Passion in the Arena
Dim torchlight played across the sand of the arena. The two combatants struggled in a dance of sweat and leather. Maura stared up into the clear blue eyes of her opponent, peering through an iron mask, guessing his next move. He closed in with a series of strikes from his deadly short sword. She blocked each blow with her own blade and began to laugh. She would win this match. She glanced up beyond the high wall of the arena, bristling with wooden spikes. In the empty seats, she imagined the crowd cheering, chanting her name. A wide elbow smashed into her teeth.
The masked gladiator stepped over her where she fell. She reached for her weapon, but the man put a sandaled foot on her wrist. A deep voice came from within the helmet.
"Your mind must ever be on victory, or you will lose it."
Maura kicked her legs around the gladiator's ankle and twisted. The man came crashing to the ground. She snatched up her sword and held it at his neck. With her other hand she tore the helmet from his head. Behind the mask was the smiling face of her trainer Marcus. They laughed together and she helped him to his feet. Marcus had trained her in the ways of combat since she was a young girl sneaking from her father's house.
Times had not changed. She was a skilled fighter now, it was true, but still she had to conceal her secret passion from her father. Marcus led her to the gates of the arena where a young man waited. He was thin and beautiful, with a head of blond hair which fell in golden curls across his brow. She ran to him and took him in her arms. She bid Marcus goodbye and the two lovers walked through the dark streets together.
"Phaedrus," said Maura, "I defeated Marcus in the arena today. One day I'll be the Champion! Fiercer even than Matadon!"
Phaedrus brushed a curl of hair from his eye and laughed.
"You will certainly be the most beautiful," he said.
The young man ran his fingers through her short bristly hair. Her father had been furious when she shaved her head. It was only a few months before her début at the palace. He would soon be meeting with rich suitors seeking her hand in marriage. It was bad enough that she had an abnormal obsession with the Blood Games, but now she seemed to want to look and dress as a gladiator.
Phaedrus was another matter. He was the son of a poor night watchman. If her father had discovered she had taken a lover, she would be locked in the mansion forever. Together they walked until they reached the city wall. A watchman stood at a door near the base. Phaedrus spoke to him and he allowed the lovers through. They ascended a narrow wooden staircase and emerged on top of the battlements. Behind them the city slept. Here and there tiny torches flickered like fireflies. Above them the stars turned slowly into day.
Maura adjusted her fighter's vest as she made her way through the early morning city. Cocks crowed and the poor citizens of Ebadon emptied their chamber pots into the street. She hesitated when she reached the door of her father's house. He would be furious. She grasped the handle of the skull shaped knocker and rapped once. The door swung open immediately. There stood her father in his black and red robes. His thick whiskers were turned up in a smile. Maura stared, ready for the worst.
"I have decided," said her father, "that the only way to rid you of your strange habits is to get them out of your system. Today we go to the arena to see a fight of the great Champion Matadon!"
Maura hugged her father and yelped for joy.
"They are the best seats in the arena," he said. "You should dress for the occasion." As she ran to her room to prepare for the show, her father's eyes followed her with a sinister look.
Their seats were high in the arena, above a trailing white banner, emblazoned with the black eagle of Ebadon. Maura, dressed splendidly in her gold gown and tiara, could barely stay on the bench. Her father looked down into the arena with a calm smile. A minstrel in the royal box opposite them announced the entrance of Matadon. The crowd roared as the gladiator stepped into the ring. Thick straps of leather crossed a chest and back rippling with muscle. On his head, he wore a leather cowl painted with mystic runes of strength and blood. Maura leaped to her feet applauding.
"You'll want to be seated now," said her father.
Maura looked at him, confused. He merely stared into the ring, the pleasant smile still on his lips.
"And now, citizens," yelled the minstrel, "the Challenger!"
The gates flew open and a small, scrawny man was flung into the ring. He sank to his knees. Maura shot to her feet again. It was Phaedrus. She shouted to him but was drowned out by the roar of the crowd. Her father tugged at her arm.
"It seems your friend Marcus admires gold more than his favorite pupil," he said.
She pulled her arm away and waved to Phaedrus, screaming. Matadon strode slowly up to the boy, sword in hand. Phaedrus looked down into his hand and saw his own sword for what seemed like the first time. With a high-pitched scream, he ran at the giant. Matadon put a sandaled foot in his chest and kicked him down. Maura shouted for him to get up. The boy picked up his weapon and held the point at Matadon. The gladiator knocked the sword out of his hand with a flick of his blade. It was clear to Maura that Matadon was simply playing for the crowd. He could kill Phaedrus at will. She lifted her face to the heavens and cursed the gods. Her father was now openly laughing.
Matadon shoved his sword to the hilt in Phaedrus's chest. Blood welled up out of the boy's mouth. Maura ripped off her long skirt and leap onto the railing of the box, revealing bright red pantaloons. Her father tried to grab her, but she landed an expert kick to his chest, breaking three ribs. She gripped the banner and slid into the ring. The crowd went wild. Matadon turned to face her, blood dripping from his blade. She circled the ring, eyes always on Matadon. When she reached Phaedrus, she knelt and took him in her arms one final time.
Matadon turned to face the crowd and lifted his sword in victory. Maura saw her chance and dropped Phaedrus's body into the sand. She grabbed up her dead lover's sword and rushed up behind Matadon and struck, cutting the tendon in his right ankle. The gladiator spun to face her, dragging his crippled foot. Maura struck again stabbing into his stomach. The crowd howled. She circled her enemy, taunting him as he taunted Phaedrus. Finally, he bowed his head, coughing up blood, and she struck it off.
The crowd was at its feet as Marcus stepped into the ring. Maura turned to him, blade in hand. They stared at each other for a long while, the crowd in silence. Finally, Marcus looked up at Maura's sparkling tiara and smiled. He seized Maura's sword arm and lifted it into the air.
"Champion Maura," cried Marcus to the crowd, "Queen of the Pit!"
The crowd chanted her name.
There's the whole issue of how relationships are handled. One family might condone a relationship, while another doesn't because it runs counter to their goals (such as marrying somebody off into or otherwise for money). If a relationship needs to be kept secret, secret meetings might have to be arranged. There can be dress-up debutante balls and romantic exchanges of words. A random generator for such exchanges might be quite troubling to the reader, but it is in the spirit of the game.
There's the notion again of kids sneaking off and doing things their parents don't want them to do. Rebellious youth acting out, that sort of thing.
It's important for teachers and others to chastize you when you mess up.
Certain subgroups of people might find that their aspirations or hobbies run counter to what is expected of them.
Access to certain locations might be forbidden by entity regulation or other means. These locations might be accessed if you know somebody relevant.
It's important that sinister people have the option to have sinister clothing and furniture and door-knockers.
It's quite common in plots for someone to be executed in a spectacular fashion to clarify to an audience (possibly but not necessarily acquaintances of the victim) that the person who arranged the execution has power over the audience.
Important people or people relevant to a spectacle might have their entrance announced.
There's the notion of playing for a crowd and toying with somebody. Since arenas and gladiations are definitely on the to-do list, these kind of considerations are important. Just defeating your opponents is not sufficient to be a truly successful gladiator, though it is a basic requirement. If your fights are not sufficiently interesting, you might find yourself falling out of favor.
Sometimes it's important to switch entity allegiances or change your plans to save your own life. Although it's not clear how the protagonist will react, the trainer did something like this at the end to some extent.
Sliding down ropes/banners/sails/railing to other locations is an entertaining form of movement that should find its way into adventure mode.
It seems common to curse the gods when things go wrong. Of course, you need to have some kind of gods to curse, real or imagined, within the game universe.
There's a phrase "mystic runes of strength and blood" that might lead to interesting game elements.