Wednesday, 19 December 2007

"Hail, Moonson! Those who are about to die..."

H. Durulz gladiator (c. 1624). Though many ducks were slain for the bill-bounty in the aftermath of Starbrow's Rebellion, others still were enslaved by the Lunars. For some entrepreneurs the durulz's small bodies made them ideal for the mines; but for others they were taken simply as curios and oddities to be displayed in theHeartlands. Given the Lunar Empire's penchant for novelty and Inclusiveness, it was not long before these short, feathered unfortunates were cast into the gladiatorial arenas.

The earliest bouts were massacres, as quivering drakes were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the spectacle, offput by the dry, featureless arena floors, and slaughtered for the amusement of baying crowds. Then things started to change. The durulz that survived, mostly by luck, began to adapt; and, most importantly, they won the crowds to their side.

Why? Ducks are ready-made favourites of the arena. Being small ands light compared to most of their foes, they revel in the role of the underdog. When confident they are boastful, preening, irrepressible show-offs. And they display a tenacity and sheer vindictiveness thati s all too often absent in the arena, dominated by professional gladiators who commonly 'go easy' on each other for mutual benefit. Not the durulz.

After all, all durulz gladiators worship the god the Heortlings call Humakt. Even those (the majority) who don't. Quick to spot the mesmerising effect this barbaric Death God had on the crowds, lanistas and patrons made sure that their charges hammed up every aspect of his worship, littering their performances with grim Humakti songs and oaths, strange sword-dances and chilling warbled cries. Pairings between a Humakti and a Shargashi are among the most eagerly awaited in the arena!

This particular gladiator shows several features of the 'durulz style', focusing on speed and nimbleness. He is outfitted with two distinctly durulz items: a Type Va mollusc-helm, crafted from a real shell, with a mail neck-guard; and a durulz wingblade--a large serrated version of the single-edged falcata. The wingblade is used to slash and tear at the muscles and hamstrings of opponents, to weaken them, cripple them, and allow the drake to eventually deliver a killing stroke. This style of fighting is much loved by the crowds, for the short stature of the durulz means that they are rarely able to deliver a 'quick kill' by virtue of strikes to the neck and chest, and thus fight a longer bout, giving the crowd their money's worth. A shield is also carried, but not shown here.

(Originally posted on World of Glorantha, 12 December 2007.)