Boroughs

The West End

The West End has been the refuge and playground of the aristocracy since it was first built up between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries as a collection of town homes and upscale shops. Upwind of the smoke drifting from the factories and habitations of the densely crowded East End, it is the natural home for Whitehall, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the British Museum.

At the beginning of the Reclamation, walls were built to further isolate and protect the quarter and its inhabitants. The checkpoints leading in and out of the boroughs of the West End are the most secure in the whole of the metropolis. These gates have been built with the intention of keeping out both the surplus population and the animate hordes. While the rest of the inhabitants of London choke on poison air and live out their lives in constant fear, the aristocracy hides in private estates behind an array of fortifications, entirely secluded from both the horrors of the Plague and the common man. Seldom do the inhabitants of these gilded fortresses venture outside the confines of their own boroughs, preferring to leave their business pursuits in the hands of networks of capable agents and couriers. Instead they remain sequestered in their posh neighbourhoods, which are heavily patrolled by the very best private security and police forces available. The lavish manors of the West End are maintained by armies of servants that pour into the quarter from across the metropolis. A number of gated communities in the West End are accessible only by residents, their servants, and the residents’ invited guests.

The East End

The majority of London’s poor dwell in the vast slums of the East End. Stretching from Bethnal Green and Whitechapel to East Ham, Walthamstow, and the eastern parts of Essex, the very names of the boroughs comprising this quarter of the metropolis have become synonymous with hardship and desperate poverty. Here, nearly four million souls live in cramped misery in the tumbledown labyrinth of the slums.

The East End is home to a large portion of London’s industry. Among the most impressive structures in the East End is the vast Grand Terminus, a massive rail hub and central shipping depot. Though factories were once decentralized throughout London, the East End has become the primary industrial sector since the Reclamation. During the Reclamation, it was convenient for the new manufacturing centres to be built near the transportation hub; additionally, large sections of the East End burned to the ground during the Plague Years and subsequent attempts at animate pacification, providing ample ground on which to build new factories.

Most East End habitations lack the basic necessities taken for granted elsewhere in the city, including basic sanitation. Water supplies are poor; there are few paved streets and no decent food. Densely overcrowded, most slum dwellers must live six to eight in a room. As a result of these dreadful conditions, the destitute spend as much time outside their small, dank dwellings as possible. Congregation at local public houses or vagrancy in the streets is preferable to one’s own lodging.

Though the factories provide much needed jobs to the destitute of the quarter, they render the East End among the most dangerously polluted sections of the metropolis. Long the source of cholera and worse, the putrefaction of the Thames is at its worst level since the height of the Victorian era. Poor sanitation, general ill-health, epidemics, and caustic environmental factors ensure a high rate of mortality. Worse yet, fuelled by centuries of misery and death, the rate of spontaneous animation is far higher in the East End than anywhere else in the metropolis.

With the cheapest rent in the metropolis, the East End, and especially Spitalfields, has been flooded with waves of immigrants too poor to settle elsewhere in the city. Notorious for its few, but much discussed, opium dens, Limehouse is London’s nefarious Chinatown. Racial tensions remain high as newcomers must continually compete with more established inhabitants for jobs and shelter.

Crime has reached epidemic proportions throughout the slums. Living in squalor with little hope of bettering their prospects, many of the poor seek their fortunes as petty criminals or worse. The cramped conditions affect some inhabitants in tragic and terrifying ways, reshaping them into psychotic killers. The pages of the dailies are filled with reports of heinous murders committed in the East End. Though the Metropolitan Police maintain a presence in the quarter, they are terrifically understaffed to handle the sheer volume of crime that flourishes in the area.

The Rookeries
Rising like islands of squalor, rookeries are run-down hives of rampant criminality where no law holds sway. Any network of neglected architecture may become a rookery; the colonization by derelicts and criminal elements is the only necessary step, provided that the locale goes undisturbed by police for long enough to allow a firm presence to be established. Not to be confused with the slums of the East End, rookeries exist alongside the middle-class, suburban landscape of North and South London. Despite the best attempts of Neo-Victorian planners to create a city free of such deplorable habitations, rookeries naturally coalesce over years of neglect.

Rookeries are so dangerous that even the police seldom venture inside their confines, and when they do, it is either anonymously or in great numbers. Labyrinthine collections of alleys, bridges, buildings, and crawl spaces make it virtually impossible to locate, let alone pursue, anyone familiar with a rookery. The police rarely attempt to raid the rookeries, and when they do, all hell breaks loose. The inhabitants are as likely to flee in every direction as to riot and attack the police.

Once found throughout the city, many rookeries were levelled and paved over during construction of new roads during the mid-Victorian era. Those few that remained in the West End were demolished during the Reclamation. The rookeries of today are decaying structures that should have been torn down years ago. The London County Council has debated a return to the systematic destruction of rookeries for years. Only the cost of such an operation has stayed the hand of progress.

The City

The City is the historic Square Mile at the geographic heart of Greater London. The financial centre of the Neo-Victorian Empire, the borough is dominated by the industrialists, their powerful corporations, and the great banks of London. It is said to be a city of clerks, and nearly three hundred thousand flood the gates into the City daily in a race to reach their desks before the clock strikes nine. It is not possible to count these black-coated crowds with accuracy. By day, the streets of the City are a frenzy of activity but are vacant after dark. Only about ten thousand souls actually dwell within the confines of the Square Mile.

The City is proud of its history of self-reliance. During the Plague Years, the largest concentration of survivors living within the metropolis dwelled within the Square Mile, and by the start of the Reclamation, the City had already reinforced its walls and operated autonomously of outside organizations with a population of over six thousand people. Throughout the Reclamation, the City was a major staging ground for military operations into other areas of London. Now, at the request of the City of London Corporation, the Deathwatch maintains only a very small garrison within the Square Mile, just enough to operate the wall defences. In the event of Plague outbreak, the City of London Police are charged with quarantining and protecting the Square Mile.

The City is proud of its history of self-reliance. During the Plague Years, the largest concentration of survivors living within the metropolis dwelled within the Square Mile, and by the start of the Reclamation, the City had already reinforced its walls and operated autonomously of outside organizations with a population of over six thousand people. Throughout the Reclamation, the City was a major staging ground for military operations into other areas of London. Now, at the request of the City of London Corporation, the Deathwatch maintains only a very small garrison within the Square Mile, just enough to operate the wall defences. In the event of Plague outbreak, the City of London Police are charged with quarantining and protecting the Square Mile.

The City of London Corporation, based on a model of gover nance dating back to 1111, is the municipal governing body of the City of London. The Corporation regards itself as “the oldest local authority in England.” Its status as such came about through the City’s role as the centre of finance and trade in England; it was seen as so important to the national interest that it was given considerable autonomy by the monarchy. The Corporation exercises control only over the City and not over Greater London. It includes the Lord Mayor, the Court of Aldermen, and the Court of Common Council. The City is heavily patrolled by its own police force, the City of London Police. The City Police are an institution separate from the Metropolitan Police and answer to the authority of the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London.

North London

North London is a haven for the metropolis’ middle class and includes the suburbs of Hampstead and Highgate, which retain a village atmosphere. North London has more hills than the south, and many of them give excellent views across the city. Large parks include Hampstead Heath and Alexandra Park; Hampstead Heath includes Parliament Hill, notable for its fine views over the city, and the Hampstead bathing ponds, and Alexandra Park is the site of Alexandra Palace. Many areas have significant minority populations: Stamford Hill is home to a large community of Orthodox Jews, and the Green Lanes area of Harringay has large Turkish and Greek communities. Islington is one of the more affluent areas in North London.

South London

Though South London exists within the city’s great fortifications, it has been traditionally thought of as a suburb of London proper. The “Surrey Side,” as South London is known, occupies all areas of the metropolis south of the Thames, including the boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Southwark, Sutton, and Wandsworth. Separated from the rest of the city by the river, South Londoners have long felt removed from the people of the North.

Since the end of the Reclamation, South London has become the playground of the industrialists. Underdeveloped and sparsely populated, the industrial barons were originally drawn to South London by the low cost of property. Here they built great manors and towering citadels south of the poor districts. These are structures that rival the greatest manors of the West End. Architecture is less tightly governed in South London, where the industrialists are allowed to create the world of their dreams.

Beneath their great edifices dwell the destitute of London’s “Surrey Side.” A world removed from the wealth that surrounds it, the multitudes of Surrey live in the largest slums outside the East End.

The Thames

Before London, there was the Thames, the Silent Highway. It was upon this great waterway that the Romans built the first outpost that would grow into the metropolis. The Thames, the divide between northern and southern England, is the major entry from the sea that made London the world’s greatest port.

Traditionally industry was centred in the Lea Valley, but between the construction of the protective walls around the metropolis and an inexpensive work force, more and more industrialists are focusing their efforts on the East End since the Reclamation.
Across the river on the Surrey Side are Rotherhithe, home of the extensive Surrey Commercial Docks, and much of the rest of South London’s dock works. The area is home to dockworkers, sailors, watermen, and others who make their living from the river.

The Fortified Bridges
During the blackest period of the Plague Years, the survivors remaining in London demolished the bridges that spanned the river, cutting off the rest of the city from the tens of thousands of animates making their way into the city from South London. Though the situation in the East End was little better, the decision to destroy the bridges no doubt saved countless lives while dooming thousands more to isolation away from the relative safety of less populated and more easily defended areas of the city. Even with the newly restored bridges, the Thames still represents a natural boundary that may be used to isolate outbreaks of the Plague. Today’s bridges are equipped with easily sealed gates manned by crack Deathwatch personnel.

Subterranean London

The metropolis of London has been occupied for centuries. Over this time, it has acquired a vast number of subterranean landmarks. The Underground not only refers to the complex network of transit tunnels beneath the city’s surface but also to the no man’s land of forgotten tunnels, the cellars of the ancient city, abandoned train tunnels dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, closed stretches of the Tube, lost sewer lines, and over a half-dozen rivers. The subterranean rivers of London are the tributaries of the River Thames and River Lea that were built over during the growth of the metropolis. Since it is difficult to stop water from flowing downhill, the rivers now flow through underground culverts. Many have been converted into sewers.

Huge portions of the Underground were sealed off during the Reclamation and never officially reopened. Other portions of this lightless realm were lost to human memory long before the Plague Years. The uncharted regions of the Underground constitute a vast labyrinth, rife with danger. No one knows the true size of this patchwork of tunnels and chambers. The Underground is virtually impossible to map: like the world above, the Underground is constantly growing and changing as tunnels collapse or are sealed off and later rediscovered.

The denizens of the Underground are a crafty lot, always looking for undiscovered treasures and hidden expanses. Occasionally their excavations result in releasing masses of walled-up animates that rampage from the Underground into the streets of the metropolis. Things still worse than the living dead are to be found in the labyrinths beneath the city; the legends of the poor districts are filled with monsters that come from the darkness. Many Undertakers have made their entire careers hunting the monstrosities that dwell in the tunnels.

Most of the inhabitants of the Underground are content to stake out their territory and remain in groups for protection. This dank network of tunnels is the last refuge for countless criminals, outcasts, and worse. Many who call the tunnels home are permanent residents who have forsaken the light of day. For their own reasons, they prefer the uncertain sanctuary of the rat-infested world below. Rent, after all, is cheap, and the air is no worse than that above.

The depths of the Underground are home to entire tribes of ghouls who fight endless wars for turf and available resources. Men seldom venture into the areas claimed as ghoul warrens. The ghoul tribes’ own laws prohibit them from hunting humans so long as these men remain within their own territories, but trespassers into the territories of a tribe are considered property of the tribe. Few who venture into the ghoul warrens are seen again.

Some renegade tribes prey on men despite the laws, launching infrequent but dangerous raids on human territories within the Underground or, more rarely, the world above. When word of these raids reach the ears of the more law-abiding tribes, the full weight of ghoul law comes down on the offenders in blood-soaked purges followed by months of quiet in the Underground.

Vampires have likewise found the accommodations available in the Underground to their tastes. The natural strength of these creatures enables them to make lairs in places other creatures could never reach. Not only does the enfeebling sun never touch these abysses, but the subterranean human population provides ample feeding, at least for a small number of vampires. When their population grows too dense, the vampires of the Underground turn on each other in brutal battles for supremacy. Their primal nature guarantees that the most fit among their kind are always left with food.

The tunnels are also home to the odd thrope or escaped anathema as well as legions of restless spirits. In addition to these known inhabitants, the dwellers of the Underground speak of other, more terrifying creatures in the tunnels. The ghouls believe in formless horrors that devour all light and of a host of animates led by a single sentient abomination. Though the truth of these tales remains in doubt, it is certain that the Underground is not a place for the faint of heart.

Boroughs

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