The Auction Block; the place you have heard of many times, but never laid eyes on it. And yet, it’s a spectre, haunting both your dreams and your waking mind; your personality, your very id hinges around the idea of avoiding this dreaded place at any cost. You cooked, cleaned and beat bricks into submission for three years of your life, all under the stern gaze of General Adriano; a venerable man with failing eyesight and grey hair, gifted you and twelve others in exchange for his outstanding service in the Twelfth Daemonic Incursion. 

    But Adriano is dead, and his heir has no further use for you. His firstborn son, Cato, is a plump and ill-tempered man of poor self-control, who sold the vineyard and all of the slaves so that he could purchase more wine and companionship. You have no loyalty to either;  the bastards whipped you like a dog. You still have long furrows running the length of your back, which mark where you felt the whip’s kiss. 

    The Auction Block is as terrifying as you imagined it. Scores of men, women and those who feel like neither pack the open-air pavilion to capacity. A few wear the white robes of the nobilitas; the aristocratic upper-class. Most where the simple green tunics that indicate them as famuli; house slaves who serve every purpose from tutor to concubine. Some are well-fed and treated like members of the family, and some are whipped like you were. 

    The Auction Block is filled to capacity with these individuals, each one looking at one of the many upraised wooden platforms. Each of these contains fifteen or so slaves, stripped down nude and paraded for all to see. Even as you are led up, in shackles, to the display, you can see the terror on the faces of those who are fated to be owned. 

    A guard, plated and stern, with bushy eyebrows and a rough temperament jerks you by the shackles up onto the stage. You are the first of a procession of twelve to step onto the stage. You note that it shifts under your weight as you step onto it. You sincerely hope it doesn’t collapse; breaking public property would most likely result in a severe beating, delivered to you and your fellows of happenstance. 

    “I’m starting at forty Royals for a woman! Forty-five if she’s pretty! Fifty for a man!” The rasping, wheezy voice of a man who’s smoked enough for three lifetimes sounds out from behind you. The  fervour in the crowd staring up at you settles down to a general murmur. 

    “What about pretty men?” one of the ladies from the crowd asks, to an uproar of scandalized laughter. 

    “Same price as all of ‘em.” The slave trader responds, unamused. A moment later, “This one first!” He shoves you to centre-stage. 

    “The state will pay fifty  Royals for that one!” you cringe. You’ve heard that one of the most cruel fates that can befall a slave is to be bought by the state; a lifetime in the servus publicus will leave you buckled and broken, before you’re fed to the Craven Beasts for a crowd’s amusement.

    “Noted!”  you hear the eagerness of a new day creeps into the auctioneer’s voice, “Anyone else?” 

    “Could always use a couple of boys for the Pleasure House! Fifty Royals for that one!”  A fat, moustached man in purple robes answered.

    “Hope you like getting fucked by old men.” the woman behind you whispers cruelly, “That’s what awaits you there.” 

    “Fifty-five!” the envoy of the state responds before you can rebuke the woman. 

    “Sixty Royals!” the image of a greasy, moustached man sliding himself down your throat embeds itself in your mind. 

    “Seventy Royals!” the emissary barks. The other man does not respond. Three seconds go by in hours. 

    “Very well, then! The skinny one goes to the publicus! May the gods help him…” 

    Another plated guard, this one with his face obscured comes out of the crowd and approaches the stage. He bears the municipal livery of the city of Princival. “I’ll take him from here.” 

    You’re released from the shackles and frogmarched at spear-point through the crowd. 

    “Take him to the wagon. We’ve a long day at the auction ahead of us, yet.” 

    You’re taken to wagon immediately after, and unceremoniously forced in. It’s a sixteen-oxen vehicle with a gargantuan, enclosed wooden cart affixed to it. On the cart, six equally giant wheels, with half-foot thick rims and iron-shod spokes. It would take a tremendous blow to knock this great beast off its feet.

    The inside is far less impressive. Two ramshackle wooden benches stretch either length, and have been bolted down with frighteningly soft bronze screws. Your bare feet scrape over straw, and you realize that it’s a re-purposed farming vehicle. You become acutely aware of your own nakedness. You turn and look at the guard. 

    “There’s tunics inside.” he says with a heavy sigh, before shutting the door. You can’t help but notice the sound of the heavy bolt closing shut, and trapping you within.