“In the grotto beneath the waterfall, the Laughing God looked after Spollnar with great tenderness while she swelled with the fruits of their love. And then, when the time was upon her, she held Garruth’s hand and brought forth Pugnar the Lion, Lord of the Arena, into the Outermost Heavens. Thick-shouldered and broad of waist, he inherited his father’s good spirit and hearty laugh and stood before them proudly as a true warrior born. Ten dancing broadswords circled about his head and their touch would spell death to the legions of the night. A captain of captains, Pugnar was ever a god of war, a stalwart knight and champion of order, who relished sharing the gift of combat to any serving the Dark Lord. Legendary was his prodigious might and his mirth sounded o’er the clang of battle, a claxon horn proclaiming victory.”
Pugnar (poog-nahr), God of the Arena and Combat, The Holy Crusader, God of War, The Mighty Lion. Lord of the Arena, the Lion Crusader, Giver of the Gift of Combat
Pugnar the Lion of the Vanara was a god of war as were the other Vanara. What separated him from his brethren, excepting the Rainbow Lord who stood apart in other ways, was a strong, almost Dwarf-like sense of honor. In fact, honor mattered so much to Pugnar that people gave him the nickname The Lord of the Arena because he thought that grievances ought to be settled mano a mano. Ideally, with fisticuffs rather than swords. He even had a name for bouncing his fists off his opponent’s head, calling it the Gift of Combat, which he meant in the most sincere way possible, even when bludgeoning his opponent into pulp. Like most of the Vanara, Pugnar enjoyed the occasional visit to the world of Man, most often to give his knuckles a workout. Since the godly form he revealed to Man was that of a helmed knight in armor, walking about incognito was a simple matter for him. He enjoyed visiting taverns, where he inevitably entered into a brawl. He didn’t pick fights. They had a habit of coming his way. A bump at the bar counter, a spilled drink or an inappropriate comment was all it took for the fists to start flying.
In the kingdoms of Man, there were knights devoted to Pugnar, not so many as swore allegiance to Deridean or Vitale, but more than a few, and these knights were called the Lions of Pugnar. The knight order had chapters in many kingdoms of Fanar, and later, after civilization spread south to Tyrnavalle, the Lions of Pugnar established a stronghold there as well. In Renk, towards the end of the age, the Lions were led by a gentleman named Cingar Blackhand, named for his left hand which was blackened and charred in a fire. Cingar overcame his handicap and became a knight of renown. His right fist packed quite a wallop, which earned him Pugnar’s favor, but his greatest virtue was a keen mind for military tactics. Under his leadership, the Lions of Pugnar in Renk became a powerful military force that proved instrumental, when the city of Bayor occupied Renk late in the 20th century, Renk Time.
Lions held a special place in Pugnar’s creed because of Melaffa, a most wondrous lion the Lord of the Arena first encountered on the plains outside the Crystal Palace. The Blessed Kingdom was home not only to the spirits of man who took the Short Walk. Many creatures of the animal kingdom graced its plains, meadows and forests too, and of them all, the lion was king as surely as golden Finbardin was the king of Heaven. The animals of the Blessed Kingdoms were unlike their lesser kindred who stalked the wilds of Sangrar. They could converse with spirits of man and shared the realm as friends, never as prey.
But, there were always those who didn’t follow the rules, and Viridian the Dark Slayer was one of those miscreants. The rise of Viridian was always a source of discontent between Pugnar and his brother Bangal. Pugnar contended that Bangal judged Viridian in error. The Dark Slayer, so named retroactively, had already failed to win the Rainbow Lord’s favor on two separate prior occasions. After spending a third eternity in the Spirit World contemplating his failures, he won Bangal’s approval to take the Short Walk and finally set his feet firmly upon the ground in the Blessed Kingdom. The first sight that cursed spirit beheld was noble Melaffa. The unsuspecting lion approached him in friendship, to welcome him to the Blessed Kingdom, and Viridian struck him down.
Viridian’s time in the Spirit World had not soothed his troubled soul. He had succumbed to One-Eye’s whispers and become his servant of the Dark Lord. That, at least, is how Pugnar portrayed it. Bangal, too proud to admit a mistake, told it differently, claiming that Viridian was, in fact, Cthar in disguise come to the Blessed Kingdom to spill blood upon the holy land. Was Viridan truly the Stealer of Souls or had Bangal committed the unthinkable sin of judging in error? We shall never know the truth, but we do know that Pugnar came upon the fallen lion and offered him succor, certainly saving him from certain death. The story does bear a striking similarity with the tale of Vitale and the dragon Langatorax, but that should not surprise you. The Vanara were always merciful, except when it came to the Dark Lord and his minions.
After the God-Emperor’s dynasty toppled, the Vaulted Council of the Dome ruled Sangrithar. This council, elected by the populace, ruled democratically and put in protections to prevent another dynasty like the God-Emperors from ever arising and taking control of the nation. But, every council needs a leader and Sangrithar couldn’t entirely shake its ancient traditions. Something in the people’s psyche demanded a figure of strength and power to command the council. And so, the council instituted the Duel of the Dome. Those who wished to lead the council could enter a tournament in which contestants battled each other, not to the death with swords, but with clenched fists, to the satisfaction of the Pugnar the Lion. Whoever won the tournament, which required strength, cunning and endurance, would become the Lord of the Vaulted Dome and lead the council for the next seven years. The Lord was welcome to try for a repeat victory after his or her term finished. Many did, and a few served more than one term as Lord of the Dome, but no one could escape old age and infirmity, so every Lord of the Dome eventually passed the baton to a successor. By tradition, every victor paid homage to the Lord of the Arena, and of course, to Umbar.
Don’t let Pugnar’s appreciation for fisticuffs fool you. The Lion was no stranger to weapons. He favored the broadsword and when he appeared to mortals, it was most often as a huge man with ten dancing broadswords circling his head wearing black plate mail and a shining silver helm. He knew full well that there were times for pugilism and times for deadlier weapons of war. In particular, Pugnar had it in for Cthar the Stealer of Souls and he never let an opportunity pass to show Cthar that strength and honor would always defeat trickery. In Pugnar’s opinion, Cthar was the lowest of the low, the darkest of the dark, the scummiest of the scum. For someone like him, who valued honor above all else, the lies Cthar loved to tell were the ultimate expression of wrong. Cthar was a shape changer, a manipulator, a master of illusion, a haunter of dreams, a god who always took the most indirect path hoping that his adversary would trip and stumble. A fair fight was the last thing Cthar ever wanted and so he was anathema to Pugnar the Lion.
To some extent, I think Pugnar was always trying to prove himself to his father, Garruth the Laughing God, the God of the Harvest. You have to remember the circumstances of Pugnar’s birth. The Laughing God had long partnered with Spollnar the River Goddess. He was the Autumn Lord and she was the Goddess of the Spring. They were polar opposites and as everyone knows, opposites attract. By the time of the Reckoning, they had spent ages together in a love so legendary that the bards sang of it. Into this picture, entered Celetran and her devious plot to hatch the Vanara.
She asked Dracorys to seduce the Laughing God, and he readily agreed because he saw an opportunity to bring an end to Norath’s Doom, as told in other stories. To accomplish his task, he impersonated Spollnar. Upon the birth of Pugnar, Dracorys revealed his deception. Garruth was disconsolate at first and then angry. Poor Pugnar, innocent of any wrongdoing, was the target of his father’s wrath. Garruth rejected Pugnar, saying that he could not abide him because of the lie that led to his conception, and Pugnar fled his father’s sight. For the rest of his years, Pugnar sought to prove his worth to his father.
Unfortunately, he never succeeded in winning his father’s love. Garruth simply could not bring himself to forgive his son. Garruth knew that Pugnar had no part in the deception, but Dracorys’s illusion ripped a wound in his heart that would never fully heal. He knew it was irrational, he knew that Pugnar was blameless in the affair, but his pain and his pride would not allow him to welcome Pugnar into his arms. Even Spollnar tried. She told the Laughing God that Pugnar was a fine son, a lord worthy of his love and affection, but her supplications fell on deaf ears. Garruth could not, would not, accept Pugnar as a son worthy of his father’s love.
Pugnar’s strong sense of honor arose from the shame he saw in his father’s eyes. There are many tales of his valor, but none to touching, or revealing, as the one in which he came to the defense of Aeriel the Dawn Mistress. As you should know by now, after the BUN Aeriel removed herself from the Outermost Heavens and went to dwell on Edda, Imma and Olla. Every dawn and every dusk, she led the forces of light against the legions of darkness. In theory, the battles every twelve hours were a formality. Yes, they battled, but victory was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. No matter what trickery Erlik employed, he was destined to lose the Suns to the Dawn Mistress. No matter how valiantly she defended her turf, every dusk brought victory to One-eye.
As I said, those were, in theory, the expected outcomes, but if there’s no chance to pull an upset, what’s the point? The Dark Lord, apparently, shared my view. One dawn, after thousands of battles, Erlik pulled a fast one on Aeriel. Instead of dividing his forces between Edda, Imma and Olla, he staged every asset at his disposal on Olla. His tactic took Aeriel by surprise. Outnumbered, the forces of light stalled, unable to take back the Sun. Had she suffered a true defeat, the result might have been disastrous. The balance between day and night, between the Three Suns was fragile. A dawn victory by Erlik in just one of the Three Suns could have shifted the balance forever and once again blanketed Sangrar in unending night.
From his vantage point on a high tower of the Crystal Palace, Pugnar the Lion saw the Dark Lord sweeping to victory and took action. The Lord of the Arena leapt into Esel and flew to Olla where he stood toe to toe with Aeriel and the forces of light. Shoulder to shoulder, with Pugnar’s dancing broadswords cutting a swath through the enemy, they fought against the night, slowly pushing back the inexorable tide of darkness until light flared within the Suns, as if the Great Explorer had brought a spark of the Flame back from the Void to Rekindle the Suns.
Light swallowed the darkness, and Erlik was defeated, barely. Had Pugnar not joined the battle, the Suns might have been lost forever, and One-Eye would have marched upon the Gates of Heaven and usurped the Prophecies. After winning back the Suns, Aeriel rode to Olla on the back Narandal, Lord of Eagles, to thank Pugnar and saw him truly for the first time. Up close, she saw him in his armor, with swords dancing about his head, standing in full glory and magnificence as a warrior born, and her heart melted. Pugnar was likewise transfixed, seeing in Aeriel a kindred soul. The pair pledged their hearts to one another right there, on the surface of Olla and they have been together in spirit, if not physically, ever since. Aeriel still lived upon the Suns and waged war against One-Eye’s legions twice each day. Pugnar still dwelt in the Crystal Palace, keeping on eye on the spirits of men and preparing for the final battle. But, between dusk and dawn, they always found time to give each other comfort.