Fabled Lands of Byrra
Hawkspire Arena is known far and wide as being the most exotic around, with warriors and beasts from all over Byrra competing for fame, fortune, and freedom. Some whisper that it rivals the Grand Arena of Caelot. Once construction of the Hawkspire Arena was complete, rumors spread that Lord Governor Pompilus had aspirations of becoming the next King, with Hawkspire as the new capital.
While Hawkspire has always had taverns and inns for performers, the arena is the largest gathering place in the city, outside of Temple Square, in the Mid City. In the earliest days of the city, the land that is now the arena was an open-air market. As the city expanded, and became more prosperous, the markets moved towards the outlying neighborhoods of the Lower City and were replaced by acrobats, jugglers, concerts, plays, and even gambling. The performances and gambling were lucrative, so larger stone grandstands were erected. Eventually, to collect admission from the spectators, the stands were enclosed with high walls and gates.
When Hawkspire was inducted into the Brixian Empire, during the Third Age, the performances suddenly became more refined and brutal. The plays and concerts became more lavish and complex, reflecting the tastes of both the nobility and upper middle class. In addition, while wrestling, boxing, archery, and other martial competitions had always had a place in the arena, Lord Governor Drusus Pompus introduced actual blood-sports: duels between visiting nobles,
gladiatorial combat involving both slaves and freemen, and public executions were carried out in the arena.
A South Brixian epic with musical accompaniment is often performed under torch-light at night, while in the sand below the stage the blood of gladiators would not yet be dry.
Rumors persist that, during the Fourth Age, at the times of the Beast Wars, the Lord Governors forced captured orcs and outlanders to battle for their pleasure in the arena, but in particularly terrible combinations: a mother forced to kill her own children, a master torn to pieces by his dogs, and so on.
But in more recent years, the arena had fallen into disrepair; many of the seats had crumbled, and all of the luxurious silver fixtures added by past artisans had been looted. Some claim that the spirits of those executed here haunt the ruins at night. The chambers beneath the arena, used to hold wild animals and the condemned awaiting execution, is rumored to connect to the Under City, so one never knows what foul creatures might find their way into the city above.
At the end of the Fourth Age, a South Brixian Troubadour named Eonus arrived in Hawkspire, and requested an audience with the Lord-Governor. He claimed the spirit of a Bard from ancient Hawkspire told him to rebuild the arena and remount the glories of the past. With the promise of a large percentage of the take, he secured Lord Governor Marcius’ blessing to refurbish the arena and stage regular entertainments there, not the blood-games. He faced many obstacles, not the least of which was the inaccessibility of most citizens of Hawkspire to the arena, due to various gangs and guilds control of the neighborhood. By bribery of flesh and coin, Eonus was able to bring the arena back to its past glory.
Years later, Eonus left the city suddenly, because of some scandal, after selling his share of the arena to Metus Vul, a local ‘merchant’, who is rumored to have ties to the Unseen Hand. Metus has seen fit to reintroduce various blood-sports to the arena again, as ‘tribute’ to the days of old.
Any who are Freemen may choose to enter these matches for a potential prize of 50 silver pieces per match, though the purse may be larger depending on the fame of the combatants and the potential for a large audience. Fighters may also lay side bets on their matches, potentially earning much more. Matches are supposed to be fought to first blood, but a number of them have resulted in serious maiming or death. This has increased the popularity of the matches, much to Metus’ pleasure.
Gladiators are both professional and amateur fighters in Brixia, who fight for the entertainment of its “civilized” spectators. These matches take place in arenas in throughout the empire. Man vs. man and man vs. animal engagements, in combat that was at times to the death.
Non-professional contestants are typically recruited from criminals, slaves, and prisoners of war. If selected for such duty, having lost, or never had, the rights of a citizen, there is no choice but to comply for these “recruits”. Provided that one had desirable physical appearance and abilities, the arena could be a likely destination. Some free-born men as well, although they had not lost their citizen rights, voluntarily choose the profession and pledge themselves to the owner of a gladiatorial house by swearing an oath “to endure branding, chains, flogging or death by the sword”.
By taking the gladiator’s oath, both men and women agree to be treated as a slave and suffered the ultimate social disgrace. The potential advantages for this new career could outweigh the alternatives, however. Aside from the potential for public fame and fortune, including liaisons with Brixian women of even aristocratic status, the gladiator recruit becomes a member of a cohesive group that is known for its courage, good morale, and absolute fidelity to its master to the point of death. Life becomes a model of military discipline and through courageous behavior he is also now capable of achieving honor similar to that enjoyed by Brixian soldiers on the battlefield.
Gladiators are trained in special schools which can be found throughout the empire. There are two schools in Caelot itself, the largest of which is called the Ludus Magnus which is connected to the Great Arena by an underground tunnel. Hawkspire has only one such school, the Takuro Obinata school.
Gladiators are expensive to maintain, train and replace in the event of death, and keeping the most popular of crowd pleasers alive is far more practical than the alternative. That’s not to say, however, that death isn’t common among the non-elite. In these cases, when a gladiator has overpowered his opponent, he will turn to the spectators for a reaction from the crowd. The defeated gladiator would possibly raise his left hand asking for his life to be spared. If the spectators turn their thumbs down they are indicating that the fighter should live (perhaps indicating a desire to sheath or lay down the weapon).
The other is the use of thumbs and various motions to indicate the end of a match, such as that the thumb is positioned sideways to indicate a slashing motion across the neck, or even that a thumb pointed down with a thrusting motion represents an order for the victor to thrust his sword down into his opponents chest. The final decision in this is not made by popular crowd appeal and is usually left to a single judge (though clearly abiding by the crowd’s desire is a wise policy). In the presence of the King, the judgment belonged to him, but otherwise it may rest with the games sponsor.
Events are held weekly, except during special holidays when they are more frequent. Contestents come in many capacities, such as Freemen that battle in non-lethal, first-blood combat and lethal combat, often with slaves. Prisoners from the Outlands are brought in to fight for there freedom. Rarely do any survive as they are given either inferior weapons and often no armor. These fights are regarded as a death sentence to many.
Typically, most gladiators with enough fame and fortune, can purchase their freedom. Some, however, such as criminals, are either expected to die within a year, or might earn their release after three years, if they survive.
All types of creatures are also brought in to do battle in the arena. Mundane beasts, such as lions and tigers, or even mystical beasts have been captured and starved half-to-death, in order to get the most viscious kills possible.
There is currently a grand-champion of the arena, who battles any and all challengers. He is a brutal Beastman, who calls himself, .
Different gladiators specialized in different weapons and tactics. There are three main classes of fighters: heavy, medium, and light:
Heavy Gladiator -powerful opponents with a high capacity for damage, but low speed and accuracy.
- Samnite- equipped with a broad-rimmed helmet that enclosed the entire head, a small round or square-shaped shield, and two thigh-length greaves. His weapon is the curved sword, or the sickle.
Medium Gladiators -well rounded gladiators with average skills.
- Murmillos- Fully armored, they wear a helmet with a stylized crest, woolen quilted leg wrappings, and shin-guards. They carry a spear with a small round shield.
Light Gladiators -extremely fast and nimble. Though their damage capacity is usually low, they are able to move much faster than most heavy characters and are far better at dodging.
- Secutor- Armed with a spear or knife, these gladiators are condemned to fight beasts with a high probability of death.
Other types of gladiators are:
Often with one horse or two, the charioteer would use a spear or javelin, with a short sword as back up. On some occasions, a larger chariot would be used, holding an additional man, who would either use a javelin or bow.
Fight on horseback with a spear and gladius, dressed in a full tunic, with an arm-guard. Some, clad in chainmail like cavalry, wear visored helmets without eye holes, and charge blindly at one another on horseback.
Carry a trident, a dagger, and a net, while wearing a manica, which extends from the shoulder to left side of the chest. Retiarii occasionally use a metal shoulder shield.
Mounted bowman armed with compound bows capable of propelling an arrow a great distance.
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