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Outlands Gatetowns: Torch, Gatetown to Gehenna

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Outlands Gatetowns: Torch, Gatetown to Gehenna

Torch, Gatetown to Gehenna

Torch isn’t exactly what one would call friendly. It’s full of backstabbers and berks looking to sell information to or about you. This place is best described as a bit of gilt floating on top of scum and that applies to the people, the place, the society, and even the food in this berg. In this town, you'll just run into trouble above, and trouble below.

Torch is perched on and around three active volcanoes, called Karal, Maygel, and Dohin, on the edge of the Outlands. The volcanoes are surrounded by murky acid filled swamps, populated with giant frogs, rats, plague insects and anything else disgusting that you can imagine. The swamps surround the town for a good twenty miles out, presenting quite a bit of trouble to travelers. There are roads approaching Torch - usually made of giant stones sunk into the swamp, but they are quite dangerous. The stones are not exactly evenly spaced and some of them have continued to sink into the mud or have been eaten away by the acidic water so your feet may end up a bit wet as you travel. Watch out for the swamp residents too, they can get mighty territorial and they've got big teeth. And if that's not enough to make you get a peery look - watch out for 'recruiters' too. Usually they're Blood War recruiters, sometimes they're just looking for labor - but they won't take no for an answer either way. In fact, if you want my advice - avoid the roads altogether - take a portal - or just go someplace else if you don't have to go to this place.

Once you get near Torch, get used to looking up - it's what most of the berks in this berg do. The place is built atop three volcanoes, and from the swamp side - the poor side - the tops of the mountains gleam with shiny roofs and the light from the lava and the gate itself. Of course, while you're doing all your looking up, someone's bound to stick a knife in your side - so be careful about that. Down near the swamp you'll find yourself surrounded by shacks and sheds, maybe even the occasional rat gnawed tent. Everything is ramshackle and unplanned and fairly often some of the local gangs will sweep through shaking down the locals for anything they have - or throwing them out into the acid swamp for fun. These slums are where the majority of the people live. Aside from the dangers their neighbors present, this part of town is also vulnerable to the occasional swamp floods, plagues, roving predators and other such things. And if that wasn't enough, the residents of this area get trouble from above too - lava flows and ash from the volcanoes.

The berg is run, nominally, by mob rule. The Council of All, also known as "The Council of Brawl", will meet to decide the laws and judgments of the town. The Council is the legal forum for town laws, but is often composed of so many of the poor, the ignorant, or the simply bought off - that the council is easily manipulated into doing whatever the high-ups in town want them to do. As a result, it’s money and ambition that rules this place, not the mob. The Council will gather on the central mount to discuss (if you can call it that) what problems the town faces, and then decide a judgment upon it. Any resident of the town may join the Council, and vote in it - one vote to a customer. And of course, anyone may throw the first (inevitable) punch. And often as not, the enforcement of any decisions the mob makes is left up to the mob – torches and knives in hand.

The real power comes from behind the scenes, the powerful and wealthy that employ, bribe, or threaten the rest into doing what they want them to do. There are a few names that come to mind immediately. The wealthiest man in Torch is Bantrice the Potter. He claims to be from Sigil, having left the great berg above the Spire for better environs, and he has enough people in his pocket that few are able to pin down any exact way in which he manipulates events in town. It's just known that if he wants something done - it tends to get done, and right fast at that. Bantrice is too wealthy to be a simple potter, but most try not to think too closely about that, or about where he might be getting his jink.

Other significant figures in town include the drow Badurth, the elderly owner of the Festhall of the Falling Coins. Badurth is a drow, easily noticed for his stopped manner and wheezing. Despite his age though, he is a sharp businessman amongst other things and runs the most well known gaming and feast hall in town. He keeps his place as neutral in the politics of the town as he can, a wise choice on his behalf but regardless he is well aware of the majority of activities in town. As a neutral place his hall often serves for the backroom dealings that guide the town's destiny and he, and his servants, have ears to listen with. Badurth is certainly able to prove a polite asker with information, though it may be costly if you have no information in return for him. His name and manner indicate that he comes from a prime world called Toril.

The town hosts at least six thieves guilds as well, with more coming and going as the turf wars push competition out of the way. Of course, by thieves guild, they're really more like small gangs and thugs in addition to pickpockets and burglars. A guild may be a sizable force, or little more than the local punk and his two best buds - but in any case, there's plenty of opportunity in Torch if they can hunt it down. The current top six guilds are the Grey Orbs, the Kindred of Yoj, the Severed Hand, the Brotherhood Janko, Tiamat's Chosen, and the Fire Lords.

The Grey Orbs
The Grey Orbs are one of the oldest thieves gangs in Torch, and the only ones who have been permanently exiled from the Festhall of Falling Coin. The Orbs are bookies for the most part, residing in and around the arena on Maygel, and peeling any and every gambler they can for the jink. As direct competitors with Badurth’s operations, he doesn’t look kindly on any Orb in his establishment. The Orb also has something of an extortion business going, and of course they get their jollies knocking kneecaps in on debtors. Of late the Kindred of Yoj have been trying to working out a sound financial ‘cut’ of the Orb’s business, though negotiations on that are still up in the air.

The Kindred of Yoj
Lead by a tiefling mage of arcanaloth heritage, this moderate sized guild skims anything and everything off the top of any activity they can get their hands on. They provide protection services to pimps and bookies (for a fee), they clean up other guilds messes (for a fee), and they’ll even arrange for stolen goods to disappear (for a fee). This guild is fairly territorial about it too, and tries to exact ‘fees’ on any other guild that operates in what they consider to be their territory. As a result they’ve been in conflict at one point or another with every other guild in the town. Their current territory includes almost the entire midground of Karel.

The Severed Hand
Mysterious, aggressive, dangerous and creepy. That’s usually the description given for the Severed Hand. This particular thieves guild is active in the harsher side of the business, and in addition to simple protection and extortion rackets they also provide their skills to eliminate anyone that anyone else is willing to pay enough jink to get rid of. The Severed hand claims to have been part of a larger guild that extended their reach to Torch, before being wiped out from their headquarters. They have a long term plan to return to reestablish themselves and take revenge on those who destroyed the rest of the guild, though so far they have not breathed a word in public regarding where their headquarters used to be. They are lead by a bulky figure commonly seen dressed in rags from head to toe, with his features so obscured as to be otherwise unidentifiable.

The Brotherhood Janko
The Brotherhood is named in honor of their founded member, a human from the Prime who’s house name was Janko. He has passed on since though, and the gang is now led by a half-elf named Isa. Isa routinely makes the joke that perhaps she should rename the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood – but few take her seriously as she is otherwise quite firm about retaining the skills and competency of her predecessor. The Brotherhood is not very well known by any but the high-ups of Torch, as they tend to recruit only thieves whose skills and discretion meet their high standards. The Brotherhood tends to make some effort to stay out of the combat that the other guilds may indulge in – preferring to advertise themselves as ‘professionals’. Of all the guilds, the Brotherhood claims the lowest count of by-stander deaths, and makes an effort not to endanger their victims during jobs.

Tiamat's Chosen
An orderly and exclusive guild, they are the smallest of the guilds of Torch. Tiamat’s Choosen are required to have some bloodline of scales, preferably that of a chromatic dragon. Their leader is a tough cutter named Sist’rick. Sist’rick claims to be half black dragon, and certainly looks the part as he stands easily a head or more higher than any other member of the gang and boasts an impressive set of bone horns that curve forward framing his face. He runs Tiamat’s Chosen with a strong hand keeping the rest of them in line, and following the teachings of the goddess strictly. As a result, the guild has built something of a reputation for reliable service when it comes to getting a job done, though they certainly aren’t known for subtlety. Sist’rick can usually be found with his gang in the slums of Dohin, or out in the Blood Swamp where he seems to have a secondary safe house established for his own use.

The Fire Lords
One of the largest yet least profitable thieves guilds, the Fire Lords are more of an excuse for violence than a true guild. These berks like fire – a lot. They like it to the point where membership is only granted if you’re willing to burn some part of yourself before them. Those who survive the initiation are then treated for their injuries, and welcomed as their newest member. The Fire Lords are not very well organized and generally hire themselves to intimidate targets or terrorize neighborhoods – when they aren’t already doing so. They are lead by a man known only as Quiet. Quiet is horrifically scared from head to toe, and rumor has it gets his name from the fact that he is mute. Truth or not, no one recalls ever hearing him speak. Most of their jink is made by armed robbery or protection rackets. None of the other guilds like them, considering them too chaotic or insane to be trusted in an alliance of any kind. The Fire Lords tend to make kip at the foot of Maygel. Their favorite activities include arson and… more arson.

Torch itself is spread across three mountains, each of which is divided into informal districts based on class and financial wealth. The quality of living goes up, the higher up you get and the number of people enjoying that living gets smaller too. About half way up the mountains you get to the places where the houses are more permanent, though usually still a little run down or slapped together. Some places you may even find new buildings put up by some great landlord higher up, looking to make some jink off the housing. Even higher up though you get to the high up side of town, pardon the pun. The high ups live in grand mansions, with gilded roofs that reflect the light of the gate and the volcanoes. They live on high points out of the way of any possible lava flows or acidic ash; they eat good food and sleep in soft - secure - beds. At the top, the three volcanoes are connected by great bridges spanning the distances between them. That way the residents never have to step near the swamp to go visit each other.

The Blood Swamp
The swamps that surround Torch are an acidic dark red muck in which few healthy plants thrive. The water in the swamp comes from multiple sources – in some places it is natural ground water from the Outlands, in others simply run off from the mountain range which Torch’s volcanoes are part of. The last source though it the more dangerous, where the water in some places stands and is dark black instead of red, the wise would do well to avoid it. In those places can be found stagnant Styx water, with all of its memory stealing properties.

Razorvine, viper trees, bramble, and other such useless flora are found here, and there are the occasional stretches of deceptive tall grass. Usually these grasses conceal one of two equally unpleasant things. Either they are tall stands that cover up the fact that they are growing within deep pools of water – tempting a traveler to take shortcuts over ‘solid’ ground, and drown in the watery tangle of stems and roots. Or, they are in fact solid ground – in which the most vicious predators of the swamp reside, cutting paths through the grass and using it for cover. Deep within the swamp there is at least one khaasta tribe that has built a small palisade atop high ground, they have recently begun to patrol the swamps more widely to firmly establish themselves before they begin raising hatchlings.

Karal
The first of the three mountains, Karal stands in the middle of the other two. It is the tallest of the mountains, and most of its residents are dedicated to a desperate struggle to survive under the brutal conditions. Karel reaches as tall as it can, with a great number of cliff faces looming over residences below, and a number of constant lava flows cutting through the town below.

The slums of Karal are the worst of the three mountains – and are most commonly flooded by the swamp. The residents of this area build their shacks on short stilts to avoid the standing water in the streets from entering their homes as they sleep. Of course, that’s when they bother to build and don’t just throw their weaker neighbors out into the water. The major occupation in the slums of Karal is temporary labor. The two next common occupations are thievery and begging – but without the money coming in from elsewhere neither of those groups would have anyone to get the money from. The residents of Karel’s slums provide physical labor for construction work, for picking the orchards of the high-ups at harvest times and may be found doing any other form of menial or degrading labor in town. If you need a man to pick up your garbage once a week – this is where you would hire him. This is also one of the favored places for Blood Gang press crews, or slavers to find new blood for their stocks. The ‘wealthy’ in this area get that way by using and abusing their neightbors. There is a gang problem in this area, mostly from the Severed Hand running a protection racket, though the Fire Lords have a habit of setting fire to oil slicks in the standing water of the slums.

The midground of Karel is populated mostly by those who have escaped from the slums below. The leaders of the Severed Hand, and the Fore Lords make kip in the midground of Karel. In addition, multiple slavers reside here, middlemen in the trafficking business. This midground is built up of stone and tangled streets that make it difficult to progress from the slums the the heights without more than one dead end alley. The alleys aren’t that safe though, so I would strongly recommend that you know exactly where you’re going in this area. Unfortunately, this area is unavoidable for any day laborers that are walking to work from their homes below in the slums. The midground of Karel is known for making passers-by disappear. Caution should be taken on any road in which the walls of the buildings seem to be reinforced – these are the paths through which lava flows from the mountain may vent, and there is no effort made by the residents to warn a traveler when lava is flowing and when it isn’t. Occasionally stray fumes from Maygel will gather in the streets here as well if the wind shifts the right way causing a sickly yellow fog to fill the town.

Highups of Karal live behind tall walls that circle the entire mountaintop. These walls are covered with razorvine on the outside, and the only openings in them are to allow for the travel of the constant lava flows of Karel itself. Rumors outside the wall hold that occasionally the high ups will release a buildup of lava from behind the walls – playing a betting game amongst themselves to see which way the lava flows and how many people die in the process. On the other side of the walls, the high-ups of Karel know this is not a rumor. Entire businesses have been lost because of an ill-timed bet on a magma flow. The high-ups of Karel are the most deliberately cruel of any of the three mountains. The Lord of the March, the greatest slaver within Karel, makes his kip here in a white walled complex.

Maygel
Maygel is the squattest of the mountains. This volcano is more known for its noxious fumes than for its lava flows. The mountain sits broodingly beside its siblings, and wreathed in a yellow-green cloud of gases, glowing faintly from the light of the mountain below. The sides of Maygel are pocketed with caverns and crevices, etched out of the rock by acidic gases.

The slums of Maygel are dry at least. That’s really about the only benefit to the location though. Overall Maygel’s slums are staging points for the constant thieves guild and gang wars that run throughout the slum. Over half o the buildings and shacks in this area bear the marks of arson attempts and most of them have been rebuilt once or twice after the fighting. The populace that lives in this area, live here because they have little other choice – they are the crippled, insane, or otherwise socially rejected of Torch. And to be socially rejected in Torch is saying something. There is little economy to speak of in the slums here because the rampant violence has driven most of the population out of the area if they can leave.

Of note, there is a single block of untouched property in this area, owned by a mysterious elderly man named Meisser. He is a human, somewhere above the age of fifty with a slightly stooped but sturdy frame and an extremely dignified manner. He tends towards the polite, standing on formal etiquette and insisting that guests in his home do the same. The last time that the routine conflict in the slums spilled over into his front lawn the participants in the fight were later found hoisted on tall stakes surrounding the block. The stakes are still there, providing a distinctive reminder to others on the border of the area that he seems to consider ‘his’.

The middle ground of Maygel is dominated by one large building, visible even form the neighboring mountains. This building is a combination of auction house and gladiatorial ring, and is built out of a dark grey stone shot through with red iron ore veins. The outer layers of the complex are dedicated to markets and stalls at which any number of legal and illegal goods may be found. Further within, can be found slave auctions. The casual laborer, and other more skilled slaves, may be found here at a reasonable price. At the deepest layer of the complex, past all the sales pitches and pickpockets, may be found the gladiatorial arena itself. This facility provides much of the weekly entertainment for all of Torch.

The highest kips on Maygel are surrounded by an iron spiked wall. A handful of the wealthy live here, the owners of the gladiators or landlords of slums on the other mountains. Over half the mountaintop belongs to one man in one way or another. That man is Bantrice. He owns and rents out much of the land here in this section of the city. His complex is built like a miniature fortress into the side of the mountaintop and is surrounded on three sides by gas vents that prevent approach. Across from the complex is an open green field, an orchard of blood oranges. This field is called Potter’s Field by the laborers of Torch, and provided employment to many of them during the season. The fruit produced all goes into Bantrice’s complex though it is far more than one man, or even one man and his household, could possibly eat – where the oranges go no one knows.

Dohin
Dophin is the second tallest mountain of the three, and it stands to the side of Karel like a little sister, tilted slightly to the taller one. The mountain casts a deep shadow below as a result of this tilt, and that side of it is extremely difficult to navigate. The steep side of the volcano is full of spikes and spires. It is certainly too steep for anything to live on. The Gate to Gehenna hovers near the top of Dohin, and casts a reddish glow on the mountain below.

The Dark Streets, the slums of Dohin, see light only for a few hours a day. Located in the shadow cast by the mountain, these slums are particularly favored by tieflings and other light sensitive creatures. This is also the most likely location to find undead that have wandered into town from the swamp. Most of the trade in the slums here is drug related, either in the buying, selling, or making of the favored toxins of the high ups. Much of the gang activity here is kept as non-destructive as possible, with the exception of the Fire Lords who occasionally blow up small alchemy labs in the area by accident or arson. One of the more popular drugs crafted here is formed from the salts and minerals of the swamp water nearby – a section that has a particularly strong concentration of the Styx in it.

The midground of Dohin holds many legal and non-legal apothecaries, as well as a number of well to do restaurants in which deals may be had to sell large quantities of the drugs made in the slums below. This is the most honestly profitable section of town, and the closest thing Torch has to a middle class neighborhood. Many of the businesses here are dedicated to making travelers, merchants, and other visitors feel welcome and secure. As a result, this area is where one will find the decent inns and bars in town. At the highest point in this area of Torch, is found the Festhall of Falling Coins.

A reddish marble that in the light from the gate appears to be bleeding walls the topmost part of Dohin. The Bleeding Wall is covered in a thick reddish acid produced from condensation of the atmosphere at the top of the mountain. Within the boundaries of the wall may be found the residences of a few of those from the midground below who have managed to work their way up to living within the walls. In addition the residence of Badurth, the owner of the Festhall of Falling Coins, may be found here, placed securely on the very edge of the overlook on the steep side of the mountain. Beyond his residence, there is nothing more than a dark and dangerous fall.

The Festhall of Falling Coins
The Festhall of Falling Coins is the largest and classiest gambling hall, bar, and hangout in Torch. This grand is a grand place with high ceilings, plenty of booze, and lots of ways to loose your shirt – or other valuables. There is often live music, and there are plenty of tables over half of which are usually dedicated to an ongoing game of poker. Dice wheels are common here, as is an up to date betting board covering the fights in the arena on Maygel. The Festhall is named for it’s unusual fountain – located smack in the center of the place. A constant stream of coins, mostly gold, fly up in the air from this fountain and land in the pool below it. Of course the temptation is great for many of the visitors but the fountain is warded against petty thievery. Any coin stolen from the fountain immediately begins to burn the hands of those holding it.

Aside from the local entertainment, the alcohol, the dancers and the gaming – there’s also plenty of entertainment to be found in watching how many gangs have their representatives sitting in the festhall at any one time – and counting how long it takes before a small fight breaks out and one of Badurth’s bouncers escorts them to the door. This is one of the prime places for tourists, scoundrels and adventurers to pass through – so the gangs like to keep an eye on the comings and goings here.

The Bridges
The bridges connecting the highest reached of Torch’s mountains to each other are spectacular things to see. They are easily at least a mile long each, stretching like spider webs from the peaks of mount to mount. The bridges are built with great spans, each as wide as a house anchoring upon the sides of the mountains below, and the shadows of the bridges can be easily seen from any place lower on the mountain. The bridges themselves are built quite wide and in fact have a number of buildings, homes and shops that have built up on the edges. The topside of the bridges is dedicated to serving the high ups along the way and a number of restaurants may be found on the bridges advertising their grand views of the Outlands, the Gate, or the city below.

Underbridge
Under the bridges may be found a complex network of stone, steel and wood supports – all creaking and groaning under the strain of people moving overhead and the wind coming off the tops of the mountains. The underside of the bridges is a tangled dark place. On the bridge between Karel and Dohin may be found ‘the Rookery’ – the place where the bodies of hanged criminals are put on display. Crows gather there in the hundreds.

In addition to the dead, others may be found here as well – some of the refugees from the slums below have managed to find ways to climb up into the supports of the bridges, trading the danger of the active thieves guilds and swamp for the danger of a single misstep and plummet below. These ‘bridgers’ as they call themselves have begun to form a small community here, hidden from the view of the high ups and secure from the abuses of the thieves guilds and slavers.

The Gate
The gate in Torch resembles a great eye floating in the sky above the volcanoes. It is accessible by two ways. First, by leaping from one of the spires of the mountains and hoping you aim right. Second, by flying. It is not possible to reach the gate by foot. Residents of Torch will tell you that the ground on the other side of the gate, on Gehenna’s first mount, is flat and stable. A canny cutter may want to remember the traits this town is most known for before trusting such information.

Rumors and Plots
Bantrice’s story on being from Sigil is shaky at best. There’s plenty of berks who comment that he seems to know absolutely nothing about the town he says he’s from. And it has been noted that he gets right twitchy when certain subjects in relation to Baator come up. No one’s quite in on the dark with that, but there’s a strong rumor that it’s not Sigil he’s fled from – but Baator itself. It’s of note that the man doesn’t seem to twitchy about sitting in one of the bergs that routinely sees Blood War troops on the baatezu side, but then he also seems to strictly avoid anything that touches on the kytons of Baator.

The residents of Torch have absolutely no interest in seeing the place slip over into Gehenna, though they’ve certainly been coming close to it lately. For the most part that would make them suddenly very small fish in a very large pond, and they have no interest in loosing their power bases. The poor of Torch don’t want to slip either; as such a transition would simply open them to even further abuse. Therefore Bantrice, Badurth and the other power brokers in town will occasionally make an effort to keep the place on the Outlands. The recent development of a poor but self-regulating and self-supporting community on the bridges may be part of this effort, and rumors have it that the community receives support from at least one high-up blood in town. Of course, the same argument could apply to the Fire Lords – since their chaotic natures would prevent the slide into the slightly lawful aligned Gehenna as well.

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