The Seven Cities
For almost 25 years the main source of order in The Pale Quarter has been a street gang called The Shade. This group of three or four dozen individuals, lead by a human woman named Danae, 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.
The timing of The Shade’s emergence just after the Gap Riots of 25 years ago has given rise to rumors that the gang is a front for gnomish activity.
The headquarters and barracks of The Shade, the Grey Manse lies on the north-central edge of The Hill. The Manse is an old, tumble-down stone ruin that was once the seat of a noble family who presided over the settlement of Warwick, a predecessor to M’ziir. The ground floor of the Grey Manse is mostly intact, as is the basement, which has been excavated and expanded by the Shade over the last quarter century. What was once the second floor of the structure is mostly gone. What is left has been reinforced and shored up by The Shade such that the old mansion has a functional (and concealed from the outside), defensible, walkable rampart overlooking the surrounding area.
The Grey Manse is rumored to be haunted. The truth is: it is very haunted. This fact means that most of the denizens of the Pale Quarter avoid the structure. It also means that The Shade must provide appeasements and offerings to the restless spirits in order to maintain their hideout. Stories proliferate among gangmembers about times that the offerings were forgotten and blood ran down the walls of the Manse.
Though most of the Pale Quarter suspects that the Grey Manse is the base of the Shade’s operations, gangmembers are almost never seen coming and going from the ruin. This is because the primary ingress and egress for the Manse is a 350 foot long tunnel leading from the basement level out to a pile of rubble on The Stalls, near Caracle’s.
The Grey Manse has a source of fresh water in the basement level, and a modest alchemical garden in the ruined ballroom on the ground floor. In the interest of self-sufficiency, some members of the Shade have argued that the garden should be used for food. The more mystically inclined members of the gang maintain that the restless spirits of the Manse might leave a garden of edibles untenable, while they are ideal for arcane reagents.
In the deepest part of the newly-excavated lower levels of the Manse lay The Cellars. Not to be confused with the celler, where food and drink are stored, The Cellars are a set of eight earthen pits, roughly 10 feet deep and less than 5 feet across. The Shade uses these pits to hold prisoners, and to discipline Shade members who commit severe offenses not worthy of a death sentence. Most of the pits sport an iron spike driven into the ground to which manacles can be attached.