Lower City


The Lower City, a great crescent of steep slopes descending to the docks, is packed tight with conjoined slate-roofed buildings that are made of stone and feature window boxes and stout shutters in vibrant hues. The Lower City's narrow alleys access interior courtyards and other streets. Stone buttresses often span its roadways, literally holding apart the upper floors of structures that face each other. Even though some of these narrow supports act as pedestrian bridges, they are most often used by bats, rats, and cats. Lower city residents are accustomed to their noisy, cramped existence.

Trade is king in this section of Bête Noire. Craftwork, repairs, and buying and selling consume the lives of the tradesfolk, shopkeepers, and day servants who dwell here. Commerce in shops and crowded streets begins at the first tolling of Horologium and continues until after the final tolling. By day, each shop's shutters are flung open. At night, they're firmly fastened shut, regardless of whether their windows have iron gratings. Aside from inns and taverns - which are open, well lit, and employ "trusties" to guard against vandals, drunkards, arsonists, thieves, and brawlers - the Lower City is largely dark and shuttered at night.

Since the damp clings to the entire city, Bête Noire's cobbled streets are typically slick underfoot. When traction become a real problem, the locals spread straw or river gravel on the cobbles to help folk find their footing.

Communally maintained streetlights dot various crossroads and light the darkest spots beneath the Lower City's many stone support arches. The open doors of inns, taverns, and late-to-close cafés spill some light into the streets, but most folk carry lamps or hire lamp lads and lamp lasses. These youths carry many-candled lanterns on long poles and, for a few coppers, guide customers through the streets at night.



Brass Embassy


As part of the treaty between Torment and Bête Noire, the devils of Torment established the Brass Embassy. The luxury is sinful. The staff are always polite. Good cigars, urbane conversation, and just the slightest possibility of accidental damnation. The Brass Embassy is the centre of infernal activity Below. Torment is interested in one thing: souls. They'll buy from anyone. Over the last decade business has been very good.



Wolfstack


Bête Noire has one of the largest, busiest harbours Below. The city's independent status and tolerant nature appeal to many zee captains, who settle their families in Lower City homes. As a result, Bête Noire handles a wide variety of cargoes. Daemonfae looking to fence their latest prizes also regularly tie up in Bête Noire.

Visitors are often impressed by the harbour's sheer size and level of activity, marvelling at its sixty-six enormous cranes and its scoops and cargo carts, which run on rails of steel along the docks and make loading and unloading an efficient process.

The Traveller’s House is also a solitary structure. It dominates the end of a pier and descends on one side into the harbour. The waves of the Unterzee lap against this temple of Nehelannia. Zailors and their families make frequent small offerings at it to buy the Traveller’s favour.



Ladybones Road


Ladybones Road is one of the more upscale regions of the Lower City. The only blight in the area is the Dubois Mansion. This structure appeared out of nowhere, fully built and staffed, overnight on a vacant lot. For several weeks afterwards, citizens gossiped about Dubois, the eccentric, magic-wielding builder of the place, and influential residents courted him, eager to retain the services of such a powerful wizard.

Dubois then vanished from public life. No one heard from him except through invitations he sent to various individuals. These peculiar missives were written in silver atop black paper folded into the shape of a pentagon. Those who entered the mansion to keep their appointments were never seen again. After a handful of such disappearances, a Greycloak squad invaded the building. Only two of its members emerged, and they spoke of shifting rooms, oppressive chants, and blood-soaked chambers. The Privy Council would like to have the mansion torn down, but no labourers are willing to touch the place. Since the building does not appear to be dangerous as long as no one goes inside it, the council has not pressed the issue. Dubois and his servants are still missing, but the odd little black invitations occasionally appear on people's doorsteps when no one is looking.



Greycloaks


The Greycloak mercenary company functions as the Lower City's de facto police force and army. At any given time, about three thousand of its six thousand members are out on campaign. Bête Noire has long maintained its neutrality in conflicts Below, but the city profits from them all the same.

The Greycloaks police the Lower City and its soldiers stand sentry on the Lower City's eastern and western walls. Their presence, both on and off duty, deters bold crimes. Although some Greycloak soldiers live in barracks in the Zeetower, most have Lower City homes.

The Privy Council renews its contract with the Greycloaks annually, so the mercenary company is nominally under the council's control. The Greycloaks earn income, aside from the contract, from its share of taxes collected at the harbour, and gates into the city.



The Zeetower


The Zeetower serves the Greycloaks as headquarters, barracks, naval base, prison, and fortress. The knight-commander and most of the officers responsible for day-to-day Greycloak operations typically work from the Zeetower. Three levels of dungeon extend beneath the tower. The two lowest are below the harbour's water level, so they are always frigid and damp. The uppermost dungeon level is divided into small cells that hold one to five prisoners each. The lower levels consist of two large cells apiece. Under normal conditions, no more than twenty-five prisoners are housed together in a large cell. If the situation calls for it, however, up to ten times that many can be crammed cheek by jowl into each of those chambers.
© 2014 Tyler Yaehne
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