Tales of the Red Way
The Manor District
The area known as ‘The Manor District’ is named for the building once known as ‘Valger Manor,’ now known as the Velvet Corset. The northern part of the area is more high end whereas the southern part of the area is more low brow. Either way, there is a little bit of everything that can be found in this area, whether it be food, entertainment or some unique shopping experiences.
Whereas The Manor District is several blocks north-south and several blocks east-west, some of the major streets are Velvet St., Dock St. and Valger St., as well was Raven Way, Beggar’s Way, and Strumpet Way.
Some notable locations and people are as follows:
1. The Velvet Corset
Once this was Valger Manor, the most luxurious home in Crooklake when it was built over 400 years ago. The Valger family, nobles from the east, established the manor house as well as much of the property around it. Fifty years ago, Antonoly Valger, the lord of the manor at the time, was reputedly a practitioner of the dark arts and witchcraft. Legend states that he tried to forge a pact with dark powers to reverse the sagging fortunes of the family. On the Eve of Mists, a local holiday dedicated to the spirit world, Lord Valger allegedly attempted to invoke a ritual and a mishap occurred, resulting in the gruesome deaths of the family and servants and a fire that consumed half of the manor.
The Valgers who were not present that night subsequently sold the house, moved to the other side of the city and have never set foot inside the building – not have their descendants.
The individual who purchased the house, Sash Pavik, used the funds he had accrued from the brothels he owned and converted it into a playground for the upper middle class. Within a year he had turned Valger Manor into The Velvet Corset. The establishment which was a tavern, an inn, a gambling house, a theater and a brothel was the toast of the upper middle class and tourists hoping to see excitement, titillation and a long getaway – for the right price.
Over the years, the Velvet Corset has changed hands several times, often due to unusual or suspect activities. The current owner, Orbin du Claud, is a flamboyant yet somewhat sinister showman who has vowed to make the Velvet Corset the most exquisite den of inequity that money can buy.
Originally, the main entrance to the manor faced the West side of the city. In recent years changes were made for the entrance to face the East, allowing for the higher end clientele to not have to come through the seedier side of town.
Whereas nobody promotes the rumor that the place is haunted, there are those who find unusual or suspicious activity that occurs within the Velvet Corset. Perhaps it is the nefarious end of the Valger nobles that sets people on edge or the several peculiar deaths that have happened on the grounds over the years or the association with dark magic and witchcraft but some think the building is cursed.
Guignol, the Phantasmographist
Currently, Guignol’s act is every Sunday night in the main theatre. His horrific and frightening illusions are the talk of the town. His show involves a spectral light show, supposedly the raising of ghosts and the tricking the audience into believing atrocious murders have taken place. His look and persona is reminiscent of a dread necromancer but is reportedly fairly friendly with fans who offer to buy him a drink.
One of the most in-demand escorts at the Velvet Corset is Pascal, a fair haired, buxom, lass who never fails to make dreams come true. Whatever the client wants, Pascal provides. However, those who foolishly try to pursue a relationship with her, find that she redefines the term ‘high maintenance.’ Rumors persist that she has been seeing a strange man on the north side of town. Who he is and how he can afford Pascal’s undivided attention is the stuff of mysteries. Of course, it could also be Pascal, furthering her own mystique.
Lord Vaas, Eccentric Gentleman
A mainstay at the Velvet Corset, Lord Vaas has since retired from whatever business he once did, spending his time and money, almost nightly, at the fine establishment. Quiet popular with the ladies who lavish attention on him as well as the other employees who he supposedly tips quite well, Lord Vaas can often be found telling stories from his days in the Explorer’s Guild.
Vecca Vex, Entertainer
Vecca is the newest member of the Velvet Corset. Alluring and sensual, Vecca holds a captive audience with her stories, including that of her Valeran past. Twice a week she puts on a performance. Some nights it’s a magic show, some nights a play and other nights its music and storytelling. Rumor has it that she has started exploring some of the ruins and mysteries in the surrounding area in an effort to incorporate her adventures in her act.
2. The Sleeping Dragon
A seedy and reckless tavern where the ale may be flat but the ale maids are not. Often seen as an ‘Adventurer’s Tavern,’ numerous members of the Explorer’s Guild can often be found here, swapping stories and spending coin to celebrate their most recent hauls or toasting their dead party members.
3. The Good Knight Inn
Once high end, the Good Knight has seen better days. A relationship with the Explorer’s Guild makes this the favored inn in the area for adventurers. The owner, Fettch, an angry, drunken Halfling, makes it his business to throw bottles at troublemaking customers. It is rumored that he has a decent side business selling the gear that adventurers leave in their rooms that they never come back to claim, presumably meeting dreadful fates.
4. Darkpool’s Gaming House
A low-end gaming house with a bad reputation, Darkpool disappeared many years ago. It is said that members of the Assassin’s Guild often operate out of this disreputable building. Adventurers can be found here as well as the city’s unsavory dock workers, teamsters and other working class individuals.
5. Greybeard’s Ale
This is a serious ale house for serious drinkers. No frills. No serving girls. No entertainment. Delbar Greybeard brews his own recipe in the basement, serves it up at a reasonable price and takes his patron’s money. Rumor has it that once, ten years ago, Greybeard tried serving nuts at the bar but since he did not immediately see a return on his investment, he quickly changed his policy. Obviously, Greybeard is a grouch and a skinflint.
6. The Silk Scabbard
A moderate brothel with attractive and lusty women, but not nearly as high end as the Velvet Corset, the Silk Scabbard actually is the sole distributor of Brown Honey Mead, a brand of drink fairly difficult to find out of the west. A small shipment arrives once a week leading some to speculate that the owners of the Silk Scabbard may be the Brown Honey Mead Brewery out of Dragon’s Point. The drink, itself, is enough to draw in some patrons – even those with no interest in taking part of the upstairs wares.
7. Beggar’s Market
Originally established as a farmer’s market for the Manor District, it has evolved into something else, entirely. Still can be found fresh fruit, vegetables and meats, several stalls and booths have been set up as trading and other items for barter and sale. One week strange jewelry can be found, and other week supposed treasure maps and other curiosities with yet the following week hides, candles and strange ingredients. Many stalls are rented by the week, allowing for such an unusual turnover.
8. The Soiled Princess
A tavern and brothel that caters to more unusual tastes in both women and drink, one can find more exotic flesh (Halfling, beastwoman, dwarf, etc.) but also the drinks come in more unusual flavors, as well. The clientele tends to be rowdy. Anyone looking for a fight can easily be accommodated here.
9. Moderate Housing
By no means low end, these apartments can house a family of 6 with the head of household making enough money to keep them comfortable. They tend to be dockworker bosses, teamster bosses, employees of the Velvet Corset, and small business owners or even mercenaries and adventurers who have decided to make Crooklake their homes.
10. The Meadflow
Named after the town of the same name to the east, this alehall serves fine drink, fine food and caters to the upper middle class. Adventurers do not frequent this establishment as much since they can get more for their coin at some of the other establishments in town but for those who do appreciate some of the finer – yet rustic – food and fine drinks at a slightly higher price, occasionally they splurge.
While Falkenhouse is the more established of the two theatres in town (the other being the theater at the Velvet Corset), its fortunes have declined somewhat in recent years due to the popularity of their competitor. Falkenhouse has recently turned to more ‘upscale’ forms of entertainment, putting on the more high brow performances. It seems to have paid off. The front of Falkenhouse has a popular – but expensive – lounge where high end drinks are served and one may be able to find the company of a lady. The theatre is named for the numerous statues and tapestries of falcons that adorn the establishment.
Remme Synna, Loan Shark and Information Broker
Well known through the city is the tall, raven-haired beauty of Falkenhouse’s front lounge. Alluring and mysterious, Remme is the daughter of one of the instructors at the Lore College across town. Her presentation is that of a cultured and skilled diplomat, someone experienced far beyond her years. Going through the motions as the proprietor of Falkenhouse’s lounge, she plies her trade as a ruthless money lender and information broker. She is a cunning seductress that enjoys the affections of men and women alike, using her talents to make herself rich, including resorting the blackmail from time to time. Most evenings she uses the back of the Falkenhouse theater to meet with more unsavory contacts and clients, keeping track of as much that goes on in the city and surrounding area that she can. She sells any information she can for a price. The guards that maintain order at the lounge double as her personal bodyguards and she has enough members of the city watch on her payroll to enforce her collections and come to her aid quickly. It is also said that she is one of the individuals who can point people to Crooklake black market – for a price.
12. Velvet Street Spices and Curiosities
A strange and unsettling place, this Velvet Street store has been in business for over twenty years, catering to the needs of those who require rare and unusual spices shipped in through the docks. Cooks, nobles and even alchemists make their way here to sample the wares. Additionally, the shop buys and sells unusual curiosities from around the empire – things that are hard or even impossible to find.
The proprietor of the store, the elusive and enigmatic Tattooed Man, has been operating the store for over 20 years. As his namesake suggests, he is covered in tattoos from head to toe, all unusual and interesting symbols and images, conjuring to mind a well traveled individual. While his exterior is charming and polite, he exudes an air of mystery that leaves some unsettled. It is said that he can acquire anything that someone wants – for a price or a trade. Stories of him offering to provide immortality, love potions and ancient relics are not unheard of – but what he demands in return often ranges from the staggeringly simple or bizarre.
The Tattooed Man, Shop Owner
The Tattooed man is an imposing figure – especially for those who meet him for the first time. Locals, however, have grown used to his sight and would say he certainly seems friendly enough when encountering him. Though many questions remain and there are those who feel he may be something far more sinister, working for the forces of evil and chaos. However, those meeting him for the first time – often people who travel hundreds of miles to meet him and make use of his wares and talents – are intimidated by his presence. Nevertheless, those who would pry too deeply into his past would be greatly disappointed as nothing has turned up. He is known for generosity in providing money to groups that collect for those less fortunate and his donations to the city have been well received.
13. Hedge’s Tavern
A rough establishment serving up drinks and hearty food, the main attraction are the scheduled fights. Whether bare handed, wrestling or small weapons, usually a crowd gathers to drink and make wagers on the matches. As a result, a lot of unsavory individuals can be found here on a regular basis, causing the city watch to make frequent appearances. It is also said that Remme Synna makes use of this establishment – through intermediaries – to help her collect on debts owed.
14. Regalia’s Fine Goods
Simkin Regalia opened up a store 15 years ago as a way of unloading jewelry and fine art that he could not sell in his home Dragon Point. He has since expanded a branch of his business to Chateaux as a way of truly catering to the upper class. In both locations he sells statues, fine art, jewelry and fine clothing (recently hiring a tailor on staff to make some of the finest outfits the town has seen, capitalizing on the theater crowd nearby). He has bitten off more than he can chew with two locations and a growing client base and has made the unwise decision to hire his two lovely – yet unsavvy – daughters take over his Crooklake location while he moves to Chateaux to ensure the success of that store.
15. Crooklake Bathhouse and Spa
Once the private bathhouse and spa of the Valger nobles who lived nearby, it is now a private enterprise for anyone who wishes to pay for the luxury. Merchants frequent the place more than others as they are able to conduct business in privacy and comfort. The hot waters, steam and massages provided are indeed a respite after a long week. Fine foods and drink await those who would stay the afternoon, as well as excellent ladies on retainer to entertain. Whereas the owners of the spa have considered trying to build an inn nearby to cater to out of towners, for now they must remain content to let their clients and visitors stay at a nearby fine inn or the Velvet Corset. It is said that the wealthy members of the Silver Wheel guildhouse often rent the entire establishment out for the day to have relaxing meetings.
Shetley, Bathhouse Bookkeeper
Shetly has worked at the Bathhouse for a couple of months, acting as the bookkeeper for the establishment. Someone has to make detailed records of the coin paid and the coin expended at the manager doesn’t want the hassle (or the crippled hand should money turn up missing). Hence the duties fall to Shetley. Shetley has complete access to the entire facility and whereas he mostly spends his downtime trying to figure out better ways to spy on naked females, he has also stumbled across a variety of places to spy on private conversations. He may be an excellent source of information to someone, especially Remme Synna at Falkenhouse.
16. Empty Manor House
A fine piece of real estate that currently sits dormant. This was once a high end servants’ quarters for Valger Manor but after the Valgers left the estate, this was converted into a fine home. It has been home to several growing families over the years but currently sits empty. The city would love to have responsible owners move in before shady characters begin squatting.