Hello, dear followers! I know, I deserve to be stoned and butchered and…well, pretty much every cruel, merciless and mad idea of torture that your brain births, I deserve. However, before you do that I suggest you give a go to the wonderfully longer and action filled chapter, which although it is long overdue, serves as a starting point of the continuation of this story. I have had e-mails from many of you asking me to continue and I know I owe it to you for being so patient and persistent to keep waiting for a new chapter, so here it is again all for you. Yet, finally allow me to say: I deeply and sincerely apologise for the wait to all of you!

onethreefan: Well, I think am a greater example of having life spinning you out of control and pushing you away from things. I apologise and I really hope you get into the story and Via once more and keep rolling with me!

shihawa: More is coming with more Gannicus, I promise! Also, hopefully with more hate-you-love-you Ashur! I hope you like the next chapter and give me a small review! :)

CoastalGirl: I promised a masquerade and you will have it! Better yet, it is planned in the sequel! Hope you keep reading, dear, and loving it as much!

Sharpie-Marker1101: Girl, I am literally in tears from laughing. No matter how many times I read your comment, I just can't stop laughing! Loved the emotion you put in each review and you describe perfectly what you feel in each part of the chapter. Well, I hope you will be able to dive into this chapter as easily and just little heads up: get that Sparta kick ready ;) Oh also, thank you for telling me which your favourite chapters are, it means a lot to me! :)

lightning8tar: I hope that is soon enough :) Thank you for showing love and support, starry!:)

Guest: It is here! Sorry for the wait! Thank you for not giving up, dear! :)

Please allow me to present to you the long expected chapter of our story - yet another mystery breaker – dear readers: chapter 24!

Disclaimer: I do not own anything in this story except my original characters and plot.


Smell of honey and milk fat filled Via's nostrils each time she took a breath. Her skin glistered by having been rubbed with mixture of the latter mix and she felt her hair tightly secured upon her head in beautiful, yet simple braiding. A combination of cotton and silk brushed her skin, while two girls were working upon perfectly fixing a white, short dress around her body. Her ears filled with laughter and chatter from the girls around her, however, neither her mind, nor heart allowed the lightness and happiness to penetrate past their outer cores. After all, this all could be described with one word – slavery, Via thought. This was slavery: the smell in the air, the feelings upon her skin, the shape her hair took, the laughter, the happiness, the feeling of freedom were all but fake. So fake that it made you believe it not; it made it real. Nonetheless, Via knew it all – she could outline each and any falseness to it, point out each letter of the word "slavery" written upon them, just as she could right this moment. Right now, Via thought, she was not dressed in this white dress to be beautifully displayed in the Divine festive, where she was going to be honoured for her position as gladiatrix, rather she was simply dressed in yet another form of Slavery, to be presented as a slave in yet another enslaving event. She did not count how many times this dirty word passed through her head that morning, neither the night before, after she took Naevia back to her chamber. She did not count how many times she recognized the physical characteristic of this word in everything her eyes laid upon since last night, even upon her lover, Gannicus. She did not count, because they were so many and there was no point to such action! No point, she closed her eyes and the room and girls before her disappeared in darkness, yet another characteristic of Slavery.

"The Divine festive is one of the most uplifting event that promises a lot of gifts to the children of the Gods," Via heard a most familiar voice and opened her eyes to see Nasir smiling at her warmly.

"Promises you say," she smiled at him gently as a welcoming gesture. "Such word carries different meaning out of the Roman mouth."

"Yet, all men, Roman or not, bow before the Gods," objected lightly Nasir. "Your will is Gods' will and it always weight heaviest upon the mortal shoulders. Then, all promises are possible, even ones that grant freedom."

The slave girls around Via began chatting even more excitedly once the word "freedom" fell out of the little man's mouth. Via noticed how they looked up to her in admiration and even began putting more caring effort into Via's preparation as if she was their talisman or own promise of their own freedom.

"Freedom is but the wish of a dead man," counter objected Via in her turn still smiling, yet with more serious note to her voice.

"Ah, the words of a gladiator," he said defeated.

"My heart has been loving not but one and shared a bed with the one that has invaded it deepest," she beamed for a moment at the pleasant thought.

"A feeling most cherished," said Nasir with a dreamy eyes. "Yet you are a gladiatrix now and you have had the same power as those men. Their words shall linger upon your ears no more as the tales of the wise fighter, rather as the ones of the masculine heart. You share their power and equality upon the sands and so does your heart. Turn ear away from tales long repeated and fix it towards your heart. Whisper it's tales and the Gods shall listen, we shall listen."

"Oh Gods, return Nasir all mind that Pluto has stolen and grant him the gift of extra sense," turned her eyes towards the ceiling Via and spoke loud with a joking tone.

"Pluto but sleeps, flower. It is another God to blame – Venus perhaps," he spoke suggestively with a smile. "Nevertheless, my mind is all in the right place. I have simply let heart form words just as you should."

"It seems that I will but form words with my bother soon. First, he turned sweet Era into a fire woman and now threatens the innocence of my dear assigned little man. And so in past we warned him – gladiator with his charm scares the sanity away from people."

"Quite a charmer, quite a gladiator," agreed Nasir. "Yet one spoken from the heart." He gave her a small bow with a final suggestive look and turned away from her with a happy smile upon his face.

Sanity, yet another thing the hands of Slavery squeezes out of us, thought Via, brushing off Nasir's suggestions. Via was afraid to let her heart speak because all it could speak of was two things - Slavery and the fire that it fuelled.

After all girls were prepared, they were escorted into the main area of the caledome where they were lined by matches. Via stepped next to Barca and Ramona, who although stood single, looked as magnificent and powerful. Of course, none of them carried weapons, still the white clothes that they were dressed in gave them Godly appearance. Soon, Batiatus, Lucretia, Hercilius and Doctore stood before them and Batiatus gave them several encouraging words. Throughout the whole time Via tried her best to avoid Harcilius's lingering eyes upon her, cursing the man in her mind for being so obvious with his awe. Then, after final instructions were given, Batiatus turned his back towards them and lead them out of the caledome and towards the Great villa as if they were his children.

They entered the villa and followed a path that was not very familiar to Via, which lead straight towards one of the big chambers within the villa. As soon as they reached the door, Gannicus grabbed Via's hand and for a split moment she forgot everything around her – the people, the villa, what happened last night and this morning, what happens now and her fears of what will happen during the event. For a moment it was him and her – the man who loved her and the woman who loved him. It was a moment that Via cherished most because it reminded her that whatever else they were: gladiators, brothers, sisters, teachers, leaders, followers, or even slaves, it did not matter right now. It was a moment that promised that whatever happened it will not change that man and that woman; it will not change their hearts and this is all that mattered. They shared a smile and turned their eyes towards reality and towards the Roman festive that promised only changes.

All Picona matches walked hand in hand before the Senator, yet as soon as they paid their greetings with bows, they split into lining against one another. When all houses were presented, the center of the chamber was outlined with two lines of people: in one stood all the gladiators and in the opposing and facing them line stood their matches. The center between both lines dancers and performers entertained the authorities upon a podium that also allowed for Romans to walk and further explore the variety of views. Via noticed that there were even less gladiators and gladiatrixes left from the other houses than from the one of Capua. In total she counted 50 gladiators and 50 gladiatrixes, which gave her a strange feeling that it was not a coincidence. After all, with the Romans nothing was coincidence but this odd situation made anxiety grow inside her as she slowly realized that the answers to most of questions will be given exactly tonight. She looked at her brother's face and their eyes met. She knew that he had noticed the body count, as well, as he gave her a look filled with fury and impatience. Her brother never panicked or showed fear. Instead, all fear, anxiety and confusion he turned into anger, quick thinking and spontaneous actions. Often, especially on the arena, that advantaged him yet in this particular situation it choked him down. Via gave him a soft look, begging for him to keep calm, to which he simply nodded, regardless his tension written features. Nevertheless to Via's relief, the Sponsor stepped into the middle of the podium and turned towards the people into the room with welcoming words.

"Tonight we celebrate the presence not only of the most noble and honourable Roman citizens, but also we celebrate the presence of the very children of the heavens. We stay humbled before the Gods and the hand of Jupiter that has been undeniably extended to us in most memorable, yet darkest times – The Games of the Gods." The old man took a pause and let the people applaud his words as courtesy requires. "Such Games forever remain in our mortal memory because they are no ordinary ones. Such Games bring to the eye views that no one has ever seen, taking command over every breath we take or hold within chest. And thus, such Games stand darkest, bloodiest and most cruel to every man who has been granted the opportunity to even take a glimpse upon those Godly sands. Yet, sometimes the path to the heavens is not only made of sand. Sometimes the Gods illuminate a different road for their warriors to fight upon. Sometimes history repeats itself and the Gods choose a side. The one they have chosen tonight is behind the Roman shoulder." The Senator extended his arm and as if on cue Glaber stepped beside him, while the confusion spread across everyone's faces including Via's. The heavy feeling in her stomach grew like a living thing and even Agron's face turned from angry to furious.

"This decade's Games of the Gods turn darkest of all where not only the God's chosen fighters beg for their shield and weapons with blood and tears, but also Rome," began speaking Claudius with serious and determined tone. "This decade's Games of the Gods seek to spill not only their blood," he pointed at the two lines of gladiators, "but also ours. This decade the Gods and their warrior shall march past the arena's sands and upon the paths of this mighty Republic. Games of the Gods have prepared us a different battle – one beyond the sands; one that turns the foe into a brother by sword, together to face an enemy beastliest of all. For the past three kealdomes the Roman soldiers have given their lives in a silent battle against animals that seek to feast upon the heart of our Republic. Yet, the screams of our men have broken this silence and lead the animals closer to us than ever before. The hounds are coming from the German lands and with them war."

Via felt a numbing feeling freezing her brain and her stomach twisting violently. Her heartbeat picked up like crazy and she tried her best not to show any emotion. Her eyes searched the room for Hercilius, yet he was nowhere to be found. On the one hand, she was thankful for his hiding because if she had glanced at him, she thought she was going to scream at him. On the other hand, she felt she needed to know that she was not alone in this; she needed him to look at her and give her a knowing nod that also told her she is doing fine. She never thought she would think or feel that but the truth was that right now she needed eactly him. Nonetheless, he was nowhere in sight thus Via focused her attention back on Glaber who clearly was taking great satisfaction form the shock in the room.

"Thus the Games of the Gods have changed. The Gods seek no more the blood of their children but of those who dare to spill unwilled blood upon their sacred sands. In four days, before Rome and before you, we shall honour but one God with final games. The survivors shall join the Roman march not as gladiators but as protectors of their land and honour. In four days, upon the arena and for a final time in these Games, your Piconi shall bleed the name of Mars, the God of war, so they can never even cry a drop of blood before those hounds. And the Gods shall weep no more because the Games of the Gods are games no more – they are fucking war!"

The crowd exploded in applause and cheers and still Glaber lifted his hand to silence them and signal them that there is more:

"And to prove you that the fucking dogs stand no match to the Roman lions, I have prepared a special viewing," he added with sweetness to his tone and on cue the doors of the chamber opened. Inside two soldiers escorted to the center a strongly built man with deeply scarred face and very thin hair. The man was visibly a lot older than many of the people in the room, maybe even older than the Senator. One of his eyes was grey from blindness and his hair as white as Via's dress. Nevertheless, he looked strong, full with life, energy, hatred and determination.

"Behold the only survivor captured from a pack that attacked the Republic at its borders – a not very strategic and smart move," emphasized his last words Glaber. "Let us show those dogs that they shall have the war they root for; that dogs can bare teeth barking but the lion roars loudest. Let us show them that kin matters not in the hands of the Gods! Agron step forward!"

The command sounded loud and clear as a strike of a whip that took Via's breath away. "Gods," was all she could whisper before her chest closed in onto her heart. Her eyes shot straight at her brother's face, who hesitantly, unwillingly, yet obediently stepped a foot forward from the line of gladiators. In turn, Glaber moved towards him simultaneously grabbing what is left of the hair of the German man and pushing him violently into Agron's feet. Then, the Roman turned towards Oenomaus and extended his arm towards his whip. Oenomaus slowly passed him his whip yet Via saw the disgust swelling in his eyes. Glaber pulled out his sword out of the shiny armour that he was perfectly wrapped in and passed it to Agron. As soon as the gladiator took a hold of it, Glaber forced the leather whip against the skin of the German man on the ground making him bear his teeth, grinding them in bark from the pain just like a dog. Soon the pain took over him and the old man cried out in pain each time the whip burned his skin. Agron stood paralyzed with anger, observing the scene before him and holding tightly onto the sword Glaber has given him. At that moment Via prayed all the Gods that they gave her brother strength, that they do not take him away from her by allowing him to do something reckless, that they are merciful over him and the German man before her.

"Hear the hound howl in defeat! Remember that howl because it is the one that shall sound loudest upon the battlefields of this Republic. Watch his final breath being stolen from his chest by the very son of the Gods, who ones shared roots with him but no more, tongue with him but no longer, blood with him but not a drop more and position with him yet no more. And this all stands true because of the hand of Our mercy - the God willed mercy and because of Rome," he concluded with great power in his voice making people applaud and yell with approval.

Glaber gave Agron a sing to proceed with the execution but the gladiator made no move. Instead, he stared down at the German man as if he was hypnotized. After a moment longer, the captive lifted his head in surprise and stared back at Agron.

"We are coming, brother," he whispered in German. "Stand beside us, kin of mine, so we can seek our vengeance for what they have done to us, to me, to you and to her," continued the man with voice full of hope and hatred, planting his eyes on Via, making her heart stop in surprise. However, before she could make any reaction, thankfully, Glaber jumped in between her and the man and began ordering.

"What meaning do his unpleasant whimpers carry?"

Glaber's voice rang as he turned and grabbed Via violently by the arm and pulled her into the center. "You carry in-born knowledge of his tongue, do you not," Glaber asked rhetorically with fury in his voice. The hound and Agron have disgraced him by not following his orders, including sharing secret words among each other. He knew, as well as everyone else, that this was not the way he would elevate himself in the eyes of Rome by letting slaves spit in his face. Therefore, with a cruel smile, he pulled Via down the line of gladiators and spoke as loud as before: "You may be chosen by the Gods but the Gods have put you in our hands to do whatever we will, desire or wish!" The last two words he whispered in her ear and looked straight at Gannicus's flushed with anger face while they have taken a stop right before him. "We but forge the chains upon your hands, bodies, actions and lives, where even loving heart towards kin or lover is but a weakness for you and a tool of navigation for us." Glaber watched as Gannicus's eyes flashed with understanding and his body began to shake under the pressure of obedience to stay put for the sake of all's lives. He then, turned his face towards Via and placed his hand right upon her throat, at the base of her jawline, which allowed him to control her head completely as if she was a ragged doll. He squeezed her throat a little and lifted her up until she stood on her toes and ordered firmly:

"Speak, slave, or see yourself beside that dog under the sword of your own brother."

"He … spoke… your words. The hounds… are coming … he said," whispered with a great effort Via.

Glaber stared into her eyes a moment longer, searching for a sign of doubt, then smiled victoriously. He dropped his grip from around Via's throat, which made her fall on her knees beside the German man, and began laughing. Suddenly, all of the Roman people in the big chamber began laughing, as well. Via threw a quick glance at Gannicus, who was staring at her with eyes full with anger and pain. She gave him an apologetic look and averted her eyes away from him, unwilling to let the tears swelling in her eyes to fall down. Surprisingly, among the laughs Via heard her brother whisper down to the German:

"Then come, brother, and bring the fucking heavens with you!" After which, he turned his face towards Via and nodded at her in reassurance.

The German first smiled in response and then began to laugh hysterically, his hoarse voice sounding as a mockery against the polite laughter of the elite. Suddenly, all the Romans fell silent and shock spread through their faces. Via looked up at Glaber's furious face and saw him just give a small, cold and certain nod to Agron, commanding him to proceed with the execution. She wondered if everyone was going insane: first Hercilius, then this man for laughing such way and now her brother who stood with fixed eyes onto the German, unmoving. Just as she thought that Glaber's patience had run out, Agron lifted the sword in his hand and pressed it against the German's neck. Via slowly stood up on her feet and moved a step back to give the two men space still having her eyes glued to the scenery before her. Finally, her brother smiled and with promise in his voice he spoke to the man below him:

"I shall bleed for you, brother, as you stand beside me with the Gods."

The German smiled and closed his eyes peacefully as if he had just been blessed. Agron lifted the sword and dove it into the man's shoulder, striking it deepest until the German fell to the grounds lifeless. Via lifted her eyes from the man and her gaze met Hercilius's. For a moment, her heart skipped a beat from the surprise but after it began beating with courage, fire and determination as if the life from the German man's heart have transferred into hers. Hercilius nodded lightly at her in support and Via calmly turned her face towards Glaber since she knew he was waiting for translation of what her brother had just said.

"I shall see you bleed, hound, in the name of the Gods," she lied with ease staring deeply into the eyes of the man she hated most. Glaber smiled with satisfaction and began laughing again. All people in the chamber joined him once more and soon even begun applauding. Via turned towards her brother and gave him the same hard look Hercilius gave her. Then, slowly and with certainty she stepped back into her formation as a proper slave would do.

She entered her chamber and found it empty later that evening. She knew what followed. She knew it was time to explain and that all she was doing now was waiting for Gannicus to collect his mind and find her. Thus, best it was, she thought, for him to find her here, in their chamber. It was here where freedom of their love, trust and secrets was granted to them, where the world stopped when they were in each other's embrace and where fighting for all this and all theirs was simply personal.

She laid down trying to keep calm but the anger, fear and confusion turned her calmness to restlessness. She had to be calm, she commanded herself, so she could be brave to fight against her own mistakes for what she might lose. And so, determined, she got up and moved towards the one place that she knew would save her mind from coming completely undone – the shadowed spot at the entrance of the balcony that overviewed the gardens. For a moment she let herself be taken by the twisted beauty that the night gave those gardens. The only way she could describe it was as if the night has dressed those flowers, stones and sands into light dark gowns that glistered with the mysteries and wickedness that the day always managed to conceal under its greater beauty and innocence.

"So dark…" she whispered in wonder.

"Yet even the darkness carries beauty. Beauty that hides no secrets, carries no innocence and is truer than the one of the day," Via heard behind her the familiar voice of Gannicus completing her sentence as if he had just read it off her mind. She closed her eyes holding back the tears that quickly began drowning her eyes and concentrated on fighting away the fear in her heart. Nonetheless, the question of why was she afraid crept in her mind like a shadow, making her thoughts race like a whirlwind. Nonetheless, she knew why – she knew she was afraid because she had hidden from him the truth and now he knows; she had betrayed him by blinding the beast inside him, from fear that he would lose control if truth was told; she had dressed for him in fake innocence just like the day dresses these gardens each sunrise, and now these clothes are ripping under the heaviness of the black gowns.

"Once you asked me what is the greatest, deepest wound of all that although hidden from a mortal eye, still bleeds open within me," spoke Via quietly, trying to collect her thoughts and find her dignity to face him. "What is the cause of it and what stops it from breathing, closing and healing, you asked."

"And your lips demanded strength, readiness and unity before an answer," Gannicus reminded her with slight impatience in his voice.

"And so they still do," stated Via over her shoulder, turning around to finally face him. He stood a lot closer than she thought and stared at her with expectation, anger and pain. By the sight of him she felt her knees weaken and so not to fall, she began taking small steps towards him, with each feeling the pain and despair ripping inside her. "I need you now," she tried to say out loud once she stood just half and arm away from him but the words came out as a choked whisper.

"She speaks with plea of love," he spoke softly with anger as if reciting a poem, lightly touching her lips, "yet her arms keep sinking a deathly blade into my burning heart," he grabbed her hand with all of his strength and pressed it hard above his heart. His other hand, Gannicus threw around her waist and pulled her tightly against his body. "It is a wound greatest of all – smothering, wide open and never healing," he stared at her with crazed eyes. Via had no choice but to stare back at him and into his eyes. She could see the anger written all over his face but within his gaze, she saw conflict, expectation and to her deepest surprise, pure love. Suddenly, the fear was gone and determination filled her heart. Suddenly, his grip did not feel tense, rather safe. Suddenly, she knew she hadn't betrayed him, rather sought him out through the ashes of what they were before, so they could rise together.

"Arms guided not by own will but by the will of the puppeteer who had them chained," she began speaking with more certainty. "Here is the answer to your question, love – the one that we all choose to turn eye away from. Here is the answer to the question of what causes greatest wounds, like yours, love, and like mine," she pulled his hand from his chest and placed it on top of hers. "What makes us live lifeless existence, breath with breathless chests, praise the bruises upon skin and suffer secretly from the agony of wounded soul. There is but one answer to all your questions and it is "slavery".

Her heart beat fast and filled her with expectation. Gannicus stared at her in silence and she could see that he was thinking over everything she has just said. Although even once she did not mention Glaber, she knew this was the best explanation she could give. It was a moment of truth whether she was going insane with those visions and events or the Gods had actually come.

"Yet slavery is what brought you to my arms," finally whispered Gannicus confused and placed his forehead upon hers.

"No, the Gods did. Slavery only chains me away from your full and only embrace," she whispered carefully with bitterness in her voice that she even felt at the back of her throat.

"Like him," he asked knowingly.

"Like him," she confirmed turning her eyes away from him in shame. "The chains dig deeper into flesh and soul, leaving the sound of their dangling to deafen our ears to words of truth and the throbbing pain from the rusted metal to numb the tongue to dumbness."

"Then whispered you should have," debunked her Gannicus.

"I could not," she whispered. "Forgive me - words escaped me to describe. Forgive me – to show you my body trembled in fear of loss. Forgive me, I beg of you because deceived by naïve eyes, I now stand a loser."

"I seek no apologies from the wounded, the least from the one holding my heart," he began speaking softly, seeking her eyes, "yet your words sound foolish into the ears of my bleeding heart. I seek not the reason but the cause. I seek to fight not slavery but to kill the man who enslaved my heart."

"Foolish," asked Via in surprise, feeling the anger suddenly rising inside her chest. She pushed herself away from Gannicus and stepped few steps back, afraid he will see her tears, think of her as weak…and foolish: "Do you call foolish the inability to smile without a permission, to act without a command and…"

"Inability to die by the hands of the Gods," they heard the familiar voice of Nasir and turned towards the entrance of their chamber where stood he with Hercilius beside him.

Via saw Gannicus clenching his jaw in frustration and suspicion as he answered with mocking smile: "Yet this life – our lives - are but the very will of the Gods."

"And so they lead us," spoke Via to him with certainty.

"And so they kill us," added Gannicus giving her a hard look.

"And the bigger fool you stand," concluded with low, husky voice Hercilius.

No one said a word further in expectation of explanation as they stood staring at the tall man. However, the silence that choked Via was not suspenseful rather knowingly fearful. She knew Nasir would not interrupt them after such evening if it was not of importance, neither Hercilius would bluntly reveal himself. Yet most of all, she knew that there will be no words spoken of death and choice if exactly that was not the purpose of their visit.

"The Games of the Gods hold a belief that each gladiator, and gladiatrix as of this decade, is to live or die by the choice of the Gods," reminded them Hercilius with darkness to his voice. Darkness that made each word sound heavier in Via's ears pushing towards the realization that now slowly built up in her throat, further choking her and making her heart beat faster and faster.

"Thus choices have been made," reminded him flatly Gannicus staring him down.

"Ah indeed, choices," said slowly with an awe Hercilius as if he was teaching children the basics of logic. To Via, in difference, it felt as if he was pinning small needles in her heart, making her knees weak and hands trembling. She knew what he was trying to make Gannicus realize; she had had her suspicions since the first time she was called down to Glaber's privates. Nonetheless, she hoped she was wrong – a fool. "A fascinating thing it is the human brain! Even a small slip of a tongue can carry truths greater than the ones we know for certain. Moreover, even challenge those certainties."

"Truth is but a fiction fabricated of the untruthful mind to cover the stench of this shit-ridden world. Truth takes no residence in this life – our lives," spoke ever so angrily and suspiciously Gannicus.

"Ah, the fool hides wisdom, yet he still stands a fool," gave him a mocking smirk Hercilius.

"It is you who stands a fool, to place a head inside the beast's mouth," spat Gannicus.

"I seek not to provoke rather to free the beast," smiled winningly the German. "There is truth in your lives. It is one you choose to place in ignorance; it is one which uncovers the stench that you should fight against – and here is just the beginning…" his eyes turned to Via with the same victorious smile: "It has not been the Gods who claimed the lives of each one of your brothers and sisters upon this bloody arena these games. It has not been their mercy that struck their hearts cold. In fact, this all has been the fabricated fiction of the untruthful Roman mind."

Via felt the tears burning in her eyes and this time she let them fall. She was not ready to hear the truth. She was ready to say it.

"The real truth holds that each one of them has been chosen to die upon the arena by a mortal hand – the Roman hand" continued Hercilius with dark voice.

"How," asked Gannicus rhetorically, the question ringing in Via's ears and making her heart numb and heavy in her chest, while the answer lingered in the room between them, unspoken.

All of them. All her brothers and sisters – the ones that she had shared a drink and a smile with and the ones that she had just met upon the arena; all of them, including Aurelia and Varro…

All of them, she thought and she knew she had to say it out loud not for them – Gannicus or Hercilius - rather more for herself. And so, she lifted her head with certainty, fighting the numbing feeling inside her that made her hands tremble with weakness and stated:

"Poison. All of them have been poisoned."

Ahem… I hope it is okay to end this chapter here. I really hope you guys liked it as much as I hope that I will hear from you about it. Now officially we have the story rock and rolling and I am not leaving it at that. Also, I promise you that in future, if there is something going on, I will most definitely warn you about a hiatus coming! I look forward to hearing from you! For those of you who have tumblr, follow me! Have an amazing weekend!