The morning rose with Venus slowly guiding the sun to its proper position in the day. Everything lay still for a moment, and then the silence was shattered like a mirror upon the marble ground. The crowded streets of Rome flourished like wild blossoms, and every person swarmed around the market like bees to freshly bloomed flowers. There were people screaming and children playing ignoring their mothers and surroundings.

The market was always such an interesting place where a variety of items were sold, from other worldly spices to freshly slaughtered pigs to fragrant fruits. This part of Rome was so lively, not just from the exchange of goods but from the entertainment as well.

There in the middle of an anxious crowd were two men ferociously fighting like wild animals. One wore a helmet of bronze with the mane of a lion attached to the top making the warrior seem fiercer than his opponent. His opponent wore no helmet nor carried a shield, all he had on were his clothes, bandages from previous fights, and a charming smirk upon his lips taunting the fierce fighter. The crowd was screaming, cheering, waiting for one of these men to hack the other into pieces.

From behind the crowd peered the head of a slave girl who was idly washing the bloodied clothes of her master who owned the slaughter house nearby. She swept her golden hair to her left side and lifted up her bangs in order to see. Standing on tip-toes on a bench she was able to see most of the action. The men were like two wolves waiting for the perfect moment to strike; they circled each other, carefully analyzing one another. The one with the helmet decided to strike first and as he lunged toward his enemy the one with the charming smirk decided to use this opportunity to elbow the man in his face knocking off his helmet.

The man with no helmet was taken aback, the man with the smirk lunged towards him sword in hand. The blade pierced the skin and shattered the cage where the heart was safely kept. With a bewildering look on his face he dropped to his knees and fell upon the dirt as his murderer removed the weapon from his body. The crowd was silent for only a second and then they all began to cheer louder than before. The champion raised his fists into the air triumphantly as everyone began to chant his name, "Caius! Caius!"

The girl sank back down to the soles of her bare feet not knowing what to think of what had just occurred, then, with haste, returned back to her duties. She was not a slave chained to a rock like others around these parts of Rome, yet she did wear an anklet made of bronze to symbolize her stature as a slave. Her clothes were not as elegant as nobel women but were not as disgraceful as the town whore. She wore plain brown and blue rags that tied around her neck and clung securely to her waist.

She did not work with the actual slaughtering of the animals but made sure that her master's (and his wife's) clothes were clean and meals prepared. She did not think of her life as awful, perhaps a little confined, but she was not subjected to violence like most slaves so she did not complain. As long as she stayed out of the other men's way she was no bother to anyone.

From the corner of her eye she saw those bright colors that only nobility wore, and they were headed her way. As she turned her head to look she realized that behind them walked the champion Caius, that same smirk from before still playing on his face. His skin was tan, brown short hair that reached the nape of his neck, and muscles that appeared to be made of granite. There were faded marks on his body that she realized were from prior fights. His master, a tall slim man with a long face and gray beard, walked in front of him. He gave her one long look and spoke, "Where is your master?" She motioned for them to follow her and moved held the entrance open so that the two gentlemen could step in. As they walked further into the building Caius turned to look at her up and down. His eyes seemed devious and he softly chuckled to himself as he turned his head one again.

Her face blushed, but only slightly so no one could see. She did not think of that stare as flattering whatsoever, more like insulting in her mind. She brushed it off and stepped outside. Yet it was as if all hell had broken loose. Before her eyes were two men beating each other senseless. She recognized both of them for they were her fellow slaves (the ones she often avoided).

The men tumbled to the ground, fists flew, and screams of rage echoed. She stood there, not frozen in fear but simply analyzing her next move just like the gladiators had. There by the building was a fountain filled with last storm's chilled rain water. She grabbed a pale and ran to it making sure to not bump into the fight herself. Filling it to the brim, she dragged it back to the savage fighters and in an attempt to calm their tempers she flung the cold water at them.

Yet they did not think anything of it and continued on with their quarrel. The fight had not been ignored by the other men and soon two of them marched out of the quarters, one carrying a whip. The men where awfully large, both were hairless, and looked exactly alike. What differentiated them was their facial hair, one was longer than the other. They walked over to the fight, the long bearded one readied his whip. It cracked like lightning, stopping the fight instantly as it hit the flesh of one of the men. He was taken by surprise and fell back, freeing his opponent in the process; he raised his hand to his now bloodied cheek. The short bearded one took the chance to apprehend the man and bring him to his feet so that his companion could have at him some more with his whip.

"This is why you do not cause trouble, Amicus! We do not need trouble makers like you ruining the place," He raised his arm, whip in hand. "This will put you in your place!"

The man's head was low, his face still bleeding from the first blow. The girl looked before her, terrified with her fragile hands covering her mouth. The man's arm began to swing; she covered her ears and closed her eyes expecting to hear a frightful crack and howls of pain, yet she heard nothing. In place of the howls came a firm "Enough!"

The unharmed man-Amicus- slightly raised his head to see his savior, his eyes slightly widening at the sight. It was Caius, his master, and the master of the slaughter

house. The man holding Amicus released his grip and he fell to his knees, looking at his master through his drenched locks. With her back against the wall, she was almost unseen-almost.

Her master turned his head to stare at her, "Aurelia, you are drenched my dear. Go inside and have my wife fetch you something to dry yourself with."

She nodded at her kind master and stepped inside. The other men stood outside, Caius was trying his best to not laugh at fallen Amicus.

"He is utter trouble, Basilus," spoke the gladiator's master.

"Indeed he is, Faustus," Basilus shook his head.

"Let me take him off your hands then, I could put him to good use in my gladiator school," Faustus' lips turned into a wide grin.

"I don't know my friend, perhaps one more chance wouldn't kill the oaf," Basilus scratched his old tired head.

"Basilus, a man like him is not to be caged. He will only get worse, one day he will end up killing one of your slaves," Faustus tried to sound as convincing as possible, "I am willing to give you 20 aurei for him."

Basilus nearly broke his neck when he turned to look at Faustus. "20 aurei? I simply cannot, he is just one man Faustus. That would be cheating."

Faustus chuckled, "Think of it as a gift from your long time friend,"

"I simply cannot," Basilus kept shaking his head in shock.

"Then perhaps add something else to this purchase, what else do you have to offer?" Faustus planned on getting the best of this deal, he imagined two new, strong recruits for his arena. His mind wandered to images of fame and how the whole republic would know his name.

"Aurelia, she could serve your daughter, besides this slaughter house is no place for a woman," Basilus sounded slightly hesitant as he spoke. "She is efficient, follows orders well, and she does not question it."

"A slave girl? You mean that pretty one with the golden hair? Well my daughter's birthday is quite soon I'm sure she would appreciate it," not what he had in mind but if what Basilus says about her is true then he would by her from the man's hands. "Alright Basilus I will take you up on your offer," Faustus extended his hand in order to close the deal.

Basilus took one regretful look at that hand and shook it with his, "It is a deal then."

***

The sun reached its most intense point, and the little slave girl sat in her former chambers, washed by disbelief. Her former master, Basilus, entered the room with a small leather sack in his hand. She turned to look at him, wiping her tears.

"No need to cry girl, you will be staying in a lavish villa with other girls to talk to as well. Well, really you are no longer a girl, so there will be other women to talk to," He took her hands and placed the pouch in them. "Listen carefully now, you must not let anyone see this, hide it within your clothes and only open it when you are alone. It is of utmost importance that you follow these instructions precisely. The contents in this pouch are to be used in a dire emergency," he kissed her forehead in a fatherly manner and hugged one last time. He had no children of his own and this child had been with him since she was small; she was more of a daughter than a slave, but this opportunity would get her closer to the senate, and perhaps, recognized. At least that was what he hoped.

She walked in silence with her new master, head held low so no one could see her tears. Amicus walked beside her, in chains, and Caius walked as if he were a free man, that charming smirk never leaving his lips.

"Listen girl, you will be serving my daughter, Leta. You will do as she commands, do you understand?" Ordered Faustus.

"Yes, sir," she spoke, her voice carried a slight tremble. She heard behind her Caius chuckle slightly at how meek she was.

Faustus was being followed by his fellow friend and advisor, who was adorned with gold and silver. His hair was that of dried wheat, and his face had been worn by age. His robes were new and colored like the fresh grass in the morning.

"Um, Faustus, do you really think that purchasing that slave girl was a good idea?" his voice was raspy, sounding as if he had to cough at any moment.

"Of course not, but I simply could not waste 20 aurei on a single man. I was expecting him to offer another potential champion," Faustus' tone was that of a disappointed man. "Then again one more slave girl could do no harm, besides my daughter needs her company when I am gone."

"And what of your wife?"

Faustus grunted, "My wife, that woman can barely keep me company."

After long moments they had arrived at the ludus, the villa was grand with plenty of open space and beautiful fragrant flowers draped on lovely vases. It really was a sight to behold and Aurelia was stricken by surprise. She had expected the ludus to smell of goat, dead men, and whores; yet instead she was welcomed by the smells of beautiful flowers and lush plants.

"Camilla!" Faustus called and from within the villa came this young woman, with black curly hair down to her waist, round face, and full lips. Her eyes were big and green like emeralds, her smile was kind, and her figure was very curvy. She bowed her head to her master and gestured for young Aurelia to follow.

Once the women were out of sight, Faustus turned to his newest recruit whose head lay low, something his new master thought of high disrespectful.

"Guards," men in bronze armor appeared by his side, "take our newest member to his chambers where he can be introduced to his new bunkmates." Amicus was taken out of his sight immediately and the only one left was Caius, who simply grinned at his master. Faustus grinned back, "My boy, you will bring great glory to this ludus. You shall be greatly rewarded tonight." He patted the gladiator on his meaty shoulder and had another guard escort him to his upgraded chamber.

Faustus moved his tired old body to the main part of the villa, decorated with mosaics and busts of his father and his father's father. He was a tired, defeated old man, whose wife was a complete and utter harpy. He ran his adorned fingers through his decaying hair and thought of the future of this ludus, who would care for his men when he was gone? He had no male heirs and his daughter refuses to marry. His wife would be the last person he would entrust the ludus with, she would torture her warriors and turn this place into a circus. Not to mention that she would probably end up being her demise.

He thought of perhaps freeing one of his slaves to run the place, yet that would not be proper and would surely cause a rebellion among the other slaves. He had no choice but to force it upon her innocent young daughter, he hoped that she would soon understand the circumstances of things.

"Darling!" she was dressed in pink robes lined with gold trimmings, her hair was embellished in gold decorations to match her theme. She was quite lovely for her age, with sleek black hair and large brown eyes; her face was not as worn out as her husband's, and her curves were still very much intact. She flaunted her cleavage as if she were of young age, and colored her lips in voluptuous colors as to draw attention from wandering eyes. "When did you return?"

"Moments ago," he racked his head to find a way to get rid of her presence. "I have things to attend to, with the new recruit and all--"

"New recruit? Why, I should go and welcome our new guest," he eyes became lustful and hungry.

"No, he is very tired there is no need to disturb him,"

"He's a slave, Faustus," she retorted.

"Nonetheless, he is a man and he needs his own space. Unlike you,I do not play petty mind games with them," he was disgusted by how cruel and tormenting she could be towards everything with genitalia.

"Oh of course not Faustus, you really are some Godly idol who can do no wrong," her tone was sarcastic and dripping with spite. "I wonder, how loud was that poor girl screaming before you sliced her neck and defiled her body?" She crossed her arms over her chest and smirked.

His jaw tensed at her awful remark, "Do as you wish." His voice was dark and threatening for she had hit a nerve with that comment.

"I shall," she laughed and left her husband to his own dark thoughts.

Upstairs, a young maiden was being dressed and greeted by her new friend. The slave girl put a beautiful fresh flower from the garden upon the dark brunette's hair. She smiled pleasantly at her new companion, and gestured for her to sit beside her. Aurelia did as she was told and stared at her new mistress, glad that she was to only answer from this girl. Her eyes were like the heavens themselves and her skin was as fair as the finest sand. Her hair was like dark silk and she tried to wear as less embellishment as possible, it was as if looking at Mother Earth herself.

"What beautiful hair you have, but you smell like a dead pig," she laughed but not in a sarcastic kind of way. Aurelia blushed and looked away. "Yet once we get you bathed and clothed lavishly, you will look like my sister" She clapped at her own joy, her smile glistened like the stars in the sky.

"Why, my lady I simply cannot, I-" Aurelia was taken aback by the giggle of her mistress.

"You are to never call me that ever again, understand? You and I are now friends, and as such you shall call me Leta and I shall call you....?"

The girl smiled humbly, "Aurelia,"

"What a pretty name, has anyone ever told you that your eyes are like fresh moss on spring morning?" Leta's words were so kind that Aurelia stared speechless. Leta smiled again and stood, motioning for Aurelia as they headed for the baths.

Towards the men's quarters, in a rusty gated cell lay Amicus on the dirty floor being kicked, punched, and spat on by his new mates. They called it his initiation to the unbranded club. As he tried to get to his feet, one of them took the opportunity to kick him ferociously till he spat up blood. This continued until the poor man was knocked unconscious and to finish it off each men took turns to urinate on his beaten body.

Within his paralyzed body grew a deep hatred and a violent spirit that would soon come to a boil and peek its ugly malevolent head. It was only a matter of time before he had enough of this abusive fuel that seemed to make his fire grow stronger and stronger.

His brown dusty hair stuck to his face due to the blood that slid down his cracked head. He could taste the metallic gore on the tip of his tongue, and he could feel it ooze out of his head.

Caius, well satisfied, walked down the dirty halls and noticed the poor bloody man through the rusty cell gates. He simply chuckled and shook his head as he took a swig of his wine from its flask. "Welcome to the ludus, my friend," he said as he walked by, heading for his chambers.

***

That night the air was crisp in her chamber; her bed was on the opposite side of her mistress's, close to the balcony where she stood. The silver moonlight illuminated her fair skin almost giving her the appearance of some heavenly being. Beneath her lay the garden, with radiant flowers and perfumed fruits. She laid her head down on the wooden ledge and released a heavy sigh. Aurelia had been sold like cattle and her home was now a palace filled with blood-thirsty gladiators.