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Street Eats of Zobeck: Mercantile Districts

Street Eats of Zobeck: Mercantile Districts

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Bring an Appetite!

While the crossroads city of Zobeck is best known for its clockwork magic, there is a particular magic in the city’s chefs, cooks, and street peddlers.

This dispatch highlights three up-and-coming chefs in Zobeck’s mercantile districts. While these chefs come from different backgrounds, cultures, and nations, they highlight the Clockwork City’s role as the melting pot of the Crossroads.

Merchant District

Tucked away on Zobeck’s north side, the Merchant District is headquarters of the city’s most prestigious guilds. It derives its name from the many merchants who control imports and exports of the Clockwork City, by road and river. Most buildings are recently constructed with restrained, noble facades hiding opulence within.

One popular establishment in the Merchant District is Eloetel. This restaurant caters almost exclusively to wealthy merchants, providing light appetizers and all the wine, liquors, and liqueurs necessary to close the deals.

Eloetel’s chef/owner is Alawys Retzer, a human born in Lower Zobeck who has risen to great heights. She is the executive chef, helping arrange and broker deals between combative merchants. The small army of chefs in her kitchen prepare different antipastos, hor d’oeuvres, and canapés to go with crudité, dips, and crackers, while she focuses on the front of house.

Alawys no longer has her left ring finger, although she recently had a prosthetic attached in the Clockwork District. She claims she lost her finger while distracted with a butcher’s knife. Others murmur the finger was taken by her failure to pay protection to gangsters.

The truth? Her finger withered because of the Cloven Nine’s curse. Her estranged brother was the spy responsible for the death of Akad the Elder. Their vengeful death curse took a finger from every member of his immediate family. The curse lingers, as her clockwork prosthetic malfunctions in the presence of The Cloven Nine.

Adventure Hooks

  • Alawys purchased the only tapestry produced by her neighbors, the Honorable Order of Weavers. The delivery was ambushed on the way to Eloetel, and Alawys will pay well for its swift return before it’s loaded onto a barge for auction abroad.
  • After helping to broker a deal of immense value, Alawys earned a tidy commission. She hires the PCs to strike back at the Cloven Nine’s fixer. She wants the gang’s tenth member in exchange for her tenth digit.

Market District

Zobeckers visit the Market District to buy goods and services. Tiny stalls cramp the thoroughfares, and merchants often live above or behind their stalls in equally-congested housing. Look hard enough and you can find almost any legal thing you desire.

While most Zobeckers leave the Market District for food and drink, one restaurant is squeezed in—Urzula’s, named in honor of Krakova’s queen-in-exile. The proprietor is Tzandro Walkaer, a native of the Mermaid City. This illegitimate son of a landed noble received armor and weapons upon coming of age. Then he headed south in search of adventure in the Crossroads and the Margreve Forest. After twenty years, he parlayed his last haul into enough funds to buy out half a dozen Zobecker merchants. He flattened their stalls and built this small restaurant.

Tzandro is the cashier, chef, and bouncer, grilling skewered meats marinated in vinegar-based sauces. While he has always attracted Krakovan refugees, the reputation of his exquisite food has led to a spike in business. He recently hired a waitress named Rye to staff the restaurant (and allow him an occasional pipeweed break). In addition to helping with the lunchtime rush, she’s a sorcerer of meager skill who uses chill touch to preserve uncooked meat during downtimes.

Adventure Hooks

  • Prominent Krakovan refugees who are Tzandro’s regular customers have been disappearing around the city. Might this be the foul deeds from darakhul lurking in the Cartways?
  • Urzula’s is unexpectedly closed after Rye’s wild magic runs amok, animating the plates, the flagons, the silverware—even his prized greataxe that normally hangs behind the bar. Before reopening, Tzandro needs the PCs to remedy the situation (preferably without having to replace everything in the bar).

Dock District

Perched against the River Derry, the Dock District dominates the east side of Zobeck. While other districts claim to be vital to the Clockwork City’s continued prosperity, it’s no secret that the Dock District is critical to the accumulation of wealth. Despite its importance, homes in this district are constructed poorly and burn easily. Only the warehouses are built with brick.

Unsurprisingly, the Dock District has all manner of eating establishments, including Bengta’s Radiance (a cabaret), the Dancing Bear (a dive bar), and the Blackened Fish (an ale hall). Visitors can add Rosemary & Alder to this list of locations worth visiting.

One won’t find the Rosemary & Alder behind brick and mortar; this restaurant is an open-air affair built (almost literally) on the embers of an old abandoned fishery. Pruleigh Aldersoot, a third generation loxsmith, seized the opportunity to build smoke pits to cure salmon fished from the River Derry. Once the scent of smoked alder and rosemary sprigs enticed the locals, tables and cooking grates followed, even if four walls never did.

Nowadays, Pruleigh prepares a number of fish dishes at Rosemary & Alder. In the morning, patrons can purchase salmon turnovers or pickled herring (said to cure hangovers). At lunch, patrons can buy salted cod on flatbreads. In the evening, the restaurant serves a milky soup called cullen skink—a trollkin delicacy eaten with crusty bread.

The Rosemary & Alder also attracts clientele as diverse as the Dock District. By day, the restaurant serves stevedores, sailors, and other working folk. At night, it serves household servants and gang members. After hours, Pruleigh takes her leftovers to feed the destitute and indigent in Ragman’s Alley. Despite the alley’s dangerous reputation, Pruleigh is given a wide berth by its hungry residents.

Pruleigh also caters occasionally for the power players within the Dock District. Esteemed clients include the Blue Barbers of Wharf Street, as well as the Bargeman’s Fellowship. This is despite Pruleigh’s long-held feud with Johan Greymark (of the Zobeck Greymarks).

Adventure Hooks

  • The Mouse King himself contacted Pruleigh, advising that she would cater the gang’s next planning session at the Sixes and Sevens, the gang’s gambling hall. This was not framed as a request. The chef wants to hire adventurers to ensure she’s protected on this job.
  • Someone came in the night and damaged tables at Rosemary & Alder. Could it be Madame Petra of Bengta’s Radiance? The brothers from Blackened Fish? Or might it be someone looking to remove a squatter from valuable property to build their own establishment?

What is the Free City of Zobeck? What is this clockwork business? Find answers to all your burning questions in Zobeck Clockwork City Collector’s Edition! Ten years of secrets and gears between two fine covers! And discover the wider world of Midgard in the Midgard Worldbook!

About Benjamin Eastman

Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock Lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex

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