Yusraa rushed quickly back to the market place. Belok and Radagast
were close at hand. They stopped in the crowded street at the foot of the slaver's auction stand. The rostrum was empty but streaks of fresh blood were still visible.
"Beowdil fought off the guards," Yusraa explained.
"I can tell," stated Belok. With the butt of his staff he moved one of the disembodied hands which remained behind from Beowdil's fight.
"But where is Beowdil?" Radagast
pondered aloud. As in answer to his plea, a dull roar was heard over the hustle and bustle of the market place.
Belok sighed, "He is in the arena."
"What? How do you know?" asked Radagast
"It's June. All the prisoners are sent to the arena for the sport during June. It is how the Golden King reduces the cost of maintaining a prison. Every June he sends the prisoners to the arena for the sport. Normally he only uses arena fighters such as myself, but every June he empties the prison," Belok explained, "The final prisoner standing becomes the King's newest arena fighter."
"Let's get him!" urged Yusraa.
"The most we can hope for is to watch him die in the arena. Either now or, if he wins, during his next fight. Beowdil is a worthy opponent, and I don't doubt he will succeed today, as the prisoners are usually no more than thieves and tax evaders, but the veteran arena fighters, they're real warriors." responded Belok.
"And so it my Beowdil," retorted Yusraa. A warm breeze crept by causing a strand of dark hair to fall out of place as she spoke.
"Let's go and see if Beowdil is even in the arena. We can devise a plan once we know if he is even in the battleground," said Radagast
The three outsiders hustled to the arena. A set of merchant guards stood watch by the entrance. Belok kept his head down. The guards stepped out with hands outstretched, "Halt!" they ordered. The three stopped.
"Kindly let us pass," stated Radagast
, "We only wish to view the sport."
"No weapons," hissed the first guard. The second guard motioned to a pile of weapons just behind him.
Belok dropped his axe on the pile of weapons. Yusraa sighed. She reached up and removed the shawl from her head and wrapped it around her father's spear, "I want this back upon my return." The guards scoffed.Radagast
smiled. The guards did not smile back, "Your staff."
"Oh please, it is merely an old man's walking stick
. Do not part me from it," Radagast
began to lean heavily upon his thick, oaken staff.
Belok chanced a glance up a Radagast
. The wizard moved his mouth but words did not part from his lips but in soft whispers.
"Very well. Take your walking stick
, old man. But be warned, if you make a scene, I will kill you myself." stated the first guard. The second guard chuckled.
"Oh, thank you," Radagast
gushed, as he walked passed the guards. The crowd cheered in the distance. The wizard smiled and the three walked into the arena up a ramp towards the seats.
As they walked into the bright arena the scene opened before them. They glanced at the filled stadium. It was a large bowl made from brown sandstone. Much like the rest of the city veins of gold ran across the entire structure all leading to the throne of the Golden King. His section was pillared, separate, and completely gilded. The monarch sat in a golden throne draped in silky robes with a guard on each side. Additionally, he was surrounded by women and bore a golden mask upon his face.
"And there he is," began Belok, "The Golden King."
Yusraa gasped, "I have only heard tales of his majesty."
"Do not distract yourselves. We are hear to find Beowdil." Radagast
chastised his companions. They then cast their collective gaze onto the arena floor. It was littered with bodies. Radagast
ceased counting once he reached fifty. Weapons of all kinds were strewn across the ground, at one end a woman in a tattered dress was tied to a post, she appeared worn and tired, but still moved attempting to escape
her bonds. Not far from her were a few prisoners fighting. The crowd cheered with each blow. The sound of metal on metal was drowned by the spectators. The companions continued searching for Beowdil but could only spot a second group of fighters trying to kill an archer standing near a wall. He was a talented shooter, a pile of bodies with arrows lodged in their chests attested to that.
The smell of sweat and blood filled the bowl. A haze of dust swirled about as the fighters moved kicking up sand which was caught by the wind. As they watched the match unfold the far door opened and two guards pushed a dark haired man into the ring. Yusraa spotted him first, "Beowdil!" she screamed. Some anxious spectator, unknowing of the situation, responded in kind, "Beow-dil! Beow-dil! Beow-dil!" Soon other spectators joined in.
With a mighty shove the guards thrust Beowdil into the arena. He senses were immediately consumed by the chaos. Screams of pain filled his ears as untrained fighters swung deadly weapons at one another. The farmer looked about but suddenly paused as he heard the crowd chanting, "Beow-dil! Beow-dil! Beow-dil!"
"By the Valar," he whispered. He was brought back to the severity of his situation as an arrow whizzed past his head. He flinched. From the other side of the arena he could see the dirty prisoner from before. The man smiled at Beowdil, but it wasn't welcoming.
Beowdil reached down and grabbed a scimitar from the ground. As if that was some sort of cue, many of the other fighters turned their attention to him and charged. With a skill beyond his competitors Beowdil swung his weapon in wide deadly arches. It was clear that many of these fighters were more of a rabble than actual fighters. For a moment, Beowdil felt a pang of guilt. When he downed the final competitor of the first mob he gripped his blood soaked weapon and glanced about. The dirty prisoner was on one side of the arena fighting a mob of his own, to include a lion. He appeared as competent as he boasted from his cage. The farmer scanned from the dirty man to the other side of the arena, there were a few skirmishes. The half-troll caught his eye for a moment, but it too was surrounded by a mess of fighters. He settled his gaze on the large wood pillar sticking out of the ground on the opposite side of the arena. There were a few fighters near it. The flow of battle moved them to one side and Beowdil finally saw who was tied to the post.
It was a women.
Immediately his heart froze, her dress was familiar, her hair was familiar, her form was familiar, "Ariel!" He yelled over the din. His vision narrowed and his face grew hot, a fire uncheck raged in his chest and stomach. With a fury undaunted
Beowdil charged into the fray. No challenger could halt his charge, many of them were cut down before they could strike. Ariel grow closer with each step, Beowdil felt as if his journey was finally coming to an end, "Ariel!" he cried again, this time, she could hear him. She ceased to struggle and cast a glance at her man. Their eyes met.
"Beowdil!" she screamed. This caused a few of the fighters to suddenly band together and challenge the new-comer. There was a clash of steel and sinew. Beowdil ducked and rolled under a number of spears and swords. The man fought with vigor renewed, each stroke found a mark, disarming another foe man. As quickly as the gang had assembled, Beowdil had thwarted their attack. He reached Ariel's side and with a mighty strike, smote the chains which held her bound. They snapped beneath his force and his scimitar dug deep into the wood post. A loud roar came from the audience.
In a quick duck Beowdil scooped up two bloody swords. He handed one to Ariel, "Get to one side!" he ordered, Ariel moved closer to the wall of the arena. Beowdil watched as she retreated and as he looked back the man was surprised by a club which struck his chest and sent him flying into the wooden post. Pain blossomed in his back as he slid down the pole. Through blurred vision he could see the half troll approaching. Its club was high above its head. Beowdil rolled to one side as the club smote the ground. A cloud of sand rose upward.Speed,
Beowdil thought, Speed is the key!
He quickly rose to his feet and before the creature could recover, the man hacked at the beast's arm. The half troll let out a terrible cry and swung his weapon again. Beowdil ducked, the sound of crunching bones was heard as the beast connected with another fighter. The farmer ran around behind the troll and stuck again. The troll bellowed a second time, followed up with another missed swing which connected with another advancing fighter. Beowdil moved in close and plunged his blade deep into the monster. For a moment their eyes met and Beowdil could see the shock in his opponent's face. The troll slumped over dead.
An arrow then sank deep into the troll. Beowdil jerked his head to one side as the arrow pierced through his ear before puncturing the troll's flesh. He gasped and turned. The dirty prisoner from below was stepping closer, nocking another arrow as he moved. Beowdil squirmed out from under the dead troll and grabbed another nearby, blood-soaked sword. Another arrow whizzed by Beowdil, he ducked to be safe, the shot went wide. Beowdil charged. The dirty man nocked
another arrow and fired. The shot went wide. Very wide, Beowdil was surprised, but he continued his charge. Another arrow raced towards him, this one was more true than the previous, Beowdil dropped to the ground. The arrow sailed over. As quickly as he fell, the farmer jumped back on his feet. The dirty prisoner groped for another arrow at his side, but quickly realized he had fired his last lance. Beowdil raced across the stadium floor. Between he and the dirty prisoner lay a mess of dead bodies, many of whom were pierced by arrows. The dirty man raced to a nearby fallen body, in an attempt to recover an arrow, but Beowdil was too close. The dirty prisoner grabbed an arrow, nocked
it and pulled back on his string. Beowdil raced in, raised his sword above his head and cleaved
. With a puff of air Beowdil fell to his knees. The charge was long and difficult, but his blade was true, from his knees Beowdil looked down at the dirty prisoner's dying body, a large, open slash stretched from his shoulder down to his navel.
With great difficulty the dirty prisoner spoke, "You many have won, Outsider, but you get no prize," and with his last breath, he expired.
Beowdil paniced. He stood up and peered across the stadium. He was indeed the last man standing. He looked over to the post where Ariel had hid but could not see her. He turned and raced back across the stadium, "Ariel," he screamed has he ran. The crowd cheered as he ran.
Breathless and tired Beowdil reached the far end of the stadium. To his horror he found Ariel laying on her back with an arrow lodged in her stomach, "Ariel. NO! NO! I just found you! Don't leave me again!" he fell to his knees and cradled her head.
"My husband. You came for me," she smiled weakly. The crowd had not ceased cheering.
"Or course I came for you, I would die for you!"
"Where are our children,"
"I found them, "Yusraa has them." Answered Beowdil.
Ariel cast a side-long glance at him, "Yusraa?"
"My," Beowdil paused, a pang of guilt seized him, "my friend. One of the people who helped me find you."
"I thought I would never see you again," Ariel stated.
"The thought never crossed my mind," Beowdil reached into his shirt and withdrew his wife's medallion. It clanked against the wedding tokens from Yusraa and May.
"My medallion. You found it," said Ariel.
"Yes. Here take it," he said.
Ariel gasped for air, and coughed. Blood streamed from her mouth, "I don't think I need it any more, dear."
Beowdil closed his eyes tightly as he tried to push back the tears, "Yes you will," he lied, "Ariel, don't go."
"I don't think I have a choice," she said, "You and the boys will do fine without me. Find a good mother to raise them."
"They already have a mother. We have to get you home, back to Dale. Back to our farm," said Beowdil.
"Our farm," whispered Ariel. Her voice was growing faint, "It's summer back home, you'll need to hire someone to help with the harvest... I can't... I can't even move right now."
Beowdil began to cry, "Let's go home, I hate this desert."
"Home," whispered Ariel, "It's summer back home, you'll need to hire someone to help with the harvest..."
"Ariel, Ariel!" Beowdil shook her shoulder.
"The harvest," she whispered. Her breath was slowing.
"Ariel, don't leave me! I love you, don't go!" Beowdil pleaded.
"Harvest..." she whispered, "Love..." she gasped, and with a quiet breath Ariel died.