Pick and Lantern Gang Organization in City of Ten Thousand Daggers | World Anvil

Pick and Lantern Gang

"Why we call 'Pick and Lantern?' It is a good story, I tell you now. Hegyem moving to the City of Many Knives is not strange thing today, but in the past we prefer to stay with our own. But then--it was a 150 years ago, I think--miners in one of the camps found out their mine was haunted and had to leave. All those people moving into other camps would have been burden, so the people of the haunted mine came to Khezvaros to look for work. Seeing all my kinsmen made the Khezvarans laugh at us and say, 'You stupid Hegyem! You come to our city with just pick and lantern and think you will start new life? You are foolish yokel!'   But my people, we prove them wrong, and this is where Little Hegyembi was built. We even turn their taunt on them. 'I came to city with just pick and lantern,' they say, 'but now I have busy shop with three rooms above and my children and goats have full bellies!' So pick and lantern became symbol of how my people persevere and adapt with whatever world gives us, even when it is not the thing we need.   Also, we light the lanterns, and usually the best way to do it is to grab them from roof above with a pick."
Borys the Hegyem, on this history of his organization.


Before Borys the Hegyem took over the Pick & Lantern gang, it was a disorganized gang of thugs whose leadership changed hands frequently and mostly through violence, and whose criminal ambitions amounted to little more than beating up non-Hegyem who entered their territory and pulling off petty crimes in nearby neighborhoods. When Borys took over, he broke the gang up into several crews, each headed by a muta ("boss"). Initially the muta reported directly to Borys, but as the organization grew he added a layer of lieutenants called zors ("powerful ones") who each oversee several crews and make up the gang's inner circle.   Borys has never offered a clear plan for succession when he retires or dies. Most assume that he will appoint one of the zors in the former case and the latter will lead to an intense and possibly violent power struggle, but so far nobody's been brave enough to suggest that there will ever be a time when the old man isn't in charge.


Borys is very traditional and while he understands that what works in the mining camp doesn't always work in a large city, he has done his best to make sure that the Pick & Lanterns remain a distinctly Hegyem organization that follows the old ways to the greatest extent possible. He flatly refuses to allow non-Hegyem into the gang and views members who don't properly appreciate their heritage and community with suspicion. As a result, those who hope to move up in the gang's pecking order make it a point to embrace traditional Hegyembi culture and avoid expressing too much concern for or appreciation of what happens beyond the confines of Little Hegyembi and the gang's sphere of interest.
  At the same time that Boris encourages tradition and clannishness, he's quick to remind his subordinates that it's important for the people of the city to see the Hegyem in a good light. Bragging about the gang's criminal activities or discussing them with non-accomplices, engaging in unapproved criminal activity or unnecessary violence, and participating in other activities that may reflect badly on the Hegyem community are not tolerated. Those who commit serious violations might find themselves facing the Kozachi Sud or worse.   As a general rule, the gang no longer engages in petty crime, focusing instead on its trade in Hulya's Breath (or in some cases Spite Bat venom that other gangs can use to manufacture the drug on their own) and the messier aspects of Borys's moneylending operation. The gang still occasionally engages in robbery, burglary, and other crimes, but only if the potential reward far outweighs the risk or the victim has done something to earn the gang's special attention.

Public Agenda

Publicly, Borys is a small-time moneylender and head of the Lamplighter's society, which is responsible for keeping the lanterns that light the streets of Little Hegyembi burning. All gang members--even Boris himself--spend at least a few days a month tending to the lanterns, which Borys sees as a way of building trust, goodwill, and personal relationships between gang members and their neighbors, while also providing a convenient cover they can use to keep tabs on foreigners who visit the neighborhood.    The gang's control of the spite bat venom supply is an open secret to just about everyone who deals with or uses Hulya's Breath , but Borys frames this activity as an instance of standing up to imperial overreach. Most smuggling in the city is merely done to avoid imperial taxes; the goods can be bought, sold, and traded freely once they make it past the city gates. Not so with the venom, which is banned because followers of Hulya consider the drug made from it a blasphemy. Borys has a well-rehearsed speech about how these zealots have no right to impose their beliefs on others and he's just giving people something they want.


The Pick & Lanterns' most valuable resource is the supply line Borys has set up to smuggle spite bat venom into the city. Their control of the venom gives the almost total control of the Hulya's Breath trade within the city without necessitating that they peddle the drug to users themselves. Other gangs are happy to handle that part of the transaction, so the Pick and Lantern gang just has to sell them the drug, or in some cases just the venom. Since obtaining the Hulya's Breath is nearly impossible without Borys's blessing, other criminals who want to profit from the drug have to stay on the gang's good side. This helps insulate them from pressure to join one of the syndicates as well as involvement in intergang warfare.   In addition to the spite bat connection, the Pick & Lanterns have laboratories, storage areas, and safehouses scattered throughout the city, along with their public headquarters at Lamplighters Hall. The location of the gang's treasury is unknown, but it's said to be guarded by several hungry Sin-Eaters and absolutely coated in spite bat venom.
Founding Date
Illicit, Gang
Alternative Names
Little Hegyembi Lamplighters Society, several derogatory nicknames involving sexual acts with goats
Notable Members
Related Species
Related Ethnicities

Cover image: Main Header Banner City of Ten Thousand Daggers by Steve Johnson


Please Login in order to comment!