The memories of childhood are different for everyone. Where some have the happy memories that force their lips upwards in a smile whenever their thoughts wondered on to them, others tried their hardest to forget. Although either could bring a person pain or happiness people justified their life experiences as the events that helped shape them as a person. Of course if anyone were to make such a statement those around them would agree often think the same about themselves. The building of a human being was quite often a fascinating subject and to delve into the mind if one who had experienced so much certainly seemed like the best way to learn.
Alexandria was fascinated with the experiences of those around her. She had once sat for hours talking to a local tradesman about his battle through life and how many times it had tried to knock him down before he proved to be unmovable and continuously proved that he would outsmart anything thrown at him. Oh how she had laughed and cried at the many stories he could tell. Yet the question begs, why is she so interested in the life of others?
Alexandria did not have any of her own memories to share with the world. It wasn't as though something horrific had happened to her so she had suppressed her life experiences and locked them away, never again to be spoken of. No, it was more that her life had been rather sheltered so her memories were full of watching other children from her confinement in her room. It was something she would never fully understand but losing a mother at such a young age had caused her father to grown over-protective. He tried everything he could to keep her out of danger and therefore sheltered her a lot more than what was required. She never did ask about how her mother had come to pass because she saw the deep set sorrow in the eyes of her father, even to this day and she was the kind of person who did not want to cause pain for anyone and so she continued to fight an internal battle from the lack of closure within her life.
Now Alexandria's father was someone of status and importance within the city, a man who many would bow for if he so requested. Being the Senator's daughter was proving to be more difficult than being her father's daughter. Now he ensured that she was not left alone at any point in the day when she was not within his presence. She constantly had guards following her around for her protection.
"There are cruel people within this world Alexandria and I will not allow any one of them to take you from me." His justifications were irrational but she never wanted to displease her father so it was not an issue that they often debated.
It was perhaps because of her own sheltered experience that she enjoyed watching the fights. Her senses were always heightened when she watched the men take part in a battle to fight for their lives and in some way it made her realise how boring her life had been. Those who were the happiest from her experience were those who had faced some element of danger at some point within their lives. For weeks she had been attending the same arena to watch a slave whose reputation at spread across the city. They said that he was unstoppable and every single fight was as though he was fighting for his freedom. Although she had grown a distaste for the treatment of slaves she had grown fascinated with what motivated this particular man to fight in the way he did.
Alexandria had approached her father one morning before they were about to leave for the arena. Today her father was looking to make a purchase. She had heard rumours among their staff that he was looking to build the ultimate collection of Gladiators. The idea sounded pathetic to her, perhaps it was yet another attempt to throw up a wall of protection around himself and his only daughter which seemed to make sense. No one would mess with them once he had his own army of warriors trained in the most gritty if arenas where violence and death were he only thing they knew. Alexandria did not approach him in an attempt to convince him that what he was doing was foolish but she needed to highlight the one slave that would make his collection of men that more appealing.
"Father we have been going to the arena for several weeks and I couldn't help but notice that there was one particular fighter out there who stood out. You know as well as I do that if you offer Quintus the right place he will not refuse the sale if any of his men." The conversation she had last a longer while than many of the conversations they had in the past. Perhaps it was because she was talking to him about something that made sense to him and finally she was making a suggestion about how they could better he protection and power around them. He did not need to know that she had made he request for selfish reasons. She was merely fascinated by the man and no longer wanted to merely be an observer.
It didn't take long for her father to agree that they would be making a purchase once they arrived at the arena and he ordered his daughter to make herself ready to be leaving their home. Today she would be by his side and not surrounded three men with muscles that scared off even the slightest gaze from the civilians.
Alexandria felt her first buzz of excitement. Finally something exciting and new was about to happen and she would finally gaze upon the man she had been observing from afar. She allowed her hair to flow freely and picked out a dress that would suit the conditions of the sky. Within an hour they found themselves within the hospitality of the slave master and her father was about to do some business. Luckily she remembered the name which she often heard chanted by the crowd and her father requested outright to inspect the young slave Marcus.
When they approached him she tried her hardest not to stare at him. His physique and the way he held himself intrigued her. She wasn't able to talk during this kind of transaction but she would allow her eyes to wonder for a moment until they met with his. Alexandria instantly pulled her gaze from his while Quintus and her father discussed business and she felt a great deal of satisfaction when she saw Quintus take the hand of her father and shook it, sealing which ever deal they just made.
A fire was raging somewhere and children were crying in the pitch dark night. A boy, no older than ten, ran through the mayhem, trying to find his sister. He knew his parents were gone. Saw it with his own eyes. But his younger sister, she was somewhere out there. And it was up to him to save her. The determination drove him and it did not falter. Not even after he was almost trampled by the horses or when a Roman almost had his head.
It seemed to take all night, just to get to the other side of the camp. He called her name, desperate. Then heard her call back. He found her, just a six year old girl huddled beside a wooden cart, trying to avoid the worst of the fight. He took her hand and led her away into the woods. He tried to hush her crying, or they’d be caught. And in the end, they were. And separated. Never to see each other again. But it wouldn’t matter either way, because in the struggle the boy hit his head and all memories were lost to him…
He was known as Marcus. Whether that was his given name or one Quintus gave him when he took him in as a child, he was never quite sure. All he knew was that his master wanted him to live up to the name. Some days, before difficult fights, Quintus would take Marcus aside and ask him what his name was. As if he didn't know.
"Marcus," he would reply in his low, dull tone. It was never good enough the first time around.
"I said what's your [i name], slave!?"
"Marcus!" he would have to answer, louder than before.
"And what does that name mean?"
"Are you going to live up to that name in the arena?"
Always yes. It was what he was trained for. It was how he grew up. And this day was no different. He stepped into the arena to face five other men. They were all dead within ten minutes, then he was walking back through the gate, hearing the crowd chant his name as if he were some god and not a slave.
"Why the long face?" Cato asked him in his gruff voice as he came marching back inside.
"Nothing," Marcus replied, as dull as ever, pushing his dark curls away from his face.
Cato followed him into the armory, a low rumble of laughter making his ebony chest rise and fall. "She wasn't there today, was she?" Marcus put away his bloody blade and turned to his friend. He had never told Cato about the woman that haunted his dreams and memories. But Cato knew everything. He let out another laugh, shaking his head. "Marcus, Marcus, Marcus. When will you learn?"
"I've learned plenty," Marcus answered, defensive.
That night he dreamed of her. It was more vivid than usual. Most times, his dreams would obscure her face, or she was never looking at him directly. This night, she was focused only on him a void where nothing else existed, her hand on the side of his face. He woke up feeling foolish. Like a child with a crush. He would have to let her go. It's not as if he would ever see her again anyway.
If there was anything Marcus knew to be true, though, it was that fate had a funny way of stepping in, just when he was about to give up on something…
That morning, Marcus confronted his master. “Quintus,” he called from across the yard. The man turned at hearing his name so informal from the lips of a slave. “As a child you told me I could earn my freedom if I fought well enough.”
“You wouldn’t have fought if I hadn’t told you that,” Quintus said, a small smile on his lips as he adjusted his robes.
“So it was all lies.”
“Not all of it,” his master replied, sounding hurt at the notion.
“So you’re still planning on telling me of my family?” Marcus asked, his eyes wider, hope holding his lungs for ransom.
“I will. In time.”
“How [i much] time. I have fought for you for too long without any kind of payment, and I nee-“ Marcus was cut off by Quintus’s right hand. The slap left him looking at the dirt on his boots.”
“You are a [i slave]. I don’t owe you anything! Your freedom or your lost memories.”
Marcus stood there for a long while even after Quintus was gone. He didn’t see him again until he returned to take bets on his men. Marcus and the rest were locked up in their cells under the arena.
“Is it just me or is Quintus getting fowler with every year?” Marcus asked Cato when the cell door was locked. He leaned against the bars and looked out at the bidders.
Cato only laughed. “Wouldn’t think it was possible with all those perfumes he wears. He gets to bathe in the baths and fountains and we get to wear the dirt of last week on our faces.”
Marcus scratched his chin as if the simple reminder made him itch.
He stopped when he looked up and mumbled something under his breath, his heart hammering.
“What is it now?” Cato asked, coming closer.
“It’s her. She’s the one I saw,” Marcus whispered. His eyes took in her hair draped about her shoulders, her dress that hung loosely from her hips.
“You’re sure?” Marcus nodded slowly, distracted. “Why are you so in love with a woman you don’t even know?”
“I’m not,” Marcus said, frowning and turning towards him. “I just… I don’t know, it’s the idea of her. She’s freedom.”
Cato rolled his eyes. “For a guy that kills for a living, you can be annoyingly poetic.”
Marcus turned back towards the gate, noticing the man for the first time. Her father. He was bidding. He was dressed in senators robes, so Marcus knew he had a lot of money to spend. He was hardly surprised when Quintus gestured over to his cell.
“Marcus is my best,” he heard him saying, then began to lead the senator over. His daughter followed closely, looking out of place in the world of men.
“Marcus is strong, but not heavy on his feet. So he’s fast. Good with any weapon you give him,” Quintus was saying as if Marcus wasn’t standing right there. “I’m sure you’ve heard people speak of his victories.”
Marcus stood up straight and looked past the senator, into nothing, as they were trained to do while being inspected. You could be punished for looking anyone in the eye that didn’t like it. But he couldn’t help himself as his eyes drifted back to the young woman at her father’s side…