A gladiator fights to retain what he deems is entitled to him.
The air always smells and tastes the same: salty and dusty.
The screams and gurgles go unheard when I plunge my pilum into the throat of my fallen opponent. Not a sound escapes my own as the spectators scream from the surrounding stands.
Dislodging the spearhead from the corpse, I kick at the bloodstained sand underfoot without a glance at the severed neck of the man. Eyes up at my audience instead, I revel at the pulsing reverberation that travels through my chest from the stomping of my fans. A smile approaches my lips, but I halt the action and exchange it for a more appropriate smirk, and the women stare wide eyed and enchanted.
I'm a monster in this stadium and heart breaker out. This bloodthirsty being they play me as is a Gods-given dream. Not a trace of the scrape of a boy left to fend for himself in the slums, abandoned and constantly hungry. Nor a hint of the fear that had wracked the boy's thoughts present in this heavily muscled body.
I usually notice the gate opening by the distinct rumbling of the sand as the chains hoist the metal gate up, but with the stadium in an uproar like this, I take the instant swivel of everyone's head to my left as the signal of my next opponent.
Hefting my javelin over my shoulder, and posing for the ladies with a quick tense of my arms and shoulders, I spin around and hurl the wooden and metal weapon. It ripples the atmosphere and I can fell the dense, humid air being sliced by the bending of minuscule hairs in my ears. It tickles comfortably, like a familiar graze.
Watching the javelin arch gracefully across the arena and find itself home into the chest of my victim, I pick up my feet into a light jog to effortlessly scoop the sword my previous opponent had left behind. He hadn't used it and now I know why; it's unexpectedly heavy. Most likely a cheap apprentice's mishap in allot selection.
Gripping the curved metal between my palms, I race through the sand, avoiding as many patches of dusty burgundy sand as I can. I am quite proud of how easily I can dispel the thoughts for the origins of them.
There isn't much left for me when I finally reach my opponent. He writhes pathetically in the sand, gasping, unarmed, having tossed his wooden shield and rusty dagger far into the dirt, and attempting to stave off the bleeding around the spear's visible staff with his blood-drenched hands.
I bite a scowl through my lips at the trouble of running all the way here for a dead man, shaking my leather sandals of the clumping grit. Deciding that he isn't worth the exertion anymore, I slam my sword down and sever his head to end his misery.
Despite the short conquest, the audience gifts me with another warm thunder to my chest at the sight of the spurting blood. This time I cannot hide the smile that breaks across my sunburned cheeks. Wiping the blood out of my eyes, I end this battle with a flourishing bow in all four directions, adding a couple winks to the noblewomen batting their lashes provocatively.
They love me. Thank the Gods.
The thrumming in my ribs subsides and I instantly regret the loss. It can only be because of another opponent. A bubbling stirs in my gut, of anger, of fear for the loss of adoration. Holding my head high, I pivot to face my next victim, my shoulders flaming from the heat and displeasure.
This one is the match I've been waiting for, I realize when I find my opponent striding towards me in a slow, purposeful stalk. For once since the first months I had entered the arena as a boy, I watch my opponent and study him in detail.
He is lightly tanned and lean, the leather straps of his simple armor wrapped around his slight chest. I scoff at him, proud with only a couple victories under his belt. He's fresh from the gutters. His hair, extremely fair and long, curls around his shoulders, probably to entice the support of the ladies. He has the audacity to keep it untied in the arena.
When he smiles at my audience, fury balls up between my shoulders, boiling unpleasantly. Squeezing the hilt of my sword in my right palm, I grab the staff of my javelin with my left hand and rip it out of the corpse. With my weapons in hand, I decide to greet my guest.