"Let the 'animal Armageddon' begin", ordered the Emperor.
Perspiring Perito looked at him frustratedly. The corpses of his opponents from the previous match were still lying on the arena floor.
The audience like always, cheered for their favourite Gladiator.
"Men lose because they fight according to a code. Beasts have no morals. Perito! Win this Armageddon and I shall employ you in my army", Emperor promised something that Perito wished for all of his life.
Perito removed his helmet for a moment, the only protection he had. He wore nothing but a loin cloth. His Mediterranean skin was pumping up the Roman girls' hearts. His hairless face was a beautiful contrast to his curly brown hair. His walnut like complexion itself looked like an armor made of brass.
A trap door below the arena opened, and a panther jumped out. It neither growled nor charged. It just breathed it's new-found freedom and paced across the arena. Perito couldn't perceive it's actions because it was his first encounter with a panther. The panther was now 20 yards away. It stood there for a full hour, puzzling everyone in the arena. People started booing the Emperor. But the Emperor's confident gaze told Perito that the panther was plotting something.
In a blink of an eye the panther sprinted and hid inside the barracks.
The awe of the arena spectators was broken by emperor's laugh.
"Perito! Panthers ambush their prey. Go and save your gladiator brothers now.
The dark rooms of a gladiator house will serve perfect for my Persian panther-"
Before the emporer could complete complete, Perito ran to rescue his brethren. Where was the panther?
Its' dark fur is hidden perfectly. He heard his friend Themos' scream.
"Perito!" Themos cried showing his shredded wrist to his friend.
"Themos. I'll chop that cat into pieces. But help me evacuate our brethren from the barracks."
Perito and Themos shielded the line of gladiators who were evacuated out safely. "Themos. Now it's time I avenged your arm", Perito ran into the dark barracks.
Perito tried hard to listen. But the panther was too much of an expert in hiding itself. Or was it? A gladiator like Perito could smell drops of blood. "Themos. You have a big hand in my victory. Haha! Really. A big hand". Perito traced the smell and found the beast in a corner.
"You weren't even a challenge for me. It's a shame that I had to waste hours hunting you." Perito thrusted his trident into it's heart. The panther quietly died out.
The anxious audience were eagerly anticipating their hero. And here comes Perito, hoisting his prey, on his trident.
He waved the dead panther before the Emperor thereby provoking him.
"Guards!" Ordered the Emperor,"bring in the Rhinoceros".
Perito stood speechless before the beast that guards brought in. A saber-like horn on it's face. An armour-like skin. Weighing tons, this beast was a killing machine in all regards.
"You are going with your trident this time too or are you willing you trade your weapon?"asked the Emperor.
"I'll take my trident. My gladius sword. My sling and my shield. I need all of my weapons to fight against this thing."
And looking at the audience Perito said," Today I'll teach you how to hunt a foreign beast. All beasts are driven by instincts. The panther we met before was hungry. This nameless beast here that our emperor calls a Rhinoceros, seems to be very angry because of some reason. I'll now exploit it of all it's energy taking advantage of it's instincts."
The mad rhino charged at him. Perito quickly slinged 3 stones onto it's face, angrying it even more. Now the beast is charging with a frightening speed.
Perito dashed into the corpses of the opponents he'd slain few hours ago.
The puzzled rhino, unable to find him, started rampaging the corpses one after another. While it was busy marauding a caracass, Perito from behind, with his trident, punctured it's hind legs. The poor rhino fell and groaned in pain.
Perito looked at the poor immobile rhino,"that's what you get for interrupting my speech" and started speaking again to the audience," I could tell from the start that this thing has poor eye sight. It was towing it's horn close to the ground expecting to hit anything at all. If I didn't move around, the beast couldn't have located me. But it was my speech. It's huge ears traced my voice and the inpatient beast charged right ahead. But what if I didn't move around or talk? This thing seemed to have a very good sense of smell. It almost caught me among the corpses. A beast of such enormous volume cannot stand if it's hind legs are damaged even a little and my trident was made in Spain, to hunt whales. This beast's tough hide couldn't have been penetrated by any other weapon. Now, I think it's time I bid my goodbye to this nondescript animal."
Perito, with his gladius, cut off the rhino's head.
"I like it's horn. I'll keep it. Man or beast. When it comes to war, all are mindless."
Saying these words the people's champion, Perito returned to his barracks.
The splendid day ended for the Emperor Angus.
A soldier appeared before Perito while he was participating in a feast, "Emperor wants you in his chambers".
Drunk Perito said,"No!" and pushed the soldier down. Themos and others ran to the soldier and apologized on Perito's behalf. Perito was hauled and took before the emperor.
"Leave us alone", ordered the emperor.
"Perito. Do you know why I gave you that name? Because you're all 'about' winning something. And you have a very unique set of skills which you wish to put into use by enrolling into military. But that is not what I want for you. You're the best gladiator we have. You can fight for a few more years and become a gladiator coach, a job which fetches a lot of money that our soldiers only dream of. What do you say?"
Perito came closer, "Is that wine? I think I'll have some", drinking from the Emperor's goblet," I am done being your puppet. I demand pride. I've mindlessly slayed men, beasts, slaves and prisoners for you. For five long painful years.
I demand respect now. I want to be and act as a true hero. Not some cold-blooded killer in an amphitheatre."
"Perito. Do not forget that you're talking to the Emperor of Rome. Emperor of Mediterranean. Emperor of Europa. You're just an insignificant gladiator. A slave.
Do not think so high of yourself." The Emperor's pitch alerted the guards outside and they rushed in with their lances.
"Emperor of Europa doesn't keep his word now?" asked Perito while being restrained.
The emperor sighed. "Here. Take this badge. You shall be a centaurian from tomorrow. You know how a Roman legion works. Our Roman legion is divided into 100s, naming each set a century. You're the centaurian for the eighth century. First ,your ability to command a hundred men will be put to test. You are no great tactician. You are a mindless butcher. Those men depend on their centaurian. Don't lead them to a meaningless death."
Perito felt the badge in his hand. He felt his dream coming true.
Follow Perito's bloody but elusive journey in Gladius - Part 2.
"Let the 'animal Armageddon' begin", ordered the Emperor.