That night Marcellus had much trouble to fall asleep. As soon as he closed his eyes, he saw the faces of his victims, distorted by agony, paralyzed by fear. He saw the bright metallic spheres spinning around him, singsonging their worship to their master, before he snapped with his fingers and they threw themselves on his victims like hungry beasts in the arena, shredding the flesh off their bones. Blood spat into the air and rained down on his face and hands.
His lips spread into a deranged smile, as the rain of blood painted the world in a beautiful crimson color. It rained on the in gold decorated tree, making the twinkling lights hiss and change into delicate pink glows.
He watched over his minions, the metallic ones devouring the ones made of weak pink flesh. He clapped in his hands in delight when a dying woman threw herself against the bridge he was standing on, and grabbed onto one of his polished shoes in desperation.
"Trouble getting up young lady?" he crouched down by her side, his voice a mockery of empathy. "Here, let me get your hand." He took the girl's outstretched hand and pulled her up. She looked up gratefully at him as she thought she might be spared, but he whistled between his teeth and one of the murdering spheres flew up to them and chopped off the young woman's hand. She fell back screaming as blood gushed out of the horrific wound.
"There you go!" He chuckled, and tossed the hand back into the wonderful dying mess below. He spun around, put his hands in his pockets and danced back to the small company that had stood behind him and had watched the massacre unfold in horror.
"Oh don't look so glum people! It's Christmas! Come on, let yourself go for Christ's sake. Give me some smiles." He grabbed a handful of miniature mince-pies from a silver tray and popped them in his mouth. "You look like someone has died." He said, spitting crumbs in Mr. Jones his face. "I ordered you to smile Mr. convict, it's not a bloody funeral, so smile!"
Mr. Jones managed to produce some expression on his face that resembled a sour and frightened grin. The Master chuckled and patted the man's face. "See, it's that easy. And as for you lot." He spun around and gazed at the others, holding up his laser-screwdriver that glowed maliciously.
"I SAID SMILE!"
He watched with satisfaction how Mrs. Jones and Mina jumped up in fright, and immediately responded to his command by pulling painful smiles on their faces. He particularly enjoyed it that the lower lips of both women trembled ever so slightly as they muffled their cries.
Wonderful! Excellent! Look at us! One big happy family. Now let us sing a song together. One of those tooth-achingly sweet carols, I know how much the Doctor adores them.
"How about it gramps, shall we sing?"
He kicked the side of the wheelchair in which an old and withered man was sitting. A sound of bells suddenly sounded through the room, and a music started to play that was both familiar and joyful. The spinning spheres started to sing like cheerful children.
Jingle bells jingle bells
Let's praise our generous Master well
Oh what fun
It is to slice
With our brand-new razor blades!
"Darling little critters aren't they, those toclafanes." The Master grinned, almost affectionately. "They are so adorably grateful, one package of Gillete razors in their stockings and they are so happy that they will play with it for hours! Which is more than I can say for you Doctor."
The Doctor didn't answer, just stared sorrowfully into the God-knows-where distance, his ancient face expressing not even a trace of fear.
"Doctor, any reactions?" He kicked the wheel again, more viciously this time, lifting the aged Timelord half out of his seat. "Anything? No? Nothing again?" He crouched beside him, his face at his level, their eyes met. "Now don't you think that's just a tincy whimsy ungrateful, Hm?" He asked, pouting his lips and making a sad face. "What is it with you, you boring old fart. I've went through so much effort to give you this bullocks festive poeha, and you don't even so much as thank me for it. I thought you loved Christmas!" He exclaimed, clasping his hands. "I brought this bunch up here just for you. I know how much you love those biped monkey, so here they are!" He made a grand gesture with his hand pointing into the direction of ongoing massacre. "Well here they were perhaps, not much left but a few screaming scraps, but hey, you were the one who didn't care to look them into the eyes when they were still in one piece. Not my fault." He jumped up, grabbed the wheelchair and rammed it into the railing.
"Take a good look at them down there now, Doctor." He grinned, pushing down a purple paper crown on the other Timelord's head. "Your favorite pets, shredded into dogfood, dying in front of your very own eyes. Now, doesn't that make you wanne scream." He studied the Doctor's face in anticipation. "How does it make you feel, sad? Angry? Hm?" Don't you just hate me for doing this to you? For doing this to all those defenseless, innocent humans?"
The Doctor remained silent, did not speak nor shout at him. There was no judgment in his eyes, no hatred, no loathing.
He spun the wheelchair around. His hands grabbed the Doctor's, pinning them down on the armrests. His head held high in defiance while looking down at the old man, staring directly into his eyes.
"Now, don't you just wish that you could kill me?"
At long last something happened, a reaction from his defeated enemy. Eagerly, he observed the change in the Doctor's eyes. But it wasn't vindictiveness, it wasn't the expected hatred, not even fear that he witnessed. No, what appeared in the Doctor's eyes was something that was completely incomprehensible, something that his brilliant mind could not even grasp the concept of, let alone that he was anywhere capable to act upon it.
But the Doctor, he understood.
He knew when it should be given, and who should receive it.
"No, you don't!" He commanded, but his voice had lost its power, was merely a whisper as fear grasped onto his throat.
The Doctor smiled sadly at him, in his eyes nothing but compassion and pity. Just three words, no more. It was enough to bring the Master to his knees.
"I forgive you."
Marcellus thrashed awake screaming, his eyes large and white with fear, his body drenched in sweat, his heart rattling in his chest. The senator jumped out of his sleep, being roughly awakened by one well-aimed wallop of the young slave's foot in his stomach.
"Marcellus! By Hades, what got into you? How dare you to strike your superior!" The senator shouted angrily, but then he saw the shivering young slave sitting up next to him, his face pale as the moon, his cheeks streaked with tears.
"Marcellus? What happened?"
Marcellus couldn't answer him. He just shook his head, pulled his legs up against his belly and hid his face between them.
The senator's anger melted away, and he put an arm around the slave's shoulders. "Hush now. It's all right. Forget about all that philosophical nonsense that I told you earlier. It's a dream, my dear boy. Nothing more."
They stayed like this for a while, the older man just comforting the young slave in silence, neither of them finding the courage or the necessity to talk.
It was still early in the morning with the sun still absent from the sky when Micranus knocked on the door of their room.
"Yes yes, I know what time it is!" The senator replied grumpily. "I'm not going to rush to anywhere. I've paid for the night till dawn, so I intend to stay till the sun actually shows itself! Leave us alone servant!"
Micranus, although being ordered by Simon to ask the senator to leave, did not dare to go against the senator's wishes, and left in a hurry.
The senator stretched his arms and legs that were a bit stiff after a night sleeping on the small bed. It wasn't meant to be shared with another person, as the slaves were expected to sleep on the floor while clients used the bed. But he had allowed Marcellus to sleep next to him, and his old body had actually received a couple of kicks from the young slave as he trashed and moved in his sleeps. Still, he had grown affectionate towards this peculiar but likable young man, and he would like to return and ask again for his service and company. His obscure past and his mysterious dreams were an enigma for him, something that the senator, who had always been a great thinker with a stoical but also cynical view of the world, liked to solve, not only for the benefit of his young friend, but also to satisfy his own curiosity.
Marcellus still sat on the bed while he watched his client getting dressed. In the short time that they had spend together, he had also grown to like and trust the wise senator. His heart sank a little when he pondered that this might be the last time that he would see his kind master. Although many clients of Simon's lupanare were regulars, most of the noblemen did not return, as they had a hunger for variety and found sleeping with a slave more than once dull and unimaginative.
"Senator." He asked, with all the courage that he could muster and being well aware of his recklessness. "I hope you will forgive me for daring to ask, but will you be visiting me again?" Of course not, he thought, who do you think that you are Marcellus? You're just a slave, foolish and insignificant, nothing worth so much as to spare a breath of air for. Besides, dawn has arrived and all that has passed between us in the dark hours of the night have faded from his memories like the stars in the morning sky.
But unexpectedly, the senator answered him with a generous and affectionate smile.
"I certainly would. As long as you keep yourself in good health, I will be visiting you as frequently as my reputation and my unthankful, bickering wife allows me to. Your stories have me quite intrigued, and I am more than inquisitive to find out the true meaning of them."
He grabbed his wooden cane and limped over to Marcellus. "Remember those dreams of yours, Marcellus. Next time when I come to visit, I want to hear all about them. And perhaps then you will also be comfortable enough to tell me about the nightmare that you had last night. The one so fearsome that it made you strike at a senator of Rome."
Marcellus looked gratefully at him, aware that the wise senator saw him not only as a slave but also as a friend. The older man took his hand and slipped a golden coin into his palm. Marcellus stared at it with surprise.
"But sir, you've already paid Simon for me. You don't need to pay him more." Marcellus said in confusion, but the senator shook his head.
"No my dear Marcellus, It's not for that fat Sicilian rat who whores you out! It's for you! Don't you know that slaves are allowed to buy their freedom from their masters in Rome? This Denary is for you to keep. When you have enough, you can go to Simon and tell him that you no longer want to work for him and that he can shove the senator's trusted cane up his own deprived arse. No don't laugh! It's a serious matter. You truly can become a freeman. All you have to do is practice a little diligence."
The senator took the coin from his hand and held it up in front of the slave's eyes.
"I know what you are thinking Marcellus. This Denary could buy you enough food to still your hunger, or some inexpensive clothes to cover up your nakedness and to keep you warm in the coming winter. You may even use it to bribe Micranus to treat you better, or even send him out to get these things for you behind your master's back. But that is not what you should aim for Marcellus, for the food will be finished and you will once again starve, and the clothes can be taken from you or simply wear away into nothing, and I can predict that Micranus bribed loyalty wouldn't even last a day. But if you are wise, and I believe you are smart Marcellus, so don't prove me wrong because I hate to be contradicted, you will not spend this Denary that I am giving you but hide it instead. Somewhere where Simon would not care to look, in the back of the latrines perhaps that smell so foul that no-one even dares to spend longer than is necessarily in there. You could hide it behind a loosened brick, or under a flattened cobblestone. I don't care, you think of something my boy. What matters is that you keep it safe. And next time, if your service is still as fine and satisfactory as tonight, and your stories as delightful, I will give you another gold piece, and you will hide that one too. How much did Simon pay for you?"
"25 Denaries." Marcellus replied. He understood where the senator was going, and prospect of being able to free himself from this life of slavery and prostitution kindled his hopes and sped up the pace of his heart.
"Well then, 25 Denaries is what you need to collect. That will take you about a year and a half, two years perhaps if my wife gets really nasty. But then that day will come Marcellus. I will go with you if you request, for Simon will not be happy to see you go. For such a fine young lad like you 25 Daneries was merely a bargain, and the greedy goat will like to earn more off your back. He will complain and grumble and demand more money, but I will be backing you up my boy, and in the end he will have to agree to set you free."
The senator placed the coin back in Marcellus hand and closed the slave's fingers around it.
"On that day my dear Marcellus, you will gain your freedom, and no-one can take that precious price away from you."
Marcellus looked up at the senator, the gratitude that he felt for his exceptional kindness blocked the words in his throat, leaving him unable to speak.
There came a hesitant knock from the other side of the door. Micranus asked once again, very polity though urgently, if the respected senator was ready to leave.
The senator rolled his eyes and stamped twice with his cane on the floor. "Yes yes, I'm not deaf. I will be on my way in a minute. Now go away servant, or I will order your master to whip that insolent backside of yours!"
The senator turned back to Marcellus. "Till next time my young friend." He gave him a small wink, and scuffled to the door to make his way downstairs.