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Realm Explorers Part XCVII: Visit Red Arena with Annie Douglass Lima
Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Annie Douglass Lima

Title of book and/or series: The Gladiator and the Guard (sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach, both in the Krillonian Chronicles series)

Brief summary of the story:

Bensin, teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

The story takes place in the Krillonian Empire, which is in a world whose culture and technology are almost exactly like our own in most ways. The main difference is that slavery is legal there. To learn more about the Krillonian Empire, click here to read my Realm Explorers post from last year. In today's post, however, we will focus on life in Red Arena, one of four huge martial arts stadiums in the city of Jarreon. Bensin spends most of the story as a prisoner in Red Arena, where up to 100 gladiators undergo rigorous training during the week and compete on weekends against other arenas.

If we were to visit Red Arena as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

First of all, arrive early. Red Arena's weekend games are very popular, and while there are enough seats that they don't often sell out completely, you'd better arrive at least an hour ahead of time if you want a spot at the front.

There's only one thing for tourists to do at Red Arena. Watch the gladiators fight! Usually they duel against warriors from another arena, one pair of combatants at a time. Other times they are involved in "wars", in which two "armies" of ten or twelve gladiators fight each other. Sometimes the arena managers plan other special events; for example, there's an occasion in the story when a number of gladiators stand ready to compete with a number of different weapons. Random members of the audience get to pick numbers from a hat (a new one every five minutes), and this determines the order in which the gladiators are sent out to join the melee with their weapon of choice. 

Every now and then, Red Arena rents out its facility for other popular events, such as the annual Grand Imperial Cavvara Shil Tourney (open to male and female competitors in a variety of age groups). Bensin competes in the Grand Imperial in the book's opening scene (before he becomes a gladiator), as well as in The Collar and the Cavvarach.

What dangers should we avoid in Red Arena?

Gladiators are dangerous and unpredictable, but a sturdy chain-link fence separates the central combat area from the stands, so spectators will never come in direct contact with them. 

However, should you ever be unfortunate enough to end up as a gladiator in the arena yourself, that would be a whole different story. Although the weekend games are usually not intended to result in death (that would be a waste), accidents can and do happen. Gladiators fight with razor-sharp weapons, after all, and injuries are common. In addition, gladiators tend to be violent by nature, and in the course of daily life in the arena, they are constantly looking for opportunities to prove that they're tougher than those around them. Newcomers, especially, tend to be victimized until they learn to stand up for themselves. Fighting (except during official combat practice times with a trainer supervising) is strictly against the rules due to the danger of "damaging valuable arena property". There are always multiple guards standing ready to put a stop to any altercations with the help of their shockwhips and dartblowers (more about those later). However, any gladiator would tell you that proving yourself is always worth the cost. If they're quick, they can usually get in a few blows before the guards step in.

How and why do gladiators come to work in Red Arena in the first place?

Few people come voluntarily. Gile Murton, Red Arena's manager, sometimes purchases slaves from their owners, if he finds some who are especially skilled in martial arts. In the city of Jarreon, enslavement (usually involving sale by auction) is a common punishment for certain crimes. So if Gile hears that a talented athlete, soldier, or someone else with the right skill set has been convicted of a crime and enslaved, he will place a bid in an attempt to secure the person for the arena. He occasionally offers a contract to a free martial artist, but this is rare, and it's even rarer for anyone to accept it. Becoming a gladiator means being paid a generous sum in advance and then committing to a lifetime in the arena - and gladiators' lives are notoriously short. As you can imagine, not many people would choose such an option, even though few outsiders have any idea of the strict training conditions and cruel treatment glads in Red Arena face on a daily basis.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Red Arena?

Everything served in Red Arena meals is healthy, designed to keep gladiators' energy up. In between workouts, they are served protein drinks with fresh ingredients and herbal supplements designed to help them rehydrate quickly, speed up healing, etc. They also snack on energy bars.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Red Arena?

The arena features a number of different martial arts, some of which are familiar in our world. Boxing, wrestling, mu tokk, Skeyvian scimitar dueling, spear fighting, Nelirian double daggers (fought with a dagger in each hand), and cavvara shil are the main ones mentioned. 

Cavvara shil is Bensin's area of expertise. It involves a combination of kickfighting, which is similar to our kickboxing, and cavvara dueling, in which fighters strike at each other with a sword-like weapon called a cavvarach that has a hook about halfway along the top edge of the blade. You win a duel either by disarming your opponent (hooking, kicking or knocking the cavvarach out of his hand) or by pinning his shoulders to the ground for five seconds. Fighters wear a narrow shield-like guard, called a shil, on one forearm, and use it to block an opponent's blows or kicks.

This scale model of a cavvarach was designed by a high school student at Morrison Academy and printed for the author on a 3D printer.

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Red Arena?

Transportation in the Krillonian Empire is pretty much the same as on Earth. Spectators could arrive at the arena by car or bus. Steene (Bensin's former owner, coach, and friend) drives his decrepit blue pickup truck there a few times in his desperate attempts to find a way to rescue Bensin (and at one point, his truck breaks down in the arena parking lot and has to be towed). Gladiators sometimes travel by bus to compete at other arenas.

Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Red Arena? 

Technology in the Krillonian Empire as a whole is very similar to that found on Earth today. There are a few unusual items in use there, however. Guards and trainers at Red Arena always carry shockwhips: long, stiff whips with an adjustable strap that fastens around the user's wrist. The whips deliver a painful blow that leaves a welt for several days. Pressing a button on the handle sends an electrical charge through the whip, and anyone struck with it then receives a painful electric shock. Gladiators are regularly lashed with shockwhips as a penalty for fighting or other rule breaking, or as a consequence for failing to meet the fitness goals their trainers set during workouts.

Red Arena guards also use dartblowers, which are little tubes about the length of a finger, worn on a cord around the neck. They contain tiny darts which, when they pierce the skin, cause a person to go limp and lose control of most muscles for several minutes. This is useful if glads are fighting each other, threatening arena staff, or otherwise engaging in potentially dangerous activities. A prick from a dart will leave them slumped motionless on the floor long enough for anyone in danger to get away or for guards to call for reinforcements. The glad is conscious and can still hear what's happening around him, he just can't move or open his eyes. The dart wears off gradually, and after that, he'll have a headache for several hours. 

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Red Arena.

During breaks after meals and between workouts, gladiators hang out in the rec room and play cards. A card game called ruple is particularly popular. 

When a gladiator defeats his opponent out on the sand, he is rewarded with a day of "champion privileges". This involves a morning of exciting virtual reality video games and an afternoon of movies and (healthy) snacks. As you might expect, the video games and movies are always quite violent.
What is the political or government structure in Red Arena?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

Well, there isn't a government, as such, but Red Arena does have a hierarchical structure.

The manager's name is Gile Murton. He oversees arena operations and does everything he can to acquire talented new warriors and make sure they become vicious killers to raise Red Arena's ratings and bring in as much money as possible. He makes no secret of the fact that he doesn't care about anyone or anything unless they bring profit to the arena. However, he can put on a very warm front when he's trying to recruit potential gladiators, and he always acts friendly and proud toward glads who have just won in the arena games. However, he has no qualms about using people in whatever ways suit his purposes. All the gladiators at Red Arena hate him, and so do most of the guards and trainers. 

Riddior Chelgo is Red Arena's training manager. He oversees the ten trainers and their training plans for the gladiators under them, and often pulls glads aside himself for special training sessions. Genuinely friendly, he is the only arena employee who ever engages in casual conversation with the gladiators. He is generous with compliments and leaves the criticism to others. Gladiators like and respect him, and he doesn't fear them as Gile and the guards do. He doesn't carry a shockwhip or dartblower, though he's always accompanied by guards who do.

There are ten trainers at Red Arena, each responsible for ten gladiators. They create and are constantly updating individualized training plans for each glad, adjusting them when necessary to make allowance for injuries. Trainers have the extra incentive of a generous financial bonus whenever a glad in their "ten" wins in combat against another arena.

An assistant trainer works with each trainer, helping to supervise the gladiators' workouts and combat practice. They take over training responsibilities twice a week when trainers have the day off.

Guards are always present during the day, ready to protect trainers if the glads in their ten turn on them. Some guards patrol the arena at ground level, shockwhips and dartblowers at the ready. Others look down on the gym, rec room, etc. from balconies at the second-floor level, where they can use their dartblowers as necessary while keeping well away from any possible danger.

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Red Arena that we don’t see on Earth?

There are no plants or animals at the arena, and humans are the only sentient beings in the Krillonian Empire. They come in a variety of races, closely coinciding with races found on Earth, though their cultures don’t necessarily match. Bensin, a Tarnestran, has “light skin, short blond hair, and green eyes” (though hair and eye color can vary). Nelirians, like Bensin’s friend Ricky, have “narrowed eyes and high cheekbones”. Imperians such as Steene are described with “medium brown skin and straight black hair”. Skeyvians, like Riddior, have “dark skin and kinky black hair”. 

Slavery in the Krillonian Empire is not based on race; people from any race can be enslaved as a punishment for certain crimes. (Attempting to help slaves escape is one such crime.) Large numbers of people from certain provinces, such as Tarnestra, have been enslaved all at once as a consequence for resisting Imperial annexation.

How can gladiators leave the arena?

Permanently? There's only one way: in a bodybag. But Steene is determined to find a way to get Bensin out alive, no matter the cost....

Author Autobiography:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your books? 

The Collar and the Cavvarach is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon here.

The Gladiator and the Guard is available on Kindle here or in other digital formats (Nook, PDF, etc.) here.

My other books can be found here.

Where can readers connect with you online? 

Email: [email protected]
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Red Arena.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to the land of Tanniyn, in Realm Explorers Part XCVIII!
-Annie Douglass Lima


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