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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16. The Greatest Arena

"Welcome good people of Rome!" Vibius Maccius Metellus stood on the balcony, proclaiming today's games open. Behind him sat his older brother, Senator Caius Maccius Metellus, along with Marcus Octavious Paulus- and Petillia Crispina. Nor were they alone.

Several senators were present for the latest group of fights to grace the Colosseum- the grandest of all arenas. Here was where a gladiator could forge their name into legend for all time- and as Nimr waited behind the iron gates, he felt determined to seize his chance.

The Emperor was not present- he had pressing business to attend to- but several of Rome's most powerful men and women were present- and thousands of people were waiting to get their first glimpse of him in action. An ordinary man would feel nervous, but Nimr was not ordinary.

"Today you get to see in action my latest purchase. Some of you may have seen him before- he has slaughtered countless foes upon the sands, overcame impossible odds time and time again- he is without a doubt one of the finest warriors to grace any arena, and now he graces the Colosseum! Ladies, gentlemen, I give you the Tiger, Nimr!"

The crowd roared. They were loud enough to shake the building, but Nimr was now totally focused. As the gates opened, he stepped out upon the sands to great noise and delight. Perhaps his reputation had preceded him?

In his left hand he held his trusty blade, cleaned for the occasion. On his right arm he wore a small shield of wood fronted by iron. Vibius had wanted him to wear a helmet- but Nimr had refused. They clouded his field of vision and made him feel too hot. His arms went up in a salute to the crowd, and they cheered- despite the circumstances which had brought him here, Nimr felt good. There was nothing like being upon the sands, preparing for battle.

Vibius held his hands up to bid for silence, and for the most part, the crowd did exactly that.

"Now, good citizens, we welcome to the arena a man of legend. He had fought dozens of fights, survived countless wounds, and has always risen to strike his opponent down. From the famous ludus of Aulus Opimius Ravilla, I give you Decimus!"

Another gate swung open. From it stepped a man that was surely forged in the underworld itself.

Decimus had to be nearly seven feet tall, and Nimr could be forgiven for thinking he was nearly as wide. Huge legs carried his enormous torso, which was clad in leather armour that went down his arms and legs. Long, unkempt black hair fell down upon his shoulders, and a thick beard disguised the man's face. Dark brown eyes were filled with hate, which intensified as they turned Nimr's way.

In each hand he held two huge swords, both of which were coated in the dried blood of his victims. The crowd exploded with joy- this was most likely one of their favourites- he looked every bit the sort of savage warrior the crowd would love to hate.

Decimus thrust out a sword in Nimr's direction, and he sneered. Nimr held the other man's gaze and did not react.

"You will die here little man, and I will not make it merciful." Snarled Decimus.

"Words mean nothing, only actions." Replied Nimr evenly.

"Ladies, gentlemen, shall we begin?" Cried Vibius. The crowd gave their noisy approval.

Decimus immediately lunged, his left sword sweeping in quickly, which Nimr parried with his shield. He had to bring his shield to the ready almost instantly, for Decimus' right sword stabbed at him, and his left sword came back for another go a second later. Nimr backed away, driving his sword forward to parry another slash, and as Decimus brought his left sword in from above Nimr ducked to his right, and flicked his own sword out for his opponent's midriff. Decimus brought his right sword up and blade met blade with a clang.

Nimr tried to take a swing at Decimus' back, but the other man was wise to the move and span around, his own left sword deflecting the attack and his right sword slicing toward Nimr's head. Nimr ducked, but a massive foot connected with his stomach and sent him stumbling backwards.

Before Nimr could steady himself Decimus was upon him. Two quick right-left attacks kept him on the back foot as he defended frantically, trying to keep moving quickly.

Decimus pressed his advantage. His swords came for Nimr, in a scissor motion, and Nimr had to duck to avoid losing his head. Unfortunately, he was now in range of Decimus' knee, which slammed up into his jaw, just as an elbow came down hard upon his back.

A boot kicked Nimr backwards and he fell, winded and dizzy. Blood dripped from his lip where his tooth had gone through it. He rose to his feet, and managed to just about leap out of the way as twin blades aimed to open his stomach up upon the sands. His shield came up to deflect another blow, but a kick slammed into his stomach and he staggered backwards once more.

"You are put a puny insect waiting to be squashed beneath my heel. When I am done with you death will be desired." Decimus' deep voice seemed to rumble like thunder. The crowd were chanting his name. He was clearly a favourite of theirs.

Which was too bad. Nimr had no intention of dying today.

Quickly the Tiger was back on his feet, and as another series of sweeps and slashes came his way he parried or dodged every last one of them. Then he did the unexpected.

Few dared to stand their ground against Decimus. Powerful and brutal, he could cleave his foes into a dozen pieces with the greatest ease. So when Nimr blocked another blow with his shield then lunged his sword at Decimus' face, it took the larger man by surprise. The blade sliced into his right cheek, cutting a deep gash. Decimus howled, then cried out again as Nimr followed up the attack by slicing across Decimus' right arm.

Enraged, Decimus demonstrated why he was considered so formidable. He let go of his right sword when he had been wounded but he punched Nimr hard in the face. Nimr fell backwards as his nose broke and blood erupted everywhere.

"You little shit! You will suffer greatly you fuck!" Decimus picked up his other sword once again and stepped slowly toward Nimr. The Tiger once again got back to his feet, but the pain from the various blows Decimus had landed was beginning to take hold. He felt sore in ways he had not felt for years. The taste of blood filled his mouth.

Decimus' left sword came down hard upon his shield. Nimr span around to parry the next attack and tried to counter with a stab for Decimus' stomach, but Decimus was quick for someone of his size and knocked the attack away. This was followed by a headbutt that nearly knocked Nimr unconcious, and Decimus' left sword sliced across Nimr's stomach, not deep enough to mortally wound but enough to seriously hurt.

Nimr cried out in pain. Once again he struggled to stand upright. There was no way he would yield, not here, not now. Everyone had a weakness, even if it seemed impossible. He was the Tiger, and he would not be beaten.

Decimus came at him again. His swords were a whirl of motion, and Nimr had to be at his fastest to evade or parry the malestrom of attacks coming at him. Sword met shield and sword met sword, and the crowd marveled at the skill of the two combatants. A hush came over the arena, until Decimus once again caught Nimr off-balance, and smashed an elbow into his chest.

Nimr held his ground though, and slammed his shield into the other man's face in response. It was a rare response, and he had to take the initiative. His sword flew in from the left and smacked into Decimus' right side, but Decimus was already moving backwards and the wound was nowhere near as deep as Nimr had hoped. It was though, a blow, and Nimr followed up with an elbow of his own, to Decimus' face. He tried to hit Decimus across the face with his shield but Decimus brought his swords up and angrily pushed Nimr away.

Both his opponent's swords now swung at him from either direction, and Nimr stepped backwards whilst putting his shield out, blocking Decimus' left sword and barely avoiding being cut open by the right. Decimus had huge strength and played to that, clashing his right sword against Nimr's own blade so hard that it nearly forced blade from hand.

Another swift blow from the left cracked into Nimr's shield, hard enough to send shards of wood across the arena floor. A powerful right swing nearly removed Nimr's head, and would have if not for his backwards motion.

Each fresh attack was weakening Nimr and emboldening Decimus. Somehow Nimr had to change the rules of the game.

So he did.

He leapt backwards, putting a little bit of distance between himself and Decimus. Then as Decimus came at him, Nimr threw his sword at the other man.

It was a trick he was not unfamiliar with. It was one Decimus was not familiar with. The blade dug into his right hip, pushing quite deep, and he howled with pain and fury. He went to pull the sword out, but was stopped as Nimr sprinted out of nowhere, and this time his shield did connect with the other man's face.

Decimus lost three of his teeth as the small wooden sword cracked across him. Nimr followed up by slamming his left fist into the other man's left cheek, then yanked his sword out of Decimus' body.

Blood trickled from the impressive wound. Decimus now limped, and spat blood from his broken mouth. His swords came back for Nimr, but Nimr, despite his own injuries, now possessed the advantage.

Steel met steel once again, at a furious pace, as Nimr did the pressing for once. He used his shield not only to block but to attack, trying to bludgeon Decimus with it. Decimus, for his part, showed he was equally adept at defensive moves, though his injuries were slowing him down.

Indeed, it was Decimus who got in the next blow- he knocked Nimr's shield upwards with his right sword and slashed across his right thigh with the other- it was a nasty, painful cut through through the front of his thigh and Nimr grunted in pain- something he repeated as Decimus twisted, span around and drove an elbow into Nimr's ribs.

Nimr though, was not to be outdone. Where Decimus had been trying elaborate moves on an injured hip, he was off-balance. Nimr recovered and rammed his shield against the other man's chest, then kicked out at Decimus' stomach, before trying to dig his sword into his heart. Decimus side-stepped to his right and tried to spin around and cut into Nimr from both sides, but Nimr pivoted quickly, his shield knocking both swords back and allowing him to nick the left-side of Decimus' torso with his blade.

This was a fight that would go down in legend- the crowd were silent- waiting to see what would happen next between these two great warriors.

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