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"We're due in the arena tomorrow, Trickfosa." That's the first thing Petrus says to Patricius when he wakes that morning. It's really not helping. 100 days of games his lily-white arse. 'Games' should really only be applied to chuckstones and tag and whatever Andreas calls the weird Pictish stuff he does, not senseless murder. Still, Rome was all about that, wasn't it? Murder. All four of them were slaves, captives. Patricius was a Goth, a Germanic tribesman. He didn't fight, wasn't particularly warlike, but by the gods, he was proud of his heritage, of what he was. He had been robbed of his native language, but retained his fiery temper. People underestimated him for his tiny size, but he was stocky and strong. He had red-brown-blonde hair and bright blue-green-gold eyes. Andreas called him a fae, so changing that it was almost magical. Josephus was the youngest of their quartet, but also the tallest. He was more tanned than the pale northern boys, Patricius and Andreas, but slightly paler than Petrus. He was the only one who believed in one god, rather than a pantheon, being staunchly Jewish. He was a prisoner from the sack of Jerusalem, with dark eyes and a shock of curly hair. Andreas was dark haired, but as his peach fuzz grew in, it was ginger. He was covered top to toe in tribal tattoos, swirls and twisting knots in bright blue. His Latin was good, but his accent was almost indecipherable. He was fierce, like a wild animal sometimes. He seemed proud of the fact that his capture had resulted from mounting a solo attack on a Roman garrison. That was almost certain suicide, but to him it was bravery. Petrus was a complicated man. He was the eldest of the group, son of an African woman and a soldier. Conceived on the first tour of soldiers, taken on the second. He despised the Romans, even his sire. His dark hair was wiry, his skin a rich brown that they weren't really able to put a name to. He, like Andreas, had a tattoo, but of an entirely different kind and in an entirely different place. It was low on his hips, stark black and rather abstract. Patricius was not ashamed of finding him beautiful.
The guards came in at dawn. Patricius was the first to be grabbed, and of course he started screaming obscenities at them in his native language, sharp, guttural words. "Verpiss dich! Geh weg von mir, du Wichser!" Then to Petrus, "Ich liebe dich, Liebling." They didn't know the words, but the sentiment was clear enough. Petrus looked up, smiling sadly at Patricius. "'Ahbak, Patricius"
Andreas was next. He fought like the savage their captors had decided he was, scary despite his height and high voice, screaming
"Marbhaidh mi thu. Fuirich gus am bi mi anns an raon agad, claidheamh a-staigh. Dìreach feitheamh, tha thu a 'bruiseadh."

Josephus and Petrus sat in their barracks, silent, lost in thought. The guards came in again, grabbing Josephus this time. He didn't scream, just started muttering words in his mother tongue under his breath, hands clasped together. "אבינו שבשמים, מקודש שמך. הממלכה שלך לבוא. אתה יעשה, על כדור הארץ כפי שהוא בשמים. תן לנו היום את הלחם היומי שלנו; ולסלוח לנו את הסגת הגבולות שלנו, כפי שאנו סולחים לאלה הסגת גבול נגדנו; ולהוביל אותנו לא לפיתוי, אבל להעביר אותנו מן הרע."
And Petrus was alone. He ran a hand through his hair. He knew his fate, and that of his friends. He thought it would be pairs, Patricius versus Andreas, him versus Josephus, but the other three had been taken. A thought hit him. The space of time between them being taken usually meant one thing- Josephus was replacing a dead fighter. It was probably Patricius. Andreas was stronger and behind the temper, dear Trickfosa was a pacifist. He'd like to believe Andreas was the same, but desperate times and all that. Then the guards came for him. He, unlike the others, remained silent, simply plotting varied cruel and unusual ways to kill anyone who dared hurt his friends. They threw him in the back of a cart and paraded him through the streets. Presently they stopped, it seemed the driver was arguing with someone. While everyone else's backs were turned, a tall man in a hooded cape walked past Petrus, dropping something- a stone!- into his bound hands. He tightened his grip around it, hoping he might be able to use it to affect his escape. The cart at length began to move and soon after they were at the arena. They dragged Petrus unceremoniously from the cart and into the building. They dragged him through labyrinthine tunnels until finally, they threw him down by a set of doors, beyond which was the arena proper. He dreaded what was waiting for him behind those doors. The guards grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and threw him through. He landed heavily on his hands and knees, looked up, and there they were, all three of them, very much alive and looking concerned. Patricius hurried to help him up. Petrus used this as an excuse to twine his arm around Patricius's waist. They all turned as one towards the doors, wondering who, or indeed, what, they were facing. A man lumbered out. Tall, taller than any of them, and well built, muscled. All of them swore under their breath in their native tongues. They exchanged looks, Josephus and Andreas, Patricius and Petrus
He came towards Petrus first, but Petrus scrambled back, terrified. Andreas grabbed his sword and the two ran at each other. The big man wasn't even armed and they soon saw why. As soon as Andreas got within range, the man kicked him in the chest, sending him flying. The impact cracked the ground. No one was sure how he walked away from that. The emperor laughed from the imperial box as the crowd cheered and Unarmed Big Man raised his arms in victory. Next he rounded on Josephus, who decided it was a good idea to run at his assailant. Said assailant grabbed him by the throat. He was saved from strangulation only by the leather collar he wore. He kept trying to punch him in the ribs, even as he began to lose oxygen. He too was thrown to the ground, with another earth-shattering impact. He sat up, rubbing his throat. Patricius steeled up all his courage, raised his fists and flew at their opponent. Who then backhanded him across the face before he had even landed one blow. Another impact that shouldn't have been survivable. The large man began to celebrate again, pounding his chest. As the other three lay prone on the floor, Petrus took his own chance. Aiming punches at their opponent's head, all of which were blocked, he was almost twirled before being slammed down. As their adversary celebrated, the four stood, one by one. First Patricius, holding a length of rope, then Andreas, likewise, then Josephus, holding a piece of leather, and finally Petrus, clutching a stone.
The four gathered together. Petrus, who knew exactly what this was for, having been able to use a slingshot ever since he was a child, quickly assembled and loaded the weapon. As the large man approached, massive axe in hand, he pulled the rope tight and began to swing it around his head. He released at just the right time. They heard the impact and the large man dropped his axe and fell to the ground, a large hole evident in his forehead. Petrus dropped the slingshot and the four grinned at each other before turning to face the emperor and celebrating, as was their right. They were victors, after all. Andreas and Josephus hugged each other tight, Petrus was waving his arms, Patricius grinning, hair plastered to his forehead. The emperor looked like he was sulking, disappointed that they weren't dead. Still, by the way the crowd was cheering, he couldn't call out "iugula" when the crowd voted "mitte". Could he? Turns out he could. He smirked evilly as the arena doors opened again. The four still had their back to them. A man stepped through, tattooed like Andreas but with a skin tone closer to Petrus, growling softly. The four wheeled to face the gate, willing to fight. As it turned out, that wouldn't be necessary. As soon as the man saw them, and the first opponent dead on the sandy floor, he fell to his knees.
"Parcant mihi" he begged.
"Parcant mihi, obsecro".
Andreas smiled, leaned down and touched the man's shoulder
"volumus parcens vobis," he intoned, "sed non ad arbitrium nostrum"
They all turned to the emperor, who, whilst looking mightily put out, simply had to spare them in the face of such nobility. Thus, our four heroes returned to their barracks that night as free men, the emperor having freed them so he wouldn't see them again.

The end