Taking Freedom

Taking Freedom

A Story by Dante Carlisle
"

Servus has decided the life of a gladiator is not for him, but freedom is never easy.

"

He was there, standing in the doorframe, scars and new cuts covered his body, he glared at me... When Asmodeus looked at you like that, it was time to run. The little cell I was locked in lacked an exit beyond the one he blocked, so running was out of the picture. A slash over his eye leaked blood down the side of his face, giving him a more macabre look than usual.

“Romarus says you won't fight.” Asmodeus's voice was gravelly enough to wear down stone if he spoke more than one sentence at a time. Luckily, he never spent long talking.

I shook my head. Over the past three hours I stood up to Romarus and every other one of Asmodeus's lieutenants. They hadn't liked it, but I wouldn't give up.

Six months in the arena had taught me much. Seventy-four bouts, seventy-four wins. But the most important lesson I learned was that to be a slave is to be a beast.

I was tired of being a beast, but Asmodeus himself coming to call hadn't been in my plans.

“SPEAK!!” He took a step into the cell and stopped himself. I was still worth some money if he could make me fight, after all.

“I don't want to live like this anymore.” My voice was weaker than it had been with Romarus, and it bothered me.

“Then you won't have to.” Asmodeus drew his blade and closed the door behind him. He wouldn't want the others to hear him slaughtering one of his fighters.

The first rule of surviving the arena was that if you faced someone better than you and you saw a chance to win the fight, don't draw it out. You can posture for the crown when your opponent lies dead.

I opened my mouth to protest, but had no time before he struck.

His blade clanged off the rock floor as I leaped back out of his reach. Asmodeus frowned in surprise. His draw had been fluid, and his strike unerring. He wasn't used to missing.

“Thought you wouldn't fight?” He grunted. Asmodeus was a gladiator, but he was also a free man, and one who owned the rest of the gladiators. He loved the thrill of a fight, whether it was inside the arena or out made no difference to him.

“I said I didn't want to live like this, not that I'd lay down my life.” I spread my hands wide and prayed he wouldn't see how my legs shook. I knew I was good, but to face Asmodeus himself in this tiny cell was madness. I had chosen this road, though, and I would see it through.

“At least you'll die on your feet.” He struck again, and I dodged back.

He never thought I would shoot in behind his backswing and throw a punch, so he couldn't have prepared for it. I stunned him with the first blow, and followed hard with an elbow and slammed him into the wall behind him.

I folded my fingers and shot them into Asmodeus's windpipe hard enough to feel the bones snap. But I didn't stop there. I couldn't stop there. Asmodeus was the greatest fighter the arena had ever seen, I couldn't give him a chance to recover.

And I didn't.

Twenty seconds later the man who owned me was dead. I panted and pushed the cell door open and glanced each way down the hall. The only sounds during the fight were Asmodeus's first swing and when he finally dropped his blade. No one had noticed.

I took this as a good sign and grabbed the blade Asmodeus had wielded. He named it Fortissimus, although according to the old rules I now owned this blade, and could name it as I wished. But I liked the name, it meant 'Champion'.

I couldn't help but pity him. All his life Asmodeus wanted nothing more than to die in honor and glory in the arena, and now he met his end in a cell with someone he should have beaten easily. The smirk I wore as I walked down the hallway was an insult to everything he stood for.

I pushed open the door at the end of the hallway, and was met by the confused stares of the other slaves. There were roughly twenty in all, but outside of Romarus none had survived even ten visits to the arena.

Romarus stood at the head of one table, gesturing as he boasted about his prowess to one of the new recruits. When he looked up and saw me standing there he chuckled derisively. Where Asmodeus spoke only with his blade, Romarus was a showman. He would speak for hours if you let him.

“Ah! I see you once more hold the weapon you were born to, Servus. It's about time you admitted that you're too good to give up and be a plebe once more! Welcome back to the table, I'm glad Asmodeus didn't have to kill y--” Romarus stopped in his tracks when he saw the blade I bore. The brass inlay around the hilt and the etched silver at its base made it obvious what had happened. Asmodeus would never allow anyone else to touch that sword, much less wield it.

“WHAT DID YOU DO!” Romarus shouted in shock and fear.

“What needed to happen.” I answered. Where Asmodeus was definitely my better in battle, Romarus was not, and he knew it. If I defeated our master he didn't stand a chance. “If you don't stand aside and let every man here walk out that door, I will kill you as I've killed Asmodeus. Understand me?”

No one moved. If I made the claim that I killed Asmodeus then it must be true. To say such a thing and have it be false was a death sentence. Asmodeus would meet me in the arena himself if he heard such a tale. But, no one dared question it while I held Fortissimus in my grasp.

“By the old laws of the arena, all that he owned is mine. Which means each of you is mine.” I glanced around the room as everyone struggled to grasp the situation. “I now release you from your bondage. You are free. Romarus, release them.”

Romarus choked under the strain of what he heard, and gasped in shock. “You won't get away with this!”

“Then pick up a blade, fool. And I will end you as should have happened long ago. Until you accept your release you are my slave, and you will obey. Your choices are either open that door, or fight me and die. You are free to choose as you desire. But choose you must, because no one will make your choices for you.”

In no time the other slaves rushed out the door. Too many were virgins to the arena and feared ever setting foot in the sand. The room was soon empty but for Romarus and me.

“Why have you done this, Servus? We had a good life here.” Romarus sat at one table, a spilled bowl of boiled grains unnoticed at his elbow.

I snorted, “I'll tell you something, Romarus. I have fought and killed over a hundred men in the name of sport, and now just two in the name of something greater.”

The other gladiator quirked an eyebrow in confusion at me, “Two?”

“The first was the reason I was sold into slavery. A tax collector beat my wife to death while I was away on a hunt. I killed him, and for that sin,” I couldn't help but sneer at the word, “I ended up here.”

Romarus looked down, “Asmodeus saved me from the streets...He was all I had...”

I chuckled, “He saved you from the streets and delivered you to the arena, Romarus. You owe him no loyalty, just as he gave you no respect.”

Romarus looked up as I stood to leave. “You are really leaving?”

“Of course, I've fought for the last time for something I don't believe in. I've heard there is rebellion to the east.”

Romarus stood in eagerness, “You go to join in the fight against the rebels?!”

“Oh no, dear Romarus.” I stepped to the door, “All men are born free, and I will support any man who says so. I go to join the rebels.”

© 2016 Dante Carlisle


Author's Note

Dante Carlisle
This is the revised version of this story for the contest. Thanks for the critiques I've had, and hopefully you enjoy this version a bit more. Any and all critique is more than welcome!

My Review

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Featured Review

Very good story! The descriptions of the fighting were vivid and engaging. Well done.

Some constrictive criticism:

Asmodeus ends up speaking more than I expected, even saying two sentences at once. The only reason this bothered me is because such a big deal is made of him not speaking much at the beginning.

I had trouble following some of the descriptions, ‘The glare on his face twisted a new cut as long as my hand over his eyebrow, but he ignored the blood running down his cheek. ‘ I had to read this sentence three times before I realized that the glare wasn’t caused by light and the light wasn’t cutting him. Maybe something like, ‘Asmodeus glares down at me. The grimace twisting a handspan long fresh cut over his eyebrow, blood trickling down his cheek.’

The narrator sometimes seems omniscient and often spends a lot of time thinking especially mid fight,
‘He never thought I would shoot in behind his backswing and throw a punch, so he couldn't have prepared for it. I stunned him with the first blow, and followed hard with an elbow and slammed him into the wall behind him.
Six months I had survived as a gladiator. Seventy-four bouts in the arena, putting me behind only Romarus and Asmodeus for the longest surviving slave. The first rule of surviving in the arena was that if you faced someone better than you and got a chance to win the fight, don't draw out the ending. You can posture for the crowd when your opponent lies dead.’.
The first part seems to imply that the main character can read Asmodeus’s mind. It sounds like the narrator is omniscient. The second part is a whole lot of thinking to be doing during a life and death struggle. Together they make it seem like Servus easily beats Asmodeus.

Consider switching to present tense to heighten the tension.

Everything after Romarus asks Servus why, seems like shoehorned in, preachy backstory. It made for a weak ending to a strong story. The old saying, ‘Show don’t tell’ means it’s more interesting for a reader to experience an event than hear about it second hand. I think that’s why I liked the fighting, but not the exposition heavily sprinkled in it. I know its hard to fit everything into a short story, but a short story isn’t supposed to have everything. It’s a snapshot of the world, not an entire world. The time he spent in the sand is another story, as is the time his wife was attacked by the tax man, as is his joining the rebellion. Trying to fully explain everything only serves to lessen the impact of this particular snapshot.

One last thing, something that has helped me immensely in the past is reading my stories out loud. Sometimes I even record myself so I can listen to the flow of the language. This has gone a long way towards making my writing more fluid and easy to read.

Again, the story is very good, I wouldn't have taken the time to write an in depth review otherwise. I look forward to reading more of your writing!

*Disclaimer: None of what I have written was meant an attack only as helpful comments to help make a piece as good as possible. In any case these are just my opinions and can be taken or ignored as the author sees fit.


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Dante Carlisle

3 Years Ago

I made a few of the revisions, but if you find the time would love to hear what you think of them.
LawrenceRaybon

3 Years Ago

Nice rewrite! I really like how you trimmed it down to improve the flow. The pacing of the story f.. read more
Dante Carlisle

3 Years Ago

Thanks for the comments, and I'll take a look at those sections. I have a terrible of habit of writi.. read more



Reviews

Very good story! The descriptions of the fighting were vivid and engaging. Well done.

Some constrictive criticism:

Asmodeus ends up speaking more than I expected, even saying two sentences at once. The only reason this bothered me is because such a big deal is made of him not speaking much at the beginning.

I had trouble following some of the descriptions, ‘The glare on his face twisted a new cut as long as my hand over his eyebrow, but he ignored the blood running down his cheek. ‘ I had to read this sentence three times before I realized that the glare wasn’t caused by light and the light wasn’t cutting him. Maybe something like, ‘Asmodeus glares down at me. The grimace twisting a handspan long fresh cut over his eyebrow, blood trickling down his cheek.’

The narrator sometimes seems omniscient and often spends a lot of time thinking especially mid fight,
‘He never thought I would shoot in behind his backswing and throw a punch, so he couldn't have prepared for it. I stunned him with the first blow, and followed hard with an elbow and slammed him into the wall behind him.
Six months I had survived as a gladiator. Seventy-four bouts in the arena, putting me behind only Romarus and Asmodeus for the longest surviving slave. The first rule of surviving in the arena was that if you faced someone better than you and got a chance to win the fight, don't draw out the ending. You can posture for the crowd when your opponent lies dead.’.
The first part seems to imply that the main character can read Asmodeus’s mind. It sounds like the narrator is omniscient. The second part is a whole lot of thinking to be doing during a life and death struggle. Together they make it seem like Servus easily beats Asmodeus.

Consider switching to present tense to heighten the tension.

Everything after Romarus asks Servus why, seems like shoehorned in, preachy backstory. It made for a weak ending to a strong story. The old saying, ‘Show don’t tell’ means it’s more interesting for a reader to experience an event than hear about it second hand. I think that’s why I liked the fighting, but not the exposition heavily sprinkled in it. I know its hard to fit everything into a short story, but a short story isn’t supposed to have everything. It’s a snapshot of the world, not an entire world. The time he spent in the sand is another story, as is the time his wife was attacked by the tax man, as is his joining the rebellion. Trying to fully explain everything only serves to lessen the impact of this particular snapshot.

One last thing, something that has helped me immensely in the past is reading my stories out loud. Sometimes I even record myself so I can listen to the flow of the language. This has gone a long way towards making my writing more fluid and easy to read.

Again, the story is very good, I wouldn't have taken the time to write an in depth review otherwise. I look forward to reading more of your writing!

*Disclaimer: None of what I have written was meant an attack only as helpful comments to help make a piece as good as possible. In any case these are just my opinions and can be taken or ignored as the author sees fit.


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Dante Carlisle

3 Years Ago

I made a few of the revisions, but if you find the time would love to hear what you think of them.
LawrenceRaybon

3 Years Ago

Nice rewrite! I really like how you trimmed it down to improve the flow. The pacing of the story f.. read more
Dante Carlisle

3 Years Ago

Thanks for the comments, and I'll take a look at those sections. I have a terrible of habit of writi.. read more
great story, really enjoyed it but try to cut down on the exclamation marks.


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dante Carlisle

3 Years Ago

Thanks for the tip, I've recently been attempting to cut commas as much as possible, but I'll take a.. read more
I enjoyed this very much. I've always been a fan of Roman History. It's a fascinating topic. Well, I hope your man Servus does well in the rebellion.
You seem to have a good grasp of the use of dialogue. I found your story easy to follow. My only suggestion would be make the font a little bigger. It's hard for old folks like me to read the smaller print.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Dante Carlisle

3 Years Ago

Thank you for the feedback! And my issue with writing has always been the more artistic side of it, .. read more

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Added on November 24, 2016
Last Updated on December 14, 2016
Tags: Gladiator, Rebellion, Short Story, Adventure, Freedom

Author

Dante Carlisle
Dante Carlisle

Chesterfield, MO



About
I published my third novel last Christmas. Working on the fourth, but fair warning none of them are connected. So if you're looking for a stand alone novel to read, check out Regret Nothing, Hiding Bl.. more..

Writing
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A Story by Dante Carlisle