Historical Fiction Suspense

72 BC

Thurii, Magna Grecia (near modern day Cosenza, Italy)

I remember the searing heat of the whip....the pain as it tore into my flesh.

I remember the hallowed clang of metal - as shackles clamped onto soulless bodies, as weapons slammed against each other in battle.

I remember the yells of lanistae and the screams of frenzied audiences...as we trained in the blazing sun, as we fought for the crowd's entertainment.

But I am not here to remember.

I am here to act.

His villa stands ahead of me now...the villa of a man who made me who I am. The man who is responsible for every beating...for every hour of the life I lived that was not mine.

His time is up now.

I stand here in the middle of a war...and my troops need me. Yet this task is more important than any other. This task will see me drink the sweet nectar of revenge.

I am here to right what has been done wrong.

I am here to kill.

* * * * *

There is a chill in the air today.

In the steep yet rolling, grassy yet tree-filled hills so typical of Southern Italia, looking over the sprawling, vine-filled estate, there stood a short, squat Grecian man draped in a tattered grey tunic. He shivered as the winds picked up; even with the cloudless sky, the icy cold seemed to overpower the setting sun's warm rays.

His name was Fabius; he was a servant of the estate's owner - a man who was one of Rome's most prominent figures. One of Rome's most loved figures....until one year ago.

Fabius knew that his master had still not gotten over that day.

Scanning the fields of grapevines - fields that stood in the hills above a glistening turquoise lake - Fabius felt an unexplainable disquiet. A disquiet honed over a lifetime of slavery.

Something was wrong.

Over the years, Fabius' instinct had earned him the trust of his master. It had allowed him to become something of a confidant...of a friend...even to a man who believed that his slaves were a breed below him. Other enslaved workers despised Fabius for having a connection with the man who owned him. They doubted his resilience. Yet, this was resilience, Fabius knew. He had accepted his life. He would live it.

A nearby movement made Fabius falter; he turned to the rows of creepers to find its source. Nothing...nothing but the whistling of the wind. Yet - though Fabius strained his eyes to see it - was that a shadow, a dark patch in the light of the falling sun?

Fabius could now feel fear pumping through him. The other slaves, he knew, were nowhere near here - they were hard at work tending to the crops on the other side of the lake. His master would not be out either - he would be inside the villa, attending to his extremely important guests.

"Who's there?", Fabius felt himself say.

No response.

"Come out," Fabius continued shakily. "I can see you."

No response.

For one, bliss-filled moment, Fabius believed that his aging eyes had instinct had made a mistake - that he was truly alone. Yet, the in the next moment, a chilling voice came from behind the rows of plants.

"I didn't want more one death tonight," the voice came. "Yet here you are. Asking for it."

And the figure stepped out of the shadows.

Fabius felt his heart convulse with the terror that flowed through him - it was as if his muscle seized up and became stone. The figure...this was the man that had put fear in the heart of Rome. The man who was leading a bloody revolution that, for the first time, threatened the core of the Republic. A man so powerful that no one dared speak his name...

And before he knew what was happening, Fabius hit the ground, a dagger plunged through his chest.

* * * * *

That day...I will never forget it.

At the entrance to his 15,000-square-foot, Southern Italian villa, a greying, regal man, draped in a silk toga with silver and gold embossing. This man was one of Rome's most prominent figures. One of its most loved figures. Until that day.

I will never live it down.

The man watched his guest - a tall, Black man in his sixties, wearing a kilt-like silk cloth that reached from his waist to his knees.

"Lentulus," the guest grinned, pulling the man - Lentulus Batiatus was his name - into an embrace.

"Alara," Batiatus responded.

Batiatus watched as his guest stepped inside his house's atrium, as he had done many times before. The guest - Alara was his name - was a merchant hailing from an African land called Kush. The two had done extensive business together...they had done whatever it took to succeed...

"You look pale, my brother," Alara remarked, as he lowered himself onto an embroidered silver couch. "Last year...I heard what happened."

You may know what happened, Batiatus thought, but you know nothing of what it has done to me. Before that day, my name was on track to being remembered with reverence. Now, it will be remembered with hatred.

"Perhaps I can cheer you up," Alara continued. "I have everything you asked for...everything you need. Use it well, and you will see that the people will flock back to you. You will see that your glory is restored."

"Perhaps.", Batiatus said, through he did not believe it. He managed a grin as a slave brought in two ornate glasses and a bottle of wine. Cracking the bottle open, Batiatus poured a glass for Alara, then for himself. He turned to the slave, ushering him out of the room - what he had to say next could not be overheard.

But as he looked into the slave's eyes, he froze.

A tall, muscular man, with features identifying him as a Thracian, a people who lived in the land north of Greece and up until the Danube. His face was pale...like a ghost. His eyes looked almost bloodshot red. His mouth was curled in a sneer. This man was not one of Batiatus' slaves. He had once been...but a year ago, he had taken his freedom. Now, he could be back for only one thing....

Batiatus' primal instincts finally kicked in; he launched himself out of his chair, away from the ghost-like man posing as a slave. And his mind was catapulted back...back into the day where his life had been changed forever...

The reason that Batiatus had been such a respected figure was simple. He owned a ludus - an establishment that trained and leased out gladiators. On the backs of those fighters - slaves and prisoners of war, or even volunteers looking for glory - Batiatus had become loved by the Roman people.

And then...one year ago. May.

Seventy slaves had fought their way to freedom, using kitchen implements, injuring some of his best lanistae - gladiator trainers. They had defeated Roman forces of increasingly larger numbers - increasing their own numbers along the way. Now - one year into the war - they were as large as ever. Their ranks, last Batiatus had heard, had swelled to 120,000 men, women, and children.

All led, Batiatus knew, by the ghost of a man who stood in front of him.

"It's good to see you, Batiatus," the ghost cackled, his eyes never leaving Batiatus, like a hunter stalking his prey. "Good to see the fear in your eyes before you die."

"Y-you," Batiatus managed. The fear was choking him...he had never seen such hate in a human's eyes...

The ghost reached into his tattered grey tunic, pulling out a curved dagger. It was already stained with blood.

"Stay back," Alara said, his voice shaking. "I'm warning you."

"Warning me with what?", the ghost laughed. He turned to the Kushite. "You...I recognize you. You're the one who sold me to arenas. You're the one who made me fight. Imagine...I had thought that Batiatus was only the one who would die today...."

The color drained from Alara's face.

"Wh-what do you plan to do with us?", Batiatus pleaded. "You will get no joy in seeing us die."

The ghost only grinned, and turned his head, revealing a red gash on his neck. A scar from a whip.

"One of many," the ghost said. "So you will understand when I say that, in fact, I will take great pleasure in seeing your bodies at my feet."

And with that, the hulking Thracian sprung forward, raising his dagger into the air. Batiatus let out a yell; staggering away, crashing to the ground as the Thracian swept his foot under his legs. Lying on the floor, Batiatus rolled onto his back, looking up at the ghost above him. Looking up at what he knew would be the last eyes he ever say. Eyes that carried so much hate...

"Your time is up, Lentulus Batiatus. Goodbye."

* * * * *

Only seconds earlier, the Kushite merchant Alara had watched in horror as the hulking Thracian warrior stood over his friend, dagger in hand, preparing to take a life. His gaze had risen upwards, as his thoughts had shifted to prayer.

Apedemak, save us.

In truth, Alara knew, help was possibly on its way. He had only needed a way to stall.

As his eyes had shifted to the ceiling, he had found it.

* * * * *

Batiatus felt more fear than he had ever felt before...he wished for his heart to stop, for his life to end before the dagger touched his chest. But as he looked up at his attacker, he noticed fear in the ghost's eyes. The Thracian was now looking upwards - looking at the glass-filled chandelier falling onto him.

Batiatus rolled out of the way as the chandelier crashed into its target, knocking the Thracian ghost onto the ground. Glass shards flew everywhere, cutting Batiatus in several places. Yet the Thracian took the brunt of the impact - as he stood up, his tunic ran red.

"I'll kill you for this," the ghost snarled, turning to Alara. Yet, as the Thracian staggered forward, the entrance to the villa was flung open. Several figures, armed with bows, filed into the atrium.

"My bodyguards," Alara explained, as the figures moved into the room and aimed their bows at the Thracian. Batiatus felt the fear slowly leaving him now...they were safe...

The Thracian ghost now looked around the room, searing for an exit. In a flash, he jumped behind a sofa for cover, avoiding several whizzing arrows. With another leap, he reached a nearby window, shattering the glass and escaping into the night. Batiatus breathed a sigh of relief, turning to Alara. The Kushite looked back at him.

"You know what to do," Alara said.

Batiatus nodded. He turned to address his friend's bodyguards - who snapped quickly to attention. He motioned to the fleeing figure of the ghost, who ran through the darkening sky. The words Batiatus spoke were quick, succinct - yet he took great pleasure in them.

"Kill him."

* * * * *

I remember every success...and every failure.

I sprint through the night, the cool air whipping around me. I look over my shoulders, watching the bow-wielding figures file after me. They will not catch me - even with the glass piercing my skin, I am too fast.

Strangely, I feel no sadness at my loss. I put fear in the heart of the man who destroyed me. I can come back for him later. Now, I have larger battles to fight.

After all, I have a war to win.

I have 120,000 soldiers to liberate. I have an empire to humiliate. An empire that enslaved me...that enslaved so many others.

I feel no sorrow. After all, Batiatus' name will soon be forgotten. But my name...my name will live on throughout the ages. My name will always be remembered.

My name is Spartacus.

April 09, 2022 03:54

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