15/4/1472 – 20/4/1472
The group spend the next day recovering from the physical and psychical wounds they received within the Deathloved lair – or at least, allowing them to recede enough to be ignored. They then spend the next few days trying to establish a fledgling network of informants and contacts within Irin, using a blend of intimidation, bribery and subtle manipulation. They also take the opportunity to try and locate a buyer for their ill gotten Theon's Bleu, and several members of the party do a bit of shopping; stocking up on minor healing potions and other arcane trinkets.
Then, on the evening of the 20th, with the wounds from their last battle with the Deathloved still aching, they prepare for the arena trials the next day.
21/4/1472 (Overcast but warm, misty drizzle in the afternoon, light rain at night)
08:00 – 18:00 The group arrive at the arena (along with several hundred other hopefuls) and engage in the first day's trials. These events are passed with little effort by all, though they are separated and put through tailored trials specific to their particular talents. They then return to their rooms, and rest up, readying themselves for whatever the next day brings.
22/4/1472 (Heavy rain)
08:00 – 18:00 – Another day of simple trials, which the group ace. By this point the number of hopefuls in their intake has been halved.
23/4/1472 (Light rain, brightening towards mid morning, then drizzle and heavy rain by nightfall)
08:00 – 09:30 - The group arrive with high hopes, expecting another day of simple trials that they will walk through. However, they find themselves in a wide arena built on two levels. Around the outside it has wide, clear paths, though these are interrupted by deep, spike filled pits. A wide section in the middle of the arena joins the parallel paths, whilst the rest of the arena is on a lower level. This lower level is wide and accessed via broad steps. However, it is overgrown with thick, swaying tendrils of fecund plant life – clearly magical in nature.
Dotted around the arena are strange, pulsing runes of brilliant light, and at each end, within slightly elevated areas, stand two magical flags, each billowing on unseen currents of magic. At the far end of the arena, the group can see another team of hopefuls – their opponents in this event; two men armed with longbows, a warforged who wields a huge maul and bears what appear to be stylized tribal markings, a slender woman with braided hair, covered in twisting tattoos and wielding paired scimitars, a dundorin warrior and a hulking human wielding a greatsword.
The rules of game are suddenly in their minds – they must take their opponents flag and bring it back to their base before their enemies can do the same. They learn that the runes are a gamble, for they can restore energy lost in battle, grant significant enhancements for a short period of time, or temporarily weaken – and they learn that they will not be harmed themselves, but are covered by a veil of magic which, when removed by combat or misadventure, will be restored – though the individual will be teleported to one of six areas in the arena in that instant.
The group are given a few minutes to discuss their tactics, and the strangeness of the set up causes some no small amount of confusion and distress. Others, such as Emmiven and Seren however seem to relish the chance to play the game before them, and try to reassure their less enthusiastic allies.
The game starts, and over the next ten minutes or so, a dazzling display of adaptation, magic, psionics and tactics unfolds. The archers are a particular problem, for they each imbue their missiles with elemental energy and strike with deft precision, whilst the woman proves a deadly foe; a psionic warrior able to teleport and strike multiple targets with lethal precision.
Over and again the team approach the flag only to be beaten back, though they manage to stop their foes laying their hands on their own flag even once (though they get damn close a few times). Several brutal skirmishes result in the opponents flag being dropped before it can be taken back, and several times it looks like no one is going to score. However, eventually, the group manage to rip the opponents flag away from their base, and to drag it back to their own, winning the event and ending the combat.
09:30 – 10:30 – The group rest.
10:40 – 11:00 – The group are lead deep under the main amphitheatre and then out into a small arena, surrounded by 80' high walls. It is a simple battle area; a crushed gravel floor who's monotony is broken up by three 40' high pillars of pitted and spike studded stone, and by two lethal contraptions – swirling, savage masses of whirling blades, which would simply tear apart anyone or anything coming into contact with them.
The group stand against the wall, using it to cover their backs, and after a few moments, five shimmering circles of power briefly glimmer under the gravel, and five monstrous opponents appear.
Four are huge wolves, each the size of the warhorse. They are savage, primitive things; all bony plates, raw, ossified spines and gaping, drool wetted fangs. They have patchy, wiry fur, and huge, curving claws that could rip a man open with the merest pass. The fifth monster is also a wolf of some kind. It is even larger than the others, and bears similarly savage additions to the normal lupine form. However, it has no real fur, only scaled, scarlet flesh, and sooty flames seethe along the length of its spike lined back. A nest of rustling spines, which ooze a black, smoking slime, grow in a cluster from between its sharp shoulder blades, and two forward jutting horns curve from behind its slitted, glowing eyes. Unlike the other monsters, which are clearly some kind of Dire Wolf, this thing is clearly imbued with some kind of malign intelligence.
Grigori identifies this horror as a Fiendish Dire Wolf, and warns that it will be a far more dangerous opponent than the other beasts.
A countdown echoes from above, and as soon as it reaches zero, the restraining circles around the monsters vanish, and they attack.
The battle is short but furious. The fiendish monster does indeed have a few surprises, including the ability to fire its deadly spines from a great distance, the venom on them suppressing the targets ability to heal, and an adaptive resistance to various elemental attacks.
However, using the arena's walls to guard their backs, and forming a horseshoe formation with the tougher adventurers at the front, the softer within its protective curve, the group carve the beasts apart, each vanishing in a fragile burst of energy as the spells binding them shatter.
11:10 – 11:15: With the battle over, the group leave the arena grinning to themselves as they realise that they are almost through, and head towards the mess hall. On the way there they bump into Jurgen Throndor'Gulv, who calls to them.
“Oi, you lot. Gerrover 'ere.”
The group cautiously move towards him.
“Saw ye all in that battle. I 'av te say, I was surprised. Ye actually didn't suck.”
Emmiven looks like he is about to say something, but a glare from several members of the party silences him before he can drop the group in any trouble.
“I just wanted te say that if ye get through the grand melee, ye can rest assured that I will be only too happy te give ye some work if ye want it.”
The group fight back a multitude of bitter and biting remarks, and manage to nod politely instead. Emmiven has to be silently encouraged to keep silent a second time.
11:16 – 14:00: The group head into the mess hall, which is absolutely packed with the other contenders, including, to the groups' surprise, the party they faced in the capture the flag event.
They speak to the warforged from that team, and learn, to their anger, that they have somehow got permission to enter into the final round of the trials; the grand melee.
14:30 – The group enter the vast arena of the main amphitheatre, and along with the remaining combatants, prepare to begin the grand melee...