I saw a tiger once.
My sisters and I had gone to watch the games, and before the afternoon combat, there had been a flourish of exotic animals released for our enjoyment. Local criminals were dragged into the arena, snivelling for their lives. The lions had been intimidated by the crowd, and scampered away from the bawling fools. Disgraceful!
We were very angry, my sisters and I. We wanted blood, and were willing to summon the man responsible for the craven beasts, and kill him instead. He had anticipated the crowd's displeasure and released his star attraction.
I will always remember that moment. The tiger was an unearthly white, too stark against the sand to be anything but divine. Its massive paws pressed silently into the sand, and its ears constantly swivelled with the lusty roar of spectators. Yet its eyes never strayed from the men and women huddled in the arena's center. It stopped, muscular forequarters tensed, tail twitching. There was a cold intellect at work behind those staring eyes.
The tiger had not been starved like the lions. It was muscular and full of curiosity, thick neck and regal head slowly turning and absorbing the spectacle. A moment passed before the criminals scattered like frightened birds, and the tiger exploded into motion, its ghostly fur rippling under the Roman sun.
It killed quickly and without ceremony. There was an elegant efficiency in every movement. That god-given beauty only a predator has after a successful kill.
At the time I had been transfixed by the animal's novelty. Its reason and ruthlessness was utterly Roman.
Now I can only see a kindred spirit. Aulus and the tiger, bound by the same muscled poise, the same cold, unforgiving intelligence.
Aulus steps back, wiping his gladius on the dead man's tunic. His weight shifts, and he stares at me from over his shoulder. The firelight outlines the powerful angles of his arms and face. His crest glows above his helmet, white as the tiger I remember.
"They were sent by your father," he says calmly, nudging a corpse with his foot.
I walk towards him, unable not to. I sheathe my own sword and stand at his side. The dead men are scattered around Aulus, their eyes shining wetly under the torchlight. He turns to me, his face as hard and pale as marble, and smiles.
To think, this man is mortal.
Aulus is the man. He just...pwns everybody.