Who Knows What in Trade Island

The city of Trade Island is a pool of chaos to those who don’t understand it. Within its limits, gangs war through the streets, business families corrupt and manipulate, and various other factions either fully engage in these same activities, or simply try to sneak by their opponents.

If the Medici family don’t have you assassinated, the Draculas might have you impaled as a warning to others. If the Spartans don’t hit you head on and destroy your organisation using both physical and financial warfare, then the Tudors could simply buy you out completely. You might end up caught between Leopold’s gang and the Hussars, who they overcame to take top rank in the city. You could cross path with the Pagans, wielding magic and weaponry to repay any wrong. If you’re really unfortunate you’ll be out walking around under a full moon and hear the maddened howl of Chimera nearby. Then again, maybe you need to hire mercenaries, in which case you might need advice from a veteran merc like Roadblock, or have to deal with Stonewall Scummer, seeing as so many of them frequent his Rough House. Need weaponry? See Warlock. Need a place to stay? Try the Picket Pocket, but bear in mind it is run by hobgoblins.

The Enchantress runs many things, more than most know, and is the power behind Mayor Phil. The Demon King resides outside yet has a lot of influence in the city as members of his court visit on a daily basis. A large gleaner nest is not too far away, yet Ravenous and a collection of his vile people have dug out a smaller home in Trade Island, trying to fit in by offering their services as killers. The Graveyard is where bodies are disposed of, and where ghouls reside, while the Docks are showing promise as trade with far off places across the sea begins to develop. Don’t forget there is a machine nation residing to the north that keeps its distance even as it trades with them. Also, perhaps most importantly, there is a large mutant population, descendants of those who once drove the humans onto the island en masse. They have a president, yet power truly resides with General Bracken and the army, which leads to some fleeing to Trade Island. Former soldiers often end up joining the Ronin and earning their livelihood as mercenaries.

This is skimming over the surface when it comes to Trade Island. No mention has yet been made of the Ottomans, the Raptors, Red Benedict, Bulldozer, the Buccaneers, Spook, Loki, the Peelers, Gunman, Brubaker, the Accursed, Guile, the Vault, Rose, Calculus, the Khans, Scaloni, the Kusonokis, Steiss, Demetrius. There are thieves, mercs, assassins, traders, spies, hunters, bodyguards, warriors, tricksters, crafters, schemers. Some are mutants, others monsters, most human or something like it, and one cyborg and one robot. That is, as far as any know.

So who knows this? Who knows the difference between hiring Ronin from hiring a bunch of fighters at the Rough House? Who can tell you who to speak to when dealing with a business family, or to seriously avoid in a gang? Who knows what is going on, being sold, being stolen, being planned, being carried out?

Well, there are a select few who have their finger on the pulse of Trade Island. It could come as a surprise, but none of them are from among the rich and powerful. No, it is those who live and walk the streets of the city, who talk to people and listen to conversations, that have enough awareness of the whirling, fluctuating ways of the island.

One of these we have mentioned and that’s Stonewall Scummer. He grew up on the streets of Trade Island and claims to know everything going on everywhere. This could well be true. He has spent so long with his ear to the ground – metaphorically speaking only of course – that he has come to understand the city like few others. He built the Rough House so mercs and assassins could hang out together. It was such a simple and obvious move that it surprised others no one had thought of it before, but no one had. Hired killers still loiter on street corners and can be found at taverns they reside in, but the Rough House has come to be the prime place to be. There is even a pecking order, with the top ranked mercs sitting on the upper floor. Scummer has made himself a valuable middle-man, who can pick out the best to hire for various jobs. He also will hold back work or hand out high paying jobs for a reward in return. Scummer is in no way to be trusted. But he is pretty upfront with this, so much so people tend to sigh and shake their heads rather than get angry. Scummer represents Trade Island, in many ways. If you have a use, work is there, but if you can be used and cast aside, get ready for the fall. You need to keep your wits sharp and your skills honed. Scummer does. He knows information others want kept secret. He knows deals people are making. He is despised but respected, detested but tolerated, and mistrusted and yet one of the first people go to in order to find out what the hell is really going on.

But he isn’t the only one. Warlock is another we have mentioned and he also has his insider information. He is a cyborg but he was a child here too. He ended up being sold to a sect and converted, and later, after his sect had been destroyed, he returned to his home, ready to make weapons. There was a lot of suspicion when a cyborg came into the city, many calling him a spy, yet his history with the place and his craftsmanship meant that soon need outweighed distrust. If there is one thing always in demand in Trade Island, it is weaponry. The best suppliers are the business families, but their products are expensive. Warlock makes his weapons with care and skill, and a creator’s love for creating, therefore he gives his products out at much lower cost. Many mercs, gangsters and others want him as a friend. Warlock values people. This could be an act as he spies on the inhabitants, yet his past suggests he is sincere. He admires courage, honesty and integrity, and he always enjoys seeing his work in the hands of skilled fighters. If people want to kill each other, that’s their business. Warlock won’t judge, he also doesn’t gossip. So people let things slip around him. Sometimes he can read the signs, such as an increase of sales to certain people is a warning that a fight is on the way. Warlock has been known to alert people on his good side, but he can also be talked into revealing a little info if a deal can be made. Money isn’t his thing, but even a lone cyborg understands the importance of favours.

We have also hinted at someone but not named him. Previously, the Picked Pocket was brought up, and the fact it is run by hobgoblins. The hobgoblin in charge is Grabbit. It is he and his family that run the establishment, with others of their kind coming and going, working and stealing. Hobgoblins are everywhere in the city. No, they really are. So much so they become part of the background. They are infamous thieves and mischief makers, and many don’t take them seriously. This is a mistake, especially with Grabbit. If a hobgoblin wants to work at his place – which means earning some money, likely stealing from customers, and possibly hearing some interesting information – then they have to tell him something. People think hobgoblins don’t pay attention. Well, they don’t much, but when there’s so many scampering here and there, they will pick up the odd useful whisper. Grabbit wants these. Anything heard in his place is reported in too. He may be a hobgoblin, but he’s no fool. He is more calm, more composed, more sure of himself. So to those who consider him, Grabbit is a very useful source of knowledge, although he isn’t cheap and he’ll know if you cheat him.

An odd individual is Thumbs. He is a low ranking human criminal and is also locked up in prison. There are several of these squat, solid buildings, and they are pretty full due to a constant rotation. Crime is common place, so the police barely put an effort into stopping it. After all, they could get killed. However, some sense of order has to be kept, so the lowest of the low in the crime world often get picked up and banged up. More important ones get nabbed from time to time as well, yet merely as a show. For instance, one of Leopold’s main killers is Mueller, a psychotic super-soldier, and his antics have meant the gang boss handed him over to be detained for a time – partly to keep a lid on things, partly to stop his lackey from causing more trouble. Hobgoblins get arrested and put in too, yet no human has an idea if they ever catch the right one and often they walk out as they please. Grabbit has done time and let another take his place after he got bored. But Thumbs, he went into prison a nobody and became a king. He runs his prison, wearing his necklace of thumbs taken from opponents. Whether his sentence is up or not is unknown as he has no intention of leaving his home. Other criminals come and go, and he talks to most, and sometimes they are angry enough or fed up enough to blab more than they should. Thumbs knows things, and he knows how to get things out of people too. He may be just a human, but humans, mutts and lesser monsters are what frequent the prisons, so he has enough viciousness to intimidate those in his realm. If the word cannot be found on the streets of Trade Island, then the prisons are a good bet, and Thumbs has been in his one long enough to establish a ring of contacts.

Finally, there is Bulldozer. A mutant with big hands and a mighty punch. He is a simple gangster and not even a challenger to Leopold. No, he is on the bottom rung in fact, yet he is the emperor of the bottom rungs. His gang is many, made up of mostly poor humans and other mutts, and he has many low level gangs too small to stand alone as affiliates. The top gangs – Leopold’s, Red Benedict’s, Chimera’s, the Hussars, the Raptors, etc – have powerful beings to make them a serious threat. Bulldozer relies on sheer numbers. Officially, the Hussars are the biggest gang, but then no one takes the mob at the bottom seriously. Bulldozer has dozens of people who grew up in Trade Island under his command, and from all over the city. They will have relatives who work in taverns or warehouses. Some will know members of the police. Some will even have jobs themselves, perhaps at the Docks or possibly the Vault, although the only bank in Trade Island has high levels of security and scrutiny. Still, Bulldozer knows that plans are made high up, but they still need grunts and goons at the lowest level to get things done. He may seem to be a simple but strong thug, and yet little is going on within the city that he won’t get at least some hint of.

Stonewall Scummer, Warlock, Grabbit, Thumbs and Bulldozer all live at the bottom end of society in Trade Island, and that’s why they know what is going on. Mercs converse, either in the Rough House or when buying tools for a job. Hobgoblins go unnoticed. Humans and mutts witness the daily goings on and report in. Obviously there is much even they cannot know. The Enchantress has schemes underway few have an idea on. The Pagans have their own inner strife that no one beyond their ranks has even a clue about. Secrets can be kept. But when you need to know something, your best bet is to go and ask one of these five. Be careful, they’re all dangerous and some are outright treacherous, but if one of them doesn’t know the answer, then another most likely will.

In the highly rare event that not one of them has any info on a certain activity, group or person, then you don’t need to worry because you will be dead soon. You just stumbled onto something incredibly top secret and chances are one of them sold you out. Expect a visit from a top assassin any moment. Most likely Spook. If you’re lucky, you won’t know about it until she glides through the wall and shoots you twice in the head. Many never do.

This short introduces Trade Island, as well as the Accursed:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/598771

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