The Souk

From: Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel:

Both a ward and an immense bazaar that gives the ward its name, the Souk is synonymous with Punjar. The driving force behind the city’s economy, the Souk is bustling at every hour of the day and night. Sailors unload ships by the light of the moon, hoarse traders hawk their wares at every hour, and taverns are packed day and night. It is challenging not to be drawn into an adventure or plot of some sort, with rogues beckoning from dark alleys, mysterious ladies smiling from behind thin veils, and the roving merchant captains perpetually setting sail before the next bell.

The Souk is an eclectic mix of new and old, with stone block counting houses dating back to Punjar first golden age, and flimsy tent camps hastily raised the night before. Caught between the two extremes are beam and plaster buildings, ranging in two to four
stories or greater in height. Though less dense than the Commons, the Souk’s constant energy can make it feel more claustrophobic than its neighbor to the south.

It is said that every man, woman, and child in the Souk has a scheme to get ahead. The residents of the Souk are enterprising folk with a feverish love for life. Enjoyin the risk as much as the reward, the folk of the Souk are always up for a gamble of some sort.

Going hand in hand with their love of the long odds is the unspoken – but unshakeable – assumption that debts are to be paid. Those that fail to remedy their debts, or make arrangements with moneylenders, quickly find themselves on the wrong end of a dirk. Souk regulars entertain no illusions in regards to cold, hard coin, often cheering on the thugs hired to extract delinquent “blood gold.”

Locals welcome foreigners of every sort, as evidenced by the chaotic array of dress and races filling their streets. The Souk has no tolerance for racism or bigotry of any sort; this is not born out of high-minded morality, but rather the simple dictum of good business. Dragonborn lords, demon-blooded tieflings, and conniving gnomes – all can be found in the Souk drinking, gambling, and bargaining for that last copper piece as if their lives depended on it. In the Souk, gold makes equals of all. Following is a brief list of places that could merit the interest of adventurers:

Black Gate Bazaar

Located at the primary gate servicing the Commons, the marketplace clustered around the Black Gate can rightfully be considered a low bazaar. The traders here are less forthright than their fellows in the Souk Bazaar, their goods are of lower quality, and as a rule, the buyer best beware. The merchants are notable for their dogged persistence, relying on the volume of their voice and sheer determination to sell their wares. Known to only select few, the Black Gate Bazaar operates under the auspices of the Thieves Guild. While very few of the merchants are thieves, there is always a contingent of rogues working the crowd, picking pockets, identifying marks for con artists, and noting wealthy newcomers. The rogues typically work in teams, with an attractive young man or woman
supported by a troupe of beggars. The beggars act as distractions (even failing to pick the mark’s target), obstruct pursuit, and serve as lookouts, permitting the rogue to go about his or her business. Bazaar regulars know better than to listen to the sweet words of an attractive “noble” looking for an escort, passing knowing looks among themselves as brave heroes step up to help the maiden in distress.

The Souk (Bazaar)

Found at the intersection of Guilders’ Lane, Gold Street, and Copper Lane, the bazaar known as the Souk is one of the true wonders of the North. It is commonly averred that if an item can’t be found in the Souk, it likely can’t be bought. Any day of the year, the Souk is a deafening tumult of shouting hawkers, foreign mercenaries seeking gainful employ, rogues offering games of chance, jongleurs and minstrels, vagabonds pleading for coins, and vendors offering small beer and dubious “street meats.” Night in the Souk is somewhat
subdued, as the bazaar dons on a subtly different guise, with streetwalkers and entertainers taking the place of merchants; however, the exchanges are no less commercial in nature.

Competition for the best space is fierce among hawkers, with the oldest and most established traders dominating the square. Hardheaded upstarts expecting to get their way by force and threat are often found floating in the river. While overt violence is frowned upon, experienced traders have no end of contacts and markers to call upon in times of need. Sometimes these competitions erupt into outright street warfare, with merchants
taking sides and fielding thugs and mercenaries to do their dirty work. The Overlord and his Dragonne turn a blind-eye to most of these scuffles, trusting that the most devious merchant will win, and only intervening when conflicts threaten to upset business.

Presently, a portly dwarf by the name of *Hrix Ironblood is the reigning King of the Bazaar. A coin-grubbing copper-pincher, Hrix possesses a fearsome temper and legendary paranoia. Every day, he can be found meeting with sea captains and merchants, negotiating
for the best goods and prices. With connections throughout the Souk, Hrix has the ability to cripple any competition, and the will to see any conflict through to its bitter conclusion.

His chief competitor is Dramas the Hawk, a keen-eyed merchant lord, late of Archbridge. Young and ambitious, the Hawk has his eyes on Hrix’s cabal of traders. Dramas has turned Hrix’s greed to his advantage, selling his own goods for less than their market worth, a practicethe avaricious dwarf refuses to follow. Old traders are hesitant to deal with Dramas, fearing the Hrix’s reprisal, but newcomers are quickly drawn to the merchant’s inexpensive goods and attractive harem of hawkers.

Southwatch Garrison

Standing watch over the Great Black Marsh to the south, and the Souk to the north, the soldiers of Southwatch are notoriously corrupt. Dragonne regularly ride through the Souk, kicking aside those too slow to clear the way, and demanding a “protection tax” from merchants and sea captains alike. Most traders have accepted this extortion as a way of life
and adjust their prices accordingly. Those that attempt to take a stand against the Dragonne are summarily executed, usually with just enough ceremony to provide an example for the rest.

The Southwatch is captained by Lady Raveynos, a deadly warrior by all accounts. Ruling the Southwatch has permitted the Black Lady to indulge her cruel appetite, and every night, screams can be heard echoing from the garrison’s highest tower. Criminals taken by the Southwatch Dragonne seldom live long enough to come to trial, and fear of the Black Lady only serves to reinforce her soldiers’ reign over the ward.

Wharf Town

A collection of shacks and shanties built above the water, Wharf Town is the Souk’s answer to the Smoke, a cruel slum where the people are little better than feral animals. The inhabitants of Wharf Town subsist off the refuse discarded from the Souk Bazaar, flotsam that makes its way downriver, and by doing the jobs that other Punjarans refuse.

As its name would suggest, Wharf Town is an insular community, and visitors are actively discouraged. While Guild thieves make a practice of smuggling goods in town underneath the docks, even they have little interest in disturbing the folk that make their home above the water.


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