Heroes of Darkwater
Law and Order
Law and order in Darkwater is a tenuous thing. Most neighborhoods operate at a level barely above anarchy, with powerful gangs enforcing their own vision of order. Various criminal, religious, and private enterprises provide security for themselves, and occasionally others, usually at a price. Many districts do have other enforcers, but lawlessness is a fact of life for most of Darkwater’s impoverished citizens.
The Watch is a volunteer organization that operates in most neighborhoods. Watch volunteers call one another “Brother” or “Sister”, wear brown and gray striped cloaks (many are handed down for years, showing stains, repairs, and other wear), and are chiefly concerned with spotting outbreak of fire and organizing fire brigades. Each neighborhood has a number of Watch posts, usually a small buildings with little more than a bench and a cloak-peg. Some are more elaborate, including break rooms, rest facilities, and even cells. The Watch do ostensibly enforce the law, but in practice this chiefly means going to get help when they observe trouble. In numbers, the Watch may break up criminal activity, but they rarely make arrests. When the do, the perpetrators are promptly handed over to the Knights Warden.
The Knights Warden is a volunteer city agency that investigates crimes, enforces the law, and carries out justice in Darkwater. The Knights Warden date back to the earliest days of the city, and their proud traditions carry on today, though some have undergone considerable revision. The Knights Warden are typically armored (often in green), wear green cloaks with white accents indicating their rank, and generally work in small groups of 2-6 members, sometimes supplemented with city Watch or private security. Most neighborhoods of middle class or higher have Knights Warden garrisons, generally called a Bellhouse after their leader, Lord Bells, and because they have belfries for sounding alarms. A typical Bellhouse is a small secure building featuring multiple stories, a bell tower, a meeting hall, a basement with cells, rest rooms, stores of supplies to withstand unrest, and often a sending stone. In large, prosperous districts, there will be outposts as well, smaller Bellhouses spread throughout a district to increase coverage.
Anyone held by the Knights Warden will be taken before a local Magistrate eventually to be arraigned. Those who plead guilty receive an immediate sentence, while others will be remanded to the Court of Justice to be held over for trial. The legal system of Darkwater is slow and corrupt, mired in incompetence, bribery, rivalry, and – very rarely – justice. The handful of city Justices hear thousands of cases each year, most lasting a week at most. An accused person has few rights, and most trials result in convictions. Sentences in trial are often much harsher than those in arraignments, but the crimes are usually also more severe. The lightest sentences involve heavy fines, corporal punishment, incarceration, and exile, while more severe ones include disfigurement, amputation, planar banishment, or death. The most serious and unsettling crimes, however, are rarely brought before the Justices. Anyone suspected of the dark magic of anathemancy is not generally pursued by the Knights Warden, but by the Knights Celestial instead.
As the fear of anathemancy rose in the city, the most prominent citizens clamored for extra protection, a special branch of security to root out and punish dark practitioners. The Masters responded by creating the Knights Celestial, special investigators charged with finding anathema and destroying it. The Knights Celestial are often expert warriors, scholars, and devouts, have a formal uniform that is rarely worn (though it is quite striking, including red cloaks with purple accents indicating rank), preferring instead to rely on anonymity and flashing their distinctive badges when needed. Knights Celestial have chapter-houses sited in a few districts, and many more secret ones scattered throughout the city. The organization is quite secretive, reporting to their noble commander and the Lord Speaker, the Masters’ Council, and no one else. Since the sole punishment in any case of anathemancy is summary execution, no one else generally need to troubled save as a report after the fact. However, the Knights Celestial do employ intense internal review to insure they are operating as effectively as possible.
In every corner of Darkwater, the Masters’ Council has unfathomable interests. Most of the time, they are content to let unofficial agents carry out their bidding, but sometimes, when things go especially wrong, they bring in their Special Constables. Known on the streets as the Neddy Men, the Special Constables are the law outside the law, operating on the direct orders of the Masters. Little is known about their organization, such as whether each Master directs his or her own force, or if they draw from one pool of operatives. The Neddy Men wear black, form-fitting, button-up coats with high collars, dark glasses, and high conical hats featuring their badge, a brass disk with a raised, five-pointed star. They come and go unseen, sometimes driving carriages with barred windows and sometimes simply stepping from the shadows. Wherever the Neddy Men go, horror and silence follow in their wake. Nothing is beyond them, and there is no law above them save the Masters themselves.
The Committee for Public Safety
In the nicer parts of town, another governing body also polices the streets, but they are not precisely looking for crime. The Committee for Public Safety (the CPS) is charged with supervising public health, rooting out threats to the public, collecting dead bodies, and trying to control outbreaks of illness. Their offices offer modest bounties for rats, ghouls, and other health threats. The headquarters of the CPS (known as the Headstone) is located in By-Water, with several bridges and docks allowing access to the building. The CPS agents dress in white, with gray or black accents to indicate rank, often including strange, stylized masks to protect them from spirits and infections. The most sinister aspect of the Committee for Public Safety, however, is that there is substantial evidence to suggest that the Master in Black oversees or is at least strongly connected to the CPS.
The Committee for Public Decency
In the nicest parts of the city, another agency investigates moral turpitude, mortal weakness, and depravity. The Committee for Public Decency investigates crimes against nature, crimes against morals, and general lack of decency. Their agents dress in red with white and silver accents to indicate rank, sometimes causing them to be mistaken for the Knights Celestial. The Committee for Public Decency employs many informants in every walk of life. They are tremendously wealthy, with their coffers swelled both with the fines of the convicted and the bribes of the never-tried. There is strong evidence that Master in Red heads the committee, or is at least tied to it somehow.