Shadow's Folly

The night grew weary as the frivolous celebration for the gladiator games waged through the Roman treasury like a shark out of water. A mob of criminals had slaughtered Caesar's most elite warriors. Never had the people of Rome witnessed such ferocity, such struggle against death. It was unbelievable. It was outstanding. They wanted more, and at the apex of that desire was a man who seemed to defy the will of all the Gods. His name was shouted again and again by man, woman and child. Maximus, Maximus, Maximus.

The corridor was cold with the absence of political drabble and hollow praises for the emperor. A welcoming atmosphere for Caesar as he leisurely strolled through his palace. Now and then he'd hear the echoes from a bark of laughter or the flirtatious scream of a woman. He saw their faces. All smiling at him as they raised their gauntlets and drank to his success. He could do nothing as their friendly nods and kisses of congratulations played upon his vanity. But they were devious. They wandered about showing only one side of themselves, always one side of the coin. It was the cause for the dark thing that lived inside his shadow. Always having to look over his shoulder was something Caesar could not bear with any longer. It was his empire to command, and command it until the end of his life he was going to do.

"Enjoying the quiet brother?" Gold embroiled silk wrapped around her shoulders, falling gracefully from her left arm. In her hair, a tiara of green pedals and white flowers. The lady of his people was stunning.

"I suppose I am. But I doubt you've come here with the same likeliness. If you're seeking a pleasurable chat, I don't think I can give you one."

Her lips drew into a gentle smile as she walked closer. "Then it is not what I seek." She paused and studied his expression. "Tell me what troubles you and I will lend you my ear."

A gaunt smile crept on his lips. "You did not see?"

She frowned slightly, but he could see right through her.

"You saw Decimus in the clear light of day as he stood in front of me. You recognized him the second he took off his mask."

Her eyes shifted subtlety side to side and she half lowered her head. "Yes," she said firmly.

Neither spoke for a long while as distant laughs pierced through the silence. "And yet ..." Commodus withdrew his gaze upon her and breathed deeply. "He still walks. A general among criminals."

"You chose to let him live."

"No." He pointed to the outer wall. "They did. They stood on their feet and cheered not for me, not for Rome, but for him."

"They do not rally against you Commodus, only for the victor."

He stared vacantly at the ground. "For what is Caesar without his people."

There was only one conqueror, only one saviour of Rome. Every beggar, every family and every soldier would soon come to understand. By Caesar's will, all insubordination would be silenced by execution. The gladiator would fall like any other warrior of the games. For this is his will, the will of Caesar. It could not be undone.