Rome’s civil war was over—at least for now. Sulla was Dictator, king of Rome in all but name, and to his supporters fell the spoils—in this case, the wives, children, and slaves of his enemies, as well as their estates.Of course, even the Dictator could not sell nobly-born youths and maidens on the public slave block—that would be inappropriate, and it might cause unrest, not to mention giving the plebes, the rabble of Rome, ideas above their station. No, in order to punish those who had fought against him, Sulla made sure that their wives, sons, and daughters were disposed discreetly.Fortunately, there were always buyers for…exceptional merchandise.Drusilla’s eyes were dry. There was no reason to weep any longer; tears had been useful when she wanted her pater to buy her a kitten or when she had indulged in some girlish mischief and wanted to escape a birching. Tears wouldn’t help her now. Her parents were dead, her father on the battlefield in a futile fight against Sulla’s tyranny, her mother by her own hand rather than to face life as a slave. Drusilla, kneeling at her mother’s side as the last drops of Helena Annius’ blood trickled from her slashed wrists, had been tempted to follow her parents in death—but she was only seventeen years old. Surely the gods did not want her time to end yet. And then the soldiers had come, Sulla’s men, seizing slaves, furnishing, gold plate, whatever they could carry. Their centurion, though, had been charged with a specific mission. He’d dragged Drusilla from her mother’s side and brought her here to this house, in a closed litter ringed by guards. Upon arrival, he’d hauled her out of the litter like a sack of flour, and pushed her into the room where she now stood alone, its only furniture a couch and small table, its windows and door heavily barred. Drusilla stood in the center of the room, hugging her light stola to her body. Her silky chestnut hair hung like a veil around her face, unbound and long, cascading around her shoulders. The sun had long since disappeared, and there was neither lamp nor candle in the room.
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