Authors note: - I started this story a long time ago and I have no idea how to end it! If any body can give me an idea it would be appreciative. Oh yeah, I also use most historically accurate terms and the such so you'll get a mini ancient Roman education when reading this. Lots of research no idea on an end... *Sigh*
Nicholas lay against the marble walls of the bath and stared up at the vaulted mosaic covered ceilings of the thermae he was currently enjoying. Somewhere in the room water was dripping with a steady soothing beat, the omnipresent heat filled the caldarium nicely. He'd been soaking in the hot water for over an hour. It was a welcome break from his busy day. All the other patrons had long since left, he welcomed the solitude.
His pupil was currently in the palaestra doing who knows what, Nicholas hoped he stayed there for many more hours to come. They had spent the whole day together, Nicholas teaching him how to speak, eat properly, and the pleasures of wearing clothing. Like every other day it left him drained and in some ways missing his former days of solitude. He contemplated his current situation and ran his fingers over the surface of the water.
When he came to Rome it was simply purely for business. That is until he had the misfortune of running into a type of demon he'd never encountered before. To compound matters the demon was nothing more than a beast. Nicholas rubbed his chest a little, remembering the pain as a result of their first meeting; the demon had nearly killed him. Oddly enough it displayed enough intelligence and emotion to spare Nicholas from death and even showed a certain amount of compassion for him. In the face of such child like ignorance Nicholas couldn't help but feel for the beast.
So he found him self playing father and teacher to the huge brute. He'd been working with the creature for a little over a month. Carefully hiding its appearance from the local humans and staying at the home of a local vampire who owed him. The creature was learning quickly and already knew many words. Though it had yet to put any of the words to complex use, at the moment it spoke like a toddler, a very large deadly toddler.
Nicholas lay in silence for a few moments longer when a strange sound came to his attention. Other than a few attendants they were alone in the huge building. He listened carefully and quickly realized that someone was running towards the caldarium. Nicholas sat up and looked towards the egress to see his pupil, running full speed and very naked. He turned quickly to scramble out of the water before his student arrived.
He didn't move nearly fast enough. With a cheerful bellow of "Acqua!" his pupil leapt into the air and landed in the water. Nicholas was almost driven face first into the marble floor by the wave that hit him from behind. He found him self lying on the hot and now very wet floor of the caldarium. Nicholas rolled over and slid back into the water and faced his apprentice.
His pupil was happily paddling through the water like a dog, his long golden hair fanning out behind him.
"Salve apprendista." Nicholas said watching him with a slight smile. The demon turned in the water and looked at him, his brilliant green eyes wide and innocent. Even in his human guise he still didn't look very normal.
"Ciao!" He replied with a wide grin, showing off his very white teeth and elongated upper canines.
"No, no, salve." He corrected with a stern glare. The cheerfulness left his over sized student.
"Well?" Nicholas said staring at him. Switching languages constantly helped Nicholas learn as a child, he saw it as perfectly fine to do the same with his new student.
"Salve…" The demon said with a little smile, still paddling about.
He sighed and settled back watching the tall man play in the water. Seeing a large adult acting like a child was still a little strange, but he was getting used to it. The demon finally settled down and looked about, gawking at all the images that adorned the walls and ceiling.
Nicholas was pleased when silence once again settled over the room. His pupil seemed to have worn out all his energy on the day's activities and was now resting against the opposite side of the pool, mimicking Nicholas perfectly. He couldn't help but smile slightly at this.
A fair amount of time passed before he remembered that they had an appointment that night. Slipping out of the water reluctantly he looked over his shoulder at his student.
"Nickodamous, it is time for us to go." He said as he walked away from the water, his pupil grudgingly climbed out of the pool and followed, his sandaled feet slapping loudly against the hot floor. They paused once they had passed through tepidarium and entered into the far cooler frigidarium. Both splashed a bit of cool water from the offered basin over their bodies and discarded the sandals they had worn into a basket full of that days foot wear waiting to be taken away by slaves.
Upon entering the apodyterium the slave that was lent to them stepped forward and handed both of them a towel. Nicholas quickly dried off and casually stood still as the slave dressed him. He was quick, silent and never once looked into his temporary master's face.
Once his toga had been secured in place the slave moved towards Nickodamous with his own. His reaction to the slaves approached was a deep growl. The slave instantly froze and slowly lifted his head, staring up at the much larger man.
"Nickodamous, we are going to be late. Simply let him dress you so we may go." His student glanced to him and sighed heavily; he stuck out his arms and stood still while being dressed by the now terrified servant. While he dressed Nicholas put on his shoes and adjusted his toga till it draped across him comfortably.
The slave even helped the big man with his shoes and stepped away quickly once his job was completed. Nicholas nodded to him. "Excellent job as always Jorn."
Jorn bowed deeply but didn't reply, even if he had anything to say he was incapable. His master had destroyed his ability to speak many years ago.
The trio made their way quickly out of the bath house, city slaves bowed to them as they passed. Thanking them for their patronage. Nicholas simply dropped a coin in each of their hands but did little more to acknowledge their words. Each was happy to receive the rare tip.
The small group walked down the empty narrow streets of the city. Nickodamous almost constantly fiddled with his toga, uncomfortable in clothing. Jorn took up the rear keeping an eye out for any trouble. Like most slaves he was multi-purposes and carried a short sword under his loose tunic in case anything attacked them. Nicholas barely paid any notice to his surroundings and focused his attention on his thoughts.
Small groups of woman walked by them, all were dressed in togas suggesting they were ladies of the night. Each cast flirting glances at the two noble looking men, most of their attention on the much larger of the two. Nickodamous paused to stare at them puzzled by their actions.
"Nickodamous…" Nicholas said in a warning tone. His student pouted and quickly caught up with his master.
"Pretty… soft things." Nickodamous said in a soft rumbling voice. Jorn laughed silently, unable to hold back his mirth after hearing such a comment.
Nicholas raised a golden eyebrow. "Yes they are pretty and soft, but you are not to interact with them."
The big man pouted more. "Why?" His voice sounded almost like that of sulking child.
"You have much to learn, and you are not ready to associate with humans. It is possible that you could hurt them or scare them. Both possibilities are not pleasant. So it is best that you keep a low profile, especially since you have a hard time holding a human form." He said regarding his student with a look that conveyed a great deal of seriousness. "Even a little diversion could cause a shift, and they are masters of the art of distraction."
Nickodamous looked at Jorn with a look that pleaded him to come to his assistance. Jorn simply shook his head as if to say he is on his own in the matter. This simply made him pout more; Jorn gave him a comforting pat on the arm which quickly returned the customary smile to his face.
They quickly arrived at the stone walls surrounding the home of their host. The guards at the gates bowed and motioning the trio in. Nicholas nodded to them in polite thanks, Nickodamous on the other hand rushed past his teacher into the garden.
"Nickodamous! Get back here before you dirty your toga!" His voice held a rare angry pitch to it.
He quickly returned to the cobble stone path, headed bowed in shame. "Sorry." He rumbled sadly.
Nicholas sighed heavily and patted his broad back. "It is alright, I am not angry with you. But you must be at your best for the dinner party. We do not want to embarrass our host."
He nodded in understanding and remained by his teachers' side. A few moments later they arrived at the entry way, on each side tile mosaics depicted ferocious chained dogs, under each was written 'warning'. A short walk down the corridor led them past a series of rooms into the heart of the house. It was fair sized room with a large fountain made of the body of Venus as well as the shell she stood upon. Water trickled down her shapely body flowing over her curves. Interestingly enough she was positioned as if to hide her nudity but actually accentuated it by cupping her breasts with an arm and drawing attention to her neither regions with a hand placed on her thigh.
Nicholas paused to study the lovingly crafted representation of the goddess of lust. A voice pulled his mind away from the art before him.
"Lovely isn't she." The smooth cultured voice belonged to none other than their host.
"Almost as beauteous as the goddess it represents. Your stills have grown over the long years." He turned towards the speaker and smiled softly.
He stood at one of the many entry ways into the atrium, leaning against the door frame. His toga was the purest of white trimmed in purple and draped gracefully over his lean body; it partially fell away from his left shoulder revealing a portion of his tone chest. His manners were arrogant and amused, as if his guests had already begun to entertain him. Unlike most Roman men he wore his chestnut brown hair long, though it just barely touched his broad shoulders. As if he wished to challenge the standers of what a noble mans appearance he was also clean shaven.
"You have let your hair grow." Nicholas said as he bowed politely. "Always the rebel."
He laughed heartily. "You know I've never cared for trends. They are so fickle and short I rather not waste my time on them."
Nicholas stood strait and approached his friend; they briefly embraced and stepped away from each other. "Thank you yet again Janus for allowing us to live in your home."
Janus chuckled and patted Nicholas's shoulder. "How could I leave my brother in arms in the cold? I do still have my honor, even if I have lost most every thing else."
"You should think of it more as an evolution than a loss. Most vampires prefer to think of it that way." He offered in a gentle voice.
This only made Janus laugh more. "I am not like 'most' vampires. Surely many wish my head for living so openly."
"You have yet to reveal your self; most citizens think you are nothing more than a very eccentric business man. Indeed you are rich enough to afford the title." Nicholas said with a slight smile.
"I do look forward to the day I must fake my own death. Perhaps I'll go out in a blaze of glory?" Janus said taking his friend by the shoulder and leading him into triclinium and out of the atrium. His student followed but Jorn retreated further into the opulent home.
"You have always enjoyed a good joke, especially at other expense." Nicholas said wryly moving towards the table that sat in the center of the room.
"I learned long ago to never have you at the butt of my jokes, no sense of humor. It's terrible really." He shook his head tisking sadly. "Please both of you make your self at home. You Nicholas shall be to my right, as my most honored guest and your student can be beside you."
"He can not sit on the couch; it will break under his weight." Nicholas said motioning to his tall pupil. "If it does not offend you it would best that he sit on the ground."
Janus though about it for a moment then reluctantly nodded. "Good point, I didn't really think about that. Though I do feel bad about banishing a guest to the floor."
"Do not worry, Nickodamous does not mind. Besides, he doesn't understand the social connotations of our placement around the table." He said with little fear of what his student would feel.
"Very well, then he will sit beside you on the floor. I will have slaves bring him some pillows to sit upon so he is more comfortable." As he said this he motioned for the slaves to do just that.
After Nickodamous received his pillows and sat down the two lounged on the long couch, talking politics until the guests arrived. To occupy his attention Nickodamous played with a string he had found.
As one big rush the guests arrived, led in by servants. Janus stood and greeted each in turn. Almost all were vampires and most came with a human companion, Janus paid no mind to them but Nicholas stood beside him supplying a gentle smile to each one. Once the greetings were out of the way every one took their place at the table. Those closest to Janus sat on his side of the table, though Nicholas had the coveted position to his right. No one sat on the corner of the table that looked out into the atrium, giving them the full view of the mosaic covered walls and the graceful back of Venus. The view revealed that the God Pan stood in her shadow, a mischievous smile on his bearded face as if to suggest he was about to perform less than pure acts upon the Goddess.
As soon as every one was settled in slaves appeared from a hidden entry way in the back of the room, they each carried an instruments and seated them selves behind a gossamer curtain. Soft music quickly filled the room, almost immediately drowned out by the sound of talking.
A few moments' later plates full of food were carried into the room and laid onto the table. The human guests took up their plates and filled them with the delicacies set up before them, expensive wines filled their cups and the party went into full swing. Half dressed dancers flowed into the room and undulated to the sounds of the music.
Nickodamous watched it all with wide eyed amazement; his master gently nudged him and sat a plate full of food before him. Instead of filling his glass with wine he had fresh juice served to his pupil. He happily began to eat, forgetting about the sites and sounds that encircled him.
To the guest's amazement and entertainment Janus goaded Nicholas into unhinging his jaw. One woman even fainted at the site which distressed Nicholas some what. A young vampire leaned across the table towards Nicholas.
"So, what are you anyway? I've never seen a creature that can so easily dislocate their jaw!" The vampire said with a soft laugh.
"I am a Naga." Nicholas replied with his usual simplicity.
The group around the table collectively got a puzzled expression. He sighed and attempted to explain.
"It is not easy to put into words what I am… I suppose you can call me a shape shifting snake." He shrugged his narrow golden shoulders. This new announcement seemed to capture their attention.
"Then shape shift for us!" One woman said playfully. "I'd love to see what you look like."
He glanced to his host as if for permission. Janus nodded and motioned for him to do it. Nicholas rolled onto his side and unlaced his sandals, handing them off to a nearby slave. The room fell silent as every one watched with a great deal of interest. Nickodamous paused in his feasting to watch his master curiously, not sure as to what was going on.
The guests leaned forward, vying for the best view of what was about to happen. Though none were sure what was going to happen. Nicholas took a deep breath and seems to relax, as if letting go of something. His skin slowly became more golden till it was almost as metallic as his lovely hair. On his legs scales slowly began to appear and suddenly his legs seemed to fuse together, quickly forming into a long tail. It extended until it was more than three times his body's original length. Gold scales covered it ever where except across his 'belly' where it was almost pearl white, even with a soft sheen.
He pushed off his toga, revealing a small row of gold spines down his back. They lay flat against his skin but slowly stood erect as they became uncovered. Nicholas regarded the gathering with unblinking pure gold eyes with black eerie slits. He lay more comfortably as he now was than before. Beside him Janus seemed very amused.
"You're… beautiful." The woman who had spoken from before said in an awestruck voice.
"I thank you for such kind words." He said with a modest smile.
The whole group looked him over, studying him in every detail. Nickodamous looked at the people and get an angry look. Not wanting to be completely ignored he unceremoniously changed into his true form.
His toga tore open and fell about him in tatters, the wings that spread for from his back extended till the wall stopped them from expanding further. He flexed his long tail and curled it around the cushions he sat upon. A few of the guests cried out in fear at the sudden appearance of a demon in their midst. They quickly calmed as they studied the odd sight he made.
Unlike most demons he had no horns and his hair remained long and golden as it was before he changed. Even more massive than before he seemed to fill the room with his bulk, especially his large bat like wings. Emerald with golden whirls scales adorned his muscular body and black talons tipped his fingers and toes. His feet were now digigrade and almost dragon like. The long tail that extended from the base of his spine was obviously prehensile since it occasionally wrapped around a portion of the pillow like one would pluck at a bit of cloth with their fingers.
"What is he?" One guest asked in a wary almost frightened voice.
"As far as I can tell a breed of demon I have never encountered before." Nicholas said sighing. "Nickodamous, you should not have done that." He gave him a chastising look.
He dipped his head his hair falling forward over his face, showing off his sharply pointed ears.
"Is he dangerous?" The same guest asked.
"No, not unless provoked." Nicholas refilled his pupils try and set it before him. Nickodamous didn't hesitate and went back to eating as if nothing had changed.
"He's not very modest." The talkative female vampire said with a soft giggle.
Nicholas shrugged. "He has no concept of it; I only force him to wear clothes when we are in public where decency is demanded of us."
"I don't mind, he has a pleasing form." She looked over the demon with appreciative eyes.