The Fedora Hat

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Name is Gladiator

"How dare you show your back to me!" Commodus exclaimed, pushing his nephew to the side. "Slave! You will remove your helmet and tell me your name."

The gladiator sighed, removed his helmet, and turned around, looking Commodus directly in the eyes.

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius.
Commander of the Armies to the North. General of the Felix Legions.
Loyal servant to the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.
Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered wife.
And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

The Emperor was astounded. His men had told him that the general was dead. He was supposed to be dead. He whispered to his aide and at his word, the soldiers surrounding them lifted their spears in preparation from battle.

But something happened that Commodus did not expect: the crowd wanted Maximus to survive. And because of his efforts to gain the favor of the mob, Commodus could not kill the general in front of everyone, not when Maximus was so popular. So he let the gladiator live, and let him walk away. All the while, the crowd roared and cheered his name "Maximus! Maximus! Maximus!"

But this was not the end. Ideas were already brewing in the Emperor's head.
After many battles, betrayals, and attempted escapes, Maximus and Commodus were once again facing each other. Maximus was tied up, wearing nothing but torn rags. Commodus walked in wearing armor of the purest white. He walked straight up to his sworn enemy, but stopped an looked up. He was listening to the crowds cheer in the Colosseum above them.

"Maximus. Maximus. Maximus." Commodus whispered. "The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. Striking story! But now, the people want to know how the story ends. Only a famous death will do. And what could be more glorious than to challenge the Emperor himself in the great arena?"

Maximus looked at him. "You would fight me?"

"Why not?" The Emperor was instantly angry. "Do you think I am afraid?"

"I think you have been afraid all your life."

"Unlike the great general. Who knows no fear?"

Maximus smiled slightly. "I knew a man once who said, 'Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.'"

Commodus smiled back, mockingly. "I wonder, did you friend smile at his own death?

Maximus no longer smiled, but looked Commodus squarely in the eye. "You must know, he was your father."

This struck Commodus hard. "You loved my father, I know. But so did I. That makes us brothers, doesn't it?" The Emperor embraced the gladiator, bringing out a knife with a small amount of blood on it. He stabbed Maximus in the back with it. "Smile for me now brother."

Commodus ordered his men to cover Maximus' wound with his armor. Maximus felt weak, but he also felt strange. He was led to a platform, where he and Commodus were raised up to the level of the Colosseum floor. Thousands of fans were cheering at his presence and at the prospect of seeing him fight the Emperor himself.

But Maximus could barely stand, let alone fight. His whole body was on fire. And he definitely felt as if his body was betraying his senses. But he had to fight, to exact revenge upon the man responsible for killing his wife and son. Maximus took his sword and prepared to fight.

He could feel his body change throughout the swordfight, and with each blow, Commodus only laughed. And even despite these changes and stab wound, he still managed to keep the upper hand on Commodus. Soon, the man was left defenseless, but still he laughed at Maximus.

"Look at you, Maximus!" he laughed. "You have no chance as you are."

Maximus looked down to find that his whole body had changed. He had been so focused on killing the Emperor, he had ignored his wounds and the signals his body was sending him. He had the body of a woman. His breasts were protruding from his armor, his hair had grown long and black. His skins was soft and his arms were thin. Thinking back, he knew the blood on the knife that stabbed him was sorcery. Commodus had taken the coward's way out to ensure his own victory.

As Maximus was distracted, Commodus pulled a small knife from a secret place within his sleeve and attempted to surprise the woman. But Maximus dodged, and managed to grab Commodus' knife arm, and keep him locked there. Slowly, Maximus bent the Emperor's elbow so that the knife was facing his throat. And with his last ounce of strength, forced Commodus' own knife into his neck.

Commodus looked up in surprise, and Maximus let him fall to the ground.

Maximus then fell to the ground himself, his new body finally giving out.
Maximus survived the fight, but would never again be able to return to his life as a man, a general. Nor could he return to his life of freedom. In her new body, Maximus did the only thing she knew how: fight. Fight as a gladiator within the Colosseum. She fought well, earning a reputation even among the most skilled swordsman. And whenever anybody asked her name, she merely said,

"My name is Gladiator."

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