Battered and bruised, Niro Herkalus lay exhausted and in pain on his bunk in his single cell. It had been a torturous year in Sorrowdown. He had been beaten and used in unspeakable ways since he had been condemned to slavery. He once had everything. He was the son of Sorrowdown’s most decorated general. They had a beautiful home, a wonderful family. Niro was tutored by one of the best teachers and the family had the respect of everyone including the Emperor. But all that fell apart because of the betrayal of a friend.
It was a beautiful day in Sorrowdown. Niro had spent most of it studying in the garden and sparring in his father’s gladiator pits. As much as Niro loved sparring, wrestling and practicing with the swords, he really hated this place. All his father’s gladiators were slaves. They were brave desperate men battling for their freedom which Niro knew his father would never grant them. They could win every match set before them and it wouldn't matter. Vibius Gauis Herkalus would never let his prize stable of fighters go free. Not in a million years. Niro knew their only chance was for him to inherit the gladiators, and then he could find some way to set them all free.
But to do that, his father would have to die. Vibius was getting up there in years, but he was still strong as a bull. He would live many more years and see a lot more fighting before he died. Niro was sorry, but there wasn't anything he could do about it, so he learned all he could about fighting. He learned to wrestle and to fight with his fist. He learned sword play and how to fight with every weapon from a quarter staff to defending himself with nothing but a dagger. While learning to fight, his tutors taught him history and the maths. He learned to grasp numbers and to add and subtract.
Though Niro enjoyed his classes, he always wondered what it was his father was preparing him for. It wasn't to be in the military. Vibius was very strongly opposed to that idea. Somewhere in there, Niro knew there was a mystery. There was something his father wanted him to to. He often saw him watching him practice from a distance, but he couldn't tell whether he approved or not. Niro figured one day, Vibius would tell him what it was all about. Then came that beautiful day that everything changed.
After a long day of study and a tiring session sparring, Niro had spent an hour at the baths relaxing. He had his muscles massaged and had a nice soak in a warm pool, then dressed to head back to his father’s house. As he stepped out of the baths, he saw many solder on the streets hurrying out towards the estates of the nobles. Someone was in trouble. Niro had seen this before when someone fell out of favor with the Emperor.
Not giving it another thought, Niro wandered on into the market place where he purchased fruit and flowers for his mother. Just a little something to make her smile. She deserved it. As he left the fruit stand, he noticed two soldier's standing near a baking stand watching him. As he passed Niro nodded to them. They nodded back with a strange smile.
As Niro walked home, more and more soldiers kept running by. Whoever they were after must have a villa near his parents place. He wondered who it could be. The two closest were a senator who's villa was to the left of there's and a second cousin to the Emperor who lived to the right. But as he came to the split in the road Io the three estates, he realized they were heading to his father’s house. Scared Niro dropped the his packet and begin to run home.
At the gate to his father’s estate, soldiers had gathered. The gate had been torn down and the bodies of some of his father’s house staff lay all around the compound dead. Niro strong armed his way through the gate and made it to the front door before he was overcome by soldiers and stopped.
"Niro Hekalus?" A solider in bright shining armor with a long blue feather in his helmet stepped out. "You are under arrest."
"What is the meaning of this?" Niro yelled at them. "By whose authority?"
"By the order of the Emperor." He unrolled a scroll and began to read. "For the crime of sedition against the empire and disobeying a direct order, Vibius Gauis Hekalus, his family and all that he owns is now the property of the empire. All properties will be sold and the profits forfeited to the empire. All members of the family will be sold into slavery with the exception of Vibius and his wife Helen who will be held for execution."
"Nooooo!!!" Niro screamed as he tried to fight his way loose. With a smart crack on his head, Niro fell daze to the ground.
"Your mother, Helen has been taken into custody." The captain tucked the scroll under his arm. "Your father however is still at large. He will be hunted down no matter where he hides, brought back and crucified. You, Niro Hekalus will be sold as a slave at the slave market in two days. Take him away!"
As Niro was dragged away, he saw wagons pull up and the soldiers started emptying the house and loading things into the wagons. All his families’ prized possessions were gathered and taken away just like he was. Away to the market to be sold.
Tortured and abused, Niro slept uneasy while outside of his cell, Grimmer Protorius watched with a wicked glint in his eye. Grimmer had been there the day Niro was put on the auction block. He had been there checking out prospects for the pits of Gladicus Moreo, the highest winning house of all the gladiatorial camps.
Grimmer had seen him chained being beaten and kicked by the guards. Niro had been ordered to never look up into the guard’s eyes, but Niro was no common slave to follow order. He had been a citizen of Sorrowdown, one of high rank and obedience was not something that came easy. Grimmer had seen the rebellious look in Niro's eye. The look of a real fighter. He liked what he saw and decided to talk his owner into buying the boy to fight under his name.
Niro's short close cut blond hair, blue eyes and handsome form had been what caught Grimmer's eye. Standing there naked with sweat running off his muscled body, Grimmer couldn't take his gaze away from him. His thick muscled legs and broad back and the angel tattoo on his shoulder. The golden hair on his chest and the long cock that swung from side to side when he moved made Grimmer's mouth water. He would cost a great deal of coin, but Grimmer promised he would bring many victories to the house of Gladicus.
From the first day Niro arrived, Grimmer knew his training would not be easy. He refused to accept his new role as a gladiator slave. Grimmer could tell from the way he carried himself that fighting was not alien to Niro. With wooden sword in his hand, he fought his way through slave after slave until his whole body was black and blue and he was exhausted. But still Niro fought back against his master and trainers. If he was told to be silent, he talked. If he was told to stay still, he would keep moving. If he was told to keep his head down, he held it high and stared right back at his oppressors. And yes, Niro was punished. He was whipped and he was tied down,. He was put into seclusion on many occasions and he was even denied food for a time. But Grimmer would always make sure the punishment was never to harsh. And that was not out of friendship or pity. Grimmer wanted something else from Niro. And he knew he would get it.
It had been over a year since Niro had been purchased by house Gladicus. He had won every match they had set up for him and made a lot of money for Gladicus, but he was just as defiant today as he was the day he arrived. He had endured beatings, some torture and isolation. He had been starved and made to watch as others were being tortured, but today Grimmer had something different for him.
Niro had won his last match. He had beaten three fully armed men while he had only been given a single dull sword with very little armor. Niro was a very smart fighter. He had learned to never allow his opponents to attack en mass. He had taken them one then the next two at the same time and beaten all three. But once he had them defeated, he refused to kill or bow to his owner in the stands.
Frustrated, Grimmer sent in the guards with lassos and clubs who beat Niro down and tied him up. When Niro woke up he was in a room tied standing naked from the ceiling. He pulled and tugged on his bindings trying to get himself free but they were way too strong for him to break. Then he heard the creaking sound of a door opening and someone walked out in front of him where he could see him. It was Grimmer Protorius, his sadistic trainer.
"Niro Herkalus." Grimmer walked up to stand right in his face. "Haven't I given you everything a slave could ask for? You get all the best foods, you train every day and we don't make you work the fields. Why do you still show us disrespect?"
"Because I'm a free man." Niro shouted. "You killed my family and put me here. I hate you all and I'm going to get out of here."
"Not before I'm done with you." Grimmer ran the small baton he was holding down from Niro's nipple to below his scrotum lifting them up. "Nice."
"Stop what?" Grimmer ran the baton down the length of his cock making it respond by growing and swelling. As blood began to pump into Niro's manhood, his erection grew longer and thicker until he was fully hard. Grimmer smiles looking into Niro's eyes. "Well look what we have here. You like when I touch you here?"
"Get away from me!!" Niro pushed and shoved but Grimmer had a good hold on his special part and he wasn't letting go.
"I will teach you to have more respect for me and your owner." With his other hand Grimmer untied his loincloth and let it drop to the floor. "You belong to me now Niro. Your mine forever nothing will stop me from getting what I want!!"
For the next week, Niro never left that room. He was tied and hung from the ceiling for Grimmer to use whenever he wanted and Grimmer did use him. He used Niro's body like his own private sex toy. He would have him hand fed once a day and cleaned, then at night Grimmer would be back for what he called another private training session. He said the object was to break Niro's spirit and teach him respect, but all he really did was teach him how to hate. And Niro did learn to hate. It wasn't the sex. This wasn't the first time he had sex with a man. It was Grimmer. He hated him and every time he touched him. This was not what Niro thought sex should be. He would never touch anyone else and force himself on them, man or women. This was rape and that was a crime against another person’s body and mind. But Niro being as strong minded as he was, gritted his teeth and suffered without giving Grimmer the pleasure of hearing him scream.
After the week was over, Grimmer cut Niro down and had him taken back to his cell and cleaned up and fed a proper meal. He would need some rest for his next fight. As Niro lay in his cell he made the decision that this was it. Once he had a weapon in his hand, this time it would be either he escaped or he died try to be free. And he was right, for in two days, Niro would be free again.
It was later at night and the crowd roared as two gladiators battled each other for the nights win. In a alley to the rear of the coliseum a hooded figure slipped from shadow to shadow as he entered a side entrance to the arena. With skill and precision he made his way to the center dungeon where the fighters all waited their chance in the hot sands. As he entered the gladiator pens, two guards stood watch at the doors of the pens to the two houses that battled tonight. On the right, house Gladicus and to the left the warriors of house Appius. Staying in the shadows, the hooded man crept out and around the corner to stand right behind the guard to house Gladicus. He reached up and grabbed the guard by his mouth and put a knife through his heart. As he fell, the guard on house Appius heard him hit the floor and saw the intruder. Reaching for his sword, the guard jumped and went to attack the intruder. As he dived in to attack, something hit him in the chest. Falling to his knees, the guard watched as the intruder approached him and pulled a dagger free from his chest and pushed his corpse out of his way.
At the door to house Gladicus cells, the stranger reached up and grabbed the lock. With a quick twist he snapped it and tossed it to the floor. Opening the door the intruder went in calling out a name.
"Niro Herkalus! Where are you?"
"Over here." Came the answer from a cell to his left.
As the hooded man ran to the door the rest of the gladiators jumped to their cell doors calling for their freedom.
"Who are you?" Niro asked. "What do you want?"
Pushing back his hood, Vibius Gauis Herkalus reached down and broke the lock to his son’s cell. He pulled the door open, grabbed his son and hugged him.
"It's me Niro." He said. "Your father. I'm here to get you out of here."
"Father!" Niro hugged him relieved to see him alive. "I thought they had killed you."
"It's not that easy to kill this old war dog." He smiled. "But we don't have much time. They'll be coming for you soon. Take this, it's called Stormfury, it'll help you get out of here. It's very special, don't lose it.
Vibius pushed his ax into Niro's hands.
"I want you to free all these gladiators." Vibius told him. "With their help, you can fight your way out of the coliseum. There are horses waiting at the north gates of the arena. Get out of Sorrowdown."
"You’re coming with me right father? I won't go without you."
"You have to." Vibius took a ring off his hand and placed it on Niro's hand. "I have a score to settle with the Emporor. He killed your mother. Don't wait for me. I'll keep them busy while you escape."
"Please father." Niro begged him. "We can do this together. Don't go alone."
"Niro." Vibius held his son at arms length. "I knew something like this was going to happen. I had you tutored by the best teachers in Sorrowdown. I'm proud of you and you have to live. I can't let Sorrowdown destroy you like it did me. You have a future. A great future fixing one of my mistakes. Go, fulfill that future."
With that, Vibius turned and ran out of the cell. Niro didn't know what his father meant by that comment about his future, but if he could get out of Sorrowdown, he would at least have one.
With keys from the body of one of the guards, Niro opened the cells from each house and let all the warriors out. Grabbing weapons and armor, they all crowded around the entrance to the arena ready to go in and get their revenge for all the years of abuse at their master’s hand. From the other side of the door, they could hear the cheers of the crowd. The mad lust to see a warrior be butchered in battle. Well they had seen the last contest for this night. Now it was their turn and each man swore he would die before going back in chains.
As Niro hushed the men, the door opened and three guards came in to get the next set of gladiators. Hands reached out and grabbed the guards and beat them down into unconsciousness. Quickly they were stripped of their uniforms then dragged into cells where they were tied and locked away.
"The only way out is through the northern gate." Niro told them. "Together we go out and we don't stop until we're out of the arena, agreed?"
With nods all around, Niro threw open the door and they all started out into the sandy arena. As they stepped out, the crowds went wild. Everyone jumped to their feet surprised to see so many gladiators come out into the arena. There were many favorites here from both houses and it looked as if there was about to be some kind of battle royale. As they moved across the floor, Niro looked high up into the stand above the northern gate where Emperor Midoa Pontius Paratus and the owners of house Gladucus and Appius sat. The two owners leaped to their feet knowing this was not a planned event. Something out of the norm was happening here. Shouting orders, guards from both houses leaped into action running down to intercept the gladiators.
"NOW!" Niro yelled as he pulled his father’s axe from his side and ran at the crowd of warriors coming at them. When the first man faced off with him, Niro stopped and planted his feet. The warrior charged raising his sword to slice down at him. Niro gripped Stornfury's handle with two hands and let the sword come down hard on the shaft. Then he swept up catching the warrior in the chest piercing his armor lifting him up and threw him to the side. For a second Niro was amazed at his strength. He had never been that strong before, but now wasn't the time to ponder such miracles. More warriors were on the way.
Slashing and cutting, Niro and his warriors fought their way to the balcony above the north gate where the Emperor and the owners stood screaming orders at the warriors. Suddenly from behind a curtain behind the Emperor, Vibius jumped out and in seconds put his sword threw the chest of Gladicus and Appius. As he pulled his sword free and advanced on the Emperor, two more warriors rushed in between him and the Emperor.
"So Vibius." Midoa sneered. "I killed your woman and and your son fights below in the arena. Now I have you. Just give me what I want and maybe I'll have mercy and allow you to live."
"Why?" Vibius asked. "I was always faithful to you and the empire. I would have given my life for you. Why did you and Manius betray me?"
"Because you are a fool!!" The Emperor spit at him. "And you failed me!!
"How? I killed Thorn just as you ordered. You ordered him dead and we killed him."
"Yes you killed him fool." Midoa said. "But you and the others took something from him before he died didn't you. You took his rings but you did not turn them over to me."
"So Bram Thorn is alive again you idiot!" Midoa screamed at him in a rage. "He is alive and he will be coming for me! I need his rings to protect myself from his power!"
"That is not possible." Vibius didn't believe a word the Emperor said. "How can he have survived his wounds?"
"He didn't survive. He died and went to the Underworld. But you underestimate his power. He found a way back. I've seen him in my dreams. He comes for me and his revenge!"
"You betrayed me over a nightmare?" Vibius couldn't believe the Emperor could be such a superstitious fool.
"It was no nightmare Vibius! My dreams are special. He will come and destroy Sorrowdown to get to me! Only his rings can save me. Give it to me now!"
"I will give you something Midoa." Vibius lifted his sword. "But you won't have to worry about Bram Thorn killing you. I will have that pleasure myself!"
Scared for his father’s life, Niro leaped to the platform and was ready to jump in to fight at his father’s side.
"NO!" Vibius yelled at him. "Get out! This is my fight! Go to Fay Shrea and find the elven King Philibar Windstar in Pelordra, he'll explain everything! Then go find Manius Regulus, he's the one that betrayed us. Get the ring from him! Now Go!"
As Niro watched his father fight and parry sword thrust at him. Emperor Midoa slipped up behind him and stabbed him in the back.
"Nooo!!" Niro screamed running to leap into the balcony box. With a mighty backhand, Vibius slashed out at the Emperor ripping his face open from his cheek to his forehead. With a last burst of energy, Vibius plunged his sword through the Emperors chest killing him.
"GO!" Vibius yelled holding his sword high for the next attack. "Go get our revenge and fix my greatest wrong for me. You’re my only hope!"
With a quick nod, Niro jumped down and ran for the northern gate followed by what was left of the gladiators. Once in, they slammed down the gate and barred it.
"Hurry." Niro said to the gladiators. "We have to go now!"
"Not so fast." Said a voice from the shadows. Grimmer stepped out sword in hand smiling. "Is my puppet leaving without saying good bye? I can't have that. I'd miss you way too much."
"Go." Niro waved the others away. "Get out of Sorrowdown and leave him to me."
"They don't matter." Grimmer said as the escaping gladiators ran pass him. "They'll be caught. You’re the one I want."
"I don't think you're going to like our little play session this time." Niro advanced on Grimmer slowly waving his axe from side to side. "I'm not so helpless anymore."
"Doesn't matter." Grimmer smiled holding his swords ready. "When you lose, this time I won't stop fucking you until you're dead."
Like two wild elephants they clashed with Grimmer being thrown back against the wall by Niro's great strength. As Grimmer scrambled to get to his feet, Niro stepped up on him holding Stormfury's head at Grimmer's heart.
"Don't like it when they can fight back, do you?"
Stepping back, Niro let Grimmer get to his feet and retrieve his swords. With a grim look on his face, Grimmer tried again slashing down at Niro and stabbing with his short sword. Unfortunately for him, Niro just smiled and again knocked him back knocking the swords from his hand.
"Wait!" Grimmer cried. "It wasn't me! I only did what I was ordered to do!"
"Then die like a good little soldier."
With a single swing, Niro slammed his axe head straight into Grimmer's heart. He screamed and fell back against the wall then slid down dead at Niro's feet. Looking down at his rapist, Niro spit on his corpse, pulled his axe free then turned and ran out up the ramp to freedom.
He knew his parents were both dead now and there was nothing here for him in Sorrowdown but chains and enemies. It was time to go out in the world and see what was out there for him. First stop, King Philibar of Pelordra. Maybe he would have some answers.
As Bram stood in the ruined study of Castle Heimdel, the voices in his head wouldn't stop talking to him. Each of the five voices bullied him. Tell him he he would never succeed in his plans. How he was a failure and would end up right back on Shoudra island fighting to get that boat to the next shore.
"SHUT UP!" He screamed beating at his head. "I am not a failure! You'll all see! I'll crush my enemies and take Jamerld back. Once I find the rings, her and the baby, I'll bring back them back here where they will be safe in our home. Then Keanna will suffer for all it's done to us!"
"You’re mad!!!" The voices laughed. "You are a mad crazy fool and all you have to look forward to is an eternity in hell!!""We'll see." Bram shouted at the empty sky over head. "We'll see who has the last laugh!"