Separation City is a town in the north eastern bays of the Steamlands, that rose to prominence during the period of religious diversification that swept the whole northern half of the island early in its recorded history. As part of the changes that took place at that time, one sect of worshippers of Sigmar split from the main body of the faith, and through manipulation of political disputes were able to establish themselves in a position of relative power and security during the turbulent times of religious reformation. However, this sect proved to be on the wrong side of history, and the area they lay claim to spiritual guidance of has slowly declined in wealth and power as it fell behind the more religiously diverse northern and western regions. Separation city remains an important trade route with the Four Kingdoms, however, and also the last major town on the road heading into the deeper mountains of the steamlands – making it also potentially the last bulwark against beastmen emerging from the inmost parts of the island.
Separation City was originally a small fishing town, ruled by petty nobles who dabbled equally in trade and piracy. Like most of the human-inhabited parts of the Steamlands, its citizens were originally exclusively worshipers of the warrior god Sigmar, though they only had a poor and weak shrine, and paid lip-service to their faith. However, some hundreds of years ago new religions began to filter into the Steamlands – Verana worship entered through the elves, and Ulric gained popularity as traders from the Shadowlands began to gain a greater influence in distant Store and Twinluck. There was much debate within the church of Sigmar about whether to accept foreign religions or to attempt to quell them, and this debate slowly solidified into two forces: the larger, more prosperous Eight Banners Sect, which was linked with the Emperor of Infinite Ways in Twinluck, and the smaller but more ferocious Peaceful Mind sect. As more religions entered the Steamlands, debate intensified between these sects. There were rumours that one or both sects were using ancient assassin guilds to settle scores and resolve differences, and more than once the Emperor of Infinite Ways had to intervene to resolve petty land disputes over shrines or other possessions. The dispute came to a head, however, when Shallya’s envoys sailed into the chief port of the Spear Bays in a fleet of white ships, and with their healing powers eliminated in a week a stubborn and ferocious outbreak of ghoulpox that had threatened to destroy the kingdom. The Emperor of Infinite Ways saw an opportunity to profit, and granted the Shallya faith leave to preach and practice anywhere in the Steamlands. The men of the Peaceful Mind sect rebelled against his teachings, and demanded that he cast all other religions forth from the land. The Emperor, finding the voice of the Peaceful Mind unopposed after the sudden disappearance of the High Priest of the Eight Banners, agreed to their demands reluctantly, hoping to end further religious strife. Unfortunately, the Shallyans disapproved of the scenes of persecution that followed, and refused to offer further healing services until religious tolerance was extended to all. In the chaos of the following days a group of fanatics of the Peaceful Mind sect executed healers who were attending to an urgent ghoulpox outbreak in Store, and the resulting outburst of public anger forced the Emperor to have the fanatics executed. In protest, the men of the Peaceful Mind sect then announced their withdrawal from the Church of Sigmar, and marched enmasse from its central shrine at Heavenbalm toward the sea. They established a new church in Separation City, forced out the nascent churches of the new religions, and invited nobles who agreed with them to join them there. Though few did, a powerful noble family from Store saw an opportunity to escape troubles in their own city, and moved to Separation City. Thus ennobled, the priests of the Peaceful Mind sect set about establishing a new, purer religious presence in Separation City. The Emperor of Infinite Ways prepared for war, and the noble family of Separation City used their newfound position of importance to negotiate a deal that would favour their allies in Store: the Peaceful Mind sect would rejoin the church of Sigmar and accept religious tolerance if the Emperor would abdicate, free all the city states of the Steamlands to pursue their own path, and dissolve the Empire. In the interests of peace and harmony the Emperor so agreed, and the modern political landscape was formed. Of course, in the aftermath of the Emperor’s abdication, the first family to grab power in Store was a close ally of that family that had moved to Separation City, and many old scores were settled; but most agree the resolution of the conflict was for the best, since it allowed the healers freedom to settle in every major town in the Steamlands, as well as opening the path for other minor religions, and subsequently for the entrance of wizards from the North and West.
Others, of course, maintain that it was in this period of religious tolerance that Chaos was able to gain a foothold in the steamlands, and revile the Eight Banners Sect and the last Emperor of Infinite Ways as the initial agents of Chaos. Certainly, it is an unhappy coincidence that the healers of Shallya should have arrived at the Spear Capes just at the same time as the first ever outbreak of ghoulpox was observed, and that ghoulpox should have afflicted so many other communities in the years that followed. No evidence has been found of a guiding hand behind the spread of that vile disease, but the whispers cannot be stilled …
To this day, Separation City remains a haven of religious intolerance. It is the spiritual home of the minority Peaceful Mind sect, whose fanatics wander the land preaching the equivalence of Chaos and all the other non-Sigmar gods. Besides an unusually small Shallyan presence and a decrepit shrine to Verana, it has no significant outside religious presence, and though itinerant religious folk are tolerated, they are not welcome. This makes the land East of Separation City also spiritually poor, since Greathalf though larger is poorer and weaker, and holds no appeal for the major churches. Some in the centre of the Steamlands worry that this makes Separation City a hotbed of Chaos activity, especially since it is the closest major city to the Beastlands.
Separation City holds a trading outposts with the dwarves of the Four Kingdoms, and also has significant steam wealth – there are many hot springs and various steam-powered luxuries in the town, as well as a small industry based around the healing and recuperating powers of the spas – many nobles from the wilder west coast, and even from lands over the sea, come to Separation City to “take the airs.” Separation City also boasts eight huge pits of boiling water called the Eight Hells, each of which has been named after one of the eight flags of the Eight Banners sect, and which are rumoured to hold magical properties that can be harnessed by properly trained wizards. Wizards are not welcome in Separation City, however, and rarely given much chance to conduct research at the hells.
Separation City is divided into four main areas, each surrounded by its own low walls and separated by short stretches of hills and rice paddies. There is a port area at the beach, with some small hot spring hotels; inland to the northwest and built across a small plateau is Iron Ring, the centre of the town. To its west is the cemetery area, which also holds some open air hot springs and one of the Hells. Finally, northeast of the Iron Ring, and north of the port, is Turtle River, where the main church of Sigmar is built and many of the services supporting the priests can be found. Each area is linked to each other by roads, and a kind of steam-powered rail system links the port to the Iron Ring, so that goods and people can be dragged up from the bay. Between the cemetery area and the Iron Ring is a small dwarven outpost, neat and well-built and situated in its own walled area, from the middle of which rises a large docking spike for the dwarves’ famous airships. The dwarves are liked in the town and contribute to its well-built and well-maintained engineering, especially the defensive walls around the separate sections of the town. One of the Hells is also located just outside the dwarven outpost, and is rumoured to be the easiest hell to research.
West of the city, on the road that leads into the interior of the island, is a small mountain called Monkey Mountain, that is rumoured to be home to a race of intelligent monkeys. These monkeys do not usually bother the folk of the city, though they occasionally raid caravans passing on the west road, or on the coast road to Greathalf. These monkeys worship an ancient and twisted monkey god, and travellers passing the mountain typically leave offerings at one of its dilapidated shrine, as a form of tribute to guarantee safe passage. Though humans have little contact with these monkeys, no one has ever suspected that they might be related to the beastmen – they are not pernicious, merely mischievous and simple.
Prosperous, inward-looking, and peaceful, Separation City has been largely forgotten by the rest of the Steamlands, being remembered only when there is an upsurge of beastman violence, and the emissaries of the Separated head north and west to raise armies of vengeance. It is to Separation City that our adventuring group came to sign the deed to their hot spring hotel, and it is here that their adventures started …