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Being attentive while otherwise going unnoticed was an important skill for a slave. Fortunately, Nikos had made an art out of appearing only when needed, and thus was usually able to remain more or less invisible as he went about his duties. As a result, he was only occasionally chastised by his master for 'flitting about like a damn hummingbird'.
He was especially pleased to have managed it as well as he did that day. Master Cato had been at his desk all morning, quietly scratching away at his parchment, without aiming more than a mild rebuke at his personal servant. On most days, this would have been victory enough. Considering the guest they were expecting that particular afternoon, Nikos was all the more relieved to have avoided the ire of his masters prickly temperament.
Cato made it clear upon rising that he was to be notified immediately when his guest was sighted, so Nikos felt no need to request permission before stepping out on the veranda. Moving straight to the short rail overlooking the courtyard below, and with his eyes squinting in the glare of sun, he scanned the road winding its way through the green hills beyond the walls of his master's country estate.
"Master, your guest is approaching the gate," he reported with a raised eyebrow as he tilted his bald head toward the road outside the Villa. "By the look of it, he will be several minutes before arriving in the courtyard."
There was an unmistakable current of condescension in the slave's voice, and Cato lifted his quill as he regarded Nikos with a cool stare. "Why? What is causing the delay?" he responded irritably.
Nikos took his masters annoyance in stride. For most slaves, showing such disrespect to a guest of the House would be unthinkable, but Nikos was as much an adviser to Cato as he was a slave. In the privacy of the estate, he had long ago earned the privilege of speaking freely in service of his Master.
"Well, out with it, Nikos," Cato prodded. "You obviously have more to say, or would you have me guess at what is slowing our guest."
"No, sir. I say it only because he is traveling at walking pace. He is being borne by litter."
"By litter, you say? What arrogance," Cato spat in return, openly revealing his own disdain for the man. Rising from his desk, he moved quickly to the railing, and his thin lips curled in scorn at the dozen men carrying the Roman styled, covered lectica.
"Twelve men to carry the damned thing? What sort of man needs to be carried around on the backs of slaves? I tell you, Nikos, this is just this sort of self-indulgence that is rotting our City today."
"Perhaps, Master. But as I recall, Salicar is not Roman. He is Carthaginian."
"That's no excuse for such ostentation," Cato replied sharply. "But, I suppose you are right. By all the gods, he hasn't changed at all. He has always thought of himself as some sort of lost Phoenician prince."
Nikos noted his Master's irritation and shrugged it away. "He is a very wealthy man. Perhaps he intends to remind you of that fact, eh?"
"Nonsense. He's a criminal, not a King."
"Criminal or King, it matters little as long as he is rich. How many Senators have you accused of that very thing? All of Rome knows your opinion of such self-indulgence."
"That they do," Cato answered while absently rubbing his cleanly shaven chin. His eyes narrowed and his scowl drew even sharper as he watched the litter pass through the gates of his estate. "Which begs the question, Nikos. Why is a man like Salicar Vaneria coming to see me?"
"That I do not know. I do know that whatever the answer is, you are not likely to be happy about it. Why did you even agree to see him, if I may ask?"
"You said it yourself. He is rich. He is also well connected. He may be a foreigner, and a thief, but he does have influence. Apparently, he wishes to ask a favor."
"A favor? That sounds like a small enough thing. I hope it does not lead to something very much bigger, eh?"
"As do I. Have our guest meet me in the Atrium. Keep the guards close, but not too close."
"Of course. I have a feeling that this visit is one that would be better off not being made known to your enemies in the Senate."
"You may be right, Nikos. Whatever it is, we shall soon know. Please, go see to our guest."
~~~**~~~**~~~**~~~ The grounds of Praedium Porcius were stark and austere in contrast to the opulent estates maintained by most of Rome's wealthy Patricians. The vast atrium in the center of his home overflowed with manicured gardens and exotic fauna, but the lack of marbled statuary and intricate mosaics subtly demonstrated the frugality favored by the estates Master. Even the ever-present Roman fountains were plain and unadorned, expressing their utility of supplying water over any artistic expression of wealth.
Cato had argued in the Senate for years against the excesses flaunted by the rich and powerful of Rome. He felt passionately that the growing Greek and Egyptian influence in the Republic's society was undermining the very essence of what it meant to be Roman. Being above all a stoic and practical man, his personal vendetta against the wasteful extravagance of his peers often brought him into conflict with the most famous and influential men of his time.
Such shameful demonstrations of wealth were damaging enough when practiced among his fellows in the Senate. In Cato's view, it was far worse when a man of low birth and criminal nature, like Salicar Vaneria, reveled in extravagance. It was prideful, and arrogantly pricked the ear of the common Roman, who was reminded of those things he could never possess. Cato had no tolerance for such grandeur, and it was all he could do to remain polite as Nikos brought his guest into his presence.
Cato grimaced as he the heard footsteps approaching down the cobbled walk. For a long moment, he ignored the two as they stood behind him, refusing to even look while he idly trimmed a rose. It wasn't until Nikos subtly cleared his throat that he allowed himself to even acknowledge the Carthaginian's presence.
"Salicar Vaneria, welcome to my home..." he began dryly, but as he turned, his words died in his throat. Much to his surprise, instead of the olive-skinned merchant, Cato found himself staring into the bright and vibrant eyes of one the most strikingly beautiful women he had ever seen.
"Well, isn't this a pleasant surprise?" he said as a smile quickly replaced his scowl. "I was expecting to meet with a fat trader of spices and wine. Instead, I find myself in the presence of this Nubian treasure."
Slim, and dark as ebony, she held Cato's gaze without blinking, nodding only slightly in respect of his station. "I am Naziri, slave to the House of Vaneria, and the personal servant to my master Salicar. It is my honor to bring you a message from my master." She spoke with a deep and resonant voice, and her Latin was tinged with the melodic accent of her people.
Her jet black hair was cut short to her scalp, highlighting strong cheekbones and the elegant lines of her face. Though delicate in appearance, Cato could see the outline of her feminine musculature rippling erotically under her glowing skin. Lean and strong, she possessed the body of an athlete, and held herself with the dignity of an African Queen. A light, crimson robe hung loosely from her high shoulders, falling over her rounded breast just tightly enough that her nipples could be seen pressing against the silk.
Stoic and frugal, he might have been, but above all else, he was a Roman. Passion and lust were, to the aristocracy, what bread and circuses were to the people, and Cato's entire mood changed as he gazed at Naziri.
Waving Nikos off, he took her hand in his and led her farther down the path, and deeper into the lush gardens of his estate. "So, tell me, Naziri, I am keen to know what message carries so much import that your master would part with you? Surely it must pain him to be without your company for so long?"
Naziri's dark skin reddened slightly at the Senators praise. She was a slave, and powerful men rarely bothered to speak so kindly to her. Such seductive tones were usually reserved for free women who could choose whom they slept with. That Cato would treat her so kindly made her task much easier. Once they were alone, she relayed the message Salicar bade her deliver.
"My master wishes me to ask a favor of you, my lord. It is something he feels may be of benefit to you both."
"Truly?" Cato responded with a hint of suspicion. "And what might that be?"
Naziri noted his tone with satisfaction, feeling that perhaps he, indeed, was the kind of man she hoped he was. She had a favor of her own to ask, but that would have to wait until she had first discharged her duty to Salicar.
"As we speak, King Massena of Numidia is harassing Carthaginian settlements and interest all along their African border. As you well know, Carthage is forbidden by treaty to enter a war without approval from the Roman Senate."
Cato raised an eyebrow, impressed that she should know so much of politics. "Yes, this is true. The terms essentially made his people vassals of Rome. It was a ridiculously kind settlement, and I would have opposed it more vocally if not for the ten thousand talents of gold we received in reparations."
"Yes. I imagine three hundred tonnes of gold did much to mollify your concerns," Naziri said with a smile. "As a consequence, the safety of Carthage now rests in Rome's generous hands."
Cato sensed how angry Salicar must be at this, and couldn't help but smile. After two, brutal and bloody wars, part of him would have preferred to see Carthage destroyed once and for all, but the knowledge they were so completely humiliated was almost as satisfying. "That's history now," he responded cryptically. "What has all of this to do with me?"
Naziri nodded again. "My master has heard that a commission will soon be formed and sent to mediate the dispute between what Rome now considers to be vassal states. He has sent me to request that you be on this commission. He feels that with your prestige. you can have the commission order Numidia to halt its actions, and end the war before hotter heads in Carthage do something that will bring Rome's vengeance down upon them."
Cato gazed into her bright eyes, thoroughly enjoying the chance to engage in political maneuver with such a gorgeous woman. He could now see why Salicar had sent her, yet as alluring and intelligent as she was, he wouldn't let that sway him. "I have to wonder, Naziri, why would I do this? What care do I have if Carthage meets the destruction it deserves?"
Naziri smiled inwardly at the pure brutality of Cato's position. His obvious dislike of both Salicar and Carthage could be of great benefit to her, but before testing those dangerous waters, she needed to secure the deal offered by her master. Spreading her hands, palms up, she did her best to reason with the older Patrician. "Simply because doing so will enrage and humiliate both nations. Meanwhile, anger and distrust between Carthage and Numidia will grow, leaving Rome more secure in that that they will continue to balance against each other."
As Cato contemplated the subtle possibilities of such a deal, Naziri's hand slipped under the robes of his toga. Taking his flaccid cock into her fingers, she stroked him with a firm pressure that almost instantly had him growing in her palm. "My master also told me that, should you agree, I am to be your slave for the night."
Naziri's lyrical accent, and the warmth of her hand slowly stroking his cock, had Cato suddenly reeling. Just the mere sight of her almost jet-black fingers wrapped so tightly around his erection made his blood catch fire. "Your master would put the fate of his country into the hands of a pleasure slave? He must truly be desperate,” Cato noted with a strained chuckle. That laugh quickly became a low groan when she knelt, and took his now rock hard cock into her warm mouth.
"My master bids me to entertain you while you decide, my lord," she murmured as she kissed the underside of his shaft. "I am told you have as long as you can last to decide. I beg you, Master Cato, think carefully on this. You will find me to be a most pleasing gift."
Before he could respond, Naziri sucked him back into her mouth, glossing his cock with a sucking kiss that had his breath coming from deep within in his chest. "Gods blood, Naziri, that's good. You are remarkably persuasive. Please, go slower, yes that's it. I should hate to be rushed into a, ah, premature, conclusion to our business."
"Mmm, I am in no hurry, master," she murmured around his shaft, before brushing her thick, full lips over his glans. There was a mirthful sparkle in her eyes as she licked his head, swirling her tongue up and around his spongy crown, before sucking it back into her mouth.
Naziri sucked him so slowly that her lips barely moved over his length. It was as if she were merely toying with him. Inside her mouth though, he could feel her tongue flicking and swirling with insidious intent over his head, and her long, delicate fingers gently fondled him. It was a torturous cocktail of sensations, and his skin burned with desire as her slow and insistent touch began to stir the churning cum in his balls. Everything about Naziri was extraordinary, and the thought of not getting to enjoy her thoroughly was quickly becoming impossible for him to contemplate.
His mind swam as the intense sensations on his cock grew. He wanted this woman terribly, but as another man's property, he couldn't simply take her without her master's permission. Hurriedly, his mind shifted to the deal offered by Salicar.
Few things in life appealed to Cato more than political intrigue, and he had to admit, he did approve of the scenario Salicar suggested. He hated both Numidia and Carthage with a passion, and the idea that he might be able to humiliate both nations with an simple edict from Rome was exactly the kind of maneuver he loved most. Reluctantly, a devious smile crossed his thin and aged lips.
"Your master must believe you will charm me into agreeing to his plan. Does he truly think me such a fool that I may be seduced by a woman?"
Naziri held his gaze and smiled as she slipped his throbbing cock from her mouth and brushed his turgid head over her dark lips. "Any man may be seduced, my lord. There is no shame in that."
Cato caressed her face and ran his finger over the pert shape of her nipple under her robe. He felt himself being entranced by her intellect as much as be was her beauty, and his will began to break. "Then call me a fool, if it means having you for myself tonight."
Naziri stroked him quickly as she gazed up at him with a gleaming smile. "That pleases me, master. I promise you will not be disappointed with me."
Rising before him, Naziri untied her robe at her shoulders and let the shimmering dress pool at her feet. The hot sun felt warm and made her ebony skin shine as it glinted off of her body. Casually, is if it were a subconscious act, she ran her hands up her belly and over her breasts.
Cato was completely enthralled by her exotic beauty and his gaze followed her hands over her well defined abdomen as they rose to her breasts. He swallowed hard, feasting on her with his eyes as she rubbed her palms over her dark nipples. They were as black as night, and became long and thick as she rolled them under her hands. "By the gods, No words I can imagine could do your beauty justice."
Naziri stepped close and guided his mouth to her breast, urging him to suck. His lips wrapped tightly around her nub, and his arms encircled her waist as he feasted on her dark skin. Naziri sighed and leaned into him, encouraging him to bite her as she fondled his cock.
It was then that Naziri spotted Nikos watching from a distance. He was stroking his cock with a tight and rapid grip as he stared intently at her and his master. It was an incredibly dangerous thing for him to do and Naziri felt a flush of excitement race through her as their gaze met. Holding Cato's head to her breast, she smiled at the other slave, letting him know she welcomed his presence. Long ago, Naziri had learned that being watched made her pussy drool with wet heat, and her eyes bored into his as their master continued to suck on her breasts.
Without warning, Cato dropped his hands to her ass, squeezing her so tightly that she gasped in his ear. He lifted her to her toes, holding her breast against his mouth. Naziri clutched her masters head and whimpered into his ear, but her eyes never left Nikos and she silently mouthed the words "Come for me," as he fervently stroked his cock...
~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~ Deep shadows hid from the shimmering orange and yellow light flickering from dozens of candles burning in his bedchamber. Some were lining the shelves, while others rested atop the heavy oak furniture. Many more were simply placed on the thick rugs that covered the marbled floors. Scattered patterns of light and dark were cast about the room, creating a mood that was both elegant and comfortably welcoming.
In the center of his bed, Naziri knelt, facing her master. She was completely nude, and her knees were parted slightly, with her hands resting on her thighs.
"It's a good thing I don't prefer young men," Cato quipped happily as he fondled her breast. He was equally nude, and she gripped his cock, stroking it back to life.
"That would be no matter, my lord. I posses the same holes as a man, and my master has often had me bind my breasts and wear a man's tunic while used me as he would a boy. It's an interesting sensation, to have a man's cock buried deep into my ass, but not altogether unpleasant," she purred as her fingers played over his shaft.
Cato urged Naziri onto her stomach so he could feel her tight but wonderfully rounded cheeks. "I'd wager you are as least as tight as any young man," he said wistfully as he caressed her.
Naziri sighed pleasantly at his touch. "You would win such a bet, my lord," she murmured while stretching out her lean body with a distinctly feline grace. "I would, no doubt, be opened wide by a man of your girth. The very idea of having you in my ass makes my pussy moist."
"We shall see how tightly you grip me, Naziri, but only in good time. I want to experience your beauty completely tonight." Cato leaned over her back, fluttering his lips up her spin until he was nuzzling her neck.
Naziri cooed as he moved over her. His warm skin rubbed smoothly against hers, causing her to purr softly into the sheets. He was being remarkably gentle, which was good, but she knew Roman men far too well to believe that would last. Still, his touch was light, and goosebumps formed on her skin as his kisses fluttered back down her body.
"Tell me, does he flog you for his enjoyment?" Cato inquired as he kissed her firm and rounded ass. His tongue flicked out, sliding over her rose, causing her to moan softly.
"Yes, my lord. Not overly hard, but he does have a taste for my whimpers. Is that a taste you share? Would you like to have me tied to a post tonight? I admit, part of me hopes you do."
Cato slapped her bottom hard, and she groaned in surprised as the sting warmed her ass. "Perhaps I will, but for now, I wish to hear other sounds issue from your throat."
Flipping her over, he playfully parted her thighs and brought his lips to her wet and puffy sex. The bright pink of her slit contrasted beautifully with the moisture-glossed black of her mound, and he couldn't resist the urge to slide his tongue deep inside her.
Sweet and tangy, her juices flowed thickly over his tongue, and he settled lower, sliding his entire mouth over her sex. Naziri gasped and her hips began to roll, seeking to find his tongue with her clit. "Mmm, yes, master. Lick me like that. Ohh fuck, your tongue feels so good!"
Naziri grasped the bedsheets, pulling at them hard as her body arched. His tongue flicked and slid over her clit, driving her to the brink, and her chest heaved as she felt that sweet pressure build in her core. On and on, his lips sucked at her, making her labia puffy and wet. Soon, her strong thighs tensed and quivered. A hard shudder began at her sex and rolled up her spine, causing her to flex and jerk in the sheets. Then, her dark hands flew to her breasts, squeezing them hard as her whole body was consumed in the heat of her orgasm.
"Unh, oh fuck!" she screamed as her orgasm washed through her. By the time her body calmed, and her back dropped back flat on the bed, Cato's mouth was completely covered in her juice. Naziri laughed as he crawled over her, wiping his face with the sheets. "You look like you've been sucking berries, my lord!" she told him before accepting a deep and passionate kiss.
"I've never tasted a wine so sweet. I loved making you come, but now I need to be inside you." Cato's voice was strained and heavy with his arousal, and Naziri slipped her arm between them and took hold of his rampant erection.
"Then wait no more," she purred as she guided his tumescent shaft toward her slit.
Cato felt the soft wetness of her lips embrace his head and with a hard grunt, drove his cock deeply into her body.
Her sudden gasp was followed by a low moan as she felt her channel being stretched open by the force of his entry. Her strong and lean legs curled around his, drawing him in as he began fucking her. Cato was lost in his desire and rode her hard, driving his cock into her with relentless speed until they were both breathless from the effort.
Naziri clung to him, holding his ass and drawing him in, urging him him on while Cato plunged his hard cock deep into her body. She moaned and gasped as the raw pressure of his thrusts pushed into her, making her toes curl and her heart pound hard in her chest. Their eyes locked and her breath came short as a feral and instinctive need danced like fire over her supine body.
The sharp contrast between his light skin and her rich, dark tones only added to their arousal. Each of them could easily see the others body against their own, heightening the passion they felt. It was a hot and wanton moment, and all too soon, he felt his balls draw tight and his glans filled with heat. Holding her tightly beneath him, he stabbed into her hard, grinding his pelvis against her clit as his whole body became tense. He grunted and flexed, and then his hot cum boiled out, filling her with the nectar of his orgasm.
This was the sole joy of her slavery. The sole pleasure. Unlike those who would live under the repressive views of later times, she felt no shame for enjoying sex. To the contrary, she craved the raw pleasure of it. The pure release of orgasm, or the satisfaction of giving one to another, gave her the only real escape she had from her servitude. Even as often as she was shared by her master, these moments were fleeting, and she reveled in them whenever she had the chance.
Now, she lay in yet another man's bed, with his seed slowly leaking from her sex. She had been in similar beds many times since being bound as a slave, but this time it was different. This time, she was with a man who could change her life, and she vowed he would be the last lover someone else would ever choose for her.
"My lord," she began as they lay recovering from their exertions. "I need you to buy me, and set me free."
Though she's said the words with clear sincerity, Cato laughed, as if it were a joke. "Buy you? You are beautiful enough that I would be glad to have you as my own, but why would I free you? Deals are made by trading value for value, Naziri. What could you offer me that would be worth the cost?"
His laughter was chiding, but at least he hadn't reacted with anger, and Naziri smiled and nuzzled into his chest. "Of course, master. I have no gold of my own, or at least not enough to buy my freedom, but what if I could offer you something else?"
Cato continued to chuckle, but as a career politician, he began to wonder. All too often, he'd seen offers that seemed outrageous when first broached, be the nascency of a critical agreement later. Running his hands over her ass also made him consider the benefits of owning her himself. Even if she didn't have anything he could use, buying her wasn't such an objectionable idea.
"I will agree to buy you right now, assuming Salicar would be willing to sell you," he responded with a relaxed shrug. "Freeing you is a different matter. For that, I will expect something special in return. Speak then, and tell me what I might receive for your freedom."
Naziri sat up, her eyes deadly serious and her jaw set with a raw determination. "What if I were to tell you that Salicar is no trader. He is a spy for Carthage, an agent provocateur. He is attempting to use your position for the long term gain of Carthage. Promise me my freedom, and I'll tell you his plan, and how you can turn his trap back on him."
Anger flared in Cato's heart. Anger at Salicar for trying to use him as a fool, and anger at Carthage for plotting against Rome. If what she said was true, it was information easily worth her freedom.
"Those are strong accusations, Naziri, but if they are true, I will agree to your terms. So, it rests in your hands. Convince me that what you say is true, and I'll try to buy you. I caution you though. If you have such knowledge, I can't see him selling you for any price."
"He is desperate for you to stop the war, master Cato. He knows his people are not yet ready to resist Rome, but now that their debt is paid, how long will it take for them to build another great army? Even now, they have expanded their reach into Africa. That is how I came to be here. My people were enslaved, and our wealth stolen. Carthage needs only time. Time to rebuild, and time to find the next Hannibal to lead them. If you need proof, send a message that I am the cost of your agreement. He will have no choice but to accept. When he does, you'll know I speak the truth."
Cato stared in wonder at Naziri. How could a mere slave concoct such a plan, and maneuver events so strongly to her advantage? Even if she was right though, it would take a miracle for Rome to once again risk war with her nemesis. Memories of Hannibal's rampage through Italy were still the stuff of nightmares. Even with her help, it would take years of persuasion to get the Senate to act. Still, the danger would be far worse if he did nothing at all.
"Very well, Naziri. I will send an envoy demanding he sign your rights to me. If he accepts, we will have a deal, and you will have your freedom."
Historical note:
In 157 BCE, Marcus Porcius Cato led a commission to mediate a peace between Carthage and Numidia. Before this trip, he had made no pubic comments on Rome's relationship with Carthage. On his return Cato suddenly turned about, and reported that Carthage was far too powerful and dangerous an enemy to ignore. From that day on, he ended every speech he gave, regardless of its subject, with the words, 'Carthaginem esse delendam', or Carthage must be destroyed. In 149, the Roman Senate declared war, and indeed, Carthage was utterly and completely wiped from the face of the Earth.
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