The Wooden Sword

Under the arena, the performers got ready for the show.

“Okay so first you step back, then you slash at me, sword in your left hand, downwards this time, not like at the Galilee show. This is big time, these people have seen the real deal.”

“Next, back home in Rome right?”

“Don’t get ahead of me Decimus, that shit gets you killed in this business. Right now, we got more steps to go over.”

“Sorry Hardwin, guess I’m getting kind of homesick.”

“Homesick? Kid I haven’t been within a thousand miles of my home for ten years.”

“Okay then what after the slash?”

“We’ll keep it short and sweet, I’ll get you snagged in my net. Now you’ve practiced getting out of my net, it’s easy you just pull a little back and duck so no one notices the holes. Then you slash again, and I nick the bladder under my breast. I go down, you’re the hero and  the crowd has one Hades of a show.”

Decimus sighed and shook his head.

“Why can’t I just go out there under his name?”

“Him? Gods damn kid, whatever you do don’t bring him up, definitely not in Thrace.”

“But I do look like him, right?”

“Yeah, you got a passing resemblance but I saw him and you ain’t him and if the other fighters hear you acting like you are, they’ll give you a real hard time. Some of us fighters went with him, some of us died with him.”

“But that’s my angle isn’t it?”

“Yes, but we can’t exactly book it that way. The crowd might get pissed. It’ll look like we’re trying to replace him. Plus, the league officially condemned Spartacus’s actions. It’s just a no can do scenario.”

Decimus was looking down at his shoes, humbled but pouty like a puppy. The cleft chin, the light brown hair, the imposing and surprisingly well fed physique, the blue eyes, it was all there; everything but the man himself who seemed never to cower. Then again Hardwin’s memories had betrayed him before. He put his hand on Decimus’s shoulder.

“Look, if we play this right we might both get wood swords and you know what that means, right?”

“Freedom?”

“From everyone but Caesar and Death.”

The crowd suddenly roared, Maximus just got killed, until Carthage at least. It was time to meet Thrace.

“Pax Vobiscum, Hardwin.”

“See ya later pal.” Decimus always had an awkward choice in words.

The two diverged getting ready for their separate entrances on the opposing sides of the arena. Hardwin went over all the steps in his head, sure that the kid would forget them. There was a slight bit of resentment that the ex roman was now playing Hardwin’s idol but it passed. You have to let things go in this business.

You can get an ear for your proper entrance if you listen. What you want is just a slight bit of silence with settling murmurs. Just when they sit down, that’s when you enter, shaking the crowd from their complacency. Of course, Decimus did not wait for that silence and preferred to enter as quickly as his legs would take him. To each their own.

Hardwin sighed, wondering if this boy ever would gain some showmanship. He entered on his own accord, their hated Roman (with dyed black hair) and was booed and cursed at. Slowly the two circled, working the crowd up. From the corner of his eye, as Decimus unsheathed, Hardwin caught a glint he didn’t like. A sort of rage set in.

As Decimus went to slash, Hardwin took the sword between prongs and tossed it down. In the noon sun, it’s edge was apparent and it was sharp as a razor. Without a second thought, Hardwin gutted the kid. If the little shit wanted blood, by gods he got it that time. The crowd cried, their hero was dead all over again.

Hardwin felt a bit of remorse but thoughts of the wooden sword and dreams of his twelve year old son steeled him.

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