The Amber House
The Amber House, the headquarters of the Whores´ Guild - so called because of the large amber-tinted light post that stands before it - is a large, temple-like building, located at the northern edge of the Maul Square. The building itself is simple and rectangular, built in a stark, ungainly style, heavily overgrown with ivy and with high, narrow window slits and squat pillars. Two blocky, crenellated towers protrude from each end of the central building, giving it a subtly regal appearance. The massive, stark bulk of the Amber House looms over the haphazard, stunted architecture and labyrinthine vista of rooftops that crowds it on three sides.
The House is set back from the Maul Square by a large, cobbled forecourt and colonnaded walkways; all built in the same alien style as the House itself, and covered in the ever-present ivy. A large, sculpted fountain stands in the middle of the court, a mass of cherubic beings carved lovingly from cold marble. If one was to look at the cherubs more closely, however, one would notice that some of the activities that the sculpted angelicals engage in are extremely un-cherubic-like.
The forecourt and the square beyond it are always full of women in the petticoats of the Guild, and their customers. A garden band on a small stage plays discreet music, and sometimes a party of gaily dressed jugglers, sword-swallowers and fire-eaters entertain the crowd. The area is always brightly lit, even in the small hours, and has more a feel of a perpetual garden party (or a fashionable open-air café) than a brothel.
The women conduct their business in the many darkened alleys around the Maul Square, or in one of the cheap hostels that line the Taurus and Lily Streets. The bargaining and its conclusion are often conducted in semi-publicity. To see a woman of the Amber House and her customer doing their business up against a crumbling brick wall, half-obscured by the shadows of a gate or in a rubbish-filled alley, is a regular sight at all hours, and draw little attention. There is no false modesty here, only business as usual.
In the daytime, when regular business is slow, the poor comes to the Amber House for food and basic medical care. The Guild operates a soup kitchen, shelter and small hospital for the homeless, old and sick of the Maul.
The Amber House was once the main temple of the Old Blood spirit-faith, and is one of very few buildings of the Old Maul to survive the Great Fire twenty years ago. It stood unoccupied for several years, reputed to be haunted by the smoldering spirits of the Old Blood people who died by sword and fire during that unfortunate episode.
Over time, as the Maul was slowly rebuilt, it became the home of a vast, feral tribe of drug addicts, homeless and deranged. These were, in turn, rousted by the ancient Whores´ Guild, who, under the protection of General Titus Hinge and his Maul Rats, moved in and set up shop in the Maul.
The Guild has operated out of the Amber House for close to 25 years, keeping its doors open for custom through several wars, civic unrest and a thousand riots. During the siege of Locastus a decade ago, the House stayed open, even though invaders were rampaging through the streets of the Maul.
Through cunning, political machination and brute force, the Amber House has evaded going on the protection payroll of any of the criminal organizations of the Maul. The last attempt to take over the House was made twelve years ago by the infamous King of the Upper Maul, Mowar Dusk; an attempt that ended with most of his army of thugs bleeding out in the gutters after an encounter with a Moon Maiden, and with Dusk himself seriously weakened and vulnerable against the other gangs.
The Whores´ Guild
The Women of the Amber House are no common prostitutes, but see their business more as a means to an end. They are privy to many state-secrets (mostly acquired through their customers´ pillow-talk), and have also hoarded a great amount of arcane knowledge. The Guild take great care to keep a record of secrets gleaned from their customers, which makes them untouchable, both in the eyes of the government (who is quite aware of the secrets the Guild could make public, should it be given reason to do so) and the public, who treat them with a complex, paradoxical mixture of respect, fear, adoration and contempt.
The prostitution business is also extremely lucrative, making the Amber House one of the richest institutions in the City, as well as one with good political connections. The Guild plays a delicate game of balance and sleight-of-hand with the Locastrian government in order to stay untouchable and in business.
The Guild is structured in a fashion reminiscent of both a laborer´s union and a monastic order, and is ruled by a circle of experienced, older women, called the "Matrons". The function of the Circle of Matrons is to elect a president, called the "Reverend Mother", and to handle day-to-day business within the Guild. Below the Circle of Matrons, there is a large staff of functionaries, enforcers and administrators called the "Madams". These are the link between the common streetwalkers at the bottom, and the upper eschelons of the Guild.
The Reverend Mother, besides being the setter of policy and conduct, is also the conduit between the Guild and it´s patron, the Bloated Moon. In times of great need the Reverend Mother can contact the Moon and ask for her assistance, usually by sending her Dreamkin creatures, but occasionally, if the need is urgent enough, by a visitation by the great sorceress herself.
The Moon has also been known to pass on information gleaned by her Orbats to the Guild, either to warn them of developments, or to allow them to profit off of them. No one knows why the Moon has a special tenderness in her icy heart for the Whores´ Guild, but it certainly adds to their street credibility.
Secrets of the Amber House
Besides their political connections and their relationship with the Bloated Moon, the Whores´ Guild are in possession of another wellspring of power, the spirits of the Old Blood spirit-priests and priestesses that died in the Great Fire. The Inner Sanctum of the former temple has been converted into a repository for the remains of these powerful individuals; their ashes stored in small silvered-glass phials, standing on shelves around the cubic, windowless chamber.
Unlike the modern human races, the souls of the Old Blood dont fully leave the Materium (the material world) upon death, but instead remain, on its borderlands, in spirit form. Here, with the proximity to the Well of Dreams, they are able to commune with the living, if the proper rituals are performed.
The Women of the Amber House, many of which are Adepts of the Secret Arts, can commune with the spirits of the Old Blood through the conduit of their mortal remains, and are able to glean many secrets of an arcane nature from them.
Name: Angina Ustos
Location: The Amber House, Maul Square, Upper Maul
Status: Reverend Mother of the Guild of Whores
Descripition: A spare, severe-looking woman in her late 40´s, with a long horse´s face, a hooked nose and her curly, iron-grey hair cropped close to the scalp. She customarily dresses in simple, high-necked dresses of coarse, slate-grey wool, almost like a nun´s habit.
Despite her ascetic demeanour, Mother Ustos is a shrewd, competent administrator. In her youth, she was a famous courtesan at the court of General Titus Hinge, who, when he died, left a significant percentage of his wealth to her. She is the repository for the power the Bloated Moon once gifted the Guild with, and she rules the Council of Matrons with an iron fist.
If she or the Guild of Whores is threatened beyond the capabilities of her tough, jaded Matrons, she can call forth the Moon´s power to summon Dreamkin (such as the Moon Maidens) to protect her and her flock.
The women of the Amber House are quite knowledgeable, not only in current politics and the street cant, but also in various arcane arts. They can be persuaded to part with occasional gems of information, or hire their services (arcane or otherwise) out to the PC´s but always at a price. These toughened ladies dont do anything for free. However, the Guild is quite honorable in its dealings, and if the PC´s help or assist one of their members, they will repay that debt in some way.
Then we have the possibility of the PC´s visiting the Guild for quite an obvious purpose, but I´ll leave that up to the imagination of the GM..