The city of Emperor’s Port could easily hold the place of being the worst city on the land, if it weren’t for the fact that it has a working bureaucracy to sort out problems. Trouble is, the bureaucracy is corrupt to the bone. It lies on the southernmost tip of the southernmost country, built in a sweltering summer heat around the ruins of a forgotten city. Once a thriving trade hub, the cancer of corruption pumping through its veins has long since killed the city, and only a rotting husk remains. The city is truly ruled by the Jack of Irons, the sole leader of the Iron Fist, a thieves guild turned political entity that rules the city with, well, an iron fist. And at the center of it all stands the Closed Fist and Open Palm Tavern, the birth and death of the city.
Over a hundred years ago, a nameless city boy climbed aboard a caravan and jumped off at Emperor’s Port, the hub of the southern wheel. He soon found that, amid the bustle of merchants and clerks, there was a good deal of coin to be loosed from pockets and sacks. Caught up with a band of vagrants and cutpurse leaders, he rose quickly, and grew in strength. He began to see that the good people were powerless to stop what was killing the city, and that a new order would need to step, in to take the place of trust and security. A night fell upon the city, and the nameless boy took into his hands a chain, and waited in the shadows until a good man of the city, a baker, appeared, coming home to his family. And with the chains he took the life of the man, and took his own soul as well, and became the Jack of Irons. The Jack now commands a league of followers spanning all types, from rag-tag pickpockets and cutthroats to city clerks and governers. His rule over Emperor’s Port is both untraceable and absolute. His name is not on any paper, for he has no name. All that is known is that he resides in the Closed Fist and Open Palm Tavern, and that no man enters there who has not business with him.
The tavern is a true extension of the Jack’s character. It resides not in the center of the city, but in the eastern trade district, on an unmarked street in a shadowed sector. However, it does stand out from its surroundings, a solid tavern of polished dark woods among a line of nondescript stores and warehouses. On the front is a sign, on one side a closed fist, on the other, an open palm with a coin in the center. No words are marked, but all know the name. Several vagabonds can be seen lurking in the shadows of a nearby alley, keeping constant vigil. When one opens the door, an eerie silence as well as an uncomfortable smell, of blood and moldering wood, enters the nostrils. No music can be heard, although low conversation can be heard over tables as wisps of black smoke drift from table-candles. A hearth with no fire sits to the left, and dark wooden tables are spread around, some seats taken by hooded figures hunched over pewter goblets, others by hard-faced men with swords across their laps. There is no laughter or revelry here, only fear and business. The innkeeper greets you with a burning stare, a ghost of a man, with a pointed beard and embers for eyes. One will know if one belongs in the tavern if one survives the first two steps, for on each side of the door are two robed figures, well trained in the arts of dispersal. Five coins are placed on the counter, gold, and a goblet is placed into your hands. You sit until the Jack calls you.
What goes on inside the rooms one is led into is never discussed. Oftentimes one enters, but does not return. Rumors say the Jack is an ordinary man, with an iron mask for a face to hide a disfigured countenance. Others say the mask hides the crumbled skin of a dead that speaks, one who has lived beyond the bonds of death. And yet others say that the Jack is but a rotting corpse, pinned to the wall while one speaks to an underling. His chambers have been described as everything from a neat, lacquered office to the pits of hell itself. All that is known as truth is that all who deal with the Jack do not return as they entered, and that some have succumbed to madness shortly after. The mantra, a closed fist and an open palm, refers to the two parts of the Jack’s deal. The open palm refers to the price. You place five coins on the counter, and a thousand into the Jack’s hand, and the closed fist, the Iron Fist, will fall upon whomever you wish. It is a deal that has lasted for longer than many have lived, and will most likely continue to last until long after this day.
The tavern is not simply a building or establishment, it is a symbol of the death of a city, and the triumph of darkness. Every day it stands is a day the Jack’s Fist tightens around the Port. What the future holds for the tavern, be it a death in flames or a new coat of polish, none but the Gods can tell.