Publius Pollius Quintus swept through the atrium of his town house, his furrowed brow contemplating every detail of the room. Five slaves stood around the room, equipped to serve their stony master at the drop of a hat. Quintus smiled greedily, his thin green eyes glistening in the morning light. His teeth shone as he smiled, outlined by a rough, tanned face. His black hair was cropped short and was held back by a gold band that crowned his temple.
Publius Pollius Quintus was the fifth son of a magistrate, and was now a rich and trusted patron to many people in the Bay of Neapolis. He owned many houses, from villas in Stabia, Oplontis and Surrentum to town houses in Cumae, Pompeii, Puteoli and Misenum. He owned over fifty slaves, whom he dressed in the finest grey silk to show how wealthy he was, as if the extravagantly decorated town house wasn’t proof enough. His wife had died in childbirth of his fourth child, Publius Pollius Septimus, and he now lived alone with his children – Publius Pollius Sextus, Publius Pollius Septimus, Polla and Pollilina. Nevertheless, he was a crude and lonely man, who spent little or no time with
As he entered his study, a small dark haired boy ran behind a pillar. Quintus growled, but his face softened. “Sextus! What do you think you are doing?” As he spoke two more heads popped out from under his desk, one dark, and one fair. “Polla! Pollilina! How dare you!” Perfectly on cue, the final and smallest head appeared at Quintus’s feet. Septimus small round face beamed up at his father, making Quintus’s frown melt away.
He sighed, and lifted the infant onto his shoulder, beckoning to his children. He sat down in his chair and smiled. The children circled around their father, their eyes darting to one another’s nervously. “ I am a grouch aren’t I?” Quintus groaned patting Polla on the head. The children nodded and Septimus burst into laughter. Quintus forced a smile. “Tonight. I promise. We shall eat together,” He kissed Pollilina on the forehead, “ Wes hall eat together and do whatever you wish, but now I have important business to attend to, so off you go.” And with that he dropped Septimus into his eldest daughter’s armed and shooed them away. “Wait! Sextus.”
He beckoned the boy back to his side. “You are my eldest son, and when I am gone you shall take over as the Patron of the entire Bay of Neapolis. Therefore, I believe you must learn what it takes to be a Patron, but first…” He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Being the son of the wealthiest patron in Italia puts you in immediate danger. I believe it time for you to have a companion, your age but more aware of his surroundings… a boy who would give their life for you…” He eyed his son. “It is time for you to buy a slave.” Sextus gulped and stuttered. “But I don’t know how…” Quintus snarled. “You will learn!” He shouted, pushing his son away, sweeping back through the atrium.
Why was his son and heir so insolent? So shy and fearful? What had he done to deserve it! He looked back at his trembling son who was tripping to keep up. He brought shame to his name. Quintus snarled. This was why he didn’t spend time with his children.
* * *
Amicus cringed as the buyers eyed the sign around his neck that bound him to his fate. He shuffled backwards, almost falling off the thin platform. The smell of stale wine and fish wafted into the slave market followed by a large group of gladiator teachers, farmers and rich businessmen, whom were in need of a slave. He cursed, his hands writhing in the iron manacles that entrapped him. “Hush. He will only hit you again.” Amicus froze, and turned his head to look at the girl next to him.
She had dark skin and shallow cheeks, her hands crisscrossed with scars. Her jaded eyes bore into his, her hands hanging limp in her manacles. Her lips were dry and cracked and her arms and legs were emaciated. Her dark hair was tied back in a disorderly knot. Amicus did not recognise the strange but filthy clothes she wore, and her voice was heavily accented. “How can you…” Amicus began, but the girl shook her head. “I learnt from crew. From slavers. From him” She indicated with her forehead towards the slave dealer. Amicus nodded. “What is your name?”
“Hidaya. I am Hidaya.”
“I am Amicus.”
Hidaya smiled. Her eyes seemed less cold. “What does it matter? We will be gone soon.” She sighed and watched as another slave was bought. “Good luck Am…icus.” She stopped, and bit her lip. “Amicus… it means friend?” Amicus smiled and nodded. “I am your friend Hidaya.” Hidaya smiled and her eyes beamed. Amicus looked up and spotted a young man walking towards the stall, a morose young girl by his side.
The pair walked down the line of slaves and stopped at Hidaya. The girl squealed. “Oh! Father! This one! She is so pretty! Agrippina will be so jealous! Please Pater! Please!” The girl hugged her father’s knees. The man smiled and patted his daughter on the head. “Now, now Varinia. Remember, she is only going to be a body slave, Agrippina won’t see her!” He frowned. “However… a low price…” Hi s brow furrowed and then straightened. He turned to the dealer. “This one,” pointing at Hidaya. Amicus’ heart sank, as the pair left with is new friend. Hidaya turned and looked at Amicus, her golden eyes filled with a sense o f pity. He saw her lips move but only caught the last word. Friend.