The Thousandth Strike to Create my Legacy

Submitted into Contest #66 in response to: Write about a contest with life or death stakes.... view prompt

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Adventure

Nine-hundred and ninety-nine different shades of blood stretched down my sword as I fastened the armor around my chest. Off to my side, the other gladiators gazed at me with expressions of fear and awe. Out of the forty men who’d entered the arena today, only twenty of us remained, ten on each side. One of the unfortunate souls on the other end would be my opponent, and with Mars’s blessing, his fate would be the same as the others. One more body beneath me, and I’d finally be high enough to create my legacy.

The door swung open, and a cool breeze flooded around us. A name was called, and silently, I watched as one of the gladiators who’d been eying me vanished. The order was supposed to be random, but given what was at stake, there was no doubt the masters were saving me for last. Something had to keep the crowds in their seats. Perhaps, my son was even among them, here to see my victory. Of course, if he were, how would I know. He wouldn’t exactly be a pup anymore, and if he was, then the twelve years would not have been kind on him. The only thing I knew of my son was his name, not even if he was alive or whether he had deciphered that I was a gladiator.

A horn echoed outside, signaling the end of the battle, and from the cheering outside, I didn’t need to guess the fate of one of the combatants. The Ring Master called another name, and little by little, the room began to grow haunted as more and more gladiators left, never to return.

Most coliseums avoided killing their combatants, but in the Red Cities where witnessing death was as fine a pleasure as a good wife and son, it would take a miracle for both combatants to walk away from a fight. It was that reason that I’d earned such a reputation, and soon, my name would be even bigger. My fight today would be the most anticipated in twenty years, and as I cast my gaze at the statues guarding the entrance to the arena, I saw the faces of the previous legendary warriors. From Bull Brutus whose strike could sever a stone wall to Silent Serpico who never spoke a word, not even when digging his blade into your throat. Soon, I would be one of them, and these twelve years would finally have meaning besides a pool of red.

“And now the fight we’ve all been waiting for! He’s cut his way through fifteen of the red cities, claimed the golden sword in the Hills of Himmilad, fought the Eastern Nation’s prized lion, and intends to make this fight his thousandth victory. He’s cut through swine and spine, give him a round of applause everyone! The Ruler of Death for only he has a say who lives and dies when their blades cross.” The announcer’s voice echoed from the arena, and it was finally my turn to fight.

Taking a deep breath, I reached up to steady my helmet, a grey mask that stretched down to my neck with a maroon crown seared to the top. In the past twelve years, not a single soul had seen my face, and until the day I reunited with my son, I intended to keep it that way. Sure, he’d probably hate me for how long I’d been gone, but if anyone deserved to see what I looked like, it was the one I’d wronged the most. I could never apologize for what I did but returning as one of the greatest men in history would be a good start.

Ascending the steps to the arena, I took a final breath before entering the bloodstained, sweat-filled, screaming colosseum. The loud noise immediately irritated me as did the fact that the opponent I was facing off against did not appear to be very experienced. Sure, he knew how to grip a sword and had a good stance that strangely mirrored mine, but deep in his eyes, I could tell the mountains of difference between us.

The masters were not complicated people. They knew legends were a spectacle, and if I became one, their pockets would also become a spectacle. They didn’t set me up with an opponent to challenge me. They set me up with an opponent who would appear competent with a sword but lack the ability to best me. Just enough to ensure the crowd didn’t complain while keeping their champion protected. It would be a disappointing final match, but as always, fairness meant nothing stacked against profit.

“And standing as the final obstacle in our champion’s path, we have Royu Sno, the bandit warrior who took eight guards to bring down and who was able to best three combatants before requesting to fight this battle in exchange for his freedom.”

A booing erupted from the crowd, but all I could do was stare stunned at my opponent as the announcer’s words echoed inside my helmet.

“Now, now, people do try to be kind. Rumor has it that this striking lad has a family who miss him very dearly.” A cruel smile flashed across the announcer’s face. “And we’ll be sure to send him back to them in pieces!”

A cheer went up as we began to approach each other. When we were ten meters apart, we began circling, although his name kept thudding around in my brain. Royu Sno. Royu Sno. Royu Sno.

It couldn’t be.

“I do apologize for this.” Royu broke the silence between us and drove me out of my thoughts. “I don’t mean to take your legacy away from you, but I have to return to them.”

“Your family?” He nodded. “Children?”

“Triplets.”

“You shouldn’t have gotten caught.”

“We needed the food.”

“And now I need to kill you.” I said, but instead of lunging forward to force him backwards, I kept circling. By now, the crowd had begun to grow impatient and was looking for some actual combat. I needed to act fast. Based on the stance it was likely my opponent intended to play defensive and hope that he could somehow find an opening. Against a superior swordsman, there were worse strategies, but I’d face many foes like him before. This would be an easy kill, regardless of who he came from.

I stopped, and my hand curled tighter around my sword, turning it bone white. My legacy was at stake here, but for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to attack. Instead, another question found its way to my lips.

“Even if you kill me, how will this put you in any better situation then before you were caught?”

“It won’t, but I’ll do anything if it means I won’t abandon them.” He narrowed his eyes, clear that he suspected I was trying to put him off guard. Maybe, he was right. Maybe, that’s what I was doing. If I wasn’t, that would mean…

I shook my head. I had to get my thoughts in focus, or I’d lose everything. This man before me had already thrown his life away. I should kill him now.

I sprang forward, and our swords met once before lurching apart. A loud clang rang across the stadium, and the crowd was briefly satisfied.

I should kill him now. There was no guarantee my suspicions were correct, even considering his name and age. Besides, if I was right, it shouldn’t change anything. My legacy stood in front of me, everything I had ever worked for, ever done. It all laid on my sword. If I didn’t win this battle, how would I be able to be remembered. What was the point in living if not to be remembered?

If I died here, I would end up just like those I cut down, like the person in front of me who’d signed away his life for a chance at returning to his children. What type of fool would do that? What did it matter whether people were your family? I certain didn’t care about that, did I?

As soon as the thought entered my brain, I realized that couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, once I achieved my legacy, I had no desire to continue the bloodshed. Once I could be remembered, I wanted to go back to my son. Deep down, I didn’t want to be a man that was remembered by them. What I wanted was to become a man that he would remember.

Lurching forward, our swords met for a final time, and with a flick of my wrist, I sent his blade spiraling out of his hands. I’d won the battle, but the victor would not be sealed until one of us died. In this situation, there was no winning for him. If he struck me down, then the town would tear him apart for killing one of their heroes. If I won, he was dead anyway. This was the only way.

“Royu, do you truly wish to return to your children?” I asked as I held a sword to his throat.

“Don’t mock me.” He spat as he lowered his head to embrace his death. “Just end it.”

“Very well, but after this, promise me, you’ll go to the third pine tree behind the Crimson Church. Underneath is the golden sword I won in the Himmilads. It’s worth a small fortune, and by law, it’ll be yours.” I withdrew my sword and slashed it across the straps keeping my helmet attached.

Like a massive boulder descending off me, the crown helmet plummeted to the ground, revealing my face, and pausing to gaze into Royu’s eyes for a moment, I raised the sword once again. The crowd had gone silent, and panicked cries from the masters set in. I would die here, but it would not be by his hands. My sword descended into flesh, and as blood gushed forth, I my legs grew weak. The world began to fade into a sea of red, and I fell forward into Royu’s hands as a smile spread across my face. For once in my life, I was happy to be forgotten. My conquests would fade in the minds of men and women, and no longer would my tales be whispered around the taverns. My name would be stricken from history, but as the past twelve years faded to obscurity, the legacy of my final seconds remained stronger than ever as I lay dying in my son’s arms.

November 06, 2020 06:07

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7 comments

15:10 Dec 19, 2020

This is amazing! How do you only have six submissions? You could win every contest if you keep this up! :)

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B Easton
07:56 Dec 26, 2020

Haha thank you so much. I really appreciate this, and I'll definitely try to submit more. These past months, I got a bit busy with school so I unfortunately had to slow down, but your support really means a lot. Thank you :)

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18:21 Dec 26, 2020

That's okay, so do I. It really is emotional and amazing, so keep up the good work B!

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B Easton
08:30 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you. I'll keep trying to do my best :)

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B Easton
08:30 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you. I'll keep trying to do my best :)

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12:13 Nov 15, 2020

I loved the story

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12:13 Nov 15, 2020

Hii, B Sorry to intervene, in this brutal manner, I have a request for you would be kind to give a single glance over the vehicle which my team had been working over months. https://www.instagram.com/p/CHX5VUPBJOp/?igshid=5f72nb3cgg30 Sorry to take your time and If possible like the post.Because this would help team to win

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