4 The Cluster

Stretching around the Freeport Institute at the western edge of Drac’s End is the neighborhood called the Cluster—a collection of dormitories, boarding houses, taverns, and shops. The Cluster is home to a wide variety of students, academics, artists, visitors, and alternative kinds of folk, including many members of the nonhuman races.

The Cluster sprang into being shortly after Mandarus Whitmire founded the Freeport Institute and has continued to grow over the last one hundred fifty years. It’s perhaps the wealthiest area in Drac’s End, not on an individual level, more so because of the constant passage of visitors and their funds—not to mention the proximity of the Merchant District.

As well as students and Institute staff, the Cluster is also a popular destination for free thinkers, musicians, scholars, cultured merchants, and all kinds of travelers. The bars and halls of the Cluster are one of the few places where the poor and the wealthy might rub shoulders over a drink, discuss the art on display at a gallery, or get into a fair fight over who cheated at cards.

Dozens of buildings of all kinds are crammed together in this neighborhood (that’s why it’s called the Cluster, after all). Space is at a premium, and even calling the passageways between the buildings “alleys” is a stretch. Still, the Watch heavily patrols them, as well as wardens from the Temple of Knowledge and vigilant locals, making this one of the safest parts of town.

Inside the buildings of the Cluster, the neighborhood quickly betrays its academic leanings. Students live and work in almost all the buildings, easily recognized by their ink-stained sleeves, strained eyesight, and appalling haircuts. Books, scrolls, musical instruments, unwashed clothes, half-eaten plates of food, empty wine bottles, unfinished experiments, and inexpensive prostitutes—these are the hallmarks of academia in Freeport, and all can be found within the Cluster.

Prominent NPCs
Lucius: Lucius is a former librarian from the Temple of Gilidan whose checkered past is a mystery to everyone—including himself. A native of Freeport, he was expelled from the temple ten years ago for improper behavior, spent several years traveling the world, and then returned to the city with a treasure trove of obscure books and no memory of the previous five years. When his lost memories began to spill into his nightmares, he attracted the attention of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, who kidnapped and tortured him to learn his secrets. Allies of High Priest Egil rescued him, but even after the cult was destroyed, the nightmares persisted, and his memories remained lost.

Two years ago, Lucius left the temple (under better terms this time) in search of his past. The scars of his torture have left him too frail to withstand much travel, so he instead came to the Cluster—the one place in Freeport where the past might come to him. Lucius works as a freelance scribe and translator, a role that gives him access to many works of obscure lore, books of ancient knowledge, and visitors from faraway climes. He hopes that, over time, something will jog his memory or give him some insight into his lost years. In the interim, he makes a comfortable if simple living, enjoys the constant stream of new sights and old lore, and drinks himself into a stupor whenever the dreams return to plague him.

Oskar Broadhammer: Oskar Broadhammer has been a miner, sailor, stonemason, and blacksmith at various times in his life, but now he finds other people to do manual labor. Anyone who needs a crew to unload a ship, build a house, or excavate a drain comes to Oskar, who (for a fee) finds day laborers and workers from the folks of the Cluster or the transients of Tent Town. Oskar travels throughout Drac’s End every day, recruiting and hiring, and keeping an eye open for new faces with new skills. Oskar tries to do his best for the community while also making a profit; he’s decent and reasonably honest but not above finding warm bodies to do something shady as long as “his boys” are paid well and not put into too much danger.

Lou, Lorelei and Durph: The owners of a small local curio store, these three all live together in a small home in the Cluster. Lou is a youngish, scrawny-looking man, apparently somewhat elven. He wears loose clothes, complete with a rapier hing from his belt. He seems half-asleep most of the time, and usually runs the store. Lorelei is an attractive young woman with long, lustrous shoulder-length brown hair. She dresses colorfully and well, and speaks with a soft, lilting accent. She attracts a lot of male customers, and excels at getting them to pay more than they had expected to. Dale is a hunchbacked, sour-tempered man who smells terrible and tries to avoid talking if at all possible. Despite that, he is popular with customers because his terrible negotiation skills allow them to pay below-market prices.

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