Breakfast ended somberly as both Larss and Tribba took in the sedate expression on Edgar’s face. They understood his internal battles, and while they had faith in him, they also knew that if he failed, he would still be a hero to them. He did not have to do this, yet there he stood, quietly preparing himself to take on a task that was no business of his. There he stood with a proud stance bringing him to his full height. Tribba clapped her hands in joy. Tears moistened her eyes as she turned to Larss, half hugging him.
“He is ready,” she said, a trace of awe filling her voice.
When Edgar turned and faced them, determination had replaced the despair. Tribba walked up to him and embraced him, letting her tears fall freely. Larss stepped forward and embraced him, thumping his back as if he had already won the games.
“I haven’t won, yet!” He said as sternly as he could. They were having none of it though.
“Doesn’t matter, son.” Larss looked on with pride. “It doesn’t matter. Win or lose, you are our hero. Don’t forget that!”
“It’s time to go!” Tribba shooed them out of the house. “We can exchange pleasantries after the contest is over!”
Tribba loved entering town. Gaily colored carts carried everything imaginable from fruits and vegetables to hammers and nails and even kitchen sinks. It always seemed to be Festival Day as each time she had entered town, it was all exactly like this. Today, the festivities seemed to hush as they passed through the center of town. Dwarven women whispered furiously to each other. A couple of them even tried to stop Edgar in the street, batting their long eyelashes and pursing their lips coquettishly. He smiled, just taking it all in. Finally, when the last set of eyelashes had batted their last plea, and the smile wore off Edgar’s face, he spoke.
“Am I their hero, too? How do they know me?”
Larss chuckled softly. “Yes, you are their hero too. Any human or Halfling offering to take on an elf for a Dwarven cause is regaled a hero, whether he wins or not. Tonight, Edgar, old pal, the songs sung around the fires will be about you.” He slapped him on the arm again. “Your name, whether you like it or not, will be sung from the lips of generations to come!”
Edgar appeared to visibly shrink. “Oh, that’s no pressure. No pressure at all,” he sighed.
Larss laughed heartedly this time and patted him on the shoulder. “You will be just fine, son. Just fine.”
Edgar grumbled and Tribba and Larss both laughed. He was carrying on about legends and songs and his lack of ability going down as legend. “I can see it now!” He surmised. “There once was a jackass named Edgar, who thought he could be a hero. Despite his best, he failed the test, and an idiot he remained.”
Tribba stopped him with a tsk. “Now, Edgar, really. Is that any way to be thinking just before the big match? You should be filling yourself with confident thoughts! Your thoughts should be full of all the people who believe in you. Just look around! They all do! How can you not see?”
Edgar looked around. It was through a different set of eyes that he saw the dwarves in the marketplace, however. He saw their faith in him and he stood a little taller. Confidence filled his steps and he finally smiled at the young dwarf batting her eyes furiously at him. If Tribba did not know better, she could sense the stirrings, faint but unmistakable, of an afternoon love. She laughed full and loud at the thought. Mixing of the races was generally frowned upon, unless it was out of necessity. Nevertheless, she felt motherly towards Edgar and nothing would please her more than to see him choose one of these beautiful dwarves as his companion. Dwarves rarely left their homes anymore, leaving the traveling to the gypsies among them, choosing to settle into whatever good life the Dwarven Council gave them.
“Good luck, today, Edgar the Small,” the girl said. She reached out and touched his arm as he passed. He let his fingers linger with hers for just a brief moment, his heart catching as a rosy glow crept across her face.
“Will you be watching?” Edgar asked her, daring to stroke a silky white strand of her long hair.
“Not with my eyes. Those must stay on the merchandise,” she answered, her finger pointing at the fruit stand that suddenly appeared in front of her. “My heart will be watching, though, and that’s better than any Dwarven eye can do.”
“Splendid,” Edgar said in response. He leaned in close and held a lock of her hair.
Tribba pulled them apart as an audience began gathering around. Most of them were other young females offering their support, but there were a few naysayers and tongue waggers there, as well. “Come, Edgar. Don’t lose sight of the tasks ahead of you. There will time for this later,” she chided. Edgar reluctantly agreed and allowed Tribba to lead him through the crowd. Concentration clouded his eyes as they entered the coliseum.
The coliseum was not much by human standards, but it served its purpose. Stone walls rose around an open center. Stone benches carved into half-moons filled row after row after row and climbed into the heavens. Wide staircases separated the rows. Flower arrangements decorated the amphitheater where the stairs ended. Golden grains of sand covered the coliseum floor, creating a stark contrast to the bleached white stone surrounding it. White marble beams supported two openings beneath the stands. On either side, placed directly in the center of the lowest row, stood a canopy. Underneath the canopy, marble seats covered in plush purple velvet sat like skeletons waiting for flesh to cover them. A cold breeze blew through the archway, and Edgar shivered.
“There, there,” Tribba comforted. “This place will be warmer when spectators fill the stands.” She pointed to the bright blue topaz canopy on the east side. “That’s where Larss and I will be sitting. The peridot canopy is where the elf’s family will be sitting.” She turned Edgar and forced him to his knees so she could look him in the eye. She placed a hand on either cheek, securing his head so he could not move it. “Beware the canopy of the elves. They will try to distract you with their magic. Meldarion’s daughter is also quite lovely and will use the same wiles as the girls in the marketplace. You can be sure that one bat of her eye will cause you great distress should you happen to catch it. They’d like nothing less than to claim the dwarves champion as their own!”
A noise from the southern entrance distracted them and Tribba stepped aside to look. An elf emerged from the entrance accompanied by two other elves. All three bore the typical characteristics, the length of their silver hair falling to their feet and creating a wind as they moved. The middle elf’s eyes locked on Edgar’s and Edgar froze. Tribba stepped in front of him again.
“Don’t look! He’s only trying to intimidate you!” Tribba shouted.
“It worked!” Edgar answered. Black clouds had gathered in his eyes. Tribba saw the storm there and decided to work it to their advantage.
“Now you see why you are the better champion? They think they are so much better than we are, even you! Why should you be intimated by them? Your race is greater than theirs! Your race will be around much longer than ours or theirs will! It is written in the scrolls! Don’t fear them. Let your anger be your fuel. How dare they!” Tribba spat into the sand.
Edgar’s lips thinned in determination. Dwarves began filling the stands and an ominous cry ruptured the silence of the coliseum like thunder.
“Let the games begin!”
For this assignment, Troy was asked to choose the 5th book from his top shelf and turn to the 55th page and give us the 5th true line from that page. The book was A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd and the line was “I sensed the stirrings, faint but unmistakable, of an afternoon love.” I took a little liberty with the line but I think it still works.
This week’s 3 Word Wednesday prompts were: jackass, rupture, and splendid. You will find all 3 words in the story above.
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