An unexplained death threatens the opening of the Amphitheatre Flavia, the building that came to be known as the Coliseum.
Morning light-trickled down from the golden-tipped clouds that hung over the Amphitheatrum Flavium,known by some as the ‘Coliseum’. It was meant to be a substantial building, built for the gladiatorial games that were to take place beginning the next week. Victorious, the magnificent structure stood welcoming strangers into the heart of Rome. And nothing was a stranger day than this morning, deceitful with her rose-cheeked hue. For though the night withheld its trickery, the daylight was there to reveal all.
A young man with hair the colour of buttercups, rather toned from his work, nearing his eighteenth, having just taken up his toga virilis for the rite of passage to becoming a man, Lucius, was making his way around the Coliseum; having been one of the builders, he knew his way, but he was still required to check the fittings and fixtures, making sure that everything was in order. The other labourers did not look highly upon Lucius. He had been born to a freedman and so had been classed as no more than a slave himself.
Lucius himself was the only worker to do the morning check on the Coliseum. It had been left up to him, but, in truth, he did not expect to have much to do today. He ducked under an archway and into the network of intricate tunnels that ran underneath the main structure, known as the hypogeum. Here, it had been decided, gladiatorial contestants would be kept before their trials, and animals would be kept in cages too. That was the reason that someone had to check each little section: to make sure that, whilst not being the most hospitable of places, it provided an instant access to the performers and their animal adversaries.
Lucius wove in and out of the twisted passages, keeping his eyes roving over the stone faces. He turned a corner, oblivious to the dark shape of where a boot poked out the corner. And then Lucius stopped.
Lucius choked back a scream. A man lay, just as if he had settled to sleep in the Coliseum, if not for his eyes open and glassy, his neck gleaming raw with a red line that seemed to protrude out of it.