Disclaimer: I don't own Spartacus: Blood and Sand or any of its characters. I do own Gnaea and a few other little characters I might be throwing in. Gnaea's name is just the feminine form of Batiatus, whose full name was Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Batiatus. The title Dum Spiro Spero is Latin for "While I breathe, I hope".
This takes place during episodes one, The Red Serpent, and two, Sacramentum Gladiatorum.
Dum Spiro Spero
Chapter 1: The House of Batiatus
Gnaea Cornelia Lentula Batiatus, the young and only daughter of ludus owner Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Batiatus, sighed. Living in a ludus, a gladiatorial training school, had been interesting enough as a child. Watching the men train against one another, or die even, had taught her a lot. Excited her even. As she grew older, however, watching countless senseless murders sickened her. Still, despite her hatred of the murders that came with gladiators, she was required to attend all the fights whenever the newest recruits, slaves, were introduced to the way of life in her home. But that didn't mean she watched, and today was a perfect example of that. As the sounds of shouting and swords clashing in the air, she lounged on a chair inside, drinking wine.
"Daughter," her father called to her, snapping her out of her thoughts.
"Yes, Father?" she replied obediently.
"What do you think? Should he live?" He turned his back on her, looking back into the arena and, sighing, she begrudgingly rose to her feet.
Moving to her father's side, she looked down into the small training arena and saw one new recruit dead and Crixus holding another down, a training sword at his throat. She was not stupid, not as much as her father seemed to think. She knew who this fierce man beneath Crixus was: Spartacus. His name had been whispered since the day of his arrival. And she also knew that he was important to whatever plan her father and step-mother had concocted. But it was not concern for their plans that softened her heart to Spartacus, not them at all. It was purely him, and the anguish she saw in him, that compelled her to spare him.
"One such as him is a rare find, a gift. To kill him would be a waste," she whispered to her father. "Let him live and prove his worth. Let the Gods decide his fate." Batiatus nodded and called to Crixus, shaking his head.
"Continue training," he ordered.
"He tries to kill your best man, and yet you let him live?" her step-mother, Lucretia, questioned incredulously.
"Glaber visits tomorrow." Gnaea froze and discreetly clenched a fist, holding her breath to keep from shouting. "His intention toward the Thracian may include blood. Until his patronage is secure, I intend to keep it warm and flowing." The smirk on her father's face did nothing to sooth her worries as he drank his wine.
"Legatus Glaber? You did not tell me he was coming here." Eyes forward, staring into nothing, she cringed slightly as her father petted her head as if she were a dog.
"Forgive me, dear one," he apologized, kissing the crown of her head. Lucretia rolled her eyes, something that did not go unnoticed by Gnaea. "I know you detest the man, though I cannot fathom why. Glaber is exactly what we need."
"No. You need him. I care nothing for that man," she stated firmly, moving out of her father's grasp, "and want nothing to do with him or whatever it is you might seek of him."
"Calm yourself, darling," he chided, kissing the brow of her head. "I think I've just the gift to lift your spirits. Your council has been wise—"
"It was not wisdom that moved my tongue, only a feeling and your request," she interjected and quickly bowed her head at her father's scowl. "Apologies, Father."
"Accepted," he replied, albeit he didn't sound forgiving of her attitude at the least. "Your gift, dearest, is Spartacus himself." Eyes wide, Gnaea stared at her father in shock as he laughed joyously. As he pulled her close, kissing her cheek and hugging her, she saw her stepmother's eyes wide and burning with rage over his shoulder. "The Thracian is yours and, as yours, it is your duty to see that his bloodlust is quenched…until we need it unleashed. Understood?" he asked, holding her chin between his fingers. She understood all too well what he meant.
"Yes, Father," she begrudgingly replied. "Gratitude, for your tremendous gift." Curtseying out of respect, Gnaea quickly turned and left the viewing balcony.
As she stormed back to her room, she could hear her father cursing the heat. He claimed it was enough to boil the tongue from one's head. Perhaps if he hadn't spent all his money on one man, perhaps if he were not in such deep debt, he would have some left over to purchase cold water for them. And now, in his infinite wisdom, he had gifted her unto the burden of the slave that was draining their home dry. Closing the door to her room, she shut her eyes and sighed. Going to her basin, she washed her face, chest and arms with warm water and stared into her reflection. The only good thing her father had done in recent days was not sell her to Lividius in exchange for clearing the debts he owed.
The night was long and hard, filled with nightmares. The most horrific stayed with her throughout the day. She dreamed of herself in the gladiator's area, in the Coliseum of Rome herself. She had been surrounded by masked warriors, circling her until they charged at her. And raped her and, finally, killed her. She awoke with a shout, sweating and panting heavily in her bed. Shaking, she looked around her quarters and breathed a sigh of relief. She was in the ludus and she was safe, for the moment at least. Terrified, and feeling foolish for fearing a dream, Gnaea left her room to walk and clear her head.
The night air was soothing and cool, enough to make her wrap her arms around herself, but that was perfect. The cold helped remind her that she was alive and safe, but it did nothing to erase the memory of her dreams. One face in particular stood out: Gaius Claudius Glaber, a Roman praetor and legatus. He was a prime example of what all Roman men aspired to be, and what all women craved to call their own. Gnaea, herself, was one of those women. When she had first met Glaber, it had foolishly been love at first sight for her. And she had thought it was so for him as well but, sadly, she learned the hard way that men are not always as dedicated as women.
"Late is the hour, domina," a deep voice spoke behind her. Whipping around, Gnaea calmed her heart at the sight of Doctore.
"Oenomaus," she breathed, calling him by his real name, "you startled me," she stated, only slightly scolding him.
"Apologies but, I am curious, what keeps you from your bed this evening?" Oenomaus was concerned, as he had always been.
From the moment she had been born, her father had charged many men with her protection. First was Ashur, but his injuries made him obsolete. Then came Barca but as his title grew, his ego had as well and he saw fit to asked to be relieved of his duties. Gannicus was the last and he was a man Gnaea preferred not to dwell on, but like Glaber. Oenomaus, since he battle with the Shadow, had been the last to be named as her protector. Even when other gladiators had been charged to look after her, Oenomaus had always been the one she turned to. Perhaps it was because, unlike the other gladiators, he had a wife, Melitta, in the ludus. Melitta, another person she preferred not to let her thoughts linger on. On the sand, he was fierce and harsh, as any gladiator should be, but in private he was just a man. He was a friend, one of her only friends, and she cherished him deeply. Smiling, she allowed him to direct her back towards her room. Ever the vigilant guardian.
"They have returned?" Shaking her head, Gnaea pushed the memories of her previous nightmares away.
"No. No, this was new. I was…" Pausing, she was unsure of whether or not she should tell him. There was always the chance that Oenomaus would tell her father and that was a mess she simply didn't need. Then again, the other part of her mind whisper, Oenomaus never spoke to father of the nightmares. Or, if he did, father simply hadn't confronted her about them.
"Domina?" His voice shook her from her thoughts.
"Pardon me. I was lost in thought," she told him with a sheepish smile. "In this dream, I saw myself…being killed." Oenomaus stopped walking and she slowly turned to face him. "It was a dream, nothing more," she assured him.
"It must have been more than that to wake you from your sleep. I remember a time when not even the rainstorms could stir you. But it seems they have gone, and taken your nerve with them." She stared up at him, amused by his reminiscing. Unlike most people, who would have been insulted by his slighting her, Gnaea knew that Oenomaus spoke only the truth. She preferred to hear the truth, even if it upset her, rather than hear lies. "So tell me the truth, Little Renata," he began, smiling down at her, "what was your dream?"
"I love to hear you call me that. If only father had abided mother's dying wish and named me as such, I could hear it all the time," she mused to herself, thinking back on her mother, Octavia, who died giving birth to her. Instead of granting his first wife's last wish, he named his daughter after himself. Oenomaus's subtle clearing of his throat brought her out of the painful thoughts and she confessed her dream to him. As they stood before the entrance of her room, he crossed his arms and sighed.
"I have had dreams. I have had nightmares," he confessed. "But I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams. You are strong, your mother's daughter, and you will do the same. You are the heir of this ludus, surrounded by the best gladiators in all of Capua, each would lay their life down for you."
"Because they are under orders to do so, not because they care," she pointed out.
"They do not need to care. All they need to know is that you are their domina, and you are to be respected and protected…or to the Gods with them. Goodnight. Sleep," he ordered gently, "and, if I catch you near the barracks again…" He let his threat linger as he left her alone in the hallway. Gnaea swallowed, thinking on what he said.
If an enemy ever attacked these walls, the gladiators would be required to protect everyone alongside the guards. Loyal soldiers were either scared of their master, or loved them unconditionally. She doubted any gladiator in the ludus would lay his life down for hers, especially the newest batch. If they wanted to survivor, they would follow Crixus, their Champion. Crixus was loyal to her stepmother, who wouldn't mind seeing Gnaea dead in the least, and with Crixus' loyalty to Lucretia, the rest of the gladiators were to her as well because they were loyal to Crixus and him alone. Still, as she crawled back into bed, she wondered if it was better to be feared or loved by the gladiators.
"You really shouldn't have gone to the trouble, Lucretia. These common dishes leave my stomach unsettled."
Gnaea looked over her shoulder and smirked at her stepmother's fallen face from the balcony. Ilithyia, spoiled and selfish daughter of Senator Albinius, was visiting today and she was very hard to please. As unpleasant as it was to see Glaber in her home, Gnaea seethed with hatred that Ilithyia freely roamed her halls. Gnaea didn't understand why the twit didn't go back to Rome if she was so bored with Capua. Still, Gnaea was ordered, more or less, to play nice with Ilithyia, who was so stupid and impressionable that Lucretia, seeing potential advancement, took the bitch under her wing. Her intent, Gnaea knew, was to introduce her to all the sensual, carnal pleasures of the ludus. She knew this because Lucretia had tried to do the same with her once and failed miserably.
"Some wine then, perhaps, while we wait for your husband?" Lucretia offered, hoping to appease the younger woman.
"Cestian?" she asked excitedly.
"…No," she hesitated to reply and quickly added, "but something of equal taste." Cringing, Ilithyia disappointedly demanded for water instead.
Inhaling sharply, Gnaea looked back down at the training gladiators, intent on ignoring the senator's brat invading her home. Ilithyia was nothing more than a spoiled little whore, who stole her lover's heart. Unknowingly, yes, but that did not change that Gnaea would never be a friend to Ilithyia, despite how hard she tried. Feeling the cool wind, she relaxed and smiled, leaning against the balcony. Her gaze flitted to and fro, from pair to pair, until she spotted Oenomaus. The elder man nodded briefly to her and she returned the gesture, with a small smile.
That was when she was Spartacus speaking when another new gladiator – Varro, she believed his name was – one she heard sold himself into this life to provide for his family. Honorable, except for the fact that he was the reason his family was in debt. Gambling, it seemed, was the fair haired slave's vice. One man's vice, her father once told her, was another man opportunity. The speaking pair looked up at her and she froze, staring at them, wondering what they could possibly be saying. Then Spartacus looked at Oenomaus, then back to her. Gnaea's face became blank and hard as stone, if only to not show her embarrassment. His opinion was obvious. When Ilithyia entered the balcony, greeting Gnaea as a friend with an enthusiastic tug of her arm, she wasted no time in leaving, as politely and quickly as possible, and hurried back toward her rooms.
She did not expect to see Glaber on her way, however. He was as handsome as ever, though she preferred him in simple clothes compared to his armor and cloak. A strong Roman commander, whose skills and cunning were just as strong, if not stronger, in the bedroom as they were on the battlefield. She remembered many a nights she would visit him in his home, make passionate love, and then lay satiated, whispering of war and their future, of how he hoped to see her stomach round with a child. Lies, all of it. As her father spoke to him, pouring some wine for himself, Glaber spotted Gnaea and stared. He drank her in as she did him, until she realized that she was being weak. That she was showing him she still cared when she felt nothing but hatred for the man that married another for political advancement. With a frown, she glared at him and turned away from him, storming out of his sight.
"Come, we leave for Rome," she heard Glaber behind her.
"So soon?" Lucretia quietly pondered. The sooner the better, Gnaea thought bitterly.
Hearing a disturbance, she paused on her journey to her room and looked out a window. It was Spartacus again. He was crawling towards something, even as the guards beat him. Another new recruit was injured, but Spartacus seemed not to care. Something else held his focus, dangerously so. Curious. Fueled by her anger and determined, she changed her path towards the cages where the gladiators were kept. On her way in, however, her father bumped into her, and held her steadfast as she tried to break away.
"What are you doing down here? You know it is forbidden!" he growled, shaking her.
"Forgive me, Father! I…" she hesitated, a little frightened and trying to think on her feet. That was when Spartacus came to mind, and the beating he received. "I only wished to check on Spartacus. For your well-being, of course. We cannot afford to lose any more than we already have."
"My well-being, I'm certain. As clever and cunning as a snake, you are," he complimented, affectionately tapping her chin. "Just like your mother," he added, not believing her at all, as he released her arms. "Oh, dear one. You wish to help me? Come with me," he told her, an affectionate arm around her shoulders as he kissed the top of her head. "I need you to put that mind of yours to use."
"Use in what?"
"Spartacus." Her father pressed something into her hand and, upon looking at the bit of cloth, she began to ask a question. "All shall be revealed, dearest. Patience," he chided. Confused, she allowed her father to pull her into his office. She thought to question him as he sat behind his desk but was unable as the doors opened. Led by two guards, chained at his wrists and ankles, Spartacus entered. Filthy and stained in blood, he was quite a sight to behold. The guards stood him on the other side of the desk and soon left him alone with the two Romans. Batiatus stared down the Thracian as he asked, "Why are you here? In this place? Under my hospitality? Do you know why?"
"Because I trusted in the honor of a Roman."
"You are here because of my grandfather. He built this ludus. He believed that no man was without worth. That even the most vile among us could rise to honor and glory. He instilled these beliefs in my father who, in turn, passed them onto me. And I pass them onto my daughter." Batiatus rose to his feet, a gentle hand on Gnaea's shoulder as he walks around to face Spartacus. "I am a lanista, like my forefathers, a trainer of gladiators. I see things in men that they themselves have lost. A small spark, an ember. I give it breath, tender, till it ignites in the arena."
"I burn for no cause but my own."
"And what might that be? Money? You've cost me a lot on that front." With a scoff and sigh, he returned to his desk. "No, not so base a cause for this one. Position, power?" he listed curiously. "Love? You have a woman, Thracian?" It was obvious by the look in his eyes as soon as her father mentioned the word love.
"I have a wife," he answered ferociously.
"And do you love her? Of course you do. I can see it in the eye, the tensing of the jaw." Almost bored, Batiatus leaned against his desk. Gnaea still stood next to his chair, patient, and staring at the Thracian. "What might be the name of this delicate flower?"
Spartacus paused, hesitating before answering, "Sura."
"Where is she?"
"He took her, when he came for me."
"Legatus Glaber, he has her?"
"He sold her to a Syrian." Hands behind her back, Gnaea made a fist at the mention of his name.
"Well then, how do you know she still lives?"
"How do you know the heart beats beneath your chest?" That made her smile a bit. So the Thracian was a romantic? Interesting.
"Most days, I don't. I'm just a simple Roman trying to make his way against the whim of the Gods," her father mockingly retorted, "the politicians, the miscreants," he sneered, walking to the window. "So often you can't tell one from the other that you…oh, you are the most dangerous of animals. Beast born of the heart. What would you do to hold your wife again? To feel the warmth of her skin? To taste her lips? Would you kill?"
With a quick nod, he didn't hesitate to answer, "Whoever stood between us."
"How many men? A hundred, a thousand?"
"I would kill them all."
"Then do it in the arena!" he demanded, walking back to stand toe-to-toe with Spartacus. "Fight for me! And the honor of my forefathers! Prove yourself! Climb to the pinnacle, gain your freedom! And that of the woman you've lost."
"I did not lose her. She was taken from me."
"A man must accept his fate or be destroyed by it. Pass the final test tonight, with honor and servitude. Call me dominus and I will help to reunite you!" When he didn't answer, Batiatus sighed and moved around him. "The choice is yours," he called over his shoulder, leaving Gnaea and Spartacus to speak alone. Any other man might have been afraid to leave his daughter alone with an unpredictable gladiator, but not Batiatus. He knew, by pure instinct, that Spartacus would not harm Gnaea; the way he spoke about his wife, it was clear that this man would never harm a woman.
"I grew up in this ludus," Gnaea stated calmly, moving around the desk to lean against it. "I have seen more blood split and death and decay than most soldiers." She sighed and stared Spartacus in the eye. "But I am sickened by bloodshed and moved to mercy. My father may not always be a man of his word, but I am. You can trust me, I swear on my life."
"Your life is nothing to me."
"But it is something to Legatus Glaber." This caused Spartacus' gaze to snap to her, interest clearly caught. She couldn't help but smile at him, amused, as she relaxed. Calmly, she stared him down and softened. "He was like you once, and I was his Sura," she confessed wistfully. "I may not hold the title of wife, but he loves me yet."
"And do you love him?" Gnaea stared at him, jaw tense.
"…I think fondly of him from time to time," she admitted, "but I do not love him. Not anymore. I do not love those that betray me."
"Do you love those that betray others for you?"
She laughed boisterously, hand to her chest. "You think know us so well! When, really, you know nothing at all." Taking a calming breath, she walked towards him. "My father has assigned you as my personal slave. When you are not training, you will be with me. You will attend to my every need. Take this as a favor and know that, when the time comes, I will repay you for your servitude."
"And why would I place my fate in the hands of another Roman?"
"Because of what they hold." Daring to get closer, she holds up the bit of cloth her father had given her. His eyes fix on the cloth, mouth parting as he stared at it. "Your wife's?" Spartacus continued to stare at the cloth, brokenhearted. Taking pity on him, she walked even closer, chest to chest with him, and sighed as she tied it around his arm. "I will only ask once and I do not beg. Not for my father, not for Glaber and, certainly, not for you, gladiator. Pass the test. Pass it, and you will be that much closer to that which you seek. If my father fails and he does not deliver your wife, then my life is forfeit. This I swear to you, gladiator."
"You would kill yourself," he questioned, completely perplexed, "for Sura?"
"I would kill myself for anyone if it would give Glaber just a fraction of the pain he has caused me." Her jaw tensed once more and she looked at the ground.
"No man who betrays the woman he loves is worth your life." Shaking her head, she looked up at him with a sad smile.
"You don't understand. I had no reason or purpose to live until I met him. And I saw nothing beyond him. He was my world. And then, in an instance, my world was destroyed. My purpose, gone," she stressed, trying to make him understand. If anyone could, it would be him. "Helping you slight him, it gives me purpose again. I help you find your world, and you help me find peace…one way or another," she concluded, leaving the option to linger in his mind. "Good night, gladiator." That night, Spartacus passed the test, nearly killed Crixus, and called her father dominus. Branded forever, part of the brotherhood, she only hoped she could fulfill her promise to the man.