SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
TOURNAMENT OF DEATH 1-3 SYNOPSES
What follows are very brief synopses of the first three Tournament of Death novels. These recaps contain spoilers for the first 3 books, but are intended to help backers of Tournament of Death 4. Enjoy! (And Pledge Now!)
TOURNAMENT OF DEATH #1 – The Empyrean Keep
The Wizard-Prince Amontet creates the Tournament Maximus to find a cadre of heroes to recover a mystical treasure he covets. The Empyrean Diamond is hidden on the Lost Island of Shumakai at the top of an extra-dimensional tower. The first two stages of the “Tournament of Death” consist of a series of potentially deadly tests to weed out the weak, because only the strongest and bravest will be able to survive the lethal perils of the Empyrean Keep. Anyone who completes the entire tournament, and recovers the gem, will win a favor from the supremely powerful Wizard-Prince.
Contestants from all over the World-Sea come to compete in the three-stage tournament and win the wizard’s reward. Some entrants are quickly dispatched by the tournament’s gauntlet-like first two stages. Others forge through the deadly obstacles and monsters of the first two stages and move on to the final assault on the tower. Among the finalists are the Midknight mercenary Erisa, blazing magician Piro, the near-legendary warrior Crimson, warrior-priest Father Pius, elf-mage/swordsman Brion Wilde, and a half-dozen others.
Brion, however, decides that the cost of this quest is not worth the price. He drops out of the tournament and urges others to do so as well, lest they be killed in the final stage.
His words prove prophetic, as the air-based monsters and dangers inside the other-dimensional tower – the Empyrean Keep – prove even more deadly than the qualifying tournament. Only a handful of contestants survive, recover the gem, and return to claim the prince’s favor.
When Father Pius unexpectedly tries to assassinate Amontet, Crimson sacrifices herself to protect the wizard. Amontet kills Pius, and rather than save her own life, Crimson uses her boon from the wizard to save Piro, whose neck was snapped in the tower, and have him returned to full health. Crimson then dies, leaving only Erisa to claim Amontet’s prize.
Erisa, the sole remaining champion, chooses to heal her lover Uldred, who had been maimed in an earlier stage of the tournament; the wizard-prince does this easily. Amontet then takes the Empyrean Diamond and teleports away; for him, all the death and carnage has been worth it. Contestants and spectators leave the island as Shumakai begins to fade from reality once more. Will it ever return?
Later, Brion Wilde meets Crimson – surprisingly alive – and discovers that she is “unhinged in time” and cursed to be reincarnated into a new body every time she dies. (See the numerous Crimson stories and The Crimson Collection.)
TOURNAMENT OF DEATH #2 – The Deluvian Temple
Four years later, Shumakai appears again, and the Wizard-Prince Amontet sponsors a second Tournament Maximus to find heroes to plunder another mystical treasure: the Deluvian Pearl. Once more, contestants assemble from all over the World-Sea, and this time some even come with their own pre-made teams, in hopes of more successfully passing through the contest’s second stage (in which groups compete together). Erisa (still nursing wounds from the first tournament) and Uldred return, but only because they are being blackmailed by Cretia, their greedy former boss who wants Amontet’s prize. Brion Wilde also returns, but this time as the creator of Safe Harbor, an anti-bloodsport movement trying to stop the tournament.
Again, the first two stages of the “Tournament of Death” take a terrible toll on the contestants, including a brave but foolish jenrat contingent – all of whom are killed. A number of other contestants are saved by Yan Zhigong, a girl kung fu master who was wounded in TOD#1. Yan, though, decides to drop out after Stage 2 and join Brion’s anti-tournament group. Uldred intends to drop out, too, but Cretia poisons Erisa and Uldred is forced to continue to gain the antidote.
The final stage takes place in the Deluvian Temple, through a portal which leads to a dimension filled with watery perils. The dangers are made even more deadly because one of the finalists has been replaced with a dragonkyn shapechanger, who slays Aquaron, the self-proclaimed triton king (and master of the gill-man slaves). That’s not the only vendetta among the finalists, though. The elf Rhiannon exacts her revenge on Menalo and Sivana, the pirates who killed her father, and all three are Shanghaied from the tournament by the ghostly pirate, Captain Red Jack Sirus. Jack also carries off Cretia, freeing Uldred and Erisa from the blackmailer.
This leaves only a handful of heroes to face the final challenge in the Deluvian Temple, and many of them are nearly killed by the monsters they find there. Upon returning home, the survivors present the Wizard-Prince with his prize and gain their boons. Uldred, who has lost an arm in the final stage, chooses healing for Erisa and those injured in the tournament finals (including himself and two contestants who were carried back unconscious). Peter (secretly the assassin known as Orm) gives up his reward so that the slave gill-man Reeko (considered unworthy to be granted a wish) can free his amphibian people from bondage.
The Al Qiist Melody Kitt shocks her cat-people sponsors when, instead of wishing for revenge against their arch enemies, she asks for a private island and enough wealth to last her lifetime. The Wizard-Prince grants all these requests and claims his coveted prize, the Deluvian Pearl. The tournament ends, and everyone who survived returns home – some considerably better off than they were before (including Amontet) – though, like last time, many more contestants perished than benefited. Whether Shumakai will return again seems not to be a matter of if now, but rather of when.
TOURNAMENT OF DEATH #3 – The Osiran Pyramid
Two years later, Shumakai appears a third time, and the Wizard-Prince Amontet funds the Tournament Maximus III to find heroes to recover a new treasure from the island. This time, nearly everyone competing in the games comes alongside a pre-made team, though contestants still have to pass Stage 1 on their own. The jenrats have returned with an even stronger contingent, led by the selectively bred super-warrior Orkina. Brion Wilde also returns with his Safe Harbor anti-bloodsport group, boasting Erisa & Uldred among his supporters. (Though neither of the former champions knows that their favorite protégé, Meichiko, plans to compete.) Some things in the tournament have changed. Previous organizer Brutus Maximus (Max) has slid into dissolution, so his former lieutenants – Rogi, Ilsa, and Herrin – are now running the games … and some would say not as well as Max did.
A disturbance at the opening ceremony gets all non-competing Al Qiist (cat-people) and Al Kabar (dog-people) banned from the island. Because of this, some people who really aren’t qualified decide to compete. This raises the first-stage death toll, but also allows the Pussycat Riot musical group to stay on the island by deliberately failing the gauntlet before they can get hurt. Things are even dangerous in the tournament village this time, thanks to rivalry between housing entrepreneur Tso’Chi and crooked security contractor Pu-Tan (who claims to represent ex-organizer Max’s interests).
Despite the tournament’s infrastructure problems and the usual impressive death count from Stages 1 & 2, a record number of finishers still make it to the final stage. Among them is a team organized by the Finnek Sisters (former allies of Brion), jenrats led by Orkina, a trio of Vortex Gladiators, some dwarves, and numerous single competitors, including Meichiko. More than twenty contestants enter the Osiran Pyramid to seek Amontet’s prize (another mystic gem), but the earth-based menaces of Stage 3 still take their deadly toll.
By the time the finalists reach the Temple of the Queen of the Underworld, barely more than a handful of contestants remain – and some of the survivors have been infected by the undead they encountered along the way. A lucky few, do manage to escape the demon queen and return to Shumakai with Amontet’s coveted gemstone – though several contestants are mortally wounded (and, unknown to anyone, the drow Dorian has been turned into a vampire).
Dorian flees from the winners’ area as a bat, as Amontet tries to destroy him; the drow does not get to claim a prize. Orkina, dying, does not plead to be healed, but rather asks that her wretched people be “uplifted” and made equal to the other human-like races of the world. Meichiko, also dying, turns from her original goal and asks that all the tournament contestants be healed – including herself and Orkina. Rik Armstrung merely asks that his arm, lost previous to the games, be restored – and the same for his friendly enemy, Brak the one-armed lizard-man. The boldest request of all comes from Ceilo, the only surviving Finnek Sister. She asks that all 5 of her siblings killed in the tournament be returned to life and health.
Amontet grants all these boons, though doing so costs him a great deal of power. Exhausted, he claims his prize, the Osiran Opal, and teleports back to his palace. The rest of the attendees return home, too, few richer, but some wiser – and a handful made whole. Brion’s Safe Harbor group has grown, and will continue to protest bloodsports. The current tournament organizers head home as well, lingering only long enough to enjoy the unexpected and mysterious death of their enemy Pu-Tan.
Whether there will be any more tournaments, and what Amontet’s ultimate goal may be –beyond collecting magical gemstones – remains unknown.