The Three Gangs of Blackfen
There are three major criminal gangs in Blackfen: the Black Bears, the Weston Gang and the South Fen Boys. Between them they control - and are behind - 99% of all criminal activity that occurs in the city, which encompasses anything from fencing and protection rackets all they way through to kidnap and murder. They are ruthless when it comes to protecting their interests and inter-gang rivalries are common and bloody. While the Black Bears control much of northern Blackfen and steer clear of the worst blood letting, the Westons and South Fen Boys are locked in a bitter power struggle for control of the lucrative underground black markets inside Old Palisade Town and their enmity is extreme.
The Black Bears
The influence of the Black Bears extends across much of northern Blackfen and the outlying districts, where they have managed to avoid the worst of the feuding as their rivals fight amongst themselves for the more influential and profitable markets of Old Palisade Town. Being the least powerful of the three gangs, the others are constantly looking for ways to extend their influence and power within the city - especially into the large fishing industry that has grown steadily in recent years on the northern shores of Blackfen Bay, which has become the Black Bear's most lucrative source of income. Fortunately, however, with the Westons and South Fen Boys concentrating much of their efforts on each other, the Black Bears have been able to fight off the unwanted interest.
The gang's main activities center on a large protection racket that encompasses many of the inns, shops and other such establishments in northern Blackfen. Their grip on the fishing port is total and they take a cut on everything that comes into Blackfen through the rapidly growing port in Blacfen Bay. Although the fishermen resent this burden, it is nonetheless preferable to the higher rates and greater risks they were forced to suffer when they used the main port in Old Palisade Town. The gang also takes a cut from many of the small farmers in the outlying districts, though in many instances their approaches are repelled by well organized teams who work together - aggressively where necessary - to ward off such threats.
The Black Bears are run with an iron fist by Kroknic 'The Ugly' - a young female part-orc who took control several years ago after an internal power struggle saw her sweep to power in a bloody coup d'etat. A violent purge of her rivals quickly followed in the night of blood and she had soon established herself as the Queen of the Black Bears.
The Weston Gang
Perhaps the most violent and chaotic of the three gangs, the Westons vie with the South Fen Boys to control the lucrative black markets in Old Palisade Town. Theft, bribery, extortion, kidnap and murder are all in their repertoire and they deal ruthlessly with those that oppose or betray them.
So named after the notorious Weston twins who terrorized Blackfen over two hundred years ago, the Weston Gang soon emerged as a powerful gang of organized criminals who swiftly took control of the port area. Nothing passed through the ports from which they did not get a cut and those not willing to pay either found their goods left rotting and worthless in the warehouses of Blackfen or were threatened, attacked or even murdered. Even the rich and powerful who sat on the City Council were not immune to the growing power of the Westons and only the strongest willed held out against their violent demands, which saw their activities go mostly unchecked.
The emergence of the South Fen Boys around ten years ago, however, dramatically changed the criminal landscape of Blackfen and the Westons, for so long the undisputed lords of the Blackfen underground, were faced with an unexpected challenge. It wasn't long before there was open bloodshed on the streets as the two gangs began their long struggle for control of the main black markets of Blackfen. As the violence increased and the feud saw many innocent victims fall to their ruthlessness, the authorities were finally forced to act, with many gang members on both sides arrested, tried and sent east to Karnish prisons. Many, in fact, were hung from trees on the outskirts of the town, in an area known locally as the Hanging Hill, which many regard to be filled with evil spirits.
For so long free to operate in the open, all the gangs were forced back underground and their grip on the city was permanently broken. Nonetheless, the Westons continue to be a considerable force and little still goes on that they do not know about, whether they have any involvement in it or otherwise. The battle for control of the fish market was so fierce between the Westons and South Fen Boys that the fishermen were eventually driven away from the main port and forced to operate out of the smaller Blackfen Bay port, controlled by the Black Bears, which has since flourished. This has seen the Westons turn their attentions, so far unsuccessfully, to northern Blackfen, bringing them into conflict with the Black Bears, where periodic outbreaks of violence occur between the two gangs as they fight for control of Blackfen Bay port.
The gang still continues to be run and dominated by the powerful Weston family, with Garan Weston heading the operation and his two brothers, Fredrik and Syron, and his sister, Mirl, all his trusted lieutenants who make sure that his orders are carried out. Syron, the youngest of the family, is also its most violent and ruthless, having murdered several prominent citizens for working against the gang's interests. In fact, such are the extremes of his evil and spiteful ways that even the other family members are worried that he will bring the wrath of Blackfen down upon them, opening up the way for the South Fen Boys to become the dominant force. Perhaps even more worrying are rumors that Syron has established contact with the minions of Zykerathox in order to eastablish new, perhaps blacker markets.
The South Fen Boys
The South Fen Boys are the most recent gang to emerge in Blackfen and have set themselves up in violent opposition to the Westons in their fight to control the streets and port of Old Palisade Town. In a relatively brief time, they have out-thought and out-muscled their rivals to become a major player on the scene, having taken a large share of the action from the Weston Gang, with whom they now operate on an equal footing.
One of their more successful strategies was to neutralize many of the corrupt officials operating for the Westons by paying them substantially more to work for them (using intimidation, kidnap and violence, if necessary), or eliminating those that would not co-operate. They now have a substantial network of city officials, from corrupt city guards at street level, to influential members of the City Council, who supply them with a constant stream of information and turn a blind eye to many of their activities.
Outside of the gang, no one is certain who runs them or how they were able to emerge so successfully to challenge the powerful Weston Gang on their own turf. The South Fen Boys are in fact run by Count Derinor Yeris, who is a respected member of the Blackfen aristocracy and well known throughout the city. No one, however, would ever suspect that he was in fact the mastermind behind the gang, so well has he hidden his corrupt and evil ways behind a façade of pomp and pretension.
The Count turned to crime after he quickly whittled away the family wealth on his expensive playboy lifestyle, which included hosting lavish parties and soiriées and elaborate hunting weekends. With his resources dwindling, he realized the potential for making money through crime after becoming a victim to the Weston Gang himself when an assignment of horses he had purchased were slaughtered because the gang did not receive an appropriate cut. Enraged, Count Yeris used his contacts to secretly have those who committed the crime murdered. It was after this that he realized the potential that had inadvertently opened up before him and he set about gathering a small group of people who would oversee the operation, including the ruthless Sarad Wend, who is now his right-hand man.
Sarad Wend runs the dirty end of the gang's activities and is the real power behind the organization. It is to him that the gang members give their loyalty and, should push come to shove, would be the more likely to emerge as the more powerful of the two. For whatever reason, however, he seems content with the present arrangement and this has allowed the gang to blossom and grow.
Between them, they soon began wrestling control from the Weston Gang, who were taken by surprise by the sudden rise of this enemy and who even to this day have no idea of Count Yeris' position in the organization or their inadvertent role in helping to bring them about. The struggle since has been a violent one and Count Yeris has used his position to good effect, having access to channels and information that the Weston Gang could only dream of. Despite his rather idiotic persona, Count Yeris is in fact completely cold-blooded, murderous and entirely ruthless and with Sarad at his side, the South Fen Boys have become something of an unstoppable force.