From the shadows of the holding cell, she padded barefoot into the blazing heat of the sun-scorched amphitheater.
The crowds already cheering and jeering as she walked into the sunlight towards the propinquity of entertainment.
Accompanied by four guards, Octavia advanced on the center of the arena. From the opposite entrance of the amphitheater, she spied a slight figure emerge surrounded by a similar escort.
As both companies converged at the epicenter of punishment, Octavia realized with horror that the chained girl standing before her was her younger sister, Livia.
Their eyes met. Octavia, gesturing with a subtle shake of her head, mouthed the words, "I'm so sorry."
Livia glanced around to view the structures of torture, returning to her sisters loving, sorrowful countenance with a physiognomy of disquietude and sheer terror.
Both girls wore threadbare tunics, filthy, torn and damp from the fresh perspiration brought forth from the oppressive, incalescent day.
Aside from their tunics, the chains responsible for the abrasions about their wrists and ankles were all that graced each girls body.
Octavia was released from her bonds and led to a short, thick wooden post buried solidly into the dry dirt. Two iron manacles were bolted to the flat vertex of the post by short lengths of heavy chain.
Several feet away, two thick wooden stakes jutted from the ground, each securing further chains and manacles. These ensured the victim's legs were kept splayed.
Two of the guards seized Octavia by the arms, thrusting her forward she slammed into the short post and her wrists were locked into the metal restraints.
Her legs were kicked apart and both ankles quickly became fettered to the stakes.
And so Octavia, leaning forward with her arms straight, palms flat atop the post, legs slightly spread, waited for her sentence to be read.
The officer in charge of the event stepped forward, and with a booming voice addressed the concourse.
"The criminal…..conspirator against the Roman Empire, the accused known as Octavia Sergius has been brought before us to receive the penalty for her crimes."
The crowd listened with feverish anticipation as he continued.
"She is sentenced to be scourged until it is decided she is in a suitable state to be executed."
The sanguinary coterie that lined the arena roared their approval!
Octavia stared at the dusty ground in front of her scourging post. Her heart pounding; mouth dry. Her breaths shuddered with solicitous apprehension.
Two Lictors approached the restrained girl. They carried the implements of torture with them.
They stood beside Octavia and waited for the command that everyone in the amphitheater longed for.
A nod indicated the order for her to be stripped. One of the Lictors stepped forward, obtained the neck of her tunic and tore it over her shoulders. The Lictor renewed his grip on the ragged material and ripped it to reveal the young woman's tanned back and buttocks...
The short sleeves which covered the tops of Octavia's shoulders fell loose around her wrists after the brute had completed his task of shredding the garment from her body.
She stood naked.
Both Lictors now loomed over her; studying her with ardent eyes.
Her body adorned with lean muscularity. Her pubic region shaved clean and smooth.
"There is an additional sentence!" The Commander shouted above the din of the crowd.
"The sister of the condemned prisoner is also implicated in this traitorous crime. She is guilty of failing to notify the authorities of her sister's actions of harboring known enemies of Rome. Therefore, Livia Sergius, sister of Octavia is sentenced to be whipped at the post on her bared back."
The audience stands in joyous rapture.
"This girl will receive five lashes of the bullwhip for each time her sister falls at the scourge."
With that, the teenager was dragged to the tall whipping post located fifteen feet in front of the scourging post. Her arms were raised high above her head; wrists shackled to chains which hung from each side of the sturdy wooden pillar.
Directly in front of her, Octavia witnessed her sister being strung up by her wrists. And as the back of the girl's tunic was ripped open, Octavia shifted her gaze through the thick shimmering heat haze to the peaks of the Monte Velino.
Octavia's attention was drawn to a Lictor approaching Livia.
She watched the nefarious bastard shake out the coils of a long bullwhip.
It was time….
Octavia knew that if she collapsed under the lash, her poor inculpable sister would feel the fiery lick of the bullwhip. She also knew that the two Lictors would work her body beyond her endurance.
There was no escaping the desired outcome of this sentence. Both girls would suffer unmerciful torment.
The order was given to proceed.
Octavia stood in her forward leaning position, staring at the younger girl stretched out against the whipping post. Between them stood the Lictor; just waiting for his opportunity to wet the lash with innocent blood.
Behind her, the men responsible for her own affliction approached. One took his position as the other walked around to face the condemned girl.
He held out his scourge, showing her the dreadful hooks, barbs and bone shards that would cause her so much pain.
She slowly closed her eyes, trembling. The hair which hung in front of her face dripped with sweat.
"Let's see how much you can take before we get to flog your little sister." He grinned at her, his blood lust unmistakeable.
As he returned to his comrade, Octavia heard the clacking and clinking of the hideous scourge.
The crowd fell silent. Their feverish faces staring intently at the glistening wet physique in chains, desperate to hear some confirmation of suffering through her cries.
Octavia gazed ahead. Waiting for the first lash. The crowd had fallen silent and she knew it was about to begin. She looked at her sister who hugged the bloodstained post, shaking with fear. Only now it dawned on her that Livia's fate would match her own
One of the Lictors raised the vicious instrument for all to see, and with a swift flux of his arm swept the ugly strands athwart her shoulder blades.
From the short distance between them, the faction of onlookers witnessed the girl arc her body away from the dreadful impact as the metal and bone brushed through her skin. Her gasp, full of shock and pain, was audible for all, and excited those whose lustful thirst can only be quenched by the blood and sweat of tortured young women.
Almost immediately blood rose from the ugly lacerations that streaked across her upper back.
After just a few seconds, Octavia regained her composure. The fresh wounds burned and she felt moisture exude from the vicinity; unknowing whether sweat or blood flowed.
She, with gritted teeth, raised her head again to look upon her sister, and with renewed tenacity reinforced her denuded stance.
Octavia heard the second lash swipe through the air. She tensed her body as the scourge landed with a thud from the opposite side. The sharp decorations of torture pierced her skin about the small of her back and right hip. The Fustigator left the strands hugging her body; raising his fist to rally the already rapturous mercurial clique, and with a vigorous tug, ripped the scourge through her. She cried out, falling to her elbows upon the dry wooden post. Saliva stringing from her open mouth as the blood began to weave its journey down her thigh and buttocks.
The third blow came within an instant of the second. The barbs and hooks slammed into the suffering victim's flank, inviting fresh blood to come forth from muscle stripped of skin as the Lictor tore away the odious lash.
Octavia fell to her knees emitting guttural cries of anguish; shaking hands desperately clinging to the chains that secured her. Another lash sliced her open and she fell to one side hanging from her wrists; her right leg extended fully by the chain about her ankle that restricted her movement.
The administrator of the disgusting display of barbarity raised his hand for the beating to cease.
He nodded to the Fustigator that stood between the two condemned girls and he eagerly measured his mark.
One of Octavia's tormentors bent to one knee beside her. Grabbing a handful of her damp hair he pulled her head up to witness her sisters torture. She tried to look away but the position was reinforced with a sharp yank.
"You will watch this slut bleed or I will take her eyes," he hissed.
Octavia looked at Livia. Where her tunic was torn open her bared, slender back shone with perspiration.
She studied briefly the man responsible for lashing her sister as he, with artistic grace, swung the bullwhip.
With lightning speed, the impact brushed the fabric of Livia's tunic. A loud crack split the atmosphere as the whip split her skin. A scarlet line of fire scorched the girl from shoulder to shoulder. Her body and forehead pressed against the wooden post; screaming agony and fear.
Octavia stared past her sister as the second lash brought further primal cries of wretched suffering.
Between each strike, Octavia could hear Livia's sobs above the raucous din that surrounded them in this horrific tribulation.
The fifth lash cut and while the girl screamed, Octavia was hauled to her feet by her hair.
She stood; back streaked with blood. Her entire body rinsed with sweat. Tremulous breaths, waiting for more.
The desperation to endure; to give Livia respite showed in her countenance. But she was weak with pain. Her wounds throbbed unbearably.
Both men waited for indication to begin. Upon the command, one nodded to the other, and with a grim smile, the man first to resume the destruction of Octavia's body vocally expressed his effort with a forceful impact that shredded the skin from the middle of her back. Cries from the girl; cheers from the arena.
Octavia glanced at Livia as she tried to regain composure. A man was pulling at the bloodstained tunic that hung off the girl, exposing more of her physique as it tore.
As she watched, the second Lictor thrashed. Her body tensed solid. The acuminate, baneful whip hasped its tips into her shoulder and upper arm. It's violent removal triggering rivers of blood to stream down her arm into her clenched fist, wetting the scrap of material at her wrist.
Octavia's screams became as raw as her body.
The scourge embedded into her ribs with the next strike. She arched her broken body forward on its extraction; head back, she screamed: the metal raked her ribcage.
The Lictor to deliver the next lash saw the opportunity in Octavia's position. While she was still of arced back he hammered the scourge over her right shoulder. The weighted strands landed with a hollow thud diagonally across her chest. The barbs and hooks buried in her flesh. The sharp deliberate yanks opened fresh wounds, furrowing her small breasts and pectoral muscles. The warm red liquid seeped mellifluously over the girl's hard stomach.
Another swipe dug into her back with an audible wet thud. She cried out hoarsely, interrupting the gasps of agonizing shock from the previous impact.
The sheer determination to stay on her feet showed through gritted teeth but now leaning further forward, her forearms resting on the wooden post; shaking fists clutching the chains….
Not allowing her eyes to leave the dreadful vision of her sisters bondage, another stroke scraped through her upper back. Enduring more blistering pain she gripped the edges of the post, crying out through still gritted teeth. Freshly drawn blood streamed over the sinuous muscles of her tensed arms.
Again the scourge tore its bloody path across her back; whimpering with her forehead resting on her hands.
She looked up, open-mouthed at Livia; pain sheathed her body like the sweat it brought forth.
She struggled to raise herself, only managing one straight arm before the scourge forced her down with its flesh-rending teeth.
Octavia was unaware she had collapsed until her eyes bore witness to neoteric blood streaming down Livia's naked back. Her tunic, stained red, hung from her waist having had her torso stripped bare before the next onslaught of furious attacks from the dreadful bullwhip.
Octavia's light-headedness subsided just as the final stroke left the younger girl.
Finally, the director of brutality raised his hand and the two Lictors stepped back from the ravaged girl before them.
Her back turned to hash under the relentless scourging. She fell slowly to her knees and rested her forehead on her clenched fists. This part of her punishment was over.
The pain was unendurable but she gathered the strength to stand. Her muscular arms decorated with rivers of blood, drying from the heat of the sun that scorched her tortured body.
Octavia looked again to her sister with the realization that she may survive, although bearing the lifelong scars as a physical reminder of the terrible event of this day.
Octavia once again dropped her gaze to the sun blistered dirt at the base of the scourging post.
The yells and cries from the witnesses of the arena continued indecipherable to her ears…
…and whilst she thought of her sister living a full life; hoping; praying to the Gods for her freedom, the three spikes of iron were thrown to the dust before her.
It was not over for her.