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Sunset--Arena 21

The red-robed priest cast the bones on the colorful mosaic floor. On all sides, anxious nobles held their breath, and King Cyrath shifted uneasily on his throne. The priest stared at the pattern the bones made, moving occasionally to look from some new angle or vantage.

"There it is," he said finally, gathering the symbols of his office from the ground and rising to leave. "The bones speak clearly, and they never lie. Kill all of the gladiators."

"The gladiators!" said Lord Seller after a long pause. "But surely it cannot be. In these times of famine and pestilence, the arena is the only diversion the peasants have! If we remove them, what will we do to keep them from thinking on the hardness of these times?"

"That is not my concern, merchant-lord. I had no doubt that you would be the first to question the word of the Holy One, for is not the arena full of concession stands bearing your mark and stamp? Nevertheless, the bones tell me that if we destroy the gladiators, then prosperity will again come to Sunset. Good day, and may our Lord Seefe be with you." The priest cast one last look of contempt at Lord Seller, and strode from the room through a group of worried nobles.

The King stood and said to the captain of the guard, "Take two regiments of the army. The first will stand by the exits of the arena and prevent any from passing. The second will enter the arena and kill all they find there."

The captain, white-lipped, nodded and left, thinking of the men in his command whom he would never see again.

Lord Seller stood a little to the King's left, lost in his thoughts. Suddenly, he leaned over and whispered something in the monarch's ear. The King began to smile, and then to laugh.

"The priest of Seefe has decreed that all gladiators in Sunset must die. Far be it from a mere king to gainsay one of the clergy," he said. "However, I do not think our Lord would mind if we obtained a new crop of warriors--after a respectful period of mourning, of course."

Soon, all of the nobles of Sunset began to laugh.

That was why the arena of Sunset Island came to be known as the "arena of death." A little over a year later, the great mage, Sheila Greywand, sent forth her agents to form the Gladiatorial Commission and create the network of arenas that now spans the land of Alastari. During that time, the nobles of Sunset had been trying to attract gladiators to their arena, but with little success. The protection of the Lady of the Isle proved a sufficient guarantee that there would be no more slaughters, and at last the arena rang once more with the cheers of the crowds, as blade met blade upon the sands. The term "arena of death" has taken on a less tragic meaning, as the gladiators of Sunset have won fame throughout Alastari for their outstanding ferocity.

The merchants of Sunset (and they are legion) generally pray to Filarnon the Windgod, Mover of Ships. The worship of Seefe, God of the Endless Scroll, Patron of Scribes, Bureaucrat of Heaven, has diminished greatly on the rocky isle of Sunset, while the followers of Mantor the Bright, Sword of Heaven, have swelled in number. The priests of Mantor are trained in armed and unarmed combat, and often serve as military leaders. Dagath Sevenfinger, the Arenamaster of Sunset, is an instructor at the temple of Mantor.

Sunset is a hilly island, not well suited to agriculture, though there are some fine orchards. The main local industries are the herding of sheep and goats, the production of woolen fabrics, and fishing. Sunset also produces fermented apple and peach ciders, which are quite strong, and more popular on the western islands than the ale which is favored on the mainland. However, most of the island's income comes from its merchant navy, which brings goods from across the Trier Sea--beautiful works of art from the elven lands and enchanted trinkets from the Skaithvarn Peninsula--to sell on the mainland of Alastari. Though staunchly Delarquan, both culturally and politically, the merchants of Sunset trade freely with the Andorian coastal cities, as well as those of the Federation.

The main city on the island is Tivorin Dell, on the southeastern side. Sheltered by the surrounding hills, Tivorin is a very old community built of brown stones, with the royal castle looming over the harbor on the high northern arm of the encircling land, and the arena rising from the bluff to the south.

Sunset is ruled by King Cyrath, the seventh monarch of the Cimordan dynasty. Cyrath is considered a strong king, under whose rule the island has prospered (most of the time). However, he may be the last of his line, as he has five daughters and no sons thus far, and the laws of the kingdom prohibit a female from wearing the crown. He has had two wives executed because they would not produce sons, and has recently married a young Ardiventian noblewoman named Glynnis. His daughters, Arabeth, Shendra, Chrysanth, Lyrienne, and Droxine, are all of marriageable age (Arabeth is pushing twenty-five), beautiful or at least good looking (Shendra squints), and sweet-natured (well...the other three, born of Cyrath's darkelven bride, are perhaps a little wild). They will probably soon be married off to neighboring monarchs to cement treaties and trade agreements. Meanwhile, Cyrath's cousin, Godorin the Impaler, is next in line for the throne, and no one is terribly pleased about it.

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Published on: 2002-07-14 (1395 reads)

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