Time for another teaser from Bloodlust: Red Glory.
Both Gladiatrices stood facing the crowd’s judgement.
Hummingblade was bruised and her body was covered in patches of black where the Frost had burnt her skin. She was bruised from several blows of the shield and her arm still bled from the cut that Diamond Frost had landed to end the fight.
Diamond Frost was bleeding from the wounds on her side and back as well as many smaller cuts from the Hurricane blade. The thrust into her chest in particular had been a telling blow, and it still bled freely. Hummingblade could tell that the Light-Elf was trying not to wilt from blood loss and fatigue. Would the audience notice?
Neither Gladiatrix spoke as they raised their weapons to salute the crowd.
Hummingblade closed her eyes while she waited for the verdict of the spectators. She knew Ravius was cheering. She could almost hear him. She wondered if Diamond Frost had people she loved cheering her as well.
Either way the crowd ruled, she was pleased with her performance. Diamond Frost was as skilled with the shield as she was with spells, having been able to weather the Hurricane Blade and pin the thrust to her side before it became lethal. She was proud to have stood against such a skilled adversary and remained standing.
One of the aspects of the arena that I wanted to explore further this time around was the role of the crowd. How easy is it for a Gladiator to salute the person they were just fighting, treating it like the handshake at the end of a hockey match all for the sake of propriety?
Scarmaker took a deep breath. Oh, she was a cunning one. He turned to the announcer’s box, signalling his desire to make a declaration. Gloria Bella Maxima advanced a step toward him, bright and bold, but he did not flinch. He knew the rules well enough.
“I declare Ut Nex!” said Scarmaker.
“Coward,” muttered Gloria Bella Maxima.
“Gloria Bella Maxima, do you accept Ut Nex?” asked Quintus diKrass. The audience was deathly silent.
Gloria Bella Maxima turned to the audience.
“WHAT SAY YOU?” shouted the Gladiatrix. “SHALL WE HONOUR THIS COWARD?”
Some of the Gladiators actively play the crowd in Red Glory, trying to ensure that they have an advantage in a show of thumbs or even other goals. The fury and fervour of the crowd actively help and hinders the various Gladiators, while behind the scenes various players work to ensure that they can offer their support in the form of filling the seats with partisans.
Darius roared Fiona’s name as the Gladiatrix finished her salute, his voice one with the rowdy crowd. Rose stood beside him, on her seat, brandishing her swords and shouting at the top of her lungs. His daughter’s expression was a mask of ferocious elation, a mirror of his own. It filled his heart with joy to share such a special moment with his child.
Both were flush with triumph as they left the arena, spilling out into the great Parade Ground amidst a sea of red. Fiona’s fans and other Red Faction partisans, cheering, laughing, and revelling in the wake of their win. Darius picked up Rose, and set her on his shoulders. She was too busy enjoying herself to take this action as an affront to her pre-teen dignity. It was good day. No, a great day.
Here and there Darius saw groups or individuals with dour faces, hurrying away from the crowds. These were the fans of The Weird, no doubt. Darius felt a momentary sadness for them, but their fighter never really stood a chance against a Gladiatrix of Fiona’s calibre. Their hopes had always been in vain.
Darius carried Rose all the way back to their little house, ignoring the ache in his shoulders, laughing and cheering all the way.
Of course, in the end the fans are there for the spectacle and the ritual. The character of Rose, a young fan, is meant to make the reader question the morality of the games, but not in a heavy-handed fashion. Darius is an honest fan of the games and a good family man, after all.
In the end Bloodlust: Red Glory is a book about a grand event, and the crowd are key participants as well as witnesses in the ceremony. In this way it mirrors similar events in the modern age, from superbowls and the Olympics to elections and protests in that the participation of the people is key. Of course, that also means that the people bear responsibility…