The Rift and City 5. Places in ‘Where Giants Sleep’

City 5

City 5 and the other survival cities came into existence during the first invasion by the Scitha, a tyrannical race from the far side of the galaxy. The Earth was already facing mass extinction and resource wars. As the world faced devastation, the wealthy few believed the cities to be the last hope. They would have to descend 5,500m in the ocean to evade the final Electro-Magnetic Pulse.  The pulse knocked out the Scitha Machines, but also destroyed the remaining civilisation.

Grown from sentient and self-healing essence from Scitha biotechnology, City 5 is now over 20 km wide and home to over 30,000 people.

The star-shaped city has its own identity and sense of purpose – including misleading its citizens. Martial centurions and serving a self-indulgent elite control the city. The unprivileged workers of City 5 are slaves and the city determines their life spans. Several cults exist, including believers in the ‘all-seeing eye’. Dynasties scheme and conspire to take control, but the Darke family is the most successful.

The world of City 5 – structure and inhabitants

City 5 beliefs

The city’s belief systems are based on an ancient and matriarchal civilisation, where gladiatorial combat and cruel deaths are popular entertainment. These ideas originated from a children’s book. The official bible is in fact a submarine maintenance manual. There are also bizarre cults with views on the surface – which is either heaven or a fiery hell.

The drone caste

Even the drones have different castes – utility, tech or sex-drone. In contrast, the ruling families (‘royals’) are able to rejuvenate. They are physically perfect and eternally young, decadent and tyrannical. Hedra Darke rules over the complex society with an iron hand, at once cold, calculating and passionate. Hedra, the Seer and and a few others have been living in the city since it first ventured into the ocean. Inspired by a vision of Eden, the Seer refuses to rejuvenate and becomes the only aged person.


In the lowest levels and lightless ventilation shafts lives a different society. Known as ‘feelers’ and living off garbage, they possess the ability to see using an additional sense they call the ‘all-seeing eye’ and are endlessly creative. Competing cults espouse different views of the world above the surface. Followers of the all-seeing eye, including Verin Fon, believe in a new Eden, most others believe in a hell of fire and brimstone.

The Rift

The Rift is a majestic valley that runs from the northern ice-sheet to the ocean, filled with lush rainforest and dotted with magical rocks and spires. Each rock carries a story about spirits and the creation. Magical places also exist on and below ground where strange things happen. To the West lie the barren Outlands, sparsely populated by outcastes from the Rift. Villages are within the tree canopies and the forest dictates the cadence of life. There are many dangers in the forests – monstrous tree worms that hunt the unwary at night, and giant carnivorous birds that live in colonies on the cliffs.

Map of the Great Rift showing key locations in the Dragon Witch Trilogy.
The Land of the Dragon Witch and the Outlands

The Outlands

A special relationship has developed between Outlanders and reptyl, two-legged predators that dominate the ecosystem. Other dangers lurk below the sand, including ‘sand traps’ – huge carnivorous worms. The dangerous Ghote Swamps lie to the east of the Rift. The volcanic Darth Mountains form a symbolic border to the Outlands. Further north, Mount Fury and Glass Mountain are major landmarks. The Birdsong Delta lies to the south, a place of great spiritual significance.


Every aspect of the landscape of Eco mirrors the Dreamtime, when the Great Tree – a green giant with a single, all-seeing eye – rode on Dolor the first wyvern and called forth life from the rocks. Inert Scitha Machines litter the landscape. Many believe they were conveyances of the nature spirits. The shaman also use the Magda Stones to communicate, believing them to be the tears of the Great Tree. In reality they are Scitha energy devices.

Rift society

Is essentially tribal, but plentiful food has supported an easy-going lifestyle where nothing much ever changes, apart from the seasons. Shamans are the lawkeepers and political in their outlook. There is an underlying tension with witches, who don’t care for politics and who possess greater powers. Families tend to have different occupations – for example, trufflers, tree-menders, house-makers, shipwrights, fisherfolk, flinters.

Rift people view the sea with great suspicion and few venture into it. The Rowan are a mystical sect concerned with the tree-spirits and magical rocks, and offer a challenge to the shamans. Rift life is ties to the seasons, and although there is a simple form of writing, almost all history is verbal. Few tools exist and any form of machinery is taboo. Rifters are mostly vegan in their diet, but some secretly eat meat.

Although the Rift people once worshipped wyvern and revered the witches, all this changed when Shaman Robin Esvane banished them to the outer darkness. He also poisoned the hearts of the people, turning them against the wyvern.

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