Chapter One

Arguing could be heard coming from the courtyard. Alameda quickly stood up from her chair in her bedroom. She walked out and made her way down the hallway. Along the way, she passed beautiful county paintings on the walls. The floor she walked on had many different colorful mosaics.

She reached the center of the house, where the courtyard was located, and saw that it was her two younger brothers. There was no surprise there, they always argued and fought. This time they were arguing about who cheated at the game they were playing.

Soft footsteps could be heard coming towards her. Alameda turned around and saw that it was her mother, Terena. Terena was a petite woman in her early thirties. The brightly colored tunica and stola she wore contrasted dramatically with the pale color of her skin. She hardly went outside of the household, she didn't need to. She had enough servants to run around and do errands and household chores for her. Emeralds adorned her neck and wrists. Her once brown hair was dyed a golden-red color—the latest women's hair style.

"Who is that arguing?" she asked in a soft, quiet voice. "I was resting."

"It's Adelphos and Leander, mother," Alameda said.

Terena sighed. "Why can't they ever learn? No one else was as rowdy as them."

Terena was referring to her other children. She was the mother of six children in total. Each time she gave birth to a healthy boy or girl, people were surprised and said that she was blessed by the Goddess Diana herself. She was one of the luckier women; childbirth was a dangerous thing those days.

Her first born child, Alameda's older brother, was the crown jewel of the family. Her father's first born son. He was a high ranking solider in the Roman army, defending his proud country. He had a beautiful wife and three children, who lived in the household. Her brother was mostly always gone for either training or battle.

Terena's second and third children were both daughters. Each one was gone and out of the household. The first born daughter was married to a Senator, a friend of her father's, and had two children. The second daughter was a Vestal Virgin. Only the daughter's of the rich and powerful could become one and it was a great honor to be chosen. She was chosen at the age of six and brought to the Goddess Vesta's temple. There, along with five other Vestal Virgin's, they kept the goddess's sacred flame burning continuously. If the flame were to ever go out, bad luck would fall upon Rome.

Alameda was the fourth born. At the age of eighteen, she was not married and over the usual age of when a girl married. Her parents had arranged marriages for her ever since she was fourteen, but she didn't consort to those would be suitors. She was considered to be the black sheep of the family. She didn't want to become the wife of a political leader or elite solider. She rather liked being around commoners and slaves. She liked work and the joys of doing something for herself. Something in which none of her family would ever be caught dead doing themselves.

The fifth and sixth children were Adelphos and Leander, who were still arguing. Adelphos was fourteen, a year older than Leander. But both looked as if they were twins. Their brown hair was cut short and neat. Matching hazel eyes were on a round, delicate looking face.

Terena made her way outside and into the courtyard. Alameda quickly followed behind her. The courtyard was located in the middle of the house with no roof above it. Inside, there were a large garden filled lush green plants, flowers, shrubs, fruits, and vegetables. A small temple was off to the side. The boys were found arguing by the fishpond.

"Boys," Terena said sharply. "Enough."

Both boys quieted down for a second before both blamed each other at the same time.

"But Leander started it," Adelphos said.

'It's Adelphos fault," Leander said.

"It doesn't matter who started it," Terena said sternly. "Stop now. You're lucky your father isn't home with his friends. You would have embarrassed him."

Adelphos and Leander hung their head in shame. They didn't want a repeat of what happened the last time they embarrassed their father in front of guests. Their butts started getting sore from just thinking about that memory.

"Where is Ordell?" Terena asked.

Ordell was the head servant of the household. She was in charge of the other slaves, making sure they did what they were told. She was also a tutor to the boys and to all the other children who once lived in the household. She was a woman in her late fifties with dark tanned skin from working outside long hours, long graying hair and expressive brown eyes.

"The last time I saw Ordell," Alameda said, "she was doing laundry."

Terena nodded. "Fine. I think I'm going to rest some more." She gave her two sons a—you better behave look before re-entering the brick house.

"Ordell is not doing laundry," Adelphos said.

"I know that."

"She went into the city," Leander said. "You lied to mother, that's bad."

Alameda ignored her younger brother's comment. "Why did she go into the city?" She didn't remember her mother telling Ordell to go there. There were no errands to run in the city today.

Adelphos shrugged. "Don't know, don't care. All I do know is that her going to the city got us out of a lesson."

How odd, Alameda thought, now that was definitely unusual. Ordell would never cut a lesson early. She never once did with her, her older brother and sisters. "Do you know where she went?"

"No," Leander said, shaking his head.

"Why don't you leave and do your girly things," Adelphos said, dismissing her.

Alameda narrowed her eyes at him. "Watch it, brat."

"Or what," he challenged. "Mother won't do anything and especially father for that matter. They're disappointed in you. I would be too if I were your father."

She gave him a death glare and felt hurt at the same time. She knew what he said was true. It was all because she wasn't married with children. "You may be fourteen—considered a man—but you would never be one with the way you act."

She quickly turned around and left, leaving him to his little fit of anger while stomping his feet and Leander's gleeful laughter.