Nine Hells, what a tremendous affair that was. What an absolute mess. If this is how the Guilds conduct their affairs in Ælim towns, I fear for my safety.
It is late. The recruitment meeting ended an hour ago, and I am in new lodgings. There is much to write and I do not want to omit anything important.
The recruitment banquet. For the record – not a banquet. Went in hungry and stayed that way until I got here now and dug into some travel rations.
Directions were easy enough to obtain this afternoon; the innkeeper at my former hovel had other lodgers attending the event, and provided clear guidance : Side street off a main street, can’t miss the tent. And a hesitant wish of good luck. I should have more closely marked that hesitation.
Admission to the huge pavilion tent was unchecked; as I arrived there was quite a crowd already under its shelter. Don’t know who or what I expected to find in attendance. Worried that it would all be fighters, lean warriors, and soldiers for hire.
I was not out of place. It was a motley collection, to rival the layabouts I’d seen at the Moravis docks before setting sail for Ælim. Not a man of the crowd was of significant experience. Many were drunk. Or not drunk enough to notice that they were seriously out of place. They had the look of men who had either failed at every other profession, or had yet to attempt any other profession. There were some women too. Descriptions made previous, apply to them as well.
Out of interest I stayed. I wandered the crowd, not making eye contact, but not ignoring anyone. Like-minded professionals tended to clump. A furtive, shadowy figure caught my notice, over by the wall. Same too with a flamboyant fighter-type, making loud talk among men he didn’t know. Saw a monk, a fullblood Elf, a Dwarf. And a dark-eyed Sorcerer I didn’t like for a moment. Spellcasters, fighters, rogues – I suspect all the classes were represented in some form. The noise swelled; the mood grew anxious.
Hardy, capable men took to a platform at the near end of the pavilion. They wore patches and sashes of this Guild in formal regalia. And they were armed with weapons. Metal ones, of quality. I wasn’t the only one who noticed that.
One man, Gavin, spoke for the others. He spoke curtly, directly. As one does when pressed with a dozen unwelcome tasks and in earnest dealing with each in turn to see it ended. His eyes moved across the crowd without interest. He delivered a worn-out speech about the value of membership in this Guild, vague assurances of its benefits. It went on as long as it needed to.
The speech ended with a suggestion that each man present would be chosen to pledge the Guild based on his display of skill. The disquiet that followed bespoke a confusion and uncertainty that might well have lasted the whole night. I don’t know for certain that I was the most intelligent person in attendance (it is likely), but even I wasn’t sure what this Gavin fellow intended to have happen. And I was distracted by the lack of banquet-suitable refreshment.
A lot of people stood and looked at each other, shrugging and talking quietly. I don’t think anyone had any idea what to do.
Then, that flamboyant fighter-type, the loud talker. He started it. He set off the whole fray.
Taking it upon himself to act, this particular fellow pleasantly shooed people away to create an open space around him. They obliged. Then, to the surprise of many, he proceeded to blindfold himself. Now he had the crowd’s full attention. Around this time, I noticed some of the Guildsmen descend the stage and move about the perimeter of the crowd.
With great flair, this flashy fighter-type produced a pair of crude wood clubs and proceeded to engage in a theatrical demonstration of his skill with weapons : mock strikes, parries, and feints. He ducked, turned, jumped; grunted with each lunge, earnestly believing he was mesmerizing the crowd. All this went on for perhaps a minute; onlookers were stunned silent.
It ended when a single voice burst from within the crowd; a plaintive, exasperated voice that hollered out, “What in the fuck is THIS ?”
A tremendous roar of laughter followed. The fighter ended his whirling dervish mid-stride, off balance. He removed the blindfold, and looked about, crestfallen. The laughter died down and attention waned. The performer seemed to re-think his plan.
Before the circle of the crowd broke down, one fellow stepped into the space. He made some motions I thought looked familiar. A burst of flame leapt from his hands into the air in a brilliant display. Burning Hands. He’s a cleric. It’s a very low-level spell, not one I will ever use, but effective for show. The crowd reacted, impressed.
Not to be upstaged, the flamboyant fighter turned to a bystander, and lashed out a crushing blow with one of his clubs to that man’s head. The victim dropped like a sack of rocks, his limbs loosened, a bright gush of blood jarring the crowd’s mood. Then everything went crazy. Scary, messy crazy. Just like that.
I scrambled to the edge of the crowd. Near to the shadowy guy at the pavilion wall. He hadn’t done anything and didn’t look like he was about to. Good company for me to keep. People in the crowd either turned on the guy beside them, or squared off as pairs against others, or tried to get out of the way. There was a brilliant flash; that unsavory Sorcerer dropped several people, flat out. Best thing I can say about him is that I know he died before this fight ended.
I spotted a Guildsman near. He was watching the fight as it escalated into thrashing melee brawls and offensive spellcasting. Watching and waiting; observing, judging. Certainly not stopping it.
People needed help. I moved quickly. Attended the bystander who was dropped by the showy, instigating fighter, who himself had moved on into the fray to engage more foes. Dragged the injured man out of the battle. That shadowy fellow near the wall cast a healing spell on another injured combatant. A cleric then; but out of practise? He cast poorly, uncertainly, as if he was completely unskilled at healing.
Flashes of the fight come from memory, beyond words, past description that would make sense. The crowd thinned out quickly. Many simply fled when the fight broke out. Those with skill or courage remained, fighting in tight circles. This was not sparring. Full muscle came to bear. It was hard to say where this riot was headed. It would slow, then roar back to life, then slow again.
Almost at random, a combatant might be tapped by a Guildsman, indication to leave the fight as a chosen initiate, their skill proven. I was engaged in recovery and triage operations when I felt a firm tap on my shoulder and saw a Guildsman nod to the perimeter. This man was a good judge of skilled healing, but ignorant of the surgical field. Far too much to be done before I’d leave these patients.
I stayed, expended all the spells I had for the day, aided as many as I could manage. Whether it was two minutes or twenty I could not say. I suffered no damage, and avoided the worst of the fight. The battle itself subsided, the floor bled of willing warriors, what was left a scene of carnage. I felt disappointed at the needlessness of it.
We were two groups, selected out of the fight. A party of three; Dwarf, monk, and a female fighter with bright red hair. They went off as chosen with one senior Guildsman. The rest of us, myself and nine others, were led out by Gavin. Other Guildsmen stayed to clean up.
Gavin’s interest in us was no greater than that in his speech. His words were few. No praise. Mild congratulation. Led us to a Guild rooming-house and showed us to a hall. Implication was that this was ours for the duration. Some of us ducked out after he left, to retrieve the gear we’d left at our rooms at the inns. One of my group had stayed at my inn; a monk type, said his name was Bob. We returned together. He seems all right.
Not much talking among the group of us. I get the sense that none of the group is of an evil bend, that we should be safe enough sleeping in a Guild’s property without fear for our lives. That troublemaking fighter who started the riot is here, loud with his own praise. I’ll get to describing the rest of the lot tomorrow.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
3rd Day in Callia, territory of Ælim.