The Witherdowns, one of the newest districts of Locastus, stands on the wedge-shaped piece of land directly north of the Maul, where the Slake and Urok rivers - after flowing on close parallell routes for several miles - finally converge. Checker´s Narrow, a reedy, garbage-filled channel, separates the Witherdowns from the Maul, cutting across the tongue of land before the convergence point and is spanned by two bridges, one a blocky, algae-slimed stone monstrosity, the other a spindly, rusty, gridwork-framed contraption.
The district is intersected by two broad, north-south streets (named Salpetre Street and Alkali Road, respectively), which are both extensions of avenues beginning in the Maul, and extending across the two bridges into Witherdowns. The newly finished Thunderhead Railway Line enters from the north, ending at the switchyard at the Thunderhead Mining Company´s main complex at the northeast edge of the Witherdowns, along the banks of the river Urok.
A multitude of dead-end channels run deep inland from the two rivers, an intricate, stagnant network constructed to facilitate transport of barges and freight-ships to the various industrial compounds, their waters covered in floating ash and rainbow-slicked oilstains.
The relatively level land between the rivers, once covered in meadows and fields, are now covered in blocky brick houses and barracks, their corrugated sheet-metal roofs leprous and runnels of rust, soot and mould staining the walls beneath. The unlovely, utilitarian buildings, originally laid out in a precise, regular pattern - evoking a concentration camp-like feel - are interspersed with more recent, haphazard shacks, sheds and massive, corroding hulks of broken-down machinery, and the narrow alleys and spaces between them choked with rubbish, middens and piles of smoking slag. Few of the streets, excpet for the main routes, are cobbled - most are just compacted soil, with a tendency to turn into soupy mud in wet weather.
Out of the compacted mess of low brick houses rises behemoth, baroque factory buildings - dark basilicas to the hoary, bloodthirsty deity called Industrialism - and tall, ivy-webbed chimneys spew black smoke and cinders over the bleak landscape. Towering over all else, its jagged spires penetrating the low-hanging, sickly-coloured and chimney-fed clouds, is the massive, twisted Tower of Necrology, where the humanoid dead are turned into automaton-like Deaders, Locastus´s inexpensive labor force.
Witherdowns is the home of all the heavy industry in Locastus, here are the switchyards, foundries, forges, smelteries, lumbermills, factories and assembly lines. Vast alchemical processing plants lie nestled in dense, complex knots of pipes, tanks and conduits and, along with the tanneries on the banks of the two rivers, dump lethal cocktails of dye, acid, slag and toxins into the already silty water.
The smell that permeates the district is a powerful mélange of rotting garbage, ashes, aromatic hydrocarbons and the acrid, bitter stench of slag and molten metal, overlaying the unpleasant odour of unwashed, diseased humanity.
The inhabitants, an unlikely blend of immigrants from the various hill and prairie tribes and the poorest of Locastrians, are generally a surly, bitter lot, prone to heavy drinking and violence. Many are scarred from industrial accidents, or disfigured by the many diseases that thrive in the cramped workers´ barracks.
Most work 12-hour days for a meagre paycheck, and child labour is common, doing jobs that requires small hands and nimble fingers. The heavily polluted air, tainted by heavy metals, soot and creosote, gives rise to a plethora of diseases in the population. Black-lung fever is common, as are eczemas, rashes and cancers. Infant mortality is high, and most inhabitants of the Witherdowns do not live beyond 40 years.
There is a palpable aura of apathy and abject misery in the Witherdowns, strangely powerful even for a place where such a cynical, calculated abuse is common, and any attempts at overt union-formation or agitation are brutally squashed by the Witherdown Marshals, a company-controlled milita, not much better than the criminals they (supposedly) are hired to keep in check.
Every night, the taverns, brothels, gambling dens and drug parlours on Spite Row, a short stretch of street between Salpetre Street and Alkali Road, fills up with hordes of workers hell-bent on wasting their meagre earnings on cheap alcohol, disease-ridden prostitutes and rigged games of chance. Various other, more sinister, agencies operate out of Spite Row - here are the offices of the Caretakers, the Blood Shylocks and shadowy clinics where the poor sell their organs for the benefit of the rich.
The underground, outlawed Locastrian Worker´s Union, under the command of a mysteriuos figure only known as the Badger, operates out of the seedy quarters surrounding Spite Row, from where they regularly stage ambushes and acts of sabotage directed at the Marshals or the companiy assets they are paid to protect.
In addition to the population of workers, there is a substantial population catering to the darker side of humanity. Organized crime, in the form of protection, drug trade and illegal brothels is common, and reap a significant profit from the desperate laborers.
Mowar Dusk, crime lord of the Maul, runs a slick, successful operation of drug-running and protection along Salpetre Street, eternally contested by the Eastside Hounds, a loose network of streetgangs - famous for their leather-hided war-dogs - who claims the upper part of Alkali Road as their turf.
An outside observer may find it strange that the companies have such a large human workingforce, in a city where Deaders, a cost-effective, untiring labour force, is common. The companies´s explanation is that living, thinking humans are needed to ensure production keeps running smoothly, but some sinister rumors suggest otherwise…
Locations of the Witherdowns
1. Wither Hill
2. Acibus Foundry
3. New Slake Redoubt
4. The Hive (Shanty Town)
5. Thunderhead Mining Company Switchyard
6. Thunderhead Railway Line
7. Alchemy Row
8. Naval Shipyards and Military Training Grounds
9. Spite Row
10. Witherdown Square
11. Tower of Necrology
12. The Sump (Shanty Town)
13. Witherdown Cemetery
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CodexThe Acibus Foundry ( Society/ Organizations ) Technical - Local
A vast, intricate complex of kilns and forges where the low-grade ore from the Thunderhead mines are turned into steel of unsurpassed quality. What are the secrets of the Acibus Foundry?
The Tower of Necrology ( Locations ) Establishment - Other
A gigantic, warped edifice, towering over the dark, soot-stained Witherdowns, where human corpses are turned into Deaders.