Then we stopped. Everyone stopped. There came a noise so startling, so magnificent, that those who heard it were compelled to seek it out, their eyes drained of will, filled with terror. If there was a herald to announce the eruption of a volcano, if the gods trumpeted a warning before the earth split apart and solid ground became as jelly, this was that noise. It was the sound of despair. It was doom proclaimed in a register so low with so many discordant voices the rain itself lost hope and abated. Malchus was first to regain himself and shout for us all to resume our flight.
The best gladiators are inured to distraction. This sound was curious, but no immediate threat to the retiarius. He turned to look behind him, saw nothing and returned to the task at hand, the task assigned to him and paid for by Velus Herclides. He hefted his trident, shifting it ever so slightly in his upturned palm to settle in that well-worn place of perfect balance. In that moment, flesh and black ash and iron were all as one. Malchus, protecting our rear and retreating backwards up the hill, made a large and unavoidable target. Thirty feet separated the gladiator from Drusus. Another sixty lay between my friend and me. I pushed Livia up the hill and ran the other way.