|The day was warm; it was midsummer, bringing back too many memories of sweat filled summer days full of love. Gladius was once a plump, prominent merchant. Now he was still plump, but no more prominent then a cockroach at a cock fight. Still, he had his life. Most Emperors would not pardon such a betrayal, but The Great Emperor Makinus; "the compassionate", "the humble". Compassionate and humble he called himself when he judged Gladius to be a Gladiator. Any man be he king or fool who calls himself humble, is no more humble than a peacock strutting his feathers. It would be better to have a quick death; rather than be in that humiliating ring, fighting for life. What life. What had he to fight for, winning to go back to another day in his cell? A comfortable cell it was, but still a cell. At least they brought him prostitutes, and beautiful ones too. A prostitute does two things for a fighter: confidence, and a will to live. A man who gets too lonely may start thinking about God, and might start wishing to join him in the afterlife.
"Fight!" yelled Mortimus, the aged guard. He walked slowly swinging his bright key chain. Mortimus clanged open the lock on his cell door. "You're up fatty." beamed Mortimus with a wide toothless smirk. "Better start praying to your Gods, but I wouldn't wait for 'em to answer; they never answers me. Fight!" he walked away and was replaced by Ogg: The dumb giant in charge of moving the fighters around.
"Good evening sir." Ogg's smile was much worse than Mortimus's. The most annoying thing about being cast out of his upper class life, was having to look at disagreeable low life people all the time. Before, he would just look away and tell someone to graft the beggar out.
"Who am I fighting today Ogg? Will they start me off easy or throw in a lion?" Ogg shrugged and pulled his shoulders.
Two young guards entered the cell and tied his hands behind his back. He knew them as Foginus's sons. Foginus was one of his father's house guards. He couldn't remember their names and hoped they wouldn't remember him.
"Good luck tonight sir Gladius," So much for that. One of the sons, a red haired looking devil leaned close to him.
"You're fighting Red Bull tonight," whispered the boy in his ear. "Father says you better choose the long pole. If he gets close to you you're in woe."
Ogg pulled him away with the rope. But he felt a little glad knowing someone from his father's house contacted him. Even though it wasn't father, it still could mean the old man might find it in his heart to still love his traitor son.
Gladius stood at the entrance to the Gladiator ring. He looked in, seeing the earthen floor, weapon stalls all around. Swords and spears, long-poles with sharp edges, spiked maces and dull maces, shields and pieces of armor. But the thing that mostly caught his eye was the blood on the ground. That red color put fear in his stomach, and he felt himself cringing. He couldn't see the crowd but he could hear them roar with laughter. There was probably a clown somewhere in there where he couldn't see. Not so long ago, it was he who sat and laughed in the Coliseum's seats; drinking wine and hugging a girl by his side. He would laugh until his belly hurt. Now his belly hurt from hunger and trepidation.
A guard pushed him from behind, and he went straight into the ring. Stumbling over his feet to fall on his face, and hitting one of the weapon stalls knocking it over. The crowd roared with laughter. Gladius picked himself up slowly and saw the crowd surrounding him. The coliseum was built with very steep seats, making it seem as if the crowd might fall down onto the ring. The engineering was amazing making it easy for even the farthest people in the highest seats to see and hear all that went on in the ring.
Standing awed by the frightening sight he looked around scanning the terraces for his old place. There he would find his old friends sitting, viewing him. But he could not figure out where anything was from this low angle. Suddenly it hit him that he was in the ring and so was Red Bull. He looked around him quickly, spotting the Red Bull with blade in hand running towards him. He was lofty and strong, his skin a dark hued russet. On his chest he wore a bone breastplate. His head was covered with a metal hood showing only his firm mouth and cavernous blue eyes. His legs were bare and glistening in oil, and sandals covered his feet.
The crowd cheered impatiently. Gladius shrieked with fright and the crowed exploded with laughter. He picked up the weapon stall and stood behind it. Red bull reached him with a few steps and tried to catch him. But Gladius ran around the weapon stall eluding him and wailing all the while. The crowed was laughing uproariously and people started cheering him on. Finally Red Bull stopped running and stood on the other side of the weapon stall, his skin as red as a tomato, and his eyes so wide open with irritation they seemed on the verge of eruption.
"Stand and battle like a male!" the crowd went quiet so they could hear the conversation.
"No!" cried Gladius, "I shall not fight with a fellow man, who is the same as I." The Bull did not like that answer at all, flaring his nostrils incessantly. Gladius saw a helmet next to his leg and snatched it up quickly. Holding something in his hand always made him feel more confident.
"Fight you weakling rabbit!" Raged the Bull.
"Fight for whom?" Mused Gladius. "For The Emperor that put me here? For the crowd that cheers me on? For God who placed me on this rotten, blood soaked earth? For your blood lust. Or maybe for me? For me... A fat blubbering fool if ever there was one. I wouldn't know which end to hold the sword by. And why shall I want to live a life such as this."
"Then die!" Yelled Red Bull impatiently, "I do not care for your words. You make me unhappy with all this philosophy. Are you a philosophizer or a Gladiator, I am confused."
"Die... I have thought about not living, but dying never crossed my mind." Gladius held the helmet in front of his face as if it was a head he was speaking to. "To live or die. To live; to suffer the unfortunate pangs of chance. For chance is the only thing left to me. Or was it always the only thing, and I in my pride could not see it. To live; to breath; to taste or perchance to love. For a chance of those I might live, for there is always a chance."
"And to die?" Asked the Bull, who was somewhat amused now. There was a pleased murmur in the crowd as well.
"To die... When I was rich, I would often think of my funeral. How the people would stand around weeping. The praises I would receive from family and friends, 'gentle and kind,' they would say, 'a true friend if there ever was one.' lies! All lies and vacant nothings. At least now if I die I would receive honest praise, 'a traitor he was and nothing more. A briber and a thief.' what is better, a decent liar or an honest foul? I would prefer an honest thief over an untruthful King any day. That's done then; I fear no more; slay me with your willful arm. Dispatch me from this unfortunate earth."
Red Bull smiled with a set of beautiful white teeth, "then you shall die if that is your desire." he ambled leisurely around the stall, as ready to pounce as a cat near its pray.
Gladius threw the helmet with all his force hitting Red Bull straight on the jaw with a bone snapping thud. The crowd gasped in astonishment. He seized a rapier from the weapon stall and leapt on Red Bull stabbing him in the neck with a flawless thrust. The sword stuck out the back of Red Bull's neck blood flooding out of the wound. Gladius drew out the sword, letting the lifeless form plummet to the ground.
"To life!" he yelled raising his sword. The crowd cheered.