Author's Notes: First off, I'd like to apologize for how long this chapter took for me to finish. I was writer's blocking for a while, finally got past it. I also want to thank everyone who has left a reveiw, or added this to their favorites! I really appreciate it, and am glad you guys enjoy it. The Ancients need more love.
Historical Note: The Greeks actually looked down on the Roman practice of arena and gladiator sports. They felt it was barbaric. this explains Hypatia's attitude.
Germania - Ansehelm, Rome - Aeneas, MamaGreece - Hypatia
Pairings in this chapter: RomexMamaGreece
Ch. 4: The Colosseum
Ansehelm dreamed that night. Or that day. He wasn't sure just when it was that he had fallen asleep. For all he knew, and for all he cared, two days could have passed, or merely two hours. The flow of time was something foreign to the prison's perpetually dark hallways. Everything just seemed still.
But he dreamed. And it was perhaps the first time he'd dreamed since he'd been forced to Rome. So many dreamless nights had left him wondering if they were still possible. It was a wonderful dream, and oh so tangible. Perhaps the goddess hadn't forsaken him.
Home. He was home. The hills rolling before him lay lush and green, untouched by Roman hands or feet. They rippled and grew into the snow-capped mountains in the distance. And he saw here there atop the crest of one of those green hills, wind whipping at her dark hair. Her eyes were set and focused, ever vigilant on the flock of peacefully grazing sheep that surrounded her. He could hear the grass as it bowed under his boots. He could feel the sun kiss his skin.
This was real. That cold, lifeless cell was just a bad dream. It had all just been a bad dream he couldn't wake up from. Just a few more steps and he'd be able to wrap his wife in his arms, press her pretty head to his chest, and forget the nightmare. And just as his hand stretched out to rest upon her shoulder, the world shattered. The sound of metal scraping against stone cut through his consciousness, and served only to remind him that the nightmare was reality, and home was just a fleeting fantasy anymore.
Voices sounded through the corridor, loud and ever obnoxious. Then again, the Roman tongue had never been a sound he was fond of. There were at least two of them, three he was betting, and yet they made the racket of at least twenty. If the sound of the gate being pried open hadn't woken him, then the noise the approaching guards were making surely would have. Damn Romans. They took everything, didn't they? Even dreams.
It was only when those voices reached just outside his cell that Ansehelm bothered to open his eyes. He was right. There were three. The first yelled something at him, and gripped the bars of the cell door. The two that flanked his side merely sneered. Of course, Ansehelm couldn't understand the orders thrown at him, but he could infer them. Even then it didn't mean he would cooperate. At least, the first time. So he continued to lay on the wet and filthy floor, feigning sleep.
Again he was yelled to, and the bars to the cell rattled. He heard the others chuckle, and that was when he shifted.
Ansehelm sat upright and leaned backward against the wall. He cast a half-hearted glare at the guards who continued to heckle him in their garbled language. The tone became gradually more commanding, and angry. Slowly, Ansehelm stood. It was partially out of spite, and partially for the fact his muscles had become so stiff from days of just sitting and lying that they wouldn't permit him to move much faster. It caused a slight grimace to cross his features.
With a rock of his broad shoulders, Ansehelm found himself face to face with the trio of sneering guards, and the fact that they had to look upward to meet his gaze didn't seem to faze them at all. Physical height meant nothing. He was still beneath them.
The guard on the leader's left stepped forward and unlocked the cage that held Ansehelm prisoner. The guard on the right tensed, as if he expected the brutish blonde to lunge and make a break for freedom. But Ansehelm didn't, and he merely scoffed at the reaction.
Oh, he could have easily escaped them. That cocky son of a bitch in the middle would have been the easiest to overcome. The bastard was too full of himself to follow his partner's example and brace himself. But Ansehelm wouldn't. He was too cautious. Sure, he could best these three fools, but once he was past the prison gate, who knew?
He was forced forward, and the unexpected shove caused him to stumble slightly. His muscles protested the movement with a dull ache. And this was how his ascent to the outside world began, and how it would continue. He was pushed and shoved while their voices rang in his ears.
Another stumble and they broke to the surface. The light of the sun burned Ansehelm's eyes, and caused his pupils to contract at a painful rate to adjust to the sudden brightness. He was blinded for the first few moments as he was dragged through the streets of Rome. His stumbling increased, and he could barely register his own feet beneath him and the road they tread.
Where were they taking him? Aeneas's words echoed in his mind. Fight, survive… free. His release from the prison could only be related. But it didn't mean the confusion disappeared.
Faces gazed at him as he passed, and many of them held in their eyes a sort of foreboding sympathy, as if they knew more than he about the fate he was being ushered toward. They were faces, much like his own, the faces of slaves. Ansehelm's brows knitted in an expression that had come to cross his face frequently as of late. And he couldn't stop his lip from curling in a sort of scowl as they'd turn their backs to him, carrying about their business in the sparsely populated streets.
It was strange to see the city so... empty.
The Flavian Amphitheater loomed before them. The center of Rome, it had come to be known. He knew of this building. Then again, who didn't? There wasn't a soul in Rome, slave or otherwise, who was ignorant of the amphitheater and its many purposes. But to those of the lower echelon, like himself, it was something to be feared, and something so enigmatic.
The closer Ansehelm and his escorts drew to the structure, the more it seemed to taunt him. It was becoming clearer that the amphitheater was their destination. It held all the answers his poor confused mind kept posing. And it would answer them all, but only when he was within it's walls.
With the rest of Rome. The clamor of congregated voices rose into the air, betraying why the city was so barren.
Fight. Survive. Freedom.
One by one, things were beginning to fall into place. He release, the stares of those left in the streets, the crowded Colosseum, and Aeneas's promise. Ansehelm snorted, and gave a tug on his restraints.
The Romans had a curious idea of sport. Not that his own people were too much better on that account, but it caused Ansehelm to kick himself mentally for not coming to the conclusion sooner. It had been their goal from the beginning to make an example of him, and what better way to do it than through one of their gruesome games? It might even kill him in the process. Wouldn't that be grand? No one would have to deal with him any more. Not to mention it would prove their point. Become one of them, or know your place. That's what they were hoping anyway.
The guards led him through the first of those grand archways before they veered him from the main corridors, where patrons still flooded. He didn't remember just how long or how far they dragged him through dimly lit hallways, nor did he try to decipher the cacophony of sounds reverberating through the holding chambers. His mind was elsewhere. Even as they closed the bars of his new cage, Ansehelm was wondering just how he was going to make it out of this, if Aeneas would actually honor his word, and just which one of those annoying smiles was curling the commander's lips.
Though Ansehelm couldn't see it, Aeneas was indeed, grinning broadly. The roar of voices, all speaking at once, continued to resound through the Colosseum, and it made Aeneas's grin even broader. His hand gripped Hypatia's as she shifted beside him, and laced their fingers.
"Exciting, isn't it?" he asked, tilting his head to gaze at his wife.
Hypatia did not mirror his expression. In fact, she didn't even look at him. Her green eyes remained fixed on the arena floor and its currently undisturbed sand, full lips drawn in a straight line.
Aeneas twisted his body to garner more of her attention, and lean in closer. "You can feel it almost. Like a tingling." He drew in a sharp breath through his teeth, grin still prominent. "I love it."
Hypatia's expression remained unchanged. "It's barbaric," she replied simply. Aeneas's smile faltered, and she could tell he was offended. "Uncouth, then. You know how I feel about this. Stop trying to get me to enjoy it."
"And how do you feel about it?" Aeneas asked, a slight bite to the edge of his words, "Please remind me again."
Hypatia answered, not wavering under the tone her husband's voice carried. "It's unnecessary and garish. Just because I dislike your people's sport, Aeneas, does not mean I am disrespecting you. I'm sitting at your side, despite my aversion to these games, and that should be proof enough. Don't take it so personally."
Aeneas rolled his eyes and leaned backwards. He tore his gaze from Hypatia, and followed the line her gaze made to the arena floor. "I'm starting to wonder if I should keep you in check, as I'm suggested."
He felt her hand gently brush his knee. It was a simple gesture, but it spoke volumes, even more than the words that followed. "I am 'in check'. I just speak my mind more freely when just in your company. Would you have it any other way? And I suppose you'd love me less if I ever changed."
A sort of sigh left the Roman's mouth in a reluctant agreement.
Hypatia continued before he could reply. "Go find your champion. I'm sure they've brought him here already, and I know you are so desperate to greet him. He's all you can talk about since he doused you in wine."
"I'm having trouble discerning the sincerity from sarcasm in your voice, love," Aeneas retorted before bringing her hand to his lips.
"It's however you wish to take it," the Grecian woman replied, a ghost of a smile ticking at the corner of her mouth, "but I'm giving you permission."
"Hah!" the laugh that escaped Aeneas's throat was loud and short, "As if I need your permission!" Though Aeneas shifted uncomfortably and grumbled something indiscernible. They knew the answer without it having to be spoken. Of course he had been waiting for her approval.
The silence that fell between them was short, but Aeneas had to admit it was quite possibly one of the most tense moments of his life. It was a hyperbole, yes, but it held some semblance of truth. And he didn't have to look at Hypatia to know that sort of smug satisfaction was glittering in her eyes. Oh how he hated that look. It made him want to smack her and kiss her at the same time.
"Well then!" Aeneas cleared his throat and smoothed the folds of his toga, "Time is wasting, then, isn't it?" With that, he stood. A quick, chaste kiss was pressed to his wife's cheek before he pushed his way through the crowded stands.
The hallways had become vacant, aside from the last minute stragglers scrambling to their seats. Aeneas chuckled to himself at their enthusiasm. "No, you don't want to miss this..." The crowd seemed to agree with him, what with their noise echoing in the open corridors.
It never ceased to amaze him how efficient architects could be. So many people could fit within these walls, and every one of them could be funneled in and seated within moments. It was a modern marvel if he did say so himself. And the moody Germanic who waited below should be honored to fight there. At least, so Aeneas thought.
His decent to the holding rooms was without hassle. The guards gave him one look, and stood aside without question. After all, who were they to ask anything of the great Aeneas Maximus?
Two steps past the guards, and he paused. He could feel them practically stiffen their posture. "Where is he?"
There was a moment of silence, as if the guards were debating on whether or not to ask who "he" was, and just which of them would do so. Aeneas was an incredibly intimidating man, as his reputation tended to precede him. It was not without reason, even if this was just a moment he took to revel in it. To be frank, he found it amusing.
He expressed this with a hearty laugh, one that was sure to cause the guards to tense even more. "Sorry, Sorry," Aeneas apologized with a nonchalant wave of his hand, "I suppose I should have been more specific." His throat was cleared before continuing, "The slave who is to fight the arena champion, rather than be outright executed by him? You can't miss him. Long blonde hair, blue eyes, always looks as if he's about to murder someone. Perpetually sour face. Truly unfortunate. I think it's stuck that way. Know of him?"
"Straight back," one of the guards offered, perhaps too quickly. But it was enough to cause Aeneas to stop rambling for a moment.
"Ah!" Aeneas replied, and placed his hands on his hips. "Right then. Near the gladiators, I assume..."
"Yes." The response was short and matter-of-fact. Aeneas couldn't help but give the man a lazy sort of glare. So much for his intimidation factor, if they could already speak to him as such. Then again, it was a silly question wasn't it?
The commander shifted, and tossed the drape of his toga over his shoulder. "Of course he would be. Thank you, gentlemen." With that, he turned on his heel, and continued through the dim passage to the chambers below.
He didn't have to look hard, or long, for that matter. Ansehelm was right where the guards said he would be. That typical toothy grin donned Aeneas's lips once more, and he stepped closer to the cell.
The blonde slave lifted his head as Aeneas's voice reached his ears. Sunlight filtered through cracks in the wooden boards above him. A ray caught a blue eye, showing how it hardened the moment its gazed fixed on the Roman's.
Aeneas chuckled. "I'm starting to wonder if you can make any other expression."
Ansehelm did not answer. He merely shifted to stretch his legs outward in front of him, and push a braid out of his eyes.
"You should speak more." Aeneas mused, leaning against one of the bars.
"Why?" the Germanic's reply was slightly hoarse. "You speak more than enough for the two of us."
Aeneas pursed his full lips, and a shrug rippled his shoulders. "Perhaps it's best you don't then. Words like that would only get yourself in trouble."
"And I'm not already?" Ansehelm tiled his head against the wall, his expression flat. A spill of sand sifted through the planks, creating a small, brief cascade between the slave and the soldier.
Another shrug, and Aeneas was smiling again. "Possibly." Ansehelm gave the bars a lethargic kick. It caused Aeneas to take a step back. "Careful, you'll need that energy."
Something roared in the farther reaches of the holding chambers. It grew in volume for a fleeting instant before it was lost to the drone of the throng in the stadium.
"Listen..." Aeneas's grin grew ever wider, if that was possible. He leaned forward, and gripped the bars of the cell door, "Do you hear it? Do you hear them?"
Ansehelm's stare was cold, and unwavering. Of course he could hear them. A verbal answer was unnecessary.
"They want your blood to stain the ground." Aeneas returned the stare, his jaw set. "Don't give them that satisfaction. Shouldn't be hard for you. You thrive on spite, don't you?"
A crease formed between Ansehelm's brows as they furrowed. Something akin to a sneer cross his lips, and a snort that might have passed for an odd sort of laugh left his nostrils. "And just what exactly am I supposed to do?"
"Survive." That smile of Aeneas's became nigh diabolical as he pushed away, and spread his arms in a cryptic gesture.
"Also, tell me Roman," Ansehelm pulled his legs to him once more. He leaned forward to grip the bars Aeneas had just released, and pressed his face between two of them, "Why do you care so much?"
For once, Aeneas was speechless. Of course, he wouldn't admit it. Instead, he would merely continue to smile that infuriating smile.