The Greatest Ludus

The Empire of Rome is at its height. The rich and powerful grow more powerful with each day. The corrupt grow more decadent and seek to avenge even the smallest of slights.

Young Titus Nepos, his beautiful wife Etruscilla and their trusted Doctore Nimr face a plot to crush their House by an unseen foe. They must unravel the history of Nepos' family and uncover a deadly secret, or face utter ruin.

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12. Revalations

The enormous, round building, held up by huge and mighty coluums, and made of strong stone, was a symbol of Rome's wealth and glory. It housed many texts and books on a huge range of subjects- from historical accounts to biographies of Rome's most treasured sons and daughters, and everything inbetween.

The courtyard in front of the Library served as a marketplace, and street entertainers tried to impress with displays of fire-eating and sword-swallowing. Pickpockets were everywhere, and Nepos held his purse close to him, eying everyone who came near him with suspicion.

They wanted him to buy things, to spend his valuable money on things he didn't really need, but Nepos didn't really hear them. He had only one thing to do, and as he stepped into the Library, he took a breath, hoping he would find something- anything- that would help him.

The hall within the Library was filled with shelves, and a second level accessed by a stone staircase contained yet more. The bookcases were filled with manuscripts and bits of parchment that had found their way down the ages- documenting the rise of Rome.

The workers within the Library all wore brown togas, to distinguish them from the average browser. They were mostly older men and women, who had devoted their lives to the legacy of the Empire. One such woman, old, wrinkled and yet with a kind face, smiled at Nepos as he took his first steps within the Library.

"You appear somewhat lost my young man, is there anything in particular you seek?" She was a head shorter than Nepos and her voice sounded croaky, but her eyes sparkled.

"Yes, thank you, I seek documents on my grandfather, Mamercus Norbanus Nepos. He was once a famous gladiator."

The old lady's eyes seemed to light up even more. "Yes yes! That he was! I saw him many times... please, come with me." She led him toward the back of the Library, toward one of the last bookcases. "Dazzling with the sword was your grandfather. Cleaved his opponents limb from limb!"

Nepos smiled politely. "Of that I have no doubt."

"Hmm, let me see, let me see... ah, yes... Mamercus... several old papers here..." She rustled through the top shelf, and for good measure checked the other four. She handed Nepos a stack of documents that made him inwardly groan- there was a much word written about his grandfather- more than Nepos had thought.

"He was your grandfather you say?" The woman asked curiously. Before Nepos could answer she carried on. "I can see the resemblance- he was a strapping lad too! I'll spare you the thoughts and fantasies that spun in my head back then!" She laughed, and Nepos held back a cringe. He really didn't need the image of the old lady in any sort of fornication in his mind.

"Well, it looks like you have much to read! Come, to one of the tables, where you can read in peace." She led him to a small set of desks, where others were already checking various documents for one reason or another. He sat down, thanked the old lady, and slipped her a few coins for her troubles. He thought she might burst, given how happy she became.

When she was gone, Nepos opened the first page of the first manuscript, and started to read.

What he found left him speechless.

After many hours, Nepos had read every document available to him. For good measure, he read documents pertaining to other Romans- ones connected to his grandfather in ways he had never considered. At last he knew the truth- and understood why someone was out to hurt his family. The question was, how could the truth set him free?

****

"Welcome Nimr, to your new ludus!" Paulus with him outside the gates of a huge, three-tiered white-stoned building, decorated with the crest of a golden lion against a red background. Every window was fixed with shutters and drapes of the family crest, and centurions- three of them- guarded the gate. From within Nimr could hear the familar sounds of gladiators in practise- the clash of wood against wood was a noise that he would never forget.

"What business brings you here?" One of the helmeted guards asked Paulus.

"Inform Vibius Maccius Metellus that Marcus Octavius Paulus brings him the Tiger, as promised." Replied Paulus.

The guard nodded, and ran off, out of sight. A few moments later, a man with a cream toga, black hair and beady little blue eyes within a thin face (which suited his entire form) stepped into view. He smiled as he saw Paulus.

"Open the gate." He instructed one of the guards. When Paulus and Nimr were inside, he clasped Paulus' shoulder.

"Marcus old friend, it has been too long! We have much to discuss and much wine to drink!"

Paulus smiled appreciatively. "Were I but able, but I have many pressing matters of business to attend to. My wife and I will make arrangements to enjoy your hospitality though, of that I promise!"

Metellus laughed. "I should hope so! So, this is Nimr..." He looked his new purchase up and down. "Imposing and powerful, as I expected. Nimr, fight well, and bring glory to this House, and you yourself shall be enshrined- gladiators here fight not at Castrense, but at the great Colluseum itself! If you so wish, immortality is yours for the taking!"

"I shall endeavour to bring you glory, Dominus." Nimr bowed his head.

Metellus chuckled. "Well-trained I see. Your previous master knew your worth."

"I like to believe so Dominus."

"Good. One of the guards will escort you to the training area. I look foward to seeing you in action."

"As you wish Dominus." With a flick of his eyes, Metellus had a guard scurrying to see Nimr off around the corner, onto the training sands.

"So Vibius, what is to be your next move?" Asked Paulus as the two stepped into the shade beneath one of the pillars.

"Nepos will shortly have fifteen average warriors that will fall all too easily, and the levies against his house shall grow. He shall find himself at the mercy of the tax collectors, and he and his precious wife shall be cast onto the streets. Once there, they shall be sold into slavery and worked to death."

"You have your agenda planned out I see." Remarked Paulus.

"Of course. For many years my brother and I have worked to see this end. The little shit has defied us on occasion, but those occasions cease now. He will never know the truth, but his ancestors watching from beyond will suffer the humilation of their name." Bitterness crept into his voice. "As his grandfather did to us."

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