At the perfumed arcade known as the Emporium, Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff rubs shoulders with common laborers awaiting an appointment in the Veiled Corridor. In an adjoining antechamber, snakes and exotic dancers gyre to a sonorous weave of cymbals and seductive pipes. A floor below, a gaggle of grasping miners presses against the windowed door of a darkened cell, impatient for a glimpse of a two-headed calf.
Out in the street, a gang of rough miners screams obscenities at a crumpled halfling, kicking it as if scrambling for a ball. Their drunken laughter echoes off shuttered windows and bolted doors.
In a tower-flanked fortress across the shadowy square, filthy men with nothing to lose shout hymns to the Silver Flame, clutching to their idealism and principles like cornered animals. Their wild-eyed chief minister smiles as he draws a cat-o-nine-tails across his bare back, awash in their adulation and the spirit of his god.
But it’s just another night in Diamond Lake.
The Age of Worms Adventure Path opens in the small mining town of Diamond Lake, where desperate folk toil in lightless depths for a pittance while corrupt mine managers live in relative largesse, ruthlessly scheming to undermine one another and protect their piece of the action. Most residents of Diamond Lake can be categorized into two groups: those with nowhere else to turn and those who have come to exploit them.
A garrison of sixty militia soldiers stands ready to defend the mines from bandits and rogue humanoids in the local forests. Rival cults share the same flock of potential converts only because the timing is not yet for outright warfare. They muster their forces for the coming battle. Things are not safe in Diamond Lake, and a right-thinking person would have every reason to want to get out of town as soon as possible.
DIAMOND LAKE IN BRIEF
Diamond Lake nestles in the rocky crags of the hills flanking the Dagger River, four days by ship north of the City of Towers, Sharn. Iron and silver from Diamond Lake’s miners fuel the great city’s markets and support its soldiers and nobles with the raw materials necessary for weapons and finery. This trade draws hundreds of skilled and unskilled laborers and artisans, all hoping to strike it rich. In ages past, Diamond Lake boasted an export more valuable than metal in the form of treasure liberated from the numerous tombs and burial cairns crowding the hills around the town. These remnants of a half-dozen long-dead cultures commanded scandalous prices from Sharn’s elite, whose insatiable covetousness triggered a boom in the local economy. Those days are long gone, though. The last cairn in the region coughed up its treasure decades ago, and few locals pay much mind to stories of yet-undiscovered tombs and unplundered burial cairns. These days, only a handful of treasure seekers visit the town, and few return to the City of Towers with anything more valuable than a wall rubbing or an ancient tool fragment.
In the hills surrounding the town, hundreds of laborers spend weeks at a time underground, breathing recycled air pumped in via systems worth ten times their combined annual salary. The miners are the chattel of Diamond Lake, its seething, tainted blood. But they are also Diamond Lake’s foundation, their weekly pay cycling back int eh community via a gaggle of gambling dens, bordellos, ale halls, and temples. Because work in the mines is so demanding and dangerous, most folk come to Diamond Lake because they have nowhere else to turn, seeking an honest trade of hard labor for subsistence-level pay simply because the system has allowed them no other option. Many are foreigners displaced from native lands by the Last War or the famine that followed it for many years. Work in a Diamond Lake mine is the last honest step before utter destitution or crimes of desperation. For some it is the first step in the opposite direction: a careful work assignment to ease the burden of debtor-filled prisons, one last chance to make it in civil society.
Despite its squalor, Diamond Lake is crucial to the City of Towers’ economy. The city’s directors thus take a keen interest in local affairs, noting the rise and fall of the managers, who run Diamond Lake’s mines in trust for the Brelish government. The city’s chief man in the region is Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff, a lecherous philanderer eager to solidify his power and keep the mine managers in line. Neff exerts his capricious will via the agency of the grandiloquent Sheriff Cubbin, a man so renowned for corruption that many citizens assumed the announcement of his commission was a joke until he started arresting people.
The alliance between the governor-mayor and his pocket police might not be enough to cow Diamond Lake’s powerful mine managers, but Lanod Neff holds a subtle advantage thanks to the presence of his distinguished brother, the scrupulous Allustan, a wizard from the Free City who retired to Diamond Lake five years ago. None dare move against Neff so long as Allustan is around.
Instead of scheming against the government, Diamond Lakes six mine managers plot endlessly against one another, desperate to claim a weakened enemy’s assets while at the same time protecting their own. While they are not nobles, the mine managers exist in a strata above normal society. They consider themselves far above their employees, many of whom are indentured or effectively enslaved as part of a criminal sentence. The miners’ loyalty tends to map directly to the working conditions, pay, and respect offered to the miners by their wealthy masters.
Diamond Lake crouches in the lowland between three hills and the lake itself, a splotch of mud, smoke, and blood smeared across uneven terrain marked by countless irregular mounds and massive rocks. The oldest buildings pack the lakeshore, where fishing vessels once docked and stored their impressive catches. That commerce has abandoned the town entirely, for the shining waters that once gave Diamond Lake its name are now so polluted as to make fishing impossible. Many old warehouses have been converted into cheap housing for miners and laborers, and no one is safe outdoors after dark. As one walks north along the streets of Diamond Lake, the buildings become sturdier and the spirits of their inhabitants likewise improve. A great earthen road called the Vein bisects the town. With few exceptions, those living north of the Vein enjoy a much better life than the wretches living below it.
All of the town's social classes congregate in the Vein's central square. Roughly every two weeks, someone in the town upsets someone else so greatly that the only recourse is a duel to the death at the center of a ring of cheering miners. The bookmakers of the Emporium and the Feral Dog do brisk business on such occasions, which tend to draw huge crowds. On less violent nights, the square is still home to a thousand pleasures and poisons; if Diamond Lake is a creature, the Vein's central square is its excitable, irregular heart.
MAJOR POINTS ON INTEREST IN DIAMOND LAKE
Every week, hundreds of miners boil up from the depths, their pockets lined with freshly earned coin. The Emporium exists to separate the men from the money, and at this it is paramount among Diamond Lake's diverse businesses. Ten years ago it was simply Zalamandra's, one of a dozen vice dens along the Vein. Its ill fortunes changed the day its charismatic young madam seduced Professor Montague Marat, proprietor of a traveling sideshow and curiosity collection passing through Diamond Lake. The two joined forces and a cavalcade of freaks and eccentrics moved into the building’s lower floor. Thus was born Zalamandra’s Emporium, and Diamond Lake has never been the same.
The house charges three coppeprs for access to the “Gallery of Science” along the first floor’s central corridor, and three silver for access to the lushly decorated upper floor, which features a large gaming hall, an exclusive entertainment club, and the infamous Veiled Corridor, where any pleasure may be obtained for the right price.
Those seeking a relatively cultured nightspot often congregate at Lazare’s House, a cozy gaming parlor situated on the Vein’s central square. In contrast to the ostentatious banners and garish chipped paint on the Emporium across the street, Lazare’s exudes a quiet sense of class with a stylish stone and timber construction and distinctive crooked-peaked roof.
THE FERAL DOG
Since both Lazare’s and the Emporium charge a small fee for entry, Diamond Lake’s poorest laborers must turn to a collection of run-down ale halls with more sullied reputations. The busiest by far is the Feral Dog, a sleazy tavern on the Vein’s central square. Every night and especially when the workforces of several local mines let out at the same time, cheering laborers within the bar scream obscenities and wave betting vouchers over two dogs in a lethal pit fight. No one savors the tinny ale, but the place is more about camaraderie, bravado, and desperation than about expecting exemplary quality and service.
Arguments commonly erupt at the Feral Dog, especially during the dog-fights, when betting often grows contentious and even violent. About once a month, a drunk miner falls or is pushed into the thrashing dogpit, with predictably tragic results. During the worst brawls, someone usually gets knifed. A festering garbage pit in the sharp crags behind the building is said to hold the corpses of as many humans as dogs.
CHURCH OF THE SILVER FLAME
Each of the establishments along the Vein’s central square trade in the exploitation of human vice or false hope, and the tower-flanked Church of the Silver Flame is certainly no exception. Within this austere stucco structure, the poorest of Diamond Lake’s poor huddle in a torch-lit sanctuary listening to the fiery sermons of Jierian Wierus, a bombastic orator whose populist rants applea to the best virtues and values of the common man while at the same time preying upon their fears and superstitions. Wierus endlessly preaches a creed of common sense, honesty, and self-sacrifice, encouraging his faithful to give penance to the Silver Flame by whipping themselves in repetitive acts of self-mortification. Many claim that the flagellants seem to follow Wierus as much as they do the Silver Flame, and it is only because the charismatic firebrand somehow keeps his followers from breaking the law that his sect has been allowed to thrive.
Wierus performs three sermons a week; each fills to capacity at least an hour before the high priest arrives and is a rambunctious affair. Not all devotees whip themselves into religious fervor, but enough do that those who abstain mark themselves as outsiders.
Tidwoad d'Kundarak is a cantankerous jeweler and banker with a meticulously arranged shop located in the Vein’s central square. Tidwoad’s is a close to a bank as one can find in Diamond Lake, and the dwarf keeps several small vaults in the shop. A member of House Kundarak, he maintains an illusory collection of his finest gems in a showroom display case, boasting that his establishment is completely theft proof. A shield guardian named Festus helps to keep the dwarf's theft-free streak alive with powerful stone fists and a constant focus on protecting the shop. Tidwoad's also holds a House Sivis speaking stone, allowing residents to send and receive messages for a fee. A number of Sivis gnomes reside in the shop, operate the stone and help the dwarf with his bookkeeping. The senior Sivis representative is Lylana Lyrriman d'Sivis, a garralous woman who will keep customers talking for as long as possible.
When a barroom brawl gets out of hand or when visitors threaten to upset the balance of power in Diamond Lake, Governor-Mayr Lanod Neff relies upon the discretion and agency of his private police force, assembled from a collection of corrupt watchmen gathered during Neffs’s youth as a watch captain in Sharn. Nearly all of them were drummed out of service in the capital due to some indiscretion, but each maintained a hold over municipal authorities (often in the form of potential blackmail fodder) strong enough to ensure that they were not bounced from the service entirely, but instead reassigned to Diamond Lake. Led by a boisterous alcoholic named Sheriff Cubbin, the six thugs who comprise the constabulary see to the general safety of the town and ensure that Neff’s schemes go off without a hitch. They take a keen interest in unusual visitors and in the dealings of the town’s mine mangers, Balabar Smenk and Gelch Tilgast in particular. The police don’t care one bit about crimes committed against the mine mangers’ agents, but decorum insists that they persecute overt crimes committed against the mangers themselves to the full extent of the law.
The Sheriff’s Office off the Vein’s central square contains living quarters for all six constables and a twelve-cell jail filled with a motley assembly of drunks and maniacs.
JORASCO HOUSE OF HEALING
The largest dragonmarked outpost in Diamond Lake is the Jorasco House of Healing, maintained by Taskar d’Jorasco. Taskar has a number of adepts and mundane healers in his employ, and he caters to travelers, injured miners, and adventurers who take unwise risks in the ruins. Healing spells and potions should be obtained at the refuge, as temple priests rarely sell their services.
Running a successful business in Diamond Lake means avoiding entanglements with the constantly maneuvering mine managers and scrupulously avoiding favoritism (real or perceived). No merchant better understands this reality than Taggin, the amiable master of the town's largest general store. Tables line the walls within, stacked high with rope coils, lanterns, bottles, gloves, and gear. Wagon wheels rest against barrels filled with nails or candles. The inventory includes most common adventuring gear, and Taggin cheerfully offers to special order anything he does not have in stock from Sharn, a process that 'usually takes about a week.' Taggin is just shy of middle age, but dresses somewhat stylishly for his class. He has a handlebar mustache and full, receding blond hair. He treats women of any race with exceptional politeness.
THE HUNGRY GAR
Guld Tortikan, head chef at the Hungry Gar, claims to serve the finest meal on the Vein. He is mistaken.
When the lake turned foul, Diamond Lake's modest fishing industry fled the town, leaving a wake of empty warehouses and bankrupted fishers. Some of these warehouses became stockades for mine managers, packed with raw ore and letters of credit from the City of Towers and beyond. Others fell to ruin and became infested with squatters and addicts. Jalek's Flophouse, situated on Front Street within smelling distance of the lake, is the town's most famous warehouse, as it houses nearly a dozen pitiful indigents fighting off destitution with a handful of copper. A rotting wooden framework within supports a lurching, mazelike second floor, where every step brings an alarming creak and the walls thrum with muffled conversation. Lodging is 5 coppers a night, paid to a massive, helmeted half-orc mute named Golot. The brute pummels those who do not pay until they flee or die. No one has an address at Jalek's - the room you have is the one can keep. Most rooms lack doors, let alone locks, but the shifting inhabitants and the chaotic layout of the upper floor makes it one of the best places to disappear in all of Diamond Lake. The halfling landlord Jalek lives in a rooftop apartment and is seldom seen. The Silver Flamian flagellant Jieran Wierus frequently visits the flophouse, where he recruits a growing tide of converts.
A corpulent elemental of corruption and bad taste, Balabar Smenk lords his political clout over everyone in Diamond Lake save the governor-mayor and garrison commander, whom he privately mocks. Smenk has wrestled four mines into his possession in the last ten years, and has designs upon the rest. A coven of sycophants and hired goons surrounds him at all times. Rumors suggest that he has powerfully connected friends in the nearby city of Sharn.
Smenk lives in a sodden old mansion a century past its prime. Three thugs patrol the streets around his home, warning anyone they see to go away with a sneer and the brandishing of a lead pipe. Despite these precautions, Smenk's front door is always wide open, fulfilling an old public promise that he would always be available to his miners.
Balabar Smenk uses this abandoned mine only for storage (and, rumor has it, occasionally to disappear the body of a slain enemy). It is protected by a padlock on an iron door.
Centuries ago, long before the human foundation of the City of Towers, a petty lord commanded the shores of the lake and the nearby iron ore and silver mines from a sturdy hilltop keep. Today, the refurbished ruin of that keep serves as home to more than 60 members of the City Militia, soldiers tasked with patrolling the northern hills, keeping watch over the lizardfolk-infested Mistmarsh to the south, and liaising with halfling, gnome, and dwarf communities in the region.
A third of the soldiers are always out on patrol, a wide circuit of nearby roadways and wildlands that takes them away from Diamond Lake for a week at a time. Remaining soldiers drill, maintain the garrison, hunt, and familiarize themselves with local terrain.
The bored soldiers present rich mining ground for a cadre of adepts, clerics and paladins of Dol Arrah, who provide spiritual and magical aid to the warriors from a stately chapel within the garrison fortress.
Captain Tolliver Trask, the garrison's aging commander, distinguished himself in the Last War and has the respect of his charges and of the community at large. He cares little about the day-to-day politics of Diamond Lake, and encourages his men to stay out of local business. He sees his job as critical to the defense of Sharn. Diamond Lake is just something that happens to be near his important work.
He supports Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff out of respect for the political process that put him in power, if not for the man himself. He trusts three advisors more closely than any of his other associates. The Dol Arrahn chief cleric Valkus Dun acts as Trask's spiritual advisor and foil. Trask's best friend is Dietrik Cicaeda, the middle-aged Chief Cartographer of Diamond Lake. Cicaeda is the region's sole legal authority regarding issues of land ownership, making his journals and maps among the town's most valuable treasures. He and his work thus enjoy the official protection of the garrison's walls and soldiery, and remain safely locked away from the town's manipulative mine managers. Chief Scout Merris Sandovar, lately of the Bronzewood Lodge druidic community three hours northeast of Diamond Lake, rounds out Captain Trask's inner circle.
The complete garrison force consists of 60 soldiers. Militia members typically wear leather or chainmail armor and carry a longsword or shortbow. This force is divided into thirds, with each squad led by a lieutenant. These individuals have the ear of Captain Trask and the admiration of their charges.