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Cerealia: Grand Finale


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April 77AD

A week of celebrations had marked the Roman Empire's honouring of Ceres, goddess of agriculture, in celebration of the sprouting of the cereal crops and probability that, this year, the Empire would not starve. There had been races, feasts, parties, theatre and of course the parading and garlanding of the statue of Ceres herself, to the sound of the priests' incantations. Now it was time for the culmination of the celebrations, the great games at the Colosseum. Beginning on the evening of the last day and running into the night, the event - and the entire Colosseum - was lit by torches, lending an earie, flickering light to the events below. And, to be frank, the faces around them. At least Tiberius knew and trusted those who gathered around him.

As per tradition, the captured foxes had been set loose, burning brands tied to their tails, to run in terror through patches of old hay in the middle of the arena, representing the gain of the upcoming harvest, setting these too alight as they brushed past them. Eventually the flames died down and those foxes who had not already died of burns were swiftly despatched by a handful of gladiators with gladii. The dead vermin were cleared away and the charred hay raked from the sand in preparation for the next spectacle. There would be the usual gladiator matches eventually, but there was something else planned first; something important.

Once the sand was raked clear the slaves exited, leaving only one gate open into the arena. Through that gate was pushed a man, wearing no more than a loincloth. He was no famous enemy, captured on the battlefield and brought here to show the might of Rome. He was a criminal, and one who had wronged the wrong people. Most probably wouldn't even know him, but those who did might recognise the face of Marcus Barbatius, the bloody barber. The gate through which he'd been pushed closed, and for a moment the man was alone on the sands in the torchlight. 

A grating noise signalled the opening of two other gates, but these weren't ones used by people, save on rare occasions. These ones led to the beast pens. Shapes slunk through the gates, initially visible only in silhouette, but large and undeniably feline. As they drew into the light, one showed a sandy pelt and thick mane about it's large head, whilst the other had a more orange pelt, marked with black stripes. Large eyes gleamed in the torchlight, as the gathered crowd began to stamp it's feet. 

Tag: Any. 

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Jason had, naturally, accompanied his master to the new amphitheatre for the Games. He would never understand the Roman fascination with blood sports - pitting man against man in a fight just for fun was not his idea of a good time, after all. And the whole thing with the foxes was just barbaric - no doubt Tabiti would be horrified at seeing the sacred fire so used.

He had no real idea what the Romans would consider a suitable method of execution for someone who had terrorised the streets for so long - it was bound to be thoroughly gruesome though. It wasn't as though he didn't have a strong stomach for things, but there was a vast difference between hunting and killing for food, or because the herds were threatened by wolves, and witnessing someone killed in cold blood. He supposed that was the difference between himself and the man who'd cut helpless women and killed unarmed people. He would watch this so that he could tell Azarion the man was dead, but he wouldn't enjoy it in the least - unlike the bloodthirsty crowds filling the tiered seats all around the amphitheatre.

Would it really be any different if the man was staked out and filled with arrows, or left to die of hunger, thirst and exposure? Probably not, not really - and this was going to be as gruesome and painful a death as Azarion and everyone else could possibly want.

If only it wouldn't bring to mind some of the more unpleasant memories he had. He glanced at Tiberius, who seemed almost nonchalant, although how closely he was actually looking at the torchlit sands below was anyone's guess.

 

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He felt that he sat in the cell underneath the arena forever. Why did it take so long? He knew this was the end. He'd not even been given a trial. Apparently he was being executed on Imperial order. Why wasn't he given a trial? Was he not a Roman citizen? At least he could tell why he'd done what he had done. He hurt those people and killed them because he had to do it. And he enjoyed doing it. They all deserved it. Nobody in this world deserved life, when it came to it. They all deserved to bleed. And he was to make it happen, he was to make them bleed and he was to take joy in it. Now he would bleed. And it might not even be a quick and easy death. Marcus had hoped they'd make some gladiator kill him, penetrate his shoulder with a sharp blade and let it cut through his body and heart until he died. But that wasn't what was to happen. He shivered. It was evening and the cells were underground and he wore only a loincloth. 

Somebody unlocked the door to the cell and he looked up... "Get up you freak! It's time you're sent to Hades!" The guard outside the door said and next to him, another one laughed, "I don't think Hades will want him. Who would?" The second guard spat on the ground right in front of the now open door, "Get up!" The guard yelled and Barbatius inhaled a breath and stood. The dirt was rough beneath his feet. He wanted to not step where the guard spat on the ground, but he didn't see where it landed. He thought he felt something wet. Disgusting. People were disgusting on the outside. Only their blood and the way it would shine was beautiful. Only their death was beautiful. Would his be too? 

He was pushed up to stand by a gate and the guards stood behind him. The gate opened and the guards pushed him out, long enough for him to be free of the gate. They had removed his shackles. They wanted him to fight back? Attempt escape so death would be more gruesome? He didn't know. Marcus didn't turn around, he just stood there while the gate closed behind him. He could feel everyone's eyes upon him. He could even see some of them. White robes shining in the torchlight here and there. 

Then he heard the noise of two gates opening and turned towards them. He recognized the beasts, he'd seen them in the arena before. He could hear them growl. They were hungry and afraid, but could not escape. Just like him. Then the crowd began to make sounds and one of the beasts growled louder. Marcus began walking. If they were going to watch, if Rome was going to watch, let them do it. Maybe they too would see how beautiful death could be. He only stopped walking when he was in the center of the arena and looked up, wondering if he would find any familiar faces up there, but everyone were too far away. He couldn't make out the faces. Meanwhile the big cats circled around him and the orange one came closer to him. Marcus didn't move.

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Alexius at least didn't sit with the slaves up on the highest steps of the arena. But he didn't sit with the high and mighty Imperials or Senators either. He was down here among the common Romans - right where he belonged. At least here he didn't have to pretend or hold back, at least here he could feel what he wanted to feel. Even if he felt bad when he glanced towards the better seats, where Ovinia sat. He wanted to hold her hand or offer her a shoulder to hide in, should she need it. But he couldn't be everywhere at once and who knew if Didia might need such a shoulder? Not that he thought she did, she wasn't the fragile kind of woman. And she was right here. Lucius had joined them too, and Theo and other people he knew from his own area. 

He always did feel a bit bad for the poor foxes burning, but he too had once been a gladiator and knew the jobs performed by them down there, in this odd Roman ritual - one of many. But he was looking forwards to what happened next. A man was sent into the arena and Alexius watched him. Gods how petty he looked. So skinny and dark, so... disgusting. Alexius inhaled a breath, he would have preferred to strangle the man to death with his own two hands. They shouldn't have stopped Ovinia, that night. She should have done it. She deserved it. On the other hand, so did so many others. But he thought that even this kind of death was too easy for the bastard. Even if he was a beast set into the arena among other beasts. At least they had reasons to kill, reasons that had nothing to do with pleasure or insanity. They would kill because they were hungry or afraid or defensive. It was different. He hoped they would be allowed to live after this. 

The human beast looked oddly calm and collected, as he walked into the middle of the arena. Alexius joined the rest of the Romans as they began stomping. He hoped it would be a slow and painful death for the monster. But that was perhaps too much to hope for.

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Ovinia felt sick. Somehow this felt worse than the idea of the man that plagued her nightmares dying by her own hand. Here she'd have to watch it - slowly - and keep up the pretence that everything was fine. That everything was normal and that she had not been subject to his violence. She wished she wasn't sitting here - close to Tiberius with the rest of the Senatorial families. Her father was here - next to her - his face inscrutable. He was keenly aware of who the man was but he didn't react as he was pushed through the gates. Ovinia cast a glance to her right and could see Alexius (giant that he was) clearly - alongside the fruit seller, and Lucius. She swallowed down the lump in her throat. She wished she was sat with them - taking in this moment with those that had felt this mans mark and his pain. Rather than with her father, cold and aloof as he was. 

At least Jason was here and she offered the man a wobbly, weak smile as she caught his eye for the briefest of moments. She avoided Tiberius' gaze determinedly. Things had been...awkward, since her testimony. She was determined to watch this - to make sure that her mind knew he was dead but she was struggling to keep her eyes on the sands. And then the beasts were released and she exhaled, watching with thinly veiled horror. She brought her palla up to hide her mouth, her lips pressed into a thin line behind its gauzy silk. She hated this. She didn't know why she hated this, but she did. She had never been a fan of bloodsport but even when she wanted the pathetic figure on the sands to suffer, this still felt...wrong. Too distant, almost. "It's not enough." She breathed, more to herself than anybody else. Still, she joined in the stomping until her father placed a hand on her leg to get her to stop.

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Didia was coping far better than Ovinia, watching the sands with thinly veiled disgust, eating an apple (purloined from her own supplies). "I can't believe I'm here." She grimaced, chomping at the red flesh of the fruit. "If I vomit, it's on all of you and you can't say I didn't warn you." She shook her head, chuckling. She hated blood - it had made her nauseous from when she was a girl, and she was more than positive she wouldn't be exempt from sickness just because she was sat a little further back. 

She watched the small man (pathetic) calmly walk across the sands and joined in the stomping, adding a few yells to the mix as well. She glanced at Alexius and Theo - avoiding the irritating vigile; "Do you think the animals are enough? I would have rather have seen him fight a Gladiator." She prodded Alexius. "Why didn't you volunteer to do it?" 

 

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The lions had been a mistake. Even Azarion knew that, and he had never seen a lion up close and personal. They were large felines, excellent at hunting. Unless the man fought back, the lion would just snap his throat. Too easy. Too quick.

Azarion sat at the top of the seats with the other slaves, his hands curled into fists so tight his knuckles whitened. He wanted to watch the man suffer. And die in pain. He hated being this far away from the arena, watching helplessly and hoping the lion did a shit job. He could see the other people involed in this mess, pretending they didn't know each other - Alexius and the rest of the plebes on one side, the women in the senatorial seats - with Jason. His cousin was too far to exchange glances with. Azarion felt alone with his anger.

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Lucius took a seat along with Alexius and the other people from the insula. They all seemed equally eager to see Barbatius die. He was too. The man had hurt Ovinia, and hurt and killed many others. He deserved to die. The spectators seemed to agree, stomping their feet to anger the beasts that were already ravenous. Lucius turned his head, looking over to where Ovinia was sitting. She looked pale; trying to hold herself up. He knew this had to be horrible for her, and he wished he could be there to hold her hand. He hated that he couldn't. He hoped she'd look his way, so at least he could let her know he was here.

The damn man needed to die fast and bloody, so they could all be done with this nightmare.

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Pinaria sat with the others of high class, not very far from Ovinia. Seated with her was Gaius Vipsanius Roscius, whom she had kept in touch with since the day they got acquainted when Lucius introduced them. There was a very very good possibility he would marry her and maybe even adopt her son. Gaius was a kind and friendly man, funny and sweet and she would not mind calling him her husband. Not at all. But he wasn't her main focus tonight. For while Pinaria kept an eye on the arena and that horrible beast of a man entering... she also kept an eye on Ovinia. She worried about her. The younger woman still didn't seem to be doing too well after her attack. Pinaria almost felt like she was not attacked at all, when she compared herself to Ovinia. 

Now she saw Ovinia bring her palla up to her mouth and she mutered something. Pinaria couldn't hear her, but she could see her and she could see her eyes. Pinaria too might have preferred a more gruesome death to the man down there on the sands. Beasts seemed almost too easy for someone who had committed such cruel crimes. But there was very little to do about it now. Tiberius had made up his mind. Whether it was his decision alone or not, she didn't know.

"Excuse me a moment..." She said to Gaius and stood to move over to where Ovinia sat. It felt more right to be near her. She needed the comfort. She gave a nod to Ovinia's father, who barely seemed to notice her. So she touched Ovinia's arm gently.

"Would you like for me to sit with you?" She asked in a low and soft voice to the younger woman. Her father seemed stern. She might prefer someone more understanding near her. 

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Decimus could hardly believe that the day had finally come. The moment which had been a source of endless stress for both he and Aia was finally upon them, though he could hardly say that he was overjoyed. What was there to be happy about? It was satisfying to know that the man would meet his end screaming at the sudden grip of a lion's jaws, but other than that he felt little. He stood amongst the Imperials in their decorated booth that bore all the comforts that wealth could buy, but he was certainly not permitted to indulge in any of it, no. He was here in his official capacity as a Praetorian and as such he was expected to do little more than stand stoically and supervise the complement of other guardsmen who were... standing stoically. He knew Aia was in the crowd somewhere, and even though he might have wished to be by her side during such a personal occasion there was no way that he or any other guardsman would be able to get away during the festivities. 

He'd watch, like the other thousands of Romans in attendance, as the murderous wretch was led into the arena without so much as a cry for mercy. Typical. Either he was convinced that he would be granted some kind of clemency for his actions or he was truly mad. The latter was clearly far more likely. It was a shame that he wasn't more of a natural coward. If Decimus couldn't derive any joy out of the death of such a monster, hopefully the others in their cadre of victims and allies could have gotten something out of seeing such a man grovel and beg as he'd made others do for his own pleasure. 

Still, the familiar growls and beastly groans from the other gates was a welcome sign that the end was near. He wasn't much of a man for the arena, but damn if the sight of those cats wasn't as impressive as the day he'd first seen them. As for how much damage they would do, well, it all depended of course. Many might believe that such animals would make quick work of the bloody barber, but Decimus could recall several animal executions that went on for several minutes. 

Hopefully these beasts would toy around for a bit. 

 

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Ovinia gulped in air but still kept the palla over her mouth. She heard her father speak finally in a low voice, just for her; "It will be over soon." That didn't provide much comfort, much as she'd like it too. He would be over - she'd see him draw his last breath - but the memories of what he'd done to her, to others, would be a permanent fixture in her life. She wasn't sure the pain would ever go away. 

As the cats padded around the sands, snarling, Ovinia couldn't keep her eyes on the man standing stoically still in the arena and instead flicked her eyes around them. He saw Alexius again and then her eyes found Lucius'. Just for the briefest of moments. Her gaze was watery, clearly pained but she nodded very subtly before a voice called her back to where she was sitting.

She glanced up into the sun to see...Pinaria. Thank the Gods for Pinaria. She choked and dropped the palla from her mouth with a breathless smile. Her father was watching the reaction with curiosity but decided not to intervene. She shuffled up so Pinaria could sit next to her. "Are you sure you won't be missed I-" she glanced along the direction Pinaria had come from and with surprise saw an empty seat next to...Gaius Vipsanius Roscius. Her one time almost husband. She blinked and shook her head. Not now. Instead she reached out to grip Pinaria's hand and gave her a weak smile, her voice quiet. "Are you alright?" 

 

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That slight movement caused Tiberius to glance in Jason's direction, meeting his slave's gaze. To most the young Imperial looked nonchalant, even bored, but it was a studied disinterest. For one standing so close, who knew his master so well, Tiberius's discomfort might register as a tightness around his eyes and mouth. Not for the manner of death, that was fairly standard for the more creative criminals of Rome, but rather the manner in which it had come about.

Barbatius should have had a trial, but the man was either canny or lucky in his choice of victims, and few pater familias would permit the women of their family to stand before a magistrate and give testimony, leaving them open to the slander of the other side's legal representative. It was one thing for a Roman man, with his gravitas and resources, it was quite another to subject a woman to it. But most of the bloody barber's victims had been women. He had heard the testimony of the vigile, the praetorian who even now watched over him, and their accomplice in the man's arrest, he had heard Ovinia and Pinara's testinmonies in private, to spare them the experience of court. And he had made a decision. Barbatius was a danger to Roman citizens and had to die. 

There were times, in the life of the Empire, when the standard laws didn't cover a situation acceptably, and someone had to make an executive decision. That was what the Imperials were for. To guide and govern the Empire, particularly in cases where an exception needed to be made to the usual rules. He knew this, he accepted it as his duty as an Imperial, but it didn't mean that he had to like it. Tiberius was certain that his decision was justified, but he knew that out there somewhere was the invisible line, beyond which decisions were unjustified and selfish, and there lay the path of the path of the tyrant. History rarely tolerated tyrants, and he sought to avoid that path at all costs. 

Nearby Pinaria came to sit with Ovinia, the two comforting each other. Funny how no one actually involved looked pleased to see the man's fate. But it must be witnessed. To order it, to desire it, and then to walk away from the reality... that too was unacceptable. He had made the decision, and he would witness the man's end.

Tiberius rested his chin on his hand and sighed, hoping that the cats were hungry and this would be over soon. 

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He didn’t want to give Rome the satisfaction of seeing him afraid of the beasts. Instead, he stood there, calmly, not shivering, in the middle of the arena. He looked up to the seats to see if he could spy any familiar faces – most likely among the higher ranked people, because that’s where the Imperial, who came to see him in his cell, would most likely sit. Perhaps also that girl who came at him with a knife but ended up cutting someone else. He smiled at the memory. Even she was not as pure and sweet as everyone thought. No one were.

There was a growl behind him, and his focus shifted from the seats and to the big cats. From afar they’d look impressive. From here… they were just big and frightening. Very big. And their teeth the same. He inhaled a breath, standing still, but as they moved closer, he felt something within. He knew he would die in the arena today; he’d known that since… well, a while ago. Since they just decided on his fate, without giving him the trial. It was too late for that now. Too late for anything. He wasn’t really afraid of death. Because once you were dead, you’d not feel a thing. He’d killed enough people to know that once you were dead, you were just gone. But he’d also hurt people plenty of times, with and without killing them and he knew about pain. Marcus just didn’t like to be in pain himself. Of course, he didn’t. Who did?

Would this death be quick? He inhaled a breath and exhaled, and the striped cat stopped and smelled the air. Then it lowered its head, staring right at him. Where was the other one? He could hear it behind him. He wanted to look over his shoulder at it, but what if he did and the tiger attacked him while he looked away? Fuck. It was going to happen. Any moment now.

He had not planned to say anything, but now there was an urge, before he went. While he still had the chance. And he knew no one up there felt sorry for him. So why try and plea for his life now? No, it wouldn’t be something like that. But he liked making people fear him. He couldn’t hurt them anymore, not physically. But he could make them think… make them feel… and he knew exactly what to tell them. He closed his eyes briefly, inhaling another breath while the tiger took another prowling step closer to him. His gaze left the cat briefly to look up and around him.

“YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!” Marcus then yelled to the arena.

And that would be the last he said. For his words and his action by speaking made it happen. The crowd roared and howled up there, but after he spoke, he had no time to focus on them. For it wasn’t the tiger, the one he could see, that started it. No, suddenly he was tumbled over from behind, the lion had jumped at him, and he felt its claws penetrate his skin and he felt its teeth somewhere on his back, trying to get a hold of him. He naturally made a screaming wail of pain as it happened, it was not something he could prevent. He lay flat on his front, sprawled there, his hands desperately searching for something to grasp onto, but there was nothing. He was pinned. And just as he looked up, the tiger’s teeth and growl were right in front of him. The lion cat tore at his back and then chose to take hold of a leg, trying to pull him away from the tiger. But the tiger wasn’t having that and since Marcus looked up, the tiger went for his shoulder. Teeth sinking into and around his bones, pulling the other way. For a brief while the crowd would see nothing but growling beasts pulling at the person in the arena, and blood soaking the sands.

The lion let go for a moment and pulled back and roared. And in the briefest of moments, the crowd seemed to hold their breath. Long enough for someone to yell “He’s not dead yet!”. Words that everyone heard. Marcus attempted to pull away from the tiger, more instinct than anything else. The tiger had a go at the lion to fight it off. They both let go. But then their prey was attempting escape, something that was barely even possible with just one functioning leg and one arm. The one shoulder was torn to pieces. And one leg was torn almost in half too, only just clinging together by the knee, with bones sticking out. The tiger came back to him first. Somehow, he had turned himself over to lie on his back. And now he stared right into a mouth, as jaws opened above his head and his throat and sharp teeth bit deep into the flesh of his throat and lower face. There was pain and blood and the sound of bones cracking.

And then... Marcus Barbatius was no longer.

Not that it made the beasts stop. They tore the carcass apart from each end. It was a gruesome thing to watch, a carnage. When the tiger let go of his face, it didn’t look like anything but bones and tissue and blood. The tiger continued to pull at an arm – it came off easily because of the torn shoulder. And the lion returned to the leg. They both managed to tear off a limb and they continued, the smells and the sounds made them unable to focus on anything but the prey they both fought to get. And they were allowed to do it. They tore the prey apart. Eventually they lay in each their side of the arena, eating their share in front of the crowd. In the middle of it all lay the remains of the corpse as a bloody heap.

There was nothing but bones and blood and scattered tissue in the arena once they were done and finally ushered away. It wasn’t the first time ever, that a person was executed like this. But to some, maybe the most satisfying. To others, it wasn’t enough. After the beasts came more games, more ordinary entertainment for the Romans in the arena, that many considered even more exciting. Many, maybe most, Romans would forget about the scene with the big cats in a few days. Most would forget. But not everyone.

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Jason's eye met his master's and he instinctively took a step forward to hear an order before realising that Tiberius didn't require his services immediately. There was a tightness around the lips and eyes that nobody except those closest to him would recognise, if they saw it at all - Jason had spent four years, nearly five, watching his master's face and hands for the smallest sign or gesture, and saw it. He felt a pang of guilt for his part in causing it; it had been his suggestion that had meant that the group had brought their problem and their prisoner to Tiberius. He trusted his master, though whether Tiberius knew or understood that was a question for another day.

He looked back up, catching Ovinia's eye, and gave her a nod and a small smile. He nearly bent to say something to his master, to make some excuse, find some reason to cross to her, but he saw another woman - the other lady who'd been there that night the monster was caught - leave her own seat and cross to sit by Ovinia. They would be all right.

Down on the sands, the man who had spent so long terrorising the women of Rome opened his mouth to say something - whatever it was was, thankfully, drowned out by the stamping and yells of the crowd. They should have taken his tongue before sending him to his death, but it was too late for that now.

And then, out of the darkness, the lion leaped, taking him down. Jason saw the scream and couldn't help the look of immense satisfaction.

It could only have been bettered if they'd played with him more, as a house cat did when it got a mouse. There was enough, though, claws and teeth and screams that he thought he could hear, even over the roar of the crowd. And then the big striped orange cat bit down on his throat - that would be the death blow; nothing could survive that.

Quick, and painful. He hoped it had been immensely painful.

 

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Alexius just smiled when Didia joked that she might vomit, he’d heard her tale about the night that monster attacked her, so he knew. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but that man dying in the arena tonight. Lucius on his other side was quiet so far and might continue to be so. Alexius did notice his glances towards Ovinia again, only to now notice another woman down there among the higher ranked people. Calpurnia. It was like his breath caught for just a moment and he had to force himself to watch the arena again. He had not seen her since that day at the library. And things had happened since then. Hilda happened. But she was not Calpurnia. No one were.

 Didia brought him back to the present moment, as she mused whether the animals were enough and wondered why Alexius wasn’t down there killing him.

 “It was out of my hands. Not my choice.” Alexius told her, “I’d have preferred to see him dead the night we caught him. But as you know… not everyone agreed.” He sent a glance towards Lucius, “It doesn’t matter now.” He then added, because it didn’t. It was happening now, in the arena. Something was happening. The beasts drew closer and then suddenly, the human beast yelled something about everyone dying. Oh really? Big surprise! Alexius let out a huff and then it went down, down there. The wail almost felt physical, like it carved through the air, while the cats tore at the man down there. Alexius couldn’t take his eyes off it. He wasn’t disgusted. It looked gruesome, as it should. The barber didn’t deserve a peaceful and relaxed death. He deserved this, and more. Much more. It wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. But it was what it was.

 And then… it was over. The display on the sands didn’t do anything to Alexius, he’d been down there too, he knew what it was like and he knew the smells and the looks of it from down there. But it was over now. The cats were ushered away, now a little less hungry than before. It was over. He looked towards Calpurnia again. She was standing now, and looked as if she was leaving. Alexius didn’t like letting her leave without at least having talked to her… and he didn’t need to see more of the games in the arena. Hopefully Didia would be alright, he thought she would. Theo was there, after all. And he suspected Lucius would seek out Ovinia, if he could. He gave Didia a pat on the shoulder and stood to leave.

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Didia murmured with a nod, wrapping her arms around herself. She hadn't wanted the man to die that night but equally, she understood Alexius' frustration. He was a man of action, not delay. She joined his look to Lucius with a glare of her own. Being in his company hadn't warmed her to the vigiles at all. And then she glanced down as the man yelled. They were all going to die? She snort-laughed, shaking her head amused. Of course they were - that was the nature of life. The idiot didn't even have any good last words. And then the beasts struck and Didia, immediately upon seeing the blood, retched. 

She sat down again snd buried her face in her hands, grimacing. The sounds didn't bother her as much as the smell of the blood - even from up here. She gulped in air and tried not to vomit. Then silence settled across the arena. She glanced up at Alexius as he patted her shoulder, unwilling to look. She directed the question to the people around her "Is it over? Is he dead?" 

 

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Theodorus was still not fond of the arena - the public executions even less so than the games. There was no skill or performance in those, just scared people and gore. But if anyone in the history of Rome ever deserved to die this way, it was that man down there. For hurting so many others. Theodorus had not been among them, but he cared for (and treated) many who were, and he had no love lost for the killer. Today, he was here to bear witness. And to support Didia, who - as advertised - had thrown up the moment blood was spilled. Theo pulled her hair back and patted her on the back just like Alexius, after the ex-gladiator left.

"It's over. He's very dead. Don't look up though." he suggested. "Would you like to leave?"

@Sara @Sharpie @Atrice @Sarah @Sains

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Ione didn't know why she was here. Maybe because she hadn't been given the day off for the actual races, and so she felt the need to use some of her precious free time to actually see something of the city. Maybe it was because all of her friends were - granted they were now on the laps of various men or drinking heavily - but she didn't particularly want to be left alone in the brothel. So here she was. She was right at the back, with the other slaves, but she was wearing her plain scratchy tunica - not the togas - given she wasn't working. 

She was sat next to a heavy man who took every opportunity of Ione jumping at the roars of the lions or the shouts of the crown to inch closer to her. She wrinkled her  nose. She could smell his breath and his odour from here and it made her nauseous. She scanned the crowds, desperate for an escape and saw a sliver of an empty seat next to a younger man, about her age. He looked...furious. But fury she could handle. The wretchedness of the man next to her, she couldn't. She pushed herself up and squeezed down the row, falling into the tiny gap next to Azarion. "Do you mind?" She asked quietly, already seated and then glanced to him as the man down on the sands yelled. The man next to her had his fists balled and she winced. "Are...you alright?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi @Sharpie @Atrice @Sarah @Sains

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Azarion watched. He watched all of it. It was far away, but he could still see clearly what was happening. The arena shook with the roar of the large cats, and then the roar of the people as the criminal went down in a spray of blood. Azarion's nails dug into his palms, but he didn't notice the pain. Die. Suffer. Die.

There was movement, and a girl sat down next to him, wedging herself into the small space between Azarion and whoever was on the other side. She was skinny; she fit. Azarion didn't pay much attention. Barbatius was dead. He had died too quickly. Azarion frowned. But at least it looked painful. The cats were devouring him. His soul would be damned for eternity. Azarion spat at his feet.

"Are...you alright?" 

Azarion blinked; it took a moment to register she was speaking to him. He looked at the girl, and nodded. Why wouldn't he be? Oh. He looked down at his hands, unfolding his fingers. There were red crescents in his palms. 

@Sarah @Sara @Atrice @Sains @Sharpie

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Aia was sitting with Didia and the others. Her wound had mostly healed now, but that did not make her any less furious about the man. At least he would die now. With a whole lot of blood. She watched as the cats stalked him. She'd never seen anything like that; she didn't frequent the games much. But she had seen plenty of gore in Britannia. Didia might throw up, but she wouldn't. She would watch all of it and make sure the fucker was dead.

“YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

"FUCK YOU!" Aia screamed back enthusiastically. She was not the only one in the roaring crowd, but she was definitely loud. She glanced down at where Decimus was standing stoically by the imperials. She knew he was just as glad to see the man die.

And he did. With screams and blood and a crunch. It was shocking to watch, but there was a satisfaction to it, to see a monster get what he deserved for once. Aia folded her arms. "Good kitty."

@Sara @Sarah @Sains @Atrice @Sharpie

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The man didn't react. She heard the chaos, the screams from down on the sands but she was distracted enough by the young man next to her that she didn't look down. She could sense it was over though as the screams quieted to nothing and the crowd began to cheer. She felt her stomach turn. Her big eyes remained trained on the silent man who blinked at her, a frown still on his face and nodded. She had seen enough people aggrieved to know he was lying. 

But he was still silent and her eyes fell to his un-flexed fists. She shifted away from him a little, misinterpreting the gesture. She swallowed. "Are you...sure?" She finally stole a glance down to the sands. It was a scene of utter chaos and carnage. She grimaced, pulling a face of displeasure. "Did you...know him?" Gods how she hated awkward silences. 

 

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"Are you...sure?"

No he wasn't sure. Azarion huffed, but he couldn't exactly explain it to her, and she looked kind of upset anyway. If it was the crowd, or the gore, or him, Azarion couldn't tell. She looked about the same age as him. And if she was sitting up here she was clearly a slave.

"Did you...know him?" 

Wild guess. Azarion frowned. He turned his arm, running a finger along the scar Barbatius' blade had left on it, next to the FVG brand he had. It had healed as well as it could be expected, but it was still visible. He nodded towards the sands where the cats were still feasting. He did this.

@Sara

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There he was, frowning again. Ione frowned herself, confused over how she had offended him so much already. She shifted in her seat again, uncomfortable at the slither of the plinth that she'd been left but more uncomfortable by his unspoken hostility. 

She watched him carefully, confused, until he turned his arm and she saw the cut on his arm. She frowned. They said he'd cut people, the man, but from where she was sitting she could barely make out his body let alone his features. She swallowed and her lips parted. "The...man...he enjoyed it? The cutting of people?" She swallowed and then tentatively, tugged down the collar of her tunica, revealing the neat straight pink scar over her collarbone. 

 

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Ovinia's mind seemed to be elsewhere, when Pinaria reached her, but she felt the younger woman needed comfort and who else here could offer that to her? It didn't appear that her father would do that. None of the men here could. But Pinaria could. Ovinia gave her a small smile and shifted so that Pinaria could sit down. She did so and Ovinia looked to where Pinaria had been seated before, "I'm more needed here I think." She replied softly and squeezed Ovinia's hand. If she had not reached for Pinaria's hand, she would have reached for Ovinia's.

"I'm alright. I'm... glad he's going to die. It sounds so horrid... to be glad that someone's about to die. But... with good reason, right?" Ovinia of anyone here should understand that. Her eyes returned to the sands as their attacker yelled something... something about them all dying, but Pinaria lifted her chin and shook her head. He was not going to make an impression on her, that's for sure. And then it went down. The crowd went wild. Pinaria just watched. She halfway wanted to look away, halfway wanted to see it all. Take it in. See that he died. So she did just that. It wasn't normally like her to enjoy such things, but today she would. She didn't even feel sick or anything. What happened down there was gruesome, but it wasn't wrong. Not in this case. Yet her grip on Ovinia's hand tightened as the beasts parted ways and she saw the corpse, the bloody pile of what used to be a horrible man and her eyes stayed on it a few moments, before she looked to Ovinia again, "It's done. Good." 

@Sarah @Sara @Chevi @Sharpie @Sains

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You are all going to die!

As last words, they were particularly unimpressive. Did Barbatius think he was going to strike fear into people with them? People were born, and people died, and the part in between was called 'life'. Life was where the fun happened, the joy of good company and good wine, sunshine and philosophy, pretty women and pretty landscapes. And Barbatius's life was going to be that much shorter, in revenge for the lives that he himself had shortened, or tried to. 

The cats were hungry. The criminals' last desperate cry seemed the excuse they were looking for as the lion attacked him from behind, the tiger taking the opportunity once he was pinned. It would be excruciating, but at least it was quick. He was badly maimed, but the cats were hungry and in no mood to play. As soon as he rolled and exposed his throat, it was done. What had been a man became only meat, and the two cats - one from the hot sands of the south and one from the cold forests of the north - made short work of the corpse. Tiberius hoped that in his last moments Barbatius appreciated the expense of his execution; wood was much cheaper but crucifixion was a slow death. 

A handler appeared at one of the beast doors and looked over at the Imperial box. Were they satisfied? Tiberius nodded ever so slightly and waved his hand in a gesture to indicate that they were done with the spectacle. With a nod the fellow emerged onto the sands, followed by more handlers with poles and ropes, and the two cats were wrangled back into their pens, along with their respective prizes. They wouldn't need feeding tonight, and Barbatius's soul would likely remain restless, without the proper burial rites. Once the cats were contained others rushed out with rakes and shovels to clean the last of the mess from the sands. 

The sands clean and neat once more, a pair of gladiators walked out, mismatched armour gleaming, raising their arms to stir up the crowds who already seemed whipped to a frenzy by the execution, and the regular games began. 

Tiberius glanced across at Jason, judging his reaction. It had, as he'd discovered, been his idea to bring the three to Tiberius that fateful night. "Well?" He asked his slave quietly, then glanced over at Decimus, raising his eyebrows slightly to include him in the question. Where Roscianus and Alexius were, he didn't know, but he doubted they'd have missed witnessing the death of the man they'd felt so strongly must die. 

@Atrice @Sara @Chevi @Sharpie @Sains

Edited by Sarah
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