Authors: Ayden Sadari
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
SL PUBLISHING GROUP
P.O. Box 863312
Plano, TX 75086-3312
Copyright © 2011 by Jean Heisler
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Published 2011 by SL Publishing Group
First SL Publishing Group paperback printing: November 2010
Printed in the U.S.A.
Text © 2011 by Jean Heisler
Cover art © 2011 by Ponderosa
To Mitts - for all her help and never letting me give up.
Skaia was sweeping the walkway that surrounded the grand atrium, which formed the most visible part of the Suetonius household. The young boy, originally from the mountainous regions of Northern Gaul, had been working since just after dawn and now, in the early afternoon sun, he was tiring badly. He had slept little the previous night, the recurring nightmares of his family’s death waking him repeatedly. And the heat… he was not at all accustomed to the stifling heat of a Roman summer.
Regardless of his weariness, he did not hesitate in his assigned task; the stones at his bare feet missed not a single swipe of the broom. But his mind was far away, back in his village where gentle breezes would sweep through tall trees. For a moment he was almost there, almost felt the cooling wind on his skin… He was only vaguely aware that someone walked near; and he had no idea that the master of the domus himself was approaching.
Thaddeus, however, had definitely noticed the young slave and paused now to watch him work. Castor, who supervised all the household slaves, had told him just this morning in their regular meeting that he was not happy with the child’s progress. Castor claimed that even after four weeks, Skaia still argued about his assignments, that he cursed in his strange language, and was still keeping his cell mates awake at night with his crying.
In Thaddeus’ opinion, the child had had more than enough time to make adjustments to his new circumstances. He had discussed the situation with his father earlier during breakfast. And, as might be expected, Paulinus had defended the youngster.
He’s only a little older than Glaucus. He’s coping with changes to all he’s ever known, Thaddeus. You and I, thank the gods, cannot even begin to comprehend what he’s been through. Now, he’s struggling to maintain some sense of his own identity. Isn’t that what you want in a companion for your son?”
Thaddeus was tempted to argue immediately, but he paused to consider his father’s opinion seriously. Paulinus had turned over an extremely well-run and efficient household to a young man of only twenty-four, when he’d decided to retire from public life. Now at twenty-eight, Thaddeus understood much better what wisdom was involved in that success. There had never been a problem with any of their slaves under his father’s leadership.
Thaddeus was still concerned.
This barbarian boy must be my son’s slave first and foremost, Father. If he and Glaucus should become companions later in life, that’s fine. But not to start with.” He ate a few more pieces of the fresh fruit as he sought a way to express his unease. “Glaucus will only be eight on his birthday. I worry that he is still too young to handle a rebellious slave more than two years his senior.” Thaddeus sighed softly, hating to admit a mistake. “Perhaps I should have listened to my friends, and bought someone older and properly trained.”
Instead of to me?” Paulinus smiled. “You’re worrying too much, Thaddeus. As I’m sure you recall, I agreed with you on purchasing a young Gaul. Yes, Skaia may present a challenge to Glaucus, but it will be good for him and help him develop his management skills. Besides, you and I will be here to offer him counsel and support, should he need it.” Paulinus leaned back in his chair. “In many ways, Skaia reminds me of Thane, and you handled him well enough. You grew up together and I don’t recall Thane ever giving you problems.”
Thaddeus could not help but smile as he remembered Thane, the slave his father had selected for him on
eighth birthday. He had been very hard on Thane in the beginning. It was not until they were in their teens that he had allowed himself to become at all fond of his Carthaginian slave. And it was only in the year after Pornecia died, that they had become truly intimate. Thaddeus had
Thane’s support after his wife passed.
He took a long swallow of juice as he felt the grief of Pornecia’s death—and of Thane’s so soon after—coming to the fore. It was a long a moment before he could push it aside and look at his father again. “Thane never argued with me, Father. He knew his place from the beginning.”
Yes,” Paulinus agreed, laughing. “I broke him that much before he came to you. But he kept his own opinions, did he not?”
Indeed he did,” Thaddeus smiled, remembering several spirited
with his slave. “But he never disobeyed me once I’d made a decision.”
Of course not. Thane accepted his slavery. That is what you want young Skaia to learn. You just don’t want to destroy him in the process.”
Thaddeus remembered those words now as he watched Skaia work, thinking the youngster seemed very focused on his task, his young face drawn in concentration.
Had Castor exaggerated?
At least for this moment, the child worked diligently and Thaddeus could certainly see no signs of rebellion.
The boy had been well cared for here since he arrived. He had received adequate food, so his arms and legs were no longer as thin as they had been, and he was dressed like the other slaves, in a plain but well-made tunic. Thaddeus took an additional moment to admire the deep auburn color of the child’s hair, more than stubble now and already showing a hint of curl. It stood out nicely against the paleness of his skin.