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A Cat and Mouse Game

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His trident punctured through sparse layers of plate metal over chainmail. He forced the prongs to carve a path through his enemy’s ribs with practiced precision. The fellow gladiator was still alive- though not for long. It was likely he would bleed out, or have blood fill his lungs and drown him soon. But for now; alive. A calculated move. It was a fight to the death yes, but he was an entertainer above all else. Soldiers had their duties, mercenaries had their money, the gladiator? Well…

The crowd screamed their throats raw. Feral joy at watching their fellow man torn to shreds and methodically dismantled before them. Chanting his name like they were the last words that would leave their lips. A reminder of what he fought for: Adoration.

“Cyprian! Cyprian! End that bastard! Cyprian! Let his blood flow freely!” He closed his eyes behind his helmet for the briefest of moments, and felt his own name leave his lips. He felt divine. Adrenaline coursed through his frame anew. This is what he lived for. He spun his trident in a wide horizontal arc. Dragging his victim along with it until inertia yanked him off his weapon. The man hit the ground with a dull thud, and rolled a few times. Landing face down in the dirt. He struggled to rise to his feet, however was clearly too weak. It was all his strength just push himself an inch off the dirt with his elbows from the look of it.

He scrambled for his Sicca, as if he even had a chance of victory at this point.

Cyprian smiled. His grin feral and wide under his helm. Bloodlust coursed through his soul. He wanted to let him grab onto the hilt of the blade, only to stab him through the wrist- perhaps rip that beautiful arm off entirely, and send the trident through his throat next- but no… He was an entertainer.

His prey for tonight was a prisoner of war. He fought them time to time. Occasionally they made their way into the arena, and most of the time he killed them like the rest. He was allowed to kill prisoners of war. Fellow slaves, and free men? Not so much. Having a performer die was hardly optimal.
This one was from the Mire. Though one could scarcely tell. His armor was replaced with heavy roman equipment. His katana replaced with a curved sword he didn’t know how to use. It was pitiful and amusing.

Cyprian turned his back on his prey, turning to one half of the arena patrons, and rose his arms over his head, ordering a silence- a momentary silence.
“I fight in your name! Mars guides my fist, but you! You guide my trident, the strength to cleave limb from limb comes from your words! So command me, how should I kill this man!?” The second he finished, he lowered his arms, the screams erupted anew, with fervor the likes of which had never graced his ears. He rejoiced in the control he had over them.
It was hard to pick out individual commands, but soon enough they unified in desire “RIP HIS HEAD OFF!”

Cyprian fell into a bow. His trident splayed behind him. He would have stoked the fires more, however was yanked from his performance by the sound of a footstep behind him. Loud, awkward, and heavy, and lopsided. He had stabbed the left foot, so he was likely hobbling towards him on his right, holding the secca on his left arm in attempt to balance. Probably.
The crowd screamed in fear and excitement. Shouts of “Watch out Cyprian!” “He’s behind you!” Cyprian was well aware, but he acted as if it was news to him. Audiences craved involvement, even if it was manufactured.

Cyprian turned on the ball of his foot, punching out with his buckler, and thrusting his trident. A dangerous move if it was a feint. He got lucky: it wasn’t. He punched the secca upwards, almost knocking it out of the Chosen’s grip, only to take it in the head of his trident. The blade held taught between two prongs- he could snap the blade in half if he wanted, but he didn’t want to risk any damage to his favorite trident. Besides, splintering metal it wouldn’t be as fun for the crowd. Instead, he twisted the shaft in one fast jerk upwards, sending the blade soaring across the room, to land in a stagnant pool of blood belonging to it’s wielder. His prey’s surprise could be seen through the visor of his mask, however it quickly shifted to anger, as he let a punch fly free with his left arm.

Cyprian side stepped, catching the wayward limb with a hand. Grasping it with both arms, one squeezing the life from his forearm, the other hooked just behind his elbow. Cyprian straightened the arm, only to bring a knee up to the joint in one swift motion. There was a crack, and a loud scream from the man. He tilted his head back in pain, and clumsily swung another fist through a soul shattering wail. Cyprian easily sidestepped, and caught the fellow gladiator by the collar.
He had so much power in this singular moment.

His hand clenched around the trident in his grasp. The crowd fell silent in anticipation.
So much power…. A life in his grasp, waiting to be crushed in his fist, and thousands of people playing into his hands.

Cyprian leaned in close, the tusks of his helmet scraping the mouth guard of the other warrior’s mask.
“Make sure you put in a good word for me with the Gods.” He requested, voice akin to a low, animalistic growl. Low enough to ensure the crowd couldn’t hear.
If the man heard him, he didn’t respond- not that Cyprian gave him much time to. In an instant, he threw his prey off of him, and spun his trident in his hand. Twirling it across his fingertips until finally locking his grip onto it underhanded. Left hand under the head, right around the middle.
He thrusted it into his victim’s neck. Chanting resumed, his name sung like it belonged to a God.

“Rip his head off!” One scream sounded above the rest. Oh, he intended to.

He pushed his trident up from the bottom, and heard sinew and flesh being torn apart slowly. The body went limp, but his job wasn't done yet. Blood flowed like water, running down the shaft of his weapon, and painting his hands in the same beautiful red as the ground was. In one fast jerk he tore It free, and let it all fall. The body crumpled, viscera splattered, and the head hit the ground after its initial flight.
For a moment he admired he admired his handiwork. Somewhere deep down there was an odd guilt that he hadn’t felt in decades-… well… no, that wasn’t right. It was entirely unfamiliar.
It drowned out the roar of the crowd.

He had planned to turn to face the crowd once more, fire them up, bow, let them sing praise, and leave to the barracks. He likely had patrons waiting for him. Men and women of Ashfeld who sought a night’s company with such a legendary warrior, to praise and pleasure him, and yet… such enticements couldn’t get him to move.

He’s been doing this for years, why now? Had Mars abandoned him?

Screams of joy became replaced with groans of disappointment. He was sick. He didn’t know why. In his gut he still admired his handiwork…
He pushed through it, and spun the trident over his head before slamming it to the ground and letting out a victorious roar. The crowd returned to life, but it wasn’t enough. Its screams weren’t exactly what he wanted. But… he didn’t know exactly what he did want…
He carried through the motions, making a show of himself even in his departure, waving, pointing to watchers who seemed even more riled up than the rest. He walked with a swagger in his step, but ultimately felt hollow. It wasn’t the fact he had killed someone, no… He was fine with that. It was more like he was coming off of a decade long high. The trill had begun to fade.

 

“Cyprian, there’s someone waiting for you in your quarters.” His handler called to him, as a servant removed his trident and shield. There always was. Time with him after the fight was always more expensive. Some liked to have him still decorated in armor and blood. He wouldn’t be allowed to wash until after his second patron left, and that was simply only to drive up the price…
Shackles clicked onto his wrist. Idly he remembered that cuffs only came on if the patron requested them. His handler made a point to explain that Cyprian was worth more intact, than harmed. He tended to have full control over these engagements. If they hurt him non-superficially, he could have them cast out, and banned from future fights as long as they weren’t a noble… He felt a little safety in knowing this, but… He didn’t want this anymore.
There was no fun in this…

He was lead down the hallway until they reached a door. Metal, with a lock on the outside. A Warden, and Lawbringer bordered the door. He assumed them to be guards, however was oddly surprised when the Warden followed him into the room. The bed on the far side was unoccupied. Was the Warden his patron?

In his hand was his sword. Held in a gauntleted grasp, no scabbard.

Animalistic fear jolted through his form. He felt exhausted, but adrenaline returned, giving him the shaky strength he needed to continue fighting. Longsword user. He could probably survive long enough. Cyprian was still in armor, but it was minimal, some covered his chest, but ultimately it was light. Could easily be pierced by a thrust, but this was a Warden. He would slice, not stab. Probably.
The chain of his shackles could be used as a makeshift shield. If he played his cards right, he could have the Warden inadvertently sever the chain, and even the odds even a little- but then what about the Lawbringer..? He couldn’t take that brute of a man, AND a Warden- even if he was fully equipped.
He would have to run.

“You seem anxious.” Finally the Warden spoke. A Northern Ashfeld commoner’s accent heavy on his tongue. Iron Legion probably… Though he couldn’t remember the colors. He had never met a legionnaire. He’d just heard their training was superb.

He strained against his shackles, testing the bonds. They were sturdy. Fantastic.

“That’s because I am. What use would you have for a sword that much armor, and a seven foot giant encased head to toe in steel if this visit wasn’t an attempt on my life?” The observation seemed to surprise the knight. The Warden eyed the Gladiator over once or twice. Cyprian felt a surge of rage towards his handler for letting this happen.
All logic told him to scream out as if he had been stabbed. It would draw attention, and get the pair kicked out, but he was curious…

“Well, we aren’t exactly here for fun, its is business-“ “So you are here to kill me?” “No!” Interesting.
“No- we’re… We’re here to recruit you. We were informed you are one of the best fighters this arena has ever produced, and we want you in our ranks.”
Oh... he’d heard this before. Armies offering to buy his freedom in exchange for servitude. Usually as a bodyguard or a bedwarmer, but until today, such prospects hadn’t interested him in the slightest. Until today, he had wanted to be here.

He finally put his finger on what that odd grief was. It wasn’t the pain of taking a life. It wasn’t anger at his own performance. It was simple: his foe was no match for him. He could have killed him in moments if he wasn’t attempting to please anyone. He was like a tiger toying with a mouse. There was no need to do it. The mouse could be crushed with minimal effort, and provide nothing- nothing to be learned from. No substance to speak of. It was merely entertaining. But watching a mouse feebly scrambling for life could only be entertaining for so long.
That’s what it was. He wanted a challenge. He wanted something they could fight back. He wanted to expand the menu.
“I’m listening.”