Part Eight – Today I Live
They ran far from the town, the wounded carried with them or aided. Across the plains, the burning of the gladiator pit could be seen from afar, a vast pillar of smoke and fire that raged unchecked, threatening to engulf the town.
They ran until their legs burned with fatigue, their lungs gasping for air, until they could run no more. In some low hills to the south of town, they sheltered, seeking shade beneath a grove of olive trees. As they lay there, Nhaqosa checked over the wounded. Some would not make it, but they would not be left behind for the retribution of the townsfolk. If they were to die, then it was better to do so among comrades than at the hands of a vengeful mob.
“I have friends,” Elad announced, slowly sitting up, exhaustion seeping through every part of his aching body. “A place where we can be safe, a least for a while.”
“Where were they when you were in the pit?” a narrow-faced, dark-eyed gladiator asked as he tied a bandage around his leg.
“I got careless,” Elad admitted. “And they did not know where I was going.” The gladiator, Elad noticed, looked over to Nhaqosa. Most of them did.
The minotaur nodded slowly. “It is a good offer, Abasan. This one is honourable.”
“Then I shall go with him,” Abasan replied.
“You shall all go,” Nhaqosa told him,
Abasan’s face narrowed in thought. “But not you?”
“No, not I.”
“Where will you go?” Elad asked of Nhaqosa. “These lands are not for you.”
Nhaqosa sighed, and then tossed his head in an effort to dislodge a fly that buzzed around his face. “No they are not. That is why I must seek to return to my home.”
“We will come with you, Kwaza,” Abasan told him. All around, the other gladiators murmured their agreement.
“The way will not be easy,” Nhaqosa warned them, “Nor much chance that we shall succeed.”
“We will come with you, nonetheless,” said a short, slender young woman, her striking looks marred by scars across her face.
“Then I will welcome you, brothers and sisters. What of you Elad?”
“I will seek for my friends. This is my world and I shall not leave it, even if it goes down in fire and ruin.”
Nhaqosa reached out and offered Elad his hand. “Die well, Elad.”
“I will brother. But that is not for this day, for today I live.”
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