Ever heard of Braegensaet?
Everyone knows that sleeping is outlawed in Braegensaet. The reasons given for why vary based on how far from Braegensaet the tale is being told. In order of furthest away to closest by you might hear:
"Braegensaet the capital of festivals and parties! You know the King there was so upset at people leaving his parties early that he put a ban on sleep. It must be a wondrous place, all that flowing wine, all those lovers waiting to be loved."
"They know how to get things done in Braegensaet. They got a wizard to kill sleep there so that they could work all hours and become the richest city in all the lands. So count yourself lucky I only make you work from dusk til dawn. Oh the money I'd have if only I were born in Braegensaet."
"Can't be good for ye, sleepin' so little. Like in Braegensaet. Oh sure lots o' people find it quite to their likin'. But I've met more n' one traveller who near lost their mind from months without sleepin'. And thats with the magic they've got that keeps 'em awake too. So go on, get to bed you rascal."
"Braegensaet's a queer place. Plenty of wondrous sights, true. Plenty else that don't get mentioned so much too. I near went there once. But as I was walking up the road to those great big white gates... It just felt off. Felt it in my bones. Turned around and came right back here. Besides, I enjoy a good sleep."
"They pretend like they're cultured but when it comes to sleep they are downright barbaric. If you're lucky you'll be exiled for nodding off. But I have heard the most terrible stories about the unlucky ones. Oh no, I couldn't possibly. It doesn't bear repeating. There's a reason though, why the road to Braegensaet is so wide yet so empty."
"Braegensaet? Listen to me. Don't go to Braegensaet. Just put it out of your daft head."
"I... I think we should turn back. Don't you? Hello? Are you listening to me? I said it doesn't feel right. Where are you going? Just stop will you! Please!"
The City is a Drug
It's strange how far and wide the name Braegensaet is known. Especially given how few people leave the place. Even if you've never heard the name in your life, when it is said it calls to mind a sense of bacchanalian delight. Those who are drawn to such pleasures will undoubtedly entertain thoughts of making the journey there, no matter how long or impractical that might be. The closer you get, the stronger the pull. Luckily, the warnings get stronger as well. Most will allow the warnings to persuade them and give up their journey, though they will feel a niggling at their brain whenever the city is mentioned.
For some though, the warnings are not enough. Either the pull is too strong, or they are merely not the type to heed warnings or let the crawling of their flesh as they walk that long road to the coast where the immense city sits surrounded by cliffs dissuade them. When you enter the city, regardless of if you could resist before you're really hooked now. Deciding to leave feels worse than kicking a hard drug habit.
The punishment for sleeping is, officially, exile. This is not a merciful punishment. Those who are exiled will never feel right again. Many commit suicide, or just waste away at the cities gates. Any exiles are kept away from the gates during the day, to keep up appearances. At night, however, they will come out of their hiding holes and press themselves close to the wall, hoping to breathe in a gasp of city air.
This should be obvious by now. But seriously: Do not sleep in Braegensaet.
The people of Braegensaet use many methods to avoid the need for sleep.
There are some cheap substances that you can smoke (moonleaf) or ingest (cinnamon mixed with magical runoff -- nicknamed 'Sunshine') to keep you awake, but after a week or so of consecutive use you will start to get severe withdrawal symptoms sooner and sooner. Splitting headaches, nausea, inability to focus. Some simply keep smoking or eating the stuff all day to avoid the withdrawals but that opens them up to some negative longterm effects. Sunshine leads to ocular necrosis and boils on the skin. Moonleaf makes it harder to breathe in daylight overtime, until you won't be able to breathe at all. These longterm effects can take a year and more of heavy use to develop, but different people are more or less susceptible.
The most well-to-do employ a rotating shift of magic users to channel a mix of spells. First is Insomnia, which prevents a target from sleeping for 24 hours but leaves them open to the effects of exhaustion, the other part being Greater Restoration. Clearly an expensive proposition, but void of any potential side effects.
Surely these spells could be used to create an enchanted item that produces the same effect. Well, yes, but magical items are not easy to create and the last time someone tried such a thing there was an all out riotous war as near every inhabitant of the city tried desperately to get their hands on the rings in question. The rings were supposedly lost in the chaos of it all, as was the King's head. The monarchy is now ended and in its place Chancellor Kwyorn governs -- which consists primarily of arranging festivals and ensuring taxes are paid.
The final tactic is through controlled meditation. If mastered, sleep becomes unnecessary. If not mastered, you are likely to doze off. Or tap into the level of unconscious thought that is the reason for sleep being outlawed in the first place. A risky proposition for beginners, but there are many schools -- of varying levels of repute -- that are dedicated to the teaching of this art.
Surely I can just take a quick nap...
DONT. Are you listening at all? DO NOT SLEEP IN BRAEGENSAET. Fine. Maybe if I tell you why, you'll stop entertaining the idea.
The city is built on top of the brain of a long-dead ancient primordial being. The brain does not rot, but it does decay. In the radioactive sense. The energy that the brain produces as it converts from organic primordial tissue into inert grey rock is highly volatile when it comes into contact with dreams. The effects are poorly documented and unpredictable. Suffice to say the few times it has happened have been horrible enough for all involved that they've taken hundreds of longlasting precautions to intercept any potential dreamers and punish them severely.
Sometimes it's a mere explosion. Other times a hideous mutation of all those in the surrounding area. Once it split the personalities of all the inhabitants of Braegensaet in two (see Sunface Moonface below). The worst is when it calls into being some incomprehensible creature from another place. Those few who risk studying the subject theorise that the ancient energy manifests the essence of the dreaming thought.
Sleep is not the only method of causing these disturbances. Anything that activates the subconscious in similar ways, such as psychedelics, unconsciousness, and comas can cause the same results and will be met with the same reprimand. There are products on the market to quickly wake someone knocked unconscious (though in most cases they will be disorientated and practically useless until they would have woken), if not administered quickly enough it is often best to kill them.
The Chancellor employs some Dreamspikers to detect and respond to potential incidents of dream-thoughts. Rumours say that the Dreamspikers were born of this dream radiation, the Chancellor maintains that they are merely well trained special operatives. Either way they can detect spaces that dreams might slip into and travel to them incredibly quickly by jumping through thoughts (You will often find yourself suddenly thinking about Dreamspikers for a moment or two, this might be because of your wandering mind or because they have just travelled through your thoughts). If they are quick enough, which is not a given, they will cursorily attempt to wake the offender, immediately followed by attempting to "safely disable" (more like shove a large spike through) the brain.
The legal system in this place is even weirder than what we've covered so far. No one is really sure who is in charge of it at this point. Probably the Chancellor, but he finds the whole crime and punishment thing dull. Really it is wildly variable depending on where you committed the crime and the time of day. That last part was literal. You won't be held to account for crimes committed during the day at night time, and vice versa. At dusk all the day prisoners are let out and the night prisoners rounded up, and vice versa again.
In fact the entire culture observes this practice of "Sunface" and "Moonface". Essentially you are treated as an entirely different person during the day as opposed to the night with dusk and dawn being transitionary periods that most people spend resting. Not sleeping, mind. A happily married banker might go to work all day keeping records straight, then rob that same bank and make love to his partner in crime at night. Though of course in that case the Sunface banker could be charged with aiding and abetting his Moonface self since he did provide information of the layout and workings of the bank by leaving them carelessly in his brain. Though the Sunface banker could easily make an argument that the information was not provided but stolen. In this case the Sunface wife of the banker would have no problem that her Sunface husbands Moonface counterpart had sex with another person, but if the same happened during the day while her husband was Sunface then she might very well murder him.
The only thing that transcends this Sunface Moonface business is sleeping. If you sleep then both halves are punished. Or both wholes are punished, depending on your philosophical perspective.
It is generally considered unseemly for your Sunface and Moonface to be too closely related to one another. You would usually run in seperate circles and not act on knowledge your other part has. This isn't enforced of course, but it is seen as odd and distasteful. Different people view this differently with it being looked down upon most by those in high society.
Moonface is also more typically associated with crime and debauchery, but this is not necessarily the case. Braegensaet is markedly more dangerous at night time, however. Which is saying something, considering what the day times are like.
So come on down to Braegensaet. It's like a dream come true