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Dyhlkhar Ngyhr

A game of skill and endurance, Dyhlkhar Ngyhr—literally "Net Fight"—sees two opposing participants stand atop a large net, which has been stretched out to be not quite fully taut, and attempt to throw each other from it. Though this is often done with the safety of the participants in mind, especially in those many areas where which are not under the control of the Dokhar League, contests have historically—and even sometimes in the modern day—been been blood sport, with the nets stretched over water, and the loser or losers thrown to drown, as sacrifices to the Heart Unceasing.
— from To Rule The Waves: The Dokhar Diaspora, by Andoloros Bag Dolmoron

History

The sport began as a purely ritual event, where a priest, or a skilled Andokh Renar appointed by a priest, defeated a sacrificial victim in ceremonial combat, and threw them into the water, where they would drown, as an offering to the Heart Unceasing, which controls the Tide, and has been the foremost divinity in Dokhar religion for centuries. This took place on a fishing net, which was a tool with which the vast majority of people had the closest interaction with the ocean. The victims themselves were taken from the ranks of convicted criminals and prisoners of war, who were starved and exhausted to minimize the chances of them causing harm to the individual sacrificing them.   Over time, as the spectacle surrounding the Dyhlkhar Ngyhr grew into an extensive source of public entertainment, the ceremonial fights grew more elaborate in both prelude and staging. They also become a considerable source of funds for the temple throwing them. However, with the physical state of the victims, the fights themselves were not particularly entertaining. To further increase the spectacle, it was decided that two potential victims would be thrown to the net at the same time, by priests, and they would fight, the winner performing the ultimate sacrificial act by throwing their opponent into the water. This system became popular, and spread across the whole of the Dokhar world.   However, it had an unexpected consequence: people grew attached to the combatants, who developed a considerable degree of celebrity. This, in turn, gradually evolved into a desire for the combatants to not actually die. This, however, did not result in immediate change. Instead, there was growth. The size of the arenas grew, with specially constructed nets and stadiums, some massive enough for teams to fight each other, or for a mass of individuals to engage in general melee with only one survivor. The fights became the highlight of massive religious festivals funded by the obscene wealth of the Empire of the Sea, the capstone of celebrations of the Heart Unceasing.   The practice of that early form of Dyhlkar Ngyhr was disrupted by the War of Shadow, and the destruction of Lo Dokh by the forces of the Enthroned Shadow. Furthermore, the deaths of the leadership of the Order of the Unceasing Tide during the fall of Lo Dokh, and the manifold actions of Dorakh Mul, resulted in severe structural and doctrinal changes within the Order As the chief religious body of the now-former Empire of the Sea, the Order was responsible for orchestrating and officiating the many Dyhlkar Nghyr games.   There was considerable concern that the masses would not support these changes, as many of those who had survived the War longed for a return to th times which had preceded it. Thus, a plan was devised to engender public support. It would be declared that, as part of the changes, Dyhlkhar Ngyhr fights would not always end in the deaths of the participants. Many fights, now, would be held above very shallow water—to shallow for even for someone lying prone on their back to be submerged—with only metaphorical sacrifice. Fights that did result in death would still be held, but would consist of a well-trained celebrity fighter, or a team thereof, battling against untrained slaves, convicts, or prisoners of war.   In return, the celebrity fighters endorsed the new changes, because making them permanent dramatically decreased their chances of dying in a given match. That increase in survival resulted in an increase in injuries, but that was seen as an acceptable alternative. It also resulted in a great many people choosing it as a profession willingly, rather than being forced into it as against their will. From that point, the Dyhljkhar Ngyhr games settled into their modern paradigm, their religious nature resulting in relatively little regional variation.

Execution

Combatants are thrown into the combat area by the officiant or officiants, usually priests of the Order of the Unceasing Tide. The combat area is a large net, usually made from colony gossamer, which is strung across the arena. net is not to be strung overly taut; there is to be a noticeable amount of give to it, such that it makes it difficult to walk across. The arena is to contain water—in a standard game, not so much as to submerge a person lying prone upon their backs; in a sacrificial game, enough for any combatant to drown in.   Combatants are thrown into the arena unarmed, unarmored, and unclothed. The are to be no weapons in any fight, and all strikes are to be made using a combatants own body. Combatants may punch, kick, grapple, or throw their opponent. Any part of the opponent's body is open to be attacked, but attacks to sensitive areas a gravely discouraged in normal fights. During a fight, combatants may only interact via strikes, gestures of respect, or gestures of intimidation or dominance which do not involve physical contact. Victory is not declared until one combatant, or team of combatants, have thrown all opponents off the combat area, even in the event of unconsciousness. In a sacrificial fight, the loser may not be retrieved from the water until they have drowned.   Normal fights may take the form of duels between two combatants, fights between teams of equal or unequal size, or a general melee between three or more opponents. Sacrificial fights must take the form of duels between two combatants. Combatants who are not on a team may form an informal alliance, but will still be required to fight one another before the fight concludes. In sacrificial fights, the two combatants are to consist of one experienced fighter, and one inexperienced fighter. In the event that the inexperienced fighter is victorious, they are to be exalted, as having been chosen for victory by the Heart Unceasing. The bodies of the losers of sacrificial fights are not to be disposed of through Ngudren a Dokh, as they have already been claimed by the Heart Unceasing.

Components and tools

Dyhlkhar Ngyhr is in many ways defined by its lack of tools. Combatants are not allowed to have any implement or item on their person, even clothing, when they are fighting. The only object involved is the large net the combatants stand on when they fight.

Participants

There are two roles in the conduct of Dylkhar Ngyhr: combatant and officiant. Combatants fight those other combatants with whom they are not on a team. Officiants are preists of the Order of the Unceasing Tide who throw the combatants into the combat area, and are charged with observing the fight to guarantee that combatants do not violate the rules.

Observance

Though not a requirement, fights are often party to public religious festivals. There may be many normal fights, of various compositions, throughout multi-day festivals, culminating in sacrificial duels, which are surrounded by a great deal of pomp and circumstance.


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