The Arena

It was a simple wooden door at the back of the main room of the vaunted Red Dragon Inn, a broad plane of heavy oak, unmarked save for the nicks and dents of a life set inside a sometimes rowdy taproom. It might have been wholly unremarkable if not for the crossed blades above it; two identical long swords, immaculate in their upkeep and set against the matte onyx field of a shield. Their meaning is both an invitation and a challenge for what lays beyond, a winding path downwards where dancing faerie fire inside glass globes on evenly spaced wall sconces cast a dancing glow along the walls and sturdy wooden stairs that lead down to the fabled Arena of the Duel of Swords.

The path down leads into the northwest corner of the Arena, the heavy planks of well-maintained cherrywood giving way to the textured, deep russet colored granite of the main floor. To the right of the stairs extends a long wall, a shrine-like tableau of old tables long since repurposed with an artist’s eye into wide bands filled with carvings of old initials and memorable phrases. They serve as a home for trophies and old weapons, the mementos and memories of great duels and duelists alike, left on display for all. Hanging as sentinels above are copies of the banners from many prominent names, both old and new.

To the right of the stairs is the bar, a wide swathe of rich, single-source mahogany that runs nearly the length of the room and is hinged in only a few spots for quicker access points for patrons and staff, its smooth surface as original as the place in which it resides and maintained with a near fanatical care. Matching stools, with backrests and without, are stationed alongside the bar. Behind the great wooden behemoth, brass taps are lined up in a row, ready to fill tankards and glasses with the best the local breweries have to offer, with ever popular favorites like Badsider and Silver Mark displayed prominently. Below and behind, the more modern trappings of coolers hold an even wider selection of bottled drinks for varying tastes. Atop the backbar are the tiered displays familiar to any watering hole, stocked with any number of liquors and wines, bathed in the flickering neon glow of different signs, from the long standing rivals of Red Orc Brewery and Silver Mark Brewing Company to new names like The Lost Pub and Hangman Distillery. A sign adjacent to the others offers plenty of temptation for another vice where it points the way to a nearby kiosk for The Line, allowing gamblers of all interests to lay their coin down on various wagers. Servers are always available but the bar maintains the welcome tradition of allowing patrons to serve themselves.

Spreading out from there and directly ahead from the stairs is a small sea of tables and chairs within easy view of the rings. Made from the same solid wood as the stairs, they are filled with the same level of character that permeates the Arena, from the little nicks and scars from battles boiled over to little bits of newer history carved into their surfaces, be they names or drunken messages. Instead of being sanded down and away into oblivion, each new little etching or ding gets preserved beneath the next coating of shellac. Across from the stairs and encompassing most of the east wall are a series of tall aluminum bleachers, built into the wall and allowing patrons an unfettered view down into the rings below. At the top are a series of pull down paper banners that can be easily unrolled and marked with paint or markers to give a little added motivation to a favored fighter. Above the banners is a large modern scoreboard, allowing Duel Callers to replay highlights, display scores, and stir up the crowd.

On the south end of the room but central to the great sprawl of the Arena are the rings themselves, varied in size and positioning but uniform in features, encircled by rune-etched stone and filled with sand. The runes themselves are perpetually fueled by magic and will try to stave off severe wounds and fatalities. Nothing, however, is absolute and some physiologies have proven to be resistant to the healing runes. More tables and chairs are around this area along with the “Caller’s Couch,” a plush, oversized sofa on a slightly raised stretch of flooring for the benefit of the officiants. It is flanked on either end by a table-topped mini-fridge for Caller convenience, along with various tools tailored to the tastes of the Callers and Queue Keepers. Behind the couch and running the length of the south wall is a series of weapon racks, filled with a surplus of weapons to suit all styles and levels of lethality. From training swords to implements meant for superior skills, it can be found there. A door to the right end of the racks leads to more storage space. Once, there was a large portrait of Gondar, the First Overlord, centered above the racks. It has since been replaced with a smaller image of him, painted directly onto the wall as a mural that has slowly branched out from his image. Growing from him, like the roots of a great tree, are painted images of those who came after, every single one of the Overlords of the Duel of Swords to hold the title since, until the mural has come to dominate most of the wall.

At the southeast corner, there are two sets of doorways. The first is an alcove housing the stairs and elevator leading down to the Annex, along with a firepole that has long since been installed to make the trip down a little more fun. The other doorway leads to a wide, winding tunnel leading to the increasingly popular Golden Perch. In the southwest corner, another set of doorways leads to the kitchen and pantry, the Wolves Den Bistro, and the Arena/Annex gift shop, which occupy multiple floors and serve both venues, as well as providing televisions putting all duels-in-progress on display for shoppers' and diners' viewing pleasure (New Product Alert: Legends Series - Orktoberfest Jake Thrash figures, now with Orc-Fu Grip!).

Another pair of doors flanks the northeast corner. The one to the right leads up to the skyboxes that line the east and north walls. The skyboxes are kept ready for immediate use and boast a bevy of modern amenities for spectator enjoyment, an already comfortable spot for watching the duels where the curtains can be drawn for private conversation. Some of the skyboxes are free and open for public use, while others are reserved for private parties, teams, or other paying patrons. The same hall used for reaching the skyboxes also leads to the offices of the current Arena/Annex Staff. Adjacent to the door that leads to the skyboxes is the swinging doors that lead to the locker rooms, a series of separated facilities that cater to the various combatants for pre-fight preparations and post-fight clean-up. Above both sets of doors hangs a banner depicting the current Overlord of the Duel of Swords, flanked on either side by smaller portraits of the current Barons. The colors of their frames show their relationship to the current Overlord: Gold for Loyal. Black iron for Renegade.

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