Chapter 15: Gladiators

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Mid Fair Celebration. The White City

Jeffrey joined the Bromborne family in their private box at the Coliseum that night for the Mid Fair gladiatorial celebration

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Jeffrey joined the Bromborne family in their private box at the Coliseum that night for the Mid Fair gladiatorial celebration. 

For the past nine days, Jeffrey had diligently attended each kingdom's Culture Fair performance. Though it was tedious at times, it was imperative as a leader to possess the best understanding of not just his own culture but also that of his friends and, potentially, his enemies. But Mid Fair marked the end of the more relaxed half of the Five Years Fair and the beginning of the more important half, which led to the eventual election by the kings, lords and surlords of the next supreme chancellor.

The Coliseum of America was bigger by half than its rival on The Pike but not nearly as old or classic in character. Rumors had that forty thousand could comfortably sit inside, making it the biggest such structure ever built. Nevertheless, Jeffrey thought it was a drab and boring structure of square, light-gray blocks of little charisma.

As royalty, the Brombornes were awarded a private box separate from the general seating and shaded by a stone awning. Its position near the middle of the pitch on the lowest level assured them the best view of the action at every part of the arena. Jeffrey recognized some of the other royal families in the adjacent boxes, including House Roberts of Tahala on one side, and House Robertson of Saints on the other. Nearby, Lord Allaster and his shieldsman Yorwin Dias were quickly enveloped in conversation.

"Lord Greenborne," came a melodious voice. It took a moment for Jeffrey to locate Sean Roberts leaning over the short stone wall separating the Bromborne box from theirs. The King of Tahala was dressed in ocean-blue robes that shimmered in the torchlight. Jeffrey stood, and, leaning over Master Gomes, shook the king's hand. "It is my pleasure to finally meet you in person, Lord Jeffrey of House Greenborne."

"Likewise, King Sean of House Roberts. May the eyes of the Real God smile on you and your family," Jeffrey said and Sean Roberts smiled gratefully. Though, of course, Jeffrey served the Sect of Gah right alongside his benefactors in House Bromborne, it was meant as a compliment to bless House Roberts in the words of their own religion.

"Thank you very much, my lord. Peace be with you and yours. Lord Enrich," he added, reaching past Jeffrey to shake the younger Bromborne's hand. "It's a pleasure and an honor to meet you." Enrich nodded uninterestedly.

"Lord Sean!" said Allaster. He waded across the box from where he'd been talking with Lord Dias and embraced the King of Tahala. "It is good to see you here, my old friend!"

Old friend? mused Jeffrey. A gross exaggeration. Jeffrey knew the two men had only met once or twice at the rare Five Years Fairs of the past. But House Roberts was wealthy, and House Bromborne had historically found them friendliest of the Rocklands families.

"Lord Allaster!" exclaimed Sean. Jeffrey could see the king's daughter and two sons sitting just beyond him with their mother. Queen Taneida. She was a regal woman. Large and powerful with a cool confidence that Jeffrey sensed immediately. While the religion of Tahala was not totally matriarchal, the sexes were considered equal in a way that wasn't duplicated anywhere else in the realm.

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