Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.
Bad language ~ Nothing I deem bad, but...let's say yes, scattered here and there.
Love/sex ~ Ongoing relationships between women. Love scenes between m/f & f/f. If none of this is your cup of tea or it offends you, you're in the wrong place.
Violence ~ Loads! The warriors are at war so....
Bedilia frowned as she marched towards the command tent. She had been ordered back from the front line and couldn't for the life of her figure out why. Deep down, not to be mentioned, she knew it had to be bad news. There was no other reason she would be called back.
The tall warrior walked into the command tent. "You wanted to see me, Brutus?"
"I did. I am searching for Rayna and in all honesty, I thought she would be with you. Have you seen her?" the dark-haired man asked.
"I haven't, no. I lost track of her and Keera and haven't seen either for awhile."
Brutus swallowed hard. "Uhm...Keera is here, Bedilia."
"Taking a breather?" the dark-haired girl smiled.
"No," Brutus shook his head. "She...she was brought back hurt."
Bedilia turned and rushed out of the tent, hurrying over to the hospice. Inside, she looked along the lines of injured, seeking out her friend. "Keera Shepherd, where is she?" she asked, stopping a woman by grasping her arm..
"I...I don't know. What...what does she look like?" the panicked woman stammered.
"Bedilia?" a familiar voice called out.
The warrior looked in the voice's direction, seeing a redhead she had gotten to know back in Cornelius' village. "Gayle," Bedilia said in relief, glad to see someone she knew. "I am searching for Keera. I was told she was hurt."
The redhead walked over and took the warrior's hand. "She did. It's...not good, Bedilia. Leonora brought her back and told us she was hit in the head, then hit her head again when she fell."
"But...she will be alright? Won't she?"
The dark-haired girl's voice was child-like and Gayle felt her heart ache for the warrior. "We don't know. She's unconscious and has so far shown no signs of waking." Gayle led Bedilia over to a supine brunette laying still on a cot.
"Gods!" Bedilia muttered, not believing the small woman in front of her was her friend. "She has a wife! She is to be a mother!" Emotional grey eyes turned to the redhead. "She will get better? She has to!"
Gayle offered a small smile and rubbed the warrior's broad back. "We shall pray for a recovery, Bedilia. You warriors are tough, I have faith she will wake up."
* * * * *
Two Romans dragged a kicking and struggling Rayna into a large tent and hastily chained her to a sturdy wooden post that was driven into the ground. Brock was dragged in next and chained opposite the young warrior, his lips split, blood dribbling down his chin and neck. Dagwood soon followed, unconscious and limp in the arms of the three men it took to drag him. Then Gia Cartman, looking scared and worried. Their weapons and armour had been stripped away immediately, leaving them in just trousers and shirts.
Rayna snarled and swore at the Roman soldiers every time they stepped into the tent, while Brock spit at the ground as they passed by. The young warrior was more angry at herself in truth. They had been lured into a trap and were now prisoners, their fate unknown. "Damn it to Hades!" Rayna growled, once the Roman soldiers left again. "Brock, what have you heard of Roman prisoners?"
The blonde-haired man sighed. "Nothing good, Rayna. Whippings, women getting raped, branding, breaking of joints or bones, branding the forehead with letters, crucifixion, burnt alive in a cloak soaked in pitch, thrown to wild beasts at circuses. Then there is the slavery or becoming a gladiator back in Rome."
Rayna sighed and tried to think back to how it had all gone so wrong. She had been fighting the Principes, that she remembered. The Hastati had been taken care of and when the fire they had started was put out, the villagers joined their fight and helped to drive the Principes back. That is where I went wrong, the young warrior thought. Seeing that the Romans had plans to retreat again, she had decided that she was tired of this tactic, even if it did give her people a breather. Sensing an end to the battle, she had charged after them, Brock by her side, the pair of them followed by a few others. The Triarii had been hiding and once Rayna and her small group caught up with the Principes, the Triarii had closed off their escape route and taken them prisoner. Massively outnumbered, Rayna had seen sense and dropped her weapons. Some hadn't been so wise and were killed. "What are our chances of escape?"
They fell silent as Lane Inman, younger sister of Sherry was dragged in, bleeding and unconscious. The young warrior looked dead but she was still chained to a post.
"What do you think of our fates?" Rayna asked, once they were left alone again.
Brock snorted. "I think we are doomed to suffer. We have been fighting them for moons, taking many Roman lives!"
Over the next couple of candle marks two men, Bentley Mason and Harrington Green, from the villages that had joined the fight, and another warrior, Emmanuelle, were brought in and chained to a post. Rayna was grateful Keera and Bedilia weren't there, nor her brother Brutus. She was worried about her fate, but it would have been much worse if her friends and family had been there also. She thought about Arcadia. Her love was with child. But there was nothing she could do now, she just had to wait and see and pray that things worked out.
* * * * *
After spending a few candle marks seated next to her unconscious friend, Bedilia reluctantly left the hospice in search of Brutus. In all her time seated next to Keera, Rayna hadn't turned up. Bedilia was worried and wanted to know if Brutus had found his sibling.
Searching the command tent and the food tent and finding no sign of the raven-haired man, Bedilia made her way over to the supplies tent. What she found shocked her to the core and she knew there would be no good news for her. Brutus was seated on a stack of boxes, sobbing. "Brutus?" she called out quietly.
Teary blue eyes turned her way, the big man's shoulders shaking with each sob. "I have done this too much lately!" he choked out.
"What...what is it? Rayna, is she...she is alright?" Bedilia asked in fear. Rayna couldn't be gone, she could handle anything but that. Keera was already hurt and unconscious, she just couldn't handle her other dearest friend being hurt or worse.
"I...I asked around. I asked everyone I came across. Rayna hasn't been seen since this morn." Brutus rubbed a hand across his bearded face. "Neither has Brock or Gia. I have asked for a head count, I fear...I fear the Romans may have them!" His shoulders shook again.
Bedilia gasped for breath. No! No, this cannot be! They cannot have Rayna! They...they....Oh, Gods above! Her world spinning, the warrior walked outside the supplies tent and threw up. Please no. I can't lose them both!
"Bedilia?" Gayle called out, standing just outside the hospice. She hurried across the camp and slid an arm around the trembling warrior. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"I...Keera and...Rayna...both....I can't breath!"
"Okay, okay, shh. It's going to be all right." Not sure what was going on, the redhead led the upset warrior over to the forest, sure that the girl would want some privacy. She eased Bedilia back against a tree and held onto both of her arms. "Take a couple of deep breaths," she instructed.
Bedilia looked down into what she knew to be green eyes and followed the girl's advice, the world stopping its crazy spin. Slowly she nodded, feeling a little better. "Thank you," she said quietly, feeling foolish.
"It's alright. I guess you've had quite a day, hmm?"
Bedilia nodded. "Definitely not one of my better ones!"
Gayle stroked the dark-haired girl's strong arms. "What happened, Bedilia? I know you were upset over Keera's injury, but you seemed okay when you left the tent?"
"I....It was...some news I got." The warrior rubbed her eyes wearily. "This afternoon I was summoned back to camp by Brutus Banks. He was looking for his sister. When he told me of Keera being hurt I hurried over to see her. When I left the hospice, I went looking for Brutus. He...he told me..." Her chest felt tight again and she placed her hands on the redhead's shoulders for balance. "Rayna is missing. He fears she has been taken prisoner!"
Gayle started to sit, taking Bedilia down with her. "You poor thing! That is quite a shock to the system, I'm sure." She pulled the warrior into her arms, hugging her in comfort. "But you shouldn't worry too much, Bedilia. Perhaps she is just still out on the battlefield and hasn't made her way back."
Bedilia shook her head. "She hasn't been seen all day. Neither...neither has Brock or Gia."
Gayle hugged the trembling warrior tighter, knowing words were pointless. All she could do was offer her support.
* * * * *
As night fell, a couple of soldiers came in for Brock, dragging the big man forcibly out of the tent, ignoring his snarls, swearing and threats, and those of the other prisoners.
"What are they doing? What are they going to do?" Emmanuelle, one of the warriors, asked in a panic.
"I don't know," Rayna replied.
"They'll be questioning him," Dagwood said in a gruff voice. "Trying to find out our tactics and plans and other such things. They assume he is in charge."
"Will they...hurt him?" Gia asked quietly.
Dagwood laughed coldly. "You can bet on it."
* * * * *
Rayna was taken from the tent next and dragged kicking and screaming towards another large tent on the other side of the Roman camp. She was enraged and wasn't going to be peaceful or helpful. She was going to give them hell.
Brock had been gone a long time. They had heard screams of pain and angry words being shouted from him and knew he was being tortured for information he would never give up. He had been brought back to the tent battered, bruised and naked. One eye was deep black and swollen shut, blood from a cut by the side of his other eye and from his split lips trailed freely down his face. His sides had boot prints on them, angry red marks and purple bruises covering his unconscious form.
Thrown inside the tent she had been dragged to, Rayna jumped to her feet and snarled at the big man she saw standing in the middle smiling arrogantly. She launched herself at him.
His eyes wide in fear, he managed to call for his guards just before the young warrior got her hands wrapped around his thick throat.
She throttled him, even as the guards dashed into the tent and attempted to drag her off of the man. She squeezed tightly, sneering at him as the guards started punching and kicking her, desperate to loosen her hold. Shrieking in pain as her ribs were kicked by a large foot, Rayna let go of the man, who ordered something in Latin. Hauled to her feet, the warrior was dragged back outside to a wooden cross that was standing in the middle of the camp. She was tied to it, her back to the man she had attacked.
Turning her head to the side, Rayna watched from the corner of her eye as the other prisoners were brought out and stood in a line shackled together.
"You!" Dagwood roared, getting everybody's attention. "How could you betray us like this!"
Rayna strained to see who he was talking to, confused and eager to know what was going on.
"I have my reasons, Dagwood. The main being that I think Belleza needs a new Royal family, a new regime."
"Your family, I suppose," the dark-haired man growled. "You make me sick, Sheehan! I will not die until I see that you get a suitable punishment!"
Egbert laughed in amusement. "I very much doubt that, Dagwood. If you ever get free, it will be too late. The Royal family will be destroyed, either killed or taken prisoner and my family will be in their place, ruling comfortably."
Egbert Sheehan? Relation of Tamara, the Queen's adviser? Rayna started fighting with the restraints that held her. I will never let that happen! The Sheehans in control! Ruling over us with their twisted ways! Does Lexie know of all this? Is that why she has been trying to court Arcadia?
The balding brunette approached the struggling warrior. "Ah yes, Rayna Banks, the Princess' betrothed. Don't worry, no harm will come to the Princess. She will be given a choice, join with Lexie and supply suitable heirs or rot in a cell. Which do you think she will choose when she finds out her true love has been killed?"
"You'll never find out, for I swear to you I will hunt you down and make you wish for death!" Rayna roared.
As the post rocked suddenly, his eyes went wide and he stepped back hastily.
A big Roman, who seemed to be in charge, stepped forward and cracked the warrior across the shoulder with a thick wooden baton. "You are all prisoners of Rome," the big built man said in their language, turning to face the line of prisoners. "You will give us the information we seek, or you will be punished. This...girl foolishly attacked me and must now pay the price." He approached the prisoners, attempting not to rub his sore neck where Rayna had throttled him and left marks. He paced along the line of prisoners, seeing the hatred in their eyes. "You will watch as she is whipped until I see fit to stop." He smirked as they all tensed, and turned away to watch the punishment being dealt out as they strained against their chains.
Rayna told herself not to make a sound, she was determined not to give him the satisfaction. It began. She clenched her jaw tightly as the whip bit into her the first time, tearing away a strip of her shirt as well as skin from her back. The bleeding wound was quickly joined by another that criss-crossed it, the cuts stinging and burning. By the fifth, the man with the whip was furious she hadn't made a sound. He paused to order salted water be thrown over her bleeding wounds, and when that still got no sound from her, his strikes became harder, more vicious, more frequent.
The prisoners watched, cringing with each lash, seeing the blood that trailed down Rayna's back and the deep angry red marks that were left behind. They were amazed she hadn't uttered a sound, respecting her more than ever as she showed defiance. By the fifteenth strike, her back was a mess, her legs looking wobbly, refusing to hold her up for much more.
Still the man continued. "You will beg me to stop!" he screamed, hitting her twice in quick succession, determined to make her cry out at least.
At the twentieth strike, a loud voice bellowed out for the man to stop. Everyone except Rayna, who was near unconsciousness, watched as a handsome, dark-haired man strode towards the shaking, hurt warrior. He freed her from the cross and lifted her into his arms. "Fetch the doctor," he told the nearest man, before striding towards the tent he had appeared from, Rayna hanging listlessly in his grasp.
Inside, Quintus Valerius set the young woman down on his bed, laying her on her stomach. As carefully as he could he peeled away the tattered remains of her shirt and cut away the bits he couldn't pick off.
Flavius Accoleius, doctor to the officers, entered the tent, his medical bag in hand. "Quintus?"
The brown-haired Roman officer pointed to the girl on his bed. "Ease her suffering, would you, Flavius."
The blonde-haired doctor looked to the bed and nodded before moving closer. "The young girl who silently took twenty lashes!" He tut-tutted as he saw her damaged back. "I fear it will scar."
Quintus folded his arms across his wide muscular chest. "Just make sure she doesn't get an infection." The officer had plans for the strong, powerful girl. He had seen her in battle time and again over the past few moons and had watched in amazement as she fought with courage and skill, taking down larger men as if they were nothing. He had watched with interest as her people followed her without question, standing tall and fighting bravely despite being outnumbered many times. Quintus could see himself earning a lot of money if he were to make her a gladiator, could see himself the father of handsome boys or beautiful girls, strong and powerful like the injured girl.
He walked over to his bed as the girl whimpered, sitting down on the edge of his mattress to take her hand. "It is okay. Flavius, our doctor, is tending to your wounds," he said softly.
Flavius had poured a cupful of water over her broken skin to wash away the excess blood and was now applying some salve to the tender wounds. "You have plans for this one?" he asked curiously.
"I have plans for all the prisoners brought here," Quintus replied. "The others I had crucified along the side of the nearest road, a message to all that dare defy us."
"This lot definitely defied us."
"Yes, but these prisoners have a use. This girl and the other three, plus the four men, are all big, strong and powerful. They charged us and attacked despite our numbers, they fought until the end, some even after they were captured." Quintus smiled. "Septimus has a broken nose, thanks to one of the girls."
Flavius smiled and nodded. "I know. I had to reset it!" Finished doing all he could, the doctor stood. "I won't bandage her back. You should probably leave her bare tonight, material will only irritate her wounds. Perhaps tomorrow cover her with something loose, so the material doesn't rub on the wounds while they are open. I'll check on her again tomorrow morn, make sure infection isn't setting in and that everything seems alright."
Quintus offered the blonde his hand. "Thank you, Flavius."
"Do you wish for me to go and check on the other prisoners?"
The officer nodded. "Please. Take a guard with you. They are...hostile." Left alone with the girl again, the brown-haired man studied what he could openly see. Her broad, muscular back and shoulders, her powerful thighs wrapped in brownish-green trousers that mixed with the trees on the battlefield. Her dark locks that hung loose, swept out of the way by Flavius while he tended her wounds. She was tall and powerful and Quintus thought perhaps he was in lust with her. She certainly is beautiful and is sure to produce beautiful children. Big strong boys, which any man would be proud of.
Standing from his seat on the edge of the bed, the officer made his way across the room to his desk, having letters that needed writing and papers to sign. He decided the girl would stay in his tent that night. She was injured and unconscious and being such a beauty was sure to draw much interest from the guards. Quintus didn't want any harm coming to her and he knew what some of the guards were like.
* * * * *
It wasn't until late the next morn that Rayna started to stir. She started to come around as raised, angry voices seeped into her unconscious mind, voices she didn't recognise and that sometimes slipped into a language that seemed familiar but she didn't know. Blue eyes fluttered and she groaned, trying to remember what had happened and where she was. And most importantly, who was shouting.
Slowly the fog started to clear and the warrior slowly opened her eyes, her vision blurry at first, the light making her cringe. She was on her stomach and for good reason she supposed. Her back was on fire or felt like it was. She looked around at her surroundings, seeing that she seemed to be in a tent, but not the one she had been in with the other prisoners. There were two men she had never seen before standing by the open tent flap arguing. Smelling food in the air, her stomach rumbled loudly and the dark-haired girl attempted to get up, regretting it instantly when pain blazed down her bare back.
Hearing a hiss of pain, furious dark green eyes flicked from the Roman soldier he was berating to his bed where the injured girl lay. Quintus dismissed the soldier and quickly strode over to the bed. "Don't move. What do you need?" he asked, his tones soft.
Rayna growled in his direction and attempted to get up again.
Quintus placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and held her down. "If you really must sit up, let me first get you a shirt to cover yourself."
Mumbling under her breath, Rayna lay still, wary blue eyes watching the tall man walk to a trunk at the end of the bed and open it. "What have you done to me?" she snapped, angry and in pain.
Dark green eyes looked up and locked onto her. "I have done nothing to you. One of my officers, on the other hand, thought it was a good idea to whip you senseless. I put a stop to it and brought you to my tent for treatment." Quintus picked up a shirt and smiled. "Here we go." He walked back to stand next to the bed, holding out the shirt. "What is your name?"
"Where are my people?" Rayna asked, ignoring his question.
Quintus blinked, a flash of anger washing over him. No one spoke to him in such a way, he was a Roman officer. But she wasn't to know that. The officer smiled. "Over in the prisoner tent, I would hope."
"I want to go to them."
"You're injured and..."
"What do you care? It's not as if you're going to release me."
The officer helped her sit up and get the shirt on. Walking over to his desk, Quintus picked up the tray that held two plates and two bowls of food and walked back to the bed. "Here, you should eat." He handed her the bowl first and a spoon. "Asparagus soup," he explained. He sat down next to her and they ate in silence. It wasn't until he saw she could stomach the soup and some bread, that he gave her the plate loaded with salted bread, dried fruit, eggs and cheese. "I wasn't sure what you liked, so I asked for everything," Quintus said, his own plate holding just some fruit. "Would you like a drink? Milk or wine perhaps?"
Quintus stood and walked to the tent opening, talking quietly to a soldier who stood just outside. "My name is Quintus Valerius, I am a son of Mettius Valerius, a much loved noble man," Quintus said, as he sat back down. "My name means fifth."
"Fifth?" Rayna couldn't stop herself from repeating.
"I am the fifth child. It seemed fitting I suppose."
"You are wealthy?"
"My family is wealthy. I am a Roman officer, the highest ranked officer here," he informed her, hoping to get a little respect.
Rayna snorted, having heard things about Roman society and ranks of the army.
"Your name?" Quintus asked politely.
"Is for me to know. Will you be letting me and my people go?"
Quintus shook his head, frustrated with the girl and irked at her disobedience towards him. "You shall be taken to Rome. I think I shall have you stay in my household," he muttered more to himself than to her.
"I'll not marry you!" Rayna raged. "I am betrothed to another!"
Quintus blinked in surprise, a dark eyebrow raising. "Really. And where might this man be?"
The warrior threw her plate across the room and sat tight lipped, refusing to say any more.
"The others who have been taken prisoner, shall travel with us also," the officer told her, hoping the information would soothe her. "The men will most probably become gladiators, whilst the girls if not gladiators, will be put into a household as...help."
"What is a gladiator?" Rayna asked quietly.
"Gladiators are professional fighters who fight against each other, wild animals and condemned criminals. Sometimes to the death. The fights take place in what we call an amphitheatre. The fights take place in the afternoon of a full day event."
"They fight, then what?"
"Well...they are paid. They receive a golden bowl, or a crown, or a sum of money in coins. The crowd also hands out prizes, mostly money and only to the gladiators they favour. The ultimate prize of course is a permanent dis...charge." Quintus trailed off as the words slipped from his lips. He looked at the girl's brightened face. I've let slip the greatest prize she could wish for!
"A permanent discharge?" Rayna repeated.
"From the obligation to fight," Quintus finished. "As a symbol of this award, the gladiator is given a wooden sword."
"How does a gladiator earn this discharge?"
Quintus sighed, knowing where this was going. "A gladiator can earn their freedom if they survive three to five years of combat. Sometimes if a gladiator wins five fights in a row or especially distinguishes himself...or herself, in a particular fight, he or she wins their freedom."
Rayna nodded. The quickest way to get back to Arcadia and our baby. "I will fight. You can be in charge of me, get me fights."
Quintus stood, annoyed by her suddenly. "You will not tell me what I will do! Perhaps I will keep you at my household as a slave! Perhaps you will provide me with big strong male heirs!" He swallowed when he saw the angry hatred in her eyes, her blue eyes icy and hard. "Guard!" he shouted out, the man outside running in quickly. "Take the prisoner back to the other tent."
The guard nodded and leered at Rayna.
"And no one is to touch her," Quintus added. "She is mine and anyone who harms her in anyway will wish for death, this I swear."
The guard swallowed hard, knowing his officer's temper, and nodded.
Quintus watched as Rayna was led from his tent, then went to sit behind his desk. Hands folding on top of the surface. Perhaps she will make me very rich, he thought. She is strong and big built. And I know she can fight. If I can get her the right sponsorship we could be rolling in money. He stretched his arms above his head, trying to work out some of the stiffness. And of course, people pay good money to sleep with the gladiators. That girl is certainly beautiful enough to have a lot of interest. We shall see when we get back to Rome.
* * * * *
Brock, Dagwood, Bentley Mason, Harrington Green, Gia, Lane and Emmanuelle, watched as Rayna was escorted back into their tent, surprised to see their leader still alive. Despite their surprise, they still heckled the guard, who made a hasty retreat once Rayna was chained to a post.
"What's going on?" Brock asked Rayna, his voice thick. He looked terrible, his eye a deep black and closed, his spilt lip crookedly stitched up, blood staining his torn shirt. His arms were stretched out at his sides, as if nailed to a crucifix.
"We are prisoners, set to be taken to Rome," Rayna explained. She looked around at each of them, taking stock of their condition. Brock was badly beaten, as were the other men. The warriors were naked, cuts and bruises on their skin, finger marks and hand prints visible as well. Rayna growled in anger. "What happened?"
"We...they....Last night...a couple of the soldiers decided...to have a good time," Lane stuttered, hatred clearly on her face.
"I'm married!" Gia sobbed. "What will I tell my wife if I am..." she trailed off, unwilling to finish the thought.
Rayna sighed heavily. This was her fault, everything that happened to them was her doing. "We'll deal with that if it comes up later on."
"Who was that man, Rayna?" Dagwood asked. "Did he harm you?"
"He is the highest ranked officer here, his name is Quintus Valerius. No, he didn't harm me."
"The highest ranked officer?" Bentley repeated. "So if any of us get the chance we should kill him."
Rayna smiled. "After what I did yesterday, I don't think any of us will be getting any alone time with any of the important guys."
"What did you do?" Emmanuelle asked, lips quirked up in a grin.
"The guard who took me from here threw me to the floor of a tent. As soon as I got up I launched myself at that officer, getting my hands around his throat and throttling him before the guards dragged me off."
The group chuckled at this, pleased that despite being prisoners they still hadn't given in.
"That explains the fingerprints!" Harrington laughed.
"Where were you last night? With that...Quintus?" Brock asked.
"He had the doctor tend to my wounds, then let me sleep in his bed," Rayna replied. "Don't worry," she said quickly, seeing the frowns. "Nothing happened. I am sorry I wasn't here though, perhaps..."
"I am glad you weren't," Lane said. "What they did...."
The tent fell silent as the three Belleza warriors shivered at the thought of the attacks on them. The men looked regretful and furious, hating the feeling of being so helpless and unable to stop the Romans.
"On to other things," Rayna said. "An escape plan perhaps. Oh, and I have to tell you about what I learnt about Quintus' plans for us in Rome and how we can get our freedom if we can't escape while we're held here in Britannia."
To be continued...Return to the Academy