Over a century has passed since Liandri Corporation first began the Tournaments, and while the tradition lives on much has changed in the world around it
Seventy years ago an invasion fleet appeared in human space, wiping out virtually all resistance before it could begin. Humanity, a race that had taken pride in its freedom suddenly found itself bound by the shackles of an ancient race vastly superior in numbers and technology.
The Empire quickly established a foothold among the worlds of its latest acquirement, using propaganda and brute force where necessary. Those who swore allegiance to the Emperor found that life wasn’t so different under the new rule, and for some it even improved. But for those who would not kneel before their new rulers, death awaited them on the prison planets scattered across the sectors.
The Emperor and his counsel, at first repulsed by the idea of the tournaments, soon began to see the advantage of providing the populace with a form of entertainment that both enraptured the viewers and reminded them where disobedience would lead them.
Arena worlds were picked from the harshest of the prison planets, and the training began. People who had watched the Liandri Tournaments with savage glee found themselves on the arena floors fighting for their lives again and again, as the alien technology ripped them back from the brink of death until their minds finally collapsed under the strain.
Examples were made of the more vocal dissidents, each broken and remade in the image of the darkest nightmares, to show the scorn the Emperor felt for the weaklings who opposed him.
Not all the participants took part unwillingly. A race of beings previously unknown slaughtered the new combatants with reckless abandon, taking pride in the ease at which they butchered the new meat. For all they cheered during each battle, every time another human died the spirit of the men and women who watched grew weaker.
Now that the Tournaments have become a fixture of the Empire’s power, the aristocracy has begun to take part as well, in carefully orchestrated battles that pose no real danger to their lives. Unlike their prisoners, these Highborn can not use the resurrection technology so readily available, without losing their status as ones tainted by madness. To kill a Highborn is to kill him forever.
The only hope for mankind is that a champion will rise from the ashes of their civilization and succeed against all odds, to hold the Emperor’s life in their hands.