~*Year 18 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
2 years later.
In the moment Haimon let the heavy stone slump onto the others, a penetrating call ringed through the air.
“Lunch break, lads!”
He snorted disapprovingly at the belittling term but hunger let him keep his mouth shut while he waited for his share of bread and sleazy cheese. The work was fit to starve any of them out even before the sun was at its highest.
Seeking shelter from the merciless midday heat, he settled down in the shadow of a tree aside from the other slaves.
They were abject, shied away from their wardens and stopped speaking as soon as one of them came close although it wasn’t explicitly forbidden. Even if he had tried, he wouldn’t have known what to do or talk with them.
What he did do all the same was watching, observing. There were few of the others who stood out: one Arythion who was rumored to have royal blood and still held the most of Haimon’s respect for his dignified demeanor.
The Arythions alone accounted for almost half of the workers. One of the Borathion slaves, who were the hugest group among the remaining laborers, caught the eye with his appearance. Both his hair and skin shone as white as snow and while he was hard-working and skillful, this condition forced him to escape the sun more often.
The king of Dekanos had sent two men, one not even able to show off some downy hair at his chin. His youthful body was still incapable to perform the enormous muscular effort that was demanded of them.
Last of all, the Orcheons’ slave. Protego had told a lot about him and every single claim had been confirmed so far. Machaon believed to be the first of slaves and behaved so, too. Haimon narrowed his eyes as his glance passed the throng that had assembled around the brawny man, listening to him carefully after dully chewing their bread.
Many of them were dull in some way anyway, so dull that Protego seemed like vitality itself in comparison.
Maybe it’s the women who keep us sane, Haimon wondered.
At least he was sure that if it hadn’t been Penthesilea who had bought him, he would’ve been either free or dead in the meantime.
Not so bad a prospect, actually.
When he’d quit the trade post’s small slave dungeon and realized that the bare-footed and simple clothed woman who examined him so carefully was completely alone, he’d seen his chance. It would be easy to charm her, blind her and escape, a lot easier at least than with the heavily armed male escort of the slave trader.
But of course a woman who traveled alone would feel able to protect herself. Of course she would be confident about holding a slave at bay when she purchased one. From one trap into the other, consisting of days and nights of work and too much time in a clammy basement room. No doubt, the Amazon knew how to prevent from fleeing what she considered her possession.
Even at thinking back to his naivety he grit his teeth. She didn’t trust him yet. Still not. Everything he could do was waiting for an opportunity to reveal itself, a moment of abstraction, long enough for him to get the lead he needed to secure his success. And until then, he’d have to make the best of the situation. So he waited, day for day.
But there were so many people around in the meantime who looked after him. That snotty brat of a princess, never averting her hateful gaze from him.
Kind Io who didn’t deserve to be held responsible for a flight.
So for most nights, it was enough to escape from the dark basement into the bed of the queen, even if it wasn’t for long. Actually, how many men could claim that? A warrior queen desired him – and she filled all his senses to the fullest.
Until his day would come, he would enjoy her as often as possible, savor her willingness and the knowledge that he had outrivaled a king.
“Hey! To work, lazy feller!”
Haimon recognized the foreman who had approached him as the same one he had asked about the well-being of Chrysippos. He never did as much as look at any of the slaves directly, but his pity for the poor woman who had lost her son had been surprisingly sincere.
“Alright, alright,” the slave mumbled. They changed tasks after half a day which meant helping with the roof instead of carrying stones for him now. Despite that arrangement, there was no doubt that in the evening each bone and muscle in his body would ache again for a night of sleep.
When the sun finally approached the horizon, Io turned up to accompany him home like every evening. Thank all gods that Penthesilea avoided the public embarrassment of a disobedient slave that would have been inevitable would she send her heiress instead.
Io stopped a bit aside, looking out for the master slave while she held her belly. Her second pregnancy showed already.
“Call it a day, redhead. You may go,” one of the wardens addressed him. No need to say that twice.
Exhausted, Haimon dragged himself to the huge bowl of water that was meant for them to wash the sweat and dust away. There were few occasions when he actually looked forward to his creaking bench so much.
Io’s beaming greeting immediately reconciled him with the day.
Her pleasant character was one of the good things in that life that wasn’t his.
Despite the exhaustion, he managed to give her a half-smile. “I got news for you today. From a certain black-haired young man.”
A confused gaze rested on him while the provider brooded about his announcement, then sudden realization entered her eyes. “Advik?”
“All gods, no!” Not that hypocrite who had gladly accepted to breed with Io and married a princess only two moons afterward.
His fierce response caused Io’s face to fall so he hurried to cheer her up again.
“Chrysippos of course.”
“Oh.” Within the blink of an eye, she hung on his lips again, her lips trembling. “How is he? Is he lonely? Do they treat him well? Have they told him who his parents are?”
Glad that Penthesilea wasn’t present, Haimon smirked. The queen highly disapproved every mention of Io’s son, claiming that would make it easier for her to forget him.
Nonsense. Nobody forgot their family that easily.
“He’s doing well,” he assured the small woman. “A slave working in the trade post’s kitchen who has lost her own daughter a sun ago fosters him.”
“Does… does he remember me? And Iasion?”
Shit. It’d been hard enough to worm that much out of the warden without being punished for his annoying persistence. But disappointing her now would be cruel.
Still looking at him, the huge dark eyes filled with tears. “I miss him so much,” she sobbed between two breaths, “I want to be there for him when he’s afraid, see his first steps and see Iasion play with him. And- and I want to hear when he begins to talk-” Another sob interrupted the hasty flow of words, her knees shaking. “Like- like any other mother-”
Narrow streams flooded over her cheeks unhindered and watered the spare grass.
“No, don’t….” Helplessly, Haimon tried to calm the crying person before him down. Without either success nor response. The flow of sticky tears had been held back for too long. Nothing would allay it now.
“By Mitera, why can’t I be- any- anyone else!” The name of the Bright Goddess, too sublime for mortals to utter according to the provider’s very own words. Names possessed power. Appealed to, the gods worked wonders or punished those who had dared to address them in such a blasphemous manner.
Nervously, he approached the crying woman and pulled her into his arms. “It’s alright…” Small hands pressed against him, seeking a remedy against her weak stand and heartache likewise. Carefully he lifted his hand to stroke over her hair, comfort her in every way possible. “Shhh...”
Whatever that queen seemed to think, she was surrounded by people who weren’t made for the lives she imposed on them.
“I swear by the Great Mother to take care of you.” It was impossible to tell if she’d heard him because tears still dripped onto his chest. “Everything will turn to good.” One hand held her head, one her frail body while he desperately wished she’d stop weeping at last.
“By the Goddess!,” a raucous voice exclaimed only a step away in their back. “Queen Penthesilea’s master slave and her provider. What a great scandal that’ll cause!”
“Let us be,” Haimon growled threateningly while he tried to free himself from Io’s tight embrace without hurting her.
“No way. Don’t you know I’d be punished if that was revealed and I kept silent?” Finally rid of Io who was standing on her own again, red rings around her eyes, the master slave was able to turn around and face Machaon directly.
“So will you be if you spread lies. For the sake of your health, I advise against that.” A moment passed with them looking each other over, estimating. Then, the other man threw him a delicate smirk.
“Don’t rely on your queen saving you, she can’t risk that twice.” With the last word spoken, he set off toward the next guard.
“Stop immediately!,” Haimon barked at the Orcheon, already going after him but a slender arm held him back.
“Come and get me if you dare!”
One yank to shake Io off, a few big steps and he’d caught up, pulling Machaon around hard.
“Don’t. Spread. Lies, I said.”
“Take your filthy hands off me and go back enjoy your whore as long as you still can,” the brawny man hissed.
Not more than the blink of an eye afterward, a fist flew into Machaon’s face. Something snapped away under the force. He stumbled a few steps backward before he regained his balance. Then, his hand fingered his nose, completely dumbfounded. While he wasn’t paying attention to Haimon any more, others had already spotted them. Two guards raced across the place, hauled cursing Haimon off the other slave.
Pale as a ghost, Io approached, covering her mouth in horror and holding her stomach. The third warden came closer, pushing the Orcheon’s nose which sagged at the pressure.
“Clearly broken,” he assessed unmoved.
More stunned than because of pain, Machaon groaned.
“Well,” the oldest guard remarked uncomfortably, “as it seems we’ll have to send for their owners to settle the matter. By the Divine Merchant, we should have watched the redhead more thoroughly. Western savages are never up to any good.”
Only the blink of an eye later, any remaining color left Io’s face and she sank to the ground.
Poses by yeji-k, Sweet For My Sims, aandidas, MrsRacooney, nagallz, linsims, A-luckyday (here and here), eden, josiesimblr, larsgofman, BexoSims, sim-plyreality, beverlyallitsims, Rinvalee (here and here), Wistful Castle and Atashi777
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery