I wanted to share the first page excerpt from my latest novella, the Last Gladiator. Focusing on a much smaller part of the world, it details the story of Master Ilyensio Horatio, master of the Ludus Magnus, one of the last training compounds for human gladiators in an era when the mechagladiators are about to dominate the colliseum. C&C always appreciated, let me know what you think! The goal for this is roughly 10-12,000 words, as I’d love to start getting some more novellas out this year and next with the eventual goal of creating that print anthology to accompany the Steam Empire Chronicle series.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think!
The wooden gates of the Ludus Magnus had seen better days. The warped grey wood of the gate was bound together by rusting iron bands marred by streaks of brighter areas worn down by repeated use. Compared to the brick and stone faced factories neighboring the older building, it was positively quaint, or an eyesore, depending on who you asked. But if you asked Training Master Ilyensio Horatio, it was neither.
It was home.
The training school for gladiators had been established over a thousand years ago here, in the heart of Rome. The gleaming city of marble and metal had expanded beyond its heart, beyond the walls that encompassed it, and out into the pasturelands of Latinum, replacing older suburbs with new, monolithic construction. But here, in the oldest part of the city, some bits of its past remained. To the west, the bulk of the coliseum loomed like a mountain, a part of Horatio’s life for the last forty years, ever since the once-seven year old had been offered a job as a runner for the gladiators in training.
Since the age of sixteen he had been a gladiator, and since then he had slept, fought, trained, and survived in the shadow of the coliseum. Against all odds, he had lived, the sole victor in a war of attrition, battling animals, elements, men, and age. But now, the arrival of a new threat signaled the long anticipated downfall of the great gladiator houses. One by one, they had shut their doors, moving to the smaller cities or to the provinces. One ancient house had even transported their entire staff – trainers, servants, animals, and all – to the Caesarian colonies, claiming that the rugged and independent nature of the new world would produce a financial windfall.
But the Ludus Magnus remained. As did Hortatio. For these gladiators, it was the end of their concept, their world. Now Master Horatio was tasked with training the last batch of new recruits before the final removal of human gladiator participants from the Coliseum. Their replacements, the twenty foot tall mech-gladiators, were in the final stages of testing and fitting out, their pilots learning the ropes just as his new gladiators were learning theirs. The Pneumatic Steam Transportation and Upright Ambulator Vehicle was the brainchild of inventor and physicist Alessandro Volta Dacia, scion of the noted intellectual and industrial powerhouse Volta family.
Thus it was with a heavy heart and a flickering fire of resentment and anger that Horatio observed the group of new recruits standing in a half-moon before him. His sandaled feet felt the smooth lip of the instructor’s block, a large piece of marble that once belonged to the wall of the original facade of the coliseum, removed during the renovations in the 17th century. Worn smooth by countless generations of instructors before him, he sighed inwardly at the thought of how he would be the last to use it.
He sized up the new recruits. The scraggly young men and women looked pitiful compared to the former legionnaires, burly workers, and barbarian adventurers of Horatio’s youth. His mouth twisted involuntarily into a frown, cutting through his weathered, tan face like a knife wound. No matter he thought as he straightened his shoulders and began.
“Why are you here?”