“My brother called me Nasir.”
Spartacus gazed upon me for brief moment, nodded his head, and took leave. Agron, from the lands East of the Rhine I’d overheard, was the man who seemed to be protector to the leader of the rebels that had stormed the villa. They struck down everyone inside, save us slaves. Even my Dominus fell. Agron, tall and tanned with the build of a Gladiator, ran a hand over short brown hair and light stubble. He then favored me with lingering glance before following his leader.
Although Agron was shrewd, vulgar, and intimidating, I was drawn to him. His boldness was something I admired.
Thoughts of the man plagued me. I had witnessed his glance a number of times, yet I could not discern its meaning. My heart hoped it was for good cause. In the villa, under my Dominus, I felt cock in ass many times by him and others for his pleasure. Now, thoughts of Agron doing the same sparked fire in my belly, not to be quenched.
My heart urged me to break words with the man. My head told me I had lost mind. Agron stood a Gladiator, held in highest esteem by Spartacus. I remained nothing but a former slave. I wondered why, since the German had been a slave, did he not feel as I. He held himself proudly, with confidence in his person, as if the bonds of slavery had never been placed upon him.
Anger filled me at Spartacus for striking my Dominus from this world. With him gone, I was unsure of my status and worth in this new life which had been forced upon me so quickly. Under my Dominus, I held position as body slave. It was highest honor a slave could be blessed with. Serving my Master provided me with decent clothing and a soft, safe place to sleep. The lower slaves stayed in cells beneath the villa, wearing next to nothing, even in cold, and slept on dirt floor. Was that what I would be reduced to now?
The path I now faced would be a road hard travelled. I knew very little of weapons or how to wield them. The strike I placed upon Spartacus’ attacker was made in luck. The only reason I struck at all was for his leniency in sparing my life. I felt the need to belong, and I hoped, given circumstance, it could be with the Rebellion. Also, it brought happiness to me to be able to help the man that spared my life when so many would’ve seen me breathe my last due to my actions.
A cup held in front of me broke my thoughts. Gazing upward, my eyes fell upon the man himself.
“Wine, a service of gratitude for your bravery,” Agron stated, pressing cup in hand.
Eyes, green as the back of the bird which sings at first light of sun, spoke of sincerity and longing for me to accept his offer.
Nodding, I accepted the wine. He sat next to me on the dirt, and it was then I saw he had his own cup. Surprise filled me at the fact a Gladiator would share space with a man such as myself. The thought had me curious.
“Why did you lay attempt on Spartacus’ life?” he boldly asked, bypassing any inane chatter.
Gazing at the liquid in my cup, I replied, “Slavery is all I have ever known. When my Dominus fell, fright overtook my senses. With one stroke of the sword, I have no place in this world.”
“You truly believe there is not a better life for you?” Agron asked vehemently, causing my eyes to find his. “I was under shackle and chain for but a fraction of what you have been, and I yearned to see them broken every waking moment. I believe in our leader’s cause. There is nothing better than waking with the sun a free man. You will soon learn of that pleasure.”
I had heard of such pleasures. Free to hold head high and roam wherever you wished. Opportunity around every corner to purchase whatever the heart desired, with wages earned from hard work. No one to call Dominus, ever again.
“Perhaps.” The thought both terrified and excited me.
“Tell me of the brother you spoke of earlier,” he stated, gazing at the other men and women milling about.
“I did,” I answered, at last sipping from my cup. The wine tasted of fruit and flowers, a much welcome treat upon tongue and lips.
“He has met the afterlife?” Agron queried, turning eyes to mine.
“I do not know. I know very little of him.”
“A loss that surely weighs heavy upon heart, as I know well.” His face took on the distant look of someone reliving a hurtful memory as brow furrowed. He continued in strained voice, “Duro, my brother, was struck from this world by one of Roman blood. He died saving my life.”
“It does,” I answered, taking more my cup had to offer.
“I shall train you in the way of weapons, Nasir. Like a Gladiator. Then perhaps, one day, we shall not hold such heavy burden in breast,” Agron stated, his voice and eyes filled with determination. If his words hadn’t held such meaning, I would have lost breath at such intensity of his stare.
Finishing the wine given me, I held out my cup.
“Gratitude, for the wine and the offer. I look forward to our next meeting.”
Agron took my cup with a smile, fingertips lingering on my own. Breath caught in chest for but a moment, then he took leave.
I left the boy, feeling the ground unsteady beneath my feet. He was nothing as I had thought him to be. He was but an innocent slave, yet his eyes held fire. Underneath the boyish appearance lay a wild spirit any Gladiator would be jealous of. That could be to our advantage.
He was a fool to lay attempt on Spartacus. He would no longer be of this world if not for the man himself stilling my hand. Most slaves yearned to be free of their Masters, yet Nasir had been frightened. That was a trait of one who had only ever known such a thing.
I did not want to see such fire put to ash. My mind settled on training the boy as once ordered by Spartacus. Instead of a dreaded task as once thought, I now looked forward to it. If I could see him taught as I once was, perhaps he could see the invisible chains of bondage fall away to better purpose.
“We need a hunting party to go in search of meat,” Spartacus was saying to Crixus as I entered the villa. Crixus was a Gaul, once Champion of Capua, hailing from the same ludus as Spartacus and I. He was a beast of a man, with temper to match.
“My people would be well suited to the task,” I declared. Having been newly freed from the slave ship, it would give them much needed opportunity to feel alive again.
Spartacus had thoughtful look upon face. “Perhaps.”
“Those fucking fools couldn’t keep quiet and would surely return empty handed,” Crixus sneered. While it remained true that my brothers were of a boisterous nature, I sensed they would not fail in any task set before them. They were too thankful to have weight of shackle lifted.
Stepping toward the Gaul, I bared teeth. “Cease fucking tongue! They are merely joyful to have been liberated, and act as such.”
Fucking Crixus. Always quick to bear contrary remark against anyone who stood different from him.
“They are nothing but wild dogs!”
“Crixus, enough,” Spartacus stated, then turned eyes on me. “Gather a group of six and tell them to see me as sun falls. In the mean, I would see you work with the Syrian boy.”
Nodding assent, I turned and walked back into the hot sun, pausing only to gather equipment.
Heeding Spartacus, I then gathered the best hunters I knew and told them of our leader’s plan.
Through the crowd, Nasir still sat where he had been previous, forehead resting upon knees. As I approached, I nudged bare foot with boot. Startled, the boy’s dark eyes met mine, squinting in harsh light.
“Spartacus wishes for your training to begin,” I stated.
He clambered to his feet and stood before me, tense and straight. Only ever having known slavery, the behavior was well instilled in the Syrian. I was reminded of how easily I had shed that behavior once freed. Yet, my shackles were only upon wrists but for a short time, compared to his.
Holding out one of the shields and practice swords, I spoke quietly.
“You move as slave does to Master. I am not your Dominus, nor shall I ever be.”
He gave a nervous nod. “Apologies.”
Rolling my eyes, I stood at position. “Come at me.”
Nasir lunged toward me, as I expected, with guard down and on unsteady feet. Deflecting his sword, I stepped aside and put mine at his back, almost knocking him down.
“Always keep your shield raised,” I instructed. “Again.”
He used an overhand attack, which I easily deflected, and kicked him backwards. As he landed on his ass in the sand, a feral look graced his features. Within moments, he was on his feet, running at me with both sword and shield raised. The smile I felt upon my face was relieved. I did wonder if he would revert back to the meek slave boy, but I needn’t have worried.
With a growl, face contorted with irritation, Nasir lunged again, deflecting my blow with his shield. Turning in a circle around me, he tried to connect with my back, which I sidestepped and tripped him. Holding out a hand, I offered him help to stand.
“There is the fire I see behind your eyes,” I told him. “That can be used well. Again.”
Glancing around, I noticed the others had gathered to watch, including Spartacus and Crixus. They stood on the steps of the villa, occasionally engaging in conversation. Now that the boy had gained attention, we would see how he reacted.
Without warning, Nasir charged. I was almost late in noticing, barely getting my shield up in time. He sent a series of blows, the victim my guard, and I swung in retaliation. His height gave him easy escape. He ducked under my sword and tried to trip me. I stumbled back, turned, and laid my sword against his throat. Ducking his head, he dropped his weaponry.
Lowering my sword, I gripped his chin with fingertips and raised his face to mine.
“You did well on first attempt, Nasir,” I spoke softly. “With time and practice, you will do better. Do not feel defeated. Learn from my actions.”
Eyes so dark and filled with hope stared into mine. In my heart, I knew he could be a great warrior. Time built confidence, and by the Gods, I would help him achieve it.
Upon release of his face, a shy smile formed on his mouth. Wide and smooth, it beckoned me to taste. He bent to collect his sword and buckler, and my eyes could not halt gaze from slick and sandy shoulders and back.
“Come on, Agron!” Lugo called. “Cease fucking with eyes and show him how a real man fights!”
“I shall do both!” I laughed, launching a new attack on the Syrian.
We thrust and countered, swords clashing amongst cheers from the crowd. For brief moment, it seemed as if I were upon the sands of the arena, fighting for my life as I did so many moons past. Heart racing, veins on fire, I stared into Nasir’s determined face as he gave all focus and energy in besting me.
The thought that perhaps he needed a rest passed through mind, and I called a halt to our activities. After all, the sun was hot and he was not accustomed to the practice of swordplay.
He made to place sword and shield in my hands, but I stilled him.
“Keep them with you, so you can practice with others when I am previously occupied.”
“Gratitude, for the lesson,” he panted as he regained breath.
Leaning close, I smirked, “If it causes your breath to quicken in that manner, I look forward to the next.”
Taking my leave, I met Spartacus and Crixus on the steps.
“He shows promise,” I stated.
“Promise of satisfying your cock,” Crixus spat. “He is not a warrior.”
“No,” Spartacus spoke. “He is not. He will be, given proper instruction and time to train by Agron and myself.” He clapped me on the shoulder.
“It seems Naevia thinks he is worthy,” I said, watching as the girl herself sat next to Nasir and offered him a cup of water.
“A truth I do not favor, but shall do nothing to hinder her desires,” Crixus replied, then engaged Spartacus in talk of other matters. I stood silent, watching the Syrian speak and smile with his new friend.
Draining the cup bestowed upon me by Naevia, I set it aside and pushed my hair back.
“Gratitude, for the water, but I doubt Crixus approves gesture.”
Smiling, she replied, “I shall befriend whomever I choose.”
Returning her sentiment, I rested my head against the cool stone of the wall. Sleep had not visited me the previous night. My head held thoughts of the fall of the villa and of the warrior’s cause.
Having been brought up in the villa, a slave since I was a young boy, the turn of events caused confusion and discomfort. If my Dominus was still of this world, I would not be sitting as such. I would be tending my Master. Fetching wine, bathing him, or brandishing fan in attempt to stay the heat.
My new trainer had aided my confusion. Although my eyes were not laid upon the man, the heat of his gaze reached me from the steps of the villa. I knew nothing of him, yet I was taken from first sight. The reason why eluded me. He seemed as from another world. One in which I was unsure if I could be part of.
“Your cheeks have color,” Naevia commented. “And I have doubt it is from the heat.”
Lifting my head to gaze upon her, I had no doubts the surprise of her words showed upon my face.
“What is your meaning?” I asked, forearms resting on knees.
“Even though our time here has been short, I have seen his eyes upon you and the way he chooses words carefully when you are near. In the time I have spent in his company, his behavior has never been as such,” she said with a gentle smile.
“He is fascinating,” I said without thought.
“The other women gaze upon him with longing, yet I fear they shall be sorely disappointed.”
“What of you and the Gaul then?” I attempted change in conversation, feeling blush hot upon cheek. She emitted a small sigh.
“Crixus was a Gladiator from the House of Batiatus. I was born there, and was a slave all my life, as you were here. He saved me from the imprisonment I never thought I would be free from. My heart lay with him long before he was Champion of Capua.”
“And his with you?”
“Yes. Although, my Domina frequently required his...services,” she replied with the look of someone who had tasted something sour.
As words took meaning, my eyes widened. To watch the one who held your heart give affection to another must have been torture.
“How did you cope?”
Her face softened. “Only by remembering Crixus’ words to me, that it was only I he thought of in such situations.”
The flush high upon her cheek told of her pleasure of those words. She laughed lightly, causing my own laughter to come. It brought me happiness in the knowledge that Naevia had been once where I was now, and that she was willing to befriend me.
“Things are very different now,” I commented. “In both our lives.”
“As is the way of the world, Nasir. I truly believe happiness will come to you now.” She leaned close. “And perhaps most of it will be in the form of a Gladiator.”
My eyes were upon the map on the table, but my thoughts were far from such. The Syrian and his interactions with Naevia weighed heavily upon my mind. They were growing close in their friendship, sharing words and laughter in their free time. What plagued me worst was that I had yet to actively pursue him, even though the desire to burned through my veins every moment.
Training him was nothing short of the best kind of torment. He learned quickly, moved swiftly, and I did not doubt he would be ready for battle soon. Adjusting to life outside of slavery was becoming easier for him as days passed. The act of sparring was strengthening his body, causing me much distraction. Subtle touches and slight innuendo we shared only served to fuel the blaze burning within me. I feared I would lose mind if I stayed idle much longer.
“I fear Agron’s thoughts are not on task,” Crixus said loudly, startling me.
Eyes shifting from him to Spartacus, I cleared my throat and sighed.
“The hour grows late. Apologies are not necessary,” Spartacus said. “Let us take rest. We shall reconvene when day breaks.”
“Gratitude,” I replied, and took my leave.
Once again, my thoughts turned to Nasir. I was so preoccupied, the fact that the man himself bumped into me escaped notice. It was the sound of a cup breaking that brought my senses back, and I crouched to help gather the pieces.
Raising my eyes from the broken crockery upon the floor, I found myself gazing into eyes filled with worry.
“Calm yourself, Nasir,” I told him gently. “No harm has been done.”
With a slight smile upon lips, he helped me gather the pieces.
“I shall take these to burn,” he said in near whisper, carefully picking the pieces from my hands.
Once they were empty, my thumb grazed his cheek with lightest of touches. “I pray sleep finds you well,” I told him, leaning down to place a soft kiss upon his lips.
As I drew away, the smile he blessed me with would have caused Jupiter himself to weep if he had laid eyes upon it.
With the sunrise next, after words were broken with Spartacus and Crixus of our next plans, Crixus and I took to the yard to train our emerging warriors.
“Everyone! Gather equipment and stand to see the likes of what you shall practice this day!” Crixus called from the villa steps. People moved to action, anxious to gain new knowledge. The sight pleased eye and mind.
Moving onto the sand, we were first met by Naevia and Nasir. All thoughts fled as I laid eyes upon the smile that warmed my heart.
Before I could form words, the man’s lips touched mine gently. As he moved away, the color on his cheek was high. Naevia bestowed a smile and nod upon me before showing Crixus her affection.
As soon as position was gained, I attacked with everything I had. Crixus was well skilled, and I thought us to be evenly matched. He managed to catch me unaware and fist met mouth, knocking me backwards.
Spitting out blood, I regained my feet and quickly managed to trip him. He fell forward, face meeting sand. Before he could stand, I was upon him, causing him to roll over and deflect my blows with his shield.
He rolled the opposite way as I brought my sword up to strike again, and found his feet. The hilt of his sword met the backs of my knees, to great effect. I fell, but leaned back to place my sword to Crixus’ chest before he had time to place his at my neck.
Backing away, he helped me to my feet. I ignored the calls from the others around us, my eyes searching for one alone.
He was back against the wall, listening raptly to Crixus’ instruction detailing the lesson we had performed. With his brow creased in concentration, I held no doubt he was committing every word to memory.
It pleased me to know he had finally shed his collar. It was clear he enjoyed freedom, and wanted to fight for the cause. Thoughts already formed in mind of sharing a farm with him when the war was won.
Movement caught my eye, breaking my gaze from Nasir. Spartacus had joined the training. As I joined him, Crixus called for Nasir to take my previous place upon the sand. His action caused me worry. Nasir was not prepared to face Crixus. Glancing at Spartacus, I searched for sign of him halting Crixus’ actions, but none was found.
The fight began with Crixus taking charge. Nasir gave valiant effort, attacking when he was able. Mostly, he blocked with shield and arm. A particularly strong kick to chest sent Nasir on his ass. He slid in sand until his head hit the wall. As he lowered shield, my eyes found blood dripping from his chin.
Nasir attempted to stand, only to be knocked flat again by Crixus’ shield. Blood appeared on Nasir’s cheek, and a rage filled my being at seeing him so badly treated.
Striding through the crowd of people chanting the name of that fucking Gaul, I pushed them aside as I went. Reaching Crixus, I grasped his shoulder and turned him to face me. My fist met his face with force.
“This is not the fucking arena!” I spat, anger causing me to shake. He glared at me.
“The boy wants teaching, let him be taught,” he replied, voice deadly calm.
“You are not a Doctore and that is not how Oenomaus taught us, you stupid fuck! You were beating him!”
“As we first learned...when we were slaves. The boy is certainly not worthy of the arena. He stays too long on ass. I instruct what happens when you do so.”
“So now you name yourself Batiatus as well? You’ve lost mind. He no longer is a slave and works to join cause. This is how you would treat a future brother to join you upon battlefield?”
“I treat him as the simpleton that he is,” he sneered, and made to walk away.
Rage ignited my body. I tackled Crixus to the sand, sitting on his chest, my fists making purchase anywhere I could reach. The Gaul’s blood flowed, slicking my hands, yet I did not cease. Not even when his nose crunched satisfyingly under my assault.
“By Jupiter’s cock, I will rip tongue from fucking mouth!” I screamed.
“Agron!” came Spartacus’ voice as he appeared beside us. He pulled me to my feet, yet I went for more. Lugo’s arms were suddenly there, holding me back. Naevia stood between Crixus, Spartacus, and I. Nasir was gone from sight.
Glancing around, I asked, “Where is Nasir?”
“I sent him inside the villa,” Naevia answered in soft voice.
Pulling free from Lugo’s arms, I sprinted for the villa.