it is the Grounders whose border farms feed the city above, and without them Heap could not survive.
The City of Heap is one of Itharia's greatest unnatural wonders. It is a city that lacks any sense of design and has taken on the most unusual of shapes. Its citizenry is composed of such diversity as to be unheard of elsewhere. In a world where survival often means sticking to one's own kind, Heap represents a break from logic, but prospers nonetheless. As the War for Itharia rumbles on, and the Great Races clash against each other, new refugees struggle into Heap every day. In the end, it may be Heap itself, the city of homeless outcasts that stands as the last bulwark against darkness.