I figured a little bit of background on the history of Dueling Marionettes would be interesting to some of my readers. I don't think this is gonna spoil anything in LC so don't worry about that.
A great number of years ago in the empire of Aelron, gladiators battled to the death in arenas for the amusement of the populace. This practice was so pervasive in Aelron society that a city that could not boast that it had an arena was not even considered Aelronian. Aelron frequently waged war with their neighbors, not to expand their empire, but simply to replenish their supply of slave gladiators. Many neighboring countries practiced “slave pacification”, a gift of slaves (usually prisoners and malcontents) to avoid confrontation with the mighty Aelronian war machine. These exchanges often numbered in the thousands. In theory a gladiator could earn his freedom, but a good gladiator became an attraction, too valuable to be allowed to leave the arena in any form other then death. These conditions existed for hundreds of years until Emperor Thano Darkon III came into power.
Unlike his predecessors, Thano despised “death entertainment”, and in an unprecedented move he outlawed the practice, closed every arena in the empire, and signed a proclamation granting freedom as well as citizenship to the tens of thousands of gladiators in Aelron. This didn't sit well with the citizens, and the many arenas remained open and refused to release their gladiators despite the Emperor's orders. They claimed it would endanger their populace if such fearsome individuals were released.
Thano couldn't allow such lawlessness to continue to undermine his authority. He made an example of the people in the city of Reebes. A legion of his troops entered the city during one of the gladiatorial events and blocked off the amphitheater, allowing no one to leave. The owner of the amphitheater, the owners of the gladiators, the mayor of Reebes and all other city officials in attendance were hanged for treason without trial in front of the bewildered spectators. The gladiators were escorted out and handed proof of citizenship. The rest of the people in attendance were told they were free to leave only after they agreed to have their middle finger removed as a tribute to Emperor Thano. Historians widely agree that this gave rise to the phrase “give the middle finger”.
After the Reebes Incident, the arenas remained closed, but unrest continued. Thano consulted several wizards for ideas on how to pacify the populace. The wizards agreed that the best solution was to substitute a similar form of entertainment. Several different ideas were tried with limited success. One wizard attempted to use golems of stone, it was initially very popular, but the uninspired combat techniques of the golems soon became repetitive and dull. The creation of golems was expensive and time consuming, it was impossible to create enough to satisfy all of Aelron. Another wizard tried using zombies, which were far cheaper to produce, but grave robbery for gladiators, ironically enough, was considered barbaric by Aelronian citizens. Zombies were even less inspired then golems, having more interest in the audience then each other. Finally, one wizard developed the first pair of control modules for dueling marionettes, they were a single tether device that looked like a glove. The marionettes could do little other then run into each other, but the wizard assured Thano that more complicated ones would look far more realistic. The initial investment was quite high, but the only thing that would be damaged after each battle was the marionettes themselves, and they were easy to repair and very inexpensive to replace.
The five tether device was the most common since it was easiest to master, but devices up to eight tethers were also prevalent. Beyond that they became immensely complicated and required a duelist with a great deal of mystical aptitude. There were devices with up to thirty tethers, and even the fabled “Living Module”, a device that some reports say may have had up to one-hundred tethers. The marionettes themselves were usually made of wood, but supple cloth with padding was sewn over the wood to give the illusion of flesh. It was popular to place “blood” packets under the cloth for a more gory battle. Often the heads were made of wax for a more realistic appearance, but in hot weather they could be made of clay. The duelists would usually be hidden from the crowd in a specially designed bunker under the arena floor, they would conduct the battle through a slit that they could see through.
The battles were popular, but it was a “it's better then nothing” popularity. After the untimely demise of Thano at the end of thirty daggers, the next emperor resurrected the ancient and beloved death matches as his first act. The marionette duelist found themselves unemployed, and even scorned as a reminder of Thano.
Most of the remote dueling marionette control modules have been lost, dissembled for their components, or are gathering dust in museums. While the empire of Aelron is now just a chapter in the history books, many of the lands that once fell under Aelron rule continue to have gladiator matches to this day.
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