Progeny 1 By Accalia
Red petals fell from the crowd to drift on the wind, bringing them to rest on the sand of the arena. Petals the color of blood. They scattered, floating gently to settle on the ground around the two combatants: the General and the Emperor.
The first blow was dealt, metal grating harshly against metal and sparks flying as Commodus brought his sword up against Maximus'. From there on, the battle seemed evenly matched. The crowd was on its feet, roaring in approval at every near miss. Lucilla, sitting in the Caesar's usual seat, looked stricken with grief, eyes on the fighting pair as Lucius watched beside her.
No one seemed to know of the general's wound, even as the trickle of blood made itself apparent down the outside of his leg, staining his tunica and seeping into his boot.
//We mortals are but shadows and dust.//
It should have been over when Maximus had thrown the young Emperor to the ground and swung his sword in a downward sweep, ready to take off Commodus' head.
The white-clad man parried the blow just in time, rolling to his side and jumping back to his feet. The battle went on. When Commodus lost his sword, it was a tangible thought: The fight would end soon.
The Emperor's dagger was drawn. He swung it with brutal force at Maximus, again and again, each time just missing the contact that would have gutted the wounded gladiator. And wounded as he was, unarmed, it didn't seem as much of a surprise to anyone when the tables turned and he landed his fist in Commodus' face several times in quick succession. His furious roar roar as his punch sent Commodus reeling seemed to echo in the arena. Commodus recovered, failed in slitting Maximus' throat, finally caught his own neck on the dagger bent back, clutched in his own hand. He sank to the ground, slipping off the knife's point. Silence reigned.
It was all Maximus could do not to crumple to the ground next to Commodus right there and then. The dagger fell from his grasp, and he stumbled to the center of the ring.
//You will see them again.//
The door was unlocked. He pushed it open - and Quintus called him back.
He was swaying on his feet, as his vision cleared and he blinked at his former second-in-command. "Quintus." A pause. He took a deep breath. "Free my men. Senator Gracchus is to be reinstated. There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius."
Through a hazy cloud, he heard Quintus bark orders at two of the Praetorians to free the prisoners. He fell heavily to the flower-littered sand. Struggling to keep his eyes open, he saw Lucilla's face. "Lucius is safe," was all he managed to say. He could feel the long grasses of Hispania brushing his fingertips...
"Go to them." Lucilla's voice broke as she watched the faintest flicker of recognition in his eyes, before his head sank to the ground. She reached out a hand to close his half-open eyes.
//What we do in life echoes in eternity.//
And for Maximus Decimus Meridius, the long hard road of life had ended.
Lucilla stood to look out at the freed gladiators, but before she could say anything, a groan from the side broke into her thoughts. For a fleeting moment, hope washed over her that the groan may have been Maximus', but it was not.
Commodus lurched to his feet, his neck still dripping scarlet - and it was quite obvious that he was still alive.
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