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The Blood-dimmed Tide Is Loosed

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He had no time for thought, not that it would have been needed. He caught the flash of the sword and moving faster and with more strength than he had ever shown before, he sent Agron stumbling to the side.

He know he cried out with the pain from the blade entering him, but that did not compare to the overwhelming relief he felt as he looked up into his brother’s eyes. He would not mourn the loss of his brother on these cursed sands. He had saved him.

He managed to even say so as he felt himself being carried away. He wished that he had been retrieved sooner once he heard the howl ripped from Agron’s soul.

He had never realized his brother could make such a sound.

 

He paced the shore that he had awoken upon. Through the mists, he could see everything that was happening in the world he left behind.

He watched as every Roman within the villa was slaughtered…

...as the much thought timid and fragile slave Aurelia extracted vengeance for the death of her husband …

...as Doctore fought with Ashur, only to lose him through the treacherous bastard hiding beneath dead and bloodied body...

...as Crixus got much deserved blood from the domina over what had been done to his woman…

...as his brother cut bloody swathes through Roman bodies and then collapsed near Crixus to get a drink…

...as Spartacus got a blood price from Dominus Batiatus for the murder of his wife.

Duro watched with teeth bared as the House of Batiatus fell into blood and ruin and the rebellion for freedom was born. He listened to Spartacus give his speech and wasn't able to stop the feral grin that lit up his features.

They were rebelling against Rome.

They had just declared war.

Through every event that happened after that, Duro kept close eye on his brother.

To him, his brother had always been larger than life and a force of nature. He had always been strong and one of the best fighters he had ever seen. However, what he witnessed happening to his brother in the time following his death made his heart break in his chest.

Agron cared only for blood and vengeance. He fought as if he were possessed by the gods of the Underworld and he gave no quarter. He also took no care for his own safety from what Duro could see from where he witnessed.

Agron saw nothing but the blood of his enemies, felt nothing but the hate in his heart due to the pain of them stealing his brother from him far too soon.

Agron’s mouth was used more for roaring than the smiles and laughter Duro now desperately wished to hear from him.

Agron was… burning.

“You cannot continue on like this, Agron. You will flame out brother…”

“It happens like that, sometimes.”

Duro was startled by the feminine voice and turned to see that a beautiful woman with sad eyes had joined him in his vigil at some point. He had failed to notice that he was no longer alone.

“I stand at disadvantage.”

The woman shook her head, but gave him a fleeting smile. “I did not wish to intrude upon your thoughts, nor did I wish to let you yet witness alone what is to come, Duro. I am called Melitta.”

“Do we know each other?”

Melitta shook her head. “Not yet, but we will. I, too, once served in the House of Batiatus. I, too, met my end there through betrayal that caused my husband and brother such grief they participated in vengeance, though it was sadly upon one who was not to blame in this act.”

“You were murdered?”

“Yes, by my Domina, though I am not sure it was her intention to do so to me. I was Lucretia Batiatus’ body slave before Naevia.”

“Naevia. She was of kind face and gentle voice when she was heard to speak.” Duro’s expression took on an angry mask that had no place on his face. “What they did to Naevia and to Crixus --”

“Was not to be born. I loved Naevia as family and would have spared her all pain if I but had the power.”

“I carried no love or affection for the Gaul, but I would not have given voice to see my most hated enemy witness the sundering of his heart.” At Melitta’s raised eyebrow he sighed and acknowledged her with a nod. “Maybe one or two of them. Like Ashur. And the Romans who betrayed Spartacus and forced him to kill Varro.”

“Ashur is yet like a snake that I would see crushed under the heel of a well used boot. I am hopeful that he will one day be forced to face my husband, or my brother or Crixus. Not in an arena like he longed for but in an abandoned hole of a passage to hell.”

“Apologies, Melitta, but I still stand at disadvantage. You know of my brother and the brothers I became part of and yet fell with, but I know not the same of you. Enlighten me so that I may ease your burden as you seek to ease mine.”

Melitta smiled gently. “Your words are welcomed and warm my heart.”

“Agron always did say that half of the time my words and ideas were sound when I was not being a dumbass.”

At that, a soft laugh echoed around them as Melitta nodded. “Yes, your brother does indeed have a way with words. He reminds me somewhat of friend and brother. One who I fear now walks the roads of Rome alone with a heart heavy with grief and guilt.”

“Is he killing and not living as Agron appears to be?”

“More like drinking, fucking and not caring,” Melitta sighed. “Friend and brother is called Gannicus. He was known to be the God of the Arena before he was granted his freedom -- much to the dismay of Batiatus.”

“I have heard tales of Gannicus. It is because of him that Ashur was removed from the glory of the Arena, was it not?”

Melitta shook her head. “He was cause but not source. Ashur wanted Crixus to help him kill Gannicus during the Primus while they were supposed to be fighting Gladiators from another house. Crixus was not in agreement with this plan.”

“You speak as if you have some affection for Crixus.”

“Do I? It is the voice of a woman who speaks with pride of the first champion her husband trained. Your Doctore is my husband, though to me he is known as Oenomaus.”

“Doctore,” Duro said quietly. “A harsh man, but not an unnecessarily cruel one.” No, Duro would never have called Doctore cruel because there were times he could see care in those eyes before the man would turn away.

“It is not an easy or thankful task training new fighters for the Arena,” Melitta said calmly. “He was once a great Gladiator himself. Until Crixus and Spartacus, my husband was the only man to ever survive a fight against Theokoles.”

Duro turned back to peer through the mists to see if he could catch sight of his brother again. “He runs right for the gates of Death,” Duro cursed in a rare show of anger since he had been in this place. “Was my sacrifice for nothing you great ass? I spilled my blood to keep you among the living and you are determined to join me!”

“A brother’s love is a powerful thing, Duro,” Melitta said gently as she settled in to keep watch over the bloodthirsty German with him. “He does what he can do in an attempt to not feel the pain of his loss.”

“He is being a fucking idiot.”

“That, too,” Melitta agreed with him. “But I have learned that most men can be great asses when their very hearts are torn from them.”

“You seem to be taking seeing what is happening over there a lot more calmly than I would expect a gentle woman to be doing.”

Melitta lifted a brow at him and waited while he tried to back his words up before she took pity on him. “I may not have been being whipped to be trained as a fighter as you were, Duro, but I was yet a slave. Things happened to me that I would not wish on anyone else… and then for my loyalty I was killed.” She turned back to look through the mists at what was happening in the world behind them. “Besides, I have had some years to get used to being here… and some years to see the signs that something bad was going to happen because of the things in that house.”

“My apologies, Melitta,” Duro said quietly. “I know that none had it easy in that house and after what happened to Naevia I know that us men were probably filled with more fortune than we knew compared to what went on inside it.”

“The women who were forced to serve did not think that any of you would care so long as the lash did not fall upon you.”

Duro frowned. “That is not fair or truthful, Melitta. There were good men in the ludus and if we had but known the things that were being forced upon you --”

“There was little you could have done.”

“We could have done something,” Duro said stubbornly. “At the very least, we could have let them know that they were not alone and that they could seek safe company with us when they were allowed out.”

Melitta stared at him for a long moment in silence. “You truly mean that.”

Duro nodded, his jaw clenched. It was something he felt very strongly about and his companion could see that clearly.

“I do not know that it would have been able to do anything, but I believe that it may have assured the wounded and frightened ones that there were some spaces where they could breathe in safety.”

“And if anyone had bothered them there, Agron and I would have been happy to explain their mistake to them.”

“Ashur would have twisted it to his own whims.”

“Fuck Ashur! Ashur needed to meet death quite a long time ago.”

Melitta nodded. “On that we are of an accord, Duro. I curse the day Batiatus purchased that twisted snake.”

“Would that someone had been able to assist him to the Afterlife.”

Melitta gave him a grim smile. “I have no doubt that now with our loved ones cutting swaths through Rome, one of them will do just that.”

Duro was silent for a moment as he watched over his brother. “I hope it is the Gaul… or Spartacus.”

"They both owe him much for their pain," Melitta agreed. "I would have it that Crixus take him down for the pain which Naevia now is suffering."

Duro turned to question her about that, but the sheer anguish on her face caused him to keep his tongue quiet for now. He perhaps did not want to know.