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Lion's Plea

I can feel the metal inside my slick palm, slowly warming to the touch. Calm down, I tell myself. Calm. The lion on the other side of the gate isn’t about to devour you. My stomach is queasy, almost rejecting the meager meal I had last night. I close my eyes but all I can see is red. Blood coats the arena, blood and golden amour.
My own armor is too heavy. The shoulders sit uncomfortably on my own shoulder blades, the pressure too strong for my arms to handle.
Why the hell am I doing this?
The answer pops into my head immediately. For papa. For the Romans. For my country. For everybody who died in this arena. I can’t back out now. My eyes open at the sound of cheering. My time. My turn to go in. My turn to face the lion.
My clammy hands grip the gladus tighter. I swallow, my breath coming out in short gasps. I’m about to face my death.
And I’m a girl.
I can’t face away from my destiny, even though I was born into the wrong gender. I was raised to do this, so why the hell shouldn’t I? My thought swirl around in my head, tiny distractions from the loin.
The lion roars.
The gate opens.
I step out into the arena.
It’s a dance. A deadly dance, and I know if I put one foot out of place my armor will be torn into the shreds and the lion will rip my skin open. My mind clears. I know what to do, and that is enough to get me out of here.
The lion’s eyes are golden.
I can’t kill him. He can’t kill me. I can feel bile rise in my throat but I swallow hard. The lion takes a step closer. You’re not going to hurt me, he seems to say.
I close my eyes, waiting for death.
I can feel his warm breath on my cheek.
The memory of papa, broken and battered, slain by a lion just like this one, floats into my mind.
The gladius whips through the air, plunging into the lion’s broad stomach.
Red blossoms from the wound.
The lion’s eyes hold a last tortured plea.
I’m sorry.




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