Heaven's Rain: Blood of the Heavens

BY : InfinitNei
Category: -Misc Anime > Crossovers
Dragon prints: 1699
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.

Heart Song


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The rattling of prison bars upon entry had fresh stock’s gaze rising inquisitively. “You, slave,” Gallus rumbled fastidiously. “It is time to pull head from ass and make introductions.”

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The elder man of late thirties tried not to show intimidation for the rise of the man once at his feet. Gallus was a veteran of the arena, bearing scars aplenty, but this man didn’t once shudder or hesitate before him. His grizzled, tan brow creased impatiently for the unspoken threat of their newest addition’s threatening body language. “Understand something, pup. You have stepped through the gates of Aelius. The only way out is to send the ashes of your body to the heavens and pray to Jupiter that it doesn’t rain that day.” Gallus narrowed his gaze on the unfeeling youth curiously. The man had yet to do more than offer his venomous gaze Doctore’s way.

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Cutting the gaze of his cloudy eye, was a rather deliberate scar that had long since healed. It seemed like time had stretched the mark with the lines of the young man’s face, but the symbol was unmistakable. “Tell me, of the scar you bear,” Gallus instigated inquisitively. Bitter or not, the man before him was a slave and one expected to speak when addressed. “Perhaps it is self-imposed. Perhaps you gave the sight of your right eye to the god-king himself in exchange for mercy, wisdom?” Gallus stepped into the man and glowered back at him confidently to assure him that he was just as unaffected by the ruffling of feathers as his company. “Tell me, did he heed your prayers to whatever end?”

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One cold and calculating iris glowered back at Gallus, constantly scheming but none externally any wiser; none but Gallus. He could see it, the way the war-torn man watched his every reflex, observed his every involuntary tick in a focused scan. He recognized the technique because he’d used it himself. After a moment of eye contact, the involuntary recruit slowly rolled his gaze to one side and left his doctore in the blind corner of the murky iris on his right side.

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Infuriated that the man was so secure that he would, quite literally, turn a blind eye to his Doctore, Gallus took a stance behind the brute and beat him forwards with his heel. “Move, slave.” Despite the young man’s defiant sneer, he obeyed, allowing himself to be ushered out of his cell and into the training yard.

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The sun was bright enough in comparison to his cell to make him squint and curse the sun god himself for insulting his weakest sense. The clatter of timber knocking around in the sand his fellow gladiators raised milled on his nerves that sought release from the tension brewing inside him. Curiosity is what saw his attention climb to the balcony that lined the sand pit beneath, on observation dock, clearly; and currently lined with the power behind the house of Aelius.

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His gaze shot to one side as Gallus snapped his whip through the air and hushed the clamouring with the bellow of his voice. “Gladiators! Attend!”

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Gazille meandered in a predatory circle, just waiting to sink talons into the new meat. From what the Roman could tell, the man still held a grudge over an imaginary slip of the gaze. But his gaze didn’t slip. His sight was far too precious to waste on anything that didn’t suit his purpose. The curvaceous Egyptian slave may have held value to his purpose, but it was far from what her brash brother expected, of that he was certain.

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Gallus’ voice thundered to be heard by all in the company as he presented their newest addition. “I bring forth the will of your Dominus. A Roman man purchased at yesterday’s market. A man who believes that his silence will intimidate us.” He held out his hand to direct their combined attention to the unenthused brute. “Are you intimidated?”

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Their newest addition nearly winced with the sound of their defiant, synchronized roar.

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“I thought not,” Doctore mused outwardly from behind an energized smirk. “We have eaten meals more frightening than the sight of a Roman slave.”

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Their Roman scanned the area with a curt scoff as the men around him burst into laughter. Vitus’ disproval of his circumstance did not go without notice.

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“We are gladiators!” Proud cheers met Gallus’ roar of defiance from the swarm of diluted fools. “Our hearts are hardened by battle and circumstance to the threat of brooding wrath or flesh touched by the gods themselves. For we are all gods in the eyes of the arena!”

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“Well, I don’t know about Otho.”

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“Gazille!”

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“Gihihi…” Gazille turned a wickedly sinister smirk to where Otho offered him an erect middle finger for his puckish announcement.

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“The circumstance of one’s creation in this world is irrelevant here! From here on out, we forge our own path! A path to glory!”

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Another roar of concurrence.

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“Sword!” Gallus demanded. Gazille offered the timber of his left hand to his doctore by lobbing it to the sand at their latest arrivals feet.  

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The man looked down at the sword as Gallus continued.

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“If nothing else, I am given to understand your hands work, if not just to stroke your own cock.”

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Another bray of laughter from seasoned gladiators around him as he picked up the sword like it was a joke.

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“Now, they will be used to bring honour to this house. Anything less than this will see your life forfeit in the arena to be lost forever as a common slave with no worth.” Gallus watched the fire ignite behind his introductions half gaze. “From this moment on, you are reborn as nothing, and nothing you will remain until proven otherwise in the eyes of our honourable Dominus. And like a newborn babe, there is the matter of introducing a face with no name. Perhaps you do not want it jeered among true men who witness your fall.”

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“Call him Eyes,” Gazille instigated venomously. The courtyard filled with mirth at the new man’s expense once again, his disposition as resilient to their braying as ever.

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“His name shall be Jupiter until he sees fit to grace us with his own.”

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The nameless Roman turned his quizzical gaze to their domina upon the balcony above. Her ebony hair lined her spine in a pin-straight tail that dusted her tailbone as she took a step forward and laid soft, elegant fingers on the railing lining the balcony.

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Amena smiled down at them with her rule. “For the scar over his right eye in the shape of the god-king’s blessing.”

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Marianus growled his disapproval as a hush stole their gladiatorial crowd. He had noticed that Amena had such an effect on his men. The thought that her rule might very well outweigh his own frustrated him madly. “Amena, do not be ridiculous. This defiant waste of flesh is not worth the name of the god-king. Not here, and certainly not in the arena!”

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“How strange,” Vitus crooned. “I expected my disapproval would be that to fill these halls, not that of this beast’s purchaser.” Marianus was forced to strategically back-peddle, finding himself in an increasingly difficult situation.

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Amena smiled triumphantly as she watched one steel iris darken wrathfully with the thought of being referred to by the name she graced him with. “Begin, Doctore,” Amena overrode as she commanded their training commence. “Jupiter looks hungry for the opportunity to prove the worth of his flesh.”

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Gallus nodded sternly in a shallow bow. “Domina.” He thrust his head to one side, indicating Jupiter’s opponent. “Take position!” Gallus rumbled his command, allowing Jupiter’s opponent to take the sands in wait. The man they’d titled after the god of gods himself glowered at the athletic figure bracing himself behind his shield in wait. “Begin!” Doctore demanded.

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“This is where we are demonstrated the fickle ways of the woman, bestowing far too much honour upon those who have yet to prove themselves.”

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“You agreed to watch him raise sword,” Amena cooed whimsically. She accepted a drink from her dear body slave as it was offered, a sweet beam of amusement on deeply coloured lips. “I will ask no more.”

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Marianus joined his wife on the balcony with a sceptically condescending look on his stern features. “You seem so sure of yourself.”

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Watch, my dear husband.”

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“Attack!” Gallus’ demand was fiercer the second time as he tried to usher in the conflict between their newest member and what he saw as a mediocre opponent. “See training initiated or it will be to the mines with both of you!”

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Jupiter remained still, forcing the other man to take charge to the sound of their Doctore’s threat. When he did, the once inert man sprang to life.

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Amena watched every move, her smile broadening in each second it took her newest addition to crash into conflict, bind his opponent’s sword arm and break it at the elbow over his knee. He shifted out of his flailing opponents shield reach before apprehending it from his frantic enemy and striking him in the jaw with it until teeth shattered together and rendered the man unconscious at his feet.

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The training ground grew silent for a long moment as Jupiter looked up towards his purchasers as if he was awaiting dismissal. Then, as if insulted, he tossed the shield to the ground with an impatient scoff.

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“The monster did not even use his sword,” Marianus rumbled in disbelief. 

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Amena openly laughed. “The poor dear, he is bored.”

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“Amena?!” Marianus demanded in alarm.

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She waved her fair hand to their doctore. “See that lifeless mass to the medicus if he holds hope of survival and send an opponent of worth to my Jupiter!”

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Your Jupiter?” Vitus murmured.

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Amena didn’t raise her gaze as the guards escorted the first unfortunate soul from the training sands. Instead, she delicately sipped from her cup with a calculated smile. “My husband’s and by extension mine, dear Father. Doctore! See Marcus to combat next!”

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Gallus nodded and gave the signals, throwing Marcus into battle with Amena’s Jupiter. “Begin!”

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This time, swords did clash upon Marcus’ charge, the highly energetic warrior slashing into his opponent’s defence with an unrestrained fury. In response, Jupiter pivoted on his station, deflecting every blow with silent calculation until he was given an opportunity to strike.

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Marcus raised his shield to block the unrestrained blow of his opponent’s sword, but in raising his defence, he left his sword arm open for the crash of Jupiter’s forearm. Upon suffering the blow to his elbow joint, his grip on his sword was released and left him with not but the same shield his predecessor was vanquished with.

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“He uses reckless reach to his advantage,” Vitus casually observed. “Something sure to get him killed in a battle with stakes and steel.” Vitus winced as Marcus was winded by the slam of Jupiter’s shin to his gut and then while catching his breath, Jupiter hoisted the man above his head and dropped him on his own.

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Amena screeched with delight and clapped her hands as another opponent was rendered mutilated at her Jupiter’s feet.

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“Doctore,” Marianus beckoned in command. “We have seen Jupiter dismantle two men with similar form. See to him an opponent who fights with spear.”

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Gallus nodded and sent another, to which their nameless soldier responded by tearing the spear from his opponents grasp and breaking it across his enemy’s throat.

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Marianus considered the thrashing beast before him as the brute silently watched the lifeless gargle of his victim flop around in the sand at his feet with the collapse of his windpipe. “How strange,” he murmured. “He doesn’t fight as a Roman legionnaire at all.”

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“He fights as needed to subdue his opponent but holds sword as any Roman might,” Amena crooned embracing her husband's arm. “My coin rests on the possibility that he has taken up arms against his own before.”

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“That would merit sense for his circumstance, but he remains a rogue. Striking like a wild storm and merely hoping his instincts will see his enemy bloodied at his feet,” Marianus reasoned. “His structure has likely been damaged with his right eye. Perhaps he has not learned to properly adapt yet.”

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“I find myself in rare agreement with Marianus,” Vitus interrupted. “An impressive showing of brute strength and instinct, but he is not without vices. For a man of few words, he most certainly takes pause to absorb his surroundings.” Vitus winced as he watched one of his more promising gladiators have their face bounced off a training post. “He is savage, and without purpose. He relies on his large stature for advantage.”

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“I think he has a purpose…” Amena’s whisper was almost malicious, her tone thick with an eerie undertone. Her gaze remained confident as Jupiter shifted his furious gaze back towards them, the light sheen of perspiration finally breaking his flesh in the baking morning sun as he panted seething, frustrated breaths. “To get out.” She could hear him say it; is this all you have? She slowly turned to face the men in her company. “This man has vengeance on his mind. Our job is to leash his ferocity and redirect it towards a higher purpose. Learning more about his past will aid in this.”

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“What do you suggest?” Marianus probed inordinately. “In case the fickle woman has not discovered yet, the man refuses to give voice when commanded.”

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“Then I suggest you find a way to get this man to speak.”

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Marianus walked into the ludus after his wife as she started to pace. “And how do you suggest we accomplish this? The man is numb to the fucking world around him.”

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“All men want something,” Amena defended in deep thought. “We must find out what that is.”

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“Aside from dropping this revenge you claim to see into his lap, I cannot see this being a promising venture. I will instruct Gallus to take what we seek by means of force.”

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“Do not take us down that path!” Amena defended passionately. “Our slaves are punished when they misstep, not because the trauma of their pasts is haunting their every conscious thought. If he fights when commanded, that is all we can ask of him. The rest will come with time. Stern looks are not teeth marks in the hand that feeds.”

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Marianus sighed as he watched Amena take to the villa with Neirah close on her heels. He swiftly returned to the balcony to oversee the training down below.

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“Your man is arrogant,” Vitus condescended. “He does not take well to being commanded to train without a sparring partner. He clearly thinks he is of higher station.”

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“He clings to the superiority of fabled past,” Marianus quipped back edgily. “Nothing that cannot be bled out of him beneath Gallus’ lash.”

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“I misjudged you,” Vitus announced upon turning from the balcony. “I always thought you to be a rather spineless follower feeding off my daughter’s ambition.”

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Marianus turned to face Vitus, preparing to accept his praise.

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“But now I see you have a thirst for blood and suffering capable of toppling empires like this one.”

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Marianus turned to the sands with an aggravated growl, watching as the men beneath started to rethink their opinions of their new comrade. He almost hissed as he turned away and strode through the ludus towards the villa after his wife and father-in-law, just as hungry to prove himself to them as Jupiter was to spill the blood of his enemies. It seemed no matter what he did he was fighting a losing battle. In that moment, he decided that his fate would be his own and in hands he could control.

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Amena sat back in her bath and soaked away her troubles, her body slave tending to her every whim. She was frustrated with her situation; more specifically her new husband. Being forced to marry was something every only daughter had to face, but the lack of eligible offers her father had received had made Vitus weary.

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Marianus had a strong business drive as a result of his trade. The match may have made political sense, but she worried that it might get the better of him. With three older brothers, Marianus was always trying to make a name in the eyes of his father, now in the eyes of hers. He was inconsistent with emotional stability and she worried that his fleeting state of mind might become problematic.

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“Will that be all, Domina?”

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Amena raised her once resting gaze to look at the woman bowed before her. After a long moment, she smiled with a wrinkling nose and sat up in her bath. “It most certainly is not,” she commanded through a delicate knot in her smiling face. “Disrobe.” Neirah didn’t hesitate in obeying, and soon she had dropped her robes to the bath floor. Amena grinned and beckoned her into the bath. “Now come, join me as sister.”

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Neirah was skittish at first before she nodded her head obediently. “Of course, Domina.” 

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Amena offered her a supportive giggle. “There, much better,” she purred. Amena reached out and clasped the likened-aged woman in her arms. “Just like when we were children.”

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Neirah offered her a meek and uncertain smile as she picked up a sponge and started to wash her domina’s beautiful porcelain skin, fingers combing absently through her mistress’ wet, ebony locks.

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“What did you think of my suggestion this afternoon?” Amena coaxed enthusiastically. There was a musical tone in her voice as she swished ripples between her fingers. “Speak plainly now. You have seen as many gladiators through these gates as I.” Amena’s laugh was juvenile as she picked at her clean nails with Neirah caring for her cleanliness. “What do you think of our Jupiter?”

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Neirah’s expression faltered and her hands met the water around them as she weakened with disdain. “Truthfully, he frightens me, Domina. I worry about my brother.”

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Amena turned and took Neirah’s face in her hands, the misleading look of a doting friend on her master’s face. “I will stand for no such worries,” Amena scolded before bringing Neirah’s lips to hers for an affectionate kiss. “Consider him our pet to be kept in a cage until he learns to behave with the others of his kind.”

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Again, Neirah smiled docilely. “Yes, Domina.” She knew that her domina didn’t mean to insult her brother with her last statement so, as usual, she instantly forgave her transgressions.

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Amena frowned, considering that the reason for Neirah’s reserved demeanour in their bath was the experience she’d suffered the night before. “My precious doe, did my beast of a husband harm you last night?”

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Neirah quickly shook her head. “No, Domina.”

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“Don’t you lie to me,” Amena hissed. She scooted around her body slave and tugged her auburn kinks back over her shoulders. “I will spank you black and blue with the best of them.” Once Amena had removed Neirah’s incredibly long locks from her chest, she reached around her slave and wrapped her soft, ivory hands around Neirah’s dark, naked breasts. “My sweet slave needs a much more tender touch.”

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Neirah’s brow creased with a painful commingling of lust and discomfort as Amena stroked the gentle bruising around her nipples that remained from where the clamps she had adorned the night before had abused her flesh. She would never speak the words that told her domina the clamps hurt her even without Marianus’ persistence.

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Amena placed a delicate kiss on Neirah’s shoulder, her groping becoming more intimate than the relief she intended on stirring. “Men have unspeakably rough hands meant for killing, not loving tender women.”

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“D-domina…” Neirah whimpered headily, yearning colour rising in her cheeks.

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Amena floated in front of her slave with a gleaming look of adoration. “I promise I will protect you from this house of unkind brutes.” She raised delicate fingers to Neirah’s lips and traced the gentle part. “You are mine to treasure, not theirs.”

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Neirah nodded her appreciation with a grateful smile and glassy eyes. “Gratitude.”

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Amena, her breast swelling with affection, pressed herself against her pretty little slave and drew their lips together. It wasn’t the first time Amena’s tongue had slid past Neirah’s lips and into her mouth with the tenderness of a lover. That she was a slave didn’t stop her mistress from openly indulging in every sense, the gentle roll of her tongue against her slave’s kneading an apprehensive reciprocation from the mouth of her most treasured pet. “You are beautiful. A beautiful, wild rose. Do not let unappreciative men tell you any differently.”

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Neirah nodded swiftly and reclaimed her sponge, smoothing it over her domina’s milky breasts. “Domina.” She nodded in concurrence. Even with Amena’s praise, Neirah couldn’t bring herself to forget the disdain of being vulgarly humiliated by her new master. Her breath caught as her domina leant forward and gently smoothed calm tongue strokes over the bruising marring the slave’s dark areolas, gently sucking at the once abused flesh in apology. Her fingers were never dormant when they bathed. Amena, being a smaller busted woman herself, enjoyed the fondling of her slave’s heavy bronzed bosom.  

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Amena sighed blissfully and arched into the dedication of Neirah’s scrubbing. “What is it you desire most?” Her words were breathed with her gentle exhale, thick with exhilarated arousal.

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Neirah’s breath stilled and her scrubbing faltered with such a bold question asked of her. “D-domina?”

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“If you were granted anything to indulge in your wildest fantasies, what would it be?”

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Neirah’s throat worked timidly. “To serve you, Domina.”

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“Oh, don’t be coy,” Amena scolded whilst raising her arm for Neirah to bathe. “Speak plainly my delicate water flower. There are no coarse ears to misuse your angelic choir at the moment.”

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Neirah smiled gratefully and smoothed the water between her domina’s spread fingers. “I would ask to be with my brother,” Neirah started sweetly. “And to be granted a quiet room to fill with grateful song.”

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Amena laughed at her own foolishness, then more awkwardly as jealousy warmed her pale cheeks. “Of course, your love for you brother trumps all, does it not?”

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Neirah perceived the subtle hint of jealousy in her tone and smiled. “He is only second to my Domina.”

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Amena smiled and closed her eyes ecstatically as Neirah started to wash her shoulders beneath her ebony tresses. “It is Jupiter… I want to loosen his tongue, but he is a perplexing creature that I know little about. I doubt something so primitive as wine and whores would turn his head. He is sophisticated. Nothing like that ox of a Gaul we keep,” she derided with a juvenile giggle. “No, our Jupiter is far too good for such commodities.” Amena laughed lightly before laying her head into Neirah’s large breasts. “Worry not, Petal. I would never abandon you to such a hard man.”

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Neirah watched the water bead over her domina’s lean shoulders, tipping her smiling expression to one side as she scrubbed. “Perhaps men are of his interest,” she chided impishly. Her gentle, witty remark forced her domina to burst forward in hysterics.

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“Bold, my flower! My, well then he has more than enough of a feast at the ludus with the rest of his kind.” The women shared a delighted laugh. “Oh, yes, it remains a mystery. As a Roman of noble birth, I can imagine his standards are far too high for his new station. The common delicacies of this house are surely not to his liking.” Amena swished through the water and coddled her slave with a lusting sigh. “And the only rarity to pique the interest of the most rabid of beasts is spoken for.”

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Neirah smiled and brushed her domina’s silky hair back out of her face. “Any offering you see fit to deliver, I will gladly see presented to the ludus, Domina.”

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“No,” Amena gently reprimanded. “I would not have you from my side unless it is absolutely necessary.” She raised and placed a gentle kiss on her slave’s brow. “As could be expected of any businessman, Marianus is driven by the need to succeed even if he knows nothing of the world he traverses.” She leant forward and kissed the mark of her house on Neirah’s right breast. “I would not have such an event as last night repeated.”

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“Domina,” Neirah whispered through an appreciative smile.

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Amena smiled and gently moved one of her thighs between Neirah’s. “Will you not embrace me?” There was a pleading look in her dark eyes as she gazed into the bright cerulean stars of her body slave’s.

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Neirah’s smile was false once more as she offered it to her mistress. “Apologies, Domina,” she hummed tenderly. She tried to make the stroking of Amena’s face as genuine as possible. “I am still distracted by events passed.”

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Amena’s heavy-lidded gaze fluttered as she pressed her body tight against Neirah’s, guiding her slave’s hand eagerly between her thighs. “Then come closer and see strains soothed by the most tender of creatures.”

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Neirah’s deep breath encouraged the peaks of her breasts to meet Amena’s lips before her soothing tongue was stroking her tender flesh, sucking arousal to the surface of her skin with her fervour. In return, Neirah slipped her finger inside her mistress’ body, an act that immediately saw her domina riding her fiery strokes in a slow and purposeful series of grinds. Her lips parted in breathless sighs of ecstasy even as Neirah remained quiet against her.

.

Neirah’s body had become Amena’s fascination since puberty, and together, they explored Amena’s pleasure until her body slave was proficient in accommodating her specific tastes. For this reason, Neirah was kept cleaned and polished, always readily available to serve her domina in her time of need. She was a tender woman who enjoyed a gentler hand, one she was convinced men were incapable of offering.

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Neirah had grown desensitized to it and no longer resented the affection shown. If nothing else, it meant she was privileged with the relief of a warm bath and sweet scents every now and then. If being treasured in such a manner was what her domina wished of her, she would silence her uncertainties indefinitely to see it provided. She could certainly imagine worse fates.

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“Look at him, sitting over there like he belongs.” Otho spent more time playing with his food than ingesting it. He eyed the man called Jupiter closely, his gaze malicious with intent. “Fucking savage…”

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Gazille snorted in amusement over the bread crusts he was crunching on. “Yer one to talk,” he chided. “For all we know, Eyes is new to taking life. Those scars of his just put him on the losing end of his last battle. But you, I have seen you come off the sands in so many shades of death it makes him look pretty to compare, sick fuck.”

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The men shared a hardy snigger. “The fault is not mine that samples of their shades stick to my own skin when my blade swings.”

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“Now who stands the savage?”

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“Uck, how can your teeth chew stale bread so casually? At least moisten it first.”

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“Are we eating or fucking?” Gazille hummed. “Food is food, be grateful we’re offered any. I have certainly digested worse.”

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“Depends on what we’re fucking,” Otho growled mischievously. “If it was your pretty little sister, I would surely do her cunt the courtesy.”

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Gazille drew back his fist and slugged his table mate to the hall stone beneath them. “I warned you, pig!”

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Gazille snarled with frustration when he heard the mediating snap of Gallus’ whip at the end of the hall. “Save it for the sands you two,” he bellowed.

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Gazille reluctantly offered Otho his hand and drew the tittering gladiator back to his feet. “Yer a cocky shit to think that I would not kill you for my sister’s honour.”

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“She is a slave, Gazille,” Otho sang. He swayed from side to side with the concussive blow he’d been cracked with moments before. “She is a slave, we are slaves, the only honour we can hope to taste is that earned in the arena.” Otho laughed haggardly. “The only honour she could ever hope to taste is at the tip of my cock.”

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Gazille palmed the man’s head and shoved him back down onto the bench at the table they’d shared for lunch. The man was eccentric, but he was a brother. “Then if I were you, I’d pray to Eyes that we don’t meet in the arena. I would be sure to make his savagery look like nymph magic in comparison.”

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Otho choked on an amused snort. “Fucking Eyes,” he sneered. “And Domina has the balls to name him for the god-king himself.”

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Gazille tore off another bite of his bread and shook his head, scoffing at the sight of their newest addition sitting as far away from their company as possible. “You speak the truth. Amena has more balls than Marianus. That is why this Roman eyesore sits at our table.”

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“I have seen you take unkindly to new members before, but this one-”

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Gazille glowered at Jupiter vindictively. “You said it before, we are slaves,” he grumbled impatiently. “Eyes… doesn’t seem to receive that.”

.


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“Ah, how delightful!” Amena sang her relief, whispering around in a sheer, airy evening dress. “There really is no feeling as relieving as cleansing away the days perspire.”

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“It is a wonder that you have not wrinkled like the dates on our table,” Marianus teased. He received his wife’s pale hands for a gentle kiss and quickly dismissed where Neirah was close to her side. “Your baths last to see the water cool.”

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“I have much excitement to wash away so that I might remain proper in such esteemed company,” she crooned affectionately. “But here I am, returning to overlook this filthy ludus in search of my husband.”

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“Your Jupiter performs,” Vitus announced supportively. He entered from the balcony where he had been observing the training taking place in the courtyard below for the better part of the day. “If I was not assured better, I would have claimed he was picked by my beautiful daughter’s hands.”

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Amena smiled modestly and received her father’s delicate kiss. “I assure you, his selection was of Marianus’ choosing.” Amena allowed herself to be swept into the twilight to observe the day’s final breath over their training grounds. “Father, please. I have finally vanquished sand and perspiration from my skin. Must I really return to this blistering heat? Surely we can praise my husband once we retire to comforts.”

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“Yes, surely,” Vitus dismissed. “It is a marvel. The look of vengeance is hot in this man’s eyes, and although he remains silent, he obeys every command without vocalising hesitation.”

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Amena tipped one neat nail to her lip. “How strange, even I could not have foreseen that. I thought he would be far wilder for a Roman discharged from a higher station. How disappointing.”

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“It seems perhaps he seeks repentance for his crimes,” Marianus interrupted swiftly. He raised his goblet with a confident smile. “He will serve us well to atone for his betrayal, surely.”

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Surely,” Vitus sneered. “This man does not seek forgiveness, he seeks revenge.”

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“Yet he willfully dismisses the pride of his lineage to serve this house.”

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“He was cast away! He has no option,” Vitus accelerated. “He is doing what is expected to hasten return to Rome.”

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“Gentlemen, please,” Amena fussed delicately while separating her bickering men. “Father, you are being unreasonable. Just last night, you condemned Marianus for the purchase of this man. Now that you have witnessed his success, you refuse to admit that he was the man responsible. It took you many years to learn the trade from your father, and his before. Do not let your jealousy outshine the victory Marianus claims this day.”

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Marianus tried to stifle his triumph as his wife’s plan started to take shape. “Perhaps I have always had a talent for such things,” he mused proudly.

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“And perhaps you were lucky,” Amena cautioned him sternly. “Jupiter has yet to perform in the arena. Beating his brothers with timber is hardly a victory on the sands.”

.

“As brutishly strong as the man seems to be, I will make one complaint; one important complaint,” Vitus assured her. He wrapped his arm around his daughter and motioned her towards Jupiter. “He moves well, if not a little rashly, but my concern does not lie in his technique.”

.

“With the dramatics, Father,” Amena sang in delight. “What is your concern?”

.

The old man spread his fingers before his face to single its projection. “His voice,” he whispered. Vitus ushered his daughter languidly back into the ludus. “If this man does not speak, how will he ignite the crowd? A gladiator is only as good as the roar they send to the heavens with their victory. They are not simply warriors, they are… entertainers. Actors of the most passionate trade.”

.

 “And you believe my Jupiter cannot be passionate?”

.

Vitus expelled a hearty laugh. “Well, how does one measure passion in a beast who does not speak? It is true, there is a fire in his eyes that I cannot deny, but I do not see the makings of a champion. Not like our Gazille. His victory roar splits the earth and sets loose the demons beneath it.”

.

Amena’s gentle smile swayed from side to side with her denial of his theatrics. “You have gone and spent far too long in the sun today,” she reasoned. “You should retire and see yourself refreshed.”  

.

“You understand, though,” he added somberly. “Amena, you are sheltered. Our gladiators are fine warriors. You have seen few fall in your time compared to most lanista’s daughters. If this man cannot find a voice to raise the arena to the heavens, he is no better than a slave condemned to the mines.”

.

Amena’s expression scolded Vitus’ very insinuation. “I will hear no such talk!” She quipped ardently. “Jupiter will prove himself. I hold faith in my husband’s choices.”

.

Vitus tipped his daughter’s brow to his gentle kiss with a frail smile. “Hold enough for the two of us,” he whispered upon parting.

.

Marianus took his wife’s side to watch Vitus depart. “You stick to my choices so passionately that I might be forced to believe they were truly my own.”

.

Amena swept through the ludus towards the balcony where she overlooked the day’s final progressions. “All I wish for is that my father spends his remaining days among us at peace with his choice in son. After my mother’s death, I knew he could never take another. That left him with not but a lonely daughter. He is the end of his line, a stress on any father of name. I would see him believe in the rebirth of his legacy in my husband’s hands.”

.

“Yes, but is deceiving him really the best way?”

.

Amena turned to face Marianus sternly. “Until you learn better, it is the only way. You also dismissed Jupiter before his purchase. It pains me to see that my father would revert to the closed-mindedness of his youth just to doubt you.” She sighed and watched Gallus give the orders of retreat for the evening. “My father’s age shows in his senility, the way his position on the matter changes by the day.”

.

Marianus took her side and laid his hand upon hers against the balcony railing. “Soon, my sun.”

.

“We must give voice to our fallen god,” Amena whispered softly. “Because as much as I hate that my father seeks to sully his opinion of you by his own jealousy, he is right.”

.

Marianus nodded and before surrendering consideration to her suggestion. “In the morrow, I will summon Gallus,” he recommended. “Perhaps he will give aid to our cause. He has served as this ludus’ doctore for nearly a decade. Surely he is not without wiles.”  

.

“A wise decision, seeking counsel from another,” Amena crooned. She wrapped her arm around her husband’s. “I am glad you are not too proud.”

.

“My dear wife, if there is one thing your father has taught me, it is never to be too proud…”

.


.

Upon the conclusion of her duties, Neirah was granted a brief leave for visitation. Her domina was feeling rather confident in the proceedings of the day and agreed to her body slave’s humble request. If for just a fraction of a moment, she felt free; free to be herself, free to let her smile shine through the heartache. She could hear her brother laugh, see him before her alive and well. It was all she dreamed of, a moment like that to outlast their days. It made her forget that those days were numbered and held in the hands of another.

.

After arriving at the ludus, she heard voices in conversation and upon consideration, found the low rasp responding to Gallus’ inquiries to be her brother’s. She knew she’d come unannounced so politely waited by the gate to the ludus innards for his conversation to end. Lingering hesitantly where she was, she was careful to keep a wary eye on the man contained at her back. He made her clammy palms tremble. She assumed that perhaps the reason he was capable of such a feat with no threat in his station was that she couldn’t tell where his wandering gaze truly rested.

.

Curious, she chanced to look over her shoulder to where he remained still in the back corner of the cell at her rear. He was quite fond of that particular place, she’d noticed. It was the same place he’d been the night before. She had her suspicions, as she stared into his sightless peripherals. His scar was particularly perplexing and she couldn’t understand how it could manage to take such a specific appearance. Like the calling mark of Jupiter himself, the man’s scar shared an identical form to the golden wrath of the heavens. A small part of her considered that he had given his own eye in worship of the god, a small part.

.

The larger part realised that the man before her was too proud to sacrifice anything in the worship of anyone. A man broken enough in spirit to do such a thing would not carry the look of passionate resentment anytime the name of the god met the lips of his company. She supposed what frightened her most were the secrets concealed behind that hazy iris, secrets deeper than any scar could go, secrets that couldn’t be robbed with sight.

.

The slave girl flinched when the man tapped into a sixth sense that saw him turn the dark, predatorial gaze of his coloured eye to face her. It made her startle alertly like a panicked doe searching frantically for escape from a hunter’s threat. He couldn’t hurt her, not contained within his iron entrapment. Still, she couldn’t help but feel threatened by the intensity of his glower.

.

“A-apologies,” she prattled worrisomely. She quickly dropped her twisted elegant up-do in a modest bow. “My lingering gaze did not mean to offend.” She slowly straightened to attempt the return of her observation. “I- Your scar… Perhaps I speak out of turn, but it’s shape-” She flinched when he snorted acknowledgement of her inquiry before smoothly diverting his attention. She quietly bowed her head with her discouragement. “I… apologies of the humblest. I am sure you often receive such scrutiny. Only, it takes such a strange shape. From what I am given to understand, it reflects the mark of the mightiest Roman god. To know that he is such a god, I suppose your connection to him startles and frightens me.”

.

Jupiter slowly turned his ever-intense glare to face her in return. The man stared back at her vacantly, a cold detachment from his surroundings in the way his gaze lingered, but not once did the nameless gladiator make introductions for her prying. There he lingered, still and quiet, staring back at her like her company was far from welcome.

.

A wiser woman may have retreated or called for her brother; even silencing her inquisition could have been considered as such. Instead, Neirah turned to the sound of her bleak sigh and knelt to the level Jupiter lingered on. She adjusted her gaze more sympathetically. She knew a proud man likely wouldn’t appreciate being looked down upon and she tried to do him a small courtesy that ended up coming off more like she was addressing a startled mutt in the night. “Will you not speak to anyone?” The man remained unresponsive, but after a closer examination, she took notice of his heaving chest glossed with perspiration from the heat. Noticing that her gaze had caught for far too long on a scar he kept over his right pectoral, she quickly continued. “You perspire,” she murmured softly in observance. “You are unaccustomed to the cruelty of our lands.” She raised her gaze to where a rain collection barrel lingered just a few paces away on the other side of the ludus gates. “Should I offer drink?”

.

Her brow knotted sadly as she turned back to his stony expression void of response. “Will you not even speak to beg necessity?” Her expression grew vexed. “I thought you Roman by birth, do you not speak in their tongue?” She grew even more bashfully flustered as he denied her peaceful interrogation. “I only offer aid. Would you truly deny such a kindness?”

.

“You waste your time on the broken beast, Pet. He would have no use for such a sentiment. In fact, I would go so far as to deny that he feels anything at all.”

.

Neirah whirled to face the gate at her back. “Otho, how cruel!” She entered the supply keep in the dining hall not far from Jupiter’s cell and rummaged through the stores to retrieve a modest cup.

.

“Pouring me a drink? How sweet.”

.

“Not for you,” she demanded heatedly. “You are kept proper. This man thirsts even if he cannot comprehend my offer. I can observe such without question.” She carefully slipped her thin arm between the bars of the ludus and tipped the cup to one side, filling it to capacity before drawing it back through the bars. She sloshed some over the sides with her clumsy adjustment, but she retained a mouthful or two for her gift. She was only thankful that the barrel retained enough for her reach to accommodate retrieving.

.

She returned to the sand and quietly slipped the offering between the brooding beast’s bars. “A man does not need all of his senses to recognize kindness, all you need is an open heart.” Her brother had taught her that, even if she could never admit the like to the mocking snort of Otho at her back.

.

“You sure that particular breed of beast even has one of those?”

.

Neirah watched sadly as the man’s hard expression spied the water before ultimately ignoring the offer. Her heart sank in defeat to the sound of Otho’s contemptuous laughter. “Fucking Roman’s,” he sneered. “I warned you, Pet. I hate watching you waste your time on scum of his breed.”

.

“And I suppose you think yer breed’s anymore reputable?”

.

Neirah’s spirits lifted and encouraged her to turn to the sound of her brother’s voice sassing the irritable Gaul. “Gazille, I have been granted leave to visit with you.” Her expression warmed affectionately as she reached out and clasped the rusty bars in her hands. “Have you completed council with Gallus?”

.

Gazille shooed away the bulky mass interrupting their conversation and took his place in front of Neirah. “You could say that,” he grunted curiously. “Any updates on big an’ ugly?”

.

Neirah’s face knotted impatiently. “Gazille, I only just cautioned Otho not to be cruel. I will tolerate it no more from you.”

.

“You and your compassionate ravings,” he chided roughly. “What does it matter if he dies now of dehydration or tomorrow on the sands? In the end, all that matters is that he’s dead.”

.

Neirah’s lower lip grew pouty. “And I suppose that means very little to you.”

.

“Evidently,” he admitted gruffly. “Like any man sure to be picked out by Marianus, he has no place here if he’s already given up. If I were Vitus, I would refuse to so much as offer a sword to his preservation. If he’s good and content with dyin’ then let him do it now before he has the chance to shame our house with his stain.”

.

“How can you preach the honour of a house bathed in blood? A house that we now share with this man.”

.

Catching the desperation in her tone, Gazille smiled warmly and reached through the bars to fondle her soft auburn tresses. He was thrilled that she was kept well in the villa. It gave his life purpose. “Easy,” he assured her kindly. “It is not my blood that bathes it. So long as I am victorious, I carry the name of this house to the heavens and back.”

.

“Even if that were true, why would you ever want to return to a place like this?”

.

“You may never understand,” he whispered hoarsely. “Slave or not, this house has done a great deal for me, for us. Surely you feel the same.”

.

“Sometimes,” she whispered meekly. “If Domina would only see my brother from the massacre to occur during the games, my heart would be at peace. I fear…” Her sentiment was interrupted as she took his battle-weathered hands in hers and started to tremble at the sight of the scars marking the tears in his flesh that were barely capable of holding his right arm together. “I do not think myself capable of living through those haunting memories again. Gazille, I almost lost you to those tragic sands. If you ever managed a glimpse of the heaven you speak of, I pray you run to that light and never return to this place and force me to suffer the worry of losing you again.”

.

Gazille smirked back at her confidently before releasing her hands and spreading his arms wide. “Yet here I stand, despite memories to haunt. Alive and healthy before your very eyes with no intentions on going anywhere.”

.

Her expression warmed in the slightest. “And I suppose we have our keepers to thank for that?”

.

“Equally as obvious,” he announced confidently. “They keep me where I am triumphant and offer me all the flesh I can batter right here.” He dropped his scarred arm in line with their newest addition. “Starting with you, Eyes, if you refuse to heed my warnings.”

.

“Gazille…”

.

He turned his pointing finger back to his pretty little sister. “You need to stop undermining my purpose,” he warned. “I am your brother, your defender against creeps of his sort.”

.

“Protect me from Otho then,” she challenged shrewdly.

.

“Gihi, Otho is a pig, but he is a brother. He would never cross me.”

.

“Never words it rather strongly,” Otho instigated from nearby.

.

“Not as strong as my fist in yer face,” he grunted impatiently. “How do your teeth fair after last night’s bout?”

.

“I still got most of ‘em.”

.

Gazille snorted dourly. “A few more then and it will be all the more pleasurable when you suck your own cock.”

.

Neirah rolled her eyes before her entire gaze shifted to where their denied company remained to linger on the sight of their conversation. He looked perturbed with their display, but that told her that he could comprehend their language. Just to hear him speak would silence her racing heartbeat.

.

“So then, how long do you intend on keepin’ your loving brother in the dark?”

.

Neirah whirled to face the sly grin the Egyptian was offering her. “Dark?”

.

“The woman you sent to me the other day. I do not recall her presence in my memory.” He leant his narrow chin between the bars separating them as he honed his interrogation. “You have sent many in your place, but she is a first.”

.

Neirah’s expression dimmed worrisomely. “Did she displease you?”

.

Gazille snorted his derision. “Juvia displeases me,” he teased. “That woman was not made for desert living. Our conversations are brief and grim. Too hot, too dry, she is never anything but displeased.”

.

She snickered knowingly. “Well fine then, I will keep my sweet Juvia and send Sura the next time-”

.

“I would rather eat sand,” he quickly interjected. “Sura is barely of this world, in spirit, at least. She makes Juvia look like precious desert rain to compare.” Neirah started to retort and continue spouting suggestions but Gazille held up his hand to silence her. “You seem to be avoiding my question. Why?” His expression humbled somberly for a moment of consideration. “Have I caused her an offence?”

.

Neirah smiled warmly and shook her head. “No,” she cooed supportively. “But I see you are stating an indirect desire to see her again. She must have done the opposite of displease you.”

.

Gazille’s cheeks coloured, his face igniting with bashful heat as his baby sister outwitted him. “Miserable shrew,” he hissed. “I know what you imply and I assure you that no such pleasures were offered.”

.

Neirah recoiled sceptically, a mocking expression of concern on her soft cheeks. “You took them then?”

.

“Insufferable bitch,” he snarled. He ignored her musical giggle as he paced a frustrated circle. He returned to face her when he had calmed his nerves, his blood-stained gaze narrowing on the impish creature. “Fair as you are, yer a pain in my damn ass,” he growled. “I committed no such offence.”

.

She leaned through the bars and gently kissed the tip of the narrow nose he presented. “Of course,” she encouraged. “Levy told me everything.” Neirah shook her head and beamed contentment as his interest piqued with curiosity.

.

“She spoke of our meeting?”

.

After a lethargic eye roll, she puffed out exasperation and continued in the same heady tone. “Yes, a word or two on how you scared her out of her plentiful wits.”

.

“Aye! I was nothin’ if not charming!”

.

From where her head rested to the side, she cut her peripheral gaze back over her shoulder to where her menacing smirk beamed mischief. “I wonder why you would put forth such an effort.” Narrowing in on his humility, she gave a playful whine. “You fancy her.”

.

“Unthinkable!” Even he could admit his defence came too swiftly to come off convincing. “I only wondered why she was the one to come in your place. A slave unfamiliar with the ludus.”

.

“You are a poor liar,” she pried. “Something else perplexes you.”

.

Gazille’s expression grew modest with sincerity. “She was such a little thing, just like you are.” He slowly shook his head. “But even if it was all new to ‘er, she didn’t seem to be afraid.” He adjusted his gaze out over the ludus and raised a hand to wrap around the weathered iron bars. “It is dark, rank, filled with men no kinder than wolves. She seemed to take notice of little and found even less concern for her surroundings.”

.

Neirah’s expression grew slightly bemused. “As she tells the tale, she was quick to retreat; too quick to purpose.”

.

Gazille let his arm fall heavily into his thigh. “Not that kind’f quick.”

.

Neirah smiled her support, knowing full well that Levy was too entranced with her clumsy brute of a brother to make proper introductions. It was like she had sent the child to temple to deliver offerings to a demi-god and the pressure had seen her crack. Again, Neirah was willing to take the blame for Levy’s rattled nerves for being guilty of filling the girl’s head with, sometimes, tall-tales. If nothing else, she appreciated that the hardened man could still extract the beauty from the fragile woman’s panic. She knew he would be capable.

.

“I cannot linger for long,” she announced sadly. She glanced at the untouched cup of water in Jupiter’s cell before turning deep azure irises to face her brother. “I will be missed by Domina.” She smiled weakly as she received a kiss on her brow from between bars. “Sleep well.” She hesitantly took two steps away from the bars and knelt in front of Jupiter’s keep. “You as well,” she assured him kindly. “I hope forgiving visions fill your mind with peace as you rest. My offer of aid stands, should you require it.”

.

“But her body’s offer is mine,” Otho demanded boisterously.

.

“Fucking pig,” Gazille fumed. “Here, hold still while I slice yer cock off, horny bastard.”

.

“Fight me for her love then!”

.

“Yer so full of shit.”
.

As Gazille and Otho bickered upon their journey back into the ludus innards, the man they had affectionately referred to as ‘Eyes’ was watching the gentle whisper of silk sweeping around a kind, retreating woman’s ankles. He rolled his head to one side as he took notice of a small mark just beneath her ankle bone. It matched the one on the wrist restraining Otho behind bars.

.

He watched all company depart before he quietly reached out towards the cup that Neirah had placed in the sand in front of him. He nearly panicked, his heart beating against the walls of his chest so coarsely that it almost winded him as his weak fingers fumbled the nectar and almost saw it stain the sand beneath. Luckily, he recovered without notice by anyone else and he slowly drew the cup to parched lips.

.

His first sip was slow, nearly choking him with the friction of it sliding down his dry throat. Luckily, he managed to stifle the fumble much like the first. After the first was down, his throat wet, he guzzled the rest of the liquid with a fierce thirst. He caught his breath, an almost contented sigh escaping him as he set the cup just outside his cell bars for retrieval. He could feel his heart rate quicken, his nerves humming to life with previously denied purpose. In a humbling moment of weakness, he found his spirits lifting with the promise of hope. “Gratitude,” he murmured hoarsely. His voice was small but deep as it rumbled his sincerity. “For the kindness.”

.

Whether it made him feel better just speaking the words for her benefit or whether just hearing his own voice again made him feel a little more human than he had come off as his first day with the House of Aelius, Gallus wasn’t sure. But as he watched the man stare out his cell window deep in surrendered thought, a small smile curled the old Gaul’s lips.



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