Hard Won FreedombyPaolo Labico©
Harsh chanting echoed beneath the wide bronze brim of the Secutor's helmet Lycon wore. He looked through the grating of his visor, his face as much a prisoner of the helm as he was to the lusts of the crowd. His vision swam with fluttering tunics and pumping fists. He felt more than heard the roar of thousands of throats. Steam rose from his sweat and blood-begrimed chest. The sweat was his; the blood was not.
The weight of the broken shafted three-tined trident dangled from where a single tine pierced his visor, inches from his left eye. He knew now how close he had come to being the one on his back in the sand at the mercy of the Roman crowd. He shifted his foot on the chest of the supine man.
As he waited for the Emperor's decree, he saluted the crowd with his short, broad sword. Blood from his vanquished foe, his friend, Taharqua the Nubian, dripped from the disk- shaped pommel of his weapon. He looked down upon the writhing form of the sleek, black warrior beneath him. In his mind Lycon pleaded with the crowd for mercy. He and Taharqua had fought well, but he knew his last slash had bitten deep into the back of the black man's thigh. Taharqua could never wield the trident and net again, and Rome had no use, and thus no mercy, for a hamstrung Retarius.
For a moment the shouting died to a hiss, as the Emperor seemed to ponder the wishes of the crowd. A corpulent man, the Emperor struggled to his feet, shifting his toga with a flourish and almost losing his laurel wreath in the process. The explosion of noise deafened Lycon as the crowd reacted to the Emperor's verdict: death.
Lycon dropped his long rectangular shield and knelt at the side of his fallen friend. "Forgive me, brother."
Lycon was glad that the sweat-slick giant nodded and raised his chin without a struggle, gladder still that he kept his eyes closed. Those eyes would have haunted him for the rest of his days. Thus, in the same manner they slaughter the oxen on festive days, Lycon slaughtered a man he had known for over a year. Taharqua's blood seeped from torn throat for the glory of Rome. Then rising and offering the Emperor and the crowd the expected salute, he crossed the bloody sand on quivering legs and returned to his cell. He told himself his muscles wobbled from the exertion of the fight.
In the dank chamber, lit only by the sunlight that filtered through bars high overhead, a slave-boy peeled off his sweat-soaked armor, first lifting the heavy bronze helmet from his head, the trident left jutting obscenely from the visor as it was put aside. The armorers employed by his lanista, his master and trainer, would see that the helm was repaired and burnished to shine like new for the next bout he fought. The slave, set the task of caring for his needs, scrambled around him, undoing the laces his armor and loosening the leather where it bit into his flesh. The boy peeled the steel-banded sleeve off his right arm and shoulder. Flesh came away with it where it had been cinched across his ribs. Lycon impatiently kicked off the metal greave covering his left shin, then ordered the boy to leave as he dropped the thick leather belt and untied his rough woolen loincloth. The boy staggered under the weight of the armor as he hurried to collect it and exit the chamber.
Lycon sat heavily on the cold wooden bench. Some of the other men were raucous after a victory, happy to be alive. Some he knew cherished the feeling of the kill, the proof of their prowess. Lycon felt only emptiness. Taharqua and he were never close- no two gladiators are. All know that if they live long enough they will face each other in the arena. He and Taharqua had been in the same training class; his death was a reminder of how capricious the fate of a gladiator can be. But there was more. He knew he should be the one being dragged to the crematorium. Now that the surge of battle had passed, he remembered the look of Taharqua's face as the signal to fight was given: the slight curl of his lips, the light in his eyes. Taharqua fought not for victory, but for freedom. It's difficult to throw a fight and attain a clean, honorable death in a way that doesn't end with both gladiators crucified. A man would have to be very skilled with the trident to impale his foe's helmet, but miss his face. Taharqua was an expert, and now Taharqua was free, while he was still a slave.
He rose slowly, picking up the bowl of thick olive oil and the strigil left by the boy. He smirked as he pondered this, his last performance of the day. All of the gladiators were required to do it after battle. He would slather his body in the rich oil, then scrape the mixed oil, sweat and blood off with the strigil. A slave would collect the syrupy scrapings when he was done and it would be sold to the fashionable ladies of Rome as body lotion. The men joked of other secretions bought by rich women for their facials, but so far he had only been required to save his sweat. His lanista made quite a profit off of the trade. Lycon's bitter victory had been the culmination of the day's events; his sweat would be quite valuable today.
He had no more than dipped his fingers in the bowl when a young slave pushed the heavy door opened.
"I'm not through yet, you'll have to wait!" he barked at the youth.
He noticed the wide-eyed look of fear on the boy's face as a pair of young slaves entered the room. These were no arena slaves; their tunics alone cost more than the life of the boy who attended him. Behind them a tall woman entered, her hair piled high in the tight curls of a patrician. She said nothing, her mouth and nose were covered with the hem of her shimmering saffron wrap, but her eyes made clear her authority. He had never seen so much silk before, only small kerchiefs that came fluttering down from the upper tiers when rich woman lost them in their excitement. Lycon knew himself to be valuable, even more so after today's victory, but the worth of the silk she wore was many times the price of his own life.
The only way she could be here without causing the scandal of the season was if all traffic of slaves and gladiators were rerouted from this section of the slave pens under the coliseum. A woman of this wealth and power could only be a senator's wife or close to the Emperor in some way. The boy who opened the door disappeared, as slaves are wont to do when they find themselves in such dangerous company. One of the lady's slaves, a youth he saw now, with his hair in tight golden ringlets, closed the heavy oaken door. The second slave, a young, willowy girl with short straight hair the copper of old blood, knelt at his feet and placed a series of containers and stoppered vials on the bench before him.
The lady dropped the hem of her wrap, exposing a face that was not unattractive. Her nose was far too aquiline to call her beautiful, but she was indeed striking. Her skin was white as the marble of the arena façade; so smooth and unblemished that it shone with more luster than that that of her well-scrubbed servants, though they were most likely half her age. Her sea-green eyes snatched his view. He could tell she expected to be recognized, wished it in fact, but Lycon truly had no idea who she was. Her eyes broke from his gaze and traveled languidly down his sweat slick body.
"Gladiator, I have bought the products of your bout today. I have brought my slaves to collect them in person. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, mistress." Unsure of how to address a lady of her station, he reverted to type: slave to master.
"Good, You will present yourself to my slaves to be oiled and stridulated."
Lycon stood, legs apart, arms raised parallel to his shoulders, as the slaves put aside the crude olive oil he had been about to use and decanted rich honey-colored oil into two small bowls. Lycon had never known shame at being naked before his masters, a man who is willing to expose his blood and viscera upon the sand has no qualms displaying something as impersonal as his genitals, but as her eyes washed over him he felt his face grow warm. Her opened stare assessed his body, as he would search the physique of an opponent just before a strike, coolly judging strength and weakness. He felt his face grow hot as he looked away, imagined that he blushed at his nakedness like the few slave girls he had been allowed to breed as rewards for his performance. He forced his eyes to meet hers. Had Lycon been born to a senator instead of a slave he would still not have been pretty like the pair before him. The life of a gladiator had marred him further. His thrice-broken nose turned an unhandsome face brutal. His body was a mass of corded muscle, his neck as thick as a man's thigh. Poorly knitted lacerations lined his chest and thighs; his back was crosshatched by stokes of the lash.
The oil was warm when the two slaves slathered it across his body. They kneaded it into his taut muscles, coating his body in a glistening sheen. Oil slowly dripped from his limbs.
"Waste none of it!" The Lady demanded, stepping forward, eyes wide and glossy as she drew two long fingers through the oil on his chest. Moaning softly to herself, she dipped her slick fingers between her painted lips.
The youth began to run the strigil over his body, scraping a furrow in his coating of oil. The girl caught the mixed oil and grime in a glass amphora as it sloughed off the strigil. He felt his blood race at the feel of the girl's fingers on his flesh. The sight of a patrician lady suckling his sweat from her painted nails as she rolled her fingertips over her tongue began to excite him. As the strigil stroked down his belly and flanks he felt his cock stir to life. Unsure of the lady's reaction, he tried to fight this urge. He breathed an audible sigh of relief as they moved on to his broad back. He felt more than saw the lady's eyes follow the wooden strigil down over his buttocks, oil flowing between them.
Bowing his head he met the upturned gaze of the girl as she held the amphora. Her eyes were wide and blue as a cloudless sky. Her expression was one he had seen many times before. The look in a man's eyes when after the first few clashes he knows he cannot win, the look in the eyes of a slave who for some petty offense has been singled out for their master's cruelty. It angered him. There should be pity in her eyes for him, not fear for herself. He was being scraped and used like a dog and this wretched creature looked as though she were the one being violated. The flash of anger was almost enough to allow him to control his excitement, but then the youth began scrape the oil from his upper thighs, taking his manhood in hand to move it aside. This time his plight did not go unnoticed. The slaves knelt meekly as their mistress stepped forward.
"I see you are ready for the next collection." The smirk on the face of the lady twisted her features into a mask of scorn. At Lycon's startled look she continued. "Surely you were told of everything your master sells..."
Lowering his arms to his sides, Lycon looked down upon his turgid member, recalling the jests he had heard of women buying the seed of gladiators.
"Which of my little Nymphs shall collect it for me?" she stood before him, behind her slaves. "Do you wish to celebrate your triumph at the temple of Bacchus?" Her long white fingers rested on the youth's blond curls.
"Or maybe Vesta is a goddess with whom you've found favor?" Claw-like nails combed through the girl's copper locks.
"They are both virgins in their own way, choose." Lycon turned his face to her, blank, not quite comprehending.
"Choose one quickly." Her voice hardened into that icy tone all masters saved for their slaves and pets.
With a tilt of his head Lycon motioned for the youth to leave. He looked first to his mistress, then with her assent, rose to leave. As he pushed the heavy door closed, Lycon caught the look of pity he aimed at his fellow slave.
"I've told you what to do, be quick about it" She ordered the slave girl.
"Yes Mistress" she replied, her voice but a croak from her lips.
The girl dipped oil from a bowl onto her hands as she knelt before him. She quickly took his cock in her slippery fingers. Squeezing, pulling as if milking a cow, she let her hands slip almost all the way from the end of his swollen length before gripping the base with her other greasy hand and repeating the gesture. Hand over hand; she awkwardly brought Lycon to full erection.
His head throbbed in time to his pulsating cock. It had been months since he had last been allotted a woman. He had never wanted any of his master's filthy slaves the way he lusted for this immaculate flower before him. The lady stepped behind her, tearing down the back of her tunic. It pooled on the floor at her knees, displaying a body in the first flush of maidenhood. She was slim and sleek, with skin the color of cream. The girl bowed her head in shame and her red tresses flowed over budding breasts. His hips began to thrust in time with her squeezing hands; he knew that soon he would provide what was desired of him.
"Not like that, I need more from you Gladiator" she gripped a handful of the girl's hair, pulling her back and away from him.
"It is known that the only thing that softens the skin more than the seed of a man is the blood of a virgin." Her smile was broad and leering as she looked into the face of the terrified girl.
"Take her, Gladiator...take her now and I shall collect both at once."
Lycon smiled broadly. This was an order he did not have to be told twice! He pulled the girl to her feet then forced her down on the rough wood of the bench. Sliding his oily hips between her thighs, he settled his weight upon her. She squirmed in his grasp, writhing beneath him, but did not utter a sound. He could hear the swift, ragged breathing of the lady behind him and knew she would enjoy this almost as much as he did. Taking both of the girl's wrists in one knobby fist, he held her arms up over her head, out of the way. His well-oiled cock slid along her belly, through the downy thatch she had so recently gained. The lady urged him on in a hungry, husky voice
Lycon surveyed his prize. Sweat and oil from his body made the flawless ivory skin of her thighs glimmer. His cock throbbed like a bloated worm amid the petals of her maidenly flesh. Her nipples were hard on top of the merest swellings of breasts. The muscles of her neck stood out in stark relief as her body tensed. Her pink lips opened in fright or anticipation. Her eyes...
Her eyes were dead.
He suddenly recalled her fear earlier, realizing that she had known this would happen before she entered the room. Her virginity was to be a sacrifice to the whim of her mistress, to be taken cruelly by a sweat streaked, grunting beast... him. She was beyond fear now, gone to the place slaves go as the lash first bites, the place where all those men had gone as his foot pressed their necks to the sand.
All but Taharqua. He had gone to freedom.
Lycon had no freedom. He killed and now raped to gratify his masters. He was a man who lived and died by conquest, but always for others. On this day that would change.
He caught the girl quickly by the back of her neck, pulling her from the bench and bending her before him, her face away. She fell forward, catching the wall with her palms.
"Yes, take the bitch like a dog! Let me see her bleed down her thighs." The lady's voice was tinged with hysterical lust.
He reached past the girl, seizing the thick metal handle of the door. Pulling it open, he shoved the girl from the chamber.
"Fool! What do you think you are doing?" Lust turning to anger, she snapped at him.
Lycon turned, a feral glint in his eye, like the wolf that was his namesake. As he picked up the wooden bench, wedging it against the door, fire lanced through his shoulder. He twisted his head to see a slim silver-gilt dagger protruded from his scarred back. Reaching back he plucked it free. The weapon was too small to do more than increase the tempo of the blood pounding in his head. The animal trainers used slim spears to goad the bulls, lions, and bears to greater ferocity, the effect was the same.
She stood back against the wall, commanding her slaves outside to aid her or get help. She seemed more infuriated and incredulous than afraid. That was good.
"If you want my seed, Mistress," Lycon said through clenched teeth, his voice like sifting gravel. "You'll have to collect it yourself."
"You'll die for this. They will crucify you, slave. I will make sure you are a long time in dying." Her tone, coupled with the threat of that ultimate form of Roman justice, would have stopped many rebellious slaves.
"I have been a long time in dying, mistress." He felt detached, as if hearing his own words made him realize the worthlessness of his life. He knew those who were to blame for its lack of value.
He fisted his hand in her high-coifed Patrician curls. The hair, stiff from the ointments used to hold it in place, crackled like old straw in his fingers. With his other hand he grabbed the front of her stola, the symbol of her nobility, tearing it from her body. She clawed at the iron muscles of his forearm. He looked down on her body as he ripped free the gauze band wrapping her and supporting her breasts. In the half-light of the cell her pale flesh shone chalk white. Even with her mouth a snarl of fear and rage she would raise a man's lust.
"I'll watch you, slave, as you writhe on the cross. You'll beg for-" The panic in her voice was silenced by the saffron silk wrap as Lycon forced it between her parted teeth.
He caught both ends in one hand behind her head, gagging her, holding her against the wall as if by a leash. She clawed and kicked out at him. Her lips frothed as she spit curses though the gag. Pulling the silk, he forced her to stand on her toes as his rough fingers roved over her body. Thick, tanned fingers dimpled the fish-belly white flesh of her breasts, squeezing, weighing each in his hand. He held her up when her knees gave way as his strong fingers caught her stiffening nipple. Rolling each, pinching, not trying, not needing to hurt her.
Her reaction was something more than pain. Her eyes rolled back as he moved slowly from one nipple to the other. Still muttering curses, she spaced them with whimpers as his hand slid down her belly. His fingers dipped between her thighs. Whether from watching earlier or from what he was doing now he did not know, but she was as well greased as he. That this creature had known all forms of pleasure was clear as he reached back further: his blunt fingers slid easily into her greedy holes.
He bent to taste her. His lips closed around her swollen nipple. Catching it between his teeth, he lashed it with his rough tongue. Two thick fingers curled within her sex as a third stretched her tighter hole. He puller her to him, impaled on his fingers, as his mouth moved from nipple to nipple. He sucked each hard, letting her slip from his lips with a smacking sound. Her moans became louder and her nails bit into his flesh till he bled. He felt her hips rolling as he stirred his fingers deep within her, his thumb sinking roughly into the furrows of her outer sex. He looked into her half-lidded eyes as he slowly removed his fingers and brought them to his lips. He mocked the way she had tasted the oil from his body earlier, as he ran his two fingers, slick with her juices, over his outstretched tongue.
Her eyes opened in surprise as he turned her around, pressing her pale cheek to the damp stone wall. His hips settled against her soft round buttocks, his manhood sliding freely between the globes of flesh. He bent at the knees, his hand on her lower back, forcing her to arch it. His swollen member slid along her dripping sex and across her tight clenched hole. Pulling his hips back, his cock splayed her grasping lips.