Afsaana - Crossroads of the World
Characters in the Docks
The Warehouse District and Scurvytown offer places of port, but most ships dock here. Along the crowded wharves, one can find ships hailing from all over the world, ringing unusual peoples, customs, goods, and animals to this city of adventure. It is here that qunari pirates rub shoulders with elven corsairs. Human sailors brawl with those of rival nations, while exotic peoples from as far away as Orlais stare in wonder at travelers from legendary Anderfels. A number of shops, pubs, and brothels that cater to travelers face the wharves. From the moment a visitor disembarks from the ship, locals assail him with ways to spend his money. Many people are flat broke within minutes of arriving.
Behind these initial establishments are more taverns, brothels, apothecaries, and other businesses that cater to sailors. Flophouses are common, offering low-rent accommodations for those who aren’t too choosy about where they sleep. Although most buildings in the Docks are for entertainment or retail, there are some residences. Homes cluster together and form small communities. Most folks, though, reside in apartments above their shops, retreating there at the end of a trying business day. Structures in the Docks are wooden atop stone foundations. Some incorporate stone—mostly near the shore, but even these are few and far between since the material is expensive and rare on the peninsula.
Nearly all the buildings in the Docks have some form of damage or another, incurred by the frequent storms that lash the island. The buildings fronting the wharves form a row all across the district. There are a few wide avenues heading off to adjacent districts, including one crowded road that travels through the Seaside Market. Most streets, though, are narrow alleys that wind into the darkest depths of the district or to nowhere at all. These labyrinthine paths may lead to ambushes, dangerous pubs, or bizarre shops that sell suspect or illicit goods.
As one would expect, the Docks are active. The district is empty in the morning after crews depart for their next destination, only to fill again with another round of vessels in the afternoon. While few ships come to port after the sun has set, the night is filled with raucous laughter, screams, and carousing.
Travelers disembark by gangplanks to the crowded wharf below. Upon stepping off the ship, the visitor is assailed by sights and sounds, by hawkers peddling junk, by thieves looking for a mark, and by anyone else who would profit from those unfamiliar with Afsaana’s pitfalls. Maneuvering up the wharf is tricky; stevedores unload cargo, while unskilled laborers scrape barnacles and slime from the hulls of ships. Coils of rope, falling crates, and large qunari are just a few things one can encounter here.
Once free from the wharves, the Docks district awaits. Businesses ranging from brothels, restaurants, pubs, and specialty shops front the wharves. Urchins sell copies of the Shipping News and call out the major events of the day. Peddlers and merchants hawk their wares to passers-by, while bawds offer their services to guide newcomers to the safer parts of town. Sailors haul their catch to the fishwives, who with deft hands strip the fish of scales, bones, and guts, sending them splashing onto the streets or the swirling waters below.
Life on the sea is dangerous, and those who make their living on the waves are often hard-bitten people with large appetites. Sailors who get their pay at the end of a trip often blow the entire amount during their shore leave. After all, there’s nothing to spend it on while aboard the ship, and they never know whether their next trip out might be their last. Better to spend it now than to let it weigh you down if you’re tossed into the sea.
Since the streets of the Docks are busy day and night, many here happily relieve sailors and travelers of their coin. Grifters, con men, thugs, thieves, streetwalkers, and peddlers prowl the narrow streets, searching for their next target. By day, the Docks are bad enough, but at night, it’s suicidal to go about alone. All sorts of mayhem happens here after sundown, and it’s not uncommon for the Watch to find a body or two—or more—floating in the harbor. Unless the victim is somebody of note, though, it’s unlikely that authorities will administer any repercussions. It’s usually up to the poor soul’s friends to avenge him, assuming he had any.
There’s little refuge indoors either. The taverns are not choosy about clientele, and all sorts of unsavory types haunt the crowded pubs. Few establishments have bouncers, and those that do are there to protect the staff. Guests are on their own.