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The Price of Freedom

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Bh5

Assistant executioner
Hi all,
After the warm reception to 'My Livia', I started brainstorming another crux story to blow your socks off. Several months, and over 40 pages later, I think I'm ready to present what I hope to be a story worthy of our fine little forum. Starting before the Kitos War, the 2nd and the less known of the Jewish revolts against Rome, this story follows the lives of two slaves as they are swept up in a bloody revolt that shook the eastern Mediterranean. While pandemic and protests rocked my country, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to an ancient person as their society seemingly collapsed around them. Please comment and let me know what you like and dislike; I love to hear your feedback. I hope to post at least one installment; some of which are accompanied by my rather rudimentary photo manips. I hope you all enjoy "The Price of Freedom".
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Alexandria’s Own

The harbor stunk. The rank odor of fish, waste, and human traffic penetrated even to the inner recesses of the Jewish quarter. Many burned incense to distract them from the noxious odor, but those that worked among the filth and in the open aired shops and warehouses of the quarter soon became accustomed to the pungent aroma. The stink clung to the clothes and to the very beings of the poor slaves and shop keeps who handled the goods that were the lifeblood of the city. As goods flowed in and out of the shops and storehouses of the Jewish quarter, these individuals carried the smell to other parts of the city, and it soon became intermixed with the host of odors that characterized the city of Alexandria until it was hardly noticeable once one arrived in the Dromos or the temples and baths that lined the Canopic Way.

Alexandria was the gateway to Roman Egypt and the greater east beyond it. Hundreds of tons of grain passed through the city on its way to feed the citizens of Italy and the empire it controlled. Alexandria also served as a nexus for the expansive trade network that linked the Roman world to the far east via the silk road and trade from the Red Sea. The confluence of foreign goods and agricultural wealth created a thriving merchant class and an aristocracy that enjoyed the premier luxuries of the Roman world. Such extremes in wealth are often matched by those of poverty and desperation, and Alexandria was no exception. The native Egyptians had been confined to their sunbaked hovels to the southwest since Alexander the Great had founded the city, and the Jewish quarter in the northeast strained under a dramatic increase in population without the infrastructure to support it. The Romans recognized the need to protect the wealth Alexandria provided, and the walls of the city were continually updated and fortified. However, the typical provincial garrison of three full legions had recently been requisitioned by the Emperor Trajan for his Parthian campaign and were now somewhere in Armenia.

Although banditry had not significantly increased, a sense of fear gripped the city. Fears, either real or imagined, often create opportunities, and in this case Tertius Cornelius Ptolemais took the initiative to raise an auxiliary cohort to fight the perceived threat of banditry. Tertius was the only surviving son from a Romanized Greek family that could trace it’s lineage back to a distant branch of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The inheritance he received made him one of the richest men in Alexandria and he spent lavishly: patronizing local artists and businesses, and becoming ingratiated to influential citizens and officials alike. Raising an auxiliary cohort was his latest step in climbing the social ladder, and the city of Alexandria took to the streets to see him off.
 

Attachments

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Best Sellers

The Canopic Way, one of the great east west roads of Alexandria, was already crowded with spectators and vendors just after dawn. Carts and pedestrians continually poured out of the side streets and alleys that lined the thoroughfare, crowding the boulevard further giving it an air of controlled chaos as merchants jockeyed for an open space on the cobblestone road. The shops and temples that lined the length of the street, built among old Egyptian obelisks and statues of long dead pharaohs and other deities, were draped in garlands and other festive decorations. Amidst the chaos, two women slowly weaved their wagon through the growing crowd toward the Canopic gate at the edge of the city.

“Do you think we’ll actually sell anything?”, a tall, fair skinned brunette asked her companion.

“Doubtful, but it gets us out of the warehouse for a few hours. I don’t know why Alexios expects these fish to sell.”, the other woman responded in a similarly dismissive tone. The short, raven haired woman strained as she pushed the cart along the cobblestones. The pair jostled among the other merchants that jammed the main street until they found an opening just before the opening of the Canopic gate. A pair of jewelers upturned their noses at the women and moved a few feet away, but the women took no notice as they set out dried cuts of tuna, mackerel and mullet on wooden pallets.

In the distance, the auxilia recruits had begun their march out of the city. The sound of beating drums, horns blaring and the marching of hundreds of feet in one direction added to the din of the place. The women watched as merchants pressed each side of the column hoping to make a quick sale from a passing recruit. Officers and centurions, dressed in shining, full sets of ceremonial scale armor, hollered and tried to press the merchants back as the column slowly snaked down the street. When the leading elements of the column came with ear shot the women began to cry out, “Freshest fish in the city! Low Prices! Meal ready to eat!”. These were not grim, stone-faced legionaries, yet even these fresh recruits didn’t dare break step in front of their officers.

The women continued to barter their wares as the recruits, struggling to keep step and burdened with their new equipment, passed by heedlessly. “I think I have an idea to boost our income.”, the short, raven haired woman said self-assuredly. The petite woman reached under her arms, one at a time, untying the cloth that covered her breasts in the style of an Egyptian woman. The crossed pieces of fabric, now unknotted, easily separated and slid down her slender torso to reveal perky olive colored breasts. Her partner blushed as the other resumed the rhythmic chant of “Freshest fish in the city! Low Prices! Meal ready to eat!”. The passing recruits instantly took notice. The column continued but the pace was noticeably slower in front of the stand as the passing soldiers enjoyed the view until their officers urged them along.

“Chaya, what are you doing?”, the tall brunette asked quizzically.

“Martina, relax. I’m just boosting business.”, Chaya responded casually, “I thought you were supposed to help me.”. Before Martina could register the implications of Chaya’s phrase, Chaya had the front of Martina’s tunic in her grasp. The cheap fabric easily yielded to a quick tug at the collar, and soon Martina’s large, pale breasts were exposed as well. The nearest recruits hollered their approval as the two topless slaves stood before them. Martina cursed and blushed in embarrassment as she tried to cover her nakedness as a single man stepped out of line.

“Ladies, can a hero of Rome get a discount on today’s special?”, the burly old soldier asked ostentatiously.

“These are just for display.”, Chaya said playfully as she gestured to her small, perky breasts.

“Pullo, back in formation!”, the deep voice of a mounted officer boomed. The soldier looked meekly up at the man, dressed in a resplendent silver breastplate, and quickly returned to his spot in the column. The imposing mounted figure wheeled his stallion around to face the two women, and sneered at them, “I thought whores weren’t supposed to be out at this hour. Head back to the brothel before I have you flogged.”

Martina cast her eyes down as the man spoke and she started to bend down to prostrate herself to beg forgiveness when she felt Chaya put her hand on her arm. Martina saw Chaya smile softly out of the corner of her eye before looking up to the officer. With faux reverence, Chaya replied, “Sir, we aren’t whores. Just humble slaves selling the wares of our master.”, she finished with a smile.

“Oh, then why are you indecent.”, the man said impatiently.

“It wasn’t our intention sir. Our master only supplies us rags to make our clothes with.”, Chaya said as she twirled the bits of loose cloth with her fingers.

Her impromptu answer caught the man off guard, and he smiled slightly. “Well I guess your master should provide you with more… suitable garments.”, the man said in a more relaxed tone as he moved his gaze between the two slaves. He sighed and sat back in a more relaxed posture before he continued, “Well what are you selling if it’s not yourselves?”.

Chaya smiled politely, and showed their spread. The officer contemplated silently then bellowed, “Marinus!”. A younger officer scurried on foot down the length of the column until he reached the side of the mounted officer. The two exchanged a quick salute, and the mounted officer said casually, “Follow these slaves back to their master, and procure a fish stock to bring back to the camp.” As soon as he finished, he rode away briskly. Chaya and Martina smiled at each other, and quickly collected their things for the trip back.
 

Attachments

fallenmystic

Governor
I'm glad that I'm living in a timezone different from most of the members of this forum, so I could be the first to give you my "likes" :)

I haven't been able to frequent the forum recently but now I have a feeling that my priorities may change soon, if I can read new episode of your story everyday.

Thanks for the return, and I hope this could be another great story like "My Livia" which still remains as my favourite on CF.
 

Barbaria1

Rebel Leader
Staff member
Well, off to a very good start. This promises to be a well written and intriguing tale, with a meticulously detailed historical setting. Looking forward to more ...
 

jacksjg89

PROCRASTINATOR
--- Best Sellers

The Canopic Way, one of the great east west roads of Alexandria, was already crowded with spectators and vendors just after dawn. Carts and pedestrians continually poured out of the side streets and alleys that lined the thoroughfare, crowding the boulevard further giving it an air of controlled chaos as merchants jockeyed for an open space on the cobblestone road. The shops and temples that lined the length of the street, built among old Egyptian obelisks and statues of long dead pharaohs and other deities, were draped in garlands and other festive decorations. Amidst the chaos, two women slowly weaved their wagon through the growing crowd toward the Canopic gate at the edge of the city.

“Do you think we’ll actually sell anything?”, a tall, fair skinned brunette asked her companion.

“Doubtful, but it gets us out of the warehouse for a few hours. I don’t know why Alexios expects these fish to sell.”, the other woman responded in a similarly dismissive tone. The short, raven haired woman strained as she pushed the cart along the cobblestones. The pair jostled among the other merchants that jammed the main street until they found an opening just before the opening of the Canopic gate. A pair of jewelers upturned their noses at the women and moved a few feet away, but the women took no notice as they set out dried cuts of tuna, mackerel and mullet on wooden pallets.

In the distance, the auxilia recruits had begun their march out of the city. The sound of beating drums, horns blaring and the marching of hundreds of feet in one direction added to the din of the place. The women watched as merchants pressed each side of the column hoping to make a quick sale from a passing recruit. Officers and centurions, dressed in shining, full sets of ceremonial scale armor, hollered and tried to press the merchants back as the column slowly snaked down the street. When the leading elements of the column came with ear shot the women began to cry out, “Freshest fish in the city! Low Prices! Meal ready to eat!”. These were not grim, stone-faced legionaries, yet even these fresh recruits didn’t dare break step in front of their officers.

The women continued to barter their wares as the recruits, struggling to keep step and burdened with their new equipment, passed by heedlessly. “I think I have an idea to boost our income.”, the short, raven haired woman said self-assuredly. The petite woman reached under her arms, one at a time, untying the cloth that covered her breasts in the style of an Egyptian woman. The crossed pieces of fabric, now unknotted, easily separated and slid down her slender torso to reveal perky olive colored breasts. Her partner blushed as the other resumed the rhythmic chant of “Freshest fish in the city! Low Prices! Meal ready to eat!”. The passing recruits instantly took notice. The column continued but the pace was noticeably slower in front of the stand as the passing soldiers enjoyed the view until their officers urged them along.

“Chaya, what are you doing?”, the tall brunette asked quizzically.

“Martina, relax. I’m just boosting business.”, Chaya responded casually, “I thought you were supposed to help me.”. Before Martina could register the implications of Chaya’s phrase, Chaya had the front of Martina’s tunic in her grasp. The cheap fabric easily yielded to a quick tug at the collar, and soon Martina’s large, pale breasts were exposed as well. The nearest recruits hollered their approval as the two topless slaves stood before them. Martina cursed and blushed in embarrassment as she tried to cover her nakedness as a single man stepped out of line.

“Ladies, can a hero of Rome get a discount on today’s special?”, the burly old soldier asked ostentatiously.

“These are just for display.”, Chaya said playfully as she gestured to her small, perky breasts.

“Pullo, back in formation!”, the deep voice of a mounted officer boomed. The soldier looked meekly up at the man, dressed in a resplendent silver breastplate, and quickly returned to his spot in the column. The imposing mounted figure wheeled his stallion around to face the two women, and sneered at them, “I thought whores weren’t supposed to be out at this hour. Head back to the brothel before I have you flogged.”

Martina cast her eyes down as the man spoke and she started to bend down to prostrate herself to beg forgiveness when she felt Chaya put her hand on her arm. Martina saw Chaya smile softly out of the corner of her eye before looking up to the officer. With faux reverence, Chaya replied, “Sir, we aren’t whores. Just humble slaves selling the wares of our master.”, she finished with a smile.

“Oh, then why are you indecent.”, the man said impatiently.

“It wasn’t our intention sir. Our master only supplies us rags to make our clothes with.”, Chaya said as she twirled the bits of loose cloth with her fingers.

Her impromptu answer caught the man off guard, and he smiled slightly. “Well I guess your master should provide you with more… suitable garments.”, the man said in a more relaxed tone as he moved his gaze between the two slaves. He sighed and sat back in a more relaxed posture before he continued, “Well what are you selling if it’s not yourselves?”.

Chaya smiled politely, and showed their spread. The officer contemplated silently then bellowed, “Marinus!”. A younger officer scurried on foot down the length of the column until he reached the side of the mounted officer. The two exchanged a quick salute, and the mounted officer said casually, “Follow these slaves back to their master, and procure a fish stock to bring back to the camp.” As soon as he finished, he rode away briskly. Chaya and Martina smiled at each other, and quickly collected their things for the trip back.
These girls seem to have a knack for stumbling into success. I'm sure their luck will continue further down the story, and will be watching their future progress with a keen eye.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- New Opportunities

Chaya and Martina skillfully navigated the backstreets of Alexandria as they returned to the Jewish quarter. They kept a slow steady pace, and Martina glanced periodically over her shoulder at the imposing figure of the armor clad officer, Marinus, who followed cautiously a few feet behind. He struck a fearsome image with his muscular arms protruding from the bronze breastplate, and from the plumed helmet he wore. He looked warily at the low end shops and residences that were crammed together in the squalid conditions. Some people leaned out their windows to look down at the Roman officer, a rare sight in this part of the city, but most ignored the trio as they proceeded through the grimy alleyways. Marinus sneered as stray children crowded around him asking for loose coins or food, swarming him like vultures around carrion. Chaya and Martina laughed quietly to themselves as Marinus struggled to shoo the beggars away. The street wise children only fled when Marinus placed a hand on the hilt of the gladius anchored to his hip.

The trio emerged from the dilapidated alleys onto a wider street of homes spaced amongst commercial warehouses and shops. The denizens of this neighborhood barely took notice as Martina and Chaya pulled their cart into the open door of a small storehouse situated at the corner of the street. The women returned to the street and pulled the store house door shut behind them. Marinus followed as the slaves led him around the corner to the shop that served as the front for the business of the storehouse. The store was empty and the trio found the owner, Alexios, sleeping in a chair in the back of the shop behind the front counter. Alexios was thin wiry man in his mid-thirties, but his slender appearance and thick head of black curls made him look younger. Martina didn’t know where Alexios was from, but knew that he had spent time in nearly every trade hub west of the Tigris and had been run out of several of them. His dark complexion bore the scars of many bad business ventures; the latest of which had been smuggling spices across the Roman frontier near Edessa. Alexios had only recently acquired the business in Alexandria: he had won the warehouse and the slaves on a bet, and was largely unequipped to run the enterprise. Alexios left most of the daily operations of the business in the hands of the more experienced slaves, and Martina and Chaya spent many afternoons exploring the city under the guise of running business errands.

Chaya rapt loudly on the counter and Alexios stirred abruptly. His dark brown eyes opened quickly and wildly scanned the room even though his body stayed still. He startled at the sight of the Marinus, and raised his hands slowly as if to protect himself. “Martina…Chaya… who…who is your new friend?”, he stuttered nervously.

“Don’t worry master, he’s an officer the auxiliary troop. They just want to do business.”, Martina said calmly. Alexios’ relief was apparent and he stood to introduce himself to Marinus. Marinus stared at the shop keep blankly and Alexios’ outstretched hand returned to his side. Wordlessly, Marinus gestured for Alexios to step outside. The wiry man looked more frail than usual as he shuffled past Chaya and Martina out into the heat of the early afternoon. The men conversed in hushed tones, but Alexios gradually became more animated in his gestures. The men broke off and Alexios jaunted happily back into the store and embraced the two women, “Oh my lovelies, what an amazing job you have done!”, he beamed through his thick eastern accent. “Martina, my dear, accompany our new friend back with the mules.”. Alexios continued to ramble happily to himself as went back into the storehouse to direct other slaves to load mules with the salted fish.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Cruel Reminders

The Canopic way was largely empty as Martina and Marinus led the mules out of Alexandria. Most had taken cover from the heat of the afternoon, but a few pedestrians still wandered among the shops that lined the road up to the gate itself. Martina had been outside the city walls only a handful of occasions and a sense of fleeting freedom engulfed her as she passed under the impressive gate; even though Marinus walked only a few feet in front of her. Marinus set a quick pace and the pair quickly passed the hippodrome, and the shanties that dotted the outskirts of the city. Continuing southeast, they found themselves in open country. The country roads were quiet except for the sounds of the buzzing insects that pestered the pair, and the occasional braying of mules. As they passed the small farms alongside the road, Martina marveled at the idea that these farmers’ lifestyles had gone nearly unchanged for centuries. The sight of massive rural villas tended to by scores of slaves somewhat dampened Martina’s ideas of a simple pastoral life, but she nevertheless enjoyed watching the workers till their fields and clear the irrigation ditches that crisscrossed the green pastures. Both soldier and slave were lost in their thoughts as they crested a slight hill to come upon a gruesome scene.

Marinus saw the spectacle first and held up his hand for Martina to halt, but Martina, lost in her own fantasies of another life, ran the lead mule into Marinus. Marinus jolted forward ungainly. He recovered and shot a dirty glance back at Martina. Martina’s apology was interrupted before it began by a tired voice from behind Marinus. “Thank the gods, I’m glad you showed up sir. Could we get some help?”.

Marinus responded hastily to the stranger, “What do you need?”

“If it isn’t a problem sir, could you help us with this whore? She kicks like a mule and my partner thinks she broke his ankle.”, a scraggly looking man responded, pointing over his shoulder. Martina stepped aside to see what the man was gesturing to. She saw his partner, an equally scruffy young man, sitting next to the road nursing his swollen ankle with his hands. Next to him, a woman laid outstretched on a cross. Martina instantly recoiled at the sight of the woman bound to the heinous device. Her arms were pinioned at the wrists and her feet were bound so the soles rested on the sides of the upright itself. The effect was that her legs were splayed open so her womanhood was on prominent display. Martina looked on in disgust as clear, viscous liquid leaked out of her swollen sex. The woman breathed shakily but did not avert her eyes from the heavens as Marinus chatted with the executioners. Martina paid little attention and focused on the pitiful figure of the condemned. The tips of the lash had left their unmistakable mark across her body, tracing up the small of her back to her ribs and the undersides of her small breasts. Martina had her own scars and knew the intense pain of the lash. Martina thought she recognized the woman: a slave from the bakery a few blocks away in the Jewish quarter. Martina wondered if Chaya knew this poor woman who’s only identity was a titilus that read “Fugitive” in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

“Watch the mules.”, Marinus ordered gruffly as he walked with the executioner towards the condemned. The woman had retained her composure until now, but she started to cry softly as the two men stood domineeringly over her. The injured executioner managed to hobble over to his able bodied companion and leaned on the man’s shoulder. Marinus knelt by her left wrist, but the injured executioner said glibly, “Don’t bother, just stand behind the cross and get ready to lift her.”. Marinus nodded somberly and stood back as the two executioners positioned a grisly nail on each wrist.

The sound of the impact, metal clanging against metal, caught Martina off guard, and she recoiled at the blood curdling scream that signaled the start of the woman’s agony. The woman’s legs twitched as if wanting to kick free with each slam of the hammer, but only trembled with each blow. Her hips shot skyward then sunk down slowly as the sadistic executions lightly tapped the nails to ensure their set into the wood. Martina felt her eyes begin to water, and her stomach turn; Marinus simply glanced along the road and only looked down occasionally at the face of the tormented woman.

“Alright, let’s get her up.”, hollered the crippled executioner as he tried to push himself onto his feet again. Martina watched Marinus kneel down and grab the top of the upright. The woman’s eyes were shut tight. Marinus seemed to whisper something to her and she nodded slightly. Suddenly, with an audible strain Marinus and the two executioners began to lift the assembled cross off the ground. Marinus continued to steadily lift from the back while the able bodied executioner guided the base with one hand and held his other hand on the inner thigh of the woman. The condemned woman groaned as the pressure of gravity gradually slid her further down the upright. Her eyes shot open and her mouth went agape as the upright fell into the ground. The executioners quickly tossed rocks in the hole as Marinus kept the cross stable.

Without waiting for the executioners to finish, Marinus walked back to Martina and took the reins to the lead mule in his hands. “Let’s go”, he said in a curt hushed tone. The pack train lumbered forward past the cross as the executioners fiddled with nail placement on the tops of the woman’s feet. “No, please don’t nail my feet.”, the woman begged wearily. Martina kept walking as the woman’s screams again pierced the stillness of the countryside. As they crested another hill a few hundred feet further down the track, Martina turned to see the executioners hobbling back towards Alexandria. The woman had been her death dance in the heat of the Egyptian sun, but Martina couldn’t bear to watch.

“Hey, keep up.”, Marinus hollered over his shoulder as he set down a path that led away from the main road.
 

Attachments

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Unexpected Savior

The pack train arrived in the auxiliary camp in the early evening. The camp was in the process of being fortified as they arrived, and guards stood watch at the edges of the clearing. Their comrades worked nearby excavating a shallow ditch around the perimeter whilst others sharpened and placed stakes at odd intervals inside and around the ditch. Inside the perimeter, officers and older soldiers supervised the young recruits as they set camp for the first of many nights. Cooking fires were already set throughout the camp, and Marinus soon handed the reins of the mules to an orderly who led them to a field kitchen where several recruits milled about. Martina’s initial instinct was to follow the mules, but Marinus disarmed her, “Don’t worry, you’re asses will be fine. Just follow me. We’ll get the payment then get you on your way.”. Martina followed Marinus submissively into a large tent that sat in the middle of the field. Marinus threw the flap open to reveal a clutch of officers huddled around a map of the eastern Mediterranean. Pins marked locations far to the north of Alexandria, and lines drawn in ink seemed to demark future travel plans.

A few of the officers looked over as the pair entered, and Martina recognized the mounted officer from earlier. “Welcome back Marinus!”, the man said jovially, “I take it that your first assignment went smoothly.”

“Yes, sir”, Marinus responded crisply with a salute. The other officer returned a sloppy salute, and embraced Marinus, “Good, I’m glad brother. We have a lot of work to do, but I say it’s always better to do it on a full stomach.”.

He then turned his attention to Martina, “Ah if it isn’t one of the whores, I mean vendors from earlier. Tell your master you did well, and give him this.”, he tossed her a bag of coins that was tied to his belt. Martina caught the weighty purse clumsily. “Also tell him that friends of Tertius Cornelius Ptolemais are well rewarded. Have another load ready in two days’ time. I’ll send Marinus to get it.”. Martina silently nodded her assurance and let herself out of the tent.

She stood outside the tent briefly then felt the reins returned to her hands by the orderly as he walked silently past her. Martina stowed the coins in the knapsack on the first mule and led the pack train out of camp.

Martina took her time getting back to Alexandria. She knew there was no life as a fugitive, but she exploited any moment of freedom offered to her. She led the mules off the road and into the pastures that lined the dusty causeways. She basked in the sensation of the soft grass beneath her feet; a feeling unfamiliar in the sun baked cobblestones and dust of Alexandria. As the sun set, she watched the moon slowly rise and admired the pink and purple hues of the twilight sky. The few farmers that remained in their fields didn’t mind her presence and she gladly accepted their beer but declined their more salacious offers.

Her pace was leisurely and she felt at ease. Then the sight of the mangled body of the crucified woman brought her crashing down to reality. The woman hung limp, head down. Martina passed hurriedly, walking along the opposite edge of the roadway, but she could still hear the rasping of the woman in the final throes of her agony.

It was pitch black when Martina finally passed under the Canopic gate again. The streets were clear save for a few men lighting torches along the main thoroughfares. Despite the small fortune she carried, Martina worried little as she trundled and coaxed the mules down the side streets back to Alexios.

Martina was only a few blocks away from the storehouse when she rounded a blind corner to face a masked man with a knife at the ready. She recoiled instantly at the sight of the brute, and tried to retreat down the alley but found her path blocked by the mules.

“Give me what you got.”, the robber snarled as he approached her cautiously.

“I have nothing…I am a mere slave.”, Martina let out breathlessly.

“Open the sack”, the robber gestured to the lead mule.

“I swear I have nothing, please just let me go.”, Martina pleaded again.

“Stupid bitch, open the sack,” the irate man lunged forward as Martina turned away instinctively.

Then the night was still again. Martina heard her heart pounding and opened her eyes. The robber stood motionless before her, his hands grasping at the tip of the sword that stuck out of his throat. Martina felt blood splatter on her hands and shuttered. The blade withdrew and robber fell stone dead to the ground at Martina’s feet. An imposing figure in a black cloak that covered his head stepped forward from the shadows into Martina’s view.

The mysterious figure kicked the corpse at his feet, then pulled his hood off to reveal the burly soldier from the morning, Pullo.

“I think I just saved your life. Maybe we should discuss what I said earlier about a discount.”, he said with a smile as he wiped the bloody sword off with the edge of his cloak.

Martina stood in shock as she tried to wipe the blood off her hands, smearing it into the fabric of tunic. “Who…who sent you?”, she stuttered out finally.

“Oh good Ptolemais wanted to make sure nothing happened on the way back so I’ve been keeping an eye on you since you left camp. Seems like you enjoyed your time barring this mess.”, he said in the same chipper tone.

Martina’s stomach tightened again as she imagined the flogging she’d likely receive for her saunter through the countryside. Her speech had all but left her when she heard a familiar voice call out from behind Pullo.

“Martina! Oh I’m glad I’ve found you. We were so worried!”, Martina could tell Chaya was lying. “Oh thank you for helping her sir. I must get her back to our master.”, Chaya continued, grabbing Martina’s arm in one hand and the reins in the other as she slid past Pullo in the tight confines of the alley. Hurriedly, Chaya pushed both the mules and Martina onto the main avenue that led to the storehouse. Pullo watched them from the entrance to the alley until they disappeared from view before donning his hood and disappearing in the night himself.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- The resistance

“Let’s get you upstairs and cleaned up.”, Chaya said in a sweet, soft tone as she brought the mules into the storehouse. Martina was still shaken and only nodded as she climbed the stairs that led to the loft her and Chaya shared with the other slaves above the main storehouse floor. Chaya hurriedly looped the reins around a post and followed up the stairs. Martina stood in the middle of the loft, crowded with sleeping slaves, holding the bottom of her tunic with one hand but making no move to remove the bloodied cloth. Chaya tenderly removed Martina’s shaking hand and pulled the tunic off so Martina stood naked except for her loincloth. Her pale skin seem radiant in the candlelight that cast great shadows of the women across the loft. Tossing the tunic aside, she took Martina’s hand and guided her to the cot they shared at the corner of the loft. Martina slunk down onto the firm padding of their shared bed while Chaya pulled their sole sheet over her traumatized friend. “I’ll be back in a little bit, I just want to check the mules. Go to sleep and I’ll see you in the morning when you get up.”, Chaya said tenderly as she kissed Martina’s forehead. Chaya waited until the candlelight from the loft extinguished before she left the store house and shut the doors behind her.

The thought of the mysterious soldier looming in the dark alleys troubled Chaya, but she was already late to the rendezvous. The Jewish quarter was largely empty at the late hour, but Chaya could still here lively conversations and smell the aroma of fresh food from within some of the homes. Chaya hurriedly made her way to the home of the textile merchant, who owned the small shop across from Chaya’s storehouse. She knocked softly on the door and waited. The door cracked slightly then swung open to reveal the hulking frame of Isaac, a slave from the docks. Chaya feared Isaac: his massive build was crossed with scars and his dark brown eyes revealed no signs of inner life or pleasure. Isaac was the grandson of one of the few survivors of Masada, the desperate last stand of the first rebellion against Roman rule in Judea. Rather than become slaves, the defenders had chosen to die by their own hand. All but 2 women and 5 children, one of whom was Isaac’s maternal grandmother. His hatred of the Romans surpassed anything that Chaya had seen before, and he now drove the new militant spirit of Alexandria’s Jewish underground.

Isaac only nodded at the sight of the petite slave, and let her in to the crowded home. Several men and women sat in the common room of the home, bathed in dim candlelight. Daggers and short swords were arranged neatly next to several scrolls on a table set against the wall across from the entrance. The group spoke quietly in Hebrew amongst themselves as Chaya took a seat on the floor next to Benjamin, the oldest son of the textile merchant. Benjamin interrupted his conversation to greet Chaya. He set his hand against the small of her back, and Chaya’s skin tingled at his touch. Chaya had been attracted to him since she saw him working across from the storehouse. The pair had slowly built a friendship as Chaya found excuses to visit the textile merchant under the pretense of business. Shortly thereafter, Benjamin had introduced her to the underground. She hoped that the relationship would develop into something more serious but knew that the marriage of slave to freedman, even a Jew, was inconceivable. Yet, she hoped.

The small conversations died down as Simon, the textile merchant and leader of the small group, entered the room. The old man, dressed in the traditional robes of a rabbi, walked carefully and tapped his cane methodically in front of him as if to make sure he was still on solid ground. Benjamin rose to support his father, but Simon beckoned him to sit as he made his way to the front of the waiting rebels. “My children”, Simon began as he walked towards the scroll laden table, “I thank God that we have the opportunity to be here tonight and to carry on the traditions our people. As I speak, our homeland is under occupation of the godless horde, the philistines of our time.”. Some in the crowd began to murmur, but hushed as Simon continued his oratory, “But as the prophets of the past, we seek to restore the promise land to God’s chosen. I have heard word from our friends in Cryrennia, Ceasaria, and from across the eastern provinces that our people are rising up to take back what was promised to us by the covenant.”. He paused as he picked a scroll off the table and turned back to the group. The scroll was aged and the corners looked singed. “This Torah belonged to my great-grandfather. When the progroms started, this was the only thing he was able to save from the fire that destroyed his home”, Simon paused as his voice became choked up, “I look at this and think of how far we have come and how much further we need to go.”. He swept the room with his eyes as he spoke, and Chaya saw him smile briefly as he passed his glance over her. “Before you all go tonight, would you please join me in prayer.”
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Hunters

Chaya and Benjamin crept noiselessly through the empty streets of the Dromos, the wealthy residential district of Alexandria. Since the departure of the regular garrison, security in Alexandria had slackened, and the pair of assassins strode fearlessly down the main avenues. Benjamin and Chaya had spent many nights reconnoitering the neighborhoods, robbing the occasional shop, and identifying the whereabouts of local officials and influencers. Tonight they were on the hunt for Lucius Cornelius Agrippa, a low level bureaucrat who ran a protection racket on the side. Chaya and Benjamin had spent the last month tracking Lucius. After several late nights and close calls, they managed to kidnap one of Lucius’s associates. Isaac nearly beat the man to death before he revealed that Lucius spent most nights at a high end whorehouse in the Dromos; after which Isaac beat the man to death.

As they approached the brothel, the pair split up. The brothel only had one entrance so it was decided that Benjamin would go straight in while Chaya would run up another block, cut behind the building and come from the other side of the street. At the intersection of the cross street, Chaya turned abruptly and started to walk briskly towards the next block. She rounded the next corner at the back of the brothel when she found an odd sight.

At the door to a kitchen, a poorly planned add on to the brothel, stood Alexios. There was no mistaking his familiar lanky frame topped with thick curled hair. Chaya stopped in her tracks as the two starred at each other for a moment. Alexios heard something inaudible from inside, and quickly closed the door behind him to again shroud the street in darkness. Chaya walked cautiously by the door expecting Alexios to come out again, but nothing came. She noticed an ichthys drawn in the dirt in front of the doorframe, but thought little of the sloppily drawn symbol.

The sounds of muffled grunting and physical struggle came to Chaya’s ears from the street over. She sprinted the remaining distance and rounded the corner to see Benjamin grappling with Lucius. From afar, he hadn’t seemed so strong, but now held Benjamin to the ground. Benjamin’s dagger laid just out of reach as the two men struggled in the dirt in front of the brothel. Chaya reached into the satchel she carried and pulled out her dagger as she covered the last few yards to the scene. Lucius didn’t hear her approach as he fought Benjamin, but he surely felt the blade as Chaya slit his carotid. Instantly, Lucius sat up as his life poured out of his neck; Benjamin rolled out from under the mortally wounded man to avoid the bright red spray. Chaya watched Lucius fall dead into the dirt as her adrenaline slowly abated. Benjamin’s firm grip on her arm brought her back to reality, and the two assassins disappeared into the darkness. Chaya heard one of the prostitutes cry out into the night as they hurried back to the Jewish quarter.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Marinus

Martina had sufficiently recuperated by the time of Marinus’ return a few days later. Marinus was terse as usual and refused Alexios’ offer to sup together. Wordlessly, the pair led the pack train out of the storehouse and out into the blistering heat of the Egyptian summer sun.

Marinus took the lead position again a few feet ahead of Martina and the mules as he led them back to the camp at a brisk pace. The pace was unrelenting and only occasionally would they stop to drink from one of the water filled hides the mules carried. Nary a sound emerged from the stone faced officer as they crossed the quiet countryside. Martina felt slightly unnerved by the silence, but nevertheless enjoyed being outside the din and odor of the storehouse.

Marinus’ silent angst reflected his own inner frustrations. He should have been commanding soldiers and participating in the daily hardships of training; however mundane or uncomfortable, it would be better than escorting slaves and dead fish! Tertius always made an effort to keep him out of danger even when there was none. Yet, Marinus still loved Tertius as a brother despite his overbearing nature.

Marinus’ father had been an adjunct to the previous governor of Egypt. When the governorship changed, Marinus and his family eagerly looked forward to returning to their stately life in Rome. Yet, fate would have it different. Summer storms are not uncommon in the eastern Mediterranean, and the family was tragically caught in rough seas just outside the harbor. Marinus was still quite young at the time, but could vividly remember waking up on the shore draped over an oar. The Ptolemais family had known Marinus’ father through the civil service, and adopted Marinus as soon as no other relatives could be found. Tertius was an only child by then, and received Marinus amicably despite being ten years his senior. When Tertius’ parents died unexpectedly a few years later, Tertius was left the keys to seemingly insurmountable wealth. Even with their unexpected independence, the two youths matured and rose in society together although Tertius was undoubtedly the preeminent of the two brothers.

Marinus had always lived in Tertius’s shadow, and the relationship was quasi paternal as Tertius had arranged for Marinus to fill several positions along the cursus honorum over the years. When Tertius announced that he intended to raise an auxiliary cohort, from his own purse nonetheless, Marinus was exhilarated at the opportunity to win glory for himself. Yet, here he was, escorting slaves and fish. Or were they escorting him?

These thoughts and memories raced through his mind as his temper built. He sweated profusely in his cuirass and helmet, and constantly swatted at the flies and mosquitoes that ceaselessly accosted him. “By Jupiter’s cock, what kind of hell is this place?! Aren’t there any fucking seasons?!”, he raged suddenly breaking the silence. He heard the slave stifle a laugh behind him and turned quickly on her. “Something funny slave?”, he asked testily.

“No sir”, Martina responded smartly forcing herself not to smile at the red faced soldier. “I miss seasons too.”, she patronized subtly.

Marinus was in no mood to be consoled, and responded haughtily, “Hot and less hot are not seasons. Where have you been that would have seasons, huh?” He felt silly arguing with this petty slave but felt somewhat victorious as he turned to walk away.

“Italy, sir”, Martina responded crisply as Marinus pressed forward. “Italy”, he sighed as the pair resumed their silent march to the auxiliary camp.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Martina

The insects buzzed incessantly as Martina and Marinus made their way down the dirt trail that marked the final stretch of their journey to the camp. It had been nearly two weeks since their first journey. Despite Marinus’ cool attitude, voracious insects and the hours spent baking under the unforgiving sun, Martina remained in high spirits with each passage. To Martina, the air seemed sweeter outside the city.

Marinus stopped and the lead mule startled unexpectedly. Martina pulled the reins firmly with one hand and reached over the trunk of the animal with the other to keep the ass in line. She looked up just in time to see the distinctive tail of an asp slither into the brush as it crossed the trail a few feet ahead.

“Well, let’s pause here to let it get some distance.”, Marinus said as he walked back towards Martina. “So, where about in Italy were you at?”, Marinus continued as he unhitched a water hide from one of the mules. Martina was caught off guard at the friendly gesture,

“I was a kitchen slave in a gladiator ludus outside Capua.”, Martina responded with alacrity.

“Ah Capua, haven’t been there for a while.”. Marinus said coolly, and felt confident in his lie. He had visited Italy the previous year hoping to find some distant relation still alive in Rome. When he found none, he drank and fucked his way south until he found himself in a debtors prison in Capua. Tertius paid his adopted brother’s debts with interest and returned him safely to Alexandria. The trip had been an overall sordid affair and left Marinus with the gnawing sense that he would forever be bound to Tertius. His reminisces were interrupted as Martina added belatedly, “I miss the winters there.”. When Marinus looked at her quizzically, she tacked on, “The seasons change there, like you mentioned a while ago.”.

Martina missed more than the seasons in Capua. She had grown up in the ludus. Her earliest memories were of the white alabaster walls and the sound of wooden swords beating against each other. Martina never knew her parents, she must have been purchased when she was just a child, but she made her own family amongst the slaves of the ludus. Even the toughest gladiators looked out for the young woman, and in return she gave out extra rations when she could.

Martina’s first love had been a gladiator in the ludus. A scrawny Dacian from across the Danube who had miraculously survived the arena. He and Martina carried on a secret relationship for nearly a year before she was caught in the act of lovemaking by a guard. Although Martina was a favorite of her dominus, the domina of the house held less than secret lust for most of the gladiators and saw Martina as a threat. Before she was sold and put on a ship bound for Alexandria, the cruel woman had Martina and her lover flogged in front of the other slaves. Martina still wore the faint scars that laced her body shamefully. Martina had been in Alexandria for nearly 7 years now and had found a new family in Chaya and the other slaves of the storehouse. But on particularly lonely nights, she still felt pain over the loss of the only other place she considered home.

Martina’s silent grief was replaced with more surprise as Marinus responded with an unexpected smile, “Well I’m sure you have quite a few stories from the ludus. Maybe you can share some eventually.”.

“I will if you would like sir.”, Martina replied obediently.

“I would”, Marinus paused as he tried to remember this slave’s name. He stuttered momentarily before Martina interjected, “My name is Martina, sir.”.

“Thank you Martina. I would like to her some of those stories.” Marinus said as he placed himself next to her.

Their march resumed slowly and the pair walked side by side as Martina described the daily humor, tragedy and camaraderie of the ludus.
 

Attachments

Bh5

Assistant executioner
--- Gnawing feelings

As the weeks passed, Marinus’ affection for the precocious slave grew steadily. Their journeys were now spent exchanging stories and Marinus learned to appreciate the wit and cheerful disposition of the woman. Marinus found in Martina someone to whom he could confide in without repercussion, and she proved to be an eager listener as Marinus railed against the expectations and duties of his station. The irony of the situation was not lost on Marinus but Martina seemed happy enough to become privy to his self-identified burdens.

Marinus’ feelings for Martina gradually matured into a mixture of lust and longing for the body and companionship of the slave. No one could deny Martina her beauty: her shoulder length brown hair that she styled in a high, tight bun was complimented by her large blue eyes. Her body was full with wide hips and large breasts that hung slightly. Martina’s clothes were typically modest, but nevertheless showed enough of her figure to excite the imagination of Marinus. Marinus knew that as a slave, she could be taken if he wanted her badly enough, but he felt an organic connection that he had largely lacked with women before.

His interests manifested themselves as gifts at first: a small bonus of 3 denarii at the end of each trip. Marinus had nothing else to give but money, but wondered what use a slave would have of it. Soon, Marinus was escorting Martina on both legs of the trip. When Marinus initially appealed to Tertius to escort the slave home instead of Pullo, Tertius agreed but kept Pullo on the detail as extra security. Martina and Marinus would chat freely in the evening, but with the looming figure of the old veteran just out of ear shot.

It was late summer when Marinus finally made his move.

“Leave the mules here tonight, I’ll bring them back tomorrow.”, Marinus said as he handed Martina her bonus. Martina looked confused but didn’t speak as Marinus continued, “Instead I thought I could show you something instead.”.

“Ok”, Martina responded with an unsure smile.

The pair left camp on foot, and Marinus soon had them heading down a trail unfamiliar to Martina. The evening twilight was just starting as Marinus brought them to a large pond hidden from view by tall grass on every side. “A farmer told me about this place. He said only a few people know about it, and that it used to be considered a holy place by the old Egyptians.”, he explained. Martina could understand the draw to the place. The high grass completely obscured the vista from anyone who wasn’t looking for it, and there were no obvious signs of human meddling. Martina didn’t even see any signs of animal tracks. The pond was serene and Martina watched mesmerized as the grass swayed slightly in the breeze and the occasional insect landed on the surface of the still water.

Out of the corner of her eye, Martina saw Marinus undo the straps of his cuirass and step out of his sandals, “How about we go for a swim huh? I need a bath anyway”, he said as he pulled his tunic over his head. Suddenly charging forward, a naked Marinus covering his genitals with one hand, crashed into the still water. Once in to his waist, he dived headlong into the cool water; the temperature was still hot enough that the water was refreshing. Martina blushed as Marinus waved her in.

“What if there’s crocodiles in there?”, she hollered out to him playfully.

“We’ll just have to trust there’s not!”, he responded as he tread water. “Come on, you don’t have to undress if don’t want to but you need to get in here!”

Without hesitation, Martina ran into the pond and threw herself fully into the cool water. Martina was a poor swimmer and Marinus helped her reach the center of the large pool. The pair floated in silence looking up at the expanding array of stars that began to paint the night sky.

It was fully dark when they finally came to shore. Marinus took no effort to hide his nudity as he walked ashore, and sat down in the grass along the shoreline. Martina sat next to him. Her white tunic was soaked through and in the moonlight Marinus could see her breasts clearly through the now transparent linen. Martina’s erect nipples belied her inner emotions. Marinus put his hand on the grass between them and Martina took it. The two soon found themselves interlocked in each other, and Martina’s hand wrapped itself around Marinus’ now hard member as the two kissed passionately.

A few yards away at the entrance of the pond, Pullo sat guard; unseen and unheard. As the sound of rustling grass and soft moans came to him, he smiled and turned his back to the pond.
 

Attachments

Bh5

Assistant executioner
Hi all,
This last installment places us about a third of the way through our story. I thought it was an apt time to get a sense of people's impressions of the story so far. Please let me know what you like or dislike. I often amend and edit the story as I post these entries. Your comments help me gauge how to make the story and my own writing abilities better. Hope you have enjoyed it so far, and expect more daily installments (and yes, I promise there will be more crux... just be patient).
 

old slave

FELIS RESPICIENS
I'm enjoying the descriptions and pace, but would appreciate a hint of whatever misfortune befalls one/both girls sometime, and some sort of cliffhanger helps us to rush back.
 

Bh5

Assistant executioner
I'm enjoying the descriptions and pace, but would appreciate a hint of whatever misfortune befalls one/both girls sometime, and some sort of cliffhanger helps us to rush back.
@old slave I appreciate the feedback! As we get closer to the climax of the story, I'm hoping to give you some surprises, and maybe a cliffhanger here or there. Assuming I keep pace with 1/2 installments a day, we should reach our conclusion in 1.5-2 weeks so patience is always appreciated in waiting for big reveals. But lets be honest with ourselves, I think we have a fairly good idea of what the fate of Martina and Chaya is going to be (see forum title for hint).
 
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