English – Juba

The Rise and Fall of a Legend

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JUBA:

Maximus, a friend who had stood by me since the day I met him, was to fight Commodus, the recently elected Emperor. Suddenly, I hear Commodus??™ voice echo around the dark, damp corridors that encircle the dimly lit cell where I now find myself. He speaks in a patronising manner about Maximus, despite the epic gladiatorial fight that was to take place, joking about his murdered family; for he knew Maximus was chained and there was no danger of Commodus getting hurt, for the moment??¦

My cell is nearly silent; the only noise I can hear now comes from a small mouse, as it scavenges for food. The hopeless cries of the mouse become louder as it nears my cell; only to be frightened by my outstretched hand, as I look for comfort. My sigh echoes around the cell. ???Maximus,??? I call, worried as I had not heard from him since they dragged us into separate cells. ???Maximus my friend, are you holding up???Almost instantly, the wood that blocked a window from my cell is removed, the sun shines into my eyes and, raising my hand to stop them from burning, a guard outside my cell tells me to keep quiet. Despite the weak threat, I continue to call, ???Maximus are you there??? As I listen carefully for a reply, I hear footsteps coming towards me and, thinking it was the guard again, I lay in the corner of my cell pretending to be asleep. I was surprised, however, to see Commodus, a sly man who has cheated death and murdered his own father through jealousy. Commodus stared into my cell and laughs ???I don??™t know why you??™re hiding, Juba, for it is Maximus who shall die today, not you.???

Ever since I had been bought as a gladiator at the slave market, I had admired the bravery and technique of Maximus, commonly known as ???Spaniard??™. The life of the former general had turned out badly, with his family slaughtered, the brave soldier thrown out of the army and now having to live the tough life of a gladiator. A gladiator??™s life is glorified out in the arena, but on return to the ???Stables??™, life was tough; we train endlessly, practising different techniques and improving our fitness but our meals are small and inadequate, and our rooms are shared with rodents. Suddenly I hear Commodus??™ voice,

???Maximus. Maximus. Maximus. They call for you. The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. A striking story.???

There is complete confidence in Commodus??™ voice and he speaks as if he is sure that he??™ll defeat Maximus. I try to hear their conversation again, but it is drowned out by the chanting, coming from the arena. Fans of Maximus begin to pour into the colossal stage that has been prepared for the epic fight between the Emperor and the people??™s favourite. Placing my ear up against the block of wood which was removed earlier by the guard, I hear chants for Maximus, as the crowd shouts his name,

???Maximus, Maximus, Maximus…???

Despite the chants, I manage to pick up just a little of their conversation. Commodus sounds less secure, as he mentions his father to Maximus, and moves closer towards him. ???You loved my father… that makes us brothers… smile for me now brother???. Hearing a faint cry of pain, I am desperate to see Commodus dead. If only I wasn??™t locked in this cell, I would kill him now myself, whatever consequences I had to face. Unfortunately, all I can do was continue to listen and be hopeful. Unexpectedly, I hear armour being strapped on, even though the gladiatorial fight was not due to take place yet.

Just as before, Commodus strode past my cell, and propelled by anger, I lunge towards him, whereupon Commodus merely laughs at me again. ???Unless you want me to do unto you as I did to Maximus, I suggest you remain in your cell.??? Behind Commodus was a weak-looking Maximus and, for the first time, I detect fear in his facial expression. He says nothing but just smiles at me. My outstretched arm is batted away by a guard, as he sees my feeble attempts to wish Maximus luck. As Maximus passes, I notice a line of blood coming from his shoulder and, suddenly, I understand. Of course Commodus would cheat before the fight as he was scared of Maximus and therefore must have stabbed him in the shoulder with a hidden knife! Outraged by this, I begin to shake, realising that Commodus must still have the knife concealed. I attempt to warn Maximus but once again my cries are drowned out by the ever-increasing chants for the general coming from the arena.

Commodus is brought alongside Maximus onto the sandy floor of the colosseum. My heart pounds, for I??™m now less certain that Maximus will be victorious. Managing to slide the wooden block along, I watch the Praetorian Guard encircle Maximus and Commodus. Now the chants are louder,

???Maximus, Maximus, Maximus…???

Aware that Maximus is without a sword, I panic. If only Commodus hadn??™t cheated, if only I wasn??™t locked up, if only I could help. Maximus reaches for his sword but Quintus, who was standing with the Praetorian Guards, tosses it aside and out of reach. Due to his injury Maximus slowly stumbles to where the sword had been thrown and picks it up, instantly swinging at Commodus. Murmurs come from the crowd, as they realise something must be wrong, Maximus is usually fast and should have the upper hand in the fight already, but instead he clumsily engages with Commodus. Shouting as Maximus hacks away at the Emperor, Commodus manages to dodge him and cut his leg.

The crowd fall silent, shocked that Maximus has received an injury. I can barely look; only a few days ago, I was training alongside my friend and now it seems certain he will die. Although wounded, Maximus cuts Commodus arm, causing him to drop his sword. I was so sure Maximus would win, but now I can only stand here, with sweat pouring down me. Surprisingly, Quintus refuses to provide Commodus with another sword. Commodus desperately calls out to the Praetorian Guards begging for a sword. The chants are still loud as ever,

???Maximus, Maximus, Maximus…???

Just before the praetorian guards are tempted to hand Commodus a sword, Quintus tells them to sheath their swords, leaving Commodus helpless. Just as I thought, Commodus retrieves his concealed knife and anger floods through my body. Unarmed, Maximus does battle with Commodus, filled with determination and rage. Maximus manages to turn Commodus knife against him and, as the Emperor tries to fight Maximus off, it seems that the general is too strong. The sun once again shines into my eyes making me squint. I manage however to see Maximus slowly plunge the knife into Commodus throat, further and further. Cheers boom from the colosseum as Commodus falls to the ground defeated, and the chants are now louder than ever,

???Maximus, Maximus, Maximus…???

Suddenly however the chants stop as Maximus first falls onto his knees, then collapses. Tears run down my cheeks, and my view is blocked as Maximus is surrounded by Quintus and the Praetorian Guards. I, too, collapse down the wall. It is over and I know that Maximus is dead. Maximus will be remembered as a legend. Memories rush through my head until I am suddenly told by the guard that I am free to leave. Still shaking, I rush out onto the arena, where I find the colosseum nearly empty, with just a few people crying in their seats and refusing to leave.

The next day, I return to where Maximus was killed, and begin to dig into the floor of the colosseum. Taking a small leather pouch from my pocket, I remove the contents; two figurines of Maximus??™ wife and son who were killed by order of Commodus. Burying the two figurines, I think of Maximus and say my farewells,

???Now we are free. I will see you again. But not yet, not yet…???

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