Gladiator Short Story

I Gladiator (October 31, 80 BC)

The gate on the other side of the Coliseum began to open, and Marcus' fingers curled around the hilt of his blade. The sword was unbalanced - even after all this time, Marcus was still used to professional, well-crafted and balanced swords in his time in the Greek army - but, as a gladiator, he had to work his way to wield such a weapon, regardless of its quality.

His opponent stepped through the gate, wielding his massive chains with huge, spiked bludgeons on either end. His arms ripped with muscles, and metal bracers were clamped around his wrist and shins. Marcus swallowed hard, clamping his helmet shut. The crowd roared as he banged his fist against his bare chest, and then charged the brute. The gladiator swung his weapon in a wide circle, forcing Marcus to keep his distance. Marcus sidestepped the barbarian's assault, content to let his rival wear himself out with his wide swings as Marcus waited patiently for an opening.

The barbarian went down at his hands, trying to readjust his grip without averting his eyes from Marcus. Seeing his opening, Marcus charged the gladiator, ducking underneath the thug's weapon as he struck out at his feet. The gladiator gasped as his shins were sliced and blood started to drip onto his skin, and the crowd roared at the sight of the blood. Unfortunately, Marcus had gotten too close to the barbarian, and he was shoved off his feet as the brute slammed into him, knocking him to the ground.

Marcus groaned, unable to breathe as his stomach heaved. He groaned as he stumbled away, hearing the gladiator curse as he tried to move with his bleeding legs. Marcus desperately trying to think straight before the brute finished him. His nose smelled of blood, his mouth was full of the taste of bile and sweat, and his ears were filled with the screaming, bloodthirsty crowd.

His fingers gripped air. With a moment of panic, Marcus realized his sword had flown out of his hands when he was knocked to the ground. He yelped, looking around for the glint of steel. Something bowled into him, and Marcus was flung like a rag doll, crashing into the ground. He groaned, moving out of the way as spiked bludgeons flew by his head. His hands brushed against the handle of his sword.

With a sudden burst of energy, Marcus sprang up, slicing his sword through the barbarian's gut. The crowd exploded as Marcus gained the advantage, beating the man back. The brute was on his knees, and the crowd was cheering. Marcus grinned, an enormous pride swelling up inside him. He was victorious! He was a survivor, a warrior, like none had ever seen, and no one could challenge his right to that.

The emperor, the great Julius Caesar, was standing. Marcus could see his future pan out in front of his eyes, like one of the infinite roads that made its way through the great city of Rome. In time he would be free, free from this constant fighting, the slavery of gladiators. His fame would go out to the countryside, and he would get rich. He would mingle with the elite, learn their ways, even growing close to the emperor himself, a Greek among Romans. Ultimately, he'd fall in love, and marry a beautiful woman whose children would continue his legacy for generations.

And then, it all burned. Marcus was suddenly on the ground, the barbarian on top of him, his own sword in the brute's hand. Something went wrong - when he was knocked to the ground he never got up; he had lost the match. The crowd roared as Caesar raised his outstretched hand, his fingers curling into a fist with a single thumb pointed down...

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