PZA Boy Stories

Bara

Flavius Aulus


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Summary

This is a story of a boy, his friends and his mentors living in a world where the Roman Empire still exists. They face challenges and lead lives that are impossible here but in many ways their world is very similar to ours.
Publ. Nov 2006 (author's website); this site Aug 2007-Jan 2009; completely revised Jul 2012;
Book Two added Aug 2012 – Book Three added Nov 2012 – Book Four added Mar 2014
Finished 356,000 words (712 pages)

Characters

Flavius Aulus (14-16yo) and the boys of the House of Sparta (13-15yo)

Category & Story codes

Boy-Slave story/fantasy
Mtb tt tb – Mdom cons anal oral – humil spank
(Explanation)

Disclaimer

If you are under the legal age of majority in your area or have objections to this type of expression, please stop reading now.

If you don't like reading erotic stories about boys, why are you here in the first place?

This story is the complete and total product of the author's imagination and a work of fantasy, thus it is completely fictitious, i.e. it never happened and it doesn't mean to condone or endorse any of the acts that take place in it. The author certainly wouldn't want the things in this story happening to his character(s) to happen to anyone in real life.

It is just a story, ok?

Author's note

This story is the property and copyright of Bara Produktions.

It may only be downloaded copied or stored for the purpose of reading it. It may not be published, displayed or used in any other way without the written consent of Bara Produktions.

Thank you for taking the time to send feedback to the author at bara_stories(at)fmail.co.uk or through this feedback form with Bara - Flavius Aulus in the subject line.

Personae

Flavius Aulus, the 14 year old Provincial Governor, boy in the House of Sparta

Alan, 13yo, slave in Harold's office, boy in the House of Sparta
Brutus Crevellio, noble, boy in the House of Sparta
Germanicus Susitus, legal advisor and mentor to Flavius, adult in the House of Sparta
Hans, 15yo, Flavius' body slave, head boy in the House of Sparta
Harold Cirenson, clerk at a shipyard, adult in the House of Sparta
Juan, guardian of Flavius, adult in the House of Sparta
Julia, Flavius' mother
Luke Smith (15yo), son of a shopkeeper, friend of Flavius, boy in the House of Sparta
Marcus Aulus (c. 12-13 yo), son of Titus
Matthew, majordomo, guardian of Flavius, adult in the House of Sparta
Maximilian, General
Octavia, wife of Titus
Publicus Aulus (17yo), son of Titus
Steven Cirenson (c. 14yo), Harold's son, boy in the House of Sparta
Titus Aulus, Flavius' uncle, adult in the House of Sparta

Preface

This is a tale of a boy growing up on an alternative Earth, his companions and his mentors. The path he chose may seem surprising but there are precedents on our world. Incognito has been used often enough to describe the famous, be they noble lords or film stars, who wish to live for a time out of the public glare. In the seventeenth century Tsar Peter the Great worked as a carpenter in a Dutch shipyard for a time. He was trying to learn the technology needed to build a great navy for Russia. There is a tale that Tsar Nicholas visited England and stayed in a seaside guest house in the north. The Tzarina is supposed to have enjoyed helping the landlady with the housework. They were both godparents to the landlady's son.

The fun part is to guess what else is possible.

In this parallel Universe, the Ancient Roman Empire is still flourishing and for two and a half thousand years has been the dominant force on their world. Our two worlds diverged in AD 54 just before the death of Claudius. On this other world Claudius had sent his son Britannicus into hiding in the province he was named after, Britannia. Instead of being murdered, when civil war broke out following Nero's death Britannicus took power and created a much more stable empire avoiding many of the excesses we associate with the Roman Empire.

Wars, epidemics and natural disasters has slowed and sometimes reversed progress, just as in this world and so, in many ways their world is very similar to our own but there are differences.

Slavery still exists. Machines have reduced the need for massive manpower and the demand for slaves is declining. Captured prisoners from wars of conquest are a thing of the past. The main source is now through convicted criminals and so the supply has fallen as well. The majority of criminal court cases involve young people and the attitude is, that if their families cannot control them, they should go to someone who can.

Fines, capital and corporal punishments are used as well to act as deterrents but prisons are just places to hold people while they are dealt with.

Schools are becoming larger and are class based rather than tutor based. Nowadays they are free and theoretically open to all. In practice boys sit in the class strictly according to rank. The higher the rank the further to the front you sit slaves slaves sat on the floor to one side. Even school work was marked according to rank which sustained the tradition of boys following in their father's footsteps in work. Important subjects are taught in the mornings while the lesser subjects are taught in the afternoons. The idea being that in the afternoons boys can work with their fathers if appropriate.

It is not a utopian society by any means and changes come slowly but it's citizens and even some slaves live in relative security and comfort.

Chapter 1

Holding back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm him, Flavius took the ring from his father's still warm hand. At just 14, his childhood was over and possibly his life was in danger.

"I'll take that," snapped his Uncle Titus, "No point in delaying things. We've all got to get used to the new situation."

Flavius senior had always been proud of his son and expected him to take their House of Aulus to even greater strength and power in the empire. From an early age Flavius had taken an interest in his fathers activities who had been happy to teach him. From the moment that Flavius' father knew that he had cancer, they had made plans for this moment. They had agreed that Flavius' Uncle could not take control. As a manager he was a capable man and so the shipyard he owned was well run and profitable but he lacked that broader business acumen that ensured a steady flow of new orders.

Flavius had a natural talent in that direction but his age meant he lacked the experience and basic skills to run the far more complex House of Aulus business interests.

Flavius senior had also been concerned with his son's upbringing. If Titus was to take control as Flavius' guardian it was almost certain he would never surrender it again. He may not kill Flavius but the boy would be kept in the background, his education restricted and he would be sent to a distant estate where he would lose touch with events. Eventually the courts would rule that he was unfit to take up his duties as head of the House of Aulus.

Father and son had worked out a scheme. They were in full agreement for part of it but Flavius Senior had been shocked at his son's idea of a lifestyle but as he became more ill and without an alternative plan of his own, he finally agreed to his son's scheme. Flavius Senior even discussed it all with the Emperor and was surprised to find that Flavius would have Imperial support.

"Hurry up, boy," Titus ordered, "Don't just stand there. Give me the family ring."

In the back of his mind Flavius could almost hear his Father urging him on. If he had the courage to stand up to Titus now all may go well.

"While I wear this ring, you should address me more respectfully, Uncle."

"Don't be so rude, Flavius. Your Uncle is almost certainly going to become the Head of this House even if you have turned 14. It is you who should be respectful."

"I don't mean to be rude, Mother, but we should wait for the will to be read and for it to be ratified in court. Father would expect us to follow protocol."

"The bo… Flavius is right, Julia," said Titus, "even if we have to waste time going through the system."

Titus glared at Flavius. "You'll learn the hard way that I don't like silly games nor insolence from a pup like you."

"Yes Uncle. If you'll excuse me, I should go to the Reception Hall."

Titus was furious at the exchange between him and Flavius. His thoughts turned to how he would bring his insolent nephew to heel. It was only when he noticed Julia's growing impatience that he realised the implications of Flavius' action. In this alternative world the House of Aulus was not only powerful in commerce but it's head was automatically Provincial Governor. The important and influential were gathering to pay their respects to their new Lord and Master. By entering the Reception Hall and taking his place on the podium wearing the family ring Flavius was proclaiming himself as his father's true successor. Instead of mounting the podium beside his nephew as a guardian should and accepting the greetings jointly, Titus could only watch as the commander of the military garrison saluted Flavius and offered his condolences.

"Thank you, General," replied Flavius. Raising his voice slightly, as if to include the rest of the gathering he continued, "There are matters that I need to deal with urgently. May I assume that General Maximilian spoke for all of you and may I ask you all to attend a formal reception where I may greet you all as you deserve."

That particular speech had been adapted from a TV play. It seemed safer to Flavius to copy something an adult had said. Nobody claimed that they recognised it but maybe they were more interested in the odd assortment of guests being ushered into the private part of the hall. The main gathering was arranged strictly according to rank. Those present knew their standing and automatically took their position. To one side was a small ante-room. Here, people expected by the Governor would wait. Because of the wide range of business interests and official duties carried out by the head of House of Aulus it was accepted that this was one of the most class free rooms of the Province.

The gathering was well versed in the art of subtle politics and their attention was again drawn to the podium. Pleased that his name had been singled out in the small but significant moment of local history General Maximilian saluted smartly and replied "Of course, sir. We understand."

Titus realised he was being sidelined but could do nothing about it. If he mounted the podium now it would be interpreted as a desperate attempt to claim some authority. He had tacitly surrendered his claim to be Head of the Family by not mounting the podium beside Flavius and he could only guess at what Flavius and his father had planned.

Flavius, on the other hand, was amazed that he had out-manoeuvred his uncle so easily. Uncle Titus could still become his guardian or become the Head of the House of Aulus through the courts but most of the legal system had been in the reception hall and had just accepted him without his uncle. They would now have to backtrack a little to find for Titus. Titus's primary claim is the grey area that now exists with a youth between the age of 14 and 21. Traditionally a man at 14, modern law accepts that he needs guidance while still growing up.

"The gentlemen are in your office, Master," said the majordomo quietly as Flavius left the reception hall.

Flavius was momentarily stunned. He didn't have an office, just his private quarters and to the slaves he was sir or young master. Again he had to fight back the tears as he realised how things had changed. He nodded not trusting himself to speak. He allowed the majordomo to usher him in and to the chair behind the imposing desk which was his father's place of work.

"One of the late Master's last acts was to call this meeting," began the majordomo, "If the new master permits, may it be without protocol."

Flavius nodded and the majordomo indicated that the others should sit before taking a seat himself. The only person to remain standing was a slave boy, about 15 years old who began serving drinks.

"What I have to say forms the basis of the late Master's will. It'll be formally read later but it will be almost impossible to contest it if the requests of the late Master are already in place.

When the late Master learned of his illness he made plans concerning the guardianship of Master Flavius. He felt that such a duty would be too much for one man. Both Masters worked together to choose a Board of Guardians and with one exception they both agreed on us gentlemen to form the nucleus of that board.

"As Imperial Magistrate, would you Germanicus Susitus act as legal advisor and mentor to Flavius? You would teach him about his role as governor and Chief Provincial Magistrate. You would also countersign any document with Master Flavius."

The majordomo continued, dealing with the practical aspects of the position before concluding, "If you accept this role, sir you effectively become chairman of the Board of Guardians."

"Flavius' father did approach me about this," Germanicus replied, "I agree."

"Juan. Your master is retiring to the country soon. He had planned that you should go with him. You are still without equal in the International trade markets. Master Flavius wishes to buy you and give you your freedom providing you agree to be bonded to the House of Aulus until Flavius reaches 21. Your present master says that in recognition of your past service to him, you may choose."

"Like Master Germanicus I have already been approached on this matter. Master Flavius has always treated me well at the Exchange. I would be pleased to serve him."

Even before history diverged, the fate of slaves could be varied. Many would die quickly in the mines or other hazardous places but a few could become prosperous even owning slaves in their own right. It all depended on the needs of their master and their ability to serve him. Juan and the majordomo were among the fortunate ones. Juan had shown a talent for the stock markets at a time when his master had been badly injured and unable to visit the exchange often. The majordomo had worked hard at the jobs given to him and had been gradually promoted through the household hierarchy. He always studied the jobs of his superiors and could fill in when the need arose. He would always be a slave in the House of Aulus but he had that unique status of a man so expert in his job that he was irreplaceable.

"My role is to teach him the running of the household and the protocols and etiquette of his position," said the majordomo. "He is well versed in most of these matters already so my involvement will be slight. We now come to you, gentlemen."

The gentlemen were Harold Cirenson and his son Steven. None of the other men present knew anything about them or why they were here. Their clothes made them middle class and that was it. Harold did not know that much more. He was a clerk in a shipping company.

He had been at work when the Chief Clerk had approached saying, "There's a phone call for you. It's the Governor's Palace. Would it be convenient for you to visit."

"I'm sorry, sir. Could you say that again."

"The Governor wishes to see to you. Oh! I'm sorry, I forgot. With your son. They wish to know if it is convenient?"

"It must be a joke. I'm sorry, sir."

"No! I verified it with the telephone operator. It's genuine."

"What about time off? How do I get there? Harold realised that he was rambling but he needed time to think.

"Don't worry! It would be a great honour for this office to help the Governor in any way. Take what time you need on full pay and I will arrange for a cab to be at your disposal. On the office account of course. If you like, I'll phone the school and warn them you're on your way."

"Thank you!"

Steven was more relaxed about the invitation. A break from school was always welcome. Both were surprised that instead of waiting at the back of the reception hall they were lead to the ante-chamber.

Now sitting in his office, listening to the majordomo, no one except Flavius had any idea why they were there.

"I'll start, if I may, with Master Steven. Master Flavius has been impressed with the way Master Steven tries to protect the younger boys from bullying. The bully's have often been of superior rank and the teachers take their side." Looking directly at Steven, he said, "You could have a much easier time if you just let your betters decide what's best."

"Suck up to them, you mean."

"Manners, Steven. Remember where you are," said Harold.

"It's OK, you must all say what you think," said Flavius giving a little laugh as he continued, "Except for Matthew, of course. He's reading from a script."

"The late Master, Master Flavius and I planned this meeting, yes. I should point out that the late Master disapproved of what we are about to discuss next. He only included it in his will at the request of the Emperor."

The mention of the Emperor startled everyone except Flavius. Before he lost control of the meeting, the majordomo continued, "So far, we have only discussed the business side of Master Flavius' affairs. We must also discuss his personal development. Finding a suitable mentor has proved far more difficult.

Again looking at Steven he said, "We need people with a strong sense of courage and virtue.

"Before going into detail, may I explain the broader picture. Parts of it are highly confidential and should not be discussed outside this room. As you know, relations with Scandinavia are extremely tense at the moment. If it comes to war then this province will be of vital strategic importance. Titus Aulus is limited in his vision and strategic planning. It is hoped that the Board of Guardians will produce steadier and wiser counsel until Flavius comes of age. We are also hoping that Flavius will live up to the potential he is already showing."

"Settling the question of guardianship quickly will also add to the province's stability.

"There is another matter troubling the Emperor. There is such a desperate shortage of scientists and engineers that the Empire is lagging behind technically. In business we are losing to our rivals because our products are just that bit slower, less reliable or lacking the the latest specifications. If the trend continues then military superiority may be lost."

The men listening to this lecture had become increasingly restless wanting make their contribution. The majordomo held up his hand for silence.

"It's not an immediate disaster. It's a long term problem but it must be addressed.

"Education in the Empire has become stagnant. It is virtually impossible for the son of a senator to fail an exam just as it is impossible for a slave, even if he is allowed to go to school, to pass. Qualifications are given by rank not ability in spite of the training programs introduced for all classes by the Emperor. It's been going on for so long, it's as if it's been inbred into the teachers.

"As you know, those taking office by succession must provide some service to the Empire and Flavius has chosen to challenge the education system.

"Another problem that needs to be addressed is Flavius' personal development. At 14 he is of age and able to succeed his father even if the law now requires provision for his guidance until he is 21.

"The plan therefore is to revive a plan tried in Rome a couple of hundred years ago. It was called the House of Sparta and was intended to train the sons of nobles. While in the House or wearing the House insignia they had the status of slaves. If needed, they could leave to attend an official function or family business in their proper dress when they would receive the respect due. The scheme showed possibilities and did seem to inculcate the proper ideals of duty, service and discipline. We also believe it will be good for Flavius to mix with other youths on an equal footing.

"The Board of Guardians will form the Adult contingent and Flavius will be the first boy to enrol. We are hoping that Steven will agree to be the second to enrol and that his father become the disciplinarian. Mr Cirenson's military service as a physical training instructor should prove useful."

Pointing at the boy slave he added, "As children, Flavius and the slave Hans were close friends. He will also be enrolling. We will discuss the set up later if I may but I'd like to explain Steven's task first.

"Steven, you will continue to go to school as your father's son, not as a slave of the House of Sparta but Flavius will attend you as your slave. He will sit and work with the other slaves. The idea is to put the school authorities into an impossible situation. Will they insult a person of Senator rank and mark him down for wearing slave brown or will they ignore the Governor's wishes and treat him according to his rank. If they do either then they will be openly defying the Emperor. If they give in and start work according to ability then they'll have an edge when it comes to grants and other help.

"Your position will be a little strange, Steven. If he just showed up in a slave's tunic it wouldn't work. He'd be humoured but no one would treat it seriously. You are there to treat Flavius like a slave and, if it's appropriate punish him. You'll face hostility from the school authorities and other boys of the Senatorial and Equestrian ranks but of course, you're used to that."

"Much as I would like to serve the Emperor," said Harold, "I could not accept this position neither could I let my son become involved. It is a capital offence to lay hands on someone of superior rank. It may seem reasonable now but even the best plans can go sour. What would happen to my son then?"

"Is that your only concern?" asked Flavius.

"Yes," replied Harold, "I agree with you about the state of education in the empire and forcing one school to break ranks might help. There's a young slave boy in our office. He had a good schooling before his conviction and he still wants to learn. If he's lucky in his masters he might use an education to gain his freedom. Like Juan."

"But he won't become a scientist or engineer, will he?" asked Germanicus.

"Probably not," agreed Harold, "But you're either going to open up the education system or you're not. If you're going to make this scheme work you can't have half measures. Don't give an opening to the bureaucrats."

"Excuse me. I need to make a phone call," said Flavius as he left the room.

He returned shortly. "I'm putting this onto the speaker phone. Mr Cirenson, they'd like to speak to you."

"Hello," said Mr Cirenson.

"Mr Cirenson, could you elaborate a little on your comment about opening up education, please?"

"Well, it's not only education. You get an idea that could work but if the bureaucrats don't like it, they start adding so many terms and conditions, you end up with an unworkable mess. If it happens in this case Steven and I could be in a very vulnerable position."

"I do agree with what you've said. You've no idea how many schemes I've seen fail through this sort of thing. Anyway, let's move on. If you had an Imperial Edict authorising you to act as disciplinarian and protecting you by Imperial License, would you accept the position then?"

"Yes, of course. I'd be honoured to accept but I can't see the Emperor agreeing."

"I already have." The voice which Harold now recognised continued with a hint of laughter, "Flavius' father and I used to play this trick occasionally though I think Flavius has taken a bit of a risk playing it on his disciplinarian. It's a pleasure to receive really honest comments, occasionally. We'll speak again soon."

Pausing briefly while everyone enjoyed Harold's confusion and shock the Majordomo continued, "And Steven. How about you. Are you willing to join the House of Sparta?"

"Yes of course. I've read about the House of Sparta. It sounded like fun. Will I be doing the same things as Flavius?" he asked excitedly.

"Yes! There's one difference from the original House. Youths will be accepted from all ranks and treated the same. It should be quite an adventure."

"In which case," said Flavius, "There is just one more piece of business that needs to be discussed. Who is going to manage my local factories and companies? I'd like to ask Uncle Titus. It means he would have to be invited to join the Board of Guardians."

It surprised everyone but after more discussion everyone agreed. He would be good at the job and there should be at least one family member on the Board. Titus arrived quickly on being invited to join them. He stood glowering as he learned what had been planned behind his back though his temper abated considerably when he learnt what he was being offered.

"I'm not the complete yokel everyone thinks I am. I've been running a training program for all the lower classes in my shipyard for some time now. I've got some damned fine engineers and tradesmen out of it"

"I know, Uncle. It's one of the reasons I wanted you. Would you be able to introduce similar programs everywhere?"

"Probably."

He moved to the table to pour himself a drink. He took a sip then filled more glasses and began handing them out to everyone including the flustered servant.

"If I'm going to be mixing with slaves and commoners I'd better get some practice in," he said.

On the way home, Steven was looking thoughtful.

"Is something worrying you?" asked Harold.

"No. I was just wondering. Have you ever fucked a slave?"

"Years ago. Why?"

"Well, at times I'm going to be a slave. Could you fuck me if you wanted to? Could I fuck Flavius?"

"That's a good question. I would think, yes."

"I was thinking of you doing me. You're always saying men of equal rank shouldn't penetrate each other. They shouldn't penetrate youths who will grow up to be their equal or superior. Is that why you've never touched me or don't you like me that way?"

"I've never thought of you as being sexy before but you are," replied Harold hugging his son. "You know, when we're in the House of Sparta, I'll treat you like a slave. I won't show favourites and I will probably have to beat you at some stage. But if I'm going to treat you like that, it also means I can use you for my pleasure. How does that sound?"

"Scary! Supposing I can't handle it all?"

"Just remember, I love you and I'm proud of you now. The more you do and the more you achieve, the prouder I'll become. All the boys who join the House of Sparta will be taken to their limits and you will fail at some things. When that happens you'll be judged on how you handle the consequences. Think about what I said about beating you though. Understand what this all means."

Steven nodded happily and nestled closer into his father. His hand rested on Harold's leg before creeping slowly up to rest on his father's cock.

"Not yet," whispered Harold, "I'm wondering what to tell your mother. When she knows I've spoken to the Emperor and I'm getting an Imperial Edict, she's going to have hysterics. How am I going to convince her we've got to carry on as normal and are not about to move to Rome?"

Somehow, after all the excitement of the previous day, Harold managed to get to work on time. He slipped into his cubicle and started on the files waiting for him. Alan, one of the office slaves, brought him some coffee as usual and stood waiting to be dismissed. Harold looked at him.

"Been in trouble again?" asked Harold.

The boy nodded, knowing that if he spoke floods of tears would follow.

"The computers?"

Again the boy nodded. Whenever Alan thought the office was empty, Alan would either find scraps of paper to practise his writing. He would read any material lying around and recently had been trying to use the computers. Some tolerated his activities, Harold even left stuff lying around for him but others considered it stealing. Even the lead in the pencil or the electricity used by the computer belonged to his Master and was definitely not for him to use.

"Go to the stationery cupboard and fetch a couple of pads."

The boy hurried off on his errand, hoping that Harold had more jobs for him. He liked Mr Cirenson, knowing that he had tried to help him. Harold had just turned to his work before his supervisor appeared.

His voice almost squeaked with excitement as he said, "There's an Imperial Messenger to see you. He says he has an Imperial Edict for you."

"Thank you, sir. I was expecting it but I didn't think it would be delivered here. I'm sorry for troubling you."

"Troubling me! It's such an honour for this department. You'll need some privacy. You must use my office."

The chief clerk led the way to where the messenger was waiting. The messenger quickly verified Harold's identity, handed over the sealed package, saluted and left. The supervisor quickly cleared his desk, closed the blinds and left asking Harold if there was anything he wanted.

"Alan is on an errand for me. Could you send him in to me when he returns, please."

"Alan? Of course." The supervisor was desperately curious as to what business Harold was involved with and Alan's inclusion just added to his bewilderment.

Harold read the edict with some satisfaction. It offered the protection he had asked for and gave a legal status to the House of Sparta. His son's relationship with Flavius was well protected. In addition he was required to investigate other ways to expand training among slaves and the lower classes. While he was reading, Alan had slipped quietly into the room and waited nervously, wondering what sort of trouble he was in.

Harold looked Alan up and down. Alan seemed to have recovered his composure but he was still tense and drawn.

"Strip!" commanded Harold.

Alan hesitated. It was an unusual command during working hours and he wasn't sure if he had heard right.

"Hurry up, please. Take your tunic off."

Alan obeyed. Harold noticed the wince of pain as the boy lifted his arms to remove his tunic but said nothing until the boy stood before him, naked. Harold saw the large angry bruise on his ribs before telling him to turn round to see the welts across his back. He was pleased to see that the boy probably had not been scarred for life but with so many fresh wounds across old, it would only be a matter of time.

"How old are you, boy?" asked Harold as Alan turned to face him again.

"Thirteen, sir"

"Are all these punishments for stealing writing materials or do you get up to anything else?"

"No sir, nothing else. Just the writing things, sir"

Harold looked at the boy again, this time noticing the boy's fair hair and smooth skin. His body was hairless except for a few wisps around his cock. His body lacked any fat and his muscles were beginning to show some definition. In all, he was an attractive young teen.

"Go and ask Mr Jameson if he could see me."

Alan glanced at his tunic but reluctantly headed for the door. He was used to being naked in front of others but working in an office meant he should be properly dressed even if it was in the browns and greys of a slave. He was thoroughly humiliated as the office staff and other slave boys stared at him. He delivered his message and scampered back to the office.

"Can I help you, Ciren… er Mr Cirenson," asked Mr Jameson. The Imperial Edict confused him. Was Harold a representative of the Emperor or a subordinate?

"I'm unsure of all this as well," Harold said quietly, "Could we just talk man to man."

"Yes, of course. How can I help you?"

"I can't go into detail but I seem to have a second job now. At the Governor's Palace until His Excellency is 21. Hopefully it's only a small job and I'll be able to continue with my normal life but I may need to take telephone calls and if I make any notes or anything they have to remain confidential."

Mr Jameson nodded, "Yes, I see that."

"Could I move to that cubicle in the corner? It's more private.

"I don't think any cubicle is private enough and I don't think you realise the impact all this will have on your life. You'll have to use that vacant office next to mine. It's got a phone and a fax machine."

I'm still only a clerk. I'm not really entitled to an office.

"Perhaps not but if you have Imperial duties then there's no choice. May I ask, do these duties have anything to do with ensuring that Flavius succeeds his father rather than his Uncle Titus."

Harold nodded.

"Then I'm instructed to give you every assistance. Those instructions come from the very top."

"Thank you. This company doesn't approve of slave education, does it?

"No!"

"Then there could be a conflict. As you know, it's Imperial policy and His Excellency is going to actively push for it."

"Go on."

"Young Alan there could be an excellent choice for an education programme. It's not part of my brief to challenge this company's policy but I would be uncomfortable ignoring something right under my nose."

"Yes, I see your problem," Mr. Jameson paused, considering the problem. "I think you need an assistant. I'll assign Alan to you permanently. Use him how you like. He can sleep in your office unless you take him home. We can even have an extra terminal installed. Does that solve your problem?"

"Boy fetch me some card and string."

Alan quickly returned. Harold wrote 'Punished for Stealing' and using the string, hung it around Alan's neck.

"Now get on with your normal duties until I need you."

Red-faced with embarrassment and thoroughly humiliated Alan left the office to face the sniggers and scorn of the clerks and other slaves. Mr. Jameson looked at Harold, obviously puzzled.

"He was enslaved for shoplifting. His parents wouldn't pay the fines and compensation. Now he's been punished for stealing office materials. I've no sympathy for his situation and I don't want to be seen as condoning it. But he is trying to improve himself. I'll help him as best I can after he learns that I'm not going to be a soft touch.

"Yes, I see. I know there's a lot of fuss about training the under classes but I thought that was for engineers."

"They are. The problem seems to be with people's attitudes. The programmes are more or less stalled. Flavius is making his Imperial service duty an effort to get them moving again."

"I always assumed they would cause a breakdown in discipline and society. I think most people feel the same. You know! Slaves and the lower classes treating us as equals and the like."

"No! Alan is a slave as punishment and as a deterrent. No one will change that. If he's lucky he'll have a chance to work for his freedom but it won't be an easy option."

"The company has been thinking about a shift in policy but if we apply for grants the paperwork is horrendous and if we go it alone we could end up with trained slaves which no one wants. You know the way policies shift and change."

Without thinking, Harold said, "I said as much to the Emperor last night when he promised to send this."

Mr. Jameson stared at Harold. "Now that's quite a revelation. Please tell me all about it when you can. One small point. About the the company policy of no sex on company property. You won't be challenging that will you?"

"No! I really don't want to disrupt things."

"Fair enough! He is quite desirable though, isn't he. I'll envy you the opportunities you'll have off the premises."

"Thanks. I've been thinking that Lyllia may be more interested in companionship than in sex nowadays. We've even talked about buying a girl. You know, to help with the housework as well. Now I'm in a situation where boys seem to be readily available and I think I prefer it. Somehow using a slave girl would seem like trading Lyllia in for a younger model and I do still love her very much."

"I know what you mean. When I was promoted to Chief Clerk I bought a couple of boys rather than girls. It's worked quite well and my wife definitely has an eye for one of them. I daren't say it at home but he's turned into a better cook than my wife. I get on very well with the other."

"I don't think my wife would be interested in Alan sexually. She likes the big hunky types. She's a bit of a social climber so she would never allow herself to be penetrated by someone of such low rank. She might murder him if he turned out to be a better cook though, and me if it comes to that, for bringing him into the house."

Mr Jameson's laugh was cut short by the phone ringing.

"Ah well! Back to work. What are you doing now?"

"I'd like to look through this again if I can stay here a while longer. Then I must check the Jamaica shipment. It's all perishable and must be cleared today. I'd like to go home a bit early and take Alan with me, if that's OK. We have to go to the Governor's Palace this evening."

"Bananas, boys and politics. What an interesting time you're having. I'll check through your other files and transfer as many as I can. Just think, if anyone moans, I can claim Imperial Privilege."

While the two adults enjoyed a leisurely conversation Alan was in utter misery. Everyone could see the scars from his beating and the card round his neck proclaimed why. It was bad enough being naked when the other slaves were dressed but being proclaimed a criminal was completely demoralising. Worst of all, he liked Mr Cirenson and thought him a kind man. Why had he turned on him like this? He hadn't understood the conversation between the two men. He thought Mr Cirenson was trying to get him some education but there would be an argument. Maybe Mr Cirenson was pushing him away to prevent a row.

The day dragged on for ever. Finally he got an instruction to report to the office. His nerve failed him and he bolted for the toilet. He kept control of his bladder just long enough to reach the urinal.

Harold guessed why the boy had rushed for the toilet but he was not going to make it easy for him.

"Do you normally rush off in the opposite direction when you're summoned?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, sir. I just had to go."

"I'd hoped today would have taught you some respect for your masters. It seems I was wrong."

"No! Please sir! I couldn't help it. I just had to go."

"So if you come with me anywhere, does that mean you'll just have to go in the street?"

"No! Please sir! I'm sorry sir," Alan just burst into tears. "I'm so scared. Please don't punish me."

In a much softer voice Harold said, "As long as you understand, I expect the best possible behaviour from you. No excuses."

"Yes sir. I'll be good and I won't steal again. I promise."

"Then throw that placard in the bin and follow me."

It was the first time in nearly six months that Alan had left the offices where he worked and he felt quite important carrying Mr Cirenson's briefcase. The paving stones felt cold beneath his feet and a cool breeze felt like an Arctic blast. He gasped with surprise when he was ordered to get in a smart limousine beside Harold. The sudden changes of temperature and the exciting change to his circumstances caused his cock stir and begin to harden. He looked anxiously at Mr Cirenson.

"Don't worry," smiled Harold, "I'm enjoying the view."

Alan blushed but did not say anything. He was wondering whether Mr Cirenson was going to do sex with him. It frightened him that such a big step was out of his control but a different dread was about to rear it's head. As the car drew up outside of Harold's house, Alan realised that for the first time since his enslavement he was going to be in a private home. Instead of being a guest and playing with Harold's son he would stand there, his nakedness proclaiming that he was a convicted criminal and he was only there to be used.

He dutifully followed Harold from the car and into the house. His face turned bright red with embarrassment yet again as Lyllia, after greeting her husband, turned to look him over.

"Who's this then, dear," she asked.

"Just one of the office slaves. He's coming to the Governor's Palace with me tonight. It was easier to bring him here than pick him up later. He can wait in the garden shed if you like."

Alan thought there was a twinkle in Harold's eye but knew there was no reason why he should not be shut outside like a pet.

"He'll do no such thing," snapped Lyllia then shouted, "Steven, get down here."

There was a clattering on the stairs as Steven came charging down.

"Hello, Dad. Did you want something, Mother?"

"How many times do I have to tell about coming down the stairs like that? Take this boy and get him showered," Alan turned and she saw his back for the first time. "He needs something on his back. You know the ointment I use for cuts. Use that. Then find him a pair of your old shorts or something."

"Has Steven got anything in slave colours?" asked Harold.

"It's only for indoors so it doesn't matter. He can serve dinner later and you only get naked waiters in a brothel."

Alan and Steven did not say much as they carried out Lyllia's instructions. Steven had Alan lie on his stomach on his stomach and gently applied the ointment. Both boys felt their cocks swelling with the intimate contact. Alan just waited for orders. When he had to rise, Steven would see his erection. If Steven did not like what he saw, would he punish Alan? If he wanted, Steven could fuck him and maybe then Mr Cirenson would see him as damaged goods and lose interest.

Steven's problem was that he was not used to slaves. His own erection was hidden by his clothes. He wanted Alan and if the slave realised this, would Alan think Steven weak if he did not take him? If he did take him, would his dad be angry for taking advantage of office property without permission?

Both boys' dilemmas were solved by Lyllia calling for them to hurry up. Steven scrambled up and rummaged for something for Alan to wear. Alan only showed his stiff cock briefly after being told to don the shorts Steven had found for him.

There had been a spate of shoplifting in Alan's home town. Some of Alan's friends had been involved and they boasted about how easy it was. It was Alan's bad luck that he chose to steal the new game he wanted just as a big crackdown started. He was caught, tried and found guilty along with a couple of other boys. The judge wanted to make an example of them. He ruled that Alan should pay a hefty fine, pay compensation to the store, the security firm that had caught him, the police and court for the time and labour they had put into his conviction. It ended up such a large sum his family would be bankrupt if they tried to pay it. This was the idea. To make parents keep an even closer eye on their children.

Alan's father was in tears when he spoke to Alan after the trial. He had his brother to consider as well. Alan would have to be sold into slavery to wipe the debt. The other two boys were sold as well. This had happened about nine months ago and he had been lucky to have been bought by the shipping company Harold worked for.

He still remembered his life with his family vividly and his evening's service in the Cirenson home made him dreadfully homesick. He helped Mrs Cirenson finish preparing the meal while Steven sat and chatted with his father. Then as the meal progressed he fetched further dishes from the kitchen. Towards the end of the meal he was told to fill another plate, eat it then start the washing up. As he obeyed his instructions he listened to the chatter in the other room with a tear in his eye as it reminded him of his own family life.

It was a particularly lively meal because Lyllia was so excited by the Imperial Edict. She did not know what it contained or how her husband was suddenly in the middle of such important affairs but the mere presence of it in her house was enough. She already knew the neighbours were curious about her husband riding in a limousine and she would be surprised if the fact he now had a personal slave had gone unnoticed. She was looking forward to some very enjoyable coffee mornings with the imposing leather folder bearing the Imperial seals on display in the cabinet.

Harold had warned her not to make a fuss and do things as normal. Her husband was right. She should play the whole thing down. Act as if this was normal for them. It would be more noble like. They were both thinking of social standing but where Harold worried about things going wrong and having something to fall back on Lyllia could see how high they could climb.

Finally he heard Harold tell Steven to go and get ready and was then summoned himself only to be told to go and wait by the front door and leave the shorts on the chair nearby. He did not have to wait long before Steven came bounding down the stairs taking the last few in one leap and landing with a noisy crash but what startled Alan more was the way Steven was dressed.

He had come down the stairs wearing nothing but a half tunic coloured brown. It had a gold emblem over the left thigh and a gold trim around the hem. Alan had noticed he was wearing a chain under his normal clothes but now he could see it clearly. Apart from being gold, it was a typical slave chain, with a sturdy padlock keeping it in place and four rings for attaching other restraints. Naked to the waist, Steven displayed his trim body to Alan showing off his smooth skin, and developing pecs. His stomach muscles were firm surrounding a nice indented navel. His smooth legs also showed finely shaped and strengthening muscles. During Steven's headlong rush, Alan had caught sight of his rapidly maturing cock and hairless balls beneath the tunic.

Over the millennia styles from all over the Empire and beyond have been accepted. If a young man walked through the centre of town wearing jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap while his companion wore a toga, no one would pay much attention. If they went to a theatre they would be shown to the worst seats. If their clothes had red stripes or piping then they would be shown to the best seats reserved for Senators and the like. Other colours show different status. Gold is used purely for decoration.

Slave's still usually wear the traditional tunic. It could have an owners emblem and some colouring but the background colour has to be clearly shown as brown or grey. Other simple styles are acceptable but the tunic stays the most popular. Nudity is acceptable for males especially where sport is involved but people tend to be dressed to show their status especially since slaves can be kept naked at all times. Women, of course, have to be modestly dressed at all times in public.

With the imposing chain around his neck and fine quality tunic, Steven looked like a valued slave who belonged to a wealthy and powerful owner. Harold appeared at the noise and looked sternly at the boys.

"Into my study please," he commanded.

As they stood nervously in front of his desk Harold asked, "Alan, if you came down the stairs like that at the office, what would happen?"

"I'd probably get a beating, sir," Alan replied nervously.

"It was me, not Alan," said Steven equally nervous.

"I know it was you, just as I know it was you who just interrupted me. I warned you last night that when any of you boys represent the House of Sparta you would be treated accordingly, didn't I?"

"Yes Dad," Steven looked at his father waiting for him, then continued, "I mean, yes sir."

"Fetch the tawse."

Steven's eyes widened with shock but obeyed his father. It was almost compulsory for a father to have one of these implements as a sign of his authority. The argument about beating the children of free men had raged for 2000 years. There was still a wide range of opinion and many fathers used it freely but Harold had never used his before.

"Now bend over that chair."

Pulling Steven's tunic up to expose his bare backside Harold laid three heavy strokes across Steven's buttocks.

"That was for the noise on the stairs."

He then struck three more times on Steven's reddening and bruising flesh.

"And those are for interrupting me."

Harold was proud to note that although Steven was in tears he hadn't begged for the punishment to stop.

"Stand up and listen to me."

Steven obeyed though he found it hard to concentrate. He was surreptitiously rubbing his injuries trying to make the pain subside.

"Tomorrow, when you take Flavius to school you may have the same problem I just had. I didn't want to beat my son any more than you may want to beat your friend but you can't make any exceptions. If you do, the whole scheme could fail. Do you understand?"

"Yes sir. If we don't take it seriously, no one else will."

"Exactly. You can change your mind if you want. We'll sort something out but when you're dressed like that or at the House don't expect any favours."

"Yes sir. I understand sir. It just takes some getting used to."

"Tell me about it," retorted Alan without thinking. All the colour drained from his face and he looked at Harold in utter terror.

Harold smiled. "When we get to the House, there are just three ranks. Adults, guests and boys. Unless you are invited to join the House of Sparta you will be treated like a guest. You may behave like one."

"Yes sir. I understand."

"I doubt it but it's going to be a busy night so we had better get going. Both of you wait by the front door."

"What a fine entourage you have tonight, my dear," said Lyllia as she arrived to see her husband off. "I don't know why Steven must appear like this but I can't argue with the Emperor, can I."

If she noticed Steven's pain she did not acknowledge it. Kissing Steven on the forehead she said, "Just be careful and make us even more proud of you."

"And you," she continued kissing Alan in a similar fashion, "Look after my men."

While Steven was embarrassed at his Mother's fussing, Alan thought the brief show of affection was the most wonderful moment since his enslavement. He was still glowing inside as he got into the car wondering what the night had install for him.

Chapter 2

Like many first meetings the night was one of nervousness and uncertainty. Harold was flustered when Flavius took his coat and then showed him to his seat. Hans, the slave who had served them at the earlier meeting, watched Flavius carefully as he showed Alan to another seat and asked him if he'd like a drink.

Alan looked nervously at Harold who shrugged, "Like I said, once you're through that door the rules are different. I suggest you enjoy it while you can."

As other adults arrived Alan could not stay seated. Being told he was a guest and believing it were two different things. He compromised by standing against a wall, holding his drink and trying to stay inconspicuous as he watched the proceedings.

Matthew, the Majordomo, arrived next. Alan did not know him but recognised him as a valued slave. He noticed the slave boys stiffen up and treat him very respectfully. After he was seated he called the senior boy over and the man seemed to be asking the boy questions until the the boy smiled, said something which to Alan seemed like 'Thank you, sir' then bowed and carried on his business.

Alan recognised another visitor as an Imperial Magistrate from his clothes. He nodded briefly to the seated slave then to Harold and to Alan's terror, he gave Alan the same curt nod though he also had an appreciative smile on his face as he admired Alan's body.

Germanicus had loved his wife who had recently died, had been on excellent terms with a couple of local prostitutes as well as having a handsome slave boy around. When his wife had died after a long illness his interest in women seemed to wane. As Germanicus put it, he had never sought to replace his wife, just give her some peace and quiet. Now he was uncomfortable acting the role of the eligible bachelor but his interest in boys had increased proportionately.

Juan arrived looking almost as nervous as Alan. Seeing Matthew he quickly sat down beside him trying to become invisible. While Alan was watching Juan, the junior serving boy approached him to take his empty glass.

Titus was the last to arrive. He looked around the room then came and stood beside Alan.

"You look as if you want the floor to open and swallow you up," Titus said by way of greeting.

"Yes sir," Alan replied shyly.

"Don't worry! I've been taking a battering from my wife and sister in law for consenting to all this. I'd rather have you sucking my cock for some relaxation than stand here being polite. Let's both make the best of it."

Greatly daring, Alan grinned and replied, "If your cock is as big as the rest of you I'd be happy to just stand here."

Titus roared with laughter making everyone look at them

"Come on," he said, "We'll sit over there."

Titus led the way to a big armchair and flopped down onto it bidding Alan to sit between his legs. Wrapping his arms around Alan he pulled him back so that the boy was resting against his chest.

"Gentlemen and guest," Hans said looking at Alan who blushed furiously, "May we begin the business of the evening?"

As the room quietened down he continued, "It has been suggested that in view of the difference of ranks it would be better if we only used first names. Boys will, of course, continue to speak to adults with proper respect. Does anyone object?

No one spoke so Hans continued, "Germanicus has also suggested that boys be naked and only the head boy be allowed a tunic as a badge of his rank."

Hans continued with a grin on his face, "I have no objections but does anyone else?"

At Hans command Steven and Flavius dropped their tunics. Everyone else stared at their bruised and battered backsides.

"As you can see, it has already been necessary to punish these boys. Flavius was punished for rudeness to a guest and Steven for failing to show proper decorum.

Hans was enjoying himself. He had known Flavius since they were toddlers and they had got into many scrapes together. Flavius had often shouldered all the blame for their escapades knowing how severely Hans could be punished. Hans trusted Flavius completely and they had talked about the House of Sparta many times. Hans was a little nervous with his role but knew he had Flavius' full support.

"That's my nephew learning when to keep quiet," Titus whispered to Alan, "Interesting discipline for the Provincial Governor, isn't it?"

"You're joking," Alan gasped, "He was serving me drinks just now. I was wondering if I'd get the chance to fuck him."

Alan turned deep red and clasped his hand to his mouth as he realised what he had just said. It did not help that the Magistrate who was sitting next to him, had overheard him and chuckled. Titus let out another of his roars of laughter. Flavius and Steven had heard him as well and were desperately trying to keep straight faces.

"I regret this is a business evening," Hans said trying as hard as the others not to laugh, "I'm afraid there won't be much time for social events."

Alan was mortified to realise that just about everyone had heard him and he would have fled from the room if Titus had not kept hold of him.

"If everyone is ready then may we move onto the next item of business. It's been proposed that another boy join the House of Sparta. Alan would you stand up please?"

In another world Hans would have been working in show business.

Alan glanced frantically at Harold and as he nodded encouragingly Alan looked round at Titus who released his arms but held his hips, gently pushing him to his feet.

"Your Master in the outside world says that you wish to learn and study even if it means being punished. Is that correct?"

Alan was becoming more and more frightened. He was sure that it was all leading up to some dreadful consequences for him. He was just about able to nod his head in agreement.

"As you have seen the House of Sparta demands high levels of discipline," Hans continued, "If you joined, you would have to accept that discipline. Do you understand?"

"Yes sir," Alan said quietly. He still was not sure where it was leading but it did not seem as bad.

"One of the goals of the House of Sparta is to improve education throughout the Empire. If you joined you would be expected to help in that goal and set an example by obtaining the best education possible. Do you understand?"

"Oh yes sir," Alan answered, "I'd like that more than anything."

"Then would you like to join the House of Sparta."

Suddenly Alan looked miserable again.

"I'd like to join, sir," he said, "but what about my owner sir?"

"That's all right," Harold said, "It is your choice."

"Yes please, sir," Alan whispered.

Leaving Steven to serve the adults, Hans shepherded Flavius and Alan out of the the room. Germanicus appreciated being served by a naked boy more than any of the others and did not waste the chance to feel Steven's cock and balls.

Steven looked nervously at his father who was watching. Harold did not respond but turned away to speak with Juan.

When Steven attended Titus he felt as if he was being sized up like a piece of meat. Steven noticed a grudging nod of approval which pleased him.

Juan was still too nervous to relax in spite of Harold's encouragement and huddled back in his chair as soon as he took his drink.

Harold smiled and looked approvingly at his son. He was pleased to see that Steven was growing into a handsome young man. Harold had only just started to think about his son in a sexual way and there was something definitely enticing about the boy's butt cheeks.

Steven was most uncomfortable serving Matthew who watched him without showing any expression. He felt sloppy and idle under the Majordomo's appraising stare. He was almost certain that Matthew would give Hans a bad report which would result in a severe punishment.

Alan, on the other hand, was enjoying himself. He was back in a world he understood and he was able to talk to the other boys freely. He did not fully understand why Flavius was being treated like a slave but just accepted it. While Hans fetched the gold chain and fitted it to Alan's neck the boy's chatted.

"You're a hit with my Uncle," Flavius said, "He's not usually into boys."

"I'm sorry about that thing about fucking you, sir," Alan replied. "He took me by surprise when he told me who you were."

"You don't have to call me sir in here. Do you know where we are?"

"The Governor's Palace?" Alan replied uncertainly.

"Sorry. I didn't make myself clear. You've seen the Palace. It's shaped like an 'H', right?

Alan nodded, still unsure.

"The main entrance is in the cross bar, isn't it?" he asked.

"That's right. We're on the top floor of one of the verticals. The front right wing if you want it's name. My great great grandfather built that private entrance and stairs and he put the door at the other end of that corridor to close it off from the rest of the house."

Alan nodded again, confidently this time understanding Flavius' description.

"He then converted all the rooms into a single suite with the entrance in the middle of main corridor. That's why the rooms tend to be long narrow."

"Because of the second corridor inside the suite," Alan added.

"That's right! Great great grandfather liked to entertain prostitutes. They could use this suite without involving the rest of the house."

"And you're doing the same but you're using it as some sort of club house."

"You catch on fast," Flavius said, "Mr Cirenson said you were bright. Once inside this suite, there are only three ranks. Boys, guests and adults. As far as possible the boys are going to run the place"

"I was a guest, now I'm a boy."

Flavius nodded, "If I go into the rest of the palace and put on my clothes I am Flavius Aulus, Provincial Governor and representative of his Imperial Majesty. In here or if I'm just wearing the tunic I'm just the slave boy Flavius who can beat you up for wanting to fuck me."

Flavius had noticed that Hans had disappeared on some errand so he grabbed Alan and wrestled him to the ground. Alan squealed with laughter as Flavius tickled him mercilessly.

"Now who's going to fuck who?" Flavius laughed.

"That's cheating. I wasn't ready," Alan giggled, "I'm gonna fuck you."

Flavius' tickling stopped as he arched his back in pain from the lash of Hans' tawse.

"You might have learnt something from this afternoon but there's people to serve," Hans said angrily, "I don't want Matthew thinking I can't run this place. Get out there and look after the adults.

Flavius had just endured one of the worst days of his life entertaining relatives and family friends who called to offer their sympathies. Both Flavius and his mother knew that most did not care whether his father was dead or alive. They were there in the hope that they would prosper more in the new regime.

At first Julia had been scandalised at the idea of the House of Sparta but so many people had complimented her on having a son who understood the ideas of discipline, duty and service that she began to think twice about it. She was not ready to publicly change her position yet and so, in between entertaining visitors Julia nagged Flavius about 'cavorting with slaves'.

It got worse for Flavius when Titus' wife, Octavia, and children joined them for the afternoon. Titus had been under pressure to marry and he had been infatuated by his future wife's beauty. She was still beautiful even after having produced two sons who were now thirteen and sixteen years old and a daughter of nine. The problem was, her beauty truly was only skin deep.

She made it clear that she thought her husband was a stupid waster who would never amount to anything and that she only tolerated him out of wifely duty. The children took after their mother and when they were together they adopted an air of disdain and contempt for everyone and everything that could not bring them social advantage.

The conversation quickly turned to the House of Sparta.

"I'm sure my husband thought he was doing the right thing in encouraging slaves and plebs," Octavia said, "It's just unfortunate that he hasn't tried as hard to advance himself and his family. Now this. The House of Aulus will become a laughing stock. Must you flaunt that ridiculous chain, Flavius?"

"I do so agree," Julia replied not giving Flavius a chance to reply, "Flavius has spent too much time with that boy Hans but his father would insist that he needed a companion."

"If Titus had taken his chance to act as protector he might have straightened your son out," Octavia said, "but as usual he's deferred to the lower classes."

Flavius might have tried to point out that not only an Imperial Magistrate but the Emperor himself were part of the scheme. It would not have given him much peace if he had. Julia might be warming to the idea of the House of Sparta but she only wanted the sons of the best families to join while Octavia was extremely jealous that her sons had not been invited.

Flavius was still grief-stricken with the loss of his father and so, coupled with the stresses of the day, was in a bad way and close to tears by the time Titus arrived.

"I need to speak to you, nephew," he said, "Come with me."

He led the way to the House of Sparta suite and marched in.

"Hans," he roared as he entered, "Get your butt here now."

"Help your Master undress, then take the boy through to the gym," Titus ordered, "Open all the windows and get some air into his lungs. He needs physical release. Do what you have to."

Flavius had not been totally accurate about his great great grandfather's interest in prostitutes. The details were not that important except that Great Great Grandfather liked his girls to perform and entertain him and so he had installed a fully equipped gymnasium. Some of the equipment, various chains, securing eyes and cupboards full of torture implements showed that the entertainments were a bit extreme but nearly all of the girls recovered and on a good night they could leave extremely rich.

Both boys could see that Titus was in a bad mood and did not feel inclined to argue even though Flavius just wanted to disappear into his room and be alone for a while.

Hans used the intercom to summons a boy of about Flavius' size and build and took them through to the gym.

"Listen John, " Hans said, "In this part of the building you may refuse an order without being punished but I would like your help."

"Yes sir," John replied.

Hans shrugged. He was holding a rope. He stood the boys against a wall and made them run the length of the gym touching the far wall and running back. Hans stood in the middle and as they passed him he took a swing at the slower boy with the rope.

Flavius' softer life began to show as he slowed and found himself on the receiving end of more and more blows. Finally he dropped gasping for air.

"Stand up," Hans snapped, "Both of you line up against the wall again.

Hans had noticed Titus standing at the door watching and his sense of dramatics surfaced.

"You have a choice boy," Hans said, "You can suck the winners cock or you can request another challenge."

Flavius stared at Hans then at his Uncle Titus. They both stared impassively back at him.

"How does it work if I win the next challenge?"

"I asked you a question. You answer it. You do not ask a question of your own. You will be punished for that," Hans replied, "Now do you give up or do you want another challenge?"

Flavius smiled quietly to himself and felt his cock begin to harden. The tensions of the day were oozing away as he faced the physical challenges.

"I'll take another challenge," Flavius replied, adding sir after a long enough pause to be insolent.

Hans was not to be goaded. They played a Simon Says game. Flavius won it easily. He was quick-witted enough to remain still unless the command started with Simon Says. John was so used to obeying orders he obeyed everything automatically.

"That's one each," Hans said glancing at their cocks, "You both look as though you'd like a bit of fun so we'll let the last challenge decide who has it. We'll make it a wrestling match and the loser gets fucked by the winner."

Hans looked at Flavius who realised he had been set up. Wrestling was popular amongst the young slaves and it was military enough to be an acceptable sport with all classes. As with the running, John's tougher life would give him an edge.

"If you call anyone sir you will do it respectfully and mean it," Hans said.

"Yes sir," Flavius replied meekly.

On Hans instructions Flavius and John faced each other and the fight began. At the first contact Flavius moved fast and John found himself in a neck lock. Flavius rubbed his cock against John's arse briefly before pushing him away. They grappled each other again and Flavius succeeded in getting John in a bear hug leaving him gasping for breath.

Hans had not realised that John would have one great weakness. He'd had time to realize he was competing against his Master. The running race had been easy enough and they had raced like that before, though without the rope. Things had changed when Hans had explained the prizes.

The idea that he could penetrate his owner was appalling and there was no way he could do it. In short, he did not want to win the wrestling.

Flavius was not aware of any of this at first. He was just happy being able to take his frustrations out on someone and was grinding his cock into John's chest as he sprawled across the boy pinioning his arms and shoulders to the ground.

Hans brought the one sided competition to a halt and invited Flavius to take his prize. Flavius looked at John and shook his head.

"You didn't try to fight me," Flavius said, "Why not?"

"I would have won, Master," John replied, "I knew I shouldn't fuck my owner."

"I may have chosen to suck you after the the running."

"I didn't know what the prize was and I'm sorry for winning, Master," John replied.

"So the only competition you tried to win was the first race?"

"Yes Master."

"That means the second two challenges don't count and you're the winner," Flavius said, "Unless you'd like another wrestling match where the loser has to fuck the winner?"

John was almost in physical pain as he tried to work out how to reply. Flavius was obviously enjoying teasing John.

Titus turned quietly to Hans.

"Flavius seems to have recovered his spirits," he said, "I think I'll indulge in a little R & R myself. There's a good high class prostitute who doesn't live too far away. I think I'll pay her a visit. If anyone asks, Flavius and I are working on vital provincial affairs and can't be disturbed."

While Titus had been talking, John stood nervously unable to decide how to answer. Hans had thought that John might be a suitable candidate for the House of Sparta but it was obvious that he was far too shy to stand up for himself.

"That's enough teasing, Flavius," Hans said, "You forget John is a guest. Get in front of him and kneel."

Flavius felt an excited tingling in his groin as he knelt with his face inches from John's cock.

"Now John," Hans continued, "If your Master was to ask you what you wanted more than anything what would you say?"

"That I'd like to be apprenticed to the gardener," John replied immediately. "I'd like to learn how to look after town gardens because there's a demand for gardeners who can do that."

"If you ever got your freedom, you'd have a trade. Is that it?" said Hans

"Yes sir."

Flavius felt deflated. He just had to lean forward to take John's cock in his mouth and the slave wanted to talk about gardens.

"Is that all," Hans asked.

"Yes sir."

Hans gave up. Even when it was being so blatantly offered John would not adopt a dominant role with Flavius. Hans gently led John away to bathe and get dressed before escorting him out of the apartment leaving Flavius kneeling there feeling a bit stupid. He had expected some sort of sexual adventure with John and it was something of a shock to discover that even his innate sexiness was not enough to overcome John's reserve.

When Hans returned he was holding a tawse. The sight of it made Flavius a little nervous but it excited him as well causing his cock to swell and point upwards.

Unlike John, Hans was more than comfortable with his role of head boy.

"In here you are just a slave boy," Hans said, "You will not speak rudely to me, to guests or adults. Neither will you tease guests or do anything to make them uncomfortable."

Flavius just knelt there debating whether to try to explain that he had been trying to get a response out of John.

"Maybe you were trying to get him to react," Hans continued, "but you once said that you would like to leave Flavius Aulus with your formal clothes and just be Flavius the boy. Flavius the boy must remember his manners before everything else. Now bend over that bench."

Flavius could not help it. He yelled then cried as the blows landed on his arse. The agony seemed unbearable but as he bucked and squirmed against the assault he could not avoid rubbing his cock and, briefly, the ecstasy, as he shot his load between the bench and his stomach, made the pain seem worthwhile.

Hans knew what had happened as he dropped his tunic and pressed his cock at Flavius' cherry. Wondering what John would make of his Master being penetrated by a mere slave Hans thrust into Flavius. It was not the first time that he had entered Flavius but it was the first time he had taken the initiative.

The pain of the beating had dampened the force of Flavius' first eruption and as his body adapted to Hans' firm and steady thrusts Flavius felt himself tensing again. The extra pressure as Flavius squeezed down on Hans' cock was enough send Hans over the edge as his thrusts became convulsive and urgent. In his turn the demanding rubbing of his prostrate sent Flavius over the edge completely draining his balls of their stored up load.

Hans pulled Flavius to a chair and down onto his lap where they promptly fell asleep until shortly before Harold, Steven and Alan arrived.

There was a phrase that Flavius had come to hate; 'and you the Governor's son'. It appeared in just about any telling off he had ever received, no matter how slight the misdemeanour. It was as if he had been expected to avoid all mischief and mistakes simply because of his father's position.

He'd managed the first couple of days without someone saying, 'and you the Governor' but he was sure that his mother was dying for the opportunity.

Misbehaving in the House of Sparta was different. Flavius did not like being whipped but it was better than a guilty conscience for embarrassing the House of Aulus. As the blood had surged through his veins to handle the beating that afternoon, it had also flowed into his cock intensifying the feelings emanating from there.

As with the blow he received later in the evening because of his game with Alan, simple mischief met with a simple response and it made a pleasurable contrast to the polite stuffiness of his formal life.

The gathering had heard his brief game with Alan and heard the crack as Hans' blow had landed. As he re-entered the saloon where the everyone was assembled he was aware of being watched. The new welt across his back was clearly visible as he took over Steven's task of serving the adults and as he moved around the room he seemed to receive looks of approval for accepting the discipline without complaint. He enjoyed earning the respect of people as himself, a boy, rather than the Governor or the Governor's son

He would avoid another beating if he could but if it did happen the experience would have it's thrills and rewards to compensate.

The meeting continued. The boys, except for Alan, sat on the floor. Somehow it seemed natural for Alan to continue sitting on Titus' lap. Those that knew Titus knew that he was most definitely interested in the female of the species and had never shown an interest in male company. They were surprised to see Titus' hand resting on Alan's thigh then moving further up to rest on Alan's balls.

After Hans and Flavius had explained why the other possible recruit, John, had not been proposed the discussion turned to dealing with matters until things could settle down after Flavius' father's funeral.

Rome had adopted the seven day week centuries ago and the days of Saturn, the god of the harvest, and the Sun were regarded as holidays where citizens could relax in the fresh air and spend time in the country.

Tomorrow would be Friday, the last working day. The reception that Flavius had promised was set for that night.

Titus suggested that Flavius go to school the next day on a trial run. He did not mention that it would be better to give Flavius a rest from his female relatives.

Steven was to stay with Flavius that night. After resisting Alan's pleading looks for as long as he could, Harold relented and allowed him to stay with strict instructions that he had to be at the office an hour before it opened to help the other slaves.

The sleeping quarters for the boys were, appropriately for the House of Sparta, spartan. It was a windowless room with mattresses on the floor. The nearest thing to decoration was an alarm clock hanging by a piece of string from a hook. Steven and Flavius looked at the mattresses with some dismay while Hans and Alan were just glad they were not sleeping on the bare floor.

Flavius and Alan had both had emotional days. They were tired and somehow found themselves laying between Hans and Steven. Hans made them all settle down to get some sleep and the others had learned that Hans was to be obeyed.

During the course of the night teenage hormones also had to be obeyed. It would be difficult to record who wanked who and who sucked who or even who offered themselves up for penetration. Possibly the boys did not wake up enough to know and in the dark room they did not really care. What was certain was that when they awoke fully the next morning, giggling at the impossible tangle of arms and legs, they were content, relaxed and feeling that they knew each other a lot better than the night before.

Chapter 3

Flavius was still devastated by the loss of his father and although there were times when he needed be alone and weep, it was decided he begin school again. Even without the controversy about his new status it would be an unsettling time until his father's funeral and no one would expect him to be at his best. Protocol demanded that Flavius senior should lie in state for a week.

Friday night there would be the reception that Flavius had promised and which Matthew, the majordomo had been busily organising. Whatever faults Flavius' mother might have she saw the reception as the time when the new order in the House of Aulus would start establishing itself.

As well as being surprised at some of the favourable comments she had heard about her son's understanding of discipline and service she had been impressed by the way Flavius was handling events. She might disapprove of changing the school system but since it had the Emperor's blessing she saw it as a stepping stone to Rome and so, her attitude to the House of Sparta continued to change.

Much to his surprise, Matthew found Julia to be a willing partner in preparing the reception even though the boys in the House of Sparta were going to be involved in the proceedings.

Hans had been Flavius Aulus' body slave. When they were in the main part of the palace that was still his role. As his father had approached the end Flavius had slept spooned up against the older boy while Hans' tenderly took care of Flavius' needs.

However, that morning after the House of Sparta's inaugural meeting, Hans was most clearly in charge as they got ready for the day. When Flavius, Steven and Alan lined up for inspection just before they left, all three boys kept a nervous eye on the tawse in Hans' hand.

Steven was in his normal school clothes while Flavius and Alan wore the tunics they had worn the previous night.

"In future you act as master from the moment you wake up," Hans said to Steven, "You'll do for today but these two should have brushed your shoes and your jacket. I expect you to set the standards but, considering they had to be sent round by courier, it's not a bad turnout."

As Steven bent to pick up his bag, Hans coughed discretely and looked at Flavius who got the message and grabbed both school bags.

It was a difficult walk for all three boys. Alan was uncomfortable being in the street and away from the office. He was also nervous at the reception he would receive from the other slaves and staff.

Flavius was unused to walking behind Steven. His status as Governor's son meant that most walked behind him except in the most informal situations. It was awkward carrying two bags. He was well enough known to be recognised and everyone seemed to be staring at him in his new role.

Steven at the head of the little group also felt that the entire world was staring at him. He felt as if he could be arrested at any moment for impersonating a Senator.

It got worse after they dropped Alan at the office in time to greet Harold and got closer to the school. Steven's friends were too scared to get involved while the higher class students looked with open hostility at the way Flavius was apparently degrading himself.

Steven could well have been beaten up but stories that there was Imperial involvement prevented any attack. Steven would have lost his nerve and fled if he had not been equally bound by the Imperial Edict.

The school authorities had received two messages. One from the Governor's palace saying that Flavius Aulus would not be returning and a second to say that in future Steven Cirenson would be attended by a slave.

The silence was almost like physical wall when they entered the classroom.

"Not there," Steven said quietly as Flavius went to take his usual place, "Unpack my bag then go and sit at the back."

"I'm sorry sir. I forgot," Flavius replied. He alone had detected the tremor in Steven's voice.

"Take the cane and put it on your desk to remind you," Steven commanded more confidently.

Flavius had heard how Harold had introduced House of Sparta discipline to Steven and how Steven was expected to be equally strict with him. His father had used corporal punishment which had been unpleasant and he had not enjoyed his first experiences from Hans. The idea of being punished in public scared him.

The front rows of desks were reserved for the sons of nobles. The chairs were like luxurious office chairs. They were not expected to stand when the teacher entered and discipline could only be administered by their fathers.

Steven sat in one of the middle rows. The furniture was more functional and less comfortable. Punishments could be awarded and the parents notified. The boys were expected to stand respectfully whenever an adult entered.

The school was a little more tolerant of teaching the lower classes so instead of relegating them to the floor, Flavius found himself to the back of the room. Long wooden planks served as seats and tables. Punishment was arbitrary and was inflicted for the least sign of disrespect to anyone including other students.

A further distinction between the stratum of students was in the marking of work. A piece of work would be awarded a distinction if presented from the front, a pass from the middle and a fail from the back.

The system deterred students from the lower classes from even going to school and slaves only attended to serve their master's son as Flavius was apparently doing. Discipline was maintained more by the front rows being expected to set a good example than anything else.

The first lesson of the day was philosophy one of the lessons most likely to be affected by Flavius' challenge to the system.

The front rows would discuss or debate matters affecting the empire while while the rest would listen to the wisdom of their betters. It was more about politics than philosophy but the title gave the class more academic standing.

The teacher was Marius Diollo a conservative man who disliked the idea of the lower orders even being in the class. He was almost obsequious as he accepted the greetings of the front rows barely glancing at the rest of the before waving them to sit.

"It's sad that his new duties prevents our esteemed Governor from attending any more," he said oblivious to the muffled giggles from the students before picking up his cane and continuing, "Where's the new boy. He may as well learn his true position in this class."

Flavius stood nervously and then desperately tried stifle his own giggles as the look on Mr Diollo's face changed from resigned contempt at a new slave in his class to bewilderment and near panic as he recognised Flavius.

"What's the meaning of this. Surely you're not playing pranks at a time like this. Please show some respect for your father, get properly dressed and take your rightful position."

"This is my proper position, sir," Flavius replied, "I'm here as Steven Cirenson's slave. Flavius Aulus, Governor of this province, does not want to bring the authority of his office into your classroom, sir,"

"That is very considerate of you Your Excellency but you go too far. I nearly caned you as a slave."

"Excuse me sir," Steven said, standing respectfully, "but I must insist that you don't show my slave any favours. I would get into trouble with my father if he had to apologise to the Emperor."

"This is ridiculous," Mr. Diollo snapped, "You're just the son of a clerk. Why should the Emperor be concerned with your father?"

"Officially His Excellency is is at the palace. If he should choose to leave unofficially, incognito and with the Emperor's approval I wouldn't dare to challenge him. That boy is to be treated as a slave and if you don't cane him as you usually do then I'll do it during recess."

Steven wanted to turn round to look to Flavius for support but no master could do that. It may be Flavius' scheme but it was his responsibility to carry it through the first challenge.

Marius Diollo was at a complete loss. The staff knew that there was terrific pressure to reform the education system and that Flavius was going to make some gesture as his Imperial service. Some of them supported it but the old guard such as Mr. Diollo had expected to be able to ride out the campaign and carry on as usual. Suddenly he now found himself in the front line defending his position against an increasingly powerful attack.

The rest of the class were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Mr. Diollo was not a popular teacher, not even with the front rows. He was just too much of a crawler and a creep. Whatever the bigger picture they were enjoying seeing him brought down.

Normally Steven would have found himself at the wrong end of Mr. Diollo's cane for his intervention but mention of Imperial support rattled the teacher.

"Steven is right…" Flavius began

"Be quiet," Steven and Mr. Diollo snapped together. Mr Diollo spoke without thinking trying to stop the boys ganging up on him and forgetting who he was speaking to while Steven was making sure that Flavius continued to act as a slave.

Both were visibly surprised at the moment of agreement to the noisy amusement of the class.

"I cannot continue with you challenging the proper order like this. You, boy. Go and fetch the headmaster."

The boy was in the front row and it was the first time that Mr. Diollo had spoken sharply to the son of a noble. The startled boy obeyed without question.

The Headmaster was one of those men who naturally commanded respect. Tall, well proportioned and with greying hair and never visibly excited no matter what pandemonium was being generated around him.

Even the front rows thought it normal to stand for him. Once all the boys were seated he was told what had happened.

"I think the Palace could have warned me of the Governor's plans," he said, "We could have made suitable arrangements. You boy, stand up."

Flavius obeyed, standing smartly at attention.

"I'll respect the Governor's wish to be incognito. I'll refer to him as if he's a separate person and I assume you're fully aware of his plans."

"Yes sir," Flavius replied, "I know what he's thinking."

"Good! So why wasn't I informed of this protest?"

"It's not a protest, sir. The Governor is committed to his service until he turns twenty one. I understand that the Emperor and the Board of Guardians believe that any discussion would have given bureaucrats the chance to dilute the plan. The Governor is sorry if you've been inconvenienced, sir."

"Thank the Governor when you see him and I take their point about interference. I had a letter from the Education Department today. I'm invited to apply for a number of grants related to integrating the various social classes into a single stream. There's generous compensation for setting up the program. I take it that it's not a coincidence and even the Governor and his peers will benefit from the improved facilities. Interference can work in both directions, don't you think?"

Flavius smiled, "Yes sir, The Governor would like to talk to you about it at the reception tonight if you're able to attend."

"Unfortunately mere teachers don't receive invitations to such events. I'm surprised you forgot that."

"I didn't forget, sir. You are involved with the completion of His Excellency's Imperial Service. That makes you eligible to attend. His car and a servant will be at your disposal to deal with any question of invitation if you and your wife are available at such short notice."

"Thank the Governor and tell him that I look forward to speaking to him directly. Mr Diollo, may I request that you end your practice of caning new slaves in this class immediately?"

"And am I also expected to listen to the ramblings of slaves during our discussions?" Mr. Diollo asked.

"It seems that the Provincial Governor demands it," the Headmaster replied, "and His Imperial Majesty will be aware of anyone who obstructs him."

Mr. Diollo remained silent for a time before saying, "I think it's time I retired. I have no wish to be involved in destroying the social order that has served the Empire so well."

"This is not the place to make major decisions, Mr Diollo," the Headmaster replied, "You're one of the greatest authorities on the origins of our Empire and I'll be sorry to lose you. We'll have the resources to introduce that subject as a major course. Please come to my office and we'll discuss your options."

The next lesson was Maths. The teacher was far more tolerant and argued that mathematical problems could only be right or wrong. Nevertheless the back rows tended to lose more marks for untidiness and bad presentation though from that day onward they seemed to do much neater work.

The rest of the morning droned on without further incident. Teachers avoided any sort of class discussion or any marking of papers; generally avoiding any activity which might get them involved in Flavius' revolution.

Lunch was difficult for Steven. The nobles watched as Flavius dutifully laid out his food then hurried over to the other servants to eat his. Steven ate alone understanding why. It was not the first time he had earned the hostility of the nobles and, yet again, he did not wish to drag his friends into the conflict.

Flavius' cook had insisted that his Master eat properly, no matter what he was doing, and had packed too much of the best food in the larder. Flavius happily shared it all with the other servants making himself very popular.

Football was very popular with the lower classes. All it needed was a ball and space to kick it. There were proper fields and leagues across the Empire and although it was all right to watch the games no noble would be seen taking it seriously. It was something of a test for Flavius when he was asked to join in a game. It was an entertainment for their betters and so it had to be played properly but only slaves put on public performances.

All boys like to kick a ball around and Flavius like many other Nobles had been secretly envious of the slaves' chance for a bit of fun. He only hesitated briefly before joining in.

He might have kicked a ball around with friends in their gardens but it was the first time he had played where the other players took it so seriously and he was completely outclassed. His game finished when he was brought down by a tackle. He hit the ground face down, winded, with a bloody nose and his ankle badly twisted.

If it had been any other player the game would have continued. It was not a particularly hard tackle by the usual standards but Flavius was not the usual slave.

It had happened before to someone's servant so Steven knew he should not rush to Flavius' aid. The Nobles watching the game would have crucified the slave who had injured one of their own. The slave realised this and stood petrified with fear. The other players recovered from their own fear and seeing that no one was coming to Flavius' assistance helped him up. Seeing that he could not play any more, they helped him over to their rest area.

"Nice tackle," Flavius called out to the trembling slave, "I'll be ready for you next time."

The boy collapsed in tears and in his turn, had to be helped over to where Flavius was sitting, to recover. The slave belonged to the school and once lessons were complete would be set to cleaning up. If Flavius had asked, the boy would have been killed without further thought but when he put his arm round the boy to comfort him the incident was over.

The school had a fully equipped bathhouse for most of it's students. The exception of course were the slaves. As it became crowded more and more of the lower ranks were excluded. They made do with shower heads and latrines behind the bath house.

The slave boy nervously suggested that they get cleaned up and helped Flavius over to the slave area. Flavius looked aghast at the sparse amenities so different to the bath house he was used to. It was clean and that was it's only redeeming feature. The slave cleaned the blood off his face before they stripped and stood under the shower.

It would have been an erotic experience if the water had not been so cold. Instead they helped each other get clean as quickly as possible before brushing down their tunics.

Flavius looked his old self and he could almost walk normally when he reported back to Steven.

"Did you enjoy yourself with the slave?" Steven asked.

Flavius grinned.

"No sir. He was too nervous and the water was too cold. We both wanted to get into the sun to dry off."

Steven laughed, "Never mind. You'll be home soon and you'll have your pick of your slaves."

"I wish Mother didn't find excuses to parade slave girls in front of me all the time," Flavius said quietly, "I know I'll have to get married and I could really go for some of the girls she's got lined up. I just don't want to get some slave pregnant to prove I'm capable."

The remainder of the day passed without incident and Flavius was fully recovered by the time they got back to the Palace.

Hans insisted that Flavius and Steven rest before the nights activities. Steven was under orders to see that Flavius had everything he wanted and slept with Flavius' cock firmly planted in his arse and Flavius' hand firmly around his own manhood. Hans also insisted that Alan should also rest. Hans was older and had enjoyed a quiet day. He continued getting the House of Sparta ready for the reception.

He suspected that Titus and one or two of the other adults might want a quiet refuge before the night was over.

When he woke the boys he was careful to address Flavius as 'sir'. In a way it was like a game and now it was Flavius' turn to be 'it' while the other two had to do the rushing around helped by a few slaps and blows from Hans. From the the moment he woke, Hans expected Flavius to behave like the Governor while the others attended to his needs.

It was the role he had been raised for and he slipped into it easily. It may seem surprising but his experiences as a slave helped. He did not want to be in trouble with Hans for doing his duty poorly and where he had accepted his own humiliations with good grace he assumed that everyone else would. Alan and Steven understood their roles. Alan was used to being a slave while Steven knew he had to behave to the same standards he had expected from Flavius during the day.

Alan and Steven were still naked when Flavius was finally dressed and ready to join his family and took part in a little ceremony.

Hans knelt in front of Flavius and said, " Your Excellency, I'm at your service."

Steven, then Alan repeated the ritual before Flavius dismissed them and gave them fifteen minutes to get themselves ready. It had steadied Flavius and he was ready to meet his family.

He headed for the the family quarters with the other slaves of Sparta making up his retinue.

It was a grand entrance as Alan and Steven opened the doors for him and he stepped into the lounge.

"At last, Flavius," his mother began irritably.

Flavius remained silent. Hans, Steven and Alan stood dutifully behind him as he raised his hand to show the ring on his finger. It was the one that he had taken from his father on his death and it was the symbol of his position.

Julia looked at the tableau in front of her. Flavius had entered as the Governor and there was nothing in his manner or appearance to suggest anything different. She had no choice but to follow the same protocols and traditions.

She curtsied briefly.

"My apologies. Your Excellency, I'm at your service."

Flavius looked at Titus who took his turn in front of Flavius. He bowed his head briefly before saying, "Your Excellency, I'm at your service."

His wife looked as if she was being dragged to the scaffold as she took her turn. She still had not accepted the new situation and was furious that she was not standing beside her husband while he accepted homage.

Their elder son took after his mother. He was sullen and resentful as he paid his respects. The younger son looked equally sullen until his back was towards his family when he winked cheekily and mouthed, 'Good Luck' before saying the formal line.

Other members of the family who had arrived to attend the reception also paid their respects to the new Governor. Flavius remained quiet and aloof during the ceremony, merely thanking them all for their support at the end.

There are fashions in protocol as in every other human activity. The main theme of the evening was to make Flavius undisputed Provincial Governor and pronounce him head of the House of Aulus. That dated back back to the earliest period of the Empire. At times protocol would have allowed him to be surrounded by bodyguards. Nowadays a token protection was allowed which meant when they made their way to the reception, Flavius led followed immediately by the boys and then the rest of the family.

When he stood on the podium, the Sparta boys stood immediately behind him. Dressed as slaves their role was obviously subservient and they separated Flavius from the rest of the family, again showing him to be undisputed head.

He stood as dignitaries from neighbouring provinces offered their congratulations and the Nobles and dignitaries of his provinces offered their support.

Finally he began his speech. he started by thanking everyone for their support, how he planned to continue the work his father had done, his hopes that the disputes with Scandinavia could be resolved and how he hoped to make the province more prosperous. It was all standard stuff.

After the Board of Guardians had paid homage they had been guided into the Ante-room as had Titus and his headmaster before returning as a group to stand at the front of the hall.

"As you know, until I reach twenty one I am to be trained by a Board of Guardians. They come from all ranks but they have been chosen by the skills they bring to their task. I ask that you all give them due respect for their contribution, not only to my Governorship but, to the Imperial Service I have undertaken.

"That service is to try and stimulate the Education system so that it produces more of the scientists and engineers that the Empire needs. For that reason I would ask that you all show due respect to the Headmaster of the town school which has suddenly found itself at the forefront of the Imperial program."

The noble classes of the Roman Empire were always suspicious of favourites being taken from the lower classes. Although there were now slaves and a mere teacher standing at the front of the hall along with nobles, there were defined boundaries of what was expected. Protocol may have been bent but it had not been broken and if it had Imperial approval the nobles had more to gain by accepting the situation than opposing it.

As the gathering began to socialise Juan, Harold and the Headmaster found themselves being cordially greeted. Titus had chosen to stand with the Board of Guardians rather than with the family which had infuriated his wife while Germanicus Susitus was entitled to stand at the front anyway.

Flavius managed a few words with the Headmaster.

"Thank you for inviting me, Your Excellency," he said, "It's a little overpowering though."

"You should try going to school as a slave," Flavius replied, "Do you approve of the changes?"

"Oh yes! So do most teachers. Have you thought how you're going to encourage other schools?"

Flavius grinned.

"I was the star runner in the 800 metres. Are you going to allow a slave to compete in my place?"

"I see. If I allow one slave then I may as well allow others. If my school breaks ranks then what will the others do? We seem to be at the head of the list for a number of grants and your Uncle is asking about filling a number of apprenticeships in the shipyards. If we succeed then we'll be setting standards other schools will be expected to follow.

"There's one thing though. There's a certain slave who will be expected to keep up with his work and set the standards for the other boys so I'll be keeping a close eye on him."

Flavius swallowed nervously. "He'll do his best, sir."

"Headmaster not sir, Your Excellency," the Headmaster said, "You normally keep to your different roles brilliantly. So do the others. I recognise young Cirenson there. I could do with a slave like him to entertain me. I can say that to Your Excellency about one of your slaves. I would never say it about one of my students."

Flavius grinned, "You should have a body slave as a mark of your new status. You can't have one of the House of Sparta members though but if you see anything else you fancy let me know."

"I don't want one who's too bright though. I'd have to put him through school then I'd lose him."

Julia approached them. "Flavius my dear. Could you come greet Claudina. She's one of my dearest friends and she's got a daughter about your age.

Steven was slightly embarrassed about the Headmaster's comments and at the same time excited. He had never thought about attracting people before. That evening men and women had touched him, apparently by accident but he was not supposed to react. His duty, along with Hans and Alan was to stand dutifully behind Flavius so that he was not crowded. It was the first time he had attended such a gathering so he was content to watch events and listen to the conversations going on around him.

Alan had also been the subject of various gropings and lewd comments. He was more used to it than Steven but Hans had glared at him on more than one occasion to steady him but it was still an amazing experience for both of them.

Flavius' younger cousin, Marcus approached him.

"Having fun, Your Egg-lency," he asked cheekily.

"It'll be better when I have tongue cut out for your rudeness," Flavius retorted, grinning.

"If I tell you something will you protect Mother?"

"I didn't think she needed anyone's protection."

"I know what you mean. If there's trouble will you protect her?"

"I'll do my best. What's wrong?"

Marcus was silent for a while before speaking.

"I wish Mother wouldn't give Father such a hard time. She's always on about how he should be Head of the House of Aulus and how he's such a failure. He's not though, is he? You wouldn't have given him all that extra work if you thought that, would you?

Flavius was having trouble seeing where the boy was leading. He tried to answer but Marcus continued,

"You have a family slave, David. Mother's promised him his freedom but she can't do that, can she? At least not while you're the head."

"What makes you think she promised him his freedom?"

"Do it and when my son takes his rightful place you'll have your freedom," Marcus quoted from memory

"Did she say 'son'?"

"Yes."

"What do you think Hans?" Flavius asked turning to his slave.

"I know David. He's a slimy lazy bastard."

Flavius glanced at General Maximilian and discretely beckoned him over. Without seeming to have a care in the world the general approached Flavius. He spoke affably to anyone who greeted him but hardly broke his step.

"I need to get to my office without attracting attention, General. Any ideas?"

"You were asking about the Battle of Armiens, sir. I could show you on a map."

Flavius turned to the other boys.

He said just loud enough for guests to hear. "I've got a military escort for a while. You can take a break."

Then quietly, " Alan, keep Titus distracted. Hans, fetch Matthew. Steven, stay with me."

Flavius and General Maximilian strolled through the reception towards discussing the battle. Once the General muttered, easy sir, as Flavius nerves got the better of him.

Once in the office, Flavius said apologetically, "Thank you General. I'm sorry but this is an extremely delicate matter and… er…"

"And you'd like me out of the way while you deal with it. Of course sir, I understand."

"Steven, take the General to the House of Sparta and look after him. Make our guest as comfortable as possible."

Matthew arrived as the General and Steven left. Flavius explained the situation.

"It's too soon to act, sir. We've no evidence and we should catch them in the act."

"No! I promised to protect Marcus' mother. If David acts against me then she is implicated in the crime. If no crime is committed then there is nothing against her.

Matthew nodded. "Minor things possibly but they could cause more trouble than they're worth to act upon them. Why the urgency?"

"I don't know what David is supposed to do or when. I'm not used to threats against me."

I understand sir. He's lazy and a troublemaker. I won't have any trouble finding a couple of slaves to take him and put him in solitary confinement. No one else will know and you can deal with him at your leisure."

"Thank you, Matthew. If we're wrong about him I'll find a way to make it up to him but for now, do what's necessary."

As Matthew left Flavius rang through to Steven.

"Tell the General that I'm ready to return to the reception."

"Yes sir," Steven replied sounding a little disappointed.

General Maximilian was as calm as ever but Steven was flushed and something was pushing his tunic outwards. Flavius thought that his nipples seemed pronounced and the surrounding skin had a red tinge.

"Military manoeuvres, General?" Flavius asked.

"Yes sir and if the boy cares to visit my quarters I will finish the campaign."

Flavius looked at Steven who nodded.

"I'll see that there's a room available for you tonight. You can resume the invasion as soon as it is convenient."

"The General broke into a rare grin. "Thank you sir."

As they re-entered the reception they separated. Hans and Steven took up their positions as attendants to be joined a moments later by Alan. Flavius' absence had been noticed but no one doubted that it was anything but the General explaining some points of history.

As Flavius circulated around the guests a slave approached nervously. He was in his twenties and Flavius knew that it was one that Matthew trusted completely.

"Matthew says it's done, sir and all's well"

Flavius remained expressionless and dismissed the slave with a flick of his hands. He would reward the loyal slaves later but for now their needs did not exist. He began talking to a minor noble who was delighted to have been singled out and the reception continued.

Octavia was standing beside her husband Titus and their two children when Flavius was first able to speak to her.

"I see you have to drag your slave friends around with you," she said, "I'm surprised you're not dancing with one of them."

"Oh! I've got a boy who'll be dancing and singing for me tomorrow. He's tried to serve you once or twice though I doubt that you remember him. His name's David."

"Why should I remember a slave. I know my rank."

Flavius thought she spoke less certainly than before and noticed that Marcus' brother, Publicus had gone white and was looking anxiously at his mother.

"No reason at all, Aunt," Flavius replied, "I understand that you're taking Publicus on an extended tour of your estates. Are you teaching him about farm management?"

"What's this my dear, "Titus asked, "It's the first I've heard of it."

"I'm sorry, Titus," Octavia replied, "I wanted to tell you myself. I've no idea how Flavius heard about it so soon."

"It's a pity that you'll be leaving before David's performance," Flavius said, "If you wish to leave the reception early to start your preparations I'll not be offended."

"Thank you! That's most considerate. Come Publicus."

"Are you going to tell me what's happening?" thundered Titus, "You've sent my wife away. Why?"

"Easy Uncle," Flavius said as calmly as he could, "What would Aunt Octavia do to control the House of Aulus?"

Titus stared at Flavius.

"Uncle, if people see you looking like that they'll think war's been declared."

Titus relaxed and even managed a grin.

Flavius laughed, "It's lucky you're too high born to be an actor. You'd starve to death."

Titus laughed with him. "If you don't tell me what's going on I'll become an assassin and choke it out of you."

"I received intelligence that Aunt Octavia was using one of my slaves to spy on me and was talking about Publicus becoming head of the House."

"Rubbish. Gossip and slander. How could you be so stupid as to believe it?"

"I wasn't sure that I did until I mentioned the slave's name and talked about her trip to the country."

Titus seemed to slump down, suddenly looking very old.

"What happens now?"

"Nothing," Flavius replied, "Apart from my informant everything has been kept within the House of Sparta."

"It's good of you not to publicly disgrace her."

"It's a promise I made," Flavius explained.

Titus looked puzzled then looked at Harold who had seen something was wrong and had been hovering nearby on the pretext of trying to introduce his wife.

"Welcome Mrs Cirenson," Titus said, "If you'll allow me to borrow your husband, I'd like us to get very drunk together."

"Marcus," Flavius said, "Would you be so kind as to escort Mrs Cirenson and help her to keep an eye on those two."

Marcus led off a deeply flattered Mrs Cirenson, grateful to have something to take his mind off events.

"Hans, do you think I can relax a bit now? It's late and guests are already leaving."

Don't you remember what your father did. When your father took his coat off and dismissed his escort it was a sign to start winding up."

"I'm going to sleep all day tomorrow."

"You won't. You have duties as Master Flavius. House of Sparta's got four guests and they'll need looking after as well.

"Four?"

"General Maximilian, Marcus, Your Uncle Titus and Mr Cirenson.

"Marcus?"

"He'll probably feel safer until his mother and brother have left. Since Mr Cirenson has been waylaid by Titus may I arrange a car for Mrs Cirenson?"

As Flavius removed his formal jacket and loosened his clothes, sitting alone at a table, the remaining guests took the hint and began to leave. He watched as General Maximilian and Steven left together and saw Titus being helped out of the room by a couple of beefy slaves followed by Harold being carefully guided by Alan.

His mother approached him.

"What's happened tonight?" she asked, "Why is Octavia rushing off so suddenly?"

"I'll tell you about it later, Mother," Flavius replied, "It's all over for tonight."

"I was proud of you tonight. Your father would have been as well. Octavia's right about the the way you forget your rank and consort with the lower classes but she's a stupid bitch and does some ridiculous things. Whatever she's done now, you've handled it very discretely and efficiently. I'm impressed. I'll tell that boy Hans that his training is having good results."

"Thanks Mother. I know you don't like the House of Sparta so I appreciate that."

Finally it was all over and Flavius thankfully headed off to bed. For once, all the boys lay down to sleep rather than play and everything was quiet, except for General Maximilian's room though even they slept eventually.

Only David, cramped and uncomfortable in his cage failed to get any rest. He awaited the following day with dread and in the pitch black lost all sense of time. He knew why he had been taken and every sound filled him with dread wondering if they were coming for him at last.

Chapter 4

Everyone except Hans slept late in the House of Sparta that night. All was quiet in the guest rooms so he let Flavius and Alan sleep on. When they were needed they would wake quickly and get about their duties or feel the tawse which Hans always carried.

He would spend the day keeping the apartment running smoothly though he had one remarkable experience.

He was heading through the palace on some errand when he saw Julia, Flavius' mother coming the other way. Normally he just pressed against the wall and she would sweep by without a word. Today she stopped.

"Hello Hans," she said, "How are you today? Not too tired after your efforts yesterday?"

"No My Lady," Hans replied, "Thank you for asking."

"Do you have time to come to my quarters for a few moments? Will your duties permit?"

"Yes, of course My Lady,"

Hans was frightened. The Lady Julia just did not behave this way towards slaves. It had to be some cruel game.

When Julia was seated she snapped, "Girl, a drink for the boy," and then to Hans she said, "I'm afraid I can't be as easy with a slave as my son seems to be but please relax."

"Thank you My Lady," Hans replied unable to say more.

"You know what happened between between my son and my sister in law don't you."

Yes My Lady."

"Tell me about it."

"I'm sorry My Lady but Master Flavius has ordered that we should not mention it. May I request that you speak with him about it."

"I could have you flogged until you do tell me."

"Yes, My Lady."

"Oh for God's sake, sit down, boy. You know, I'm beginning to understand what Flavius sees in you and don't say Yes My Lady."

Hans grinned, "Can I say No My Lady."

Julia laughed, "Finish your drink and get about your business. Look after my son and you'll have nothing to fear from me."

Hans left Julia's quarters hardly able to believe what had happened. It was the first time that she had ever treated a slave as a person.

General Maximilian woke next thanks to his military training. He was relaxed and rested and looked fondly at Steven lying beside him. The General was not a cruel man but sometimes he took a boy and used him very roughly indeed. Steven had the the marks and bruises to prove it and he would walk awkwardly for the remainder of the day but as a reward for accepting the General's harshness he had also experienced some of the biggest orgasms of his life. The General gave pleasure as powerfully as he took it and Steven gave up his seed until his cock ached and and he was too exhausted to produce more.

The General had not started out much more cautiously than he would have with one of his adult soldiers but Steven accepted everything without complaint, impressing the General who leant over and kissed Steven gently until the boy woke.

Steven groaned as he stirred and his aching body protested, then groaned again as his body began to react. Steven had already learned not to protest at the Generals ministrations. In fact he enjoyed them.

"Still willing to serve me boy?"

"I'm the General's obedient slave, sir."

Steven yelped at the slap he received and knew he was in for a hard time but he looked forwards to the rewards that would come.

The others only saw him briefly that morning when he was sent to fetch some breakfast. Harold was horrified at the sight of his sons battered body and Hans had to stop him from intervening.

"Steven, No one expects you to be treated like that," he said, "If you wish I'll tell the General that you have other duties."

Steven thought about what the General had promised to do to him and winced as his aching cock stiffened in anticipation.

"No, I'm OK. he replied.

Steven would visit the General whenever he had the opportunity and become known as the General's Boy by the soldiers who served General Maximilian. Some had experienced the General's special brand of love making and the General had a fearsome reputation. No one ever discussed their time with him which only added to his reputation. General's Boy was not a derogatory name, quite the opposite, and the personnel under General Maximilian's command would come to treat Steven with the utmost respect.

Alan and Flavius were woken next. Alan was sent to the kitchen to prepare food while Flavius was allowed to relax.

Hans had laid out informal clothes but they belonged to Flavius Aulus head of the House of Aulus.

Flavius knew why. He had to deal with David. Romans expected loyalty from their slaves and Flavius was no exception. He felt a grim anticipation as he considered the punishments he might inflict. No matter how cruelly or harshly he treated the slave, no one would think badly of him. Indeed, it would weaken his position if he was considered soft.

Alan served him breakfast as he considered his options. He sent for Matthew and told Alan to try and rouse Titus who staggered in holding his head a little later. As always Hans was ready to deal with the situation and insisted, as firmly as a slave could, that Titus drink the cure he was offering.

Alan was sent to Marcus' room to wait until the boy woke up. Alan was to keep Marcus occupied and entertained for the remainder of the morning. For once, Alan failed to follow his orders. As soon as he was awake, Marcus insisted on speaking with Titus.

"It was me who told Cousin Flavius about Mother and Publicus," he said as he stood in front of his father.

Titus was quiet for a while before saying, "So it was you who made Flavius promise not to harm her or Publicus."

Marcus nodded.

Titus held out his arms and hugged the sobbing Marcus.

"I want you to stay here for now. Alan will look after you. He might be a slave but he's a good boy and I'd be pleased if you treated him well. Do you understand?"

"I mustn't whip him just to remind him of his place, Father."

"You shouldn't have to whip him at all," Titus replied.

"Mother says you let slaves forget their place and I shouldn't be soft like you."

" Alan knows what's happening. He'll not divulge that knowledge to anyone outside the House of Sparta. You have to trust him as much as you trusted Flavius and that means you have to respect him."

"Yes Father."

"Take care of my son, Alan," Titus said quietly.

"Yes sir," Alan replied, "I'll tell him about the House of Sparta."

Titus nodded, smiling, as he, Flavius and Matthew left for the slave quarters.

When David had finally heard his cage being unlocked his chest tightened with fear until he almost stopped breathing. He was gagged, stripped and, to his surprise, thoroughly cleaned until he was tied spread-eagled to hooks in the floor and ceiling of the interrogation room. His weight was still taken by his feet but he was stretched tight and he was left again until Flavius' little party arrived.

Flavius picked up a metal prod and pressed the button on the handle. The opposite end crackled with electric sparks casting a flickering cold blue light.

He pressed the end against David's thigh and pressed the button again. David screamed into his gag writhing in agony, almost pulling himself off the the floor as he tried to escape.

Flavius removed David's gag and said, "Tell me what I want to know."

"Please Master. I don't know anything."

Flavius moved the prod further up David's thigh and pressed again. David shrieked and threshed about again as the electricity seared through his body.

"Please Master, She threatened to cut my balls off, if I told anyone," David begged.

"That only hurts once. I can do this as often as I like," Flavius said. He spoke quietly and he sounded that much more menacing. He held the prod to David's sac and and pressed the button again.

"Instead of cutting them off, I'll fry them off and I'm losing patience," Flavius said when David had recovered enough to hear him.

"She said that if I prove that you're incapable of being the Head of the House of Aulus I'd get my freedom when her son replaced you.

Flavius pressed the button again and David passed out. Smelling salts were kept in the Interrogation room and together with a bucket of cold water thrown over him, David soon revived.

"Start from the beginning and don't leave anything out," Flavius jabbed the button. "I'll let you know if there's anything I don't understand."

David was beaten and told them everything. He was prodded a few more times and it became harder to stop him talking than getting anything out of him. Later Flavius pieced together some of the details David did not know to finish the story.

Matthew had beaten David for laziness and David had been sullen and resentful. Octavia had found him sulking and explained how things would be different if she could run the place. It would be best for Flavius in the long run if he did not make the Aulus family a laughing stock with his antics. David was to find other slaves who could see the broader picture and who would find a way of sabotaging the nights reception. David was to steal any confidential papers he could find and pass them to Octavia.

He was not sure what she would do with them but got the impression that she might make money out of some of them and others would turn up in places which would make Flavius seem irresponsible and careless. Enough had to happen to convince the court that Titus should become Guardian. It could not be one big disaster. They happen but a series of small incidents that showed that Flavius was losing control and the slaves were becoming lazy and careless would be far more effective.

David did not know how she planned to get rid of Titus but Publicus knew better than to challenge his mother so she would effectively have complete control.

"Which slaves agreed to help you?"

"Craig and Ty, Master."

Matthew hurried off to fetch them. When they arrived Flavius had them strip and stand against a wall with their hands behind their heads.

He picked up a heavy cane and swung. David screamed again as the blow landed on his buttocks leaving a bloody line as the welt formed. He struck again and again until the slave's back was red and dripping blood from his shoulders to his knees. Twice David fainted and was revived. Blows landed on David's sides under his armpits, cracking ribs.

Flavius was tiring as he started on David's front but succeeded in drawing blood across David's abdomen. The last couple of blows were across David's cock and balls causing David to faint again. This time Flavius just let him hang.

He turned to Craig and Ty.

"Do you have anything to tell me?"

They had been frightened when they arrived and now they were petrified. Ty just stood unable to move as his his bladder emptied. Flavius managed to jump out of the way just in time.

"Master," Craig said, "We work in the kitchen and David wanted us to do something to the food. He said that Lady Octavia said that it was OK and for your own good really. He made it sound so reasonable. I know how you are doing your Imperial Service and how well you're doing so I knew it was wrong and I did nothing. Neither did Ty."

"You didn't report it either like you should have done," snapped Flavius.

"I tried but Matthew had Lady Julia on his back about the reception. I'm sorry I meant no disrespect, please believe me, Master. I have an appointment to see him this afternoon."

Flavius turned to Matthew.

"It's true, he did try to speak to me yesterday and I was busy. I do have an appointment with him this afternoon. I'm sorry, sir but I had no idea."

"And was my Mother on your back, Matthew?"

"She was determined to make the reception a success and was very demanding, sir."

"She was on your back then and you don't have to answer that, Matthew."

"Thank you sir," grinned Matthew.

Flavius turned to Craig. "Take your friend and get him cleaned up. Come back here and clean this place up. I don't think we'll get much work out of Ty today so he can rest in his room."

"Surely you're rewarding them for keeping quiet," Titus asked, "They shouldn't have even considered doing it and told someone immediately."

"If slaves obey me blindly then they would obey Octavia as blindly. These two thought about it and made the right decisions. They were prevented from warning me by the chain of command. I understand that from the House of Sparta."

He turned to the slaves. "Craig, which would you prefer, a night in a brothel or with a rent boy?"

"With Ty sir," Craig replied without thinking.

"That thing says he hasn't stolen anything yet. I don't know if I believe him. Organise a search. If you find anything, I'll see to it that you have a night of luxury with him. If another slave finds anything he can have the same choices as well."

The three slaves were in their twenties. Their diet and lives meant that they were fit and healthy. Each one could snap the neck of a boy like Flavius without thinking about it yet all three were terrified of Flavius in his present mood. The feeling of power that Flavius was experiencing was turning him on like nothing had before.

"There's nothing more we can do until the search is done," Flavius said to Titus and Matthew, "Why don't you go back to the Sparta quarters and wait for me?"

Titus hesitated before heading for the door. He still needed time to come to terms with his wife's treachery but at the same time he wondered what Flavius was up to.

While he was waiting for Craig to return, Flavius stripped. His cock leapt up and almost slapped against his belly as it was freed from the constraints of his clothes, it was so hard.

He stood waiting for Craig to return who stared wide eyed as his master ordered him to kneel down. Craig was used to being fucked and Flavius' boy cock was smaller than the adult cocks he was used to but he yelped with pain as Flavius thrust into him with pure animal lust. It only took a couple more thrusts before Flavius exploded with an intensity he had never felt before. His hips convulsed rather than pushed and he had no control of his body until his balls were drained of every last drop of cum.

Craig vainly tried to accommodate Flavius' wild assault but it proved too much, too wild. He was left sore and uncomfortable while Flavius was left drained emotionally, all the stresses and tensions of the last few days sucked out of him.

Flavius ran some water to clean himself and Craig knelt before him ready to obey him.

"You were in the wrong place at the wrong time," Flavius said with a grin.

Craig grinned back. "No Master. It was a pleasure to serve you."

"So why did you hesitate before seeing Matthew."

"It made sense that you were too young to handle your new position. The rest seemed to follow on until I saw you looking just like your father. David may really have thought he was helping you, Master."

"Do you really believe that?"

"No Master. I suppose not. He was hoping for a reward not trying to serve you. I'm sorry I did something to hurt you, Master. I should be punished."

"Turkeys don't vote for Christmas," Flavius said, "Slaves shouldn't ask to be punished but I'll flog you if it'll make you feel better."

"Thank you sir but no. I'll not rest until I've searched every inch of the grounds and slave quarters. I don't need to be rewarded if I succeed because I'll do my best anyway."

Flavius had been dressing while they had been talking. He had forgotten everything in his moment of lust. Now the acrid smell from Ty's piss mingling with the sweat and blood on David made Flavius feel dirty.

"It's time for us both of us to attend our duties. I meant what I said earlier about rewarding you. At least keep Ty out of the way until I'm finished with that thing. I don't need to scare him any more."

Craig was angry with David. He felt stupid for even half believing that Flavius was incapable. He was furious that he had put Ty in danger. Craig mopped up the floor and unceremoniously threw a bucket of water over David before washing him down. When he was done he put a bucket between David's legs.

"If you have to do anything, try and aim for the bucket," Craig said as he left, "Keep this room fit for the Master to visit."

David was in agony. If he moved to ease one one pain he triggered another. He had trouble breathing and he knew more was to come. He had found a document about troop movements on Flavius' desk when he was cleaning the office. It was amongst some old papers belonging to Flavius' father and was already out of date but it would not have looked good if it had been found in the street.

Slaves sometimes stole food and drink from their masters, even money and were skilled at hiding it. The document was safe against an ordinary search but the search Flavius had ordered was not an ordinary one because he had other slaves helping him. He knew the document would be found.

He was in despair as he tried to bend his legs so that he hung by his arms. It was not an easy way to commit suicide, and he was soon struggling back on his feet, gasping for breath crying at the pain from his broken ribs.

Meanwhile Flavius tried to relax in his office. He sent for the others and together they waited for the results of the search. Marcus sat on his fathers lap and Alan knelt beside them awaiting their orders.

Flavius smiled quietly at the scene. Titus had never shown interest in boys but at that moment he needed their support.

Matthew sat miserably refusing anything Hans tried to serve. He had let Flavius down and had failed to control the slaves. He would not be surprised if Flavius were to sell him.

"Why so glum, Matthew?" Flavius asked.

"I'm sorry I let you down so badly, Master," Matthew replied.

"It's not your fault," Titus said, "How do you think I feel?"

"I don't care who's got the biggest guilt trip," Flavius snapped. "People betrayed us and that's that. If it wasn't for my promise to Marcus, I'd have that bitch Octavia and her brat hanging alongside David."

Flavius calmed down as Titus flinched and Marcus looked as if he about to burst into tears.

"I'm sorry Uncle and I'm sorry Marcus. I shouldn't have said that but they caused this, not you or Matthew."

They waited in silence until Steven finally joined them. He walked with difficulty and he was in pain but there was a contented look about him and he smiled happily as he remembered his time with the General.

His appearance lightened the mood considerably as he endured some light hearted bantering and questions about his experiences with the General. Harold was relieved that Steven was all right and dropped his guard enough to make a crack about Alan's devotion to Titus.

Alan blushed furiously while Marcus looked curiously at his father but even Matthew had relaxed enough to enjoy the lunch that Hans had prepared.

Finally Craig arrived holding the document he had found. He stood, frightened, in front of Flavius' desk.

"Is that all, Craig?" Flavius asked.

"I think so, Master," Craig answered, "but… er…"

"Speak freely, be disrespectful if you need to be but say what's on your mind. You won't be punished no matter what you say."

"Yes Master. David used to hide in a garden shed if he wanted to skive off work. It was in an old tool box hidden under some junk. The thing is, it had one of those large combination locks and it was new. It looked out of place. That's what made us suspicious.

"I went and asked David about it. I had to point out that he would either tell me or you, Master, and he gave me the combination. He said the Lady Octavia had given it to him before your Father died."

"Before?" Flavius asked.

"Yes Master. I wondered about going to the market and asking the iron monger if he remembered anything. Maybe she had bought two"

I don't suppose you've ever used the phone?"

Craig shook his head.

"Steven, take Craig through to the House of Sparta. Treat him like a guest and see what you can discover. You've done well Craig."

"When the boys had left Flavius asked, "Comments anyone?"

"Why does it matter when mother bought the padlock?" Marcus asked.

"Because the whole thing was planned in case I didn't become Guardian," Titus replied, "Your mother is not clever enough to think of contingency plans."

"How about Aunt Julia," Marcus asked.

"No, It wasn't her," Matthew said firmly, "She's clever enough but she was determined that last night's reception succeed. She would have boiled Flavius and me in oil if it had failed."

He paused.

"I'm sorry Master. I forgot my place."

Flavius laughed, "She scares me at times, too. Besides, she'd lose too much status to Octavia if Publicus became Governor."

"Uncle Titus made his move when my father died. It was simple, direct and legal, not devious like this. Besides he's a target as well. Marcus destroyed the plot by telling me otherwise I'd wonder if he wasn't planning on killing his mother and brother as well.

"It's all right. I'm not accusing anyone but explaining why I think there's an outside plot and that means I have to tell the Emperor."

"That's going a bit far, isn't it? I'm not sure that we should bother him with this," Titus said.

"That's what Craig thought, isn't it? He wasn't sure whether to take David seriously. What do you think Matthew?"

"I can see the parallels. Damned if you stir up trouble for no good reason and damned if you keep quiet and allow your master to be attacked."

"You're talking as if Octavia was involved in some bigger plot," Titus said, "I can't believe that."

"I'm sorry, sir," Matthew said, "But I have to say this. I don't think the Lady Octavia is clever enough to plan all this. She probably pushed you into trying to seize the ring but I doubt that she prepared a backup plan beforehand."

"I feel sorry for David in a way. She made it sound reasonable when she talked about the ring and I'm not supposed to be gullible like a slave," Titus said quietly.

"It was reasonable, sir," Matthew said consolingly, "No one could have expected Master Flavius to be such a remarkable young man and you were the obvious Guardian."

At that moment Steven and Craig burst in. Matthew looked angrily at Craig while Hans glared at Steven. They both paled slightly at their appalling manners.

Flavius noticed the little exchange.

"I could forget to behave properly, myself, if there's some good news," he said, "Let's hear it."

"She bought it in a shop near one of her estates," Steven said, "It was about a month ago. The shopkeeper remembered it because he's an ironmongers and it's not the sort of shop great ladies visit. They send their servants."

"How did you track it down?" Titus asked.

"I was chatting to one of her slaves the other day," Craig replied, "He said she'd been holding court there while waiting for the late Master to die. It was how he described it, sir."

"Don't worry. I wonder where that slave is now. I'd like to speak with him."

"The Lady Octavia has left but there's a few slaves packing the last of her baggage. If he's one of them would you let me speak to him, Master?"

"Why you, Craig?"

"He's terrified of his mistress. He scarcely speaks but when he does it just pours out especially if he's slightly drunk. He'd just clam up in front of you."

Craig paused, "Master?"

"What's bothering you Craig?"

"I'm a slave and I'd be trying to get another slave to betray his owner. It would be like David, Master."

"He's my slave, boy," Titus growled, "She only gets title when I'm dead. Do what you have to."

"See what you can do, Craig," Flavius said, "You've done well today. How can I reward you?"

"Never separate Ty and me, Master."

"Until you meet a beautiful girl and beg me to let you marry."

"No sir. Neither of us have much in interest in girls and we love each other."

"I could declare you married and find you quarters to match."

Yes please sir. That would be wonderful. May I ask Ty first please."

"First, go and see what information you can get from Octavia's slave. Come back and report. Matthew will find you a bottle of good wine and you can propose properly."

Flavius turned to the others.

"I'm going to speak with my mother," Flavius said. "Why don't you wait in the House of Sparta. You can relax there. It's a pity Craig's so old. He'd have made an excellent candidate."

"You can't blurt it all out to the Emperor, my dear," Julia said when she heard the story, "if you do you would make it official and there'd be trouble if you were wrong."

"Phone him. Express your regrets that he can't attend your father's funeral in person and ask his advice about how to proceed. That way you've told him but it's not a formal accusation unless he makes it so."

"But I've still told him. What difference does it make?"

"The Empire has been around for nearly three thousand years. There are protocols and procedures for everything. If he'd lived longer your father would have taught you but this is something you'll have to learn from your Mother. You're not the first to be uncertain whether you've uncovered a plot. Asking his advice means you've told him but it's down to him to make the decisions.

"Believe me, if you visit Rome, the finer points of protocol like this would be part of your daily life."

"Yes Mother, I see."

"Now what are you doing about the slaves. Your father would have had all three castrated and crucified. Matthew would have been whipped yet you're proposing to let two of them live as if they were married? Extraordinary."

"Matthew was hassled over the reception and Craig didn't have anyone to advise him on how to approach his betters, Mother."

"It's a pity the Saturnalia is months away. You and your friends could have served at the wedding feast."

"Pardon, Mother."

Julia grinned.

"I must admit I was influenced by Octavia's poison as well, and I still disapprove of you cavorting around with slaves as much as you do but you seem to be learning from it. Your father would never have seen beyond Craig's betrayal the way you have and Hans is proving to be an excellent servant.

"Let's show the world that the House of Aulus is unharmed and that we have every confidence in our servants. Let the slaves have their own party as a wedding feast. We'll attend and toast the happy couple.

"You've got a problem though.

"Traditionally the Master takes the bride on the wedding night as a display of his authority. In this case you'll have to decide which one it is."

David was barely conscious when Flavius returned to deal with him. Flavius might have forgiven him if he had not lied about not having stolen anything yet. He ordered that a collar be fitted around David's neck. It was big, uncomfortable and made in the form of a hollow tube filled with lead making it extremely heavy.

David's hands were cuffed to it behind his head. He screamed as his stiff arm muscles were forced into their new position. Flavius personally tied a placard to hang over his chest. It read; "I betrayed my Master. Now my Master gives me away."

He was gagged and finally his papers were placed in a bag which was tied to his ball sac before being led to a side door.

"The next time I see you, I'll make today seem like afternoon tea."

David paused looking pleadingly at Flavius who raised the prod he was carrying. David turned and ran as fast as his tormented body would allow. Without his arms to balance him, the heavy weight around his neck caused him to stumble and fall. He only just manage to struggle to his feet before hobbling round the corner.

Flavius never did see him again. From reports that he received David had been shunned by the towns people and forced out of town. It was probably a gang of youths or boys that finished him. They made the most of having a slave of their own for the evening and he had been left bleeding from the anus and with various cuts and wounds. He died of exposure and shock during the night.

***

Marcus was a sensitive boy who would rather read a book than do sport. Younger than Flavius no one considered him ready to be a member of the House of Sparta but the other boys understood what it cost him to speak with Flavius and so he was treated with warm affection. None of them thought the worse of him because he wanted to spend the day cuddled up to his father.

Titus was still in shock from discovering how his wife had betrayed him. He appreciated Flavius' efforts to keep it within the House of Sparta but accepted that it was impossible. If he had discovered the plot first he would have probably killed Octavia and admired the way that Flavius had handled it. It was not easy to accept that a fourteen year old boy was in command but Flavius was earning his respect.

When he returned to the House of Sparta, Flavius felt dirty and depressed. As the the son of a Roman noble, he was used to everything being clean and sweet smelling. Yet the acrid smell of Ty's piss coupled with the sweat and blood on David had added to the excitement he had felt as he tortured David and fucked Craig.

He had no regrets at his treatment of David. Some would have been far harsher but he was worried about enjoying it so much and he was in no mood to assume his role in the House of Sparta.

Hans sensed what was troubling Flavius. Rather than tackle it head on he asked, "Learnt something about yourself today.?"

Flavius nodded, " I need time to sort it in my mind."

"No you don't," Hans snapped back, "It's part of you and you accept it. Strip, shower and start serving our guests. That's now part of you as well. Oh and Flavius, there are other parts to you and they all add up to one glorious whole which I love dearly, even if it isn't perfect. Now stop sulking before I take a cane to you."

Flavius grinned.

"Yes Master," he replied cheekily. He missed his father and the child still in him was envious of Marcus cuddled up with Titus. Hans could not try to be a substitute father but he could take the responsibility away from Flavius for a time. Flavius had always respected Hans' calm, efficient manner and so the unexpected praise meant a lot.

Craig returned to them, flustered as his naked master showed him to a seat and offered him a drink.

"Relax and pretend you're on another world," Harold said grinning at the young man's discomfort.

Craig smiled and then looked serious.

"Thank you sir," Craig replied, "but you may think I've overstepped the mark and then I'll be back on the old one."

"Explain," said Harold.

"It's Lady Octavia's slave. I made him report to the first aider and say he has bad stomach pains. I told the medic that Master Flavius would show his pleasure if he diagnosed appendicitis so that the slave could not travel.

"Why did you do that?" Harold asked.

"He was scared, sir," Craig replied, "He sees himself as belonging to the Lady Octavia and if she had suspected that he had spoken out of turn it would go very badly for him."

"You know what His Excellency is thinking, boy," Hans said to Flavius. "Do you think Craig will be in trouble?"

"No I don't, sir," Flavius replied, "His Excellency would think it was a great idea to reassure the slave. Craig can relax and enjoy our hospitality."

Flavius was standing close to Craig who was trying to keep his hand still as it had brushed against Flavius a couple of times. He looked pointedly at Craig's hand as he spoke.

"Stop behaving like a whore, boy," Hans said sternly to Flavius.

It had been obvious that Craig was ill at ease and uncomfortable. Hans and Flavius had noticed it. Hans had followed Flavius' lead in trying to relax him.

"If he bothers you Craig, put him over your knee and spank him," Hans continued, "It'll do him good. If you're too nervous, I'll do it before Mr. Cirenson orders him to be whipped."

Craig took a few moments to digest the fact that it was not his behaviour in question. He put his hand on Flavius thigh. It could have been to push him away. When no one reacted and Flavius did not step away he let it rest there.

On Harold's instruction he began his story.

According to the slave Octavia's views were radical. She despised the softness in the modern Empire. It needed a strong Emperor who would see off the Scandinavians and take rightful control of the whole American continent. He would also deal with the egalitarian elements undermining the social order inside the Empire.

She entertained a lot on her estates and first time guests often had to sit quietly as she expounded her views. Those that agreed with her seemed to join an inner circle of friends while the others were still invited to the more public functions but never became close. She never made them feel unwelcome but they never joined smaller, more intimate meetings she held. These meetings were mixed in with a whole range of other social activities and only her personal slaves noticed anything special about them.

The slave had a good memory and produced lists of those in the inner sanctum and those who attended the show parties which Craig had brought with him.

The only name that Flavius recognised was Senator Crallus. He knew the Senator as a harsh and stupid man who bored everyone incessantly with his views.

While he had spoken, Craig had relaxed and his fingers now rested in Flavius' crack searching for his cherry. Flavius was responding quite naturally by becoming hard and erect. Craig was still soft as he concentrated on giving the information he had obtained.

"There's no doubt, now," Titus said, "We have to tell the Emperor. The plan to spoil the reception was crude enough to be Octavia's but Crallus probably planned the thing about the papers being stolen.

"Craig, you'll have to stop groping my nephew. He's about to become Governor again."

Flavius grabbed Craig's hand and held it in place.

"Maybe the Governor shouldn't become involved. Mother… I mean Lady Julia believes he should be told informally.

Flavius looked around the group.

"I'm not sure if Germanicus Susitus and Juan shouldn't be informed but apart from my mother, we are the only people who know what's happening. For Uncle Titus' sake I'd like to keep it that way."

"The other slaves know a bit about it but I don't think they know the whole story, Master. Craig said. Interestingly, he might have called Flavius master but he had not removed his hand and Flavius' cock was now pressed against his belly.

Hans tried to correct Craig about using 'Master' but Harold stopped him.

"It's not important, Hans. This split person idea can get too complicated. Flavius had just better hope that his Imperial Majesty doesn't want to use the video-phone."

Flavius blushed at the thought of appearing before the Emperor in his present turgid state but if it were possible his cock hardened even more.

"Hans, dial the number and ask whether the Emperor will speak with Flavius, slave in the House of Sparta."

To Flavius' great embarrassment the call was not only on vision but it was recorded and would probably be shown to others. Normally calls to the Emperor were voice only. It was awkward on camera because callers felt obliged to bow usually disappearing off the screen or stand leaving the Emperor to stare at their chest and stomach. Unfortunately for Flavius, the Emperor wanted to know how the son of his old friend was doing and got the chance to look him over far more thoroughly than he intended.

In time to come if Flavius had received a coin every time someone had sniggered at him being naked and erect in order to be informal he would have doubled his fortune but nobody interpreted it as a Provincial Governor formally requesting help. Not even his mother could help teasing him at how he interpreted her advice.

Chapter 5

Ty had spent the day dreading the steps of approaching guards. Flavius' father had acquired him three years earlier in settlement of a debt. His previous owner had a nasty sadistic streak and delighted in playing mind games to torment his slaves. It would have been typical of him to reassure a slave before taking him for punishment just to make the shock all that much greater.

He could scarcely believe it when Craig arrived carrying bottles of wine followed by another slave carrying food. The cells the slaves slept in were small, just big enough for a bed and a small table. The meal covered the table and they had to sit next to each other on the bed.

Ty listened in amazement to Craig's day and Craig led the tale up to Flavius' offer and whether Ty wanted him and Craig to be married.

Ty looked at Craig, dumbstruck before throwing his arms round Craig's neck nearly sending the table flying.

Flavius had learned another lesson. Craig had groped him, making him hard and excited. Flavius had assumed that Craig intended to take it further and he had been desperately hoping it would happen. For Craig it had been a way to relax, to show him that he really was a guest. If he could take that sort of liberty with Flavius, talking freely was easy. When Craig hurried off to Ty, Flavius was left frustrated and feeling used and there was nothing he could do about it.

Hans read Flavius' emotions and smiled to himself. It was another lesson for Flavius that the world did not automatically fit in with his needs.

Flavius was tired. He had endured two stressful days and now that everything had been done a reaction was setting in but Hans set him to work serving their remaining guests while he and Steven prepared a meal for them.

Alan still knelt close to Titus and Marcus. He had hardly moved from them all day. He almost purred while Titus absent mindedly stroked his neck and shoulders but was always ready to scramble up to serve them and attend to their needs.

Germanicus and Juan arrived later and Titus told them what had happened. Juan was relieved that all the decisions had been made in his absence. So was Germanicus. As a magistrate he would have been in as difficult situation as Flavius but now that it was in the Emperor's hands, it was outside his jurisdiction.

"Quite a start to your Governorship, Flavius," Germanicus said.

"His Excellency would agree with you,sir," Flavius replied. "If he were here."

It was a quiet evening and the gathering broke up early. As the boys lay down on their mattress, Hans went down on Flavius taking the younger boy's cock deep into his throat. As he tensed and shot his load deep into Hans he not only felt physically spent but relieved. Hans had taken him because he wanted to not because he had to and they had both enjoyed the experience.

The following day was an anticlimax. Nothing of note happened and Harold insisted the boys be kept busy. The next major event would be the funeral and he did not want Flavius to dwell on it. Titus and Marcus returned to the main part of the palace while Harold went home. During the morning the boys were set to cleaning and tidying. Hans took them into the gym in the afternoon and had them play any game he could think of. It was not important what they played provided they were working up a sweat and panting from the exercise. Flavius, Steven and Alan thoroughly hated Hans by the time they were done but as they relaxed in the baths and showers after, they all enjoyed a feeling of well being as they helped to clean each other.

Sport and exercise were as class ridden as other parts of Roman Society. Simple games for exercise were OK and were accepted as part of a healthy lifestyle. Anything that suggested serious training was a different matter. Athletics were acceptable because they were traditional, required little or no equipment and could be seen as a demonstration of individual fitness and health. Polo was acceptable because you had to be rich to own the the horses and have the time to ride even though it was a team sport.

Football was definitely a lower class sport. The equipment was cheap. It was played on any public space and so was an entertainment rather than a demonstration of fitness.

Plenty of boys from the noble classes wished they could play in a football team but would not admit it while plenty of slaves and low class freemen would have been star athletes if they had been given the chance.

Hi-tech gyms were frowned upon because using one would seem like work. Not acceptable. The boys played games, running, climbing, skipping and the like. They were just some childish fun where the boys let off steam. Acceptable. Hans pushed the games so that the boys really had to work hard. Well it probably did them good.

What was acceptable and non-acceptable was confused and arbitrary. No one understood it completely. It was just a three thousand year old muddle.

The boys were not worried about any of this they were just tired and relaxed as they settled down to watch television for the evening.

Flavius was still dreadfully upset by his father's death and was dreading the funeral. Hans and Harold had ensured that he had been kept busy. The reception, returning to school and the trouble with Octavia had all provided distractions from his initial grief but now that things were settling down Flavius felt miserable and lost.

The rest of the House of Sparta understood and were content to be quiet and to just be there for him.

Even the controversy over his challenge to the school system died down even though one or two sons of freemen started getting better marks than the slower of the Nobles.

Rumours of an assassination attempt were rife and that Flavius had killed the slave concerned with his bare hands. Julia, Flavius' mother, had made it clear that she did not mind the idea being spread as gossip but officially she denied it saying events were badly exaggerated and would go on to talk about the party for a couple of slaves who were so deeply in love.

The spin worked. When a slave attacks an owner then the owner becomes scared and cracks down hard to make sure it does not happen again. They don't have parties that allow slaves to run wild so it was obvious that there was no serious problem. The gossip was half believed and it planted the idea that Flavius could be tough when he needed to be.

The adults were worried about Flavius returning to school. They did not know how the slaves and freemen would react to the way he tortured David. If anything it helped Flavius. No one doubted that there had been some sort of attack on him, the boy who was trying to help them. Most knew how their owners would react if it had been turned into a big issue and cringed at the thought. Flavius' overall attitude had been tolerant and easygoing and as he was the leader of the community that tolerance might just influence their owners.

David was the one who had threatened them and had got what he deserved.

The only people who saw Flavius as a threat were the Imperial Security Services. It was not surprising. Security Services always regard people as guilty until proven innocent and then go on to find out who tampered with the evidence.

The case against Flavius was that he was using his Imperial Service to destroy the social structure of the Empire and use the resulting chaos to grab power for himself. He was crawling to the lower classes to build a body of supporters to form an army. His allegations against Octavia were the first step in a war against the Noble classes.

It put Flavius high on their suspicious persons lists. He would never have been arrested or questioned but it might have proved difficult to get official help or support for projects and the House of Aulus might have found its friendship with the Emperor cooling.

Flavius' interpretation of an informal phone call, naked and with a rampant hard on, had reminded the Security Services that he was just a young teenager. The recording had been examined by every analyst in the Security Services and none of them doubted that he behaved with a simple and charming innocence. Some of the names that Craig had obtained were already flagged as needing investigation and their association through Octavia was valuable information.

Apart from the suggestion that he was sabotaging one plot to further his own, there was nothing against Flavius. Flavius dropped down the lists again. If there was such a plot, it was so thoroughly buried that it would take vast resources to uncover it. He was monitored and they kept an eye out for a crack in the cover but only the most fanatical agents seriously looked for a plot.

Flavius never knew any of this. Later in life, when he looked back he was vaguely surprised at how cooperative the Security Services were towards him. He never discovered that the officials were often thinking of pictures of a very sexy fourteen year old boy.

The funeral showed another side to him. No one who saw it doubted that Flavius Aulus was the Provincial Governor and one of the richest men in the Empire. Some who had seen him walking to school simply could not reconcile the slave to the noble and dignified young lord they saw that day.

Only Hans and Steven saw the strain that Flavius was under. His mother, Julia may have seen it too but she was more concerned that the Prince representing the Emperor was treated with proper respect and she was not going to tolerate any weakness on Flavius' part.

***

Flavius was enjoying a sexual freedom that he had not experienced before. He had taken slaves and had enjoyed their bodies but it was always geared to him being the dominant one. In the House of Sparta the others also initiated sex and they could be quite demanding at times.

Neither could he lay back and expect the others do the work. Hans had made it clear that he had to look out for the needs of the others. He found it stimulating and helped him develop strong friendships with the other boys.

The official period of mourning for Flavius' father was a quiet one for the House of Sparta but which was just as well as everyone needed the time to adapt to the new regime.

Once or twice a week the entire House of Sparta gathered to discuss any important matters to do with the Guardianship. One evening Germanicus might explain points of law or procedures in the courts while on another Titus might be dealing with a problem in a factory.

At first the boys had kept quiet leaving such discussions to their betters as if they were in Mr Diollo's class but one of the first discussions had been about the handling of prisoners.

"A friend of mine was arrested. " Steven said, "He said the way he was treated made him feel guilty even though he wasn't. That's not right is it?"

Hans and Harold moved to silence the interruption but Flavius asked, "What about in court? Did he feel that he could have his say?"

Thereafter everyone joined in the discussions and often the adults left with a great deal to consider.

The boys still stayed naked, sat on the floor and were expected to serve the adults and occasional guests. They still kept a wary eye on Hans' tawse if they thought they were slipping up. In return they expected the adults to explain the the world to them and the adults found themselves working as hard as the boys. A deep mutual respect grew up between them all which had it's roots in that quiet period.

For a society which was normally so relaxed about these things it was surprising that there was no sex between the adults and the boys. Germanicus was not opposed to groping any boy who was in range and there was a bond between Titus and Alan though it had not become sexual while Hans had a bit of a crush on Harold.

Julia had taken Marcus, Titus' son and his daughter, under her wing and they were happily settling into the main part of the palace. Flavius was worried about his uncle and was pleased that he had some companionship through Alan.

It was the start of a new era for the province and for Flavius but on the whole everything was settling down nicely in spite of the drama of Octavia's treachery.

Private houses rarely had many male slaves in their teens. Female slaves in that age group were more common and it was felt that a mixture of sexes at that age caused more trouble than it was worth. If nothing else they were considered to be the age group most likely to forget about birth control.

Hans had been bought as a servant to Flavius and John was so good at avoiding attention he came in a job lot of other slaves. Most young slaves found themselves in all male environments as Alan did.

Because of his duties Hans had not enjoyed much contact with the female slaves in the household. As a result he was slightly scared of them and felt more comfortable in male company. He probably was not gay and maybe one day he could be happily married but for now he directed his energy into serving Flavius and the House of Sparta.

He was a strong and capable boy and now, he was under the authority of Harold. Harold had been been a physical training instructor in the army. On the couple of occasions Hans had phoned him for advice, Harold had proved calm and reassuring and Hans was beginning to be attracted to him. Flavius knew of the way that Hans felt about Harold and was willing to help move things along.

Although too young and inexperienced to fully understand it, Flavius was aware of a sexual tension in the meetings yet there was some sort of barrier to anything happening. In sexual matters, morality revolved around who penetrated who. Simply put juniors were penetrated and superiors did the penetrating. The mouths of nobles should be kept pure for when they spoke in the Senate. Women had never achieved full equality for the same reason.

The adults in the House of Sparta accepted Flavius' position as an escape from the grown-up pressures of his new role and that he was trying to perform some service for the Empire but they could treat his activities as a game between boys which was just about acceptable.

They were reluctant to take the step to make Flavius a genuine slave inside the House of Sparta. It was the main objection that his father had to the scheme and the adults were aware of it.

Flavius understood their concerns but he had his own needs even if he did not fully understand them. The first was something that the Emperor did understand and used it to persuade Flavius' father.

People given too much responsibility at too early an age tend to burn out and don't reach their own potential. Provincial Governors, like Emperors, wield considerable power and, as the saying goes, power tends to corrupt. There were plenty of examples in history to prove the point. Flavius needed to be allowed to grow into his position.

Flavius also had an instinctive desire to prove himself. He knew he was earning respect by his behaviour inside and out of the House of Sparta but like any young man he wanted to push the boundaries. He did not think in terms of being fucked by an adult but he had to show them that he could handle anything they threw at him.

Flavius did not consciously think about these things but they influenced his decisions.

As Flavius Aulus, Head of the House of Aulus, he arranged the party for Craig and Ty to be one Saturday afternoon and asked Hans to invite the members of the House of Sparta for an informal gathering in the evening. The slaves still called it a Wedding Feast but Flavius insisted on calling it a party.

Had he wanted to, Flavius could have taken Craig or Ty any time but he did not want to perform as part of a ritual. By calling it a party he could avoid the tradition his mother had mentioned. The word 'party' also included all the slaves and his mother wanted the event to show that the House of Aulus was safe and secure.

The idea that the event was being used by his owners for their own ends relaxed Ty considerably. There had to be a reason for their kindness and now he was learning what it was.

Craig understood Flavius' actions on all it's levels and was delighted that the party would benefit his master.

Flavius and his mother attended in formal style. The couple knelt to pledge their service to their owners, followed by the other slaves led by Matthew. Flavius proposed a toast to the happy couple.

Flavius and Julia watched as Craig and Ty started off the dancing but once the floor filled were content to watch. One slave approached Julia and bowed with an elegance that would have impressed the Imperial court.

"My Lady," he said, "Tomorrow I will see my Mistress who would whip me for this impertinence. Today I see a Lady too beautiful not to grace the dance floor."

"In my husband's time you would be whipped today for your impertinence," Julia replied, "but I think my son would allow me to accede to your gallant invitation."

The music was switched to a more formal style to suit an aristocrat as Julia stepped onto the dance floor.

The slave had been a professional dancer before being convicted of fraud and Julia obviously enjoyed herself.

"I hope your father isn't looking down on all this, Flavius," she said, "I fear a thunderbolt might strike at any moment."

Flavius grinned. "He chose the household staff carefully, Mother. We're putting our trust in his judgement as much as anything else. I hope we can prove him right."

"In that case, I think I'll call that dear boy over and try one of these lively little jigs they seem to be enjoying. I understand they're becoming popular in the Imperial court. I hope he remembers his place tomorrow so that I don't have to whip him after all."

Julia would never be completely at ease dealing with slaves but Flavius was beginning to see a happy and animated side to his mother that he had never seen before. By contrast he was beginning to see his father as a severe and autocratic man who had controlled his family as firmly as he had controlled the slaves.

They had planned on making a token appearance before leaving but Julia suddenly found herself having fun.

Flavius was not keen on dancing but he was content to watch. A slave approached him.

"I just wanted to say I meant it when I said I'm at your service," he said.

"Thank you!" Flavius said a little surprised, "I appreciate it."

"A lot of masters would have killed Craig and Ty, for getting involved with David. They would have killed me just because we were friends. David didn't think about that. He just saw a chance for himself."

"You must have seen some good points or you wouldn't have been friends."

The slave smiled quietly, "Yes, but if I told you what they were, you might regret torturing him. David was stupid and selfish. He deserved what you did to him."

Another slave had sidled up.

"That's right Master Flavius," he said, "You should have done the same to that bitch who threatened you."

He turned very pale, trembling in terror as he realised that Julia had walked up behind him. It was going too far too insult Octavia in front of Flavius but he thought he had just signed his own death warrant letting Julia hear.

"I take it all the slaves know our affairs," she said quietly.

"Something I've learned in the House of Sparta, mother," Flavius said, "People think that slaves are prevented from hearing what their betters are discussing and gossip about everything in front of them. Of course they all know what happened."

"And how many slaves think that Lady Octavia is a bitch?" Julia asked.

"Mother, that's an unfair question. How can he possibly speak for the others."

"Well I happen to think that you were too easy on the bitch and she deserved the same as you did to that slave. I just wondered how many slaves agreed with me."

"I think most would, My Lady," the slave replied carefully, wondering where Julia was taking the conversation.

"You know, after those remarks of yours, I would like to see you stripped and tied down ready for a whipping," Julia said, "On my bed and face up. What do you think?"

"My Lady, my body is yours to do with as you will."

The slave was desperately hoping that he had caught Julia's true meaning while Flavius was in no doubt. If the slave was tied down then he had no control and it could not be said that he was penetrating. Julia was not the first aristocratic lady to want a slave and as she had said, there were protocols for everything.

The party was proving far more interesting than Flavius had expected and he hoped that his evenings activities would prove just as interesting.

The party for the slaves was a great success. Although lazy or misbehaving slaves still found themselves whipped or severely punished in some other way, the rest of the slaves were discovering that they could admit to not knowing something and own up to genuine mistakes.

Visitors were vaguely surprised to find that standards of service actually improved. Flavius' detractors had predicted that the palace would become a laughing stock with the slaves running riot while Flavius debased himself with them.

There was no doubt that when he was in the main part of the palace he was the Governor. Even Hans stood respectfully in the background as Flavius swept past ignoring his presence.

If he had done anything else, Flavius would have seen a disapproving stare appear on Hans' face and Flavius would know that he would be in trouble when he reported to the House of Sparta. The rest of the household saw that Flavius behaved as his position demanded and it seemed more natural for them to behave according to their own position so discipline improved rather than deteriorated.

Flavius was always relieved when he could return to the House of Sparta. Even if he was still inside the Governor's Palace, the rules changed and he could relax. Hans changed from obedient slave to head boy. They were close friends even if Hans could take a cane or a whip to Flavius' back.

On the evening after the slave's party all four boys planned a little game to move on events in the House of Sparta. After they had served the adults a meal they would entertain them with it. The adults would be asked to imagine that they had just acquired a new slave who was unused to his new status. They were asked to write down what they would do to begin his training. They were to carefully fold their pieces of paper and put them in a jar.

A second jar would hold slips with the names of the adults.

The idea was that each boy would draw the name of an adult who would be invited to draw a slip from the other jar and do whatever was written on it. There was a problem that there were more adults than boys but Matthew wanted to leave after the meal. As the most senior palace slave he was allowed considerable freedom and there was a beautiful girl waiting in his room.

What the adults would not know at first, but would probably guess was that the jar with their names was full of blank sheets. The boys had already decided who was going to who. Alan would be with Titus and Hans with Harold. Crucially Flavius would go to Juan the slave leaving Steven with Germanicus.

It was a bit unfair to put Juan on the spot. He had been a slave for over thirty years and in spite of his reputation in the markets was still uncomfortable in his role in the House of Sparta. Neither was Flavius all that interested in sex with him. He just wanted to push things along for Hans and his Uncle Titus and manipulating the odd adult in the process was a bonus.

Steven went first, gravely pulling a blank piece of paper and announcing, "Germanicus." He took the second jar and offered it to Germanicus who read from the the slip he drew out.

"Stand no nonsense, and severely punish the slightest transgression until he learns."

It had been Titus' offering but it left little scope for fun and games unless Steven pushed the point.

"Is that all, Germy?" he asked as cheekily as he could, "I thought it was going to be tough."

Germanicus rightly guessed that he was being provoked for the sake of the game.

"Put the jar back and fetch Hans' belt," he said quietly with a smile on his face.

Steven was less confident when he stood in front of Germanicus again but relaxed as Germanicus stretched his arm to grab Steven's cock and pulled him onto his lap.

He unhurriedly stroked Steven's butt cheeks and thighs allowing his hands to explore the crack between and searching Stevens hole. He felt Stevens cock and was pleased to find it becoming nicely hard.

Steven was relaxing and enjoying the the wandering hands when he heard a whistle of air and a loud crack of the the tawse striking his arse. Moments later the pain hit him and he cried out, struggling to find a way to ease the fire in his backside.

Germanicus held him lightly with one hand as the second blow landed followed by the third. Steven was struggling to stay on Germanicus' lap. The punishment might be agonising and humiliating but it would be even more humiliating if he were to run.

Germanicus returned to gently stroking Steven.

"You're comfortable there, aren't you?" Germanicus asked gently.

"No, I'm not," cried Steven.

He yelped fighting back tears as another three blows landed.

"You're comfortable there, aren't you?" Germanicus asked gently.

"Yes," Steven replied.

Germanicus landed three more blows.

"You're comfortable there, aren't you?" Germanicus asked gently.

"Yes master. I'm quite comfortable here."

Germanicus laid the the tawse down and resumed gently stroking Steven's body making sure the boy became hard again. He took a sip of his drink.

"This game has possibilities. he said, "Would someone else like to start their training?"

Matthew had known what the boys were planning and had written his own slip. It was Alan's turn and he presented the jar to Titus who drew out Matthew's contribution.

"Start tough and only ease up when the slave remembers his place without thinking about it," Titus read, "And where is your place, boy?"

Alan was visibly frightened. He was not going to provoke Titus into giving him a beating like Steven had just received but knew he should do something to push things along.

"Serving your cock, Master?" he managed to stammer.

Titus grinned remembering Alan's first comments about his size.

"Come here boy," Titus said patting his lap. He looked around the room.

"Thank you lads but I'm already the master and he's the slave. He serves me well already."

Hans went through the ritual of choosing his master and presented the jar to Harold.

Juan's first master had a simple approach to new slaves. Work them until they hurt. He was a good master once the initial training was over and Juan did not know what else to write.

Harold had watched the way his son had accepted Germanicus' handling with considerable pride. Steven seemed able to cope with the roughest treatment and was flourishing by the sexual adventures he was having. He was going to grow into a strong confident young man.

Now Hans was at his mercy and he could have his own fun. He would end up fucking Hans that night but maybe he should make the boy struggle and suffer a bit first. Normal beatings or punishments would not work. Hans was tough and he would have to risk seriously injuring the boy before he broke. Neither was there any sort of hard work that Hans could be set that night.

He decided to use Hans as a table, not kneeling, but arched over backwards. It was an uncomfortable position which stretched his muscles and was made worse because Harold wanted Hans' thighs level so that Flavius could rest a tray on them. Harold sat back unconcernedly playing with Hans' cock or just tapping his fingers on Hans' belly.

Flavius' had not been reassured by the treatment of his friends as Juan took his slip. If he was lucky he would have got Harold's suggestion which was simply 'drill'. He was ex-military so it made sense to him.

Flavius was unlucky. Juan drew Germanicus' suggestion which read 'beat him raw then fuck him. Repeat until he knows his place.'

Everyone seem to be watching Juan with bated breath making Juan more nervous than Flavius.

Flavius sensed this and contented himself with a quiet, "I'm at your service, Master."

Juan leant forwards and grabbed Flavius' cock, gripping it hard so that Flavius winced. He sat back in his chair, pulling Flavius with him. He lowered his arm to the chair rest leaving Flavius standing with bent legs spread apart, obeying Juan's order to put his hands behind his head.

"Do you like being whipped and humiliated?" Juan asked.

"If that's what my…" Flavius began but Juan squeezed his cock even tighter causing Flavius to groan with the pain.

"I asked you if like it not if you accept it."

"No! I don't like it."

"Then I should release you and ignore the instructions."

"No! Please! I mean yes, please release me. It hurts."

"No, yes, which is it?" Juan asked.

"I like being in the House of Sparta. I have friends here. Governors only have servants."

"And every trace of His Excellency is left behind when you enter the House of Sparta."

"Yes."

"Think about that answer, boy, and if you're a hundred per cent sure kneel down and suck my cock. If any part of the Governor is here, stand."

As Juan released the boy's cock, Flavius paused before kneeling down and undoing Juan's clothes. Flavius paused again before going down on Juan.

Titus looked at the scene approvingly. He was proud of his nephew. Juan had given Flavius a way out and he had not taken it. Flavius understood what it all meant far better than when the House of Sparta was first announced and he was still willing to commit himself completely to his plans.

Titus looked at the boy happily nestling up to him on his lap. Titus was half hard from the scenes he was witnessing but his thoughts were elsewhere.

"Do you like girls?" he asked.

"I think about them a lot," Alan replied, "but I don't know any."

"Get your tunic and we'll go and meet some. Let's see what that cock of yours can do."

By rights, Harold could have objected but there was a crash beside him as Hans' muscles gave out and the boy collapsed onto the floor.

Harold had positioned Hans carefully to cause the maximum strain and was impressed that he had lasted as long as he had but Hans was unaware of this and was humiliated that he had failed to hold his position until Harold gave him permission to move. He meekly set about clearing the mess from the upturned tray wondering whether Harold could possibly have any interest in him.

Flavius was jealous that his Uncle was taking Alan to a brothel and not him. Although his mother made him uncomfortable by pushing the matter he was quite keen to start exploring the female of the species. Like the threat of war with Scandinavia it was part of the responsibilities he had as Governor but were nagging worries rather problems with solutions. He would always find it easy to relax in the House of Sparta as the problems were simple. At that moment he either gave Juan the best blow job of his life or face the consequences. His back tingled at the thought of Hans' displeasure as he focused on his task.

Realising that Harold could push him to his limits in unexpected ways increased Hans' awe and admiration of the man increased. He felt like a little boy when Harold took him through to a bedroom and began to explore his body as he stood meekly before him. The feeling passed as Harold led him to the bed and they began a long, slow and intimate love making that left them both relaxed, contented but exhausted.

Steven was left vaguely dissatisfied. Germanicus had enjoyed beating him and he had cum inside Steven as Steven had sat astride him but it was all over quickly and Germanicus ever the autocrat had left shortly after, contented but without a thought about Steven's needs. He made a phone call and a car took him to General Maximilian's quarters.

Alan had experienced an incredible evening that he would never forget. He looked adoringly at Titus who had made it possible. Titus was aware of Alan's feelings and realised just how loveless his life had been. Uncertain of where things were leading, instead of leaving Alan at the House of Sparta he took him to his quarters and they spent the night with Alan spooned up against him with his massive arms encircling the boy, pulling him close. They were both aware of Titus' cock sandwiched between them and they both knew it would be hard and desperate for relief in the morning. Titus' dreams were confused that night. Mixed in with the usual images of a tight and exciting woman there were notions of the boy beside him, offering himself freely and lovingly. Briefly, but surprisingly, Titus even dreamed of offering himself to the boy.

As the room emptied Juan sat back contented. He and Flavius talked quietly until Juan described a fantasy he often dreamed.

Flavius led Juan to the main bedroom of the House of Sparta and helped his master for the evening to undress and bathe. As Juan lay down on the bed Flavius began a slow sensuous massage. Starting with Juan lying on his front, Flavius gently rubbed oils into the man's arms, leg and back. As Juan turned over, Flavius again worked his 'master's' limbs before working down his body leaving his cock until last. Extra oil made it glisten as it became hard under Flavius ministrations before Flavius straddled Juan and and slid down the shaft. Juan's sole contribution was to buck and press down on Flavius' thighs pushing even deeper into the boy. For the first time in years he was able to shoot a second load which went deep into Flavius, then lay back exhausted. For Flavius the hardest part of the fantasy was about to begin. The slave would sleep on the floor beside his Master, ready to obey his every command but not daring to touch his own rigid and desperate manhood.

While Juan slept, happy that for once he was a Master with his own slave, Flavius dozed restlessly. First John had wanted to be a gardener more than he had wanted sex with Flavius, then Craig had chosen Ty instead of him and now Juan wanted a night not caring about anyone else's needs. It was not something that he had thought about either way but he was discovering that not everyone wanted to succumb to his charms. He genuinely wanted to make Juan happy that night. It was strange but the cost to him in frustration and disappointment seemed to make the gift personal and to mean something.

The following morning the rest of the palace became concerned that there were no signs of life from the House of Sparta apartments. For once Hans slept late and when he did wake Harold was not ready to let him go.

Juan could see Flavius' desperation. His hard erection was pressing against his stomach but Juan sent him to make a drink leisurely enjoying it as he watched Flavius waiting to attend him before making the boy take his cock into his mouth again. Finally, satisfied he gave Flavius permission to jerk off.

Juan laid back and watched as Flavius stood, stroking his cock. It was a humiliation for a Roman noble to perform like that, especially in front of a mere slave but Flavius found that particular humiliation strangely erotic and he shot string after string of cum into his waiting hand. Juan had one final command for him. Lick his hand clean. Juan was living his fantasy to the full watching Flavius. He chuckled quietly as he thought to himself that he had made the boy swallow one last humiliation.

Flavius had not exactly enjoyed his night with Juan. If he had been made to describe it he would have said 'challenging'. Juan would have agreed, impressed that Flavius had stuck to the rules of the game when he could have easily cried off. Juan would never have refused had Flavius asked to stop.

Nobody doubted the ability of Flavius Aulus, Provincial Governor and Head of the House of Aulus to carry out his ceremonial duties. Although technically General Maximilian's superior, the General answered to his military superiors in Rome. It was merely his duty to keep Flavius informed. He could preside over the Magistrate's Court but Germanicus would have to sign the documents and decisions remained his responsibility but he was being prepared for when he turned twenty one and took on his full powers.

Juan was busy dealing with the Empire and International aspects of Flavius' holdings. Sometimes Flavius would have to attend meetings in his official role but most of the real work was done in his absence. Flavius took to attending these meetings as a slave. Without that night Juan would never have had the confidence to order Flavius around in public. He even had Flavius caned on one occasion because he had failed to look after a visiting guest properly. Locals who had to deal with Juan knew the situation and learned not to be slow in punishing the boy themselves, if he slipped up on his duties, yet visitors could be puzzled because, sometimes, they took the trouble to explain something to a mere slave.

Flavius and Titus both appreciated Juan's skills and Flavius learned a lot from watching him work.

He sometimes attended Titus in the same way. On some of those occasions, Marcus, Titus' son, was also present. He was not interested in joining the House of Sparta and remained the son of a noble. He enjoyed his moments when he outranked his cousin and could gently torment him. The first time it happened Flavius spent his first night outside the House of Sparta and sneaked into his cousins quarters. They ended up in a mess of burst pillows and Flavius mercilessly tickling his younger cousin until Marcus begged for mercy. Nothing sexual happened but they became good friends and as they grew up, Marcus became the scholar of the family.

Flavius' mission to change the school system was progressing slowly, opposition had been confined to ignoring it. Everyone assumed that either Flavius would prove to be a complete degenerate ignoring everything except being abused by slaves or find his role too difficult and adopt his true position after a token protest.

If he ran yelling down the street, kicking a ball as fourteen year old boys do, he might get a clip round the ear along with his mates but not even his mother could fault the way he carried out his official duties. She had expected protests and sulkiness at having to attend the more boring events but he made people feel that he was delighted to be at any function, even if he did run off afterwards in his slave tunic to play football in the mud like any common freeman.

Flavius' challenge did not go away and the school introduced changes. The marking became fairer and more freemen applied to enter the school.

After consulting with Flavius, the headmaster saved the big changes in classroom seating for the new intake and letting them work up through the school. He had funds now to completely refurbish the school but he did not want to disrupt the students too much.

His biggest problem was an athletics event. Other schools were registering protests that he was allowing slaves to compete. Two schools had made it clear that either Flavius' school withdraws or they do.

One fellow headmaster had sneeringly said that he would be encouraging football next. Flavius' headmaster had replied that General Maximilian might be interested in using the game to introduce a lesson in tactical planning to younger students.

It was because of military service that so few nobles had withdrawn their sons to be educated at home by a tutor. It was seen as beneficial that boys start 'roughing it' with other boys even if traditionally, it was a very genteel 'roughing' with other nobles.

For a time, it was Steven who was most badly affected by Flavius' campaign. His peers still hung back out of fear that they would become part of the backlash when the Nobles resentment boiled over so he spent most of his free time alone. He could not socialise with Flavius as it would be out of character with the role he had accepted and it was something of a relief when one of the noble boys approached him and asked if he might sit.

Brutus Crevellio had watched Flavius carefully and had seen how Flavius had actually grown in confidence and self-assurance. Brutus' grandfather had been a hard cruel man and had crushed his son, Brutus' father. Where Grandfather had built up the family fortunes, Father had overseen a gradually decline because of his inability to be decisive. He could be cruel if provoked but preferred to back away from any confrontation, even with slaves. Brutus knew that his father's indecisiveness was rubbing off on him.

Like his Grandfather, Brutus was intelligent and determined, but he was also kind, admired the way Steven protected boys from bullying and approved of the stories he had heard about Flavius' treatment of slaves. He was also envious of the way that Flavius could relax and forget his rank.

Brutus' servant was a boy of about ten years old. He was enslaved because he was the son of slaves. They had tried robbing a bank, not by armed robbery but by embezzlement and had been caught. Being educated they had tried teaching their son and Brutus had helped as best he could. As the servant was so much younger than Brutus, he could only sit quietly in class watching lessons that were way beyond his ability.

Brutus had tried to get his father to enrol him in school and find him a servant boy closer to his own age. His father thought it a good idea but worried about going against accepted ideas on slave training and put off the decision.

If Flavius and Steven would accept him then they could help him with his problems. He listened in amazement at the stories Steven told about the House of Sparta and in turn described his problems. It happened slowly over a few days as both boys got to know each other.

At times Flavius came and stood respectfully as if ready to serve them. The first time it happened was effectively decision time for him. If Brutus allowed Flavius to serve him then Brutus was breaking rank with the rest of the Nobles and would be ostracised. If he refused then he would not be considered for the House of Sparta.

Harold had come up with the test after Steven had first mentioned Brutus' interest. After some hesitation he had allowed Flavius to pour him a drink. Steven was covered by the Imperial Decree and while with him, so was Brutus.

That evening Brutus walked to the Governor's Palace with Steven while Flavius trailed behind with Brutus' slave for company. Like Alan before them, Brutus and his slave, Ross, had trouble adapting to being guests in the House of Sparta.

Because of his age, he was less likely to fit in the House of Sparta and it was clear that he expected Brutus to decide for him. In the end an older Palace slave took him home and he was not asked to join.

Brutus phoned to tell his father where he was and for permission to join the House of Sparta. For once his father agreed without 'needing time to consider it'. Brutus was in the Provincial Palace as the Governor's friend. It could only be good for his family. Flavius spoke briefly with him confirming that he approved Brutus' membership to the House of Sparta. It seemed like an afterthought when Flavius asked whether the House of Crevellio had any slave training programs. Brutus' father may have lacked confidence but he was not stupid. He knew that he was being pushed to support both Flavius' reforms and his son's wish to have his slave properly educated.

He was aware of his own shortcomings and their cause. Like Brutus he could see how Flavius was thriving and he wanted, more than anything, to see that his son developed the same self-assurance. It surprised everyone that Lord Crevellio made such a controversial decision to align himself with the House of Aulus but later it would be seen as the moment that he began to take real control of his affairs and his family began to prosper again.

Neither Brutus, Flavius nor Steven were aware of any of this. They were too busy watching Brutus parade in his new House of Sparta tunic and gold slave chain. They had one other surprise to deal with.

Harold's boss and Titus were business associates who had cooperated in a couple of successful deals so it had been easy for Titus to buy Alan to act as Marcus' servant. Marcus was under strict instructions to treat Alan well and to leave any discipline problems to Titus. Marcus could see that the relationship between Titus and Alan made them both happy while his own relationship with his father had improved enormously since Titus had start proceedings to divorce his wife.

Octavia had insisted that the boys be home tutored to avoid 'contaminating' them with liberal ideas but now Marcus was starting school which meant, so was Alan. The only boy not to be receiving an education was Hans. He insisted that Matthew should train him. Running an establishment as large as the Palace was a skilled job so it was not an unreasonable alternative to school.

Being so much younger, Marcus and Alan were in a different class and at first they walked to school separately and not with the older boys. When Brutus first joined them he went to school as before with Flavius serving them both so that Ross could begin his lessons. It caused some bitter arguments between Brutus and some of the other nobles and he felt caught in the middle so he took to wearing the House of Sparta tunic, sharing Flavius' duties.

It would have left Steven on his own again if Marcus had not decided to show his support for his cousin and walk with them to school. It had been felt that Marcus had enough problems without getting involved in Flavius' projects but Marcus sought Steven out during breaks between lessons.

Mr. Diollo, the teacher who had led the opposition to the changes, resigned. Flavius' position was strengthening and was not going to go away and he refused to continue.

Chapter 6

Brutus fitted in very well with the House of Sparta but he was wilder and less disciplined than Flavius. One Saturday Brutus, Flavius and Steven were strolling along one of the market streets when Brutus felt hungry. He did what any noble would have done, grabbing three apples off of a stall, threw one each to Flavius and Steven. Flavius instinctively caught the apple tossed to him and took a bite.

In truth, if the stall holder had complained he would have lost regular custom from people not wanting to be involved in the dispute. Had Brutus been dressed all would have been well, the stall holder would have put it down to advertising in the faint hope it would lead to order from a noble house, but all three were in House of Sparta tunics.

The incident was spotted by a rookie soldier on patrol who had been separated from the sergeant who was supposed to be training him. There was no police force. Military police were divided into service and civilian branches working closely together. The rookie had just been transferred to begin a tour of duty in the civilian division.

He saw three slaves stealing and shaming their owner who appeared to be very wealthy or important. The first Flavius or Steven knew they were in trouble was when they fell to the ground clutching their thighs in agony. Brutus found himself staring at a prod, like the one Flavius had used on David, being ordered to spread himself against a nearby wall. By the time the sergeant returned Flavius and Steven had recovered enough to be spread against the wall beside Brutus.

The soldier explained what he had done and the sergeant pulled each boy's head round to identify them.

"Congratulations, soldier," the sergeant said with a smile, "Your first arrest and you've succeeded in shocking the Provincial Governor and the General's Boy. The other one might be noble or he might be a slave but it's a good haul."

"Sir? I don't understand. They look like slaves."

"The House of Sparta," the sergeant explained, "You needn't be too scared. You're covered by Imperial Decree but General Maximilian may want an explanation in person."

"Do we let them go, sir?" the rookie asked sounding more than a little scared.

"Oh no! It was good work arresting all three. That's the problem. If you'd just warned them you could have sent them packing but since they're under arrest we have to follow procedures. Do you know what they are?"

"Yes sir. We administer six strokes of the cane and send their owners a bill for compensation."

A young man approached the soldiers.

"My father owns the stall," he said, "He says that he's more than happy to give these young gentlemen an apple each."

"There are no young gentlemen here. They're slaves of the House of Sparta and that's how they'll be treated. They took the apples without asking and without offering to pay and this soldier witnessed it. I've radioed into HQ and they're contacting someone in charge."

The situation was just getting worse for Flavius and the others and it was unfair that Steven was being treated like them. He knew Steven and had seen that Steven was about protest about their behaviour. He tried to say as much to the sergeant.

"Slaves speak when they're told and not before," the sergeant had snapped back, "He was with you. That's enough."

There was an uncomfortable wait. The boys were getting more and more nervous and the uncomfortable position, legs spread and far enough away from the wall for them to be leaning forward taking some of the weight on their outstretched arms, added to the stress.

Flavius was not sure whether to be concerned or relieved when Hans finally arrived. Hans listened to the sergeant's report. It was complete and fair even including Flavius' remarks about Steven and those of the stall holder's son.

"Are you on duty tomorrow, sergeant?" Hans asked, looking around them.

"Yes, I am."

"So far as compensation is concerned can they report to you for street cleaning duties? Work them as hard as you can. They can also organise a petition to present to His Excellency. His father increased the street cleaning budget twice but areas like this are still left. Something should be done."

"Yes sir," the sergeant replied forgetting that he was addressing a mere slave, "What about the General's Boy?"

"What about him?"

"He may not have done anything wrong. Should we release him?"

"The caning, maybe. He can work with the others, tomorrow though."

"I'm not sure if General Maximilian will like it though."

"If he thinks Steven should be caned then he can do it himself. He seems to expect a lot from Steven so I don't think he'll object to him doing a day's hard labour."

"If they were any other boys I'd think it all fair but these aren't ordinary slaves."

"So far as you're concerned, they are," Hans replied, "His Excellency knows everything, the slave Flavius knows so it'll be useful for him to understand just what goes on in these districts and he'll be happier if Steven and Brutus are supporting him. They are slaves of the House of Sparta. None of us like it when people think we're soft."

The sergeant straightened up and saluted.

"I understand, sir," he replied, "It'll be done exactly as you've requested."

By now, Brutus was bitterly regretting his involvement with the House of Sparta. He was embarrassed, dreading the punishment and not sure what all the fuss was about. He was tempted to call his father but something stopped him.

When his father learned of his intention to join the House of Sparta, he had spoken with Flavius' mother and then called Brutus into his study.

"Like all boys I made mistakes and got into trouble," Brutus' father began, "My father, your grandfather would go on about how I was letting the family down and how useless I was. He'd then use his wallet or his position to make the trouble go away. In the end I figured that if I didn't do anything I wouldn't get into trouble and that attitude's stuck.

"Flavius faces up to the consequences of his mistakes and deals with them. Now you've joined his little club you'll be expected to do the same. Follow his example, not mine. If you get into trouble, you won't disgrace the family if you learn from it and handle the consequences. Do that and we'll always be proud of you."

Brutus wanted his father to be proud of him and prayed that he had the courage to see him through the ordeal to come.

That evening the three boys stood uncomfortably on display while the adults and Alan listened to Hans' account of the incident. Welts were clearly visible on Brutus' and Flavius' backsides. The humiliation of being bent naked over a chair that someone had provided, crying at the pain from strokes of the sergeant's cane in front of so many onlookers had been worse than they could have imagined and now they faced another investigation into their behaviour.

"It seems a lot of fuss over three apples," Titus said.

"Sir, how long does it take you to earn the money to pay for them?" Hans asked.

"I don't know. It's such a small amount."

"How long does it take the stall holder? I bet he could measure the time. It's not such a small amount to him. And supposing they really had been slaves. Would it still be a lot of fuss?"

Anywhere else and Hans could be well on his way to a whipping for his insolence but, in the House of Sparta, Titus was expected to answer and he was not sure how.

"So how about this street cleaning? How do you justify that? Titus asked, hoping that he would catch Hans off guard.

Hans was quiet for a minute, as he marshalled his thoughts.

"I may have gone too far but there's something Flavius should see," he said nervously

"Go on!" Titus replied.

Hans was nothing like his usual confident self as he began his story. He was nervous and hesitant constantly looking to Harold for reassurance.

Flavius' father disapproved of any sort of education for slaves. As a result a rota of slaves acted as his son's servants at school. He had mellowed over the the years especially in the light of the Emperor's concerns but by then Hans had begun to be trained by Matthew in the running of the house. It meant that he had considerable freedom and had got out of the Palace alone, more often than normal. Matthew had sent him on errands to the poorer parts of the city instead of going himself.

He had become aware that the money that Flavius' father had allocated for the services in these areas simply was not reaching them. The town centres and places that visitors frequented were spotless and efficiently run but, the further from those areas, the less interest the authorities showed.

Flavius had used his freedom to explore the town in a way his father never could and was becoming aware of the problem as well but even he had not seen the worst of it. Hans had engineered the situation to show just how bad things were.

"So you're forcing Flavius to take on the municipal bureaucracy in the same way he's taking on the Education system," Germanicus said quietly but there was anger in his eyes.

"I can't force him," Hans replied, "The late Master was worried about disease spreading if there was a particularly hot summer, I believe that His Excellency agrees with his father and even the Emperor is worried about bureaucracy stifling everything."

"What do you say, Harold?" Titus asked, "How does this affect discipline and this punishment in particular."

"I can't see a problem but it depends on what Flavius thinks. Don't try to keep to your role, just say what you think."

Flavius shrugged, "It's not going to be a fun day but wouldn't it be great if we made a difference."

The incident of the apples had started a bigger train of events in another direction than even Titus had realised. It would affect the Empire more than they could imagine and put Flavius in considerable personal danger.

Flavius had been right. The following day was not a fun day. It was obvious from the the start that rubbish had been left festering for weeks. Hans had joined the other three boys while Alan had involved Marcus and they were plotting something with Germanicus.

Marcus still preferred being mothered by Julia and reading his books. It did not mean he did not have a sense of fun or adventure but he was easily overwhelmed by the other boys. He was interested in the House of Sparta and Alan knew that he would be interested in one part of Hans' plan. The boys had a soft spot for him so he had been invited along as a welcome guest the night before when Hans' plan had been agreed.

As the four older boys went about their tasks under the watchful eye of the sergeant. As it became obvious that they were serious and it was not just a stunt, some of the local boys joined in. The stall holders and residents provided refreshments. All the boys were careful to complete a job set by the sergeant to the best of their abilities and even the volunteers glanced at his cane if they thought about shirking off and the area was transformed except for an ever growing pile of rubbish on the only open space.

And still there was no sign of the Municipal cleaners.

Towards the end of the day, Flavius slipped away to change. Originally Hans' had summonsed a van for Flavius but Flavius had become friendly with a local boy, Luke and accepted Luke's invitation to change in Luke's home.

Despite Luke's mother nearly having a heart attack at finding the Provincial Governor in her house, it gave Flavius a chance to shower and get really clean which all Romans appreciate. When he stepped outside again Hans straightened up to bow respectfully. Flavius waited while the sergeant took stock of the new circumstances and smartly saluted.

"Carry on. We'll sit at that café over there. Come on Luke."

Luke was nearly as overwhelmed as his mother but Flavius did not feel like sitting alone. They sat until it was obvious that there would be no rubbish collection that day. Flavius picked up his phone and called the Town Cleaner's office.

"We just don't have the resources to go everywhere. You say you've cleared it all into big pile. That was stupid, the wind will just blow it everywhere. You people just cause more trouble for nothing. Leave it to the those who know what they're doing. Now I'd like your name. I report troublemakers."

The official expected a panic stricken commoner to hang up in defeat.

"It's Flavius Aulus, Provincial Governor and Town Magistrate. Phone the Palace to confirm it then get your butt down here fast."

Flavius hung up before the official could respond and watched the serving girl appreciatively as she flitted between tables. Not suitable for the Governor, of course, but he could come back incognito in his slave tunic.

The official arrived arrived very quickly indeed. The palace had not only confirmed that it was truly Flavius on the phone but that he had been actively involved in the clear up and was likely to be very tired and irritable.

"Germanicus Susitus has been examining your contract," Flavius said as the official stood nervously in front of Flavius, "You're not fulfilling it."

"With respect, sir, you can't judge us on one bad day and the word of a troublemaker like him," he said pointing to Luke, "And again with the utmost respect you have a lot to learn about the complexities of Provincial affairs."

"Oh this affair is simple," Flavius replied calmly, "Either you're sacked for incompetence and threatening the Governor or you get the rubbish cleared away before you leave. Marcus, come here."

Marcus approached while the official looked on puzzled at the new turn of events.

"My cousin is holding a petition asking that street cleaning and other services be improved. Are you going to claim that every signature is a troublemaker?"

The official shook his head in defeat.

"If it's presented I promise it will result in one of the biggest investigations this town has ever seen. If you or one of your fellow bureaucrats has so much as stolen a paper clip I will find out and it will go on record. You're lucky that it will take a month before I have time to receive it and of course if there's already a marked improvement in services it may prove to be out of date.

Flavius concluded, "If I keep you from your duties any longer, you wont get home this evening."

The Civil Service was scandalised that Flavius had stepped so far from protocol but they could not figure what he had done wrong. He had accepted a punishment and had been made to clean up the area. When he had called to enquire about the collection of the rubbish, he had done so as a private citizen. He had only given his name and pulled rank when the official had threatened him.

Bureaucrats always denied that they made such threats but it was a recognised way of dealing with awkward callers. The petition had been organised by others while Flavius was busy elsewhere so they could not prove Flavius' involvement.

Instead of dealing with files, remotely in the Governor's palace they were dealing with the prospect of Flavius' hard work being left to get blown away and explaining on a very personal basis how they had insulted him in the process. Flavius had turned their methods upon them and had succeeded in making it very personal.

Flavius watched as lorries turned up to remove the rubbish and allowed the official to escape. Civil Servants were rattled enough to worry when Flavius would turn up in their departments and the fear of an investigation that they could not control hung over them. Services improved rapidly.

That night though was a time to relax. The Sparta boys were whisked away to various homes to clean up and an impromptu party started. Flavius stayed aloof from the celebrations. Taking on adult officials was an ordeal for him and he needed time to wind down. He was content to listen, along with Luke and the rookie who had started everything off, while the sergeant told some tall stories about his adventures in the army.

Someone had phoned the House of Sparta and the adults arrived not long after. To everyone's surprise Julia, Flavius' mother, also arrived accompanied by the slave she had danced with before and some palace musicians. Brutus' parents also arrived, invited by Julia. Brutus was delighted to show how his mistake had been turned round so dramatically and embarrassed because every mention of his beating caused his tunic to tent out making his reaction to the event unmistakeable.

Julia understood Flavius' mood.

"He's done something not even his father could do," she explained, "It'll have taken a lot out of him. He needs time away from the Governorship and Sparta, for a while. Give him space and he'll be back soon."

Later she said to Brutus' mother, "This is the second party I've had to attend to support my son. They're not very dignified I'm afraid but in these difficult times the Governor believes it important to show that the House of Aulus has nothing to fear. So I must do my duty."

At that point her slave grabbed her and whisked her away as a new dance tune began.

General Maximilian arrived and spent the evening talking with Steven. The General spoke briefly with Flavius after sending Steven to tell the soldiers that they should remain seated and relaxed. Given the General's reputation it was one of the hardest orders imaginable even if he did arrive with a round of drinks and contributed one or two stories of his own.

He left shortly after accompanied by Steven who would appear the next day, tired, battered and aching but with a happy smile on his face. The other boys were tired and aching but for a different reason. It had been a long day and the sergeant had not let them slack off.

The following day, Flavius chose to visit Luke. They had enjoyed each others company and Flavius wanted to see him again. He was also thinking of the serving girl he had seen yesterday but of course it was only coincidence that they lived in the same area.

Luke's mother was just beginning to get used to the Provincial Governor knocking on her door.

"He's helping his father in the shop," she said, "They're expecting a big delivery."

Without thinking she added, "They could do with a hand."

Luke's father sold cheap household goods. Even citizens used to shopping in the Forum would visit his shop if they could not find what they were looking for. His stock reply, I think I might have something like it out the back, was usually true.

Flavius grinned as he walked to the shop. The help he was usually asked for was preferential treatment in obtaining a contract or recommending some Noble's son for a post beyond his abilities. Helping to stack shelves was something of a novelty.

He saw the serving girl again and thought about speaking but his nerve failed him. He could speak to the Emperor, nowadays he could talk with his mother and he could face the punishments Hans would mete out to him but one slip of a girl scared the life out of him.

Luke's father turned out to be a kindly and well read man more than willing to treat Flavius as just another of Luke's friends. They agreed that it would be too much for his wife to if they took Flavius home for lunch so they found a bar and ate there. Flavius was relieved that it was not the one where the girl worked.

Luke had a passion for sketching and once he had finished his work at the shop, Flavius posed for him until they were joined by another friend of Luke, Joshua. Flavius had to stay in contact with the Palace and before long the rest of the Sparta boys showed up. They kicked a ball around and made their way down to the public pool for a swim.

It was the start of a school holiday and it was one of those days of freedom for Flavius that the House of Sparta had been set up to provide.

Although Flavius had become friendly with Luke he did not like Joshua but Brutus got on well with him. Things went well for a time until one day, only Flavius and Brutus were free when they met up with Luke and Joshua.

It was one of those dull wet days where it was better to be indoors and they ended up in Luke's bedroom. They had quickly got bored with the games available and began chatting and they got around to talking about dares and who would do what.

From the start Joshua pushed the conversation on. Flavius became uncomfortable, feeling that Joshua was becoming more challenging almost provoking the other boys into agreeing to do something.

Joshua began talking about tagging trains. Graffiti was a problem and Flavius knew that the authorities were going to crack down. He felt trapped as if he was caught between running with the fox and with the hounds. Luke sensed it and tried to change the subject.

"You're all wimps. Scared, your mummies and daddies might tell you off," Joshua sneered.

Brutus' cock took over. The fear, humiliation and pain of the beating, after the apple incident, had turned him on as never before and he wanted to experience it again.

"I'll come with you," he said breathlessly. "It'll be fun."

He looked at Flavius. No boy likes to be be thought a coward and it's difficult to be the only one to resist a dare.

"I'll go with you," he said, "I'm not doing any tagging though. I'll just keep watch."

"Oh no! You get your hands dirty otherwise you'll go running off to your soldier mates. What about you, Luke? You got any guts?"

Luke shrugged. Like Flavius, he was not at all happy but he felt pressured into not appearing weak in front of his peers.

Joshua took it as agreement and it was just a case of waiting until it was dark. Strangely, Joshua already had cans of paint in his bag. Later in life, Flavius would admit to seeing it as the start of an exciting adventure. It was like pretending to be a soldier in enemy territory and it stayed exciting as they crept down to the railway. It would have stayed exciting if they had not picked a night that someone had already reported boys being in the yards and there were extra men on duty. Flavius and Luke were watching Brutus enthusiastically begin his tag. Joshua stood back. Now that they were committed he was the most frightened. He saw the soldiers and slipped away unseen.

The first the other three knew about it was when someone yelled out, 'freeze'. They were handcuffed and minutes later a soldier had fetched metal neck rings which were fitted and linked with chain.

Luke was nearly fainting with terror. It probably meant enslavement for him, the proceeds going in compensation and possibly bankruptcy for his father if the Railway demanded even more compensation. They could even be accused of sabotage and that meant crucifixion.

Flavius knew he was in more trouble than the House of Sparta could handle. He was now finding it difficult to believe that he had been so stupid. It could easily cost him and the family the Governorship unless he abandoned all his principles and sought to get it covered up.

Even Brutus was too scared to be affected sexually. Like Flavius, he knew that he had gone too far and it was the second time in a few weeks that he had got his friends into trouble.

They were led from the line back to the road and dumped into the back of a truck to be driven to the barracks where they were put in a cell in the guardroom, still chained and shackled.

By this time, Flavius had been recognised and uncertain what to do, the Officer in Charge called General Maximilian who in turn contacted the boy's parents and guardians.

Normally Luke's parents would not have been contacted until morning and told when they should attend but the General had enough respect for Flavius' attitudes to call them as well.

In other circumstances the boys could have been separated and held in solitary confinement for a few days. The neck ring could have been replaced by a spoked contrivance that prevented the prisoner resting his head or sleeping. It softened them up ready for questioning.

It was bad enough being handcuffed and shackled together when they were brought to General Maximilian's office.

Flavius' heart sank further when he saw Harold and Hans there. They were responsible for his discipline and he knew that they would not be very forgiving. Luke looked at his father too ashamed to speak hoping for some reassurance but the man remained impassive.

Germanicus was also present.

"You, Smith," he said sharply to Luke, "I suppose you claim you were bullied into this as well."

"No sir," Luke replied puzzled before he understood the implication, "Is that what Joshua's saying?"

"So he was with you," Germanicus said, "They caught him on the road. He said that Flavius and Brutus bullied him into going with you but he ran off before anything happened."

"The fucking bastard," Luke spat out, so angry that no one saw fit to reprimand him for his language, "He goaded us into doing it, brought the paint then ran off when he saw you. He didn't even have the guts to wait and warn us."

"So it's all his fault, is it? He bullied you three all at the same time."

Luke did not know how to answer. He seemed to make it worse every time he spoke.

"Nobody bullied anyone," Flavius said quietly, "I decided to go. I think Luke only came along to look after me."

"I decided for myself," Brutus said, " And I didn't force anyone, either."

"Very well. There's now the matter of compensation."

Luke turned white. The moment he had dreaded had arrived.

"Flavius Aulus will pay all of it out of his private account," Flavius replied.

"Brutus can pay half. He has his own funds as well," Brutus' father said.

Germanicus nodded approvingly.

"I think the Governor's Palace can make this go away. Maybe if Flavius spoke to the Railway's chairman direct and apologised, he could make an exception about pressing charges."

"No," said Hans, "We've been careful to separate Flavius' public and private lives. You can't let this taint the Governorship."

"If it was just me, or even me and Brutus, I'd agree," said Flavius, "but it could affect Luke badly if he gets a record. What do you say, Luke?"

"I'm just relieved that you're paying the compensation. I can cope with the rest."

"I'm not sure I will. I can't imagine the court going easy on us," Flavius replied.

Luke straightened himself as best he could under the pressure of his shackles.

"I'll support my Provincial Governor. I'll stand by him," he said proudly.

Harold spoke for the first time, "Flavius has been talking about inviting Luke to join the House of Sparta. No one's objected so if he joined before the paperwork was completed he could appear before the court under that name and not his family."

Luke was too emotional to speak for the moment. He just nodded, fighting back the tears.

"What do I do about the other boy," General Maximilian asked.

"If I see the treacherous little toe-rag again, I will kill him," Flavius replied quietly but the anger was unmistakeable. "Please, keep him away from me. I'm only paying his share of the compensation to avoid any legal wrangling."

"Very well. You'll be held here, tonight, while you're processed and your official statements taken. Then you'll be transferred to another barracks until your trial. Various Houses may be able to put up bail but it's my understanding that they're not to be involved."

The boys were led back to the guardroom by the legion's centurion. The modern army was nothing like original force but names had been kept even if roles had changed. The centurion was now the senior enlisted man. A soldier did not reach the rank by being soft.

There were two soldiers present and a slave in his late twenties. Each soldier carried a prod similar to the one that Flavius had used on David. The slave released Luke from the neck iron first, before ripping his shirt off and then removing the rest of his clothes. He then made Luke kneel and then shaved his head. Luke had to stand, red as a beetroot with embarrassment, as the slave knelt and shaved his pubes. The slave then fitted ankle irons before removing the handcuffs.

Not giving Luke a chance to rub his aching wrists, he made the boy raise his arms above his head to check his armpits. At fifteen, Luke had little hair on his body so he was spared the indignity of any more shaves. After making Luke sweep the remains of his hair and clothes into a corner, the slave stood him against a wall and turned a hose on him to wash off any remaining shaved hair.

Luke was then taken to stand in front of the centurion.

"Punch me," the centurion snapped.

"What? I can't do……" Luke broke off with a yelp as the centurion slapped his face.

The soldier waited and then slapped Luke again. Luke got the message and took a swing. He was still uncertain and and it was only a half-hearted attempt. The centurion grabbed Luke's wrist, twisting it behind his back and bending Luke over. Luke was no match for the centurion and he was easily held in the position the centurion wanted. He brought his cane down on Luke's backside making Luke scream before landing two more strokes.

"Now stand up straight and keep still," the centurion snapped, releasing Luke's hands.

All Luke wanted to do was rub the welts on his arse. It was all he could do not to hop up and down as he tried to escape the pain.

"If I say jump, all you worry about is trying to jump high enough," the centurion said quietly and menacingly, "Do any of you think you can throw a punch that would hurt me?"

The three boys stayed quiet which was just as well. Full grown recruits twice their size had accepted the challenge and very quickly regretted it.

"Good," he nodded to the slave, "Get on with it."

Flavius and Brutus underwent the same processing though they were not made to stand in front of the centurion. When they were done Brutus and Luke were put into a cell. The slave cleared away the debris and left along with the two soldiers, leaving Flavius alone with the centurion who bent Flavius over a table. He tensed ready for a beating but relaxed when he felt something seeking out his cherry and pushing. A strong hand groped underneath him and stroked his cock.

He began to relax at the slow but determined invasion. Flavius had not known what to expect once he was alone with the centurion but it should have been harsh and brutal leaving him half dead. Instead at every sign of pain or discomfort the intrusion stopped or eased back before moving forward again. It was something of a surprise when he felt the man's pubic hairs on his arse cheeks which pushed him over the edge so that he came in great convulsive jerks as he clamped tight onto the the centurions cock.

The centurion shot deep into Flavius as he came as violently as the boy.

As he withdrew he thought about making the boy lick him clean. Instead he made do with a damp cloth and a towel warning Flavius to work very gently. Flavius then had to use the soiled items to clean up his own spunk while the centurion looked on.

There was a brief moment of rapport as they looked at each other before Flavius was placed in the cell with the other two.

The centurion headed for General Maximilian's office. For once he had to wait and wait for a considerable time which was even more unusual. When he finally entered the office, General Maximilian indicated for him to pour their nightly drinks and put the bottle on his desk so both men could reach it easily.

"So, what do you think of our young Provincial Governor?" General Maximilian asked.

"Are you sure he's not a bit too willing to bend over for any cock in the room?"

The General smiled, "Don't underestimate him, Jim. I had to brief him on the state of our anti aircraft defences not long after he became Governor. It included possible damage and casualties together with the type of injuries that could be expected, and it shook him. It was one of few times he showed me that he's just fourteen.

"Even Steven asked me what I'd said to him when he visited next. It seems that Hans, that's the head boy in that House of Sparta of theirs, had to beat him a couple of times before he could switch off and concentrate on his duties there. It worked though. It took him a day to get to grips with it and now we've got that civil defence exercise to monitor. That's his brainchild.

"if you fucked him as I ordered you to, you took control and that's what he needs. To be a boy with the adults in control until he has to be Governor again. Did you do the punch game?"

The centurion nodded, "I tried it on the freeman, Luke. He took it well but it made the point. What about the fourth one?"

"We're lucky. The father's ex legion and thoroughly ashamed of his son's cowardice. He's got a younger son who wants to be an engineer and Flavius' education projects has given him a chance to study. He'll sell Joshua to me for a token fee," General Maximilian smiled grimly. "Imperial Security want him. That's all he'll be worth after they've finished with him. Maybe they can save me the job of disposing of him."

"Of course! He can be sold to avoid to avoid the humiliation of a court appearance."

General Maximilian nodded, "I don't want Flavius involved in any of this. See what you can do."

The legion was based in the town as a permanent garrison and as Provincial Governor, Flavius was technically their commanding officer with only the Emperor to outrank him.

Although the soldiers came from all over the the Empire many had set up home locally and many were married with families. Their children would be the first to benefit from the education reforms that Flavius was trying to introduce. They typically lived in areas like the one that Flavius had got cleaned up and their families again benefited from the reforms that Flavius had brought about. They also respected him for the discipline and service he had submitted to.

He showed the qualities they wanted to see In their leaders and so they would support him. On the other hand Joshua was seen to be cowardly and treacherous, everything a legionnaire hated in a comrade.

Imperial Security comprised many ex soldiers who despised his treachery as much as the army.

Chapter 7

The stripping and shaving of prisoners was a reminder of a time when lice and other infestations were prevalent. It was useful to bring home to a new detainee what his situation was, but it continued simply because no one had stopped it. It had been something of a ritual with Flavius and the other two.

Joshua's clothes had been ripped from him and he was punched or caned when he was pulled off balance until he was standing back in position. As his clothes had been ripped, his arms had been pulled, jerked and twisted against the handcuffs, almost wrenching them from their sockets. He had been shaved with a razor, so blunt that it pulled his hair out and left cuts and scrapes all over his body. He had been left standing facing a wall still wearing a collar which was attached by a short chain to a hook on the wall. A second chain hanging down his back from the collar pulled his arms up and clear of his arse.

He knew now that Publicus had betrayed him and with that realisation the terror mounted as he considered his fate. Joshua had met Flavius' cousin in a tavern and Publicus had told him of the reward for anyone who could undermine Flavius' Governorship. Joshua had not realised that Publicus had only befriended him because of his contact with Flavius through Luke. Joshua had been flattered by the young Noble's friendship and promise of patronage. With his jealousy of Flavius' wealth and popularity he had easily fallen for Publicus' promises.

The Imperial Security Services had been keeping an eye on Publicus and his mother, Octavia and knew that they were planning a move against Flavius but they were not used to dealing with schoolboy pranks and petty crime so Joshua had slipped through the net.

General Maximilian had informed the ISS of his intention to buy Joshua and then to dispose of him. Imperial Security could interrogate a prisoner how they liked but had to produce him afterwards and justify their actions. If the prisoner really was involved, for example, in a plot against the Emperor then it did not matter what condition he was in but if he proved his innocence then his interrogators could end up in court. Joshua and his action against Flavius was somewhere in between those two extremes. General Maximilian had removed any protection from Joshua and he could be treated how his interrogators saw fit.

Over the next few days he screamed in agony in between giving up every detail of his conversations with Publicus. His mind was damaged by the drugs he had been given and his muscles and tendons ripped by his physical torture. His flesh was a bloody mess. He didn't find peace until he was given an injection that sent him into a sleep that he never woke up from.

Because of his rank, Publicus was questioned with far more discretion. He spent a lot of time in bars and taverns. He visited the ones in town out of defiance. Flavius had sent him and his mother away so by being in town he was getting one over on his cousin. In his turn he was befriended by a couple of agents who slipped something into his drink. He talked as well. He did not have time to say as much as Joshua but the agents left him, satisfied that the scheme against Flavius was his own idea. He was trying to impress his mother and he still expected to become Provincial Governor in the new order.

There was enough to arrest Publicus but it would put his mother on her guard. He was left with a colossal hangover and a headache that had him shrieking almost as loudly as Joshua and with no memory of the night before. The two agents would probably 'take him out' again when they thought that he would be able to supply some more useful information.

While the extent of the threat against Flavius was being assessed, he was to be protected by the army. Ordinarily he would be informed of a plot in his role as Provincial Governor. However he was also a boy in a great deal of trouble and had enough to deal with. He was not going to have an easy time while he, Brutus and Luke were being held but, unlike Joshua, they would get through it.

No one got much sleep that night as preparations were made and the boys were interviewed and made their statements. Just before dawn they were taken to a lorry and loaded into the back. To their surprise Hans, Steven and Alan were already seated there. They were naked but unlike the other three, they were not in chains except for the gold House of Sparta chains they all wore apart from Luke. Instead of being taken to another barracks they were taken to a training ground where a couple of cohorts were on manoeuvres.

The boys were lined up while the chains securing Flavius, Brutus and Luke's ankles were released. Hans had picked up a package which had been tucked under his seat and stood behind Luke to fix a collar identical to the ones that the others were wearing. Their guards knew what was happening so when Hans began clapping, they joined in along with the boys.

Each boy was then assigned a mentor. The mentors had teenage sons slightly older than their new pupils. They were seasoned soldiers but they were also particularly level headed who knew how to push recruits to their limits without going beyond. There were a leisurely few minutes while they were issued with their kit. Between everyone involved they even had boots and fatigues that fitted and from then everything was done at the double.

They were drilled, given physical training and sent over the assault course. It seemed to the boys that they were expected to keep up with the regular troops at least five years their senior or fully developed adults but of course it was an illusion. Their mentors knew what they were doing.

If they protested or slacked off they would feel the cane or their mentor's hand. At night they were expected to clean their kit and their mentor's before they were allowed to climb into the sleeping bag beside their trainer.

They learnt a lot. Steven was even able to surprise the General the next time they got together. They understood themselves and their limitations a lot better than they had before and of course they thoroughly enjoyed their time on the shooting ranges. They impressed the men and officers of the cohorts with their performance and on the last day they were there they were shown how to drive a tank and fire the gun.

The following morning, they were due to leave. The centurion arrived and was about to fix the ankle chains to Flavius, Brutus and Luke when the commanding officer stopped him.

"They've behaved like soldiers. Treat them like soldiers until you hand them to the court," he said

Flavius had been kept out of the way for a number of reasons. It was felt that he should not be involved with Joshua's or Publicus' questioning. Joshua was dead by now and Publicus would have forgotten any suspicions he might have had about his weird night out. It also gave the authorities a chance to gauge Flavius' popularity.

There were very few elections in the modern Roman empire so public opinion was not sought so avidly as it might have been but after two and a half thousand years, they had learnt that a bad Governor could lay the seeds for a rebellion and cause a great deal of unrest so they listened to people.

Octavia and her fellow conspirators were relying on the concept. A boy running wild and bringing the Province into disrepute would have to go even if the Imperial Security Services needed to arrange an accident. Unfortunately for Octavia her assessment of Flavius' popularity was made among people who thought the same as she did.

The ISS listened to a much wider spectrum of people and realised he had considerable support. The nobles allowed him his reforms because they knew to varying degrees that they were needed. They were uneasy that their own sons could find themselves in court more easily but it just meant higher lawyer's fees to get them off. The middle classes and freemen could see the benefits of his reforms so they were on his side.

Most saw the trouble he was in as stupid mischief. What else do you expect of boys. They could see how he was determined not to let it taint the Governorship and admired his courage and character. In a way it showed his daring but people were careful not to promote vandalism if they mentioned it.

Much would depend on how he was punished. Too soft and he would lose credibility. Too harsh and it might harm him.

They were appearing before Germanicus and each had their own reasons for being more than a little frightened.

The boys were wearing their House of Sparta tunics when they appeared in court before Germanicus. Luke was wearing his for the first time and in other circumstances his chest would have been puffed out with pride. The chain manacled to his ankles reminded him that he faced an uncertain future.

Flavius knew this was a wonderful opportunity for anyone who wanted to get rid of him so he was worried and uncomfortable.

Brutus blamed himself for the trouble they were in and expected to be dealt with harshly.

"Behaviour like this will not be tolerated," Germanicus began, "I could order all three of you sold into slavery or a heavy flogging. Understand this, if you appear before this court again, such a sentence will be more likely. However you are each sentenced to a hundred lashes of the whip."

There was a distinction between a flogging where the lash could tear into flesh and muscle tearing it to shreds and a whipping where the skin might be scarred but the criminal would probably escape permanent injury.

"However," Germanicus continued, "Our new Provincial Governor has used local knowledge to adjust sentences to be more appropriate. I have felt obliged to follow the precedences he has set."

Officially Flavius was a magistrate like Germanicus. He sometimes sat beside another magistrate when cases were heard. His excursions into town as a slave meant that he knew more of went on. On occasion he had seen that background information that could influence sentencing was introduced. It had meant two people receiving lighter sentences while a third case had been dismissed out of hand and the accused's family had received state aid. A fourth man had received a harsher sentence much to the relief of the neighbourhood he terrorised.

"I know that two of you are of excellent character and it would appear that the third is the equal of his friends in that respect. I feel obliged to lessen the sentence on those grounds to a lightweight whip appropriate to your age.

You have all had opportunities to escape justice but have chosen to accept responsibility for your actions. It would discourage others to do the same if I did not recognise this, therefore I reduce the sentence to fifty lashes.

"You have just completed a period of military training and your records show exemplary conduct. It shows that you understand the need for discipline and good behaviour which makes this act of vandalism seem like an aberration that will not be repeated. I therefore reduce the sentence to twenty five lashes.

"Because of my friendship with the Aulus family, the punishment will be carried out under the supervision of a doctor who may arrange the punishment to be spread over a period of time. Does anyone wish to object to this display of favouritism?"

The court was silent for a time. The prosecuting lawyer considered speaking but it was not unreasonable or unprecedented so he decided not to antagonise Germanicus.

"For the period that your sentence is carried out or for one week, whichever is longer, you will be bonded to the town and carry out cleaning duties as a reminder that you are here for defacing property."

If Flavius and Brutus had been frightened by Germanicus' opening sentences, Luke had been terrified. As the only one without a powerful and influential family he had half expected to be used as a scapegoat to save the other two.

Germanicus looked at the court diary. "You will report to the court office in the Forum at nine o'clock in the morning on Saturday. In the meantime you will be kept under house arrest in the House of Sparta."

Germanicus rapped the gavel and stood up. The hearing was over. Although the boys did not realise it the brief respite before their punishment would add an extra piece to their ordeal.

While the boys had been held by the troops Harold, as disciplinarian in the Board of Guardians and the fathers of Brutus and Luke had discussed how to deal with the boys. Luke's father had found it easier than expected as Harold was roughly the same class as himself. At one meeting, there had been a conference link with the Emperor.

"I will not have one of my high officials behaving like this," the Emperor had thundered, "I don't care if he is a boy, he's gone too far."

""Your Imperial Majesty," Harold had replied, "The House of Sparta was set up to deal with his youthful misbehaviour. I agree that we hadn't anticipated it being this extreme but the basic concept is working."

"I've seen the reports but I still will not tolerate this behaviour. I advise you not to to argue further Mr. Cirenson.

There was a tense silence.

In a calmer voice the Emperor continued, "I need people with a bit of go in them and it must be unique to have three people in trouble, not trying to dump it on their colleagues. I do value people who give honest opinions but do you realise just how ridiculous this situation is? With the problems facing the Empire, I have to deal with a gang of stupid boys. If I visit the Province, will I have to wait to meet him while he attacks the Imperial train?

"That's unfair," Harold replied, angrily, "Flavius carries out his Provincial duties faultlessly."

"You've forgotten who you're talking to again. When his court appearances and prison confinement permit I want him in Rome. Bring the whole gang of six as well as Brutus' and Luke's fathers."

There was a worried silence before the Emperor concluded, "Don't worry. I'm only going to put the fear of God in them. I think I'm in a position to do it more effectively than you can. The last time I summoned a Provincial Governor to Rome, he was embezzling tax revenues so I suppose it could be worse. I look forward to meeting you, Mr Cirenson."

The two fathers looked at Harold with awe at the way he had spoken to the Emperor but Harold needed to speak to Germanicus and so the house arrest was arranged to permit the trip to Rome.

It was not a happy journey. Summonses to Rome could still be one way journeys but at least they were carried in limousines from the airport to the Imperial Palace and were courteously shown into an ante-chamber leading to the the Emperor's private office. The adults were were shown to their seats and offered refreshments while the six boys were left to stand in a line.

Harold was ushered in first. After the first formal bow and promise of service Harold found himself seated in a comfortable chair opposite the Emperor chatting over a cup of coffee. The Emperor had more or less accepted Harold's assessment of the situation. The two fathers were invited in next and were more confused by the informality than by anything else. For Brutus' father it should have meant the opportunity for advancement not dealing with wayward boys and Luke's father was still convinced that all the fuss meant bad trouble for Luke. Emperors had to stop their Provincial Governors from rebelling, remove the ones that were so stupid or vicious that they incited unrest, prevent them from lining their own pockets at the expense of the state or deal with pleas for help from those struggling to do their job. As he had said earlier, dealing with a Governor caught spraying graffiti was ridiculous.

The problem was, Flavius was doing a good job. Education was already changing. As expected it was split between schools eagerly following Flavius' lead and those doggedly determined to maintain the old ways. First indications showed a definite increase in the number of lower class boys studying and businesses buying slaves with a view to training them. In an Empire that had lasted for thousands of years, a plan for the next fifty years was seen as medium term. Real results from Flavius' Imperial service, as boys completed their training, would be seen in three to five years which would be considered fast and decisive.

Flavius was also well on his way to becoming one of his most popular Governors, building a reputation for fairness and firmness. The idea behind the House of Sparta seemed to be working.

All Flavius knew when he was finally called into the office was that he was standing in front of the Emperor who had the three other adults standing beside him being told in no uncertain terms that his behaviour was completely unacceptable for an Imperial official and that he had let the Emperor, his father, the House of Aulus and the house of Sparta down. It was the 'and you the Governor' speech that he had been dreading and by the time the Emperor was done, Flavius felt like a little boy trying to hold back the tears.

Brutus and Luke were brought in next. They were reminded just as forcibly that they had failed to protect their Governor, the Emperor's representative, and that it could well go to trial in the Imperial court in Rome if anything like it happened again. The remarks about the Imperial court was aimed just as much at Flavius as the other two.

Finally the other three boys were brought in. Flavius, Steven, Brutus, Luke, Hans and Alan stood in line.

"I'm watching all of you boys very carefully. You all show promise," the Emperor said, "Just remember if you live up to that promise, I can make you. You can go."

The Emperor rarely made threats but the consequences of failing to live up their potential had been clearly implied. The meeting had lasted less than an hour and now they were on their way back home. Harold had almost been treated like an old friend and Brutus' and Luke's father had also been kindly received. Luke's father was almost as excited as the boys at seeing the Empire's capital for the first time. Only Flavius remained unhappy. He was quiet, withdrawn and almost sulky on the journey home.

Finally Hans had had enough and dragged Flavius into one of the planes serving areas after telling the flight attendants he needed some privacy. The staff knew who Flavius was and where he had been, which made Hans important enough to be obeyed.

"You wanted a boy's freedom and that's what you've got," Hans said, "Stop moping because you've been told off and remember you're getting off lightly because of your position. Without you, Luke would have been sold into slavery by now with his family facing bankruptcy. You'd better be in a better mood before we get home or you'll be in trouble with me."

Flavius knew better than to expect any sympathy from Hans but there was something else bothering him.

"What about David and Joshua. They were both tortured because of me. If I get into trouble others get hurt."

"They were tortured because they were cowards, prepared to betray you, or anyone else if they could gain by it. Your father would have cut David's balls off and then had him stitched up without anaesthetic before throwing him out. Luke and Joshua had the same opportunities. One turned out to be a good friend, the other an enemy and you had no control what happened to Joshua."

Flavius nodded. He was not sullen or resentful any more, just drained. Hans saw that he was left alone for the rest of the flight and on the drive from the airport he seemed to be back to old self.

Of all of the boys, Alan's life was changing the most. He came from a poor family and had been sold to cover the compensation for his shoplifting. He'd found himself working in Harold's office and now found himself owned by Titus. Unbeknown to Alan, Titus was considering declaring his son, Marcus, as his heir then freeing and adopting Alan. He had cautiously sounded Marcus who had been all for the scheme. Marcus was more of an academic and understood that Titus needed someone who was more physical. Titus and Alan enjoyed their visits to a brothel together far more than Marcus would. Paradoxically they happily explored each other's bodies and spent time together in bed tenderly making love but when there were females around then it was passion and sex rather than lovemaking.

Freed slaves were not allowed public office or to inherit property unless there there was no living family but he would benefit from Titus' patronage. Now he had even spoken to the Emperor or more accurately the Emperor had spoken to him.

Although he was divorcing his wife, Octavia, Titus was still considering his elder son's future. It was obvious that he was a willing ally of his mother but Titus was watching his family split in two and no one wanted to pressure him into making the final decisions.

For her part, Octavia was making the most of Flavius' predicament. She claimed inside knowledge, the implication being that it was Titus' fault that the House of Aulus was disintegrating from within. Flavius' escapade was only the first visible sign of his true behaviour. In his degenerate rush to mix with slaves he would destroy the Noble classes. Equal education? Worrying about rubbish clearing for people who preferred to live like pigs? Expecting Nobles to face court like common criminals? Her comments were interspersed with clichés like it being the 'tip of the iceberg' or the 'start of the slippery slope.

She spoke cleverly and more of the Noble classes were beginning to believe that Flavius was unfit to continue as Governor. In reality Flavius had done little to affect the Nobles but like all third rate politicians Octavia was playing on their worries and creating more fear, uncertainty and doubt.

With Titus and Publicus as second and third in line to the Governorship, if the Nobles petitioned for his removal and could show sufficient grounds then the courts could remove him in favour of Titus. If the case was strong enough and Titus continued to support Flavius, it could even pass directly to Publicus. Titus would still be Publicus' father and expected to guide Publicus but if he had a road accident, or something happened in one of his shipyards then it would seem less suspicious than the Governor being killed.

Octavia was unaware that Titus had his own plans which would affect her schemes and she was equally unaware that, by a strange quirk of fate, Flavius' escapade and punishment was leading to her own exposure and the destruction of her hopes.

***

Saturday arrived all too quickly for Flavius, Brutus and Luke. Flavius was sorely tempted to hide behind his position and not go to the Forum.

Surprisingly, it was his mother who persuaded him.

"Now that you're growing up, you and your father would never have got on," she said, "He wouldn't have got into this sort of trouble. He was too cautious and he would never have been able to use that street cleaning incident to shake up the town hall. I'm as proud of the way that you face up to your mistakes as I am for what you're achieving.

"I've learnt something too. My personal maid knows something about style and fashion and she's beginning to learn that I won't beat her if she disagrees with me on the subject."

Flavius managed a grim smile before setting off with the others. They had removed their House of Sparta insignia and wore simple tunics.

Like so much else of modern Roman life there was more to the whipping than simple punishment. It was a spectacle, part of the Gladiatorial culture where participants were expected to face their fate with courage and bravado. If Flavius had used his position to get out of trouble, it would have been considered normal behaviour but he would be remembered as the Governor who had sprayed graffiti. Instead, their performances would be analysed as if they were sportsmen at a major event and their crimes would be forgotten amid speculation as to how Flavius and the others had coped.

The whipping post was mounted on a platform. The post was at one end while a long hard bench stretched the width of the platform. The only form of backrest was a series of posts from which metal collars hung by chains.

There were seven to be punished that morning. Two had their hands cuffed in front of them with a strap wrapped round their elbows pulling their arms tight. When the time came for them to be taken out onto the platform, the shackled pair were led out and collared while the rest were to be allowed to walk out in a line and sit down. All were naked and in spite of a cool breeze they shone with the sweat from their nervous bodies.

One of the shackled men was struggling and whimpering. He was gagged to keep him quiet. Flavius sensed the contempt that the crowd already felt for the man.

Flavius knew that he had to sit calmly. Not even Brutus was aroused by the situation and Luke was shaking but he was trying to sit as stoically as Flavius who shifted position so that Luke was between him and Brutus and held his hand. Brutus took his other hand and they waited feeling each other's support until everything was ready. The crowd liked the little display of friendship and some even clapped.

Luke was the first to be called. Flavius stood up with him and hugged him. Luke took a deep breath before striding determinedly to the post and raising his arms so that they could be secured.

The whip master whispered something to Luke before taking up position. The first blow made Luke gasp as the wind was knocked out of him. It landed across his shoulders and Flavius watched as the welt appeared and reddened. The second blow was just below the first and the whip was worked down Luke's back. By five Luke was sobbing freely, he did not have enough breath to scream and by fifteen the boy was just hanging by his arms. The doctor ordered a halt and checked Luke's pulse. He allowed Luke a brief rest before asking Luke something. Luke did not have enough breath to speak and just nodded. The doctor waited a little longer until he was satisfied and let the punishment continue.

At twenty Luke lost control of his bladder. Brutus and Flavius understood why they had been advised to have enemas that morning to really clear them out. Losing control of their bowels was a possibility and would have been too humiliating.

Finally it was over for Luke. His back, arse and thighs were covered with red welts but they were evenly spaced and none crossed. Even though some were bleeding, they would heal without scars. The doctor's slave wrapped him him in a thermal blanket and led him back to the court office.

Brutus was next. He stood waiting, hoping that Flavius would hug him as well. Flavius obliged then watched as Brutus took his turn at the post. He managed a yell at the first stroke followed almost immediately by uncontrolled sobbing. He managed to stay conscious and keep control of his bladder until the eighteenth blow. It took much longer for the doctor to be satisfied and he stopped the whipping again at twenty three. Finally Brutus recovered enough for the last two blows and he was led away.

After watching his two friends suffer, it was now his turn and Flavius desperately longed for the reassurance he had offered the other two but he was alone. For a moment he froze with fear.

There was a commotion and Marcus scrambled onto the platform. Officials rushed to intercept but the whip master held up his hand to stop them.

He hugged Flavius tightly saying loudly, "He's my cousin and I love him."

It was unusual for boys as young as Flavius to be publicly whipped. If they had committed a serious enough crime then they were more likely to be sold to cover the compensation. If they came from rich families who could afford good lawyers then they got off. So the mornings proceedings were something of a novelty item and Marcus was just adding to the entertainment.

The crowd was waiting with bated breath. There was nothing wrong with being scared providing he got over it. If he allowed his fear to turn into panic then it would never be forgotten and Flavius would lose all the respect he had earned for ever.

As Flavius recovered his composure he saw Hans, Steven and Alan in the crowd. Hans nodded approvingly. Flavius led Marcus to the edge of the platform and helped him down so that he could stand by the other three.

Seeming to be calm and relaxed he walked steadily to the post and like Luke raised his arms so that they could be secured.

The whip master spoke to him as he had to the other two.

"That was a good show. Well done. Don't be scared to react to the pain. You'll spoil it if the crowd thinks I'm going easy on you."

There was a pause before Flavius heard the whistle of the whip and the crack of the impact as his body was slammed into the post, winding him. Then the pain started. It felt like a red hot poker was lying on his shoulders. He was still recovering when he heard the whistle again and the second stroke landed. He managed eight strokes before he began sobbing uncontrollably and the doctor did not intervene until stroke twenty when his legs gave out.

"I'm not stopping it with just five strokes to go," the doctor said, "Now stand up and take the weight off your arms so you can breathe better.

Flavius kept control of his bladder but when he was released at the end of his whipping he collapsed to the ground unable to move. This time Hans, Steven and Alan all rushed onto the platform to help him.

As they left the platform there was a round of applause from the crowd. It had been a good performance which had added to Flavius' reputation.

They found Luke and Brutus lying in a cell in the court office. They did not have the luxury of beds or any other furniture so they were on the floor on their stomachs. Strictly speaking they were not allowed visitors but because of their age Hans, Steven and Alan were allowed in, to in rub in a soothing cream which Hans had brought.

They were not fit enough to walk to the barracks where they would be held while they did their week's bondage so they were waiting for transport.

Before it arrived the next prisoner to have been whipped was brought in. Although in his late twenties to early thirties he had received a hundred lashes with a much heavier whip and was in a bad way. Hans glanced questioningly at Flavius who nodded. Hans began to apply cream to the man's back who groaned appreciatively.

The doctor arrived and examined their wounds again.

"There's no point in letting them laze around feeling sorry for themselves," he said, "Start them on light duties after lunch. Call me if there's any sign of infection but the welts should be gone within a couple of weeks."

With that he was gone and moments later the boys were led out to the truck which would take them to the barracks where they were fed and fitted with collars as a sign of their bondage.

Tunics were optional and their guards decided that it would be kinder if they stayed naked for a few days, rather than have the material chafe their bodies. Of course the sight of their backs should have a deterrent effect but also it should show that they are bearing their punishment with courage and fortitude.

So, after being given some food around midday they were led to the massive flower beds in front of the railway station. The station was a large imposing structure designed to impress visitors as they arrived. Laid out around the entrance was an array of flower beds. There had been a dispute between the Town Hall and the Imperial Railway over who should maintain them with the result that they been left untended and were now an eyesore.

As Governor, Flavius had suggested the Town Hall start the restoration of the beds and bill half the costs to the IRW. His reputation for successfully tackling bureaucracy was growing and his suggestion was taken up before he could stir up more trouble. The Town Hall felt a quiet satisfaction that Flavius was labouring away at the work he had ordered.

Over the week the boys were worked hard from dawn to dusk, clearing, digging and planting. They were not allowed to slack off and by night time all they wanted to do is sleep.

Small incidents interrupted their routine. One that Flavius remembered for the rest of his life happened on the first day. An old soldier walked past Flavius as he worked. As the soldier drew close to Flavius he straightened up holding the cane he needed to walk with under his arm looking every inch the centurion he once was and waited for Flavius to acknowledge him. Flavius was filthy. Sweat ran in rivulets through the dirt and he had never felt less like the Provincial Governor. Nevertheless he straightened up as he stood in front of the veteran.

"I just wanted to say that it would be an honour to serve under you, sir," the old soldier said.

"Thank you, but I don't think anyone would want to serve me at the moment."

"Naked like a slave or in your Governor's robes, it doesn't matter. It's the same strength, character and integrity. That's what I see."

The soldier grinned and continued, "You're a good looking boy. I'd also serve you something with you under me. If I could still get it up for long enough, that is."

Flavius laughed with him. "I must get back to work before I get another beating. Thank you, I appreciate what you said."

His brief moment at attention had tired the old soldier and he leaned even more heavily on his cane as he hobbled off. Flavius received other words of encouragement during the week but the old soldier affected him more than anything.

The second major incident of the week involved Brutus. An obvious visitor strolled out of the station looking lost. It was obvious that he was a high ranking noble from Rome. Brutus, still not fully understanding what it meant to be a slave, approached him asking if he needed assistance. He was polite and respectful and many people would be only too pleased to get help, overlooking the slave's impertinence.

Not this visitor, for moments later Brutus was picking himself off the ground with a large bruise beginning to form on his cheek. The visitor was oblivious to the angry looks from passers by as they subconsciously began to close around Flavius and his friends in a protective cordon. It was nothing obvious and as the stranger moved off the rest went about their business. It is unlikely that a casual observer would have noticed anything; the stranger certainly did not.

Flavius had recognised the man as Prince Ignatius. He was known as a cruel man who resented the fact that his distant cousin was Emperor and not him. He had completed military service with some success. Everyone agreed that he had earned his rank of colonel. Those in the know also agreed that any further promotion would take him beyond his abilities. It was obvious to Flavius that Prince Ignatius was trying to travel incognito. Normally he insisted on wearing full military dress with his aides never far away.

Had Prince Ignatius dressed down to look middle class and accepted Brutus' offer of help, Flavius would probably have not recognised him. He knew enough about Prince Ignatius' politics to be worried by his arrival.

Brutus had been left unattended to recover. A guard would soon be yelling for him to get back to work and normally Flavius would not have dared to go to his aid. He dropped his tools and ran to Brutus.

"I'm all right," Brutus gasped, "Get back to work before you're punished."

"I need to speak to the guard, on the quiet," Flavius whispered, "Act a bit dazed."

The guard came running over, grabbed Flavius' ear and lifted him to his feet.

"Get back to work, now. I don't want to punish you but I will if I have to," he said.

"Get someone to follow that man. Get a report to the Governor on where he goes and who he sees. Don't let him know who I am."

Flavius had his back to Prince Ignatius and had spoken quietly.

"Don't be so bloody insolent. Get back to work," the guard yelled pushing him on his way. He landed a sharp blow on Flavius' rear as he turned his attention to Brutus who was already scrambling up.

As Prince Ignatius walked away, irritated by the slack treatment of the two slaves and the crowd began to carry on with it's own business, the guard managed to pass Flavius' instructions on to a fellow soldier who had been passing. The guard got a few angry looks for his treatment of Flavius but he was doing his job and Flavius accepted it, so maybe it was all right. The crowds main anger was still directed at Prince Ignatius' departing back.

A little later the guard was standing over Flavius as he worked, The guard was swatting his hand with his cane, threateningly. It should have been thoroughly intimidating Flavius.

"Sorry about the cane," the guard was saying, "but he was watching and I didn't know what else to do. I've someone following him though."

"Good. As long as he doesn't know I've recognised him. I need to see the head of the Secret Service, General Maximilian and Hans tonight. No one else can know though."

The guard almost jumped to attention and saluted but remembered just in time.

"Just get on with it," he snapped, "You've got a barracks to clean before you eat."

Flavius grinned at the coded acknowledgement. In the military, high ranking visitors mean spit and polish and he was the one on punishment.

It did not matter what the circumstances, there were times when no one doubted that Flavius was in charge. In spite of him being naked and with an iron collar round his neck, the General and the the Secret Service chief deferred to him and it began when General Maximilian dismissed the guard.

"He should stay," Flavius snapped, "He's seen enough to guess what this meeting's about so there's little point in excluding him from the security point of view and I may need his help. God, I wish I hadn't been so fucking stupid over that graffiti."

Both Hans and the guard stepped forward to deal with Flavius' language then stopped as they realised what was happening, grinning sheepishly.

"Prince Ignatius arrived today and it looked as if he was trying to be incognito," Flavius began, "I know he has dealings with Senator Crallus and Aunt Octavia. Father used to say that he wanted the throne."

"Do you know why he's here?" he asked the Secret Service chief."

"We can't interfere," he replied, "You've killed any investigation into Octavia stealing confidential papers. For the rest if they can get enough support to impeach you then it's perfectly legal. We know Ignatius plans to overthrow the Emperor and if we ever get enough evidence we'll deal with him."

Flavius thought for a while before turning to his guard.

"Handcuff Hans and me, please, then give Chief Williams your gun."

Puzzled the soldier obeyed.

"Shoot me and Hans. You can say I went mad and shot the soldier while Hans was trying to break me out. In the confusion we were accidentally killed as well. Even Uncle Titus will be discredited for the way he supports my behaviour. Octavia will have her chance to get Publicus made governor and Ignatius will have a powerful base to work from. Is that what the Empire needs right now?"

"Of course not, sir. I'm loyal to you and the Emperor," Chief Williams replied, "You've made your point and you're right. It does look as if they're planning something. Prince Ignatius has visited Scandinavia a few times recently and this province is of vital strategic importance in the event of war. But even we need some proof before we can act."

"My office says that only about a quarter of the Nobles hate my reforms enough to actively come after me. Would you agree, Chief Williams?"

"I'd put it at fifteen to twenty per cent at present. You're not the spoiled brat that boy rulers tend to be and even the nobles can appreciate that."

"In which case we'll hold a reception. Say a week after I finish here. Chief Williams, General Maximilian, find an excuse to keep Ignatius here. Maybe he'd drop his cover if he was to take a parade or something. Hans, tell my mother and Matthew to start organising it.

He paused as he collected his thoughts. "There's a slave at the palace, John. All he wants is, to be a gardener and we could do with his knowledge when it comes to planting. He could come and go freely and act as a messenger if I need one. It was only luck that Private Black here saw a friend who could follow Ignatius."

Flavius yawned. "I'd like to get some sleep, please. The bloody guard's going to have me up before dawn."

The others grinned at his jibe at Private Black and the meeting broke up though the soldier had orders to report back to the office.

When Private Black returned, he was alone with General Maximilian; the others had gone.

"Pour yourself a drink and sit down, son," the General said, "How are you getting on with our Provincial Governor?"

"Er… It's an honour to…" Private Black tailed off unsure how to answer.

The General chuckled, "He's no tactician. If he organised an ambush he'd have the troops shooting each other in the crossfire but he's been learning about strategy since he learned to talk. If you were going to say that it's an honour to guard him then I agree. He's trying to salvage his reputation after an act of gross stupidity and his courage is impressive. Are you planning on fucking him?"

"No! Of course not, sir."

"Why not? He's a slave even if he is only bonded and he'll probably enjoy it. Have you noticed, when he needs to be Governor there's no mistaking it but there are other times he needs to be a boy. He's a tough boy so don't do him any favours but when you've finished with him, let him be a child and cuddle him so he feels safe and protected."

"It's easy for you to say, sir," Private Black said. The drink had made it difficult for him to keep up with the jumps in General Maximilian's conversation and his guard had slipped. "He offered to have me shot tonight just because I was here. Privates don't get on the wrong side of Provincial Governors."

"General's don't, either, son," General Maximilian laughed, "You betray him and he'll cut out your intestines then strangle you with them. If you support him he'll support you and it won't do your promotion prospects much harm either. You're a fit, tough young soldier and you excelled at basic training. You want to please Flavius then expect him to measure up to your standards. By the way, didn't you recognise that little piece of melodrama?

Private Black shook his head.

"It came from a film that was on television a few weeks ago. Dreadful thing but Flavius must have liked it. Chief Williams wanted to help and just needed Flavius to say that he thought the plot would harm the Empire. Flavius was adult enough to see the argument and juvenile enough to use that corny scene.

The soldier nodded. "It is an honour to serve a man like Governor Flavius. It's just that I was trained to do it by aiming a gun at the Empire's enemies, not looking after some wonder kid."

"Pour us another drink and make sure yours is a double. You're going to need it," General Maximilian said, mock seriously.

"When the two men were seated again he continued, "Promotion through the ranks does happen especially in time of war but there's the same sort of opposition as there is in the education system. There's a vacancy coming up on an officer training course and I'm going to recommend you and ask His Excellency to sponsor you."

As the soldier stared not sure that he had heard right, "You know he's trying to open up the education system as his Imperial Service. I'm going to back him by saying that officer training is education. You've an excellent record and you show initiative. That's why you were chosen for this particular guard duty. How do feel about serving His Excellency now?"

"It's not what I expected. May I ask a personal question, Sir?"

The General nodded.

"It's about your boy, Steven and what you said earlier. Is that how you treat him?"

The General smiled, "Steven's got a warm loving family. I think I need a bit of Tender Loving Care more than he does. He'll get fed up with me and my games before long and move on but I've had a chance to learn about him and find out what Flavius sees in him. I'm impressed. He'll always have my backing and support as if he were my son."

The conversation continued until the bottle was empty and the Private staggered off to his quarters. He had seen guarding petty criminals while they worked out a sentence as beneath him and some sort of unofficial reprimand. Since he had discovered who he would be guarding, he had begun to realise that the opposite was true and the stakes were still being raised. He just hoped he did not let anyone down.

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