Another hot day, the ground so parched of rain that it seemed as if the sand had become part of the air as it swirled and clung to the bodies of the men.
He thrust his practice sword forward which Barca parried lazily, the heat was getting to them all, “So how goes things with you and the little slave girl?” he asked pointedly.
He made no reply as he pulled his practice sword behind his back to stretch, leaning both of his arms over it, a playful scream from above drew his attention and he looked up.
Naevia had just run onto the balcony wearing that short blue dress of hers that showed off her golden legs.
He watched as her long black hair fell wildly around her shoulders as she ran, she appeared to be clutching an apple, one that another slave girl with pale skin seemed to be trying to get it.
“It’s mine!” giggled the other slave as she attempted to reach around her back where she currently held the apple.
She simply giggled holding it out of her friends reach, “Naevia!” complained her friend.
“Mira!” she teased, a smile on her face as she danced out of her way.
He watched as she leaned over the balcony railing, holding her hand out of the reach, her eyes still on her friend, Mira.
Leaning forward she grasped the apple pulling it triumphantly from her grasp, “Victory!” she smiled.
Naevia giggled as she bit into the apple, looking about the training yard.
She too looked about, seeming to search for something in particular, their eyes locked and her face immediately softened slightly, her lips parting as blush crept onto her cheeks.
He let one side of his mouth twitch up into a smile, her happiness and youthful playfulness filled him with a strange delight that was still foreign to him.
She made to smile back, but a sharp word from inside caught her attention abruptly; she turned back to him as Mira grabbed her hand.
A small smile graced her lips before she was pulled out of view.
He smiled to himself turning back to Barca who ran his sword over his neck before putting it down to his groin and thrusting it forward provocatively.
He rolled his eyes at his friend before thrusting his shield forward; Barca alone knew of his feelings for Naevia, he alone was who he trusted.
But he wasn’t going to risk Barca’s teasing alerting others, as he quickly slashed his sword forward to be knocked by his shield and continued training.
She wetted her lips with her tongue for what felt like the hundredth time that time that day. She couldn’t escape the feeling of his lips upon hers.
But the dryness in the air and the lack of water that the Dominus was allowing her to have was making everything; tending her chores, standing in the sun, even denying her feelings for Crixus, they were all so much harder.
Chasing Mira, whilst it had been fun, had sapped her energy, and she was now feeling the consequences of it as she once again stood with Domina to eaves drop on Solonius, the Magistrate and Dominus as they stood on the balcony overseeing the Gladiators.
“An impressive selection, rivalling that of good Solonius himself” said the Magistrate as he gazed out at the Gladiator training ground.
“Yet I have the Primus” fired back Solonius.
“Half, your opponent still to be chosen” he said pointedly.
Domina gripped her hand to drag her closer to the balcony, so they may better eavesdrop on the conversation.
“If you wish to appease the gods, you must have one upon the sands. Crixus, the champion of Capua, will willingly fight anyone that Solonius has to offer” said Dominus.
“Excellent. It will truly be a contest between legends” said the Magistrate sitting down.
“Legends?” questioned Dominus, a question that had bubbled to her own lips upon hearing Crixus’s name. Who was this legend that Crixus was to fight?
“Oh, did I fail to mention? Good Solonius has secured Theokeles for the primus” said the Magistrate absently.
Domina clutched her arm in a steely grip as she gasped. A reaction that could be contributed to the pain that was currently being inflicted on her arm, but the thought of Crixus facing Theokeles, The Shadow of Death, caused her heart to constrict in a shocking and painful way.
“Theokeles?” gasped Dominus, though she barely heard her through her own fear.
“I managed to coax him to our fair city at great expense” said Solonius smugly.
“With our gratitude… If the gods fail to grant us rain with such a tribute, then we are surely cursed” said the Magistrate.
Dominus pursed his lips, “I fear the gods will be displeased. The match is unbalanced. Only one man has stood against Theokeles and lived”
She looked down at the ground as Crixus swung his practice sword, fear clutched her chest at the thought of him being harmed let alone dead.
“What if Crixus was joined by your man Spartacus? His death was fated in execution, yet he refused to own it and cost me four men in his defiance” said Solonius flicking his hands towards the Thracian.
“Your debts are well known Batiartus. Even if you lose the men, the purse is enough to hold off your creditors for a moment” said the Magistrate looking over his shoulder, Solonius sat down with a smug look on his face, “Unless of course you would rather sit out of these games or any other that follow which–”
she bit her lip, baiting Dominus, knowing his pride was now on the line, was a most definite way for both Solonius and the Magistrate to get what they wanted, “No I will set my men to the task” he said casually stepping forward towards the balcony’s edge.
She looked down to Crixus, how easily the day had started, how she had glanced down into the yard at him, appreciating his form and the way the sun caught it, how when he smiled it seemed to light up his entire face… Now as she looked down at him, still hidden in the shadows, she feared how many more times she may be able to gaze upon him.
“My Titans! Pause and hear the glorious news” called Dominus, “Magistrate Titus Calavius has invited our best men to fight in his primus” he said.
she watched as an excited tremor went through the men, though her eyes were only on him.
“Crixus Step Forward” called Dominus.
She gripped the pillar as her legs seemed to buckle from underneath her, seeing him step forward seemed to confirm what, until that point, had just been talk.
Crixus would face a Monster, a Gladiator that had never been defeated, that had never fallen.
“Spartacus step forward”
She watched as he stiffened as his fellow Gladiator brother stepped forward.
“You have been chosen to fight as one against Theokeles, the Shadow of Death” said Dominus, his voice sounded out like an ominous drum in her ears.
“Crixus, you are summoned” said the Guard motioning for him.
He sighed, his mind was full of thoughts of Theokeles, the Shadow Death, facing him with Spartacus was something he had not anticipated. It was an embarrassment.
Walking to the bars alone he kept his head down, his mind whirling with thoughts.
“Water” said a kind voice.
He looked up to see Naevia standing at the cell door, her hand extended through the bars holding a wineskin, he smiled; she had come to give him water.
Despite their last encounter where she had pulled away from him, damming his feelings for her with a simple word, she was here now and that was something.
“From Domina to help with your training” she explained,
He felt the smile slip from his lips; so she was not here of her own free will, but because she had been sent. He sighed internally; while he had hoped the gift to be from her, the wish for safety from her, he wasn’t about to turn away water.
Grasping the material he brought it to his lips and drank deeply, feeling the dust in his mouth disappear and fill him with energy.
He saw she made to leave and panic clutched him, he immediately free his lips to speak, “wait a moment” he said, his voice still rasped despite the fresh water.
She turned around to look at him curiously, yet her face was wary, “to what purpose?” she asked quietly.
He let loose a short breath as her heard her mind, did he really need a reason to want her close? “Need there be one?” he asked simply.
She held his eye for a moment before she looked away, a beautiful blush decorating her cheeks “you shouldn’t look at me that way” she mumbled.
Oh how he knew that, how he knew how dangerous things were for them, “I try with all my strength not to…” he said, did she hear the ache in his voice? “but I am weak” he murmured.
A beautiful smile broke through on her face, it seemed that she tried to hold it back but couldn’t, he knew right then that his intentions pleased her, no matter how she tried to hide them.
He smiled back, slowly and shyly she reached her hand through the bars to caress his cheek, her fingers lighter than a moth’s wing, so hesitant.
He leaned his face into her palm, eager for the touch of her silky smooth skin, her innocents and shyness endeared him so as they were qualities he had never experienced, “sleep then, and regain your strength” she said softly, her voice laced with tenderness.
He looked down, letting her fingers grace his lips aching for the smooth skin of her lips against his once more as she slowly removed her hand, pulling it back through the bars he leaned his head against the iron as he watched her leave.
She stood at the back of the room, her head down as Spartacus left.
“The Champion of Capua, a rare honour to receive a private audience” said Dominus.
“One I am most appreciative of” giggled the Lady Illythia as she draped herself on the couch, “although, he does seem a touch…” she accented the word “over-dressed for the occasion”
She flicked her up for a moment at Crixus, she knew what was coming, “Your sabligaria, remove it” he said.
She focused her gaze intently on the floor as he exposed himself, the sound of the material dropping on the floor the only indicator she had as she refused to look up.
Illythia gasped in delight, “Your champion is bold in his purpose” she giggled.
She looked up shyly through her lashes, she didn’t let her eyes travel down his sculpted body, but let them rest on his face, the only part that mattered to her.
“I take my leave” said Dominus before he turned on his heel and left.
Crixus moved her eyes from the back of the wall where he had been looking to lock his eyes with her as Illythia approached him; she trailed her fingers over his arm as she went to his back, moving her hand to his shoulder, “His flesh is hard” she marvelled as she moved around to his other shoulder, “like marble”
She looked away uncomfortably, his being with Domina when ordered was one situation, but seeing a women drape herself over him whilst looking at him as if he was a piece of meat made something akin to rage- was it jealousy? Clutch her stomach.
“Would that every man were carved so” purred Illythia as Domina looked around uncomfortably.
Apparently she didn’t like the look of another women with him either, “We best not keep him, his training resumes at first light” she said firmly.
Illythia stroked his arm, “Do you think he will survive against the shadow?”
“Only the gods know” replied Domina curtly.
She stroked his shoulder again, “It would be a pity to see such a man marred” she purred.
A tense moment passed before Domina spoke, “Perhaps there is a way to see such a tragedy averted” she said.
She looked up startled, her eyes immediately locking with his as they darted from Domina to her and back almost frantically.
“If your Father were to speak to the magistrate perhaps…” began Domina.
“To what end?” asked Illythia curiously.
“To seeing Crixus replaced in the games” she finished.
His eyes darted to Domina, then to her, their eyes locking for a fraction before he went back to staring at the wall as Illythia stroked his shoulder.
“Is that what you want? Do you fear entering the arena with Theokoles?” she asked curiously.
Her eyes betrayed her as she stared at him hopefully, her anxiety over the match built with each moment, the opportunity for him to be removed from harm made hope swell uncontrollably in her chest.
His black eyes locked with hers longer than was safe for the both of them before he answered, “I long for it” he said gutturally.
Her face fell as she felt the hope that had swelled so quickly sink down into her stomach; anxiety once again gripped her as she stared at the floor.
“As I long to see it” purred Illythia.
There was a silence as she felt her eyes begin to sting with the depth of her emotion.
“Naevia, more wine” commanded Domina.
She nodded in compliance, grabbing the jug she was careful to keep her face down cast.
Domina held out her cup, “Back to your cell” she said as she set the jug to the lip of the cup to pour the wine.
She felt a wet tear roll down her cheek and as she glanced up from pouring the wine, her eyes locked with his once more.
Something akin to guilt cast over his face quickly before the guard shoved him out of the room.
She turned her thoughts back to pouring the wine and to hiding her wet face from the ladies.