[Excerpt from a book on the Immigrant District—by Milton Kane]
Home to a majority of Dunwall’s foreigners, the Old City District (known by most as the Immigrant District) is the oldest, and one of the most populated parts of the city. The buildings are still the originals built shortly before Dunwall’s founding, but unlike for the houses in the Estate District, there are no tax breaks for residents who keep historical buildings in good repair. Most of the buildings contain crowded apartments, and many are crumbling, most crudely maintained with wooden planks, stone, and scrap metal. Some buildings are entirely uninhabitable, having collapsed, and even a few occupied structures have collapsed within the past thirty years, such as the Tyvian-owned Walker Building (formerly a hotel), which collapsed almost completely one night during the Month of Songs, killing around four-hundred people (some say these numbers are incorrect, arguing that the death toll was much higher, given the habit of crowding more than one family into each apartment)*. The building collapse was largely ignored by the government, and residents today continue to live in these unsafe conditions.
Despite the dilapidated infrastructure, a majority of the residents of the district are colorful and full of life. Upon entering the Immigrant District, one will first note the streets, crowded with civilians, but the lack of City Watch Guards will become apparent after the first glimpse. The City Watch was driven out of the district, and now it is the gangs who control the streets. The Immigrant District has the highest crime rate of any of the districts of Dunwall, and it is advised to keep to the main roads when traveling through it.** The residents do not take kindly to strangers, so it is always best to be on one’s guard.
The Immigrant District is home to three gangs, each with their own part of the district. The largest of these is the Tyvians, who specialize in the smuggling of prohibited goods. The Morlish come next, securing the streets with fists and pipes and making money through local businesses. The Serkonan mob is relatively small. Its leader is unknown; however it is rumored to be an old man running a bakery near the edges of the district. It is scattered; however, it manages to reunite when it becomes necessary.***
The most well-known part of the Immigrant District is presented as a myth, many people, including the district’s inhabitants, believing that only lunatics and drunkards speak of its existence. Everyone in Dunwall knows the story of The Basements. When Dunwall was founded, the first buildings erected were built with basements, each one connected to the other; however, upon realizing that they easily flooded, they were abandoned. The buildings were abandoned after a while as well, once new styles of architecture came into popularity. However, according to the myth, the Basements are still inhabited by a strange race of people.
Pandyssians were introduced to Gristol as slaves, working in the mines (most notably the Pendleton silver mines). The Basements are said to house runaways and their offspring. Some say they have turned into monsters, shunning the sunlight, and eating human flesh. It is said that their skin is black as night, and so when the sun goes down, they sneak through the streets and alleys, invisible, taking children from their beds and dragging them down into the darkness to never be seen again.
Most believe this to only be a myth, and dismiss the story as a simple children’s tale, meant to scare them into behaving and warning them against running off at night. However, some—the most credible witness being a well-known natural philosopher—swear that the story is true. In his book To Be Human: A Study of the Foreign Peoples Living In Dunwall, Arthur Hodges—a professor at the Academy of Natural Philosophy, who dressed as an immigrant, living among them for a year—recalls a night during which he wandered the streets, looking for a place to sleep.
I was kicked from the building upon being discovered and wandered my way through street after street, looking for some sort of shelter into which I could break. It was the Month of Cold, and I could hardly feel my toes or face; my fingers ached as they froze. I ended up in a very old part of town, the streets narrow and most of the cobblestone broken into jagged pebbles. Many of the buildings looked too flimsy to enter, the walls sagging like loose skin on an old man’s face. I decided to turn back, but I saw movement from the corner of my eye. Looking in that direction, there was movement again—a shadow passed through an alley. My natural curiosity kicked in, and I followed. The figure wound through alleys, picking up its pace until we both were sprinting. I am not a very athletic man, but to my relief, the figure stopped. It was only when it turned toward me that the confusion and wonder flooded my body.
The figure lit a lantern, and I could see his face—but it was unusual. Where usually a face would brighten, his stayed dark. He looked to be a young man, if Pandyssians age as we do, and he held a knife at me, his hand shaking.
“Don’t come any closer," he said. I was amazed to hear that he sounded just like any person in Dunwall, lacking the strange accents of other immigrants. “Why are you following me?" I stood frozen.
“I - Well - I simply was curious. I did not mean to scare you," I said, softly, to calm the man. “I apologize if I have caused you any trouble."
“Go away," said the man. “Now, or I will - put a curse on you!" He waved his knife.
Now, I was almost certain that the man was bluffing, but it could have been the truth, given that most accounts of Pandyssians describe them as having strange superstitions. However, the man was still holding a knife, and I backed away.
“I will not follow you anymore," I said. “Please forgive me."
The man ran off without another word, and I stood, frozen.
Sadly, when I tried to return to the area during the daytime and locate the Basements, most buildings were either collapsed or boarded shut.****
Was Hodges’ story true? Did he really encounter a Pandyssian in the Immigrant District? The professor upheld his story until the day he died, no matter who tried to convince him otherwise. It is likely that we will never discover what truly happened that night.
Through the eyes of the ignorant, the Immigrant District seems naught but another slum among slums, but upon investigation, the area is revealed to contain a rich history, diverse peoples, and intriguing stories, the details of which will be revealed in the following chapters.