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The Celtic Derby Is Decadent And Depraved: A Match Report By Cetus Jacsonius.

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I got out of my litter and looked up at the sundial.

The shadow had crept across the polished stone and was cast across nona hora, Ninth Hour. The games were about to begin. My guide was waiting for me, a tall man with a military bearing. Beside him stood a slave holding a flabellum, moving it softly to create a current of cool air.

“Are you ready my friend?” he asked me. “Have you had a drink?”

He produced a canvas wrapped container and handed it to me.

I took a deep drink, and regretted it instantly; the liquid produced a furious burning in the back of my throat; I grasped for my own flask of water and he laughed. “Here,” he said, “we drink like men. You will see. Come and see.”

As we moved through the crowd he sniggerd. “You are the writer they call The Jackass eah?” I ignored that. Bastard.

This was my first time in Gallia Celtica: I felt a long way from Rome. Although called The Celtic Games, my host assured me that these were still held under the aegis of the emperor. But here we were under the rule of the proconsul, Gaius Rodgerus.

Still, I was impressed. The gigantic stadium in front of me was suitably grand, a colosseum in the style of the great one in the imperial capital. They call it The Summer Lands, Orbis alius, the Otherworld. My host told me they refer to it as Paradise.

For all the grandeur, I did not like this. I did not like any of it, if truth be told. As grand as that stadium looked, it was intimidating. My own background is far away from this, far away from Rome if truth be known, in the Sevconia Lowlands.

This is why I had travelled to this place, to witness an unusual spectacle, and to take a report back to my people.

We entered the vast stone structure and mounted the steps, emerging into a bowl-shape which looked even grander from the inside. I looked across the crowd; exuberant, drinking, whooping themselves up into excitement, and shuddered.

And then I gazed down onto the floor of the arena itself, and I saw a man in the centre of the vast empty space walking up and down, pacing to and fro; his profile clear, the strong nose, the proud features, the lion-tamer, the master, the proconsul himself, Rodgerus, also known as The Invincible after his animals had mauled their way through an entire summer of games without losing as much as a tooth. He had a fearsome reputation, and so did his beasts.

This was a killing field. But I felt confident that today there would be some killing no-one expected. I was there to watch as Sevconia’s newest hero, the trainer from Belgae, the one they called Clementus, put out a team of gladiators the match of any the empire had ever seen. They would give Rodgerus more to deal with than his lions could handle. I was sure of it.

The first shock of that long hot afternoon came when we were handed the wax sheet listing the program.

Clementus had chosen a handful of men I had dearly hoped never to see don our colours again. Some of them had faced Rodgerus and his lions before; Tavernius had been so badly mauled by Madeus, the small quick lion they called the Tiny Terror that I thought the scars on his backside would never heal.

And what was the purpose in allowing that shambling barbarian Lundstrus to embarrass Sevconia more than his blundering about at previous games already had? He had already been freed; he was going, this was to be his final appearance, and it seemed obvious that having him there was ridiculous.

The same could be said for the easterner they called Barisicus … when he had last appeared at The Summer Lands he had allowed his flank to be breached by Rodgerus pack so often that an entire team had been torn to pieces.

Clementus had vowed to bring back the pelts of all Rodgerus’ most fearsome beasts, and had suggested he might even provide the impetus for a local uprising that brought down the feared proconsul himself.

Talk, all of it, and I was unimpressed.

Before this game had even begun, I was fearing the worst.

The gladiators of Clementus emerged from the tunnel to a wall of noise; chants, whoops, drums banging, torches being lit and throwing up dust and smoke. I could see him up there in the grandstand, Clementus himself, his own features standing out.

Rodgerus, now in the imperial box, refused even to look at him; these two had exchanged plenty of insults in letters at the beginning of their rivalry, but what bothered the Belgae most now was Rodgerus’ utter indifference to him. He thought of him the way you might a beggar in the street.

The gladiators had shields and armour. Short swords. Defensive equipment, for what else could you do against the fearsome foes that were about to be unleashed but sit back and simply try to survive? I had never been here before, but I knew the stories of past Games.

I knew that no gladiators from Sevconia had emerged from here unscathed in years.

The crowd noise was deafening now, as the gates all around the belly of the arena opened and the lions of Celtica streamed forth; Rodgerus got to his feet and started applauding as the first harassments started. His lions moved in, probing for a way past those shields, and then backed away from the swords, to circle and renew their efforts.

I knew how this went, I had seen it all before as other Sevconian gladiators had fallen in quick succession, some to Rodgerus and sometimes to other proconsular leaders in faraway lands. The key was to try and hold discipline as long as possible, but what invariably happened was that someone like Tavernius, who could kill in the arena as long as he had every advantage, would break into panic, turn, run, expose the flanks and the lions would be in behind the shields and ripping people apart.

That was how he got his famous scarred arse; running from the lion Madeus, whose nimble form and quick claws had turned his retreat into full flight, tearing his backside to bloody ribbons in the process. He was a coward, and cowards eventually broke and that caused disaster.

To avoid it, Clementus’ gladiators had been fortified by new warriors; the theatrical Silvius, the reputed strongman Diomandus, the brutal Desserius … all interesting additions, all beloved by Sevconian scribes, but they had floundered at times in arenas across the land, and it made me decidedly nervous for an occasion such as this.

And my fears were not unfounded; it was the shambolic Lundstrus whose concentration broke. He dropped his guard for a moment, and the lion Orielus was past him and behind the shields and the swords, clawing, biting, ripping. A gladiator went down, his throat pumping blood, the front of his leather tunic shredded and the crowd, those bloodthirsty bastards who lived to see Sevconian’s slaughtered on whatever field, were raucous.

They cheered. They danced. They beat their war drums.

Bodies littered the arena floor, ripped limbs, chunks of flesh, weapons who no longer had owners lying amidst the carnage, the blood on them that of the men who had held them; not a drop of blood had been spilled by those swords, which may as well have stayed in their sheaths.

The gladiators regrouped, as Clementus’ shouted and gestured and tried to organise them. His bald head gleamed with sweat and not just from the summer sun. He had made promises, damn him, and here we were, watching another routine slaughter. I turned to look at Rodgerus.

His expression was typically regal, impassive, but his eyes gleamed with pleasure; how I hate that smug face, which adorns coins across this province and which seems to mock Sevconian travellers who have the misfortune to see it painted on walls across the known empire.

And even as they were regrouping, what I had feared I’d see happened all over again; Madeus, the slender but savage beast with the speed of lightning itself spotted Tavernius and ran towards him; he turned, as he always did, his sword falling to the floor, that fat arse of his making a tantalising target for Madeus’ quick claws.

I expected him to be caught, and torn to pieces this time, but to my horror it was Lundstrus who caused the carnage; he got himself into a dreadful state, panicking, his broadsword swinging wildly, and I saw another gladiator’s head come flying off, blood spurting, the body falling, the rest of the men screaming; I don’t know it if was in anger at the idiocy of that hopeless, graceless fool or with panic at what might happen next.

But Desserius stepped out of the throng and struck with his sword; a single lion leap back, squealing, blood running down its fur, and for a moment it looked as if there might be a turning of the tide. And then Lundstrus, in a pathetic attempt to make amends, shambled forward, trying to strike a blow of his own, and he tripped over his own sandals, his thrust out of control, and it ripped the hamstrings of two men in front of him as he fell.

He was eaten by two of the brutes as he lay there flailing haplessly; good riddance to him. I only wish that more of those pathetic men who call themselves warriors had been dispatched along with him. They continue to embarrass all of Sevconia with their antics.

At one point I spotted the prancing pretender Cantellwus; he who claims to be so brilliant with the sword, but who keeps his hair impeccably clean and who tiptoes around the arena trying to stay just out of range of anything that might give him a scratch. He was not out on the arena floor; he was in the tunnel, peering through the closed steel gate. Even Clementus knew better than to put that dancing poser into a slaughterhouse like this; oh, but I wish he had. We might be rid of the idiot.

The rest was awful, and I observed all of it from the stands full of hollering, cheering, bloodthirsty Celts, whose joy at the savage slaughter was perhaps the most appalling thing of all. Sevconian crowds would never react this way, in spite of reports in other provinces which say that they are easily the most shocking and obscene. That is Celtica propaganda, spread to smear us. The whole world seems to be against us at times.

This includes those men who step up claiming that they will represent us, and especially those who claim that they can challenge Rodgerus and his monsters, none of whom ever lives up to the promise, none of whom ever offers more than token resistance once the drums start beating and the lions roar.

As I left, I heard a familiar chant start up; it was the Celts, delivering to Clementus one final dire humiliation and a dark prophesy;

“Ate in the morning,” they sang. “You’re getting ate in the morning.”

It is the fate the provincial leaders of Sevconia have bestowed on a many a captain before him, to be fed to ravenous beasts in the cages of our darkest fortress, Ibrox.

It is a fate that none ever escapes, and especially those who have had the arrogance to think they can defeat Rodgerus in his colosseum, which the locals call Paradise and which I would call nothing less than Hades come to Earth.

It is the theatre of nightmares. I hope I never have to return.

(Some article ideas are so obvious they almost write themselves; Clement’s mad comments about coming to the Colosseum were begging to be mocked but it was actually my mother who suggested this piece yesterday when she sent a message saying “the gladiators have been eaten by the lions.” So kudos to her for that! The title of this piece is a reference to Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved.” In the absence of a “Fear & Laothing” – so far haha – it seemed the least I could do! And since I hadn’t written a Jackass spoof for a while this seemed like a good one!) 

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  • Tom Dolan says:

    Loved it,breath of fresh air.

  • Cyril Donohoe says:

    Grt stuff James

  • Slugger O’Toole says:

    James,are you okay?

  • Tom McP says:

    As proclaimed by Brendan Rodgers
    Veni, Vidi, Vici

    • SFATHENADIROFCHIFTINESS says:

      You’ve surpassed yourself here.

      When and where are you holding your Triumph?
      Remember your Imperium. Two more skirmishes to go before you can cross the City
      and piss on the Temple Gates to the Lodgeous Masonicus Hunnus.

      Hail Jaime. Laudo, Laudas , Laudat Laudamus, everyone sings your paise.

      N.B Fifty five years on and my Latin is as bad as ever.

    • Charlie Green says:

      Although doesn’t sound quite as majestic when spoken. i.e. weeni, weedi weechi
      Better descibes the Sevco’s midfield? No?

  • Charlie says:

    Superb !

  • BhilltheTim says:

    Cetus Jacksonius – Jackson the Whale??

    • James Forrest says:

      Sounds right lol

      • Jim M says:

        And thus , the age of the sevconians were erased from the annuals of time , no more were there pestilence in the land of the victors , clitorus , previously known as clementus and the rest of the fandanians were cast to the pits of hades to once again burn in the fires of hell, the day of the Hun is over , long live the Republic, All Hail Rogerus the Remarkablus

  • Kathleen says:

    Absolutely brilliant James
    Great writing as per usual

  • Bunter says:

    You are definitely wasted James. So good mi amigo verde!

  • Eldraco says:

    Not bad not bad at all. Now go see megalopolis when it comes out.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Tavernierus ! Ha Ha – Very witty indeed James…

    Especially since he’s never been near us since he walked in the door at Liebrox !!!!

    Long may that last !

  • Michael Paterson says:

    Absoluteus hilariousum. Hail Hail

  • Effarr says:

    A “reliable source”, as someone keeps saying, informed me that when Clementius arrived
    back homeius in his charabangus he declared, Veni, Vidi ego got percussum.

    What about Nemo Me Impune Lacessit as a motto for the Celts, or, as in the local vernacular, “Wha daur meddle wi` me”?

  • Peterbrady says:

    What is the name of the top literature award I will nominate you James. Glorious.

  • Magua says:

    Quality writing, James. A really enjoysble piece.

    Hail Hail.

  • Gerry says:

    Hail to your motherus ? what a brilliant suggestion I enjoyed that immensely at school I always enjoyed history and in particular learning about Roman history and culture my history teacher was a certain Mr mullen at st.maggies in castlemilk so that gives my age away sitting enjoying a coffee in my favourite haunt so much so I’m going to have another skinnius lattius ?(sorry) a great read well done mum ?

  • Paul McDermott says:

    Brilliant stuff Keep it coming James

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