VVelvet Noir Factions
By: Shaheen Rogers
The City was once one of the major hubs on the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War. A woman who went by the name of Mother Beech created and ran an operation connected to the railroad that smuggled those fleeing the south. Before the Civil War, of course, there were various places in the northern cities where safe houses were set up for slaves fleeing farther north away from the authorities that would turn them over to slave catchers.
While few passages into the city were underground, there were a few literal networks of abandoned mining tunnels Mother Beech used to pass people into the outskirts of the city. From there they were quietly snuck into various large basements and dwellings beneath the homes and businesses owned by abolitionists and other trusted allies in the City. Almost half a century later, the son of Mother Beech, Jeremiah Struck, runs an underground club beneath a cabinetry shop called the Silver Maple. The club, also called the Silver Maple, is now a haven for the forgotten, the downtrodden and recently, due to its exclusive and secretive nature, those who seek something exotic and exciting in the City’s nightlife. The kind of place where you have to know someone to find it, but word has been getting out recently and that puts most of the regulars in danger.
This Club beneath the Silver Maple began as a much simpler dwelling, a hub for Mother Beech’s Underground railroad. Now it’s the hub of something else.
Jeremiah, through desperation, grit and charisma, has reached out and begun to form alliances with other disenfranchised business owners in the City. Most of them own various bars, nightclubs and bordellos. This loose alliance is banding together in order to protect themselves against those from above and below the law: from those who would extort, abuse, and disempower them just for the color of their skin. They use information, guile and their key advantage of the warren of tunnels, safe-houses and clubs beneath the city to smuggle alcohol, weapons and people in and out of the City at will. Using bribery and blackmail gleaned from its various partners and interests to stay one step ahead of city officials and the mobsters that rule the world above. This Collective, has come to be called…The Root.
The labyrinth of tunnel systems beneath the City were made to be intentionally difficult to navigate, festooned with dead ends, confusing loops, and booby traps. Some areas only traversable by small boats hidden within the very walls of its cavernous passageways. Only trusted members of the Root were entrusted with it’s safe routes and paths of escape. Those paths, once used to transport those escaping from bondage, are now used as the lifeblood of a different kind of freedom.
Members of the Root, while mainly of African American heritage, are not limited to that persuasion. As the allure of a secure and mysterious method of smuggled goods and services became an enticing prospect for several business owners whose livelihoods depended on an illegal means of supply. The Root’s tendrils have begun to spread beneath the City, creating a sort of underground ecosystem connecting a number of different nightclubs, bars and dens of nightly pleasure. It was to these entrepreneurs, club owners, madams and proprietors that Jeremiah made, and still makes his pitch. To join the Root and become one of it’s Rings.
The Rings are business owners that have joined the Root for mutual protection and support. each place of business, some above ground, others below, has access to the extensive labyrinth of tunnels that the Root controls. Nightclub, bar, dancehall and brothel. Each with a secure connection to the Root’s resources and protection. Each member can request protection from the Bark, entertainment from the Grove, and a steady supply of alcohol for their patrons. It is in this ecosystem that the Root’s entertainers, the Grove, thrive.
The Grove are composed of musicians, singers, sex workers, dancers and poets. Not just employees of the Root, but considered partners of this community. It is they who really lend this collective of night clubs, bars and bordellos it’s identity. These entertainers are one of the main reasons that the Roots’ popularity as a collective of connected clubs is growing. A boon financially, but a growing danger as more and more people find out about them.
The illegal liquor trade is another one of the main sources of revenue for the Root. it’s also one of the main ingredients that bind its allies together. A secure and secret method of delivery, hidden from both the authorities, as well as organized criminal syndicates from above, has proven to be invaluable. However, the danger from above is still ever present. And an enforcement arm of the Root is responsible for the delivery of goods, as well as the protection of its businesses, clubs and bars and members. They are the Bark.
The Bark is composed of bouncers, muscle, gunfighters and others of the dangerous sort. These are not just hired killers. They are the siblings that protect their charges. The ones who bite. They are lead by Artimus Pyle, a WW1 veteran and former mercenary. He met Jeremiah during the war and became his right hand man and partner. He has trained the Bark to be effective, responsive and deadly.
Be they business owners, entertainers or killers, the members of the Root all share one trait. They were those who were rejected from the world above. Be it for the color of their skin, or because of who or how they loved. And it was in the Root that they found a new world. one where it was their differences that made them belong. And they will lie, cheat or kill to protect this brave new world.
Play a Member of the Root if…
You want be a part of this setting by being a member of the City’s nightlife. Be it a business owner Ring, one of the entertainer Grove, or the rough and tumble bruisers of the Bark. You are still family, you are still Root.
You want to explore the idea of being an entertainer in the swinging 20’s. The lives of the Grove are ever moving, moving through the tunnels from one club to another, following the demands of a perhaps growing fanbase, then disappearing through a back door, surrounded by Bark bodyguards.
You want to be the underground protectors, gunrunners, and smugglers of the Root. A dangerous life, but who wants to live forever?
Major Territorial Holding: The Silver Maple
The Silver Maple is a woodworking and cabinetry shop owned by a kindly old white couple named Jeremy and Agatha Strucker. Known for their generosity and kindness in employing the negros within its walls for the less complicated duties needed in it’s everyday operation. At least, that’s how it’s publicly known.
In reality, they were a courageous abolitionist couple that with their lover, Sylvia Beech, created the Underground railroad headquarters from which the Root grew out of. Jeremiah Struck is the son of Jeremy Strucker and Sylvia Beech, though in truth as Sylvia was a woman taken with her mission to run the railroad movement, Agatha was more a mother to him then she. The Silver Maple cabinetry shop is managed by Jeremiah's younger half brother Ricard Strucker. And those who come in the late hours for “special” orders, are let into the back and behind a hidden stair to the “other” Silver Maple.
The underground Silver Maple is a nightclub and dance hall. A speakeasy of epic proportions where those in the know come to be entertained by the best of the Grove.
Owned and operated by the irrepressible Lola Lefebre, Lola’s is a high class brothel catering to those who know to treat both her place and her children with respect. Lola and Jeremiah were old, old friends, as such, she was one of the first of the Rings to bring her operation under the umbrella of the Root. Many of her employees operate as union members of the Grove, but they are still her family.
The Crossroads is a literal underground bar. Located near the center of the Labyrinth, it is a stop over spot for those traveling beneath the city through its miles of tunnels. The entertainment is not as refined, and it’s clientele might be a bit rough, but it’s never boring.