His rust colored hair fell before his green eyes as he swung his sword down again. Practice made perfect and he had to be perfect to win. All the stories his mother told would finally come to be. At least for his sister and his mother; surely he’d follow them into freedom shortly. There had to be lots of opportunities if one worked for a magister!
“Leto. You’re supposed to be cleaning the kitchen. Really, Master coddles you too much. You’re always daydreaming.” Varania sighed. It was never hard to find Leto. His head was in the clouds. His ambitions obvious and he wasn’t afraid to voice them. Varania wished their mother had never told them tales of freedom as a child. All it did was make Leto behave in a way unbefitting of a slave. He would end up in trouble that way, she was sure of it.
He glanced over his shoulder at her with a sheepish grin. “..but I’m practicing.”
“You shouldn’t mind that competition. What would you even do with the prize? Master shouldn’t let you join it…”
“It’s a surprise. But I’m going to get you and mother something fantastic.” He stabbed the sword into the ground, dusting his hands off on his britches. ”I’ll go clean the kitchen.”
Varania arched a brow and simply shook her head. But that was Leto. She knew her words wouldn’t put a damper on this ‘surprise’ he intended to get them.
Their Master was kind and the elves didn’t want for anything. Except their actual freedom. His mother spoke of it fondly and the idea of being able to say “no” when he was told to do something sounded so appealing. If his family was free, they’d be happy. They could do whatever they wanted.
They wouldn’t have to cook or clean or work. They wouldn’t have to “yes, Master” “no, Master” and Leto wanted that for them. He wanted that ideal. Naivety drove him. How could he possibly know what freedom for an elf was really like?
He imagined it was wonderful.
“Are you certain that’s what you want, Leto?” He frowned at his Master’s obvious distress. She wasn’t sure she wanted to let the elf join. His mother had been hesitant to give her approval but his charismatic enthusiasm won her over.
“Yes. And.. if I may be so bold, wouldn’t it honor you? To have a slave fit to be a Magister’s guard?”
A breathless pause. Oh, how right he was. Quick witted but still so dim.
“Well.. yes, it would.. but you wouldn’t be able to use the prize for yourself. What would you-“
He rudely cut her off, a grin spreading across his face. He’d had this planned out for a long time. “I want to buy them. Varania and my mother. And then free them. That’s how it works, isn’t it?”
A few slow blinks. “..yes. I could do that for you, if you wanted..”
“I do. They’ll be surprised, won’t they?” His moss green eyes glazed over thoughtfully. “..will they be happy?”
This warranted a small smile from his Master. “I’m sure they will be.”
The elf made no attempt to hide his pride. He’d honed his skills for a long time. Practiced with anyone who would bother with his stubborn goading and he was confident in his ability to tear through his competition. He was prepared to do whatever he had to. They’d come to watch him and he wasn’t going to disappoint them.
He would do right by his family. Leto felt it, this was the right thing to do. It had to be. The quiet murmur of the crowd who’d come to witness the competition died down as the Magister himself entered. Only he moved forward, making note to keep in mind all the lessons Varania had taught him.
“Excuse me.” He stepped forward, earning many incredulous stares. What slave would dare- and yet he was. He was daring.
Don’t raise your eyes unless spoken to.
There came a dark, amused chuckle from the Magister. “Yes, elf?”
“Leto.” He raised his eyes from the ground with a grin that he obviously tried to suppress. He’d simply failed miserably at it. “I’m going to win. I look forward to serving you.”
Another laugh. “You are, are you? We’ll see. Go. You’ll be late to the matches.”
There were so many lessons he forgot when speaking to the Magister. He was too bold, too foolhardy. There were so many more lessons he wasn’t aware he’d be learning.
But he fought. Blood splattering onto his tan skin, his confidence made him shine. They were watching him. Everyone was. Everyone could look and see how well his training had paid off and they would be proud. Varania would see how wrong she’d been. Mother would have the freedom she told stories about. Master would have the honor of handing a slave over to a Magister.
He would follow when he could. He would…
And as the last opponent fell, he wiped the sweat and blood from his face onto his sleeve. He shot his mother and sister a loving smile. They’d know what he’d done for them soon. He wanted to go embrace them, just once more.
That was not what warriors did. He’d done it, made his best effort to give them everything. They would be happy.
As he exited the stadium, Danarius was waiting. His look still highly amused. “I don’t believe anyone tamed you yet, little wolf.”
Leto did his best not to give the Magister a look. He reminded himself that Varania insisted such things would be rude.
“I suppose not.”
He wouldn’t follow.