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Not Enough (Closed)


Chris
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MARCH 74

Weeks earlier Eppitacus and three other fighters from the ludus had won a great bout for their lanista, securing him a very large sume of denarii. In his jubilation, Albunus gave his winningest fighters each a single percent of the winnings, along with the freedom to celebrate as they pleased so long as they remained within the confines of the city and within the eyesight of two guards each. Eppitacus traveled with only one guard, as usual, though Albinus had insisted he travel with another out of consideration for the wound he had received in the fight. Small cuts and bruises were to be expected, but in the last fight another Briton, Cogus didn't fall into formation when he was expected to and as a result a spear tip found its way into the soft tissue between Eppitacus' shoulder and chest. The wound wasn't deep or overly serious, but had been enough to weaken him. After the fight, Cogus was beaten and sold to a mining slaver and Eppitacus was given rest as was necessary for his full recovery.

In total honesty, Eppitacus had grown tired of fighting. Since his youth, since his father's war, he had been fighting. Fighting for his own pride, for his people, for his homeland, and for the past ten plus years for Albinus' and status and the mob's entertainment. He remembered a lifetime before when the priests had told him that the ground does not sprout new life from the blood of the dead. He didn't listen then, but in time he came to realize exactly how disconnected from the gods he had become. He seldom prayed. When he did it was to the Roman gods, and always for show because of some ceremony or another where Albinus needed to show his clients or rivals how civilized the great king of Britons had become under his watch. Eppitacus played along... because it was easier. No longer was he the fierce Briton king who defied the odds to win - now he played former Caesars and great Roman generals, and killed his own countrymen... most likely men or sons of men whom had fought for him, and believed in his cause in years past.

The night  started with a visit to the brothels, and continued with Eppitacus and his guard Marianus visiting their preferred tavern. The tavern was a place owned by a legionary-brother of Marianus', and thus the old guard drank more than he could handle. Eppitacus left him to enjoy his bliss and decided to return on his own. As he walked through Rome, which at that hour was mostly asleep, his path wound through the Subura and he found himself unable to resist the call to visit the British sector of the slums. With the end of the war in Britannia - at least temporarily - Rome had become flooded with Britons. Both those who sided with the Romans and decided to try their luck in the city, and those who were enslaved and sold... though the latter far outnumbered the former. Of the slaves, those who found their way to freedom took up residence in the Subura. Where one settled, another came and soon enough a community flourished. Eppitacus had made no effort to visit the region, not sure if he would be welcomed or booed. British opinions on him had been split when he was still fighting for Britannia, and he doubted they had changed.

Even still, this night - perhaps with the persuasion of alcohol still running through him - he strolled through Little Britannia and found himself standing in front of a statue of a goddess named Britannia and at her side smaller representations of other Roman deities. His eyes fell on the image of Minerva, though the name carved into her base was Sulis - the all-seeing. Suddenly overcome with memories, Eppitacus fell to a knee before the shrine and invoked the gods he had for so long ignored.

 

To be continued...

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"Sulis," he said, his eyes closed and heart reaching, "long has it been since we last spoke, though I know you have seen all and know all I have done over these many years." In his mind's eye he saw only darkness. Where before the darkness had given way to a haze and sometimes even visions as clear as day, now there was only the dark. "Perhaps your own voice has grown weary from the distance, or from the growing strength of the Romans and their gods... but are you really even different? Minerva. Sulis. Is there a difference?" Eppitacos paused to consider what he was saying. "Alas, who I am to question the gods."

He carried on for some time, waiting to hear or feel a response... but nothing came. He kept his eyes closed and focused on clearing out all external sounds and distractions. And then an overwhelming sense of urgency hit him in the gut. A voice whispered into his ear "Move" and his heightened awareness moved Eppitacos' body down to the ground. He heard the swoosh of a weapon slicing through empty air above him, and opened his eyes to see feet immediately next to him. Without hesitation, he rolled away and sprang up erect only to have enough time to put his arms out and catch the downswing of a blade with the palms of his hands. The blade cut deep into his hands, which brought forth a grunt of pain from the Briton, and brought him to shuffle back from the onslaught in the darkness.

A second assailant made himself known by connecting his club against Eppitacos' right knee, sending him to the ground. The warrior - without defense outside of his hands and arms - turned his attention to the new attacker, and was able to dodge a follow up attack by again dodging it. This brought his attention away from the initial attacker, however, who would have been successful in killing the gladiator had he not grunted so loudly before his swing so as to alert Eppitacos that he was coming. Eppitacos managed to bring up only his left forearm as a means of protecting his face. It was enough to stop the blade from splitting his skull, but not strong enough to withstand the force of the swing.

The blade cut through his ulna, and cracked the radius leaving only a dangling mess for what had been his sword arm. Eppitacos roared in pain and frustration, and fell back, but the sword stuck with him, for it had become lodged in the mix of his bones and flesh. The attacker was stunned by this development, which gave Eppitacos enough time to lunge forward and grab the dagger on the attacker's belt, turn it around and plunge it deep into the man's lower stomach. The attacher let go of his gladius and fell onto the ground, writhing in pain. Eppitacos used all of his force to rip the stuck gladius from his own mangled arm and with the surge of adrenaline was able to parry the second attacker's swing, and then slice across his throat.

Eppitacos fell to the ground in sync with the second attacker, weakened from the sudden loss of blood. He felt the struggle with the darkness of death begin to overtake him, but with all of his might pushed his body to move out of the street and toward the light of a nearby home...

 

To be continued...

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Time passed as fragments of visions and voices as Eppitacus the warrior flirted with the gods of death. When he at least awakened as his complete self in the world of the living, he was unsure of where he was. He attempted to move, only to discover he was strapped down into the bed. His movement had alerted the servant girl posted outside his room and she quickly rushed to his bedside. He recognized her as one of the servants who served Albinus, but couldn't recall her name. "Where am I?" He asked, finding his voice weaker than he expected, "and why am I restrained?"

Nesta, as he then remembered her name, looked at him, glancing at his still-covered arm, and hesitated. "You are in the ludus," she said, when words at last made their way from her throat. "You were attacked and left for dead in the street. Dominus will be overjoyed to know you're awake." The sound of voices caught the attention of other servants, and within moments another woman had entered the room, this one new to Eppitacus. She carried water and offered a drink to the wounded gladiator. He nodded, but Nesta put up a hand to stop her. "Dominus said nothing to eat or drink until the medicus has seen him again," she said. The other servant scowled before setting the water down and leaving.

Nesta leaned in close. "Do not drink or eat unless it comes from me." She left after that vague warning, and Eppitacos simply waited.

After time that went uncounted, Albinus' voice at last rang through the halls of the domus. "Eppitacus," the lanista said, entering the room. "You're awake!?"

Eppitacos nodded. "I am. Could you remove the straps?"

Albinus nodded. "Yes, of course, of course." He motioned to the slaves that had followed in behind him, who proceeded to remove the straps and assist Eppitacos in sitting up in the bedding. Eppitacos immediately pulled the blankets away and lifted his right arm... or what was left of it. His arm had been amputated a few inches past his wrist, and was still wrapped. Eppitacos knew what the wound meant, but before he could say a thing or even think another thought, Albinus spoke up. "There is not a lot of time, Eppitacus," he said, and moved closer before talking in a lower voice. "But I believe my wife is behind the attack on you. I was only recently made aware of the history between you two. You should have spoken up sooner. You must understand, you cannot stay here. You are the property of the Caesars, and I cannot have them believe that I am incapable of running my own household - or letting my Briton wife attack their prized warrior." It was a loss for Albinus as well, as his financial winnings from Eppitacos' victories would lessen considerably. "The guard, Marianus, will receive the blame for the attack-"

"Marianus is innocent," Eppitacos interrupted. "I left him drunk and asleep at a tavern. Ask the servants there."

"It is too late. He was found and arrested as soon as word spread of what had happened. I cannot implicate my wife, no matter the evidence pointing at her. But, I must remove you from my home. Because of..." he looked at Eppitacos' arm, "your injury, you cannot fight. The Caesars will certainly want to sell you - most likely to a notable member of the upper nobility. As a prize, or perhaps a stud for a lonely housewife - who knows? Though we can hope for the latter for you, eh?" Albinus chuckled in a poor attempt to lighten the mood. "I am sorry, Eppitacus, that this has happened to you. I am sorry that so many changes must happen. I never thought I might say such things to a slave, but I've made my fortune off the blood-stained tip of your spear. I wish you luck in the years ahead. You will recover here, but as soon as your wound has healed you will be sold. This will be the last you see of me until that day." Albinus stood up, his face appearing as if he was saying farewell to a long-time friend, and then walked out of the room. "Oh, one more thing," he said in the doorway. "Listen to Nesta." And then he was gone.

Eppitacos' days as a gladiator had come to an end.

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