Verivaltus, as a floating city comprised entirely of boats lashed to one another, has expanded radially over generations. The organization that a competent city planner brings is completely absent from Verivaltus, but boats with similar purposes have tended to gravitate towards the same areas. This has led to the natural formation of different "districts." These districts are not static, but ebb and flow as ships are added and subtracted from their number. The original worldship Vathar serves as the central government facility and is often referred to as the "Command Wheel."There are eight official districts, called spokes, that emanate from the centrally located worldship. Each is controlled by a ward boss on that is part of the command structure of Verivaltus.
Ward Boss: Clem Frendish
The district known as Meatspoke was originally a bordello run out of a large pleasure yacht. It was owned by a well connected crime boss that came from the mainland. On his deathbed, he gifted the bordello to his mistress, a former prostitute named Clem Frendish. Clem, with her experience in the trade, realized that Verivaltus' wealthy itinerant population would lead to a massive stockpile of blackmail material. Using her girls' wiles, she spun a web of information that enabled her to secure a seat on the Command Wheel. Today she outsources control of her network of brothels to powerful women that all report back to her with information and profits.
For the uninitiated, the safest places to seek companionship in Verivaltus are those closer to Vathar. Clem keeps her higher quality establishments and girls closer to the richer districts. It's worth noting, freeman, that even though the likelihood of contracting a venereal disease goes down, the likelihood that your secrets are going to be bought and traded goes up significantly.
The "building code" of Meatspoke is fairly simple and establishments owned by Clem are clearly marked no matter what district they appear in. Keeping with tradition, Clem's brothels have dyed the sails of their ships a deep red. Those in Clem's employ are also clearly uniformed. Men and women "for sale" wear a red silk choker clasped with an iron medallion. The front of the medallion has a number carved into it, indicating price. If the price is too large to fit on the medallion, the mark of his or her brothel is carved instead, indicating that a price will need to be negotiated between the buyer and the procurer.
What may not be clear to those new to Verivaltus is that while other cities have cultural watering holes, such as taverns, Valtans all either visit or know somebody who visits Clem's brothels. If you need accurate information or have an itch to pursue a rumor, Clem's friends are your best bet.
Ward Boss: "Grubby" Mortawk
While most of Verivaltus smells exclusively of brine, fish, and excrement, the Galley District is unique in that it combines these background smells with a rich smokiness and endless savory sensations. Most sailors will tell you that leaving life at sea behind them isn't that hard to do; there's only so many times you can eat biscuits and kippers before you go insane or contract scurvy. But since Vathar began its life as an intellectual trading hub, it also became a natural place for gourmands and chefs to trade recipes and techniques. Ingredients from all over the world are sauteed, poached, grilled, smoked, flambeed, and fricasseed right here, in "Grubby" Mortawk's galley.
Grubby has been called short-tempered, but is easily the most approachable of the ward bosses. So long as you have a love of food and specifically a love of his "exotic" creations, you can get along just fine with this half-orc gourmand. He'll eat nearly anything on a dare, and if you have a rare ingredient, squeeze money out of one of his employees to pay for it. There's also a rumor that he's always looking for exotic animals to add to his "collection." He prefers them in sets of three: one for cooking, and one for his fighting pits, and one for selling back at an increased price. Despite aggressive sales, the Galley is easily the happiest district in Verivaltus. If you can afford to eat in the Galley, you're in for a good time.
You can smell the Galley District long before you see it, but there's a certain charm to the literal "hole in the wall" thing they do over there. Restaurateurs are often unable to afford access to the entire deck of a ship, so a popular solution is to hang a decorative curtain from the rigging to separate the decks into different venues. This is of course for above-deck eateries. For those walking the bilgeways, portholes of defunct ships have been carved wide and sanded flat to form serving counters. Closer to Vathar, some of the commandeered warships are multi-deck eateries, with different meal courses served on different floors.
The pleasures of the Galley are not for everyone though. Valtan slaves do not enjoy the culinary decadence of Verivaltus, instead they most often suffer through "eel spit," a wet, oversalted mass of ground kelp mixed in with the cheapest gamey bits of boiled Valtan eel. Despite claims that it contains what a "growing slave needs," slaves succumbing to malnourishment and harsh working conditions is an everyday occurrence.
Ward Boss: Mack Holloway and Eva Rendell
The Goldwharf is the financial grease that lubricates Verivaltus' clunky environs. Headlined by the Holloway and Rendell Banking Company, the eponymous Mack Holloway and Eva Rendell are relative newcomers to Verivaltus. Even so, they've used their independent wealth to establish themselves as banking titans. With the rush of new blood always seeking to profit from Verivaltus' opportunities, the need to secure loans before the competition is paramount. Bit of advice: don't get taken in. The Goldwharf is rife with grade-A protection rackets and mortgage fraud groups performed by unscrupulous criminal elements. Of course, there are none bigger and more fraudulent than Holloway and Rendell itself. H&R pay their dues to the rest of the wheel, and in return, the Dockguard have a notoriously underfunded financial forensics department.
Occasionally, the Goldwharf does engage in legitimate business, or no prospective business owners would make the trek across the sea to the destination that is Verivaltus. Still, engaging with these "venture capitalists" is not recommended for the risk-averse. Supposing you do manage to secure one of their loans and make your venture profitable, Eva Rendell's friends will be sure to pay a visit and offer multiple reasonable "protection" packages. Failure to accept is not an option available to the living.
The Goldwharf itself is kept immaculately clean by the standards of the rest of Verivaltus. Polished and varnished ships gleam in the sunlight, and every ship given protection by H&R has a thin strand of gold inlaid into its railing. The patrons of Goldwharf come in two equally foolhardy varieties: those raggedly clothed individuals that owe the bank, and those well dressed overconfident entrepreneurs that look to secure an expedient loan that they plan to pay off just as quickly. It's best to just not get involved in the first place, but know this: the only thing that these bankers hate more than defaulting on a loan is refusing to open an account.
Ward Boss: "Lord" Wembley Anchorlegs
The Embassy is ostensibly responsible for all official visitations from different nations to Verivaltus. Where an embassy facility might traditionally mean asylum for members of the visiting nation, the Embassy district in Verivaltus is where foreign interests try to clandestinely influence city policy. Every nation that wishes to hold court in Verivaltus must first court the slovenly ward boss, who is very susceptible to bribes. The ward boss of the Embassy, "Lord" Wembley Anchorlegs, is a stocky former smuggler who used a network of underworld connections to retire as a political liaison to the highest bidder. With morals and preference so openly for sale, the kingdoms of the world have lost no time in pandering for Wembley's favor.
In the Embassy, greed is good. Displays of ostentatious wealth are commonplace, as they often are engineered to attract the attention of Wembley and his footmen.
The Bilge Flats
Ward Boss: Seth Rigjaw
The Bilge Flats serve as the public works sector of Verivaltus. It is less of a "spoke" of Verivaltus than it is a series of stations that form a middle ring cutting through the center of Verivaltus. There, the bilge and waste that is pumped through the sewer canals of the city is processed and techno-magically sanitized for use within the rest of the city. Clean freshwater is hard to come by in the ocean, and is made possible in such large quantities only by the genius of Seth Rigjaw, a human engineer with remarkable ambitions. Some people more trustworthy than myself say that Rigjaw won a scholarship to the Aether Academy in Iabis
at age thirteen, but resented the academy's attempts to brand his work with their sterling label. He cut ties without ever becoming a graduate and became something of a "fixer" during the conflict with the Sundered Star
, creating engineering masterworks that rivaled the brutality and efficiency of the demoniac army itself.
Rigjaw never saw his creations in action, instead preferring to send them off and begin immediate work on a new project. When the efforts of the war turned to the construction of Vathar, the trader barons that funded its creation could think of no one better to solve their engineering woes than the young master. Instrumental in the creation of the ship, Rigjaw found himself in love with the constant maintenance required of the behemoth vessel, and constantly worked to make her more efficient and deadly. When the war concluded, Rigjaw left Vathar for a time, finding that his inspiration slowed as the critical nature of the ship began to decline. He only came back years later when he heard of the management shift that had turned Vathar into a bloodthirsty pirate city-state. Pirates, being notoriously shortsighted, did not see the problems or the solutions that young Rigjaw was already dreaming up for the burgeoning city. And so, Rigjaw set himself about becoming invaluable to the city.
He designed the iconic "flats," stations that can, through magic and engineering, process wastewater into pristine freshwater. As Verivaltus became a trade and diplomatic destination, constantly growing in size, the flats would need to become more and more efficient, processing ever larger amounts of waste without having the ability to drastically expand the number of stations used in this process. It was a project that would require constant retuning and cheap labor to operate. Rigjaw's stations soon became a destination for the growing lower class of the city, seeking contracts to work within the flats; any where that a processing station would be built, a series of cheap tenement boats would be sure to nudge their way in contact with the stations, seeking to profit off the close proximity to work.
While Rigjaw is unique among the Wheel of Command in that he does not actively wish to exploit the poor of Verivaltus, his ambitions have had the same net result, and his desire for efficiency above all else has created terrible working conditions for working Valtans. He does not hear the [;ight of the poor, only the singing of his precious machines, begging for constant upkeep.
The Rat's Foot
Ward Boss: Salteye
The Rat's Foot is an unofficial district with a leader possibly more feared than the remainder of the wheel of command. It would seem odd, in a city like Verivaltus, to have anything resembling a "criminal district," as that term could be applied to the whole, but the Rat's Foot makes no attempt to hide criminal activity, and the rest of the city has respect and sense enough to try to address them.