6 The Chumhouse

One of the roughest taverns in Scurvytown is the dilapidated structure that lies at the very end of one of the shorter piers. Even the Broken Mug down in the Docks has a better reputation than the Chumhouse. And that was before the Chumhouse became the headquarters for the Blackened Knot, a group of racist vigilantes commanded by Freeport’s former hangman. These days, no one with any standards comes to the Chumhouse which still leaves it with plenty of customers.

A local named Enoch converted this unused warehouse into a tavern over fifty years ago. Everyone thought he was crazy to open a tavern at the end of a pier instead of on Dreaming Street, but he quickly proved the naysayers wrong. Mind you, he did it through volume of customers and not quality. Still, the Chumhouse has a loyal clientele who are happy to endure the nightly fistfights and occasional knifings for the low price of the booze.

The tavern’s location also led to its sanguine name. One night, during a particularly violent brawl, the wooden floor of the tavern broke and several badly wounded pirates tumbled down into the waters below. Unluckily for them, the fish guts and blood from the nearby fishery attracted packs of sharks to the waters below; after the mayhem subsided (and wagers on the shark-pirate battle were paid up), the bar was labeled the Chumhouse. To this day, sharks are sighted underneath the Chumhouse more often than any other part of Freeport Harbor.

Old Enoch left town about ten years ago after selling the Chumhouse to a pair of dwarf brothers. Garen and Pulma Stonebrake maintained everything just the way the Chumhouse’s patrons like it—cheap booze, lousy entertainment, tolerance for fights, and a reinforced floor. They might have thought that made for loyal customers, but they didn’t figure in human belligerence and fear. Racism towards nonhumans has been rising in Freeport since the start of the Reclamation Project, and some of Scurvytown’s thugs don’t distinguish between orcs, hobgoblins, dwarves, or anyone else with a different physique. And a lot of the Chumhouse’s regular customers became very unhappy with “stunted rock-eaters” running their favorite bar, taking their money, and (presumably) stealing their women.

When Abel Wackets turned those thugs (and others) into the vigilantes of the Blackened Knot, he needed a place to base the gang—and the new members had just the place. Garen Stonebrake took a long walk off a short pier, and after some very rough treatment, Pulma was persuaded to sell the Chumhouse for a ridiculously low price to Abel Wackets before sailing out of Freeport forever. Now the Chumhouse is a human-only tavern, one run—not particularly well—by Wackets and his cronies.

The Chumhouse sits at the end of a pier, not far from the fishery. It’s a dilapidated, single-story ex-warehouse with windows that look out over the harbor and one large door. The wood of the building is slimy and stained from years of salty air and lack of maintenance, and the constant stink of blood, fish, and salt hangs in the air. There’s no sign above the door; if you don’t already know about the Chumhouse, you’re not welcome.

The interior of the building is even less inviting. A low bar runs along one side, barrels of rotgut and beer sitting behind it. Low tables and stools fill the room, all of them dirty and in bad repair. A small door leads to a privy—a hole in the floor overlooking the water—and a storage room where the gang keeps tools, weapons, and pamphlets. The only thing in good repair in the tavern is the floor, which is reinforced with multiple layers of planks. A portrait of Old Enoch still hangs above the bar, and it is tradition to toast to his memory.

Prominent NPCs
Abel Wackets: Abel Wackets is a thickset middle-aged man, bald with a thick moustache, his arms and hands crisscrossed with scars and burn marks. He was once the chief hangman of the Old City Court, a trusted instrument of Freeport justice—he used his access to the courts to frame innocents in return for payment from the city’s crime lords. When evidence of his guilt got out, Wackets spent a year in prison before being spat out, broke and disgraced, into the ghettos of Scurvytown. Before the Great Green Fire, Wackets joined up with like-minded thugs, extorting local merchants for a few coins—but with the exodus of the orcs to Bloodsalt, he sees a power vacuum in the district he wants to fill. A psychotic, racist bully (but a cunning and oddly charismatic one), Wackets wants power but doesn’t really know what to do with it, and he is doomed to be little more than a local warlord. But in Scurvytown, that might make him a force to be reckoned with.

The Blackened Knots: The Blackened Knot isn’t the only gang in Scurvytown, nor the only one motivated by racism and fear of difference, but they are one of the most well known in the district—not well liked (even by those they claim to protect), just well-known. Their avowed reason for existing is to keep nonhumans out of Scurvytown and to raise awareness of how nonhumans are stealing jobs, women, and money from Freeport’s human majority. This reason translates into a gang that likes to beat up anyone different, engage in violence for its own sake, extort protection money from local merchants and families, and generally blame all their own shortcomings on others.

The members of the Blackened Knot are all human, all male, and all less-than-sterling examples of their race and gender. Many are former longshoremen, fishery workers, or sailors unable to find work—a fact they blame on nonhumans taking their jobs, rather than their own lack of initiative or intelligence, or on their preference for sitting around getting drunk every day instead of going out and looking for work. With the exception of Abel Wackets and a few of his lieutenants, none possess great intelligence, courage, or combat skill—a deficiency they make up for with loyalty, stubbornness, and a willingness to drink themselves into a fighting fury to beat up the weak.

The Blackened Knot takes their name from two places. One is metaphorical; they are a gang that came together like a knot, and they’ve been blackened by the ashes of the Great Green Fire that drew them together to protect their district. That’s what they tell people, anyway. The other, more concrete, reason is the weapon they all use—a hangman’s noose, blackened with tar and pitch. The noose (or rope-hammer) is an effective weapon; it hits hard but can be rolled up and hidden easily, and it’s cheap to make or replace. Particularly vicious gang members sometimes push nails or fishhooks through the noose for extra effect.

The Chumhouse is the center of operations for the Blackened Knot. From here, they organize their raids on their nonhuman neighbors, drink cheap grog before “patrolling” the streets, and produce barely literate pamphlets extolling humans to fight the “lesser races” before Freeport drowns in a sea of racial impurity, depravity, and free thinking.

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