Just down Hawker Street’s crowded length, a stone’s throw from Bassage Market, lies the Dovecote Rookery, the poorest and most desperate area in the city. Living in tottering, ancient structures, thousands of the impoverished and unwanted spend their short, unpleasant lives in the rookery’s filthy embrace. Hopelessness rules here, where entire families live huddled in oppressive darkness, a mere hair’s breadth from starvation. Hideously overcrowded, with as many as ten people to a room, the miserable folk in this foul place have few prospects for escape and even less hope.
At one time, this wretched hive could merely have been described as a slum. The poor laborers of the area rented apartments in buildings made of solid brick or stone, with many reaching as high as four stories from the ground. In the many years since that time, these buildings have been added to, remodeled, and rearranged with no standards for safety or regard for the structures’ integrity, until their ancient shells sag and collapse from neglect and decay. The structures have been modified so often and so irregularly that each forms a veritable maze, with blocked-up doors, ladders instead of stairs, blind passages and entire floors rebuilt or added to the original fabric. Many of the buildings have been partially undermined by passages and chambers tunneled beneath them, with sub-basements and tunnels hidden from sight and knowledge. Overhead, haphazard projections and passages connect the ramshackle structures, plunging the narrow streets beneath into perpetual shadow.
The rookery’s narrow streets are virtually impassible, so filled are they with filth and heaps of debris. Nobblers (brigands) and filchers lurk to extort tribute from passerby wishing to travel their alleys, while filthy and pox-ridden strumpets, the lowest of the low, offer themselves to passerby. Everywhere, pathetic and diseased beggars shuffle along the narrow alleys or linger at the paths intersections; any sign that a traveler has coin will signal dozens of additional mendicants to descend upon them.
A handful of die-hard businesses survive among the impoverished folk here. In darkened rooms and on street corners, ironmongers scrounge for metal and rag pickers salvage scraps of material. Fences barter shrewdly for the pitiful booty claimed by the rookery’s ubiquitous pickpockets and thieves. Here and there, costermongers can be seen, each jealously guarding a particular pitch within the squalid alleys. Each vendor closely guards their wares: Stinking boxes of salted fish past their prime, browned and aging vegetables, salvaged buttons, bits of scrap wood or charcoal for fires, silken handkerchiefs of uncertain origin, and other pathetic treasures are carefully watched over by the pitiful merchants hawking them.
In Their Element: Dovecote’s Criminals
A haven for the lawless, the Dovecote Rookery is never visited by the Watch. They know there’s little point to penetrating the labyrinthine rookery: Local thugs easily evade them in Dovecote’s unmapped depths, while the more desperate criminals are known to employ traps such as pits, poisons, or deadfalls to protect their lairs. If the Watch absolutely must enter the hostile labyrinth, they enter in force, backed up by a company of the Crown’s troops.
Their reign uncontested by the law, various warring gangs of cutthroats and thugs claim control over Dovecote’s mazy slums. The Mud Dogs, a powerful band of villains from nearby Bassage Market, have a strong contingent here, as do other gangs from the area.
Within the rookery, the Scare-Crowes, an aggressive gang of ragged toughs, has become powerful. They hope to carve a place for themselves from turf once claimed by neighboring gangs. Vicious and bloodthirsty, the Scare-Crowes have been recruiting heavily among the hopeless youth of the rookery, intimidating folk with tales of their God of Slaughter, a decrepit, blood-encrusted scarecrow they have claimed as their mascot. Their leader, a foul-tempered young warrior known as Armbreaker, has demanded that the gang’s new members each bow down and swear loyalty to this strange figure. The shadowy corridors of the rookery carry whispers of the murderous proofs of loyalty demanded by the gang’s belligerent leader and his bloody "god".
The violent young thugs of the gangs are by no means the most infamous of Dovecote’s criminal inhabitants. That dubious honor may very well belong to a notorious coyner, Janus Dimmick, who dwells deep within the warren. His cold-blooded crew of counterfeiters is careful to stay on good terms with the other folk of the neighborhood, as they depend on the lesser criminals around them to give them warning should the Watch attempt a raid into the rookery. These men are some of the hardest, most brutal killers in the city, each one facing the gallows a dozen times over if caught. The building they lair in is laced with traps for the unwary, ensuring that they will have enough time to escape, should the Watch stage a raid. From their lair in the midst of the hopeless and impoverished, they enrich themselves while the legion of false coins they have distributed throughout the city undermines the entire region’s economy. An agent of a hostile foreign power, Dimmick hopes to plunge the land into chaos with his economic manipulation.
The Tunnel Folk
Within the darkened halls and twisting passages, some figures move that never see the light of day. Little more than a whispered nightmare, few locals would dispute the tales of "Tunnel Folk" hiding in the rookery’s secret depths. These legendary creatures are twisted amalgams of rats and men, crawling and climbing among hidden passages and tunnels deep beneath the buildings. The most disturbing tales claim that these abominable hybrids keep a hidden lair, a secret chamber where they keep women and girls enslaved to bear litters of their blasphemous spawn.
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