The Pits of Jhelom Trillin Posted at the Hooded Crow Inn. The small cell shook with the pounding feet of thousands of peasants in the stands above it. With every drop of blood spilled into the sands the crowd roared, the boards vibrated, and more sand and blood slipped through the cracks. The room was damp and crowded with beings, each bearing the same mark upon the left shoulder. Criminals, all. Murderers, rapists, thieves and enemies of the state. All here for one reason: To please the crowd now roaring above them. The clamour, though muffled by the walls and sand between the men in the cell and the crowd, swelled to an almost intolerable level. This signified the end for one of their unfortunate comrades, and all those in the cell bowed their heads for the fallen soul. Some shook, some wept, and some remained stoic. However one, alone in the corner of the cell, smiled. Though he sat in darkness, he was mostly visible, as the dim light given them by the torches just outside the cell reflected in his luminous skin. The pale entity was largely built, standing more then a head taller than most. He bears the distinctively pointed ears of an elf, though any who had used that word in reference to him had been taught the difference between elves and…Whatever he happened to be. A glint of pleasure shone in his blood red eyes as the brute remembered the lessons he had bestowed on those misguided individuals. Snow blond hair brushed the tops of his shoulders, flowing gently as his head swivelled to take in the fear now manifesting in his fellow cellmates. His body was all muscle and sinew, strong and unyielding, yet lean and agile. This being was built for this place that had been feared by all who came before him. Only those with a special taste for blood welcomed the arena, and the pale skinned creature had opened his arms and embraced it like no other. This bloodlust was cleverly masked by an almost angelic face. However, despite his welcoming visage, the others in the cell stayed very clear of him. Perhaps this distance was created out of respect, but, more than likely, it had been born of the fear instilled in them by the stories overheard by the guards posted above. A voice now sounded, as the din of the people in the stands died down in order to hear the man now commanding their attention. The words mattered not to the pale skinned figure. Only the sound of metal against stone mattered as the guards approached the cell and called out. “THANATOS” Thanatos. God of death. An appropriate moniker for the beast now unfolding himself from the darkness, but one he despised. His skill in the art of killing was something he was most certainly proud of. However, the crowd had given him this nickname, and so his real name would be forgotten. Only the champion Thanatos would be remembered. Only this arena warrior responsible for the deaths of so many would hold a place in history. The thought angered him. Fully upright now, Thanatos made his way to the doorway. He couldn’t help but smile at the grating sound of the key sliding into the padlock. He turned to the others, but none met his gaze. A quiet click, made comparable to the sound of an explosion by the utter silence now permeating the room, and the door opened. Thanatos stepped through the doorway and began to chuckle. The sound echoed down the hallway as the group rounded the corner. Once out of their sight, the prisoners left in the cell let go a collective sigh of relief, as each person believed that man to be their end at one point or another. As they approached the gate to the arena’s floor, the guards accompanying Thanatos handed him his broadsword. Though it had been polished and sharpened, he could still see the faint outlines of bloodstains left upon the metal. The only trophies he was allowed to keep, and his smile returned. The gate opened, and screams erupted from the stands. They called for this Thanatos, the creature they had named for his talent at being the last thing any man against him glimpsed before their meeting with their deity. Thanatos took a breath and blocked them out. He was not concerned with their interest in him. He refused to bother with the men who idolized him, or the women who lusted after him for his prowess in the arena. He cared only for the feeling of the cool metal in his hands, for the sand beneath his feet, and for the control over how long his opponents were allowed to live in his presence. Sand crunched under his weight, and Thanatos walked to the center of the arena. Who would they pit against him this time? What unlucky fool would dare to think he could triumph over Thanatos? The gladiator grimaced. He had referred to himself by his nickname. How could he have let his name in the arena take precedence over his real name? The thought disturbed him. It was time to leave this place. He had grown too complacent. The lie was beginning to take over. As the horn bellowed, more gates opened, and three giants among men stepped out into the blistering sunlight. So, these were the unfortunate souls who’s blood would mix with the sand this day. Anticipation welled inside him. His grip on his sword tightened and relaxed as he swung the sword around in a circle, loosening the muscles in his wrist and forearm for the coming slaughter. They had circled him now, as Thanatos waited in the center of the arena. Calm and quiet, eyes half shut against the blinding light of day. He could hear the voice of the announcer, a dull sound in the back of his mind. Only one word could set him free. “BEGIN!” You can read Part 2 here.