Her Majesty's Finest [UnMet]
The City and the City
The City and the City
London is eternal. The metropolis is a living, breathing city, constantly growing and reinventing itself under the strains of tradition and pragmatism. With a population of nearly nine million souls within the breadth of its fortifications, the city itself is divided into twenty-eight boroughs which constitute greater London and its outlying suburbs. London, the centre of the Neo-Victorian world, is the greatest city on Earth. In its two-thousand-year history, it has survived countless calamities, including fire, pestilence, and civil unrest.
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 houses 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.
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.
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.
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 of London Corporation, based on a model of governance 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 is a haven for the middle classand 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.
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.
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 workforce, 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.
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.
The denizens of the Underground are a crafty lot, always looking for undiscovered treasures and hidden expenses. 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.
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.
Vampires have likewise found the accommodations available in the Underground to their tastes. 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.
The West End
The Houses of Parliament
The British Museum
The East End
Whitechapel’s In My Bones
City of London Police
City of London Corporation
Court of the Alderman
Court of the Common Council
Hampstead Bathing Pools