Chapter 1 - Battle in the ColiseumEdit
I sit there, listening, waiting. Sure enough he comes along, but not before I all but completely unclothe myself to make it that much harder to find me. I hear him stop at the door, but I don’t make any effort to show that I know he’s there. Maybe he won’t see me, won’t make me go out there and face death on his terms. He always sees me, though, and so I hold no real hope. The room is dark, barely lit, but still bright enough for us to see each other’s faces. I hope to blend in, but still he manages to find me sitting in the middle of the room by the armor stand. I close my eyes to feign sleeping, so that maybe he won’t bother me this day.
“Denzil, it’s time,” He says, always assuming that I’m ignorant as to what time it is. I know what is happening, and I do not wish to participate any longer. I open my eyes suddenly and breathe sharply, as if I’d dozed off and his voice woke me up. I turn around, and look at him.
His face is old, wrinkled, menacing. His hair is shoulder-length, grey as the concrete walls of this room. His eyes are blue - faded, but still recognizable. He is slightly shorter than the average man, but this only makes him worse. He holds a look of contempt on his face, and I don’t disagree. He doesn’t expect me to win, but he does expect me to fight.
I flash a half-smile, attempting to bury even further my own feelings of worthlessness. He doesn’t notice the melancholy visible in my eyes, or he does and doesn’t care. But either way, he is incapable of feeling, and he only wishes for money. So, he forces us out there to make it for him. But it doesn’t matter; I will be dead anyways, so what do I care?
“Five minutes, or you forfeit.” He leaves without another word, and closes the door behind him. Ah, if only it were that easy. But there is no real choice; this is just a futile attempt to force me to go out there. It does nothing to stir me, nothing to make me want to go out there, but I realize that the alternatives to fighting still end in a death I can’t control. So I sigh loudly and reluctantly ready myself.
A box of matches sits on the end table next to me, as does a candle. I light it, giving me some light, and locate and light the others located through the room. I return to the center of the room and think for a moment. I look at the walls around me, square walls, grey, closing in on me in the candlelight. If only this room would enclose on me; I could end my miserable life at this moment.
I reach ahead of me for my battle gear. I am not permitted to wear anything else while I am inside the arena, but I am allowed to keep it off while I am within the confines of my personal quarters. I put the suit on piece by piece, until at last I am fully clothed. I check my outfit in a nearby mirror to make sure it is on right.
As I check, I also somewhat admire my style of clothing: A white long-sleeve shirt, partially torn along the arms, stained with blood in some places - the blood of. . . . No, I refuse to acknowledge it. “What? There’s blood on my shirt?” “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
A thin chest plate on top of the white undershirt to protect my torso composes the under layer of my upper attire. A white button-up shirt with blue stripes, composing the upper layer of upper clothing. The sleeve on the right side is rolled up to the elbow, where a few of the rips and tears on the arm of the white undershirt are visible. The left sleeve is torn off, the result of a particularly deadly previous fight, and the over shirt is left unbuttoned. The collar, which is usually left up, is neatly folded, as if I were wearing a tie around my neck.
A pair of black “jeans”, as some would call them, are obscured from the knee down by a pair of black greaves. A helmet lies on the stand, waiting for me to pick it up. But I refuse; entering the battlepit without a helmet is not forbidden, and it will be all that much easier for my opponent to kill me without one. So it must be, and so it must stay.
Satisfied, I turn my attention now to the weapons rack, eyeing around the different weapons until I at last locate my sword, my “unique” sword. I used to protect this with every bone in my body, but now I care less what happens to it; let it be the battle trophy of a deranged lunatic, for all I care. I take it off of the rack, and reacquaint myself in how to use it; it has been a while since I last fought, since. . . . No, don’t think of it or it will continue to haunt you. But it is too late, the memories come back, and my body becomes weak thinking of what happened. I lose my balance, but the shin guards on my greaves prevent the fall from hurting me.
Please leave me alone, I say, but the memory does not go away. Let me move on, I say, but my mind knows that I won’t truly allow myself to do so. I begin to tear up, but I wipe them away and force my eyes closed, waiting for the tears to stop flowing. I fight a battle with my mind, attempting to force other, happier memories to push the events of that day into “exile”. It works, and I push those memories back too, leaving a void. I am able to regain my composure and stand again. I almost forget to take the holster for my sword, and hurriedly grab it before I head to the door. I take one last look at this room before I leave; I won’t be coming back no matter what.
There are many corridors in the coliseum, and each together forms a maze of sorts. It is purposefully intended to root out the weaker Gladiators, as they get lost in the corridors and die of starvation or something of equivalence. I myself know the corridors left and right, and it does not take any effort to find my way. Even though it has been months since my last visit, I still remember vividly the path that took me to the entrance into the arena itself. I know why, but I stop myself before the memory has a chance to escape from the recesses of my brain again, and instead concentrate only on where I’m supposed to be going.
I do not hear the cheers of the crowd until I get above ground. It gets louder as I get closer. It pierces through me, sending a chill down my spine. Why, I wonder, do they condemn murders in the streets but condone murders in the arena? It is because they send those same murderers to the arena to meet their own death as punishment? Why would someone watch that? Why do they take pleasure in watching two fighters tear each other apart when it could very easily be them down there? I ask myself these questions each time I come here, but I find myself a hypocrite in that I don’t do anything to stop it, but promote it, even. But after today, it doesn’t matter, for I’ll be dead, and that’s the end of it.
I begin thinking of strategies on how to make it look as realistic as possible, but it all depends on what Art my opponent employs. If I do not defend myself like the Art of Defense calls for, then it will be blatantly obvious that I don’t intend to put up a fight, and then I will be bought back from the dead just so the arena manager can kill me again for bringing him minimal profits. It is despicable, but what do you expect from a generally despicable person?
As I get closer, I stop being able to think of strategies; the crowd’s cheering gets so loud that it drowns out everything else. I walk through a few more corridors before I see the gate that lead into the battlepit. I stop at the entrance, watching the current battle unfold. Other participants, some waiting for their round of the tournament, some already victorious and heading back to their rooms, pass me by on the way to their various destinations. Every so often one stops and speaks to me about my battle (or theirs, depending on if they’d already fought) for a few minutes, but for the most part I am alone the entire time.
It has been more than five minutes, and yet my battle is not even the next to begin. The manager manipulates me too often, I try to tell myself, but I don’t hear it because of the spectators. A few minutes pass, and the battle is finished. The “opposing” fighter won, so he exits through the gate on the other side of the arena. While the loser’s remains are carried out of the battlepit, the combatants for the next round ready themselves. I look over to see who is fighting on my end. To my surprise, it is a woman. She has beautiful brunette-colored hair, which runs down to about the halfway mark of her back. Her eyes are a bright blue, just as piercing as the arena manager’s, but not as foreboding. She wears a headpiece that equivalents to a helmet, covering the top of her head from the ears up. I contemplate saying something smart, but she won’t hear me anyways. She looks around her, but does not acknowledge me. I am glad, for she will not remember me when I’m dead.
The announcer begins commenting on the previous battle from his booth up above the crowd. He does this for a few minutes, and then calls out the combatants of the next round. The woman steps out onto the field, and I see her opponent on the far side of the arena: a burly man, probably seven feet tall and full of muscle, carrying a giant - and very sharp – axe. I assume most of the bet’ have been placed in his favor, but I fully expect the woman to win. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, I think.
I look over, noticing what weapon the woman is using. I feel like a pervert for not noticing it before she went through the gate but realize that there’s nothing that I can do about it now. She carries with her a dagger most would believe wouldn’t even come close to the power of her opponent. However, a woman does not become a Gladiator without having tricks up her sleeve. So I still support her as the battle begins, expecting her to do something that turns the tide in her favor.
I also realize that I never noticed what she was wearing, either. My feelings of perverseness only solidify. It is too late, though, to see. She is flying around the coliseum, and it is hard even to find her at times. Even though the other man is twice her size and three time her weight, he is going down; there’s no question of that.
And soon enough, it happens. He thinks he has her cornered when she begins running to the, well, corner, but she uses it to jump backwards behind the man. Before he has a chance to respond, she has already jabbed her dagger into his neck. He falls instantly. I notice that her dagger splits into two when she attempts to pull it out. She realizes it and quickly rejoins the two, probably thinking that no one saw it; however, I did.
“Whoa, wasn’t expecting that,” states the announcer as he comments on the fight. “And the winner is: Valkyrie!” The announcer goes on to recount some portions of the fight, all of which is redundant to me. We just saw what happened, so why do you have to tell us? I think, but once again I do not hear.
She exits as the crowd cheers, and I look at her, attempting to hide my knowledge. I wonder why she keeps it a secret, but not for more than a moment, for the crowd picks up and I lose all train of thought. She does not notice my attempts to avoid a smile, and only glances at me once as she leaves the area, whereupon she flashes a quick, gloat-filled smile, which I can tell means “Haha, I won! Beat that!” The announcer finishes commenting and calls for the fighters of the next round - myself and a man named Levi Athens - to be ready within five minutes.
I am already as ready as I will allow myself to be, so I only need wait for the round to officially commence. It takes no more than two minutes (interestingly) for the announcer to call our names once again, and I walk into the battlepit. I smell the disgusting odor of the rotting corpses, but remember that I’ve smelt it before, and that it won’t matter in a few minutes anyways.
Levi walks into the pit a minute later, and I have a chance to inspect my savior. He is slightly younger then I am, and his outfit is similar to the one I used in my earliest fights, which is not too remarkably different from my own outfit now: a metal chest piece overtop a grey button-up shirt, the collar left up and the top two buttons unbuttoned; a pair of black trousers with leg greaves obscuring the lower part from view. He chooses not to wear a helmet either, I note, and he also uses a pair of daggers.
Unlike the woman, whose Art I could not tell, this man is obviously trained in the Art of Assassination. An assassin is not a worthy opponent, because they cheat and have too many tricks up their sleeve. I do not wish to die by the hands of an assassin, but I must live with it, for this will be my only chance to allow myself to die.
We walk closer to each other, closer to the center of the battlepit. I put a smile on my face, attempting to convey the sense that I am sure of my victory. My aim is to make Levi push himself, so that my death is upon me in a way that I cannot prevent even if I were attempting to do so.
“Your move,” I say, allowing him to begin. Levi flashes a smile, but he does nothing. I wait for him to make his move, all the while attempting to figure him out. He is definitely the type who will use the ability to cloak against me. And who am I to complain? If he cloaks, then I won’t be able to defend myself, and I will at last die, as I have intended from the very beginning.
I have guessed him well, for he cloaks a minute later. I pretend as if I’m trying to listen to where he is, to make it not as obvious that I intend to die. I wait for two minutes, moving slightly in different directions to convince the crowd that he was that way, and then that way.
I am not truly listening, but I finally hear the ground move behind me. I turn around so that he will uncloak and charge me. He does exactly so. I nonchalantly swing my blade, which unintentionally hits him in the chest. No, I say, you can’t die; I’m the one who’s supposed to die. But the chest plate has absorbed most of the blow. He looks at me, and all I do is step back and smile. He stands up and immediately jumps at me. While he succeeds in knocking me down, I’m having a little fun playing with his mind, because the worse he gets, the more spectacular my death will be.
He attempts to slit my throat, and a few minutes ago I wouldn’t have stopped him. Or so it was a few minutes ago. I am having fun, even though I make every effort not to show it. Levi sees it though, and he is taken aback for a moment. I use it to my advantage, and get my feet under his crouched body. I push with a lot of force, which actually lifts him into the air. I roll out of the way, and stand up again.
He is really angry at this moment, and I realize this is the perfect time to die. He jumps at me, and I throw my sword up into the air. Everyone will believe that it was a move, and he will reach me before it comes back down. But everything goes wrong the moment it is apparent that the sword is going to reach me first. I panic, and attempt to grab it as it comes back down - biggest mistake ever. I grab it back-handed, and I accidently press the button that sits on the side.
I try to let go of it as soon as I feel that I’ve pressed it, but it is already too late. I yell at myself, but it does nothing to stop the transformation. The guard has tightened around my hand and won’t let go, preventing me from stopping it. Time slows down as the transformation begins. Levi has stopped moving, frozen in midair, and the crowd is no longer heard though my ears. To everyone else, it is as if I have disappeared for a moment, only to reemerge upon the conclusion of the transformation. I watch in horror as the death I worked so hard to achieve is taken from me in an instant.
The sword begins to bend and break up into pieces. The pieces curl up sideways, forming the shape of a rose. In the middle, at the uppermost extremity of the now transformed Saber (which I colloquially refer to as the Shield Blade), a splinter of the sword which stands upright despite its flimsy nature, a little blue sphere of light floats, signaling to me the near-end of the transformation. The sphere now extends into an egg-like shape, and in an instant the aura expands, creating a shield that covers the front of the sword. Time has already begun to turn back to normal, and the change is always disorienting. I begin to fall down again, but, with the sword in my hand, I end up in a kneeling position in front of Levi. The sword is facing up, and time is back to normal. I have my eyes closed; I do not want to see my personal defeat stare me in the eyes. But I can’t keep them that way.
They force themselves open in time for me to see Levi hit the shield. He sees the shield, but has no time to react. I see the terror in his eyes, and he looks me and sees it in my eyes as well. He knows now that I did not intend for this to happen. He hits the aura, and it blasts him a good way back, almost to the other side of the arena. I cannot allow myself to lose now; everyone would know. I am forced to win, and I hate it.
The hand guard loosens, and I am able to take my hand off the button. While the effect undoes itself ironically slowly, I run as slow as I possibly can to Levi without making it apparent, and I hate myself as soon as I get there. I see the fear in his eyes, and I am powerless to stop myself from the inevitable. Before I realize it, the bloodlust I have kept suppressed inside of me for so long surfaces, and my sword is through his leg. Levi is trying with all his might not to cry out in pain, but is surprised when it is I who cries out. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. He was to kill me, to end my miserable life, to grant me my salvation through destruction, and instead I do unto him as we intended for me.
I can’t do it, I won’t do it. I am not a murderer, I am of the murdered. I am already dead, but I still live as a shell of the person I once was. I should stab myself right there, but nothing would be achieved through the taking of your own life. I look in Levi’s eyes once more, and I can see the little boy screaming in horror as his death is near. He is not an assassin, he is a boy scared of death, one who kills those who would do harm to him to avoid his own death. It is not my place to condone it, but it is not my place to condemn it either.
Levi looks at me, tears in his eyes and sorrow killing his voice through drowning. “Kill me, and end it now.” This is what I am to say. This is what I am to hear last before my own death. This is not what is supposed to happen.
I kneel again, look Levi in the eyes, and tear up. That was me at one point, and I know exactly what he is feeling at this moment. I lean over and put my mouth close to his ear. “No,” I whisper. My voice is filled with sorrow, and Levi is clearly shocked.
I move away from his ear and turn my attention to my sword. I look at Levi again, and I tell him what I am about to do. He objects, but is powerless to stop me. I pull the sword out, and Levi finally lets his screams be heard. His leg recoils, and he grabs it with his hands, screaming in pain. The ground is soft, dirt that has been untouched by nothing but the feet and weapons of Gladiators since the construction of the coliseum. I stab the ground with my sword, let it taste Levi’s blood, let my sword be cleansed.
I look at the crowd, at their ignorant cheering, the way they enjoy the way we kill each other. I feel tempted to scream at them, but I decide against it. I will mock the crowd in an ever better way. I am still near Levi, and his condition has stabilized a little bit. I know what happens to losers who live - they are killed anyways, through an ever more horrid method. Levi is too much of a boy to send him to his death against a creature he has no hope of defeating in his current condition. So, I grab him by the arm, and help him stand up using my weight. The crowd is silenced, and many a gasp is heard throughout the arena. I am breaking the most fundamental rule of the Gladatorus, and I don’t care one bit.
I help Levi limp his way to the other side of the battlepit, and I stab my sword into the ground again to stop the now-closing gate from stopping us. They know what I’m doing, and they’re trying to stop me. I can hear the beast rushing towards us from the other gate, and I quickly slip Levi under the gate, and then myself next. I pull my sword out of the way, and let the gate fall as the beast reaches it. It growls at me from the other side, and then turns its attention on the two guards on the other side of the battlepit. I watch as the other gate is closed and the two are left to fend for themselves against the beast. I turn away, unable to watch something so vile happen. Fortunately, the crowd prevents me from hearing them die, for which I am grateful.
The guards stand in my way, but the woman fighter who is called Valkyrie intervenes on my behalf. “Attempting to apprehend an insubordinate Gladiator is suicide, and you know it.” There are three of them, and two of us. Gladiators appear from all sides, some in awe, some in support, and some against. Valkyrie continues. “Your lives are nothing to him [the arena manager] if he is more than willing to send you here to your almost certain death.” She speaks the truth, and I agree with her, but I do not intend to fight should it come to that.
The guards realize their ignorance and allow me to leave peacefully. Valkyrie claims to sympathize with me, but she shows no signs of remorse for her actions in the previous fight. I do not know if I can trust her, and leave without saying anything else. I hear her asking around as I leave if someone will accompany her to the manager’s office to have a “discussion”.
Levi’s leg stops bleeding, but he passes out from the pain. I pick him up and carry him over my shoulders. My house is not far from the coliseum, so it is not a long walk to get there. Townspeople look at me weirdly as I pass by; word has gotten around quickly, it seems. I pay no attention to them as I walk along with a passed out gladiator with an enormous leg wound on my shoulders.
Once I get to the front door of my house, I set Levi against the wall beside it while I unlock the door. I attempt for a minute or two to get Levi through the door without it closing on me, and eventually I am able to get him inside. He wakes up about an hour later, by which time I’m already in the middle of preparing my dinner.
“Where am I?” I hear him ask. His voice is groggy, and, from my position, he appears to be half-asleep. But he soon perks up, realizing he is no longer in the coliseum. He notices me in the next room, and I know he’s looking at me, but I don’t look at him directly. I can see him in the corner of my eye, and I act as if I don’t know he’s awake, but sooner or later I begin to suspect that he knows I’m purposefully ignoring him.
Finally, I look his way and then look back to what I was doing, pretending to realize that I have just noticed that he was awake. I turn back to him suddenly, but he smiles and shakes his head; I’m busted. His eyes are droopy, and he puts his hand to his mouth, yawns, and stretches out his arms and legs. He lays back down on the couch which I spread him out across, but does not close his eyes. Probably thinking about something, I assume.
I do not rush to finish making dinner because Levi is awake, but I take my time so that it is perfect. He can definitely smell it, but he doesn’t seem to mind waiting for it. In no time at all it is finished, and I set out three plates for it. I stop and realize my mistake. I stand there for a moment, repressing the memories, and put the plate back in the cupboard.
I fill the plates with food, and bring them into the living room where Levi is laying. He sits up as soon as he hears me, and I hand him a plate. “Eat; you need it to regain your strength”. What I made is of no particular interest to Levi; he eats it all the same and doesn’t complain. I don’t know if he likes it, but he never says that he doesn’t, either.
I take my time, but Levi, I assume, has convinced himself that he needs to eat it fast to gain anything from it. I try telling him that eating fast does nothing to help (the exact opposite of what I assume Levi is thinking), but he still gobbles it up in half the time it takes me to eat mine. He gets a second plate and I am finished by the time he gets through that one.
Finally, he turns towards me and says “Thank you”. I nod and tell him it was no problem. I have saved his life, and he no doubt respects me, but I am still intending to give him the victory he deserves, so I casually get up and pick up his daggers. I stand in front of him and hold them out towards him.
“You need to kill me Levi.” He is taken aback by my proposal.
“Are you crazy? No.” He stands up and pushes the daggers away.
“I never intended to win Levi. It was always my intention, from the moment I entered that arena, to die by the hands of my opponent.”
“But you saved my life.”
“I almost ended your life, and I didn’t mean to. I saved you because I knew that that beast would have gobbled you up had I not taken you out of there. I was supposed to die, not you, and if I wasn’t allowed to die in the arena, then I would make sure you’d live to kill me later.”
I tell Levi the story of what I’ve already written here, from the moment the manager walked into my room, to the moment he woke up. He is all the while pacing across the room, thinking. Finally he speaks.
“So, you wanted to die because something horrible happened in your past, but you accidently activated that shield and ruined the whole thing?”
“To put it simply, yeah, that’s about it.”
“But why? What is so horrible that you wanted to kill yourself to get away from it?” Levi causes the memory to resurface with his words, and I do not answer him.
“I’m leaving the city tonight Levi and I ask, please, that you stay here.”
“Am I supposed to believe that you don’t intend to kill yourself along the way to wherever you’re going?”
“If I wanted to kill myself, I would have done it way before I entered the tournament. But this city has too many bad memories attached to it, and I need to get away.”
“But wh-” I cut him off.
“I didn’t think things through when I entered the tournament.” I am agitated, and my voice rises accordingly. I look at Levi, stand there for a moment, and then sigh and slump down onto the couch. I put my hand to my forehead. “I realized that I would have no control over my death, but it was too late to back out. But now I have a chance to make everything right.”
Levi sighs and props himself against the wall. “What am I going to do? The guards are going to be searching for me, to kill me as should have been done in that arena.” There is defeat in his voice, as if he’s given up. No, I say, that’s what I’m supposed to do.
“Search for Valkyrie, and she’ll protect you.” Levi explains that he wasn’t watching the fight, so he has no idea what Valkyrie looks like. I recall to Levi that she is the one who stood up for us, and that he had not yet passed out before he had a chance to look at her. He closes his eyes, trying to remember, and at last he does remember.
There is a glint of excitement in his eyes, but then it disappears, and he once again becomes grim. “Okay, but how am I supposed to find her? She won’t stay at the coliseum, especially after her “conversation” with the arena manager; and we don’t know where she lives.” I see his point, and my face becomes equally gloomy. Levi realizes that I have a penchant for not thinking things through, and doesn’t ask any more of me; he knows that I don’t know either.
After a minute, I finally speak up. “You can stay here.” Levi looks at me with an expression of surprise. “It’s not like I actually have a use for it now that I’m leaving. You can search out Valkyrie in the morning.”
Levi nods after a minute. “But what about you? Where will you go?”
I pause for a moment, deciding in my mind whether to tell Levi anything more. “Back to my hometown, in the Southern Bowl.” I say, weighing the pros and cons accordingly.
“No, Quintes, a port town. It has a certain charm about it. I would be going back anyway, for other reasons, so my presence wouldn’t be that suspicious.”
“Until word gets out about the events in the coliseum, that is.” Levi seems to want to ruin my plans. Well, I say, I won’t let you.
“By then, I plan to be long gone.”
Levi flashes me a look of disgust. “I don’t get you at all.” And you never will, I say.
End of ChapterEdit
|Battle in the Coliseum - Returning Home - The Training Session - Geheilig Pols - T.A.N.|
|Aureus - Denzil Knowles - Jar-kel - Julia - Levi Athens - Valkyrie|
|Kingdom of Viel'iot|
|A'yabrea - Naecorats - Toi'leiv|
|The Southern Bowl|
|Mugel - Ritha - Quintes|
|Battlepit - Coliseum - Elknin - Geheilig Pols - Gladatorus - Gladiator - Gladiatorial Art|
|Comments - Navigational Box Template|