APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 7 July, 1999



Part 1: The History and the Heroes

Scott R. Blow

As in most of its sister Emirates, bloodsports are one of the defining pastimes of Javari. Instead of the man-versus-man gladiatorial combats in the neighboring city-states, however, the Eurospanish-descended Javarites have resurrected the ancient practice of arena bullfighting.

Javarite bullfighting began as a rite of passage for the city-state's aristocracy. Before assuming their role in the leadership, each emir and high-ranking solicitor would first have to battle the Toro. This kept the leaders of Javari strong, and had the not-unforeseen consequence of ensuring that men dominated the nobility. The notable exception to this rule was the deadly female matador and emir Maria Ortuño-Gilan of the mid-1600s. The danger of the fights and the desire of the nobles to preserve their bloodlines led to the exploitation of an obscure rule allowing the appointment of substitute matadors to act as champions. The last aristocratic matador, Franco Gibran, died in TN 1921. Today, all professional matadors are of the solicitor class and novilleros (novice bullfighters) are mainly shajhalin commoners.

While most Emirates recruit convicts for their bloodsports, the bullfights of Javari are entirely voluntary. Despite the brutal nature of the fights and the high number of fatalities, there is no lack of willing participants. The reasons for this are simple; successful matadors are showered with fame, fortune, and power.

The Toreros

'Torero' is a blanket term for all bullfighters, both the expert matadors and the inexperienced novilleros. Every torero begins his career as a novillero, fighting young bulls. In Javari, novilleros receive no formal training. They are simply placed in the ring with a five-cycle-old bull, given an assortment of spears and swords, and told to fight. As a consequence, most novilleros die in their first match; there is little room for trial and error when facing off against a metric ton of angry beast.

Surviving novilleros live in a state-funded dormitory with their fellow novices, trading tips and observations. Given the dangerous nature of their profession, novilleros follow the fights closer than any other audience.

Successful, crowd-pleasing novilleros have the chance to become a true matador. Aspiring matadors must participate in the alternativa ceremony, in which an established matador nominates them to the position. If two other fully-fledged matadors second this nomination, the candidate is accepted into the ranks of the elite. If the novillero is of the shajhalin class, as most are, the rise to matador is accompanied by a promotion to the solicitor class. Becoming a Javarite matador is one of the only ways an ESE individual can raise his lot in life. Needless to say, the competition for matador slots is extremely intense.

Matadors are the Javarite equivalent of trideo celebrities. They are treated like royalty by all but the emirs themselves. They are invited to every gala and ceremony, and are legally recognized as Javari's Living National Treasures. They survive on an honorarium and living stipend granted by the government as well as contracts tying them to certain venues.

Professional matadors live by an almost monastic code of conduct. They are expected to be knights of the highest order: the role models or the city-state and paragons of Javarite culture. Matadors who disgrace their fellows, through illicit affairs or even by accepting commercial endorsement money, are encouraged (often in a not-so-gentle fashion) to leave the bullfighting league.

The current bullfighting league champion, or lider del escalafon, is Andrei della Sanchez. He rose to the top position at the remarkably young age of 26 cycles, exceeding all expectations and shattering all records along the way. "El Numero Uno," as he is colloquially known, has become something of a folk hero, renowned for his modesty and soft-spoken dignity. As a former commoner, Andrei has used his position as chief matador to lobby for shajhalin rights, another move that has made him popular with the masses.

Andrei has recently been seen in public accompanying Emir Leda Gilan, prompting tabloid journalists and gossipmongers to suggest a sexual relationship between the two. Despite the rumors, della Sanchez quietly denies any romantic connection to the emir, insisting that he and the emir remain good friends. Though he cares deeply for Emir Gilan, he fears Patriarch Masao's wrath. Gilan is unaware of della Sanchez' true feelings.

Next issue: A look at the toreros' animal opponents.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 7 July, 1999