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Freebooter's Rock

A wretched hive of scum and villainy -- you must be cautious...

As seen in
Spacefarers everywhere agreed—Freebooter’s Rock was a wretched den of vice, thievery and betrayal, the midden-pit of the Universe. But everyone came there eventually. That was what Shaundar Sunfall was relying on...   He had been in port three months now, however, and he wasn’t sure he could wait here much longer. The handful of coins he’d arrived with when he’d hit the shore had quickly dwindled away. Shaundar had no idea how expensive everything was here...   He was trying to find work along the dockyards. Tug-Pilot, stevedore, supply clerk, common labourer; he’d tried it all to no avail. He’d even tried to get on at the Ironworks, no matter how horrible foundry work was to him.
Sable's Privateers by Diane Morrison
  Freebooter's Rock is a mobile asteroid settlement, powered by multiple, harmonized Starfaring Engines so that it can set itself up anywhere in Known Space. It is a busy, active trading and tourism port, that also makes a secondary living mining Mithril. It has a reputation for being a place where anything can be purchased... if the price is right.

Demographics

Just about any sentient species one could possibly imagine can be found on Freebooter's Rock at any given time. The larger populations have organized themselves into districts, and keep a wary eye on each other, but there are several mixed districts as well:  
  • Humans: 22%
  • Gnomes: 15%
  • Elf: 12%
  • Uruks & Changelings: 10%
  • Dwarves: 8%
  • Goblins: 8%
  • Erepatta: 7%
  • Nisslings: 5%
  • Allyri: 4%
  • Cthulans: 2%
  • Lizardfolk: 2%
  • Fenocs: 1%
  • Otterfolk: 1%
  • Other: 3%

Government

The "government" of Freebooter's Rock is the Captain's Council, an oligarchy made up of incredibly wealthy "free traders" and merchants in semi-retirement. Membership in the Council is claimed by the aspirant, not elected, and requires that the aspirant controls a fleet of ships, is worth at least 1,000,000*G in personal wealth, and has at least 1,000,000*N equivalent in liquid assets.

Defences

The Avalonian Navy patrols and protects Freebooter's Rock as part of their claim to sovereignty. This is the traditional operational base of a system's Fleet Admiral, so there are usually at least a dozen warships that can be immediately called upon for the Rock's defense, with about two dozen more than could be deployed if necessary. The Naval base is located at the edge of the Green District, near to the Pentagon District, and its presence keeps the poorer citizens from eyeing the wealthier inhabitants too closely.   That said, the Captain's Council is not without its own defenses. Since each commands a fleet, at least half a dozen ships of each fleet is usually close by.   Further, the Rock is bristling with siege weaponry in every corner, and the City Guard maintains the peace, but is ready to stand in the city's defense. Many of the Rock's citizens are also members of the Rock Militia, and train monthly, should Freebooters be called to arms.   There are no walls, as these would be pointless in a starfaring port. However, the Rock's very structure is a form of defense, since it is simply an asteroid floating in space, impossible to assault except by ship.

Industry & Trade

Gabble in a hundred languages assaulted their senses. A fruit vendor offered them blue apples, first in Elvish and then in Dwarvish. A gnome bard sang a cheerful ballad accompanied by a lute. Yathar sighed. Shaundar put a comforting hand on his shoulder.   There were a lot of Cthulans walking around and conducting business, which, in light of their recent experiences, couldn’t help but make Shaundar edgy. The plethora of cultures and species present was impressive. “Are they allowed to be here?” Nashavara asked nervously of the Cthulans. Shaundar nodded.   Grimmauld turned and said something to the fruit vendor in Dwarvish that sounded like a question. He nodded, spoke a reply and indicated up the street. Shaundar knew enough Dwarvish to understand the “thank you” that Grimmauld responded with.   “Come on!” he said cheerfully to the group. “I’m told there’s a fine dwarven establishment up that way.”
A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
  Just about anything can be bought and sold at Freebooter's Rock. Despite the fact that many view the Rock as a scum-magnet and eyesore on the Void, it is such an important hub for trade that it cannot be ignored. If one wants something in space, and doesn't know where to find it, one comes to the Rock.   Still, some industries have more importance in the local economy than others. Mithril remains the primary export. Shipbuilding and repair is a hopping business, which often attracts the best shipwrights, since they know they can make good coin here. The Avalonian Navy also contributes a surprising amount to the economy, between their lumber yard, shipbuilding, munitions manufacturing, and more. There is also a prestigious dwarven foundry, and a number of mercenary companies operate out of the Rock.   Rumour has it that there is a lively underground slave trade, and a black market trade in stolen art, antiquities, and magical items. One has to know whom to ask to find it, however.   But above all, the primary trade remains vice. Gambling, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, perhaps even contract murder, remain the primary industries, raking in millions of Galaxies a year.

Infrastructure

Freebooter's Rock is highly urbanized. It features a lumberyard, multiple shipyards, waterwheel-driven mills, automatic watering systems, printing presses, cobblestone roads and bridges, even the best in modern goblin plumbing, with hot and cold running water.

Assets

The Captain's Council may have started out with intentions to create a bastion of lawlessness, but these days, they want things to remain functional so that their "business" can continue undisturbed. They stockpile against eventualities. There are granaries and other storage facilities that have set aside 6 months worth of food supplies in case of a blockade. There are hidden armouries, which the Navy would take exception to should they be found.   The upper crust of the city is fabulously wealthy, and while the Plateau District, the Green District, and the Pentagon District are more thoroughly patrolled than any of the others, an enterprising and daring thief could do quite well to "liberate" them of a few choice treasures. There also rumours that the Captains have individual personal vaults deep in the underground portions of the city that each conceal a king's ransom.

Guilds and Factions

Part of the problem was the districts. Everyone kept to their own in the Lower City of Freebooter’s Rock. He could see that he’d wandered into the Dwarven District and the spacefaring dwarves didn’t have much use for elves. And the fact that he didn’t have a job was something the hardworking people just didn’t understand. There was always work for dwarves with other dwarves, and what were you good for if you weren’t working?   The gnomes rightly didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t a gnome. He’d tried his luck in Elephant Town, figuring that there had to be some way to hook up with a mercenary company or something there. But he found that since he was an elf, no one took him seriously when he said he was a marine and they wouldn’t even let him prove himself. And he didn’t speak most of the human tongues.   He bought a bottle of rum for the evening. As a light drizzle started, he returned to his room, tromping up the three flight walk-up in a narrow alley, only to find that the lock on his door had been changed.   “Ye can have yer stuff back when ye’ve paid the rent,” snarled the landlord behind him in his Galatian dialect. He was a human male with a thick black beard, a beer belly, and no concept of what soap or water were for.
Sable's Privateers by Diane Morrison
  Aside from the Captain's Council and the Avalonian Imperial Navy and their power struggles, there are many other significant factions on the Rock that exert their own particular influence.   The Guild of Gnomish Builders is probably the most powerful trade union, and disputes with them can lead to a complete halt in shipbuilding and repair. It can also lead to having all the docks occupied by "unfinished repair jobs," which puts a distinct hamper on trade. As a result, dockworkers of all stripes tend to do much better financially on the Rock than in many other places, averaging 50* to 75*Sp a day.   In the bowels of the Rock, maintaining the lifegiving plumbing and water supply of its population, the Goblin Sanitation Engineers hold sway. Negotiating with them is always a delicate balance.   There are a couple of significant mercenary companies, and they are in the process of unionizing as well. Together, they represent a large, and potentially dangerous faction.   There are also at least three large organized criminal gangs who have divided up the various districts into territories, which they defend with legal force. Ironically, this often means that open street crime is nearly non-existent, as no one wants little crimes interfering with their big business.   Last, the City Guard is a significant faction in and of itself, and serves as the arm of the Captain's Council. However, they can often be persuaded to act against the Council's interests in favour of their own -- for a modest fee, of course.

History

Freebooter's Rock began its life as a dwarven mining settlement, when a number of dwarves of the Starminer Clan discovered significant mithril and starmetal deposits. But naturally, it did not take long for the wretched of the Void to figure out that there were a lot of valuable minerals coming out of this unassuming rock, and they decided they wanted them.   It is unknown when the Starminers installed the complex system of resonating spindizzies that made the Rock mobile, because the Starminer records were destroyed during the First Interstellar War (IW1), but this was likely in response to the repeated assaults on them for their resources.   The dwarves repelled many attacks from a variety of "interested parties," but were eventually defeated by a small, determined fleet of goblins out of Radivoj-Hrurk, a client-state of Harakrryrrsû in the Telasian System. The goblins sent a single ship of Ip-Ara'dare volunteers to make a dangerous landing on the Rock's far side, and infiltrated the subterranean systems of the dwarves to poison their water supply. In the meantime, rather than assaulting the Rock outright, as previous fleets had tried and failed to do, the goblins simply formed a blockade.   The final, desperate battle resulted in more casualties in a single day among the goblins than their entire blockade had previously yielded, but the weakened dwarves were bombed out of their holds by goblin sappers, and completely wiped out. The goblins took the Rock to the Wyndsmere System , where it was used as a resupply centre by the members of The Solstice Pact during the First Interstellar War.   Wyndsmere was a key wormhole nexus, and therefore, the Rock became a point of strategic importance in IW1. Lacking the resources to deal with it themselves, the Avalonian Imperial Navy issued a Letter of Marque to any rough customer who wanted to make the attempt to take it. The terms stated that the Navy would officially control the Rock as sovereign territory of the Avalonian Crown, but that the party who successfully seized it would secure the mineral rights.  
space-pirates-linnaea-mallette.jpg
Space Pirates by Linnaea Mallette
Many "free traders," mercenaries, and other ne'er-do-wells and outright pirates made the attempt, which served the Avalonians well as a constant campaign of harassment against their foes -- as they suspected it would. But finally, an alliance of six pirate captains, backed up by the resources of an unscrupulous merchant trading company, fought the goblins to a standstill. Goblins being ever pragmatic, they surrendered to the unified freebooter fleet, in return for a seat on what later became known as the Captain's Council.   The Imperial Navy had never really expected the pirates to succeed, but they were now bound by their word. They quickly established a base on "the freebooter's rock," which was a significant strategic staging point and resupply base in the latter half of the war. They also immediately taxed the mineral sales coming out of the asteroid community, payable in either cash or a share of mined minerals, to fund their war effort.   Knowing that those who have the weapons make the rules, the Captain's Council acquiesced to this taxation policy, but they laid claim to their settler's rights under interstellar law. This allowed them to make their own laws and form their own government, as long as they did not violate the original terms of their Letters of Marque and the taxation laws.   The Captain's Council invested their considerable ill-gotten gains to turn Freebooter's Rock into a city of vice. It quickly developed an interstellar reputation as a den of iniquity. Every drug known to space was legal, and sex workers of every major starfaring species were lured to the Rock with promises of large financial bonuses. For the most part, those promises were kept, as gambling also became a staple of the port. It was even said that for the right price, a bustling underground trade in slaves could be found, though the Navy would certainly not turn a blind eye if such a thing were known. Regardless, mining became a secondary income source for the Rock with this influx of "free commerce," fueled in part by the lucky few who managed to prospect successfully.

Tourism

Vice tourism is big business. People come from all over Known Space to Freebooter's Rock, wherever it may be. There are several businesses designed specifically to cater to wealthy tourists, including guides to the shadier districts, resorts, casinos, and high-class bordellos. There are even pleasure cruise lines that are sure to make the Rock one of their frequented destinations.

Architecture

The architecture of Freebooter's Rock is stunning in its chaos. The immense wealth and cultural disparities in its population is reflected in its construction. However, even in the most luxurious of accommodations, there are unmistakable signs of its starfaring character everywhere, such as the ship's bell of a long-decommissioned ship hanging in the ballroom of a fine resort, or souvenir telescopes for sale in the market square.

Geography

At the heart of the Rock is a frozen ice core that acts much like a glacier. As it gradually melts, it feeds underground rivers and lakes. These, in turn, are pumped to the surface with an incredibly complex plumbing system, maintained by the capricious Goblin Sanitation Engineers. This system of rivers and pumps provides water to the entire settlement.   The glacier is, however, disappearing. Soon, perhaps within a few years, ice will have to be shipped from elsewhere to supply the Rock, or some incredible magical solution will have to be found. The Captain's Council has, of course, breathed not a word of this to the populace, and the few goblins who are aware are generally ignored.

Natural Resources

These days, the starmetal has likely been completely mined out -- although dreamers and lunatics repeatedly go in search of new claims. Mithril, however, is still a significant mineral resource, as are a number of other precious metals, including gold, platinum, and titanium. The mines are currently worked by the impoverished prisoners, on loan to the mining companies from the state, who cannot afford to pay their "fines" when the Guard or the Council takes an interest in them.   Even though many of the old dwarven tunnels are collapsed, there are still numerous caverns deep in the Rock's bowels that serve as subterranean food forests. For the most part, these are given over completely to the goblins and a handful of enterprising gnomes, although dwarves periodically make a claim through some obscure family connection to the Starminers that only they understand. Unless the goblins have annoyed the Captain's Council recently, this mostly falls on deaf ears.   The Avalonian Navy uses the area surrounding its base as a tree farm, and the lumber is used in shipbuilding. The Navy has its own Naval shipyard, although it is more geared to repairs than manufacture. However, the gnomes of the Guild of Gnomish Builders have a solid monopoly on all private ship building and repair elsewhere on Freebooter's Rock. The Navy will sell to them, but charge triple the standard going rate -- which is still cheaper than shipping lumber from elsewhere.
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Freebooter's Rock Estate by Blende 12

An Estate of a Captain's Council Member

Freebooter's Rock Estate by Spirit111

Estate Grounds in the Green District

Freebooter's Rock Tavern by Willgard

Seedy Tavern at Freebooter's Rock

Spacedock Cranes by Roy Snyder

Dockyard Crane-Ship

Docks of Bral by Silverblade the Enchanter

Docks at Freebooter's Rock
Founding Date
Sometime around 4100 AC
Alternative Name(s)
The Rock
Type
Starbase
Population
45201
Inhabitant Demonym
Freebooters
Owning Organization
Characters in Location
Related Materials
The Smiling Shoggoth was a hopping place. A few of the patrons cast Shaundar strange looks as lurked by the door in his orcish armour, but not as many as he expected. Then again, next to a bartending shoggoth, what would look strange? Watching Mike draw draught with his pseudopods and telekinesis was more than enough entertainment for one evening. He was downright chatty too. Customer after customer greeted him like an old friend, and they came in every race known to space.   Shaundar quickly saw the clever design of the furniture. For instance, the barstools had a couple of rails mounted at strategic points along the stem. A gruff dwarf with a red beard streaked white and an ivory peg leg was able to stomp himself up on the stool by using one of rails as a step. He lit an oversized calabash pipe and the room was quickly filled with sour tobacco smoke, like the stuff Shaundar was smoking before he came to the Temple-Brothel.   At the other end of the bar, three gnome bards accompanied their attractive and talented front girl with fiddle, mandolin and accordion. Shaundar dropped a few of his limited coins into their fiddle case. Two dragonfolk stretched out on couches playing backgammon while a human free trader discussed business eye-to-eye with a gnome in a high chair.   A trio of robed Cthulans huddled in a corner couch, wriggling their tentacles in animated discussion; everyone else gave them a wide berth. The bar’s other employee, a pretty blond human girl, asked them if they were done with their drinks and would they like another? One of them waved an empty glass with its strange three-fingered hand; the barmaid took it away and returned a few moments later with something green and bubbling.   A pair of decorated pachyderms came in about halfway through the night. They took over a table with big, sturdy oaken chairs and proceeded to sing three hours’ worth of off-key military chants, unfortunately drowning out the skilled bards, while they put away so many shots of rum that Shaundar figured they must have disposed of about a cask between them.   Before Shaundar knew it, Mike was bellowing, “All right, that’s it folks! Last call!”
Sable's Privateers by Diane Morrison
 
It didn’t take much for Blackjack to force the Cthulans to turn over the three Navy elves and the other Raven Talon refugees. Blackjack advised them that the Avalonian Navy would take great exception to an attempt to leave the Rock’s airspace with Navy personnel and refugees under their protection on board.   <The Navy’s fortunes have been failing in this system as of late,> pointed out the Cthulan captain.   Blackjack smirked without humour. “Maybe,” he said, “but even a single elven man-o-war full of mages wouldn’t have much difficulty taking out a lone merchantman.” The Cthulans handed over the prisoners without any further protest.
A Few Good Elves by Diane Morrison
 

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Cover image: Rock of Bral by Silverblade the Enchanter

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