I Am Gladiator! (Closed, Started)

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Xarev was surprised to hear his native tongue. He turned to look at the one who spoke as he was handed a wooden sword and shield. He was even more surprised to see another War Walker. It seemed as thought the Empire's war in the desert was faring better that he had hoped.

Xarev dropped his shield to the ground. It would keep him off balance and slow him down. All he needed was a sword.

"To give anything less would be a sin brother." he replied to his countryman.

The brute Vorgis charged like a wild beast. Xarev stood his ground until the last second, waiting until the gladiator's sword was coming down at his head, then in one motion, he twisted out of the path of Vorgis' sword and knelt down, striking out with his own weapon, and striking Vorgis hard in the side of the knee as he rumbled past. Measured, punishing strikes were the only way to beat this larger, stronger man.

Xarev learned long ago that no matter how large or tough an opponent is, the human body has weaknesses. The knee, the fingers, the eyes, the throat, the liver, and so on.

Vorgis howled as the pain from his injured knee was felt. Xarev said nothing, and showed no emotion. He simply stood to a ready stance and waited. Vorgis could no longer charge without increasing the pain and damage of his knee, but Xarev suspected he would try.

Vorgis

Damn that Stung! Vorgis chided himself, that was sloppy of him. He'd been off his standard for the past few days, it was time to get focused. It had been a while since he'd fought one of the quick ones, he would ave to talk to this one afterwards, maybe he could share a few things. Either way it was a good thing he had a lighter weapon in hand at the moment. He gave a nod and a wink to Durro who was watching from the sidelines looking worried.

It was time to get to work, he walked up to the Vaan, keeping himself loose. He looked the fellow over, searching for a weakness or an opening.

The Executor

He watched as they went about their exercises, as they put his lessons to work. there was potential here. It would be hard won but it was there.

He sidled up to Vokrash. "Marrick will want his answer by sun down. Just a warning."

Xarev's trained eyes noticed his opponent's gaze drift to the young man that gave them their weapons. He would have time to think about that later.

Vorgis began looking for a weakness in Xarev's defense but he would find none. His decision not to charge showed that he was not all about muscle, but he still wasn't as fast as Xarev.

Taking the opportunity, Xarev feigned a strike at Vorgis' head, and as the gladiator raised his sword to block, Xarev twisted his wrist downwards to aim a the neck. But he was right before; the abuse at the hands of his captors and his long travel had taken it's toll. Before he could dodge, Vorgis' leg came up and kicked him squarely in the gut.

Xarev managed to land on his feet and jump back before being racked with a coughing fit. The kick's impact on his knee gave Vorgis pause, and Xarev capitalized. He lunged forward, smacking the flat side of his sword against the champion's face. While he was stunned, the War Walker unleashed a flurry of blows into his solar-plexus. The champion ties to block, but his ears must have still been ringing from the blow to the head. As the gladiator stepped back to escape from the barrage, Xarev could once again feel the effects of his journey. He was fatigued faster than usual, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He was slowing down.

In one split moment, when Xarev's attacks were becoming weak, Vorgis lashed out and struck Xarev in the jaw with the hilt of his wooden sword. The War Walker' would normally have been able to take such a blow, but not now. He found himself on his back with the champion's knee on his chest. Xarev "The Desert Hawk" was defeated once again.

Vorgis

A slow clap went up from Marrick and the signal was given for him to release the Vaan. Vorgis stood up and helped the Walker up to his feet. He looked to The Executor who gave him the nod to carry on about the yard.

Vorgis slapped the lad on the back and nudged towards the food stall. "Water. Now." and walked to the water barrel and scooped up a cup for himself and Xarev.

Xarev greedily swallowed the cold water, slowly catching his ragged breath. Once his heart had stopped pounding he turned to examine the gladiator next to him. Even though they were in heated battle just moments ago, Vorgis had helped him to his feet and carried him to water.

"I misjudged you." Xarev said in a shaky voice. "I had assumed that the gladiators of the empire were beasts in the form of men. But now after our duel, you sit and drink with me. No such kindness is shown in the desert."

The dull ache of a bruise-to-be was forming in his gut where he had been kicked. Xarev couldn't help but wonder how the fight would have ended if he had been in top condition.

Vorgis

"I misjudged you." Xarev said in a shaky voice. "I had assumed that the gladiators of the empire were beasts in the form of men. But now after our duel, you sit and drink with me. No such kindness is shown in the desert."

Vorgis looked him over, his plan had been successful but it felt like a hollow victory. "Don't thank me yet. You were terrible out there, but you put on a good enough show for Marrick to put you on the sands. You're not in the desert anymore, men wont show respect for the purple and black. Here killing a walker is a badge of honour."

"Here killing a walker is a badge of honor."

Xarev opened his mouth to defend his culture, but stopped. Vorgis was not insulting the Vaan, he was only speaking the truth. Honestly, what else could he expect? The Legion's war in the desert has been long and bloody. It was far from the glorious patriotic battles they prefer to think of when going to war. They must hate the Vaan for proving their bravado wrong.

"I expect my blood in particular would be cause for celebration. I led many war parties against the Empire's forces back home. They called me 'The Desert Hawk'. Many probably expected the area to be my execution ground. I will see that they regret making it my battlefield."

As Vokrash practiced on a dummy, he occasionally would look back to see Vorgis fighting one of the new initiates, 'Xarev was his name. Yes, that's it'. He then started focusing on the dummy once again when Vorgis ultimately gained the upper hand. "Marrick will want his answer by sun down. Just a warning."

Vokrash turned around from the dummy saw the executor right next to him. He merely nodded his head. "Understood." As Vokrash went back to training on the dummy, the last few days rushed through his mind, taking note of all the things that Gaius, Rowan, and Belkin had done. As his memories played in his mind to the rhythm of the pounding of wood against hardened leather, he decided who would wear the Efferus Armour.

As Vokrash headed over to tell Marrick his decision he stopped when he passed Durro, who was near Vorgis at the moment and tussled his hair. "Daddy's starting to a little bit older now eh? Maybe you'll have to take over in teaching the new recruits a thing or two." Vokrash made sure to say it loud enough for Vorgis to hear as he grinned at Durro and walked off to tell Marrick. When he arrived at Marrick's chair he stopped and maintained a respectable distance between the two. "I have made my decision. Belkin should wear the Efferus armour."

"I expect my blood in particular would be cause for celebration. I led many war parties against the Empire's forces back home. They called me 'The Desert Hawk'. Many probably expected the area to be my execution ground. I will see that they regret making it my battlefield."

Vorgis burst out into laughter, almost spitting out the water he was drinking. "That's some big talk. They caught you didn't they? Already proves their worth more in a fight." He took another gulp. "Still its better than all that talk before. 'I'm too weak sir, can barely stand on my feet sir'" He said mimicking Xarev's voice surprisingly well. "Never talk like that, don't even think like that." Then he gave the Vaanic Warrior's head a tap with his finger. "You defeated yourself up there before I ever did over there." He seemed more somber when he said that last part and went to fetch himself some gruel.

"Still you're quick." The Champion said between mouthfuls. "I would ask you to show me some of those desert techniques, gods know I've learned the hard way how slippery your lot can be." His hand reached for an old scar absent mindedly. "Walkers, what are you like eh?" He chuckled to himself.

As he was getting his bowl filled Xarev couldn't stop thinking about what Vorgis had said. Defeating himself.

It had been a long time since he had thought of it. His secret. His other half. When he was busy fighting the war, he didn't have time to think about it, but now he couldn't get it out of his head. His thoughts drifted to T'sova, his fellow walker that he had spent time with. And then the reactions of villagers when a man was caught with another man. He remembered the confusion. He was not afraid of his people, but he just couldn't understand why they hated men like him.

He had heard that such things were allowed in the Empire. And now it seemed that the empire itself was not what he thought it was. He often wondered...no. That was one thought he could not allow. He was a War walker, committed to his vows and his country. That was Xarev, that and nothing else.

As he came out of his haze of thought, he heard Vorgis speaking to him.
"I would ask you to show me some of those desert techniques, gods know I've learned the hard way how slippery your lot can be. Walkers, what are you like eh?"

"We train from a young age to defend our people wherever we go. We tend to roam alone, lending our aid and enforcing our laws. I was temporarily allied with several other War Walkers when I was captured. We were holding back and Imperial advance at an oasis town. The legion somehow poisoned the water supply and we were struck with fever and illness. That is when they took us." There was a short pause.

"I would teach you some of my techniques, but I worry you would use them against me one day." Xarev said with a smile, changing the tone suddenly.

Gaius sat at a table observing the grounds, the two new entrants were facing the champions of house Marrick, one of them seemed to be pleading to Marrick. He'll be torn to pieces if he seriously thinks that way, then again he might just be playing a part like me, thought the Asiren. He finished his gruel and made his way towards Lahar.

"Keeping an eye on the new Vaan I see, is he meant to be a walker as well?"

The fight was over before it had truly begun; this new Walker assumed victory too quickly, and was too ready to prove himself superior. It has cost him of course. If he was out in the arena his life as a gladiator wouldn't even have started, dreams of escape only become tangible if you survive, Lahar was sure that Xarev dreamed of escape, just as he had when he first arrived in the ludus, but things had changed...

"Keeping an eye on the new Vaan I see, is he meant to be a walker as well?" Gaius said interrupting his thoughts.

"Supposed to be yes, but he is too sure of himself, he will come to learn what that means around here" Lahar replied.

"Supposed to be yes, but he is too sure of himself, he will come to learn what that means around here."

Gaius sighed "I know the feeling. Maybe if a lion claws at his leg he'll smarten up," Gaius tapped the scar on his thigh from when he fought Carvinox. "I'm still not too sure about walkers, are they meant to be the best soldiers or something?" Gaius picked up two wooden swords and nodded to Lahar, "spar?" he asked.

"I'm still not too sure about walkers, are they meant to be the best soldiers or something?"

The question didn't take Lahar by surprise, the Vaan were an insular people and for all the time he had spent cooped up in the ludus, he knew next to nothing about Gaius' people, "No, we are meant to be protectors, but with all that goes on in the world these days, that notion has even been lost from some of us," he replied.

"Spar?" Gaius asked passing him two wooded blades.

"Not right now, my wounds still ail me," He half lied, the truth of the matter was that he wanted to try and contact Kedrin, to get him to become a patron to Xarev at least then he would have a safety net if Balus tried to do something.

He headed off in search of Kirra.

Marrick

"I have made my decision. Belkin should wear the Efferus armour."

The noble looked at his oldest gladiator with the same cold, calculating stare. He sat up straight and arched his fingers.

"A good choice." He said softly and waved Vokrash on his way. "We shall have to make sure to begin his trials as soon as possible." Marrick said, turning to his Executor.

Vorgis

"I would teach you some of my techniques, but I worry you would use them against me one day." Xarev said with a smile, changing the tone suddenly.

Vorgis gave a hearty laugh. "Fair enough lad. I doubt I'm light enough to do them justice anyway." The champion rose to his feet and paced over to some of the more familiar Gladiators. "You should try and train with some of the new bloods." He called back over his shoulder. "This is the easiest day you'll get, and a man needs to know the ones at his back."

Kirra

The house slave was leaning against one of the pillars of the villa as she watched the various fights unfold. She could relax now that Vorgis' fight was over. Still she couldn't shake the feeling that he'd seemed slower than usual. Then she noticed one of the Vaan making his way towards her. Lahar was looking a little worse for wear.

"Someone looks like he's on a mission." She smiled at him.

"Not right now, my wounds still ail me." replied Lahar as he left Gaius to his own devices. He looked around for a sparring partner when he spotted Belkin. Gaius put down one of his swords and grabbed a shield instead as he headed over to the Pingla.

"Belkin, feel like teaching me how to use a shield?"

Belkin had kept himself to himself for the most part, practicing on one of the training dummies that were around. His thought drifted to the question he wanted to ask the Executioner, about how someone could make one of these...or 50 of these. He wanted to re-train himself in using the Death Run that his tribe knew to use so well, to charge into the jaws of defeat itself and come out unscathed once more, rather than the bleeding mess he turned into back in the riot. He had to be cautionate about it if he were able to...if one Empire Spy saw and reported on his moves, their armies could train up to prevent the move from being successful...something Belkin would never want to happen.

His thoughts were interrupted by the approach of Gaius. "Belkin, feel like teaching me how to use a shield?" Gaius asked, Belkin relying with a soft laugh. "Well, I don't think we have the time for 16 years of harsh training towards using the sword and shield as your one true craft above others, so how I run through the basics then?" the Pingla warrior replied.

"Well, I don't think we have the time for 16 years of harsh training towards using the sword and shield as your one true craft above others, so how I run through the basics then?" Laughed Belkin.

"Good enough" said Gaius as he knock his sword against the dummy. "Say, how do you think we fared in Vokrashs' test?"

Xarev continued eating, he would need his strength in the days to come. It was good that he had made one "friend" so far, but he couldn't predict how the other gladiators would react to him. As his bowl emptied, he couldn't help but think about how his circumstances had changed. Less than a month ago he had been in his home, helping to repel the invaders. Now he sat as a slave, his life being held at the whim of some entitled Empire scum.

The idea stuck him that he could very well die here. If he did, so be it. But until then, he would do everything he could to stay alive.

"Say, how do you think we fared in Vokrashs' test?". "Don't know, don't care" Belkin responded quickly, removing his shield and passing it to Gaius. "All I know is that the Shield on it is really unique and whoever wins is gonna have a Golden cage if the Empire pig really is putting his all into it".

Belkin gripped his sword with both hands while walking some distance away. "Now, firstly I just want to test your strength and dexterity with a shield. I'll start hammering away at you, and you just have to defend for as long as you can. When you yield or I manage to hit you three times, we'll end there, and don't fight back for this, just defend ok?" Belkin instructed. He spoke again quickly afterward "Ready....BRACE!" he shouted, and quickly ran at Gaius with his sword raised to start attacking.

Belkin didn't care for who won the armour, just for teaching Gaius about how to use a shield. Gaius held the shield strong, not fighting back as instructed. Belkin charge forwards, rushing Gaius and slamming the shield with his wooden sword. Gaius held his footing and defended well against the Pingla. His problem wasn't so much holding strong though but rather countering Belkin's various slashes and stabs. He managed to hit Gaius in the leg, that was one. In response Gaius blocked low, to which Belkin attacked high and hit his shoulder, that was two. Gaius stepped back and tried to move fast, moving the shield high and low. Belkin slashed repeatedly at the shield. This was the easy part for Gaius, as strong as Belkin was Gaius was stronger, or at the very least just as strong, it was part of the reason he like Belkin, a non Aiser who could match one's strength was something to admire. Belkin stabbed low to which Gaius blocked his legs, but it was a ruse. Belkin pulled his sword back and stabbed Gaius directly in the chest. That was three.

Antonius took a defensive stance. He had no clue what this new fighter could do, but he could guess. He was obviously a Amon'tyr, and his build and scars revealed he was quite the warrior. But he also looked young, and a bit arrogant. He was sure he could take him, if he played his cards right. He made a gesture inviting the fighter to attack, he had a serious expression on his face.

Tanguy looked at his opponent carefully. The imperial had took a defensive stance and was waiting for him to make the first move of attack, he most likely wanted to see how Tanguy moved and how he attacked, "smart" Tanguy muttered as he continued his evaluation of his opponent. The imperial was well built and quite heavily scarred obviously most likely his scars were the price for being the champion of the cauldron.

He obviously was a skilled fighter and his champion status only further advanced his skill level, if this was any other day Tanguy would simply ignore the imperial as man who had a few to many fights....But this wasn't any other day and the lessons that his father taught Tanguy seemed to be worthy of this upcoming fight. "What's your name imperial?" Tanguy asked as he readied himself "I don't exactly want to fight a fellow slave without knowing his name first".

Antonius was a bit surprised by the question. He hadn't excepted a question at all, must be because off all the Asieren in here He thought. "My name is Antonius Julius. And what is your name, fighter from the Amon'tyr lands?"

"Tanguy Trahern" he spoke with a small measure of pride "It's nice to see there are imperials who won't steal your land, kill your friends and rape your women...no offense intended of course."

Antonius looked at the young man, whose spoke with a hint of pride in his voice. Antonius was sure his name meant something in his land, maybe he was even the leader of a small village. "None taken. And I never raped a women, nor will I ever rape one. Now you wished to prove your worth right? Then show me what you got Tanguy." Antonius felt more relaxed, it was nice talking to someone who didn't hate him right away. Even if he did seem to dislike him.

Tanguy nodded "Alright let's do this." Finishing his sentence he rushed forward sword raised and shield at the ready. He knew he wouldn't stand a chance strength wise, he was too weak from the traveling and the beatings he endured on his way here. The most he could hope for was to try and strike the imperial when he least expected it or at least hold him off to make an impression on Marrick. He hit his shield off Antonius' in an attempted to stun him and then he thrust his sword downwards towards his legs.

Antonius looked at the young man, who charged suddenly. He then hit his shield with quite some force, while aiming a strike at his leg. Not bad, but this feels rushed somehow. He just managed to keep his shield in his hand, and then moved his sword to parry. He managed to deflect the sword before it hit his leg, he then quickly lifted his right leg and aimed a kick at his opponents left knee.

Tanguy jumped back to avoid Antonius' kick. He then countered the kick as he lunged forward, thrusting his sword towards Antonius' lower torso while his leg was still in the air in an attempt to get him off balance.

Antonius couldn't help but grin a bit, this fighter fought a bit like him. He pretended to be unable to defend, until the last moment. He then quickly brought his shield up, and blocked the mans blow. He placed his leg back on the ground, and aimed a sword slash at his arm holding the sword. Hoping to surprise him, as he had tried earlier.

Antonius' sword made contact with Tanguy's arm. The strike made Tanguy drop his weapon in a grunt of pain but not wanting to be defeated so early. He upper cutted Antonius' still stretched out arm with his shield brought it back and followed up this counter attack by crashing into Antonius with his shield.

The hit connected, and the young man dropped his sword. But a sudden uppercut against his arm, made him flinch. The man then ran into him, and crashed his shield against him. Antonius would have been taken down, if he had been stronger. He quickly used both his free hand to grab the arms off Tanguy, making sure he couldn't hit him. He then suddenly fell backwards, and placed his leg on the chest of Tanguy mid fall. He then used the motion along with his foot, to throw Tanguy over him. Antonius hit the ground hard, but tried to stand up as soon as possible.

The sudden shock of being grappled and then thrown forward into the dust; surprised Tanguy to say the least. He hit the ground hard and landed on his back; he lay there for a few seconds in the dust still surprised before lifting himself onto his feet. Once he was on his feet he sprinted towards Antonius and when he was in within range he jumped forward and struck him in the chest with his raised knee.

Antonius looked at the surprised warrior, it seemed he had never fought against someone like him before. He then stood up and charged at him, and suddenly jumped hitting him in the chest with his knee. He did a step back, regaining his ground. He then moved his fist with surprising speed, aiming for the now defenseless face of the warrior.

Antonius' fist hit Tanguy hard he staggered back with the pain and surprise of the hit, but his pumping adrenaline dampened the pain and he moved in for a counter attack. He jabbed with the left arm and followed this through with a hard right hook, he then raised his knee and struck it hard into the soft unprotected lower regions of Antonius' body.

Antonius grin spread as his opponent kept attacking. The last knee hit was quite hard, and he looked down in pain. It was time to show him what he could do, he suddenly looked up and started his attack. He grabbed the man's knee before he could retreat. He then kicked him with all of his power in his undefended stomach. He then he let go of the knee, sidestepped and aimed a hit at Tanguy's face.

Due to Antonius' duo of deadly hits; Tanguy hit the ground hard and lay in pain. His stomach was in agony and he was beginning to bleed from his head. He wanted to give in but the grin on the imperial's face enraged him, all the pain of losing his family and friends to these savages washed over him and he regained his strength and determination. Screaming in anger and pain Tanguy tackled Antonius to the ground and began to lay a flurry of hard blows onto the imperials face, as he done so he began to cry as he remembered his failure to protect his clan from destruction.

Antonius saw the young man go down, he seemed enraged. He quickly got up, and tackled him to the ground. A fist landed on Antonius face, splitting his lip open. He then moved his arms up, and defended himself as good as he could. He then heard crying and looked at the face of the man, he saw a deep sadness. "Stop" Antonius said.

Tanguy stopped his assault of Antonius and fell back; he was still in pain from the blows but his sadness and adrenaline blocked out the pain. He sat there in the dust saying nothing for a minute until he looked across to Antonius "I was fighting the legions" he spoke in a quiet voice.

"I had to leave my family behind to go join the war and I promised my mother that I would come back to take care of my siblings and her.....I swore I would come back.....and then I left....I can't remember how many men I killed or how many of my friends died" he paused "I got good at it....leading men and killing....but then I heard my clan was in the way of imperial attack.... So a must have rode for days until I reached them."

Tanguy rose and looked up at the sky before speaking again "most of them were dead or taking as slaves....I found my mother and brother dead...but I didn"t find my sister. So I followed the imperial"s tracks and I stumbled onto their camp....I went in during the night and killed all of them, and managed to free my sister and a few of my clan members who hadn't been killed...I tried to lead them to safety but imperial scouts caught up to us and we were taking as slaves."

Tanguy looked down at the ground in shame not wanting to continue any further, but he did and looked back at Antonius "I failed to protect my clan and when I had my sister I couldn't even save us from being taking as slaves."

Tanguy stopped his assault and fell back, he sat there in the dust saying nothing. Antonius lifted himself up a bit and looked at the man, he waited wondering what he would do. He suddenly spoke quietly, "I was fighting the legions....I had to leave my family behind to go join the war and I promised my mother that I would come back to take care of my siblings and her...but then I heard my clan was in the way of imperial attack..... So a must have rode for days until I reached them". Antonius could guess how this story would end, they always ended badly.

Tanguy stood up and looked up at the sky "Most of them were dead or taking as slaves...I tried to lead them to safety but imperial scouts caught up to us and we were taking as slaves." Antonius felt very sorry for the young man, he wanted to help him somehow.

Tanguy looked down at the ground and then he looked at Antonius "I failed to protect my clan and when I had my sister I couldn't even save us from being taking as slaves" Antonius nodded, as he stood up. "Its not your fault Tanguy, you did the best that you could. And it isn't over yet. If your sister is still alive you could make it your goal, to earn enough money to buy her freedom. I am sure someone like you, would be able to do that." Antonius gave an reassuring smile to Tanguy.

Tanguy nodded at Antonius "She is alive and that's what I plan to do, actually that's why I challenged you in the first place. So Marrick could help me find her although looking at it now it doesn't appear to have been my best decision recently." Tanguy began to laugh but he slowly stopped as he remember where he was.

Antonius looked at Tanguy, he wasn't like the other gladiators here. "Listen in here, victories and titles are important. If you want Marrick's help, you are going to have to fight for it. Because right know you don't wear the mark yet, without the mark there is no change he will help you. Anyway if you want, I can help you with getting stronger. " He couldn't quite place it yet, but he reminded him of someone.

Tanguy smiled and nodded "I would like that you've got some impressive fighting moves my friend...well not as good as mine." he said jokingly.

Antonius smiled, it seemed even though the tragedy he was still in a optimistic mood. "I am glad to hear that you accept my offer. But I can't help but wonder who it was, who just got hit by a wooden sword on the arm. I mean if it had been a real sword you would have lost your arm." He said teasing the recruit.

"Well if it came to that, then I'd have kill you with my stump" he said as he began to laugh "That would get the imperials knickers in a twist or sure, I can see it now Tanguy the stumpy." he continued to laugh even as the other gladiators began to notice him.

Antonius laughed along with Tanguy, he then stopped after a while and said. "You fought quite well, and I am sure if we had used real weapons you would have been more careful. For now you might want to rest and eat something, Tanguy. You will need your strength, for the days to come." He was smiling for some reason, he wasn't sure why.

Tanguy nodded "Thank you my friend" he then picked up his weapons and walked off towards the shade to treat his wounds.

Antonius smiled, it seemed he had made his second friend here. He looked up at Marric, he wondered how he would react.

Belkin used his strength and wits to try and get past Gaius's shield. He started off just using brute strength to try and just work through the shield, but his sword kept bouncing off with little impact on gaius's strength. 'Well, he certainly has the strength to hold a shield' thought Belkin, 'Time to see if he's got the dexterity as well'. Belkin quickly swung low on Gaius unprotected area, scoring a hit. Gaius immediately ducked his shield low, allowing Belkin to score another hit. Belkin then lessened his attack, allowing Gaius to go back to the attack rebound of before. One thing was certain from this: Gaius was as strong, if not stronger, than the average Pingla warrior, which was impressive for someone from a tribe Belkin didn't know about till eight months ago when he and several other of his tribe overran that base the Empire made on the coast of their island.

Belkin had enough with his little game with Gaius and went in for the kill. Belkin feinted a move for below, making Gaius lower his shield enough for Belkin to halt it back quickly and stab him in the chest. Belkin let out a puff of air from the fight as he wiped his brow, sweaty from the assault he put up. "Well..." he said to Gaius, a little winded, "You're strength is good enough to hold up against a strong warrior...but a smart swordsman could get past you easily."

Gaius fell back at the final stab, defeated by the Pingla "You're strength is good enough to hold up against a strong warrior" he said, "but a smart swordsman could get past you easily."

Gaius dusted himself off and stood back up. He had a look over the shield, a little too small he thought, but then he thought he was just making excuses. "I need to improve on defence then. It seems the only way to get noticed on the sands is by using a sword and shield." Gaius was about to continue when he looked over and saw one of the new recruits crying as he fought Antonius. "Oh no, what is he doing!" he muttered quietly, only loud enough for Belkin to hear. "If he keeps up like that he's going to get torn apart in here!" Gaius was worried and thought for several moments before whispering to Belkin "Are you still willing to escape this place and murder Marrick? Because if we have any chance of escape we will need help, and of all the people in here Antonius, Lahar, and the two new recruits seem like the only people to not betray us, and I don't want anyone turning on the Amon'tyr for thinking he's weak and crying. We will need to protect him."

"I need to improve on defence then. It seems the only way to get noticed on the sands is by using a sword and shield." Gaius replied, Belkin nodding in return. He then heard the sound of someone crying, possibly one of the Slaveboys. Belkin turned to see that it was not one of the slaveboys...but one of the new recruits crying, while fighting Antonius. "Oh no, what is he doing!" Gaius muttered quietly, "If he keeps up like that he's going to get torn apart in here!". There was a brief moment of quiet between then, before Gaius spoke again, whispering this time.

"Are you still willing to escape this place and murder Marrick? Because if we have any chance of escape we will need help, and of all the people in here Antonius, Lahar, and the two new recruits seem like the only people to not betray us, and I don't want anyone turning on the Amon'tyr for thinking he's weak and crying. We will need to protect him." Belkin stayed silent for a while, not to draw any attention before whispering back.

"You know me. I hate the empire to my heart, and to see that fat Empire pig get split in two before returning home is my new idea of Zaal. We'll need allies, sure, but it'll take time and skill to do so, depending on the person. The new guys, they'll be easy enough, Antonius, the dead family angle, Rowan will probably be in for friendship or the like." Belkin stopped for a moment before continuing. "But that's still Six men against a whole city of Empire soldiers, and I'd doubt the rebels we saw would like to make another fire-storm for our sake. The more men we can get, the better, but it we're gonna do this, we're gonna have to prepare ourselves for either a quick escape, or a protracted battle...or possibly both."

Belkin then looked around and spoke loudly. "But enough about our Cultures, lets try and get your blocking adequate, eh?", Belkin said, making sure that their sudden stillness and murmurs were now dissuaded.

Belkin said everything Gaius wanted to here. He was forming a plan about their possible allies, maybe they could even get the rebels on their side. He spoke of their escape and how risky it would be before attempting to seem like they were having idle chatter rather than plans of escape. Gaius nodded and picked up his shield, but not before mouthing the words "I don't trust Rowan." Gaius returned to trying out different blocking techniques with Belkin.

As Tanguy reached the safety of the shade he slowly sat down rubbing the large bump that was beginning to form on his head, once he was sitting down he begin to think over his previous fight. The fight with Antonius had been most desperate fight he had in a long time and he had the wounds to show it. Overly he was pleased with the fight even despite the tortures he had endured at the hands of his captives he was able to hold off a veteran gladiator. Leaning back against the wall Tanguy looked up at the sky Tanguy continued thinking, he may have impressed the other gladiators with his fighting skills but his sudden break-down may have damaged their first impression of him. These men smelled fear and his little performance may prove to be a troubled start for his new life here, and if he gets hurt or even killed then he will never be able to find his sister.

"Someone looks like he's on a mission." She smiled at him.

He found who he was looking for leaning against a stone pillar, watching the fights behind him unfold. No doubt that the others had got to fighting as well; testing the character of the new gladiators through their swordplay. However Lahaer couldn't help but think that all they knew was how to fight, they took actions with the sword and shield but not words. If they had any hope of leaving this place, of escaping, they would not achieve it by force.

"I need to speak with Kedrin," He told her, "Soon."

Kirra

Her brow furrowed, Lahar seemed to be in a dark mood. "Alright then." And she took down a quick note of his message before heading back into the villa to make a proper copy.

At the Ludus

The sun made its way across the sky and training day came to an end. Like those that came before them the new recruits were shown around the Ludus (or rather the areas they were allowed into). First came the armoury, stocked high with all kinds of weapons. Given pride of place was a greatsword with the name 'Vorgis' written on its holder. Beside it rested a pair of finely crafted axes labeled 'Vokrash' and further back were a set of pitch black swords, that stood out like an ink blot among the sea of silver and grey. Though they weren't marked with any name as of yet.

Then they were taken to the Medicus, where each one was sat down and given the 'M' mark, the sign that they belonged to House Marrick. Some struggled, others cried out but none the less they all received the brand.

The Veterans on the other hand were allowed to make their way to their personal cells at their own pace. Going by the usual route through the female gladiator cells rooms. The ladies were as energetic as always and called out some banter remarks and asked how the new males were, Lahar was felt up again by the nearest hand as had become traditional among the female gladiators. They didn't seem bothered by the small collection of new recruits that had been placed in the communal cell across from them. An hour later the new gladiators were lead through and they received the same shouts, taunts and jeers from the women that their predecessors did. Although unlike Lahar none of them were groped.

They were lead to their communal cell with nothing but a few straw mats and an empty pot to keep them comfortable and iron bars to keep them warm. The bars also gave them a wide opening to see their more experienced counterparts, with their own stone walled cells and beds.

Soon after they were settled down Kirra made her way down the hallway between the cells, stopping by Lahar's first. "I wrote up your letter and had a boy deliver it. You should hear from Kedrin soon, he's usually very punctual." She smiled at him before going over to the new recruits.

She was carrying a bottle of wine with her. She knelt by the bars and ushered Xarev over. "Part of your prize, make sure to share it with the others." She told him in a motherly tone as she passed the bottle through the bars. "Looks like you passed the master's test, your buying price of 36 Denars has been added to your account. That would be the second part of your prize. Have a good night you lot." It looked like she was about to leave but instead she walked to Vorgis' cell and stopped to talk to him.

The searing pain in Xarev's arm from the brand reminded him of the heat from the War Walker Forge where he created his sword. That was nothing compared the the feel of actual hot iron marking his skin.

"Looks like you passed the master's test, your buying price of 36 Denars has been added to your account. That would be the second part of your prize. Have a good night you lot."

Suddenly Zarev was left holding a jug of wine, and looking at his fellow trainees. Xarev never liked to drink. He hated the feeling of losing his faculties.

"You can have it." He said, rolling the bottle over to the other new men. "I don't partake."

He was glad to have been afforded this gesture to the others, but he also noticed that the other new man who faught received no such prize. Perhaps that meant Xarev had a better chance of making it here than the others.

As always, to his annoyance, the female gladiators wouldn't leave Lahar alone, they reached out through the bars of the cell to fondle him. He had already expressed the frustration it caused him, and that his vows of celibacy meant nothing could happen between any of them as long as he still walked in shadows and wielded his black swords.

The new arrivals were no where to be seen, probably enjoying the company of the Executer and his vile smile as they were branded with the mark of slavery. They would soon be marched to the large communal cell, shamed and given wine if they had passed Marrick's test.

Soon his ponderings came true and so did word of his request to Kedrin. "I wrote up your letter and had a boy deliver it. You should hear from Kedrin soon, he's usually very punctual." She said, leaving him with a smile as she left to attend the new recruits.

"Good," he thought, he would hopefully not have to see another Walker die if all went well during their meeting.

Lying on one straw beds Tanguy looked at the new brand on his arm. He had never experienced any pain like that before a hot iron being pressed onto his skin, marking him and reminding him of his new life of service.

Still looking at the brand he felt something lightly nudged his side; looking over her saw a full bottle of wine lying beside him."You can have it." his cell mate spoke "I don't partake."

Tanguy grunted and picked up the bottle of wine "What makes you think I want it" he said inspecting the bottle "I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to sterilize us...it's a pretty shit reward as well" he continued "You'd thing Merrick could afford to give you some meat...or a better bed" he chuckled and placed the bottle of wine beside him "Thanks for the gesture friend, I'll save it for another time"

Stretching Tanguy sat up from the straw bed and looked over at his cell mate "My name is Tanguy by the way mind telling me yours"?

Gaius sat in his cell leaning against the wall. His training with Belkin went alright, but he knew it would take a long time to be a capable warrior with those weapons. He had been mixing and matching with various weapons but he hadn't committed to one solitary style, and thus still the only skill he could say he had with a weapon was with the battleaxe, and a good background with dual hand axes, that said he'd still probably be slaughtered going up against someone the likes of Rowan or Vokrash in their own signature style; and his meager attempts with dual swords barely held at all against Lahar. Now that he thought about it the only reason he didn't get killed in the arena against the rebels was because one was too brash and weak and the other was more animal than man. What Gaius needed was a routine.

He thought to himself for a few moments. "Must keep my skill with axe strong... can't ignore that." He whispered to himself. "Sword and shield... and spear, mustn't forget the spear... keep a dagger close...". Despite any one skill there would always be another in which he would be bested. "Two days sword and shield. Two days Shield and Spear. One day dual swords, one day dual axes and one day Battleaxe."

Belkin waited, silently, in his cell, as he did with most other nights. He preferred the silence he could get from his room, it reminded him of the silent forests that surrounded the Pingla villages. The Oak's, the Larches, a complete bastion of greenery and brown that made the villages seem more natural, more at home with the surroundings than anywhere else; a place that would seem alien to the Empire if this city were to be believed.

Slowly his thoughts drifted to home, of the village. He wondered if it was still standing after all his time away, he was caught not far away from it after all...no, he wouldn't allow those thoughts to creep in. If they lived, he would still see them one day, and if they were gone....he have to fight, as their last bastion, as their last standard, as the last image his enemies would see before he slit their throats, gutted them with his sword and smashed their skulls into the cold floor.

And with those thoughts, he drifted off to sleep, dreaming of home, of dignity, of freedom.

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