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Gladiators, the Uprising
I sat alone on a rock overlooking the battlefield, as the sun crept slowly over the horizon illuminating the thousands of soldiers that had died the night before. A thin mist hung over the valley. The air smelled heavily of blood and death. I stared grimly as the fresh memory of the battle replayed in my mind.
I was scared. People all around me fell to the ground. I remembered shouting my brother’s name just before he got hit with an arrow... I shuddered. I never wanted to repeat the experience again.
I sighed deeply, then a hand tapped my shoulder startling me. I turned around and saw Joe. “What are doing out here by yourself?” he asked. I looked at him carefully. He had lost two cousins in the battle, yet he showed no signs of grief. “Oh, just... thinking,”
Joe eyed me warily, “Well the general wants to talk to you, so you better follow me,” he started making his way down the rock, and after some hesitation I reluctantly followed.
The sun was fully over the horizon now and I could see the sprawling campsite in the distance. Dozens of guards were patrolling around protecting the few that were still alive. We walked in and made our way to the center, where guards had set up an immense tent for the general. Two sentries stood at the entrance to it and stopped us when we tried to walk in.
“State your business,” one asked gruffly. “The general would like to speak to us,” Joe replied. The guards looked at one another, and then the one on the left nodded. They stepped aside, and let us in.
Inside the tent looked even larger than it did from the outside. There was a small cot in one corner, and a comfortable looking chair in another. The walls were painted a cool blue and in the center of the tent was a vast round table with a bunch of seats around it. In one of them sat the general.
He looked up. “Ahh, welcome,” he said warmly. “Please take a seat,” I sat down in a chair near the entrance. Joe plopped down next to me. The general was a somewhat rounded man who looked to be in his thirties. He was completely bald and wearing an orange robe.
“So you’re probably wondering why I asked to see you,” He inquired, smiling. I slowly nodded. Joe did as well. The general looked at both of us in turn.
“Well, as you know we won the battle and drove the Romans back,” he began. “However, the cost was great. We began with ten thousand troops but only seven hundred remain. The Romans sent only two legions to fight us, and look at the damage they did! If we want to win this war, we need to change tactics,”
A shiver went down my spine. I knew where this was going, and I did not like it one bit. “I need you two for a mission,” the general began again. “A very dangerous mission that I can only trust you to do. A mission so important that”-
He was interrupted midsentence by a loud boom coming from outside the tent. Shouts and sounds of commotion filled the air. The general frowned. “What on earth is going”- He was interrupted again by another boom. It was even louder this time.
The flap to the tent opened, and a guard staggered in. The general stood. “What is happening Luventius?” the guard looked at us fearfully. “It- it’s the cursed Romans!” suddenly there was a loud thunk and Luventius fell face first onto the ground, a bloody arrow stuck in his back.
The general looked down at him grimly, made his way to the exit and disappeared. Joe and I glanced at each other and followed the general out of the tent. What I saw next was a sight that I won’t ever forget.
Romans were everywhere. Arrows rained from the sky. There were dozens of guards crawling around moaning. Many were already dead. The few guards that were left were fighting valiantly, but they were sorely outnumbered. I remembered seeing a flaming boulder on the ground near the tent and realized that they were probably what had caused the booming sound. I turned to see an arrow whistling toward me. Then everything went black.
As I slowly regained consciousness, my first sensation was pain. Dreadful, blinding pain. I carefully opened my eyes to discover the source of the agony, and what I saw nearly made me blackout again.
A long arrow protruded from my arm. There was a colossal puddle of blood on the floor, and it was getting bigger every second. I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came out. The last thing I remember before my world went black again was getting picked up, and thrown into a cart...
When I woke up again I realized that the blinding pain had become a dull ache. I sat up quickly only to lie back down from dizziness. I tried again, slower this time, and managed to prop my back up against a wall.
I took in my surroundings, and what I saw was not a pretty sight. I was in a huge cell with about fifty people, some of whom I recognized. I saw Joe in one corner and the general in another. It was very dark. The only light came from a small door with a barred window on the far wall. I also heard a distant noise that sounded something like cheering.
Confused, I tried to remember what happened. I was talking with someone. The general maybe? Then there was some kind of fight... I gave up, and crawled over to Joe. “Hey, do you know what happened? Where are we?”
Joe looked at me solemnly. “We were captured by the Romans. We’re under the coliseum,” Suddenly, everything came rushing back - the battle, the meeting, the ambush… Then and there I came to a sickening realization that made my heart crawl up into my throat. There could only have been be one reason the Romans brought us to the coliseum, and that was to fight.
Joe looked down at my arm and frowned. “Hey, when did you get that?” I followed his gaze and was startled to see that the arrow was completely gone. In its place was a rag tightly wound around my arm. The rag had a faint reddish tinge that must have been the blood.
“I got hit with an arrow,” I told Joe. “Someone must have taken it out and bandaged it. I don’t know who it was though,”
The faint cheering that I now knew was the roman crowd suddenly got louder. Joe looked up. “They must have slayed Agrippa. Ah well, at least he lasted the longest. Rest in peace,” I heard footsteps and the door to the cell opened. Standing in the doorway was what I assumed was a Roman guard. He walked in and pointed at the nearest person. The person spat at the guard and brushed past him.
Joe watched this dejectedly. “A brave soul he is. May he die with honor,” I turned to Joe a look of horror and dread on my face. “Is he – are they going- what will…,” Joe simply nodded. I buried my face in my hands. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
I sat in that corner with Joe as one by one prisoners were led by the guards to their death. As each person died, I knew that the chances were greater that I would be next.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, the guard came in and pointed at me. I went willingly. It was almost a relief to get it over with. Almost. As I was dragged out of the cell, I looked at Joe and waved farewell. He waved back.
The guards took me to a room where they fitted me with a leather chest plate that was three sizes too big and gave me a short sword that was as dull as brick. The guards then led me up a winding staircase. As we climbed the steps the roar of the crowd grew louder.
I gulped. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I wondered if this was the last time I’d ever climb stairs again, then decided not to dwell on that.
Finally, I was lead to a room with a gate leading out into what I knew was the battlefield. The gate opened and the guards pushed me out. I stumbled into the arena and the gate closed behind me.
The sound was deafening. I looked up at the thousands of different people sitting in the crowd, and took a moment to realize that they were all booing at me. I got angry. “Stupid Romans,” I muttered. “I’ll show you,”
The floor of the arena was covered entirely with sand. The walls around the battlefield were about three meters high, and there was an overturned chariot on the side of it. Most likely from one of the previous battles.
Suddenly the crowd’s jeers became a roar of cheering. I looked across the sandy arena and saw another gate opening. Out walked a tall and muscular gladiator.
He was holding an enormous rectangular shield in one hand and a gleaming blade in the other. On top was a helmet completely covering his head. On both his legs and right arm he had thick padding the seemed impossible to penetrate with my terrible weapon.
I sighed. Even the best warrior didn’t stand a chance with this kind of gear against someone so heavily armed. No wonder everyone kept dying.
The gladiator slowly walked toward me. Very slowly. I realized with gear that heavy it was bound to slow you down. I took off my leather chest plate and threw it on the ground. It was cumbersome and hindering. Speed was my only chance in this fight.
The gladiator was a lot closer now. A mere stone’s throw away. My hand shook nervously with every step he took. I had decent experience in swordplay, but not nearly enough. I finally decided that I could wait no longer and charged.
The gladiator stopped walking and brought up his shield. He blocked my first attack and countered with a stab at my midsection. I jumped back barely in time. The gladiator stepped forward and brought down his sword, forcing me to roll to the side.
I jumped to my feet and swiped at his head. He brought up his shield and blocked it easily. I followed up thrusting my sword. The gladiator sidestepped and lunged at my head. I lifted my sword and parried the attack just in time.
The fight continued. I realized I couldn’t penetrate the gladiator’s defence. His shield was just too big. No matter where I aimed my attack, he could easily block it. Even if I did hit him I’d hardly do any damage. My sword was so dull. I might as well be hitting him with a stick.
The battle raged on. I had no idea how long we’d been fighting - minutes, hours, days maybe. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. My entire focus was the fight.
Eventually I started to tire. My arms ached and my legs felt like lead. I was also mentally exhausted, from focusing for so long. I really needed a break, but something told me that my opponent was not going to give me one.
I lunged at the gladiator clumsily. He sidestepped and pushed me over. I dropped my sword and hit the ground with a thud. My opponent loomed over me and brought up his sword, ready for the killing stroke.
There was nothing I could do. I could barely move. I had pushed and broken the limits of my endurance rendering my body useless. Time seemed to slow down as the enemy started to swing his sword toward me.
I closed my eyes as the events of past few days flashed through my mind. The Romans raiding our villages. The General gathering the survivors to march for Rome. The battle in valley. The meeting. The ambush…
With each thought I grew more enraged. It was because of the Romans that my brother was dead. It was because of the Romans that dozens of people were sitting in a cell awaiting their deaths. And it was the Romans who raided our villages and killed our women and children.
My path suddenly became clear to me. I would not just lie there and let the Romans kill me. I would not just lie there and let them get what they wanted. All previous fatigue was forgotten. I opened my eyes.
Just before I got skewered by the enemy I grabbed the sword laying at my side and brought it up to meet the gladiator’s blade. My opponent froze for just a fraction of a second, but that was all I needed.
I reacted by rolling forward and slicing his legs. It didn’t cut through the padding, but it did cause my opponent to stumble and then fall. I quickly got up and grabbed the blade from one of the gladiator’s flailing arms and sliced.
The next thing I knew the helmet of my enemy was rolling across the ground, the head still inside of it.
For the first time since I walked into the arena, there was silence. Complete, stone silence. I turned around slowly to look at the thousands of people in the crowd, and saw that they were all just as stunned as I was.
Then slowly, one by one, the people in the crowd started cheering again, until it was just as loud as it was before. Except this time, I knew they were cheering for me.
My eyes finally came to rest upon a chubby man in a toga, sitting in an extravagant throne. Dozens of guards flanked his sides, and somehow I knew that this was the emperor. He glared furiously. I smirked at him, and even though I knew he couldn’t hear me, whispered “bring it on.” The scowl on the emperor’s face got even worse.
Suddenly the gate on the far side of the arena opened up and another gladiator walked out. This one was vastly different from the last one. He was wearing little to no armour, and instead of carrying one sword, he carried two. The gladiator looked at me for a moment then charged.
The fight was not fair. Within minutes my enemy lay dead on the ground. Midway through the fight I had picked up the shield from the last gladiator and I pretty much had it after that. I was better geared and more determined than I’d ever been before. Nothing could get in my way.
The Emperor of Rome was furious. He watched helplessly as some random boy from some random village defeated his best gladiators, easily! Time after time he ordered his guards to send in another gladiator, and time after time the boy defeated them.
He was so irritating! He had already burned through dozens of elite gladiators, and yet the boy still refused to die! The emperor groaned in frustration. “Why can’t we just kill him, again?” he asked for the hundredth time.
His adviser stepped up. “I told you emperor. The crowd loves the boy, and they would not be happy if we were to kill him,”
The emperor sighed. “Very well then, send in another gladiator,”
The advisor started sweating. “Oh… um… about that, you see I meant to tell you uh… We’re out of gladiators,”
“WHAT?!” screamed the emperor. The advisor winced. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think that would we would have needed so many, so we only brought thirty,”
The emperor let loose another scream of frustration. What now, he thought sulkily? Today’s show wasn’t scheduled to end for another two hours. He very well couldn’t just end it early. But what else could he do? He had no one to fight the boy, unless… Suddenly he got a very, very wicked idea. “Guards? Go down to the slave room. Let’s see how the boy would like to fight one of his own,”
Joe felt miserable. Here he was, sitting in a dark and dusty room, waiting to get killed by some gladiator dude for the Romans’ enjoyment. He couldn’t believe it. After all the battles he’d survived, this is how he would end?! Getting murdered by a gladiator for the entertainment of the people that had burned his village and killed his family?!
He sighed. At least he would go down fighting. There was nothing he could do about it. Unless… Joe looked at the faces around him. Some looked miserable, some looked furious. All of them looked like they were willing to do something.
Joe slowly stood up. Some of the faces turned his way. He looked at every one in the room, and then shakily cleared his throat. “Friends, I know it seems like we’re in a tough situation, and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it,”
Everyone in the room was looking at him now. Each had varying degrees curiosity, and interest. Joe nervously continued.
“The Romans destroyed our villages and killed our families, and now they’re about to kill us for their own enjoyment! Will we let them?!” “No,” mumbled the crowd.
“Will we let them drag us away into the arena to be slaughtered like animals?! “NO!” shouted the crowd, louder this time. “If we are going to die, let’s at least bring a few Romans with us! WHO’S WITH ME?!”
The noise that came from the crowd was so loud, Joe’s ears practically shattered. He grinned. The tides had turned. The Romans had better watch out.
The guard was tackled to the ground, pinned down and knocked out just seconds after entering the cell. Joe then grabbed the sword from his belt and tossed it to Antonninus, who was the best sword fighter in the group.
Antonninus strode out the door, and sliced at the two guards waiting outside the door. They were dead before they even knew what hit them.
The prisoners salvaged what they could from the three guards and then charged out of the cell. Joe led them through the maze of passages under the coliseum, with no particular destination in mind. All he knew was that they needed to get away from that cell.
Eventually they found a room filled with weapons and armor. The escaped prisoners geared up, and continued on their way. They then came across the bottom of a winding staircase. After some hesitation Joe led the group up…
For the first time in days I was actually bored. I had been waiting there in the middle of the arena for what seemed like hours for my next opponent, but he never came. I looked up at the emperor who was watching me intently.
Where was my next opponent? Did something happen? Was I just going to have to wait here forever?
Eventually I sat down and took off some of the armor that I had salvaged from other gladiators. It was hot, and if anybody did come through the gate, I could get my armor back on pretty quickly. When someone did enter, it was not who I expected it to be.
The gate opened slowly and a bunch of people poured out. I hastily grabbed for my armor and started putting it on when I recognized Joe. I froze in my tracks. “Joe?” I asked uncertainly. He turned to look at me and grinned.
“Hey, you’re alive!” he shouted. “I – I am,” I stammered, as he walked towards me. “I thought you’d be dead by now,” he said. “No wonder no one came to take us away for so long. How did you survive?”
“It’s a long story,” I admitted. “Now let me ask you something. What on earth is going on?” Joe turned to look at the crowd of prisoners wandering around the arena. “Oh, we broke out of our cell and raided the armory. Now we’re just wandering around. I guess we should try to escape, but-,”
“No,” I said suddenly. I looked up at the emperor. “If we want this to end we have to take out him,” Joe followed my gaze, and nodded. “You’re right,” he said. “Small problem though. The walls are like three meters high. We can’t exactly climb that,”
I thought for a moment then remembered the overturned chariot. I looked around, and sure enough it was there. I pointed at it. “If we climb onto that, we should be able to get over the wall,” Joe nodded, then grinned.
“Let’s get moving then,” Joe turned to face the escaped prisoners. “Follow me!” he shouted. “We’re going to take out the emperor!” The prisoners cheered and followed Joe and I up the chariot, and past the wall.
The emperor was slightly annoyed when no one came out to fight for so long. He was even more annoyed when people came out, but way too many of them. He got super annoyed when he realized that they were prisoners who had escaped. His annoyance then turned to fear as one of the former prisoners shouted. “Take out the emperor!” and started climbing over the wall.
The guards rushed to fight them, but for once, the Romans were outnumbered. Nothing stopped the prisoners as they made toward the emperor, who was paralyzed with fear.
When they got to him, he shouted. “NO. You can’t do this. I’m the most powerful emperor the world has ever seen!” Joe ignored him, and sliced off his head. I looked down at his dead body grimly and growled “Now you’re the most dead emperor the world has ever seen.”