“You stupid fuck!” Roared the giant of a man clad in light leather armour. As he shouted he slammed his wooden sword into another man’s ribcage, and for good measure drove his fist into his jaw. The other man fell upon the ground, groaning in pain.
They were but two of several pairs of men engaged in combat- sparring to sharpen their skills. They came from every corner of the Empire- some were Roman born but had fallen from grace, others came from Gaul, Syria, Greece, and beyond. In their past lives they might have been enemies- now they were all equal, as slaves.
Silence fell over the sands of the training arena, and all eyes turned to look at the sudden explosion of anger.
Nimr stood over the fallen man, glaring down upon him. Just for emphasis, he planted his boot on the other man’s chest.
“You slash with reckless abandon! Had this been the arena your heart would have been cleaved from your chest and your life’s blood would stain the sands! What have I told you- what have I told all of you- about discipline? About focus?”
Nimr- he stood over six feet tall. His biceps were nearly as large as the other man’s thighs. His chest was criss-crossed with a dozen scars, the legacy of many a glorious battle in the arena. Nimr was known as the Tiger to the other gladiators (appropriate, for his name happened to mean ‘tiger’ in his native tongue). His hair was short, and his eyes- well, his eyes burned with barely contained fury.
“Praxites, heed this lesson, for if you fail to do so, you will surely die in the arena!” He took his foot away, and Praxites coughed. He spat out a tooth, and stared up at Nimr with a mixture of anger and fear. Slowly he struggled to his feet.
Nimr turned his back on the other man. “Come at me again. The rest of you, watch.”
Praxites scooped up his sword. He snarled, and lunged for Nimr’s back.
Quick as lightening, Nimr span around, his own sword in his right hand, hurlting for Praxites’ face. To his credit, Praxites ducked, but Nimr had halted his pivot mid-step and slashed upwards. Praxites leaned back, and the sword just narrowly missed cracking against his cheek, but now he was horribly off-balance. Nimr stepped forward and with his free hand punched Praxites in the stomach, but remarkably, though he stumbled, he did not fall. Nimr brought his sword around again, sweeping it from left to right and coming forward as he did so, but Praxites actually managed to parry the first advance, and then the second, knocking Nimr’s next attack back. However, so focused was Praxites on Nimr’s sword that he missed the foot slammed into his left leg. He grunted in pain and fell back, but Nimr was already moving, this time his sword came in from the right, and connected with Praxite’s midriff. This time he fell, gasping as he did.
Nimr stood over him. “You did better that time, but remember, a gladiator has many weapons beside the one he carries. Your whole body can be a weapon, and an attack can come from any angle. You must be prepared for this!” Nimr offered his hand to his fallen foe.
Praxites nodded, and took the hand. And wondered if he would survive the month.