11 April 2014

Mariners' Quarter: Stuff You Can Use

(A previous version of this was up on another website, but I thought people might like to see it here: a few useful and occasionally quirky businesses for a hardbitten, somewhat poor seaport waterfront district.  Enjoy!)

The Sea Gate:   This gigantic and imposing gate is fashioned from carved and polished (if a bit weathered) black granite.  Open from an hour before sunrise (or high tide, whichever comes first), closes at sunset.  The guards will generally take bribes to open the Gate for known sea captains swearing that they need to set sail during the night.  No tolls are charged; incoming cargoes are tariffed by the Harbormaster’s office, outgoing wagons at the East Gate.  The Gate mounts six-pounder cannon and four swivel guns in its two towers.

Barracks, Admiralty Guard:  In case of trouble, a full company of Royal Marines is stationed at a barracks adjacent to Admiralty House, with two squads on continuous guard.  The Admiralty Guard is a much-prized post awarded only to elite Marines, and they take a great – and somewhat arrogant – pride in their posting.  The Captain of the Admiralty Guard (with the rank of Colonel) is Lady Danay Mayfern, a legendary ex-ranker knighted by the Crown for numerous deeds.  The (true) rumor is that she is secretly a Deep Grey Shadow warrior.  The Guard is under the nominal command of the High Admiral and is officially not under the Port Commandant’s authority, which has led to much friction in the past; Danay is a skilled enough politician to keep all sides as tolerably contented as may be.

North Wall General Store:  Julian Maligor runs this busy corner store built against the city wall (and for which ample monies are paid for the privilege).  He is one of Keva One-Eye’s lieutenants and runs the district’s drug smuggling business for the Thieves’ Guild; two buyers make arrangements with incoming vessels, three distributors broker the smuggled goods, and Julian has two button men who serve as muscle.  Julian himself is short and fat, and lecherous almost beyond measure – he will always find time to take a lady in the backroom to “pay down” a drug debt, and any absences he has from the front during business hours is almost certainly connected with backroom gruntings.  Opium is sold legally; illegal moondust can also be had.

The Woflo Inn:  Caters to the buccaneering and smuggling trades, and thereby watched by the Guard and under the protection of the Thieves Guild.  Funny business is not long tolerated, even if the loyal clientele permitted the same.  The innkeeper is Grace Waflo – the family name is spelled differently – a winsomely pretty redhead in her early twenties who took over the inn from her sister; she is still feeling her way around keeping the itinerant clientele in line, lacking her sister’s awesome powers.  She and her husband Artaz (a lampmaker in the Firewalkers’ District) have two small children, Daisy and Els.  The barkeep is Jurgin, an ex-adventurer with a strong lecherous streak. Notable in the district for the best stews in the Old City.  The inn has ample room for guests, as well as two separate escape tunnels from the basement into the sewers. 

Keva One-Eye, who has the district concession from the Thieves’ Guild, has a backroom set aside for her uses.  Her lieutenants are Jakaesa, who brokers smuggled goods through a cell of buyers, one of longshoremen and one to launder through legitimate businesses; Layco, who runs street crime in the district, with two loan sharks, a fence, two burglars, two pickpockets and three button men; and Julian.  Keva herself has two guards. 

The owner’s older sister, Princess Elaina Waflo Elyanwe, is a elemental wizard of tremendous renown; she married into the Vinarian Imperial Family, served a term as an Intermediate Master, and was one of the great heros of the Battle of Veredar Island in 4506.  She is fanatically devoted to her family and the well-being of the Woflo, and can bring immense resources to bear to protect it.  Her bodyguard Sir Kardo is a famous ex-pirate, and she often travels with an honor guard of Vinarian Imperial Marines. 

Temple of Manannan (St. Taria’s): This small temple of the Sea Lord caters to the fisher folk and downtrodden sailors.  The exterior is of plain wood planks with a granite foundation, topped with a modest whitewashed steeple.  The glass windows are purple with age and unadorned.  A small (but sweet toned) bronze bell tolls for services and at the loss of a ship or a congregant.  There is a modest herb garden with benches set up for meditation, and a long-ago filled cemetery.

Sanctuary:  Scallop shell sconces created from translucent alabaster add to the small passage between the doorway and the chancel.  Wistful paintings of sea scenes border the whitewashed walls of the sanctuary.  The pews are of simple woods (salvaged from derelict ships), although lovingly kept, and the dark blue wool aisle runners are new; space in the sanctuary prohibit the pews from making a complete circle around the altar, as is customary.  Streams of blue and green light inside bathe the nave from a stained glass window set behind the altar.  The altar itself is of plain oak, although it is covered with a beautifully embroidered altar cloth.

The curate, a retired lobsterwoman herself, is Mother Ginevra Harlo.  There are two teenage acolytes, and the three live in modest quarters behind the downstairs parish hall.  The hall itself is oversized, and Mother Ginevra runs a soup kitchen mid-afternoons for down-and-out locals (augmented by castoffs from the area inns, since St. Taria’s is underfunded, save for occasional donations from Princess Elaina), all of whom are known to her.  St. Taria’s is a good place to hire common sailors and fishers, if not of the quality one would get at the Venturers’ Guild.

Tavern, no sign:  Under a tenement block, Camibel and her disabled orcish-blood husband Elerek run this plain but clean tavern for the fishing folk and longshoremen.  Their tavern is unlicensed and illegal, and they are under threat to be shut down.  The Thieves’ Guild has offered to smooth their way for “consideration,” and are ramping up the pressure.

Sign of the Fuming Gate:   Incongruously enough, this is actually the local whale oil and coal seller, Dorinda the White.  The long ago hostel of a monastic order of the Fire God, this building was empty for years before becoming a flophouse, and now taken over by Dorinda, who wanted to expand her business from formerly cramped quarters.  She considers the sign a terribly funny joke, and hasn’t yet realized the consequences of poking fun at a notoriously grim fighting order; their first salvo is that she is under a Curse from an unamused priest.

Brothel, no sign:  Even in the loose Mariners’ District, the brother and sister team of Dachel and Keraera draw a great deal of fire.  Locally born to now-deceased fishermen, they are notorious for doing anything with anybody (or with any prop) in any combination, each other included.  Their sign was torn down and their establishment has been repeatedly vandalized. 

The Compass Rose: 
The faded relic of an earlier, more prosperous era, the Rose is the largest public bathhouse in the Mariners’ Quarter.  The exterior is carved sandstone, now weathered and crumbling, the interior of glazed (and chipped) azure and white blue tile.  There is a large warm water communal bath, smaller communal baths for men and women, a steam room, a salt water bath, and two private tubs (a third is damaged and out of commission) for groups of up to four.  There is a 10% chance that any given bath is out of order on any given day.

Cooper:  Domeneka Lekarsi is a dour, skilled cooper, one of the few Mistress Race trolls in the Old City.  Much of her business involves repair work for barrels (her prime location hard up against the Sea Gate as a boost); however, with an eye towards an coin, she also sells watered wine and beer for the dockworkers, drovers and Sea Gate guards, however much illegally.

Winedark Venturers’ Bank:  A modest blue granite building houses this local bank (unconnected with the Venturers’ Guild, and in a lengthy lawsuit over the name).  Winedark is the institution of choice for many of the poorer people of the district.  Drained by the lawsuit, undercapitalized and with a number of risky loans outstanding, the bank is secretly on the verge of failure.  Well-respected "Old" Aleman is still the nominal head of the institution, but his grand-nephew "Young" Aleman and his three cousins operate the bank.  They are increasingly desperate for a quick fix, but fear a bank run if word gets out of its near-insolvency.

Tea Merchant:  Mikoguchi Lanta blends and serves out bulk tea to the district’s inns, taverns and general stores, aided by her eight energetic children (all, she boasts, by different fathers).  She will sell retail, but will gouge anyone save for the apothecary Neysa, whom she credits with alchemical beautification potions.  The shop carries Golden Zorca blend tea.

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