Dear readers, we all love to see blood spilled for our entertainment, cheer for the brave gladiators as they fight in the arena. Tonight we have a unique chance to hear from a woman who dedicated her life to this amazing sport, so beloved by our empire’s citizens.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
Neapolis: A shining city on the coast. Number two city in the empire, or so I like to think. You may have heard of Mt. Vesuvius? That’s our most famous landmark to the northeast of the city. Or perhaps, Pompeii? Yes, we remember it. I’ve even been into the ruins!
When I was a kid I’d run around with the workers’ children. How I loved racing up and down the hills of Neapolis. The black sand between my toes as we lounged on the beach. Those are some of my happiest memories, even when my father banned me from playing with the ‘chaff’.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
My wooden swords, without a doubt. Perhaps my carved toy soldiers as well. I loved watching puppet shows as a child, and I would help put them on for my friends using my toys. It was fun to be the center of attention that way. Probably seems a bit selfish of me, but when you’re born into a family with clear expectations of what you should be doing with your future, you feel the need to do anything else.
What do you do now?
Well at this moment I’m in training to be a gladiator, here at the Ludus Magnus. It’s the greatest gladiator school in Rome and the empire. I’ve wanted to join the fighters in the arena since I was ten, and spent as much time as possible reading about them, watching events in the coliseum, and training with one of my father’s servants. When I turned sixteen, I was told about an arranged marriage to one of my father’s….friends. “All about the business” he said.
I said “goodbye” a week later. Here I am, in Rome, following my dream.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Being a gladiator isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Incomes are down, attendance is down, and we’re about to be replaced by mechagladiators. The Emperor wants a big fancy spectacle. I mean, honestly, so do I. So do the owners. Everyone wants a spectacle. That’s why you attend the games at the Coliseum in the first place! Humans versus giant mechanical gladiators, with the Emperor, his family, and his brother watching… How can you not want to see this?
What did you first think when you realized you had to actually work with your fellow gladiators?
I think deep down I knew that working together was a required part of training as a gladiator. But, with my background, you simply don’t trust anyone else. Why would you? Everyone is out for money, for blood and opportunity. At least in the arena, my enemies are out in the open. Most of the time at least. It took a lot for me to trust any of my fellows. John was really the only one I trusted.
Tell us a little about John.
John of Armenia is handy in a fight, ridiculous when he wants to, and a preening peacock when he’s got the money. But I trust him with my life, even if I did have to kick his ass to prove I could do it.
Any romantic involvement? I notice you’re not talking about the Emperor’s brother.
I can neither confirm nor deny that I am friends with anyone in the imperial family. It would be improper for me to speculate on that in any way, shape, or form. Also, please tell me who your source is. If it is John, I’ll need to insist on a rematch and remind him who the top gladiator is in this ludus.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
Honestly, I’m more concerned about the fact that one of my father’s friends shows up and sees me. Then they’ll let my father know. I can’t allow that to happen. So I suppose that is scary? But I think I’ve grown myself. I’ve gained the confidence to not only strike out on my own, but stay here.
What is the worst thing about Gladiator school?
Well, honestly… I think the worst is the fact that you don’t really have control of your own future. In a way, the lanistas – the trainers – are the only ones who can decide how you will fight, who you will fight, and when you will fight. It is challenging because it’s like having a parent who wants the best for you but, you don’t always see it. The fact they aren’t related to you makes it even more challenging. Especially with the likelihood of the entire place closing down…everyone is under a lot of pressure to succeed here.
What is the best thing about it?
We get all we can eat, and I get to hit people with sharp, pointy objects. That alone keeps me happy and staying here. It is definitely a good stress reliever.
Daniel Ottalini is a teacher, author, and amateur historian living in Maryland with his fiance, his plants, and a bunch of plastic models. When not teaching or cooking, he enjoys reading and playing video games. The Last Gladiator is Ottalini’s 8th book in the alternate history world of the Steam Empire Chronicles.
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