The Servant's Salute
The laughing of the masses was loud enough to shake the remaining orange hairs on Gratae’s head. The noise intensified when Emperor Partho threw a broom into the arena.
The Empresses commanded her gladiator into the field. A year ago, Gratae had been the one answering her orders. One night while cleaning her chambers, she even drunkenly ordered the old man to bed her down. He had been the families’ chief custodian for two generations and would be humiliated to turn down any of their requests.
He picked up the broom and sized up the approaching champion. With two steps to go, Gratae broke the broom over his knee and drove the sharp end up into the gladiator’s exposed armpit.
The crowd was mute as the next three gladiators advanced. In the moment before they ended him, Gratae stood defiant and pointed the bloody broom at the orange-haired baby in the Empresses’ lap. A final salute from his true father.