Sands Beneath the Fallen (ON HOLD)

BY : NeirahAhrai
Category: -Misc Anime > Crossovers
Dragon prints: 519
Disclaimer: I don’t own Fairy Tail or the characters of it. They’re copyright of H.Mashima. I also don’t own Spartacus or the characters of it. This is strictly for entertainment purposes. I don’t make money from the writing of this story.

An Important Author's Note Before We Begin: http://www2.adult-fanfiction.org/forum/topic/65257-sands-beneath-the-fallen-authors-note/


A Wary Purchase


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Damascus - 72 B.C

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“Vitus, father, please, come and walk under the canopy with us.”

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Old man Vitus stroked his long ashy beard thoughtfully before denying his precious daughter’s offer with the flapping dismissal of his calloused, tan palm. “Nonsense, Amena, I would dishonour Apollo himself for not basking in his glorious rays this day.”

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Amena’s smile was kindly trivialising her father’s actions as he spread his arms and soaked in the blistering Damascus midsummer heat. “And there he goes.”

.

“Your father hates me, certainly.”  

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Amena’s chocolate gaze fluttered towards her husband at her side from over her white veil. The strapping man had a disdainful look on his dark features that perplexed her. “Marianus, do not be ridiculous. If he did not approve of our union, he would not have presented you with my family’s legacy.”

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“Yet he will not be seen walking beneath shelter with beloved daughter and son-in-law,” Marianus defended with festering impatience. “He’d rather risk expiring from the heat.” Marianus flapped his arms to signal a rise in their shelter, filling his voice with agitated authority. “Higher, for the love of all that is holy,” he demanded brashly. “Not every person in current company is so insignificantly sized!”

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Amena curled her lips to the side in an affronted pout as she helped her slaves adjust their canopy to a more appropriate altitude. It was no fault of theirs that Marianus stood a head taller than the common Damascan man. She shuffled in front of her irate newlywed husband and delicately adjusted his garb. “Marianus,” she chided sternly. “You voice complaint as if they offer you insult. Let them perform their task in a way that is comfortable for them.”

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“The material dusting my brow is vexing,” he growled coarsely. “If this is the way all your slaves perform it is no wonder that good Vitus retreats into the elements.”

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“Perhaps his dismissal can be seen as a blessing in disguise,” she assured him tenderly.

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“Either I am blind or circumstance is a master of its trade.”

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“My poor, narrow-minded husband,” she crooned. “Let my father soak in sun to fill the void of the one he never had whilst you and I conspire to build you appropriately until you are ready to stand in its place.”

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“What would you have me do?”

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Amena took her husband’s arm and started through the bustling market to flaunt the union. “Expand your stock like any newly appointed lanista would,” she encouraged with a voracious smile. “My father has been taking me to this very market to monitor the slave trade for at least a decade. We so rarely go home with empty hands and a full purse.” She straightened and took them languidly down a familiar path towards the centre of town. Aside from the blistering heat, there was no need to rush. “Seize opportunity to stretch your legs and prove to him that his judgment was not misguided.”

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“Gratitude for the faith, dearest, but in case you have forgotten, I come from a long line of silk and spice trade. I have no eyes for such… beasts as the ones he has acquired.”

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Amena slipped her deep gaze towards him through her peripherals and tried to remain indifferent as he continued to offend her life’s passion. “Luckily for you, I do.” She raised her head proudly, a smug hum in her airy voice as she looked down her nose at their path. “It was by my hand that the finest, most profitable beasts of this house were chosen.”

.

“Such confidence.” Marianus smiled dourly. “It is a wonder you did not take one’s paw in marriage.”

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The couple shared a laugh. “My father could never associate you with the like,” she assured him. “He may feel rushed into accepting your proposal, but he will soften with time. As for my skills, they can be attested to.” Amena glanced over her shoulder to where her body slave trailed close to heel. “Neirah was the first slave my father ever allowed me to purchase by my own judgement. I purchased her and her Egyptian brother at this very market. And how do I fare? Neirah is my most trusted slave and her brother is our ludus champion.”

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“Perhaps it is not my wife I doubt, but the stock. How do we know that the slaves this day, if any, are worth the coin in our pocket?”

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“We do not,” she admitted. “But you will marvel at the rarities coming over the Mediterranean Sea. All the likes have passed through Damascus. We are a tad late in the day to shop wares, but it never hurt to try.”

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Marianus gave her a submissive smile. “Perhaps the ludus would be better left in your care,” he teased. “You have all the ambition of any man I have come across.”

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Amena’s hands clutched his arm tightly with a giddy smile. “Then see your hands do my will, and impress my father.”

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It was easy for Marianus to tell that Amena was delighted by the sight of the slave trade they encroached upon. She certainly was her father’s daughter. He watched her predatory gaze leer over their attributes like she was picking out the most prime heads of cattle. It was in her nature to do so.

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“A vast selection this day,” she mused. “Fortuna smiles upon us with plentiful bounty.”

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“A meagre showing of gladiatorial selection, however,” Marianus hummed bitterly. “Sickly boys, the lot of what they call men.”

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Amena rushed him along the lines of chained male offerings ahead of their auctioneer. “Neirah was a sickly child when we took her in,” she reasoned apathetically.

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“Yes, but Neirah sings songs and serves wine, she does not sever limbs from the bodies of able-bodied men.”

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Amena wrinkled her nose at the subtle dig towards her treasured body slave. “You speak the truth, but her brother Gazille was no better. Sometimes the fiercest of warriors are built from the most unfortunate of circumstances.” Amena’s eyes sparkled to rest her gaze on the final offering linked to the chains binding their selection. Their seller hadn’t quite made it down the line to him before she was getting a better look. “My word.”

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Marianus acknowledged the hulking presence before her warily. “Amena, do not be absurd,” he lowered his voice and turned away from the merchant catching their interest in the corner of his pending sale. He wrapped his hand tightly around Amena’s upper arm, desperate to draw attention away from her frolicking too closely to the particular slave. “Have you not noticed something crucial about this particular man? Perhaps that he is missing an eye?”

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Amena shook his arm away, knelt and observed the one calculating steel coloured iris that shot her way. “Not missing, just blinded. Perhaps partially.” She waved her hand out in front of the beast’s second milky iris and weighed his response. “Probably in large part to do with that scar over his brow. Poor thing.”

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“Poor th- Amena, these are slaves!”

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Like a dog lover, Amena showed compassion for all pets her house kept. “At least this one is able-bodied.”

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“And with one fucking eye.”

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“Find something that you fancy, good sir?”

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Marianus turned to face the homely merchant with an aggravated sigh. “To be honest, no.” He threw his arm out and scanned it up and down through the air. “But what can you tell me about this menacing mass.”

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“Well, to return your honesty, not much. In fact-” The merchant paused when he came to lay eyes on Amena in her sweeping white attire, her ebony hair shining in the high noon sun against her pale skin. “Amena? My word, child. I almost didn’t recognise you without your father on your arm. A vision, as always.”

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Amena smiled and accepted the kiss on either cheek from their grimy host. “Gratitude, Elyas,” she purred welcomingly. “In truth, my husband has recently come into possession of our ludus and is in the market for some able-bodied stock.” She curled her arm around Marianus’ and smiled her support.

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Elyas looked towards Amena and then back to her feet at the slave in chains before them. He then shifted his gaze to Marianus. “You are aware this particular item is with one eye.”

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Marianus was not nearly as impressed with the situation as his giggling wife. “To this moment, that is the only bit of knowledge I have yet to possess. Is there nothing else you can tell us?”

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“That seems odd,” Amena pondered. “Elyas is usually very knowledgeable on his stock.”

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“The fault is mine for accepting him at port, but the price was right so he boarded with the rest of the haul.”

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“Port? Which port?”

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“Ostia,” Elyas continued. “This head here is Roman.”

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Marianus’ brow creased in quiet analysis. “Roman? A Roman slave of his stature shipped off like this? Apologies, but that seems a tad suspicious.”

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Elyas shrugged. “The seller wished to remain anonymous. Said he was high-born of some kind crossed the wrong line. Probably made eyes at the wrong praetor’s daughter, by the looks of him. I’d wager his purchase price on that being where he lost the right one.”

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“There is a lot of uncertainty in your claim,” Marianus reasoned diplomatically. His expression grew vexed and calculated. “And even if he is the ablest body here, even if he did have unhindered sight, why should we put coin towards a Roman of noble birth who might be here in error?”

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“Marianus…”

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“Amena, this is ludicrous,” Marianus defended, throwing his arm out towards the fair-haired behemoth. “A Roman of worth being sold by an anonymous seller as a slave could be treason. If there is a chance that the empire might trace his purchase to my house, that is the last place I want him!”

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“Then leave him to another,” Elyas rationalized. “I was forthcoming with my experience of the man and just as desperate to get him off my hands. I would not have minded so much if he bore the mark of a previous master, but he has no such brand.”

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“Could you not ask him his crime?” Amena encouraged. “He is bound to know the reason he is in chains. He seems conscious enough,” she looked towards Marianus. “If he was wrongfully abandoned nobility he would be demanding patronage, surely.”

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“One would derive such a conclusion,” Elyas agreed humbly. “But the man hasn’t spoken a word in my presence.”

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Marianus circled in an impatient frenzy. “A half blind mute, entirely able-bodied,” he raved sardonically.  

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Amena clutched the tips of her floor length dress and stormed towards the prisoner despite the frantic men at her back. She reached out and clutched the man’s jaw between privileged fingers. “Open,” she demanded. Her expression grew impatient when the calculation of his gaze shifted but he remained defiant.

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“Amena, the last time I tried this, the brute near broke my nose,” Elyas cautioned.

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“Oh, by the gods,” she growled, digging her fingernail into his cheek and forcing his teeth to part. “Come down on me and it will be the end of you, slave.” She tipped his jaw to the spill of light from the skies of Syria. “He most certainly has a tongue, albeit a thick one. There doesn’t appear to be any swelling or scar tissue.” She stood above the man and released his face, backing up to her station. “This man can speak, he is just choosing not to. I would say that is a pretty good indication that he knows full well why he is here and that the strings that would see him home have been severed.”

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“Amena, a word?”

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Amena approached her husband in private conversation even though the harsh tone of his voice had her reluctant.

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“For whatever reason, your heart is set on this particular slave, but I encourage you to pick a different one if any. I have no faith in the circumstance of his purchase.”

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“Marianus, my father and I have been dealing with Elyas for years. In fact, a large portion of our villa’s slaves were purchased from him in the last decade or so. I have no reason to doubt him.” Amena spanned the selection of wares once more, her prime interest glaring back at them with a furious passion. For what, she had yet to determine. “This man has been entirely disowned. It is likely he has either dishonoured his house or another so badly that they forced him out. Now, imagine if we purchased him and trained him as one of our own. Imagine his return to Rome being a glorious one in the eyes of the crowd. Such news would travel fast in the eyes of the empire. Then, we are left with two ultimatums. The first makes us very wealthy. If he was indeed cast away by coincidence or mistake, it is likely that they will pay a great amount of coin for his return. The other sees us equally as liberated with imperial patronage. Imagine a father’s disgraced son returning home the hero of the arena, no, a god.”

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“Amena, this is a dangerous ploy,” Marianus warned her sternly. “What if he was abducted and sold without dishonour?”

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“By the gods, Marianus, look at him! Do you honestly believe that just any gangly slave barterer could force that beasts’ obedience!?”

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Marianus ignored his wife’s sound logic altogether to continue to spout pessimistic views. “And what if this man does not perform as a god in the arena?”

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“If he falls, he is no longer our, or Elyas’ problem.”

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Marianus sighed weightily and diverted his gaze, hating the sound, inarguable sense his wife made. “I can never tell if you hold a genuine interest in a man or if you are doing someone or another a fucking kindness. You are far too soft to be so beautifully manipulative.” He tipped his frantic gaze to Elyas in surrender, trying not to see the insult in his wife’s large and expressive eyes. “How much for the Roman slave?”

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Elyas tried to conceal the illumination of his gaze. “Fifteen denarii.”

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Marianus instantly shook his head and waved his palm to the man. Being raised in a successful line of merchants himself, he knew a thing or two about the coin in his pocket and where it was going. “Too high,” he commanded. “Any other slave in your line would cost eight at best.”

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“Any other slave isn’t as able-bodied.”

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Marianus almost growled with the way he was being sold his own words. “Most all the others have both eyes and speak when commanded.”

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“I will let him go for thirteen denarii,” Elyas haggled. “Because Vitus has been a loyal customer of mine for as long as I have been in my trade.” Amena smiled as Elyas raised her hand in his for a gentle kiss.

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Marianus declined. “You said that you received a deal so great that it made you take this Roman from home without a second thought. Ten denarii.”

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“A noble Roman with military training could hold a greater worth than my entire stock,” Elyas pushed.

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Another refusal from Marianus. “And we have to strip his training from him in order to start from the ground up. A Roman soldier is not a gladiator. Now, I am left with a half-blind mute in which I have to completely relearn for my purpose all because my naïve wife fancies him. If you cannot give me a more certain opinion on the situation, ten denarii is plenty for me to sacrifice on a potential waste and your profit margin should still be substantial.”

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Elyas seemed to think on this offer for a long moment before nodding his head and shaking his new clientele’s hand in a hardy embrace. A failed sale was not in his best interest to the heir of the House of Aelius. “You drive a hard bargain Marianus, but I would expect nothing else from an Atar.”

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Amena tried not to leap for joy at the thought of their new acquisition. “Neirah, take coin and see our purchase delivered,” she hastened.

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Marianus startled as he watched Neirah approach their host and pay him the sum agreed upon, moments before approaching their purchase. “You think it wise to send such an insignificant woman to handle such a man?”

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“Small, not insignificant,” Amena quipped back defensively. She smiled and watched Neirah’s elegant figure sweep through the crowd towards the Roman brute. “If I could speak plainly, my tongue would admit that I believe that Neirah is some form of enchantress. The way her song and dance fills our villa and soothes weary souls, I do not believe that even the foulest of beast would stand a chance against her whiles.”

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“If she was an enchantress, do you really think that she would allow herself to be delivered into a life of slavery?”

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“Why? I am not unkind to her,” Amena quipped. She watched Elyas drag a man twice his size to his feet. Neirah didn’t once tremble in her escort, seeing the man to their company. “In fact, if my dear Neirah were to come to me with teary eyes and ask me for freedom, it would only be my binding heartstrings that deny her. We were mere girls together. She brings this house great honour.”

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“Well, I suppose there is little he can do with his hands bound…”

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Amena offered him a wry smile. “My husband has little faith.”

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“I see no elevation in bringing a half-dead stray home to your father! The man’s opinion of me is fleeting at best. You may work miracles with slaves, I work mine with numbers; a fact your father seems to linger on in passing weeks.”

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Amena latched onto her husband’s arm beneath their sun shelter. “Well, I believe that this man will be capable of great things and I would help you coax them out of him. Apollo himself shines upon us this day.”

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“Well, you are your father’s daughter,” Marianus reluctantly encouraged. “Perhaps what makes you happy will also see his heart open for his son-in-law.”

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“Then put a sword in this man’s hand and see it swell with affection.”

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Neirah’s heart was in her throat as she stepped through the gates of the villa, their bound addition close by. She tried not to let on, but holding the key to his shackles was unsettling. It wasn’t the first time her domina had charged her with the introduction of their stock, but most slaves weren’t nearly as intimidating in presence. It didn’t help that they knew virtually nothing about him. He carried an ominous mystique that nipped at her heels in the heat of his lurking shadow. She tried to find comfort in the guards escorting them to the gladiatorial cells by the day’s dying breath, but in her heart, she knew that if the man behind her wanted to cause a ruckus, he would render their interference moot in an instant; shackled or not.  

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The olive-skinned beauty raised her hand and encouraged the men to step towards her into their gladiatorial housing contained within the ludus at the villa’s rear. “Right this way,” she murmured authoritatively. Even if she was small and insignificant in the beast’s wandering eye, she was elevated in her house and her presence demanded respect. She escorted them into the holding shelter for some of, what she considered, the most vicious beasts in Syria. Most of them had survived to serve their dominus for anywhere between a year and five. Her brother was in his tenth year of service to their noble house.

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“Here, kitty, kitty.”

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Neirah’s expression iced with impatience as she was catcalled from the bars lining her left side and separating her from the rest of the ludus warriors.

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“How about dancing on over here and mingling with the hounds.”

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Neirah’s expression faltered as the guards clattered steel against the gate bars to silence them, shouting orders as if they were a threat to the men barking on the other side. Laughter still rose above the clamour of iron. In an ill-conceived peek, she had let her gaze meet the worst possible glow of attention.

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“That’s right, you heard me. Come dance on me, kitt-”

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Neirah winced as the crack of the man’s jaw bounced off the duty stone once beneath his toes, the furious roars of her brother at her side.

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“Otho! Shut your fucking face, you Syrian piece of shit!”  

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“Gazille!” Neirah yelped in outrage, watching as their ludus’ champion pummeled the hysteric man clenched between his thighs. She took a step away as their new arrival was shoved behind bars at the end of the ludus and dismissed by the guards at her sides so that they could deal with the frantic Egyptian.  

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“You’re just pissed off that she has tits now and all the tongues back here want them.” Otho recoiled, concussed with the slam of Gazille’s combined balled fists as he pounded the man’s naked cranium into the hard floor.

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“Talk about my fucking sister like that again and I’ll feed you your own cock!”

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“Gazille!”

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Gazille’s lowly bound tail of onyx hair bobbed to one side alertly to the crack of his doctore’s whip the moment it latched onto his raised wrist.

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“That’s enough!” The brutish offender bellowed.

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Gazille snarled his retreat, dismounting the bloody, sniggering mass beneath him and spitting on the reprobate’s brow. “Fuck with me again, Otho and it’ll be yer ass,” he cautioned huskily. He shook his doctore’s whip from his arm with the redirection of his gaze.

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“See him to the medicus.”

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“See him to the fucking mines,” Gazille spat out vindictively.

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Neirah scooted towards the grate her brother lingered behind, allowing him to reach out and hold her face. “Gazille, you know they can do me no harm beneath Domina’s watch.”

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“She’s not watchin’ you here…” Gazille cautioned worrisomely. “In this scummy shithole, I’m the only one lookin’ out for you.”

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“Gazille!”

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“A moment!” He rumbled impatiently. He let his wary copper gaze slide to Neirah’s back and observe the silent brute in his cell. “Who’s the next unlucky bastard to step into my den?”

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Neirah’s sapphire gaze widened in alarm as she raised keys to her fumbling hands. “I- he is Domina’s latest acquisition. He will begin training with you on the morrow.”

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Gazille snorted his disproval. “Apollo blessed this one with all sorts of fucking sunshine, I see. Just another cock for me to keep in line.”

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Neirah wrinkled her nose and stepped away from her arrogant older brother. “I am glad that your sword is rumoured to be sharp as your tongue,” she chided, ignoring the tongue that was offered to her retreating backside. “It is probably the only reason I still have a brother.”

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Neirah slowly approached where their new addition had been secured in his cell, standing idly while she finished her conversation and returned to him. “Apologies,” she started gently. “Offer your hands.” To her surprise, the silent man obeyed, offering his shackles rather promptly through the bars. She turned her key in the lock of his shackles to free him. “Tonight, you will rest, and tomorrow, Dominus will introduce you to Docto-” Neirah’s brow furrowed as the man dropped his shackles and immediately turned his back to approach the furthest most corner of his cell from where she stood. He didn’t even allow her to finish her statement. It made her wonder if he wasn’t deaf too. Her gaze followed his drop onto the floor, one forearm resting on his raised knee as he denied her presence.

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Neirah swiftly blinked her thoughts clear, aware that she had very little control over the situation. “And tomorrow, Dominus will introduce you to Doctore. He then will explain to you all you need to know to serve Dominus.”

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A chill stole Neirah’s spine as the man shifted half a gaze to her, a stern warning in his unspoken expression. He had heard what she was saying, and he didn’t like it. She tried not to shudder as she took a step away from his cell and bowed her head in dismissal. After Otho’s introduction to the ludus, she didn’t mind the silent treatment, but she doubted that it seriously came with her brother’s threat. Their newest addition had no way of knowing that Gazille had actually severed a man’s cock from his body for laying a hand on her.

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Even so, she was sure that the man joining their company would pose her brother’s title a threat. He had a look of danger in his eyes, even the sightless one. If what his seller had said was true, he was once probably a very powerful and influential political party. He likely had no interest in a little slave girl.

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Neirah bowed her head to the guards at her side and had them escort her back to the villa to her domina’s side. She would no doubt be expected to entertain their house that night. She couldn’t afford to waste her thoughts on a snake with no venom.

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“A gladiator starting with one eye, a first, most certainly,” Vitus patronized. The condescending announcement forced Marianus to bite back his need to demand that Vitus’ daughter was the reason they returned from market with the three-legged dog.

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“He has both eyes, father, do not press theatrics. We have housed blind gladiators before,” Amena crooned affectionately. “And do you recall how feverish Neirah was when we purchased her? You had bet me she wouldn’t last the night.” Amena nodded her head compassionately to where a dainty woman with cerulean coloured locks served her a cup of wine.

.

“We purchased the girl as a pair and were stripped of choice,” Vitus corrected. “I have never seen a slave so distressed to be separated from another. It was a relationship we were able to mould to our purpose. The boy and his sister have proved to be of great service to this house over the years and that triumph has not gone unnoticed.” Vitus accepted his own drink from the woman catering to their conversation with a nod.

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 “I am simply asking you to witness the rise of sword in hand,” Amena reasoned, folding her long, elegant legs to one side of her seat. “I believe this man has an inspiring past. I, for one, believe he carries great fortune with him.” She tipped her goblet to her husband, encouraging him to help strengthen his purchase.

.

“It is true,” Marianus rumbled clumsily. “You should witness the man tower above rivalling stock. He is a full head taller than our current champion and equally as broad.”

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“A head clumsier and none the wiser to the dangers within his fleeting peripherals,” Vitus educated. “I hope you did not waste coin of substantial worth on this premature venture of yours.”

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“Father, be reasonable,” Amena cautioned. “Marianus and his fleet have brought this house great wealth. The man was of fair cost. Marianus even talked the price down significantly.”

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“Haggling my old friend Elyas, I see,” Vitus murmured dismally. “It may be a difficult feat, but the man is due respect. His prices are fair in the trade.”

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“Father!” Amena scolded.

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Daughter,” Vitus overpowered. “I will attend the unveiling of this man in the morning, but do not expect to bolster expectations.” He turned his gaze to Marianus. “Do not let my daughter’s kind heart sway you. She was once lucky with the choosing of this house’s champion, but the enterprise must be expanded upon carefully. This world is still new to you. I suggest you observe from afar in my final years and monitor the trade before delving into the pits of it to try and claim its name from the gods of carnage.”

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Vitus sighed and finished his wine, shooing their handmaid away with the empty cup. “I retire for the night. I would have fresh eyes to give voice to the many flaws I anticipate them to see from our newest addition.” He leant down and gently kissed his daughter’s cheek.

.

Amena turned her pitiful half-smile to where her husband glowered at his father-in-law’s retreating shoulders. “I know that look,” she mused tenderly. “Give him time. The adjustment brings him a great deal of stress. He puts a lot of faith in you to assume the mantle of the son he was never blessed with.”

.

“You could have admitted fault for this purchase. Instead, I feel I have been sabotaged by what your father calls your kindness.”

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“Admitting to a man of my father’s reputation that your hand was swayed by a woman would get you no further. He is a terrible hypocrite.” Amena adjusted her gaze to where Neirah’s presence graced them from the balcony and in her hands, was a fresh jug of wine. “Ah, my enchantress returns,” the woman mewled affectionately. She proceeded to sweep through her marble room, meeting Neirah and retrieving the wine from her grasp. “How fares our champion-to-be?”

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Neirah bowed her head, her teeth tight when considering the threat the new slave posed to her brother’s position. Even if her mistress was playing in high spirits, the thought still made her uncomfortable. “Well, Domina.”

.

“Has he spoken?”

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“No, Domina.”

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“Hm, unfortunate,” Amena crooned thoughtfully. “Perhaps he will take to discussion with the other men in the keep. Let us remain positive.”

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Neirah’s nod was meek and submissive as her opinion was seized. “Of course.”

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“Neirah, take Levy and see to the bath. My weary husband needs to soak away pressing concerns.” Amena smiled and sat across her husband's lap with a doting smile. “In fact,” she turned her gaze back to Neirah. “Adorn yourself in your finest jewels and let us see your best dance aid in his unwinding.”

.

Neirah bowed her head passively, her black leather choker hindering her dry swallow. “It will be done.”

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Amena turned her attention back to her husband with a supportive smile. “I promise you have never seen the like. Usually, we only dress her for the celebrations of the house. She is the wind embodied.”

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“Not even the strongest of winds could turn my head from where it is firmly fixed,” Marianus assured her sternly. He stroked some of Amena’s ebony locks from her face, his smile the lure for her chocolate gaze. “Perhaps the day has been obscenely trying. If that is the case, only better can follow.”

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Amena dropped her arms around Marianus’ neck and pressed her smiling features to his affection. The more adoring the wife, the less quickly her husband was to temper; something she continued to learn as the days they spent out of the public eye dragged on. “Oh, the contagious positivity.”

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“You radiate it, my sun.”

.


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“Is it true?” Levy tucked some loose strands of hair behind her headband. “Dominus purchased his first gladiator?”

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Neirah smiled and twisted her fingers in the bath to check the temperature. “Not entirely,” she whispered between the two of them. “Domina was the one with the eye for the man. Dominus is just as uncertain about his purchase as Vitus is sure to be.”

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Levy’s brow furrowed solemnly as she passed Neirah a jug of bathing oils. “And what… what of Gazille?” She anxiously coursed. “Domina thinks that this new gladiator has the ability to rival his position.”

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Neirah gently took the jug of oils from her friend and started to pour it into the bath. “Petals, Levy,” she encouraged. “I may be biased because Gazille is my brother, but I know he won’t be challenged so quickly. This man had his sight taken by battle in one eye. Gazille is tactical. He will find the man’s weakness and see him undone.”

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Levy smiled, grateful for the woman’s comfort. “It does me well to hear,” she whispered among the petals she released to flutter on the ripples of the mighty bath. “It-” She shifted her gaze to Neirah bashfully. “Our house has called Gazille Champion for a few years now, or so I understand… he… from what I gather…”

.

“Be at ease,” Neirah crooned with an understanding titter. “It is not a sin to fall in love.”

.

Levy’s crimson features dipped to one side behind her grin. “W-what a silly sentiment.”

.

“It was one my brother taught me when I was young, although the circumstance was different, the meaning holds value to a heart bound by it.” Neirah laughed at the thought. “I am probably at fault for telling all of these glorious tales. My brother may as well have wings on his shoes and iron in his blood for the way my stories of him rival that of the Olympians.”

.

“It does a hopeless fool’s heart good to learn that there is a tenderness beneath the breast of a warrior…”

.

Neirah’s expression grew solemn as she gently climbed to her feet and laid her hand against Levy’s shoulder. “He was never a warrior,” Neirah gently assured her, barely recalling a time when her brother was free to be the creative spirit he’d always hoped to be. “He is simply doing what is required of him…”

.

“Oh? Where are you going? Are we not to tend to Dominus?”

.

Neirah smiled back at her vaguely. “We will,” she assured her gently. “But I too must do what is required of me.”

.


.

Gazille strode through the ludus towards the end of the cell passageway where their newcomer was kept from dangerous company. Because he was of elevated stature, he had free roam of the ludus innards most nights. He assumed it was because his lanista didn’t worry about him and fickle attempts at escape. He was branded with the mark of Aelius, even if he did escape and leave his younger sister behind, he knew that she would be in danger and he branded fugitive. In truth, they were purchased together, they would serve until their deaths together. The promise of her safety bred him into a fierce and merciless warrior capable of the unthinkable. As Otho had experienced earlier that day, no bonds severed the one between he and his sister.

.

Gazille picked a brittle chunk of stone out of the floor, rolling it in his fingers in his crouched position before flinging it across the room into the cell that held their recruit. Despite the hint bouncing off his target, the man didn’t respond. Gazille’s heated gaze narrowed on him impatiently as he whipped another hunk of debris into the man’s cell.

.

Something that had been bugging him though, was the lingering of their new friend’s gaze that afternoon. Subtle, calculating, it was a big brother’s job to notice. Neirah was beautiful, and unlike the man in the cell across from him, he wasn’t half-blind. Both his eyes clearly saw an enemy in the making before they’d even been introduced.

.

“Open your ears, you ugly shit,” Gazille snarled. “Just because you only have one eye doesn’t mean it can look wherever it fucking pleases.” Gazille clamped his teeth together furiously and threw another large chunk of debris towards his inmate. “Are your ears broken too, you useless fuck?!”

.

Gazille stilled when the rock he heaved towards the man’s blindside was caught in his palm before it could make the same contact as the other two. His expression faltered with the unexpected shift of the man who crumbled the brittle sandstone beneath his grasp and dismissed the dust to the ground as he glowered back at the Aelius champion.

.

“Better,” Gazille growled. “Now that I have your attention, hear me well. You saw what I did to Otho, a fellow gladiator who bears the house’s mark. If you so much as turn the only eye you have in her direction, I will carve it out of your fucking skull,” he sneered beneath his breath. “The air might help some of this sink into your thick head.”

.

The man didn’t offer Gazille the time of day. Instead, he simply glared back at him through the dark cells with an unshakable air of confidence. This infuriated the champion until he lurched forwards and smashed his bare palms on the bars separating them. “Are you fucking hearing me, you filthy Roman fuck?! I will carve out your eyes and skull-fuck you with your own severed cock!”

.

The man turned away from the display of the rowdy champion, completely unfazed by his alpha display. He didn’t have the slightest interest in the woman Gazille raved about protecting or the walls that contained him.

.

“Gazille, a word?”

.

Gazille turned his bitter gaze away from where the newest slave of the ludus carefully watched the meeting between Gazille and their doctore. “I suggest you make it quick, Gallus. Can you not see I am welcoming our new friend to the ranks of the brotherhood?”

.

“You can welcome him tomorrow at the tip of your sword,” Gallus reasoned. “I come with word from your sister.”

.

“Neirah?” Gazille’s attention immediately piqued. “Is something wrong?”

.

“Of course not,” Gallus informed kindly. “She has sent gifts from the villa for the stress she has brought you this afternoon.” The older man almost snickered. “It had been a while since Otho’s last display. Domina had forgotten how defensive you were over your sister when she sent Neirah to the ludus with our new recruit.”

.

“And a fucking lively shit he is,” Gazille snarled. “He has yet to say a fucking word. This must be Marianus’ doing. Vitus and Amena would have never dropped this on us.”

.

“I am sure that tomorrow their reasoning will be made clear, but until then, I suggest you clean out your mouth in the presence of finer company.”

.

“She is my sister, Gallus, she has heard it all before.”

.

Gallus smiled and gently shook his head as he watched Gazille approach his privileged quarters. Being the champion had its perks. He slowly turned his gaze to where the man across the room was lingering in the corner of his cell. If it hadn’t have been for his large, confident stature, Gallus would have compared him to a frightened stray. “Slave!” He hollered in authority. “If it is acceptance you seek, I suggest you make your skills known in the morning during your introduction.” He sighed when the man no more than rolled his attention his way before dismissing his presence entirely. The act made Gallus’ blood boil. If the recluse were to become a problem, he would have no aversions to correcting his foul behaviour beneath the crack of his whip.

.

As Gallus left, one steel coloured eye pierced the night through the halls he engrained on his memory. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the information but knowing it was there comforted him in the slightest.

.


.

Gazille unbound his long hair at his back and ruffled the mane indifferently. His sister didn’t come to visit him in the ludus often, mainly because of the drama her presence brought. She was a woman, his cellmates were dogs, and Otho was right, every one of them had thought about it at least once. But Neirah was Amena’s eyes and ears when the domina couldn’t be present. Simply sending in their new addition with a pair of guards wasn’t good enough for her. It was one of the biggest downfalls to living with a bunch of thirsty men. Gazille had expressed his concerns to Vitus during one of his visits to the villa, but the old man wasn’t entirely convinced that keeping whores for the men on staff was a good idea. Then again, Gazille wasn’t great with words. Neirah assured him that she would speak to their domina about the matter. Perhaps she and her new husband would see merit in letting the men indulge every now and then. Not all the men in his company lived for battle.

.

He stepped into his shabby quarters to an unexpected sight. The woman in his room was not his sister. The woman was just as tiny but far more skittish in his moonlit midst as he stared at her with a vacant expression. “A-apol-”

.

“Apologies…” Levy rushed out her word first, bowing her head. “Domina sends wine. Neirah was going to deliver it herself but she is busy entertaining Dominus.” She could feel the heat rushing to her cheeks as she stood in the midst of a beast she’d grown to admire from afar, hooked on stories of his inner nature from Neirah’s lips.

.

Gazille reached out and slowly accepted her offering, afraid that if her hands trembled anymore fiercely she might drop it. “Gratitude,” came his weak retort.

.

Levy quickly raised her head and started for the door. “I-I shall leave you now. I bid you pleasant-”

.

Gazille reached out and captured her by the arm as gently as a man of his stature could muster. “I mean not to offend,” he started clumsily upon encouraging her back into his presence. “But I do not recall laying eyes on you before.”

.

Levy diverted her gaze and fidgeted in her lap. “I tend to the villa. Domina usually has me tidying, teaching the younger slaves language and literature. Truthfully, I have never before seen the inside of this ludus.”

.

Gazille offered a meagre attempt at a smile and stroked the strands of shoulder-length hair back that she was fondling. “Then welcome to my kingdom of piss and shit gihi,” he rumbled playfully, delighted when the little sprite smiled. “What say you to sharing drink and making introductions? I could use some intelligent company.”

.

“A-actually, I had better…”

.

“Then your name at least,” he teased. “If you are in the habit of conjuring excuses.”

.

Levy smiled bashfully as she was caught in her games. “I honestly must return,” she assured him earnestly. “Domina does not know that Neirah sent me in her place.”

.

“You needn’t excuse. I would care not to visit me either,” he pestered spiritedly. He had to admit, he was curious as to why Neirah had created a ruse to allow the woman to visit him. It was something he would certainly ask her when next they spoke. In the meantime, he settled for casually pouring himself a cup of wine.

.

“I promise, hastened retreat is not my intent.” Levy caught her gentle words behind her nervous smile, hoping not to give away any more of her secrets by babbling. “If opportunity presents, perhaps I shall visit again.”

.

“See it presented then,” Gazille crooned over the cup at his lips. He was careful not to lower his gaze from where it quietly observed her behind his cup. “And to my sister, express my approval for her-” He eyed the woman keenly and let drop some previously masked intent. “Gift.”

.

Levy’s ivory skin flushed as she stepped through his door. “I-it will be done.”

.

Gazille almost spit out his drink as he lunged towards his door and thrust his sloshing cup into the air towards her retreat. “Your name, woman!”

.

Levy was surprised that he’d chase after her, her astonished expression rosy with her infatuation. “Levy,” she offered humbly. She slipped her hair back over her ears self-consciously before scurrying away.

.

“Until opportunity presents itself then, Levy!” He hollered after her. He raised his drink to his lips and turned to face the maniacal snickering of Otho in his cell nearby.

.

“Figures, only the champion gets to fuck,” Otho brayed. “Just another reason for me to kick your ass, Gazille.”

.

“Fuck off,” Gazille snarled. He slammed his hand into the bars between them before returning to his quarters. “You would fuck yer own ass if you had a cock capable of reaching.”

.

“Jealousy speaks!” Otho howled.

.

“Save it for the sands you two,” Gallus scolded upon passing. “Tomorrow Dominus presents our latest addition. See that an example is set.”

.


.

Amena marvelled at the twist and sway of her body slave’s hips as the woman wove her lean figure through the bath adorned in the finest silks and jewels. The elegant white sheer may have barely covered her dark curves, but its presence flowed behind her body like starlight to the majestic hum of the harp played by her side. “Look at her, Marianus,” she whispered affectionately. “A vision, is she not?”

.

Marianus sat back in his bath, his arm folding around his beautiful wife. His expression was calculated as he watched his wife’s eyes shine affectionately for her slave. It was a sight he had never seen offered to his presence in her life. “I worry about you,” he warned as mock-tenderly as his tone would allow. “You harbour far too much affection for common slaves, this one in particular.”

.

“Just look at her,” Amena encouraged. “She is far more talented than other slaves of this house.” Amena quickly turned to the slave tending their bath, an uncertain rattle in her voice. “Juvia, see to more wine,” she ordered swiftly. “My husband’s cup has dried and it seems he cannot appreciate the finer things without such an influence.”

.

“Domina,” came Juvia’s monotonous mutter. The pale woman shifted around the bath in order to fill her dominus’ cup.

.

Marianus took a stern hold of his wife’s face, hoping to turn it from where she emptied her own cup and carefully watched Neirah’s performance unfold. “And again, you defend the slave against your own husband and master of this fucking house.” Once he had demanded Amena’s dark gaze, he continued. “Do you not see where my concern stems from?”

.

“With all due respect, Marianus,” Amena scolded upon drawing the wine jug sharply from Juvia’s delicate embrace. “Neirah has been in my life longer than you have. She is my most trusted slave.”

.

“A slave earlier you admitted to wishing freedom upon.”

.

“I was expressing my gratitude for her charms.”

.

“She is a slave, Amena,” Marianus demanded. “And she will do what the master of this house commands.”

.

Amena slammed her cup on the bath ledge impatiently, her tone slightly accelerated. “Of course she will. That is what makes her rise above all others. Her devotion to this house is unparalleled.”

.

Marianus released his wife with a look of sinister defiance on his features. “Then perhaps I should take a moment to properly appreciate her services.” Marianus sat forward in his bath and beckoned the young woman, near guzzling the wine he was offered upon his wife’s command. “You, slave, step forward. Into the bath.”

.

Neirah’s heart raced with uncertainty as her hips rolled to the slosh of the slow ripples her toes made upon her approach. She tried to keep her expression relaxed as the chain connected to her hips and nipples tugged on the sensitively erect nubs every time her weight shifted.

.

“Marianus, her skirt will be ruined,” Amena tried to defend while watching the milky silk dampen as Neirah approached.

.

“I am in the trade. We can easily replace the novelty you have so blessed her with.”

.

Neirah offered her domina a silently pleading look that Amena was incapable of responding to.

.

“Keep your eyes on me, slave,” Marianus demanded harshly.

.

Neirah’s sapphire gaze immediately shot towards her dominus in surrender, her cheeks rosy with the guilt of her silent defiance. When she was close enough, Marianus reached out and clasped the chain lining her tummy beneath a finger. He jerked on it indelicately, seeing the pressure force her to fumble into his lap with the restrained discomfort of him yanking on the clamps her naked breasts adorned. She did her best to bite her tongue through the pain and keep her dance unhindered.  

.

“What an unappealing palette,” Marianus observed. “Her brother has dark skin, dark eyes and ebony hair. This one has an even darker complexion, but her eyes are bright like stars.” Neirah was forced still by his rough fingers tugging at her elegant attire. “Her cunt matches the head of her brother, but that on her own seems to have been bleached by Apollo and highlighted with the blood of Mars.”

.

“Neirah is a very… unique woman,” Amena defended.

.

“I am not overly fond of your tastes,” Marianus interrupted in disgust. “She may move like the wind, but her body is too noisy to relax me.”

.

Tears threatened Neirah’s eyes as she was humiliated in front of her domina so vulgarly.

.

“My father always found her most appealing,” Amena murmured supportively.

.

“I am not your father!” Marianus roared with impatience. Neirah flinched between his naked thighs, wincing with the sound of his voice cutting over the gentle chords of the harp that didn’t cease its rhythmic pluck nearby. “To me, this slave stands no more valuable than any other and I would not have her treated as if she were.”

.

Amena snorted defiantly. “Well, it is your luck that sees her as my body slave and not yours.”

.

“Do not be absurd,” Marianus growled. “All slaves in this house are my body slave to do with as I please.”

.

Neirah shuddered in alarm as Marianus sat back and jerked her to her knees by the clamps on her nipples. She could see the panic fluttering in Amena’s chocolate irises, but the woman was helpless to protect her from whatever fate Marianus had in store.

.

“The only thing pleasing about this woman is the way the gods blessed her curves.” Amena winced at Marianus’ side as he wrapped his palm tightly around Neirah’s breast, squeezing the firm globe, pinching her nipple between her jewelled clamps and his pressure. “Large, firm breasts and meaty thighs supporting broad hips.”

.

Amena laughed uncertainly as she watched her husband’s mouth close over one of Neirah’s dark peaks. “Marianus, it is as if you were scouting a woman for childbirth.” Her alarm grew when there came no answer from the man indulging in the taste of her body slave’s flesh. “You said yourself, she is of a most unappealing palette.”

.

Marianus had a lustful presence in his gaze as he shifted it over the jewelled bosom of the slave in his lap. “That does not mean that, given a room with weak lighting, she would not bring pleasure wrapped around a man.”

.

Neirah tried to steel herself to the presence of her dominus’ fingers smoothing between her thighs beneath the water to part virgin lips with intention.

.

Just as Marianus was about to thrust rough fingers between her thighs, Amena made her strategic advance into his lap. “Oh my,” Amena crooned affectionately, swiftly brushing Neirah aside. “Now my husband has gone and had too much wine.” She quickly shot Neirah’s trembling figure a stern gaze to encourage her retreat.

.

Returning her gaze to her husband’s, she smoothed her palms over his chest and ground her hips against his hard cock. “To think he would prefer a poorly shaded whore to his wife’s loving touch.”

.

“I have made you jealous then,” he purred into her bust.

.

Amena arched the naked mounds into his hungry kisses. “I could never be jealous of a slave, husband.” When she was sure Neirah had left the room, she leant back in her husband's lap and forcibly smiled down at him. She would make note that her husband was an abusively lusting drunk for furtherance. “Now let us retire so you might bed a proper woman this night.”

.


.

In the slave quarters where Neirah trembled among her fellow villa slaves, Juvia slowly approached and brought Neirah’s head to her shoulder. Juvia had been in service to the House of Aelius for almost as long as Neirah had, but the difference was that Juvia had let servitude numb her to any and all transgressions of their masters.

.

“Juvia is sure things will be alright,” the woman muttered in soft, repetitious tones. Nobody was quite sure why Juvia spoke about herself in the third person, some said she had been in council with the gods at one time and possessed a divine spirit inside her who spoke on her behalf, but Juvia’s mystique never bothered Neirah. She still looked to Juvia as a dear friend and sister in the light of the cruel fate they had been dealt. If nothing else, Juvia had served the Nile and knew of the hardships that Neirah and Gazille had to face before being bought by their domina. Her empathy comforted Neirah.

.

“After Vitus departs this world, it is possible Domina will lose all control over Marianus’ ambitions,” Neirah whimpered frightenedly. “Domina had never been unkind to us, Vitus always boasted superior slaves above common whores. It is why he never gave us to the gladiators the ludus keeps. We are pure…”

.

“Dominus had much to drink this evening.” The lifeless Juvia clasped Neirah’s head tight to her breast with a soft sigh. “Juvia thinks we must put faith in Vitus. He would not have allowed Marianus to inherit his legacy if he thought he would tarnish it.”

.

Neirah closed her glossy eyes, tears streaming over her tattooed cheeks. “Everyone makes mistakes,” she whispered meekly.

.

Juvia closed her eyes and tried not to display her own mistrust to her frantic friend. “Then let us put our faith in our domina.”



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