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Yanni chuckled and handed me one of the lit candles. I smiled, and passed him the knife. Valerius was focused on the candle as I moved toward him. I held it in front of his face and he tried to blow it out. I jerked the candle away from him, but no air came out of his mouth. The flame flickered from the motion, nothing else. He had forgotten to breathe.
When it was done, I took out the knife and nicked his throat. I was surprised when it didn’t wake him. I ran my finger over the blood and lifted it to my mouth.
“Stop!” Yanni yelled, urgently. “Do not taste his blood, Antonius You do not wish to give him control over you.”
I stood there, my finger dripping with Valerius’ blood, and stared at Yanni. “What are you talking about?” I said.
I banged open the door. It smashed into one of the servanti who had been standing just inside. He needed to work on his reflexes. He was stunned, so I left him for Yanni and moved into the room toward the next servanti.
I hit him, hard, across the jaw. He blinked and stumbled backwards. “Why?” he asked inanely. Then he did something, and suddenly there was this odd light around him. It made him look like he was glowing. It made it harder to make out his face. That didn’t matter. I knew where his head was and hit him again.
“So, what do you we now, hmm?” said Yanni in his jolly voice when he and Nikolaos finally returned. “Sitting around in a cart, waiting, is not the most enjoyable of evenings, non?”
“No, it is not,” I said. “I should like to find those Romans who gave us trouble, and pound their heads in.”
Yanni nodded. “I heard a little of that. Those Romans were out canvassing the streets for word of Signuri Decentius. I do not think they knew his name, though, and none seemed to be worried about you.”
I grunted. “Their mistake.”
While Decentius and Agapios sat inside talking in vague riddles to plan our futures, I was stuck outside with the cart, Nikolaos and Yanni.
“Shall we move the merchandise over, then?” Yanni asked as soon as we stepped outside.
I rolled my eyes. It was bad enough being stuck out here where there was nothing interesting going on without having to do manual labour. Worse yet would be all the friendly banter I’d be forced to engage in. “Fine,” I said. “Let’s get it done with.”
The box was cramped and unyielding, when I awoke to the sound of Antonius’ growling. I could smell fresh blood, and it didn’t smell like Antonius.
I smashed the lid of my box. There was a yelp as it rose then, free of the driver’s weight, it swung open. Starlight and night air washed over me as I sprang from the cage. My head swung toward the noise and the scent of blood.
I stood at Yanni and Matthias’ wagon before they left the next morning. Yanni had written a complete list of goods and prices for Decentius; at least I presumed that was what it was. I was starting to get sick of all these missives I couldn’t decipher.
Before Yanni left, he slapped me on the back. I think he expected it to startle me, but I scarcely moved. “You and I, Antonius,” he whispered in my ear, “we are of a kind. If ever you need my help, you let me know.” I grunted something, scarcely inclined to offer assistance, servanti or not.
I held open the door for Cloelie, my eyes squinting against the light. I knew she would be loathe to leave it behind, but it was as though its rays scorched my skin. “Cloelie,” I ventured, once we had gained the hall, “would you please dampen the light?”
Cloelie started, then dropped a second layer over the lid of her lamp. “So sorry, Dio. I forgot.” Her head hung as she shuffled along.
With a stride I reached her side and lifted her head. “Do not hang your head so, my girl. I shall be deprived the sight of your pretty eyes.” She blushed and giggled, but walked on with her head high.
I walked down the stairs; no one was at the bottom, so I advanced on the kitchen. When I strode through the door, there they were. Benedetta and the kitchen slaves were standing between me and Euphemia. Euphemia grinned, arms crossed in front of her.
“Put the chest down!” Benedetta demanded. She had replaced her wooden spoon with a carving knife. She held the knife steady, aimed at my heart.
The burly adornment looked down his sculpted nose at me, aware, by my appearance, that there was Sicel blood in my veins, not just Greek. I stared back. The constant derision of those just like him, who were only mere slaves themselves, was why I had run to Leontinoi. I was not upset by my capture there, for it had led to this new improved Antonius. And this new improved Antonius would tear the head off the slave now looking down his nose at me, shortly.