Schemes of the Lich King
Axis, City of Swords
The capital of the Dragon Empire sits inside the crater of an ancient volcano. The shards of the crater wall stand high above the city, carved into the likeness of great dragons and rife with troop tunnels and magical defenses. The topmost city spires and the magical clouds above them are the home of three or four dozen dragons—the remaining members of the army of metallic dragons that the Great Gold Wyrm gifted to the first Emperor to help him defeat the Lich King.
Axis is a city of wonders, military power, and martial competition. Gladiatorial games, skirmishes between noble houses, and staged holy wars hone the fighting spirit of an empire built on conquest.
The city’s arenas stage all varieties of exhibitions, games, and blood-matches. The only entirely observed rule is that true dragons are not legal combatants, an ancient dictate whose origins are lost but one that seems wise enough that every Emperor has enforced it.
There are many gladiatorial games that cycle in and out of fashion in Axis. Here are three of the more interesting ones.
Kjess: An arena boardgame played with living pieces, kjess places numerous ranks of supposedly lowly pawns in front of the more important pieces so that the audience can be assured of seeing many bloody battles before more elegant moves and elimination of key pieces begins to determine a winner. Promotion of pawns who win many fights in a row is a popular feature of the game, and for that matter, of Axis’s stories about itself. The
Fighting Pawn is one of the city’s best-known taverns. The lowly pawn who turns out to be an Imperial bastard is a stock figure of bardic romance. Kjess is also a popular game with rogues of many varieties, perhaps because there are so many ways to bet on kjess and bloody betting scandals are nearly as entertaining as the game.
Stick-it: Two or more teams of semi-armored warriors with javelins protect their team’s targets (aka wickets) with tiny shields and their own bodies. Combat lines start far apart. The long distances see to it that simply aiming at the enemy is usually not the best course; it’s better to aim at the wickets, not all of which can simultaneously be covered by the opposing team, and then make a follow-up attack at your foes when they try to ward
off your first throw.
Tusk: Named after one of Axis’s greatest past gladiators, Citizen Tusk, tusk is a somewhat racist but heartily appreciated celebration of the fact that one half-orc (carefully chosen,
perhaps) can kick the ass of several less hearty warriors (possibly also carefully chosen). Tusk events are in no way staged, managed, scripted, or rehearsed, and repeated statements to the contrary are surely slanders perpetrated by the competition.
Petitioners at the central Imperial palace of Thronehold do well to fly in through the great archways. Anyone who has to walk up the twisty stairs from the underlevel is assumed to be low born and worth ignoring. There are several Imperial Palaces hidden around the city. Those with connections to the Emperor are more likely to find them. The palaces range from the Palace of War (trophies and generals, mostly) to the Garden of Delight (as you would imagine). Some say that the identity and locations of the palaces change, but how would anyone know?