A man dressed in clothing and armor of a Legion military officer stepped up to Ferrex. When the officer cast a glance at her, Catrin recognized Decimus with his evil smile.
Broiling with hate, Catrin stiffened and looked straight ahead at the fountain.
“Where did you learn how to fight?” a woman’s voice asked her.
Turning to the direction of the voice, Catrin found a young noblewoman modestly dressed in a white tunica and gray stola. Next to her was a white-haired man who looked old enough to be her grandfather.
“Wife, you mustn’t talk to gladiators,” he scolded.
The adolescent wife lowered her eyes, but her tone was defiant. “Why not?”
The thinly-haired man creased his brow as he yanked his young wife aside and chastised her in a hushed tone. The woman’s jaw clenched as she covered her head with a palla.
When Catrin turned her attention back to Ferrex, she observed that he was gone, but Decimus was striding straight at her with a couple of other nobles. She glimpsed his hand unsheathing the gladius at his side in the same way he had tested her after she was first enslaved. She instinctively caught the weapon that Decimus tossed in one hand. He laughed as the other nobles stared at her in disbelief.
“I told you she could catch the weapon without any warning,” Decimus boasted, extending the palm of his hand. “I win the bet.”
The two nobles grudgingly took gold coins out of their belted purses and placed them in the commander’s hand. One of them said, “Shouldn’t you take that weapon away from her now?”
Before Decimus could answer, the adolescent woman, who had previously spoken to Catrin, said with a commanding voice, “Give me the weapon.”
Everyone stared with incredulity as the young Roman wife stepped up to the pedestal on which Catrin was standing while her husband was pushing through the gathering spectators. Catrin at first hesitated, but seeing the defiant glint in the adolescent’s eyes, she reversed the gladius in her hand and extended the handle to her.
The young wife bit her lip as she eyed the weapon. She shocked everyone when she grabbed the sword by the hilt and extended the blade, frightening everyone within the weapon’s reach.
Her husband slowly walked up to her and said in a calm, even voice. “Give me the weapon. You don’t want to hurt anyone, do you?”
The young woman brandished her sword. “Try to take it away from me.” With the boldness of a gladiator, she lunged and thrust the blade within a foot of her husband’s chest.
Other women in the chamber squealed while men froze in shock.
The elderly husband walked slowly up to his wife, and he scolded her like a child, “Enough of this playing around. Give me the sword!”
The young wife puckered her lips and stubbornly kept the sword. She stayed focused on her husband as Decimus quietly stepped behind her and restrained her arms, yanking the sword away. He transferred custody of the young woman to her husband, whose face turned fiery red. The chamber filled with the clamor of high-pitched voices of guests as the elderly nobleman stomped out of the atrium with his young wife.
Decimus shot a nasty scowl at Catrin. In return, she gave a sly smile. He pulled her off the pedestal by the arm and slapped her across the face.
“You’ll pay with your life at tomorrow’s game for encouraging that girl to take your sword,” he threatened.
Catrin held her ground and declared, “It will be me who strikes terror in Rome.”
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