Marking the current border of western Shou Lung, the Dragonwall forms a protective barrier thousands of miles long. This large barrier was built, some say created, by Shou Lung to keep the nomads from the horse plains out. The Dragonwall is said to be the hardened body of a great dragon. There are several gates through the Dragonwall including the Jade Gate Spring.
For centuries, the Dragonwall has served to block the invasions of the horse barbarians from the steppe. Powerful empires of nomads are not new; several times in history the riders have charged out of their homelands to conquer lands to the east and west. In the centuries that followed each eruption, the tribes collapsed and the threat was forgotten. Only in Shou Lung has there been any attempt to create a long-term defense against the barbarians.
The Dragonwall is no ordinary fortification. Although made of brick and stone, it is imbued with the spirit of Pao Hu Jen, the mighty dragon. Because the spirit of this creature is the mortar for the bricks, the Dragonwall cannot be broken by normal siege equipment. Stones and drills have no effect on the fortifications. Only siege equipment of a magical nature or specially enchanted boulders can hurt the Dragonwall. However, Pao Hu Jen’s spirit is not restful or happy. It was imprisoned here by the trickery of men. Although it cannot free itself, the dragon can tell others how it can be freed. If given a substantial sacrifice, something of great value, the dragon’s spirit can be released. No one has the resources necessary to free the dragon along the entire length of the wall, but the dragon does have the power to withdraw from designated sections, creating breaches in the Dragonwall.
When Pao Hu Jen’s spirit is withdrawn from a section of the wall, the departure is anything but quiet. The ground heaves and cracks, crumbling the now-mortarless wall. Some claim to see an image of the dragon’s spirit soar into the sky. Whatever they see, the end result is a collapsed mound of rubble and destruction. Of course, releasing the dragon’s spirit is not easy. Sensibly, the Shou have not spread the secret of the Dragonwall. Nearly everyone considers it a fortification, nothing more, and does not know of the trapped spirit. So first, anyone hoping to break the wall must become suspicious that there is a secret. Next they must learn what that secret is; and, finally, they must discover the exact means of releasing the spirit. To date, only a few have ever progressed this far. The Dragonwall has been breached, twice in the past, both times preludes to great invasions. These occurred many centuries ago. The breaches have since been repaired with matching brickwork (although these are not protected by the dragon’s spirit). The locations of these breaks have been purposefully forgotten (and those who would not forget were permanently silenced) as an additional safety factor.
The defense of Shou Lung does not solely rely on the strength of the fortifications. The wall is garrisoned and patrolled with Shou Lung troops. There is a small guard tower every mile where a sentry is supposed to watch, ready to light a signal fire should anything occur. Every 10 miles there is a blockhouse with 100 men. Every 50 miles there is a gate house with a garrison of 1,000 men. The walls are patrolled, although not always regularly. Of course, the effectiveness of any garrison varies greatly with the energy of the local commander.
Although the Dragonwall is not impenetrable, it is quite formidable. However, the strength of the wall is also its weakness. The bureaucrats of Shou Lung have let themselves be lulled by the security of their frontier, believing no barbarians can ever touch them. The garrisons along the wall are poorly trained and led, and often corruptly administered. Since they believe the wall cannot be broken, the generals have no planned defenses inside their borders. Troops are few and badly positioned, more concerned about internal revolts than outside threats.
The Horde’s invasion of Shou Lung was successful because the Tuigan were able to release the dragon spirit and bring down a section of the Dragonwall, allowing the barbarians to pour ‘into the countryside. During the Horde Wars, sections of the Dragonwall were destroyed. The most disastrous of these is at the Kumen (Ancient Gate) at the southern end of the wall near the kingdom of Khazari. Here the first of the Horde armies broke the Dragonwall and poured through the gap. The wall has yet to be rebuilt, since Shou Lung’s attentions are diverted elsewhere.