City on Fire

Trigger Warning: Contains violence and hate

When we reach the mainland, we stay in a coastal city. Mersavi’s cities are big and full of technological advancements, but Lekravis’s cities are bigger. And wealthier. The Lekravis Federation’s capitalist economy allows merchants and other high-ranking vilsnia to live lives of luxury. The city center is full of intricate architecture and elaborate decorations, showing off the inhabitants’ wealth and high social standing. But your explorations of the city reveal the truth.

On the outskirts are shoddy wooden structures that barely pass as homes, and the neighborhoods are crowded with hungry people who are constantly fighting for survival. Where there is wealth, there is also poverty. And despite the city’s efforts to hide it behind their grand central district, you’ve found it and seen the true nature of the Federation.

I’ve given you metal currency, but many of you are reluctant to support the wealthy merchants who allow their neighbors to live in such awful conditions. Instead, you find ways to support the poor by buying their wares, paying for a service, or just giving them the money out of kindness and charity. It won’t fix the broken system they live in, but the piece of bread they can now buy and the happiness your kindness brings make a difference, no matter how small.

The next day we travel to another city, and while this one is smaller and more rural, it sadly has the same glaring wealth gap. Ividen is deep in the Devri Mountains, so at least the poor can hunt and forage for food. Shelter is the greatest concern here because of the cold temperatures.

As you see more and more suffering here, your travels lose their fun and excitement. You want to move on to a different place that doesn’t have all this hardship. But we have two more stops before you can escape the realities of life.

Both are rural cities in the savanna, but there’s a striking difference between them. The first one looks like the other cities we’ve seen, but the second one has a huge burned section.

Dark clouds of smoke still rise from part of the city, fouling the air with their stench. You all purchase scarves from some of the lower-class vendors, so you can keep your noses and mouths covered when you’re outside. The city is about to experience even more turmoil and violence, but let me tell you the story of how it started.

* * * * *

The merchants who run Krel met in the wealthiest’s massive dining room. The beautifully carved and polished table dominated the room, and it was long enough to comfortably seat the twenty-eight merchants, each of which had their own ornately carved chair.

“We must do something about this rampant disease that’s polluting our beautiful Krel,” Lovrenin said. “These worthless people who can’t support themselves have got to go.”

“They’re a burden on the rest of us,” Ularo said.

The merchants all agreed with “Hear, hear!” or “Death to the poor!” Together, they devised their plan for ridding the city of their presence.

* * * * *

Wrem slept soundly next to his wife, Flesia. Their two children were sleeping in a smaller bed on the other side of the room. Wrem and Flesia ran a small candle-making business. They didn’t make much because they had so many competitors–including one wealthy individual who had figured out how to mass produce candles–but it was enough to get by.

Wrem was dreaming about taking the kids to the market and buying them new clothes. They were both getting so big. The kids tried on outfits in comfortable fabrics with attractive designs. But then the store caught fire, flames suddenly devouring the walls and clothing inside. Smoke burned Wrem’s throat as he grabbed his children and ran.

Waking with a start, Wrem sat upright. He rubbed sleep from his eyes and drank from a cup by his bed to get rid of the burning in his throat. But the burning didn’t stop. Wrem could smell smoke. He got up and peeked out the window. An orange blaze had engulfed the neighbor’s house, and sparks flew toward Wrem and Flesia’s wooden home.

Momentarily frozen, Wrem was horrified by what he saw, but he snapped out of it and shook the children and Flesia awake. The family fled their home and found the streets packed with displaced vilsnia. Only now could Wrem see that half the neighborhood was on fire.

A few parents were gathering all the children together and offering to watch over them and take them to a safe place away from the fires. Wrem and Flesia sent their kids with the parents, giving them strict instructions to stay with the other children and obey the adults. Then Wrem and Flesia returned to the fires.

Many vilsnia were trying to extinguish the flames with magic. Wrem could control earth and used dirt to smother the fire. Flesia could create wards and used her ability to protect herself, so she could go inside buildings and look for trapped individuals.

The two of them and their neighbors worked tirelessly through the night until all of the fires had been put out. While Flesia had managed to rescue several people, most of the time she ended up recovering bodies. People with healing abilities cured burns and cleared smoke from people’s lungs.

Many people were in a daze, struggling to grasp the horrors they had just experienced. While many people worked together to set up shelters, gather food, and reunite separated loved ones, others wanted to know the cause of the fires.

While Flesia handed out food and water, Wrem opted to help investigate. He and a few others walked down the streets, taking note of which houses were burned and the severity of the damage. The neighborhood was large, so it took a few hours. After they finished their survey, they determined three-quarters of the neighborhood was damaged with over half of it beyond repair. The source of the fire was unclear.

* * * * *

Krel was buzzing with the news that one of the neighborhoods had caught fire during the night. While many of the city’s inhabitants rushed to the survivors’ aid, the merchants who ran the city sat back and enjoyed their success. While there weren’t any official reports from law enforcers and healers yet, the rumors said over a hundred people had died. The merchants had successfully decreased the population of “diseased” individuals.

Little did they know that they had just started a war between themselves and the poor, and unfortunately for them, the poor far outnumbered them. The survivors of the fire and their allies were about to start a revolution addressing the rampant poverty and wealth gap in the Lekravis Federation.

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