Black Hollow’s taverns, inns, pubs and docks were bursting with citizens, pirates, lords and marauders. Fauns walked among the Ata’uhn scouts in the cobble stone streets. Wizards sold their wares, or placed their pointy hats on the ground to collect coin for a show that no one in the realm had ever seen before. Or so they would say. Other less scrupulous sorts, would simply animate an object, a stick or a smooth stone with a a simple cantrip, calling it a Kasillian artifact of “unknown origin”. Others filled potion bottles with water, honey, and a dye and cured those who they met later in a pub, giving them a part of the take under the table. Puppets from what was known as the Halfling Shows acted out the recent battles of Lord Taryn and Mesilla, brought in story from teller to the colonies. Others paid a copper to see the real life enactments, compliments of minor illusions, of what was now known as The Freeing of Far Realm, in which a group of unlikely street urchins were led by the brave and talented Lord Canton against a foul demon who lived deep in the underground caverns beneath the city’s sewers.
Most of those saviors had gone missing, surely lost to the darkness of the isles, or the depths of it’s seas, never to be seen again. The other two were currently not missing, and were at that very moment smiling with the thoughts of their reinvigorated treasury.
The port town of Black Hollow, now turned bristling port city, was alive with the festivities of the games. The crowds moved as one, swaying and flowing from point to point. And perhaps, no other area of the town was as alive as the Hero’s plaza. The place where Lord Haryk and Governor Andril now found themselves sitting, watching their guest, Governor Tuatha speak to the assembled crowd.
Wearing his finest coatl plumed robe, Tuatha stood. Throwing out his hands, the feathers of his coat, arced like a rainbow after a storm. His shrill voice called out, small at first, and then it grew while the sorceror standing behind him cast a spell. The magical energy powered the otherwise small voice out and above the thousands of onlookers gathered tightly in the plaza. “Celns, Halves, Countrymen, lend me your ears!”
The crowd grew quiet, no easy feat for such a pirate town. The Lord Tuatha seemed pleased, and continued, his arms kept wide for the duration of his speech. Behind him, Haryk turned to Andril. He figured the mage was thinking the same thing he was. But he’s good for morale, he reminded himself.
The truth was that Andril and Haryk had never quite believed Tuatha’s story about their comrades. Oh sure, they had died on the island. That much was certainly true, but here they were, gazing at this rainbow coated fool of a Celn, a man who had told them the most unlikely of tales, and they knew better. They knew better then, and they knew better now. The story was most remarkable for it’s universal boast of what they knew Tuatha Ulrecht would never do, nor could do. It had taken all his energy, and ale, not to laugh outloud, or spit in the bard’s face upon hearing it for the first time. Now, several iterations later, and even more enemies unearthed, the story was one of honorable heroism, Tuatha himself saving the warriors that Haryk and Andril had fought side by side with. When Tuatha had first offered to tell the tale publicly, and in so doing grant them their rights to governorship, neither had believed him. But neither was fool enough to allow an opportunity to gain wealth drift away in the tide, especially when they themselves had watched the fools walk towards the drums, the drums that belonged to an island full of enemies.
Tuatha’s voice rang out once more, “Citizens, halves, lessers and lords. The time has come. The time for the Battle of Heroes!”
The crowd thundered in applause. Dwarves roared. Minotaurs grunted. Haryk smiled. Cha-ching.
Tuatha pointed to the contestants standing on the battle podium. Some wore glistening mail, or held aloft their magical armaments. Men, women, Celns, warriors and wizards from all over the isles. Many had made the trek across the still waters, from what the colonists called Old Realm. These were powerful warriors, all. Each here with one wish. To hoist the Sword of Cillandar. To become The Hero of the Realm.
“Warriors! Would be heroes! From the days before the Light of our realm, warriors gathered. These great battles are etched in stone. They are written in the rock of the ancients. We know these great battles were fought, were waged, and in each case, one worthy of being called Hero emerged. Always was it the same. Always was the Hero triumphant. And now, each of you will compete. In the greatest of battles. The ultimate competition for any who dare to call themselves warrior!”
Shouts from the crowd erupted. Many called for their favorite hero, who would in turn nod or raise their sword. One great centaur struck his morningstar against his shield, and the resonance echoed and drowned out Tuatha’s magical voice for the briefest of moments.
“The warrior shall be duty bound! Tomorrow for the first time in four years, since Mustakrakish himself slew the first of his foes in the great arena at Cillandar, in the morning of the games, the halves will battle the halves. The savage forces of darkness will fight for you to judge, for you to view. The light within these half men that prevails will carry on into the day. Such is your decision, noble Celns!” All in the crowd knew what that meant. Those warriors who were considered half, or half human would battle first. To be cleansed of their lesser spirit.
“Heroes deeds will make it known to you who will thus advance on into the later part of the day. For there, they will battle monster, man, machine. Gamemaster Billius has prepared for you all a series of events, of challenges for the heroes, while they fight! Do you recall the challenges that our great Hero, Mustakrakish faced? The fires, the pits, the….dragon?!!” Again, the crowd roared. Rumor had it that Billius had been planning something special for the first official Battle held in the colonies. It seemed like every ship in and out of the port was rumored to be a transport for some demon in it’s hold that surely would be seen during the competition.
“And the warrior, once more, will rise anew in the final round of battle! For at night, when the darkness returns, one will walk in the light. One will fight, while others die, and he alone will hold aloft the sword. The warrior will rise once more my friends. Are you ready for….the games?!!!!!”
Behind Tuatha, behind the shouts and grunts and roars of those who had come to see the games, Haryk smiled at Andril. “Are you ready for the games, Master Andril?”
“But of course, Lord Haryk. Are you?”
“I’ll let you know in the arena,” said the grizzled gunslinger.
“If you get a chance,” replied the mage.
(Are you not entertained??!!!!!!!!!!!!Yells the DM from the arena at Pompeii!!)