A sword of wrath book i.., p.17
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       A Sword Of Wrath, Book I: Blood And Dust, p.17

           K. E. MacLeod
 

  ***

  In his office, Euric looked over the faces of his most trusted men: Felix, Castor and T'tembo and declared, "Something dark is happening in this fair city, my men!"

  Posides, meanwhile, silently stood to the side and filled his master's wine cup as Felix stated, "Sir, you've been saying that ever since you summoned us here."

  Euric nodded to Posides and took the cup, nearly draining it almost immediately before continuing, "I know, Felix, I know, but it's because I don't know what to do. I don't know - I just," he placed his hands on his writing desk and then looked back up at them, "don't know." He took a deep breath, "Gentlemen, the Emperor is not a well man. His eyes... gods, if only you'd seen what I'd seen!" Euric began to pace, gesturing wildly with his hands as he did, "I can't explain it but something is wrong with him!"

  The water pitcher within Posides' usually steady hands began to shake visibly, "How-how do you know?"

  He stopped pacing, "He had his advisor killed, right there, in front of us all."

  Posides gasped as Caster spoke frankly, "Sir, lanista, we are gladiators. Death is not-"

  "This was different! This wasn't a man who had willfully chosen to enter the arena or-or a condemned criminal found guilty of a crime! This was an innocent man! Or," he shrugged, "he seemed innocent enough. I mean, I've known the man for many years and, yes, he can be a little shifty as all political being are, but he's always seemed quite harmless." He drifted off into his thoughts, "The Emperor also referred to him as a 'rat god'."

  They looked at one another.

  Euric shook his head, trying to dislodge the gory scene he had earlier witnessed from his brain, "His eyes seemed so... strange. Like-like they were far away almost, seeing something otherworldly - something that wasn't there!"

  Felix shifted his weight from one leg to the other, "What can we do, then? What if there are supernatural forces at work here. We can't fight-"

  Euric raised an eyebrow, "I have lived too long in this world to believe in the supernatural. I do not know what is causing the Emperor's madness, but I do know that it's not going to get better anytime soon and in the meantime, we are going to need ideas, plans - schemes - something!" He sighed and ran his hands over his face, "I can think of nothing! And I'm usually so good at this."

  "Give us our freedom,” T’tembo said at last.

  "What? Your freedom?" the lanista laughed as he quaffed more of his wine, "I've told you time and again, you are free! Just... you know, not to leave or anything."

  "Or have money, or land or-"

  "But you have your life!" Euric set his cup down on the desk and grasped T'tembo heartily about his bare shoulders. "You're housed, fed, well taken care of-"

  T'tembo's face was stern, "If you are correct in what you tell us, it will not be for very much longer."

  "I... yes," he sighed again and dropped his arms. "Yes, you're right. Perhaps something can be arranged, then." He began to pace, speaking his thoughts aloud as he formulated their next move, "But first, we must decide what we must do. The main issue is that we are not an army. We cannot fight as one, our training is just not attuned for that sort of thing." He eyed the statue of the Adversary and reached out to touch the angelic stone wings, "We are individuals; we fight as individuals... but maybe we can use that to our advantage somehow."

  "How so?" asked Castor.

  "I need to work out the details but," the Vandal looked back at them, "if you truly want to be freemen, then the munus might just be the key to that freedom. I can't believe I'm saying this but gather the men," he looked at them levelly, "we have a rebellion to plan."

 
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