Practavia was a kingdom in the middle of a desert in roughly the middle of a planet known as the Realm of Kingdoms.
Perhaps half of the Practavians lived inside a large rectangular fortress made with thick brick and adobe walls that were twelve feet high and eight feet thick. Along the top of the walls was a walkway where defenders could hide behind a three-foot parapet. At each of the corners stood a twenty-foot lookout tower where watchers could see the road into Practavia as well as the surrounding farms and a bit of the encircling desert beyond. Next to the castle was a Keep, which was really just another tower built so that the King and other leaders could have a good vantage point during a battle.

The castle, outer walls, watch towers, and most of the cottages and the larger homes in Practavia, as well as the shops and stables, were made of cob. Cob is a building material consisting of clay, sand, straw, and water, and is similar to adobe. Walls made of cob (even for the houses) are usually about two feet thick.

Most of the roofs were thatched. A thatched roof is made by placing wooden beams at maybe two-foot intervals across the top of the walls, and covering the whole thing with thick bundles of dried straw or other plants depending on where you live. It’s formed with a peak at the top so that rain water will run down the sides and not get into the house. Of course that doesn’t matter much in a desert. But the layers of straw also serve as insulation and make it cooler inside.

The main streets were paved with cobblestone, which is made by setting stones close together into the sand. The flatter the stones are the better. Less busy streets and roads were made of plain sand that got packed down with traffic.

As you can see by the map, the area enclosed by the walls was divided neatly into five parts. The castle itself, with its stables and gardens, was separated from the other sections by a spring from an underground river. The fortress walls had been built in such a way that the northwest wall was just outside the place where the spring came up and the southeast wall was just outside the place where the spring rejoined the river under the ground. Below the spring were the houses, and cutting through the middle was the main street.

Outside the walls were small farms, which produced much of the food the Practavians ate as well as the cotton and wool used to make cloth. These farms relied on three more springs from the large underground river that ran for many miles beneath the desert but came closest to the surface within Practavia. In other words, the reason the Kingdom of Practavia existed was because of a large oasis that depended on the Great Underground River.

Although the farms outside the walls had little protection if raiders should come, and the last raid had been five years before, which was why the lookout towers had fallen into general disuse—their sole purpose being to allow the watchers to sound an alarm so those outside the walls could come in, and those inside could begin to prepare for battle.

In truth, the hot, orange-red desert that spread out as far as the eye could see, and still farther, was better protection than a wall of any height. Very few people came to visit.