Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero
The Road Home
By Douglas E Gogerty
"Welcome home dear!" greeted Bella Pervalidia.
"It is good to be home again," replied the former gladiator.
"Rome's civil war is over, and you and Octavian won!"
"He has taken to calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus."
"That is quite a name!"
"History will probably shorten it to something like Caesar Augustus, or some such trifling."
"We cannot control how the people of the future will view our culture. Thus, it is silly to worry about such things."
"You are right, wife. It was a long journey, and I am glad to be home."
"How was your journey?"
"I heard about the young men..."
"It was a shame. For some, they will take dishonor with revenge. Having a cohort attack me from behind was inexcusable."
"You handled the situation as best you could, I am sure."
"I would have liked to not kill the young man. His family has lost another to my hands. How many more will there be?"
"Wars and death bring suffering to many families. Each must handle it in their own way. Some seek vengeance, while others forgive. It is the way of people."
"Once again, you soothe me with your wise words woman!"
"Were there any other incidents on the road that I have not heard of -- yet."
"From your hesitation, I know. There is no use hiding the truth from me."
"When I allied myself with Octavian -- Caesar Augustus -- I was hoping that the gods would finally let the fighting end. I thought that I would live in peace. It is not to be as I am convinced that Mars likes to see me fight."
"It is one of your great skills."
"I am getting up in years, and I can tell my skills are diminishing. I will make a mistake some day, and where would that leave you dear Bella?"
"Worrying about the future will just make that inevitable day come sooner."
"I thank the gods for smiling upon me so! Neptune and Mars, I am at your service until I die."
"Quit stalling Pervalidus, out with the story!"
"As you wish," sighed the aging fighter to his wife. He leaned back and began to tell his story.
* * * * *
With the war over, there are pockets of displaced soldiers here and there. Some of them fought for Caesar and some against, but they do not know what to do with themselves. Some have returned to their homes, yet some still gather and cause trouble for travelers. I came across one of these small groups.
I was delayed by some innocent incident, and I had not arrived in a town. While it would have been a joy to stay at an inn, it appeared that I would not make it to a lodging place until quite late. Even though it was still early evening, I decided that I would travel no further on that day. I made camp beside the road and began fixing myself a small meal.
Up the road came this band of armored soldiers. I greeted them and offered to share my food with them. However, the leader was quite belligerent and he informed me that I must move along.
I smiled and told him that I had traveled a long way, and I had a long way yet to go. I explained that I was just resting, and that I would continue on my way after my meal.
The leader's eyes grew cold as I talked. He was not interested in my troubles and he explained to me that my words meant nothing to him. He stated quite clearly that if I did not pack up and leave immediately, there would be trouble.
Not wanting to cause problems, I complied with his words. Well -- I reluctantly complied -- and -- I may have grumbled a few words. I cannot recall what these words were.
The group's leader heard me grumble and asked me what I had said. I told him that I could not remember, but that it was not important. Then he said, "Do you know who I am?"
Naturally, I replied, "No."
"I am Marius Batiatus Pervalidus! I killed 173 men single handedly at the battle of Philippi."
In an effort to stifle my laughter, I let out some sort of sound that was my inept attempt to indicate surprise. After a long uncomfortable pause, I did something that I should not have. I said, "I thought you were taller."
He shot a look my way in an effort to intimidate me. I must have been more tired and irritable than I thought as I continued with, "Also, I heard it was only 53 men."
I barely was able to contain my chuckles. "This is a serious manner -- old man. I could kill you quickly without breaking a sweat," continued the leader of the group.
"Listen Citizen Pervalidus -- if that is your real name," I said with as much composure as I could muster. "You asked me to leave. I am going. You have no authority to make such demands, but I do not wish to make trouble. So, go on your way, and I will continue on my own."
"It is too late for that whoever you are! You will die now." he squeaked. I must have touched some nerve in him.
He drew his sword and waved his comrades away. As usual, I had my staff with me. The man charged and I placed the hook end of my staff on the edge of his blade just above the hand guard and stepped aside. With another quick step to the side and a jerk of the staff, I wretched the sword from his hand and it fell to the ground.
As he reached for it, I gave him a sharp smack on his back. He stood up sharply, and momentarily abandoned making an attempt to retrieve the weapon. His comrades were about to rush me, but he waved them off.
"I think I shall stay the night here after all," I taunted.
He asked for a weapon from another member of the group, and charged again. I used the same maneuver and disarmed him again.
"Just in case you were wondering," I stated confidently. "It was not a fluke that I easily disarmed you. However, this confrontation has made me weary. I may try something different next time."
He whispered some sort of instructions to his cohorts, and they encircled me. I managed to stay close to the swords as they made their way around. I thought they would certainly attempt to retrieve them.
Two men with swords drawn came from opposite ends and rushed at me. I quickly determined who the stronger fighter was, and concentrated on him and put my back to the unsure weaker fighter. I took one step towards the strong fighter, and put my staff on the bridge of his nose. I directed the force of this blow into the groin of the other fighter. The strong fighter lurched backward and the weak one bent forward.
I had clear access to the strong fighter's sword, so I hooked it, and took it away from him. It fell near the others as blood began to flow profusely from his nose. The doubled over fighter was still in his position when I pushed him backwards. In an effort to catch himself from falling, he waved his arms wildly, and forgot he was wielding a sword. I relieved him of the weapon easily enough.
I had enough fighting, and a deep seriousness fell upon me. I stood in my warrior stance and shouted. "I have had enough. I will take these swords, and you will leave me now. Or, I will be forced to dispatch all of you, for I am the real Marius Batiatus Pervalidus, Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero. Leave in peace, or become food for scavengers. It is your choice."
In the old days, that would have frightened half of them. However, when a man of my age uses such words, they have less impact. All eight of the men rushed me at once. Luckily, I had disarmed half of them and a few were somewhat hampered by afflictions.
I chose two men on opposite sides that both had swords. I used my old technique of steering one man's sword into the belly of another and giving a whack on the back of his head. The two men fell upon each other as I gave a poke with the bronzed tip to other attackers.
This gave me a chance to locate the armed men, and keep others from grabbing the abandoned swords. There were just two men with swords left. They were very tentative in their actions which gave me a big advantage.
I rushed one of the remaining armed men, swung wildly with the staff at his head, and gave a mighty roar. It was just a feint, and he reflectively tried to protect himself with his sword. I redirected the blow to hit his hand.
With all of the bones in his hand now broken, he could no longer hold onto the sword. The bloodied-nose man believing that I was vulnerable grabbed a sword from the ground and rushed me.
Little did he know that I had hooked the armor of the newly disarmed comrade with my staff. When he attempted his blow, I fell back. His comrade also tried to avoid the blow, but could not because I had him in my control. The sword lodged in the man's neck. While unhooking from the man's armor, I caught the man again in the nose. This prevented him from jumping on me as I fell back. With a quick roll, I swept at his legs and over he fell. With the brass end of my staff, I impaled him.
The man I hit in the groin was still useless in the fight. He barely moved the entire time. However, the other three had managed to re-arm themselves. However, they were clearly afraid now.
In fact, one started to run. With a few strides, I hooked him in the arm, and directed him to run into a tree. It is then that I noticed he had a knife. I stood there puzzled for a few seconds. "Why didn't they use their knives?" I asked myself.
I shrugged at the thought, and I grabbed the man's knife. With a quick flip, I hit the other combatant in the neck. By the look in his eyes, he was quite surprised by this turn of events.
The man I directed into the tree was lying on his back, and I grabbed his sword. I looked at the leader of the group. His friend was lying there unconscious at my feet. I looked him in the eye, as I drove the sword into the man's chest.
Now, the only men left in the fight were the leader, who said he was me, and the doubled over soldier. I rushed the soldier who could not stand, and hit him with an uppercut with my staff. He did a flip and landed on his face. Again, I looked the leader in the eye as I gave his comrade's head a twist. The leader began to weep.
"You are responsible for the deaths of these men," I said calmly. "You could have let a tired old man rest beside the road, but you did not. You could have shared in my food, but you did not. There were many paths you could have chosen, but you chose death for your comrades."
The man dropped his sword and put his head in his hands. He began crying uncontrollably now.
"You are lucky," I started.
"Lucky?" he sobbed with his head still in his hands.
"Yes, you will not have to suffer your guilt for long!" I replied as I took one of the swords and lopped off the man's head.
The man who claimed to me was the 1000th man I killed in my lifetime, so I gave an extra special sacrifice to Mars when I gave thanks to the gods and Neptune. It was dark when I had finished everything, and I was quite tired. I was worried about scavengers during the night, and I slept uneasily.
I was up early, and made it to the next town by midmorning. I rested peacefully, and had no other troubles on the road. Thank the gods!