Amicus snarled as a tall man in a stained tunic reached out to read his tablet more closely. The man winced and bellowed, “ Watch out Tatius! You have a wild one here! Britannia is it?” The slave dealer was busy with another buyer, and therefore didn’t hear the complaint. The man grumbled, “Definitely Britannia. To wild for anywhere else.” Amicus growled, “I’d like to see you up here you stinking old man!” The man frowned and sneered at Amicus. “You had better watch your tongue boy else I’ll buy you and teach you a lesson you will never forget!” Amicus eyed the man’s money pouch. “Not with that little bag of coins you won’t!” he mocked. If he was going to be sold as a slave, he might as well enjoy himself as long as he could.
He raised his head up to the sky, stuck out his chest and announced, “I am Roman my man! I shall cost more than you ever would! In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if you were run out of house and home to buy little old me,” Amicus fluttered his eyelids playfully and giggled. His enjoyment was short lived, as the slave dealer had just finished talking quick enough to catch the end of his speech and swiftly came and boxed his ears. “Ow!” Amicus squealed, clutching the sides of his face. Tatius wrenched Amicus off the platform, holding him by his collar – a relentless ordeal for the boy.
He pushed his face into Amicus’ and shook his fist violently. “Why you …” Tatius was interrupted by a brisk cough. Unwilling, he dropped Amicus, sending him sprawling across the platform and turned to the owner of the exasperating interruption.
Tatius’ eyes widened, his mouth taking the shape of a gawking fish. He scratched his profound stomach absent-mindedly and stuttered, “ Pa…Pa… Publius Pollius Quintus! Patron! Sir… it is an undoubted honour to see you again Sir!” Tatius performed an elevated bow, sweating in awe and embarrassment. “I was not expecting you my lord… you are… early?” Tatius was clearly confused, and Amicus could hear the rusty cogs inside his brain twitching and turning towards a logical conclusion.
“HIM!” the patron cried, his eyes lit up with impatience. Tatius shook his head slowly in disbelief. “Pardon … Sir?” The patron frowned and took a step forward. “Are you deaf? I want him!” A trickle of fear seeped down Amicus’ back as he followed the line of the accused finger. It led to him. He shifted his feet, uncomfortable. Tatius looked back, and at seeing Amicus’ reaction a wide smile grew on his tanned face. “Excellent choice sir.” Tatius muffled a laugh. Amicus took a deep breath and whispered. “I wouldn’t smile like that. He is only acts like this in front of leeches like you.”
“I wouldn’t be to sure.”
“ So long blood sucker.”
Tatius lurched towards Amicus, snarling, and grabbed the sign that hung from his neck. An all-knowing smile crept across his lips, making Amicus shiver. Swiftly the sneer became a beaming smile as he turned to the patron and giggled, “name your price!”
* * *
“Stand over there boy, with the others!” Publius Pollius Felix pointed a ringed finger to the far corner of his atrium, where four newly bought slaves stood, heads bowed, mouths tightly shut.
Amicus sloped over to the huddle. His eyes widened as he caught a glimpse of the next room. Crimson cloths covered a large marble table, rupturing with luscious food. Three heavily embellished couches surrounded the table, with a gap for a small stage. Upon the stage, was a group of dancers, their indigo stolas shifting in the evening light that seeped through the arches, separating the triclinium from the garden. Amicus gasped, his eyes shining. They looked like foreign princesses, shimmering in gold and blues of the ocean. Their eyes were concealed by kohl, their lips and cheeks blushed with a strange pink dye. Their skin was dark, like Hidaya’s, and below all the adornments lay cold and unfeeling eyes. Amicus flinched, and looked at his feet. They weren’t princesses. They were slaves.
Publius Pollius Felix growled. “Lucrio! Dress these slaves and get them ready. A patron cannot be seen with scruffy livestock after all.” Amicus scowled and glared at his captor, before being roughly shoved into the adjoining room. The three women slaves were shown into a separate room, and Amicus and a young boy were placed in another. They were stripped and washed, rubbed in scented oil and dressed in thin grey tunics, worn by all of the patron’s slaves. Their hair was pulled and combed and slicked back with a greasy concoction. The slaves that dressed them said nothing, and the boy next to him moaned and hit the slaves as they went about their work – but they didn’t even flinch.
The boys were thrown into a small room, furnished with two sacks filled with straw, a worn blanket and a single candle. The slave shut the door and said in a broken monotone, “You stay here till feast. Then you wait. Then you come here, and start work tomorrow.” Amicus stood, his mouth against the door. “Then what?” There was a short pause, and then he heard a soft click and the door edged open a crack. “Then nothing. Same thing, everyday, all day. You are slave now. There is no escape.” She shut the door. The young boy sat down on his mattress. Amicus circled the room, and eyed a small window near the ceiling, to small for even a scrawny boy to fit through. The slave was right; there was no way out of this room. He would wait until tomorrow. He sat down next to the boy.
“So… what is your name?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Fine! But I don’t see why. I can’t tell anyone stuck in here.”
“Go on then.”
The stunted conversation came to an abrupt close. Amicus smiled. He saw a lot of himself in the boy. “I am Amicus, and I am going to get us out of here.” The boy wiped his nose on his sleeve and turned to face Amicus. In the small light from the window Amicus could just make out his face. His skin wasn’t dark like the other slaves, but pale and tearstained. A flame of red hair hidden under layers of the sweet scented grease fell in wispy curls past his temple, and were it not for his strong nose and square jaw Amicus may have taken him for a very unsightly girl. “Sorex. I’m Sorex. I come from Gaul, but I speak Latin. My mother and sisters were taken too. My father was sold into the army. He was a warrior to protect home. Now he fights home. Ironic, isn’t it?” Amicus hid a smile and placed a hand on Sorex’s shoulder. “I’ll get you out, and then we can find your family.” Sorex chuckled doubtfully but leant his head against Amicus’ shoulder. “Thanks.”