The Zócalo is the Helgram trading base in the Black Zone, under the oversight of Representative Jowan. It was established as a centre for trade and commerce in the region, with a focus on House Helgram interests. It is situated on the new Helgram Trading Road, which has been established on the instructions of Grand Duke Bleys, to improve the House’s trading links with the region.
It has open access to both the Courts and the rest of the Black Zone, so that traders and businessmen from all areas of the Chaos sphere can meet and trade there. It also has direct, but guarded, connections to the Helgram Marketplace and the High Redoubt, which is the closest thing to a Helgram capital in the Black Zone.
As other Houses become more interested in the Zócalo’s potential, it is expected that the marketplace will be extended, potentially with small enclaves, including consulates, for the other Houses and other interested Shadows to both the east and west of the current market area. House Channicut and House Jesby have already expressed an interest in establishing a presence, as has the northern Kingdom of Lambeth.
The Zócalo is located on a small Black Zone Shadow, roughly the size of the UK, sealed at the edges by a range of mountains which reach as high as 10,000ft. The countryside is reminiscent of parts of central-east Spain, with the majority of it comprising low hills and vegetation which suits its relatively dry climate. There is natural fresh water in a number of lakes around the Shadow, fed by streams from the hills and mountains.
It does have some seasonality, with peak temperatures around 31C˚/90˚F and annual rainfall around 500mm/20” a year in the lowlands, but rather cooler in the mountains with significant snowfall. It will happily support carbon-based life forms, although prior to its discovery by Representative Jowan, there was no humanoid habitation there. The native species are mainly birds and winged lizards of various sizes, although there are also various ground-living hunters, including a number of big cats, as well as prey animals, and also potential farm animals. The flying hunters can often be seen overhead.
There was no native tech on the world before the Shadow was chosen to be the Helgram trading base. However, it can inherently support technology up to the 1940s level. Magic is functional there, as are the standard Powers. Timeflow is locked to Thelbane standard. Firearms are capped at around C1820 black powder.
The Zócalo itself was established in the geographic centre of the Shadow, and is built around a Shadow fragment of a large, rectangular Spanish-style plaza about 300 by 400 yards in size, with the longer sides to the north and south. The plaza is paved in patterns of stone and brick, which is designed to stay cool in the potentially warm sun. In the centre is a sculpted stone and glass fountain, which acts as a significant landmark and meeting place. Within the bounds of the plaza, it isn’t possible to use Logrus tendrils, because of the possibilities for accidents. However, teleports out of the area or back to the entrance gates are fine.
On the north side of the plaza, there is a colonnaded building roughly 100 yards wide, known as Palacio Alcade, with a huge central arch into a covered marketplace. The Palacio is the main government and admin building for the Zócalo, and is also the residence of Mayor Lennox Helgram, who runs the Zócalo on a day-to-day basis. Behind it, stretching away from the plaza, is a small town with a current population of about ten thousand. This was initially established for those who live and work in the Zócalo, but has since expanded as people have started coming in from other Shadows in search of work, or land to set up on and farm.
In the centre of the south side is the Zócalo Fortress, an imposing, stone-built edifice about 50 yards wide. The rest of that side of the plaza is made up of a collection of little courtyards, separated from the countryside around the Zócalo by walls and arches. These are the arrival and departure points to the other parts of Chaos and the Black Zone. Beyond this are lawns and gardens, which eventually give way to vineyards and olive groves, and finally open country.
To the east, the plaza leads out to theatres, clubs etc, and ultimately roads out into the countryside, or looping back into the towns. Hotels and resorts are now being built out in this direction, as well as more places for evening entertainment. There is even some talk of building both skiing and hunting lodges further from the Zócalo itself, out in the countryside. In addition, enclaves for other Houses are beginning to be established in this area.
To the west is the livestock market, where the prevailing wind can blow its sounds and smells out into the countryside. Beyond that, meat and dairy farms, and market gardens, are being established, to aid with fresh produce and self-sufficiency.
There are both permanent and temporary trading premises around the Zócalo. The more permanent structures are a mixture of small two-storey stone buildings towards the edges, which usually contain bars and restaurants, often with a basement level for a nightclub, casino, jazz or comedy club, or small underground theatre; and single-storey slatted wooden buildings. These are leased out to the fixed traders and restaurateurs.
There are also more temporary structures – basic market stalls, and pillar and roof shelters – in lines radiating out from just outside the Fountain Circle, like spokes on a wheel, which are available to short-term and occasional traders, who pay a small percentage of their daily takings for the space.
The Zócalo is very cosmopolitan, with humans, demons and other sentient life forms all mingling together, looking for that great bargain, or that perfect gift. In addition to the regular traders and residents, there will be between ten and fifteen thousand people in the plaza at any given time during the day, and roughly half that when the shoppers give way to those looking for an evening out after the market stalls close.
Pretty much anything you might care to buy is available somewhere, from livestock and pets, to food and clothing, to arts and crafts, to hand made and manufactured goods, to magical and ritual items, to personal services and gourmet meals. About the only thing that isn’t readily available is slaves and demons, although they could probably be obtained if you spoke to the right people.
The Zócalo Shadow is guarded by Helgram troops under the command of Cormac Stephenson-Helgram, who in turn reports to Colonel Ronan Uilliam-Helgram, Representative Jowan’s military adviser. All the gates to the Zócalo from Chaos and the Black Zone arrive to the south of the main plaza, ranged either side of The Fortress, where the Zócalo troops are based. There is also a small air defence force, made up of a squadron each of Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, which will work under the tech limit. However, they are modified to use black powder and Greek fire-based weapons.
The Fortress has has a direct connection to the Helgram Citadel in Helgramways, and keep an eye on all arrivals and departures through the gates . After an attempt by the Order of the Crossed Swords to smuggle in military forces and seize control of the Zócalo, due to it’s strategic positioning in that region of the Black Zone, the Helgram garrison on-site was significantly reinforced. A further all-out invasion attempt has resulted in upping the forces further, and bringing in a stronger military commander to run them.
Law and Order
The Zócalo is definitely frontier territory, with all the potential legal issues and grey areas that somewhere like that would entail. Most of the time, people settle their own differences as far as the kinds of everyday crimes which always occur when thousands of people get together in the same place: for example, pick pocketing, theft, brawling, fist-fights. However, there is a small Zócalo Police Force, numbering about twenty-five people, under Inspector Aileen Helgram, a daughter of Duchess Rosemary, which is called in once high-jinx give way to serious violence where weapons are involved. However, Aileen is a fully qualified forensics mage, and if these more serious incidents do occur, she is very capable of investigating.
The Zócalo Police are based in the Palacio Mayor.