Buried deep in the bowels of Manhattan, Goblin Town is one of two major freeholds on the Island. It's claimed territory stretches under sixteen blocks of the eastern midtown area of the city and includes tunnels directly beneath the Ford Foundation Building. The west side of its boundaries touches the Grand Central Terminal, and to the east it reaches the United Nations Building, the East River, and the Queenstown Tunnel. The freehold's center is right beneath the Chrysler building. A combination of Glamour and clever architectural contraptions hides the territory from the outside world. Subway workers, homeless sewer dwellers, and even supernatural entities nearly pass through the center of the freehold all completely unaware of its existence.
The freehold itself is like a Chinese puzzle; a constantly shifting paradox, and a matter of great concern for most Seelie Kithain in the New York area. The inhabitants are mostly nockers and unashamedly Unseelie. While their close proximity to the winter court of King David curbs the worst of their excesses, many changelings whisper rumors of unspeakable crimes committed by the residents. Theories about the inner workings of the freehold are rampant, though few outsiders have seen anything but the marketplace. For all its dark reputation, though, Goblin Town has carved itself a unique niche in changeling society. The resident artisans are extraordinary, even by nocker standards, and their inventions are in high demand throughout Concordia. Even fae who look down on their "nocker villainy" will pay whatever it takes to obtain their goods. Their goods are commissioned by the elite of kithain society, even within King David's palace. This makes them almost respectable despite their reputation. It also makes them one of the wealthiest freeholds in Concordia.
Opulent by even the most jaded standards, the decor is a combination of Baroque and Victorian excess: polished wood and brass, muted amber lighting from ingenious oil lamps, glittering gold, mirrors, and great works of art, both human and Kithain. Even the secret passages, of which their are hundreds, are luxurious with dark mahogany paneling and minor art treasures. The floors are mostly fine wood parquet adorned with oriental rugs. A wide array of stained glass is backlit by oil lamps. Clever nocker inventions decorate the freehold and hundred of artificial creatures wander the halls; clockwork masterpieces animated by Glamour. They come in every breed and variety: brass storks, jade alligators, silver dragonflies, gold leopards with onyx spots, etc..., and outnumber the changeling inhabitants 10 to 1. Most have a rudimentary intelligence and they are a formidable force if needed for defense. It's all so dazzling that most visitors fail to see the fiendish (and occasionally sadistic) intelligence that underlies each detail. The architecture is a mechanical marvel and, in a sense, is itself alive.
The inhabitants thrive on paradox, riddles, and outright deception. Nothing in the freehold is as it first seems. (Actually some things are but that's just to keep 'em guessing.) It is an M.C. Escher drawing come to life. Stairs that seem to go up are built at such an angle that they actually go down. Doors open onto brick walls or sheer hundred foot drops. Hallways, stairs, rooms, even entire floors are built on a hidden (an completely silent) system of rollers, tracks, pulleys, and switching stations and the hall that went to the library yesterday goes to the kitchen today and a subway tunnel tomorrow. Some parts even have thick plat-glass windows and floors that allow you to see the machinery behind the scenes. It's all powered, in part, by the tidal energy of the East River. As the rooms shift, the stained glass windows reflect a kaleidoscopic wash of colors across the walls. Some of these form arcane patterns that may give insight into the workings of the freehold. The entire complex changes its outside configuration completely, cycling from a roughly crab-shaped design to a series of interconnected rings and back over the course of a year, beginning and ending at Beltaine. And all this happens unnoticed and unconstrained by New York's own densely packed construction. Most of the cycle was pre-ordained by its Master Builder. It does, however, have a random element to it. Wether the founder, Doctor Tapp, planned it or it's caused by the chimerical nature of the grotto is unknown. Some nockers think it may be caused by a more sinister agent and point out that the random factor only came into being lately. Because of it, though, even longtime residents occasionally get lost. Of course, this shifting nature has proved to be a great defense as well, as the locations of its entrances also change.
Few of the inhabitants know all the freehold's complexities. The secret passages move as well. It's every nocker childling's dream to find an undiscovered secret passage; rumors of hidden treasures in such locations are common. The freehold's growth has paralleled the city's over the years. Each new element is painstakingly built in according to the master plans left by Doctor Tapp, which have been carefully preserved by the freehold's successive Master Builders as the work to integrate that growth with the city's construction. The freehold has purchased much of the surrounding property to allow this.
Much of the heavier construction in the freehold is done by humans. The nockers conduct occasionally raids to the surface to abduct hapless citizens who are enchanted and set to work in the black caverns beneath the city. Usually the abductees are homeless vagrants (who won't be missed) but occasionally they need a skilled artisan. Such people beautify the interior and provide Glamour, especially as the inhabitants have no qualms about Ravaging, but these sort are more readily missed and the nockers have gained some potent enemies as a result.
On top of all this, the freehold's bizarre construction has begun to foster a degree of paranoia and schizophrenia in its inhabitants. In this vertiginous world, few things are constant and few of the dwellers have their feet firmly on the ground. Political alliances are mercurial and social conventions change at lightening speed. Despite this, the freehold's leader, Baroness Cadmium Redd, has managed to stay on top for over 25 years. The freehold's mood has grown increasingly frenetic recently and it is doubtful her reign will last much longer.
History EditGoblin Town is one of the oldest Kithain freeholds in Concordia. In 1664, Doctory Zachary Tapp, the mad nocker architect, mathematician, and mystic, fled London (for what he later called "health reasons"). His quick departure coincided with the English seizure of New Amsterdam (now New York) from the Dutch. The earliest population in Manhattan consisted mostly of Pooka and the wily Dr. Tapp quickly gained deed to the Pooka's property for little more than the 24 dollars originally paid to the indigenous peoples for the island, thus reinforcing the nocker stereotype of the Naars being gullible. What the pooka didn't share was that they had only just stolen the land from the Nunnehi who were waging an active campaign to reclaim it. They were thus almost indecently eager to be rid of it and the nockers were more than willing to comply, reinforcing the Pooka stereotype of the nockers being gullible. The nockers spent the next 20 years in combat with the nunnehi.
Tapp quickly learned the reason for the Nunnehi's fanatical desire to regain the area. Deep beneath the island was a natural Grotto of great potency: The Black Crystal Caverns which was a far more potent source of Glamour than he had hoped to find. Word spread quickly through the nocker community and Tapp saw an ideal situation to realize his life-long dream of creating a living, moving piece of architectural sculpture. Every aspect of the freehold's earliest subterranean structure was designed to coincide with the growing city and the integration is almost seamless. While Tapp disappeared in 1750, his plans still exist and kithain scholars divine a mystical significance to them, though they cannot comprehend what it is. Construction continues and the excitement is high because the Master Builder is predicting completion in five years.
The nockers have been good, and lucky, at keeping themselves here by not appearing too expansionist to the other sewer dwellers. Their policy is entrenchment and defensively, they are in a better position than most of the sewer dwellers and have managed to avoid involving themselves in other supernatural affairs. It was only during the Accordance War that the freehold was thrust briefly into the limelight. Interestingly enough, the freehold had strong Royalist sympathies and allied with Lord Dafyll ap Gwydion and still somehow managed to be in good standing when High King David came to power. No one is quite sure how they managed this. Rumors abound that the nockers betrayed Dafyll and that one of their own, a member of the sidhe lord's coterie, was the one who betrayed and murdered him. Nothing is proven, though, and the freehold has thrived under David's benevolent eye. Shortly after the War, the current leader, Cadmium Redd, came to power.
Recently the freehold has been experiencing increased chimerical activity and the appearance of monsters has disrupted its operations. This obviously causes some anxiety among the residents. They are currently investigating the cause, though they have discovered nothing.
Tricks, Traps, Treachery Edit
Goblin Town is not an easy place to navigate, even for long-time inhabitants. Its shifting nature plus the nocker love of traps, puzzles, and conundrums has helped and hurt security. Dr. Tapp's design leaves room for a good deal of individual expression and any nocker worth their hammer takes some of that room. Of course, several centuries of individuals putting their own "personal touches" has led to confusion. No one in the freehold, except Isaac Glass, is familiar with all the idiosyncrasies. While most residents can get where they need to go, the random element is always a potential problem and at least once in its history, a defending troop had to stop and decipher a mind-bending puzzle before proceeding on their way. Some of these "embellishments" are set to go off at a given time or on certain occasions and may not trigger until decades or even centuries after their creator's death.
Most of the traps in the freehold require a person to solve some sort of intellectual puzzle (often a riddle) in order not to trigger them. The puzzles may be asked by a chimerical creature or written on an engraved panel that pops out of a wall when the trap is activated. Any attempt to evade the trap without answering the puzzle will trigger it. The difficulties range from childish to Byzantine. Every riddle must have an answer and every addition must be approved by the Master Builder. Awards are given for particularly devious ones but there is little in the way of public adulation.
There is a wilder clique that has made a full-time occupation of deciphering everyone's tricks. Generally 90% of all new riddles are known by everyone in the freehold within a week of their creation. The types of conundrums are many and varied. They may be word or logic puzzles, musical phrases, or any other number of systems but none are based on highly specialized knowledges. Most puzzles don't even involve traps but hide surprises to challenge and delight. Inventions, toys, and dross are hidden in secret places waiting to be discovered.
Most of the lethal traps that are likely to go off under normal circumstances are common knowledge to everyone in the freehold. There are a few, however, that are not generally known and nasty ones at that. They tend to be in higher security areas, like Cadmium Redd's chambers, Dr. Coma's library, the Master Builder's Sanctuary, etc... Only certain kithain are allowed in these areas and snooping is frowned upon. The puzzles in these rooms do tend to need specialized knowledge and are almost impenetrable to outsiders. Penalties for failure are swift and horrible: whirling cold iron blades, monstrous chimera, and showers of molten iron are but a small sampling. One unique trap is the antechamber to the Master Builder's quarters. Unwelcome guests are subjected to rapid fire riddles posed by a sinister jester. One wrong answer and the entire steel shuttered room, and everyone in it, is shunted at lightning speed by the world's largest catapult out of the complex and into the East River. The jester goes along for the ride, mocking the victims as they plunge toward their doom. The trajectory is calculated to be hidden from casual observers. Of course their are rumors of traps designed by Dr. Tapp that have yet to be discovered.
The Curses Edit
When Lord Dafyll died, he hurled a particularly potent curse at Goblin Town. That alone would be a serious threat to its existence but it's only one of the flaws underlying the grotto. The nature of the freehold itself is primary as the Glamour produced is unusually chaotic in nature. Because of this the inhabitants of Goblin Town are more likely to fall to Bedlam than face Banality. It also makes the area a nexus for chimerical activity. Though most of these beasts have only been a nuisance, some have been horrific and resulted in fatalities. They tend to be of a particularly devious strain and tend to obfuscate the Goblin's sense of reality but most of the residents feel it is a small price to pay for such a potent source of Glamour. Some even find the chimerical incursions useful for creative reasons.
There's more, though. When Dr. Tapp designed the freehold, he used certain arcane principles with the hope that over time the freehold's structure would act as a magnifying lens to allow for more efficient use of the grotto's Glamour. Although his plan was brilliant, he badly miscalculated (darn that nocker frailty) and instead of focusing, it's fracturing and making everything even more chaotic.
The opposite effect has been set in motion by Cadmium Redd. Like some other Unseelie, she has been experimenting with harnessing Banality. Though she has found some small benefits, her work is antithetical to the nature of the freehold and will cause it to either be destroyed or rebel completely. If the other fae find out, they will definitely rebel.
All this combined with Dafyll's curse is rapidly reaching a head and the residents, sensing things, are becoming more and more unhinged. There are even several small doomsday sects springing up. The most militant of these groups is the Children of the Sword. They are vicious, even by Unseelie standards. (see more about this group under Children of the Sword)
How much King David knows about all of this, or about Dafyll's curse, is merely a matter of speculation as he has done nothing to intercede at this point. Though the freehold may seem doomed, the Goblins are actively seeking out the source of their problems and may yet beat the odds.
Fulton Market Edit
The Goblins don't conduct business with other kithain within the freehold. Rather, they have purchased a number of stalls at the Fulton Fish Market in south Manhattan. Sots shopping here only see fishers selling their wares. Fae, though, will notice nockers and other changelings in the crowd. The nockers sell both fish to the mundanes and extraordinary weapons, tools, and luxury goods to the kithain. Kithain from other freeholds up and down the east coast also come to buy and sell, giving the market the lively feel of a full faerie bazaar. The place is known as the Goblin Market far and wide. Occasionally a mortal will accidentally get a hold of some nocker craft, which invariably brings them bad luck. Market hours are midnight to about eight in the morning.
Recently, part of the market burned to the ground in an unexplained fire. The police suspect organized crime but the Goblins of Goblin Town have their own suspicions.
Black Crystal Caverns Edit
At the Freehold's core, deep below the city's surface, are the Black Crystal Caverns. The walls of the grotto are glistening black and rose quartz which give off an eerie and pulsating luminescence. The glow only appears to those with faerie sight (the fae and enchanted). It is perpetually shrouded in a freezing, white mist white source is unknown. The caves are the wellspring of the freehold's Glamour. Though the residents occasionally come here to replenish their personal stores, it is an unsettling and often dangerous experience. The way is a long and arduous descent through steep and narrow tunnels leading over 500 feet down. Interestingly, the air seems fresh, if thin, as though on a mountain top. Those who draw Glamour invariably suffer hallucinations of the most horrifying sort. At first it might just be the pulsing lights echoing through the fog. Next the sibilant whispers start with other fearful noises. Piece by piece the cavern transforms itself into a madcap arena of the changeling's own dreams and memories.
The true horror of all this is the subtlety of it. The kithain becomes absorbed in the minute to minute experience of the nightmares woven around them. The illusions do more than merely pose physical threats; monstrous chimera are part of the milieu and there is a strong psychological component to the visions as the faerie must confront their own flaws and hidden fears. Plus the visions are different each time.
If the fae successfully grapples with these visions (Willpower difficulty 7, 2 successes needed) they completely restore their Glamour. If they fail they will immediately enter Second Threshold Bedlam and the effects last up to a month. A Botch causes not only Bedlam but the loss of a permanent dot in all Abilities involving modern tech (Drive, Firearms, Computer, Science, etc...). Some have ventured in and disappeared, never to return.
The Ghastly Edit
For more on this malicious presence in the freehold, see The Ghastly.
New York Politics Edit
Allies and Enemies Edit
Goblin Town has been careful not to fight with the many groups battling for ascendency in New York. Among the Gallain, the vampires calling themselves the Sabbat are easily the most powerful presence in the city but are constantly in contest with other vampire groups. The werewolves are also contenders but are mostly unaware of the freehold (with a few notable exceptions) and the nockers have tried to keep it that way. For the Kithain, New York is a major crossroads. Tara-Nar is just north of the city in the Catskill Mountains and the Winter Palace of High King David is within the city itself. Both of these courts are destinations of note for the fae of Concordia. Being close to these courts has made Goblin Town as prosperous as it is, as well as strategically important and other unsavory kithain groups have scouted it for use.
To say nockers are a disagreeable sort is as nice as you can get and with the rumors of their atrocities in the city, they have few friends. Their only stable allies come from an unexpected source. They have worked hard on building relationships with the Sons of Ether, a sect of wizards in the city. They two groups have common underlying assumptions when it comes to their magic/craft/pseudoscience. Goblin Town is an Ether mage's idea of heaven and the commonality of interest has led the Etherites to generally overlook the nockers' reputation. In return, the nockers have been uncharacteristically honest in their dealing with the mages, even to the point of a tentative alliance.
Despite its low profile, Goblin Town has a number of... acquaintances... who regard it with anything from guarded mistrust to out-right hostility. The Nunnehi continue to cast a baleful eye on the freehold, even after all these centuries. The Beltaine Blade also have not forgotten the alleged part the freehold played in the death of Dafyll. On the other side, one of the important members of the freehold, Doctor Coma, is a member of the Ranters. Their most consistent and active enemies, though, are humans and Garou. Their practice of abducting the homeless into slavery has caused hate in both groups, even if these groups don't know where to place that anger. A collection of tireless homeless hunts the freehold led by a brother and sister team of Dauntain and have come close on several occasions.
The far greater threat is the Bone Gnawer pack known as the Circus Lupus. The pack is made of young garou who see it as their duty to protect the homeless. They know about the freehold, if not its location, and are bitterly opposed to it. Any resident of the freehold who runs into these werewolves is not likely to survive the encounter, especially as many of them smell faintly of the Wyrm. (See above and The Ghastly)
Interestingly enough, the freehold has also gained the secret enmity of a Ventrue vampire elder. Apparently when Dr. Tapp was in London, he had a great reputation as an architect and was commissioned by a Ventrue lord of the city. Unaware of his patron's vampiric nature, he thought it would be a good idea to surprise his patron with his moving architecture and planned the mansion's ballroom with a secondary ceiling of stained glass and iron scaffolding that would be revealed at the high noon of each equinox. What was supposed to be a delight took a distressing turn when the lord and a visiting delegation of French Toreador received an impromptu sunburn. Barely escaping an assassination attempt, Tapp fled London never to return. Recently the Ventrue's sister, Lady Chandler, also a powerful Ventrue, discovered through her contacts in the Beltaine Blade the reason for her brother's demise. She doesn't know it was an accident and probably wouldn't care. She holds Tapp's adopted children, the denizens of Goblin Town, responsible. Her exact plans for revenge are unknown.
Future Events Edit
The freehold may come perilously close to destruction in future months. Cadmium Redd will destroy many old defenses in her forbidden experiments with Banality and will release hordes of nightmarish chimera into Goblin Town and the surrounding Dreaming. Even worse, the the freehold will be made to turn in on itself, tearing itself apart. The Goblins, learning of what the Baroness did will revolt and overcome her Redcap guards but she herself will escape. Teetering on the brink of ruin, the freehold will become a true house of horrors as nightmare chimera attack and even turn the local golems against their creators. It will all look very similar to what happened at the Black Jewel freehold in Wales before it disappeared.
Isaac Glass will become the new leader of the freehold and he and the others will desperately try to reverse the damage while battling the chimera. They will fear something has awakened in the depths and will seek outside help for the first time in the freehold's history.