The world is older than anyone can remember. The largest known landmass is the western continent. It is the birthplace of civilisation, as far as its residents are concerned. Here humanity went from a superstitious life in the woods, to living in the modern cities of the world. In ages past the great true dragons, the Wyrms, fought wars that ravaged the landscape. Their age ended shortly after humanity discovered magic. As with all great powers man learns, it’s first use was death and destruction. It was by this powers influence that the true dragons began the war to end all wars, and extinguish their noble line. In time, many things changed, with some spells lost and new ones found. Our interest lies at the heart of this continent. Here the city-state of Deneb stands.
Once a marvel to the surrounding cities. Lyra to the east, Draco to the north, La’Certa to the west and Pegasus to the south. Cities that in time became four great nation-states, while Deneb remained a city. A great, wealthy, wondrous city to be sure, but a city nonetheless.
Ruled for millennia by an entity of immense power, known simply as Sul (though its full title was “The Obsidian Sulcata”). The rules of Deneb were simple; everyone was welcome, don't steal, do no harm. Sul punished theft by exile and bodily harm by equivalent bodily injury to the perpetrator, and exile (even if it was then exile of a corpse). Those exiled would find that they could not approach within one mile of the city without coming up against an impenetrable barrier. Sul’s power was such that it enforced the city's laws with supernatural ease. Any infraction was known to Sul instantly, and punishment dealt swiftly. In the early days, sometimes hundreds of perpetrators would be simultaneously punished. Twice in its history, an army marched on Deneb. On both occasions, Sul appeared before the host and gave them a choice to turn back, or it would destroy them. On both occasions, the armies pressed on, and on both occasions, they vanished, with no trace of them seen since.
Sul appointed citizens to form an administrative council, courts, and a small militia, to resolve those disputes amongst “lesser beings” that did not breach Sul’s laws. The militia did not have weapons and could not engage in physically harming someone due to Sul’s laws. Sul did, however, grant each a simple staff. Any sentient creature touched by the weapon would instantly and harmlessly find themselves transported to Sul’s chambers, where Sul would exact a punishment of its choice on the person who had refused to do the militia’s bidding, as directed by the courts.
And so while Lyra, Draco, La’Certa and Pegasus all waged war with one another over territory, resources, and political ideology, Deneb stood peacefully. It was a centre of trade, diplomacy and entertainment for the four nations that encroached on it. While each state grew to a vast populace with many cities of their own, collectively much larger than Deneb, no single city matched it in size, population or wealth. It’s architecture, libraries and museums were older, bigger and more varied than any in the rest of the known world. Then around a decade ago, Sul vanished.
No one seems to know exactly when, how or why. For the first few months, not much changed, out of habit, custom, ignorance or fear. Citizens and visitors alike continued to follow Sul’s laws. Eventually, it became common knowledge that Sul was no longer enforcing its laws.
Slowly disorder and anarchy descended on Deneb. Violence on the streets, gangs, crime sprees, death, destruction, vandalism and debauchery of all stripes. A city which had not had to deal with such crime for so long that it was ill-equipped to handle it. While the militiamen’s staffs still teleported those they touched, there was no Sul to punish the criminal.
There were too few militiamen with too little training to act as a proper police force. This great city was suddenly vulnerable. The covetous eyes of its four neighbours turned upon it. What treasures lay within? To say nothing of the tactical and political value to hold such a jewel of a city. At the same time, the citizens of the city were desperate to end the anarchy that now reigned. Slowly at first, but then in increasing numbers, they turned to foreign organisations to help protect themselves.
So it was that different interests around the world gained a stake in the various quarters of Deneb, protecting its citizens in exchange for influence, money, authority and access to that part of the city. Seeing the power shifting within the city, and unsure as to who might gain ultimate control, the four nations signed a multilateral treaty to respect the independence of Deneb. All of the nations were still hungry to annex Deneb but realised that all-out war might destroy the prize. Better a public show of peace and diplomacy. It might buy them some time to act more covertly. So they scheme and toil hoping that one day they might take control of the vast city for themselves. It is a cold war, fought by small strike teams, many from organisations not directly affiliated with the nation states that might aid or even manipulate their actions. It is these strike teams that you control in Deneb in their factions bid to take control of the city.