Spartacus commanded the city of Sinuessa abandoned. They were betrayed on two-fronts, and with the Roman ships coming in mass, there was no time; he had to find Nasir. Fighting in the streets trying to find Nasir proved chaotic and confusing. Agron trusted only the men they came into the city with and no others. So when he found Nasir and Castus near each other, he turned on the pirate immediately. Heart pounding in his ear, sword raised, somehow Nasir’s angrily shouted words breached the chaos, and he did not split the man in two.
The three of them began to make their way to the north gate with Lugo when they were set-upon again. Something struck him, hard and fierce against the head, and he heard himself shouting, run, maybe or endure, but he heard a familiar voice deny his last request before darkness took him.
For the next couple of days, Agron gained and lost consciousness a few times, remembering water against his lips and rough touches. He heard voices, Roman voices speaking quietly as the ground rocked beneath them. He thought maybe he had found the afterlife, and that dark place moved like water under his feet. Soon he began to test his shackles, and by the third or perhaps fourth day, he nearly tore a man apart who came at him with something, possibly water or food; it did not matter, for there was too much fury in him to consider the world around him for what is was. He was alive and angry.
“Bring the other. It may calm him.” That was an unknown voice, though he found his senses returned enough to understand the words, to hear more than just noise and accents. Other? What other?
Then he was there, the smooth hair, the familiar scent and breath against his neck all indicated that Nasir was alive. With his hands tied to too short chains, he could not touch him, but with Nasir’s hands chained to some ring above and behind him, the smaller man was all but draped over him. He whispered against Nasir’s ear. “Nasir.” He felt his lover’s warmth against his body, bare chested, something wrapped around his waist. Neither of them had weapons or armor. He began to curse lowly, shifting and pulling at his shackles. No response from Nasir meant he could not know his condition. The next test against the iron around his wrists proved far more violent.
A voice broke his rising anger, and he peered past the long dark strands to see a Roman standing there. The man was tall, but not as tall as Agron; he wore light armor though clearly not dressed for war. There were many rings on his finger and a sword at his side which Agron eyed fiercely. The man’s eyes were like fresh charcoal from a burned tree and his age, just past his prime maybe or at the end of it. And like many of his kind, this man’s hair was short, and he was clean shaven. Those dark eyes dropped to his sheath, and he made a slight sound, a click of his tongue maybe. “You would rush me to have this, spill more blood for your cause? And what of your lover there, the one you fought for so powerfully in the street. Would you fight with him around your neck forcing me to stab through him to get to you?”
“You shit.” Agron spat.
The Roman had a bowl in his hand and a cup, and he neared Agron almost close enough to kick. “He but sleeps, the rocking disturbs his stomach. He is barely able to keep water down and has not managed any food. My men say it wasteful to give him any at all as it is soon on the floor and requires cleaning.”
Agron noticed a cut along the man’s face and a bruise. “And did he give you that?”
He lifted his hand to his face and laughed “Yes, actually he did before the sea sapped his strength.”
Agron fell quiet, not expecting an amused response.
“Crassus would see you two made an example of as we see all. Rebel slaves must be put death or all slaves might rise again. It is why we kill all when a dominus is downed by any of their hands or… or at least when the claim is made.”
Agron tried to sit-up a bit, better to glare at the man.
“Crassus is a fool; most of them are. They speak of all the blood spilled, men, women and children in your wake, in that city, as well as the villas you have burned.” He shook his head. “But they do not speak of the other blood. We are just as prone to turn on our own as we are on yours. What better time to do it in the wake of a frightening war? You might be surprised at the number Roman bodies piled high as others scheme to gain position and wealth in the uncertainty your leader has caused.”
“Surprised, maybe but I would not care.”
“Yes, yes I saw that in the streets of Sinuessa, but I saw something more as well. That is why you are here gladiator, the one they call Agron.”Agron stilled. “Yes, I know who you are. You are a man of some importance to that rebellion, to this Spartacus, or at least you were. The war is over for you.”
“You flee from it like a coward.”
“I complete my mission. The city is retaken, but I do not follow Crassus and his barbaric pursuits, no matter the number of times he might claim honor. Your companion here, if he cannot keep anything down for the next couple of days, he will die. Do you understand?”
Agron flared his nostrils shifting eyes from sword to cup and bowl. “Yes, but I cannot help him with my wrists so tied.”
They regarded each other in long silence; the Roman approached with key in palm. “I will free one hand so you can help. Any transgression against me, will be taken out on his hide first.” He turned the key for Agron’s right hand, and placed the steaming bowl of broth and the cup nearby. “Do not spill. I will return to see how you fair… with something more fulfilling for you.”
Agron fought every urge in his body to strike but matters of heart turned him to something more pressing. Carefully he ran his fingers along Nasir’s cheek and face. He looked pale and exhausted, sleep providing little comfort no doubt since the peaceful expression Agron grew familiar with during their nights together were now replaced by uneven brow and opened mouth breathing. “Nasir, open your eyes. It is Agron.” He coaxed at first but ended in a far sharper command.
Nasir’s dark eyes opened, and almost instantly he began to panic, the muscles in his shoulders, back and abdomen tightening as he tried to free himself.
“Easy, easy.” Agron tightened his grip to keep Nasir from kicking or wildly moving until at last their eyes met and Nasir succumbed to his exhaustion.
Nasir closed eyes, breath labored. “They told me you were alive. I did not believe them, lying shits. Why do they keep us?”
Agron busied himself with running his fingers over Nasir’s body, finding new cuts and a few tender bruises but nothing of note, nothing to suggest true injury. It seemed the Roman might have actually spoken the truth. Nasir’s weakness came from a stomach not fond of the sea.
“I do not know, and it does not matter. I have broth you must drink.”
Nasir shook his head. “I cannot.”
“You must.” Agron insisted firmly.
Nasir turned his head towards Agron. “It will only return and is so painful when it does.”
Agron drew in a deep breath, his words firm. “And I know a warrior who endured far greater pain from much worse injury who did not complain so. I will not have you rest in my arms and die. You will drink this.”
Nasir glanced at the wooden bowl as it was lifted to his lips and drank. For several minutes, Agron coaxed broth into his lover’s body followed by cool water. He stroked Nasir’s stomach, back, and neck as the smaller man fought to keep it down. He cursed the chains that prevented him from offering more comfort, so he offered more words instead to soothe the harshness of his earlier commands. “You were but a child when you made travel before, but I remember the difficulty you face.”
The smaller man shifted, his arms no doubt in pain from the tightness of the chain and in ability to rest them at his side. “Notable memory from a man who so often forgets the little things. I shall keep that knowledge close to my heart.” He fell quiet. “Is there more water?”
“Not yet, but there will be soon.”
“How do you know?”
“Because this Roman wants us alive. If you fall, I will soon follow.”