Type of Gift: Fanfiction
Title: Amor Omnia Vincit (1/5)
Summary: The tale of a great Roman centurion, the slave he would never have willingly chosen, and the greater force that brings the two of them together.
Author Notes: By some chance, you, mikomiyoko, handed a prompt concerning Ancient Rome and specification to be historically accurate to a would-be Classics major, and an avid, avid lover of Roman history, culture, and society. That said, I tried to keep this accurate without getting too terribly much of my history geek into things. I am also a firm believer in Christmas continuing for a fair while beyond the 25th, and so I'll be posting one part per day from now until the 30th. I hope you enjoy!
When Ludovicus first lays eyes upon the youth, he is so terribly pale.
The pallor of his skin seems to sink to the very levels of his soul – or, perhaps, to radiate outwards from some deep emptiness. His eyes seem sunken, his movements slower than average – he is likely ill. He is scratched and dirty, filthy even, his bare feet torn and caked with dirt. He struggles against his new captors, but weakly. Though he is able to put up little resistance and only makes a muted sort of cry, his eyes are what catch Ludovicus’ attention most. They burn with a silent plea, the desperate begging of someone who knows that he will be ignored. He has given up, and yet somewhere, deep in those eyes, embers of an almost-dead hope stir.
The reality of the situation suddenly rushes back to him, and he hears his men jeering.
“Prettier than any of the other things we got, anyways.”
“Marius, give him here! You got the last one!”
“Your spoils have always been too great – I’m just making things even…”
Without another thought, Ludovicus steps forward, revealing himself from where he had been hidden in the shadow of a nearby tent.
They snap away at once, leaving the youth to fall to the ground. One flinches as if to try to hide him, but it is too late. Under the sheer weight of intimidation in his glare, none of them even attempts to make excuses.
Satisfied that his men are sufficiently under control, Ludovicus looks down to the youth again. He rests on the ground, on his knees, looking up at him with those same, tiredly panicked eyes. It is so painful to look at him that he must turn away.
“He is mine,” Ludovicus states, before he can even think about the words coming out of his mouth. A few of the men look as if they are dissatisfied with his claim, but who are they to argue? He is among the strongest centurions the Empire has; what he wants is granted to him, especially in his own realm, the battlefront.
Reaching down, Ludovicus picks up the youth without a struggle and carries him away. It is not far to his own tent, where the guards open the flaps for him. He nods in acknowledgement, and quietly instructs them that he does not desire visitors tonight. Once he steps inside and the flaps close fully behind him, he glances down at the youth again.
He looks back at Ludovicus, albeit somewhat vacantly. He does not seem to have even processed what has happened to him. Ludovicus sets him down on his blankets, making sure he’ll remain upright on his own before he slips his hands from under him and steps back.
The youth sits still there, stunned; he reminds Ludovicus of a hatchling he once found, fallen from the nest too early, trembling and dazed at the new world that suddenly surrounded it.
“I am sorry for my men,” Ludovicus intones carefully; he does not know how much of his speech this youth can understand, if any. The glazed eyes look up at him slowly, fixed on his face. When he replies, it is with a faint, quivering voice, so quiet that Ludovicus struggles to hear it.
“…what you said… was that…” The youth’s voice fades before he can finish his thought.
Ludovicus thinks he understands. He nods once, slowly. The words he must say come awkwardly to his lips. “…I … am your master now.”
This does not seem to come as a surprise to the youth, who simply lowers his eyes to the ground in response.
Since he seems to have some grasp of the Latin language, Ludovicus swallows and crouches by him to ask a few more questions. “…do you have anyone … anyone else here?” He means to ask if perhaps the rest of his family had been taken, whether he might have a brother or a sister or a friend somewhere else in the camp…
But it seems that his wording has not distracted at all from his true question, and he immediately regrets asking at the deep pain that flares up in the youth’s eyes. The chains on his wrists rattle as he covers his face, folding even further on himself.
“…I’m sorry,” Ludovicus whispers.
The youth does not respond; Ludovicus decides it is best not to force him. Reaching down, he takes a thick woolen blanket and drapes it over the youth’s shoulders. He is still injured and dirty… and, being under his protection as he is, it is only right that Ludovicus cares for him.
He returns a short time later to find the youth in the same position, though his body seems to sag more wearily than before. Ludovicus pulls over a chair and sits in front of him, bending down to place the wooden plate and shallow bowl in his hands onto the floor between them.
“…I have brought you some water to wash yourself, and food,” he says softly. “Show me where you are hurt, and I will heal you.”
Again, the youth turns those eyes to him – a soft, warm shade of brown, though dulled and reddened from weariness and tears. His gaze slowly moves down to the plate in front of him, and the portion of bread, cheese, and pork that lies there. Somewhat sluggishly, he reaches out and takes some of the bread, and begins to gnaw hesitantly at the crust.
As he does, Ludovicus crouches and awkwardly removes his shackles. The youth does not seem to pay him much mind, flinching only slightly as he pulls the cool metal from flesh rubbed raw.
It is relieving, in a strange way, to see something as simple as an injury, something he knows how to handle. Fetching his medical supplies from a small chest across the tent, Ludovicus sets about to doing just that, with as tender of a touch as he can muster.
As he covers the first ankle wound and moves to the second, he speaks up again. “…I am Ludovicus, one of the centurions of this cohort. What is your name?”
The youth stops chewing for a moment. Ludovicus feels the ankle in his hand twitch as if with a desire to recoil. Ludovicus lets go, giving him the ability to pull away if he so chooses.
A tense moment passes. And then, finally, “My name… is Felicianus.”
“A Roman name,” Ludovicus remarks, somewhat surprised.
“My Roman name,” Felicianus replies instantly, something burning in his eyes. “…my … my name… is back with my family.”
Such a passionate statement raises so many questions for Ludovicus: who is this youth, to have picked out a Roman name - a terribly ironic one, meaning “happy” and “lucky” - in advance, and to be able to converse with him in Latin in the first place? Surely he came from someplace with a good deal of social standing…
But now is not the time to ask any of these things. Ludovicus merely nods in acceptance, and continues his given task.
He moves along the too-thin body in front of him methodically, cleaning and trying to heal as he does. He goes up the legs as far as the scraped knees, the arms up to the shoulders, bared by the rough, worn tunic, and as delicately as he can on what of the chest is also exposed. When at last he finishes, he looks up again to that sunken face.
The youth is asleep where he sits, tear-tracks dried on his cheeks.
Ludovicus studies him for a few wordless moments, and ponders the odd predestination of the situation he has found himself in. The gods, it would seem, have a keen taste for irony. But this is not a realization that will help him at the moment.
For now, Ludovicus simply lowers Felicianus to the ground, as gently as he can, and covers him with another blanket. He does not stir even once, clearly exhausted beyond all measure.
It is only after some minimal strategizing and once he confirms again that Felicianus is asleep that Ludovicus takes his own repose, on the opposite side of the tent.
He does not sleep well.
Additional author's notes / things I wanted to add:
The names - Even though I'm working in a very vague Roman time period - sometime imperial, after Augustus - both "Ludovicus" (standing in, of course, for Ludwig) and "Felicianus" (Feliciano) are very much pushing the borders of anachronistic. However, I thought it was more important to have the names be recognizable and to feel the same as those familiar human names than to be strictly historical. Oh, and mikomiyoko - if this name change annoys you in any way, let me know and I can easily copy-paste the standard human names back in
And sorry this was not up earlier in the day! My Christmas was far busier than I anticipated. Nevertheless, it is still the 25th where I am, so Merry Christmas! C: