A baby’s cry.
Grall was sure that’s what he’d heard. In the depths of the coliseum a person became accustomed to various cries of pain or despair. Prisoners, men broken physically or mentally, called out in the night. Spoils, the women given to victorious fighters to do with whatever they saw fit, cried out often. The beasts, crazed by captivity and seclusion, howled and cackled. Even Grall, though the proud young guard would never admit it, sometimes fought back tears that came in the dark. Over time, one could learn to block out the sound completely.
But the cry of a child, an infant, a sound that had no place in this world, could not be ignored.
Grall made his way slowly down the roughly carved stone hall, unenthusiastic in his search for the sounds origin. He knew what was expected of him when he found the child. His stomach clenched at the thought.
“I don’t need this.” he thought aloud, his voice barely a whisper. “I should be in bed.” In truth, only minutes before he had lain wide awake, willing dawn to come and give him a reason to abandon his tossing and turning. With the day came his duties; blessed menial tasks he could lose himself in, briefly forgetting his loss.
Grall had come to the coliseum only a few months before. He had been a guard in the city until he refused to participate in a drill using live captives. His protests changed nothing. The captives had died regardless and he had yet again angered his captain; the man that controlled his fate. As punishment he had been transferred to the coliseum, a post feared by guard and soldier alike. Far more than the danger and brutality, what inspired dread for the post was that, for all intents and purposes, the coliseum was a closed system. Be you slave or guard, once you entered it, you probably didn’t leave. He had begged his captain, promising him utter obedience. But for the captain it had become personal. Grall had made it personal. It mattered not at all that Grall’s young wife had just given birth to their first son. Neither did it matter that he would probably never see either of them again. Even if he managed to be one of the few to live long enough to see retirement, his son would be grown with children of his own.He had been all for packing their meager belongings and making a run for it but his wife’s
cooler head had prevailed, as always. They lived in the middle of the empire, two week’s hard ride in any direction from free lands if they had a mount, which they didn’t. She wasn’t yet recovered from a difficult childbirth, still weak and sore. Most importantly they had a brand new baby. In the best of times the road was no place to raise a child, and they would be in hiding. “No,” she had answered stoically through her tears, “you will go to the coliseum. You will send us your pay. I will raise our son.”