I'll apologize for the groaner of a pun. You guessed it, I'm one of those kids from high school you couldn't take anywhere because I'd find the puns and everyone would groan. I hope that won't turn you off Michael Grist's Bone Diamonds. The story isn't for the squeamish, and I think that's why I like it.
I've rarely seen the horrors of a society so quickly captured as that done in the bone diamonds. It's set in ancient Egypt-like world where Pharaoh's rule and their "Olympic" games involve chopping off the legs of those who've annoyed the Pharaoh, placing them in an arena, and flooding it with water. A single pole stands in the center of the arena where the unlucky athletes struggle to be king of the pole.
This scene along with the others makes it obvious that one doesn't want to cross the Pharaoh. Unfortunately, life in this ancient world isn't easy and the protagonist finds it difficult to thread a life that won't kill him. I like how the crucible of this world pushes him to do things I wouldn't accept as moral, but I understand why he does them.
If this whets your appetite, you can find the story published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.