The religious chanting of the priest of Ananrath, cleansing the amphitheatre grounds of mischievous spirits, could be heard reverberating in the underground gladiatorial waiting area. Hasdrubal scooped chalk from the stone bowl and rubbed his hands together in ritualistic fashion, too concentrated to pay attention to the distant incantations.
Hasdrubal’s heartbeat was already steadily increasing in anticipation.
His contest was next.
While his opponent was being introduced, Hasdrubal engaged in the tunnel leading outside, his peers giving final words of encouragement as he walked pass them. In the last leg of the corridor, he was joined by two young attendants wearing stolas leading the way for him by throwing of rose petals.
‘And, hailing from parts unknown, the Slayer of Sargon, The wielder of Gwalhir… HASDRUBAL THESH!’
Outside, Hasdrubal’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the light as he walked toward the center stage. All around him, 16000 spectators filled Oudna’s amphitheather to the brim. His largest crowd yet.
«Show them what they came in to see» he thought to himself.
Hasdrubal slowly unsheathed Gwalhir, then with dramatic flourish, raised his falchion to the crowd maintaining eye contact with the spectators has he turned from left to right, his adamantine sword glinting under the Sekuntian sun. This did not get as much of a rise from the crowd as Hasdrubal had hoped, but perhaps it was inevitable as he was facing a local talent. He would play the ‘villain’ of the current contest.
Standing twenty paces in front of him was Pontus, an old career soldier driven to the amphitheatre when he ran out of conflicts to fight, a monster of a man chosen for his fearsome appearance and his notoriety in the region. Pontus had led phalanxes units of Sekunta‘s conflicts against Taviros’ Dorian League for over two decades, but this meant very little as the Gladiatorial arena was no ordinary battlefield. Hasdrubal’s task was to make the man’s debut in the business his last appearance.
Hasdrubal and Pontus looked up to the main booth from where the cream of Oudna’s oligarchy would be spectating the fight. The two combatants gave a final bow, in respect to their the most esteemed attendees, then faced each other, entering their fighting stance. At last, the head priest ordered the strike of the gong, signaling the start of the bout.
«This is it…»
Hasdrubal wasted no time charging Pontus, catching his opponent flat-footed.
Hasdrubal jumped in the air as he was about to meet his quarry… Time seemed to slow as he swung his falchion downwards towards Pontus’ exposed collar bone, sixteen thousand souls watching Gwalhir descent, willing him to make that killer blow.
The silence before the strike, and the noise afterwards… raising… like a storm!
In these moments… he felt as he was Ananrath himself.