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Political theater, Julius thought, disgusted. They were going to be slaughtered like dogs, solely so one senator or another could provoke some visiting Ptolemaic scion.

He glanced up at the patricians's stands, caught a glimpse of a tight-lipped man with kohl-lined eyes feigning disinterest in the proceedings while an enormously fat senator chomped gleefully on a handful of almonds, waving his support to the huge gladiator's grandstanding.

The truth of the situation wasn't lost on the other fake-Egyptians in the arena, either. Julius' team was a handful of green slaves who'd likely never touched a weapon.

But there was Judah, of course, the odd one out. The naked Judaean – Julius had accidentally destroyed his costume minutes earlier, in the heat of the moment – swung his spears in lazy arcs, testing their heft and totally ignoring the blustering giant at the other end of the sand. He looked up, almost as if he could sense Julius' eye on him, and shot him a grin full of mischief that flashed across his face and disappeared so fast that he wasn't sure he'd seen it at all.

Julius nodded in response. He had no idea what the plan was, but Judah was clearly up to something.

The fake-Egyptians made a ragged line in the sand, a sad gesture that only illustrated how poorly matched the two teams really were. And then it began.

Aristarchus strode forward, his blood-spattered gold armor blinding bright in the sun, and swung his sword down in a cruel snapping arc. "Hoplites, take them!" he ordered his team.

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