NOTE: For those of you who find this scene ‘drags’, please go somewhere else. I’m the one spending dozens of hours writing this for nothing, on top of everyday life, to help out a little in the Covid 19 outbreak. I don’t need recommendations about story arc or plot development.
PS This episode takes place entirely in the treatment room. 😉
The maimed man’s reason was not all gone. He let the orderly place the cup to his lips; he took a mouthful, and another.
‘That is enough – you have already had more than you should,’ said the surgeon, gesturing at the orderly to take away the cup. He went on, ‘Any more, and you risk never waking up.’
‘What matter if that happened?’ The voice – which I guessed belonged to the Thracian class fighter from the most recent bout – was bitter. ‘A gladiator with one arm is like a bull with no balls. Crixus will have no use for me any longer. Nor will any auctioneer at the market. Cut my throat now, why don’t you, and end my misery?’
‘I am sworn to help the sick, not to murder them,’ said the surgeon wearily.
‘Well, you needn’t have bothered with me,’ snarled the fighter. ‘I am better off dead.’
The surgeon did not reply, instead making sure the orderlies kept a good hold until the extra dose of poppy juice took effect.
When the man slipped into unconsciousness and the orderlies stepped away, I peered with horrified fascination at the crimson-stained wrappings that covered the stump of his left arm. It had been amputated above the elbow, by the surgeon presumably, in the room where I had been stitched up.
‘Poor bastard,’ said Big Dog. ‘He’s right about Crixus having no use for him.’
‘Will he have one of the guards give him iron?’ I had not seen a gladiator in the ludus with such a severe, but non-life-threatening, injury.
‘Perhaps. But it will piss Crixus off to get back none of the money he laid out. My guess is he will sell him to the beast trainers. Training a lion to kill humans isn’t always easy, I have heard. They are naturally afraid of us. Starving them helps of course, but there is more to it than that. Throw in a man who can’t defend himself, maybe one with a fresh, bloody wound, and…’ Big Dog paused. ‘You can imagine the rest.’
It was brutal enough, I thought, to execute criminals by throwing them in with wild beasts, but to treat a wounded gladiator so…my stomach turned. I did not dwell on the amputee’s fate, however, for my own yet hung in the balance. Brooding on that was unsettling also, so when Big Dog borrowed some dice from one of the orderlies and asked me if I wanted to play, I accepted with alacrity.
We played incessantly through the afternoon, our games accompanied by the well familiar chorus of sound from the amphitheatre above. Cheers, howls of abuse, feet pounding the floor, cries of ‘Iugula!’ and ‘Hoc habet!’, and much less often, ‘Mitte!’ A succession of wounded men were carried in on stretchers, some of whom we knew, and others we did not. Their injuries varied from minor to much worse than that. Two died as I was watching, rattling out their last breaths with no one there to hold their hands or provide reassurance as they slipped into the underworld.