Legends of the Three Pillars
uilt around the remains of a Carathan fort, Slavetown lies at the halfway point for ships making the journey between Ironport and Haven. As the name implies, it is the base of operations for many of the region’s slavers. The raider cartels collect slaves from the south and sell northwards to the Carathan markets. To borrow a phrase, Slavetown is a hive of scum and villainy ruled by whoever has the strongest gang at the time, law being served at the point of a sword or the edge of a dagger.
The principal area of Slavetown, the Rake is a maze of ramshackle buildings and alleyways. Two and three story Carathan styled tenements front onto the main streets – mostly used as taverns, shops, and whorehouses – while a clogged mess of shanties and yards are jammed into the available space in behind.
Two principal thoroughfares divide the Rake into quarters. The first runs between the Ropeworks and the Red Keep, the other from the north gate to The Maw. These arteries, while they see their share of violence and debauchery, are generally considered safe for outsiders. Most of the traffic to be encountered are slaves – owned by the raider gangs or the merchants who trade here – and to touch another’s property is to invite death. The gangs that own the prostitutes and drug dens also take a dim view of those who prey upon their customers before they’ve had a chance to spend their money.
Behind the flimsy façade is a constant struggle for dominance and territory. Theft, extortion, and murder are rife, and anyone who is not under the protection of a corsair captain is fair game.
Periodically the Rake will be purged by a particularly powerful – or mad – King. Rivals are rounded up and killed, disease-ridden sections are put to the torch, and order is restored for a brief time – until the power-vacuums are filled with new blood and the cycle begins anew.
Sitting on a low hill that surveys the town and its environs, the Red Keep is home to the King of Slavetown.
Originally a garrison fort built by the Carathan Legions some time before the Second Exodus, the Keep has been reinforced, repaired and extended by successive Kings over the centuries. A stone rampart surrounds the site, repaired with mudbrick and topped by timber breastworks, presenting a formidable barrier to aggressors.
Inside the walls are several longhouses of varying styles used to house the men and slaves of the current king. At full capacity it could house approximately five hundred souls but is probably only comfortable for a hundred or so.
The keep itself is a three tiered structure built on the stone foundations of the original garrison building. Various extensions and additions have been tacked on over the years but the basic Imperial shape can still be seen. The name comes from both the red hue of the local timber and the copious amounts of blood that have been spilled within and around its walls.
Overall the Red Keep is a strong defensive structure and a highly visible symbol of power. It has survived fifteen hundred years, countless battles, and several invasions that have razed the rest of the town. All who make their trade in Slavetown aspire to the throne of the Red Keep – few ever get the chance, and only a handful of those manage to retain it for long.
Slavetown lives and dies by its access to the sea and the Ropeworks are the key.
A confusing mass of gantries, scaffolds, elevators, cranes and cargo nets allow passage from the top of the cliffs to the docks below. The winches, cranes, warehouses and staging areas atop the cliffs, the workings on the cliff-face, and the docks below are collectively termed the Ropeworks.
The men and women who live and work in this area are almost universally freed slaves. They choose to remain, providing stevedoring services to the corsair ships in return for pay and protection. Whilst there is no formal organization for these people, an informal hierarchy exists. The individual at the top is referred to as the Harbor Master – it is her duty to bring issues and grievances to the corsair captains and only a fool ignores her.
Those that make their living here dwell in lofts above warehouses or in wooden buildings clustered near the cliff’s edge. As the Rake expands, the need for space has caused some adventurous souls to build on the cliff face itself, their huts clinging to the rock like gull’s nests.
The south side of the Rake is marked by a wide chasm – thirty meters deep and twenty wide at the top – called the Maw. The gorge has been carved by a river over millennia and empties into the harbor.
Three bridges cross the Maw to the Slave Pits and attached farmlands – Butcher’s Bridge, Oldbridge and The Drop – and they are heavily guarded on both sides. Butcher’s Bridge is the newest, a timber affair built to modern Carathan methods by the current King. Oldbridge is a heavily weathered stone arch built some 1500 years ago and propped up by timbers. It is the largest and the only passage wide enough for wagons. The Drop is a rope bridge and is the final destination for those condemned to death in the Maw.
It is a long standing tradition in Slavetown – part justice and part entertainment – that condemned slaves and criminals are thrown into the Maw. A tangle of ropes, nets and vines criss-cross the gorge for much of its depth so a fall is not always fatal. Those thrown in are given a choice – fight to climb back to the top, where they will earn their freedom, or face the waters below.
Making their home in the cliffs of the Maw are a breed of large crab. The size of a pony and with enough strength to shear a man in half, the Maw Crab is a fearsome predator. Normally they nest near the base of the canyon and use the tides to travel in and out of the Maw. However, when they sense men on The Drop, they go into a frenzy, scaling the nets to seize whatever morsel the slavers toss them or waiting at the bottom to tear apart any unlucky victim that falls.
Slaves are kept in communal huts within fenced enclosures on the south side of the Maw. Gangs keep their property separate from each other, so there are several such corrals. These are squalid affairs, filled with mud and vermin, but they are empty most of the time. Slavers do not profit from keeping their merchandise for an extended period. The auction blocks are here also, located centrally to the largest of the pits.
Guards stand watch from the towers at the bridges and also patrol their own territory but security is not terribly tight – the only places for an escapee to go is into the Maw or the jungle, equally deadly prospects.
There is a limited amount of agriculture present on this side of the river, mostly slave labor owned by a pair of self-styled barons that supply Slavetown with food. It is considered a death sentence, albeit slower than the Maw, to be bought by these merchants as they work their slaves mercilessly, spending little or nothing on their upkeep.