“So, this is how you keep order in the mines?” muttered Cheimarrhus, as he stepped into the chamber.
Lord Nycetus glanced up from the pomegranate he was slicing open. “I do not recall asking for your presence, boy.”
Cheimarrhus snorted as he strode forward. “Boy! You think you may insult me such, may treat such, may put lowly worms such as that Abgar over me…”
“Yes,” said Nycetus quietly, scooping out some pomegranate seeds. “It is the best part of being commanding officer here. Schooling little wretches like yourself on how to handle yourselves if you wish to be taken seriously…”
“Little wretch!” snapped Cheimarrhus. “I am of the house of Bellerophontes! Ours is an ancient and honorable house--”
“That has had the misfortune, in you, to produce a miserable little wretch,” answered Nycetus, pausing to chew some pomegranate seeds.
“Do not interrupt me,” muttered Cheimarrhus, striding towards Nycetus’ desk. “I hold the advantage here now! My family may… have their issues with me, but when I bear the tale of your incompetence, they will…”
“What incompetence?” yawned Nycetus.
“This fighting and disorder occurring in that whorehouse you keep on this mine!” shouted Cheimarrhus, slamming his fists on the table. “That is what I mean! When I tell them this…”
“They will do nothing,” said Nyectus lifting his pomegranate. “You know--I get these from my family’s farm…”
Cheimarrhus stared at him, puzzled. “What…?”
“Hush, boy,” said Nycetus. “The adult is talking, and the child is, hopefully, learning.” He regarded the pomegranate for a moment. “An amazing fruit, you know. Healthful, vital. And we know this by its juice…” He tilted the rind to his face and then crushed it, allowing the red juice to flow into his mouth. Nycetus licked his lips, and set the fruit down. “Yes, its juice, which is red as blood is red.” He regarded the clearly baffled Cheimarrhus, who stared at his face streaked with red. “Like sustains like, after all. It is simple logic.” He smiled at the young man. “Just as it is simple logic that your family, after paying me to take you on here, after your disgrace, will not care a fig about your complaints regarding a few slaves scuffling among themselves.” Nycetus gave a subtle shrug. “After all, it is not a crying young girl… of high family, yet--complaining of being most cruelly used.” He peered forward, enjoying the exquisite pleasure of watching the young man squirm. “How old was she again? The number… twelve keeps appearing to my mind…”
“She said she was older!” said Cheimarrhus with a gulp.
“Of course,” muttered Nycetus sardonically. “They always do, don’t they, when the tale’s told again…”
“She--she wanted it!” sputtered Cheimarrhus glancing desperately at the door. “She… said she…”
“Yes, yes,” noted Nycetus, nodding. “That always seems to be the case as well.” He yawned and waved Cheimarrhus towards the door. “And now that you see that I know you all to well, boy, I ask that you trust that you know me not at all, and that you not try to second-guess me. Now--go.”
Cheimarrhus bit his lip and then turned, rapidly making his way to the door. He jerked it open and saw a handsome young man standing there, with the shackles of a slave. “Who are you?” he snapped.
“Ahh, that one goes by many names,” said Nycetus. “I believe in some areas, the slaves call him ‘Striker’.” He eyed the slave approvingly. “I prefer to call him ‘Darling’, myself.”
Cheimarrhus gave a disgusted shudder and stomped away. Striker watched him leave then slid into the room. “I have many things to tell you, my master,” said the slave, walking towards Nycetus.
“And are they good things?” asked the lord. “For if they are, I shall give you kisses and other sweet things.”
The slave kneeled at Nycetus feet. “Oh, very good things,” he said softly.
Nycetus stroked the slave’s cheek. “Darling boy,” he whispered. “Sweet darling boy…”