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 three, Legends, and four, The Thing in the Pit.
Chapter 2: Legends of the Pit
Gnaea watched from above. Once more, Spartacus was on his back as Oenomaus lectured him. It was true that Spartacus was rash, he didn't really think things through, but he was a good fighter nonetheless. Sighing, she overheard Barca and Crixus slighting the Thracian. Study, Train, Bleed: these were Oenomaus's lessons. If gladiators followed these rules, they would rise to be legend. Those lessons held true for her as well. She studied in languages, reading, and writing. She trained her mind and even her body, with Oenomaus and another gladiator's secret help, to be able to defend herself. And she bled. She bled more times than she could count.
The Vulcanalia, a celebration of the Vulcan, God of beneficial and hindering fire, approached and that was the event on everyone's mind. It consisted of numerous games and offerings to Vulcan. This year, her father saw fit to pledge twenty of his men, who would fight at dawn, eight pairs to follow, and then he would present his primus, who would meet in the arena for a fight to the death. Crixus, Gnaea knew, would be the primus as he always had been since Gannicus's fall. Her father really did fail when it came to being unpredictable. The second, who knew? She did not believe it to be Barca as he was second to Crixus and her father would never risk losing one of his two best fighters. And what did it matter? Against Crixus, there was no victory. At the moment, she had a splitting headache. Listening to her father bitch and moan about how the Magistrate could not attend their personal celebration had really started to try her nerves.
To calm herself, Gnaea sent a guard to summon Spartacus to her. She had about what had happened today and knew that she needed to speak with the Thracian. As soon as he entered, she nodded for the guard to leave her alone with him. After a moment's hesitation, he did so and closed the door behind him. The second he was gone, a smile greeted Spartacus as she walked towards him, pleasant, until she was close enough to smell him. Frowning, she covered her nose and mouth in disgust.
"By the Gods!" She took a few steps back and stared at him. Clearly, he had already bathed. He just hadn't bathed thoroughly. Then again, she supposed gladiators were not given the proper soaps to rid the body of the smell of shit.
"Forgive me, domina." Sighing, she relaxed and shook her head at him.
"Apologies are not required, gladiator. A firm cleaning, however, is." Not wanting to be any closer to his smell, she called for a servant. When the younger girl entered, she quickly left under orders to bring her domina warm water and soaps. "Stand away from the balcony. I do not need that stench circling my quarters."
Looking around the room, offended by his new setting and her manner, he pointedly asked, "Why am I here?"
Put off by his tone, she snapped, "Did you smack your head against your brother's one too many times? Or has Apollo's sun made you forget our bargain?"
Gritting his teeth, Spartacus sighed. "No, domina." See his tense stature, Gnaea took a deep breath and quickly released it.
"If I seem harsh, I apologize. The sun shortens my temper with each passing day. This drought is unbearable." Pouring water – warm, unfortunately – into two cups, she turned to pass him one. He accepted, clearly confused, and took a sip with her. "You look surprised. Why?"
"I am a slave."
"You are a gladiator," she corrected.
"Masters make no apologies to or share drink with their slaves," he pointed out.
Gnaea smiled shortly. "This master does." Spartacus nodded, understanding her meaning perfectly, and took a sip. Gnaea was trying so very hard to make him realize that she wasn't like Glaber, her father and stepmother, or any other Roman he had met. Slowly but surely, it was working.
"May I make an inquiry then?"
"Of course!" she replied, happily.
"I have seen you gaze upon Doctore, and seen the gaze you receive in return." Gnaea paled slightly.
"You think Doctore shares my bed?" Spartacus decidedly didn't answer, immediately knowing that he was wrong just by the tone of her voice. "Doctore is my friend and has been my guardian for some time. Where past protectors failed, he succeeded and earned my upmost respect. He is my friend and my protector, nothing more." At her firm tone, Spartacus nodded his understanding. Decidedly letting the subject drop, Gnaea broached a new subject, "You spoke to my father earlier, I was told."
"Your father had word of my wife but…" The young woman sighed and nodded. She already knew what the problem was with obtaining Sura. It wasn't so simple as just paying for her when her family was in debt, and Spartacus had yet to make any money in the arena.
"This ludus costs a fortune and your presence, while causing quite a stir, does not help matters." She was referring to, of course, his costly outbursts of rage which left equipment in need of replacement and gladiators in need of medicine. Expensive medicine.
"He told me—"
"That you are costly. And that he is dominus, not you. He reminded you of your place. As did Doctore." With a small smirk, she ordered the servant who knocked on her door to enter. The slave set up the warm water and array of soaps on a table and stood by, waiting to be ordered. Gnaea, however, told the girl to leave and that she would take care of Spartacus herself. "Sit," she ordered and he moved to sit on the floor, but she shook her head. "No. Sit here." Taking him gently by his arm, she sat him in the chair by her vanity table.
"Do not argue. Just sit," she ordered as he tried to stand from her chair. Their situation, he knew, was improper. "Out there, you are a gladiator. In here, I hope you to be a friend to me. And I to you." Spartacus observed a moment before slowly nodding and sitting down. Smiling, she took up the wet rag and began to hand bathe him properly, starting with his shoulders. "I hope you learned your lesson. I do not wish to have to do this again."
"I did not ask you to do this."
"Again, you do not understand," she sighed. "It is a worldly recognized fact that a woman who bathes a man is either a slave to that man or his wife. As I am neither, I hope you see the position I place myself in." Silent as ever, he nodded his understanding. If someone were to walk in, both of them would be in a great deal of trouble. "Wife, slave. Personally, I see no difference between the two," she mused absently.
"A wife is not a slave."
"To anyone but her husband and his desires."
"Did you Glaber treat you as such?" Coldly, she moved to his front and slapped him. Seething, she stares down at him while he, unfazed and unharmed, simply looked at her. Unlike before, he did not ask for forgiveness because he didn't believe he was wrong. A fact that did not escape Gnaea.
"A friend to me you may become, but you will never speak of Glaber to me. Ever! Do you understand?"
He nodded, "Yes."
"Good." With a deep breath, she started bathing him again. "To answer your question…I did not know it then, but I was nothing but an object to him. I gave him every part me – mind, body, soul – and, in return, I received nothing but false promises and a broken heart. So, my friend," she continued pointedly, "do not speak to me of him."
"You are a kind, gentle woman, Gnaea." His use of her real name and not her title caught her off guard and she paused in her task to look at him. "For all the ills he committed against you, know that you are stronger for it."
"You used my name." She smiled, dazed, and laughed a little. "I think that, when you are with me, that is acceptable…Spartacus."
"That is not my name."
"It is now," she pointed out. "Perhaps, someday, when you trust me as I trust you, you will tell me your name."
"Perhaps," he said. Amused, she smiled at him and continued to clean him, listening to him tell stories of his homeland, at her request.
"Friends, old and new, gratitude for honoring the story of ludus of Batiatus with your presence on this eve. Tomorrow's Vulcanalia promises many glories in the arena. But, tonight, may I present you with the finest gladiators in all of the Republic." Gnaea sipped her wine as the twenty chosen gladiators walked out. The men hummed, observing the wares, impressed, whilst the women swooned. Bored, Gnaea rolled her eyes. This party was just the same as the others: a chance for her father to show off Crixus, and her stepmother to lure Ilithyia into her web. "Look, touch, feel the quality of the stalk. Place orders for any of the men that you covet. Come! Don't be bashful! They won't bite! And, if they do…a ten percent discount." The crowd immediately goes to Spartacus, fascinated by him and his earlier victories.
"I tremble to see him again at the arena," Ilithyia spoke, beside her, eyeing Crixus hungrily. Annoyed, Gnaea smiled politely and moved away. She circled the room and managed to get to Spartacus in time to see Varro follow her stepmother and Ilithyia out of the room.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Ilithyia is bearing herself right now," she commented offhandedly, after explaining what was happening to the concerned Thracian. "She really is dimwitted enough to fall right into a scandal."
"You look well, domina," he commented lightly. Surprised, she thanked him.
"The same to you. I'm glad to see my work plays to your benefit," she whispered to him, referring to her earlier bathing. "The crowd hardly cares for Crixus. All eyes are on you." Spartacus didn't seem to care at all, to which she sighed. He should have been pleased, she thought. She opened her mouth to speak, to explain this fact, when Varro returned, sweaty and panting. "You look sufficiently worn out," she commented. Briefly meeting hers and Spartacus' eyes, Varro looked at the floor. It was clear to her that he was shamed and embarrassed. Leaning as close to him as propriety would allow, she whispered, "I am sorry you had to embarrass yourself in such a manner."
Varro looked confused that she was speaking to him but only for a moment because he looked to Spartacus at that moment. "I overhead Batiatus and Doctore in conference. The primus their intent. The Sardinian is to face Crixus." The Sardinian being Hamilcar, she remembered.
"The news does not balance my cause."
Varro stared at him and warned, "Whatever your thoughts, cast them out."
"I agree," Gnaea added softly. "The public humiliation of my father may mean nothing to you, but it does to me. And to these people."
"Good citizens!" her father called out, calling all attention in the room to him. Moving away from Spartacus and Varro, she joined her stepmother beside her father. "You have enjoyed my food, my wine, and the aphrodisiac presence of my beautiful wife and daughter." As Lucretia did, Gnaea bowed her head to the guests. However, the difference was that the smile she bore to them was false, something Spartacus caught and smirked at. "Now marvel at my primus, Crixus! Champion of Capua, will stride across the sand and face—" His speech was cut off as Spartacus suddenly charged at Crixus and began to fight him.
"SPARTACUS!" Oenomaus roared.
"No, let them fight!" Ilithyia squealed and the two men fought some more until their fellow gladiators managed to restrain them.
"ENOUGH!" Batiatus shouted. Trying to please the crowd, he turned jovially to them and smiled. "Ha! See their hatred falling beyond control, huh? This was merely a taste! Tomorrow, they will settle this grudge in the arena!" Cheers filled the room but Gnaea looked worriedly between the two gladiators. "Crixus, the undefeated! Spartacus, the dog who defies death! A fight for the ages! Glory to Capua! Glory to Rome!"
"Tell me," Gnaea began, pacing as Spartacus stood before her in her chambers, "as you lunged at Crixus, what was going through your head?" Silence. He stood still as stone, not even looking at her. "Nothing. Nothing but petty revenge," she answered for him. "Do you realize what you have done?" Again, silence and she sighed. "Crixus has been waiting for an opportunity to kill you and you have given it to him. You have offered yourself up like a lamb to the slaughter, and that is exactly what you will be!"
Almost desperate, she marched to stand in front him. Looking up, she explained as calmly as possible, "You are not meant for this! And what will happen to your wife when you are dead, hmm?" His gaze snapped from the wall behind her to hers in an instant. "You did not think of her when you lunged at him, did you?" She sighed, disappointed, "I pray the Gods bring you fortune, for no one else will." Pulling him down, she kissed his forehead, in an almost motherly fashion, and quickly left her room. "Take him back to the barracks," she ordered the guard and returned to the party to bid her farewells to the guests with her father.
The next day, Gnaea joined her family at the Capua arena. The crowd cheered, already drinking and some even fucking in the stands. Indeed, this was nothing new. Whenever gladiators came to fight, drunken displays were normal and Gnaea was used to it. After years of observing, she ignored the scandalous displays of the common public. She sat with her family, Ilithyia, the Magistrate and his family, waiting patiently for Spartacus' fight until the horn finally sounded. Leaving his seat, her father stepped to the balcony and the crowd cheered loudly, knowing exactly what was to come.
"Enter Thrace!" her father shouted. Looking down, Gnaea saw a side gate lift and Spartacus entered. "Behold Spartacus!" The crowd cheered, but only because they were excited for bloodshed, as her father told an exaggerated tale of Spartacus, slighting his rival Solonius at the same time, before introducing Crixus. It was amazing to her how her father always managed to orate so eloquently while being snide to an opponent all at once. Out of the corner of her ear, she heard Ilithyia comment lustfully about Crixus. That was what her legatus chose over her? She rolled her eyes and continued to listen to her father. However, before he could finish, Spartacus attacked.
"Is that all the Thracian is capable of?" Ilithyia commented in boredom. "After what he did to Solonius' men, I had hoped for more."
"Perhaps you should pay more attention to skill than bloodshed," Gnaea returned calmly, not even sparing the whore a glance. As her father sat down beside her, he gave her a warning glare.
Crixus knocked Spartacus down and showed off for the crowd, reveling in their cheers. As her friend regained his footing, Crixus attacked once again. The fighting continued until Spartacus was once more on his back and Crixus kicked him. Gnaea winced at the blood that flew from his mouth. The crowd roared. One more attack and Crixus had his sword at Spartacus' throat. The crowd chanted "kill!" and Gnaea gripped the arms of her seat, waiting. Spartacus suddenly held up two fingers, a sign of surrender, and Gnaea sighed in relief.
"Spartacus fought well! Let him live to fight another day!" Batiatus shouted and the crowd booed but they didn't matter. Her father was pleased, proud almost.
"Sour bite to end the meal," the Magistrate commented, clearly just as displeased as the crowd.
"Apologies, but Spartacus was of some cost to me."
"You've already lost the crowd!" Gnaea knew that, inside, her father was embarrassed as the Magistrate stormed out.
"He lives? How disappointing," Ilithyia commented and left as well. Good riddance, Gnaea believed.
That night, Gnaea snuck into the gladiator's quarters with the help of her former gladiator-protector and her father's bookkeeper, Ashur, and tended to Spartacus' wounds. Ashur had been uncomfortable in aiding her until she threatened his manhood; that quickly helped her cause. Ashur also provided the proper medicines she needed and left, guarding the door for her. She did not speak to Spartacus and he did not speak to her. Her eyes told him more than she ever could have. She was disappointed in him while pleased that he lived all at once. She had been worried for him, more than she should have been. Gnaea, as she rose to leave, stopped as he grabbed her arm. She looked down at him as he looked up at her. His eyes said everything to her. Smiling softly, she nodded, whispered for him to sleep well, and went on her way.
As soon as word reached her that Spartacus was to be sent to The Pit, Gnaea rushed to her father. She argued with him for quite some time over sending Spartacus to that hell of earth, but he shouted and argued back. She continued to fight back until, for the first time, he hit her. Gnaea held her aching cheek, face flushed with embarrassment and shock as silence filled his office. She stood there, unable to move or speak, as turned his back on her to go to The Pit to arrange everything.
Over his shoulder, he informed her, "While fighting in the pit, Spartacus is no longer yours."
Later on, as Spartacus was leaving, Gnaea caught his eye and turned away, unable to face him – and also unable to speak with him in public anymore. She quickly left the viewing balcony and hurried inside to hide out in her room. When her father returned that night, she runs to meet him. The hour was late but she had been waiting up for him.
"Daughter," Batiatus greeted solemnly, in a foul mood.
"Father," she returned, obedient and waiting patiently for news.
"Spartacus has been victorious. He lives," he told her quietly. Gnara nodded, quietly sighing in relief. "Daughter, I apologize for…for what I did." Unable to look at him, she looked at the ground.
Nodding politely, she quietly replied, "All is forgiven, Father. I was out of line." Despite the fact that her words sounded sincere, they held almost no meaning. It took all her strength not to shake or tense, or even cringe, as he gently kissed her brow and told her to return to her rooms. Ever the obedient daughter, she returned as asked while her father left to go to sleep as well. It had been a long, torturous day for him.
At her room, she found Ashur waiting outside her door. Nodding to his domina, she reached inside the folds of her dress and gave him the mandrake root he inquired about earlier. At first, she refused him but, when he told her it was for the wounds Spartacus sustained in the pit, she more than happily retrieved the herb. After dismissing him, she went inside her room and opened the chest at the foot of her bed. Removing the dresses and shawls, she easily cast them aside and lovingly pulled out an ornate wooden box at the bottom. She held it to her chest for a moment, hesitating before quickly putting it back inside and covering it once more.
The next few nights were hell as, each time, Spartacus returned in worse condition than the night before. However, when her father returned injured from an assassination attempt, he informed her that Spartacus was hers once more. His time in The Pit was done. It was as shocking to her as it was relieving as it was well known to all that those who ventured into The Pit rarely returned alive. Spartacus winning even one match was a shock.
"See his wounds tended to and he will rejoin his brothers as soon as he is able," he told her. Nodding, she set out immediately to see to this task. As soon as she left her father's sight, she ran to the first servant she saw and ordered them to send medicine, food and water to Spartacus. Tomorrow, she would speak to him properly but, for the night of his victorious return, he deserved his rest.
Back in her room, she returned to the chest and repeated the same process as the night before. This time, however, she set the smaller chest on her bed and, kneeling before it with bated breath, she opened it. Inside were a few weapons: a small sword, a dagger and two knives the length of her forearm. She quickly strapped the dagger to her thigh and practiced with both the sword and the knives with ease. She was nowhere near as good as a gladiator but, if the time came, it was clear that she could handle herself well enough. When she finished killing her invisible enemies, sweating and heaving, she held her cheek where a bruise had set in.
"Never again," she vowed. Placing all weapons but the dagger back inside the chest, she snapped the lid shut. The top of the chest reads a name in crude carving: OLOLARA.