Age of Edward Contest Entry

Pen name: Sheviking

Title: A Love not meant for this World

Type of Edward: Gladiator Edward

AN: When archeologists excavated the city of Pompeii, which was buried in a volcanic eruption in the year 79 A.D, they made a startling discovery in the gladiator barracks. They came upon the remains of a noblewoman wearing costly jewelry, which has since earned her the name, the bejeweled woman. Some speculate that she was there, merely seeking refuge from the disaster, but there could be another reason. In the face of death, what could motivate a rich noblewoman to run to the barracks, rather than attempt to escape to the safety of the sea? Only love. This is her story, the way I picture it.

Their world was ending. Of that, there could be no doubt. It was midday, yet the city was as dark as if it were midnight. The sky, usually the most beautiful shade of blue, was now black with soot. The sun could not be seen. The people, free and enslaved alike, cried out to the heavens in mortal dread. What had they done to displease the Gods so? Had they not sacrificed enough to Venus, their patron deity? Had they not honored her? Why were the Gods doing this? Could they not be saved? They prayed fiercely, offering up their most prized belongings to the Gods above but it was for naught. It was done. The city of Pompeii would be destroyed.

Through the dark streets a young woman ran, seeing nothing of the mayhem around her. In her mind, she had but one goal: Find her gladiator, find her love. He would be in the barracks by the amphitheater, the place where she first saw him. Such a sight it was for her young eyes. She was only just sixteen on that day when her mother finally allowed her to go and see the gladiators fight. Both excitement and dread flowed through her as the mighty warriors entered the arena and began their fighting. Could she stomach being witness to so much violence? She found that she could, but just barely, and each time a limb was severed she closed her eyes tightly. Still, she could not bring herself to leave. For while there were many doing battle there, it was but one man who caught her eye; theDimachaerus who wielded two swords at once. He was by far the bravest, and was the only one without a heavy shield with which to protect himself. Without this burden he was able to move swiftly and more daringly than his opponents, taunting them and making them lunge at him until he saw his perfect opportunity to strike.

There could be no doubt that the Gods favored this man above the other fighters, for they had bestowed him a dominant left arm where all others wielded their weapon from their right hand. His advantage was clear, even to her untrained eyes. He bested them all, one by one, without much difficulty. Some of his opponents were left alive and others died by his hand, as determined by the Senator who oversaw the games in the arena, and finally the gladiator who had caught the young girl's eye stood victorious. The roar of the crowds around her made her gasp in both wonder and excitement. What a man he was!

"He is glorious, is he not?" a women next to her spoke.

"Indeed," she gulped. "Pray, what is his name?"

"They call him Victorinus. The Conqueror," the woman said, her voice in quiet awe.

"And is he always victorious?"

"He is," the woman confirmed. "The greatest fighter in the entire city, perhaps the land. There is talk of him being sent to Rome, to fight before the Emperor himself. Such an honor."

Such a pity, the girl thought to herself. Then I can no longer look upon him.

In the next moment, when the gladiator removed his helmet to greet his adoring fans, something shifted deep within the young girl: She saw his face and knew. She had to see this man in private. The urge made no sense to her. No sense what so ever. Unlike many of her friends, she was not flighty and filled with thoughts of men and matrimonial longing. She preferred her studies and the art of meaningful conversation to frivolous parties. Yet, she knew it was only a matter of time before her esteemed father would arrange a match for her, most likely with an old older and powerful businessman. A man who would be close to her father's age. A man like…Janigeus. Oh, how she loathed him! Her father would often invite him to dine with them at the villa and she would feel his beady eyes upon her, his desire evident: To control and contain her. He would continuously make negative comments on her passion for reading, remarking that women had no need for such education. He desired a quiet and obedient wife to birth him children and would love nothing more than to tame the rebellion within her. She knew that her father saw a good match in him, which would further his enterprise and he would have no qualms about giving away his daughter to a man with whom she had nothing in common. After all, marriage was a business transaction in their society and more often than not, it was only the poor who were able to marry for love. The girl was not so naïve that she had ever entertained notions of a romantic love within her marriage, yet the thought of being tied to a man like Janigeus made her shudder with disgust. What a dreadful fate for this young girl, being trapped in such a union, never knowing true passion or longing.

Yet, looking upon this gladiator, the girl now experienced both longing and passion. She was hardly ignorant of the ways of sex, as was none in Pompeii. One merely needed to look upon the erotic paintings and writings on the city's walls to gain knowledge of these matters. Venus was their most beloved deity and sex was very much a treasured pastime in this society.

She gazed upon the gladiator once more. She had, of course, heard tales of their talents which were not exclusive to fighting in the theater. Oh, no. These men were said to be skilled in the art of love-making, as well. She imagined what his strong hands would feel like on her naked body. His full lips covering hers. His bronze colored hair between her fingers. Her thoughts caused blood to rush both to her cheeks and to the untouched spot between her legs, making her ache with desire. She must go to him.

Before the roar of the thoroughly pleased and entertained crowd had died down, she was racing towards the gladiators' quarters.

"Domina! Domina!" her faithful slave called behind her.

She had all but forgotten his presence and turned to look upon him.

"Wait here, Jacobus," she commanded.

"Domina, I must protect you," he insisted.

"Where I am headed, I do not require protection," she said, pointing to the door which was her destination.

"Domina!" Jacobus gasped.

"You will speak of this to no one," she said firmly. "Wait here for my return."

The slave struggled with himself. He too had heard of these gladiators and their reputation with the women of the city. Most of the gladiators were slaves as he was, but of an entirely different sort, and he feared for his Domina. Not for her safety, per se, for he knew that the men inside would never dare to harm the daughter of a Roman patrician, but should she fall pregnant with one of them it would ruin her for marriage. He pleaded silently with his Domina but saw the determination on her face. He had been by her side since childhood and knew her to be as willful as she was kind to her father's slaves. Indeed, he had grown to love her dearly, as an older brother would his sister.

"As you wish," he nodded, a concerned look still lingering upon his face. "Please…be careful."

With a quick nod to her slave, the girl turned and walked straight to the two guards at the door.

"I wish to enter," she said, her steady voice betraying her true feelings. "I am here to see Victorinus."

"Certainly, Domina," one of the guards said, grinning to his comrade.

Truly, the guards did not mind at all. To the victor went the spoils and the gladiators inside were after all the ones whose fighting paid for the coins in the guards' pockets. They had admitted entrance to many women over the years, although the visiting Dominas tended to be rich matrons beyond childbearing age. Still, the one they called Victorinus had fought well today and the guards would certainly not begrudge him the company of this tasty young morsel. Women were not allowed to visit the gladiators before battle but afterwards…well, that was another matter entirely. The guards opened the door willingly, knowing that their champion would be pleased, and this pretty young girl could only inspire him to keep up his winning streak.

She crept inside the darkened hallway, steadying her resolve as she walked purposely towards the end where she could hear men's voices. She gasped when she saw them; some bloodied and bruised, others unharmed who had not fought on this day. All were practically nude, wearing only subligarias which barely covered their most private areas as their uniforms had been discarded to tend to wounds. Some were busy dousing themselves with water, washing off both blood and sweat, while others tended to their brothers, for they were indeed a brotherhood. But all activity halted upon the sight of this young girl and the looks she received ranged from mild curiosity to burning lust. They had all had their fair share of female company, but most only with prostitutes provided to them by their Dominus when he was pleased with them. This girl was no such creature. She was young, beautiful and rarest of all; innocent. They could practically smell it on her. She had most likely only ever lain with her husband and probably never out of pure desire. To these men, who only lay with loose whores and women almost twice their age, this girl was a rare treat.

Their expectant looks pulled her from her stupor and she found her voice.

"I-I seek the one they call Victorinus," she stammered.

Faces fell in disappointment, though they were not surprised that she was here to see the champion among them.

"His cell is the first on the left side," one of them told her and pointed down the hallway from which she came.

"Is he there…alone?" she enquired.

One of the gladiators barked out a laugh.

"Yes, Domina, the arena is not yet empty. You must have an urgent need to see him."

The girl's cheeks flushed at the insinuation in his voice and she hurried down the hallway, away from their lustful gazes. She was not here merely to scratch an itch and was the one they called Victorinus not available she would have left, a maiden still. She wanted only him.

Am I truly doing this, she questioned herself as she stood in front of his door. What good can come of this?

She knew the answer, deep in her soul. She wished to know him, the gladiator with the handsome face. She wished for him to take her first, she wished for a single taste of passion before her wedding night where an old man would climb atop of her to claim her.

She had nothing to truly fear in this place. Her father was far too important a man and his position extended to her, his beloved daughter. She would not be harmed and yet she quivered with trepidation as she raised her hand and grasped the handle. For a moment she considered announcing herself with a knock on the solid door but then thought better of it. A lady did not do such a thing when entering slave quarters. She drew a deep breath, opened the door and stood face to face with him. Up close he was even more handsome and she found it impossible to look away from his face. Surely this man was a demigod, for no mere mortal could be this beautiful to look upon. She remained frozen for a moment, waiting to see if he would allow her entry, if he wanted her there. He gave her a curt nod and she closed the door behind her, noting the missing lock which she had wanted to bolt the door with. The man looked her up and down in silence. If he was surprised to see her, he did not show it.

Naturally, she thought. He must receive much female company after such a fight.

His next course of action only proved her assumption. Unceremoniously, he untied his subligaria and let it fall to the floor at his naked feet. Her sharp intake of breath was the only sound in the small room as she finally let her eyes roam over his naked body. And what a body it was; chiseled to perfection during hundreds of hours of vigorous training while he perfected his fighting skills. His skin had seen much sun during those hours and was now tanned and smooth, save for a few scars here and there. Warmth flooded her cheeks as she boldly stole a glance below his waist and saw that this man was indeed blessed by the Gods in every way.

"You…you fought most bravely this day," she said, raising her eyes to his face again. "I congratulate you."

He regarded her with an impassive expression and did not respond to her praise. Suddenly, the girl felt uneasy. Perhaps the gladiator did not understand her words. How presumptuous of her to think that he would speak her language when it was obvious that he was not a born Roman. Yes, his hair had been cut to the fashion but the color of it, as well as the color of his eyes bore witness to his heritage. He must be from one of the wild Northern provinces, brought here as a slave to fight in the arena. What was she thinking, bringing herself into the presence of a man who may very well be a savage barbarian? She now regarded his muscles with eyes that were no longer clouded with lust and took a step back, feeling the solid door against her back. Would he harm her? If he did not care whether or not he went on living his enslaved life, he would have no qualms about taking hers. The thought was petrifying and fear trickled up her spine, causing her to shiver.

"I should not have come here," she whispered, mostly to herself, and reached her hand behind her to search blindly for the door handle.

Before she could reach it, he had snatched her up into his arms and his lips swallowed her scream before anyone could be alerted. His kiss was like fire; all consuming and wild. His hands were eager; caressing her body in places no man had ever touched. She now felt quite foolish having tried to speak civilly with him. Women did not come here to practice the art of conversation. They came to practice the art of making love.

The girl did not know this, but the man had no intentions of causing her harm. In fact, he had never hurt a woman outside the arena and even then he did not like fighting against female gladiators, but naturally did so if his Dominus commanded it. He saw well the fear in the young girl's eyes and her intent to leave, as well as understood her whispered words, which had prompted his assault on her. He wanted her to stay. He was in need of a woman after a long and hard fight and this girl would certainly do. Truthfully, the gladiator felt most fortunate that she had found her way to his cell for it had been years since he had taken one as young and pretty as her. He did not care for fucking whores and the ladies who came to him were many years his senior and most of them mothers many times over. Nothing like this young bride in his arms. He groaned into her sweet mouth when his hands travelled over her clothing, feeling her firm supple flesh underneath. Why had her husband ever let her out of their bed? What a fool he must be!

Or perhaps he is an old man, more interested in business and politics than tending to the needs of his young wife, he mused.

She had come to him to have her unfulfilled desires sated. He smiled against her lips, more than happy to give her what she wanted. His rough fingers fumbled with the pins holding her dress together and the urge to simply rip the fabric was strong. Finally, he was able to loosen them and the cloth fell from her shoulders, revealing her nude torso to him. Without delay, he loosened the belt around her waist which caused the dress to fall to the ground. The gladiator took a small step back and gazed upon the woman. Her figure revealed her to be even younger than he had thought and he felt certain that she had not been a wife for more than half a year. Still, her small breasts and gently curved hips were perfection in his estimation, as was the flush on her face upon witnessing his probing gaze. She reminded him of the pretty girls of his village who, as a mere boy, he had admired before he had been taken away by the Roman invaders. Yes, it would indeed be a pleasure for him to give the girl what her old, weak husband could not. He would take her with strength and vigor, and he would not cease until she screamed her passion out for all the Gods to hear.

The ladies of the city knew what they wanted of him and he had accepted it years ago. There was no room for affection in his life and these brief encounters were all he knew of women. This young wife was beautiful indeed, but in the end she was no different than the rest of them, seeking enjoyment as well as diversion from her unhappy marriage. Determined to give her all she wanted as well as what he needed, he took hold of her and lowered her onto his bed, his hands roaming over her supple flesh. Had he been paying close attention he might have noticed the slight tremble of her hands, her wide eyes and her shallow nervous breaths which all showed her inexperience as he kneeled and positioned himself. Taking hold of her hip, he lifted her lower half off the bed while his other hand moved to touch her between her thighs. His skilled fingers found moisture there indicating readiness and the gladiator surged forward without restraint until he was imbedded deeply in her body.


Her shriek pierced the silence in the room and the gladiator froze. He knew enough of bedding women to realize that the sound he had just heard was not one of pleasure. He looked more closely at the girl underneath him; her eyes screwed firmly shut, her hands fisting the bedding, streaks of blood tinting his shaft as he pulled back. Instantly, he felt both confusion and remorse. This was no wife! He had just deflowered a maiden and had done nothing to prepare her. But why would she bestow such a precious gift on one as lowly as him? She was a lady and a rich one at that, judging by her robes and the pretty jewelry she wore. Her virginity should not have been wasted on a slave and certainly not taken in such a way. No words of adoration had been whispered in her ear, no measures had been taken to prepare her body. He did not even know what to call her.

"Domina," he whispered, speaking to her for the first time. "What is your name?"

"Bellona," she answered as she blinked away the tears in her eyes to look upon him. "My name is Bellona."

"You are a maiden."

"No longer," she smiled, but winced when he withdrew completely from her.

The pain had been sharp and acute, yet Bellona welcomed it gladly. Now she could at least be indifferent towards Janigenus' intrusion upon her body on their wedding night. He would not gain the satisfaction of seeing real tears in her eyes. Oh, she could act as though injured, and she could even imitate bleeding with a pricked finger inserted into her body before he took her to bed, but real pain he could not inflict upon her and for that she was grateful.

"You may continue," she said softly, reaching up to place her hands on his forearms. "You have done me a great service this day."

"How so?" he asked with a frown.

"I am to marry an awful man who would relish causing me pain on our wedding night. You have now stolen that satisfaction from him and I am much indebted to you," she spoke candidly.

"I find no satisfaction in your pain!" he spat. "Had you but told me…I would not have... What sort of man do you think me? That because I kill in the arena, I would enjoy hurting a…a mere child?"

"I am no child!" Bellona said forcefully while she sat up, grabbing her gladiator's hand and placing it on her breast. "Is this the bosom of a child?"

She led his hand over her belly and down until he touched the soft dark curls between her legs.

"Do I not feel the same as a grown woman?" she asked, placing her free hand on his shoulder, for she dared not yet touch his face. "Do I not deserve to know desire in this life?"

He did not move but remained perched between her parted legs with his hand resting upon her lower abdomen. Bellona sensed that she was winning this battle and dared to reach up and touch the side of his handsome face, feeling the rough beginnings of stubble growing there.

"Will you not teach me?" she whispered. "The ways of love-making?"

"To what end?" he asked. "You would use your newly acquired skills to please your husband?"

The thought of another man taking her caused much anger to rise up inside the gladiator though he did not understand why it would affect him so. This girl meant nothing to him. She would leave, never to return again, once she had gotten what she came for.

"I will never please him!" she hissed. "He would have me silent and decorative, and I will be just that when he lies with me; still as a beautiful statue."

Her eyes softened. She wanted this and knew well that she had no command over the handsome gladiator. He was not her slave and he could reject her without consequence if he did not desire to educate her in ways of physical love. There would be plenty of other women coming to the barracks today, hoping for a tryst with the champion. Women who were knowledgeable, who had experience in pleasing a man. The girl had no such skills. She had only a faint hope.

"Please," she beseeched him. "Surely there is more to love-making than pain? I felt it when you kissed me and held me in your arms. I do not want another teacher. From the very moment I saw your face I knew you would be my first."

She moved closer to him, intent on kissing his lips but at the last moment her courage faltered and she pressed her mouth against his strong jaw. She looked up at him, her eyes wide and hungry for knowledge. The gladiator chuckled softly. What was he doing? This beautiful naked girl was begging him to take her, to show her pleasure. How could he ever consider rejecting her sweet, clumsy advances?

Not many knew this, but this particular gladiator was not the savage beast he portrayed himself as in the arena. Indeed, he had a gentle side which he rarely showed but while his fighting skills were impeccable, this was not the life he had been born to lead and he had no real thirst for blood in his heart of hearts. Had the Romans not raided his village and taken him away, he would have led a fairly peaceful existence with a wife and children by his side. He would know nothing of glory and the roar of the crowds, and he would have lived to old age in the very village where he was born. But that was not how the fates wanted it and he was now known as a fierce and deadly warrior instead of a loving father and husband. That life was forever forfeit and while the realization saddened him, he also knew that he would never have had the opportunity to lie with a woman like Bellona if he was not a gladiator. This life was neither his own nor the one he would have chosen for himself, but it had its advantages.

"Please?" she whispered and purposely brushed her breasts against his chest.

The gladiator smiled and pushed her gently down on the bed once more and looked, truly looked at her this time. Her skin was smooth and unmarred, her hair dark as the fertile volcanic soil underneath their feet, her eyes so innocent. He now saw the youth in her still rounded cheeks, her small breasts, her slender hips and yet it did not sway his decision. She was young, yes, but a woman just the same, and today she would know the pleasure only a skilled lover could bring her.

Without further ado, he lay down with her and kissed her, very gently this time. She surrendered to him so easily, feeling safe in his embrace, though she knew nothing of this man. Most would have called her foolish and naïve not to worry about the possible consequences of her actions, but such reflection is hardly ever afforded to one as young as she. She knew only that she desired the handsome gladiator and wanted him to become her lover.

The soft kisses and caresses that the gladiator bestowed on Bellona were a novel experience for him. Usually, the women who came to him treated him like a stud horse, wanting his seed as swiftly as possible because their husbands were unable to put a child in their belly. Either that, or they wanted a fast and rather rough experience which seldom involved kisses and whispered words. Truly, he had not cared until this moment. There was no need for tenderness in his life and yet, being with this innocent girl, he felt compelled to venture into unexplored ways of making love, to be gentle with her.

Bellona cherished each kiss, each caress, and gladly let her gladiator take the lead as his hands and mouth brought forth never before experienced sensations in her young body.

"Victorinus!" she moaned as his mouth descended to her breasts and suckled her there.

"No," he said, most unexpectedly. "That is not my name."

"Not your name?" she asked.

"It is how I am known to the crowds, but not the name which was given to me by my mother," the gladiator explained, still unsure why he was telling her this.

Yet, she had been so open with him, telling him exactly why she had come to him and perhaps he felt the need to reciprocate her candidness. Or could it be that he suddenly wished for something real, for her to know at least a small part of him to take with her when she left? The gladiator felt a strange sense of comfort knowing that she would always remember him, since he was her first, and that his true name would linger in her memories many, many years after he had fallen in the arena and she was old and grey. Of course, that would not come to pass and Bellona would not live to see her next birthday, but the gladiator could not possibly know what the future held in store for the two of them, as well as the rest of the people of Pompeii.

"I am Eideard," he said.

Bellona smiled. The foreign name was not familiar to her, yet it suited him. She expected him to speak more but he did not. Instead, he continued that most pleasant task of rousing her young body by attending to its most sensitive spots with his practiced fingers and tongue.

Eideard had never wanted a woman with such urgency before. He reveled in the feel of her warm soft skin and dragged his face over it, greedily inhaling the fragrance between her breasts. She was not doused in heavy perfume but smelled fresh and clean, with a hint of something floral which he could not decipher with his limited knowledge of such things. Her legs lay on either side of his waist, open and willing, and it would be all too easy to push back inside her. He wanted it; to take, to thrust. He wanted to ravage her!

No, he scolded himself. Pleasure her first and then take yours. You have but one time with this one. Savor it. Make it last.

He abandoned her breasts for the moment and returned his mouth to hers, kissing her again and again with more fervor each time. She responded timidly and tentatively to the caresses of his lips and tongue which made him withdraw to gaze upon her.

"Have you not kissed a man before, Domina?" he asked.

Bellona shook her head and wondered if perhaps she was inadequate at performing the task. That was, until she stole yet another glance below her gladiator's waist and clearly saw his desire for her as well the evidence of her lost innocence which painted his flesh. Eideard followed her gaze and rose from the bed to fetch a wet cloth from his bathing remedies which he had used to clean himself with mere moments before Bellona's arrival. He washed himself while she watched with large curious eyes and then kneeled between her legs to do the same for her, unfazed by performing such a task though Bellona was the first maiden he had ever lain with.

Bellona gasped softly and closed her eyes when the cool cloth wiped away the remnants of the blood which lingered there.

"Do you hurt?" Eideard asked, replacing the cloth with his fingers to gently stroke her.

She shook her head.

"Is it enjoyable?" he whispered and moved his fingers upwards to the spot he felt certain would bring her pleasure.

The manner in which her breath caught in her throat answered his question for him and made him smile as he lay down next to her. He drew her closer, slid his arm underneath her head and kissed her once more. This time, Bellona's responses were much more eager and she even dared to touch his arms, shoulders and chest while she marveled at the feel of him beneath her small hands. She could hardly believe how glorious it felt to lie in Eideard's embrace, the warmth of his body pressed against hers while she explored him. She was thankful that he was proving to be a very gentle and considerate lover already, giving her time to overcome her shyness and the small amount of fear she still felt when she thought of him entering her body once more. Her innocence was gone already, yes, but she knew well enough that given his rather substantial size there would still be pain involved, though she had no doubt that Eideard would be careful with her. He was a good man, of that she was certain, and she kissed him fervently to show her appreciation of him.

Eideard responded immediately and, deeming her ready for more, he released her lips to kiss his way down to her breasts while his hand slipped between her thighs where he found both warmth and wetness. Bellona moaned in response to his experienced touches and it was not long before her hips lifted from the bed, searching for something she did not fully understand. She knew that love-making, when performed correctly, was meant to be pleasurable but not in any specific detail. She need not have worried, for Eideard knew what she craved and increased the speed of his caressing fingers and gave the nipple in his mouth a firm tug followed by vigorous sucking before switching to the other one. Bellona cried out and thrust herself upwards against her gladiator's touch while her own fingers dug into the firm muscles of his shoulders. Never before had she experienced such pleasure and it seemed to increase with each stroke of Eideard's fingers which never entered her body but attended solely to the spot above her entrance. She writhed, she groaned, she grunted most indelicately and she did not care, for her reactions were no longer hers to control. She surrendered fully to Eideard, certain of the fact that he would lead her safely through this strange, yet pleasurable experience. And, naturally, he did. When Bellona's climax tore through her with unexpected force, Eideard held her tightly to him and afterwards calmed her body with soft caresses.

Still dazed, yet elated upon discovering her pleasure, Bellona drew a deep breath and finally ran her fingers through Eideard's hair, as she had wanted since she first saw him. He lifted his head and looked upon her while her hands drifted to his face. The two lovers looked upon each other, her dark eyes meeting his bright green, and understanding seemed to pass between them. The handsome gladiator moved to lie between her legs and this time Bellona reached up to hold Eideard to her, as well as draping one of her legs over his hip, thus opening herself to him.

"You are beautiful beyond words," Eideard said softly and caressed her cheek.

Bellona had received many such compliments in her young life, but never had one been delivered so earnestly and with so much sincerity. She smiled with delight and lifted her head to kiss her handsome gladiator who took this opportunity to grasp her hip and ease his way inside her. Eideard groaned with pleasure and pushed forward until his body rested against Bellona's which had grown tense underneath him.

"Take ease, my lady," he murmured and kissed her neck while she breathed deeply through the discomfort of his intrusion. "It will pass."

Bellona felt quite overwhelmed by the foreign sensation of having Eideard fill her body so completely, as well as the strange urge to weep when she looked upon his face as he hovered above her. He was so beautiful to her and she found herself wishing for things that were both impossible and wholly ridiculous.

"Do you hurt?" he asked her for the second time that day and reached up to brush tears from the corners of her eyes.

This time Bellona nodded. She did hurt, but not in her body. The pain she felt now was far worse; it pressed heavily upon her young heart which had already been lost to the handsome gladiator without that being her intent. Cupid's aim had been true; he shot his arrow into Bellona's chest the moment she saw Eideard's face and love bloomed there already. And though such an occurrence could only lead to misery, given their different stations in life, she was powerless to stop the feeling from growing stronger with each passing moment.

"Take it away," she whispered and clung to him as best she could. "Take the pain away."

Eideard did not hesitate and held her chin firmly as his mouth claimed hers, savoring her taste and stealing her breath in the process. She whimpered against his lips when he started to move above her, delivering slow shallow thrusts until he felt her body respond to his rhythm. He moaned, reached down to lift her other leg around him and dared to deepen his movements.

"Oh, yes," Bellona whispered, as Eideard covered her neck and chest with warm kisses.

Yes, indeed.

This is love-making, she thought to herself. This is how it is done.

There was still a slight discomfort but Bellona also felt pleasure in their coupling. Eideard was not only a skilled lover but also a considerate one. He took her slowly and made certain that his touches were gentle until he believed her ready for more. When that time came, he withdrew and turned Bellona over to enter her from behind. After all, what sort of teacher would he be if he did not at least show her a few different ways of making love? Thankfully, Bellona was most pleased with her gladiator's tutelage and gasped in pleasure when Eideard spread her legs and eased his way back inside her.

While he wanted nothing more than to grab her slender hips and take her with fast, hard strokes, Eideard restrained himself. Underneath him, Bellona braced herself for only a moment before she felt his body cover hers and instantly knew that there would be nothing harsh about Eideard's love-making, despite their position in which he controlled all. She shivered when his warm breath fanned across her neck.

"Feel me, Domina," he groaned as he ground slowly against her backside until he was fully seated within her. "Does this please you?"

"Yes. Oh, yes," she nodded, sounding breathless to his ears.

Eideard smiled against her soft skin and began a slow rocking motion, reaching down to spread her legs a little further. He too, was pleased beyond words and knew that he had never felt anything as wonderful as being with this young lady, with his Bellona.

No, he reminded himself. Not mine. She will never belong to me. However…

He thrust harder and slipped his hand underneath her body to caress her.

She will remember me, always. Her first lover.

Bellona clung to the mattress below her. Its rough material felt unfamiliar against her skin compared to the fine bedding she enjoyed in her father's villa, yet the sensations in her body overpowered such slight discomforts. She felt a quickening within and knew that her pleasure was once again close at hand. Eager to feel it once more, she tilted her pelvis and opened herself even further to Eideard's most welcome onslaught. She felt him vividly between her thighs; sliding in and out with very little effort, each stroke igniting pleasure. So much pleasure she could hardly stand it and at the same time she never wanted this feeling to end.

When Eideard felt her climax commence, he knew he could wait no longer for his own. Forgetting notions of slow love-making; he grasped Bellona's hips firmly, raised himself up on his knees and took her with swift and eager thrusts. His hips slapped harshly against her backside as he threw his head back and roared with pleasure, beyond elated when he heard Bellona join in with cries of her own. Utilizing every ounce of willpower he had in him, Eideard remembered reason and pulled out a mere moment early to watch his warm seed spill upon his lover's lower back as he groaned and heaved for breath.

"Oh. Oh, Gods," Bellona gasped and slid limply down onto the bed.

She may have dozed for a moment since Eideard was suddenly washing her back with a cloth. Bellona looked over her shoulder in slight confusion for she had not noticed his withdrawal during the end of their lovemaking.

"Apologies," he murmured quietly. "You are not yet with husband. A child would be most unwelcome, yes?"

Bellona nodded and closed her eyes but remained silent. Naturally, she would not want that now, although the notion of birthing a babe with green eyes sometime in the future was not a wholly unwelcome one.

You are a fool, she scolded herself and felt tears pressing against the lids of her eyes. That can never be.

Eideard sensed the shift in her mood and felt unsure how to proceed next. She lay on his bed, naked and beautiful, seemingly in need of comfort but he felt hesitant to offer it. Not once had he spent time with a woman afterwards, for such affection was never wanted of him. Bellona was a patrician, he a mere slave and he had already given her what she had come for. Yet, she made no move to leave his bed. Ever so slowly, he reached out his hand and placed it on her naked back, breathing out in relief when she sighed and relaxed underneath his touch. Emboldened, he lay down on his side next to her and continued to caress her soft skin, wondering why she would not look upon him. Was she perhaps experiencing discomfort? He knew without a doubt that she had enjoyed their experience, though perhaps he had been a bit too eager in the end.

"Do you hurt still?" he whispered and lifted his hand to touch the rounded apple of her cheek. "It will pass, I swear it."

Bellona opened her eyes and gazed upon him, placing her hand on the side of his face, as well.

"No," she said. "I do not believe it will."

Eideard frowned, not understanding the true meaning of her words, but accepted her readily into his arms when she pressed herself against him and hid her face against his chest.

What a peculiar girl, he thought and held her closer. Peculiar, yet lovely.

He did not know why she would seek comfort in his embrace; he knew only that he enjoyed it immensely while it lasted.

"I must away," Bellona mumbled after a spell and tilted her head back to look upon her gladiator's face. "My parents will be expecting me soon."

Eideard nodded and released her with reluctance, although he had known all along that their time together would be brief. He watched as she dressed herself with difficulty, clearly used to the assistance of a slave, and did her best to restore her hair to its former state while he quickly retied his subligaria with practiced ease. She turned to him, silently asking for approval, and he nodded once, making a liar out of himself. She did not look the same as when she had arrived. Her cheeks were brightly lit, her hair slightly out of place and her eyes somehow seemed wiser now. He hoped that her parents would not notice. He hoped that this would not be the last time he gazed upon her face.

Bellona hesitated by the door, as equally unwilling to depart as he was to see her go. Yet go she must.

"Farewell," she whispered, rooted in place although her entire being seemed to want to pull her towards her gladiator.

Her word triggered something deep within Eideard, and Bellona had hardly the time to blink before she found herself wrapped up tightly in his arms being kissed fervently. She clung to him, her heart thumping wildly in her chest with pure joy when she understood that her lover did not wish for her to leave his side either. Still, this realization only made their parting more bittersweet when he finally released her and opened the door to the hallway.

"Bellona," he said and caressed her face one last time. "Safe journey home, my lady."

"T-thank you," she stammered, willing herself not to burst into tears in his presence.

She drew a deep breath and stared intently into his eyes, hoping that hers would convey all the emotions she felt at that moment; gratitude for his tutelage, desire for him always and yes, even love. Especially love.

"Eideard," she whispered, reached up to touch his face and then hurried out towards the heavy doors leading outside.

The gladiator looked after her as she went where he could never follow and sighed. She was a Domina and he a slave. He ignored the calls from his brothers, lay down on his bed and spent the night replaying their time together, all the while wondering if he would ever see her again. How he hoped it would come to pass. He wished to speak more with her, to feel her in his arms again, to kiss her soft lips. He fell asleep holding onto the faint hope that perhaps she would seek him out again.

Eideard need not have worried. Bellona sought him out many times in the months that followed their first tryst. She could not stop herself from doing so. Each night she would lie in her bed, thinking only of him, until the longing in her heart became too great and she found herself once more outside the barracks where he dwelled. The first time she returned to him, Eideard had immediately taken her into his arms and had not let go of her until they lay on his small bed, sated and fulfilled from loving each other many times over. They did not speak on that occasion for there were no words adequate to describe the joy they both felt in coming together once more and when Bellona left afterwards it was with the silent promise to return soon. And return she did. Again and again she found her way to him, and each time their reunion was joyous. They would make love and Bellona soon became well versed in the practice. Very well versed, indeed. Afterwards, they spent what little time they had left becoming acquainted with one another. To her delight, Bellona discovered that Eideard was wholly impressed with her education and she even started bringing a small scroll along to teach him the letters since he had no knowledge of such things. Sometimes, she would also bring a small bottle of wine or some sweets for them to enjoy. Anything to delay the moment when she must return to the world outside the barracks, which now held no interest for her.

Tricking her parents into thinking she was with friends or at the market proved easy. They did not worry for her since Jacobus was always with her and would protect her from harm. He would wait outside the barracks each time and escort her back safely without protest for while he worried greatly for his Domina, he also acknowledged that he had never seen her happier than in those months. And so, because he loved her, he kept her secret and her parents were none the wiser.

Of course, it did not mean that Bellona's presence in the barracks went by unnoticed by everyone. The lanista who owned and trained the Gladiators quickly received word from the guards that a young lady came to the cell of his champion, but that was not unheard of. What was surprising was the fact that she came so frequently and that Victorinus, as he called his champion, refused all other female company hereafter. The lanista pondered whether or not he should forbid the lovers to meet, but in the end could see no harm in their trysts. And it also did not escape his attention that Victorinus fought better than ever before which pleased him greatly.

It was true that Eideard now fought like a man possessed, slaying everything in his sight and earned the proper accolades from his adoring crowd. But he did not fight for them. Nor did he fight for his lanista. Now he fought only for Bellona, who would always be in the arena when he stepped onto the sand, and once battle was over he would remove his helmet and seek her out with his eyes, knowing that soon she would be in his arms again. Her brilliant smile was all he cared for now and the roar of the crowd did not affect him as it once had. It was all for her. For them. No one knew of this, but Eideard was saving every single coin he earned and now hoped that one day he could purchase his freedom. Then he would ask Bellona to come away with him, to leave the city of Pompeii behind and seek out their happiness in a quiet and peaceful place where they could find a small plot of land and live together as husband and wife. It was a fool's dream at best, but it was all he had to cling to.

Alas, that did not come to pass. Vesuvius, the volcano nearby, erupted and sealed not only the fates of the young lovers, but that of every living soul in Pompeii. And while most spent their final hours praying or attempting to flee, faithful Bellona returned to her Gladiator one more time. The last time.

She ran through the dark streets, growing more and more frightened with each passing moment. The earth shook violently beneath her feet, sending her tumbling to the ground several times. Less sturdy buildings collapsed as she passed them and more than once did she cry out in fright, thinking that the debris would hit her. Ash and pumice began to rain from the sky, making her journey all the more difficult. Around her, people who had given up trying to escape fled into their houses, hoping that they would be safe and that perhaps this strange event would stop with the help of the Gods. They had built their city on the foot of a volcano, yes, but that was centuries ago and none knew it to be active and therefore they were wholly unprepared for this disaster. Bellona knew nothing of this either. She knew only that she had a mission; to find her Gladiator. She wept in gratitude when she saw that the barracks still stood and appeared unharmed by the earthquakes.

Outside, the panicked guards who crouched down by the side of the building easily relinquished a key for entry and she thanked the Gods for that.

"Eideard! Where is Eideard?" she demanded of the first Gladiator she saw as she burst into in the barracks, having found his cell empty. The Gladiator looked at her blankly and Bellona remembered herself.

"Victorinus!" she cried. "Where is Victorinus?"

The Gladiator saw the key in her hand and stepped towards her.

"Please, do not hurt me," she beseeched him. "I will give it gladly."

"He is in there," the Gladiator said and pointed to the main room. "Now hand over that key, Domina."

"It will do you no good," she whispered as he snatched it from her outstretched hand and ran for the outside. "We are all to die."

Bellona stumbled down the hall and there, in the main room, she saw him bravely attempting to free those of his brothers who were chained to the wall and could not escape. One of the other gladiators who were aiding Eideard saw Bellona leaning against the door in exhaustion and made him aware of her presence. As he turned his face, her relieved smile was met by his fierce scowl and her heart all but stopped. He rushed to her and embraced her at once, but hissed lowly in her ear:

"Why are you here? Where is your family?"

"They flee for the coast," she whispered. "I escaped."

"Foolish girl!" he scolded, yet held her closer still. "Why did you not go with them?"

"How could I, when you are here?" Bellona sobbed. "I will not leave you!"

She coughed loudly and Eideard straightened himself to grasp her shoulders. A determined look was in his eyes.

"The door outside. It is open now?"

"I-I believe it is," she stammered. "But I will not leave you, Eideard. You cannot force me to do so!"

"I would not leave you, either," he replied, his voice much softer. "Still, I would much rather know that you were on a boat at this moment sailing towards safety."

"I could not leave you here," Bellona said, looking up into his eyes. "I wish to be by your side, always."

"Come," he ordered and pulled her down the hall towards the doors leading outside. "We must find a boat."

"You will come with me?"

"I will," he nodded. "But we must hurry."

They rushed to the exit but halted abruptly in the open door, gasping at the sight which met them; heavy debris and scorching hot rocks rained from the sky, making it impossible to venture outside without being burned, and the air was thick with ash. A few feet from the entrance one of the guards lay dead, possibly by the hand of the gladiator who had taken the key. His eyes stared blankly into nothing as his flesh and clothing burned from the fire that fell from the heavens and it made Bellona's stomach turn. The earth shook again, sending her falling to the ground but thankfully Eideard was able to catch her.

"Trapped," he whispered to himself. "We are trapped."

In his arms, Bellona coughed violently and heaved for breath.

"Water," she croaked.

Eideard shut the doors and rushed her into his cell where he fetched a mug and watched her drink. Though seemingly calm on the outside, Eideard was in a state of great distress. He had tried his hardest to free his chained brothers, hoping that the guards would let them out, but he knew that it was not likely that they would. He had already accepted that he might die this day, just as he accepted the risk each time he stepped into the arena. But now his lady was here with him and that changed everything.

Why? Why did she not flee when she had the chance? he thought to himself. Sweet, stubborn girl!

The coast was but a few miles away, yet venturing outside now seemed impossible.

"What are we to do?" he asked no one in particular. "We are doomed."

Bellona coughed again but shook her head.

"No," she said, reaching up to touch his face. "I have come to save us."

Eideard gave her an indulgent smile. There was no saving either of them now, unless this strange attack from the heavens ceased on its own. The air was already growing weaker and Bellona's coughs worried him greatly.

"Do not fret," she whispered and rose to untie the cloak she wore. "We will be together forever."

Eideard inhaled sharply when Bellona revealed what she wore underneath the cloak. Her dress was pretty, as always, but it was the jewelry which adorned her that made him gasp. She had worn every single piece she owned and they both glittered and sparkled in the darkened room, catching what little light was there.

"I do not understand," Eideard breathed. "There is no escape and your jewels cannot buy us anything."

"You are mistaken," she said. "These are for the ferryman and will buy us both safe passage to the fields of Elysium."

Like most Romans, Bellona believed that she would be escorted to the afterlife by the ferryman, Charon, if she had means to pay him. Eideard was more skeptical of this plan.

"Bellona," he whispered. "If we die here, without proper burials…there will be no afterlife for us."

"You must believe!" she cried suddenly. "We will be together there. The ferryman will take the jewelry and lead us across, regardless. He must! It is not right, any of this! We have hardly even lived and I have only just found you!"

Another round of violent coughing wracked her frail body and Eideard lowered her onto his bed, now beginning to feel the lack of oxygen in the air, himself.

"Eideard," Bellona croaked. "I love you. I do not know why I have not spoken the words sooner. Please, you must believe that he will let us across. You are a warrior and I…I am not heroic but I have lived a good life, never missing prayers or offerings to the Gods. Perhaps he will be kind to us."

"Oh, my lady," Eideard whispered and wrapped her up in his arms. "You have come here, rather than fleeing for safety, to save my soul. Surely, the ferryman will recognize the heroics in that."

"Then you believe?" she asked and hid her face to cough, yet again.

"Yes, my love," he spoke softly in her ear. "Yes, I believe."

As the hours passed, Bellona weakened. Eideard held her closely, soothing her fears when the earth shook and whispered in her ear; stories of his childhood and words of love. He only left her side for moments to look outside where matters grew more severe as ash and pumice kept falling. Eideard too felt the effects of the sodden air but it had become all too clear to him that she would be the one to expire first. He was used to extreme exertion and his lungs were able to draw more breath than Bellona's, who had no such ability. Each time she coughed, it was like a knife plunged into Eideard's chest for he knew the fate which awaited his lady. Suddenly, she pulled out of his embrace and sat up on the bed, looking around with wide, frightened eyes.

"I can hardly draw breath," she cried. "My chest hurts. Eideard!"

"I am here," he said, wrapping her up in his arms once more. "I shall never leave you."

"Hurts," she gasped.

Eideard looked at her and winced. Her once pink lips had now turned blue and her once flawless skin was now ashen and blemished with red spots. His lady was in so much agony and her fear was palpable. It was not to be born. She had acted so bravely, so selflessly this day, and should not have to endure so much pain in her final hours.

Take it away. Take the pain away.

Eideard recalled her speaking those words before, on the day when he had first made love to her. He had done so then. There was nothing he could offer her in this mortal world; not marriage nor children. He could not even take her to safety and save her life this day. But there was one thing he could give her; a peaceful death. His lady did not have to endure the awful fate which awaited her as she would slowly, but surely, asphyxiate to death. She did not have to feel fright and panic, as she fought for breath that would not come. He could save her from all that.

Bellona wheezed in his arms, too exhausted to weep now, yet tears streamed down her cheeks.

"I am frightened," she whispered. "Do not let go of me."

"Never," Eideard vowed. "Never, my lady."

"We will be together again?" she asked, her voice small and almost childlike.

"We will," he said, willing his voice to remain steady. "Elysium awaits. There, we will be together for all time."

"I have saved us then?"

"Yes, my love. Close your eyes and picture it in your mind," Eideard whispered.

He watched through blurry eyes as she smiled, her eyes firmly closed, as she imagined them together in Elysium.

"It is beautiful," Bellona said. "I see it, Eideard. I see it."

"I will join you there soon," he whispered, held her face between his hands and pressed his lips against hers. "As surely as I love you."

And with those words, Eideard snapped Bellona's neck. It took so very little effort that it startled him how easily her life could be taken away. He looked at her face, now peaceful and calm. She looked as though asleep in his arms and the sight shattered his façade. She had never slept in his arms, they had never been together outside this cell, and they had never shared a meal. Stolen moments were all this world had had to offer them and now she was gone. For the first time since Rome ripped him from his mother's flailing arms, Eideard began to weep. Harsh sobs ripped through him as he held his lady against his chest and cried for all that they would never have. He cried for the children that she would never birth, for the sights that they would never see, for the life that was only ever a dream, never to come true.

"Wait for me, my love," he whispered and pressed his lips against hers one final time. "I will join you soon."

As Eideard lay dying, he prayed. He prayed to the Gods to forgive him for taking the life of one as good and pure as Bellona. He had only wanted to end her suffering. A suffering he now experienced on his own body. He coughed and gasped for breath, listening to the sounds of his brothers who were also dying within the barracks. His lungs burned, his vision blurred and he slipped in and out of consciousness several times. He grew frightened as the end neared. What if he would not go to fair Elysium, as his heroic Domina undoubtedly would? What if Charon deemed him unworthy and sailed him to Asphodel, the place where neither good nor evil was predominant, instead?

"Please," he whispered and clung to his lifeless love. "Do not separate us, I beg of you. Let not her sacrifice be for naught. I-"

Eideard did not finish his plea. His vision grew dark as he gasped for air, his body fighting against the inevitable. His final thoughts were incoherent yet his arms never let go of Bellona. Even in his dying moment he felt certain that she belonged there, in his embrace, and could only hope that the Gods agreed.

Outside the barracks, ash and pumice continued to fall until the two lovers, as well as the entire city of Pompeii, was covered by twenty feet of volcanic materials. Time passed and it fell out of memory. Another city was built on top of it and for nearly seventeen hundred years no one knew that beneath their feet an entire civilization lay buried. That beneath their feet, a noblewoman and her gladiator lay buried. Theirs was not a love made for this world where the rules of society would keep them apart. Mortals are indeed foolish, but thankfully Gods are not.

Eideard awoke with a start and sat up. Astonished, he was able to draw breath and there was life in his body once more. He found himself on the edge of a river, surrounded by a dim fog. He sprang to his feet and gasped when he saw the boat on the riverbank and the man inside of it, for he was indeed a frightening figure. Yet, his fear was instantly forgotten when he realized that his arms were now empty. His lady was not there! Boldly, he approached the ferryman who watched him with little apparent interest yet held out his left hand in invitation.

"Are you here for me?" Eideard asked, hesitating.

Charon nodded.

"Please," he beseeched. "My lady, where is she? Did she sail across already?"

The ferryman said nothing and Eideard wondered if perhaps he could not speak. Charon held out his left hand again, his eyes flashing with impatience.

Faith, Eideard thought. I must have faith.

He took the offered hand and was led onto the small boat. The moment Charon pushed from the shore they were enveloped by thick grey mist and Eideard could see nothing of their destination, though the ferryman steered forward with determination.

"Where are you taking me?" Eideard asked. "Will she be there?"

He received no reply and moved to the front of the boat, his heart beating wildly in his chest.

"Please," he whispered into the humid air and gripped the edge tightly as the fog began to lift.

The water on which he travelled turned clear and cool, the air felt warmer, the sun broke through. Before Eideard lay evergreen fields, vast forests, and majestic mountains. Wild horses grazed here, fish swam in the many lakes, orchards and groves overflowed. Had he paid attention, he would have marveled at the sight of such wonders and noticed how all of it reminded him of the place where he was born. Yet, he saw none of it. His gaze was fixed on the girl who stood on the shore. Her jewelry was gone, yet to his eyes she had never looked more radiant. Her smile spoke of an eternity together in Elysium, the place where all things came true. Where a gladiator and his lady could have a true life together, just like the one he had dreamed of.

The moment the boat touched ground Eideard leapt into the water and rushed forward, desperate to have her in his arms again, terrified that she was perhaps a mirage who would disappear before his eyes. His body collided with hers and he cried out in triumph. She held onto him just as tightly, tears of joy filling her eyes.

"I love you! I love you!" Bellona cried until Eideard's lips silenced hers with the first of many kisses they would share in their forever.

Charon watched the two reunited lovers take each other by the hand and heard their laughter as they ran through the fields. Beyond the trees was a house just for them, filled with comforts that they had cherished in their mortal life, such as wine, literature and musical instruments. Elysium was the place where all dreams came true and they wholly deserved to be here. The girl had risked her life to come to the gladiator's aid and he had in turn risked his soul to ease her suffering. Most mortals never experienced happiness like the one he bore witness to now and it was a pity for they all carried the ability within them to do extraordinary things in the name of love. From a faraway distance the ferryman saw how the lovers found themselves a shady spot below a large tree where they lay down in the soft grass and proceeded to make love, most passionately. Charon felt the corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly, sailed his boat forward and disappeared back into the mist, leaving Bellona and Eideard in Elysium to explore everything their afterlife had to offer.

The end.

I want to thank my wonderful beta, Edward's Eternal, for making my writing sound great, as well as never ending encouragement. I couldn't have done this without her.

Also, a huge thank you to Raum, who know is insanely knowledgeable about all things Roman, and helped me keep it historically accurate. I agree with Savage7289, that we own you dinner and drinks for all your help! ;)

Finally, I have taken some creative liberties in this story, such as some of the Roman mythology, but all in all, I have tried to keep it as accurate as possible. I hope you liked it and that you'll consider voting for it in the contest which opens on February 16th.

http : / www . fanfiction . net / community / Age_Of_Edward_2012 / 95685 / (Just remove the spaces)