Gladiatrix, Part 5
By Ramon 51
I dedicate this Fan Fiction to Dave Vincent, Sarah, Kreibs, Cosmic F, Big Red, Venus, Froggy and Craig whose support inspires my work.
The year is 3006. Leela faces her final fight in the Arena. Will she win her freedom and the Rudis, the coveted wooden sword?
Domus Marcellii, Palatine Hill, Rome
It was the day before the election, and Antistia was able to walk short distances unaided, although she tired easily. She was so improved that Marcellus had taken her to watch Ray GunZ fight in the Arena as "Hydrargyrum1". She had ridden in a litter, the very first time she had ever done so, and it had given her time to think.
On her return, she sought Leela out, who was sitting in the peristyle garden wearing a purple stola2 and palla3. Her ponytail was neatly done up with a golden cord. Around her neck was a thin gold necklace and delicate gold earrings dangled from her ears as well.
"She's waiting for Fry," Antistia thought. She walked up slowly, leaning on an ivory cane that Marcellus had given her before they went to the Arena. "Salve Leela, how has your day been?"
"Salve Antistia, I've gotten some rest at least."
"I never took you for a garden sitter, waiting for someone?" Antistia asked while arching one eyebrow.
Leela paused for a second and answered with a smile, "Yes sister, I was waiting for Fry, but he hasn't been in the garden all day."
"He went to the Arena with Plautius. They should be back any moment."
Leela shook her head, "Poor Fry, I'll bet he got ill during all that bloodshed."
Antistia smiled and said, "From where he was, I doubt he saw much. It probably seemed distant - like the thing you call television. He isn't a soldier of the sand, you know."
"Thank God for that!"
Just then, both women heard the sound of Fry's voice, "I know it's Roman to like the Games, but I don't. That's the only trip to the Arena for me. If I want to see blood, I'll catch a horror movie when I get home. When Ray killed those four guys one after the other, that was it for me."
Plautius and Fry walked into the peristyle garden, carrying their tools. Both were wearing brown work tunics and work sandals. They greeted the ladies when they saw them. Fry smiled at Leela in a way that made her feel hopeful.
Antistia suddenly hunched over, as if she had a cramp.
Leela moved to support her, but Antistia shoved her gently away.
"Plautius, could you please help me to my chambers?"
Plautius moved swiftly to her side and offered her his arm. Antistia gave Leela a sly wink and shuffled off, leaning heavily on Plautius.
As soon as they were out of sight, Leela stood. She walked over to Fry, who had knelt to pull some weeds. "Fry, will you stand up, please? I have something I want to say to you."
Fry stood up with a puzzled look on his face. "Sure, what is it?"
Leela could feel her face flush as the blood pounded in her ears. Her hands became sweaty and her mouth felt as though it was full of cotton. Her knees seemed to knock together. "It's only Fry!" she tried to convince herself. "Why be afraid?" She began to tremble slightly all over.
"Leela, are you alright?" Fry asked with concern in his voice. He had never seen her like this, flushed and trembling.
"Fry, I love you!" she blurted out. Tears began to well in her eye as soon as she said it. Fear and love wrestled with such force in her that she felt her heart would leap from her chest.
Fry went pale and then stammered, "Leela, I love you too." He took a step forward, stretching his arms toward her.
Like two magnets, they came together in a flash. They kissed wordlessly, soulfully, and with absolute abandon. Fry's hands began to caress Leela through her stola, feeling the tight yet feminine curves of her body. Leela felt dizzy as her hands felt Fry's muscular arms embracing her and his labor hardened body pressing against her. Fry felt giddy as well. He had waited years to hear those three words and now he had heard them! He felt as though her kisses were causing electricity to run through his entire body. She felt so good pressing against him! His hands began to explore beneath her stola, feeling the warmth of her smooth bare flesh.
Suddenly, she pulled away. "No, this is all wrong. I am an idiot to do this," Leela said with extreme agitation in her voice. She was visibly trembling.
Fry looked hurt and surprised. "I'm sorry about copping a feel, Leela. I promise to control myself better."
Leela began to cry. "Oh God Fry, it's not the feel - I love you - but I just don't know how this is going to work. I'm scared Fry, really scared!"
"You? Scared?" He looked doubtful. "What in the Galaxy ever scared you?"
"Fry, I'm scared of losing control of my emotions, of myself. When we kissed, I felt as though I were becoming one with you - losing my identity. It frightened me."
Fry felt even more confused. "So, where do we go from here?"
Leela shook her head while drying her tears with the edge of her palla. "I don't know. We'll just have to take it a small step at a time."
Fry smiled. "I'm willing if you are."
Leela smiled back.
"She never looked prettier," Fry thought as his heart seemed to race in anticipation of the future.
Domus Claudii, Aventine Hill, Rome
Appius Claudius sat alone in his office.
A single oil lamp cast a flickering light throughout the room, causing the shadows to dance demonically.
He was furious. The stupid Sicarii 4 had failed to bring Marcellus down. They had been defeated by a collection of the worst trash in Rome - slaves - gladiators! Why could no one bring his nemesis down?
Thanks to Marcellus' luck, he - a patrician5 Claudius - was sure to lose the election for Consul. The majority of Rome believed that he, Appius Claudius, had been behind the assassination attempt. By not even voicing an opinion about it publicly, Marcellus had made sure of that, curse him!
He should be dead! Without the help of his precious Cyclops, he would be!
At least he could ensure that Marcellus' one-eyed freak suffered. "The Sicarii are good enough for that at least," he reflected. "Kill those dear to her, but never touch her."
"Yes," he said aloud, "let her suffer like Prometheus6." He gave a wicked laugh. "And that meddling Cygnian, I'll give him the same treatment." He thought with malicious glee. "How dare he come from retirement and give such a performance! Pitted against four good gladiators at once, he had killed them with the ease of a man swatting away a fly. The pagani7 ate it up. Tomorrow, they were sure to vote for Marcellus, curse him!" Well," he mused, "I refuse to allow him to triumph. He is an enemy of the mos maiorum8 and always has been. If the Sicarii can't do things right, I will. I'll go down in history as the man who preserved the Republic, as the man who plunged a dagger into the heart of the greatest danger to Roman freedom since the Kings of old."
He stood and spoke out loud, "Sic semper tyrannis."9
Domus Marcellii, Palatine Hill, Rome - Election Eve
The atrium was packed with Marcellus' clients. He stood among them, receiving their well wishes for the election. None even expressed a doubt that Marcellus would soon be Emperor. Corvo stood to Marcellus' left, while Sextus Julius Caesar stood to his right.
With great patience, Marcellus shook hands with every well-wisher. He seemed to know everyone's name and needs, one of the marks of a truly great politician. Finally, Corvo announced loudly in a voice that brooked no opposition, "The audience is over for the evening. Time to see our future Emperor gets a little food and some rest."
The crowd took the hint and, one-by-one, left the atrium. In less than five minutes, the atrium was empty.
Marcellus turned to Caesar. "Will you join us for dinner, cousin? "
"Frightfully sorry, but you know my Julia has a dreadful cold. If I don't go home and watch her, she'll be up and about."
Marcellus grinned. "You still act like newlyweds. Still, I envy you. Alright, see you tomorrow."
Caesar gave a cheery wave and headed for the door. Marcellus waved back and thought, "I need to find someone to share my life with, like my cousin. Lavinia would want me to."
Suddenly aware that Corvo was looking at him with a look of concern, Marcellus shook the thought from his head and said, "Sorry old friend, let's get something to eat."
They entered the triclinium10 side by side. Juncus was there, as was Chloe. The women were elsewhere, so Marcellus said, "A drop of wine before dinner?" Corvo nodded his assent.
The triclinium was what you would expect, three couches arranged in a "U" shape, with the open end of the "U" facing the main doorway11. In front of each couch was a rectangular table. On the other side of each table was a pair of straight backed chairs.
Marcellus motioned for Corvo to take his place in the Locus Consularis,12, while he reclined on the other side of the Lectus Medius13. Chloe came forward silently and removed Corvo's sandals, washed his feet, and put a set of soft slippers on his feet. She then took care of Marcellus in a similar fashion and left the room.
Juncus brought the wine and water to Marcellus, who mixed two goblets. He handed one to Corvo and took the other for himself. Both men poured a libation on the floor before drinking. They finished their goblets in silence, lost in their own thoughts.
When they had finished Marcellus turned to Juncus. "Juncus please inform the ladies we are ready to dine at their leisure."
"At once, Domine," Juncus replied as he hurried off.
"Well Corvo, what do you think of my chances in the election?"
"Domine," he said with a touch of concern in his voice, "I'm not concerned about your chances in the election. I am concerned about another assassination attempt. I'm informed that Appius Claudius is behaving very strangely."
Marcellus smiled. "Old friend, you know what they say, 'An eagle does not hunt for flies'."
Corvo bristled, "That is true, but Claudius is no fly. As a precaution, I bribed one of his servants - one that he keeps as a concubine - to keep me informed of his mental state. He is not sleeping well, has frequent fits of anger, and mumbles curses in his sleep - curses in which you feature prominently. Doesn't that concern you?"
"No," Marcellus replied, "it does not. Claudius may have it in him to try again, but I trust in my luck that he will bungle the job." Marcellus grinned. "Besides, I have you to worry for me. "
Corvo frowned, "Oh, Hercules Invictus!14 Your reckless attitude has already caused all of my hair to fall out from worrying. Please allow me to have Orm accompany you - beginning tomorrow."
Marcellus shook his head. "I will not violate the mos maiorum. Until I am the Emperor, I only rate six lictors15. That is all I will allow."
Corvo was ready to continue the argument, when Juncus entered followed by Lady Vibia and Antistia.
Lady Vibia entered first. She was wearing her usual grey stola and palla, with silver jewelry. Unlike most Roman women, she wore no makeup save a small amount of stibium16 to blacken her lashes. Her gray hair was parted in the middle, pulled back from her face, and coiled in a braided bun. She still stood straight as an arrow, unbent by the weight of 68 winters.
Antistia wore a green stola and palla, with no jewelry save her gold equestrian ring. She had consented to wear a little stibium only because Lady Vibia had convinced her that it complemented her green eyes. She made no attempt to use cosmetics to conceal the small scar from a sword slash she had on her left cheek. Her brown hair, still short, was tied back by a cloth of gold cord.
At Antistia's side was Julia, holding her by the left hand. Young Marcus hovered close behind, ready to help if she faltered.
Antistia was still leaning on her ivory cane, Marcellus noted. She was still a trifle pale from her injury. "She looks better," he thought. "The outing to the Games must have done her good. I'll have to see she gets out more."
Marcellus found the more that he got to know Antistia, the more he liked her. She reminded him of Lavinia in many ways, but she was both sui iuris17 and a unique creature. He smiled at her, amused to see her blush when she smiled back.
Antistia tried hard to control her blushing, but couldn't help it. She loved Marcellus deeply and prayed nightly that he would some day return her love.
The ladies seated themselves in their chairs. Antistia was opposite Corvo and Lady Vibia sat opposite Marcellus. Young Marcus climbed onto the Lectus Imus18 and Julia took her place across from her brother.
Marcellus spoke softly, "I hope everyone is hungry, for I certainly am."
Everyone nodded. Lady Vibia motioned to Juncus, who stepped briefly from the room to start the flow of dinner across the table.
Julia took advantage of the quiet to speak up, "Tata,19 may Antistia stay with us instead of finding her own place now that she is free? She can share my room."
Everyone was startled that Julia had spoken up. She was normally a quiet child, made even quieter after the assassination attempt.
Marcellus smiled at her and said, "Ju-Ju!20 How generous it is of you to offer to share your room! Mater, what do you think?"
Lady Vibia gave a wry smile before replying, "There's plenty of room in the Imperial Palace, my son."
"Well then, it's settled. Antistia can remain with us, if she chooses."
Antistia blushed crimson, "I am very glad to accept the offer. Ju-Ju has been my nurse for so long that I have grown very fond of her. Thank you."
Ju-Ju smiled her brightest smile for the rest of the dinner.
Excerpt from "Politics in New Space Rome," a paper presented by John C. Stone to the New-New York University Department of Political Science, June 12, 3015.
"The Emperor of New Space Rome is elected for life. The process, while strange to us, is quite functional, if heavily weighted in favor of the ruling elites.
"The candidates are elected by a majority vote of 18 of the 35 tribes. Since the smaller, rural tribes are not well represented in Rome proper, their individual votes are actually more valuable than those of the 4 urban tribes. So, wise candidates cultivate rural voters both well in advance of and in the month prior to the election."
The Saepta,21, Campus Martius22, Rome - Election Day
"Election day!" thought Marcellus as he stood on the platform built for the candidates. They weren't allowed to speak from the platform, but they could observe the voting. Marcellus could see his clients walking among the voters, pausing to chat and remind them how to cast their vote.
His mind drifted back to his early days in politics. He smiled as he thought of all he had done to ascend the ladder of power.
Now he was near the summit. He had already swept the first five tribes - all rural. All he needed was thirteen more tribes to vote his way.
His mind turned to his beloved Lavinia, dead for the past three years. "How she would have loved to have seen this!" he thought as he blinked back tears. Somehow, he sensed she was near him, if only in spirit.
Why did Antistia remind him of Lavinia? His normally methodical mind could make no headway against the problem until he realized it was a spirit they shared. Both were strong, yet feminine. Both were modest and unassuming. "Yes, Antistia might be just the person I need to share my life as Emperor with."
A shout shook him from his thoughts. The results for four more tribes were in. All were comfortably in Marcellus' camp.
He looked at Corvo, who seemed incapable of standing still. He smiled inwardly as he thought of the many times he and Corvo had fought side-by-side, both in the forum and on the battlefield.
"Should I appoint him as Governor of Syrtis Major if I become Emperor?" Marcellus pondered. "No, he'd only turn it down. He'd be the best choice, but I can already hear his protests." With that thought, he turned his attention to watching the crowd.
For much of the afternoon, Marcellus stood silently. Seventeen straight tribes had voted for him. He was within one tribe of winning it all. But the tribe filing through the Saepta now was the Claudia. Surely they would vote against him.
Within a half hour, it became evident that the majority of the Claudii were voting for Marcellus! His restraint in the wake of both assassination attempts had done the trick. Marcellus' clients on the Campus Martius became increasingly animated. When the Censors23 announced the results of the voting, his clients exploded into a cheer.
"Ave Imperator!"24 echoed across the field and rebounded from the walls of Rome. Marcus Marcellus had won. He was Emperor of Rome!
He stood erect on the platform, every inch a Roman. Unseen by the crowd, a single tear slid down his cheek. "We did it, Lavinia," he murmured. "We did it."
Domus Marcellii, Palatine Hill, Rome - Election Day
Leela and Fry sat side-by-side on a bench in the peristyle garden. Fry was in his usual brown tunic, while Leela wore a simple white stola. Neither spoke as they sat there, listening to the birds chirping.
Fry finally broke the silence, "Leela, did you sleep okay last night?"
Leela smiled, pausing before she answered. At that moment, she made up her mind to be as straight with Fry as she could be, come what may. "No, I tossed and turned. You devil! All I could think about was you."
Fry felt as though his heart stopped. "You aren't upset with me, are you?"
"No Fry, I am not upset with you. It's just that I - well - am upset with myself."
Fry looked puzzled. "Why be upset with yourself?"
Leela looked pensive. "I'm not sure that I understand it. A lot of it has to do with loss of emotional control. Some of it has to do with not feeling worthy of being loved." She looked sad. "I don't know. What I do know is that it will take some sorting out."
Fry felt his heart sink. He was sure she was going to dump him. He asked, "Does that mean you don't love me?"
Leela reached out and touched his cheek. "Fry, I still love you. But I think we owe it to ourselves to take things slowly."
Fry felt saddened and relieved at the same time. Sad at the idea of "going slowly" and relieved that Leela still loved him.
Leela read the mixed emotions on his face. "Fry, please understand that I'm the one with the emotional issues - not you. For years I let my loneliness and insecurity fester inside me like some sort of mental illness. It's going to take some time to sort out."
"Leela, I love you. I wouldn't change you one little bit," he said with conviction.
Tears sprang to her eye and she threw her arms around Fry. She sobbed as though her heart would break. "Oh Fry, thank you!" was all she could say.
Startled, he patted her back while holding her closely. He murmured things like, "It's okay" and "It's alright" until she had cried herself out. It was only at that moment that he realized that Leela really did need time to work through her feelings.
She pulled back slightly to look into his eyes. "Fry, I'm sorry for being so emotional. But I had to tell you how I felt. Do you understand?"
Fry merely nodded.
"I should have told you before my last fight, with Elektra. There was a moment during that fight when I felt as though I might lose. The thought of leaving you alone without at least the memory of my love was unbearable. And I still have one more fight to go."
"Leela, you have enough to buy your freedom, don't you?"
"Yes Fry, I do. But Amazonia has sworn to kill both Antistia and me as revenge for the death of Achillea. She will do what she says, I am convinced of it. I have to fight her. If I defeat her, perhaps she will give up her desire for revenge when I spare her."
A look of concern crossed Fry's face. "What if she wins? She's sure to kill you. Or you may have to kill her. I know what killing Achillea did to you."
Leela looked at Fry, suddenly feeling very tired. "I hate it, but I have become a soldier of the sand. I know my fate is 'in the lap of the gods' as they say." She smiled, "Have no fear, I will win."
The sound of cheering in the street invaded the quiet of the garden. Juncus came dashing into the peristyle garden. Normally a reserved, dignified man, he was literally skipping with joy. "Marcus Marcellus is Emperor!" he shouted repeatedly as he did a lap around the garden before charging back into the atrium.
The sight of the normally placid Juncus behaving in such a manner struck both Fry and Leela as unbearably funny. They both burst out laughing. When their laughter died, they continued to sit silently in the garden together until Chloe entered to invite them to dinner.
The Steps of the Capital, Rome - Inauguration Day
Fry felt completely lost as he stood on the steps of the Capitol among a crowd of Senators, the new Consuls-elect, Censors, and priests of Hercules Invictus. Yesterday, Marcellus had informed him that as one of his favored clients Fry would witness the entire inauguration ceremony from close up.
Later, Corvo had explained to Fry that the ceremony had several parts. First, there would be a sacrifice to Hercules Invictus on the steps of the Capitol. Following that, the group would go to the Forum for the actual swearing in ceremony. Then they would go to the Campus Martius, where representatives from every Legion would swear allegiance to the new Emperor.
"Phew," Fry thought, "this is going to be a long day."
Fry watched as several temple slaves brought out the sacrifice, a white bull. The bull seemed placid enough, but Fry didn't trust it completely. He looked around nervously for something to climb if the bull decided it didn't want to be a sacrifice. He spotted a tree that looked easy to climb, so he relaxed a bit.
Marcellus approached the bull and raised his hands to the sky. Then he began to pray in Latin. And he prayed. And he prayed. Everyone else in the audience seemed fascinated, their eyes riveted on Marcellus. Fry was simply bored.
He looked around the crowd and noticed a man he had never met only five feet away who was also not paying attention to the ceremony either.
Unknown to Fry, it was Appius Claudius.
What Fry saw was a small, white-haired man. But size was not what struck Fry about him. It was the sheer look of twisted hatred on his face. He seemed to radiate malice. Fry was about to look at something more pleasant, like the bull's droppings, when he noticed the man was drawing something out of his toga.
It was a dagger!
Fry glanced frantically around, but it became obvious that no one else saw the threat. Appius Claudius raised the dagger above his head. "My God!" Fry thought when he saw where he was heading. "He's after Marcellus!"
Fry charged at Claudius.
"He's got a dagger!" Fry shouted at the top of his lungs as he lunged. He grappled with Claudius, using both hands to restrain the dagger wielding arm. Remembering a move Leela had taught him, he stomped down on the man's instep.
Claudius bellowed with pain screaming, "Curse you!" He and Fry crashed onto the marble steps. They rolled around on the hard marble, wrestling for the weapon. All the while, Fry was shouting repeatedly, "He's got a dagger!"
It seemed a lifetime before Corvo, followed by other members of the crowd intervened. Within second they disarmed and subdued Claudius. In that short time, plainclothes Praetorians25 arrived as well.
Corvo assisted Fry to his feet. When their eyes met, Fry was surprised to see respect in them.
"Well done, Quintus - I mean Fry." Corvo grinned. "If it hadn't been for you, Marcellus might be dead now."
Claudius bellowed, "Fellow Citizens, listen to me, this outworld trash was trying to kill Marcellus, not I!"
Everyone looked surprised. A few even looked as if they might believe Claudius. Marcellus spoke up, "Did anyone see what happened?" None of the crowd spoke up. It began to look as if it would be Fry's word against Claudius'.
One of the temple slaves spoke up, "Domine, I saw Appius Claudius draw the dagger from his toga and advance toward you. Before I could speak, the red haired man shouted a warning and charged him."
"Bah!" Claudius said haughtily, "You'd trust the word of a freedman and a slave over that of a patrician?"
Sextus Julius Caesar spoke up, "Appius Claudius, as Urban Praetor, I order your arrest. You will be confined to your home until your case comes up for trial. Praetorians, do your duty."
Without a word, Claudius left the crowd, head erect and looking as if the Praetorians were his bodyguard, not his jailers.
Fry turned to Corvo. "I don't get it. He just tried to murder someone and they take him to his house?"
Corvo responded in a low voice, "That is our way. We don't have jails as you do. I'll explain it later, Marcellus is going to speak."
"Fellow Citizens, the ceremony has been interrupted." Marcellus turned to a man Fry didn't know who was wearing a striped toga,26 "Marcus Aurelius Cotta, is it your opinion that the ceremony has been profaned as well?"
Cotta, a tall, lean man with a head full of curly blonde hair thought for a moment. "No, Marcellus, it is not profaned. No blood was shed."
"Very well, let us begin the ceremony again."
This time, the ceremony went without a hitch.
Domus Marcellii, Palatine Hill, Rome - The Day after Inauguration Day
Most of the household was assembled in the atrium, waiting for Fry, Marcellus, and Lady Vibia. They were startled at the news - but not altogether surprised - that Fry was being adopted into the family. After all, adoption was a common Roman practice. Still, the adoption of an outworlder was a trifle unusual.
Even more unusual, another outworlder was there as a spectator as well. Ray GunZ stood in between Leela and Amy, conversing with them as they waited.
"Leela, I saw you fight Elektra. That was quite a match."
Leela shrugged. "I don't enjoy it, Ray. It's what I have to do to get home."
Ray smiled. "Still, I've rarely seen such skill. When you get home, you'll have a month's leave before you have to go back to work - so will all of the crew. I'd like to invite you, the crew, and your families to my home on Cygnus 12 for a week."
Amy answered cheerfully, "I'll come! I saw your place on 'Lifestyles of the Filthy Rich' once. Can I bring my fiancée, Kif?"
"Of course, he's more than welcome." Ray pondered a second. "He's Executive Officer on the Nimbus, isn't he?"
Amy looked surprised, "How did you know that?"
Ray grinned and said, "I have friends in low places."
Leela smiled as well. She had witnessed Ray use his incredible memory before, but it never ceased to amaze her. He never seemed to forget anyone he ever met.
Just then Juncus entered the room and announced in a voice full of pride, "The Emperor Marcus Marcellus!"
Several Praetorians in plain tunics entered the room and passed through the crowd. They passed their eyes over everyone before Orm came through the door, stepped to the right, and stood at attention next to the wall.
Marcellus entered the room, followed by Lady Vibia. Today she wore a dazzlingly white stola, with a matching palla. She had her hair put up in a beehive and was wearing a gold necklace with an enormous ruby.
Within a few moments, Sextus Julius Caesar, Corvo, Titus Marcellus Vopiscus,27and Marcus Aurelius Cotta entered the room. All were clad in togas. Last to enter was Fry, looking very uncomfortable in his brand new toga.
Marcellus wasted no time, "Phillip J. Fry, in the presence of these four witnesses, do you consent to adoption into the Marcellii?"
Fry looked solemnly at Marcellus and replied, "Yes, I do."
"Do you accept me as paterfamilias?"28
"Yes, I do."
"Very well, would the witnesses come forward and sign the papers?"
Each man came forward and signed, first Caesar, followed by Cotta, Vopiscus, and finally Corvo. Each applied their seal next to their signature as well.
Marcellus turned to Fry and said, "Please sign the document."
Fry signed where Marcellus indicated. Marcellus signed as soon as Fry put down the quill.
Marcellus rolled the document up and sealed it. He handed it to Caesar and said, "Please see this is lodged with the Censors."
He turned to Fry and said, "From now on you shall be known as Phillip Marcellus within the Empire. Salve Frater!"29
Marcellus embraced him briefly. Then Lady Vibia hugged him and kissed him, weeping with joy as she did so.
Fry hugged her back, happy that he was helping her to finally overcome the loss of her son Quintus. When she could finally bear to stop hugging and kissing him, the guests and household filed by to wish him well.
Gladiator Chambers beneath the Flavian Amphitheater, Rome, Terranos Prime - Two Days after Inauguration Day
Amy stood alone in the chambers, waiting for the Arena Slaves to prepare it for Leela. She was thinking of her Kif, longing to see him again. She felt an involuntary tremor run through her body. "Steady Amy," she thought, "no sense in getting worked up if Kif isn't here."
Her thoughts wandered to Young Marcus. During her stay she had come to regard him as a kid brother. Sometimes he was annoying, but he showed remarkable maturity for a boy his age. She spent much of her time teaching him engineering. What amazed her was how much he already knew and how fast he absorbed material.
He had offered to buy her freedom for her. She was touched and a little amused by the way he put it.
"Amy, you would be my first client!30 Wouldn't that be cool?"
Young Marcus had picked up a lot of Earth slang, but his favorites were 'crud' and 'cool.' Amy smiled as she thought how he sometimes managed to use both words in a single sentence.
Amy snapped out of her reverie as the Arena Slaves arrived. She knew one of them, a short dark-haired man named Alexander. He always did a good job, so she relaxed. No dragon lady performance would be necessary today.
"Alexander, you know what I want?"
"Let's get to it then."
They worked for about an hour, cleaning the chambers and setting everything in proper order. Amy supervised very little, as Alexander kept the crew hopping. Once they were done, Alexander turned to Amy, "Any tips on the upcoming fight?"
Amy laughed. "Spleesh! What are you thinking? I'm betting every as32 that I have on Leela. If you are smart, you'll do the same." While she was speaking she handed each man a Denarius. Feeling generous, Amy gave Alexander two Denarii.
Alexander tugged his forelock respectfully. "The Lord bless and keep you." He turned to his fellow slaves, "Let's go. We've a lot more work to do."
As they exited, Morrigan pushed through the doorway. Oh her back she carried all of Leela's arms and armor in a specially made pack. She smiled affectionately at Amy, who reflected that having a good man seemed to have mellowed Morrigan a bit.
"So Amy, are you ready for the last fight?"
Amy found herself a bit startled. Of course this was the last fight - she knew that. It was just that her life before the Arena seemed so distant. Only her yearning for Kif had reminded her that there was another life out there.
Amy responded, "More than ready, Morrigan. How about you?"
Morrigan smiled broadly. "I'm very ready to take up life with my Orm. We've decided that he will accept the offer of Chief Imperial Bodyguard from Marcellus. And you, my sister, what will you do?"
"I'll head home and pick up my life where I left off. Although, in truth my life will never be the same for I shall miss everyone." Amy felt tears coming to her eyes. She fought to keep them back, not wanting to look weak in front of Morrigan.
Morrigan placed her massive hand on Amy's shoulder. "Our fates are intertwined, little sister. Do not be sad, for we shall walk the same paths again."
Amy found herself strangely comforted by that thought, "Well, you and Orm can come to Mars on vacation. You'll love it."
"Of that, I am certain. But time is passing quickly. Let's get everything ready for our sister Leela. Today must be one of perfection."
Amy smiled, "I heard that!"
The Sand of the Flavian Amphitheater - Two Days after Inauguration Day
Leela stood opposite Amazonia, waiting for the referee to signal the start of the fight. Wearing her usual armor and carrying her trusty spatha,33 Leela felt confident of victory. Amazonia was wearing Samnite34 armor with the usual large shield, short sword, body armor, and helmet.
In absolute breach of all protocol, Amazonia had spoken during their walk into the Arena. "Today I will kill you, you one-eyed freak."
Leela had not responded, remembering what Corvo had once said, "Anyone who speaks before the fight is nervous. Nervous gladiators lose fights."
She had noted during her entry that the Coliseum was packed to maximum capacity. "All the better to win the rudis,"35 she thought. She only worried that Amazonia might not put on good enough of a show, thus denying her the prize she had begun to want very badly.
The day was slightly overcast and humid. Leela noticed that a breeze was blowing from the north, rustling the referee's tunic. Amazonia, who stood upwind of Leela, reeked of wine. "So," Leela thought, "you had to have a few drinks before the fight? I thought you were better than that."
The referee took a step backward and shouted, "Begin."
Amazonia charged immediately, thrusting at Leela's vitals with her sword. Leela parried with her shield and pinked Amazonia in the left buttock as she passed.
Amazonia roared in pain as the crowd roared with laughter. Without hesitation, Amazonia charged at Leela. This time, she feinted with a sword thrust, but slammed her shield into Leela.
Caught unawares, Leela nearly tumbled over backwards. The crowd gasped. She spun out to her left, putting some distance between her and Amazonia. "Don't get overconfident," she thought.
Amazonia tried to slam Leela with her shield again, but Leela was too quick. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me," she murmured.
The only result of Amazonia's second attempt was for her to receive a vicious crack on the helmet from the edge of Leela's shield. The blow staggered her, but she only shook her head like an ox shooing away a fly.
Leela went over to the attack with a series of rapid spatha thrusts designed to keep Amazonia off balance. Her opponent retreated doggedly toward the edge of the Arena, bleeding from several cuts to her arms and legs.
Amazonia was beginning to tire. The loss of blood combined with the blow to her head was taking a toll. But she was determined to avenge her lover, Achillea - no matter the cost.
In a move that surprised everyone, Amazonia threw away her shield. She lunged at Leela, putting both hands behind her thrust. Leela partially deflected the blow, but it struck with such force that it gashed her ribcage just below her left breast. Blood began to rapidly stain her tunic.
Amazonia, her eyes gleaming with madness, raised her sword in an overhead thrust position and bore down on Leela. Amazonia's sword caromed off Leela's shield, inflicting a wound to Leela's right leg.
Leela knew she was badly hurt. She also realized that Amazonia did not care if she died, as long as Leela crossed the Styx36 with her. In that instant, she knew that either she or Amazonia would die that day.
Leela spotted an opening as Amazonia readied for another thrust.
Leela swung her sword in a slashing horizontal arc. It bit into Amazonia's neck, cutting thought flesh and bone. Amazonia's head flew from her shoulders. Her body stood erect for a split second before collapsing to the sand, staining it with blood.
The crowd went berserk, screaming its approval.
Leela looked at her foe's body, feeling little of the remorse she felt over the death of Achillea. That would come later.
Now, she was bleeding heavily from two wounds. She could feel shock beginning to set in as a man she recognized as Quintus Tuccius came sprinting across the sand. She did not know that Marcellus had positioned him on the sidelines as a precaution.
When he arrived, he looked her over and said, "Hold on Gladiatrix, I'm going to have to sew you up a bit before you see the Emperor."
Right there on the sand, Quintus Tuccius sewed her up and applied bandages. She willed herself not to grimace as the bone needle bit into her flesh. Instead, she maintained a broad smile. The crowd kept cheering and cheering, both for Tuccius and for Leela.
Tuccius smiled at Leela. "Alright, Victrix37, you know where to go."
Leela walked unsteadily to her place beneath the Imperial Box. She looked up, but was confused that the Emperor was not seated in his usual spot. "Where is he?" she wondered.
Her question was answered when Marcus Marcellus walked out of the gladiator's entrance onto the sand, accompanied by sixteen praetorians. In his hand was a simple wooden sword. The crowd began to shout "Cyclopia Victrix!"37 over and over.
Marcellus smiled broadly as he approached. "Leela, would you please kneel?"
She knelt on one knee in the sand, but kept her head erect. Marcellus tapped her right shoulder with the rudis. He then took the blade in his right hand, presenting the handle to her across his left forearm.
Tears began to course down her face as she grasped the handle. As she grasped it, a sonic boom of cheers shook the Amphitheater. "I'm free," she realized, "I'm free."
She stood and brandished the rudis over her head, glorying in her newly won freedom. She ached in body and soul, she was weak from loss of blood but she was free!
The crowd cheered like mad as she slowly made her way to the exit leading to the gladiator chambers. They cheered for ten minutes after she vanished into the shadows of the tunnel. When it became apparent she was not going to reappear, the crowd dispersed rapidly. Within twenty minutes, the Coliseum was empty.
Garden of the Villa Marcellii, Ostia - One week later
Leela sat on the Xanthian Marble bench beneath the Altarian Pear Tree; wearing the same purple stola she had worn on the night she told Fry she loved him. She was watching Fry plant some Altarian Blue Roses. Plautius was working silently beside him. They kept to their work, carefully planting each bush.
The chiming of the tree and the sweet scent of the garden caused Leela to feel at peace. She would no longer have to face others in the Arena! Life was sweet indeed!
The sound of footfalls behind her caused Leela to turn. It was Lady Vibia, dressed in a simple white stola and unadorned with any jewelry. Leela rose. "Salve, Lady Vibia. How are you this morning?"
"Very well, my child," she said as she smiled affectionately at Leela. "I trust you are recovering from your wounds?" She motioned her to sit, "Please sit down. Let's watch two artists at work, doing what they love."
Leela found herself liking Lady Vibia more each time she spoke to her. "How will she take Fry's leaving?" she wondered.
As if reading her mind, Lady Vibia spoke with a tinge of sadness in her voice, "You will all be leaving soon."
"Yes, Lady Vibia. But we will come back, don't worry."
Lady Vibia smiled. "And I shall come visit all of you."
She reached out and patted Leela affectionately. "In truth, I am glad that Phillip will be beyond the borders of the Empire. Marcellus has appointed him as Ambassador without portfolio to DOOP, you know."
Leela was puzzled. "Pardon my ignorance, but what is an Ambassador without portfolio?"
"Such an Ambassador roams a region and represents the Empire whenever called upon to do so." Lady Vibia smiled. "Nice work if you can get it."
Her tone suddenly became almost fierce, "It will keep Phillip from serving in the ranks of the legions. That is all I am interested in. His hands were made to nurture life, not destroy it. He is special - he matters. The Sybil at Cumae39 confirmed it for me."
"Who is the Sybil at Cumae?"
"She is a priestess who has prophetic visions. I went to see her yesterday. She told me that Phillip is destined for greatness, that his life will be exceptionally long, and that his descendants will be like the stars of the sky."
Leela looked doubtful, but Lady Vibia continued, "She also said that your fate is intertwined with that of Phillip."
"How?" Leela asked with genuine curiosity.
Lady Vibia said, "When I asked her, she said, 'Hercules Rufus, Caesar's kin, like Sysiphus waits, for the second joining with victorious Polyphemia.'"
Leela laughed. "It sounds like gibberish to me."
Lady Vibia laughed as well as she shook her head. "This Sybil is no clearer than most of her line. None the less, You and Phillip have a shared fate."
At that moment Fry stood up from his work. Leela shot him a radiant smile, which he returned.
"Salve, Mater and Leela!" Fry said with a grin, "I'd hug you, but I'm as dirty as a hog." He sniffed his armpit. "Phew, I stink like one too."
Plautius grinned and said, "Domine Phillip, why don't we head for the baths?"
Fry looked at Plautius with an affectionate smile. "I'm with you. Mater, Leela, I'll see you at dinner?"
Lady Vibia smiled. "Of course. How could I miss your going away dinner?" Leela merely nodded.
Fry and Plautius gathered up their tools. Fry waved as they began to walk down the path. "Ave, Mater. Ave, Leela. I love you both."
Both women spoke at the same time, "I love you, too!" They then looked at each other and began to laugh.
Triclinium of the Villa Marcellii, Ostia - that evening
The triclinium was full that evening. On the couches, from right to left were Young Marcus, Corvo, Fry, Marcellus, Caesar, and Vopiscus. In chairs, also from right to left, were Julia, Leela, Lady Vibia, Antistia, Julia (Caesar's Wife) and Amy. Orm and Morrigan stood guard in the room, as by law, the Emperor could never be left unguarded - day or night.
Once everyone had settled in, Corvo raised his cup and spoke, "I propose a toast of 'health, money, and the time to enjoy them' to Phillip, Leela, and Amy no matter where they go."
Everyone raised their glass and drank a bit of the fine Falernian wine.
Marcellus turned to Fry and said, "Frater, you know that you always have a home on Terranos Prime. Since I am required to live in the Imperial Palace now, the Domus Marcellii in Rome and this Villa are yours. The legal documents have already been lodged with the Censors."
Fry was absolutely stunned. "I don't know what to say - except thank you." He looked troubled. "Who will look after the place?"
Marcellus smiled. "Don't worry. Because you saved my life, the Senate voted you an annual income of 100,000 Denarii for life. That is more than enough for you to live very comfortably, since as a member of the Imperial Family you are tax exempt."
"Could I let Lady Vibia - I mean Mater run things for me?"
Marcellus looked pleased. "That is exactly what I was going to suggest."
Lady Vibia spoke up, "Phillip, I'd also like to give you some advice."
Fry smiled at her and reached out and took her hand. She had been so kind to him! "Mater, I would love to hear it."
"Allow me to appoint Plautius as your Steward. He and Iocasta can hire the necessary staff to care for your estates. I'll handle your money - I'm pretty good at it, you know."
"Mater, that sounds perfect!"
At that moment, Caesar raised his cup and proposed a toast, "To a long and successful reign for the Emperor Marcus Marcellus!"
Once again, everyone drank from their cups.
Leela had noticed that Corvo seemed distracted. She had come to love the old man like an uncle. His patient work with her had kept her alive in the hell of the Arena.
"Corvo, you seem awfully distant. What is on your mind?"
He paused before speaking, "You are leaving, Leela. That is why I am lost in thought."
He continued, "I have never told you this, but my wife and daughter died over twenty years ago. Until you came along, I thought I had insulated myself from such emotions. Now I know that I have not. You are the closest thing that I have to a daughter. The truth is I am so proud of you. It shall be very hard not to see you every day - very hard."
"Aww, Corvo! Don't take it so hard! I'll be back on visits. Besides, you can come and visit me if you want. I love you like the Uncle I never had."
He merely nodded in reply, afraid to answer because he did not want to risk losing control of his emotions.
Young Marcus, seeing Corvo's predicament asked Leela, "Do you suppose that Amy will ever come back to Terranos Prime?"
Leela thought for a moment, "I believe she will, Marcus. She has grown very fond of this family, so I believe that she will."
His normally serious face broke into an ear-to-ear grin, "Cool!"
Across the room, Amy was talking animatedly with Vopiscus about all she was going to do when she got home. He was a perfect listener, fascinated as he was by this exotic creature in front of him.
"This fellow Kif is quite lucky to have the love of a lady as fair as you," he observed.
Amy actually blushed and said, "Thanks. But I'm the lucky one. He's the sweetest man in the whole universe."
Julia Caesar broke in, "I thought that title belonged to my Sextus, but perhaps he and your Kif can share the title?"
"They can certainly share the title, Julia. As my mom always says, 'Ancient Chinese Proverb says - to each their own.'" At that Caesar, Julia, Vopiscus, and Amy all laughed.
Marcellus raised his cup to propose a toast, "To the Empire."
Everyone drank from their cups again.
Antistia gazed at Marcellus and asked, "Marcellus, do you think that allowing the Senate to condemn Appius Claudius to exile was in the interests of the Empire? Wouldn't a death sentence have been more appropriate?"
Marcellus' brow knitted in thought, "No, he only attempted to assassinate me. The sentence for that has always been exile. It would be wrong to insist on any other punishment."
Fry looked concerned, "Won't he try again? He seemed like a real nut case to me. I've never seen anyone so full of hate."
"That is true, Phillip. But he will be closely watched on Cerberus 4. I have little to fear from him."
At that moment, Juncus entered the triclinium and announced, "Dinner is served!"
After dinner, they spent the rest of the evening in quiet conversation.
Ostia Spaceport, Terranos Prime - the next day
Leela, Amy, Fry, and Bender stood at the bottom of the landing gear ladder of the Planet Express ship. They were clad in their Earth clothes, clothes which now seemed oddly out of place. At Leela's feet was Nibbler, chewing on a bone.
Around them stood a crowd of well-wishers that included Antistia, Morrigan, Corvo, Plautius, Iocasta, and Lady Vibia. The Emperor was unable to attend, as he had been called to Rome on urgent business.
According to custom, each well-wisher came forward to bless those departing.
Lady Vibia stepped forward and embraced Fry. "May all the gods watch over you, my son. May long life, prosperity, and peace be yours." She stepped back, smiling serenely at Fry.
Corvo stepped forward and faced Leela. "May the ghosts of your fights never haunt you. May Hercules Invictus always strengthen your arm." He turned away, tears running down his weather-beaten cheeks.
Plautius and Iocasta came up to Fry and both hugged him. Plautius said hoarsely, "May the Lord bless you and keep you, may he cause his countenance to shine upon you, and may he bring you peace." The went and stood with Corvo, Plautius placing his arms over Corvo's shoulders in a gesture of comfort.
Morrigan came forward and hugged Amy, who almost disappeared in her arms. Morrigan wept openly, "By Lugh of the Long Hand, I swear my life to your life, my blood to your blood, through sword blade and serpent fangs, I am your sister and shield maid. I shall miss you, my little sister." Leela came over and the three wept for a short time.
Antistia came up to the group as well and joined them in weeping. When they finished, Antistia spoke, "Leela, you rescued me from the clutches of a terrible master. Were it not for your bravery and pure heart, I would be in the underworld. I will never be able to repay you in a thousand lifetimes. May all of your days be happy ones. May you have long life and a pleasant journey home."
Once everyone dried their eyes, Bender said, "So nobody loves Bender? That's alright! Stupid organ sacks!"
Leela rolled her eye. "Somebody is getting impatient. Let's get aboard or we may never leave." She lifted Nibbler into her arms.
With that Bender boarded the ship. Amy went next, turning twice to wave. Leela climbed aboard, stopping at the head of the ladder to wave to everyone.
Last to go was Fry. As he slowly climbed the ladder, he reflected on how much his life had changed in the past six months. He turned to look at the group below. He paused to blow kisses to Lady Vibia and Iocasta. Giving Plautius and the others a final wave, he climbed the last few feet and was lost from their sight.
The engines roared into life and the ship lifted slowly off the ground. Once the gear retracted, the ship shot skyward and was soon lost from sight.
Aboard the Planet Express Ship.
Everyone was at their usual stations as the ship broke out of the atmosphere. The lift off had been a quiet one, no one had even spoken beyond the bare minimum.
Bender finally spoke up, "What the hell is wrong with you stupid meat bags? You just spent six months on a primitive planet as slaves. You all acted like you were a bunch of kid leaving home for camp just now."
Amy frowned. "Bender you wouldn't understand. We all changed down there. I came to realize that making others happy makes me happy."
Fry chimed in, "Yeah, I managed to find myself two mothers - Lady Vibia and Iocasta. I even found a great dad in Plautius and a pretty neat brother in Marcellus. But best of all, I learned that Leela loves me."
Bender said, "So what?"
Leela shot back, "Each of us conquered something that was holding us back. All you did was sit around on minimum power for a couple of months. So don't give us a hard time or so help me, I'll hammer two empathy chips into your thick metal head."
Bender saw he was on the losing side of the argument. "Alright, One-Eye don't get so upset. I'm just trying to figure you coffin stuggers out. Sounds like everybody found something to love but me."
Leela softened, "Look Bender, I know it must have been tough spending the better part of six months offline. The right fembot is out there for you, I know it."
Bender reached into his chest cavity, pulled out four beers and said, "I've been saving these for a celebration, anybody interested?"
Amy replied, "Okay!"
Fry said, "Sure!"
Leela answered with a shrug of her shoulders, "Why not?"
Bender passed out the bottles and they drank in silence, thinking of all that was behind them and all that lay ahead.
1. Hydrargyrum means "quicksilver" in Latin. It referred to the silver flash given off by Cygnian skin when excited or alarmed.
2. The stola was the dress of the Roman lady.
3. The palla was a sort of shawl, worn with the stola.
4. The Sicarii were the assassins of New Space Rome. They got their names from their favorite weapon, the Sica, a short, wickedly curved short sword that could be easily concealed.
5. Patricians were the Roman upper class. Originally, they held all of the power. Eventually, the lower classes, the plebeians, forced the patricians to share power. Now all that was left of the former patrician monopoly on power were a few priesthoods that were reserved for patricians only.
6. In legend, Prometheus was a Titan who gave man fire and taught him to use it. As punishment, he was chained to a rock and condemned to have a vulture gnaw on his Liver for eternity.
7. Pagani literally means "country people" in Latin. If put into modern English it might translate as "redneck" or "hick."
8. The mos maiorum is a concept very dear to the Romans. Although it literally means "way of the ancestors," it has additional meaning. It really means the way things were, are, and always will be.
9. It means "Thus always to tyrants" in Latin.
10. Triclinium translates to dining room from Latin.
11. The couch on the right was referred to as the Lectus Imus, the couch in the center was the Lectus Medius, and the couch on the left was the Lectus Summus. The couch with the most status was the Lectus Medius. The spot for the guest of honor was known as the Locus Consularis, located on the right end of the Lectus Medius.
12. See Note 11 above.
13. See Note 11 above.
14. Hercules Invictus means "Conquering Hercules" in Latin. He was the god of the triumphing general. As such, he was a god of men only.
15. Lictors were men who were attendants to the various elected officials of Rome. They cleared the way through crowds and could arrest people at the official's orders. They were all Roman citizens.
16 Stibium is the Roman equivalent of mascara.
17. Under Roman law, a woman who was not in the hand of a male of her family was known a "sui iuris" - in her own hand - i.e. independent.
18. See Note 11 above.
19 Tata is Latin for "Daddy."
20. Ju-Ju is an affectionate diminutive form of Julia.
20. The Saepta (Literally 'sheep fold') was a voting enclosure built on the Campus Martius (Literally 'Military Field' a field outside Rome's walls) designed to allow for orderly voting. On entry, each citizen would pass down an aisle. They would deposit their vote in a bin for the appropriate candidate. As they left, their hand would be daubed with dye to insure nobody voted twice.
21. The Campus Martius was a field outside Rome's walls used for military exercises and, oddly enough, for voting.
22. The Censors were a pillar of Roman society. One of their functions was to maintain the census of citizens. They also oversaw and certified the election results for Emperor.
23. Literally, "Hail conquering general" in Latin.
24. The Praetorians of ancient Earth were a military guard for the Emperor. In New Space Rome, they were also performed a counterintelligence and law enforcement function. Their network of informers made them feared and respected by criminals and intelligence agents alike.
25. The striped toga was worn by Romans who held priestly offices.
26. Vopiscus means "surviving twin."
27. Literally, "Father of the Family," the paterfamilias held the power of life and death over his family members.
28. Greetings, brother!
29. A feature of the day for the powerful in Rome was the reception of clients every morning. The patron, as he was called, dispensed favors and money to those who visited. In return, the client owed allegiance to the patron - particularly in politics. Great men, when in Rome, were almost always surrounded by a swarm of clients who were there to attest to their patron's greatness.
30. Domina is the Latin equivalent of "Ma'm."
31. The as is a small copper coin worth 1/12 of a Denarius. A family of four could live for a year on an income of 250 Denarii.
32. The Spatha is a long, straight sword. It is slightly wider at the end than at the tang. It can be used either as a stabbing or slashing weapon.
33. The Samnite is one of the two original types of combatant in the Arena. They take their name from a traditional enemy of Rome. Their armor roughly mimics that of the Samnite warrior.
34. The rudis is a wooden sword awarded by the Emperor to a Gladiator or Gladiatrix. It conveyed instant freedom and retirement upon the recipient. They could never be compelled to enter the Arena again, although many did because of the fabulous sums of money they could earn.
35. The Styx was a river separating the world of the living from the underworld of the dead.
36. Victorious One
37. Victorious Cyclops
38. The Sybil of Cumae was a famous prophetess of Apollo. She lived in a cave and gave prophecies, normally in the form of a verse. Most of her prophecies were vague, but a few were very specific.