It has now been six hundred and seventy-nine years since the founding of the city. And the empire though it is full of politics and propaganda. Of civilized men with naught but words and intrigue who plot and scheme for elevation. It is still a place in deep need of blood and sport to satiate the hunger that resides inside of them, buried beneath calculating words and cunning steps.
So need gives way to the arena where noble and common alike sit to spectate on the gore and glory that comes among the sands. To bear witness to the likeness of gods in men. To watch as Gladiators lay siege upon themselves in spectacular performance.
Though there are many of note that deserve their names put to legend. This tale is not meant for any one of them. It is instead for the overlooked warrior. One for whom life both inside and out of the arena proved to be a war with many battles not so won with ease. Ir is for the Gladiatrix. The warrior’s female counterpart. Far less in number but not so in strength and valor. And for one in particular. The animal from the land set atop the convergences of the Blue Nile, the White and the river Atbarah. The silent bitch of Kush whose bite, as some would find, far outweighed her bark. But before she was so known in the arena as champion with her weapon, the Illyrian siccae, raised to the heavens in triumph. A visage of rage and conquest deserved of highest praise. She was a woman shorn from her home and nearly ripped of her whole humanity. Would explain why her eyes were yet void of the pleasure of victory.
Yes, this is indeed for her. It is her life. Her death. Her rise and her fall. Most would have her and her true name buried by the sands of time beneath the shadows of the arena. Her truth lost to all. Yet here it is, committed to form. While the Romans would know her by another name, a false name. She will forever be held dear to those that had her in their hearts, as Nehset. As it were, for what was done to her, the Romans as well as all others that would see harm come to her body and soul, their name was well fit for they would every one of them know her as Varinia, The Executioner of Executioners, The Bringer of Blood.
But to glean why that majority would be beholden to the rage of one woman is to know the whole of Nehset and those that influenced the fate of a slave.
The chatter and calamity of market was a loud and boorish thing. While Rome boasted itself as a country of civilized men. Greatness if there ever was such a thing. It was no more than a hovel of piss and shit. Smelling ripe of vomit and waste. A steaming den of ill repute beneath the flowery guise of its noble women and strong face of its powerful men. Who in all truth were naught but cowards, bitches and whores. That which could be found easily reflected within the very streets of the reclaimed city-port Ostia, founded atop the mouth of the river Tiber. Where men and women or those who prefer the sex with more likeness, may well be seen engaged in the carnel pleasures of the flesh whilst others made purchase or coin in the bartering of more human flesh as if property.
It is on this stage where the bastard trader Spurius puts to auction such flesh ill gained. And as he calls and screams, haggling the best price for himself, the tides of fate crash and sway. As it is on this stage that the bastard trader Spurius puts to auction the body and mind of Nehset, the prisoner from the land of sun, of gold and sand, from the heathen Kingdom of Kush.
“I have slave for purchace!” He shouted, making his gesture toward the line of shackled people. Ones of all different race and creed. Some as clear opposite to others as night is to day. But in the end of it all, here on the stage, dirty and ill clothed, makes all one of the same caste.
The first Roman to bid was no more than an overweight slob. With an overabundance of gold and an under abundance of hair. She knew well, men such as him. Struggling to make up for all that they lack. He chose a girl, one that Nehset had sat beside throughout the duration of their passage to Ostia. She mourned for the girl as she was pulled from the elevated planks of wood. Her fate, Nehset would wish upon no one. By her gods, she barely thought her present state marginally better than that of the flaxen haired prisoner.
She recalled the months that preceded this day. All of them enough to shatter the heart. Beginning with an event of accident and poor chance coupled with the scheme of a selfish prick and the greedy hands that delivered her to him. With careful maneuvering it was claimed that she had committed the life of a Roman man to the gods. When in truth she was innocent. Not by lack of blood but by vicious intent. As she had not set out to take a life that night.
With her father made absent of breath by the skirmishes against the Egyptian tribes and the sisters of her family seen to the afterlife behind him, then her mother and brother taken by betrayal, she found herself in Roman grips, captured as prize and given to strange hands as gift. The man that fell to her hand gripped with blade plucked from the tray of fruit with which she was sent, carried a heart full of intent on causing her the deepest grievance. His touch against her flesh, searing themselves to memory, the sound of shredding cloth soaking in to never leave her senses. She did no more than defend what had been long cherished during her years as a woman. A thing that the one doing the gifting most hoped for. It was after that bout that she found herself standing over a stilled body, hair disheveled, darkening marks on her already dark skin, blood bright against her tattered robes. Looking ever the animal they made her out to be.
Her thought came back to the present when there was only herself and the bearded man from Assyria that remain on the stage. The Roman that had thus far stood silent in the crowd, moved to step forward. He was different from the other. Blatantly strong, proud. The robes he wore were rich but basic in color. His beard, neatly trimmed, not clean shaven as the others, further setting him apart. Yet his hair fell in fashion with the other Romans in the market. His shoulders were high, widened with his straightened back. There was no lacking here and by the parting of the crowds and the shrinking of her captor, Nehset knew that it was for good reason.
“I would have words Cilician.”
Her captor swallowed hard with the revelation of his heritage and fumbled around with words that would deny it, “I would gladly receive them.” He settled, descending from the stage to leave them beneath the watchful eye of his partner. A boy that could be no more than a cycle, perhaps two, passed his coming into adulthood.
“I come for not just any slave.” The proud one informed.
Recognition passed across Spurius’ face. “Then one fit for the arena. To bring sport back to this city.” His voice belied astonishment and pride as he gestured back to the stage, “The Assyrian for one hundred denarii.” He was overcome with greed, he knew that. But he could not help himself. As a man of such caliber had never before coveted a slaves from his ships. His cockiness abated quickly with the Roman’s unamused look, “Though I would be favorable to a bargain.” He reasoned.
“It is not just any that I will receive.” Nehset felt herself flinch at the man’s raised hand, feeling the weight of it from even so far a distance and lofty a place, “What is that?” She heard him question.
The Cilician cleared his throat at a loss for desire to speak on her presence. In the end, doing so regardless of desire, “A prisoner from the land that shares the Nile.”
A frown creased his moist brow, “Not from Egypt.”
“No, Lanista.” Nehset burned beneath the heat of his glare, “Kush.”
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