Located in the heart of the modern-day Malton metropolitan area, the neighborhood known as Ridleybank has a long and distinguished history of nearly two thousand years-- a history that makes it uniquely suitable as the home of a large part of Malton's undead population.
The first recorded inhabitants were harman Celts who established a fort on the hill where Moggridge Place PD now stands. A small village, Caswill, eventually developed to the east, devoted primarily to semi-nomadic sheep-herding and simple carpentry, drawing upon the nearby (but now gone, except in name) Blomfield Grove. It is not known how long these simple folk existed in idyllic peace here, but what is known is when it ended. In 43AD, the Roman emperor Claudius invaded Britannia, and in the second year of the campaign, Vespasian's 2nd Legion tore through the area like an axe. The people of Caswill rallied around their tribal chief, a great hulking brute of a man named Ridlaegh, and fought a vicious battle that stretched on for hours. Vespasian later recorded in his memoirs:
"The natives fight like no men I have ever seen. Struck repeatedly with what surely seemed fatal blows, they would rise again for another attack, covered in gore. One hundred barbarians needed to be killed one thousand times and the fighting lasted all day."
Despite their endurance, the Caswills were no match for the better-trained and better-equipped Romans. Ridlaegh was captured as the fighting finally wound down; when his war club was finally taken from his hand, the legionnaires could not find a single unbroken bone in his body. He was crucified in the center of the fort, which was then burned around him as the rest of the townspeople were put to the sword.
With his dying words, Ridlaegh cursed the site of the massacre, swearing that no living soul would ever again know peace here, and indeed, several subsequent attempts by the Romans to establish colonies failed, generally for reasons of disease. Eventually, the Romans simply stopped trying, and for many centuries the land remained unused and unwanted.
Finally, in the late 10th Century, it once again saw inhabitation as the site of a colony for sufferers of leprosy and similar wasting illnesses. Founded by Adalbert, the famous "Twitching Monk" of Thetford, it was a short-lived venture into Christian charity. Adalbert was himself quite mad-- probably from syphilis-- and eventually became convinced that he could brew a magical beer from fermented mandrake harvested in Blomfield Grove, a beer that could cure "alle manners of foulness, infirmitey, ean death itself". When he began subjecting those in his care to his pseudo-alchemical experiments, they revolted, and Adalbert was torn limb from limb. The colony then disbanded; it is believed that most of the small towns that sprung up around this time-- including Stanbury Village, Roftwood, Havercroft, and Ketchelbank-- were founded by Adalbert's hapless, misshapen wards and the incestuous family trees that eventually descended from them.
The next record of any harman activity was four hundred years later, when it was used by all the towns within miles as a mass dumping ground for victims of the black death. While records are incomplete, anecdotal records by local priests (and some exploratory archaeology in recent years) suggest that at least eight hundred-- and possibly as many as three thousand-- corpses were unceremoniously dumped and left to rot in open fire pits, rendering the area unapproachable for generations. In fact, so much decaying flesh was heaped into the ground that the character of the land itself changed, becoming a fetid, dingy swamp-- impenetrable, undesirable, unsurvivable-- that eventually came to be known as "the Black Moor", or simply, "Blackmore".
Eventually, however, as the surrounding towns began to expand and the population among "the Maltons" (the name for the many dozens of small hills dotting the region) began to rise in the wake of the Renaissance, even the least desirable land was needed, and "Blackmore" found use once again, as the site of the regional abattoir industry. The swamp was filled in, the last of the standing trees were felled, and for almost two hundred years, every kind of animal was slaughtered in one or another of its butchering buildings. At its peak, six hundred animals were being killed each day. One traveler of the time wrote:
"The blood lies thick in the street, such that a man must lift his feet high with each step, lest the gore slop over the top of his boots. Aye, and such a stench there were! It was as though the Devil's own hindquarters were opened up. I must think, tis a blessing to be killed here. Far better dead, certainly, than alive in such a place."
It took, of all things, a revolution to kick the city fully into gear. The American Revolutionary War caused a massive jolt to the area as many citizens went off to war overseas, forcing the communities to band closer and closer together in order to survive. By the turn of the century they were practically separate in name only.
As the enlightened Industrial Age finally set in, the commercial activity of Blackmore District changed and diversified. Ironically, a lively carpentry trade-- hearkening back to the original Celts-- found a home here, and soon other craftsmen joined alongside. Over the course of the 19th Century the dark history of this place was forgotten as its mills and shops began turning out a variety of fine arts and crafts. The various small villages grew and began to blend with each other. "The Maltons" became, simply, Malton. And Blackmore, too, would undergo one final change...
In 1910, some expansion work at St. Silverius Church exposed the ruins of a Roman temple that had been part of one of the failed colonies. Among its artifacts was a record, in stone, of Vespasian's battle against those Celts who fought beyond the limits of human endurance, and the death of their chief, Ridlaegh. In no time at all, locals began referring to the neighborhood as "Ridleybank", and in 1922 it was made official.
Many people would claim that the present-day population of Ridleybank have everything in common with the lepers of Adalbert, or the black plague's victims, or the butchers of the abattoirs, but we see it differently. We're more like the simple, idyllic Celts of Caswill. We want only to live out our peaceful, semi-nomadic existence in a state of simple utopia, and we'd love for you to join us-- join us and be part of the rich tapestry of history that is our legacy. But be warned: if instead, you seek to bring your weapons and your ways of violence to us, we will rise again and again, until ten of us seem like a hundred and a hundred like a thousand.
This is our home-- it has always been our home-- and no living soul shall ever know peace here.