Under one of the great openings, where the sky could be seen through a hole in the roof of the great cave wherein rested the free city-state of Crag City, lie the Gore Pit.
    Ordinarily, this was a place of bloodsport, where slaves, beasts, monsters, and convicted violent criminals would fight for freedom, or for meals. On this day, in the waning of the year, it was a public politikal arena, where officials from the nobility would assert themselves.
    It was now the most important Assertion, for this one would choose the status of Majistar for Crag City. Traditionally, this would be fought by a choice of champions, in many areas of knowledge every four years, assuming a challenge to the title. In the pricey seats, the Nobility's patrons would hog places next to which they supported, while businesses would sell wares in the name of their choice. Those of more modest means, as always, had to sit in the upper rows, but tended to seat on the side of their favorite, if possible.
    The Majistar Saarinard De Umphey was here to contend to retain his title. Ordinarily, he looked forward to this contest, but he was troubled by unease this time.
    He truly believed in its importance to choose the worthiness for the position of running a relatively free city-state that stood between the wild beastlands and the rigid, Communistic Confederacy of King Zodenan. The weakness of Crag City was that in case of crisis, the nobles would hold to their manors and the merchants would run with their money. Only the Majistar and his deputies and his Judimentals had authority over the city that became absolute in times of crisis.
    The Assertion Campaign was designed to weed out any that were unworthy of the title. No Majistar candidate had ever gotten killed during one, but the public still loved to watch these contests anyways. A vote was taken, but the collected business and nobility interests truly decided it, though they would rarely go totally against the public desire, as the masses needed their delusion that they mattered.
    This time, he faced a single opponent, but one totally unworthy of the title, the Count Ardet Von Sorath. He was a short, very obese man who drooled at the mouth. It was rumored that he would not even be able to change his chamber pot himself.  He was wretchedly excessive, even for a city that considered decadence a sign of wealth. In addition, there was a strong rumor that he had exhausted his family fortune with his life of pointless excess.
    Now, this advertisement for the Confederacy's bid to remove the rule of nobility and plutocracy was actually trying to become the Majistar.
    "And not enough," thought De Umphey, "That this would-be insult to the office challenges my position. He spreads lies and rumors about me. Anything to defame me to the people, alleging the few perversions still taboo here."
    "Speaking of law, it is lucky for him that assertion protects him from slander. Someone way back got the idea that to challenge the Majistar in assertion was to, by definition, say that they were unworthy. To prevent dictatorship, the council passed the exception to slander that he abuses to its insane decree."
    A female hand with red nails and in a long sleeved dress, trimmed in lace, lightly patted him on the shoulder
    "Now, you're being too tense again." A suprisingly strong female hand squeezed his. "I am sure that you will beat this fool."
    The person saying this was the Countess Eileen Del Soya, who had always been a friend, and now had become his lover and most ardent supporter. She was of fairly trim; strong build with spiky red hair and a nice bust and she always dressed in nice, respectable clothes. Called "The Evil Countess" or "The Slavemistress", Eileen was a minor noble who only had a small hold around her old mansion. She had a monopoly on selling trained female slaves, and mainly sold captured women from the beastlands to merchants and nobles. She was quite popular socially, though mothers would tell rebellious teenage daughters horror stories about her to try to keep them home at night. She did use torment as a way to persuade her slaves to behave, but had never actually killed or mutilated anyone.
    As her means were very modest, her minions were chiefly goblins. This added to her ominous presence, as the little green dark fae would scutter around chattering to one another, but would leap to do her bidding. When walking out in the city, she would have at least one orc guard with her. To compliment her beauty and to remind those able to afford them of her service, she would also have a pair of catmaids at each side
    She held his hand and leaned slightly against him. The nearby audience in the main seats saw this and started talking.
    "You are right, Countess." Saarinard said, "This fool is just wasting his time here, and his money trying to slander me, especially thanks to you."
    "You may call me Eileen, and had better. My goblins actually had fun dismantling his rumor mill. Technically illegal to have them assault humans, but let them tell lawmen that they are spreading illegal lies about you and were mugged doing it."
    "By the way, I got dahling daughter Gig to promise truce until after this fiasco is over. She hates Von Sorath also."
    Saarinard breathed a sigh of relief at that. Gig "Half-Demon" Del Soya was the countesses' adopted daughter. She was a strong woman with green skin, four breasts, and tentacles for her hair. She had once worked as a Dominatrix, quite respectable for a very minor noble Crag City. After a really disturbed client paid her to "Cut something off", he had had to issue a 'writ of forbiddance', barring her from the field. She had hated him for this, and was probably plotting revenge. This did not hurt his relationship with her mother, but as Gig frequently helped with the training of catmaids, visiting the countess could be difficult at times.
    "Look at Von Sorath, and around him." Eileen said.
    The Majistar did, seeing the same nervous man twitching his fingers. By each side were two beautiful women, obviously from an escort service. They were attentive to him, wiping the occasional drool from his chin, but did little else. He seemed to be staring, neither at the Majistar, nor the arena but into some memory of his. Behind him, a shadowy figure seemed to be in the doorway, but this was much too far away for Saarinard to make out properly.
    "Do you notice," Eileen said, "That he does not really listen to the women beside him?"
    "I do." Said Saarinard, "For he obviously chose them for their looks and nothing else."
    "I say that is foolish of him, for they have probably heard much that might interest him. As often as he hires such services, they certainly would tell him anything that would be of help."
    "Tell me," continued the countess, "How do you value the help by your side?" She now leaned against him.
Saarinard almost gulped, but managed to say "Very much."
    He heard some voices behind him, but the countess slightly dug her nails into his palm as he tried to turn.
    "This," whispered the Countess, "Is to finally dismantle his rumor mill. I love how gossip spreads here. With the benefit of youth, his companions are better looking than I, but they have no name to them. All who matter here know I do not compromise my friendship."
    Nothing else needed to be said for a while. They sat and watched, as the formalities seemed to drag on forever.
    These started with the effigies of the Majistar and his challenger. They were placed on stands at opposing ends of the arena. A token honor knight from each supporting house carried his banner, in progression of pedigree, then age of house, ultimately standing next to his choice.
    Del Soya showed her support with one of her Cat maids, Koko, sitting on the shoulder of one of her orcs. Koko waved the flag with her banner and blew kisses at the crowd. As unseemly as this may have seemed, Beast people and Orcs were only considered half-beings as compared to a human or elf, so the ministration of the contest had only argued for half an hour before accepting Del Soya's type of entry.
    De Umphey noted that of the two-dozen noble houses, slightly more than half supported him. What was odd was that some houses that he thought were supportive of him were now on Von Sorath's side.
    Suprisingly, the house of Earniard's banner had marched to the Majistar's side, even though he had stiffly fined them for a fight of an errant youth of their house that had injured an onlooker. Much better, and expected, was that Duke Iron's son marched to his side also, the banner of his house hanging from the large steam-powered mech he half-wore, half-rode.
    The merchants then had their turn. They, by law, had to keep their signs at a height notably lower than the nobility's banners, though they made them fancier. De Umphey winced at some of his supporters, such as the purveyors of Pleasure Mushroom, whom he secretly wanted to remove, and the poison maker's guild. Not suprisingly, almost every "Comfort Provider" establishment had its prettiest woman or man carry their sign to Von Sorath's side. Saarinard also noted that he had almost totally lost the overall Merchant's support. Although he had only penalized a few merchants for wretchedly excessive violations, far fewer should have supported Von Sorath than he thought.
    After these, came the religious progressions. Religion was after pedigree and wealth in Crag City, though it was still important. These were small groups of followers, usually led by the head of the belief. Instead of a banner or sign, they waved a symbol or small idol of their belief above their heads.
    The religious support was about even on either side. De Umphey again winced at one of his supporters, the "Worshippers of Horribilius" with the hired sacrifice priestess, Triciam Yves wearing her skimpy "Ceremonial robes" that showed off her artificially enhanced breasts. This semi-legal cult was a drinking club that collected funds from its members, until enough was raised for a ritual. They then bought a lot of liquor and a slave, which Triciam then sacrificed to their god as the drunken worshippers awed as the blood spattered all over her.
    This deed had used to be a possible death sentence, but the group had hired a lobbyist who had snuk their argument into the council. It had been on the ONE DAY that year the De Umphey had been sick, and just after a winemaker had fended off charges of quality control by letting them sample all of it's wares. Foul sacrifice to dark gods was now only a stiff fine, which they paid eagerly.
    The arena had almost been filled by this procession. It looked as if Von Sorath had more than half of the support, thanks to the merchant's weight. "He can't have spent that much money, except in the houses of comfort." Saarinard almost said aloud.
    The Sages and Accountamaints read from the city charter and stated the candidates' positions to pointless excess. The crowd, ordinarily bloodthirsty from seeing combat, would have started throwing the low-quality but expensive food sold in the arena if not for the antics of the Amusists who made fun of the boring speakers behind their backs.
    By then, Del Soya's carriers had made their way back to their mistress's side. Del Soya congratulated them on their performance, and they returned to their places. The orc nodded and stood next to his fellow guard. Koko, the beastgirl, put the banner in its stand and then kneeled next to the Countess.
    At long last, the contending began, with the supporters clearing the arena to eagerly. Von Sorath's champions marched into the arena. There were five of them, each from an appropriate area of discipline. One was a tall, brutish man, almost a giant, wielding a club. The next was a woodlander, obviously an expert with a bow. Third was Nah Sohmath, the venerable mage who had actually been Saarinard's teacher in ways of magick. Fourth was a swordsman. Finally, there was a scholar, as told by his robes, though Saarinard knew not his name.
    "N-Now, Majistar, show me your Champions!" Von Sorath blurted out over a mechanism designed to augment voice.
Immediately, De Umphey's champions started to move out into the arena, but then the Majistar said "Halt!"
    Saarinard leapt off the balcony and into the arena; using mystic techniques that made this a graceful fall, rather than an attempt at suicide.
    He walked up to another voice amplifier and said, "You are not worthy to have my office. For the safety of Crag City, and for your personal honor, please withdraw your challenge."
    This was a strong political maneuver on De Umphey's part, if he could pull it off. To so directly refuse to meet champions with champions was a high insult. However, the public did not really know or care about this, and it looked heroic to them.
    Saarinard drew his rapier and pointed it towards Von Sorath's podium.
    "Can you face me? I do not wish to hurt your servants." The Majistar then held the sword in front of his face vertically. The crowd seemed to pause, then to snicker at the thought of the very capable De Umphey fighting the worthless Von Sorath.  Some of the crowd started chanting "Face Him!" and others started laughing openly.
    "Y-Y-Y" Von Sorath started sputtering into the amplifier, his comfort providers quickly wiping the drool from his chin as he sprayed into the mike. The same shadowy figure behind him whispered something in his ear. This time, Saarinard could make out that this man was rather short, though not likely of Dwarven stock, and wore glasses, but that was all.
    "A - A true noble can choose his servants wisely. Can your champions not fight for you?"
    "Well, if you insist, I'll take two, thank you." Another political maneuvering here, for meeting with a lesser number of champions was also an insult. This would still mean that he had to face three champions directly, though, which ones were up to him.
    The officer of the Assertion ritual placed his palms together and nodded. This was a private signal that he wanted to move from posturing and onto the actual event. De Umphey nodded, and gestured with his free hand towards Von Sorath, who was conversing with his shadowy aide.
    "By tradition, I choose Strength as the first test, for it requires that to be Majistar." At the cue, the semi-giant walked forward, his club over his shoulder.
    "Where is the one to face me, Sehr?" He said.
    "I will face you, champion." Saarinard said. The nobles gasped at this, for they had expected him to use a champion to beat brute strength. The public and even the champion seemed stunned by this.
    "Uhh, I don't want to hurt you, Sehr." The Champion said as he towered above De Umphey, who merely twisted the ends of his moustache, to make sure that they were straight.
    "Well, then, I will try not to seriously injure you, for I wish to end this spectacle without killing. At you, champion!"
    The Majistar then moved into a fighting pose. The champion paused, the glanced towards Von Sorath's booth, finding gestures that signaled to fight. The brutish man then raised his club and ran forward to assault the Majistar with it.
    The first blow was a sideswipe, which could have conceivably broken his spine, but the Majistar easily avoided it by leaping.  He then expertly made a wound in the champion's arm with his rapier.
    The champion roared with rage and swung his club down, to find that the Majistar had side swiped him again, and again delivered a slight wound. The champion swung twice more, only to be avoided again, but not wounded this time.
    While maintaining his guard with his right hand, the Majistar prepared a simple spell with his left hand, which glowed with electricity. He then snuk under a particularly clumsy swing and placed his hand on the champion's stomach.
    This risky maneuver had won the fight. Although he had matched the champion's strength with skill by far, the champion obviously had far more endurance than he did. All De Umphey had to do now was to keep dodging him, as his spell wore down his opponent.
    Almost immediately, the champion started breathing heavily, and found his club not an easy burden. To his credit, he fought with all the strength he could muster, nearly hitting the Majistar once or twice. Finally, he had to pause for breath after yet again missing his foe.
    De Umphey placed the tip of his rapier at the champion's throat.
    "I dare say," the Majistar said in a friendly, amused voice, "that I have won this match."
    His opponent blushed, then grumbled. "Yeah, no amount of money is worth dying for, you win."
    The crowd cheered as his opponent walked away, and out of the arena.
    As the attention turned on him, De Umphey spoke to Von Sorath again. "Your champion did not return to your side. Is he dismissed, or did you only hire him for this one job?"
    Von Sorath sputtered "That is my business. You must now face my next challenger."
    The archer stepped forward, as the Arena workers pulled out the target props.
    "This is Yom Shetlam, a master archer, here to contend with you in his field of specialty."
    "I choose to use a champion for this one." The Majistar spoke to one of Del Soya's goblins hanging around him, who ran into the rooms under the seats. He immediately emerged again, followed by an elf.
De Umphey did not keep a retainer of specialists, but took time to befriend talented adventurers when they dropped by Crag City. Thus, he had a large base of talented individuals he could call upon, if needed. The occasional reward was far cheaper than a constant salary.
    "I introduce to you Tan San Lolan, also a specialist in the bow." Said De Umphey to Yom Shetlam.
    Yom looked a little stunned but nodded at the elf and they began their contest.
    Now, to assume that all elves are excellent archers would be biased and entirely untrue. However, a life of living in the deep wilderness that could last for millennia or more could hone natural skills beyond anything a human specialist could muster. To his credit, Yom was close to the elf, so close that the referees were needed to decide in most shots, but always a little behind. By a close, but very definite margin, the elf won. Yom shook hands with him, gave a mild gesture of apology to Von Sorath and left the arena.
    The Majistar spoke to his opponent through the voice amplifier. "I am starting to see an impressive selection of champions from you, Von Sorath. It is a good thing that they are hired for one job only, imagine taxing to keep them on permanent retainer."
    The crowd started laughing again, though many were now talking about this. It had also occurred to De Umphey that the person hiding in the shadows next to his opponent might try to use this same statement against him. Whoever was pulling Von Sorath's strings was very rich, intelligent, and excelled at dirty politics.
    Von Sorath was blustering with rage and embarrassment, and so did not speak as the next champion went forward. This was Nah Sohmath, the Majistar's teacher in ways of magick.
    To the surprise of everyone again, Saarinard chose to meet his old teacher face to face. Actually, he knew of no others that could even approach Nah Sohmath, who were available for this event. He silently entered the center of the arena at one edge of the central circle that had a thick grate over the Shokot pit. His teacher stood at the other edge, his long white beard hanging over his yellow and red robes, blowing in the wind.
    "Why are you backing that toad?" The Majistar asked.
    "Under our agreement, I am not at liberty to discuss that. I'm sorry. I would never agree to hurt a former pupil. I think, however, that this crowd has paid good money to see a show. It would be rude of me, and bad politiks for you, not to give them one. Let's see if you have improved at the Cylomen push."
    They both began the basic meditation gestures that called forth the energies for this exercise. Within a minute a ball of static fire emerged in front of each, then sped off towards the center. This was only a basic exercise of control. Privately, it would be like using Tic-Tac Toe for a decision best suited to a game of Othello. Publicly, of all the non-threatening magick battles, it was the most entertaining to watch.
    When the static balls met, they began pushing against each other. The trick was to hit the other opponent with one's static ball first. The balls could block each other, but could do other things as well. Von Sorath immediately changed the wavelength, turning his ball large and red so Nah's ball passed through it. He then made it shrink to give it speed and hurled it towards his old teacher.
    Nah countered by splitting his ball into three smaller ones and using them to catch the Majistar's ball. Saarinard then countered by trying to make his ball twist through them. Nah matched this and both balls began twisting, changing valence and density until they both merged into the same unit, controlled by both and neither at the same time.
    For a long few minutes they both strained, visibly sweating as the ball kept flattening and re-shaping into it's original form.  Saarinard now had the advantage, for he had far more endurance than his aging mentor. Nah was visibly exhausted, and tried to change tactics by pushing the ball to the side. Saarinard attempted to counter, but ended up pushing the opposite side of the ball, causing it to rotate.
    The ball started spinning rapidly as both contestants added energy to its spin. By now, Nah Sohmath was tremendously exhausted, and was only able to add a fourth of the energy his student was. On account of this, the ball started deforming, both in color and shape. Although daylight, the arena became bathed in bright sheets of multicolored light. The audience awed as the ball shook and changed, becoming more like a lopsided gourd than a sphere.
    Suddenly, the ball separated again, Saarinard now controlling three-fourths of the energy, while Nah Sohmath visibly keeled over from exhaustion as his ball skitted across the ground. Saarinard felt he had no choice but to press the advantage and push his ball at his teacher.
    Then, the smaller ball bounced off the ground and hit him with a lightning quick speed.
    The Majistar quaked with the sudden burst of static, which must have seemed comical to the crowd. With the breaking of his concentration, the large ball faded inches away from Nah.
    Nah Sohmath coughed and kept bent over. Saarinard was only hurt in his pride and moved over to help his old teacher. Nah gestured that he was all right and slowly stood up.
    "You have improved, I used to beat you in seconds. I'm really sorry I let myself get talked into this. Perhaps, after this is over, if you visit me at my new house in the Qweenth district, you will forgive me." He politely waved to the crowd, and then left the arena also.
    Although still singed a little, De Umphey smiled at what his teacher had said. Nah Sohmath had mentioned frequently an expensive house that he had wanted all his life, but was unable to afford, in the very upscale Qweenth district. This confirmed De Umphey's belief that his opponent was only a puppet of someone with money, and lots of it. Houses in that district were usually passed down generations of nobility, as his family mansion was a few doors away.
    The official of the arena announced Von Sorath victorious of this competition, and moved onto the next contest. This time, the swordsman stepped forward, a brown haired man in his prime, wearing reasonable dress and with a few scars on his hands.
"Majistar Saarinard De Umphey, I am the Duelist Van Arch. You are famed as a swordsman, may we match blades?" He bowed, holding his sword.
    "Actually, I would prefer not this time, as I have to smoke." The crowd snickered, as the Majistar's hat and shoulder pads still gave trails of vapor from the spark. The Majistar whispered to the goblin who then ran out of the main arena, to fetch his champion. A man wearing black with red trim and swash raced forward soon after.
    "Perhaps you have heard of my friend, Jack Trys?" the Majistar asked as he introduced his champion for this match. Van Arch seemed a little startled an afraid for a brief second, but he quickly regained his composure and began fighting with Jack Trys.
    Although at first perhaps disappointed that the Majistar would not use his famed swordsplay here, the crowd excitedly watched the intense duel between the two champions. Even if he were not exhausted from the previous match, he would not have tried this one. True, he was a fine swordsman, but he had far more interests and duties as Majistar, and would likely lose to such a specialist.
    The battle lasted only several minutes, and the Majistar was not worried about the outcome. Jack Trys was, by far, Van Arch's superior, and he was rumored to be the greatest living duelist around. The even fighting quickly turned to desperate defensiveness until it ended much as it did with Saarinard and the almost giant in the first match.
    Van arch yielded to avoid a cutthroat. He then apologized to Von Sorath and left the arena also.
    In the fight, Jack Trys had gotten a mild scratch on the arm that now bled. Two of the countess's catgirls went up to him and bandaged the wound in the arena. "Another nice plug for Eileen" thought De Umphey, "but her help is well worth it."  Immediately, Jack began making friends with the catgirls, who seemed to fall in love with him at first sight.
The Duelist walked up to him, holding a giggling catgirl in each arm. "You are lucky that I was in town, my friend. Van Arch is rumored to be a redblade."
    The Majistar paused at this, and tried to not visibly shake from rage. A redblade was a duelist who deliberately tried to kill an opponent for money. Though a duel was never supposed to end in death, a stroke that was meant to scar could pierce a heart or cut a throat. Accidental death was part of the game, and accepted as such. This was a foul insult to an honored tradition that the Majistar respected highly. Dueling in some societies might be considered barbaric, but in Crag City, it kept fights where they started, instead of escalating into small faction wars.
    If a redblade was used, and it was proven, it would be death for both the duelist and the one that hired him. Proving it was almost impossible, for it would take someone of equal or higher rank hearing the dark deal, and then speaking of it. Few would hear such talk, without being involved themselves, and a servant going against a master would always appear dishonest by letter of law.
    As the Majistar composed himself, a hand was placed on his shoulder, and he felt some shade. It was the Countess, holding her parasol over her head as if what sunlight that made it down this far would hurt her light skin.
    "There truly are no means that your opponent will not use, yes?" She said.
    "Thank you for coming out here with me Eileen, but surely you find it more comfortable at our seats?" Saarinard said.
    "I also meant to remind you."
    She pointed to Jack Trys, who was at the side of the arena, talking to two catgirls with a charm that most men would kill for.  They were very excited, and were almost jumping up and down. Near them, Koko stood, rolling her eyes, for she preferred women. The countess turned to the Majistar, now in a more serious, but still gentile mood.
    "I would like to point out to you to remind your friend that I sell only, I do not rent, at least not for what he doubtless has in mind. I do appreciate his helping you, but I do not wish to have the complications of this. I have never had to dispose of something un-needed from one of my girls, and I never want to."
    The Majistar felt a shock at how directly she had put this, but kept his composure. "Then I will make sure he is a guest in my mansion tonight, for he is reckless with his choices in this matter. His services here were thanks for me helping him out with troubles that came from it."
    The Scholar was the final contestant. Expecting dry reciting of literature, the audience groaned. Saarinard was tempted to declare Von Sorath victor in this contest, as this would be another vicious insult to him, he would still have won 2/3 of the contest, and the audience could care less.
    "No," said the Majistar to himself, "I am a person that cares. I have argued that Von Sorath is unworthy. I must show I care in this job."
    The Scholar walked into the center, holding a large book across his chest. Two others, he had strapped over his back, and a few scrolls hung at his sides. He was a young, thin man, and not unhandsome, with very light brown hair.
    "Majistar Saarinard De Umphey" The scribe said, "I am Yahg Thenak from the University of Yanath-Yaah. I am here under the retainer of Von Sorath. As is custom, I ask what area of knowledge do you wish challenge in?"
    Saarinard thought for a moment, then said, "Geography, and politiks therein, for the Majistar must know of the lands that surround Crag City."
    "Yes! A good choice!" The scribe flicked through his book for only slightly longer than it took the Majistar to think his choice. He then spoke again to the Majistar and into the amplifier so his voice would be heard by all in the arena.
"In the nearby island state of Gadhar, in the region of the Plain of Mists and Crags, lies the City Gadhar. One of its chief deities is the Goddess Seyesh. How many pillars are in her central temple?"
    The audience groaned again. Those few who did know of this not far away, but obscure region wondered at its relevance to the office of Majistar. Cries of "Who Cares!?" and "Go back to Mommy, bookworm!" started to rise from the crowd.
    "Three." The Majistar said. "One for the birth of the Goddess from the death of the Gddshjk monster in the beginning days. A second one for her age of innocence and brightening the lands with purple Betubah flowers unique to that isle, which grow not away from that isle. The third one represents her maturing and entering into marriage with Tomar, the patron god of the isle and city-state."
    The scribe gasped, and dropped his jaw. At the sight of his startling, the audience snickered a bit.
    "B-B-B it's not P-Possible." The scribe sputtered, too shocked and startled to be embarrassed.
    "Oh, I do see your game, and you play it well." De Umphey idly curled the points on his moustache as he did with the almost-giant. "You sought my embarrassment by asking about something you knew I did not know, but could be argued that I ought to. As there are many wild and weird lands in our world, this would have been a perfect strategy, had I not been there personally."
    "B- You can't have known! They do not press their religion on outsiders, and only sincere initiates are allowed into their temples. Even if you were, no Majistar has visited their-"
    "I did, but before I became Majistar. As a youth, I traveled far. Occasionally, I did favors for Eriham De Amhurst, who was Majistar of this city at the time. Perhaps that is why he allowed me to succeed him. On one of those errands, which was off the records, I met a priestess of that Goddess. This was not on the errand, just a personal friendship, so even if you found records that were not supposed to exist, there would be no mention of this."
    The scribe slumped his shoulders. The crowd snickered, elaborating in their heads the possible nature of that private meeting.
    The Majistar addressed him again, not speaking into the amplifier. "I will have you know that after this contest, I will visit you with several Accountiments and a Judimental. Don't worry, my contest is with Von Sorath, not you. However, I will need to edit references to this temple in your works. You should know from your studies, that the people of Gadhar forbid written records of the insides of their temples. It might be seen as superstition, but is important to them. They have a free trading policy with Crag City, which is notable in the preserved Betubah flowers alone. I will allow nothing to upset that, understand?"
    The scribe gulped and nodded.
    "Now." The Majistar said, into the amplifier this time, "It is time for MY question."
    The Crowd's interest perked.
    "Since I have won the first part, I can choose the area, but I offer that to you." The Majistar said to the scribe.
    The scribe thought, changed books, and then said "Riddles."
    "Perfect", Saarinard said, "OTTFFSSE: Which is next?"
    The scribe was stunned by this, "What do you mean?"
    "Do I have to spell it out, man?" The Majistar sternly said as he did just so with his rapier in the dust.
    The scribe sweated and looked through his book rapidly, but to no avail. Minutes ticked by, and the audience cheered as one of the referees held timeglass for five. After those ticked by, the Scribe still had no answer.
    "I don't know." He said at last, rather frustrated.
    "There IS a solution to this, I trust?" The referee asked.
    "Indeed there is," The Majistar spoke loudly into the amplifier, but turned to the referee, pointing at the scribe. "Too bad you only could give him five minutes to finalize his thoughts. Perhaps you should have given him NINE!"
    The audience paused, then a few started snickering. A few more did soon after, and then told those next to them, causing the arena to burst into uproarious laughter. The referee laughed and nodded to the Majistar.
    The scribe looked hurt.
    "I still don't get it!" He said.
    "Feel free to write it down, man." Von Sorath said. "No one tell him, ok? It's best if he figures it out for himself!"
    Looking very embarrassed, the scribe used a pencil to scribble the notes down and hurried out of the arena. Saarinard then spoke again into the amplifier.
    "I respect knowledge and those who devote themselves to it. However, in excess, it is of no great help. Very smart people are capable of also being very stupid at the same time."
    This briefly re-charged the laughter in the crowd that was dying down a bit. The Majistar made his way back to his seat by the countess as the referees and Accountiments worked out the obvious results of the contest.
    "What a wonderful ploy!" Del Soya said. "I did not get it myself, until you mentioned that time thing. Why did you ask people not to tell him the solution?"
    "I've seen that look. He will spend the next week trying to figure it out, and nothing else. Perhaps that will distract him long enough to prevent him from destroying reference to the source of his information on the Temples of Gadhar. King Gouz will flip in anger if he hears of this, but severely fining whoever gave the info will calm him down. Yanath-Yaah himself seeks to avoid offending people, and he should not hinder my efforts in his university, which is outside the bounds of Crag City.
    After a few minutes, the Referees proclaimed the choice. Saarinard De Umphey had won, by popular choice and in the contests. The defeat in areas of Magick had only slightly effected the outcome.
    As was custom, the effigy of Von Sorath was paraded around the arena and set on fire. The audience threw things at it until finally, it was put, still burning into the space in front of his window. Von Sorath was sputtering, drooling and crying visibly, despite the best efforts of his courtesans to help his composure.
    On the other hand, the effigy of the Majistar Saarinard De Umphey was cast into the crowd nearest him, who quickly reduced it to shreds, fighting for "Lucky" charms for supporting their choice of Majistar correctly.
Nearby, he saw his important supporters. Triciam Yves, of the Horribilius religion squeezed one of her breasts, then blew the Majistar a kiss. Eyeing Del Soya, she touched her heart, and bowed her head, assuring her that nothing further was meant other than support. Duke Iron and his son, not arguing for once, nodded and waved at the Majistar. Certain businesses, such as the purveyors of pleasure mushroom made eye contact and waved at him also, flinging prepackaged pipes into the audience in celebration.
    "Well, isn't this wonderful?" Countess Del Soya said in a chipper voice. "You soundly trashed that toad. He'll be crying under his bed for weeks to come now. Let's celebrate, besides at the victory party tomorrow night!"
    The Majistar looked concerned, however. In response to the puzzled look on the countess's face, he pointed over to Von Sorath's side, to the important section. Although the Majistar won the nobility by far, and barely in the religious area, Von Sorath still had a crushing victory in the Merchant's section. This was bizarre, as usually, they would ordinarily be racing through the crowd to flock to his side now.
    Saarinard De Umphey said, distantly. "It very much appears that I might have lost."


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A note to foriegners:
(because some of my readers are outside the USA and Britain)
(And I appreciate their attention also!)

    A lot of you might have had confusion with some terms.  To add to the fantasy element, and to make it very unlikely that the characters are named like any in R/L, I modify the names.  Also, this is partially a tribute to Lord Dunsany.
    The Majistar is a cross between Mayor and Majistrate.  A guard is a Guardimen, an Accountant an Accountimant.  I also make up wierd substances and spells.  Feel free to E-Mail me about any questions that you have!
    Generally, if you can't place it, and its Capitalised, you can assume I made it up.

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