IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE
SESSION 4A: RIOT IN OLDTOWN
April 7th, 2007
The 18th Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty
The party decided that Ranthir should continue his research at the Delver’s Guild Library. The rest of them would head to the Republican rally scheduled to start in just a couple of hours.
On the way back up to Oldtown they finished selling the rest of the gear (with Elestra heading into the Bull and Bear Armory to avoid any further repercussions from Tee’s bad run-in with Iltumar the day before).
After dropping Ranthir off at the Delver’s Guild Library, the party continued down Dalenguard Road, discovering that the Administration Building (where the rally was being held) was only a few blocks away. A large platform had been erected in front of the pool in the center of the courtyard before the building. Only a few people milled about – the group was about an hour early for the rally itself.
The group split up: Agnarr headed up to a position parallel from the platform, planning to keep an eye on the crowd. Dominic and Elestra headed to the opposite side, standing near the edge of Dalenguard Road. Tee kept a look-out for Phon, suspecting that she might attend the rally.
Tee was right. About twenty minutes before the rally was scheduled to start – after a relatively large crowd of a couple hundred people had gathered – Tee saw Phon coming up Dalenguard Road from the east. Tee went over to her and waved, receiving a friendly smile and wave in response. After chatting amicably for awhile, Tee said that she’d like to keep an eye on Phon during the rally, just to make sure she was safe. Phon was glad to hear it, but suggested that – since the rally was about to begin – they should get a place near the front.
Just then, a shorter man – barrel-chested and with thinning hair, wearing fancy robes of black and silver – emerged from the Administration Building. Accompanied by two other men, with whom he chatted and laughed, he strode up to the platform, raised his hands, and cried out: “Friends! This is a momentous day! This is the day that you hear the truth of brotherhood and freedom!” The crowd settled down.
No one thinks more highly of the mercantile trade than I! No one respects the sweat and the blood of our livelihoods more than I! Our guilds give us strength! Our trade gives us strength! Our enterprise gives us strength! They give us freedom!
This is no land of petty tyrants or kings. We do not live in barbarism. But this is the question of our day. A question that I would argue strikes at the very heart of the difference between freedom and slavery. For we are slaves, though we may not see it. We are slaves of traditions which go back before the dawn of living memory. We are slaves of rules we did not make; of articles we did not write.
As soon as Helmut began speaking, several members of the City Watch appeared. Agnarr counted eight in all. They formed a semi-circle to the south, basically encircling the crowd. Agnarr began to get antsy. It wasn’t long before Dominic and Elestra, near the edge of the crowd, also noticed the presence of the Watch.
It is natural for a man to indulge in illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men? I say no! I say have we not eyes with which to see? Ears with which to hear? Voices with which to speak? Then let me hear you speak!
The crowd roared! Agnarr could see the members of the Watch shifting uneasily.
Then let me tell you what I see: I see men who have done nothing raised to greatness on their riches. I see a great city slaving for the needs of men and women who have never set foot in it!
And let me tell you what I hear: I hear men crying out under the burden of a council they did not make. I hear a great city crying out for freedom.
The crowd began to cheer again, but Helmut raised his hand and cried them down: “No! No! …
This is no longer a time for hope, it is a time for action! Ptolus will not be free until we make her free. Ptolus will not be strong until we make her strong. Ptolus will not be ours until we make her ours!
It is time for the dream of a greater deot to be realized! It is time for a council elected by every working brother and sister in all of Ptolus!
The members of the Watch began making their way towards the stage, pushing their way through the crowd through force. They had drawn their shortspears. An angry murmur began to rise through the crowd from all directions. Helmut looked down and seemed to see them for the first time. “What’s happening here?!”
The Watch neared the stage: “Helmut Itlestein, you are under arrest!”
Helmut cried out: “Help! Help from any good citizen of the city!”
Agnarr didn’t see what happened next – he was too busy getting ready to leap to Helmut’s defense. Tee didn’t see it — she was too busy trying to figure out how to get Phon out of harm’s way. Elestra didn’t see it – the movement and passion of the crowd around her had awakened a part of her that had felt numb ever since she had woken up in the Ghostly Minstrel; she could feel the Breath of the Streets beginning to stir around her and, in that moment, nothing else seemed to matter.
But Dominic did: More than a dozen people – as if on cue – simultaneously hurled stones at the members of the Watch. As if the stones broke the ice, someone suddenly reached out and slugged one of the Watch. An angry roar rose from the crowd as it surged forward.
Then things started happening very quickly. Tee grabbed Phon (“Come on! We have to get out of here!”). Agnarr ran for the stage, trying to reach Helmut – but couldn’t press through the sudden angry mass of people. Dominic ran forward, trying to gain some sort of control over the crowd… but he was too late, things were rapidly deteriorating into a mob.
Tee and Phon quickly found that it was almost impossible to move against the angry surge of the crowd – particularly for the pregnant Phon. Elestra, seeing that Tee and Phon were in trouble, dove into the crowd and tried to reach them. Dominic followed.
Agnarr, meanwhile, finally managed to shove his way through the crowd and reach the platform – just in time to see Helmut run through the door back into the Administration Building.
The members of the watch, meanwhile, were being pummeled and beaten by the crowd. Their weapons had already been stripped away from them. Dominic and Elestra, although running forward with the best intentions, now found themselves caught up in the swirling and eddying chaos. Having lost track of where Tee and Phon had gotten to – and seeing a nearby guard bloodied by the crowd – Dominic and Elestra tried to push through the mob and help. Elestra was the first to get there, but her efforts only succeeded in turning the crowd against her. (Fortunately she was wearing her armor, which – for the moment – was sufficient to protect her from the ill-coordinated pummeling of the crowd.)
(Ranthir, meanwhile, was reading a book. “I wonder how the others are doing…” he pondered as a beam of soft sunlight fell through the window and bathed him in its warmth. Dominic, meanwhile, was reflecting that he could read… he should have stayed at the library.)
Agnarr ran for the Administration Building, only to find the doors had been bolted. Deciding that breaking into this building would not be the best idea, he ran back up onto the platform. He spotted Dominic and Elestra being attacked by the crowd and, throwing caution to the wind (as was his wont), he ran pell-mell to the edge of the platform and leaped a dozen feet or more out into the midst of the crowd. Landing only a few feet away from his companions, the mighty thews of his arms shoved the surprised crowd-members out of the way. Having reached his friends, he tried to clear a path for them – heading west towards the nearest edge of the chaos – but the crowd closed in upon them again and their progress was stymied.
Despite his keen vision, Agnarr couldn’t see, through the mass of people, that six more guards from the local watchhouse a block away were now running towards the crowd. The mob, seeing them, suddenly surged in their direction. The watch members stopped, braced their spears, and took the charge. The front lines of the mob, suddenly seeing many among them bloodied and possibly dying, broke and scattered into nearby streets and allies. But those behind – unaware of the carnage ahead of them – pressed on ferociously and overwhelmed the guards.
(Ranthir, with his keen vision, quickly found the book he was looking for.)
This sudden roaring movement of the mob, however, actually left Tee and Phon free of it (although there was a frightening moment when Phon was almost pulled from Tee’s grasp and carried along with the mob). Tee seized the opportunity to hurriedly rush Phon east down Dalenguard Road. Once they were a couple blocks away she stopped to make sure that Phon was all right, then sent her on her way and promised to meet her at St. Gustav’s Chapel as soon as she might. Then she turned back to see what aid she might be to her companions.
Agnarr and the others, meanwhile, were having no luck in making progress against the suddenly thickening and raging mob which had descended on the newly arrived members of the watch. Then he saw that a large group of students was emerging from the Merchant University (only two short blocks away). He redoubled his efforts.
(Ranthir narrowly avoided dropping a priceless and delicate volume of ancient poetry… thus averting potential disaster.)
As Tee arrived back on the eastern edge of the square, the students gathering in front of the Merchant University suddenly rushed forward (had they been incited, too?). Agnarr and Elestra panicked and started heading back the other direction, where they met with much less resistance and made quick headway. Dominic, on the other hand, found himself hopelessly caught up by the mob.
Agnarr emerged from the mob, running at full speed east down Dalenguard Road. He raced straight past Tee, shouting, “This is bad! It’s getting worse! We’ve got to get out of here right now!” He didn’t even slow down to hear her shout that he should check in on Phon.
Elestra managed to emerge shortly thereafter, badly winded and a little bloodied. Tee stepped up to help her and the two of them looked back to see that Dominic was still caught on the far side of the mob… which had now become essentially the middle of the mob as the students from the university joined in. It seemed as if Dominic had given up trying to escape, instead preferring to just try to keep himself in one piece.
Tee and Elestra headed south, circling around one of the office buildings which faced the Administration Building, in order to get closer to Dominic without actually passing through the mob. This worked just fine, but as they paused to assess the situation, Elestra suddenly grabbed Tee’s shoulder and pointed down the street, “Oh gods! Look!”
The gates of the Dalenguard were opening and at least four full platoons of the Commissar’s Men were marching out and heading straight for the rioters.
Tee and Elestra threw themselves into the mob and managed to reach Dominic. Hastily using a rope to hold themselves together, they struggled back to the mouth of the street they had just left, with Dominic in tow. Although Dominic was, again, almost swept away by the mob as it surged forward to meet the oncoming soldiers, all three of them managed to make it to safety just in time. As the mob began to spasm in various directions, they raced south and then east, circling back to the Emperor’s Road and the ramp down into Midtown.
About ten minutes later, Ranthir heard a great commotion coming from outside the library. He wandered over to the window and looked out to see a huge mob of people pouring east down Dalenguard Road. “Oh dear… I wonder what’s happening?” Then he went back to reading.
Agnarr, meanwhile, had become winded after running for a few blocks as the adrenaline rush of his rage left him. Slowing to a brisk trot he decided that he should head to the Observatory and see if he could catch up with Helmut Itlestein there. Once there he spoke with Unosh, the half-elf assistant to Itlestein that the group had spoken with the previous evening. Agnarr had managed to outrun the news of what was happening in Oldtown, so Unosh was completely shocked to learn that a riot had broken out. Unosh was concerned about Helmut’s safety, but Agnarr wasn’t able to reassure him – he said that he’d come to see if Helmut was safe himself. Agnarr very carefully refrained from giving his own name and then left.
By the time Agnarr left the Observatory, Tee, Elestra, and Dominic had already reached St. Gustav’s Chapel and found Phon there safe and sound. Elestra decided to head back to the Ghostly Minstrel, but Tee and Dominic offered to escort Phon home. They said they were still fearful for her safety (which was true), but they were also hoping to find out where she lived. Phon led them to the North Market, where she apparently rented a room in a small house on Worry Lane (which seemed oddly appropriate).
Unfortunately, things with Phon did not end on a pleasant note: Dominic accused Helmut of deliberately starting the riot and this upset Phon greatly. “He was the one being attacked! How can you say he was responsible for that?!” Phon eventually asked them to leave, and they did.
Agnarr arrived at the Ghostly Minstrel shortly after Elestra did and found her in the common room having an early ale. Elestra glowered at him, “Nice of you to wait up for us.”
Agnarr shrugged. “Things were looking bad.” Then he bought both of them a fresh round of drinks. That’s where Tee and Dominic found them when they returned a little later.
The group decided that they should try to head back up to the Delver’s Guild Library and try to reach Ranthir to make sure he was okay. Heading back up towards Oldtown they saw smoke trailing up from the sky from several places in western Midtown. The further west they got, the emptier the streets became until, finally, an eery hush and silence had descended across the entire city.
Reaching the Dalenguard Road ramp they found it barricaded with a dozen members of the City Watch standing guard. Approaching, they were informed that Oldtown had been sealed until dawn by order of the Commissar. They were also told that the bridges spanning the King’s River Gorge had been shut down until nightfall, as had the Wharf Road ramp to the Docks. The Commissar was apparently attempting to keep the chaos as contained as possible. When they said that they had a friend up in Oldtown the guards said that was probably the safest place for him – it seemed almost all of the rioters had been pushed out of Oldtown.
The group decided to return to the Ghostly Minstrel and spend the afternoon relaxing: Indoors and off the streets seemed like the safest option for the moment. On their way back they nearly ran into a group of rioters, but they spotted them a fair distance off and managed to skirt around them without meaningful incident.
Meanwhile, Benris – the extraordinarily tall woman who worked at the Library – stopped in to check on Ranthir. She let him know that Oldtown had been sealed, and that they were going to leave the Library open for him. They’d also make up a room for him. Ranthir thanked her and went back to his studies.
The rest of the group spent the afternoon lounging in the Ghostly Minstrel’s common room. Tee played a little dragonscales – a game she had dearly loved before leaving Ptolus – and refamiliarized herself with the common strategies. The rest contented themselves with drinking and random socializing. The common room was busier than usual for an afternoon, most likely because so many people where choosing to stay in off the streets for fear of the riot. Indeed, the riot was the primary topic of conversation (although at one point Tee overheard someone talking about the fire at Toridan Cran’s house – it seemed to have become a item in the morning newssheets, particularly since Cran had been anonymously turned over to the City Watch by Brother Fabitor, but it didn’t sound as if their names were coming into it).
At sunset the group headed towards the Temple District, thinking to pay Helmut a visit at the Observatory. When they arrived, however, they discovered the Observatory surrounded by members of the Commissar’s Men. Attempting to gain entry proved fruitless (especially since Unosh could not remember the nameless barbarian) and the party was forced to return to the Ghostly Minstrel.