Every city has its slums, its dangerous neighborhoods and its red-light districts. Locastus, City of Mirrors, is no different. Its first and foremost centre of poverty, vice and criminality is known by the locals as "the Maul", and sits on a muddy island on the edge of the convergence basin of the rivers Slake and Urok.
Originally used as a ship graveyard and a waste dump, it was first settled in the year 82 by a small tribe of Old Blood refugees, fleeing the pogrom perpetrated upon them by an expansionist Northern nation. The Old Blood enclave lasted until 179, when it was consumed in the Great Fire that followed the failed military coup in that year. The majority of the Old Blood clans perished that day, although a small fraction was saved by Loyalist General Titus (Ol´Man) Hinge, who adopted many of the survivors into his counter-revolutionary militia, the so-called Maul Rats, and eventually saved the sitting government.
Over the following years, the Maul was quickly rebuilt, now as a haven for smugglers, small-time river pirates, and crime lords. Over the years, huge amounts of money have flowed into the coffers of government officials to look the other way. Now, the Maul is a fixture in the city of Locastus, and the government could not have it removed without having a civil uprising on their hands.
The Lower Maul
This is the most chaotic, lawless part of the Maul, a shanty-town occupying the area closest to the waterfront, where the ground is nothing but mud and silts sprouting a dense fur of reeds. The grey, gelatinous mud here, on the edges of the swampy, reed-covered island, is too soft to support regular foundations, so the buildings are largely built on poles sunk deep into the boggy ground.
The architecture is haphazard, chaotic and maze-like, the structures mostly constructed from driftwood, scraps of ships and other scavenged materials. A number of derelict wooden ships, beached on the island, have been integrated into the main mass, their dark bulks barely visible beneath encroaching carpentry. Wooden walkways and staircases dodge and weave among the drunkenly leaning, bizarre architecture, and rickety catwalks criss-cross overhead.
The Lower Maul is the home of the destitute, the drug-addicts, the small-time crooks and the everpresent violent street-gangs. It houses the majority of the City´s low-end brothels, spivs, fences and seedy taverns, as well as a few unpleasant alchemists, wizards and screevers of the type whose work requires privacy and discretion. The narrow, crooked streets are frequently turned into battlefields when the three biggest gangs of the Lower Maul clash in one of their endless feuds over turf and protection rights.
Not surprisingly, the Lower Maul is also the centre of the City´s extensive drug trade - the Red Honey, Talonwine resin, Dreamberry essence and other, rarer narcoticums are all readily available on the street corners and in the numerous opium dens.
An underclass of non-humans and urbanized tribesmen of the Northern plains gravitate to this place, outcast and despised by the ruling classes of Locastus, and forced to scrape a meager living from the fringes of society.
The air reeks as much of misery as of the ever-present, pungent river mud, and the denizens wear a beaten, sullen demeanor. Most are dressed in rags, and disfiguring ailments are common. Life here is cheap, hard and, more often than not, short.
The Upper Maul
North of the waterfront, higher up the hump of the island the ground becomes stable enough for regular buildings. Here, the streets are cleaner, the oppressive river smell lesser and the architecture more impressive.
The parallel, unevenly cobbled avenues named Lily and Taurus Street run the length of the Upper Maul, filled with many semi-legal businesses such as weapon-smiths, alchemists´ laboratories, pawn-brokers, skin mages and unlicensed screevers, before terminating in the Maul Square.
On Lily Street, in a shadowy nook close to the Maul Square, lies Artemius Coil´s medical practise, the only real source of medical treatment available in the Maul.
The square itself is an irregular open space lined by brothels, opium dens, bars and burlesque theatres, catering to a richer clientele. The small plaza is dominated by the temple-like Amber House, the headquarters of the Guild of Whores, so called because of the enormous amber-tinted light post that stands in the middle of the cobbled expanse.
The square is always filled with women in the Guild´s petticoats, drinking coffee and talking in small groups beneath the light post or conducting their business in the many small, dark alleys that radiates off in all directions.
While order along the Lily and the Taurus is kept by the hired muscle of the proprietors, the women of the Amber House themselves police the area around the square. Their special relationship with the Bloated Moon gives them a grudging respect among the locals, and few dare challenge them. Even so, it is a common sight to see a group of women in the severe habit of the Matrons beating up a thief or an abusive client.
The Matrons and Madams of the Guild not only keep order in their own back yard, but also extend basic healthcare and shelter for the many poor of the area. The citizens of the Maul maintain a complex, paradoxical relationship of equal amounts worship and contempt for the women of the Amber House.
Other places of note on the Maul Square is the Red Cat Theatre, a burlesque theatre of some note, and the Temple Bar, where the rich of the City go slumming.
On the prime ground at the highest point of the island stands the walled, private residence of the undisputed King of the Upper Maul, the notorious crime lord Mowar Dusk. His reign stretches the length and breadth of the Upper Maul, and he will fiercely defend against any encroachment on his turf. His residence is a large manor surrounded by a beautiful garden and ornamental ponds. The entire compound is encircled by a 10-foot brick wall.
Dusk´s private army of gang bangers clash endlessly with the various gangs of the Lower Maul across Grudge Street, which traditionally separates the Lower Maul from the Upper.
Locations in the Maul
5. Moak´s Distillery
6. Earlobe´s Tavern
7. The Kaonanga
8. Maul Docks
9. Old Slake Redoubt (abandoned)
Appendix I: A brief Who´s Who of the Maul
Name: Mowar Dusk, The King of the Upper Maul
Location: Dusk Compound, Upper Maul
Status: Crime lord
Description: A tall, thin man in his 60´s, with a shaved head, round glasses and a straggly goatee. His grey eyes betray his intelligence and his long-fingered hands are surprisingly delicate. He dresses in an immaculate double-breasted suit, polished shoes and a feathered hat. No matter what the circumstances, he keeps his manners mild and cultured, his voice kept low and never swears or threatens anyone outright.
Dusk is a ruthless, heartless mobster, but he is also a born diplomat and has a pretence at class. He has worked his way up to the position he holds today by his quick wits and formidable intelligence, rather than by brute force (although he will not hesitate to use brute force, if necessary). He is a connoisseur of fine wine, art and music, as well as a brawler, rapist and murderer.
The only reason for his policy to avoid confrontation, is that that would be bad for business. He sees himself as a businessman, and will negotiate or kill with equal ease. If you treat him with manners and respect, he will treat you as an equal. If you irritate him, insult him or stand in the way of what he wants, Dusk will smile gently and you will be eel-food within the hour.
Name: Darius Moak
Location: Grudge Street, On the border between the Upper and Lower Maul
Status: Unaffiliated Alchemist
Descripition: A tall, hunched man with a wild, pleated beard, and unusually large ears. He usually wears a stained leather apron, long, heavy gloves and protective goggles. Moak is usually smelt long before he is seen - he stinks of weird alchemy, booze, sour sweat and aromatic hydrocarbons.
Darius Moak, once a mediocre military alchemist, now scrapes a meagre living by providing the criminals of the Maul with lock-eating acids, key-copying putty, explosives, poisons and other necessities of the underworld. He doesnt seem to agonize overmuch about the use his customers put his products to, but if he does, he certainly drinks enough to drown it.
The various gangs leave Moak alone, and try to keep their fights away from his house - he is too valuable to be accidentally killed in a crossfire.
Name: Ikana Teel
Location: Aspic Street, Lower Maul
Status: Gang leader, Mother of 26
Descripition: A huge, grossly overweight woman, her non-human blood betrayed by her unusual copper skin tone, overlarge coal-black eyes and small horns. She dresses in multi-coloured frilly dresses, usually showing a generous amount of her gigantic bosom.
No one knows where Ikana comes from, or what race she belongs to. but everybody knows that she is one of the oldest inhabitants of the Maul. She settled here just months after the Great Fire, after coming into the city by riverboat, from somewhere in the North.
Ikana is a mother of 26 children, all boys, and most of them by different fathers. She seems to be able to carry a pregnancy to term within 3 or 4 months - the baby, while appearing mostly human, then walks and talks within 4 to 6 months. None of her sons are above age 21, but all look older.
Her enormous brood rules the area around their home, the rotting bulk of an old Nascogiban trader ship, the Kaonanga. "Mama" Teel never leaves her dwelling any more, her bulk is too great to move around. She spends most of her time in the cargo hold of the beached ship, ruling her little empire by proxy of her sons.
Her sons, while all large, strapping lads, are nowhere near the bulk of their mother. Beside her, they look like drones around a queen bee. They also lack most of her inhuman features, except for the skin colour.
While Mama Teel´s gang do dabble a bit in the drug trade to keep their coffers topped up, they have never showed any inclination to expand their turf. The Teel Boys seems more interested in protecting their hive-mother and the immediate neigborhood around her. Any threat to her or their chosen territory will be met by an incredible level of violence.
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CodexArtemius Coil, Physician ( NPCs ) Minor - Knowledge/Lore
An unsavoury character, yet immensely useful to know if you are in need of urgent medical attention, but want to avoid the eyes of the authorities….
Earlobe´s Tavern ( Locations ) Establishment - Any
A quintessential seedy dive, catering to the lowest of the low, but harbouring a few nasty secrets
The Amber House ( Locations ) City - Any
The headquarters of the WhoresÃ‚Â´ Guild