This is a project I've had in mind for some time, and I decided to write the first chapter of it as a short story, see if there's interest in my writing any more. I was heavily inspired by Spartacus (the Starz TV series), and used gladiator stuff heavily, such as the gladiators being slaves (instead of free, like Glatorians). Pandemonium and Sanctuary shouldn't be too hard to figure out. I just couldn't use one of the real words, and didn't want to use the other, because of possible religious sensitivity.
“For those seeking to enter the gates of Pandemonium, look no further for guide!” had roared the mighty gladiator known as Certavus to the crowds of Agori in the stands, staring down into the sand filled arena.
Raanu looked down at him with a sneer affixed to his face. He rose violently from his seat and shouted down at the gladiator, “So be it then; guide any foolish enough to rebel into the depths of the flames! Your bones will be ground underfoot as your rebellion dies with you! But make mistake not, Certavus. You will be the last to be welcomed by the embrace of death. You will suffer removal of body part for each and every slave who rallies under banner of rebellion!”
A young gladiator looked out from behind the gate he and his fellows were stuck behind, barring them from entering the arena while contest was in progress. Certavus had shown his opponent mercy, and only now was the crimson clad warrior slowly rising to his feet behind Certavus. Perditus was rising.
The sandy haired youth of a gladiator, fitted into emerald armor nearly twice his size, wanted to call out to Certavus. He opened his mouth, but a hand clasped him on the shoulder. He turned his head to see an older man, broader and taller, strong and muscled behind armor of blue and gold plate. The man had a strong face, piercing blue eyes, but bore a scar across his left cheek. His short brown hair bore a militaristic look to it, giving him the final piece he needed to appear powerful and respectable.
Tarix simply shook his head. Gresh wanted to yell out to Certavus, but he realized that no other gladiators were yelling either. Not on this side of the arena, nor the other, where he could make out the images of a white clad gladiator and another clad in blue. Nobody was giving Certavus their support.
Perdatus took grip of his warhammer with both hands. He hefted the large weapon up and twisted himself, preparing to swing. With a shout he sent the mighty weapon forward, slamming it into the back of Certavus’s white plate armor.
The crowd cheered, especially the side filled with crimson clad Agori. Their warrior had risen again and taken the ice tribe champion by surprise in a move that was surely going to lead to Certavus’s defeat. However, the ice tribe made no sounds. They were not in support of their champion anymore, not after his cries for rebellion.
“Good!” cried Raanu, his brown hair being pushed back out of his face by his hand, “Good! Lead him to Pandemonium, Perditus! Crush him!”
Certavus stumbled forward and rolled in order to face Perditus again. The crowd was roaring, but against him. A gladiator could draw strength from the crowd, but they always knew whose side the cheers were for. Certavus had none, but that wouldn’t stop him from fighting. He’d put everything he had into this.
He ran for Perditus as the other gladiator ran for him. Perditus was slower; his hammer slowed his steps, while Certavus had speed with his ribbed sword. When they met, fate decided the outcome in a moment.
Perditus fell on his face into the sand, blood streaming out from under his helmet, staining the sand red. He moved no more, but Certavus had let him live.
The crowd fell silent, all except for Raanu, who was scrambling. “Release them now!” he was screaming, “Release the Vorox! Let foul beasts of sport end him!”
Agori were running to do Raanu’s bidding, to release the few captured Vorox into the arena. They were used for sporting matches and executions. This would serve as the latter.
Certavus looked around, turning to keep a view on everything in the arena. He met Gresh’s eyes, and then broke contact, going and meeting the eyes of a gladiator on the other side, behind gate.
Certavus finally stopped and yelled out to the crowd as another gate was being opened. His words burned into the mind of Gresh, watching with fear from behind the gate.
“There stand no champions here!” Certavus screamed, “Only men and their fates!”
And with that went Certavus’s sword, finding itself buried into one of the Agori whom had opened the Vorox gate. Certavus was on the move, running towards them. Before anyone could react, he pulled his sword from corpse and slashed the chain off of a Vorox being handled by another. The Vorox turned on the Agori, ripping him apart.
“Close gate!” Raanu screamed, “Close gate or Lord of Sanctuary help me! I will send you to Keeper of Pandemonium!”
Before the Agori could get the gates closed, Certavus had slipped through. He was beyond the walls of the arena in short order, and nothing Raanu could scream about could stop the gladiator.
Sword tight in hand, shield tight in other. Gresh lifted the shield up to catch the sword of Vastus and pushed back. He took a step forward and swung his sword down in a chopping motion. Somehow it wasn’t Vastus’s shield that caught him, it was sword. Gresh hadn’t even realized that the older man had slipped his sword off of the shield.
Vastus had his body sideways to Gresh, allowing him to twist and backhand Gresh across the face. Steel of the helmet smashed into his head, sending him stumbling. As he looked up again the shield smashed into his face, sending him onto his back, sword at throat.
“You must yield,” Vastus told him. Gresh was always at unease when Vastus spoke; his voice cold and smooth, although it gave off a sense of hissing, like a snake.
“And if I choose not?” Gresh questioned. He had become wiser since Certavus had attempted rebellion against the gladiator and slave system two years ago, but apparently not much. “What if I wish to die, sword in hand, than continue to fight for amusement?”
Vastus’s cold eyes regarded him, and then he shook his head, “Gresh, a gladiator can only live one way. That is by following orders. We don’t have the will to choose life or death.”
“We do,” Gresh told him, “And right now, I choose to die.”
“Our lives belong to our village leaders,” Vastus told him, “You cannot make the choice you try; only they can.”
“Put sword through my throat, and then that is false,” Gresh told Vastus.
“No,” Vastus told him, “I refuse. You have a long life to live.”
“A life in servitude I never wanted!” Gresh told him, “What good is a life without freedom?”
“A good enough life for the rest of us,” Vastus told him, walking away from the downed Gresh. The arena of the jungle tribe was similar to the fire tribe’s arena, but with trees overhead, blocking out the sky. Nobody sat in the stands; it was just the two gladiators.
“And if I’d rather die, sword in hand, honor intact? I don’t want to die on the whim of Folium!”
“You are a gladiator, Gresh!” Vastus shouted, “Honor has no place in the arena!”
Gresh threw himself to his feet and cast aside weapons. He threw his helmet to the ground as he moved towards Vastus, his sandy hair falling around his face, matted in sweat.
“And what of Certavus? The man had honor; you always said as much!”
Vastus tore his rounded, dulled helmet off and threw it to the ground. He turned to Gresh, face weathered and lined, with thin eyebrows, black eyes and a sharp nose. His black hair hung down to nearly his shoulders, with a prominent widow’s peak present, along with a few spattering’s of gray and silver from age.
His voice was colder than Gresh had known it to ever before be.
“The past is done; the future yet to be known. Embrace the present and strike all else from concern.”
Gresh stepped after him, but Vastus’s cold eyes stopped him. Vastus turned his head and walked away, leaving Gresh standing alone in the arena.
“So, you wish to follow example of traitor?” a voice echoed.
Gresh span around, eyes scanning the stands, but he saw nothing. He kept turning, shouting out, “Who speaks? Show yourself!”
Finally a short figure in emerald garb rose from the stands. He had tough working gloves on, the fingers tipped with claws for the sake of gripping and digging. He had a hunched appearance, and wore his sandy hair in a long braid down his back. He stepped his booted foot onto the wall of the arena and leapt down, landing away from Gresh, but slowly approaching.
“Tarduk?” Gresh questioned.
“Gresh, I would have words,” Tarduk told him.
Gresh would have been fearful of an Agori overhearing his talk about Certavus, but he trusted Tarduk. Tarduk was an interesting man; focused on history and treasures, looking to the past instead of the present or future.
“You speak of Certavus, a man branded traitor,” Tarduk told him, “I care not. I care about our promise.”
Then it hit Gresh. “Oh, right,” Gresh said, extremely relieved. He reached up and pulled on a string around his neck, pulling free a leather pouch from beneath his armor. He opened it and emptied out a golden trinket into Tarduk’s awaiting hand.
“Ah, at last!” he said, “You know not how long I’ve awaited this!”
“I had to practice, or I’d have seen it to you sooner,” Gresh said.
“Actually, no,” Tarduk told him, “Do you forget that you’re unable to walk the streets? You’d have to wait for me to arrive in the slave quarters.”
The slave quarters were built into the arena. Gladiators had very little room to move; their quarters, a room for meals, a bath for cleaning oneself every few days, and the arena, for training. They could not go beyond the walls of the arena.
“You know what I meant. I figured you’d be around here,” Gresh told him.
Tarduk just nodded, no longer paying him much heed, just turning the thing over in his hands, “How did you acquire it?”
“Berix,” Gresh said, leaving it at that. Tarduk didn’t need to hear more.
“Have a good fight,” Tarduk told Gresh, hurrying off with his treasure in hand.
Vastus didn’t look at Gresh much during the caravan ride to Tajun, the village of water. The older man just looked out at the desert through the small window they had, albeit barred. They were in close proximity and in armor, but Vastus still wouldn’t look at him. He’d rather strain his neck to look elsewhere.
Gresh said nothing either. He just looked at his hands, shackled together. They were in chains during transport, but it could be worse. They could be walking, chains or not. A caravan ride in chains was the better alternative for all involved.
By the time they reached the water village, and the two gladiators were taken to the arena to wait behind gates, Folium had met with the leader of Tajun, Egil. Gresh pushed himself against the gate and looked up to try to see them, and hear what they spoke of, but to no avail.
“You cannot trust gladiators,” Raanu stated to the other two as he sat down, his crimson robes billowing out over the chair.
“I find that some can be,” Folium stated, “It takes years, but you can find some”
“Ha!” Raanu laughed, “Our opinions differ far too much,” he stated.
“What of you, Egil?” Folium asked.
Egil was the youngest of them, brown of hair, with half of it dyed blue. He had a youthful face, but hard eyes. The opposite of the other two; Folium being middle aged with fading black hair and bright green eyes, and Raanu being between their ages, brown of hair with temperament flaring in his eyes.
“I find Tarix to be trustworthy,” Egil said, “I’ve trained with him before as well. He had many a chance to take my life, and he did not.”
“He knew he couldn’t escape the city,” Raanu said dismissively.
“Certavus escaped,” Egil stated.
“Certavus was lucky, and everyone was at the arena,” Raanu said angrily.
“If it makes you feel better, he’s no doubt dead,” Folium told Raanu. Raanu just grunted.
Egil turned away from them and looked down at the arena, “Citizens of Tajun, guests of villages elsewhere; in the name of my predecessors, as leader of Tajun, I, Egil, present to you contest between challenger from Tesara; Gresh,” he spoke, “and our champion, Tarix!” he screamed.
The crowd erupted in roars, even those not of Tajun began to scream and cheer. Tarix was considered the greatest gladiator, and his fights were always something special.
Gresh’s gate opened, as did the gate opposite, holding Tarix. The two walked out; Tarix clad in his blue and gold plate armor, and Gresh in his green. The last time they had met, Gresh had been young, not strong enough for the armor. Now he filled it, and was ready.
Gresh pulled his sloped helmet onto his head; it was his personal helmet, to compliment his armor, not the rounded training helmet from before. He drew his shield from his back; it was elongated, holding a leaf-like pattern to it. It was his only weapon. He looked across to Tarix, wearing a sloped back helmet with raised edges atop it. A tube was affixed near his mouth, leading into his armor. He carried twin blades; they held a shaft to them before curving into a wicked looking edge that had a wave-like curve in them.
“Now, honor the arena and the Lord of Sanctuary with your blood! Begin!” roared Egil.
The crowd roared as Tarix ran through the sand. His feet didn’t slide under the grains, but Gresh’s did. He had difficulties maneuvering, being taken off guard with how fast Tarix was, even in full armor. He lifted his shield before himself and ran forward to meet his foe.
Tarix slammed his left weapon down, meeting Gresh’s shield. Gresh twisted his body, narrowly avoiding the swing of the other sword past his defenses. Gresh pulled his weapon back and thrust it forward, forcing Tarix to put his weapons into an X to parry.
Gresh span around and went low with a leg sweep. Tarix’s footing was weakened, so Gresh followed up by ramming his shield upwards into Tarix’s chest, stumbling him back.
Gresh pressed his advantage and ran forward, not knowing who the crowd was cheering for. He jumped forward and threw the shield out as a punch.
Tarix sidestepped and slashed Gresh across the chest. Gresh felt the impact, but his armor wasn’t cut. He staggered around, taking two more rapid slashes from Tarix which sent him to the ground.
“Tarix! Tarix! Tarix!” was being shouted by most of the watchers.
Gresh turned his head, meeting Vastus’s eyes behind the gate. He rose and gripped his shield with both hands, pulling the two edges apart, creating two leaf-like swords, the blades running along his arms like tonfa.
Gresh ran forward and swung his left one out, keeping it along his arm. Tarix parried. Gresh flipped the other one around to wield it like a sword. He swung down, but it was parried as well.
Gresh kicked Tarix in the chest, sending him stumbling back. He ran forward, slashing twice, getting hits in on Tarix. The other gladiator went down.
Gresh looked back at Vastus once, and then up at Folium. Was it over? Should he go for the end?
“A gladiator’s first distraction is his last!” Tarix roared, sweeping Gresh’s legs out from beneath him. Gresh hit the sand on his stomach, his body slamming into the steel of his armor. It was a hard and painful impact, and definitely not something he wanted.
Gresh swung his weapon out, but Tarix swung his leg over it and stomped on it, keeping it pinned to the sand. He kicked it away and kicked Gresh in the head. Gresh used the momentum to get onto his back and throw his other weapon, now able to see and aim.
The weapon clipped Tarix’s shoulder, but did nothing. Gresh rolled, using it as a distraction, and gripped his other weapon. He took the handle in both hands and drove it for Tarix’s gut, crying out as he thrust.
Tarix parried, swinging the sword down and out, making it go around his body. He punched Gresh in the helmeted face with his other fist, knocking Gresh to the ground. On impact he lost grip of the weapon, but it lay beside him.
Tarix crouched, crossing his blades at Gresh’s throat. There was enough exposed flesh to make this a kill if he swiped his blades.
Tarix glanced down, seeing Gresh grab his sword again with his right hand.
“Loose weapon or lose head,” Tarix hissed so only they could hear.
“I’d rather die fighting than continue to be a dog, than continue to fight endlessly for our leaders. At least in death I’d be free!” Gresh hissed.
“We fight them by living. They seek bloodshed and slaughter; by living, we oppose what they want. It’s our small act of defiance, and the only way we can join Certavus’s will for now. Now yield!”
Gresh slowly took in Tarix’s words. He remembered Tarix, two years ago. He had assumed Tarix just didn’t want to see a young gladiator die for no reason. Had he wanted to side with Certavus? Had he believed in Certavus back then?
Gresh loosened his grip and let the weapon lay. He slowly lifted his hand, extending his index finger. Surrender.
The crowd exploded with cheers as Tarix rose, sheathing his weapons across his back. He looked at the downed Gresh, his eyes conveying more than words could.
Gresh couldn’t speak of this. Gresh couldn’t speak of Certavus, or defiance. He had to fight, he had to go on, or else he’d be executed before he could do anything.
Vastus helped Gresh to his feet and brought him back to the area behind the gate. They shared a look, and said nothing as Gresh walked on and sat down, watching as Vastus walked into the arena, helm covered in twin snakes, scythe clutched firmly in hand.
He was about to fight for the only glory that slaves could know; the glory of the arena.
Edited by Lord Koji, Aug 11 2013 - 10:39 PM.