I Am Gladiator! (Closed, Started)

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The executor was true to his word and had found them a small crematorium. He had brought another brand with him, this time in a shape of a blade to mark them as true gladiators, they would be seen as slaves no longer. Typhon had been lain on the funeral pyre, but he was without his blades, when a War Walker was given to the sands his blades went with him. It angered Lahar to see his brother treated with such disrespect.

"If any of you have anything to say, now is the time."

Death seemed so certain to the other Tribes, they knew where they would go once they left this world, but for the Vaan it was a mystery. Some believed that their souls would go to the after life, or they would be reincarnated to live anther life, Lahar didn't know what to think, maybe life could find a way even after death?

"We fight to protect our families, we kill to ensure life. Life will always find away, even after death" He said when Jamukha had finished.

He walked over to the executor and accept his brand. He was still recovering from the pain when the Asieren he had been fighting with beside pulled him over.

"You will not bear this burden alone, Lahar. I swear to you."

"Each man bears his burden, but he doesn't have to bear it alone" He said back, trying to smile

"I'll pay for him," Antonius looked at Lahar surprised. It seems that Lahar was really a kind person Antonius had made an good assessment of his charterer. Still he was a bit soft this could mean death. Antonius made a mental note about looking after Lahar if they ever fought together.

Antonius did what he always did he remained quiet and looked around. He was quite during the burial he hadn't even spoken to the man, and he wasn't what you could call saddened that he had died. But before he could walk over to Lahar to talk to him, another seemed to have begun talking to him. Antonius decided that it was still best to not attract attention. He began to listen to everybody talk making mental notes. Too bad he couldn't talk too Lahar though still he wasn't about to risk Rowan seeing him.

Antonius got the mark of the gladiator for wining the battle. The mark burned just as bad as the previous one. Antonius managed to keep his face mostly intact, and by biting his lip he could suppress any scream of pain. He stood alone once again it was by choice now however the cut was causing him allot of pain and so was the mark. Antonius just wanted to go to bed he was tired, and he knew that he wouldn't be able to make any friends or really do anything useful today.

Gaius listened to Vokrash's tale. Killing one for sleeping with his sister? It must have been rape or something terrible as murdering someone for that seemed excessive. Living in the wilds must have made him a great survivor though, considering he's so old and still alive as a gladiator it was obviously true. His last words to Gaius stuck with him however.

"The world you once knew is dead and you will never get it back. If you escape then where will you go? Your tribe will have forgotten you or look upon you as a coward and a failure. The world of the gladiator is the one that you live in now. There are no morals and there is no room for regrets or sympathy. There is only one true law that governs this life. Kill or be killed." Those words made Gaius feel like a lost child, though he dared not show it. He felt the urge to drop Carvinox's fur but he just couldn't. "Welcome to the sands Gaius. This is no place for mercy." And with that he left. Gaius still had more to say but he couldn't bring himself to speak.

Gaius sat on the bench for as long as he could before someone gave him another order. Perhaps the executor or Marrick himself. Is this what the Empire had done to him? Made him weak? Such remorse for a creature that murdered innocents. A broken spirit that left him feel sad and depressed instead of angry and hateful. It had been a week and the others seemed to be fairing fine, apart from Lahar though he seemed the type to keep fighting, even if he had lost his kin. Gaius was never one for mercy, he always killed and never with remorse... so why was it taking hold of him now. 'Kill or be killed' he thought. 'I know thats how the world of the gladiator works, thats how my life even before I was captured worked... but... this is all so wrong. He sat there for a while, still clutching the fur. His hatred and blood-lust for Marrick was starting to dim and was replaced with a disturbing idea.

"Perhaps death on the sands will be easier than this new life."

After the ceremony was over he group was taken back to the ludus and lead to the cells. They were informed that now that they were marked as true gladiators they would receive they would have their own personal cells on the opposite side of the other gladiators, through the communal cell. As they were led through the depths of the ludus however they found things had changed. The female gladiators cells were empty. All became clear when they came to the male cells.

The communal area they had spent their first week had been filled with a long table, covered in fruits, bread, beer and meats. Sat around it were the all the other gladiators of House Marrick. They gave up a cheer as the others came into the cell and raised their cups. places had been left for them all along the long benches. Vorgis sat at the head of the table with the slave woman Kirra on his right, he motioned for Vokrash to join him on his left. Clustered together were the five female gladiators.

The executor pointed Lahar to a cell at the far end of the room. "You've been left a wash cloth and basin in your cell. Make sure to scrub up good, you're meeting your patron tomorrow." And at that he took his seat at the end of the table opposite Vorgis. Durro rushed up to Rowan and pulled at his rags, trying to get him to sit with Durro and his mother. Lahar and Jamukha were not so lucky. They were quickly corralled by the largest of the female gladiators - the bear sized woman who had tried to grope Lahar when she first saw him - and brought them to sit with the women. Belkin was ushered over by a red haired gladiator, who offered up a place next to him. The only place left for Gaius and Antonius forced them to sit next to each other near a pair of gladiators. One of them was tanned with hawk like features and a dark skinned man with a shaved head, both of whom greeted them with smiles and good graces.

For the rest of the Day, Belkin had remained quiet, lost in his thoughts. Even when he was asked to attend the cremation, he still remained silent, lost in his own thoughts. His only sound came from a grunt of pain when he was marked, a mark that was much nicer than the one that marked him as a slave before, a mark he still wanted to remove. He was still confused be his emotions from earlier; was he just happy with surviving the beast, or was he finding actual enjoyment from fighting in the arena? He kept his thoughts to himself, as was headed back to his cell.

He was told that the mark made them out as true gladiators, meaning they could sleep in personal cells from now on. Finally, I can rest rather than we woken up by their pointless bickering he thought to himself, remembering the first night they were here. They were then lead back to their large cell from before, where what looked like a feast was laid out for them and the other gladiators of the house. He was beckoned to a seat by a Red-haired gladiator, to which he sat next to, eyeing a majority of the meat on the table.

Being led back to the ludas Gaius did whatever he was told. He didn't speak but he showed no signs of rebelling. the sideways glance in his eyes he had when planning his escape was now replaced by a suicidal gaze, his eyes drooped down to the ground and his eye lids half closed over.

He found their previous resting place covered in food and drink. The gladiators of the ludas all sat around the table, Vorgis at the head with his wife and child, looking to be soon joined by his fellow Asiren. Gaius was forced to sit next to the imperial who he could't even bother to detest any more. He between him and a tanned man with hawk like features. The man offered Gaius good graces and passed him some wine with which Gaius quietly thanked him. He slowly began to eat some of the meat on the table and a little of the fruit, it tasted much sweeter than home. At least the people of Ptolemy could prepare a good meal. Gaius tried his best not to speak with anyone, he even made room beside himself for Antonius to be comfortable whereas a week ago he would have possibly knocked the food off of his plate. He ignored anyone who tried to speak with him and shut down his mind. He had no purpose now.

Vokrash walked into the eating area and saw a feast waiting for him and the other gladiators. He saw that Vorgis had beckoned for him to sit next to him and he made haste to sit with the champion. As Vokrash sat down he patted his hand on Vorgis' shoulder. "So what poor soul faced you today, old friend?" As he waited for a response he noticed Gaius walking in as if he was about to be executed. His eyes were glazed over and his entire body position showed that the large Asiren had accepted defeat already. 'I really thought that one would last longer, what a shame.'

Walking back through the ludus, Rowan felt a great deal of relief and accomplishment. Though his arm stung from the wound, he'd survived and made a bit of a reputation for himself. The Flying Asieren would be on the lips of every man, common or rich, that had seen his feat. With this reputation would certainly come benefits, perhaps even a high station amongst the gladiators. Good food and a warm bed would be all the perks Rowan required, though, and a sharp pair of axes to cut down his enemies with. As he was fantasizing, Rowan suddenly realized that something had changed. They were to be given their own cells tonight, and that was fine, but the absense of the female gladiators unnerved him. Were they planning some kind of initiation ambush? Rowan tensed and slowed a few paces behind the man in front of him, just in case they were walking into some sort of trap.

His misgivings proved unfounded however as the female gladiators, and indeed the rest of the ludus, were waiting for them not with swords, but with food and drink. Rowan relaxed, taking a good look around the table. The men and women were laughing and eating away, in celebration of the new gladiators. Rowan felt a tug at his rags and looked down to see Durro beckoning him to take a seat with him and his mother. Rowan ruffled the boy's hair and obliged, quietly greeting the woman and respectfully acknowledging Vorgis. Rowan filled his plate and Durro's, and passed the boy his meal with a smile.

"Eat all of it, you'll need it to grow big and strong like your father." he said before taking a huge gulp of beer from his cup. Rowan bit into a strange looking fruit and let the sweet juices drip down his chin and fingers, absolutely enthralled with the feast. He found a piece of meat about as big as his two fists stacked together and went to work. In all the merriment, it took Rowan a while to realize Gaius was not his usual self. The huge bear of a man was hardly eating, or talking, or even drinking a drop. The body of a bear, the heart of a doe Rowan thought. Gaius acting so strange was not good for Rowan. He would need to find a way to cheer his fellow Asieren up quickly, before he did something rash. Rising to his feet with a leg of meat in one hand and a half empty mug in the other, Rowan addressed the table full of people with a hearty roar of laughter. His black eyes scanning the whole table and making note.

"A toast!" He roared. "A toast to the mighty Jamuhka, a fast friend and an even faster fighter!" He raised his glass and nodded at the Amon'tyr.

"And to the mysterious Belkin! You may have started as a piglet, but today you grow to be a strong warrior!" Rowan repeated his acknowledgement to the Pingla.

"And to the noble Lahar, who may have lost a brother today, but has gained so many more."

"And to Typhon, may Morgal embrace him." Out of respect, Rowan let some of his beer spill down into the dirt.

"And to Vokrash, our wizened mentor!" Rowan gave the old Asieren a pleasant smile.

"And to Gaius, may the life you live be better than the life you take." It was something Rowan's father used to tell him as a boy, and he had strategically placed Gaius second-to-last in his speech and recited the quote hoping that it would draw the man's attention and resonate with him.

"And..." Rowan's coal black eyes rested on Antonius. He gave the poor Imperial such a look as to burn a hole straight through him. Rowan's hate for the man was amplified by the beer in his body, but he restrained himself. This was not a time for hate, after all.

"And to Antonius. Every family needs a black sheep, they say."

It was the kindest thing Rowan could think to say to the Imperial, and at least he implied that Antonius was part of their "family". When Rowan had finished his toast, he raised his cup up high, sloshing some of the beer around and took a hefty gulp. Taking his seat once more, he could only hope his show had accomplished his goal.

Vorgis gave a rare smile to the people gathering around him. Nodding happily to Vokrash he said, "No one worth noting, feels as if the other houses are losing their bite. Everyone clamours for the exotic matches with their strange foes and odd rules. Seems like they're forgetting the honest pleasure of a straight fight." Taking a swig from his mug he noted Durro inviting Rowan over. The boy liked him, perhaps he was right to but the years had made Vorgis a stern and un-trusting man; especially when it came to his family. He sat and listened to the wild man's speech.

He's quick to try and make friends, this one. "And to Antonius. Every family needs a black sheep, they say." And slow to let go of enemies. Vorgis decided to step in.

"Here, here!" he cried raising his cup as he stood. "For that is what we are now, a family. These men now bear the mark of the blade. From this day forth they are our brothers in arms! There are those that would say to you, once you enter these walls forget your life before. Forget your bonds of clan and blood. I would say the same, not out of anger but respect." He placed a hand on Rowan's shoulder. "Vaan, Asiren, Amon, Imperial." He made sure to put emphasis on the last word. "These things no longer matter. You are something far greater now. Brothers of the sands. You are Clan Gladius!" That sent up a cheer from the rest of the table. Vorgis emptied the rest of his drink and sat back down.

Under the din of the gathering Kirra leaned over to Vokrash from across the table. "So what do you make of them, the new ones?"

"And to Gaius, may the life you live be better than the life you take." Gaius heard Rowan say as he gave off a speech about all of the new gladiators. It gave him little comfort though he did appreciate the sentiment. He raised his cup to Rowan but didn't drink from it. Instead he placed it down and ate some of the fruit. He also said something about the Imperial but Gaius had long since ceased to care. To hate someone because of a past life seemed stupid to him now, they all even admitted their past lives were gone. That they didn't matter anymore. Vorgis began speaking as well/ 'Why must they speak so much I do not understand,' but Gaius did take notice of some of his words.

"...a family. These men now bear the mark of the blade. From this day forth they are our brothers in arms! There are those that would say to you, once you enter these walls forget your life before. Forget your bonds of clan and blood. I would say the same, not out of anger but respect."

Gaius took those words to heart. He would like to accept these men as his brothers, the women as his sisters and perhaps little Durro as a nephew, the thought made him chuckle at least, but they were all still slaves. They still fought for the entertainment of psychopaths who loved the sight of blood, and still put their lives on the line for a man who gives dirt a good name. He was torn between wanting to kill himself for being a slave, being happy for having new kin, and a refusal to fight on the sands.

He accidentally knocked Antonius sitting next to him, pushing his drink out of his hand. Yesterday he would have punched the man and blamed him for knocking his drink, but today he passed him his own drink, sitting there in silence the whole time, simply enjoying his fruit.

"And to Vokrash, our wizened mentor!". Vokrash could not help but let out a short, harsh laugh as Rowan toasted him and sent him a smile. He had never envisioned himself a mentor, but as he looks back over the week he had helped the imperial and had just talked to Gaius. So maybe one day he should fully embrace the role of mentor.

"So what do you make of them, the new ones?" Vokrash heard the voice of Kirra in his ear. "From what I've heard Rowan made a headstrong attack on the sands and tackled on archer off his horse. Gaius has reverted into some form of child over a dead lion and the loss of his life before him." Even telling Vorgis this Vokrash would not tell him how Gaius was captured, that is for him to tell. "The Vaan appears to be taking the death of his kinsman well, I've not heard much about the Pingla. Antonius seems to have finally found some people who do not outright hate him. The Amon, I'll have to wait and see about him. But all in all, they seem to be a decent enough haul. They should go far. But..." Vokrash put much emphasis on this, "they are to bold and rambunctious, if they keep this up they'll get themselves killed before they can reach their prime."

As Vokrash was talking to Kirra he noticed that Gaius was very reserved. He made a mental note to find him after the feast concludes. It appears that Gaius was having trouble adjusting to this new life.

Antonius was led back to the cells. He wonder what had changed with him becoming an gladiator, he figured only time would tell. Still he was worried nothing would change. He would still be shunned, and he had the dark feeling that he would be hated even more since he now wore their precious mark. Antonius sighed thinking about everything that awaited him. Still he would survive somehow, death wasn't an option. He would get out of here, and he would see his son again no matter the cost.

Antonius saw the feast is surprised him. He was quickly dragged along and placed next to 2 gladiators, and Gaius.. Antonius was a bit worried about Gaius, he had shown to hate him the most. Antonius wasn't sure what to make of the feast. He was half afraid that they would poison his beer, or piss in it or something like that. He looked around suspicious looking at his 'fellow gladiators'. It was then that Rowan stood up he had shown to hate Antonius slightly less then Gaius. Still he hated his guts, Antonius was sure of it. Rowan then stood up holding his speech. "And to Antonius. Every family needs a black sheep, they say." At least it was better then let's kill him but it showed how he felt about him. Still at least he was recognized he might be able to work himself up to be their friends one day.

"Here, here!" Oh great he was about to talk. Antonius knew his feelings from the foul looks he had gotten over the last week. "For that is what we are now, a family. Vaan, Asiren, Amon, Imperial." Antonius heard the disgust in his voice. He was no where near forgiven it seemed. "These things no longer matter. You are something far greater now. Brothers of the sands. You are Clan Gladius!" That sent up a cheer from the rest of the table. Antonius doubted that he was one of them now. He knew that most of them still loathed him, still at least they were polite enough to at least try to hide it. Antonius started drinking from his cup, to his surprise he found no poison or anything else filthy. Then he felt Gaius hitting him and knocking the cup out of his hand it broke..

Antonius looked at his cup, so this was how it would be. No matter what he did he would be shunned it seemed, anger rose inside Antonius he looked up looking at Gaius. Who to Antonius surprise gave him him own cup. He took it with graduate drinking it as he looked at Gaius.. maybe this was the time to try and make another friend? Antonius coughed and he then smiled looking at Gaius. "I heard you fought like an real warrior out there. I am proud to call you my brother." He knew that these words would probably annoy Gaius. But he would begin to see that he respected, him hopefully making him a friend eventually.

"I heard you fought like an real warrior out there. I am proud to call you my brother." Gaius could see Antonius was trying to be respectful, so he responded in kind, though his words would no doubt dissapoint Antonius. "I am not your brother. I am no one's brother. But I appreciate what you are trying to say." Gaius looked over his fruit, now finished. He had no appetite but he wasn't sure if he could just leave. Vorgis or Vokrash may go on about some stupid speech about honour or brotherhood. So Gaius just sat there, occasionally picking at the meat.

The thought of spending the night in a cell of his own brought with it a strange mixture of feelings. On one hand, Jamukha looked forward to the peace and quiet that solitude would bring. But Jamukha wasn't sure he wanted to sleep peacefully, even for one night. The image of his brother laying broken on the bank of the great river still haunted his thoughts. Did he deserve a peaceful night, after everything he did?

Before he could sleep though, he would feast. A small light flared up in his eyes as Jamukha beheld the bounty of food laid out for him and his fellow gladiators. His stomach rumbled with anticipation, and his mount began to water. Ever since he had been taken into the care of Varlen Marrick Jamuu had eaten only slop and stale bread. This feast before him called out with all of the seductive allure of a beautiful temptress. Jamukha was so enraptured by the sight of it all that he gladly followed the giant of a woman and sat readily with the female gladiators.

He laughed, and drank, and laughed some more. Glad for the company, he told the female gladiators a few old Amon'tyr jokes and then of his fight with the Darlkling Brothers. Embelishing some of the less interesting details, Jamukha made it a point to emphasis just how quick and cunning he had been. It was the first time since he had become a slave that Jamukha had let his guard down and allowed himself to smile. If there was one thing that could get Jamukha to smile, it was food.

"And just as Antonius was in the greatest need, I wrapped the chain around the Darkling Brother's neck and-" Jamukha was cut off by Rowan, who was about to make a speech.

The speech was short and well said. Jamukha couldn't help but notice the bitterness in Rowan's voice when he brought up Antonius though. It pained him a little, but he did not say anything in Antonius's defense.

"Here, here!" Vorgis decided to continue the toast. The grizzled veteran ended with a sentiment that Jamukha couldn't help but agree with. "You are Clan Gladius!"

"To Clan Gladius!" Jamukha raised his glass and poured the beer down his throat.

"Lahar." Jamukha called to the Vaan. "Tell us some stories from your people." Jamukha hopped to cheer the Vaan up a little after such a long and trying day.

Once they had been all been given their new mark, they were corralled and lead back to the Ludus where they learned that now that they had proven them selves as warriors they would have their own cells. Lahar was glad, he would now be able to meditate without having to drown out the bickering of others first. He was also happy for Antonuis; he would no longer have to worry about a being killed while he slept. As they were lead towards their new cells, he noticed that all the female gladiators cells were empty, at least tonight he did not need to worry about that bear of a woman grouping him.

It became clear why the female cells were empty as they were lead towards the male cells. A feast had been laid out for them, both the male and female gladiators were drinking and feasting already. Food was scarce in the desert, it was always tightly rationed and traders would often have to leave to get more, it was even harder for him, he had to use tricks he had learned during his training: knowing which cacti were edible and finding water by following trails. He had never seen so much food in one place all his life.

Before he could argue, the bear sized woman grabbed him and lead him to sit down next to her. He was worried about her grouping him again so kept an eye on where her hands where, while he tried small helpings of all the exotic foods. Rowan gave a speech trying to comfort him and as he spoke Gaius knocked Antonius' drink out of hands. He saw Gaius give Antonius his drink as an apology, but still looked sullen, he had been unusually quiet since he returned from the arena, Lahar thought a drink might cheer him up.

"You can have my wine, I will be fine with water"

Vorgis gave a rousing speech as well, but Lahar knew that not everyone would be able to forget old rivalries and let bygones be bygones.

"Lahar." Jamukha called over to him. "Tell us some stories from your people."

"We are nomads, we travel the white sands, we fight because we must not because we can" He said "War Walkers spend years training, we then go out on a pilgrimage and forge our blades. Mine were unique, I had two, one for offence one for defence, they were each as black as night and they are part of me. It was a shame that Typhon was not burned with his blade as is tradition."

As Belkin had finally picked out a majority of the meat he was going to feast on, he heard Rowan give his big speech. 'Clearly still trying to boast his way to victory' Belkin though to himself, smiling.

"And to the mysterious Belkin! You may have started as a piglet, but today you grow to be a strong warrior!" he said, eliciting a small grunt from Belkin. He then heard the other man, the one they called Vorgis speak. His speech was simple enough, telling them to forget their past life and join the heard of sheep that lived here. But there was one part that he paid keep interest to.

"Vaan, Asiren, Amon, Imperial."'........But no Pingla mention...good' thought Belkin, looking around at the species around him. Male, Female, Vaan, Asieren, Amon, Imperial...and he the only anomaly. He was reminded of a well versed line from his training:

Kell Sazner tel Avel nar Borala tel...Borala tel Avel nar Sanzer tel

The feast went on into the night, most of the gladiators laughed, ate and drank themselves into a mild stupor by the end of it. They had all survived a brutal and gruelling day and they were going to celebrate.

Satisfied with what Vokrash had told her Kirra nodded and turned to Rowan. "I hear you fought like a man possessed in the arena today. Does master Roan plan to get himself a champion's title?" She asked, her mouth tilting into a wry smile.

Lahar and Jamukha were given a more than warm welcome from the female gladiators, who all agreed they had not had such - as they called them - "pretty" recruits in a long time. "Sounds like you did well then." Said an olive skinned woman to Jamukha. She might have been beautiful if it weren't for the collection of scars criss crossing her face an the ragged look around her eyes. She'd introduced herself as Colemara, Cole for short. "Just you wait till they send you to the hippodrome. All the Amon get sent there eventually and racing season is coming up."

All the while beside them a young blonde gladiator was trying to play with Lahar's hair. "I love how you Vaan paint yourselves. How do you do it? Why do you do it? Do you have any with you now?" She threw the questions at him without pause. The bear shaped woman, who they had learned was called Gelda, laughed and gave Lahar a playful punch on the arm. "Don't mind Irri, she's got a soft spot for your lot. Had her eye on you since you arrived."
"Shut up, Gelda!" Protested Irri.

Belkin was greeted as quite the curiosity, none of the other gladiators had heard of the island of the Pingla and he in turn learned of the smaller clans and tribes in this new land. They went by strange names like Raund, Bant, Gorvil and many more which sounded foreign to him. But these were tiny groups most of which were not deemed worth mentioning to Imperial Generals. The red haired gladiator explained to him how the Imperial military refereed to the Vaan, Asiren and Amon as "The big 3". "They're more than just a bunch of tribes and clans you see? They're nations in their own right." The topic of politics seemed to have gotten him stirred up.

Vokrash and Vorgis passed most of their time with idle chatter. "Remember when I first arrived here? Seemed like a right of passage to get your ass kicked by the mighty Vokrash. What happened to that little tradition? You think Gaius is having trouble then why not beat the fight back into him? Hell, I'll help you." Vorgis gave a throaty chuckle and took another gulp of wine. The drink may have started taking an effect on him.

Antonius and Giaus on the other hand had a quieter time at their end of the table. The gladiators around them seemed put off by Gaius' sullen silence but were happy speak with Antonius. They were especially curious about what he had done to earn the anger of his own empire. What ever it was they were sure it must have been good and that made him all right in their books. "what did you do anyway?" asked the tanned, hawk looking gladiator, who had introduced himself as Benjen.

Rowan gave Vorgis a polite nod and smile as he felt the hand on his shoulder. He noted the emphasis Vorgis put on the word "Imperial" and his fist tightened around the leg of meat he'd been devouring. It would seem Vorgis was just as clever, and his message was "Don't cause any trouble with Antonius." Rowan couldn't help but think eventually the Imperial would do or say something that might set him off, and the Gods themselves wouldn't be able to stop him from ripping that murdering Skaad's throat out. Concealing his emotions, Rowan laughed with the rest of the group, ate some more, and lifted his cup in a toast to House Gladius. Lahar was explaining the traditions of the Vaan, and Rowan listened intently. The part about them fighting only because they needed to made Rowan's face redden. Perhaps he'd been drinking a little too much, because he couldn't help but blurt out a sly comment aimed at Antonius

"We fight because we must not because we can." Lahar explained.

"Seems like there's alot of that going around these days." Rowan said in response. He rubbed his forehead before continuing to eat and drink. Conversations turned to murmured blurs, and Rowan watched as the female gladiators began to circle their prey, picking and poking and prodding at the men around them. It reminded Rowan of the women back at his tribe. They too were strong and strong willed. Some of them were even pretty, though Rowan had never taken the time to take a wife. The only love he had was Morgal, and he had sent her many tokens of his affection over the years.

Rowan was drawn from his thoughts when Kirra began to speak to him. She was asking about his fight on the sands, or at least that was what he could make out. As he'd hoped, the tales of his fight had reached many ears. If he was being perfectly honest with himself, the stunt Rowan pulled earlier that day was reckless, and it would have killed him nine out of ten times. But here in his new life, reckless men made for good entertainment. And Morgal had given him a sign the day he'd lost his necklace. All of those feathers represented lives he'd given to her over the years, and Rowan believed that Morgal had taken the necklace in exchange for saving him from the mortal wound he'd received that day. As long as he remained her loyal servant, Rowan believed strongly that she would protect him just as she did when he was sold.

"I hear you fought like a man possessed in the arena today. Does master Roan plan to get himself a champion's title?" Her smile made him nervous, though his nerves might have been due to the heavy amount of drink he'd consumed as well.

"A champions title would be nice, yes. Though if I can fight well and entertain, that will be enough for me."

"Remember when I first arrived here? Seemed like a right of passage to get your ass kicked by the mighty Vokrash. What happened to that little tradition? You think Gaius is having trouble then why not beat the fight back into him? Hell, I'll help you." Vorgis gave a throaty chuckle and took another gulp of wine. The drink may have started taking an effect on him.

"Ah, I'm to old for those types of things now" chuckled Vokrash as he downed another mug of beer. "You have taken over my job well enough. However there doesn't seem to be as much begging for their lives to be spared nowadays with you running the beatings." However Vokrash did notice that Gaius was not his usual self. It seems like they would need to have another talk.

Belkin had listened to the men around him, other warriors from tribes that were unknown to him, their tribes being many named but were all considered small compared to the Vaan, Asieren and Amon'tyr. In Belkin's mind, the only reasons that he could see as to why he was considered similar to them was because the war the Pingla were having with the Empire was only 2-3 years old, so they weren't as well known as the others, and that his isle home was separated from the Empire by the sea, making them seem like much less of a threat. He listened to the red haired one rant on about the the 3 main tribes, "They're more than just a bunch of tribes and clans you see? They're nations in their own right." he said, clearly stirred up.

Belkin just laughed and shook his head. "You make it sound like they're stealing your cattle and having their way with your wife" he said, clearly amused by the anger. 'They're small tribes. If they REALLY were to try and make the Empire attack them, they'd probably last a lot less than they'd think!' he thought.

Antonius looked at the depressed looking Gaius. Still he didn't have much time to think about Gaius as he was having an conversation with a few of the other gladiators sitting around him. "what did you do anyway?" asked the tanned, hawk looking gladiator, named Benjen. Antonius was in doubt for a few moments so he just took another gulp of his beer before answering in a half truth. "Well the empire betrayed me actually. You see I married an beautiful woman, but she came from an rich family. So of course thy disapproved of her marrying a simple soldier. So they send armed men to kill me so they could take their daughter back by force.." Antonius face darkens as he took anther gulp of his beer.

Antonius told the rest of his story with an mix between an sad and angry tone. "The thugs came to my house to kill me... But instead of me they found my wife they killed her... By the time I came back home I found the burned corpse of my wife, as they had burned down my house to hide any evidence of them being there. And the rich family of my wife made sure I would be sold into slavery to see me suffer longer." Antonius looked at his cup with an very sad expression. "But after what the Empire did to me I lost all believe in it. It is just an rotten nation that needs to be destroyed." Antonius looked up at Benjen changing his expression to an neutral one. "But that all happened in the past let's not dwell on it now." Antonius drank the rest of his beer "So how did you do end up here Benjen?" Antonius asked changing the subject.

Rowan had finished his food and was concentrating heavily on downing as much drink as he could possibly manage. All the while he kept up a rousing conversation with Durro, and indeed anyone who would listen, about his fight on the sands. He praised Lahar's skills, and made the Maurie Clan sound more ferocious than they really were. He talked about the roar of the crowd as he raised his axes high into the sunlight, and how the whole time all he was thinking about was six gold shards. He joked that by the end of his match, his value must have increased. Just across the table, Rowan could hear one of the veteran gladiators asking Antonius what he'd done to bring about the ire of The Empire. Rowan had heard the story their first night in the cells, and he'd heard the story Marrick had told. What he hadn't heard was this new tale, of forbidden love and vengeful parents.

Rowan could hardly believe what he was hearing. That first night, Every man among them had shared the pain and fear and anguish caused by the Empire and Antonius had taken advantage of them all. He'd lied to their faces, and for what? Now he sat amongst them and had the nerve to lie once more? Rowan's judgement was cloudy, but even so he realized attempting to stand would probably result in him stumbling all over the table, so he simply sat, cup in hand, and stared at Antonius with his signature grin now twisted with anger. He let the Imperial finish spewing his lies, before he spoke up, loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Poor Antonius, first you murder your wife, then she's killed by the Empire because you refused to murder children, and now her parents have killed her in protest of your marriage. Tomorrow I dare say she may be eaten by dogs, or shot by a stray arrow."

Rowan refilled his cup and took a healthy gulp of it, never taking his eyes off of Antonius. He knew from the moment he saw the Imperial that he'd be trouble, and now he had the proof. Vorgis had called them a family, part of Clan Gladius, but family did not lie to each other. Family did not manipulate one another.

"So tell me, brother...Tell us.." Rowan made a sweeping motion with his hands, indicating the rest of the table's occupants.

"Do you even have a wife?"

"Poor Antonius, first you murder your wife, then she's killed by the Empire because you refused to murder children, and now her parents have killed her in protest of your marriage. Tomorrow I dare say she may be eaten by dogs, or shot by a stray arrow. So tell me, brother...Tell us.." Rowan made a sweeping motion with his hands, indicating the rest of the table's occupants. Do you even have a wife?" Antonius looked calmly at Rowan.

Antonius was eating some food when Rowan had begun talking. Allot of people were staring at Antonius. "Well I had an wife yes... not anymore though. And my version is the same as Marric's story, But if you don't trust me why not ask Marric? He will tell you that my dead wifes dad is an member of the senate. You think someone with such status couldn't pull that off? And in case you were wondering why I lied first that is quite simple, you were ready to kill me and I didn't want to die. I never risked my life for an group of fugitives I was simple screwed over. And why would I lie? Why would I tell an story that makes me look like less of one of you, unless it was the truth?" Antonius looked at Rowan, the person he hated most. "And I can't call myself anyones brother if I keep lying now can I? I can't so that is why I told the truth. And if you don't believe me then fine go ask Marric." Antonius looked at Rowan with an irritated look.

Rowan leaned back, studying Antonius with a cold and calculating glare. He listened as the Imperial fumbled to try and defend himself, deflecting to their master Marrick. Rowan had no desire to bring this qualm to Marrick's attention until either he or Antonius lay bloody on the floor. Rowan noticed the room had gone quiet as a mouse, everyone focused on the argument that was unfolding. It seemed to him that it wouldn't be fair not to have such an audience. Rowan stood and leaned on the table, his muscles tensing to support his weight.

"So you would use the pain and loss of your 'brothers' to save your own skin? You could have told us the truth that night, that your wife was murdered by her father's soldiers. Yet you refused, and betrayed the trust that this mark symbolizes." Rowan turned his arm over so that everyone could see the brand of House Marrick, as well as the sword of the Gladiator, burned into his skin.

"Worse yet, you piece of slime, you betrayed your wife. Do you believe her memory is so worthless, so meaningless that you can taint it with lie after lie only to benefit yourself? No, I don't think you had a wife at all. No woman would take into her life a man so cruel and selfish."

Rowan glanced at the gladiators around him, his face softening. Each of them, he had no doubts, were victims of true pain and suffering. Suffering that Antonius would use against them to gain their trust. He looked back at Antonius, but his words were aimed at the rest of the men at the table.

"I will not fight with such a man on the sands, and neither should any of you. If we are truly Clan Gladius, we must be able to trust and respect each other. This Skaad will stab each and every one of you in the back just to live 'till tomorrow, and he will not blink twice. If I could, I would kill you here and now, and rid us of your stink."

"So you would use the pain and loss of your 'brothers' to save your own skin? You could have told us the truth that night, that your wife was murdered by her father's soldiers. Yet you refused, and betrayed the trust that this mark symbolizes." Rowan turned his arm over so that everyone could see the brand of House Marrick, as well as the sword of the Gladiator, burned into his skin. Antonius also stood up showing his marks as he looked at Rowan. "I did not wear that mark back then did I? I lied to a couple of other slaves who were about to kill me for debating over what the Empire was like. I was only answering a question asked to my by Lahar and yet you saw fit to murder me for it. Why would I tell the truth to such people? I mean you saw fit to kill me just for the reason that I was an imperial. I mean what kind of reason for killing an man is answering an question?!" Antonius voice was louder while speaking the last sentence.

"Worse yet, you piece of slime, you betrayed your wife. Do you believe her memory is so worthless, so meaningless that you can taint it with lie after lie only to benefit yourself? No, I don't think you had a wife at all. No woman would take into her life a man so cruel and selfish." "I never betrayed anyone. I told an lie to keep people like you in the dark, you do not deserve to know what has happend to her. And you can think all you want but I was married. I even have this." He put up his right hand with an clear white mark on his ring finger. "This is clearly an wedding ring since as you know normal rings don't have this shape."

"I will not fight with such a man on the sands, and neither should any of you. If we are truly Clan Gladius, we must be able to trust and respect each other. This Skaad will stab each and every one of you in the back just to live 'till tomorrow, and he will not blink twice. If I could, I would kill you here and now, and rid us of your stink."
"And you are basing that I would be willing to kill my brothers, on the simple fact that I lied to a couple of slaves? There is something really wrong with you. And the last I checked we were gladiators, so if you really want to expose me as such an liar why not fight me? You see I think you are just doing this out of fear that if we would meet in the arena you would lose. So grab your weapons and prove that you are indeed an gladiator and an member of Clan Gladius as you say. Because an real member of the clan of Gladius takes on any challenge, he doesn't hid behind words to fight his battles for him" Antonius looked at Rowan with an mean smile. He gave Lahar and quick look when he turned his head to look around to the group. The look made it clear to Lahar that he shouldn't interfere, Antonius hoped his friend had seen this look. He had given the look so fast that Nobody expect Lahar had seen it.

Listening to Lahar talk about his people, Jamukha couldn't help but feel a certain kinship with the man. From the tone of the Vaan's voice, it was clear just how much his weapons had meant to him. Jamuu knew from personal experience just how disheartening it was to lose such an important part of oneself.

"He is at peace now." Jamukha said, placing a reassuring hand on Lahar's shoulder. "That is all that matters now."

Jamukha drank and ate some more. His belly gradually swelled with each cup of beer and slab of meat until it felt ready to burst. He continued his bragging, hoping to impress the female gladiators as much as possible. It honestly felt good for Jamukha to have something he could be proud of again.

"Sounds like you did well then." One of the female gladiators said to him. She was an olive skinned woman with scars across her face. Cole was the name she gave, and Jamukha gave her permission to use his shortened name as well.

"Just you wait till they send you to the hippodrome. All the Amon get sent there eventually and racing season is coming up."

The smile on Jamukha's face faded for a moment at the thought of racing again. The last time he had raced, it had cost him everything he held dear.

"Yes, well..." Jamuu struggled to smile, trying to keep the tone light. Thankfully, he was interrupted by Rowan from across the table.

"So tell me, brother...Tell us.." Something in Rowan's voice made Jamukha uneasy.

"Do you even have a wife?"

Jamukha listened to the two of them agree intently. His face grew darker and darker as he realized the extent of Antonius's lies. It became clear that Antonius thought of them as nothing more than barbarians and ignorant barbarians at that. Any pity or sympathy for the Imperial that Jamukha had quickly faded. How could he trust a man who used the memory of his dead wife to suit his own needs?

Jamukha had thought that Antonius had shown himself to be an honorable warrior during their fight on the sands, one committed to brotherhood above all else. But was the Imperial really just looking out for himself after all?

"Rowan is right."Jamukha said, standing up. "I'll not put my life in the hands of a liar." Jamuu looked at Rowan and nodded. "If you choose fight this Imperial, I will be your second."

Vokrash was having a merry time swapping tales of fights of old with Vorgis, and then Rowan started talking. "So tell me, brother...Tell us... Do you even have a wife?" Vokrash looked at Rowan with fire in his eyes, but Rowan was either too drunk or too focused on Antonius to see. Vokrash could hear Antonius fumble around a response and trying to change the subject and realized that all three of his stories were lies.

The talk went on and on and eventually Jamukha entered the fray. "Rowan is right. I'll not put my life in the hands of a liar. If you choose fight this Imperial, I will be your second." With that Vokrash had decided it was time to intervene.

"Enough!" Vokrash boomed this through the entire feasting hall and everyone turned towards him. "You are not children. You are men, gladiators, so start acting like it. Rowan..." Fire was burning in Vokrash's eyes and his entire body was tense and beginning to twitch in anticipation should a brawl arise. "You will be silent or by the gods I will make you silent. You think that one idiotic feat makes you a force to be reckoned with? I've been fighting since before you suckled at your mother's teat. And you..." Vokrash turned his attention to Antonius. "You do not lie to your brothers no matter what. Even as a gladiator you are still a slave, so do not use that excuse again. And you Amon, do not join in and escalate things to violence. Fighting and killing are for the sands, not for the feast hall."

Vokrash looked around the entire hall and dared them to start something.

I Fight Therefore I Am

The tense silence was broken by the executor rising from his seat and giving up a slow sarcastic applause. "True enough, true enough my boys. Clearly there are some people here who can't handle their drink. I think it's time for lights out." And with that they were each lead to their new cells and locked in for the night.

Soon afterwards the executor found himself standing to attention before Varlen Marrick. "We have a problem with your imperial." He proceeded to report on what had happened down in the cells.

"Three coppers, a bargain I thought, make some easy money I thought. Why is nothing ever simple?"

"What do you want to do?"

"Let's get him out of here tomorrow, give the others some time to forget him. Book him in for ant beta matches you can find, the cauldron usually have some slots open."

"That place is a hole." The executor protested.

"I don't care! Just make sure I can make a better profit from him before the others rip him to shreds! Going from what you've said these Asieren are proving to be more trouble than their worth."

"I disagree sir, Gaius might be doomed for mediocrity but Rowan has truly taken to the life, embraced it even. I think he could be the one you've been looking for."
Marrick's eyes lit up at that.

"Then do it. Start his training tomorrow, with any luck we can debut the Efferus style by the next major event."

"With all due respect sir, are you sure about this?"

"Positive." Marrick's voice was like iron.

"Then if I may speak freely sir. You've got some massive balls naming the new style that. The nobility will want your tongue for it."

"Then the senators can suck my massive balls! See it done!"
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The next day the newly made gladiators were each lead to their business.

Meanwhile back at the Ludus, the other gladiators were lead out into the courtyard for their daily training. As they all went about their own business, exercising or sparring with the wooden versions of whatever weapon they prefer the executor cracked his whip and separated Rowan and Belkin from the rest. "You." He said, pointing his coiled whip at Rowan. "You are to be trained in the art of the noble sword, forget those common axes you Asieren love so much. And you." This time he pointed at Belkin. "You are not ignorant when it comes to one handed swords. Beat that knowledge into him." With that he left the two of them and went back to supervising the other gladiators.

Rowan snarled in anger as the Imperial continued to goad him on. Antonius was actually insulting him, questioning his honor, and he thought he could get away with it? If Durro hadn't been sitting right next to him, Rowan would have flipped the table and gone at Antonius like a wild dog. But he restrained himself for the sake of the boy. Rowan was relieved to see Jamuu jump to his aid, obviously as fed up with Antonius' lies and insults as he was. His friend even offered to stand beside him in combat, should things come to blows. Rowan doubted it would go that far. As much as he wanted to, he knew Marrick would not allow two of his gladiators to beat each other senseless without a crowd of well paying customers to watch it happen.

"You dare to question ME about honor and integrity?" Rowan was full on shouting now, his courage bolstered by the beer in his cups.

"You should pray to whatever god will take you that we do not meet on the sands. I will not be as easy for you to kill as your wife was." Rowan spat clean across the table at Antonius as he spoke the last words, and whirled his head around to see Vokrash rise to his feet in order to stop the conflict.

Enough!" Vokrash boomed this through the entire feasting hall and everyone turned towards him. "You are not children. You are men, gladiators, so start acting like it. Rowan..." Fire was burning in Vokrash's eyes and his entire body was tense and beginning to twitch in anticipation should a brawl arise. "You will be silent or by the gods I will make you silent. You think that one idiotic feat makes you a force to be reckoned with? I've been fighting since before you suckled at your mother's teat."

For a while Rowan simply stared at Vokrash, sizing him up. His face was twisted in anger and his eyes were glazed over. After some time, Rowan grunted and slumped back in his seat, content to honor the old man's wishes of peace. After the feast, Rowan walked to his cell in utter silence, and slept almost the instant he touched the ground.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
The next day Rowan awoke with a pounding head and an aching heart. He was led out to the training yard, and quickly realized that Jamuu and Lahar were absent. Fortunately, Antonius was also not among the gladiators training in the yard. Rowan stretched his body awake and looked around for something to take his frustrations out on, only to hear the crack of the whip and the shout of the executor. He turned to see what the man wanted, curious as ever.

"You." He said, pointing his coiled whip at Rowan. "You are to be trained in the art of the noble sword, forget those common axes you Asieren love so much."

Rowan rubbed his eyes and shook his head. He was shocked to hear that he wouldn't be using weapons that he was most familiar, and most deadly, with. He figured it must be some sort of retribution or punishment for his actions during the feast. And Belkin was apparently going to teach him, a prospect Rowan didn't exactly look forward to. The Pingla was a dangerous fighter, and would no doubt have an advantage over Rowan given this specific style of fighting. Any time someone had an advantage over Rowan, it made him nervous.

Belkin was starting to enjoy the verbal brawl that the Empire slave and the Asieren were having when the man looked like the leader of the whole lot, Vokrash, spoke up:

"Enough!" Vokrash boomed this through the entire feasting hall and everyone turned towards him. "You are not children. You are men, gladiators, so start acting like it. Rowan..." Fire was burning in Vokrash's eyes and his entire body was tense and beginning to twitch in anticipation should a brawl arise. "You will be silent or by the gods I will make you silent. You think that one idiotic feat makes you a force to be reckoned with? I've been fighting since before you suckled at your mother's teat. And you..." Vokrash turned his attention to Antonius. "You do not lie to your brothers no matter what. Even as a gladiator you are still a slave, so do not use that excuse again. And you Amon, do not join in and escalate things to violence. Fighting and killing are for the sands, not for the feast hall."

At that point the hall fell silent, until the Executor spoke up and everyone was left to go to their rooms. Belkin's room far the farthest from the door, but still as small as every other gladiators room. The place was silent for the whole night as Belkin just looked at the grey walls around him before heading to sleep. This cell needs colour...it needs my home he thought to himself, knowing how Homesick he was by now.

---

Belkin woke up the next day to find that Lahar, Jamukha and, more importantly, the Empire slave, weren't around. This gave him some ease of mind, as there would be less tension in the group. However, as the whip cracked and he and Rowan were asked to come forward, he remembered the day would not be easy. Turned out, it could be quite the opposite:

"You." He said, pointing his coiled whip at Rowan. "You are to be trained in the art of the noble sword, forget those common axes you Asieren love so much. And you." This time he pointed at Belkin. "You are not ignorant when it comes to one handed swords. Beat that knowledge into him."

"With Pleasure" Belkin replied, looking over towards Rowan. He was visably shocked, the Asieren were used to using weapons that were meant to rip flesh, not finely carve it. Belkin had more than a clear advantage over the Asieren...but he would toy with the instagator for now, no use of the shield as a weapon, no need to destroy their defence with a single slice.

Belkin walked over to the weapons, picking up two swords and a shield. He threw one of the swords at Rowan's feet and then paced away from him, Sword and Shield in his hand. "I hope you know how to use more than just words to fight" he said to Rowan, trying to lead him on, "Because a Sword is much more powerful than your tribe would care to know"

Leaning against the hippodrome wall, Jamukha went over the events of the previous night again and again in his head. The drink took the better of me, he decided. Jamukha had allowed his anger to control him, and as a result he was taken in by Rowan's words. I looked like a fool, standing there while that old brute scolded me like a infant. The thought made his face flush with anger.

The others must think I am a pathetic child. Jamukha could not blame them if they did. Only cowards and wretches started fights at a feast, which was supposed to be a time for peace and brotherhood. Who cares what they think? I am Jamukha, son of Khulay. No man can sit and judge me. As Jamuu thought that, the scarred face of Colemara entered his mind. This time his face reddened with shame. Why did he care what she thought?

"He'll be yours today." Jamukha's attention was drawn to the slave who had appeared before him. So startled was Jamuu, that he nearly forgot the purpose of his visit to the hippodrome. "It's a quiet one today, games won't be starting till later this afternoon. You can take some practice laps with him if you like.

"Thank you." Jamuu nodded to the slave as he took the reins of the horse. "Does he have a name?" If Jamuu would be ridding it was important to him to know the name of his partner.

Running his hand through the thick mane, Jamukha studied the creature before him. A mass of thick muscle and tendons, this beast was made to race. His coat was the color of rust and sun dried clay. Jamukha was reminded of his own horse, the one he had raced his brother on. It was not a pleasant thought, and he quickly banished it from his mind.

Gaius sat at the table next to Antonious as he and Rowan had a verbal brawl, he felt some of Rowan's spit as he spat his words at the imperial. He just wiped it off and sat there in silence until Vokrash and the executor made everyone in the hall as quiet as him.

He was lead to his cell and gathered his surroundings. Grey and depressing, he tried to find some sleep... he couldn't. He waited on his back until the next day, his eyes wide open until he was lead out into the training ground. He was about to start practising with the wooden battleaxe against the large wooden sparring post when he noticed Rowan being forced to fight with a sword. He thought for a moment. 'Perhaps another weapon could keep my mind occupied'. He looked across the wooden weapons before deciding to pick up the spear and dagger. An odd combination but perhaps it could be of some entertainment.

He found it surprisingly efficient, of course it wasn't a real battle but he was able to block his body with the spear, possibly deflecting sword attacks, while being able to slash with the dagger and stab at long range with the spear. It gave him some enjoyment, and he actually found himself cracking a smile every once in a while.

As Vokrash finished the entire hall was silent until the executor stepped in and everybody was sent to their cells. In the morning Vokrash went to practice his hand to hand against a fellow veteran when he noticed that Rowan and Belkin were being led off by the executor and beginning to spar with swords. He also noticed that Jamukha and Antonius were not here and he wondered whether Marrick had sent Antonius to the Cauldron. Finally he saw that Gaius was training with a dagger and spear and was occasionally cracking smiles as he practiced. Maybe the lad will be alright, he just needs some time to straighten his new life out. Gods know I did Vokrash thought to himself. Finally, he turned back and continued his training.

"You dare to question ME about honor and integrity?" Rowan was full on shouting now.
"You should pray to whatever god will take you that we do not meet on the sands. I will not be as easy for you to kill as your wife was." The dumb fighters were angered as usual, and now his courage was increased by the beer. What a stupid lightweight. all Antonius did was smile at him making him even more angry. Rowan would be easily to defeat he had put more then 100 warrior better then him into the ground. Still he was once again hated by everyone that was unfortunate but it also strengthened his believe that he needed to stay away from men such as Rowan. Still maybe not every gladiator hated him, he was sure at least an couple of them just didn't care much. there was bound to be another imperial slave here with whom he might form an friendship. And he had Lahar as an trusted friend, that was if he was still his friend. Antonius was taken to his cell and quickly fell asleep.

Antonius was brought to the cauldron the next morning. A pit which was where gladiators where send to either prove their worth or die. Antonius wasn't about to die he would prove his worth, a strange blood thirst arose from inside him. This reminded him of an battle he once fought he was supposed to die, but he didn't that was where he gained the nickname 'the iron commander'. He now realized how he had been behaving and it was all wrong. To survive in this world he had to smile and praise everyone, sure it would take them for him to regain his lost favor, but he knew now that it was the only way to survive. Antonius was shoved forwards he saw 2 other gladiators... no not gladiators savages he knew this fight would be easy if he got the right weapon.

The game maker stepped forwards. "Choose your weapons!!" Antonius had the choice between a bear a cat and a snake. Figuring that the cat was most likely an knife the snake a whip and the bear an hammer he chose the knife. Antonius grabbed the cat one looking at the game maker. His hand to hand prowess was enough to save him here. Antonius knew this was the gods way of saying that this was his last change. He would be victorious even if it mean leaving everything he had once believed behind. this battle would test him he would either change and survive or stay the same and die.

The crowd roared as the games master raised each token high. Antonius received a pair of spiked knuckle dusters, "The claws!" They were called. The taller of his two opponents, who had chosen the bear, was given a two handed hammer with a bunch of rusted nails sticking out of its head. The shorter of the two was given a chain with a blade on one end. And at that the games master got as far as he could from the three fighters. Seemingly viewing the man with the hammer as the biggest threat, the chain wielding fighter lashed out at him, slashing his opponent on the cheek. The, now injured, fighter started swinging his hammer in a wide circle around his head in an attempt to try and keep his opponents at bay.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________In the courtyard of the Marrick ludus, Vorgis made his way up to Gaius. "You know a dummy will only get you so far when you're trying out a new technique." He said, knocking on the wooden man's head. "Come on." He motioned for Gaius to join him in an open patch of ground in the middle of the yard. "Try it on someone who can react." He spread his arms out in open challenge to the gladiator.

While in the background the executor cracked his whip and shouted at Belkin and Rowan. "I'm not seeing any broken heads!" He took a training axe from the weapon racks he strode up to Vokrash. "Make sure those two get some training in. Break whatever you have to."
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Another rider and his horse trotted up to Jamukha. "They don't give them names, you can call him whatever you like." The rider held himself tall and proudly, sitting upon his mount as if the two were made for each other. The man was fair skinned and his hair fairer still. The horse was his complete opposite. It was broad and muscular and its coat was black as night. "You're new here aren't you? Well you may call me kranst and this fellow," he said patting the horse beneath him. "is Shade. At least that's what I call him today." Kranst seemed to smile at his own joke. "You needn't worry. Things are different here, the matches aren't nearly as bloody. That isn't to say a few people aren't killed but most opponents will be more focused on controlling their horses rather than stabbing each other in the head." Kranst stopped himself at that and cleared his throat. "But I'm rambling. If I hadn't scared you off then, please, join me in a few laps around the track." And with that Kranst and Shade set off at a canter along the straight stretch of the hippodrome.

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