The Seven Cities
The Pale Quarter
In M’ziir, the poorest neighborhood is the Pale Quarter, so called because virtually no tieflings (who tend to be bronze to ebony in coloring) live there, and it is mostly populated by poor humans and halflings, who tend to be pale of skin relative to most other races. The Pale Quarter is fairly large, and grew up around the place where the city’s sewage runs out into the mudflats southwest of the town wall. It is smelly, mucky, and prone to flooding.
The worst parts of the Pale Quarter are made of lean-tos, grass huts, and vagabond camps. The best parts are shacks, and small adobe structures. Crime is rampant, and street gangs do most of the “peacekeeping,” except when the town guard sweeps in to “enforce the King’s Law,” read: steal stuff from poor people.
The real law and order in the Pale Quarter (sometimes just “The Pale”) is a street gang called The Shade. This group of three or four dozen individuals runs a successful protection business to which most all denizens of the Pale Quarter subscribe. It would not be accurate to call the Shade’s protection a “racket” in the normal sense because, for the most part, the gang seems to genuinely care and look out for the denizens of the muddy, rank “streets” of the Pale Quarter. Any denizen who pays their protection dues gets the protection afforded by the gang, whose members settle disputes, punish more dangerous criminals, and even rally the defense of the Pale Quarter against occasional raids by goblinoids from the hills to the west. The Shade’s relationship to the Thieves’ Guild, the Shepherds, and the M’Ziir City Guard is complicated to say the least, and altercations are common.
As a function of the Shade’s need to organize and locate people and places, the Pale Quarter is divided, conceptually, into eight areas called “blocks.” Because the streets and alleys of the Pale Quarter wend between hundreds of unnamed, often temporary structures, the paths don’t generally have names. Rather, one identifies a location by it’s location on a block. True denizens usually refer to something being “on” a block as they would a street, rather than “in” a block as one might a neighborhood or district. So, one might say that Mama Cat’s Orphanage is on Tom’s Alley, northeast, almost on The Hill. The boundaries between blocks run roughly along some of the broader and more permanent paths through the shacks and shanties of the Quarter. The blocks are (moving counter-clockwise from the walls of M’Ziir towards the center of the Pale Quarter):
The area north of The Gap along M’ziir’s western wall is right under the noses of the City Watch patrolling atop that wall. As such, operating on this block requires a great deal of discretion or stealth. Of all the blocks in the Pale Quarter, this is the most likely to bring down actual involvement from the Watch if a fight starts.
Snob’s End lies in the center of the northern border of the Pale Quarter where the shantytown abuts the village of Westrick. Snob’s End is, depending on who you ask, either a place for the poorest ‘Rickers, or a place for the wealthiest denizens of the Pale Quarter. Somtime in early Subahn, this block fell out of Shade control, and is now Ix’iil territory.
Old Warwick is the block that’s grown up and around the old ruins of some forgotten part of M’ziir. As such, Old Warwick has a high concentration of relatively permanent structures. Still, most of the stone walls collapsed long ago, and the denizens of the Pale have cannibalized much of the stonework for use in other parts the Quarter, particularly the Boardwalk.
The unofficial custodian of Old Warwick is Tanner, the dwarf mason. Sometimes called the Lord of the Stacks, most denizens of the Pale Quarter will ask him which stone is best and available for a given task before taking any. Tanner takes his adopted duties seriously, as dwarves will, but no one has ever verified his use of actual violence to regulate. His wife, Marta, is not so restrained.
This old cemetery continues to be where denizens of the Pale Quarter bury their dead. Naturally, rumors of hauntings, undead, and subterranean passages abound.
This ruin was once a temple to the goddess Khalipanofax. It was laid ruin, as with everything to do with the Jade Queen, when The Redemption swept the the Blessed Lands. While no worship of the Dragon Queen has been seen openly in M’ziir for a century, few are willing to brave the ruins, and the temple has not been turned to other uses.
This block’s name is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Though it does rise somewhat above the elevation of the rest of the Quarter, the difference is a matter of only a few feet at the crest of the so-called “hill.” That said, this area is substantially drier and less muddy than any other block.
On the northern edge of The Hill stands the Grey Manse, the ruined wood-and-stone manor house of some long forgotten wealthy family or noble. Everyone in the Pale Quarter knows that the Grey Manse is haunted. A lot haunted. Many denizens of the Pale Quarter know that the Grey Manse is also the headquarters of The Shade, though nobody ever sees them come and go from the ruin.
Particularly cramped, narrow and winding "streets; for some reason there are a ton of cats here.
With a number of small piers stretching out into the filthy waters of Lake Aven west of The Muck, Southbank is the Pale Quarter’s waterfront. The denizens of Southbank are failing fishermen, poor shrimpers, and brigands or smugglers.
Situated where the city sewer/drain system outlets, The Muck is the muddiest, stinkiest, poorest block. It also boasts the greatest goblinoid population of any part of M’ziir. The Muck is to the Pale Quarter as the Pale Quarter is to the rest of M’ziir. To say that a person is “in The Muck” or “down in The Muck” means that they’ve hit rock-bottom, whether they actually dwell on that block or not.
Virtually no-one lives on The Muck for long. Either they find a way out, or they die of filth fever or dysentery. There would be no reason save great misfortune to go to The Muck unless one wishes to travel into the city through The Gap. Most manage to do so without incident, but muggers, snatchers, cutpurses, and pickpockets riddle the ranks of beggars that line and roam along the Boardwalk. The Muck is probably the most dangerous place in M’ziir outside the torture chambers of Crown Hill.
Home to the Pale Market, which really just means that, on this block, many of the residents of the tents and lean-tos will barter or sell the sundry junk they have inside their tent or lean-tos. Because there is no official Shepherd presence, grift and fraud are common. Any remedy for a deal gone sour must be found through self-help. Unfortunately for most marks, the local gang, The Shade, protects many of the “merchants” of The Stalls, while many of the rest will pack up and move between every few sales.
At any given time, perhaps four or five merchants on The Stalls are actually fencing goods for the M’ziir chapter of the Thieves’ Guild. The politics surrounding interactions between the Guild and The Shade are complex, with Guild members having a permanent pass on protection dues, and often deliberately baiting members of The Shade with pointed japes and slights. Fistfights between the two groups are not uncommon, but almost always break up short of bloodshed. Everyone knows that the higher-ups in both organizations will firmly rebuke troublemakers within their own ranks. Some say that this was how Glass lost his arm, but neither Glass nor Danae will discuss it.
The Keeper for The Stalls is the dashing bard, Ezra Willowood. The Stalls have seen a great deal less violence since he took charge of operations on this block.