At first Logan thought that it had all been a dream. He put the faint scent of flowers down to down to the fact that he was within the walled confines of a garden. It was only natural that he should be able to smell them. Still, it was a glorious dream and Logan thanked his gods for sending it to him.
Then Logan opened his eyes and caught sight of the small piece of crimson fabric lying within a shaft of pale morning light.
It was a piece of the goddess’ veil.
A piece of Marie’s veil.
Slowly, Logan reached a hand towards the cloth, feeling a slight twinge in his back as he movement forced healing skin to pull and stretch. Undeterred, Logan rested his hand on top of the small scrap of cloth and closed his fingers over it. The ripped piece of fabric was very soft just like Logan had remembered it being the night before when his goddess had used it to soothe away the pain in his back. Her touch was most gentle than anything Logan had ever known and the palm-sized shred of material was the only proof he had that it had existed at all.
Labouriously pushing himself up on his elbows, Logan opened his hand and stared down at the fragment of crimson cloth that his goddess had accidentally left behind. Not wanting anyone to take it away from him, Logan neatly folded it up and placed into a small slot at the top of the stiff leather armband that covered his right forearm from about midway to his wrist. The slot had originally been made to hold pieces of flint or spare arrowheads, but its new use was much more sacred.
Logan was just about to lay his head back down on its uncomfortable pillow of straw when someone stepped into the doorway of his small room, blocking out the sunlight which had been streaming in through the open door.
“Who was in this room!” Flavius roared, spinning around on his heel and charging back out to the main part of the garden.
As soon as he was gone, Logan forced himself into a seated position. He was not going to put himself at any kind of disadvantage.
“Someone was in that building where the barbarian was and I’ll know who it was,” Flavius shouted to the servants milling about the garden.
There was, of course, no answer from the frightened servants. They were all likely well aware of what happened to servants who did something Flavius did not approve of and did not wish to become his next victim. Knowing that he would probably regret the act later, Logan rose to his feet, his head held high and his shoulders held back to reduce the strain on his back.
“It was not these people but the god Nodens who healed me while I slept,” Logan called out in perfect Latin before he could talk himself out of it.
Seconds later, Flavius was once again in the small room. His actions sluggish because of the heavy chains, Logan was unable to defend himself before Flavius had his meaty hand around his throat and propelled him into the wall. Logan bit hard into his cheek to keep from crying out.
“Say that again, slave,” Flavius snarled at Logan who stood at least a head and half taller than the fat Senator.
“I said that it was the god Nodens and not one of your servants that tended to my back,” Logan told the other man calmly, without a hint of fear in his voice.
Flavius glared up at Logan and slammed him against the wall. “What is a barbarian like you doing speaking Latin? You are not worthy to speak the language of the gods.”
“Are all of you Romans born so pompous?” Logan growled, a feral grin on his face.
“I will teach you respect, slave,” Flavius hissed, shoving Logan back against the door a final time before storming out of the small room.
As soon as Flavius was out of the room, Logan sunk to his knees gasping in pain. He could feel blood sliding down his back from a few of the slashes that had been reopened as his back connected with the wall. Logan took several deep breaths to get himself under control and act as though he felt none of the pain coursing through his body. When he was sure that he would be able to mask it completely, Logan sat back up, preparing for whatever Flavius had planned for him.
Logan didn’t have to wait long.
A few minutes later a timid serving girl slunk into his room carrying a plate of bread and honey along with a glass of lemon water. She kept her eyes averted at all times, setting the place and cup down quickly before all but running out of the small room.
For a brief moment, Logan considered the fact that Flavius had poisoned the food. It was a fleeting thought because it had been Flavius himself that had shouted of Logan’s importance. Therefore, he could not very well kill him if he wanted to receive his profit. That knowledge and Logan’s growling stomach propelled him to dig into the meal.
“So you’re the barbarian,” a cool voice said from without.
Logan swallowed the piece of bread in his mouth, his eyes darting instantly to the doorway. “I am no barbarian, shadow walker. Who are you?”
A slim young man with a shock of nearly white hair stepped into the doorway. “The name is Pietro, barbarian. Not that it is any business of yours.”
Logan scowled at the other man, but refused to give into his taunting. Rather, he went back to his breakfast, completely ignoring the other man.
“You may like to think you can ignore me, barbarian, but it’s not going to work,” Pietro informed him, stepping into the room. He leaned against the wall, a superior smirk on his face. “See, I am the one who will be getting you into shape for your opening fight in the Circus Maximus. Starting this morning when we travel to my favourite blacksmith to get your hands measured for the new weapons I have designed specially for your use. First, I must speak with Flavius. So finish your meal, barbarian, we need to keep you strong.”
Logan glared at the other man as slithered out of the room as silently as he had entered. There was something off about the slender youth. His dark eyes were frightening. Absolutely no sign of a soul in those eyes. The boy was pure evil and that had Logan instantly worried.
Just as Logan was chewing on the last piece of bread, the lanky Pietro appeared in the doorway. Not one to be easily intimidated, Logan rose stiffly to his feet, keeping his eyes trained on the smaller man. Pietro nodded to someone out of Logan’s line of sight.
“It’s time for you to meet my associate, barbarian. This is Claudio. He keeps my clients in line for me,” Pietro said, stepping aside to admit a large, dark-haired warrior who had to turn himself sideways to enter the room.
Claudio stalked towards Logan, forcing him to back up a few steps so that his back was pressed to the wall. Logan let out a breath he hadn’t even been aware he was holding when the big man squatted down to unfasten the chain from the floor. Before Logan had a chance to react, he was yanked out of the room and into the full morning sunlight.
“What a magnificent specimen,” Pietro praised, walking around Logan to get a view of him from all sides. “Granted, your proportions are nowhere near as vast as Claudio here, but quite above average. I am told that you were a warrior, barbarian. Is that correct?”
Logan clenched his jaw, refusing to answer the little man.
“No matter, barbarian. You will become one soon enough,” Pietro said absently, coming to stand in front of Logan. He then looked over at Claudio. “Give me one of his hands. They must be broad enough and strong enough to wield my new weapon.”
With a grunt, Claudio latched onto Logan’s left hand, holding it out for Pietro to see. From the broad grin on his face, Logan assumed he liked what he saw. Pietro had Claudio to turn it over so that he could get an all over view of the limb.
“Good. That should be strong enough,” Pietro finally declared with a nod. “Bring him along. The blacksmith is waiting for us.”
So once again Logan found himself being dragged through the cluttered city once again. Logan could remember one of the soldiers once praising the city, going on and on about the wonders that was Rome. Now that he had arrived, Logan failed to see what was so great about the over-crowded city. It was a wonder the Romans weren’t claustrophobic in the narrow streets, surrounded on all sides by towering buildings. Rome was a loud place and no amount of gardens could completely mask the scent of sewage that permeated the air.
Even if he weren’t in his present situation and he had come to Rome of his own free will, Logan would have hated the city. Logan had spent his entire life until that point living in the vast forests and wild landscapes of his homeland. A place that Logan longed to see again. At present, Logan knew that it would be next to impossible to find his way home. It would be made even harder as long as he was trapped in Flavius’s chains. He would get out of them one day, though, and as soon as Flavius let his guard down, Logan would make a run for it.
He would get home.
“Ah, my dear patron!” a broad shouldered man covered in soot called as Pietro led them into a smoke-filled armory. “You have brought the barbarian, I see. Good. Good. Bring him here, I have the vats prepared.”
The small stone building was stifling, all clean air having been overtaken by the smoke from the heated flames. Logan felt his eyes beginning to water and blinked rapidly in order maintain his vision. His lungs didn’t fare so well and Logan soon found himself gasping and wheezing for any hint of breathable air.
“You were able to decipher my designs, I trust, Tiberon,” Pietro said as he nodded for Claudio to bring Logan over to the blacksmith.
Tiberon nodded his head, maneuvering Logan’s left hand so that he could he could remove the manacle. “It is an ingenious device, my dear Pietro. I would never have thought of it before. The gods themselves must have gifted you with that thought,” Tiberon praised as he moved onto Logan’s right hand.
Then, for the first time in many long months, Logan found himself with his hands free. Logan had no time to savor it when Tiberon latched on to his right arm and savagely began to undue the bindings of his armband the held the scarp of his goddess’s veil. Logan tried to protest, but Claudio yanked violently on the chain around his neck, jerking his head back with a savage force, nearly choking him.
“Behave yourself, barbarian,” Pietro snarled, taking the armband from Tiberon and crossing his arms over his chest. “Do as you are told without complaint and you will get it back. Refuse, and I throw it in the flames.”
Not wanting to risk the loss of the small piece of fabric, Logan was instantly contrite. He stood completely docile as Tiberon led him towards two long metal boxes placed about shoulder-width apart. Once he got close enough, Logan was able to see what lay inside. A giant pool of melted wax.
“Please tell the barbarian to place his hands in the vats. Naturally with his fingers spread slightly. I need to possess a model with the true measurements of his hands to work with if this weapon is to be constructed properly,” Tiberon said to Pietro who stood somewhere off to his right.
“I can understand you just fine,” Logan stated, glaring straight ahead at the other man as he plunged his hands into the vats of wax.
It was all that Logan could do not to scream as the heated wax scalded his skin.