THE CHAMPION’S BOON
To encourage the voluntary participation of fighters – after all, they risk their lives at the Arena – the Emperor has passed a Decree that institutes The Champion’s Boon.
The decree states that when a Hero manages to win fifteen battles in a row in the Arena of Fate (the main Arena, where the fiercest combats are fought to decide the most important conflicts), he or she is granted a wish. Whatever wish the Empire can fulfill, except those that would put the Empire itself under risk of extinction.
It is the ultimate position of glory, that everyone, even those who are not fighters, dream about. And it is another reason for representatives to fight: other, personal, interests.
Although the Gift was voraciously coveted at the time it was instituted, today, many understand the risk of death involved in fighting in the Arena of Fate and are content to retire after winning a few battles, as the level of competition in the Arena of Fate is insane. Thus, so far, nobody has been able to win the Champion’s Boon.
Only one fighter, known today simply as The Captain, came extremely close, having won 14 battles in a row. Rumors tell that the Emperor discreetly invited him to a meeting when the fourteenth victory was achieved, which resulted in the following agreement: the Empire granted the Captain the maximum rank in the Imperial Army hierarchy – the greatest position of power in Tanares (just below the Emperor); in return, the Captain committed to abdicate the gift – and has never fought again in the Arena of Fate.
The Arena had a profound and unforeseen impact on Tanarian society. People like to watch the fights on weekends and talk about them during the week. It has become an immediate phenomenon, and today it is a fundamental part of the Tanarian culture.
Many parties became satisfied with the institution:
- The Church abominates wars, deeming them unwanted by the Gods, and the Arena practically guarantees that no wars will happen while the Empire exists, because it allows the solution of big conflicts in a small environment, with minimal bloodshed.
- Powerful noblemen, that hold many interests in many places, had their pleas answered with this mechanism, through which they get to defy interests opposed to their own.
- The masses have a source of entertainment. Kids grow up dreaming of becoming a glorious Hero in the Arena of Fate. Governors have a steady source of income.
Newspapers publish extensive articles about major battles. People follow the list of heroes who are close to achieve the Champion’s Boon. Artisans make costumes and toys of the most famous Heroes.
The construction of Arenas outside the Capital popularized the institution and began a wave of diversification, because its administrators, seeking profit, started to give alternative uses to the space.
When two mortal enemies want to kill each other, they can legitimately do so with a duel, without that constituting a crime. There are several ethical rules for this kind of confrontation, which makes refusing to attend one a profound shame.
Many criminals are humiliated and killed in all kinds of trials, varying according to the offense. In one event, a team of convicts, wearing heavy armor, has a few minutes to catch loose hens in the arena. After these minutes, experienced fighters enter the Arena with orders to kill those who are not holding hens.
The Church considers that the gods approve Arenas, after all, they exist precisely to avoid the divine curse against worse acts (see ‘Malrokian Curse’). Thus, the trial by combat was instituted, under the belief that the gods would not allow serious injustices to be committed in the results of the fights.
This mode of combat was rapidly popularized among accused, especially those against whom there is solid evidence of the crime, or those captured by the Inquisition on the charge of having committed religious crimes.
Over time, many other uses for the Arenas have been discovered and popularized. Lately, it is common to have circus and musical presentations before the battles begin, as the audience takes their seats and the fighters sharpen their swords.