Practavia is a kingdom in the middle of a desert in roughly the middle of a planet known as The Realm of the Kingdoms.
Perhaps half of the Practavians live inside a large rectangular fortress made with thick brick and adobe walls that are twelve feet high and eight feet thick. Along the top of the walls is a walkway where defenders can hide behind a three-foot parapet. At each of the corners stands a twenty-foot lookout tower where watchers can see the road that leads to Practavia as well as the surrounding farms and a bit of the encircling desert beyond. Next to the castle is a Keep, which is really just another tower built so that the King and other leaders can 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, are 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 are 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 are 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 are made of plain sand that gets packed down with traffic.
As you can see by the map, the area enclosed by the walls is divided neatly into five parts. The castle itself, with its stables and gardens, is separated from the other sections by a spring from an underground river. The fortress walls were built in such a way that the northwest wall is just outside the place where the spring comes up and the southeast wall is just outside the place where the spring rejoins the river under the ground. Below the spring are the houses, and cutting through the middle is the main street.
Outside the walls are small farms, which produced much of the food the Practavians eat as well as the cotton and wool used to make cloth. These farms rely on three more springs from the large underground river that runs for many miles beneath the desert but come closest to the surface within Practavia. In other words, the reason the Kingdom of Practavia exists was because of a large oasis that depends on the Great Underground River.
Although the farms outside the walls have little protection if raiders should come, the last raid was five years before this story begins, which is why the lookout towers fell 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 spreads out as far as the eye can see, and still farther, is better protection than a wall of any height. Very few people come to visit.