Segovax was sharply awoken by renewed pain and a scream ripped through his throat. He could hear the pounding of the mallet and could feel the searing pain in his wrists. Something was holding him down to prevent him from thrashing wildly. Ropes.

The pain-driven delirium crept back into his mind with strong purpose. He imagined lying in a lush green field in Gallia and woodpeckers driven mad bore holes into his arms. He imagined a tall fire leaping up between his legs, the smell of blood overwhelming the smoke. His flesh burned and he knew what tragedy befell him. Finally, he thought, some grace. I will die before she can see me like this.

As they nailed his other wrist to the board, he imagined he heard music. No, not music… noise. The frantic plucking of a lyre, the discordant hoots of a misplayed flute. He screamed louder and a woodpecker at his left arm looked up from his work, his head cocked to the side, beak dripping with blood.

"Why the fuck is he screaming 'stop that noise'?"

Another bird stopped digging into his wrist and looked at him with confusion. "The pain's driven him mad. Hoist him, you gimpy shit."

He felt his body move as pain converted to shock. The illusions faded and he saw the puddle of blood forming at the dusty base of the cross. This is no Gallic meadow. This is Capua and you are sentenced to death for attempting to kill this city's savior.

You will never see Gallia again. You will never embrace her again. You dumb fuck.

The gladiators watched, some in amusement and some in disgust. A few sympathetic men shot quick glances and then looked away. Duro nearly vomited, but swallowed quickly under Agron's harsh glare.

He could hear the Champions of Capua so clearly through his haze as he felt death slowly cooling his flesh. "I will regain my position, Champion."

"And I welcome the attempt."

Segovax did not have the energy to scream again; he wanted to scream loud enough to shake the Gods from Olympus. Glory and position are of no consequence. The only thing of importance is a woman with dark red hair and sumptuous curves draped in the color he loved, the pale blue gown she wore the night he dared to kiss her for the very first time.

He thought he saw the woman in blue standing on the balcony overlooking the ludus; his eyes were already failing him. She met his eyes and he knew who it really was. He saw her blonde hair, the haughty tilt of her chin. Why did I place my trust in a Roman? For a fleeting moment, he wondered if she would speak to him.

He coughed and felt blood splatter upon his chest. Of course she will speak; she will admit to her actions, order them to lower Segovax off the cross and reattach the part of him that only the woman he loved could tame. His fingers and toes grew cold and he shivered. Then she would grant him his freedom. The chill crept into his arms and legs and he closed his eyes. Bersa would embrace him as his own son.

He could feel his heart struggling to beat in his chest.

At last, Hisolda would belong to him and Segovax would finally find peace.

More to follow!