A hundred candles burned on the altar to the Conqueror. Across the room a fire raged, blistering hot. In the dead of winter the gladiatorial Oratory was hotter than the far deserts. The droning hum of High Polity filled the arches of the colosseum led by the sonorous intonations of the red-robed Kulav. He was an old man, bent with a century of study. Before him knelt a young man who had earned his freedom in the most worthy way, in blood, and was reentering the world under another, purer yoke than that of slavery: service to Ból.