He learned how to please the Dominus, in many ways.He learned how to dress Marcus and how to help serve his meals.He and Lucius worked well together, the Dominus showing a preference for them more and more.Koen was also very aware now, thanks to Lucius of how Gracchus felt.Lucius had overheard him on drunken night cursing the gods for sending Koen.There was nothing he could do but try not to upset the man.He tried but the very presence of Koen seemed to upset Gracchus and avoiding him was impossible as he became more popular with the Dominus.
Every Friday Koen and his fellow slaves would watch the punishment of any transgressors.It was noticeable that when Gracchus was in charge of the whip he would be harder on the itinerant slaves, they would be beaten till they bled, the few times Koen missed the display they were treated less harshly.
It was April and flowers were blooming all over the Gardens.Koen had been summoned to the presence of the Dominus.As a trusted body servant he now moved through the villa unescorted.
"You sent for me Dominus," bowing before the man he knew controlled every aspect of him.
"Koen, you will accompany me to market today, Lucius has other tasks I wish completed."
He hadn't been past the villa gates since his purchase.He knew what a great honour this was and bowed to Marcus before leaving to get ready.
He knew all that was required was for him to follow along and carry any small goods purchased back.He forgot it also meant spending the day with Gracchus.
Marcus was happy with how Koen was turning out; he was talented in many ways.The fact that he and Lucius got on so well was also a bonus for Marcus.The few times he had them use each other had been enjoyable for all.
He had planned to purchase more slaves today. As they moved slowly, through the crowds he watched Koen.He was always impressed by the Gauls body, but as they moved closer to the Slave market he could see the tension build in the way he moved.
Koen realized where they were almost immediately. He would never forget the smell of the slave pens.There was the smell of misery, death and desperation, his tension rose the closer they got.The smells brought back the memories of his time there, he remebered the treatment of his family and their sale.
They were finally in front of the slave sellers and the days before his sale came flooding back, the whippings, the shouting, the beatings.He was looking around and his eyes made contact with a smallish man, he recognised him immediately it was the man that Marcus had beat in bidding for him.The man paid no attention to him and kept on surveying the slaves.
Marcus turned to him and spoke.
"Koen these slaves are from your homeland tell me the ones you think would do well on my farm."
Koen, taken aback at first surveyed the mixed bag of slave noting the ones he thought suitable.He had heard the whispered talk as he followed Marcus through the pens. There was fear in many of the voices, fear of their unknown fates, .Koen noticed a pen which held a group of men all large all muscular, much as he was when captured.
The talk in the pen was of what fate awaited the brothers, yes they were brothers.Koen’s mind flashed back to what had happened to his family, most of his uncles and cousins sold to the mines and a terrible fate.
The mine owner appeared to peer leeringly at the brothers; Koen knew the fate that would befall them if they were sold to the little man.
He decided he would talk to Marcus, these slaves had to survive.
Finding Marcus in the throng proved easier than expected he immediately moved to talk to him.
"Dominus I have found a group of suitable slaves for you.There are five all fit and strong."
With this Koen headed through the crowds to the pen, immediately he knew these were suitable slaves for him.
"You chose well Koen; let us go purchase these five, then head home through the food market."
They joined the masses waiting for the auctions to start; the pens were emptied one at a time most of the occupants were too young or to frail.Few were bought by anyone of worth.Then the auctioneer brought out the first brother. Possibly the youngest, given his underdeveloped physique.Bidding started and soon it was obvious to the crowds that only Lucius, the mine owner and Marcus were bidding for these men.
Marcus knew one thing , Lucius rarely spent more the 40 Denarrii per slave.He had estimated there worth to him as more, so raised a hand to bid.
"280 Denarri for all in the pen along with that one."
The gasps from the crowd told him he had done the right thing.
Suddenly there was a cry.
"You go too far Braxus, I wish to bid on them."
Marcus waved a hand indicating for Lucius to go ahead.
Around them the crowd were silent, they enjoyed the sales but this one was going to be talked about for years.
"300 Denarrii, for the lot."
The auctioneer locked expectantly at Marcus.
Koen noticed Lucius colour, then turn to his slave, no he was no slave this one was all warrior.He watched as the man nodded noticing the tensing of his neck muscles as he did.He sense trouble coming.
The venom in Lucius's voice was clear to all.The crowd started to sense he was going to make these slaves pay for ever Denarii, if he won.
The auctioneer looked to Marcus.
"Sir do you wish to continue the bidding?"
All eyes were now on Marcus all except Koen's he had seen the bodyguard move into the crowd towards the pens.
"I tire of this Lucius.400 Denarrii and I will pay you as soon as sale is completed."
The crowd were aghast no master would pay that sort of money for a slave.
Lucius roared in anger, vitriol flew off his tongue; the crowd carried and buoyed on the sale started laughing at his poor sportsmanship.The auctioneer knew immediately the sale was over. He shouted over the crowd.
"Sold to Marcus the generous." said the smirking man
The market erupted the locals cheering and shouting, Lucius cursing, and the auctioneer thanking Marcus profusely.
As the crowds started to leave a new sound was heard, there were cries for help.
It was only then that Marcus noticed Koen was nowhere to be seen.
"Fetch a Medicus, he is bleeding."The next cry that was heard, the auctioneer and his men were headed towards it.Marcus deciding it prudent followed them.
The scene they came upon was one of chaos and devastation.Burst grain bags and broken barrels lay all around.Blood lay everywhere, too much blood it seemed, Marcus knew this was more than one man’s blood.Immediately he thought of Koen, what had happened?
Then he saw him, lying against a pile of grain sacks.By him knelt a woman, her hand held over his chest his body covered in blood.Marcus, thanks to his time in the military, moved straight to him, he could see cuts on his arms and leg.He knelt by his slave gently moving the hand of the woman aside.
He saw the wound, why could such a small wound create so much blood.
"Love, can you hear me, speak to me.Oh Jupiter let him live, here me pray.Why know? Why him? I have only realised how I feel for him.How much I love him."
The body below his hands cool to touch, unmoving.Marcus knew he was dead, knew as a soldier, he was gone to the Elysian Fields.He wept, wept with all his heart.
He felt a hand on him with a start he realised he had been day dreaming again.Thoughts of Marcellus's death during the Battle of Baetis River.He was cold; the cold of fear and loss, the memories had invoked cold sweats.
He shivered as he tried regaining his composure.
He leant in, to see life in Koen's eyes, the wound that triggered the dream only a flesh one.Relieved he relaxed a little still feeling the cold sweat running down his back.This was one loved one that still lived.He stopped at the thought, loved one could he really be in love, yes he lusted, Koen was all he dreamed of but love.His thoughts on Koen he became aware of being watched, Koen's eyes watching him as if aware of his thoughts.
"Koen, what happened?Why did you leave?"
He saw worry in Koen's eyes,
"Dominus, are the slaves ok?
"What, why do you ask?"
"Lucius, he sent his man off on a task when you were bidding.I sensed trouble, so followed.I know I should not have been doing so, but found his man paying two unworthy souls to kill the slaves if you won.One of them is over by the pig barn.The other stabbed me and ran."
This last was heard by the auctioneer himself who had arrived.
"Sir your slaves are safe, my men guard them, the younger one now in the pen with the others.I will send a runner to your villa.The Medicus is on his way and will be here in moments."
Marcus could only look on, as the Auctioneer and his men worked to secure the area and restore order.
"Thank you Publius you do me a great service.Be sure I will reward you for your help."
The auctioneer was shocked at the offer and the use of his first name; he liked this man, Marcus Braxus.
"Dominus, I cannot accept any reward.This should never have happened; all my men were watching the auction.Had they not your slave would not have been harmed.Your generosity already has seen me handsomely paid."
Marcus nodded thanks and returned to Koen.His worry some what abated.He listened to what was said around him.One of the auctioneer’s men was reporting.
"Master we found a body behind the pens as said.His neck was broken.Another was found his throat slit.Both were local scum."
Marcus felt pride well within him, he had picked well, Koen had acted on instinct and defended his property.
"Koen, you did well the slaves are safe, both trouble makers are dead at least one by your bare hands.The Medicus will be here soon and once he is finished we will see you back to the villa."
Koen lay back eyes closed as his Dominus checked the wound.His touch gentle, virtually unfelt.He was aware off external noises now. They seemed like quiet voices. He had drifted a little slipping into the land of dream when he felt a hand touch him.Firm but not that of Marcus, he opened his eyes to look into that of an elderly Medicus.
He saw Marcus standing a little way off talking to Gracchus, the discussion looked heated but the voices hushed Gracchus gesturing at towards him a look of anger on his face.
Marcus held up a hand and spoke, Gracchus nodded then stormed off, his anger evident.
Watching Gracchus leave Marcus knew he would have to go something with him, occupy him somehow.He knew he had issues with aggression. A very useful trait in a warrior. He would think on the problem but first he had to see to Koen.
Turning he met his eyes met Koen's and his heart jumped, he knew the feeling all too well.He had felt it many times on the battlefield, the feeling of relief that a loved one had survived another day.
He moved towards Koen, the eyes drawing him close, as a slave Koen should have cast his eyes down but Marcus was glad this once he didn't.Koen's eye showed life, they sparkled like the fountain waters at his villa on a summers day.The blue of them the blue of the ocean at Capri.
Why had he fallen for this man, he had vowed, after Marcellus's death to never love again.
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