Chapter Twenty-Three: Scars

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Duke was actually a pretty great professor. He was professional, engaging, patient, but for the life of me I just couldn't concentrate.

As he stood in front of the class lecturing about ancient civilizations all I could think about were his scars. How did he get them? Did he get them before becoming a vampire?

"Audrey?"

Duke was staring at me, expectantly, as was the rest of the class.

"I'm sorry, what?" I hadn't heard a word he said. Thankfully, he took it easy on me.

"I said, could you read the beginning of this slide, please?"

"Sorry," I scanned the projector screen next to him, embarrassed to be caught daydreaming, and read the header aloud. "Entertainment in the Roman empire."

"Continue," Duke prompted.

"Entertainment in the Roman empire varied, and included everything from poetry readings held in theaters to chariot races hosted in the Circus Maximus." I paused, glancing at him to see if I should go on.

Instead of looking at me, Duke turned his sights on the rest of the class to address us as a whole. "The Circus Maximus was a massive entertainment venue, twelve times bigger than the Colosseum. But we'll go more in depth on that later. Audrey, if you would continue, please."

I gave him a nod. "But perhaps the most brutal were the gladiatorial games."

I stopped again, having reached the end of that slide.

"Thank you, Audrey." Duke nodded to me before switching to another projection, entitled Gladiators. "Now, some gladiators were not always slaves, contrary to popular belief. Free men, some of whom were ex-soldiers, eagerly signed contracts with gladiator schools in the hopes of gaining wealth and glory."

He paused to give everyone time to take notes.

"But, for the ones who did not become gladiators of their own volition, more...savage methods were used to coax them into fighting." Duke looked far away at that moment, like he was seeing something the rest of us couldn't. The expression was fleeting, lasting only a few seconds.

Was that how he got his scars? Had Duke been a gladiator?

"Was it really like that HBO show?" A guy asked from the back of the class. "The one about Spartacus?"

I, along with the other students, glanced back at the student who had spoke before returning our sights to Duke.

He gave us a knowing smile. "Believe it or not, that show was fairly accurate, regarding the brutality and debauchery." Duke paused to pace the room. "But in regards to the number of fights a gladiator had, things were a bit exaggerated."

He went on to say that due to the injuries fighters often sustained, average number of fights were six a year (and that was a generous estimate), for highly skilled gladiators.

Once we jotted that down in our notes, Duke glossed over a few more aspects of gladiators before moving on to lecture about the Circus Maximus he'd mentioned earlier.

I diligently wrote everything down, not really absorbing any of the information. I was still having a hard time focusing. Not just because of Duke, but because I was hungry. I hadn't been eating well since arriving at the University, (given what had happened since then, no one could really blame me) and it seemed that was starting to take it's toll.

By the time class was dismissed, I'd had two full pages of notes, and an achingly empty stomach.

"You're hungry," Duke whispered to me as I walked past him.

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