The Coldest War
Seattle thirty years after the Madness is a shadow of its former self. A modern metropolis has a surprisingly short shelf-life without maintenance. Still, there are recognizable features that have persisted.
Perhaps most iconically, the Needle has survived. A world’s fair icon, it was built to be a marvel of engineering, literally impossible to topple. Its center of gravity is below ground level, and it remains straight, vertical and proud. The reclusive and exclusive enclave that lives there consider themselves (perhaps rightly) to be Seattle’s elite.
A number of Seattle’s skyscrapers also persist, although in much poorer repair. The Spires are steel skeletons rising above the wreckage and the undergrowth, each colonized by elaborate social ecosystems of vertical tribal and gang territories. This close to the Sound it doesn’t pay to be too close to ground level, and the ruined buildings of a past age strive for self-sufficiency.
To the south of the Spires, set apart a bit, sits the Smith Tower, an enclave of occultists and madmen that all sane people give a wide berth to.
Not everyone flees the dangers of ground level. The King controls the King’s Dome, the most powerful, most defensible fortress in the area. An immense colosseum of the lost age, the dome has long since collapsed, but the high walls keep the Walkers and the Mad and the Esoterics out while its vast open space provides room for shanty-towns and parking for those few armed and armored vehicles still functioning.
Similarly, the warring tribes of Queen Anne rely on geographical vantage rather than artificial elevation. Still, the hill is large and less defensible, and life amidst the crumbling homes and narrow streets is short and violent.
Pike’s Wall was once an elevated double-decker roadway. Its collapse at the base of the hill that rises to the Spires has provided a makeshift fortification against the Esoterics, built up and manned by the brave men and women of Pike’s Watch.
Similarly, the Engineers of the Locks fight a constant war against incursion from the sea. Their massive concrete and steel walls keep the waters of Lake Union in and the Esoterics of the Sound out. If they should fall, nothing would prevent the horrors of the sea from invading the heart of the city.
The Five, once Interstate Five, still provides a relatively clear, flat arterial for vehicles and foot traffic and remains the major road through the ruins. Although the I-5 bridge across the Montlake cut has collapsed (conveniently erasing the cut, and cutting Lake Washington off, once more, from the sea), detours have been cut down to the lower bridges. There is one significant blockage however. The Toll is a fortified tribe that has taken over the freeway park tunnel. They charge any who would pass surprisingly reasonable fees to pass.
To the north lies a seemingly endless expanse of ruins marked with the occasional spire. One bastion of civilization is the Suzallo Palace, a heavily fortified and defended stone building upon the old University grounds. It is said that the Keeper of the Palace preserve the lore of the lost world and defend it jealously and lethally against all who would seek to plunder it.
To the east, in the midst of Lake Washington, sits the Mercer Enclave. This island community has taken great pains to cut itself off from the land, destroying the bridges of I-90 as best they could. They guard their beaches vigorously against mainland tribes and straggling Esoterics that managed to cross into Lake Washington. They do, however, provide a tenuous trading link between the tribes of Seattle and those distant groups of the Inland Ruins.
To the west, across the sluggish, stinking Duwamish river, lies the Alki Zone. What was once west Seattle has become overrun by Esoterics and other, more horrible things. Only the reckless or insane seek to scavenge the lost treasures of the Alki Zone, but tales are told around the night fires of the artifacts of the lost age that can be found in ruins overrun by those who care little about such things, and occasionally someone will become reckless or insane enough to try their luck.