The serving

So thick was the air and so great the anticipation of the crowd, that – for the smallest discernible portion of the second before the nervous strings made contact – the ball seemed to pause in its descent.

But the magicians had, as usual, been denied entrance, and there was no wizardry at play; this was a battle between two. First to three, unless someone died early, but that happened rarely now they let the medics court-side. Even those who lost a limb usually played on.

The lions and bears, starved of meat for a week, strained against their bars and salivated.

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