Day of the games
Today was the honorable day of our beloved emperor – Titus. It was already late afternoon and sun had risen high above in the sky and sun shine so brightly and heavily. But it did not bother Lurius, because he was sitting inside dark chamber down deep under earth. Walls and arches made by Roman bricks surrounded this serious man when he sat so quietly. He took deep breaths and tried to concentrate very hardly. He tried to forget all unnecessary noise and huzzle around him and closed his mind. He put all his thoughts to near future and to only important thing – to surviving! His lanista looked further satisfied when he saw Lurius in deep concentration. He knew that Lurius would not fail him because he was a man of principles. And real professional. Lurius contiued taking deep breaths and spend some time still in his mind. He wanted to be ready as much as possible for his becoming trial. He did not think happenings years ago when he was prisoned by Roman army who advanced into Tracia and destroyed his tribe. He did not feel hate and despair for the fact that all his family had been killed in that attack. No – everything here was for this moment. Past was past – everything was here to live next 30 minutes. He felt finally calm and ready – he was the Tracian – a gladiator!
Then he came little by little back from his mind for this moment. When he had achieved full consiousness he heard shouting and stumbing of feet above him. He knew what was happening. Somewhere above him men were fighting for their lives and spectators cheered and shouted for them. For some it was deadly serious game and for some just amusement for the moment. How grazy he thought! He took final glimpse over his gears and tightened his leg grease. Otherwise he felt comfortable and trustfull. He had survived already over 26 combats and he was now in his heights. Experienced, fast, strong and skillful. He was one of the best and he knew it. He was the Tracian hero. But otherwise like many others he did not get too high. He knew that in the end only gods decided who will life on – and gods were cruel. Nobody could trust them. So he did not celebrate too much at nights with women and wine. He allowed himself now and then a woman and company of few trusted friends. But other ways he lived very simple life. He kept his target all the time in his mind and concentrated to achieve it one day. His target was one get back to his freedom and get one day alive out from these arenas. He had already spent six years as a gladiator and he saw his target becoming every month closer. It was not too far away anymore. This thought comforted Lurius and he stand up and felt ready for his test. It was a reaction that came purely from his subconsious. Because he had suddenly heard huge screaming above, he knew that combat of two men had just ended. One gladiator was alive and another one was dragged from feet towards port of the dead. Then he heard a loud sound of brass trumpets and nearly as soon messenger came to tell it was the time for Lurius. Lanista nodded the messenger and shout Lurius.
“Come on man – it’s your turn!”
“It’s time again to show who is the best!”
“I know you will do it again!” Lanista spoked in trusting sound to Lurius.
But the gladiator just nodded and did not say anything. He was so concentrated.
Other gladiators – some few his friends and much more jealousy ones – looked sharply Lurius as he passed them with face of stone. But every man knew that Lurius was the iron gladiator. And they envied his speed, skills and especially his serious nature – so concentrated.
“Good luck my friend” Marcus shouted and shortly their eyes met and Lurius winkled his right eye for him. He was one of the few that Lurius counted as his friends.
“I pray Tracian gods for you” another young gladiator shouted loudly.
The rest just watched in their eyes admiration when this concentrated and cool man walked towards his destiny.
But Lurius just passed all the other gladiators standing around him with face of stone and did not hear anybody – he was already in the arena in his mind. His hair was combed backwards with greasy oil and his chin and face looked shining because he had shaved in the morning. He kept his helmet in his left armpit and Sica-sword in his right hand and looked like Mars-god himself. He walked slowly but determined through a tunnel that would lead him to the gate into arena. Some steps behind walked slave that carried his shield followed by lanista. They paced slowly spiral staircase upwards and finally reached the level of arena. Then they entered broader corridor which led to arena itself. And nearly same time entered another gladiator from opposite direction and gladiators glimpsed each others. Shortly Lurius saw the other man grinded himself sufficient, but he did not let it disturb himself. Lurius did not show his feelings but stayed cool. He saw that his opponent was a tall Myrmillo carrying his sword and crested helmet. And not anybody but a famous one! He knew this long and strong Myrmillo by name and his fame. He understood straight away that this would be the hardest test so far for him. This Retiarius had won 45 combats and was famous all over in Rome. But Roman emperor and citizens waited already for new combat to begin and so the lanista of the games shouted both men. He was standing in middle of the corridor with four legionaries and gave sign to both gladiators to enter him. Both gladiators walked obeying towards lanista until they were standing in front of him. The lanista gave short orders for both fighters and then asked them to follow him. So the small group started to walk towards gate under spectators to enter the arena. Legionaries followed gladiators to take care that they don’t get anything foolish in their mind. Both gladiators followed lanista through dark corridor and saw bright light of the sun in front of them in the end of the corridor.
Spectators cheering their hero
Spectators were sitting and some standing when they waited new match to begin. Soem were already excited by blood bath and some were just begin to interest the games. They knew this day there would be fine combats between the best gladiators because it was the birthday of emperor. He wanted to give Roman citizens the game that would not be forgotten soon. Already there had been executions of condemned criminals, fights between terrible beasts and bestiarii – hunters – had shown their best skills. But then two hours after high noon the actual fighting had begun what everybody had waited. Already spectators had seen combats where gladiators had fought bravely and with great courage. Some had ended to death of other gladiator and lot of blood had spilled on the hot sands of arena. So there had been time out for slaves to prepare arena for new match when bloody sands had been replaced dry ones. Same time as new gladiator pair was walking under stand to reach the gate and arena, the commentator of the game already shouted loudly the names of next pair. And spectators started to shout and stood up. Everybody was waving for new gladiators which were very much known for every Roman. Same time these two gladiators walked peacefully towards gate and little by little reached it and came visible for everybody. Again terrible loud shout storm filled arena when everybody was creaming to his favorite. Lurius did not think for a second that Myrmillo – Brutus – was much more famous and favored especially by rich patrisians. He knew that many patricians had bought services of Brutus when needed guarding or safety. Myrmillo who walked beside him answered – as expected – for public waving his hands and smiling them visibly. He took his audience easily and especially patrisian women were taken by his muscular and tall outfit. Lurius instead was much more moderate. Couple times he lift his hand to wave audience when they walked a circle in arena to hail audience. Same time as men were walking their statistic was told to viewers and their strength and skills. So even a visitor who had not see combats earlier get to know what to expect. Finally men ended in the middle of the arena and hailed emperor himself. They lifted their right hand to honor emperor who nodded satisfied when saw the men. He knew this would be a match to remember. Then lanista of this game told both fighters rules of this match and both men finally nodded. They placed their helmet on their head and checked again that they gears were in order. Then they took their places and in middle of the arena some three meters separated men as ot was to begun. Lanista looked still a moment both men and kept his stick between the fighter in horizontal direction. Then he pulled his stick away and shouted loudly command to start.
So it begun and spectators started to shout cheers for their favorite. Both men were little bit bent forward to be able to respond fast strikes of their opponent. Men started to circle slowly each others and now and then hit their opponent by sword. Strike was easily turned down because it was just fumbling. Lurius noticed very soon that his opponent – Myrmillo – was feeling arrogant. Of course he had more wins and also his protection gears were splendid. Big Scutum shield covered easily most part of his body and Lurius knew he had a hard job in front of him. So first minutes went on when these two me just tested each others with cautious sword hits. Now and then they also used their shield when trying to get their opponent out of balance. But both were in iron shape and no easy trick was enough. Spectators shouted loudly for fighters. The betters took bet’s and it was obvious that odds were on Myrmillos side. Lurius was not a fool and he knew that muscular Myrmillo had heavier equipment compared to him. So he decided to minimize risk and let Myrmillo get first tired. So he gave now and then series of blows which made Myrmillo to take fast steps to avoid his curve sword. But Lurius did not take any big risks and just made his opponent run. His own lanista looked satisfied from gate because he understood right away the thought of Lurius. All the time the curve sword hit over the sides of Scutum shield and tried to reach the muscles of Myrmillo. It was like a bee stinger which Myrmillo tried to avoid. Myrmillo knew well what Thracian tried and replied by hitting now and then heavily with the knot on his shield. Because large Scutum shield gave so well protection he could much easier use it against his opponent. The much smaller rectangular shield that Thracian had needed to be used much more carefully. All the time Thracian needed to take extra care that sword blows or stab would not reach his upper body. So the battle continued equal for some minutes and men were taking steps forward and backwards on the sand. Then suddenly Myrmillo took very fast steps forward and hit with all his strength Lurius with Scutum shield. It was an attack and collision like Rhinoceros had run over Lurius. And it did surprise partly Lurius and even though he did take some side steps Myrmillo succeeded to disturb his balance. He was very near to fell on his back and only determined exercise helped him to stay on his feet. At once when Myrmillo attacked his supporters started to shout.
“Habet, Hoc Habet!”
“He is falling!”
But Lurius had trained a lot and he did not fall and was even capable of taking the heavy sword blows of Myrmillo by his rectangular small shield. He was taking same time fast steps backwards so heavy Myrmillo could not run over him. On the contrary. When attacking so eagerly Myrmillo let his right leg leave without protection. Because Myrmillo did not have any greaves to protect his right leg which was usually backwards, it was one of the weak points that Lurius aimed. So when Myrmillo was not cautious enough when attacking Lurius succeeded to cut reasonable wound on calf muscle of Myrmillo. When blood started to run Myrmillo roared for anger. Again spectators stand up on their seats and shouted loudly for both fighters. But Lurius did not hear the voices because he was so concentrated on combat. After Myrmillos heavy attack and several sword blows combat got more calm again. And both fighters measured each others. Now the odds were little bit on Lurius side because blood was running visible from Myrmillos leg and he would not last too long. Again men were circling each others and stabbing now and then trying to reach body behind the shield. After some cautious tryouts Myrmillo tried again with new tricks. He started to hit Lurius heavily with both sword and shield. Myrmillo aimed to force Lurius to take some steps backwards. When Lurius yielded sword blows and stepped backwards Myrmillo succeeded to hit heavily the helmet of Lurius. For a second he was stunned by the hit and that was enough for Myrmillo. He hit immediately again when shield lay too low and reached the left shoulder of Lurius. And Lurius felt hard pain when sword blade cut his shoulder. But again even when stunned he had taken fast steps aside by pure instinct. Therefore the cut was not too bad. Now it was even and both fighters were bleeding. Again the supporters of Myrmillo cheered loudly for their idol. So after fifteen minutes both men were feelin some exhaustion but Lurius less. He was getting angry for himself because he had let the Myrmillo twice surprise himself. He decided now to take more active role. He started to press Myrmillo more and more. His Sica-sword was reaching faster the skin of Myrmillo and occasionally he tried to hit his opponent by his small rectangular shield. And after some time he succeeded to have a nice blow with his rectangular shield corner. He could feel how some fingers went broken from Myrmillos sword hand. But at once Myrmillo replied and rushed against Lurius with his heavy body. But that was something Lurius had already waited. He had seen this Myrmillo fighting many times and thus some of his tricks were familiar for him. So When Myrmillo rushed, Lurius stepped lightly aside but kept his left leg strongly in front of Myrmillo and his opponent received a surprise. Instead of knocking out Lurius, Myrmillo stumbled and fell on the sand with all his length. Even though it was a big chock for Myrmillo he rolled some distance away and jumped again on his feet – but now without his shield. Nearly same seconds Lurius rushed between Myrmillo and his shield and Myrmillo found himself at disadvantage. Again public shouted.
“Habet, Hoc habet!”
But now for Lurius – the Thracian.
Now things were getting nasty for Myrmillo. It did not help him that he had many victories or that he was experienced. hHe had faced a new talent with excellent form and spirit. A humble gladiator that had not spend too many nights in orgies but had lived simple life. Somewhere from his mind Myrmillo reached a memory and a picture from a man he used to be – once he was like this man. But not anymore… Now Thracian was pressing heavily Myrmillo who had lost his best protection gear. Without his Scutum shield his left side was open for hits. And Thracian used that mercilessly. All the time his Sica-sword tried to reach either Myrmillo’s right leg or left shoulder and after some minutes chase Myrmillo had already several wounds where blood was running. Rich patrisians and their beautiful women looked first apathetic the new turn of the match but then started to shout cheering for both fighters. They were already thinking.
“This Thracian may yet serve me well – maybe I can buy his services!”
“But poorer romans – the regular citizens – were cheering with all their strength for Lurius. They enjoyed when the favorite of rich people seemed to loose the combat.
So after twenty minute, the combat was to become into it’s end. Thus far Lurius had worked as a machine – like a real professional gladiator. And his own lanista looked from gate as proud as possible when he saw his man fighting. Also Myrmillo knew that he was loosing and he knew he had to do something extra ordinary soon. So he waited yet some seconds avoiding the hits of Lurius the Thracian. Then suddenly he rushed again as fast as he could against Lurius and turned aside Sica-sword and tried to turn combat to a wrestling match. Myrmillo dropped his word and tried to tie both hands of Lurius. He first succeeded to tie right hand of Lurius and some seconds these two men were tensing their muscles and pushing each others heavily. But now the humble training of Lurius started to show. Even though Myrmillo was more muscular Lurius had more force left in his body and finally he succeeded to hit Myrmillo with his rectangular shield. With first blow Myrmillo’s grab from his sword hand got looser and with second Myrmillo felt somewhat stunned. With third one the helmet of Myrmillo slipped from his head and Lurius got his sword-hand free. He could then have cut the throat of Myrmillo but instead he hit the man heavily with his sword-hand fist. And with this forceful blow Myrmillo fell on the sand and sky was dancing in Myrmillo’s eyes. For a second Lurius estimated if this was enough to end the combat. And it was. Myrmillo laid on the sand nearly fainted with his lips broken and bleeding. Without any joy Lurius lifted slowly his helmet away and dropped it aside him. Then he took couple steps and placed his right foot over the chest of Myrmillo and let his curve sword to rest on Myrmillo’s throat. Then he turned his face towards emperor Titus. Just only now Lurius started to hear enormous roaring and shouting of 70 000 spectators. Nearly all were shouting to him. Some of them shouted him to save this Myrmillo some to kill. Some just cheered to him after his so cool combat performance. Lurius just stood there without feelings and just waited the command of Titus – the emperor. For some seconds the emperor weighed the atmosphere in arena – in amphitheatre of Flavius. Still people were shouting.
“Iugula” which ment cut his throat.
But some other responded more loudly “Mitte, mitte!” which meant let him go.
Then emperor looked satisfied audience and lifted his thumb high. He wanted the Myrmillo to serve again in next match. It was a favor for people because thus far afternoon had been bloody. Lurius sighed loudly and straigtened his body. He felt kind of relief because he hated to kill helpless opponents. On the other hand he knew that even though he won now tables could be turned in next match. And he hoped he had done the right thing when he just hit with the fist and not with his Sica-sword, when he got the chance. Then Lurius took his leg above the Myrmillo and gave him his hand without any words. Myrmillo was getting sober again and grabbed the hand of Lurius. And instead what Lurius waited man said to him quietly but loud enough.
“Thanks for saving me!”
“You are the new master!”
“I owe you now – ask me whenever you need help” Myrmillo said seriously.
As a professional fighter he respected the attitude of Lurius very high.
And nearly unnoticeable Lurius nodded his head to the man and blinked his right eye for him. He accepted a new friendship. After all they were here all in the mercy of gods. It was itself a miracle at these two men were alive after so many combats. So Lurius pulled Myrmillo on his feet and started a modest celebration. He grabbed his helmet on his armpit and started to walk small circle around the arena and waved to spectators now having a modest smile. He did not want to get too proud but remember all the time that he had his own goal. It was a simple goal – to get his freedom. It was the only dream that kept his hopes alive. One day – maybe soon – when he was successful enough he could receive the wooden sword – the sign of freedom. Maybe from emperor himself. He knew that this rare honor could be reached because Roman gave high value for courage and bravery. That was all to keep him alive. Once when he would receive wooden sword, he would return to his father’s lands and get a new wife and start his life again. That was all he wished. Then he would forget this mad circus where he was only a small part of spectacles. All these thoughts came into his mind, when he walked towards gate and his own lanista – still waving his hand to spectators. And everybody was cheering loudly for this brave and modest man. But once he would leave this all into past…