Kraków (occasionally referred to in English as Cracow) is the second largest city in Poland and one of Eastern Europe's oldest towns. Paweł Majka's novels The Promised District and The Promised Human, as well as his short story from Echo of an Extinguished World, all take place in Kraków. The river Vistula flows through the city.
During World War III, the enemy dropped 2 nuclear bombs near the once glorious city of Kraków. Less than 20% of its pre-war population lived through the explosions. Even fewer have managed to endure the following conflagrations, as well as the lethally long winter that followed. By 2033, almost 2 decades after the worldwide conflict ravaged the planet, the surface of the Earth remains uninhabitable. The snow has melted years ago, only to reveal immense amounts of radioactive ash and acidic rain. However, thanks to the expansive network of underground fallout shelters built beneath Nowa Huta, a portion of the district's former citizens lived on... but humanity is deteriorating.
The SSNH Federation in the socialist-realist district of Nowa Huta is one of the largest known societies functioning beneath the streets of Kraków. To the east is the Kombinat, a somewhat totalitarian society in the former industrial sector of the city, under almost constant attacks by beasts aflame from radiation - charging at the remnants of mankind from the deadly desert that has formed in the immediate vicinity of where the bombs were dropped. Also in Nowa Huta is the Commune of leftist survivors and their sworn enemies, the fascistic neo-pagans worshiping Perun and Swarożyc, ancient deities of the Slavs from pre-Christian times. The Konopki Farm is a powerful isolationist patriarchy to the north, while the Polish Aviation Museum is inhabited by a well-guarded and relatively technologically advanced community.
Independent stalkers of Kraków have come to be known as "ghosts", valued for their skill and sovereignty. People who are unfortunate enough to live above ground, but still retain most aspects of their civility, are referred to as the "Popielni" (the "Ashen", alternatively "Ashlanders"). Several primitive bands of humans, organised into tribes, live on the surface of the city and engage in cannibalism. Former inmates of the Montelupich Prison have taken over the correctional facility and rule the nearest areas. Deep in the caverns below Wawel lives the Source of telepathic unanimity that has been threatening the sanity and existence of the city's human and animal populations.
Almost 300 people live in the Twierdza (Stronghold), a reinforced Benedictine abbey from 1000 years ago, in Tyniec - a historic village that has since the 1970s been incorporated into Kraków. The society living there is run by General Skrobosz and Pułkownik Mawte, pre-war members of the 6th Airborne Brigade of the Polish Armed Forces, who uphold order in the Stronghold and the surrounding farms with the help of their troops as well as the monks living in the abbey, who continue to live in their spiritual ways and brew beer.
The Tyniec abbey, also overlooking the Vistula, was built during the High Middle Ages and has survived countless wars throughout history, including the most recent nuclear onslaught. The army that settled there has long ran out of ammunition for their firearms and instead switched to bows, slingshots, crossbows, knives, even szable (traditional sabers of the Polish Kingdom). The Stronghold in Tyniec is known to train dogs for guard duty.
- Porucznik Kamila Czapnik was rescued from Kraków by Colonel Mawte and has since lived in the Tyniec Twierdza, eventually becoming one of its finest soldiers and leader of the 4th Platoon, known as "The Dead" (Polish: "Umarli"). She is the protagonist of The Promised Human.
- "The King" (Polish: Król), real name unknown, is the primary antagonist of The Promised District. He has undergone accelerated ageing and can telepathically control other creatures.
- Marcin is a 17 year old boy and actor in Stanisław Koszyński's subterranean troupe, a protagonist of both of Paweł Majka's novels.
- "Wesoły" is an experienced Russian "ghost" and side character in both of the Cracovian novels.
- Ewa Dziekierzyńska is Marcin's 19 year old assumed sister, also a member of the troupe. She remains an important character in both books.
- Przemysław Siedlar (nicknamed "Szrama"), somewhat an anti-hero, is one of the leading characters of The Promised District. He serves as a lieutenant in the SSNH Federation and leads a team of stalkers.
- "Halny", named after the powerful wind, is a member of Szrama's group and key character in The Promised Human as well as starring in a short story from Echo of an Extinguished World.
- For centuries throughout Poland's history, Kraków served as one of its capital cities (after Gniezno and Poznań, before Płock and Warsaw). It continues to be an important cultural, economic, and touristic center.
- Kraków is home to the Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Poland's oldest university and one of the oldest surviving academic institutions in the world.
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