I Am Gladiator! (Closed, Started)

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As Vokrash neared Vorgis and began to call out to him he heard a voice. He heard a man calling him. He was given a sword and shield and was told that he, Rowan, and Belkin were going to go ensure Antonius' safety. "This a good chance to prove ourselves, or do you have something involving more Beasts to gain favour?" "Once again, the sands will be your judging area. The only thing that matters right now is making sure that Antonius makes it back."

As they fought in the chaos Belkin became lost to Vokrash's field of vision but made his way back to Rowan and Vokrash. "Well, unless you two have any ideas, I say we charge into the crowd and use our shields to help try to disperce them". "Use your shields to get to Antonius, but kill anyone who gets too close to him." With that Vokrash dashed into the crowd using his shield as a battering ram towards Antonius.

Again with the swords Rowan thought as a steel blade and a thick wooden shield were thrust into his hands. Marrick shouted orders at them, and Rowan listened intently, nodding with a grin on his face once more. Blood would be shed soon, just the thing to get his mind off of all that had happened that day. Rowan fell in line besides Belkin, Vokrash, and the smattering of armored guards that were to accompany them. The noises of the riot got louder as they marched closer, and Rowan was not at all surprised to find the source of such unrest to be Antonius. The Imperial was surrounded by guards and rioters, the center of an ocean of blood and shouts. For a moment Rowan contemplated letting the people have Antonius. Maybe he would die in the streets, covered in filth, befitting of a dog such as he. Or maybe Rowan could sneak close enough, and slip his own sword between the Imperial's ribs without anyone noticing. The death would no doubt be blamed on the common people, and Rowan would be rid of Antonius forever.

Instead, Rowan looked to Belkin and Vokrash for guidance. The general idea seemed to be to use their shields as protection until they could reach Antonius and help him get to safety. Rowan raised his shield high, covering his face and chest, and began to move into the riot. He felt fists, bottles, and even mud crash against his shield, but Rowan pressed on, smacking and bashing with his shield arm whenever he had the chance. Rowan stayed close to Vokrash and Belkin, trying to use all three shields as one. He inched closer and closer to Antonius, his eyes betraying his reluctance to save such a man.

As he got closer, Rowan could hear one of the rioters shouting and screaming, and suddenly a man was charging straight at him, a crude weapon raised high in his right hand. Rowan grunted, bent his knees, and raised his shield high, catching the man's blow and sending him stumbling backwards. Rowan reached his sword arm above his shield and stabbed straight into the rioters neck, causing the man to spit and gurgle a fountain of blood. Rowan shoved the man away with his shield, and tried to stay focused on reaching Antonius.

Antonius was being cheered on, he was still holding his hand in the air. "Antonius! Antonius!" Antonius froze, that voice could it be? He turned around and it was him indeed. A tall man stood amidst the crowd, he looked like Antonius only a bit taller and less muscled. Antonius scar on his forehead mirrored by an scar running down the mans left cheek. Antonius looked at him when he began to yell back with an very large smile on his face. "Socius!" Socius couldn't hear him from there."Antonius, over here!" Antonius walked closer to the ring of guards. "I see you Socius!" Antonius was smiling at Socius, who in returned smiled back. But then it happened the people around him started rioting, Antonius didn't know where it came from but he was glad he had guards at that moment.

He stepped forward and grabbed Socius, he pulled him closer to him. He used the confusion caused by the looters to talk to Socius. He quickly whispered something too soft for anyone else to hear "How is she?" Socius smiled. "She is fine Antonius." Antonius could feel tears of joy gathering in his eyes. Everything he had done since he got captured wasn't for nothing, his wife still lived. "Socius, brother get to safety it isn't safe here." Antonius looked at Socius with a worried expression. Socius smiled "I will be fine brother. I will come to see you after all this, now that I know were you are being held." Antonius smiled at his best friend who in turn smiled back. Antonius let go of him and stepped back. "Go Socius!" Socius nodded and turned around, he grabbed his weapons. Socius was an experienced warrior he quickly made his way though the crowd, only looking back once to see Antonius nodding at him. Socius disappeared into an side alley.

They would meet again Antonius was sure of it, the shield wall was holding against the rioters. One rioter tried to push an guard of his feet, the guard was struggling against the large rioter. Antonius quickly stepped forward and gave the man a right hook, the mans stumbled back with an surprised scream. He was however attacked by another rioter as the circle closed again. Antonius looked around for any threats, his wounds were still bleeding a little. Antonius could feel the exhaustion from his fights, this exhaustion was however washed away by adrenaline. Antonius stepped into the middle of the circle, preparing himself for any attacks from the looters. Antonius saw the reinforcements heading too them, he was happy to see them heading toward them, as the riot grew worse.

Artus left the room in a huff, visably unhappy at having to meet with the other senator, in his rush he left his blade on the table. Lyria moved over and tutted, the smile never leaving her mouth and explained to Lahar that he never used to leave the blade behind. She then left the room and returned with a set of black boots, trousers and coat telling him to try them after she draped the coat over his shoulders and turned around promising not to look.

The trousers where tighter then the ones he wore himself, he wouldn't have the same freedom of movement but it was better then what they had given him during his last fight in the arena. He longed for his sandals instead of the clumsy over sized boots, but accepted them regarless, tucking the ecxess length of the trousers inside them. The coat was long and high collared, designed to keep the sun off those not used to it's heat.

"These clothes are fine, did they used to belong to Artus? How did he become a Walker, I've never heard of an Imperial walking the sands? How do you know him, you don't seem like a slave or servant?" He was full of questions, and not knowing how to ask them politely he blurted them out one after another. He realized his mistake and tried to apologise, "I'm sorry, this is all so new for me, I'm sorry if I offended you again."

Gaius felt some pride in defeating Benjen. He was beginning to realise how different fighting in an arena was to fighting on a battlefield. There is a need to be flashy and attempt to impress people. He didn't quite care who he impressed but today it was his intention, plus Benjen was gracious in defeat which gave Gaius the smallest of smiles.

"How about you show me some of that spear work you were doing?" Said Vorgis suddenly as he struck a spear into the ground next to Gaius's feet. He motioned to the red haired gladiator Belkin was talking to. "Dran, you know your spear work better than most. Put him through his paces."

"With pleasure." Said the red haired man (now known as Dran) jogged up to Gaius, spear in hand and buckler on wrist. Dran struck a fighting stance and levelled his spear. "Whenever you're ready."

Durro suddenly ran over and handed Gaius a small wooden dagger, the boy must have seen him train with his father. Gaius thanked the boy and copied Dran's stance. "Ready" he said with confidence.

Dran was unlike Benjen and charged straight towards Gaius. The Asiren would have mistaken him for brash, if it wasn't for the fact that he could barely block or dodge Dran's attacks. Left and right Gaius dodged, the tip just poking against his skin with every hit. Were it a real spear Gaius's chest would be covered in small bleeding dots. Gaius tried to charge forward and instead was met with a strong smack with the near tip of the blade right in the side of the head. Gaius was staggered and was about to fall to his knees and collapse on the floor, however his eyes just caught Dran readying another lightning quick attack at his face.

In a desperate attempt Gaius rolled forward underneath his strike and quickly ran a couple steps to gain some distance on Dran. The read haired man turned and laughed, soon joined by fellow gladiators, mocking Gaius. The Asiren tried to keep his composure, suppressing his emotions and keeping his balance. His sight however was dodgy, Dran had certainly rocked him.

Gaius considered going offensive, but no doubt Dran would draw him in and easily defeat him. Gaius was, for now at least, stuck. Dran suddenly lay forth another vicious flurry of attacks, giving no quarter, no chance for Gaius to breath or even gain an offensive. Other gladiators stepped out of the way as Gaius was backing away further and further until he was almost against the wall, this kept happening to him. However he suddenly remembered some words Vorgis gave him earlier that day...

"You want to twist your torso into the thrust a dagger can deflect but it is not a shield. Twist your torso and you'll present as little a target as possible. Wait till you draw them in to use the dagger, surprise them with it, they'll think if they get close you'll be defenceless. Prove them wrong."

Now Gaius had a plan. Dran was restless in his spear thrusts, however he always attacked very very close to his opponent, almost as if he was forgetting the spear is a ranged weapon. Gaius use the small windows of opportunity to thrust his own spear towards Dran's shoulder. Dran blocked him with ease but as his weapon arm was distracted Gaius swiftly struck his dagger into Dran's stomach. It was almost impossible to see if a few very loud gladiators hadn't seen Gaius striking with the dagger and Dran lurching forward and coughing. Gaius pulled away and circled around Dran. "Again?"

The red haired man quickly spun around and swung the spear wildly at Gaius's head. "Asiren Fuck! Don't think you're so hard I heard you cried over a dead lion!" Gaius barely had enough time to block the spear with his massive forearms, still hurting like hell though. Gaius hooked his arms around Dran's spear and kneed him the chest before quickly stepping forward and elbowing him in the face, following up with a hard left hook. The large Asiren was about to step back but Dran wrapped his arms around his thighs and tried to tackle him to the ground. Everyone he saw who resorted to grappling was verbally punished, if not more, and he knew he had to quickly resolve this before the Executor, or worse Marrick, got involved.

Gaius held his legs firmly against the ground. Dran was certainly too fast for Gaius but could not match strength. Gaius then lay blow after blow against Dran's back before driving the dagger repeatedly into the top of his back, just below the neck. Dran loosened his grip and screamed out in pain. The much larger Asiren quickly threw him face down into the ground, dropping the dagger so he could grab both spears and drive them into the back of the red haired man's shoulders. Causing him to scream even more. Gaius won this fight but he may have made an enemy in the ludas.

Lahar

"I'm sorry, this is all so new for me, I'm sorry if I offended you again."

Lyria laughed at that. Her laugh was a small, light, musical thing. "It's quite alright dear." She said turning around to inspect Lahar in his new outfit. "It looks good on you. Don't expect them to let you bring all this out onto the sands, but try and bring the coat with you. Wear it everywhere. Black is the colour of the walkers and that coat will be like a great big sign for all to see. All the great gladiators need a gimmick. It will make you more memorable for the crowd. Soon they shall be calling for Lahar, the black figure from the white sands." She took a moment to straighten him out, patting down the creases in his clothes.

"Oh, your questions, yes!" She said suddenly perking up. "What were they now? Ah yes! No, the clothes are new you think a senator can't afford to get a fresh set made for his gladiator?" She laughed again in her lyrical way. "No I am not a slave, I am a servant. A paid employee of House Kedrin, everyone here is. I receive wages, my own room, I have days off and can come and go as I please. Most of the staff here are Vaan as well, just to let you know. Artus might buy people from the slave markets but the Kedrin brand was but to earth a long time ago. As for how he became a walker? Well, he came to our land as a conqueror and left as one of our people's protectors. The rest is for him to tell, it is not my place to say. I will tell you this though. To this day he insists that he saw Zail himself walking the desert." She smiled at that, clearly it had been a topic they had discussed before.

Suddenly there was the sound of footsteps outside and voices suddenly getting closer. Lyria froze as Kedrin entered the room, following him was a dark haired, paunched man with pig like eyes and a pair of guards that did not carry Kedrin's sigil.

"So here is the prize you fought so hard for Master Kedrin." Said the newcomer. his eyes narrowing as they fell upon Lahar. "He doesn't look like much, but then Vaan never do; do they?" His left hand began to idly toy with his robes, they were a mixture of dark red and white. "I wonder, do you comprehend the fuss your patronage stirred up among the nobility? e can understand me, can't he?" He asked offhandedly to Kedrin.

"Yes, he can understand you Master Balus." Replied Kedrin. His voice, calm but his body language all indignation and anger.

Well then he can answer for himself now can't he?" Balus said smugly as he placed his hand under Lahar's chin, turning the gladiator's head to face him. Lyria backed away meekly over to the far side of the room.

Belkin looked on as Vokrash and Rowan charged into the thick of the riot, the plan still being that they pacified the crowd peacefully, but attack anyone who tries to attack back. Belkin was used to fighting in a crowd, be it stuck in a crowd with his allies in practice or stuck in the thick of it with his enemies when the Empire invaded, and managed to worm his way to Antonius with some ease, even if he had to kill a couple more civilians.

He pulled a civilian off the wall of soldiers and hit him with the hilt of the sword, keeping them down for a while, before reaching the soldiers keeping Antonius in the middle directly. "Antonius, what story of your wife did you tell to cause THIS?!" he said to him, helping keep the civilians at bay from his side.

...Well then he can answer for himself now can't he?"

The man then Artus had called Master Balus grabbed Lahar's chin and snapped it so he was forced to face him. This was the second time an imperial had spoken ill of him and his people, he may not be as big and strong as the larger more brutish warriors, but he made up for that in the skill he employed when wielding his blades and he had enough of it.

"No, I do not understand the fuss my patronage has stirred up, but you may as well may be asking a man who never learned to read, not out of ignorance or stupidity, but because he never had the opportunity to do so." He replied coldly "Why don't you enlighten me"

Antonius recognized the 3 gladiator reinforcement, he couldn't say he was happy to see them. "Antonius, what story of your wife did you tell to cause THIS?!" Antonius was unsure if it was meant as an joke or not he replied with. "I told them no such thing. I just killed their champion, they don't seem very happy about that though." Antonius stepped forward once again hitting a civilian in the face with his fist, he wondered what they wanted from him.

Rowan had to restrain himself from laughing at the comment made by his gladiator brother Belkin. He did have to admit that Antonius was causing him a great deal of stress lately. And as Antonius responded, he discovered the root of the issue. Apparently Antonius had killed some 'champion', driving his fans to a frenzy. Rowan silently wondered if the fans at the real arena would be so ravid once he finally took his place at the top. Would they shout his name from the stands, or try to rip his arms out at the socket? Careful not to let himself get distracted, Rowan continued to beat back the ocean of rioters with his shield.

Then, from the corner of his eye, Rowan saw a flash of steel. One of the rioters had knocked down one of Marrick's guards and stolen a sword. a pool of leather armor and blood was all that was left of the poor man, his face mangled and twisted by a jagged rock. The dirty peasant seemed pleased with himself and flourished his new weapon for a short moment before deciding to throw the blade straight for Antonius. Rowan shouted in alarm, and tried to move his shield to block the sword as it twirled in the air, but a group of stinking paupers had a firm grip on the shield, trying to yank it from his grasp. Rowan decided to let the poor boy's have his wooden shield, and released the grip just in time to launch himself in front of the blade. The guard's sword stuck into his non-dominant shoulder with a wet ripping sound, and Rowan screamed in pain. The man responsible noted the look on Rowan's face and fled the riot quickly, disapearing down a back alley before Rowan could catch him and exact bloody revenge.

Rowan teetered on his feet for a moment before catching himself, though he felt house guard's surrounding him too and keeping him on his feet.

"Antonius!" he shouted. "Not me, Antonius!"

As Vokrash neared Antonius he saw one of the guards fall and one of the rioters picked up the sword and tossed it at Antonius. Vokrash was to far away from Antonius to block the sword with his shield and all he could do was look on and hope that the aim wasn't true. Then, out of nowhere, Vokrash saw Rowan jump into the sword with his non-dominant shoulder and heard a scream of pain leave him.

As he saw Rowan struggle to stand, he yelled at two of the other guards. "You two! Go help him!" Vokrash pointed his sword at Rowan! "That man is under consideration for champion, see to his wounds!" Vokrash then turned around and got next to Antonius and began to bash and slash away at anybody who got to close to him.

"No, I do not understand the fuss my patronage has stirred up, but you may as well may be asking a man who never learned to read, not out of ignorance or stupidity, but because he never had the opportunity to do so." He replied coldly "Why don't you enlighten me"

And the room went cold.

Balus' eyes narrowed. "What did you say?"

"Nothing, nothing." Kedrin scrambled in. "He didn't say anything, anything of importance! I'm sure he just doesn't understand what you mean." And with all the jittering energy of a clucking mother hen he ushered Balus from the room.

Lyria appeared at Lahar's side. "Have you any idea what you could have done?" She was white as a sheet. "I think it's time you left."
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Gaius and his assault were cut short as Vorgis stepped in, taking a calm but firm hand on the gladiator's arm.

"That's enough now, I think you won this match. Dran! How about you go and bathe those wounds? And cool off your temper while you're at it!" He turned to Gaius, a smug smile playing across his face. "I saw what you did there. You're getting good at this."

"That's enough now, I think you won this match." said Vorgis as he stepped in and took a calm but firm hand on the Gaius's arm, signalling him to stop his assault. "Dran! How about you go and bathe those wounds? And cool off your temper while you're at it!" Dran had some trouble getting up. He tried to stand but he fell back down to the floor, put his hands forwards to catch himself but the pain in his shoulders took hold, he slipped, and fell face first into the dirt. The surrounding gladiators laughed and mocked Dran. The red haired man eventually stood, spitting between Gaius's feet as he left to bathe his wounds. Gaius could have sworn he cursed out both he and Vorgis while leaving. The Champion turned to Gaius, a smug smile playing across his face. "I saw what you did there. You're getting good at this."

Gaius's eyes followed Dran as he spoke. "Yes... a dagger certainly is useful." He turned his attention to Vorgis. "However Marrick is more interested in me learning how to use a sword. Perhaps you could teach me, or at least give me some assistance. I understand you must be busy, and," Gaius thought for a moment about his next question and how to go about it, and should it even be asked at all "if you don't mind me asking... what is it like raising a family in the ludas?"

"if you don't mind me asking... what is it like raising a family in the ludas?"

Vorgis had to laugh at that. "What's brought this on? Got your eye on someone have you?" He carried on chuckling as he got a pair of practise swords and showed Gaius a few basic drills to get him accustomed to the weapon.

"Truth be told I wouldn't know how to raise a family outside of a Ludus. Kirra might remember days of freedom in rolling hills and fields but not me. I was born to this. One thing you'll need to know: It isn't uncommon for owners to breed their slaves to each other. Why go through the trouble of taking and breaking a free man when you can make one to fit your purpose? My father was a gladiator. So was my mother, she was doing it back when having women in the arena was considered strange and rare. I was made for this." He drove that point home with an extra hard swing of his sword. "I was introduced to the arena when Marrick the senior was still running this place, but it was under his son that I was made a champion."

Vorgis fell silent for a while as he and Gaius went through the drills again and again. After a while the sweat on his brow was beginning to build up and he stopped to get them both some water. "It was no secret that I was sweet on Kirra. I was so young when she was brought here, and I'd never known a woman. Marrick senior made sure of it, didn't want me distracted. So when our current master took over and I earned my title he "Gifted" her to me. Got a priest in to marry us and everything." He didn't know why he was telling the Asiren this... he just wanted to. It had been so long since he had had an honest, thoughtful conversation with someone. It felt good to let his story out.

"Don't get me wrong, I never forced myself on her. Couldn't have if I tried." He sniggered to himself. "Kirra would have killed me faster than any man could. But I was persistent and when you live under the whip you learn how to get along with people. Things changed after that. I had a real reason to fight. I'm too valuable now for Marrick to ever let me go, but the more I fight the more I get paid and the closer I am to buying her contract and her freedom. At least that's what I thought back then. Then Durro came along. So now I fight harder." He stopped himself there. It was nice to talk and all but if he wasn't careful he'd end up telling Gaius things that he might regret letting go. A man must have his boundaries after all, especially in this world.

"Of course that part goes without saying. You were free once I assume you'd like to be again? I don't know, never quite managed to work out how it works, myself." He took one last swig of water. I know this much. You're good at picking up new things. You'll do well here."

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
As the groups of armed guards and mercenaries huddled around their gladiator charges, they managed to merge into one larger group. One of the guards gave Rowan a quick look over, tutting at his wound. "You should be fine but we need to get you back to the ludus as soon as we can."

Meanwhile a pair of the mercenaries were hacking at Antonius' chains and making slow progress. The rest were still keeping the mob at bay, although for the most part they seemed to have learned to stay away from the group of armed killers and had decided to content themselves with just looting the surrounding streets.

"It looks like we can start heading back now!" cried one of their escort. And just as he said it something hit him. It happened too fast for anyone to see what it was but as it made contact the guard's body burst into flames. He screeched out in pain as he crumpled to the ground, writhing in agony. The fire was spreading to cover every inch of his body and the ground around him. He reached out to the others to help him but one of the mercenaries bashed him into the crowd with his shield before he could touch any of them. He was lost.

Before they knew it these things were falling down all around them and the fire was spreading from person to person. The streets were turned into a writhing mass of flesh and fire. The encircling guards raised their shields to cover their heads. Above them figures could be seen on the surrounding rooftops, they popped up to throw a small ball of fire only to duck back down again. The screams of the crowd was growing but rising above it was the sound of drums and war horns. Through the mass of bodies could be seen a wall of red and gold shields. They were pushing towards the besieged gladiators.

"What the hell is the legion doing here?!" Yelled one of the mercenary guards.

"Those are rebels on the rooftops, I'll bet you gold!" Replied their captain. "We do not want to get caught between these two! We need to get out of here!"

Belkin was starting to relax a little, most of the looters were now as far from the group as they could be, with only a couple of looters still attempting to get past, getting knocked down by Belkin's shield over and over again. By now, they were ready to get moving towards the Ludus and get out of this mess, but like the Pingla knew from experience, the Judge always found some way to test a man further.

He didn't see the first mercenary go down, but when he turned and saw the second flaming projectile, he immediately put his shield over his head, thinking it to be a Flaming arrow. By the time he had realised just how different they were to an arrow, the streets were already littered with the dead. Then he heard the Beating Drums and War Horns quickly approaching. He didn't even need to look to know just what they were, he knew just by the loudness of it all.

It was Zuul's own Reborn, "The Legion".

His heart wanted the warrior to break formation, charge at them and spill their blood like they had done to his tribe before...but his brain halted him. Let alone the firestorm that surrounded them, he wasn't exactly packed with fellow warriors and the Legion's numbers were uncountable.

"We do not want to get caught between these two! We need to get out of here!" shouted the Captain as they were slowly about to be overwhelmed. Belkin peaked out from under his shield and saw an alleyway not far from where they were entrenched, away from the majority of the Legion. Belkin spoke out loud, "Well, unless you want to become held within the very recreation of Zuul itself, I'd say we run down that alleyway with our shield high the moment within the next 10 or so seconds!"

Rowan looked over his wound with a grimace, the blood trickling down his chest, his assailant's sword now resting on the street, just between his feet. One of the guard's assured him that he'd be fine, and urged him to seek treatment regardless. Rowan nodded and went back to scaring off the looters with roars and wild swings of his sword. Before long most of the crowd had dispersed, leaving only the very brave, the very foolish, and the dead to keep them company. One of the guard's began to speak, and as Rowan whirled around to face him he saw a flash of bright orange light. The man was writhing and screaming on the ground in an instant, and every muscle in Rowan's body tensed as he searched for the source of the attack. It didn't take him long to realize they were being pelted from above by what looked to be rebel forces. There was a time were Rowan might have considered joining the rebels in their attack, but he was a man of House Merrick now, and owed his life and loyalties to no other.

Rowan let his sword blade rest in the fire around them for a few moments, and pressed the hot steel to his wound, a trick he'd learned in the battlefield years ago. His bleeding would be staunched, and he could focus on the task at hand with much more intensity. The steel burned, but Rowan grit his teeth, remembering the two brands he'd already received in service of his new master.

Belkin suggested they move into the alley, and Rowan nodded in agreement, raising his sword above his head as a beacon to any soldiers confused or lost in the fray.

"Form up! Over here! Form up!" He shouted over the screams of the burning and the cackling of flames. Rowan took his free hand and grabbed onto Antonius firmly, pulling the 'champion' alongside him. As much as he despised the man, he would not let him out of his sight now that things had escalated so quickly.

"We'll move through this alley and around back to the ludus. Let's go!"

As Vokrash saw Rowan begin to stand up he turned his attention back to protecting Antonius from the Rioters. Suddenly, Vokrash heard a scream of pain and as he turned to it he saw one of the mercs become consumed by flames and kicked into the crowd by one of his own. Instinctively Vokrash raised his shield above his head from what now appeared to be rioters who got up on the roofs and began to throw some sort of ball that was on fire.

"What the hell is the legion doing here?!" Vokrash froze and looked behind him. Sure enough he could see the distinct red and gold on the shields of the legion and it appeared is if they were pushing towards them. "We'll move through this alley and around back to the ludus. Let's go!" "Well isn't this a nice change of events." Vokrash turned away from the corpses and the oncoming wall of shields to see that some of the mercs were still not quite sure what to do. "You heard those two, move like you've got a pair!" After bellowing at the remaining stragglers, Vokrash bolted off into the alley with his shield held high with a speed unseen from men his age.

Antonius was busy defending himself, when he spotted a sword flying towards him. Before he could react something very unexpected happend. Rowan stepped himself in front of the sword. Antonius couldn't believe his eyes, Rowan who had hated him from the first day had just caught a blade for him. Antonius knew that the only reason he had done this, was because he was ordered to protect him. But still Antonius was shocked by what had happened. "Antonius! Not me, Antonius!" Was Rowan telling the guards to protect him? instead of helping him? Antonius didn't have time to think about the matter any longer. "You two! Go help him! That man is under consideration for champion, see to his wounds!" Antonius nodded, the least he could do was make sure that Rowan would be taken care off.

"You should be fine but we need to get you back to the ludus as soon as we can." Antonius sighed relived. "It looks like we can start heading back now!" Antonius was relived for a second, until the man suddenly caught fire. Antonius had seen it happen before, but no matter how may times he saw it he never got used to the smell. "What the hell is the legion doing here?!" Antonius wondered the same thing. "Those are rebels on the rooftops, I'll bet you gold!" Rebels?! They had to get out of there. More and more people caught fire, Antonius looked at the other gladiators. Belkin spoke up "Well, unless you want to become held within the very recreation of Zuul itself, I'd say we run down that alleyway with our shield high the moment within the next 10 or so seconds!" Antonius couldn't agree more. "Form up! Over here! Form up!" Rowan pulled Antonius besides him. He saw that Rowan had used some of the fire to burn the wound shut.

"We'll move through this alley and around back to the ludus. Let's go!" Rowan yelled. "You heard those two, move like you've got a pair!" Vokrash screamed to the confused mercenaries. Antonius picked up a sword from one of the dead guards. He fled into the alleyway, with the other gladiators and the rest of the guards.

Vorgis laughed at Gaius's question, he was worried that it would offend him, but that seemed not to be the case. "What's brought this on? Got your eye on someone have you?" He carried on chuckling as he got a pair of practise swords and showed Gaius a few basic drills to get him accustomed to the weapon. Gaius didn't really know how to react to his words, truth be told he hadn't thought of women since his years as a boy. He had spent so long fighting the Legion he never though of raising the family, only protecting his kind and their home.

"Truth be told I wouldn't know how to raise a family outside of a Ludus. Kirra might remember days of freedom in rolling hills and fields but not me. I was born to this. One thing you'll need to know: It isn't uncommon for owners to breed their slaves to each other. Why go through the trouble of taking and breaking a free man when you can make one to fit your purpose? Gaius's heart skipped a beat at that. To think, he could very well be forced to have a child only for it to be born a slave. Gaius and his brothers were born to fight yes, but that was for freedom. He would never allow his son or daughter be born to fight for the vulgar crowds, he'd sooner let himself die before they had a chance to corrupt his child. Through his thought process Vorgis broke his guard and forced Gaius to the floor. The champion helped him up, chuckling as he did so. Gaius put such thoughts aside for now and continued going through the drills.

"My father was a gladiator. So was my mother, she was doing it back when having women in the arena was considered strange and rare. I was made for this." Vorgis drove that point home with an extra hard swing of his sword. "I was introduced to the arena when Marrick the senior was still running this place, but it was under his son that I was made a champion."

The two fell silent as they went through the drills again and again. Each time Gaius fought with more proficiency. Vorgis was pushing him to the limit and eventually even the champion was far too tired to continue. He brought them some water and continued talking about his family. He seemed relieved, almost happy in fact to speak of his wife. Most of his time was spent talking of fighting he looked to enjoy talking of actual civil matters. Of how when he became champion Kirra was "Gifted" to him. Still it didn't sound like she was forced against her will. And throughout the Ludas she never showed any kind of depression. Perhaps having a family in the Ludas wasn't such a bad idea, despite having your child being born a slave and having no say in the matter.

"Don't get me wrong, I never forced myself on her. Couldn't have if I tried." He sniggered to himself. "Kirra would have killed me faster than any man could. But I was persistent and when you live under the whip you learn how to get along with people. Things changed after that. I had a real reason to fight. I'm too valuable now for Marrick to ever let me go, but the more I fight the more I get paid and the closer I am to buying her contract and her freedom. At least that's what I thought back then. Then Durro came along. So now I fight harder." Vorgis suddenly stopped short. Almost as if he was hiding something. It didn't take Gaius long to figure out. Despite what he said he still wanted his son to live a free life. Perhaps his wife still. Maybe... just maybe, Gaius thought, his mind could be swayed to rebellion.

Vorgis tried to cover up what he said. "Of course that part goes without saying. You were free once I assume you'd like to be again? I don't know, never quite managed to work out how it works, myself." He took one last swig of water. "I know this much. You're good at picking up new things. You'll do well here."

Gaius thought long and hard. Even Vorgis doen't want his child to be here. If Gaius was forced to bear a child with a woman of the Ludas there was no way he would allow their son or daughter to become a slave. These past few weeks had been torture more for The Asiren's mind than his body. Whether to escape or die he thought. Never submit. But perhaps death was easier than escape. It certainly would be an escape from this place at least. As long as he didn't have to live there it would count as a victory for him... but maybe... rebellion. Not just killing Marrick, but if he could get Vorgis on his side maybe others would fall in line. He had Belkin as an ally for now, and he would soon have more. Now he knew what to do. Now his life once again had purpose. Rebellion against house Marrick.

What had been thinly disguised as an air of polite joviality, had been shattered the moment he spoke. The room went cold, and both the faces of Artus and Lyria turned white a sheet, he had said something wrong. He would never understand these strange imperial customs where one man's voice was louder then a crowd, not because he had earned it, nor for the wisdom he had that he could teach other, but because of wealth. In the tribes of the white sands had elders yes, he had trained to be one, but they listened and spoke with the voice of the people, not the voice of greed and corruption.

Balus' eyes narrowed and the grip he had on Lahar's chin tightened, like he had expected Lahar to bark like the mongrel he believed him to be, not speak like a man . "What did you say?"

"Nothing, nothing." Kedrin scrambled in. "He didn't say anything, anything of importance! I'm sure he just doesn't understand what you mean." And with all the jittering energy of a clucking mother hen he ushered Balus from the room.

Lyria appeared at Lahar's side. "Have you any idea what you could have done?" She was white as a sheet. "I think it's time you left."

She tried not so subtly to usher him out, grabbing his hand and leading him towards the mansions exit. For all the grand assumptions he had made about Artus, it turned out he was wrong. He was scared, terrified maybe of what a man who might have more power then him might do. If this was what 'civilisation' was Lahar didn't want to be a part of it, if one man held more power then an entire town, what could people do against it?

"He's just one man, there's no reason to fear him, so why do you?"

"He's just one man, there's no reason to fear him, so why do you?"

Faster than she could think Lyria swatted him around the back of his head. "You stupid boy." She hissed through gritted teeth. "You think it's that simple? This isn't the desert, it isn't us against the elements any more. Have you any idea how things work here?" I swathe of emotions battled with one another in her, the conflict clearly showing on her face. Anger, fear, sadness. She didn't know which was stronger.

"Have you any idea of the laws of this place, did Marrick not tell you? Men do not keep slaves under foot easily. They do it with an iron hand. I have known slaves having their tongues taken out for speaking up to a noble or notches put in their flesh. And that is if the men involved are kind. Balus is not kind, he is infamous. He hates our people, his house has spent generations warring against the Vaanic tribes. So much so he sees us more as animals then people. He takes pleasure in tormenting our kind!" Her voice was all hushed desperation as she looked around them to see if anyone was listening.

"He and Artus have been at each others throats for years and Artus buying your patronage from under him was just another battle." She let out a sigh as if these words had tired her. "Life is strange in this city. Men wage wars with words and coin. Balus will not forget this, he will make himself your enemy now. Tread carefully with these people, this is their world we live in and like it or not they are the ones who make the rules."

And that was it. Her shoulders slumped and she seemed to relax after her tirade. Marrick's guards who were still waiting outside. Lyria motioned to them that they were done. "Good luck for the future, I'll make sure to watch out for you in the arenas." The fire was gone from her voice now. Everything seemed gone. As she brushed Lahar's shoulder and turned away to go all that seemed to be left was a hollow sense of hurt. She went to go lie down.

The escort put Lahar back in chains and lead him back to the Ludus. They looked askance at his new clothes, they were far from the latest imperial fashion. It was a quiet trip until they made their way to the outskirts of the city centre where they were blocked by a row of soldiers. They would only say that there was trouble in town and they would have to find another way back. They managed to after some serious effort. They route they found was quiet but the sound of screams plumes of smoke rose high above the building tops clearly for all to see. "I would not want to be there right now." Said one of his guards idly.

Eventually they made it back to the ludus and the yard. Lahar was unchained and left to his own devices. The guards exchanged some quiet words with the Executor who ushered them on with his usual brisk manor. "Marrick's busy. I suggest you get back to training." He said in his way that meant it was not a suggestion. "And try not to get your pretty new coat dirty." Most of the other gladiators were looking at him, no doubt curious as to where he had been and how he had come by these new possessions, though none of them made to do anything about it.

Belkin ran along with the rest of the group, rushing for the alleyway which his shield held above him. As he got there, he turned around to see who else made it. Vokrash got their first, followed by Belkin, then the Mercenary commander and two of his troops, then Rowan and Antonius, alongside the soldier who had brought them there. The rest of the forces had either stumbled when running and was still out in the open by the time everyone else had made it or had panicked and had gone of in other directions. A wall of fire suddenly exploded in front of the entrance, keeping the street separate from the alley, meaning anyone on the other side now.......Judge guide them...

Belkin kept his shield high as the alleyway was only protected from above by a long cloth sheet that ran the whole way. "Listen, if we keep off of the main streets for the most parts, we should be able to avoid that murdering force they call "The Legion". So bash anyone that gets in the way, keep aiming for any side roads we can nip through and DO NOT hesitate to move!" Belkin told the whole group, taking charge of the whole disaster. He pointed to the Soldier who had lead them there in the first place, "You took us here, surely you must know the fastest way back then, right?"

He pointed to the Soldier who had lead them there in the first place, "You took us here, surely you must know the fastest way back then, right?"

The man seemed stunned by the whole affair but Belkin's shouts shook him back into the present. "Um... um, yes, yes. If, if we go further down we can turn right and there's a residential area not far off. We can get back to the ludus from there. Just follow the main road." He seemed torn between starring at the fire and moving on but he managed to bring himself back into the fold and lead them down the alley. It was cramped and grey, sliding through the gaps between building but they managed to find the turn he mentioned, where a new site confronted them.

A small hot of armed men wearing what looked like crude animal masks were spread out on the street. They had clashed with legion soldiers and the two hosts had broken any semblance of battle formation and had dissolved into clusters of smaller fights. One of the masked attackers, who seemed to appear from nowhere, threw something at a legion solider which shattered on his shield and burst into flames. The legionnaire, instead of being shocked or frightened, charged on and slammed the burning wall of metal into his attackers head, sprawling him out like a rag doll. The whole street had descended into something between a battlefield and a tavern brawl.

"We have to cross that street into the next alley." Grimaced the captain.

It had been years since he was last called a boy, once he had come of age he was considered a man in his tribe, free to choose between following his teachings and taking over as the Elder, joining the War Walkers or do whatever he deemed would serve the tribe best. But Lyria was right, the city was a strange place. Men not only bartered with coin and words, but hot brands and cruelty, buying and selling lives like any other commodity. Here he was a boy, alone and uncertain, needing guidance from strangers to find his way. It was a hard truth to swallow, but otherwise he would make more enemies, destroying his prospects of escape and the lives of those trying to help him.

He had hurt Lyria and Artus with his actions, with his petulant pride. These were his people, he had put them in danger, and from what she had said there would be consequences. Balus had tried to become his patron, he would undoubtedly try to punish either of them, prove they were wrong to defy him and make his time in the arena tougher. He was a fool, he didn't deserve the title of War Walker after his actions.

He allowed himself to be led away by the guards, they cuffed his wrists as they had before and taken back to The Ludus. The trip was uneventful until they reached the heart of the city, it was in turmoil, the guards that had blocked their way told them there was trouble in town. Again he had been wrong about the people of this city, he had let himself be convinced that they would never fight back, but it was clear as day that they were. Plumes of smoke danced and weaved through the arches and stone pillars of the city, gathering in the sky where fires had been lit. However there were also screams that accompanied the dancing smoke. There would be new slaves sent to the Ludus soon.

When he arrived back at the Ludas he was unchained and the executor told him to train. The other Gladiators stared at him, eyeing the new clothes he had been given. Feel slightly embarrassed and not wanting to ruin Artus' gift, he took the coat off and placed it in his cell. He then went back into the training yard, picked up two wooden swords from the weapon rack and started to train, concentrating his efforts on a practice dummy.

Rowan kept his wits about him, and listened intently to Belkin's instructions, content with letting the Pingla take charge of the group. He kept an eye on Antonius as they marched onwards, weaving through the alleyways in search of a way back to the ludas. The tightly spaced alleyway forced Rowan to stretch and lean in ways that made his fresh wound ache, but he pressed on regardless, trying hard to think of other things. As they made their way out of the alley, Rowan scowled at the sight of a skirmish directly in their path to freedom. Rebels adorned in animal masks pelted Legion troops with more fire balls, though these men had more guts than the common household guards back at the source of the riots. They didn't back down, and held firm against the rebel threat, Rowan could not help but feel a sense of awe at how brave the troops seemed.

Still, the skirmish was an obstacle they needed to get past quickly. Rowan glanced back at Antonius, then to Belkin, then to the guards that were accompanying them. Between the lot of them, they might stand a chance against the rebels, especially if they allowed the Legion's finest to soften their foes before they jumped in.

Taking the time to think, Rowan tried to collect his thoughts. The attack seemed too well timed to him. The rioters that had surrounded Antonius so adoringly provided the perfect distraction and cover for the true attackers, these mask wearing pyromaniacs. Rowan could not think who might have the access and the resources to coordinate such an attack, but whoever was responsible clearly had a grudge to settle with the Legion.

"Alright Belkin, you make the call."

"We have to cross that street into the next alley." said the Mercenary Captain, a mixture of fear and concern in his voice. "Well then, looks like I'll have to save you lot twice in a row then!" replied Belkin, roughly sharpening his sword on the wall. If there was one thing the Pingla were known for, it was getting right into the thick of a battle and always coming out the winner. Before captivity, Belkin had fought in the middle of Empire battlegrounds, all the while taking fire from archers, being stampeded by "Horses" and encountering "The Legion", sometimes all at once. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was The Judge looking over them during the war, but it was certainly their ability to get surrounded by soldiers and almost always win that earned his tribe their "Half-Demon" status.

Belkin walked out of the alley into the battle, immediately gaining the attention of an mask wearing opponent. He ran towards Belkin, throwing the fire bomb in front of himself to catch the Pingla. Belkin responded by merely blocking the firebomb, all the while standing still. The masked opponent used his momentum to to try and crash into the warrior, pinning him down for an easy kill. Belkin waited until he was close enough in his leap, and then bashed his shield into the side of the opponent, sending him flying to the side. Belkin moved fluidly, dashing to the body so that the moment it landed, Belkin pinned his opponent down with his knee. Before the Masked opponent could react, Belkin brought his sword down point first into his opponent's neck, causing a swift death. He took off his opponents mask, a poorly made mask of an animal with orange skin with black and white stripes and fangs. He decided to keep it, a trophy from which to remember this encounter.

He called out to those in the Alley, "GO, NOW, WHILE I'M MASSACRING THEM!" he shouted, before stuffing the mask into his shield and moving on to the next mask wearer, bludgeoning his sword into their spine.

Gaius finished his water and stared at the sands, at all the gladiators training when he saw guards approaching at the gate. He saw Lahar leaving a carriage, but the Vaan looked different than he did the previous day. The obvious change was the new clothes he was wearing. A black jacket, pants and boots. He looked sleek, more like a rich mysterious land owner than a slave. In fact he looked nothing like a slave, especially since his brand wasn't visible. Gaius was never one for jealousy but he did envy his attire; if only because it covered his brand, but he was lying to himself, he too wanted such sleek clothing. He set off towards his cage and The Asiren set his attention towards the Champion, Vorgis.

"You've shared much with me Sir, gratitude for showing me such respect" Gaius stood and finished his water, "I'll show you the same courtesy and not share with others what you have told me. Thank you for the sword training also, if you don't mind I want to practise against the Vaan, maybe I'll try with one on each hand like he does." Gaius picked up his training sword, grabbing another as well before heading onto the sand and waiting for Lahar. He soon returned without his fancy new clothes and started sparring with a training dummy.

Gaius walked over to Lahar and asked "I heard you have a patron now, Vorgis warned me they can be gifts... or curses. Do you mind if I ask which one it is?"

Lahar was concentrating on the dummy, half-heartedly fighting against it. His mind was still racked by what had happened at Artus' mansion, no man he had ever known from the desert had struck fear in into others as Balus did. His master had told him that he would grow stronger as he overcame his fears, scorpions, wandering the desert lost without water, never finding his way home. They had all terrified him once, but what do you do when other chose to live in it because it's easier? His master had never taught him the answer to that.

Gaius walked over to Lahar and asked "I heard you have a patron now, Vorgis warned me they can be gifts... or curses. Do you mind if I ask which one it is?"

"Both it seems" He sighed, "I will never understand this place, so many live in fear because they choose to let those who rule with fear command them, instead of standing up against then, they slink into the shadows and hope someone better comes next time. It's wrong, but here so many people accept it as what is right." He realised he was babbling, Gaius didn't need to hear this, he noticed that he was carrying two swords and decided to change the subject, "I thought you favoured the axe, why are you carrying two swords?"

When the rest of them caught up Vokrash knew that they needed to come up with a plan. "Listen, if we keep off of the main streets for the most parts, we should be able to avoid that murdering force they call 'The Legion'. So bash anyone that gets in the way, keep aiming for any side roads we can nip through and DO NOT hesitate to move!" Vokrash couldn't think of a better plan and decided it would be best not to argue.

"We have to cross that street into the next alley." Vokrash could feel the dread in the captain's voice as he told Belkin the quickest way to get back to the ludus. "Well then, looks like I'll have to save you lot twice in a row then! Right after crudely sharpening his sword on the side of one of the walls he strode into the middle of the conflict. As he dispatched the first masked man with relative ease he bellowed back at Vokrash and the others. "GO, NOW, WHILE I'M MASSACRING THEM!" Vokrash was intent on taking him up on the offer.

"Come on you lot, move!" As they rushed past Belkin and the other masked man Vokrash bellowed back to Belkin. "You better have something up your sleeve boy! Even Vorgis couldn't take all these on, and I ain't in a hurry for my old arse to be on the chopping block for failing to bringing you back!"

Lahar expressed his thoughts of the imperial city onto Gaius and he couldn't help but agree. "I thought you favoured the axe, why are you carrying two swords?" Gaius looked over his new weapons.

"Yes but I need to learn the ways of different weapons if I am to survive. Vorgis tells me I learn fast, I've already learned some basic spear and dagger work. And I've spent the past few hours practising some sword drills with Vorgis, I was wondering if you had time to spar?"

Belkin had pulled his sword out of the second mans back after killing him when he heard Vokrash yell at him. "You better have something up your sleeve boy! Even Vorgis couldn't take all these on, and I ain't in a hurry for my old arse to be on the chopping block for failing to bringing you back!" he seemed to say. Belkin merely laughed, turning his attention to another masked individual who ran at him, this time one who still had his Fire Bomb on him. Belkin rushed him, stunning him with his shield as he got close and then slitting his throat with his sword. He picked up the intact Fire Bomb and threw it at two more mask wearers who were close together, giving a little bit of irony to the fight.

He turned his attention back towards Vokrash. "Vokrash, you may be scared of a fight like this, but the Pingla LOVE it when its this crowded. How else do we become Half-Demons, when a force of 10 can't kill one man?!" he said, before turning his attention back to the fight.

Belkin laughed at what Vokrash said and then promptly killed one of the masked men, took his fire bomb and threw it at two others. After the screaming began to subdue Belkin turned back towards Vokrash. "Vokrash, you may be scared of a fight like this, but the Pingla LOVE it when its this crowded. How else do we become Half-Demons, when a force of 10 can't kill one man?!" Vokrash merely looked back at him even though Belkin turned his attention away once more. "When you fight more than just fanatics throwing fire bombs" Vokrash bellowed back.

Vokrash turned away and walked back towards Antonius, Rowan, and the mercs. "Come on, let's make sure that Antonius get's back to Marrick without any more interruptions; Belkin will hold them off." Vokrash started to walk towards the alley. "Idiot doesn't know when to avoid a fight. 'Half-Demon' my ass."

"Yes but I need to learn the ways of different weapons if I am to survive. Vorgis tells me I learn fast, I've already learned some basic spear and dagger work. And I've spent the past few hours practising some sword drills with Vorgis, I was wondering if you had time to spar?"

"I have time to spar, the executor seemed rather insistent that I train and swinging a sword at a motionless dummy is not my idea of training." He replied.

Lahar moved over to the training area. Even if Gaius had done some training using a spear and dagger at the same time, wielding two swords was a different matter. It relied on speed and co-ordination, not putting all your strength into a swing and hoping you get a hit. He remembered that Gaius wielded a axe in his right hand, he would indistinctly try and block using that hand leaving is left side open. He took up a defensive stance and waited for Gaius to attack.

"Listen, if we keep off of the main streets for the most parts, we should be able to avoid that murdering force they call "The Legion". So bash anyone that gets in the way, keep aiming for any side roads we can nip through and DO NOT hesitate to move!" Belkin started shouting orders. Antonius was still bleeding a bit from his small cuts, and he felt himself slowly weakening. Antonius was an experienced leader, but he wasn't about to try and lead now. He was to weak, and the other gladiators disliked him to say the least."Alright Belkin, you make the call." Rowan seemed to have accepted Belkin as leader. Antonius moved the sword around in his hand, he had already taken lives today he didn't mind taking more.

"Well then, looks like I'll have to save you lot twice in a row then!" Belkin ran out off the alley, he showed why the Pingla were feared. He killed 2 rebels in quick succession."GO, NOW, WHILE I'M MASSACRING THEM!" Antonius grinned, the rebels were tougher then they looked. Even a Pingla couldn't stand against that many rebels. Vokrash also killed a couple of rebels, he turned away and walked back towards Antonius, Rowan, and the mercs. "Come on, let's make sure that Antonius get's back to Marrick without any more interruptions; Belkin will hold them off." Antonius nodded. He started following Vokrash keeping an eye out for any rebels. The small trail of blood he left was not a good sign. Antonius was also a bit worried about what it meant to be a champion, he was sure that Vokrash would know. He would ask him about that later, when they weren't fighting for their lives.

Gaius and Lahar stood opposite each other. The Asiren had it in his mind that he'd best not repeat his previous spar session, lest he have another gladiator as an enemy. He stood with his left leg tilted 45 degrees and his right pushed forward. He quickly jolted forward and jabbed with his right sword, keeping his left hand ready to block any surprise attacks.

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