Chapter 15

Ben had an audience in the barracks as he threw his belongings into a pack. A social visit by his parents meant, out of courtesy and respect, a temporary move from the barracks to stay with them. Ben usually thoroughly enjoyed this privilege and valued every second he spent with his parents but he knew Bonetti, Marx, and company knew he was involved in the 'thing', as Rowan had put it. He really did need to be on the scene to handle any crap they decided to throw around, hence the rota rearrangements.

“Ben I know where the guest Villa is.” Creed reassured his General. “Anything happens and I'm straight up there to you.”

“Yes I know.” Ben sighed. “I didn't mean to suggest that you weren't capable Vespus. The issue of this treaty with Tibrae regarding Killian is bound to come up. As far as my parents know, all is well and flourishing here so they have no need to regard anything the government says with suspicion.”

“They won't believe any rubbish fed to them, Sir.” Rowan said. “They're professional people, as well as intelligent ones. There is no way at all that anyone could convince Lord and Lady Astrella that ousting the gladiators as neo-Athulan upstarts is a good idea.”

“I know that too. Any civil unrest here will put them in danger, firstly.” Ben fastened his tunic. “It'll also delay that treaty and further invalidate Toller's ability to do his job.”

“Well that won't take much. He's bloody useless.” Lumni observed.

“Yes he is.” Ben agreed. “But now isn't the time for his uselessness to be exploited and certainly not by a power-hungry warmonger like Bonetti. If anything kicks off now, my parents won't see any reasons not to back Bonetti. He's already trying to put me out of favour by trying to get me to react regarding Kore. I'm pretty sure my parents don't hold any bad feelings towards the gladiators but that's not to say they want half-gladiator grandchildren. Are you with me?” The men nodded. “He's making a situation that isn't there and will try and make it as sordid as he can. Sound familiar? Arsehole.”

“Just the shock value he's going for Ben.” Creed said. “As if the Lord and Ambassador would take the opinions of Bonetti as the whole truth when it comes to undermining their only son.”

“Shock will be enough if that pack of shits see it.” Ben stood and heaved a sigh. “I don't bloody well want to do this.” He referred to his outing to the arena. “I don't know what you two see in it.” He nodded to Creed and Lumni.

“If it's ran how it should be, it's a sport. The overseers do the job right Ben, there's no one killed and no one's there by force. They're athletes, and damned good ones too. The only time it ever gets out of hand is when pricks like Bonetti take over the show, shoving his nose in where he has no bloody clue.”

“Bonetti who's sent personal invitations to me and the old boy? I'd better get going.” Ben trudged towards the door. “So Kore never loses?”

“Not often.” Lumni said. “Tell Lord Astrella to bet on the time it takes her, not the actual win. She's so good that the odds are incredibly short. He'll make more if he goes for the time.”

“I'll tell him.” Ben said moodily and left to meet his father.

Bonetti, Marx, Pape and even Governor Toller were all out in pompous force at the arena and that sent Ben's mood even further down the midden. Herz Astrella frowned in irritation for the twentieth time as Administrator Bonetti sprang out of his seat, again, darted to the back of the balcony partition, then darted back. Ben had casually wandered back there to see what he was up to, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. That didn't allay his suspicions one little bit.

“Has he got rectal warts or something?” Herz's whisper was only marginally quieter than his usual booming tone. “If he knocks my dodgy knee once more I'll throw the fool over this balcony.”

“I think he's wet himself.” Ben glanced at Bonetti who was fidgeting in his seat. “Freak. So how much have you won?”

“Plenty.” Herz grinned at his son. “Splendid show this evening, I must say. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I wagered on the time for the champion fight, like you said. I'm looking forward to it.”

“I'm pleased someone is.” Ben muttered. “Here we go.” The entire arena got to their feet and cheered loudly as Kore emerged from the tunnel. Even Ben was astonished at her popularity here, and also how very, very, tiny she looked down there. She was very, very tiny!

“Ooo! He has an escort? Hell he must be good.” Herz enthused.

“Umm dad? That is 'him'. That's the champion.” Ben couldn't help but smile at his father's expression. “Your wager's safe, believe it or not.”

“Well I'm tending towards the not looking at the size of her opponent.” Herz nodded to where a perfect male specimen with oiled black skin, towered over Kore with a short-sword and a shield in his hands. “Ben? Isn't that ...?” Ben nodded. “Your Villa guest was the arena champ?” He blurted and Ben could tell by Bonetti's face that he'd heard.

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