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Mortavalon

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The Death City (I/6) in the centre of the Manmarch, a place where many trade routes converge (DM4/0). Mortavalon nestles in a bowl of green pastures and cornfields.[1] The entrance to the city is through a large triumphal arch in the grey walls dedicated to a victory won by the Empire Hunters, who follow the god Moraine, against the soldiers of Fate. At some time in the last 2000 years, however, the followers of Fate smashed the power of the men of Moraine (DM4/0).

The priesthood of Death here are strong (DM4/0); the largest temple in Mortavalon is dedicated to Death (I/283), indeed the army of Mortavalon is known as the Forces of Death (V/121). A cavalry regiment in the army of Mortavalon is called the Wings of Death.[2] Elsewhere, Mortavalon is described as ‘…one of the cities of Death’ (DM4/0). The priests do not interfere in daily life as long as the odd disappearance is ignored; they practise child-sacrifice (I/283). The high priest of Death is called Kashu (DM4/0).[3]

The streets of Mortavalon are quiet (‘…the dead city’), but there is a rose garden and trees where a small monastery is dedicated to Kwon (I/169, III/186, III/348, III/377). The local grandmaster is named Bartok (I/221).

The Arena of Death

Merchant caravans often tarry outside the walls for here the greatest spectacle on Orb takes place; the battle for survival in the Arena (I/290, DM4/0). The Arena is a grand white building, cool and marble-floored, run by warriors dressed in blue and gold togas.[4] There are arena games on holidays, with the chance of a fabulous fortune to the victor (I/283). Criminals are often sentenced to the Arena (I/372). Winners are showered with rose-blooms (I/272).

The original Arena was built by the followers of Moraine 2000 years before the events of DM4. When they were defeated by the followers of Fate, the temple to Death took over the running of the Arena. It suited their purposes, for beside ritual sacrifice, Death enjoyed the rites of trial by combat and violent ends of all kinds. The temple grew in popularity as people flocked to the Arena, which boasted some of the most horrible denizens of Orb tearing men limb from limb on the sand or lurking in the murky pits beneath. Keepers of the Arena scoured the Wilderness at the edge of the Manmarch for powerful and malevolent beasts to which they throw innocent[5] victims for the pleasure of the crowd.

As time went by, tier upon tier of seats were added, and ever-more bloody combats enacted to sate the bloodlust of the people (DM4/0).[6] The Arena itself seats 100 000 people[7] in its marble tiers and is divided into four quarters by fifteen foot stone walls. At is centre is a castellated tower and at the north side of the Arena is the Imperial Box, draped in black velvet, from where the Master of the Games watches and dispenses the justice of the crowd. A defeated gladiator must cast themselves on the mercy of the crowds and beg for their life. The people of Mortavalon are fickle at heart, and if a fighter has not provided good sport they will not show mercy; the spoiling of his or her body will be public and painful. If the fighter triumphs, the adulation will ring in their ears and they will join the great Champions of the Arena of Death (DM4/0).[8]

Notes

  1. Some miscellaneous facts about Mortavalon: there is an upper class of independent nobility in the city – we learn in Arena of Death that Calcor is a ‘…dissolute nobleman’ of Mortavalon (DM4/0). The dwarf, Arakad the smith, makes his business forging weapons for the soldiers of Mortavalon, but also has a licence to sell to Arena contestants (DM4/11). An adventurer found a secret way into the city via a cave in the hills that encircle it (I/6). The cave has steps leading into the darkness. A snare has since been set to capture any intruders including a water trap and a falling iron portcullis. Captives are sent into the arena (I/275). There is a zoo in the city (I/227). The hills around Mortavalon are low and covered with cypress trees (I/235). Avenger's journey here by road from Doomover took until dusk on the second day (I/212).
  2. It may be composed entirely of worshippers of Death (V/210). A captain of this regiment is illustrated opposite V/210. He wears a long cloak and his horse has a head-mask. He has a skull symbol on his helmet and breastplate.
  3. Kashu is the most powerful man in Mortavalon. He is gaunt and sits on a throne of bones. He paints his face to resemble a skull (DM4/150).
  4. These are the colours of the worshippers of Moraine – perhaps they still have a role to play in the administration of the Arena.
  5. …and not so innocent…
  6. At the start of DM4 the Arena of Death at Mortavalon had no peer. The high priest of Death continued the tradition of the games in his honorary role as Master of the Games. The underworld below the Arena had recently been extended at his request, and on the last day of each month two seasoned gladiators battled to the death, stalking each other in the crypts, '…watched by the crowd every step by sweat-soaked step'. The winner was rewarded richly, with wealth that only a lackwit could squander in a year. If the gladiator was a slave, the reward is richer still – freedom (DM4/0). When Avenger competed in the arena, one of the more unusual holiday games was played. The field was divided into four quarters; marsh, sand dunes, grasslands and ice. In the centre was a mock castle, housing the reigning champion, surrounded by a moat occupied by voracious ‘floating mouth’ fish (possibly a species of piranha). Each quarter housed monsters: a bog octopus, a cobra man, a pair of lions and a snow-beast, respectively. Four combatants started out on platforms between each quarter (I/261). The arena is illustrated opposite I/172, here a dark elf battles the octopus in the marsh quarter. A plan of the arena is shown as part of I/261. The best illustration of the arena is opposite I/372. In the foreground is a magician; in the middle distance is the castle with a hobgoblin atop. In the distance can be seen the crowds. The snow-beast is shown at I/252.
  7. This seems to be a very high number; 100 000 is a quarter of the population of Doomover and five times the population of Irsmuncast. It is comparable with only the very largest sports stadiums in the real world.
  8. The Champions of the Arena to Death include such men and women as Castaryos the Torean, who retired unbeaten after nine combats only to be kicked to death while breaking in a wild stallion; Adjanaa the Amazon, killer of Kashu’s champion and victor five times, until forced to fight her lover (who slew her); and Ringold Redmane, who now owns a stable of slave gladiators trained in his own particular style (DM4/0). Locris was another legendary hero and five times champion in the Arena. His shortsword was sheathed in a scabbard encrusted with jewels. The hilt was adorned with a large ruby and it radiated an aura of red light (DM4/28).

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