The Abacus

08Jul10

At the time it had caused a small stir in the news and an even bigger one in the historical and archaeological press. The abacus had been found intact within the best-preserved Roman temple to Apollo ever discovered. Most of the attention had been given to the golden bowl found with it, but it was the abacus that had fascinated Anne.

The abacus had been overlooked in all the hysteria. One of the archaeologists had claimed that the temple had been buried in an explosion within the temple. Another had claimed that the chemical traces on the bowl pointed to alchemy practices being used by the Roman’s 1,400 before they were thought to have been used in medieval Europe. All the press had cared about was the gold.

Anne had cared nothing for this. She had always been obsessed with ancient Rome and the Romans. From the age of eight she had been determined to be a classical scholar and almost 20 years later she had achieved her dream. She could not only read Latin and Greek as the ancients knew it, but was widely regarded as being an expert of the spoken word. Somehow, it had not been enough. It had not filled the longing. In her childhood she had dreamt of standing outside her own villa or the steps of a temple to watch a triumph of a great general. In her wildest fantasies, she had been the wife of a great Roman leader, or even an empress.

As an adult, the closer she got to the long dead Roman civilisation the further removed she had felt from it. Sometimes she wept for the lost empire of dust that she would never see. Then she had been given the abacus to study and it had begun.

When it was found there were two sets of numbers on the ancient counting device. But what did they mean? Was it chance that those numbers had been left in place.

Then one day she wrote them both out for the 100th time and something cold had gripped her heart. She felt as if she stood on an abyss or had finally gone insane with her childish longings.

They were dates. It wasn’t obvious because the numbers marked days from the founding of Rome on the Roman calendar, but there was no mistake. The first date coincided with the time the archaeological team believed that the temple had been buried, sometime during the reign of the Emperor Augustus or perhaps a little later. This was unusual, but not in anyway miraculous. However the second date was beyond astonishing.

It was nones of September in the year of the city 2762. Against the modern calendar, it translated to the exact day in 2009 AD that the abacus was found.

She had suddenly become very interested in the so-called explosion that the now discredited archaeologist had said had caused the burial of the temple. She had become even more interested in alchemy and had used her connections to read the secret works of Isaac Newton.

All this had done little for her reputation but she had finally crossed the line when she had stolen the bowl and taken it back to the temple.

Now here she was practicing alchemy and witchcraft in the ruins of a temple to Apollo in northern Italy. She laughed as she wept. She was mad, she knew it, what did she think would happen? What was driving her? Then she poured the mixture into the bowl, put a match to it and stepped back.

“Oh Apollo hear my prayer.” She intoned, then she adjusted the abacus so that instead of the second number being an addition, it became a subtraction.

There was nothing but the wind. But then the wind grew stronger and two dust devils began rolling towards her until they merged as one just before her. The air shimmered like water and then she saw it. The land around was still how it had been, a normal view of 21st Northern Italy. She could even see the mobile telephone mast across the valley. But through the shimmering, she could see another Italian landscape, one with no metalled road or telegraph wires. Then it grew and swallowed her and she was knocked from her feet.

*

She awoke on the steps of the temple. The air smelt different. She opened one eye afraid of what she might see, and then she sat up. The temple was intact. It was more ramshackle than she expected, not at all like an artist’s impression or a Hollywood movie. What was she thinking? She shook herself and decided to decide nothing. Maybe she was asleep. Be objective, she thought.

The land around her could be the same place but she passed out. Maybe she was moved. She entered the temple and examined it. The murals were worn, but there was a statue of Apollo where the bowl and abacus had been. That made sense. They would have been placed here later. No, don’t think about that. Be objective.

Outside she found the road. More of a track, but well maintained. Well if she were still in northern Italy then south would be best, especially if… but that was impossible. She wondered again if she gone mad.

The countryside was glorious and unspoilt. There was little sign of cultivation, except the road. She walked on for miles, with each step suppressing a nervous panic. Then she saw it. It was unmistakeable. It crosses her road at a diagonal. She had seen hundreds of pieces before but never a stretch so complete.

It was a fully formed Roman road with well set stone cobbles and edged in limestone. Didn’t prove anything, anyone could have made it. All two miles or so that she could see, it didn’t prove a thing.

She followed the road for a while, mile after mile of it. It each step convincing her she must have finally gone mad. Then the clatter of hooves behind her made her light-headed. She turned and waited.

The rider was lightly clad so that his arms and legs were bare. He had only a short sword and a leather bag. An imperial messenger, she thought, or pretending to be for the purposes of this hoax.

He didn’t stop. That was authentic, she thought, why would he stop for a lone woman? A while later, after at least another three or four miles of this seemingly authentic road, a cart made its way towards her. Two men drove it and two more sat on the back.

“Good morning.” She called in English. Then repeated it in Italian.

One of the men stood and drew a dagger and looked about him nervously. The other was less cautious.

“Salve.” He replied.

Latin, she thought. All right I’ll play.

“Is there a town up ahead?” She asked in her best Latin.

“Kwa?” It sounded like he said.

“Town?” She asked, no actor would have her knowledge of Latin.

“A town?” He smiled understanding. His accent was strange. The rest of his reply was unintelligible, but she thought he said river.

“Barbarian.” The other man spat, pronouncing the word badly, as he sat down and put away his dagger.

The other man shrugged and pushed the cart on. As she watched it go by, she was impressed with the attention to detail. It could almost be real. Then she began to get excited. She looked nervously ahead and began to run suddenly eager to see what lay ahead.

Finally she could run no more. Her thin simple cotton dress was clinging to her and she could scarce draw the next breath. As she doubled over with a stitch her mind raced.

Then they were all around her.

They spoke strangely, as if in a parody of Latin, but she could not quite get it.

“What’s going on?” She asked in English.

They spoke a string of words, but the only one she understood was barbarian, spoken as the first man had said.

“Alright what do you want?” She tried again Latin.

The men laughed. There were six of them and they set to repeating her words in a way that suggested mockery. Then as near as she could tell one of them said: “How sweet, she is trying to talk Roman.”

Then she saw the slaves enclosed in a large slaver cart. Before she could react, the men grabbed her and without ceremony began to strip her.

“What are you doing?” She wailed in English. Then added, “stop,” in Italian.

She was soon naked and had never felt so helpless. She feared the worst, but then one of the men threw a sack like smock at her and tossed her carelessly into the back of the cart.

The cart stank of faeces, sweat and fear. This was real, she realised. Her Latin was stilted and at best a fair estimate of the ancient language. These men were speaking slang and probably had a provincial accent; it was she that could not speak it, not they. She had done it; she was in the ancient Roman world.

*

A day later, the reality of her situation began to sink in. One of the other slaves spoke Greek. Not any kind of Greek she was aware of, but after some practice and some effort on her part, she was able to follow the gist of his words.

Because of her height, almost five six, very tall for a woman, and her blonde hair, the slavers had taken her for a German. A German barbarian alone this far from home meant that she was a runaway. Her outburst of English hadn’t helped dispel the impression she was sure.

Atrix, as the Greek slave was named, told her that as she was clearly not a citizen and had been found in Roman territory north of the Rubicon, that made her fare game to slavers.

“A slave?” She had gasped in English. Then repeated it in Latin.

Atrix nodded.

Well, once she got to Rome she would find someone in authority and explain, she thought. For now, she had to listen to the slavers and try and pick up their language.

It was surprisingly easy to polish her Latin and Greek after a few days on the road. It was a matter of the vowel shift in most cases. The rest was a matter of learning a new vocabulary, since there were clearly street words that had never made the official documents. By the time they reached the Rubicon, she could converse freely in Latin or Greek, although she now knew that she would not pass for a citizen yet a while.

The Rubicon was no great river, but she stared at it in awe. It was a legend in human history, but since ancient times no one had known where it was.

“Gaius Julius Caesar.” She said to Atrix, pronouncing it correctly, pointing to the water.

“Yes, the great man began it all here. You are not so unlearned then?” Atrix agreed. “What were you doing on the road alone?”

“Going to Rome.” She said simply.

“Oh you will see Rome alright.” He laughed.

*

Although the rest of her fellow travellers seemed in awe of Rome, Anne had expected something bigger. But nevertheless, the bustle of the streets and multitude of people quashed any lingering doubts that she might have been tricked. She had done it. She had travelled back in time to ancient Rome.

The cart was taken to a large enclosed building full of cages where the slavers began yelling and rousting them out of the wagon. While the others hastened to obey, Anne slipped away and made for an old man who at least looked clean compared with the waggoners.

“Excuse me are you in charge?” She asked pleasantly, she was acutely aware that she was dressed only in a sackcloth mini dress.

“What a bizarre accent you have girl.” The man returned. “A provincial no doubt.”

“Yes that’s right I think there has been some mistake.”

“You talk funny.” He chuckled pleasantly.

“Yes. I think we had already agreed that I was a provincial. You see I was…”

“No don’t tell me, you were on your way to Rome to visit the Vestals or was it the holy shrine of Romulus? And you were waylaid by bandits and separated from your party?”

“Something like that.” She agreed.

Then he scowled angrily.

“Hey Plutos? Where did you take this one?” He called out.

“Runaway. Found her on the north road beyond the Rubicon.”

“Beyond? You are certain?”

The man did not reply but pulled an angry face. Then the first man turned back to Anne.

“Even if I believed your story, which I don’t, it doesn’t matter. Unless you can prove citizenship, a girl alone beyond the city boundary is subject to slavery. If your previous owner doesn’t care to brand you, then more fool him.”

“But…” Anne started to protest.

Then man seized her sackcloth and ripped it away leaving her naked in the courtyard. Anne gasped and clutched at herself as she tried desperately to cover her nakedness.

“Get her washed, shaved and cropped.” The slave master growled to a passing slave, shoving Anne roughly towards him.

The next hour was an experience Anne could never have imagined. There were no leering men, as in a Hollywood sexploitation movie, or even workman-like officials. There were only hands and faces processing cattle.

First she was hosed down by some mechanism she could not discern then she was locked into a frame with only her head exposed while a man sheared her head like a sheep. Her head was scratched and her even nicked her ear.

“Careful with the merchandise.” Another man yelled, but that was the only time she was noticed in the production line.

The next men paused in surprise that she was hair-free under her arms, but only for a brief moment, it wasn’t unheard of even for a slave. Then she was upended and in a few smooth scrapes, she was denuded of hair below as well.

Then something unpleasant was splashed over her from a bucket and she was again hosed down. Then it got worse. A man grabbed her head in a vice-like grip and forced open her mouth. After examining her teeth, he said something garbled to a scribe who made a note then she was again upended and a more intimate inspection was made. She might have screamed at this, but she was still in shock. Then another man placed a stiff wire hoop over her head and threaded a plaque of some kind upon it. It was then drawn tight so that she could not remove it. As she tried to read it, she was handed another sackcloth dress and shoved into another cage. This one contained only women and at least was clean. The plaque had a bear motif with the letters DA. There was also a Roman numeral that read 20,757. She had had such dreams of Rome, her whole life had lead to this and now she was just a number in a cage.

“You are now the property of Drusus Arturius. Until he sells you.” The man who locked the door said without malice.

Anne burst into tears.

*

The next morning the world didn’t seem any brighter, but at least the chaos of the day before had abated and the slave compound had become quiet. The only activity to be seen was when a few entered the compound and began looking the slaves over and making notes on a wax tablet.

One man in particular seemed to take particular care. When he got to Anne’s cage, he stopped and turned his nose up.

“Germans I suppose?”

“Mostly, but all of them house trained. From the provinces.” The man she had spoken to the day before said. She now knew him to be Drusus Arturius.

He was the kind of man she had once defended in a lecture as being necessary to the Roman economy. She remembered that she had dismissed as sentiment, modern notions about slave traders. Now that she was a slave, she realised that she had never hated anyone so much in her whole life.

“I need house slaves for my mistress.” The man continued. “I am only interested in Latin speakers.”

“Oh I have just the thing. Last week we had a consignment of Greek peasants. Some of them speak passable Latin, but they all speak Greek, so how hard can it be for them to learn.”

Anne was relieved as they move on.

“Oh there is one here.” Drusus Arturius remembered. “Came in yesterday. A German, but almost civilised, speaks Latin after a fashion.

The man turned, his interest piqued. Drusus opened the cage door and dragged Anne out. Although she offered no resistance, she stood scowling at them both.

“I was going to put her on the block, but that won’t be until after the games, so if you make me an offer…”

“What’s your name girl?” The customer asked.

He was a tall man compared to many she had seen and cursed with red hair, so he was probably a freedman, Anne concluded.

“Answer Marcus Valerius at once.” Drusus snapped.

“Anne.” Anne said sullenly.

“What?” Marcus turned to Drusus. “Is that a grunt?”

“My name is Anne Acton sir.” She pressed, realising that a one-syllable name was the mark of a barbarian.

“Anaxon, what a strange name, where are you from?”

Anne realised that Britain was not yet part of the Roman Empire, if this was indeed the reign of August, and claiming to be German would mark her out as a barbarian not to be trusted.

“Helvetica.” She fixed on.

“Ah, one of the new tribes.” Marcus nodded sagely.

“I speak Greek too.” Anne added, having no idea why she wanted to impress this man.

Drusus looked surprised at this.

“Well I don’t. And I couldn’t care less.” Marcus shrugged. “I’ll take her, but you can keep the Greek.”

This last comment was a clear sign that he did not expect to pay more for her alleged education.

“Very good I will make the arrangements.”

“Mark her up as… what was it? Axon? Axon Cornelia Helvetica.”

“If the name displeases you why not give her a slave name?” Drusus suggested.

“We are up to our eyes in the same dozen slave names. No. Slaves work better if you let them keep their own names.” Marcus concluded.

Anne was about to protest about her name, but they were no longer listening.

A short while later, Anne, or Axon as they insisted on calling her was given a new sack dress and new plaque was hung about her neck. She was just wondering what was to stop her from removing it if she was so inclined, when a dark memory touched her. The thought had hardly begun to form in her head when she saw the hot iron.

“Listen I am not a slave. You can’t do this.” She said, then before she realised that she was speaking English again, she could smell it. Then she felt the pain

*

“Welcome to the house of Marcus Cornelius Strabo.” Marcus informed her as they entered the villa on the outskirts of Rome.

She had not taken in much of her journey there because of the pain on her upper arm where they had laid the brand.

“Aren’t you Valerius?” Anne asked, trying to concentrate.

“Yes, but I don’t own you Axon.” Marcus said impatiently. “In fact you are the property of Strabo’s daughter Cornelia, but this is still his house.”

Aren’t I Cornelia now, she tried to think, no all slaves would be Cornelia if women and Cornelius if male, it was a family name she realised. She was… what was it Axon Cornelia Helvetica… but slaves don’t get three names, didn’t they realise that? She was delirious, of course they did. It wasn’t really a name just an identity. She was a slave called Axon from Helvetica in the house of Cornelius.

“Are you listening?” Marcus barked. “You are to go there to your quarters.”

Anne nodded dully and walked leadenly in the direction he had pointed.

*

The days passed in a haze for her. It seemed that she had suffered for nothing, as she had no work to do. Whenever she tried, someone would brush her aside and do whatever task she had attempted.

“Look busy, but don’t mess things up.” Someone hissed.

The clothes she had been given were rather better than the sackcloth garments, but there was no underwear, just a simple short linen tunic and some sandals.

Then one day she arose early and heard an eagle high above. There was a stillness in the air and suddenly she came back to herself.

“I prayed for ancient Rome and now I am here.” She sighed aloud. “But how? But why?”

“You girl, stop dawdling go and sweep the courtyard.” It was Spuria, the old woman who seemed to be the head slave when it came to the women.

Some of the girls called her mother Anne had noticed and it had confused her at first. It was beyond her why such a sour old bossy biddy would command such affection. But most of the girls were young and far from home. Unlike Anne, they never expected anything better from life.

“Axon.” Spuria called after her. “Things are strange for you now, but you will learn.”

Was that a patronising smile? Anne thought bitterly. Then she hastened off to find the brooms. I must escape from here.

As it turned out, Anne had been drafted in to help because visitors were expected. That was enough to rouse Marcus who suddenly appeared and began screaming at everyone to drive them to their tasks. Then all the slaves were ordered to clean themselves as a prelude to a long wait.

Slavery is like warfare, Anne observed dryly, as she stood naked in the slaves’ bathing area, its all fear and haste one minute and boredom the next. In fact, Anne had to stand at her allotted post by a pillar inside the main entrance for most of the afternoon before the visitor arrived.

The visitor, it turned out, was a priest and oracle from the temple of Apollo. Anne became very attentive at this news. When he arrived three men accompanied him, two of them soldiers. While he was shown in to see the mistress carrying a bundle, the men lounged around outside striking arrogant poses and leering at the girls.

“Axon, fetch some water.” Spuria ordered.

For once Anne was keen to obey, since the errand gave her an excuse to see the visitor. The jug was heavy and hard to hold when wet. As she went to set it down Spuria glared at her and bid her wait. Anne rolled her eyes up at this news, she was to stand and struggle with the jug in case someone wanted some water. Still at least it meant she had to stay in the atrium where the visitor was meeting with Cornelia.

Cornelia herself was not a young woman, a widow now who had returned to one of her father’s many houses that she now treated as her own. She had one daughter, Cornelia Minor, a beautiful but rather spoilt and sullen girl who, the slave gossip told it, did as little as possible and bullied her tutor into ignoring her lessons.

But it was the visitor that held Anne’s attention.

“Lady I am honoured to visit your house.” The priest bowed.

“And the house of Cornelius is honoured by your visit.” Cornelia intoned.

The priest bowed again and smiled benignly. This was all some kind of ritual, Anne knew, and the real business was about to begin.

The priest then unwrapped the bundle and set the contents on a low table. Anne gasped. It was the Abacus. The priest turned slowly to regard the impudent slave and smiled as if knowingly. Spuria glared at her.

“As requested lady I brought the object. Did you locate the other?” The priest continued.

“I did.” Cornelia said pleasantly as she nodded to Spuria.

Spuria hurried away and returned with another bundle. Anne knew at once what it was. The priest seemed to watch her as her unwrapped the golden bowl. Does he know something? Anne wondered almost dropping the jug.

“For Jupiter’s sake put the jug down and go away.” Cornelia scolded.

Spuria glared at her again and waved her away. They almost collided with Cornelia Minor who had become bored and had decided to look the young men over who had accompanied the priest.

“Here comes a pretty.” One of the men leered at Anne. “Can we have use of her crone?”

Spuria looked the man up and down as if reluctantly considering the request. She glanced at Marcus who stood in the shade. He shook his head imperceptibly and Spuria began to lead Anne away.

“Oh give the little slut to them. I want to watch.” Cornelia Minor said with a leer to match the men.

“Its not seemly little domina.” Spuria gaped. “Besides your mother does not want the girls falling with child.”

Marcus gripped the handle of his dagger and scowled at the scene.

“I said let them use her.” Cornelia Minor insisted. “She can take it netherwise as is the custom.”

Spuria nodded and one of the men pulled Anne’s gown off her and doubled her over the horse rail.

“Get your hands off me scum.” Anne railed.

Cornelia Minor laughed at this and clapped her hands in glee. Marcus took two strides forward but Spuria waved him to stop.

“Wait. Don’t damage her.” Spuria said, stepping forward with some olive oil to ease the men’s passage.

“Don’t want to damage a decent bit of arse like this do we lads.” One of the men laughed.

Anne kicked back impotently and swore a stream of Anglo-Saxon oaths that everyone took to be Helveti.

The first man ignored her and smeared oil over her naked buttocks and well between.

“Enough of that.” The priest growled as he left the villa. “We have no time.”

The men cursed, but dropped Anne sobbing and naked onto the ground.

“Such a fuss girl, who do you think you are?” Spuria scolded as Anne was dragged into the slave quarters.

“But they were going to…” Anne gasped.

“It wouldn’t be the first time.” Spuria shrugged.

Spuria helped Anne sit on the cot and went to get some water from a jug. Then she began dabbing the girl’s head with a cloth.

“Get your hands off me.” Anne growled. “You were going to help them.”

“I was going to help you.” Spuria said with pursed lips.

Anne returned with a stream of expletives, all of them in English.

“I see.” Spuria sighed.

Then she stood up and went into the other room. When she returned she was holding a leaf shaped leather paddle. Anne sat up at once sensing an edge to Spuria’s mood.

“Your defiance nearly cost you dear my girl.” Spuria said darkly. “If you won’t be trained with patience then we will do it another way.”

“What are you going to do?” Anne swallowed and licked her lips.

Spuria didn’t answer but sat down beside the young slave and tipped her across her lap.

“Spuria?” Anne was wild with confusion her eyes darting in her head. Her buttocks were still nude and well oiled. So much the better, Spuria thought, hurts more and harms less.

Spuria brought the paddle down with a crack. Anne yelled with anger, the pain was not great, but the indignity and the sting were more than she could bear. Or so she believed. Anne tried to rise but was pinned at the waist by a woman with years of experience. It was too hot to go fast, but sure, slow and hard were all that was required.

“You bitch.” Anne gasped in English as the spanking continued.

Spuria smiled to herself, you could take the girl from the barbarians, but you couldn’t take the barbarian from the girl.

“Look don’t do this.” Anne managed to say evenly before the spanking robbed her of her Latin.

Spuria needed to get the girl’s attention and so spanked on at her leisure for good long while. Anne’s cries could be heard clear to the main house and even Marcus laughed. For Anne, soon the humiliation was replaced with a growing fire in her naked bottom that all but stole her senses.

“Now my girl, are you going to learn?” Spuria said at last.

“Yes domina.” Anne wailed. It was the incorrect form of address, but it served its purpose.

“Hush now.” Spuria soothed. “It’s a hard life for us all but you have to learn, for safety’s sake and your own peace of mind.”

“Yes domina.” Anne wailed.

“Gaia.” Spuria called one of the girls. “Bring the pegs and some oil.”

Anne was vaguely concerned about what new indignity awaited her, but for now, she was just relieved that the spanking was over. She was an academic with letters after her name and she had just been spanked like a child.

Gaia returned with a small wooden tray on which she had placed a small amphora of olive oil and a row of wooden pegs. Spuria palmed a liberal dose of oil and with Anne still firmly held across her lap began to ease some of the liquid into her anus.

“What?” Anne gasped.

“Hush girl, it is for the best.” Spuria soothed.

Anne struggled furiously as she felt two fingers being inserted into her rectum.

“No more please.” Anne pleaded and snivelled.

“Just a little more.” Spuria said softly as if to a horse. Then she picked up the smallest peg and pressed it against Anne’s bottom hole. “Just relax.”

To Anne it felt like the fingers had been substituted with a fist. And she struggled madly against the invasion.

“Its just a little thing.” Spuria soothed. “Far smaller than the peg those beasts had earlier.

Spuria pressed on until the widest part of the peg had been swallowed by Anne’s anus so it closed at the narrow part leaving a wooden nub showing.

“Take it out.” Anne wailed.

“Shush. You must leave this in.”

“I won’t.” Anne growled angrily clawing at her behind.

“Gaia, bring the thumb chains.” Spuria sighed.

Gaia who had been watching the operation in fascinated horror scurried off and returned quickly with a small chain.

Spuria clipped two rings on each of Anne’s thumbs behind her back and linked them together with a chain so that she could not reach the peg.

“You will remain so until you stop trying to remove the peg.” Spuria scolded. “Take her to the wheel, it’s the only useful work we will get from her today.”

Anne was led still naked except for her sandals out into the fields. There she was chained to a giant hamster wheel contraption that was used for pumping water for irrigation.

It was hard work and after an hour, the insistent presence of the peg gave way to a pervasive chaffing rawness at her anus.

“Are you ready to work with the peg?” Spuria asked.

“Yes domina.” Anne sobbed.

“Will you leave it in?”

“Yes domina.”

“You had better. Alright get dressed and get back to your work.”

*

Three days later Anne was still sulking. Her anus was still chafing from her stint on the wheel and relentless intrusion of a peg in her bottom was having many more affects than were intended. To make matters worse that morning Spuria had inserted the next size up and now she felt as if an elephant had buggered her.

“Its for your own good, who knows when you may be offered to a man again, I won’t have you damaged. Its just a little poke after all, such a fuss.” Spuria insisted to the less than enthusiastic Anne as she lay over the woman’s lap.

That day, as luck would have it, she was to attend upon the family. There was another visitor, a woman this time without male attendants, much to Anne’s relief.

“I hear you had a visit from the priest of Apollo.” The woman asked Cornelia. “Did the matter go well?”

“Yes indeed, the items are to be deposited at the temple of Apollo in the north on the Trans-Alpine Gaul road. Don’t ask me why?”

Anne was excited at this news. The abacus and the bowl where back in the temple, all she had to do was get there and reverse her ceremony.

Three days later, she had made many preparations and considered stealing a horse. Although she had decided against it, it being more valuable than she was, as it was bound to draw attention. She thought that if she could get a day or two ahead then she would be just one more woman in the multitude.

She might have waited, but only that morning Spuria had again increased the size of the peg and Anne was beginning to get quite distracted. When she got back she would market the peg as a sex aid. If only she could get any privacy, she would almost welcome the attentions of a passing soldier about now, she thought grimly.

Once Spuria had removed the peg Anne was sent to bed. The others were already sleeping so Anne made her move. Most slaves had nowhere to run so security was lax. Lax enough for Anne to slip away and by morning she had reached the main road north. She was tempted to take in Rome, after all she had scare seen it before and had waited her whole life for the opportunity. But she was sure that if anyone came after her it would be Marcus and that would be the first place he would look. So instead, she avoided the road to Rome and carried on north bypassing the city.

She took care to cover her arm and where possible kept close to the seemingly endless stream of cart traffic on the roads so it appeared that she was with others. This was going to work, she smiled as she patted her sack with the ingredients for the ceremony inside.

By the second night, she was sure that she had escaped. Her bearing and by now good, if accented, Latin was enough so that none glanced at her twice in the multitudes on the road. As she walked around a wagon at the roadside to find a spot to sleep for the night, she walked slap into the chest of a man in the shadows.

“I missed you on the road to Rome, so I knew you must have come this way.” Marcus said in a dark brown voice.

“I’m going home.” Anne said boldly.

“Yes you are.” Marcus growled as he gathered her up and carried her to his horse.

They rode all night, she belly down across the front of his saddle, and by morning they reached the avenue of trees that marked the track to the villa.

Marcus rode into the courtyard, glad that few were up yet. Only Spuria stood waiting.

“Was she missed?” He asked.

“Not by the household.” Spuria replied simply.

Marcus let out a great sigh of relief at this news. She was his to deal with and the danger of more dire consequences had been avoided. Then he dismounted and left the horse to a slave.

“What am I going to do with you?” He said sadly as he looked down at Anne cowering on the ground.

“She put that thing in my bum.” Anne pouted. It sounded childish and lame even to her in face of possible death and torture.

“Is that why you ran?” Marcus gaped. “That was only training for your benefit. You need to make up your mind to your place girl. Have you any idea what I might have been ordered to do to you if you had been missed?”

Anne had read much about slave punishments, but in the months she had been here, she had realised that at best her academic knowledge was incomplete.

“Yes.” She said weakly.

“I don’t think you do.” Marcus growled.

With that, he grabbed her by the hair and half dragged and half pushed her into the stable block. Once there he placed a sack of meal on the ground and threw her face down across it. Anne glared back at him over her shoulder.

Then he dragged a hinged board from the corner, which he quickly lay at right angles to her so that he could secure her feet. By the time Anne realised what he was doing she was locked in with her legs slightly spaced. The board was more like a beam, too heavy for her to move or lift her legs. She was still twisting around and trying to work out the lock when she heard a clank at her head. Marcus then dragged her by the arms squarely over the meal bag and secured her arms to another beam in a similar fashion to her legs.

Anne was now stretched out between two heavy lengths of wood with her hips raised in the middle by the sack. Then in one tug of his arm he stripped her of her one garment. She knew what was coming and refused to give him the satisfaction of begging. But that was before she saw the heavy vine switch.

“Listen I am sorry I ran but…”

“No you’re not.” Marcus growled. “But you will be. You will be.”

He brought the vine down hard across her exposed bottom and she gasped.

“Look don’t please.” She wailed.

Marcus ignored her and began paying out the runaway as he thought she deserved. By five swipes in, she was shouting for all she was worth and not one word of Latin came to mind to beg with.

The girl squirmed and struggled in the limb stocks, her face contorted and wet with tears. Her bottom had a dozen dark rills upon it that stood out against her fair skin in an angry purplish red. She babbled in that barbarian tongue of hers as he aimed his strokes across the under side of her magnificent posterior. If only she wasn’t so adverse to the touch of a man, he thought, I would take her myself, but I can’t force her.

It didn’t occur to Marcus that she would hold a whipping against him, it was after all his job and he was being spectacularly lenient with her. He remembered another girl long ago hanging from the tree. She had been broken and crippled for the same crime and finally had taken her own life.

“You stupid girl.” He said suddenly enraged.

It had seemed to Spuria who was standing nearby that the thrashing was abating, but Marcus was working himself up to hand out a dish of pain for the girl. The old woman hadn’t realised until then the depth of feelings that the overseer had for the girl.

By now Anne was sobbing incoherently and her nose as well as her eyes were streaming. The welts on her bottom and thighs had begun to merge and before long they would begin to bleed.

“Marcus.” Spuria said softly.

Marcus stopped at once and with a glance back he nodded and threw away the vine switch.

“See to her.” Marcus said thickly and then he left.

Spuria made no attempt to release the sobbing girl before she dabbed salve onto the raw flesh.

“You’ll live.” She chuckled. “You have a fine strong arse as you will find out. From now on I am going to spank you silly if you so much as look at me sideways. We have been too lenient with you, far too lenient.”

“Please Spuria.” The girl sobbed. “I just wanted to get home.”

“You are home my sweetness.” Spuria hushed. “This is your home, if not here then where, the mines, the latifunda?”

Once Axon was calm, Spuria went to get the object.

“So you ran away and caused such trouble because you don’t like your training?” Spuria scolded. “Well my girl it is for your own good.”

Spuria stooped and with the merest scrape of olive oil inserted one of her largest pegs deep into the girl’s behind. Axon gasped and squirmed on the sack unconscious of her lude display.

“You can stay there for the remainder of the day and I do hope the ticks do bite. After this you won’t ever care about a little pego again.” Spuria told the girl with grim satisfaction.

*

The day went slowly for Anne, or was she Axon now? She was beginning to lose herself. It was hot and the peg was insistent in her innards. What with that and the intense throbbing in her bottom, she was surprisingly aroused.

In the scheme of things it now seemed silly to have made such a fuss about the pegs. And what if a Roman wanted to roger her, wasn’t that why she had wanted to come to ancient Rome if she were honest?

Throughout the day slaves entered to fetch and carry, most ignored her, but some stayed to gloat. She tried to lie still when there were witnesses, but when she was alone, she squirmed and bucked on the sack. Eventually she found release until she lay panting and in a daze. But it wasn’t over. After a while the peg began to be felt again and the throbbing in her whipped flesh returned energetically. Then she was again helpless and bucking on her sack.

So the day passed until Spuria came to release her. After the old woman had removed the peg she began to undo the shackles.

“Do you object to the peg tomorrow?” Spuria asked innocently.

“No.” Axon breathed.

“Well I think you have had quite enough. I don’t want anymore trouble from you.”

“No Spuria.” Axon agreed.

*

In the months that followed Axon made the most of her new life. It wasn’t that she had given up thoughts of escape, but rather she knew that she had to play a longer game.

Under Spuria’s tutelage she learned much and was soon a favourite at the house and was often in attendance on her mistress Cornelia.

Not that things always went smoothly. Spuria was as good as her word and hardly a week went by that she was not upended over the woman’s knee for a lengthy spanking.

One of the things that Axon observed as she spent time with the family was the outrageous way in which Cornelia Minor treated her tutor. Although he was a slave, he was owed some respect as he conducted his lessons but the young Cornelia saw no reason why she not get her way in all things.

Then one day, Cornelia’s father Marcus Cornelius Strabo arrived at the villa to stay for a few days.

On the second day he sat down with his granddaughter and began to question her about her studies. What had started as a benign inquisition, soon became heated as Cornelia Minor for question after question failed to answer correctly. In his anger and for no accountable reason Cornelius turned to Axon who was standing nearby waiting to be of service and put one of the questions to her.

“Marcus Agrippa.” Axon replied without thinking.

“There you see even the slave knows the answer.” Cornelius said in frustration.

What followed was some more close questioning and after each failure on Cornelia’s part Cornelius put the question to Axon who, for the most part, answered easily. By the end Cornelia Minor was glaring at Axon and she feared the worse.

“This is too much grandfather, I don’t want to learn my lessons, lessons are for boys.”

“Don’t you speak to me that way.” The old man growled seizing the girl.

He upended her across his lap and turned up her skirts. To his horror the girl’s bottom was bare.

“Where is your loin cloth?” he gasped.

“Its too hot gramps.” Cornelia said in a bored tone, not the least concerned that she was naked before her grandfather.

“Too hot.” Cornelius shouted. “Ladies do not go about with no underwear, that is for slaves.”

Cornelius then administered a sharp spanking to his granddaughter’s bare bottom until she was wailing in indignation and promising to be good.

As she scurried away Cornelius bellowed after that he would have words with her mother.

Then in a sudden change of mood he turned to Axon who was still laughing at Cornelia Minor’s treatment and said: “You’re a pretty thing? Tell me where did you learn Greek.”

Axon sat talking to the old man for most of the afternoon, telling him a long story that put her in the best possible light.

Later on her way back through the stables she was accosted by one of Cornelius’s guards.

“Where are you going my pretty one?” He said moving into her way.

“What is that to you soldier boy?” She countered.

“Oh we have a cheeky one here.” He smiled pleasantly.

“You here with the Dominus?” She asked conversationally.

“I am Lucius Atililius, formerly an optimate with the 13th and bodyguard to the noble Marcus Cornelius Strabo.” He said proudly making a grab and kissing her.

“Forward aren’t we?” She gasped.

He turned her about and bent her forward.

“Like it better this way?” He said laughing at his own physical pun.

“Do I have a choice?” She smiled, surprising herself.

“No slave you don’t.” Lucius laughed tipping up her skirt behind to bare her bottom.

“Slut.” Marcus growled as he came at them. Then to the soldier he said. “You get out of here.”

Lucius beat a hasty retreat and left.

“Not you.” Marcus growled at Axon throwing her to the ground.

“What’s the matter Marcus, haven’t I been trained to please any freeman that wants me? Jealous?” Axon teased.

It was too close to the mark for it to be the smart thing to say and Axon knew it as soon as she found herself across Marcus’s knee.

“Look I’m sorry.” Axon wailed as Marcus brought his hand smartly across her exposed bottom.

“Ouch.”

“Doing your duty is one thing putting yourself out like a… I don’t know what.” Marcus snapped as he continued spanking her with some vigour. “As for your smart mouth…”

The spanking with his hand hurt almost as much as Spuria and her paddle and she struggled to hold her peace.

“Doesn’t hurt you bastard.” Axon wailed.

Marcus responded by throwing her to the ground belly up as he seized up a vine switch.

“Please Marcus I was only…” Axon pleaded as he raised the slender wand.

The first line of pain drew a sharp breath from her.

“Marcus.” She wailed.

Marcus ignored her and lay on a dozen more until she was shrieking her regrets.

“But you never come near me.” She sobbed.

Marcus cast the switch aside and hauled her to her feet and kissed her hard on the mouth. They fell into the straw in a firm embrace as he hastened to strip himself. He was about to enter her when he remembered the house rules as well as his own honour.

“Say no if you are going to.” His voice was thick.

She shook her head and tried to kiss him.

“Is that no or no you won’t say no?” He teased.

“For a slave overseer you are a feeble bastard sometimes.” She giggled.

He turned her roughly about and entered as she had been trained to take it.

Axon’s eyes went wide and she gasped in surprise. This was better than any damn peg, was her last coherent thought.

*

A few days, two spankings and countless rolls in the hay later, Axon was called to see Cornelia.

“My father tells me that you are learned.” She said pleasantly.

“Not as learned as I once thought domina.” Axon replied.

“Modest I see.” Cornelia smiled. “You speak Greek?”

“Yes domina.”

“I have sold that old fool who used to tutor my daughter. He says he could not discipline her because she was a girl.” Cornelia continued. “Let him go and teach boys if that is what he is fit for.”

“Domina.” Axon chewed her lip at Cornelia’s show of irritation.

“Now I want you to continue her lessons for another year or two until she is fit to wed.”

“Would it not be simpler to wed her now domina, she is of age after all?”

“You council wisely but my father would not have it so.”

“What if Cornelia does not wish to be taught domina? I stand witness that old Andreas did try.”

“You will have full authority, see that she does.”

“Full authority domina?”

“You know quite well what I mean. Do not spare her rosy behind. Take a vine switch to her if it suits you. But get the job done, my father has high hopes for you.”

“Mother you cannot possibly allow this slave to beat me.” Cornelia Minor, who had been in hiding and listening, wailed as she broke cover.

“I will leave you to it.” Cornelia looked to the heavens and moved away without acknowledging her daughter.

“I saw your fright that time.” Cornelia sneered once her mother was gone. “I will have you impaled by every slave on the place if you so much as look at me. Remember one day I will be mistress here.”

“Thank you for reminding me domina.” Axon grinned. “Gaia.”

By the time Gaia arrived Cornelia Minor was across Axon’s knee with her gown turned up and her loin cloth at her ankles. Gaia gaped in shock to see her young mistress receiving the first real spanking of her life.

“You can’t do this.” Cornelia wailed.

“Gaia fetch me a vine switch, I fear I may need it.”

Gaia hastened off as ordered, glad not to be a witness to her young mistress’s spanking least she bear her a grudge. When she returned with the switch Cornelia Minor was standing tearful with contrition rubbing her behind. Gaia noted that the loincloth lay discarded on the floor.

“Now dominia do I need this?” Axon asked as she took the springy length and showed it to her new pupil.

“No please.” Cornelia whimpered.

“Kneel and bare your bottom to me domina.”

“Please.” Cornelia wailed. “I’ll be good.”

“If you are good then you will do as you are told.”

Cornelia reluctantly obeyed as was soon kneeling before her new tutor showing her reddened bottom.

“Now domina you will assume this position whenever I command.” Axon said. “Now stand up so we can begin.” The use of the submissive term was now ironic given their dramatic change in status.

Cornelia minor was so relieved that she was not to be whipped that she could not comply quickly enough.

*

Cornelia Minor learned fast studying under Axon, who herself was greatly enlightened by the books that she now had access to. There were many disputes between them and more than once Cornelia found herself over Axon’s knee or bent over a couch for a sustained taste of the vine switch while the slaves tittered at her expense.

Then after two years, Cornelia Minor was married to a patrician son who no doubt valued having an educated wife, even if she did resent it.

Life at the villa went well for Axon as well. She was Marcus’s wife in all but name and none dared touch her, not even visiting soldiers. Axon herself became a valued adviser to Cornelius and after Spuria, became the leading slave.

Then one day her world came crashing down. Cornelia had taken a slight chill, nothing serious the physician had said. But Cornelia got no better and died within a week.

After the funeral, Cornelia and her husband took possession of the villa and its lands. As they all stood waiting to greet her, Axon felt a chill grip her heart. What had Cornelia said about one day being the mistress here?

“Ah Axon how are you?” Cornelia said politely.

“Very well domina, I am honoured that you would enquire.” Axon replied.

“Walk with me.”

“Yes domina.” Axon’s mouth was dry as she took nervous steps beside her new mistress.

“I never did thank you for your efforts on my behalf, oh I know its not done to thank a slave, but the priest and my grandfather have both told me that you are more than just a slave.”

“Domina?” Axon was wary.

“Oh I know I cursed you for every whipping you ever gave me, but I deserved every one of them and more besides.” Cornelia chuckled. “My husband compliments me on how well I present my bottom when it’s needful.”

“Domina.” Axon laughed and blushed at this confidence.

“I would free you but I find that my mother sold you and I am no longer able.” Cornelia said matter-of-factly.

“Sold me.” Axon replied in consternation.

“You did not know?” Cornelia seemed equally surprised.

“I did not tell her domina.” Marcus said, stepping forward. “The arrangement was made just before your mother fell ill. There was no time.”

“Sold me? Sold me to whom?” Axon wailed desperately.

“Why to Marcus here of course.” Cornelia replied.

“Marcus? Am I free then?”

“No my love I would not chance that.” Marcus said firmly.

“We will meet again no doubt.” Cornelia said sensing that she was now intruding.

“Yes domina.” Axon bowed.

“So now I am your slave.” Axon said sullenly.

“For now. Does it not please you?”

“Yes dominus.” Axon said sounding decidedly uncertain.

“What troubles you?”

“There is something I must do whether I am slave or not.” Axon replied.

“At last we come to it.” Marcus said sagely.

*

It took four days to reach the temple of Apollo. All the way there, Marcus was sceptical, but he held his peace. All the way there, the tension grew and when Axon laid eyes on it she was suddenly afraid. What if it didn’t work? What if it did?

“Wait here.” Axon ordered.

“Yes domina.” Marcus spat.

“Sorry Marcus, please. Dominus.” She amended.

He inclined his head and waved her towards the temple.

The abacus and the golden bowl were there. Not stolen, Axon observed, so much respect for the gods.

“Apollo I am here.” She called out without a trace of the hypocrisy that she had felt when she last performed this ceremony.

It took a while for her to prepare the potion and set the abacus. Then she began the incantations.

Outside a priest had arrived. Marcus felt embarrassed to be caught indulging a slave.

“My slave, my wife, she is making an offering.” He blurted.

“I know. Now we will see.” The Priest of Apollo smiled.

“You.” Marcus said with recognition. “You were the friend of Cornelia Major.”

“Yes and an even better friend to young Axon in there.”

“You know Axon.”

“I do not know. I knew Anne Acton. She had travelled far from Britannia, a thousand miles and more yet, two thousand years.”

“Tell me more.” Marcus said his mouth suddenly dry.

“She prayed to Apollo to deliver her here and now she makes a choice.”

“A choice?”

“I said I knew of Anne but not of Axon. I know not whether she will go or stay.”

“Go? Axon.” Marcus called distressed.

He jumped up and ran to the temple steps just as it exploded with a tempest.

“Axon.” He wailed.

She came running out and into his arms.

“Quickly run.” She gasped.

They ran back to the horses, looking back in time to see a tornado engulf the temple and bury it in the earth.

“It is done.” The priest said. “All hail Apollo Domina Tempus.”

Then he was gone.

“Where did he…?” Marcus said looking around.

“Looks like I am staying. I don’t suppose I will ever be a great lady though.” Axon sighed. “What are your chances of being appointed to the Senate?”

Marcus wasn’t listening he was scrubbing around in the bushes for something.

“Such foolishness I am going to put an end to these high and mighty ideas of yours once and for all.”

“Marcus what are you doing?” Axon asked nervously.

“I am making a birch rod. I am going to see that you can’t sit a horse for a week.”

“Ooh.” Axon wailed. Then offering his back a pout she kicked at the ground in irritation. “That figures.”

End.



4 Responses to “The Abacus”

  1. 1 Sylvie

    Fantastic story in an unusual setting with some sexual spice, sorry, peg to it.
    very good.

  2. 2 Paul

    DJ, I really enjoyed this, maybe Marcus did make it to the Senate, see the article on Fasces.

  3. 3 jimisim

    DJB;
    I’have admired your writing for some time; but this was different.
    Several grades above most spanking stories, and very erudite.
    Although I took Latin to O level, I’ve forgotten it all, but it seemed fairly realistic-(except of course for the time travel!)
    Congrats and thanks for such a good story.

    Jimi

    • 4 DJ

      Many thanks for that. Very glad you liked it.

      Latin for beginners and how to make it fun. 🙂

      DJ


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