The Arena

by Samwisegirl

Part 1

    The arena. The name struck fear in the hearts of dwarven boys, and even made the elders quail at the memory of their time there. It was a place of legend among the boys; talked about in the shadows and never in anything more than a whisper. They knew that their time would come. The time when they would come of age, when they would have to step inside the arena and test their courage and prowess as a warrior. They had heard the stories, the gossip at the pubs when the dwarven men thought the boys were not listening. They listened. They knew. It would happen for them, when they were old enough.

    They had never seen the arena, for its location was shrouded in secrecy. It was a time honored tradition that the father would take his son to the arena when he felt the boy was ready. The youth would be blindfolded, and marched through the mountain amidst the shouts and the cheers of the other boys clamoring to see the doomed hero. The elders would then take the boy and whisk him away to the fabled place, while the rest of the boys were restrained. When the chosen one returned, he was different. There would be a new light in his eyes that the boys could not understand. And from that day forward, he would no longer care for the company of the other youths. He had come of age. Not yet an adult, but a warrior nonetheless. 

    Finally Gimli's day arrived. He was not yet thirty,  almost too young for the trial. His father had vouched for him. Glóin had convinced the elders that this angry youth with his fiery red hair, and the short tangled beard that had not yet fully grown, would do them all proud.
    He had been waiting anxiously his whole life for this day. He did not know if he was ready. He was in his room, working on a birthday present for his father. He was shaping and polishing a rare gemstone from the caves when a shadow fell across his doorway. It was Glóin. And he had something in his hands. A piece of dark cloth, with strange markings upon them that he could not read. Gimli knew what it was, for hadn't he gossiped with the best of those boys? The fabled blindfold it was.

     Glóin came to him with the blindfold, an anxious frown upon his features. Gimli gulped and allowed his father to shroud his eyes in darkness. He was taken from his home, and marched into the caverns of the mountain. He could hear the boys, his friends, their words whispered in the cool damp air of the mountain. Sound traveled well in those caverns, and he could hear everything. The worry, the envy, the naked fear in the voices of these young dwarves.

    He could smell the sweat from the crowding boys, he could taste the smoke in the back of his throat from the torches burning on the walls. He could not see, but that was probably better. He was nervous. He could feel a pounding, a vibration deep within his body. It was coming from the arena. The drums. The drums were calling. Calling his name.

    He stumbled forward, his father's hand steady on his elbow. He could feel the elders at his back, waiting. Glóin whispered in his ear, "it is time." Gimli's breath caught in his throat, and he felt Glóin push him through the doorway into the place where warriors were made, or broken...............