Underside

“There’s more than yesterday’s meal under the city streets, boy. There’s a world of tunnels, horrible creatures, and the biggest alligators a man has ever seen. Why, I hear some even walk on two legs!” —Dergen Doomfist, Dwarf Sewer Guard

There’s more to Freeport than the various patchwork Districts that make up the city. Just under the noses of the throngs is Freeport’s Underside, a complex labyrinth that’s made up of the city’s crumbling sewers, lost cellars, sunken buildings, and the foul dank tunnels and caverns created by the convulsions that rippled through the continent as it sank beneath the waves. Only the most wretched and desperate people live here, side-by-side with the appalling horrors disgorged in the deepest chambers, forgotten by even the eldest people in the Serpent’s Teeth.

The City of Sewers

As in most major cities, Freeport’s sewer system is an ongoing public works project. The original Sea Lord Drac initiated the first sewer system in Freeport. It’s said he stepped one time too many in a pile of human dung and blew up at the architect he had hired to help design what is now the Old City. He insisted the man tear up the streets and put in a sewer system to handle the waste the new city would generate.

The architect quickly realized building an underground system of sewers under every street in Freeport was impossible, from both financial and engineering standpoints. Instead, the architect compromised: He built the sewer under all the buildings the Sea Lord was most likely to visit. Anyone else along the route—or with enough money to bribe the workers or the architect to extend the sewers in his house’s direction—was simply lucky.

Public Privies

To make this rather elitist situation a bit more palatable to the people of the city, public dumping spots were also created. Citizens could empty their chamber pots directly into the sewer system instead of tossing the contents into the street. Technically, it’s illegal to dump such waste in the streets, but it still happens often enough, especially in areas into which the sewers don’t stretch—like almost anywhere in Drac’s End. Enforcement of the law occurs sporadically, when a Watchman or some other petty bureaucrat wants to hassle someone, or when someone important happens to be offended by the smell or the mess. Since most of Freeport’s upper crust rarely traverse the filthier parts of town, this last bit is not often a concern.

The common people are not stupid, however, and many are willing to make the rather odious trek to the privies just to keep the incidence of disease down. Freeporters long ago made the waste-disease connection, at least on a common knowledge level, if not a scientific one. When you have first hand experience with so much filth for so long, you learn by trial and error, if nothing else.

The Lay Under the Land

The sewers began in the Old City, where they run from the Sea Lord’s Palace to the Courts to several other important locales. From there they wind through the Docks and branch out into the rest of the city. Water and the things it carries run downward, and so do the sewers of Freeport. The slant isn’t all that steep, just enough to let the laws of gravity and hydraulics do their work. The end spots of the sewers are the highest, running down to the nearest junctions.

The original architect and all those who followed him and added on to his work were clever enough to place storm grates where rainwater could wash the street waste into the sewer system. This means most of city gets cleaned out properly by a good, solid rain, which happens often enough during the Spring.

The Merchant District is the highest area, and Scurvytown is the lowest. There is only one outlet for the sewers, under one of the docks in Scurvytown, where the filth simply spills out of a large pipe and into the sea. This lends a rank air to the place, but the transients and scum that make up the population there aren’t likely to complain—and even were they to do so, the Captains’ Council would hardly listen.

Getting In and Around

Getting into the sewers is easy enough in most parts of the city. You just have to be willing to crawl down through one of the public privies or, better yet, pry up one of the manhole covers leading into the system. These are heavy, metal hatches, and anyone prying them up in broad daylight who is not obviously a member of the city maintenance team or Sewer Guard, is likely to get some strange looks. If the Watch happens to spot such activity, the would-be explorer needs to cough up some quick explanation or face a beating, arrest, or both.

Getting into the sewers is easy enough in most parts of the city. You just have to be willing to crawl down through one of the public privies or, better yet, pry up one of the manhole covers leading into the system. These are heavy, metal hatches, and anyone prying them up in broad daylight who is not obviously a member of the city maintenance team or Sewer Guard, is likely to get some strange looks. If the Watch happens to spot such activity, the would-be explorer needs to cough up some quick explanation or face a beating, arrest, or both.

Wisely, the wealthiest districts keep locks on the sewer entrances. There is no public access to the sewers beneath the Merchant District, Old City, and Warehouse District. Each of these entrances has a stout lock and should one be found breached or missing, the Sewer Watch is quick to root out intruders. What’s more, the spots where the sewer crosses into the Merchant District are actually barred by iron grates cemented into place, more-or-less preventing passage into the upscale district by subterranean means.

It should be noted that it’s just about impossible for a person to use the sewers to get into anyone’s house. The chutes are simply too small for anyone larger than a well-fed rat to move up them easily, even if they’re able to get a grip on the waste-slicked walls. Still, people keep the lids of their chutes closed and even locked. There are all sorts of creatures wandering around in the sewers, after all, and it wouldn’t do to be nipped in the ass while sitting for a spell.

To get around the Underside, one should just follow the effluvia. The upper regions of the Underside are a veritable labyrinth of pipes and tubes that usually run along the streets above. The main lines are often circular tunnels measuring about eight feet across and with a wide trench, about two feet deep, set in the floor. For most of the year, rainwater and filth wash through the trench, carrying an unsettling mix of solids and liquids out to bless the sea. A person of a man’s size can walk upright along either side of the trench, but there’s not space enough for two people to walk side-by-side.

During the rainy season, the Underside is best avoided, for the waters rise far above the trench, often rising as high as three to six feet. During these storms, not even the Sewer Guard brave the tunnels, for they know that the current is strong enough to carry a fool all the way out into the ocean. They also know nasty things gather around the outflow pipe waiting for fresh morsels to feast upon.

The sewer tunnels beneath the Old City are hewn out of solid rock. Many areas of more recent construction boast strong walls that are resistant to tunneling. Most of the rest of the sewer tunnels, especially toward the Docks, are made from combinations of stone and brick smoothed over with a layer of waterproof mortar.

The Sewer Guard

For years, no one took much of an interest in what went on below the city. So long as whatever haunted the sewers stayed put, no one cared. This attitude underwent a profound change when rumors of serpent people, cult activity, criminal enterprises, and slavery began to swirl about the city. When the matter of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign came to the attention of the Captains’ Council, they created a branch of the [[Sea Lord’s Guard] to put a stop to the subversive activity. Of course, few of the Guard had any interest in volunteering for this unpleasant and extremely dangerous duty, so for the most part it fell to their worst elements. You can only imagine their relief when the Sewer Guard went with the Watch when the Sea Lord militarized the Guard.

An assignment to the Sewer Guard is punishment, a fate consigned to those watchmen who are too ambitious in their duty or too corrupt to walk the streets. Most watchmen would rather walk Scurvytown than to face the odious assault of the city’s sewers to say nothings of the things that live there. As such, the Sewer Guard is an odd mix of characters, savage brutes who kicked in the teeth of the wrong man and idealistic fools who made enemies in their overzealous pursuit of the law.

The members of the Sewer Guard, violent natures aside, are tough. They have to be since they never know what new danger they’ll find on patrol, whether they’re rooting out a band of smugglers or fighting some abomination conjured up from their very worst nightmares. It is widely accepted that members of the Sewer Guard are some of the toughest warriors in the city. The Sewer Guard are also distinctive. Aside from their smell, they all wear gray uniforms and scarves around their faces to stave off the worst of the stench. Each of them carries a lamp at the end of a five-foot-long pole, which they can place in holes burrowed into the walks in the main tunnels.

Captain Tanko Sondek

Tanko Sondek (male human) has had a colorful life, on both sides of the law. His mother was a member of one of Freeport’s most notorious gangs, and when he came of age, he followed in her steps. Sondek had little luck as a gang-member. His mother wound up lost in one of the Hulks after the gang leader betrayed her. Sondek himself ended up in the Tombs to await sentencing after a failed attempt to strong-arm a well-protected merchant. Sondek’s tale might have ended there, but Commissioner Williams saw something in him and offered a place in the Sea Lord’s Guard. Seeing a chance for redemption, Sondek accepted and worked hard to prove the Commissioner had made the right choice.

Prove himself he did. He rose swiftly through the ranks, becoming a sergeant in the Docks precinct where he worked as a detective. Through his efforts, he rounded up a number of ruthless killers, including Arden Windbrook—an assassin who had murdered several important citizens. He bought into the Commissioner’s methods for cleaning up the city, making himself a number of enemies in the underworld and among the city’s leaders, but so long as he was in good with Williams, he was more or less untouchable.

Then someone killed Commissioner Williams and with his death went Sondek’s protection. While he was overzealous in his pursuit of the criminal elements of the city, Sondek had his uses. Rather than discretely rub him out, the Sea Lord named him Captain of the Sewer Watch, which effectively pulled him from the streets and put him in a place where he could do the most good for the new regime.

Sondek is not altogether happy about his new position. He knows he’s in the sewers because of his allegiance to Commissioner Williams and that his mentor’s style of justice has little place in this new Sea Lord’s city. But he’s making the best of his situation, working hard to transform the motley band of cutthroats into a competent fighting force and maybe one day, he’ll be able to bring law back to Freeport’s streets.

The Dwellers Below

One can’t mention the Underside without at least hinting at the things that live below the sewers. Freeport wasn’t the first city build here and it certainly won’t be the last. Those familiar with the geography of the Underside know there are places one should never venture. Sometimes they might sketch a quick symbol on the wall to ward off others, others there’s only a corpse to suggest the danger of an area. The Underside of Freeport is riddled with all sorts of tunnels and passageways, many of which link up with the city sewers by means of concealed doors of varying quality. All sorts of creatures—mostly common vermin—inhabit these dark and secret places, but there are deadlier sorts of beasts here too. Stories abound of serpent people, shuddering abominations, clouds of filth that speak like men, one-legged mutated elephant people, and even whispers of sinister rat-men.

Snakes in the Basement

Serpent people are by far the most numerous intelligent creatures dwelling below Freeport. In fact, there are literally hundreds of them in the deep tunnels. These creatures are the descendants of the great Valossan Empire, having fled underground to escape the destruction that befell their civilization. But the last two thousand years have not been kind to the children of Valossa. Since their homeland was destroyed, the descendants of the survivors of that cataclysm have split off into two distinct groups: the civilized serpent people and the degenerates.

Civilization in Exile

The few serpent people who escaped the apocalyptic fall of Valossa with their sanity intact fled for other lands, far from their ancient homes. Knowing the peoples they had one rivaled or subjugated would take advantage of their reduced status, these travelers hid themselves away—underground, usually, but also in deep swamps and other places inhospitable to most humanoid races. These Valossans were able to lick their wounds, safe from reprisals by their former slaves.

These serpent people clung to the vestiges of their society and maintained their worship of Yig, the Snake God, as well. Despite the betrayal of Yig by some of their people—the original Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign from Valossa—these serpent people were eventually able to work their way back into their god’s good graces, and his unblinking gaze settled upon them once more.

Even with their god’s favor, they had lost much, and it took centuries for them to regain the confidence and numbers to emerge once more. New civilizations rose from the ashes of this once mighty people, discovering the world was a far different place. While they quietly hid, the world forgot about the Valossa and the serpent people.

But the civilized serpent people had not forgotten about their long-lost brethren. As the various tiny pockets of civilized serpent people began to make contact with each other and knit back together in a widely scattered net, they began to talk of going back to Valossa and possibly reclaiming what was left of their ancient homeland.

To that end, they sent out emissaries to the Serpent’s Teeth to explore the area and discover what might be left of the serpent people’s heritage. They were not pleased with what they found.

Underside

Freeport: City of Adventure Golm