Another short bit from Book 3. Unedited and subject to change. Chapter 3 is a heap of silly, fun Gaius and Allerix scenes. Draft coming soon. 😀
After Allerix finished singing the Greek ditty about a lovesick hero with a ridiculously difficult name, again—for the twentieth or more time—Max scrubbed his face and sighed in resignation.
“That’ll have to do. Your voice is lovely, but your pronunciation is still terrible. We don’t have enough time to correct your garble any more. By the cruel gods, first I was forced to bathe this wooly barbarian, and now I have to train the mongrel how to sing one of Dom’s favorite songs.”
“Quit your grumbling, Maximus. Look where I’ve wound up, will you? A fucking gelded hairdresser!” Bryaxis griped over Alle’s shoulder before he lightly slapped Allerix’s head. “And would you hold still and stop fidgeting, Dacian. I’ve had to restart this blasted braid three times already.”
“You’ll always be a gorgeous, cheeky whore to me, Bry,” Max jested with a wink.
After he blew Max a loud kiss, Bry jerked hard on Alle’s plait. “Stay still, or I’ll pull this damn tail right off your skull.”
“Ouch! Stop yanking my fucking hair, you bastard!”
Max quietly but firmly cupped Alle’s jaw and turned his head to stare into his angry eyes. Gritting his perfect ivory teeth, Maximus growled. “Mind your words and remember your place within this family, Dacian. You are at the bottom, barely above the wretched workers who dwell down in the hive. Bryaxis fucking outranks you.”
“But Alexandros is the favorite now, isn’t he? I mean… he was Dom’s favorite bed warmer until he fucked up and stole Varius’s dagger, right?” Simon blurted from the doorway before crossing the threshold. “Here, I’ve found all the pieces for his Orpheus costume: a floppy hat, travelers’ boots, and a slinky blue Greek tunic. Can he play the lyre?”
All three men turned their gazes to Alle. He nodded sheepishly and confessed, “I’m not good, but I can strum a basic tune. Luckily, this song’s fairly simple.”
Maximus scrunched his brow. “How in the fucking cosmos does a heathen peasant know how to play the lyre?”
“Peasants enjoy music as much as anyone. Maybe more, given how little else they have. We have. Had.” Allerix swallowed and raised his chin defiantly. “My mother taught me on an instrument she made herself. She loved to sing.”
It wasn’t a lie—not exactly. His mother had taught him music and craftwork and how to properly recite those complicated, sonorous prayers to her woodland gods.
Simon handed the expensive, elaborately carved lyre to Alle. “Here, then. You should practice a bit before your performance. I can’t sing at all, but I dance well. Shit, Dom hasn’t asked me to dance for him in such a long time.” The lad’s words were more melancholy than resentful.
“Perhaps Fabius will ask you tonight,” Bryaxis interjected, sporting an encouraging, lopsided smile.
“Perhaps.” Simon chuckled half-heartedly, his heavy fringe of soft brown curls flopping down over his watery green eyes. After brushing the locks away from his face, he wiped his nose and cocked his head. “He needs a bit of cosmetics, don’t you think? Some stain on his lips and a touch of eye charcoal?”
Happy, glorious Sunday!