Catacombs of Darkness
A Gladiator’s Pit
The break is over, it’s time to head back to the briefing room where you will share your story of hell with others who have walked the underground catacombs of darkness. Laughing out loudly you boast of having no fear yet inside your heart, it is still pounding like a large drum in a parade.
This world consists of three kinds of persons. The living, the undead and the dead. There is another class of people who reside here in the gates of hell as well. They are the warriors and the gladiators. Each in their own, serving the purpose to maintain peace and order. So they call them the peacemakers and gladiators for the sake of knowing who is who in this underworld cemetery of darkness.
The maze never ends. There are no straight corridors except the main one which leads you straight to hell. There are many side corridors and each has their own purpose. Each has a large steel door with heavy hinges welded to remain secure no matter what force is used against it. Each has a wooden plank bridge that separate the cells with water where there are piranhas waiting to eat your flesh.
Some store cadavers, others store the living and down the far end, on the side corridor well hidden, there live the undead. The zombies created by the lack of sunlight and fresh air that is denied by the concrete around them and the solid walls of stone that keeps the cold and never sheds the environment any heat.
Each corridor has a chest with cell extraction equipment hidden inside it. Indeed, there are weapons as well as mace, masks and gloves to protect themselves from the infected. Each corridor has its own hazards and each hazard is well hidden from the outside world. Some are toxic and some are bio but regardless, each has its own risks.
Catacombs are complicated tunnels that lead you to evilness and darkness. There is no sunlight, no rain or snow but the frost in the air is often covered as you breathe the forty degrees of air walking these tunnels. There are keys for every door, no key is the same and each key is restricted and carried only when you are charged to walk the darkness.
You work in an area that is tainted, a place nobody talks about or even whispers at their dinner table. Not a secret by any means, it’s just so hard to describe, it is best left alone. Nobody cares where you work or what you do and when you are injured, you are taken by personal vehicle so your trip is not noticed coming from the underground stonewalled prison nearby this location.
You are headed to another cellblock, your rounds and tasks have been given. Each cellblock has a special purpose or designation. Some are living some are dead and some don’t seem to care anymore. Those are the dangerous one, those are the gladiators who will fight for the sport of it and the will to die.
The silence is deafening, not a word is spoken. You carry your sword and armor with respect and hold your head up high. This profession is often criticized and belittled by many who have no clue what these men and women do, so the secret is kept of the dungeons below and the darkness.
You reach for the key. It is a large one so it’s hard to displace or lose and makes a loud ringing noise if ever dropped on the stone made floor. It’s hard to lose it, you carry it close to you and every minute or so, your hand grazes the handle to make sure it isn’t lost or broken.
The key is your friend that allows you to enter or exit these darkened tunnels. Without it you are lost and stranded inside the darkness. The light you carry is recharged often but if the key is lost or broken, your light will eventually leave you blind in the darkness as you struggle to navigate these tunnels where the sunlight never sets or shines keeping it all in darkness.
Each round is like a game of chess, each walk is a temptation of power and glory as you walk the valley of death and surrounded by cadavers, skulls and bones of warriors of the past and gladiators that were broken in spirit and killed when they attacked the peacemaker inside the catacombs of darkness.
Open the cell door and you begin your journey to hell. Each is occupied with the living, the dead and the unbroken. Vile in spirit and vigorous in wanting death as the cell door opens, and the spell is broken.
You fight each time you open a cell, you battle each man who crosses the line that is in the sand but no matter how hard you try to keep the peace, there is always somebody ready to die and break loose from the leash. Some with lunge, some will jump and others will stalk you as you walk your journey of darkness.
Up and down the stairs these darkened catacombs are above the ground but still enclosed with steel, concrete and stonewalled floors. Your ears pick up every note that is spoken and your vigilance is high so not one bone is broken. You cover your head with a shield so the spit and feces don’t penetrate your eyes and mouth.
Nobody really knows why they toss this crap but the bio in them is enough to kill you or infest you with a disease that will eventually cause a long term illness and forever make you resign your role as a warrior and peacemaker and your spirit is broken.
Protection is desired and much more can be done to keep you safe but you handle what you have with what you are given to work with as the peacemaker of this darkness. You never fear the battle, you know that each day you walk the possibility is there that someone will try to kill you or maim you forever.
It’s the code of the catacombs and the code prevails when all other rules are broken. A culture that is secret, a way of life that rules this underground world with silence and traditions hardly ever spoken.
Damn the spiders and damn the scorpions that crawl along the walls and floors you walk in the darkness. They are both the enemies of men, they are both lethal and if they bit or sting you with their poison, you will eventually die and not a word is spoken. There is no remorse, no compassion for either peacemaker or foe, the world has been neutralized with violence and death yet nobody cares.
The audio gets louder, the voices nearer and the violence is imminently closer. Taking care of the spiders and scorpions first, your hands are clenched in a fist and the blade is close by but the heat of your body is offset by the cold in the air as your eyes stare for any of those who turn rogue and await a chance to kill you if you are near enough to be stricken with homemade weapons or shanks of steel made from the materials used to bed them, to enclose them and to restrain them.
Being careful is an understatement in the catacombs of darkness. There is no end to the violence and risks you bear when you shine that badge you wear. A badge of honor for some and a badge of power, to those who misunderstood their purpose here within the tunnels of darkness.
Your ear tells you the living are near, the footsteps inside the cells are pacing. Your awareness heightens as you walk the path that brings you closer to the cells as the circular stairway that took you to your path high above the others echoes your footsteps loudly and warns the living and the dead you are coming but the real threat are those of the undead who are awaiting your arrival to initiate battle if given a chance to strike out at you.
Each catacomb has a tier and each tier houses the will of society’s castaways and broken. Each tier serves a purpose as the higher you go, the less dangerous they are but in the middle, the routine is broken as there is a buffer of maniacs deemed to be mentally ill and barely alive as they lay there so still, comatose or unconscious, they serve harm to the peacemaker unless provoked by another crazy who wants revenge.
Revenge by the voices inside the head, who have told him to strike out and kill a peacemaker wearing the thin armor of steel, easy to penetrate if you can sneak up behind him and stab him between the ribs or neck where the flesh is exposed and the risks are higher than elsewhere to strike a lethal wound that may fell the warrior if not treated or taken to medical for treatment.
Being careful, the peacemaker makes his way up to the upper tier. The sounds below are still stirring with hate and voices. Voices that are mellow while some are loud and the mood of serenity has been broken. You glance along the side of the path, its narrowness is a concern not to fall as there is nobody there to catch you.
A peacemaker works alone most often when traveling these above the ground catacombs of darkness. There aren’t enough to fill each slot and the castle owner has just enough money to pay each warrior a meager wage to risk their lives and walk the catacombs of darkness.
You have reached the upper checkpoint and you open the large steel door that is see-through in design but hard as a rock with heave hinges welded on six spots of the frame. The door opens and you head in per the directions of your boss and your duties as the peacemaker in charge were voluntarily chosen.
Chosen to walk the paths of hell, chosen to keep the most evil and vile contained while others sleep in peace and never a word is spoken. A chosen legal custodian, a peacekeeper or guardian of the stonewalled prison, a badge you carry and a sword or blade that is your voice whenever approached by the living, the dead or those willing to die for the glory of being a gladiator chosen to attack the guardian as he walks the wooden planked bridge near the cell that sooner or later must be opened.
Careful not to step in the water, you are headed towards the most upper cellblock where the gladiators live and fight for either life, thrill, or devotion. You enter the checkpoint bare of any other officer and the line is broken. As you go through the doorway, a skull is seen as you pull the lever on the right side of the door, to open the gate ahead and not a word is spoken.
The words of your boss echo inside your head. He said “do not be afraid of those who want to kill you, be strong and use your blade to cut off their heads.” Speeches are frequent and often the message is the same, “us versus them” is the code spoken. Here and there, the will to fight is high when you enter the gates of hell high above the others and where death is hardly spoken.
A death up here has glory attached to the martyrhood for exaltation and celebration of death. There is an unwritten rule here about how these fights are conducted as the code was left behind a tier or so and here, all the rules are broken. Fighting here is life or death, its likely to be cruel and harsh but the environment promotes a death and the peacemaker’s will should never be broken.
The rule is crude but useful advice as you are told, never allow the gladiator to enter the cage in rage. Use the time you have to your advantage and make a move that will give you the leverage you need to be victorious of any attempt to strike at you or bring you down to your knees with blows from object made of stone or steel.
Each fight is different, each fighter has his own style and each has a pattern that could deliver the fatal blow if not aware of his presence or intent to strike first and strike you hard with a rage that often untold and unspoken.
Each warrior has a rage meter that determines the intensity of the strike or blow delivered from the moment to kill the other. This meter is inside his head and keeps his adrenalin flowing as the hormones rage to give strength when the battle is chosen.
There is one important note about fighting them as each time the blade ignites the strike, a head must roll in addition to any other damage or bones and ligaments broken. These attacks are fierce, they are meant to inflict pain and suffering and more damage that is caused by the evilness that surrounds these catacombs of darkness.
So the gladiator lunges with rock in hand, he attacks at will and sees a moment of vulnerability in the peacekeeper’s proximity to be harmed. In the other hand he has fire and throws the flaming liquid onto the armor but the fire goes out and the hand is sliced with the blade neatly striking it near the elbow and the arm is broken.
The rage increases considerably as the pain is numbed by anger and vehement force and devotion to kill the peacemaker. Each act of defense triggers a reaction, each reaction trigger another action causing the effect to stimulate both fighter’s adrenalin as hearts pound loudly with the best warrior to win this fight and the other spirit and will to be broken.
His best bet is to maintain a distance and use the blade to defend himself, he calculates and measures his distance staying just outside the gladiator’s reach. With every attack the melee escalates and moving in and moving out, the peacemaker’s will is almost broken for the attacker is fierce, his will is to die trying and by moving too close, his final blow misses the head of the peacemaker and the sword finds the neck and the neck is broken.
These close range attacks are very intense, they are no longer a two hit wonder. Each gladiator conditions himself for the fight and each night you can hear them doing push up and other exercises inside their cell as their will to win in unspoken. Depending on the weapon of choice they are using, they may strike at you three or four times before the charge is defended well, and the spirit is broken.
Close range battle or combat with gladiators is often but not at all spoken at the meeting of bosses or the dinner table at home. Depending on the fight, not much is said and if wounded or found with cuts or bruises and bones broken, a silent stealthy ride to the infirmary will be all that is said until a new day is broken.