Chapter 8: The Slinnabar Circuit
The team returns back to Talinden from the forest of Caena Alora, and are happily welcomed back by the town. The children are back with their families, and the entire town has raised the adventurers up as heroes. Moira’s husband, who runs the Talinden Carpentry Guild, has promised the group a free favor. Melihas personally hosted a celebratory banquet in their honor. Generally, things are going pretty well as the group has made a name for themselves in Talinden.
Since their return, Flint has been helping Azima Brightwood back at the temple part-time caring for the last of the Cardian refugees. Azima asks Flint if he’s ever heard of The Slinnabar Circuit. She explains that the Slinnabar Circuit is a new sporting event that’s recently made its way through Gravenholm. The owners are two Gnomish brothers from Aelnor, and they own and manage a series of arenas all over the continent. Their third and newest arena just opened due north of Talinden, and everyone is talking about how much money is going in and out of it.
Azima mentions to Flint of her plans to take a short break from the temple and enter in the tournament herself. She asks Flint if he and his friends would care to join her, as it only seems right that the heroes of Talinden make an appearance as challengers. Flint agrees and rounds up the rest of the group to prepare for the trip. On the morning of their departure, the team meets Azima at the gate, and she introduces them to her little sister, Adele. Azima helps the group load their gear on her cart, and they all leave for the arena.
The arena grounds are about a half day’s journey from town, and so it isn’t until evening when the group finally arrives. As they approach, they see a huge stone and metallic structure, almost completely circular in design. Around the large stone structures are a series of smaller steel grates carved into the ground. They walk up to the large iron gate, and are welcomed by two guards with no discernable affiliation. A quick logic check would deem that they are private contractors, rather than military.
The group enters the front gate and are welcomed by Gelvin Slinnabar, Master of Ceremonies, and one of the co-creators of the Circuit. He addresses the group as “Champions,” and excitedly leads the group into the reception area, where the rest of the entrants are waiting with another similar-looking gnome. Gelvin’s brother, Mendin, is interviewing each participant as part of his routine security check. Upon entering, everyone is asked to store their weapons in the locker rooms, as weapons are forbidden in the participants’ quarters. Once all the weapons are stored, the brothers lead everyone into the participants’ quarters, where they have set up a welcome dinner for all the entrants. During dinner, Gelvin explains the basics and history of the Circuit.
Slinnabar Circuit is a single-elimination battle tournament pitting brave adventurers against some of most feared monsters pulled from the far reaches of the continent. What sets the Circuit apart from other grisly blood sports is the fact that it is non-lethal. He explains that the monsters are incapable of killing any participant. Once a fighter has been pushed to the brink (ie, 1 HP), the monster is remotely neutralized long enough for the staff to pull the fighter out of the arena. He proudly announces there have been no deaths in the 5 years he’s run the event across 3 locations, and then asks everyone to sign a liability waiver once dinner is over.
Once everyone has signed a waiver, Mendin explains how the tournament is structured. Everyone will be split into teams of 4, and will take on monsters in a series of 3 rounds. The Bronze and Silver events are held in the side arenas, which are essentially large, carved-out pits outside, while the Gold event is held in the main stadium. While there are some cash prizes to be won from the Bronze and Silver events, the real prize is for winning the Gold event. In the arena, the only rule is: murder is forbidden—for challengers and monsters alike. Once a participant is eliminated (reduced to 1 HP), everyone on the field will be frozen remotely using the devices attached to everyone’s inner ear. Mendin hands out a remote device to each person to wear. If anyone is skeptical, he puts one on himself and triggers the freeze, leaving him motionless for a few seconds.
Mendin gives everyone a few minutes to split into teams. At this point, Azima asks Zelvan and Varis to join her and Adele on their team, while Flint, Sentinel, Solarius, and Bulge form their own team. Each team retires to their individual dorm room for the night.
The morning of the tournament, the team of Flint, Sentinel, Solarius, and Bulge are woken up early by a loudspeaker calling them up. They grab their gear from the locker room in preparation for the first fight. They walk out the gates and into the Bronze arena pit. There are rows of bleachers on both side of the pit with a couple dozen of people on each. They climb down into the arena and are greeted by their first match.
Bulge, in a fury, charges straight at the gorgon, slicing a vital spot with his sword. Unfortunately, this only does enough damage to enrage the creature. In one swift movement, the beast rushes Bulge, impaling him straight through with its horns. Before he can react, Bulge feels his entire body tense up, and the next thing he knows he is removed from the tournament. He then watches from the sidelines as the rest of his team retaliates against the monster, and are quickly showered with applause. The remaining group is awarded the Bronze Cup, and they return to their room to get some rest. Meanwhile, Bulge is approached by a shady fellow who makes him a tantalizing offer. Without understanding the details, Bulge agrees to the man’s offer, and is somehow given a second chance back in the tournament, unbeknownst to the rest of his team.
Meanwhile, the team of Varis, Zelvan, and the Brightwood sisters are preparing for their own Silver Circuit challenge. As they head outside, they are met with a large, spherical iron cage. With heavy anticipation, Varis draws his bow and knocks an arrow, looking at every direction. They hear a loud screech, as the monstrous Roc appears from the sidelines. Despite the fact that it’s only a baby, the bird still stands several feet taller than the warriors, with a wingspan filling half the arena.
The roc is angry and quick—too quick for the novice Adele. As she clumsily prepares a spell, the Roc dive bombs and bites right through the poor girl’s spine in one swift movement. Adele is immediately removed from the fight before the Roc can finish her off. Azima brings the flying beat down to the ground in a blind rage, while Varis picks it off with arrows from afar. Varis mortally wounds the Roc with a well-placed arrow straight through the eyes to finish the match.
To their surprise, Bulge returns to the team’s locker room the next morning. He briefly explains he bought someone’s place in the tournament, but doesn’t remember the details. The group shrugs it off and makes their way down to the side arenas. This time, they walk to the larger of the two outdoor pits. This one has a slight difference from the Bronze pit, in the form of a metal grate placed in the center of the pit. There are burn marks in the grate and a pressure plate located on the far side of the arena. This time, there is an almost full crowd of onlookers cheering them on from the bleachers.
After the chimera falls, the crowd leaps in applause and cheering, and they are awarded the Silver Cup. On Day 3, the team wakes up and heads to the main arena inside of the stadium. As they make their way from the locker room to the arena, they can hear the roar of the crowd shouting each of the different members’ names. The crowd is going wild with cheer as the group enters the arena. There isn’t much that stands out, aside from the black, cylindrical structure placed in the center of the arena.
Once the giant falls to the ground, there is an explosion of cheering and screaming. Gelvin is announcing their victory as people start throwing coins and flowers toward the center of the arena. The group is awarded 5,000 gold as their reward for winning.
Once they return to their quarters, a suspicious figure knocks on the door. He looks straight at Bulge and says “Great job out there! You can just hand over the prize, then.” The rest of the group shoots Bulge a confused look, as it quickly becomes clear how bought his way back into the tournament. The group talks the shady character down to only taking half of the reward money, and the man leaves without a fight.