Age of Worms
At a perfumed arcade known as the Emporium, Governor-mayor Lanod Neff rubs shoulders with common laborers awaiting an appointment in the Veiled Corridor. In an adjoining antechamber, snakes and exotic dancers gyre to a sonorous weave of cymbals and seductive pipes. An floor below, a gaggle of grasping miners presses against the windowed door of a darkened cell, impatient for a glimpse of a two-headed calf.
Out in the street, a gang of rowdies screams obscenities at a crumpled Halfling, kicking it as if scrambling for a ball. Their drunken laughter echoes off shuttered windows and bolted doors.
In a tower-flanked fortress across the shadowy squared, filthy men and women with nothing to lose shout hymns to St. Cuthbert, clutching to their idealism and principles like cornered animals. Their wild-eyed chief minister smile, awash in their adulation and the spirit of his god.
But it’s just another night in Diamond Lake.
Diamond Lake (small town): Population 1,023; 800 gp limit; Isolated (96% human, 2% halfling, 1% gnome, 1% other races)
Authority Figures: Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff (human male); Sheriff Cubbin (human male); Tolliver Trask (human male), Free City garrison commander; Mine Managers: Balabar Smenk (human male); Chaum Gansworth (human male); Ellival Moonneadow (elf male); Gelch Tilgast (human male); Luzane Parrin (human female); Ragnolin Dourstone (dwarf male)
Diamond Lake nestles in the rocky crags of the Cairn Hills 3 days east of the Free City to which it is subject. Iron and silver from Diamond Lake’s mines fuel the Capital’s markets and support its soldiers and nobles with the raw materials necessary for weapons and finery. The mining trade of Diamond Lake draws hundreds of skilled and unskilled laborers and artisans, all hoping to strike it rich. In ages past, Diamond Lake boasted an export more valuable than metal in the form of treasure liberated from the numerous tombs and burial cairns crowding the hills around the town. These remnants of a half-dozen long-dead cultures commanded scandalous prices from the Free City’s elite, whose insatiable covetousness triggered a boom in the local economy. Those days are long gone, though. The last cairn in the region coughed up its treasures decades ago, and few locals pay much mind to stories of yet undiscovered tombs and unplundered burial cairns. These days, only a handful of treasure seekers visit the town, and few return to the Free City with anything more valuable than a wall rubbing or an ancient tool fragment.
In the hills surrounding the town, hundreds of laborers spend weeks at a time underground, breathing recycled air pumped in via systems worth ten times their combined annual salary. The miners are the chattel of Diamond Lake, its seething, tainted blood. But they are also Diamond Lake’s foundation, their weekly pay cycling back into the community via a gaggle of gambling dens, bordellos, ale houses, and temples. Because work in the mines is so demanding and dangerous, most folk come to Diamond Lake because they have nowhere else to turn, seeking an honest trade of hard labor for subsistence-level pay simply because the system has allowed them no other option. Many are foreigners displaced from native lands by war or famine. Work in a Diamond Lake mine is the last honest step before utter destitution or crimes of desperation. For some, it is the first step in the opposite direction: a careful work assignment to ease the burden on debtor-filled prisons, one last chance to make it in civil society.
Despite its squalor, Diamond Lake is crucial to The Free City’s economy. The city’s government thus take a keen interest in local affairs, noting the rise and fall of the managers who run Diamond Lake’s mines in trust for the government. The city’s chief man in the region is Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff (human male), a lecherous philanderer eager to solidify his power and keep the mine managers in line. Neff exerts his capricious will via the agency of the grandiloquent Sheriff Cubbin (human male), a man so renowned for corruption that many citizens assumed the announcement of his commission was a joke until he started arresting people.
The alliance between the governor-mayor and his pocket police might not be enough to cow Diamond Lake’s powerful mine managers, but Lanod Neff holds a subtle advantage thanks to the presence of his distinguished brother, the scrupulous Allustan (human male), a wizard from the Free City who retired to Diamond Lake five years ago. None dare move against Neff so long as Allustan is around.
Instead of scheming against the government, Diamond Lake’s six mine managers plot endlessly against one another, desperate to claim a weakened enemy’s assets while at the same time protecting their own. While they are not nobles, the mine managers exist in a strata above normal society. They consider themselves far above their employees, many of whom are indentured or effectively enslaved as a part of a criminal sentence. The miners’ loyalty tends to map directly to the working conditions, pay, and respect offered to the miners by their wealthy masters.
The most ambitious and manipulative mine manager in Diamond Lake is Balabar Smenk (human male), a disquieting schemer who hopes to gain a monopoly on the town’s mining patents by forcing his enemies into bankruptcy and offering to buy their claims at the last minute for coppers on the gold piece.