A Day in the Life
The Calculating Engine
Darkwell Court, the
At the edge of the Clerk's Ward and the Hive, at the end of Whisper Way, there squats a cacophonic jumble of tenements and buildings clustered around a central courtyard. The nearby slums of the Clerk's Ward along Sandstone Row are decrepit, but the ruined enclosure of Darkwell Court makes it truly a part of the sprawling Hive. Originally part of the more affluent Clerk's Ward, this clump of houses and businesses has gradually shifted into the decaying Hive as it was progressively abandoned to the vermin and squatters that came to overrun it. No one now remembers why it was abandoned originally and left to crumble, but rumours still circulate, telling of a fell curse, an inter-faction deal, a mysterious plague or even yugoloth treachery. In recent times, however, the tenement block has been cleared of most of its vermin and the squatters driven off by a planewalking mercenary company that has set up camp within the courtyard and outer buildings. Within the warren of stacked residences and abandoned hovels the Velven Mercenary Company have founded their main barracks and offices.
From the outside, as one walks into the Hive, the Court appears as a ramshackle ruin, its razorvine robes bedecking the whole structure and cloaking the nature of the original buildings. At ground level, the Court appears to be made up of a fairly regular rectangle of ordered buildings, superficially similar to the tenements found in similar areas of the Clerk's Ward. To the south-east, detached from the main court by a rubbish choked lane, the broad based tower of the Coloara Trading Coster dominates a small square off the Whisper Way. As an observer's eyes climb up the razorvine sheath of the main structure, the architecture becomes increasingly crowded and confused as the stacking of apartments and rooms that are the hallmark feature of the Hive slums becomes evident.
Several alleyways, once wide and open to Sigil's sky have become darkened twisting tunnels as the structures on either side collide into each other and join to form a myriad of oddly shaped archways and tunnels under precarious overways that proffer unstable entrances into the courtyard within. The whole outer boundary rises haphazardly into the air to impose itself upon the surrounding street. The outside rooms, stacked and cantilevered out from the original structure lean outward threateningly, as if about to collapse outward with a crashing wave of crumpled masonry and splintered beams. In several areas, the overhanging areas have become so precarious that they have been propped up with whatever was available - moulded tree trunks, salvaged marble pillars and in one case, the fused bones of some giant fiend fashioned into a supporting column.
However, not all of the platforms and rooms have escaped the architectural madness and open their exposed interiors to the outside above a pile of debris. Here and there, amid the razorvine and ruin a glimpse of a watchful sentry can be glimpsed patrolling the crazed parapet that clings to the roofs and walls of the outer building. An occasional wooden watch-tower, manned by mercenary archers, arquebusers and mages, rise above the outer shell to command the surrounding slums, suggesting that the Court is something other than the ruin it seems.
Indeed, the whole compound has been extensively modified by the mercenaries to form an extensive barracks with the original buildings surrounding the inner courtyard forming a defensive outer shell. Nestled inside this are the company offices, arsenal and stables. While apparently run down from without, behind the decrepit facade is a network of guard rooms, shooting galleries and check points riddled throughout the original buildings and later additions. Inner walls have been removed or new ones bricked in, stairs, ladders and walkways constructed and new supports and partitions placed to create a precarious, interconnected labyrinth of rooms that encircles the inner building as a curtain wall. The original cellars have been expanded and connected to the old sewers to form an underground level used by the enciente troops for storage, training areas and living quarters.
Due to the diverse ranks and chaotic chain-of-command within the Velven, the inner layout is continuously changing due to the often contradictory constructions and demolitions occurring under different commanders and high-ups. Each armed band or political lobby within the company is responsible for one area of the compound's shell, using their section as a barracks, defensive position and ghetto as indicated. As a result of this turmoil, no one member of the company is completely aware of the entire layout of half-stairs, concealed doors and secret passages within the compound's shell.
Although the compound shell is pierced by several tunnels and alleys, these entrances are guarded by a variety of traps, guards and magical sigils placed to allow only those authorised by the various lobbies to enter. Similarly, although there are undoubtedly secret entrances in the outer buildings and via the broken sewers, access through these is limited to the few who know the secret passwords necessary to safeguard passage through them. For an outsider, there are a limited number of approaches into the compound: scale the razorvine clad walls amidst the carefully placed guard posts while being sniped at by the parapet guards, fly over the outer shell and into the courtyard attracting the attention of both the parapet guards and the mercenaries encamped within, or use magic to sneak in or teleport within. Alternatively, a prospective visitor can present themselves to the main gate and seek entrance into Darkwell Court.
The entrance to Darkwell Court lies at the end of short place, the enveloping walls of the enciente crowding together to form a fortified overway flanked by outcropping rooms infested with crossbowmen, mages and arquebusers. There is a razorvine covered archway in the southern wall of the alley leading through into a small courtyard beyond. Beneath the overway and gatehouse has been set a large barred gate of adamantine that completely closes off the access passage. Forged by drow artisans and enchanted with fell magic, it is intricately inlaid with worked etchings and filigree that make it appear a delicate web containing drowish glyphs and sigils. Above the gatehouse and flanking alley are two stout wooden watch towers, which provide an excellent position for the mages and arquebusers stationed there. The gate itself is guarded by the Dark Aasimar Twins, Realing and Cyllian, with their Aoskian hounds and eldritch death lances forged in the forgotten drow city of Rilauven. It is these harshly beautiful warrior-poets that question those foolish enough to seek access into the Velven headquarters
Copyright 1998 by Jarkman