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- "Home sweet home. This is where we hang our hats. Where we hone our blades, where we practice our skills. Where we bind our wounds and mourn our dead. This is where our hearts are. Buried in the soil of Piney Woods."
- ―Jacob Vaughton
|The Bolt Hole|
|Location:||Piney Woods, Northeast of Boss Town|
The Bolt Hole is a small settlement northeast of Boss Town, occupied by the Vaughton Gang - the outlaw group headed by Jacob Vaughton. Located in a petrified forest region surrounded by dense, mutated forest areas, it is said the only people who can find the Bolt Hole are those who have already been there. While this is an exaggeration, it is a well-known fact that to get there, one must follow paths that few know of and even fewer dare tread. Because of the difficulty in approaching it, the Bolt Hole only supports a small number of permanent residents who maintain the wall and keep the small patch of crops on-site growing.
The site that would become the Bolt Hole was originally conceived as the self-sufficient hermitage of the one-time property mogul Richard Willieinson. After reaching what he perceived to be the pinnacle of the business world, Willieinson decided to let younger, fresher men have their time to shine. His aim was to retire gracefully and fade into quiet obscurity. He did this by buying up a large farmhouse and reinforcing the structure to the point where it essentially became an aesthetically-pleasing bunker. He had the outbuildings similarly reinforced and stocked with a forge, a machining and turning workshop, and a welding workshop.
However, Willieinson's research was purely academic. He was killed in his first weekend of his self-imposed exile when he failed to observe proper workshop safety. His tie became entangled in one of the lathes, dragging his head against the chuck and breaking his skull, jaw and spine. His mangled and mostly-decayed body was found by his sons on a rare visit and the site was put on the property market. Alas, during the economic bomb that occurred during the Resource Wars, the site fell into the kind of obscurity Willieinson wished he himself had.
Before the Vaughton Gang
The site was rediscovered by a clan of survivors who restored the buildings and got the workshops back online. Unlike the first owner, these men and women were experienced and even began farming crops on the grounds. Unfortunately, they fell victim not to the War, Raiders, or even infighting, but to the isolation of the site. An outbreak of Spanish Flu killed all fifteen inhabitants in the course of two months and left the Bolt Hole vacant once again.
Decades later, the Bolt Hole took its name when a group of settlers from nearby began stocking the buildings with emergency supplies as a refuge from Raiders and bandits. A savvy member of the community decided it would be more sensible to simply move the settlement to the Bolt Hole instead of risking leading their predators to the site when fleeing attacks. Applauding the man's pragmatism, the community elected him mayor and upped stakes. They did not suffer a single Raider attack after the move.
Vaughton's arrival and beyond
The general atmosphere of the Bolt Hole is reserved. A combination of Vaughton's explosive temper and the general mind-numbing boredom of the place's routine leads to a quiet settlement with an undertone that veers violently between thanksgiving towards the Vaughton Gang for the protection they offer (usually after a successful raid or hunt) to extreme dissent and dissatisfaction (usually after someone steps out of line and has their face crushed in). In the Bolt Hole, there is no such thing as a "right", merely privileges Vaughton can take away if a settler steps out of line. However, these privileges are generally broad-ranging and people can often go about their business however they please, with the one condition that they don't inconvenience Vaughton himself (other members of the gang are more lenient).
Yeomen are the inhabitants of the Bolt Hole who do not take part in Vaughton Gang raids and hunts, the "lay people". They are simple wastelanders who offer their services in return for a safe place to live. Most are capable of some form of small-scale crop farming, as the wooded area surrounding the Bolt Hole provides an abundance of meat. Others take part in the structural maintenance of the settlement, monitoring the walls for cracks. While the Bolt Hole is far from a prison, very few yeomen ever leave. Not only is it one of the most secure settlements in the region, it is almost impossible to find a path out of Piney Woods. Those that do wish to leave often appeal to Vaughton to have the Vaughton Gang guide them to safety and protect them on the journey to Boss Town or another settlement. The dense, dark, forested region is disorienting, and only three groups of yeomen ever tried to leave without Vaughton's approval. All fell victim to the forest or its inhabitants.
Breeders are women bought from Raider and Slaver gangs by Vaughton and his gangers in exchange for their services as hunters, trackers, skirmishers and pathfinders. They typically receive a superior quality of life to where they were bought from, and are fed well and their health is insured by Vaughton himself, as they are "the guardians against the perils of inbreeding". Amongst the Yeomen, the Breeders are treated much like prostitutes would be in other settlements, derided and slandered. However, the Vaughton Gang, despite being the violent detritus of society raised by Jacob, tend to treat them with surprising respect born from Vaughton's view of them as important contributors to the diversity of the settlement.
The Bolt Hole has no internal economy whatsoever, other than a loose, unofficial barter system among the Yeomen. People tend to borrow from their fellow settlers, rather than actually trade permanently, and the Vaughton Gang tend to take whatever loot they want from raids before they return to the settlement and as such, rarely want for anything that the Yeomen have.
When trading with other settlements, food is a priority, as the Bolt Hole's crop supply is generally reserved for emergencies, and must be left fallow from time to time to allow the soil to recover. The Vaughton Gang will sell their services to settlements, trade caravans, or factions in exchange for food. These services have ranged from path-finding through Piney Woods to guarding Brahmin herds and from bounty hunting to acting as shock troops during small faction battles in the surrounding regions (which led Vaughton to make the somewhat ridiculous claim "if two sides are equal, the side with me wins" as a marketing ploy - in the largest conflict they served as mercenaries in, the Vaughton Gang's presence doubled the number of fighters on "their side").
A less-than-savory item that the Vaughton Gang will sell their services for is young, healthy women. This has led to no small measure of notoriety in some areas as the Gang will frequently do this work as a means of buying women from Slavers or Raiders. The reason behind this somewhat cruel trade is to avoid the perils of inbreeding among the Yeomen and gang members' descendants. While life in the Bolt Hole is undoubtedly of better quality than in a Slaver or Raider compound, these "breeders" are often treated with the same lack of respect and dignity suffered by prostitutes in other settlements. Surprisingly, they often receive better treatment from the Gangers than from the Yeomen, as the Yeomen come from "civilized" settlements where a Breeder's trade would be frowned upon, while the Vaughton Gang are simply Raiders and Bounty Hunters, the dregs of society.
In times past, the Bolt Hole was governed by popular opinion and a reasonably democratic system. One citizen, one vote. Anyone over the age of 16 was eligible to vote, including women and minorities such as Ghouls. The current system is identical, although the Vaughton Gang and consequently Vaughton himself have the final say in any and all matters. In practice, the yeomen decide the majority of Bolt Hole policy, with the Vaughton Gang only stepping in when their own interests become involved or the risk of a schism among the yeomen arises.
Crime is virtually non-existent, given the settlement's harsh penal system. Minor crimes result in a "Slap On The Wrist", which is delivered with the back of a hatchet. Punishments become gradually harsher, and include corporal punishment from Vaughton himself (known to be fatal on occasion). The apex of the crime and punishment system is Capital Punishment. The majority of executions are carried out at the "Gallows", which is actually a crude crow's-cage-style gibbet. The convict is locked inside the gibbet and killed with a spear thrust to either the kidneys or the base of the skull, and their body is left to rot until bones begin to fall through the banding of the gibbet.
The second method is technically exile, but given how dangerous the surrounding region is, exile is a de facto execution. If an exiled person manages to return to the community, they are executed and the surrounding forest is swept for anyone who might have followed them.
The settlement takes up just over an acre and a half of the land and is set up in what was a farmhouse-style retreat for a man deemed "eccentric" by those who knew him. It was surrounded by a high stone wall for privacy, and contained several oddities. The strangest were a fully-stocked machining and steel fabrication workshop, a fully-functioning forge and metallurgical workshop, and a welding workshop. These buildings are the heart of the settlement, where the Vaughton Gang repair their equipment after hunts.
The main farmhouse is now known as the barracks, and houses the Vaughton Gang and the settlement's "yeomen". The Vaughton Gang occupies the upstairs section, while the yeomen live on the ground floor. The attic contains Jacob's personal quarters. The basement is divided into two parts - a small medical facility where crude field surgeries can be performed, and the holding cells. Unlike friendlier settlements' prisons, the Bolt Hole's holding cells are simply holes dug ten feet deep into the floor and lined with scrap metal. Each one can hold up to ten people (without enough room for them to sit or lie down in that case), and there are two truck tail plates in the basement that can be hauled over the holes to cover them.