Chapter 3- Gladiator
A dark cell…
Somewhere in Ancient Greece
“Wake up. Boy, wake up!” an insistent voice shouted.
“What?” I hissed. It was much to early to do anything so I rolled over—and promptly fell on a cold, wet floor.
I jolted awake. “What the hell?” I hissed.
I was in a small room and it was too dark to see anything. I can only make out the small pallet near me and the hunched figure on the other side of the room.
“Glad to see you are finally awake.”
I tried to sit up but my head spun. I groaned and my hand cradled my aching head. This felt like the worst hangover… ever. As slowly as I could, I sat up on the pallet once more.
“Where am I?” I croaked. My throat felt like sandpaper. I don’t think I’ve ever been this drunk before.
“A cell. And you better get a hold of yourself boy. We’re about to be thrown to the lions.”
“What?” I hissed.
And then it all came crashing back.
The Fates’ revelations, the threads of life being cut from the tapestry, seeing my friends and my family die.
And then going through a portal…
Did it work? Was I back in ancient Rome? Ignoring the pain in my head, I tried to move towards the light in the corner but a chain tied to my ankle prevented me.
Fuck, I needed to escape! I have to save Olympus! But first, I have to free myself from this cold, smelly place.
I stretched my hand and concentrated on the chains that bound my ankle. I imagined it heating up and then melting away just like I’ve always practiced. I summoned every bit of energy I could and focused hard.
I heard a snort and a snicker from the other side of the room.
I tried again. But still nothing. “Fuck this!” I shouted. I flung my hand and tried to summon my powers once more and this time, I wanted to stop time. I closed my eyes and tried my best.
“Did you get hit in the head hard, boy?” the man asked.
Immediately, I stopped my attempts.
“What are you doing?” he asked, a hint of humor in his voice. That was when I realized I must have looked like an utter fool. I had my hand stretched towards the chain and my face must have been scrunched as I tried to concentrate.
“Nothing,” I replied.
My knees almost buckled at the effort it cost me to try and summon my powers. Once again, I found myself in the pallet.
Why did it not work? Were my powers gone? Maybe I can’t use it this far back in time? Or perhaps my powers were depleted because I travelled so far back?
Whatever the reason was, I’m fucked either way. I can’t start my mission and I was imprisoned here!
“Have you been here long?” I asked the man.
“No. We were brought here together,” my fellow prisoner answered in a gravelly tone.
My brows creased and I was silent for a long time.
“You don’t remember anything?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. The moment the portal to go back in time swallowed me, it was like falling very fast. At the same time, I felt like my powers were being sucked out of me. I remember landing in the ground and then passing out after that.
“I found you by the side of the road. You wore clothes whose style I have never seen around here. I tried to wake you but you were out cold.”
“Uhm. Yeah. I’m not from around here.”
“Me too. Where are you from?” he asked.
I rummaged my brain for a good answer. But my head still ached and I couldn’t even think of a far-flung province in ancient Greece which was not a popular place.
I was saved from replying when I heard footsteps. In a flash, the other prisoner was standing beside me. It was still so dark to see his features but I saw that he was very tall. A head taller than my six foot two.
He muttered something about being ‘thrown to the lions’ again but I was too anxious to understand the rest of what he was saying.
“Can you stand?” he asked me.
“Can you fight?”
But I think I answered too soon. I’m not at my best fighting condition right now. Worse case scenario: I will lose. But I won’t die. I’m still immortal… probably.
“You still seem too weak. Get behind me. And if we are asked to fight, do everything I say.”
Well, that stung my pride. If I was not weak and powerless, I could take him on a fistfight. But today really isn’t my best day.
Suddenly, six men came into view. They brought torches which illuminated the dark cell. The space was very small. There were two pallets on each side and then a chamberpot in one corner. The men walked closer and that’s the first time I saw the features of my fellow prisoner.
He looked at me like I lost my marbles.
“What?” he hissed.
It’s him! There’s no mistaking it! Same dark hair, the same sharp nose, and facial features!
Ahh… Now I get it.
Because I went back in time, he really wouldn’t know me. This was hundreds of years before he met my mother and before I was born.
The thought of seeing a familiar face but them not remembering me put such a heavy weight in my heart. But at the same time, it made me even more determined to do what I have to.
Suddenly, the door burst open and the guards entered. I tried to defend myself when they approached but there was too many of them and too little space.
The stranger also tried to fight but they clamped one end of a chain on his arm and the other on mine.
They tugged on the chains and we ended up both sprawling on the floor. They clamped another set of chain on my leg and his.
“Stand!” one guard shouted. They tugged on the chain hard and my wrist and leg felt sore from the scrape.
We stood and they led us outside.
“Where are they taking us?” I asked my dad.
Again, he just doesn’t know I’m his son yet. And I can’t tell him outright because even if we’re immortals and unexplainable shit happens around us all the time, this scenario is still pretty whacked.
“Listen, boy. Try to get out of my way as much as possible. Protect my back and shout if there’s anyone attacking from behind me. I’ll take care of everything.”
Wait. Hold up right there and let me ask this again. Fight what exactly?!
The guards stopped walking and I saw that we were in front of a large set of double doors. I could hear noise from beyond those doors. It seemed like a large, rowdy crowd was waiting outside.
Then, the doors were opened and for a moment, I was blinded by the sudden influx of light. We were pushed outside and I saw that we were in some kind of arena.
My chest was bare and I wore only what seemed to be a loin cloth. My dad was similarly attired. The guards led us to the middle of the arena and the end of the chains were secured against a large rock.
Then, they started to back away.
“What’s going on?” I whispered.
“Prepare yourself,” my father answered.
The doors started to close and before it did, two swords were thrown to the sand near us. Immediately, my dad dived for the sword. He threw one to me and I caught it.
Another set of doors opened and warriors poured out. They wore armor and some carried axes, the other spears and others swords. And that was when it hit me.
This was a gladiator fight!
“Fucking hell,” I muttered under my breath. A rush of adrenaline coursed through me as my body prepared to fight. I knew I was weak and this made me nervous. I can’t go all the way here and just die in this battle.
I glanced at my dad and he looked unruffled. He even looked calm and confident! He walked forward and I felt a tug on the chains so I followed.
I looked up at him and… Wait. Was that a trick of the light or were his eyes gold?
Dad’s eyes were as grey as the clouds before the rain poured. They were definitely not gold.
With a roar, the battle started. There must have been twenty warriors they threw towards the arena with us. And they all ran towards us while they shouted their various battle cries.
Yet my dad didn’t move. He just stood there—tall and confident. “Move!” I shouted when a warrior neared. He didn’t. One gladiator swung his sword and still he stood there.
But at the last second, he moved. And it was so fast that he was like a blur. I was dragged onto the sand with the impact but I managed to rise quickly. I moved closer to him, carefully avoiding the blows he traded with the gladiators.
Dad and I have fought together like this so many times before that I felt that this is just one of those battles. I turned my back to him so we were back to back. I’ll protect his and he’ll protect mine.
I ducked when one of the gladiators swung his axe. He was much too big for me to kick him in the legs and for him to fall. So I just kneed him in the groin. When he doubled over in pain, I hit him in the head with the pommel of the sword.
He sprawled on the ground and didn’t get up again. I grabbed his shield and tied it to my arm quickly. Two more gladiators now came towards me. One swung his sword and I used my shield to deflect it while I stabbed the other with my sword.
“To your left!” my dad shouted.
I ducked and raised my shield. He stepped to the side and completely in sync with each other, I moved as well. He swung his sword and sliced a wide gash on the gladiator’s thigh. His blood flowed and turned the sand red.
Briefly, I saw that eight bodies already littered the ground in front of him as opposed to my two. “Let’s finish this,” he commanded. I nodded and instead of playing defense, we switched to offense.
I protected our side with the shield I stole while I attacked with my sword. My dad now had discarded the light sword they threw us from the start. Now, he had two long, thin swords in each hand. He moved with lethal grace as he stabbed and blocked his opponent’s attack. Each movement seemed like it was a part of an intricate, deadly dance.
After what felt like hours but was just only minutes, there was no more gladiator standing. Some looked like they were dead but some still moved and groaned because of the pain of various wounds.
“Splendid fight!” a man in the middle of the raised seats shouted. I assumed he was the emperor. He gave the fight a thumbs up and the crowd went wild. The cheers and applause we received drowned the gladiators’ groans.
I smiled and my father gripped my hand and raised it high. The crowd cheered and applauded more. My eyes scanned the number of people and my gaze was drawn to one of the pillars near the emperor’s seat.
There, hidden from the shadows was a set of familiar faces. My heart soared as I saw them. Even if they wouldn’t recognize me now, at least I wasn’t alone here.
Dressed in an armor made of leather was Zeus. His eyes were twinkling with mirth as he laughed at something a black-haired woman whispered. She turned around and I saw that it was Hera. His arm was around her and they were both laughing now.
Seeing that made me smile even wider. When I was young, I remember Zeus and Hera as the couple who always fought. Sometimes, their fights shook the entire world. But they always stayed together and were excellent leaders. But that was until recently when Hera left Olympus and Zeus did everything he could to win her back.
I always remembered Zeus and Hera as old, wise gods. They only recently adapted their young looks. But now, in ancient Greece, they appeared as their younger selves as well. And they seemed… happy.
Mom was right. A fated love was unlike any other. Even though Zeus was cursed, his attraction to Hera and his love for her was still there. Maybe this time in ancient greece was a time where their marriage was fine? Perhaps it was one of those rare periods?
I’m really glad for that. Because I cannot stand seeing Zeus here in ancient Greece and watch him cavort with beautiful mortals when I know what he and his wife went through in the present.
I wasn snapped out of my thoughts when my father tugged on the chain.
“That was a great fight, boy,” he told me.
“Thanks, dad,” I replied. I realized my slip when he frowned.
“I know my sons, boy. And I know you’re not one of them,” he said in a teasing tone.
And for the first time since I met him, I looked closer. And that was when I saw the differences between him and my father.
First, his eyes were really gold. Now, they were a muted shade of gold but when he was fighting, they shone like the shiniest gold bar in my father’s collection. Also, this man seemed a bit taller and he was more muscled than my father.
He also had slightly darker skin and his hair, though black, was a bit lighter than my father’s. Another thing is that he looked older.
And his aura… It was as if he emanated raw power and radiance. I don’t know how to describe it but looking at him felt like looking at the sun. That was the amount of power and energy that surrounded him.
“Hades?” I whispered hoping that he will recognize my name and that he really is my father after all. It was a last ditch effort but well… there’s nothing to lose.
The man threw his head back and laughed.
“My name’s Aidon. What’s yours?” I asked.
I rummaged my mind for some of the ancient Greek history lessons my mom made us take as well as my Aurea’s stories. My twin sister majored in Ancient Greek history. Maybe there was something there about a legendary gladiator with black hair?
But nothing came up.
The Hades-look-a-like smiled at me and extended his hand.
“My name’s Seth. But some people know me more as Aiken.”