I’ve not done much fiction writing the last few weeks and I don’t really want to post any more of my novel in progress unless I end up giving too much away. So for the next few weeks I am going to write some flash fiction, a set of spin offs to one of my works in progress. If I like playing around with this idea, I may very well work them into the novel.
The Emperor looked him up and down, lifted his hand, turned it over and let it drop again. He moved to the other side of the gladiator and repeated the process with the other arm.’You have the arms of a legionary, Nero,’ said the Emperor, ‘and I have seen you wield the Gladius and Cetra with such skill. Were you in the legion?’
He stiffened at the reminder. ‘Thank you Caesar and yes, I was.’
The Emperor smiled. ‘I am toying with you, gladiator and testing your honesty. I know of your past. I know why you were removed from the legion and sold into slavery.’
A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. Is this why he was here, had the Emperor finally been made aware and was now going to do what the Centurion did not? ‘Yes Caesar, I am not proud of what I did.’
‘Why did you do it?’ the Emperor asked sharply.
His pulse raced, he opened his mouth but no words came out. He tried to force it out – that one word, almost a taboo in Roman society… but he knew he had to – this was the emperor after all. Finally, he said the one word he never wished to say again.
A look of shock passed over the Emperor’s face and then, surprisingly, the Emperor stepped forward embraced him. Nero noticed the guards at his back stiffen at the lapse of protocol and after a few seconds, they broke.
‘It is this action that fuels your ferocity in the arena?’
The gladiator nodded.
‘We share a cognomen – an emperor and a gladiator, a lover of the games and a practitioner. Fate has brought you to me, Nero and it is something I cannot ignore. I see a great gladiator in you.’ Emperor Nero rested his hand on the shoulder of his enslaved namesake.
Nero smiled inside and outside. ‘Caesar is most gracious and kind.’
‘You have imperial favour, Nero. Do not let me down. Continue to entertain Rome and Caesar and you will have your freedom within a year and more riches than you can possibly imagine.’
Nero’s jaw dropped. ‘Yes Caesar!’
‘We need a name for you so that Rome knows you are favoured. I suggest, “The Sword of Nero”. Do you object?’
‘Whatever Caesar wishes!’
The emperor nodded and kissed the gladiator on the cheek.
Not particularly exciting but it at least explains how Nero got his “stage name”.
Yes, this is when Gladiator Nero met Emperor Nero. The Emperor has had (completely justifiably… mostly) a very bad press but this was not always the case. In the early part of his reign he was a much-loved ruler, patron of the arts, supporter of the games, builder of theatres and the only Emperor to have officially and justifiable proclaimed peace in the empire. Contrary to popular belief, he did not fiddle while Rome burnt – some sources say that he gave manual assistance to the clean-up operation.
For Nero (the gladiator) he finally has somebody who believes in him but sadly, the reign of this emperor will come to a crashing end perhaps a year or two later.