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Vampire-footer.png Spoilers: Rafael
This article or section contains spoilers for 2021 novel Rafael.
Proceed with caution.

The fighting pits of the Dark Crown Clan are located within a warehouse district by the river, surrounded by a fence with razor wire at the top. The gate is guarded, and passing it means stepping into a permanent magic circle for keeping the power in -- even if Anita can feel it from several blocks over. This is the seat of power of the rodere of St. Louis, and the place where they conduct official business, like the fights for the leadership of the clan and other such challenges.

Wererats can boast about an unconquered history that stretches back for thousands of years, and it can be felt in the sheer amount of power within the fighting pits. Blood has been spilled and lives sacrificed here, and their magic users, brujas, an integral part of any whole wereanimal group, rarely leave the area. The massive strength of the river itself is tied into the magical workings, powering them even further. The magic is loud for those who can hear it, and very alive. The area houses thousands of rat-sized rats that have been changed by the magic somehow.

As usual, the location is a secret from mundane authorities, and as such cars don't get parked within sight of the main road and fighting there is likewise forbidden. If anyone draws a blade within sight of the road they have to go into the pit as warmup round, although first-time visitors might get excused for not knowing about the rules. Summoning thousands of rat-sized rats within the shadows between the warehouses also seems acceptable.

The fighting pits are located in a huge warehouse, and to get there one must pass at least one warehouse and to walk through a dark space between two of them. The interior is packed full of people when Anita visits them in Rafael, and any visitors can be greeted or challenged by anyone if they so wish -- except by the person who has challenged the king and isn't allowed to do other challenges the same night. Resorting to silver in a passage challenge fight is frowned upon, however, and actually killing someone is only acceptable in self-defense. Getting seriously cut up on the way through the entrance area crowd means that the person doesn't deserve medical treatment, although brujas can go wherever they like. The actual fights on the sands start with lesser challenges and culminate with the kingship challenge fight if there is one. Even the kingship challenge doesn't necessarily have to be to death, although suggesting a fight to the third blood instead hurts Rafael's standing in the eyes of his people.

Interior or the main warehouse[]

The entrance area is separated from the main fighting pit by a narrow corridor that circles around the stadium-like area inside. The corridor is reached through at least one curtained doorway, and the inner walls of it are lined with more curtained doorways leading to the pits. Bathrooms are somewhere on the outside of the corridor, past the first curtained opening. On the outer wall of the narrow corridor, somewhere to the left of the entrance, there is at least one actual door, which leads to the doctors and is at least sometimes guarded. Neither that area nor the fighters' area are reachable from the entrance area without passing through the corridor, which doesn't seem to be treated like a place to hang out in.

The doctors' area is a locker room with only one entrance, three curtained-off areas for treatment, a big mirror that covers half of one wall, and at least one narrow bench by the lockers long enough for Anita to lie down for some stitching. Somewhere in the back there is an area for changing clothes. When Anita is there the doctors' area is manned at least by Lillian, a male nurse who follows her around with a tray of instruments, and another male nurse called Diego, who is in the process of stitching up a cranky patient called Pedro. Lillian's rule is that if anyone harms the staff they won't get treatment, but Diego seems more inclined to just pay back the aggression.

There are stairs leading up to the stadium from the curtained doorways in the narrow corridor. That inner wall creates another permanent magic circle that keeps the energy from within the fighting pits themselves contained. The stairway that Anita takes is surrounded by the bleachers, and the king's seat is all the way at the top. Other women challenge Anita's right to sit by the king on her way up, until she beats the first group and Rafael comes down to escort her the rest of the way. Both of their seats are carved wooden thrones, although his is much more elaborate with high carved spires on the back complete with carvings of rats 'writhing in masses, crawling over flowers, chewing on human bones', and at least one plague doctor. Anita's daintier throne also has slender wooden rods carved completely of rats, and a headpiece where two rats hold a round bloodred star ruby, bigger than her thumb.

The center of the stadium holds the sands, surrounded by some partial walls like a bullfighting ring. There are weapons behind those walls, although one is only allowed to take weapons that match what has been agreed upon for the challenge. Before the kingship challenge fight starts there is some microphone-assisted dialogue between the king and the challenger, after which they simply jump on the sands from high up on the stands. There are strict restrictions on who can enter the sands and when and for which purposes. Anita only gets to enter to balance things out after Rafael's challenger cheats by calling help from his master, and after the fighting is done she can only patch up Rafael because she happened to have some medical supplies in her pockets when she entered the sands. Rafael isn't allowed to shift to heal until he has won and departed the sands.

Beneath the fighting pits[]

There is a trap door somewhere that opens over the river. Beneath it lives some ancient and powerful creature that is neither a rat nor a human, something that has lived in the river for longer than there have been wererats in St. Louis. The dead from their battles are sacrificed to the creature, and it adds to the power of the fighting pits.