Five against one. Well, four against one, as Numerius was bleeding out slowly from several wounds, and struggling to remain on his feet, let alone fight. Praxites faced Appius, a young man, actually slightly taller than Praxites and not of unreasonable build, but hardly a gladiator, either in body or mind. The thief’s eyes held fear and fury, and though his right knee was bruised, he was standing his ground.
Worse for Praxites, his former comrades were closing too.
Mamercus, Titus and Servius. None of them were particularly noteworthy. One had long wavy black hair, the other blond, and the third short brown hair. None of them looked like they’d washed in days. Praxites had no idea who was who. They advanced together, slowly moving outwards to entrap him.
But Praxites, though new to the arena, though rough around the edges, was prepared. When Titus lunged forward Praxites rolled across the sands, his sword trailing in his right hand, which then came sweeping around, aiming straight for Titus’ right thigh.
His sword cleaved through flesh and bone, nearly but not quite severing the leg. Just a tiny piece of flesh remained, and blood burst out from severed arteries, like a fountain. It felt like hot rain upon Praxites’ body, and the scream that came from Titus’ lips was like a beautiful melody.
The shock in the eyes of Titus’ fellow thieves was amazing. Their comrade fell, his life’s blood flowing from his body, his screams fading to whimpers. So paralysing was their shock that Mamercus didn’t move when Praxites picked up Titus’ sword and flung it in his direction. Mamercus still didn’t move when the sword pierced his heart, though he did cough up blood.
As Mamercus collapsed, Servius looked like he didn’t know whether to scream or cry. The soppy-looking lad brushed his blond hair from his eyes held his sword up, as the blood-soaked Praxites began to walk toward him.
Servius backed away, but there was nowhere to truly run. The crowd was on their feet, roaring with delight. Praxites grinned and Servius shuddered. He tried shouting and screaming at Praxites, trying in vain to intimdate him, but to no avail.
“How shall you die?” Asked Praxites casually. “Shall I make it quick, and cleave your head from your shoulders? Or shall I carve a hundred wounds into you and let you die slowly upon the sands?”
“Fuck you!” Spat Servius. He lunged forward, sword slashing manically. Praxites calmly blocked or side-stepped every attack, blocking a couple with his shield for good measure, backing up a few times, before stepping forward, shield slamming against Servius’ chest. He jumped, planting both boots heavily against the young man’s chest and sent him sprawling.
Appius had not been idle, but he could only limp. It was all too easy for Praxites, who evaded the slightly surprising slash of sword, then, with Appius off balance, drove his steel into his stomach, and twisted the blade.
Appius staggered, blood pouring down his body. He looked up at Praxites, eyes full of indignation, before flopping to the ground.
Servius was back on his feet, screaming obscenities at Praxites. Perhaps Appius had meant something to him- Praxites didn’t really care. Sword met sword as the two duelled, Servius’ rage granting him greater energy.
It did not however, grant him greater skill. Praxites easily deflected every blow, then used his shield to trap Servius’ sword, and slammed his sword into Servius’ ribcage.
The satisfying crack of bone was music to Praxites’ ears, and as his sword came away, his boot slammed into Servius stomach. Shield then smashed into jaw, and sword just below navel. Praxites sliced outward, spilling Servius’ intestines to the arena floor.
Servius somehow remained on his feet, shaking. The crowd’s roar sent shivers down Praxites’ spine. His next two quick swipes removed the thief’s arms, and blood erupted across the sands again. In one quick movement, Praxites then parted head from shoulders, and laughed from the freedom of battle as Servius’ body fell.
Numerius had fallen to the sands, but was not yet dead. He struggled to stand again, as Praxites walked casually over to him, and plunged his sword through Numerius’ chest. He raised his hands aloft, and the crowd chanted his name. It felt good.