Arena (novel)

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Arena
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Author(s) William R. Forstchen
First printing September 26, 1994
ISBN-13 978-00610542426
followed by Whispering Woods/Shattered Chains

Arena is the very first Magic novel ever produced. It was published in November 1994. It is written by William R. Forstchen. Arena is not part of any cycle, but its story is connected to the Greensleeves cycle.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Festival will never be the same again.

For even as the fighter-mages of the four great houses prepare for their annual battle in the arena, a stranger arrives for Festival. Who is Garth One-Eye, and where did he get his powerful spells? What is his interest in the fifth House, destroyed a generation ago? And why is the Grand Master of the Arena so afraid of what Garth might do?

The answer may bring about the fall of the four houses - or Garth's death.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Garth arrives in the city of Estark and is befriended by Hammen, an old man who is the leader of a brotherhood of pickpockets. Garth quickly becomes known as One-Eye after winning a magical duel on a public street.

Estark is a brutal city where the populace's favored pastime is watching and betting on bloody battles, both on the streets and in the Arena. Zarel, Grand Master of the Arena, uses the games to keep the populace and the Four Houses of fighter-wizards in check. Every year, the city hosts a tournament in the Arena, called the Festival of Estark. In the past, this was a fairly harmless testing of skills between the Houses. This changed after the former Grand Master killed off the entire Fifth House and took their cache of mana, becoming Planeswalker Kuthuman. After this, the four surviving Houses have fought in ever-bloodier gladiatorial wizard matches. The Walker returns to watch these yearly bloodbaths, taking his tribute of mana and supposedly allowing the wizard who wins the tournament to come with him on his extra-planar travels. In reality, he kills them and takes their mana and spells, preventing any rivals from arising.

While in Estark, Garth witnesses a skilled Benalish warrior win a fight in the streets, even though her opponent fought dishonorably and failed to pay the bet. Garth prevents her from being stabbed in the back by her opponent's friend and later confronts her foe's House with her. The warrior, Norreen Rakel, thanks Garth, but remains aloof, especially after being taunted vulgarly by Hammen. She has entered the city to earn the title of Hero, so that she might escape the caste system of her home, since her caste, the 7th, is currently at the bottom and any of higher castes could demand anything of her.

Magical duels continue throughout the city. The standard practice in fighter-wizard battles is to bet a spell on the outcome. If the fight is to the death, the bet is the loser's entire satchel of spells and mana. Garth gets involved in several of these fights, joining and abandoning each of the Houses in turn. He stirs up discord and rioting in the already dangerous and unstable city.

Garth is captured and tortured by Grand Master Zarel, who wishes to know what his plan is, but he is freed by Hammen, Norreen, and Varena (a fighter whose respect he had earned and with whom he'd had a one-night stand).

Finally, he appears in the Arena and fights under the colors of the Fifth House, of which he is a rare survivor. He lost his eye when his family was killed by the Grand Master. We also find that Hammen is of the Fifth House and used to serve Garth's father, who was leader of the House. When Garth is about to be killed, Norreen leads the crowd as a mob into the Arena to aid him.

Later, in an effort to kill Garth and satiate the mob's bloodlust, Grand Master Zarel and Planeswalker Kuthuman arrange for all the final battles of the Games to be death matches. Any fighters who oppose this are instantly killed by them. Garth is forced to kill Varena with a Psionic Blast after she makes it clear her honor as a fighter-wizard demands that she follow the rules of their match.

Garth wins the Arena's tournament and is whisked away by Planeswalker Kuthuman, who tries to kill him. He fails and then explains to Garth that Planeswalkers are caught in an eternal struggle with each other for power and that he is therefore justified in exploiting and murdering mortals. Garth disagrees and wounds him, escaping.

Back at the Arena, Varena is revived, rescued by Norrenn, Hammen, and Naru, a giant dim-witted fighter who found Garth amusing. The city is thrown into chaos, the Four Houses fighting against Grand Master Zarel and being destroyed. Zarel is attacked by a mob and kills many of them as well. He is about to kill Norreen, Hammen, and Naru, when Garth returns. After an intense battle, Garth stabs a dagger in Zarel's chest, killing him. Norreen embraces Garth and they vanish, pulled away by Planeswalker Kuthuman.

Three years later, the city is rebuilt and the Arena festival is as it once was: a contest of skill rather than a bloodsport. Hammen and Naru are now masters of their respective Houses and Varena is the Grand Master. Norreen and Garth return, having defeated Planeswalker Kuthuman and sealed the portal he used so he could not return. The two of them meet with Hammen once again to let him know they are alive, then retire to the countryside to raise their child, whom they plan to name after him.

External link[edit | edit source]