They always cheer the King. When he comes out, they stand, they wave their little flags, the trumpets blare their fanfares and all is presumed to be well. After that it's up for grabs. They can root against his handpicked favorites all they want, so long as they cheer him.
Remember that lesson.
The favorite that day was a Raiegan brute named Carv. He'd been a soldier, but wanting for discipline, he was eventually sent into the arena. He'd made quite a career of it. Thirty-one times he'd walked out into the sunlight and the sand and the sawdust and then back out again under his own power. This time he'd entered with a longsword, probably enchanted, most assuredly sharp. The King likes success.
I was most definitely not the favorite. I had bedded the King's mistress, Kayla, except we hadn't bothered with the bed. They'd sent me out with a shortsword, no doubt on the King's specific instructions, for the symbolism. That's fine. Kayla knows better.
Carv was never one for ceremony. He came at me like a team of runaway horses.
They cheer the King, and they cheer action. They were expecting me to die quickly. Carv had the sense to draw things out. I'd seen him fight before: he'd wound his opponent early on, and then toy with them until his ears told him the crowd was ready for the end.
I dodged and scampered. I twisted and rolled. The crowd hated me: I wouldn't take it like a man. They began to boo. They chanted Carv's name.
Carv decided the wounding was overdue: he stepped in close, expecting me to run, so he could slash at the backs of my legs. Instead I ducked into his shadow. Carv suddenly found my short sword buried hilt-deep in his chest.
The Crown cannot appear ungracious: the purse was paid. I was released, shown to the East Gate and told never to be seen there again.
I wonder if Kayla misses me.