The Arenas were large, circular structures, walled all around and with two levels of stands for spectators. The high walls around the arena bore banners and circular emblems depicting downward-pointing daggers. Huge gates led down to the dungeons beneath.
Beneath each Arena was a labyrinth of passages and tunnels intended to prevent escape, in addition to 100 guards. These dungeons were such a maze that it took the gladiator Vajra two years to memorize them before she made good her escape. Since that time, by 1357 DR, a blue dragon was kept in the dungeons as a guardian, though it was slain that year.
As of 1370 DR, each Blood Arena held five shows per day for three djenayin per show or one djenarba for the whole day. The matches were almost always to the death. An exception was if a match was set up to settle a political matter rather than for entertainment.
The Manshaka city council focused largely on maintaining the Arenas of Blood, and openly encouraged betting on the fights, as these were a primary source of tax revenue. All matches generated huge sums of money from bets. In fact, Manshaka was second only to Calimport as a gambling center because of the Arenas. On an average day, the combined attendance of both arenas was over 10,000 spectators, and this number increased to 14,000 in the winter months when it was cooler.
Vajra was a 12-year-old Tethyrian slave of Pasha Abon Duum, placed with his stable of gladiators at the Arena of Blood. There she learned the arts of the sword, spear, and net and became the most accomplished of Duum's stable. She slew creatures such as a bugbear and a reptilian, and the crowds roared her name, but she never responded. She found a friend in a fellow gladiator, Salabak. However, after ten years, she had had enough and wanted out. Escaping, she seriously wounded several of Duum's best fighters and escaped from the labyrinth of corridors below the arena and into freedom. However, Abon Duum sent many bounty hunters after her, seeking to punish and reclaim his champion gladiator, though she remained free by 1357 DR. Eventually, Salabak agreed to serve Duum: he would gain Vajra's trust and return her to him.
Finally, in the Year of the Prince, 1357 DR, Salabak did just that, and Vajra was again in Duum's power. He put her back in the Arena, setting her against a troll: she hacked its arm off, skewered it on her sword, then drove it into the otyugh kept to devour carrion, all to the cheers of the crowd. However, Salabak created an illusory manticore to appear to assault Duum as part of a ruse, causing chaos among the spectators, such as Allamon Sorn. Meanwhile, Vajra escaped into the tunnels beneath the Arena, where she battled the blue dragon guardian. The Catlord came to her aid, slaying the dragon, whose death throes collapsed part of the roof and opened a hole in the outer wall.
The largest event ever held in the Arenas was the Great Games. They were held in Hammer of 1370 DR on the last tenday and resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 gladiators and 5,000 wild animals and monsters as the crowds cheered on. During the Great Games, a spellcaster disguised as a slave appeared and dissolved one of the walls with magic. He was quickly killed by arrows from the guards, but a pack of dire wolves did escape and attacked the audience.
Each Arena had pens for over 30 monsters and cells for between 50 and 100 humanoid gladiators. Both free folk and slaves fought in the Arenas. However, very few slave-gladiators survived their time there.
Champion gladiators wore a special golden manacle bearing the symbol of a jawless skull on one side and a dagger on the other. Those who recognized it knew they were in the presence of a deadly warrior. Champions also tended to wear other skull emblems, such as an earring or belt-buckle.[note 1]
- ↑ In "Shackles of the Past", page 13, Vajra says "Every day I awaken to see this slave's manacle and it reminds me that I have never been free...", possibly implying the manacle cannot be removed. Vajra and Salabak are always depicted wearing their manacles.
- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Steven E. Schend and Dale Donovan (September 1998). Empires of the Shining Sea. (TSR, Inc), p. 111. ISBN 978-0786912377.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dan Mishkin (December 1989). “Shackles of the Past”. In Elliot S. Maggin ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #13 (DC Comics), pp. 6–7, 11, 22.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Dan Mishkin (February 1990). “Cat & Mouse”. In Elliot S. Maggin ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #15 (DC Comics), pp. 16–24.
- ↑ Steven E. Schend and Dale Donovan (September 1998). Empires of the Shining Sea. (TSR, Inc), p. 71. ISBN 978-0786912377.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Dan Mishkin (March 1990). “The Last Betrayal”. In Elliot S. Maggin ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #16 (DC Comics), pp. 7, 25.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Michael Fleisher (January 1989). “The Bounty Seekers Of Manshaka”. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #2 (DC Comics), pp. 23–25.
- ↑ Dale Donovan (April 1998). “Rogues Gallery: The Heroes of Selûne's Smile”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon #246 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 70–74.
- ↑ Steven E. Schend and Dale Donovan (September 1998). Empires of the Shining Sea. (TSR, Inc), p. 110–111. ISBN 978-0786912377.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Dan Mishkin (February 1990). “Cat & Mouse”. In Elliot S. Maggin ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #15 (DC Comics), pp. 10–15.
- ↑ Steven E. Schend and Dale Donovan (September 1998). Empires of the Shining Sea. (TSR, Inc), p. 45. ISBN 978-0786912377.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Michael Fleisher (December 1988). “The Gathering”. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #1 (DC Comics), p. 19.