Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 1

Waterday, Harvester 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Ashraf Scarscale, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh Burntscale, and Southie enter Blackgem Amphitheatre to the roar of the crowds. As the announcer indicates they will be reenacting the Battle of the Wizard’s Tower, they note that a stone tower — perhaps thirty feet tall or so — has been built in the center of the arena. As far as they can tell, there are no traps or any such thing around. As they are acting on the part of the wizards, a pack of five gnolls will be acting as the gnoll contingent in this engagement. Three gnoll archers, a gnoll warrior, and a gnoll priest or magic-user of some sort enter the arena at the introduction. The goal of the “wizards” is to defend the flag atop the tower from being acquired by the gnolls; conversely, the gnolls hope to capture this flag.

At the signal, battle is joined. Ashraf and Resh take the center of the field, barking orders. Khuna deftly avoids an arrow as she runs for the tower. Croitus opens one of his canopic jars and summons the cadaver of a one-armed dwarf. Nobody and Southie immediately charge into the throng of gnolls. Nobody takes an arrow to the shoulder and a nasty stab from the gnollish priest, but takes his hand with her greatsword and sends him careening to the ground in response. Resh lets fly a spear that pins the gnoll priest’s other arm to the sandy ground of the arena. Southie begins antagonizing the sword-wielding gnoll, who stands his ground and gives as good as he gets.

Still reeling from multiple injuries, Nobody retreats to the tower. Meanwhile, Khuna is scaling the tower, and makes it to the top, viewing her surroundings. Seeing nothing untoward, and apparently still unimportant enough to merit attention from the gnolls, she notes Nobody and scales back down the tower to treat her. Although Nobody passes out from shock, Khuna manages to keep her stable.

Resh throws his second spear at the archers, impaling one through the chest and sticking him to the ground of the arena. Despite their victories, the fight still looks desperate as the gnoll manages to grievously wound Southie, but the tide turns when Ashraf notices that the trapdoors leading to the tiger pits are still open. He has just enough time to warn the others as flashes of orange rip out of the ground, savaging the fallen gnoll priest and the gnoll pack leader. The two archers begin a tactical retreat, firing arrows all the way, but to no avail — while one fires arrows at the dwarf zombie, Croitus has sneaked around the back of him and nearly bisects him with a well-timed crocodilian bite. The last dies horribly under the combined might of the remaining combatants.

Since the fight ended quickly, the beast masters keep the tigers in play, but they are swiftly slain as the gnolls were.

As the crowd roars at the victory, Southie decapitates a tiger and pries off its jaw to use the head as a hat. Croitus engages in cleanup, gathering a gnoll corpse for use in his canopic jars as well as eating the brain of the gnoll priest and the tiger. He learns a partial invocation for the gnoll deity Yeenoghu and learns that the tiger seems to like the taste of macaw.

Having obtained his tiger-head hat, Southie then proceeds to throw gobbets of meat and gore into the crowd and wave his genitals at them in distain. Khuna, meanwhile, scans the crowd for a familiar face — she is surprised to see the woman she seeks, and that there is some degree of recognition.

As Southie continues his display, the group is ushered back into the subterranean corridors of their home. After being led to the mess hall to feast, they are granted the opportunity to rest and obtain post-match massages. Croitus takes the opportunity to kill and animate a rat while the others take the opportunity to recuperate after the battle.

After having an opportunity to rest, they are led back to their cells. As she usually does after returning to her cell, Nobody starts quietly weeping. In an attempt to confort her, Khuna begins singing from her own cell. It works, and although nobody witnesses it, Southie also feels overcome as a single tear rolls down his cheek.

After a few hours, the six are released for exercises and mealtime. Traveling to the training room, they begin looking for things to do. The two trainers — Zedath the Stormwall and Thawtham Titanfist — are aiding in training. Zedath addresses the six as they enter, and as Southie growls and shows his typical disdain, Zedath insults him and dares him to attack. Ashraf shakes his head, but Southie’s ire has been raised; he removes his fine clothing, folds it, and sets it aside. As the rest of the room has fallen to stunned silence, the other gladiators and guards begin forming a circle for Southie and Zedath to settle their differences. As Southie and Zedath size each other up, Resh causes a distraction by falling into a weapon rack. Thawtham begins to strike him with his scourge, but is quickly distracted by the activity in the center of the room.

Southie leaps at Zedath, and although he takes a sound thumping from his scourge, he tears into Zedath’s throat, drops his trousers, scales Zedath, and begins thrusting into the open wound both in an attempt to demoralize him and to crush his trachea. To cause confusion, Ashraf shoves another gladiator into the arena. The gladiator goes crashing into Southie and Zedath, sending them toppling over. As they collapse, Croitus’ reanimated rat scurries into the fray and begins biting Zedath while Southie bites at his face, tearing out his eyes with his teeth. Climbing back to his feet, he asks the crowd, “Are you not wicked entertained?” Meanwhile, as the rest of the crowd stands in shocked silence, Thawtham attempts to flee, shouting to summon the guards. Resh, however, tackles him and begins wrestling with him. While Thawtham is otherwise engaged, Southie retrieves Zedath’s whip and begins strangling the goliath with it. Nobody clubs Thawtham in the head as he struggles, and Resh ends the taskmaster when he splits the Thawtham’s head open with his elbow.

Southie begins to rile the crowd as Khuna implores them to take this opportunity to take their freedom. As she begins passing out padded weapons, the crowd rallies, preparing to take up arms. Croitus uses the confusion to stuff Thawtham’s body into his last canopic jar, and to devour Zedath’s brain — whereupon he learns the call-and-response necessary to breach the magic doors in the complex.

A contingent of guards rushes down the hallway, but the first is shocked as a noose loops around his neck, for while the rest of the crowd was distracted, Ashraf was quickly building a trap. Although the noose breaks after a couple of swings, dumping the guard on the floor, the rest of the guards stay in the hallway to set up phalanx positions. However, they are quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught of the armed gladiators.

As the gladiators prepare to fight their way through the tunnels, Ashraf, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie plot, hoping to access the armory.

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