Amicus opened his eyes, shutting them immediately afterwards. The window may have been small, but the morning light came streaming in. He rolled over, scratching his arms. The sack he had slept on was old and itchy, probably full of fleas. Amicus cringed. He edged himself onto his elbow, rubbing his eyes. His mouth was sore and parched, and he reached for the small water gourd that lay next to the door. He looked over at Sorex, the room being barely big enough to fit two small boys. Now in the light Amicus could get a better look at his new friend.
It was not dirt he had seen on the boys face, but thousands of freckles piercing his pale cheeks. His hair was long and tied back in a pony tail, the colour illuminating in the dull room. His fair eyelashes fluttered in his sleep, revealing sharp green eyes. Amicus shook the boys shoulder roughly. “You had better get up. We have work to do.”
Sorex groaned and rubbed his eyes with his fists. Amicus noticed a small gap between the large oak door and the pillared wall, and crawled towards it. A flickering light came seeping through as Amicus forced the gap wider. He put his eye to the opening and gasped.
The moon had only just melted into the pale sky of dusk, yet already Amicus was overwhelmed by a blur of people, their worn sandals slapping on the marble floors. There were small thin boys, much like himself, skittering around the atrium, holding jugs brimming with wine and platters of fresh meat, awaiting the Patron. He wouldn’t be up for hours yet. Behind these boys, nearer the kitchen, were three women, not much older than the dancers he had seen the other night. Their long plaited hair was straggled and dark, and they lent against a marble surface. The top was sprinkled with flour, and the girls were kneading dough for the Patron’s flatbread.
Swarms of girls teetered past on wedged sandals, carrying woven baskets piled high with laundry, heading for a room belching with steam. Finally, Amicus saw a woman, sitting on the edge of an upturned creel. In her hands was a small infant, not much bigger than the basket she sat on. The woman was feeding the baby watered bread, and speaking in a language Amicus couldn’t understand.
Suddenly the atrium darkened, as if a thick black veil had been thrown over the villa, shielding it from the sun.
Amicus fell backwards rolling in a sore and disgruntled heap on Sorex. The bolt was drawn across the door with a screech, and there stood a man in a navy tunic, his hair oiled and is eyes sharp.
“Get up.” He kicked Sorex, and the boy yelped.
“Its less than you deserve boy. You should have been up hours ago. There are sheets to be folded. Horses to be cleaned. Floors to be scrubbed.” He grabbed Sorex by the ear and growled, “So if I were you boy, I would get out of my sight as soon as possible, or you will do more than squeal!” He dropped Sorex, who was caught by a male slave and dragged off to the laundry room. Amicus rose to his feet, but the man held up his hand. “Not you boy. Patron has other ideas for you. Follow me.”
Amicus was led through the slave quarters, passing the wet-nurse on her basket, and into a lighter room. He followed the man, and listened intently. “I am Lucrio. You will call me Dux Ducis. I am the head slave here, and you will do exactly as I say.”
“Yes Lu… Dux Ducis.”
“You have been chosen to be a slave for the young patron Publius Pollius Sextus. You will do his bidding, my behest, and the Patron’s command. Do you understand?”
“Yes Dux Ducis.”
“You will give your life for him, and will stay here until the day you die, or are released. Do you understand?”
“Yes Dux Ducis.”
By this time they had crossed pillared walkways and tiled rooms until they reached the end of a long corridor. “Enter Lucius.” A small, wispy voice floated through the door, and Amicus was puzzled. This certainly wasn’t the Patron. Nevertheless, Lucius opened the sweeping door, revealing a small sunlit room.
The north wall was nonexistent, but instead was covered with a thin blue shroud, leading onto a small balcony. The white marble shone in the light and Amicus gasped. The balcony over looked the entire bay. The room was simply furnished, but with the most elegant wooden furniture. Their was a recline couch on the balcony, several bookcases and desks, and a large bed, with a small pouch of lavender on
“Oú iowc àõeia Lucius.” The man left the room, yet Amicus had yet to spy his employer.
From beneath the veil stepped a boy, smaller than Amicus, with dark long hair, and wide blue eyes. The boy was beautiful. He beckoned to Amicus, gesturing to his desk. There on the surface lay a large book, its pages embellished with gold. He opened his mouth, revealing perfectly aligned teeth, and Amicus noted his hands were smooth and pink; his nails showed no sign of dirt and were long and almost feminine. “Hello. I am Publius Pollius Sextus. You look puzzled,” The boy laughed and his eyes shone. “That was Greek.” He patted the book. “I am learning Greek.”
All fear melted away from Amicus’s heart and the boy shared his employer’s grin.