To the eyes of a lesser race, the round room was black as pitch and the power that flowed through it was thick and heavy. To the young acolyte kneeling motionless in it’s center, the power of Clengeddin Silverbeard shone like a full moon from the twelve purple-tinged runes that adorned the walls and flowed into his torso, both testing his will and girding his strength for what lie ahead. He was not sure exactly how long he had been meditating in this most sacred of rooms, though he knew it had been at least a week and that the appointed hour was surely soon at hand. He felt no hunger or thirst, for, in this place, the strength of the Father of Battle was more than sufficient to sustain him. A slight rumbling signaled to him that the small bolt hole that served as a door to this room had opened behind him and he heard the rumbling bass of High Priest Durogar Hardmetal, “The Test of Mettle awaits-finish your preparations.” Finishing the prayer he had been chanting for a week, Higar Cromit rose smoothly to his feet and turned to face his elder, warhammer resting loosely over his shoulder, he strode out of the door with the light of the Wyrmslayer burning brightly in his eyes…
Three days later, he emerged from the testing grounds, bloodied and exhausted, but still standing tall with just a hint of the Giantkiller’s purple glory still visible behind his eyes. The grueling test was at its end and he felt the changes the crucible had etched into his heart and spirit. His clan and brethern waited for him in the Great Hall; sitting quietly around tables heavy laden with freshly cooked game, trenchers filled with aromatic stew and newly-tapped casks of thick ale. The youngest of the Cromit name gave himself a moment to look across the room at his family and to smile at his mother and father who sat there watching him with pride in their eyes. The savory scent of the waiting food filled the hall, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten in over ten days and the first pangs of hunger swept through him like a wave even as he felt the immense holy power that had filled him for days fading more and more. But there was still one task to complete before he, or any other of the assembled host, could eat.
Head high, warhammer once again resting on his shoulder, Higar Cromit strode across the room and knelt before a simple stone table above which hung two crossed battleaxes. A miniature version of the symbol lie waiting for him on the table; looking closely, he could see the gentle swirls that were indicitive of his father’s forgework. Reaching out, he softly repeated the words he had spent a week chanting just a few days before and smiled as the last of the heavy purple light he had carried through his test traced down his arms and infused the heavy steel. As his prayer neared completion, the room held their collective breath. He uttered the last syllable and grasped the symbol and the strong baritone of the Lord of Twin Axes rang out in the still cave, “Stand, my son. I name you Higar Mettlebender. Go forth and spread the word of my glory to the world.” The cheers of the assembled mass were so deafening that none but Higar the softly whispered, “Grow strong, for darkness approaches.”
The feast was legendary, even amongst the dwarves. It had been two generations since a young acolyte was charged with becoming an adventuring priest upon finishing the Test. A week later, the newest Mettlebender walked into the sun, carrying the hopes of his people on his back and a small sliver of fear in his heart.