The more I fought the less confident I became, in my mind every time I won it was merely my luck slowly running out. I knew sooner or later that I would have no more good fortune left and I would finally be killed. I'm still not completely sure how I felt about dying. On one hand it was an obvious way out, but on the other hand my instincts told me I needed to survive, and so I kept fighting.
The more I won, the more recognition came to me. All too soon I was confronted about by apparent winning streak. The man who came to me was a secretive type, but he was obviously wealthy.
He ruled the Coliseum.
His name was Rek; gambling on fights was his business. He could make sure any man lost, if the man was enough of a bother. He would even help a Gladiator fake their death if the price was high enough, he told me. A dead man is no longer a slave to Coliseum. I couldn't bring myself to believe him though, he was too sly. He made a living in lies and subterfuge.
He came to me in the twilight hours, after my training I was on my way to bed down but he intercepted me. I vividly remember his first words to me. "Son, how would you react if I told you that I could get you out of this Arena? I could give you the freedom you so dearly seek." His eyes were dark, his low cowl barely revealing them. Despite that, I could see the greed in his eyes.
When an upstart - like myself - began winning against more experienced gladiators he didn't become a praised underdog, he became a pariah. This meant that people would bet heavily against him. With heavy bets against you the most sound investment was to bet for yourself, sadly I had no money to my name. I had always been a slave to the Arena and I had no need of money.
Here is where Rek comes in, he would place bets for gladiators and take a high percentage of the winnings himself. He called himself a "facilitator." Sooner or later, though, the gladiators reputation would change; with this change the bets would cease to yield high rates. It was at this time that Rek would fix the fight. He could fake a gladiators death when the price was right, Rek was a reasonable man. Sadly for the gladiators, his price was nearly unattainable.
The fact that Rek had come directly to me means that the monetary value of our winnings would be well worth it, even if Rek was taking the majority of it himself. I was wary at first, because I was still young and I had heard terrible stories about what Rek did to gladiators he no longer needed. He spoke to me again. "I can get you enough money to buy your way from slavery. But of course I'll be taking a good portion myself. You are just too young to be as successful as you are which means everything thinks you'll lose your next round. So, if you manage to survive and we've put money on it, we'll be making a ton of money!" He sounded and looked elated, his face jutted forward below his cowl barely visible in the low torch light.
I couldn't bring myself to say no to the man, you would have to have known Rek to understand how truly charismatic he was. It was more than just the promises of wealth and freedom it was the way he held himself. He was wealthy and powerful and he knew it.