The Black Wind
Bad luck wind been blowin' on my back
I was born to bring trouble wherever I'm at
With the number '13' tattooed on my neck
That ink starts to itch
Black gon' turn to red
Maximilianus rubbed his calloused hands together as he walked down the line and observed the slaves chained together by the wrists and ankles. The boards of the scaffold groaned under his heavy set feet, and he tapped his chin as he contemplated who to start with. He had been an auctioneer for fifteen summers now, and knew the secret was not to start with the best inventory first.
'Throw them an upstart, catch their attention.' He thought as he stroked his beard in thought. The morning shoppers were starting to crawl out of the woodwork now, a small group of people were trickling around his platform. This was the best time to make a sale, the bystanders that came only to watch did not arrive until noon and the serious buyers knew to turn up early to snag a great deal. He paused in front of a tall Grecian, but the scowl on that fellow was unpleasant. Next to the Grecian however, was a small doe eyed little girl who was trying to look all around with the curiosity that came with childhood.
"You, where are you from?" He pointed at her and she jumped at his voice and fixed him with a blinking expression.
"She only knows how to speak her native language, sir." Maximilianus' assistant scurried over dutifully.
"Do you know where she is from?" He buffeted.
"The Legions picked her up in a village in Gaul, I believe, sir." His assistant scanned down a thick scroll and pointed to a thin scrawl that Maximilianus looked over. It had been awhile since he had picked up anyone from Gaul, and she was a small girl, perfect for work in an estate or what have you. After a quick order she was unchained from the line and he took her by her wrist to lead her forward to stand in the center of the platform.
He licked his lips once and glanced at the girl as she stared forward before starting. His shouts attracted a large flock of people, and while the crowd was reluctant at first to respond, he soon had them eating out of the palm of his hand. After five minutes the girl was sold to an older looking fellow donned in fine robes who stepped forward a little tiredly to collect his new servant.
"Here you go, sir. Fine choice, fine choice." Maximilianus beamed as he jingled the fat coin purse the man had given him in one palm and strolled away to continue his sales. The little girl looked up hopefully at her new master silently and he looked down awkwardly for a few seconds as he cleared his throat.
"My name is Octavio Ennius. I serve the Imperial Family and you will too. Can you tell me your name?" He said in Gaulic and the girl giggled softly at his clumsy accent.
"Hûredhiel." She said softly and cast her eyes mischievously down at her hands as she played with them.
"Hm. No one here is going to be able to pronounce that very well. How about Cornelia? That is a pretty name." Octavio smiled pleasantly at the girl and she bobbed her head once in agreement. He took the girl by her hand and the two looked like father and daughter as they passed instead of master and slave. Cornelia stared all around, at statues of gods clasping swords high in victory and goddesses dressed scantily to their gleaming white buildings supported by massive columns. She kept flashing back to the city gates and the imposing eagle above it, her first glimpse of the city through the crack in the carriage's doors.
They arrived in a massive square buzzing with people, and she was led to a beautiful multistory building she couldn't even wrap her head around. How could these people build such things? Cornelia had thought the tales of Rome's magnificence had been a lie when they reached her ears, she had been sure that nothing could match the beauty of her home and her village. She had clearly been wrong.
They paused outside of the steps that led up to the palace to watch a large group of men all dressed in the same striped toga, some more flashy than others, shuffle their way up the steps with several guards flanking the group. Octavio briefly explained to her that these men belonged to the Senate, and helped run Rome with the Caesar. After the men finally passed she was taken through a different entrance and sat on a stool in the kitchens were Octavio explained to Cornelia of her duties.
She was to clean up after others in the palace and do what ever was asked to her by those she served and higher ranking servants, such as the woman that ran the kitchens and Octavio himself. In exchange, she was given three hot meals a day and a place to sleep, something most people did not even have, he was careful to point out. When he asked her if she had any questions when he was done talking, she only had one.
"Will I ever be free? To go back home?" She asked with her wide innocent eyes. Octavio squirmed uncomfortably under her gaze, he had hoped she would not ask this.
"If you work hard and dutifully, maybe one day." He said. She processed these words slowly and nodded her head yes to show she understood after a few minutes, but said nothing further.
Cornelia huffed as she placed the heavy bucket on the counter top and rubbed her brow angrily to relieve an itch that had sprouted up there, conveniently when she was halfway down the hall heaving a bucket full of water in both hands. She had come to know the palace very well in the short eight months she had been there, and had even caught on to Latin. With a few more months of practice, she would probably be able to hold a full conversation with someone.
"I'm going to go start on the stairwell in the east hall, can you finish up here?" The other servant who worked along side Cornelia, Aura, asked. She was a redheaded girl from the north, exactly were Cornelia was unsure of.
"Yes, I'll be only a half hour here at the latest." Cornelia replied and Aura departed a few minutes later. She busied herself with scrubbing the the tiles on the floor, the last part that was usually cleaned. Her knuckles didn't even hurt anymore once they started to turn red, and she no longer would get cramps in her arms. She hummed an old lullaby her mother used to sing to her at night as a small child, all she had left of her home were her people's songs and stories. But no one here cared to hear them, she thought with a depressing sigh.
After ten minutes of hard work, footsteps bounced down from the hall and when Cornelia looked up the shadow of a figure was thrown across the wall for a split second before a boy appeared. He ground himself to a halt when he saw her, he must not have expected her to be there. He wore a simple white tunic with a red stripe on the sleeves; he quickly scowled at her and his brow knitted over his dark brown eyes as he crossed his arms. Cornelia's stomach dropped when she recognized him to be the Prince Ignatius, the future Caesar of Rome and the bane of every palace servant's existence. To his parents and Rome he was the prodigious well behaved heir, but to those who had to take orders from him, he was a selfish cruel brat.
"Slave, I wish to have something to eat. Fetch me a plate at once." He said with an air of authority and sneered down at her. Cornelia opened her mouth to reply then closed it. It wasn't her duty to serve food to people, but Octavio had told her to do what was ordered of her by those of higher rank, and the Prince definitely fell in to that category.
"Er, yes, sir." She mumbled and got to her feet. Ignatius stood and watched as she flitted around the kitchen nervously with the same wide smirk across his face. Cornelia wondered as she prepared his food if he got off from seeing people do what he said, it was an incredible power that could go to any one's head, let alone a little boy. With one last bow she placed the food in front of him and went back to her rightful duties.
As she was finishing up there was a large clatter and she spun around to see the food splattered all over the floor she had just worked so hard to clean. She felt the sea sponge in her hand drop as she gaped at the mess and Ignatius just sat there smiling innocently.
"Slave, clean that up at once." He said and got to his feet. Cornelia fought against a bubbling rage that was brewing deep within her, she couldn't help it, short tempers ran in her tribe. "Slave." He repeated with an air of impatience as she just stood there staring. She grit her teeth and looked him right in the eye as she balled her fists and warm tears built up behind her eyes.
"You did that on purpose you brat!" She spat and childishly stomped her foot. Ignatius' eyes bulged and his face twisted in to a furious glare.
"How dare you speak to me like that, Slave!" He roared and was gone in a flash of white and his long curly hair flying behind his head. Cornelia barely drew a breath when two guards stormed in and she was seized by her upper arms and carried off. Her heart pounded as the men shouted at her in great booming voices. They shoved her to the ground inside of an empty room and tied her hands to the leg of a table, all the while demanding to know why she disrespected the Prince but gave her no room to speak.
"Give her ten lashes, it will teach the barbarian child to behave." One of the men, a tall heavy set man named Theodotos ordered. The back of her tunic was ripped open and she trembled as the guard nearest to her unwound a whip at his waist and stepped before her. She squeezed her eyes shut and clasped her hands together as she began to pray to the river goddess that had protected her people.
The first lash cut through her skin and she let out a painful scream and barely had enough time to register the full intensity of the pain before a second lash sliced her open. White spots clouded her vision and her head felt much to heavy, she fought for consciousness as the third lash struck and she gave a terrible cry.
"What on earth is going on in here?" A high female voice demanded and at once the room grew still.
"Oh, Princess Nydia! We are just punishing a slave that disrespected your brother, my lady." The man said sweetly and bowed graciously before shooting a disdainful look at Cornelia.
"I hardly believe that. Are you sure my little upstart of a brother did not disrespect her?" The Princess arched a blonde eyebrow and fixed the man with a cold regal stare.
"B-but, my lady, she is just a slave! Prince Ignatius informed us that she refused to listen to him." The man chuckled as the Princess stared unblinkingly at him.
"Right. Slave, what is your name?" Nydia asked and seemed to float across the room to the crumpled little girl.
"Cornelia." Came a small whimper.
"Cornelia, what happened between you and my brother?" The Princess asked gently with a small smile.
"I-I was cleaning the kitchens b-because that is m-my job, when he came in and asked for food. I g-got it for him but when I finished my work h-he tossed his food on the floor and demanded that I clean it up." Cornelia managed to say between sobs and bowed her head from shame, she did not want the Princess, such a beautiful young lady, to see her like this slave or not.
"Ah, I see. That sounds like Ignatius. Release this girl at once and send her to her lodgings for rest. I will see to it that the physician cares for her wounds." Nydia rose to her feet and clapped her hands in command. The guards exchanged awkward looks as Theodotos set his mouth in to a thin line of disapproval but did not descent.
Cornelia had to be carried back to her room that was in the cellar below the palace were the slaves slept, as she could barely stand let alone walk. The rooms were empty and Cornelia was glad that no one could see her shame, but no doubt news had already spread about the incident. She was laid down on her stomach and a guard stood sentinel as the physician arrived and cleaned her wounds. He was an old frail man with wild grey hair and a wheezy voice and kept cracking jokes to make Cornelia feel better, and she managed to smile a few times.
Her back throbbed to painfully for her to sleep so she stared off in to space and let her mind wander to anything from what has just happened. She wished that she was strong, like the warriors and hunters in her village. But she had to be frail, she had to be weak. If she had been strong then she would have been able to outrun the men that had chased her away from her home and snatched her away, and she would be able to stand up against anyone, including the Prince. One day, she decided, everyone would notice her strength, and it would be greater than all of Rome.
Got a long line of heartache
I carry it well
The list of lives I've broken
Reach from here to hell
And a bad luck wind been blowin' on my back
Pray you don't look at me
And I pray I don't look back
Cornelia awoke on her own now, after four years of routine she no longer had to be jostled awake by Aura or Octavio and had become accustom to awaking before dawn and setting to work with her eyes still closed. As her eyes opened on the morning she lay still in her cot for several minutes with a feeling of dread settling in the bottom of her stomach, yesterday Prince Ignatius returned from his schooling at an academy in Greece, not permanently, but as a visit. She doubted she'd even run in to him, but still shared in the grumblings of the other servants that had crossed Ignatius.
"Cornelia, time to get up." Aura clapped cheerily in the brunette's face and Cornelia waved her friend's hands out of her face irritably. She got to her feet and slipped on her simple leather sandals before checking to make sure the braid in her hair was still taught enough to last through the day and set out of the room with Aura next to her. The slaves did not chat as they all filed out of their rooms and up to the palace, its not that they weren't allowed to, they just did not.
Cornelia smiled pleasantly at Octavio as she took her plate for breakfast. They had to eat fast, with only ten minutes allowed to them. She watched Aura make gooey eyes at a boy who sat down the table from them, she tried to hide a snort when Aura's elbow planted firmly in her food and snarfed down her loaf of bread as a guard watched them sternly. Their short breakfast was quickly over and Cornelia followed the older women to the kitchens with Aura whispering to her under her breath about her newest crush.
After being yelled at shortly by the dame for out of place talking, she was given her usual cleaning supplies and ordered to clean the west hall that over looked the courtyard. It took her ten minutes to huff her way there and made a note to poke Aura extra hard in the ribs that night when the girl was asleep. Half an hour in to her duty, the sound of metal clashing in the courtyard below reached her ears. Curiosity got the better of her; Cornelia got to her feet and padded her way to one of the window sills.
Below, several palace guards were clashing. She automatically frowned when she saw Theodotos standing back with his arms clasped behind his back and shouting commands. They must be practicing, Cornelia decided, and spent a few minutes watching the movement of the swords through the air and the firm stances of the men. She remembered watching her older brothers spar with the other warriors in the village, but they certainly did not fight the same way the Romans did.
Before she could even fully turn around, a hand gathered a fistful of the back of her robes and pulled her away. She was shoved roughly against the stone wall and an arm planted itself firmly against her neck to keep her from moving or speaking.
"Now, you have no right to be watching them, slave." A deep voice growled and Cornelia looked in to the dark eyes of Ignatius, the one person she had been intent on avoiding and he happens to find her not even two hours in to the day. He pushed his arm harder against her throat and the pressure was making her head spin. "I remember your blatant disrespect, next time my sister wont be there to save you." He growled and Cornelia could feel her face start to go numb. He released her with one last snarl and swept away.
"Maybe some one spit in his morning drink." Aura said lightly later that night as they sat in their shared room, both sitting on their cots across from the other. Cornelia had just finished relaying what had happened to her earlier in the day, as they had not had a chance to speak one on one in private all day. She smiled meekly at Aura's attempt to add humor, but it did not help calm her nerves.
"He said that Princess Nydia wont 'be there to save me next time'." She repeated and glanced down at her fidgeting hands.
"Well, just make sure there wont be a 'next time'." Aura shrugged and Cornelia nodded vaguely. Avoiding Ignatius was something Cornelia could agree to do. But it turned out to be easier said than done.
Fortune definitely was not smiling upon her as over the next few weeks Ignatius would somehow find her at work and bully her mercilessly and there was nothing she could do about it. He never actually put his hands on her but bombarded her with verbal insults and ridiculous commands while sneering down at her. All Cornelia could do was grit her teeth and soldier through it, the thick scars on her back kept her in line.
As the month wound to a close, a small feast was held for the Emperor's family and guests and the palace ground to a halt to prepare for it days in advance. Feasts and parties always made Cornelia's stomach crawl, as they always had the chance of turning in to a free for all for the guests and the Emperor did not hesitate to impress by rolling out his top quality slaves. She had always managed to avoid being drug out for display, but now that she was of age that might be a different story.
On that fateful night, Cornelia found herself alone in the north hall that overlooked the square below. She had utilized secret passageways to find her way there and was sitting on the window sill cloaked by shadows. She could hear the babble from the feast even from where she sat way up high and wondered if Aura had gotten drug in to it, but decided that her friend wouldn't probably care if she was.
She watched a line of priestesses inch their way across the darkened square, each carrying a circular tray with burning incense trailing a line of smoke through the air. After several minutes they disappeared down a flight of steps and she chucked as she saw the wobbling figure of a lost party guest stumble his way under the veranda and out of sight. She glanced at the sky which was tinted a deep navy blue. Sighing she got to her feet, morning was a few hours a way and she might as well get a few hours of sleep before she had to help clean up the debauchery below.
Her footsteps slapping against the tile was the only sound in the hall as she trekked across the palace. As she neared the main hall she spied three figures at the base of the steps that spiraled upward, one was sitting down bent forward clutching something and the other two were standing around him with their backs to her. She was still hidden by the darkness and could have easily slunk away but her curiosity got the better of her and she stepped forward.
"Is everything alright?" She asked and the two men turned to her and the one on the ground looked up.
"Myron injured his ankle while trying to deliver Prince Ignatius' nightly cup of wine." One of them said gruffly and nodded to the fallen servant.
"I just twisted it, I'll be fine in a few days." He quipped nervously. Cornelia hoped so, such a minor injury could easily spiral out of control if not treated well.
"Could you deliver it while we get him to the physician?" The other asked and held up a goblet Cornelia had not previously seen. She felt her blood freeze to a chill and almost spouted out that she'd rather go to bed with one of the drunk Senators than be in Ignatius' presence alone, but with the three men's eyes on her expectantly she reluctantly took the cup of wine and gave them a painful smile as the two men picked Myron up and made a show of carrying him away.
Cornelia stared up at the steps for several minutes as she gathered all of her courage and scuttled up the steps. Hopefully Ignatius was already a little drunk and was the happy kind so she could flash in and flash out with not harm done. Too soon she was standing outside of the doorway to his room and two sleepy guards regarded her as she stood there with a sour expression.
They let her through after a brief explanation and she found herself in a large square room decorated with foreign items such as small golden idols from Egypt and a deep crimson silk robe from the East. There was another doorway to her right with light spilling out from it and she hesitantly stepped forward with her insides twisting around over and over. She entered another lavishly decorated room with a balcony to the left with drawn white curtains that fluttered eerily in the night wind.
"What are you doing here." A dark voice said lazily from behind her and she jumped several feet in the air and whirled around to see Ignatius seated in the corner behind her at a desk. There were dark circles under his eyes and his skin was paler than usual. His hair, which was usually carefully styled, was messy as if he had ran his hands through it several times and he was still dressed in his fine tunic he wore to the party.
"You're servant twisted his ankle and I was asked to complete his task for him." She said stiffly and made sure to bow lowly. His face was stoic as he watched her step toward him as if she were walking across lava and hold out his cup of wine. He stared at it for several minutes as if his thinking process had crashed and Cornelia wondered if he was to drunk to speak or something.
"You taste it first." He said slowly and looked up at her with a brief smirk. He trained his eyes on her and she knew there was no way out of it. With the speed and grace of a snail she rose the cup to her lips and took a brave sip. She closed her eyes and pursed her lips as she swallowed the sweet liquid and he let out a loud bark like laugh that would have made a small child cry.
"There, no poison." She said and he finally took the cup from her hands.
"Where do you think you're going? You have to wait for me to finish and take this back." Ignatius said as she turned for the doorway and looked back at him with a pleading expression unknowingly. He circled her like a vulture as he drank his wine. She stared down at her clasped hands the entire time and had to fight every impulse in her head telling her to high tail it out of there quick.
"Er, did you have a nice time at the feast sir?" She asked stiffly just to break the silence and he halted right in front of her with a thousand yard stare.
"No." He said so quietly that she wasn't sure if she had heard him correctly at first. Before she could even think of something else to say, he closed the gap between them and his fingers wrapped around her neck. With a simple flick of his wrist she was thrown to the ground and stared up at him in shock as he looked down at her with an unfathomable expression.
"Do you know what my father said to me? He said that he'll never be proud of me, that no matter what I'll still be a failure." He growled and clenched and unclenched his hands over and over. Cornelia began to sit up, she could still make her escape but before she could get to her knees, a firm kick landed against her side and her head hit the ground hard. Another kick buffeted against her side and she let out a cry of pain. Ignatius had a whole hundred pounds against her and several feet, she was a straw house and he was an auster wind.
He grabbed her by her hair and pulled her to her feet as she trembled under him and flinched up for another hit. Fear flooded her veins and she could not control her shaking. Curse her for being so small and weak! He raised another hand and she watched it move through the air before he patted her cheek softly, as if she were a consoling child.
"You can cry about this all you want to whoever you want, but no one is going to help you. You are just a slave." He said in a hush and a smile. Everything within her began to shake with anger. She wanted to reach out and strike him back, to wipe that grin off of his face and prove she was more than her status. Maybe she should feel sorry for him, his source of anger was the lack of approval from his dad which was sort of a big deal in his world, but what did she ever do to him? It's not like she wanted to come to Rome in the first place and work as a slave, she had been snatched away from her home as a child!
His fingers unwound from their grip and dropped her. She swayed on her feet as her torso throbbed painfully from where he had kicked her and for a moment she thought she was going to puke. He turned away from her sharply and she took it as her cue to leave. Backing up with deep breaths she glared death in to the back of his head. He was right, there was nothing she could do. So she retreated in to the darkness.
That night as she lay in her bed staring up at the ceiling listening to Aura's deep breaths, wondering if she would always live her life afraid that the next hour would bring more abuse. Oh, how she hated feeling helpless. Cornelia rolled over and closed her eyes and ignored the dull throb of pain in her side, and in her head everything seemed to clear up; the pieces fell in to place in a way she could not explain.
The next day when she was asked to fetch a jar from one of the storage closets, she searched high and low inside until she found a spare shield and sword used by the guards in practice and smuggled it back to her own room to be hidden under her bed. When the palace fell asleep, she fished them out and found an empty hall way and began to practice the moves she had seen the men perform in the courtyard.
Every night she would practice until her muscles were sore and her eyes dropped dangerously low. She did not give up until she could move in a series of fluid movements and basic techniques. Why, she had no idea. But for once in her life, she did not feel like the weak barbarian slave the world told her she was.
And thus, the Black Wind commences.
I was born in the soul of misery
And I never had me a name
They just give me a number when I was young
When I was young
-Thirteen by Danzig
if you read all of that, then you deserve a cookie.
this is a story i wrote out on my own a while ago but it wasnt as detailed as i'm planning on making it now, and the story is going to be very short, ten chapters or less but each chapter is going to be pretty long
let me know what you think with a review :)