I is YOUR DOOM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Deep space
[One-shot Fic] Brutal Light (Gladiator)
A/N: As everyone who knows me well knows, I adore Gladiator. About two days after I first saw it, I just HAD to write something about it. So, after a day of frenzied writing, this was the fruit of my labor: a short story exploring Maximus’s thoughts in a deleted scene. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
So this was the underbelly of the great Colosseum. Dark passageways lit by smoky torches and bustling with people. Walls made of stained, sand-colored mortar. Too many gates to count. Contraptions, ropes, and theatrical rigs, all operated by bare-chested slaves. The sound of grunting and machinery. The pungent smell of sweat and dirt.
As Maximus followed his fellow gladiators through this underground maze, willing his eyes to acclimate to the darkness, he had to admit that he was impressed. Though he was well-acquainted with the underbellies of many arenas, this place was so large as to be extraordinary.
I wonder how many men will die here today, he thought grimly, to entertain Romans.
Steeling his jaw, he followed the line of gladiators through an open gate. Beyond it was the room in which they would await their turn in the arena—their turn to die. Disconcertingly, Maximus found himself closed in on three sides by pairs of hungry lions. The beasts were pacing back and forth in their cells, growling, their tails flicking in agitation. Maximus tried not to imagine what would happen if, in a careless moment, he strayed too close to the iron bars that caged them. On the other side of their cells, light poured in from wrought-iron gates that led outside to the arena.
Just as Maximus resigned himself to keeping company with predators, the gates began to rise, and the beasts ceased their pacing. Intrigued, the Spaniard looked back and saw the slaves in the passageway pulling hard on wooden winches. Apparently it was time for the lions to perform. When the gates had fully risen, the beasts turned and loped out into the light, where they would no doubt be greeted with enthusiasm. Maximus glanced at Juba, who, by the keenness of his returning look, seemed to be wondering the same thing he was. Gladiators fighting? Or criminals being executed?
Maximus watched as the gates slammed shut, then turned back to Juba. “I’ll look,” he murmured. Juba nodded silently, his black eyes solemn.
With the other men looking on, Maximus stepped onto the stone bench that ran along part of the wall. Propping his hands against the sloped mortar, he squinted, straining to see through the barred window above.
What he saw made his heart slam against his chest.
Not a troop of gladiators, clad in burnished armor, their swords glinting in the sunlight. Not even grown men, trembling with fear as they awaited their death . . . but children. Maximus understood immediately.
These children were Christians.
Maximus blinked as a cold wave of sadness washed over him. He had heard of the gruesome fates of Christians in the Colosseum. Yet he had never seen it happen, and never to mere children.
One child stood nearby, nestled in the arms of an older boy. His skin was tanned, his hair coal-black. And he was small. So small. Suddenly, as if sensing the gladiator’s eyes upon him, the child looked up to meet his gaze. Maximus’s breath hitched, and a shockwave rippled down his spine.
The child’s eyes. They look just like my son’s.
Then a lion approached, its gait almost sickeningly lazy. The child’s eyes filled with a calm acceptance, and he buried his face in the arms that held him, waiting for the end to come.
Maximus had never felt so helpless. Here he stood, staring injustice in the face, and though he burned to yell, to draw his sword and plunge it into the beast’s flesh, he could do nothing but watch. And that was something he would not do. As the lion began to paw at the child, Maximus turned away, closing his ears to the child’s screams. The foul taste of gall stung his throat.
“I’ve seen much of the rest of the world. It is brutal, and cruel, and dark. Rome is the light!”
The memory of his words to the dead Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, haunted him. Those words had seemed so true then, but now they turned on him, sinking their treacherous fangs into his flesh. Rome . . . the light? He felt like scoffing aloud. The light would not laugh at the scene before him. It would not cheer as the young and innocent were ripped apart by beasts who had themselves been cruelly, purposefully starved. It would not stand by and watch as a family was slaughtered by a man whose lusts were insatiable, whose corruption was complete, and who did not deserve to live.
What, then, was Rome?
The room was silent. All the men were looking up at him; Juba was looking up at him. Collecting his emotions, Maximus fastened his eyes on the Numidian. He said quietly, huskily:
“I hope, for their sake, that the Romans are entertained.”
Then he stepped down from the bench.
When they saw the remorse in his eyes, the men seemed to understand.
Last edited by Emalin; 06-04-2008 at 11:12 PM.