Afsaana - Crossroads of the World

13 Drakonis, 9:02 Dragon

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As soon as the rival gang members begin fighting with fists and swords, the entire crowd erupts into violence. What might have been a peaceful—if disgruntled—gathering turns into an all-out riot. Fists fly, blood sprays, and the air is filled with a cacophony of terrified shrieks, clashing blades, and angry shouting. Caught up in the middle of the fracas is the startled newspaperwoman, C.Q. Calame, whose life is in danger when the riot breaks out. The terrified staff of The Shipping News bars the door, fearing the threat of the mob outside and abandoning their employer to her fate.

Aveline, Isobel and Orsa immediately jump into the fray.

Orsa is closest and doesn’t waste a lot of time.
“I’ll get to C.Q.! You handle them here!” She rushes south, right into one of the crowds. It is a mess, and it takes a while for Orsa to push through, but once she does, she starts swinging her sword and feels right at home.

The crowd, in all its messy glory, moves towards C.Q., as Orsa predicted. In the meantime, Isobel decides she needs to be on higher ground, and jumps onto a nearby crate to get a better angle over the mass of people. She sends an arrow into the crowd, hoping to hit someone close to C.Q.. She in the meantime rushes away from where she was and starts banging on the door of the Shipping News.

“Let me in! I’m your boss for fuck’s sake! Don’t leave me out here!”

Aveline, too distracted by an inner struggle, moves further away from the crowd, trying to stay safe. Orsa however is determined to keep C.Q. safe, moves close and smiles at the older woman. The newspaperwoman seems clearly afraid, but when Orsa turns her back and keeps her protectively behind her, she relaxes visibly.

Isobel decides to climb higher up, and makes her way onto an overhang on the first floor of the warehouse next to her. From this vantage point, she sends another arrow flying.

The party watches as C.Q. is pulled into the crowd by two gang members and is wounded severely in the scuffle. Aveline decides to get a little closer and cast heal on C.Q. to make sure she stays alive and isn’t accidentally killed by the morons in the crowd. Orsa of course isn’t far away and clears a path to protect C.Q., who is immediately grateful for the help she receives. With Orsa’s help, C.Q. stays uninjured as the crowd pushes closer and fists fly in her direction.

Another crowd of people moves closer and envelopes Aveline, who has no trouble whatsoever dodging their blows.

Isobel sends another arrow flying into the fray, making sure not to hit her companions or C.Q.. Some people in the crowd start to notice their opponents and comrades dropping, and actually try to get away and leave the fray. Paying really close attention to one crowd, Isobel notices a few people carrying torches, seemingly intent on setting the Shipping News on fire.

Worried of being hit again, C.Q. moves closer to Orsa, trying to hide behind the woman carrying a massive sword. At the same time, Aveline moves out of the crowd and envelopes several people with winter’s grasp.

“Swingy-swingy, stabby-stabby,” Orsa yells, as she deals heavy damage to the people surrounding her and C.Q.. Several fall over when she slashes at them horizontally, and not just a few actually cower away in fear. The crowd disperses and Orsa decides to do something “stupid”. She tries to pick C.Q. up, but the older woman shoots her a deadly look, and so Orsa settles for grabbing her hand. Pulling C.Q. with her, she rushes south into a small alley and tells the newspaperwoman to stay put.

Determined to get closer to C.Q., the reason for most of them even being here, one crowd moves further south, and Aveline is trapped inside of it. She doesn’t manage to escape unscathed, and suffers several smaller wounds.

Cries of “We can’t let this stand!” and “C.Q. betrayed the people of this city! She does not speak for us!” are still filling the air, but instead of being distracted by that, Isobel focuses on calming people down.

“Don’t you remember the Green Fire, you idiots?!” Isobel does her best to persuade people to stop, but despite her voice ringing over the entire Docks, not all people stop fighting. Several do, however, and the party watches as sailors drag away their friends, and gang members try to get away from here while they can.

When not enough people listen to her, she shrugs and sends an arrow into the guy trying to set the warehouse on fire. Her arrow strikes him right between the shoulder blades, and she can hear his cry of pain even from all the way across the crowd.

“Thank you so much. We need to get my people out. Or well, me in,” C.Q. says to Orsa. But Orsa is fairly busy watching the crowd. “You’re not very talkative, are you? Well. Please do something! I mean you have a mighty sword and seem capable enough!”

“Would you like me to go at this group the way I went at the last group? That’s about the best I can offer you,” Orsa replies.

“Well, I mean… it was pretty impressive.” Orsa’s eyes go Riiii-Ding, and it is clear that Orsa eats compliments pretty well.

While the two of them are busy discussing battle plans, Aveline notices their disappearance, and decides that they are probably safe. She sends an icy winter’s grasp into the other crowd, towards the guy carrying the torch. As it hits his arm, frost starts crawling up his arm, covering his skin and turning the torch in his hand blue before it is extinguished.

Orsa, ever the wannabe-berserker, charges into the crowd, slashing at people, stabbing them and hitting them with the hilt of her sword. People immediately back away from her, and Orsa regrets not bringing a beer.

Isobel sends another arrow on its way, and strikes the guy carrying a torch by penetrating his head, with the arrow exiting his eye. For a moment he stands there, before he collapses lifelessly to the ground.

“You got this! Get rid of these assholes!” Orsa now has her own personal cheerleader, as C.Q. steps around the corner and cheers her on. “I’m just doing what’s best for this town! Don’t you idiots get that?!”

Aveline decides to chime in: “If you don’t break up this fight, I will set each and every one of you on fire!” Several people turn around and see the angry mage, and a large part of the crowd disperses. Aveline glares at the ones who don’t leave, completely ready to kick more ass.

Just as she’s done talking, footsteps approach. It is the Sea Lord’s Guard, and they quickly get rid of the last few stragglers. The crowds disperse and the party stays behind with C.Q..

As the Guard makes sure to arrest certain members who pose a particularly big threat, C.Q. makes sure that the Guard stays away from her newfound friends.

“They protected me from this mob! It’s only thanks to them that I’m even alive! These lunatics were trying to kill me, slicing me open, sending my blood flying! So leave these three alone!” Surprisingly, many in the Guard heed what she says, and the girls are left alone with C.Q..

Orsa hears noise in the distance, various banging sounds, weapons clanging against each other, hammering, screaming, yelling. The noises are not coming from or moving in one direction. She also sees smoke from various directions and at various distances, suggesting scattered fires. Orsa tells the others of her observations.

Before going over to talk to C.Q., Isobel and Orsa loot the bodies of the people and bodies lying around. Both find some money, and Isobel finds a golden—yet dirty—signet ring on a person. She determines that its worth lies between 4 and 6 GP. Orsa, on the other hand, takes white leather gloves off a person that she is pretty sure is dead… or so.

In the following conversation, C.Q. promises Aveline, Isobel and Orsa to pay them back, and then asks them for their names. A longer discussion ensues, as neither Orsa nor Isobel are keen on giving her their names. Especially Isobel is really worried that something could happen to her uncle, what with people acting all crazy at the moment.

Finally, Orsa and Aveline give C.Q. their first names, and C.Q. agrees to not ask Isobel any more questions. Isobel is sneaky, however, and so she takes a peek at the notebook C.Q. is writing in. She spots portraits of her and her companions, as well as several names. The newspaperwoman even took the time to draw a quick sketch of her being trapped in the crowd.

The group mentions Orsa’s curse to C.Q., curious whether she can point them towards someone who can help.

C.Q. seems immediately intrigued, and asks many a question about the source of the curse. Orsa of course is horribly embarrassed and tries to shut Isobel up. C.Q. notices this and walks up to her, very closely. She wraps her arm around Orsa’s shoulder, almost hugging her.

At this point, the other two are too far away for them to understand, and so the conversation between Orsa and C.Q. stays a secret. [X]

Orsa currently looks around twenty years old. She’s pretty sure she’s aging at a rate of five years every hour. "I need to go to the Temple District. Seriously," Orsa says. “I need to get this fucking curse lifted!”

“Nuh, I need to check on my uncle. I mean it’s basically on the way! Can we just do that real quick?” Isobel looks honestly concerned, and so Aveline and Orsa actually follow her along the Docks.

From the coastline they have a nice view over the city, and now all of them notice the thick billows of black smoke rising from rooftops around the city, and the sounds of violence echo down every street. Within minutes, groups of people that had peacefully gathered earlier when the party went through the docks have become a riotous mob, violently clashing with other crowds and looting and pillaging as they go.

The mobs are incredibly destructive, setting fire to shops and carts along their path, moving through the city like a vicious, many-headed serpent. Those citizens not involved in the riot have holed themselves up in their houses and shops, shuttering the windows and barring the doors.

Most streets stand empty, with only stray dogs and debris drifting between buildings. By contrast, the rioting mobs themselves are loud and brutal. Composed of both gang members and otherwise law-abiding citizens, these mobs tear a destructive swathe through Afsaana with every passing moment.

The group meets a group of Sea Lord Guards and questions them as to what is going on. The guards explain that the riots are all over town now, and that it would be safest if they went somewhere other than the streets to stay safe. The girls concur and continue on their way.

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When they get to Urian’s Forge, the door is oddly ajar. Isobel immediately freaks and rushes through the entire building, looking for her uncle. He does not reply to her calls, and she can’t find him anywhere. She has a minor freakout before she writes a note for him and leaves the store with the other two in tow.

Crossing the Seaside Market, the girls notice a lone woman sitting leaning against the side of a nearby building, eyes unfocused and seemingly unaware of her dangerous surroundings. Amid the violent brawls and cacophony of the riot, she stands out against the ugly backdrop of the unruly crowds, and it is likely that only her inaction has kept her from coming to the attention of the rioters. Though she is alone for now, she seems uncaring that at any moment she, too, might be caught in the middle of the angry populace.

Orsa decides to ignore her, but Aveline and Isobel step closer and recognize her as Lexi, the courtesan they met only yesterday. They try to get her attention, but she seems completely out of it, traumatized or simply scared. Orsa decides to just throw her over her shoulder and carry her to the House of Serenity, the place she calls home.

“She weighs nothing,” *Orsa grins. “Let’s go. I’d rather stay at this age than be a toddler again.”

They cross over into the Old City and travel up the main road. Everywhere the party goes shows signs of the passing of these mobs; overturned carts, burning buildings, dead bodies in the street, and wanton destruction are the order of the day.

They are almost at the Fortress of Justice when they stop dead in their tracks. In front of them the two rival gangs that helped spur the riots, the Buccaneers and the Cutthroats, have used the riots as an excuse to bring their conflict to a violent head.

The Buccaneers are commandeering the buildings on one side of the street, the Cutthroats took over the buildings on the other, and now a shooting war between the two gangs has broken out. Arrows, crossbow bolts, and stones fly back and forth between the two sets of buildings, creating a dangerous crossfire that passes between the ground floors of both sides.

Down the street, Janis Hawthorne, a half-elf street vendor, has gotten herself trapped in the crossfire and can’t seem to get out. Her fruit cart has been overturned, and she huddles underneath it for protection. Each time an arrow or crossbow bolt thunks into the wooden barrier provided by the overturned cart, Janis lets out a shriek of terror. The helpless woman cries out for assistance, begging anyone within hearing range to get her to safety.

The girls don’t think about it very long. They need to pass, and they do want to help the poor woman. Aveline immediately runs towards her, promising help. Isobel has other plans: Since she’s not very intimidating, neither in posture nor in voice, she tells Orsa to frighten the gang members.

“Guys, if you don’t stop and put your weapons down, you’re gonna get arrows through your eyeballs!”

The response is immediate. A few single arrows still fly, but then quiet sets in. Isobel rushes after Aveline, who is busy getting Janis to follow her. The frightened woman crawls out from under the cart and stays close to the Orlesian mage.
“Are you gonna get me out of here?” The woman grabs a fold in Aveline’s robe and stays as close as she can. The two of them rush north, trying to get out of the arrows’ reach.

Just then, Isobel decides to shoot an arrow at one of the Buccaneers, and all hell breaks loose again. Orsa looks relieved. Combat is something she knows how to deal with. She gently puts Lexi to the ground and makes sure the courtesan actually stays there. Then she throws herself into the fray, longbow in hand.

On the other end of the street, Aveline and Janis have reached safety. Aveline quickly heals the wounded woman, and Janis seems eternally grateful.
“My faith in humanity has been restored. Thank you so much, my dear!”

Orsa and Isobel make quick work of the gang members in the south, and Aveline is busy setting the ones in the north on fire. Two of them she burns from afar, but for the third one she gets up close, shoves her hands in his face and melts it to a pulp. Janis is watching from afar, and when Aveline returns to her, she starts chatting her up.
“Thank you again, I can’t believe you did all that for little old me!”

Trying to talk to Lexi again, Orsa waits for a moment before she picks the girl up again, throwing her over her shoulder. She gets no resistance, as the poor thing seems to simply give in to whatever fate awaits her.

The girls then talk to Janis, and soon realize that the poor woman seems to be in a mild shock. She’s awfully cheerful, considering what she’s just witnessed, and replies to everything with a flirt or joke.

She eventually settles down and agrees that she does owe the party something. She thanks each one of them and finally offers Aveline something special.
“You’re Aveline? My saviour!” She rummages through her dress for a long time, before she proffers a ring. It is a platinum ring with a diamond. An inscription is on the inside.

Aveline can’t read it, but won’t show it to her two companions.
“I found this a few days ago. I know I shouldn’t have kept it, but it’s so pretty, I couldn’t help it. You should have it. I can’t do anything with it, really. I’d just be worried someone would rob me for it.” She claims the ring is pretty bright when it’s dark, or so Janis claims. Aveline puts on the ring, and finds it to be a rather tight fit.

“Would you be so kind and help me find my donkey now? I’m rather worried about him, he’s just gonna get into trouble!” Aveline agrees, but the other two decide to make their way to the House of Serenity.

While Aveline and Janis are looking for Jake, Isobel and Orsa are off to one of the most famous brothels in Afsaana.

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As they arrive there, they are greeted by Sylvia Rathow, who is more than happy to have her most important employee back. At least after she overcomes her suspicion. Can’t trust anyone these days. She offers the party water and ale, and makes sure they are comfortable. As a thanks for bringing Lexi back, she decides to give them one free night in her establishment. “Just not today,” she says. “When this chaos is over, you’re more than welcome.” The House of Serenity has a well-known restaurant, a small theater and of course many courtesans willing to serve as company for the night.

Sylvia gives each and every one of them a handkerchief with an “L” stitched into it. “These are Lexi’s. Technically she brought you in, so she gets the credit,” Sylvia chuckles.

Further south, Janis and Aveline are searching far and wide for Jake, checking every corner and every nook. No luck so far.

Orsa leads the way out of the House of Serenity, and the two of them go west, towards the Fortress of Justice.

The scene ahead is reminiscent of the earlier demonstration at the newspaper office, but many times worse. Huge crowds of people, mostly rough-looking thugs and obvious ruffians, struggle to breach the main gates of the Fortress of Justice. Though dozens of members of the Sea Lord’s Guard continue to hold back the crowds, the ground they hold is slowly shrinking as they are continually pushed back. Issuing commands in the center of the square is Xander Williams, the Commissioner of the Sea Lord’s Guard. He issues orders in a loud voice, rallying his men to beat back the pushing mob, desperation clear in his voice.

Isobel decides that despite the desperation of the situation, she would rather sneak through this scene than to get entangled in it. She makes her way past the crowd, and manages to hide in the shadows. Orsa tries to do the same, but fails miserably. Trapped in the crowd, she witnesses an escalation.

Without warning, one side of the guards’ defense breaks, and flowing over the fallen guards come dozens of angry rioters. They charge straight for the Commissioner as if on a mission, with a frenzy about them that seems almost feral. The mob rushes to engulf him, and though he vanishes for a moment beneath a sea of bodies, he is soon hoisted over the rioters’ heads, held aloft and jostled about. The Commissioner’s distress is short-lived, as several rioters drive their swords up through the Commissioner’s body, the bloody sword tips reaching to the sky as the man lets out a gurgling howl.

With the crowd distracted, Orsa manages to slip out and group up with Isobel again. The two of them jog down the street to the west.

In the meantime Aveline is still helping Janis find her little Jake. Finally the donkey shows up, and the two of them decide to say goodbye.
“But will I see you again? I’m eternally grateful to you, and I would hate for this to be our last meeting.” Janis walks away and waves before she disappears behind a corner.

Just then, Aveline’s companions show up, and the group is united once again…

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