A Slave's Tale: The Devil & Dominus Titus
Share this writing
Link to this writing
More from Daniel Bird
I Never Forgot About You
So You Want to Self Publish? Entry # 3 – Getting to the ‘Why’ of the matter: Understanding your motivations for Self Publishing.
A Gerbil's Tale: The Mystery Of The Missing Crumbs
So You Want to Self Publish? - Entry # 1 An Introduction to Self Publishing
More Short Stories
Four Fundamentals of Making Acquaintances
I Cannot Resist
She had a friend.
This writing contains explicit content and is only for adults. You have been warned.
A RE-POST! Written 5 years ago for my UBC (University of British Columbia) Creative Writing Class. This is one of my earliest writings I posted on SS! Also one of my favourites! I thought it deserved another read!
111 A.D. The West Farmer’s Road, Outside Rome
The boy was captivated. So much, in-fact, that he could not help trotting a little ways off to the top of the hill to get a better view. He lost his breath to wonder. Not just by the wide south roads heading into the city - their long lines of desert caravans, traders, merchants and slave-carriages – but by the endless traffic, the grandeur of such a place, its ability to host such numbers, such spectacle!
And the sight of a long line of wild animals in cages made his heart sing! He could hear their savage growls from here - tiger’s, lion’s, bears, jaguars and some too that he’d heard of in late tales by the fire, those strange, tall beasts whose spots resemble dry cracked mud-beds - lanky beasts with long legs and high reaching necks that stood taller than three men. So that’s what a Geraff looks like!
Following single-file, sitting rather comfortably atop a dozen elephants, beautiful veiled women looked out from a world pampered by elegance and wealth. And as sweet as they were, nothing could be sweeter than the coins they tossed out to the waiting children, if only to see them smile. And the colorful feathers, rose-petals and jewels they tossed to the crowds were but a sprinkle compared to the rest of their great wealth.
Nor was he taken by the natural beauty of the land; the gentle hue of a perfect sunset spilling over lush groves, with gentle forests stretching away on the far southern slope, opening up to easy flowing valleys to the east, far beyond the city’s reach. To the north lazy marshes bridged a wide western field, trailing little forests south along the river Tiberus adding more shine to an already splendorous city. He did not blink. Not once. The perpetual movement of Mighty Rome embraced him in loving arms, to his utter disbelief.
He could see now how it was the most spectacular place in all-the world, truly a city of the Gods! A city of dreams and might. Its tall-white columns, magnificent temples, wide halls, teeming markets, lavish hillside homes, brilliant villas, wonderful bath-houses and glorious theatres brought the masses from far and wide across the known world, hosting tens of thousands of milling prospects at any of the great Forums, named after mighty rulers: Traiani, Vespasian, Boarium and so forth. The city was home to breathtaking arches, basilicas and of course the most magnificent and prominent creation to date - rising straight up from the ground, an intricately designed marvel of modern architecture, the very pulse of Rome…the great Colosseum.
One-hundred and sixty-foot walls the color of dry sand rounded a long line of wonderful stone arches, boasting the Gods in all their glory: Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, Ceres and even great men as well: Achilles and Alexander the Great - names that transcend time itself. Among them, the founders of Rome themselves, the twins - Romulus and Remus - posing tall and proud amongst a Legion of excellence.
The Boy breathed deep, overwhelmed by her magnificence, her seeming grace, her light and her lull. But that was not it either.
Dominus instead was engulfed by what lay beyond the first south-road, further east to the second road. He wished he were there right this moment, lost amidst the thousands upon thousands of Soldier’s heading out of the city, crowding the distant plains far into the clear evening. And still, it was not just the power of the Praetorian Guard that seduced him, nor the sheer numbers of the Roman Army - the greatest force in all the world, no. It was something even stranger that gripped him, something not seen, but felt. It was in the way their women - a long line - trailed closely behind, seeing their men off to war.
He sensed a great power in all of it, discovering within himself a profound connection with his fellow man, that deep-seeded desire for great responsibility; to matter, to show his worth. How he wished he were a soldier, standing side by side with bloody strong men, hoisting the grandeur of Rome on his shoulders, screaming mad - victorious, winning and expanding her glory, displaying her infectious will to dominate. Her will to power.
Tilting his head dreamily, he crossed his arms, letting his mind run away with him. Someday, I’ll have great wealth and power. And someday too, I’ll be rich and famous and have a wife and many mistresses. Someday, I’ll be free. He smiled to himself. I’d sell my soul… By Pluto I would. Amethus walked up beside him.
“Your fate is set in stone boy. Even Jupiter would not bother with such thoughts of heroism and riches. And women too, hmmm?” the skinny man teased, nudging him lightly, reasoning with him. “We are slaves Dominus, and don’t you forget that. Your father, his father before him and so it is, all the way down, over a hundred years now. Good hearted people, your folks. Hard working. You should be ever so proud that we serve above our dreams.”
Not mine. Wildly entranced by the amazingly wide city-sprawl, its tens of thousands of tiny pinpoints of torch light beginning to shine, he said nothing. And he imagined the city coming alive with murmur and drink, right as the sky darkened. Watching huge crowds piling in for a night in the big city, he wished for freedom, prayed secretly for it. Every night would be a night on the town for me, he thought. And without ever stepping foot inside he knew that it held everything his heart desired.
Amethus carried on, shaking his head at the boy’s ungrateful ways. “And every day you should give thanks to the Gods you’re not in the gutter, a homeless cretin. Now pick up that spill, the others are far enough ahead. There’s no reason we should be this far behind. Hurry up or we’ll both catch a beating!”
The setting sun disappearing behind the western valley stole the warmth from his back - a clear indication that it was time to get back to work. The wagon needed tending and the hay, wheat and barley needed gathering from the road. Stupid Hermaxes! he thought, taking to the spill, easing the old-ass with a light brush and a few choice words, “Hermaxes, if it were up to me you’d be chopped up and served to the feast. You shouldn’t be so scared of snakes. Not those dull colored ones. They’re just garden snakes. They can’t hurt you. Probably more scared of you than anything.” He ran a hand through Hermaxes’ mane as if to apologize for his cruel words.
“Let’s put a move on it, boy! We can’t hang around forever. The night is upon us and…” Amethus looked about worriedly. “Hurry up!” He said nothing of the murderous bandits that frequented the area roads away from the city, robbing and killing those unfortunate enough to find themselves alone and unarmed, loaded up with goods. Amethus looked to the east, losing the others to the thick crowds entering the city only a mile away. He looked to the boy who was nearly finished, with only two more bales to fill the carriage. “Alright, let’s-” his words were cut short by a sudden ‘thock!’ sound that spewed a gush of blood from his mouth, sending him to the ground face first in a vicious thud.
Seeing the tail end of an arrow protruding the back of Amethus’ head belonging to a trio of shadows rushing out from tree-and-brush south of the road - Dominus’ heart shook wildly in his chest. Bandits! They were coming fast. He was stricken by fear, unable to move when an arrow opened a wide gash in his shin, nicking bone, trickling a warm, tiny blood-river down into his sandal. Another slammed home an inch from his face making a home in the barley, setting his wits to flight and without thinking he bolted past the suffering body of Amethus, leaving Hermaxes, the hay bales, sacks of wheat and barley to their fate.
Licked by something he’d never felt before – freedom, coupled with utter terror - he tore in the direction of the city, the safety of the small forest and the banks of the river. The sheer terror of the bandit raid, along with the thrill and panic of the last few moments - the very taste of freedom - took him quickly over countryside, up a stony hillside, through a dried meadow and back down again under a canopy of oaks into ever thickening forest. And he never once looked back.
He came to rest under the stars against a huge rotted stump in the darkness, the voices fading to all but night sounds far behind him, swallowed up by a maelstrom of chirping crickets, croaking bullfrogs and a thousand wild things in the dark, serenading the night away. Ahead somewhere in the darkness, besides a lonely buzzing firefly, he heard more voices - like laughter. Dressing his wound with a strand of his robe, he scurried forth in the cover of night, curiosity driving him like a cat while a narrow muscular frame and strong legs brought him silently within earshot of a pair of voices a little ways east. The sound of splashing water and tickling laughter just ahead, intrigued him, driving him forward quietly.
Coming to a shallow ridge he could see several torches posted at the river’s edge, where two young girls, perhaps his own age of thirteen summers, and another - older - bathed and frolicked, dived and splashed. Close by he could hear the flapping lips of sighing horses and a pair of guards talking devilishly of the young girls. “Ah, what beauty, no, Dialayus? Perfect age for the slave markets, eh?”
“Quite. Quite, indeed. But be careful what you say Riccos. Though I agree they would make any man beg for mercy with their virtue and warmth, the mere mention of it is enough to get us killed. We would be chopped up and fed to the lions and Governor Skipius would see that it would be a long and torturous end. I value my life Riccos, as much as the man values the safety of his daughters, so keep your lustful thoughts to yourself for both our sakes."
Dominus crept ever closer in the darkness making very little noise, sliding right down to the shelter of a thick bush where he could hear their laughter and spy their stunning bodies by torchlight. Twins, perhaps his own age of thirteen - chaperoned by an elder sister, quite easily seventeen summers - older maybe, but certainly less than twenty who was fuller, less active and more acute to the guards position, keeping sure they not peek. Glistening in the darkness, teasing playfully by the full moon and torchlight, Dominus was taken by their beauty. Their swelling breasts and widening hips made his blood flow hot.
Enticed by the playful antics of the trio, Dominus’ hand slowly reached under his robe taking a firm grip. He was tickled breathless, coursing through with quick-hot blood. He smiled in glorious wonder at the Gods for blessing him this very night. He had never seen a woman’s full beauty before, let alone, the taut naked skin of three young, dark-haired beauties. How he wanted to simply touch their honey-colored skin. Then he would be truly free.
Immediately he was aching with a new lust for life, his mind flooding with images of freedom, wealth and a house all his own, complete with a good loving wife, servants and several mistresses. The mere thought of it opened up a room of butterflies in his stomach and the last thing he heard before two more arrows flew straight and true into the heads of the guards was the sudden thrashing of water followed quickly by blood curdling screams. The night went out with a flash in the back of his eyes and a knock on the head.
He dreamt a wily dream:
Paulus Tait Maracanius, his old slave-keep - the man who taught him to read and write in a handful of languages - to excel at wrestling, boxing, running as well as swordsmanship, archery and the hunt - had come to him along the old crossroads under the light of the full-moon. He strained his eyes in the night, “Maracanius? Is that you?”
The old man dragged one bad leg behind him in the night. His red tunic, white wool robe and creamy Toga smelled of something special - the boy’s favorite: freshly baked almond cake with melting butter. “You called me dear boy, don’t you remember?"
“I did no such thing, Maracanius. You’re dead! And I would never call out a dead person. Not one as old and wise as yourself, you who has taught me all the essential tools I need to survive til’ I’m a freedman.”
A glint in the old man's eyes set the mood, "Ah...how quickly we forget.” Maracanius crept closer, slowly, menacing, with dark narrow eyes, a straight, almost-handsome nose and a mere slit for a mouth, his thin white lips striking fear in Dominus’ heart. It was not Maracanius. An imposter! A less than pleasant impostor for certain. The old man swept a cold frail arm over his shoulder and they began to walk into the night under the pale moon, casting only one shadow - his.
Maracanius chuckled, “Ah, but you did call me, Dominus. You haven't seriously forgotten your prayer to Pluto, have you?” His breath smelled quite pleasant, like wild berries. His short silver hair rustled gently in the breeze. Looking deep into the boy’s eyes, Maracanius took his chin up in cold fingers. “You ready to bargain?”
“Say what you, old man?” Dominus replied.
“Your soul. I want it.” With a sharp mischievous quality about him the old man smiled.
Dominus, startled to by a terrible shriek, opened his eyes to a heavy thud right next to him. It was one of the twins, naked, bloody and groaning sickly, her chest dipping and rising, lungs heaving in frightening gasps. She was dying. A solid fist to the head wrung the image from his mind. And when he could hear and see once more, he was being restrained at either arm by two boys some years his senior. “Hold him still, Caius!” said a third, standing above. “Put him to sleep Romello,” said another, holding an arm. And with that, a heavy heel came crashing down. He would remember those eyes… Those names: Romello. Caius.
A sharp ringing in his ears stole him away from the world, etching on his memory, the faces of two of the three young men. He would never forget them. Slipping into unconsciousness, Maracanius was there waiting for him. “Come, my boy. Walk with me.” his bony hand waved across the horizon expressing grandiose in a flattering streak, “Let us talk of your future.”
The old man chuckled. “Yes, your future. Remember? The fame, the fortune, riches, glory and power. And let us not forget the freedom, yes?” It was as though he were capable of sending all the heavens down to drown the boy in vast wealth, shining glory, mountains of gold and power unbeknownst to man. “Rich women will flock like schools of fish for many miles to lie in your bed.” He added. “They’ll pay you for what their own husbands cannot give them. They will adore you and pleasure you in all the ways they know how with naught in mind but to see your whims met, no matter how wild."
Maracanius continued, "You have things going for you boy, besides your dark green eyes, like Adonis himself, and just as beautiful.” The old man pinched his cheek. “They’ll throw themselves at your feet for just a brush of your golden hair. They’ll sell their daughters just to touch your young muscles, to lay next to your warm skin. And men too will be awed by your strength, and dread to look upon your gaze. And even the great Augustus himself will know your name and seek company with you.”
The night road was deserted in the dream, the city, dark and still, or perhaps it too was just sleeping. “And for all of it?” Dominus asked.
“Your soul. Nothing else.” Maracanius offered a sly devilish grin, displaying wonderful charm and a thrilling presence, and in the corner of his mouth were fangs, and his leg was all well and strong. He was younger now, more handsome than ever, and even…glowing somewhat; a lively dervish - cold blue eyes, night black hair, a beautiful mouth and perfect nose. “What say you, Dominus?”
It was not a hard decision since he had nothing to begin with. He just needed reassurance. “You promise, every last thing?”
“Of course. Everything your heart desires; fame, riches, glory, power, and freedom. All that is required to see you through.”
“It’s a deal.” He took Maracanius' hand in his own, a smile escaping his lips. “To fame and fortune then.”
The young Maracanius’ nails dug deep, drawing blood, piercing through like a sharp bite.
Dominus woke to an urgent voice calling out to a group of approaching men. He noticed at once that his hand had been pierced by a fleeing snake when he was caught off guard by a fast closing voice. “There he is! Caladon! Caladon! There’s your daughter’s murderer!” It was one of the twins, laid out next to him, set in a grotesque sexual pose; legs spread with a bloody fingerless-hand set as though she were touching herself.
His heart shrank and broke when he saw the blood that covered him the waist down. He was traumatized by the sight of her, the glossy emptiness in her eyes, her ravishing wasted beauty, her blade riddled corpse and cold graying skin, a blasphemy in the midday sun. A full gust rose from deep within him. “Nooo! I didn’t do it! I-” His head snapped back in a vicious thrack! The lights went out reducing him to blackness up in his brain.
Nudged awake by a heavy boot to the ribs several days later, a thick grumbling voice yelled down at him where he lay, “Wake up murderer! Rapist! Slave!” He groaned in pain, his mind recalling with utter clarity the faces of two of the three young men, having sworn revenge in a dream, never to forget them, the real murderers; Romello, Caius and…he never knew that third one. No matter.
He was snapped to with a heavy hand across the face. His dried lips burst open once again, warming a salty thickness on his tongue. Again that haggard stinky voice grumbled in his face. “Your day’s of rest are long over boy! Get up!” He heard the unimstakable sound of picks hitting rocks nearby and armor being forged further on, and he could see across the lane, past many milling men, huge square slabs of stone being hoisted high above their heads by difficult knots, in what appeared to be the walls of a huge pillared structure.
The next three years were spent working long hours in the sun and suffering cold broken days in the winter, while the long draining days under the spring rains bruised his morale, saddening him to no end. Considered a foul rapist he made no friends, spending much of his down-time alone, studying his swordsmanship with only a stick - adding to his delight, fancy new moves and techniques. From the bottom rung of the criminal world, from a quiet spot below ground, through a barred lonely window, he watched many of the Gladiators across the way, train daily and nightly, mimicking their movements, learning all that he could.
He scraped their moves in the walls, practicing them well past bedtime. He wrote poetry and prayers to the Gods, begging their forgiveness for selling his soul. And he begged forgiveness of Amethus, his only true friend in the world, and still the dream of Maracanius’ impostor haunted him, bringing him pain and torment. But it gave him strength too - the belief he had in it being real, the sale of his soul, that which truly belongs to the Gods. He felt they were punishing him.
Early in his sixteenth summer, two hulking guards appeared outside his cell. “Approach prisoner Dominus Titus!” He did. “You are hereby sentenced to begin your training as Retianus, the lowest of men to gain entrance to the door to glory and death. We've been sent for you.” The haggard giant laughed. “Well, smile boy! You've just been sold to a wealthy slave driver whose gain has been reputable in the Games. You will no doubt make a fine man proud with your death, and Justice will be served."
The other chimed in cheekily, “And the women… Ah, the women... You’ll see for yourself, boy. If you survive long enough!” He broke into an unpleasant sounding laughter, clutching his big belly.
Gathered about splendid hillside ruins, crumbled pillars and worn masonry, thirty men stood in neat rows of eight, while many more trained all about the grounds. Though they were older he was as tall as many of them - leaner, more wiry, his brain like a fresh sponge, learning everything as he saw it.
A well dressed desert man robed in light creamy colors stepped down from a passing chariot, holding himself with a sense of strength, wisdom, character and experience. He approached calmly, his eyes missing nothing, looking out at them from behind heavily scarred grim features. Somehow enhancing his fearsome gaze a large ruby shone out onto the world from the center of a wild-oat colored turban. His hands came together and he bowed.
“I am Felix Fortunata, and as my name suggests I feel as though I have somehow been cheated by sorcery with the sickly look of a host of dogs such as yourselves! I guess you’ll just have to do." His eyes became serious. "And let there be no doubt that you belong to me! Every last one of you! Your death will bring me more more wealth, more glory - a bigger name! And together we shall bring the Colosseum to its knees with every glorious victory! And perhaps too...” he looked them over with feist and hope, “one of you will become famous. We shall see.”
He circled them, taking measure of each of their qualities, aiming for the best partners, the most awkward of teams; one weak and one strong. “Know now that many of you will die in the following days after the opening ceremonies. That cannot be helped. Understand that that is why you are here. That is your destiny!" He became bright, "Some of you, however, will keep for weeks, and a few of you…months. Death my friends, is an unstoppable wave. He is far too grand and tricky."
"Those of you who survive the summer and the autumn will go on to become great in your conquest, and you shall claim your stake in the Colosseum - etch your name in its stone with each bloody victory. By your ending lives - a lot of lives...your name and mine will grow in size and popularity. And that… That, my friends, is the first step on the road to immortality: making a name. A lasting name worthy of memory. A story of the ages.”
He carried on with gust. “Against beast and foe - and friend - you will become more powerful than you might very well imagine. But slavery is not without its own recourse. I assure you, that a month from now, some of you will not be here to share the in the Great feast, but do not despair. I would not send you to the boatman on an empty stomach. We shall have our own great feast beforehand. That I assure you."
He looked upon them with hope, remembering his own bloody climb to the top, his long and bloody road to freedom. "My friends...my men...do not forget that you are Gladiators! Now and forever! I ask only one thing, from all of you,” he said, truly asking three things. “Train hard, fight hard, and never stop! Gladiators I shall honor your death with drink and feasts. Every one of you! Go now! Fight for glory, kill for fame and thunder! Die with honor! Gladiators...I salute you!” He bowed graciously and left.
The next sixty days leading up to the Games were the most exhausting of his life, with many miles of running, weight training and the vigorous mock pit-fighting, teaching him a variety of weapons, letting loose his drive to fight; unleashing his will to win at all costs, compelling him to be more than just a fifth-generation slave stemming from a line of proud and foolish slaves. And every day he was unearthing little by little the one true drive in his soul: the will to conquer all who stood before him.
Every day he grew faster, stronger and more aware of what lie in his wake. But he was still young, possessing a wild, cocky nature and unwavering attitude. Not so clever though. Not yet.
During training, his agility, ferocity and unrelenting-nature turned heads, and unafraid to give his all, he had - on two occasions - entered into a shoving match with a man far his elder and experience, beating him to the ground on both occasions. He was torn off before killing the man and disgracing Master Felix with an in-house humiliating discrepancy.
After shaking hands, Sextus Vorpa was his friend ever since. Vorpa, once a great soldier, taught him all he could in the little time they had together before the fights, right up until the feast the night before. While they ate a parade of rich and powerful women entered the halls, there to see the wares, to look in the men’s eyes for strength, looking to find a hardy Gladiator to bet on, and also, to search their bodies for signs of, perhaps a night of pleasure while the husband is out to war. Definitely. The women - the most alluring creatures - oozed in the midst of such testosterone and pheromones. One young man in particular caught their attention.
Dominus heard them whispering to the bookies in Greek. He understood but kept it to himself. “Who’s the babe? I would like to put him on reserve for 20 silver pieces. Surely, he’s worth it.” They giggled to one another in Greek. “I must have that hard young stallion between my legs. What a gem!”
And in minutes the fire spread. He was already adding to Felix’ fortune well before the first stroke spilled blood. He ate and let them stare, and when he was done he approached the bars that separated them. They gathered in a little crowd to touch him. It swelled his heart, setting his blood ablaze, tickling him that they gathered in such numbers to stare and grope, to lose themselves utterly in his presence; the very air of his youth warming their thoughts, swelling their natural prizes, inspiring lustful images of sweating bodies and wet meeting mouths.
When the first brood left, a new host of beautiful princesses and maidens sweetened the air once again, lifting their hearts. A treat indeed. Dominus was taken by their beauty, deeply moved by their sensual natures, their youth, their eager advances and their striking bodies, the sheer differences stealing him away to wonder. Some were full breasted while others were mere handfuls, some were tall, others short, but every last one of them was extraordinarily succulent. He had never seen such a collection of tantalizing creatures such as these - their wide bright eyes, like blue oysters in the sunshine, set off by pout crimson lips, gave him a new drive.
He went back to eating, not realizing that every last one of them placed an order in advance, knowing all too well that he had to live through it all first. They milled about to ogle him where he sat, placing their bets, inquiring as to his status, caring not that he was so young, so inexperienced, so low in ranking and name. They were all ultimately beautiful, lusting, wanting the same thing from him already despite his being the lowest of lows in the Arena, certainly the youngest at sixteen. They simply had to have him. Had to give themselves up to his whims.
The opening ceremonies filled the streets with cheering multitudes and huge crowds bursting with excitement! Theatre, drinks, drums, song and dance began early in the day, leading on to drinking, games and wild performances complete with knife-jugglers, sword-swallowers and fire-breathers and a wide range of spectacles to keep the crowds entertained. And already, men from other factions entered the Colosseum and did not return. And the next morning came with a free breakfast setting the day in tones of blood and death and thunderous appeal! And the days went by at a terrific pace with pools of blood, horrific screams, wild dangerous beasts and grisly death.
What drew him most - what kept him strong, was the famed thunder of the Colosseum as fifty-thousand cheering Romans screamed, hollered and cheered! "Gladiator! Gladiator! Gladiator!" drowning out even the trumpets, threatening to bring down the walls with pure, blood driven excitement. Like the hounds of hell set loose on the world, many more people crammed in, filling every available seat and every conceivable space, cheering on their favourites.
Dominus lost his friend Sextus Vorpa to the third day and a trident through the heart. He wept one last time silently - emotionless - before being startled back to the moment with a crisp holler. “Dominus Titus! Retianus! Rise and be fitted! Marius Marcus Otho! Retianus! Rise and be fitted!
His heart shook and his wits sharpened. He was cuffed to Otho, who was weak, battered by wear and a sea of weathered years. Dominus felt vulnerable with only a weak shoulder cover, trident and net. The fear in Otho's eyes was apparent. Dominus gripped the trident, handing Otho the net. A look of ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ splashed across the old man's face almost made him cry, as though certain death loomed just beyond his sights, just waiting to yank his number.
Felix approached them with a steady hand on their shoulders, as if giving them up as an offering to appease the Gods and Fate. “Gladiators!" He yelled! "Die with honor!” They both bowed and took to the ramp up to the arena floor. Breaking into orange and red tones, the evening heat was thick and dry. Through narrow slits in the door he could see a host of armed figures readying themselves when a single thick sharp voice deilvered a message to the crowd.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Colosseum, I bring to you the final fight of the night! The gruesome stand-off between The ‘Brother’s Lucilla’ and the blood hungry Barbarians of Germania.”
The tall thin man’s voice carried thick and hearty, resonating with a natural narrative quality, as though stories and crowds were his forte. “Thirty years ago, in the narrow ‘Lion’s Pass’ in the northern mountains of Goth, the famous Captain Leonius Lucilla and a small band of Praetorian Guard - weary men - were surrounded by a hundred stalking Barbarians.” A fervent silence brought all ears and eyes to him alone, on the edge of their seats.
“A vicious clash ensued! Blood! Entrails! The sound of war, killing...dying! And through rage and bloody desperation - becoming demons with every stroke and blow, the numbers dwindled. Oh what a battle! Unleashed, the forefront of their wills - driving maniacal savagery, to die in combat. Their ravenous will to survive, to conquer their fears, pressed them through hacked limbs, cleaved and riddled bodies.”
Enjoying the sound of his own voice, commanding the crowds attention, he kept on. “And when the last of the screaming men was silenced, all but two lone warriors - brothers, stood to conquer against many. The brothers fought like lions, like our very fathers before us, with tremendous will and iron hearts, willing to go the distance, to the death! And in the end, only Daetria Lucilla, the famed Captain’s youngest brother of twenty-two, stood above all, vanquishing his fears and gaining such a wide-spread and glorious name in the empire, worthy of song and legend."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly bring you the Barbarians Goth!” The Men outside the door clanged their steel and raised their weapons in vicious roars, like mad-men unaware of pain and fear, and the very floor shook under foot stomps, a sea of wild cheers and a seemingly endless round of applause. Fixated on the enemy’s closing shapes on the other side of the door, a dark light turned on in Dominus’ heart. "Amethus help me." No Prayer to the Gods. Not this time.
The voice continued with full assembly. “Now, the moment you have all been waiting for! I present to you Retianus! Dominus Titus! And Marius Marcus Otho! As The Brother‘s Lucilla!”
The door opened to a total of six men. A single giant Secutor (the most heavily armed of combatants) donned in thick leather, wore heavy armor on the left shoulder, right leg, both elbows and wrists. He remained in the back, quick to shove the three lesser Murmillo forward. The Murmillo were a frightening lot indeed. Tall, solid, hardy in appearance they were stronger and more experienced and only slightly slower. But it was the two younger Thracians - men not much older than himself, who wore less armor - that came forward eagerly, with guts and courage, still climbing their own ladders in the Arena.
Before Otho could gauge the situation - in a single flashing moment that caught everybody off guard - Dominus leaped out, quickly pitched to the side with two straight and powerful jabs of the trident at the heads of the two nearest foes. The crowd responded with thunderous applause, piercing whistles - a wild, blood-driven excitement screaming through! Like that the two men fell dead, charging the air yet again with the scent of blood.
Pulling the frightened Otho along, he yanked the little man close before tossing him out to two fast closing Murmillo, allowing him a moment to take a single sharp blade - a finely crafted Gladius - in his left hand while the Trident remained gripped tight in his right. The old man and his net fell one last time in a sickly groan and twisted grimace with a wash of blood where his eyes should be. He fell holding his entrails, blind.
Leaping back, Dominus lopped the little man free of himself as three Murmillo came forward, while the fourth – the giant - patiently waited his turn.
The first of the two Murmillo (a brawny fellow ten years his senior) shot in rather confidently, albeit eagerly, dashing forward with a wide arc of his spiked club, leaving his chest unguarded. Dominus, his blade driving forward, deflected the spiked club in a show of will, strength and training, bringing the trident forward in another quick snap, piercing the man’s heart before kicking him free, catching a slick of hot blood across his forehead. Only three - Two Murmillo’s and The Giant Secutor - remained.
The two larger Murmillo closed in as did the Giant Secutor, carefully penning him in. The first - a cold killer of a man twice his age and thickness - came forward in a sudden burst, meeting a faster unexpected foot to the chest, sending him back, giving Dominus a moment to trade the trident for the heavier spiked club. The fallen Murmillo whose blood jetted high and across with every desperate pump of his impaled heart would not need it. Not where he was headed.
Witnessing the fury of the young Retianus, coming face to face with his determination - his resolve - the three circled cautiously, carefully, not so willing to venture out, respecting his strength, speed and skill. A wild combination of seething carnage - that ill-crazed look in his green eyes told the story of a man who is no longer a man, but a beast, woken by the desire to survive, driven to gain, to kill, to bring the Colosseum to explosive heights, finding power in the earth shattering applause - every shriek and whistle. Less eager to die they certainly underestimated the boy, inching forward, remembering their training. Dominus dropped the spiked club, gripping the blade in both hands.
The two remaining Murmillo rushed in rather stupidly - the first in a powerful strike. Moving in to meet his opponent in a quickness that was difficult to match, Dominus’ blade met with grating steel, sending the mace sailing through the air, and with a fierce spin he caught the stocky bull through the neck with his blade. Not hesitating a single moment, he turned to meet the last two: the Giant and a lone Murmillo - men of age and experience well beyond his own young years.
They sneered devilishly from behind hideous masks - missing teeth and brown
stained tongues. They pounded their chests in a quick attempt to demoralize him. It had no effect. Dominus smiled back, throwing in a wink which sparked something terrible in them both.
Faking an attack Dominus lunged in, backing them up just enough to circle out from the wall, leading them back to the middle of the arena where he picked up a second blade. Once near, the Giant - eager to teach him a lesson - swung a single thick blade. It took all Dominus’ strength and both blades to keep the Giant from cutting him wide through the ribs, and in a quick response of his own he brought both blades up and around in a brutal chopping force, relentlessly attacking, managing to land a deep slice on the giant’s forearm just as the other closed in unafraid.
The less frightening of the two - the last surviving Murmillo - drove forward, forcing him back quickly, causing him to trip over a body, narrowly escaping a sword to the head.
Falling back he used all his momentum to bring himself up off his shoulders in a stunning display of agility, adding to the crowd’s delight, breaking them out, once again, raising their momentum with every quick step, every wave of a ready sword and every drop of blood. And once again he was renewed, somehow boosted by the soul of Mars. Suddenly he charged forward in fast jerky movements, side to side, ducking, forward and then back, growling, his flighty steps lifting his confidence. Focused, breathing nicely, utilizing his training - all his own drawn moves and counters - he was ready for them.
As always his mind was calculating the next series of devastating moves, watching, reading his opponents, and in a highly skilled effort, like the night and just as comfortable, he brought all his will forth in a heavy bellow - a raw and tainted cry, followed by an even quicker flurry of mighty thrusts, again and again, never stopping - metal clashing and clanging followed closely by the slick horrible ‘thuck!’ sound of steel meeting flesh. In a moment that brought him back he heard a heavy moan, saw in the man terror, pain, blood and shock.
When his senses cleared he saw that the Murmillo’s thighs, arms and torso had been riddled with grave wounds, dropping him to the ground in a heavy blood-rapid, spilling out like a fountain. Quickly, in one natural fluid motion, like the breeze, Dominus followed through with a mighty slash, the force of the Gladius rocking his head to one shoulder in a fount of blood. As a warning to the remaining Secutor, he kicked the staggering man hard to the ground, soaking the crazed sands of the Colosseum in a wide, seeping vat.
And once again the mighty thunder of the Colosseum took Dominus away to fantastic machinations, taking him to the top of the Games, if only in his mind - his dream: to be crowned Grand Champion, stirring his motives. The scent of blood filled the air rippling a frenzy through his every fiber, down to his soul, filling his lungs, filling his heart with bowl force and vast courage, and he no longer saw the man before him as A Roman. No. He was now just an obstacle. One of many on the road to success and greatness - a lasting name. Only one more.
He caught eyes with the lone Secutor before him. The giant returned his gaze, seeing in him, a vast insatiable hunger, a savage thirst for blood, a new sparked fury - like a caged animal fighting itself free. Smearing the blood of both blades thickly across his face, he sprang forward suddenly, slashing at the giant, looking to exact his own brand of justice when a clean slice tore him across the chest followed quickly by a severe wound to his inner thigh and a bashing shoulder that sent him hard to the ground. Rolling desperately, narrowly escaping the giant's fierce blows, Dominus leaped to his feet, his blood, like the fire of the gods blasting through! The noise, the blood-fuelled excitement was like a dream! All for him!
Despite his gaping wounds, his pain, Dominus stood strong; spilling into the evening. Fine cuts they were. Deep cuts they were, but not enough. He grinned darkly, sickly with bright fiery eyes, his blood gushing down from his chest and leg, sending a cold shiver through him like an early winter spell.
The stands came alive, exploding suddenly like never before! Cheering fans who had never known him, nor had ever met him, were thrilled, lifted and deeply affected, shining in their souls at the sight of him, witnessing his courage and his will and falling madly, adoring the young Retianus, seeing in him a monster. And they howled for him, chanting their message that he might give them a reason to remember him. ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ Dominus squared off in a final clash of wills.
The Giant, his own dark agenda shining through, came forward screaming, slashing for all his worth. Dominus met him with fantastic force, quick light steps and awkward movements in a ‘one-two - three-four’ accurate series of blocks and matching strikes, finally catching the giant in a bloody whip about the shoulder, arm and chest. Dominus' eyes for the moment were that of a deranged lunatic lost in a moment of dread and savagery. In a blood rage all his own, in a single breath of pure volition - malicious intent - the only sound he could hear was his own screaming howls, like a newborn Demon crying with only death in mind.
The giant's gaping wounds about his shoulder and forearm left the him vulnerable, driving him to desperation. Wildly courageous, driven by adrenaline, the giant swung a last powerful, clean stroke. Dominus, both blades rushing forward, deflected the giant's attack, before spinning around in a fantastic counter-strike, lopping the giant’s head clean off in a thick crimson whip. A blood fountain opened up to the heavens as the lone Secutor fell forward in dramatic fashion - via his knees, followed in due time by the rest of him, his head rolling sickly, his face disappearing in the sand.
Dominus took up the giant's head, removed the iron helmet and raised it high above his head like a sacrifice - screaming, screaming, adrenaline shooting through him like falling stars, bursting with life; free of fear, a wild blood-lust careening through him like Titans with the Chariots of the Gods in tow.
And in that one moment something truly amazing happened. He was recognized, acknowledged, worthy, awakening the most glorious thing to behold, the cries and screams and pure delight of the Colosseum; sixty-five thousand screaming spectators, taking up every available seat, cheering his name with pride, their satisfied hands raised to the Heavens for him alone. The young Titan.
Then and there he felt the awesome power of the masses, a blessed will coming to find true strength in his own killing hands. On shaky weakened legs, he stood tall, overwhelmed that he alone was the last man standing. He waved to the crowds, lost in the thousands of men, women, and even some children, screaming his name, falling madly in love with him! "Dominus! Dominus! Dominus! Dominus!" He took to her bloody games like a fish to water. Unable to hold himself upright any longer he fell over right there, loved and cherished, and they would not quiet for some time yet. A devilish grin stole over his face. They won't soon forget about me. I’ll see to it. He closed his eyes and dreamt of women, blood and fame.
Three days later, stitched, wrapped and bandaged, - in the care of the best healers money could afford - things were far different somehow, and the air too seemed less stale. Men who never bothered before, now came to pay him their respects, taking to him clearly, congratulating him on his victory, and for the first time since arriving, he did not eat alone. And for the first time too he was praised by his peers, taken in by his fellow gladiators. Later in the day he even had his first true training session as a part of them. And they talked with him and laughed and joked with him, and some too - as a type of apology - gave him blades and showed him new tricks. And he was not alone anymore.
Later in the night, after a great feast, happy drinks and laughter and more bandages, he had come to have his first sexual experience while being bathed, scrubbed and bandaged once more. And it was the most amazing thing to find true pleasure in the company of a rich and powerful young woman. He simply groped and played, tickling her with kisses all about her body, loving her little cooing sounds. With ravishing eyes, soft lips and firm breasts - in his hands and mouth - she brought him deep inside her once more, vowing to never forget him.
And in the passing hours he was quickly rushed off to his second, third and fourth treasures - all spectacular! A wild blend of firm young princesses and slender graceful cougars; smooth and beautiful. A dreamy lot. He was delivered back in the early hours of the morning, tired, high on his wonderful new life as a Gladiator. Closing his eyes to the day, he was already thirsting for more. More everything. He stepped from his own dark chariot, reeling with dreams of blood, fortune and victory and women always naked, beautiful and devilish. Always the dreams of blood. Blood baths, blood soup, blood paintings on the walls. He slept sounder than ever.
In the following weeks more than a few hundred men and as many animals perished to her murderous ways and the Colosseum was selling out on a daily basis with rich recreations of Mythical Battles and those of Legend, pitting man and beast to survival, hosting mammoth crowds and powerhouse characters: powerful senators, wealthy officials, rich benefactors, and prosperous sponsors, all betting on or against the young and ever rising star.
Thousands came from far and wide to see the young Titan Dominus Titus in action; adoring him from the stands, tossing out to him beautifully crafted weapons from the finest steel, made by the finest craftsmen, showering him with little gifts from the heart: love letters, poems, art, flowers - whole splendid bouquets, pearl necklaces, gold coins and even spell-crafted amulets, robes and tunics.
He was in true-form, a spectacle, rising steadily in the following months with every new scar and every fallen man, creating a great and ever heightening name - amassing a substantial amount of fame, fortune and reputation. Never stopping, Dominus forged on through blood and death, growing ever stronger, taller, faster - more cunning, becoming acutely aware of his worth, having many awesome victories over the next few years, climbing through the ranks, destroying the six best of the meaner Thracians, until he stood dominant, killing their top man - his best friend, Gracus Aurrelleis, only to find himself squaring off against the predatory Murmillo who were stronger and faster.
In time it was no surprise that he ravaged the competition, coming to sit at the top of that heap as well, nearly dying at the hands of their Champion finding himself one amongst the toughest and most ruthless of men - the big baddies of the Colosseum - The Secutors.
He wore his new title proud, strutting handsomely, bearded gold, bigger all round, heavier and faster too. And never faltering, he drove his own fate as fast and far as he was able to, rarely stopping along the way, amassing quite a vast fortune, and his name continued to spread with every bloody victory, to far cities and further out to distant countries. Felix paraded him about on fine black horses, flaunting his prowess at high functions, coming to dine with the great Emperor Augustus himself, as the man's personal guest, enjoying a long line of beautiful young sultresses.
And soon, even Dominus Titus was tiring and less than enthusiastic of his sweet young cohorts, his wise secret maidens - a perpetual wave in the thousands - quite enough for any man.
It was on the very day of the greatest fight of his life; the fight that would alleviate his slave status, giving him a 'Freedman' full citizen status, that something happened that would change the course of all things and might even free his name of a horrible crime. But first he had to defeat a towering opponent: the Undefeated Grand Champion, Antonius Cornelius. That was just the first step in making it out of the Arena alive and free. He feared man no longer. But Lions and Tigers and Bears... These things frightened him, and surely the battle would be against beast as well.
It was in a dream during the night before that he met the young Maracanius who came to him with a new deal in exchange for his soul back. In a bid to gain a strong hold on perhaps an entire brood of Gladiators from Dominus’ many mistresses, Maracanius was ever soothing, gifted with delightful charm. And with that wonderful spring fresh smell about him, that voice like an angel it all sounded so easy.
Maracanius spoke softly. “If you win this one, you’ll have your soul back and win your freedom. But...if you lose your life before any other combatant...I want the souls of your children.” And with a subtle nicety, Maracanius leaned in and said, “Master Felix bet against you. If I were you, I would take all your gold and all your riches and bet it all on yourself.” Uncertain if the man was genuinely aiding him, or working against his benefit (which seemed the case) he took Maracanius’ hand. And again it passed with the prick of blood and a fleeting snake disappearing in the shadows.
Pooling his vast wealth together before his big fight, Dominus had Claudia Octavia, the bastard-half-sister of the mighty Augustus - place a bet on himself. She did, swearing to bear him many children and love him first - his wife before all his other mistresses, devoting herself utterly to him.
In the light of the early evening heat, the tension - like a stretched rope near to snapping - crashed through the Colosseum like a quiet dragon about to light the world up in flames. Ready to ignite. Dominus squared off against the famed and currently undefeated Grand Champion of the Games, Antonius Cornelius in a rich recreation of ‘Julius Commonus in the Lion’s Den,’ his very own Freedom fight. With the sun beating down upon them, hearts pounding, sweat trickling, minds focused, the sound of drums and trumpets brought the crowds to their feet suddenly as a wave of excitement raced through the stands.
A chill ran through Dominus' blood as the growls of beasts and screaming men - complete with sixty-thousand screaming fans, maddened and crazed - set the day in deathly tones. Two side doors opened suddenly bringing two groups - one to defend him, the other to kill him - rushing out to meet each other head-on, busting the day wide open in blood! In a single unsettling moment - before anybody knew what was happening a third large gate whipped open bringing Dominus face to face with twenty fearsome beasts: lions, tigers and bears racing out into the arena, confused and terrified, attacking randomly!
And like that the earth shook! Mighty Rome, the towering Colosseum, extraordinary - a show for the ages, one that would never be forgotten by the crowds in attendance, those who were there, the haunting savagery forever bloodstained on their hearts.
As one of the most vicious and gory scenes to date - a scene that muddied the arena floor with blood, sending tormented ghosts of beasts and man to their endless battle in the afterlife - it was an incredible blood-bath for all to witness a sea of carnage! Unbridled spectacle!
Man and beast clashed, stirring the crowds into ever-wilder fits of frenzy. And while the intensity mounted Dominus and Antonius - alone in their own little worlds - fought a bloody battle with clanking steel, awesome skill, their wills charged with fury and heavy blows. And surprising moments came when the two were forced to work together just to survive, standing together as one, fighting off an occasional attacking Tiger, charging Lion and reaching Bear. It went on like that for a long time, crazed crowds, men dying beasts roaring, washing the heart of the coliseum in gore.
And after killing many men, after rising to such a height of fame and glory through grave wounds and battered morale, at the end of the toughest and bloodiest battle of his career - one that seemed to last forever - Antonius fell to his knees, pulling the Gladius from his stomach, fear and trepidation stretched over his face as though death and the better man was the last thing he expected to find here today.
The world quieted for Dominus when he recognized a single face. Two faces. They did not see him. Nor did they know it was him. With a vicious stab wound and failing breath, he turned to see the animals badly injured with only four wounded men and two giant bloody Tigers making a last stand. The beasts growled thunderously with awesome frightening claws and large sharp teeth, backing off the tight knit group.
In a fantastic display of training, the four men fending off the beasts became two, destroying all but one of the big Cats. To Dominus’ own surprise, the remaining Tiger -bloody and wounded - wanted none of it, crawling off to a corner to writhe in pain. The men strewn the floor over, hacked and bloody, were either gravely injured or dead. The two bloody men held each other up, congratulating one another on a swell fight before looking at one another with shock and angst, surprised to see one last man besides themselves standing - head down, waiting, watching, ready.
The two men spread out on approach. Dominus threw his helmet to the ground, revealing himself to the bane of his years, the very hardship of his life, the girl’s murderers: Romello and Caius; men now, full with beard and heavier in build. Together they gathered to meet him. In a quick, artful-rage Dominus rushed in, pitching, dodging, slicing and hacking, again and again, coming down with savage blows before lopping a leg and two arms clean. Caius writhed in agony, shock and disbelief stealing him away to death.
The last one, Romello - gravely wounded - cowered on the ground before him, spilling away to the day. Fatally wounded, twisting, lurching, Romello begged for his life. Dominus looked to the crowd, appealing to their wisdom - their needs, looking for a thumbs down, or a thumbs up, and a sight from above made the hair on his neck stand up, gripping him in sharp talons, jolting him where he stood.
It was the young Maracanius in a private box, legs resting on a table, drinking fine wine and eating heavy slabs of meat, being fanned and hand-fed sweet black grapes by the dead girl - the Princess Twin. Only she was not dead or naked. Instead she was full of live and color; as beautiful as the sea on a calm sunny day, softly veiled and stunning as ever a young woman can be.
Wounded terribly Dominus fell back, landing hard, staring up at the young Maracanius who leaped to his feet, a wide smile played across his face. And beneath his youthful facade, his friendly eyes and soft demeanor, Dominus could see an old devil in there. Pluto, so close to his mark, laughing heartily that he might have his victory, that he might be the winner here today.
The sky was filled with lively birds, and like Jupiter’s own fine paintbrush, thin rippling clouds swept across in heavenly oranges, stunning reds and wild violets, like evening lilac. He closed his eyes. Dominus could hear the crowd calming, taking in the gore, the violence, the heavy scent of blood and entrails fresh on the air. And taking the death of their beloved Champion might have been tough were it not for Dominus' great and exciting performance, matching Antonius Cornelius skill for skill, trading blows until eventually relinquishing a brave and great Champion of his title and proving his worth, proving why he belonged here, why the great Colosseum of the Gods was his house. In the end he won them over. Dominus Titus. Their new young Champion. Blood and guts!
In their hushed masses, waiting, they began with a name, rising steadily through, opening up with wave upon wave of celebration of their new Grand Champion - cheering, applauding and whistling. ‘Dominus! Dominus! Dominus! Dominus!’ And from somewhere far off a wild Tiger growled viciously in trauma and pain, bringing him back for a moment. And as he lay shivering, a succession of thoughts broke the fancy of a closing death, compelling him to open his eyes, giving him a new outlook on life: Children. Many. Sons and daughters and wives, wealthy cohorts, riches, fame and a home all his own. He fought to stand on heavy legs, heeding to the thumbs down of the crowd, who had by this time, learned the despicable truth of the three Senators Son’s.
With little time to waste he beheaded Caius and Romello, getting his hands dirty and actually enjoying it. His heart breathed a sigh of relief that he’d managed to at least get two of the three men responsible for the young girl’s brutal rape. With a hoarse victory howl on the wind he raised both their heads high, summoning the crowds excitement before tossing them aside in a sickly thud, gaining vindication, retribution and revenge, freeing himself from all things binding. All but one.
Removing his armor, he took up a single blade. The crowds went mad with spectacle, thrilled and thoroughly entertained - an orchestra driven and made strong and beautiful by violence, courage, and blood and death and gore. The tiger's roar was like nothing he had ever heard before, and in its eyes, behind a huge teeth was a beast terrified and acting out purely of instinct. Dominus approached with caution, very simply outmatched. The Tiger - fatally wounded - lunged, swiping a wide and vicious tear across his chest, sending him back hard. The Tiger charged. In desperation Dominus swung as hard as he could, catching it wide along the jaw, backing it off in a gaping wound. With that, Dominus drove his blade forward yet again, catching the big cat straight across the chest. Dropping his sword, he fell back with the great cat coming to land square on top of him, still fighting, squeezing the air from his lungs with every roll of his giant head. And in a single final effort, with a fresh gaping jaw, the Tiger took Dominus' head fully in its mouth.
In a sickening-crunch of gnashing teeth, Dominus screamed in agony, adrenaline flaming through his blood, hauling him down into a state that he had never been in. And up in his mind existed two things: fear and death. And somewhere deep down in his soul, right this moment he was somewhere beyond the realm of human thinking, with only the light of life and the darkness of death gripped his mind, taking him by the hand, deep down to a place on the edge of disaster. And there he was, knocking on death's door, letting himself in to sit by the fire - gold goblet of blood in his hand.
In the darkness he could taste it on his tongue, like copper. The smell of it filled his sinuses, and somehow - acting out in utter defiance of the Gods - he wriggled free from the big cat’s mouth, severely torn open about the neck and head by three inch canines. Dominus, taken up on high by the will to survive - to win at all costs - was engulfed in rage and anger, confronting the Gods in a final desperate act. In last wild effort the Tiger came down again, snapping Dominus' arm while tiny human fingers began reaching and clawing in the back of its throat. It pulled back just enough, allowing Dominus to take up his blade.
Against the crushing vice, he drove his sword through again and again and again, until he was released under a massive set of gurgling lungs. He fought himself free, pulling legs out from under the great cat. And the way a wisp of smoke fades in the moonlight breeze, so too did the grip of Maracanius. The Tiger was dead. Dominus crawled to his legs one last time and raised his blade to them, his people, his fans. A monstrous roar set him to a lovely little place far away in his mind, and the one last thing he thought of before crashing to the ground - unable to hold himself upright any longer - was Claudia Octavia, the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on, the one place he could be free to do as he pleased. No one left alive to claim ownership over his life.
He closed his eyes to cool, fresh evening air, the simmering voices of men and women lifting his heart, giving him freedom. And if he could cry, he would have. A fool for being so willing to sell the souls of his unborn children. A fool for selling his soul. A fool for wanting to be the best, to rise above the competition, to want fame and fortune and glory! And he settled down with a smile, a bloody mess, torn and battered, the last man standing. And somewhere up in his mind there was no more pain, no more worry. No more threat here in this house of his.
He awoke several days later to the sunlight splashing through from opened shutters, startling him to life. And what a comfortable bed. And nothing could keep him from staying right there, warm and lazy in soft sheets and white down pillows, the smell of eggs, ham and tea, and fresh bread filling the air. The house was grand with wide marble arches, wide staircases and tall thick columns, piling in with expensive furnishings, colorful rugs, tall plants, perfumed candles with a long trail of maids and servants bringing in many heavy chests of coin and more lavish items. It was a palace of distinguishable measure and magnificence. The land was fertile with fine orchards and wild grazing.
An unexpected sound tearing through, made his heart sing and his soul dance, and immediately he felt safe, more safe than any time in his life. It was a baby crying from somewhere nearby and coming closer with every beat of his heart and every quickening breath. Claudia Octavia, the most beautiful woman under the Gods stood before him, little belly, healthy all round, graceful, elegant and stunning in the archway. And her very smile saved him, singing of forgiveness and understanding of a life of blood and death, “Say hello to your son, Dominus.”
The little boy was beautiful - big green eyes, tuft of blond at the top of his head, tiny nose, sweet tiny fingers. Dominus wept as he held his son. They were tears of love. A love that had absolutely naught to do with fame or glory - a joy so far away from the thunder of the Colosseum. His very own little person. “He’s so small, Claudia. What’s his name?”
“His name is Dominus. Just like his daddy’s.” He wept and held little Dominus close, never wanting to let him go.
His name was spoken long after his blood days, lasting well beyond his free years -his good years - known in all the corners of the Empire, eventually making its way into song and glorious tales of Bloody Battles and Heroic Victories. A slave boy, predestined to fail, born weak, rising up against all odds and coming out on top the Greatest Gladiator in the history of the Colosseum. But eventually, by the fates, his name was outlasted by the Greats: Alexander, Hector, Achilles, Heracles, Zeus. In time, Dominus Titus too was forgotten to new heroes and fierce young champions, until one day, long after his own vast wealth - made by sweat, grit, determination and blood and death, he too ceased to exist, fading away on the sands of time; an era gone when a slave could rise from nothing to such a height as to look the God’s in the eyes.