The next day they transferred me from my cell beneath the arena to another. I cannot say to where they took me because I had made an attempt (useless, and I had known it would prove so, but born of desperation) at escape, and one of the guards had struck me across the head with the shaft of his spear, rendering me unconscious. I awoke in my new prison, this one a veritable palace compared to my old one; it contained a window, barred, yes, but overlooking a small courtyard filled with trees, and these in turn filled with chirping birds. Gay peacocks strutted and called to each other amidst verdant shrubbery. Surrounded by a whitewashed stone wall, the yard, and more to the point my window, though small, allowed entrance into my cell ample sunlight and fresh air.
The walls of the room (and this latter thrice as large as my kennel underneath the Coliseum) were bare, and the ceiling well above my head and supported by bare timbers; these were free of cobwebs. The corners of the room were swept clean of dirt, as was the floor, this last comprised of dull tiles. Grandest of all, this room had a bed of sorts, a cot with several blankets. These also were clean. So this is how Rome treats her celebrity captives, I remember thinking, after I had come to myself and shaken off some of the disorientation from my throbbing skull. A posh, comfortable prison. No less a purgatory for me.
Three times that day the door, fashioned of heavy timbers and iron bands, hung on thick hinges, opened to admit guards with plates of food and pitchers of wine. The first time, in addition to the retinue of guards, Selene herself came bearing the pitcher.
“Don’t misbehave and earn yourself a fresh headache,” she said to me. The last time I had seen her had been in the labyrinth beneath the arena; she had been almost naked, clad in her fighting garb: leather boots and vest, armor on her arms and legs, a short leather skirt reinforced with heavy rivets, a helmet to contain her wild mane of hair, with her beautiful, cold face painted with ochre and scarlet into the visage of a she-demon. Now she wore again the soft clothes of a woman at ease, with soft slippers on her feet, her hair hanging loose and free. Only her face, now scrubbed clean and as supple as the skin of an apricot, bore the same chill expression.
“I put some medicine in this,” she said, setting a cup on the little table that stood next to the cot, pouring into it wine from the jug. “It will ease your throbbing head.”
I had learned early during my period of captivity that Selene represented that rarity among the Roman decadence, a gladiatrix, a female gladiator. She fought often in the arena, she told me herself, stopping by my kennel to visit me.
“We women seldom fight to the death,” she’d explained to me. “There are too few of us to spare any, and Silvanos values us too much. The citizenry itself values us too much!”
“Why did they move me from the arena to this place?” I asked her as she poured the wine.
“That was my doing,” she replied with a smile. “And you’re welcome.”
“I do not thank you!” I said. “If you know what they have in store for me…!”
“You have a few days before next you must spill blood in the Coliseum,” she said. “You should enjoy them. Rest, and eat. Is there anything I can bring you to read? We have quite the library here.”
“I want nothing but my freedom!” I snapped. “Or death! Either is freedom for me!”
She shrugged. “I can’t give you either of those. But maybe I can offer you something you will like,” she said as she left me.