Keeper and KeybyLynn_Elliot©
Valeria Sylvia was sitting on a stone in the garden of her home. A fountain burbled in the middle, with lily pads growing on the water, flowers cradled on them. The stones were set around the water, and Sylvia often went here to read the scrolls they'd been given by their tutor. The girl loved reading, unlike her siblings. She was the most clever of them all, they all infatuated with sports, politics, or themselves to some degree or another. She was quiet and small for her eighteen years, yet beautiful. She'd been unusually sheltered, as per the contract her father had made, long ago, with her betrothed.
Times had been hard, as of late. Father was often busy, stressed, as money flowed out. A ship carrying a huge investment was lost at sea, and now the family was struggling. There'd been talk of what to do, but most of that between father and his friends. He'd calmed in the last few days, often giving her, and other members of the family, odd looks, as if he'd come to a decision and not told them. It gave Sylvia a prickly feeling on the back of her neck to think of it, and she wondered when she'd find out what had happened.
There was no sun, the evening having come. The sky wasn't filled with stars, though, not in the middle of the city. A man stood in the doorway from the living area, tall and with noble bearing. He wore no tunic, as was the modern custom of wear, but only a toga, certainly naked beneath. Though she'd never seen such a thing, she'd heard of it, knew it was the way the very old or old fashioned tended to dress. His eyes were piercing blue, much like her own. The girl, as was proper at the entrance of a senator, stood to give a graceful curtsy, and then she went back to sitting once more. The man continued to watch her, though, and seemed not to be going away.. just leaning there, a handsome smile on his pale face.
She might have spoken to ask him what it was he smiled at, if he'd been a friend of her father's, or someone in her family. As it was, her curiosity was sharp, but she didn't betray it, simply waited. It was hard waiting, and she crossed her ankles, and recrossed them, and fidgeted with a stray wisp of hair that'd come out of its confining braid.
The man smiled at her in that way that often made her sister Maior (the younger of the two Valeria Marinas in the family) shiver and flirt, desirous of some boy's attention, yet would make Sylvia just roll her eyes. She didn't roll her eyes now. Her eyes flicked down to the words, and then butterflies tickled her insides as the man leaned off the door frame and stepped over to her, then crouched beside her. "What are you reading?"
"Poetry," she said, her voice almost too soft to hear. He hadn't been introduced to her yet, and her father hadn't introduced her, but he was so close. And he seemed nice. He smelled rather good too, she noticed, which heightened the pink flush in her cheeks.
"Poetry?" A tilt of his head, "That's quite a coincidence, don't you think?" His dark brow rose.
Puzzled, she tried to figure out if it was something she should know, and finally decided it wasn't. Trying hard not to smile or laugh, which she sometimes did at inappropriate times when she was nervous, Sylvia asked, "why is that?"
"Because," he said as he touched the side of her chin that faced away from him to tilt her face toward his, and then he tapped her chin, "To look at you is to see poetry in form."
Sylvia bit her lip, and then laughed, stopping herself by covering her mouth. Blushing hotly, she looked away again. No one had ever said anything like that to her, and she was being as silly as Maior! Her hand lowered, and her eyes slid back to his. She was smiling, she couldn't help that. "Thank you, sir." She wondered suddenly if this was the man she was betrothed to. She'd never met him, but it would explain why father had been giving her such odd looks recently.
"Mm," he sounded, still that charming smile, just looking over the girl's features as she gazed back nervously. He could see her mind was working, trying to determine why a man such as himself would ever spend time speaking to her. What interest could he possibly have? Indeed. "What's your name, Poetry?"
"Valeria Sylvia," she answered readily, if quietly. It was almost more than she could bear, not to ask a question, but she restrained herself with great effort. Sylvia was beginning to think, though, that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to be betrothed to someone this handsome, and this nice.
"Go ahead," he said. It was obvious to him that she was bursting with a need to say, to ask, to speak, "Speak to me freely, for now."
"Oh, thank you," she was so relieved, but she was still aware of the fact that she'd embarrass her father if she didn't act with some semblance of feminine dignity. "Are you a friend of father's? Are you here to meet him, or to meet... someone else? For something?" It was the best she could do.
"For something, some.. things. Yes... and no, I'm no friend of your father. I was here to complete a business deal we began," he explained. "Your family was in quite the financial quandary."
"I know," she grimaced. "Father's been very worried, but I think its almost over. If you're not his friend, then... I don't understand..." She didn't want to be impolite, but how would father pay a dowry if he was in such trouble?
"A business deal," he said again. "I'm completing the purchase of some things from him," his smile softening a bit. "He won't have to worry any more."
"Then that's very good. It feels like trying to walk on the top of mud without getting your sandals dirty when he's mad, and everyone is creeping around, not talking and not laughing and..." Sylvia stopped herself. But he still hadn't said why he was talking to her, though it sounded like it wasn't a betrothal. She was almost disappointed. Blinking, "father didn't sell Yatima, did he?" Her eyes widened slightly. Surely father wasn't in such trouble that he needed to sell their slaves!
"Oh no, no," he assured her gently, brushing her cheek then cupping it. The man tilted his head at her, piercing blue eyes locked, "He sold his children."
She stared at him blankly, unable to conceive of it. Father loved them, she knew he did. Her brow creased, and her lower lip quivered. "He wouldn't," she said, unsteadily. "He wouldn't. I'm betrothed. I can't be a slave."
The man took both her hands and cupped them in both of his. The scroll was left in her lap, and he said, "Yes," a slight not, "He did. I bought out the contract, and your life is mine now, Sylvia. As is that of your sister, and your brothers. You're all mine, now."
Sylvia was struggling to understand how something like this could happen. She'd been intended for It didn't seem as if it could, not really. "You mean we're leaving now? But he wouldn't, he loves me, I know it. I know it, he wouldn't make me a slave, that's so much worse than a wife. Isn't it... I don't..." Her eyes had started to sting with tears, and she took a deep breath. He hadn't changed expression, his eyes were just as serious as they'd been when he first told her, and she realized it must be true. Instead of being the daughter of a citizen she was a slave. Just like Yatima.
"Indeed," he said, then drew her hands up and kissed them, kissed each knuckle as she cried. "I'll enjoy your presence in my home. I can see you have the most potential of them all, despite your age. Young," a hand slid down her arm, then up it, until wrapping around her throat. "You will call me Dominus. And from this day until the day you've earned a name your own again, you will simply be Sylvia."
Sniffling, she tried not to cringe, but she was frightened now, and it was hard. Nearly impossible, in fact. "Yes sir, Dominus." Her mother... and her lessons, and her father. Her father who loved her. Her head bowed, while her tears flowed.
The extremity of her emotional state was savory, feeding him, emboldening him. It was... delicious. "Very good, my Sylvia." Then Dominus' hand caressed her cheek, "I'm going to gather your other siblings, and then we will return to my home. That will be your home, as well, but you will be a slave, never forget that it is your life now, to serve." Dominus leaned forward, kissing one tear, than the other, tasting their pain and betrayal. "My little Poetry."
(Edited by LaRascasse.)