After a whole morning of agonizing deliberation Menas was no nearer a decision on whether to tell Xerxes.
Watching the slave happily dusting about their apartment Menas wrestled with his inner hydra.
Xerxes needed to know. There could be no hiding it. He had to know. It was the right thing to do. The fair thing to do. And it had to be Menas who told him.
Xerxes midway through dusting a large Greek urn squinted, moving his face closer to the pot.
“Oh dear,” he exclaimed. “There’s a black mark on this master. But don’t worry I shall remove it.”
“Xerxes, there’s no need. It’s fine. There is something we need to discuss.”
“It won’t take but a moment master.”
The slave applied his fingernail to the scratching at the black smudge a look of intense concentration playing across his rather goofy features
“Xerxes there is something I need to tell you.”
Those last two words were lost in the cataclysmic crash of the urn toppling off its plinth and hitting the stone floor. The urn, a pleasant addition to the room for a good fifteen years didn’t so much break as explode in a multitude of directions.
“Oh no!” cried Xerxes faced with the mother of all cleaning up operations. “Oh master!” Turning his distraught face towards Menas and adding rather unnecessarily, “I’ve broken the pot.”
“Don’t worry about the pot. I’ll get Hypheston to clean it up.”
Xerxes visibly brightened, “That is a good idea. The two of us together will have this all swept up in no time. Hypheston is great isn’t he? I can’t believe what a great purchase he was! Can you believe I managed to find a eunuch for only 500 sesterces?”
Menas finding a sudden urgent reason to leave.
Menas sat round a table with three of his gladiators: The Decimator, The Annihilator and The one they’d yet to find a suitably imposing name for.
“I need your advice men,” began Menas pressing his fingertips together. “It’s about Xerxes.”
The gladiators exchanged knowing looks.
Menas, as was his habit, pretended he hadn’t noticed just as he pretended he hadn’t seen the graffiti scrawled on the walls of the barracks that made various claims about the nature of his and Xerxes’ relationship.
“I sent him off to the slave market yesterday with a bag of coins.”
“I saw him come back,” said The Decimator. “He was right pleased with his purchase.”
“Bouncing all over the place,” added The Annihilator.
“He told me he got a eunuch for only 500 sesterces,” said The one they’d yet to find a suitably imposing name for.
“He didn’t get a eunuch for only 500 sesterces. Nobody could get a eunuch for 500 sesterces.”
“So what did he get then?” asked The Decimator.
“He got a girl.”
“Easy mistake to make,” shrugged The Annihilator. “Eunuchs don’t have penises and neither do girls. Very easy to get confused.”
Menas got to his key point. “The question is do I tell Xerxes that he’s brought a girl and not a eunuch as he thinks?”
“No,” said The one they’d yet to find a suitably imposing name for. “He was right proud yesterday at his bargain. It would crush his spirits if he’d know he’d been taken for an idiot.”
Yes, it would, thought Menas. Xerxes would be aghast at his stupidity, he’d think he’d let Menas down and be doubly distraught. Menas couldn’t bear a despondent Xerxes. He loved the gangly, irrepressible, annoyingly cheery Xerxes. Xerxes who laughed like a squealing piglet, who snorted at odd moments, whose endless attempts to please his master had resulted in breakages, trippings, a couple of law suits and the accidental demise of a camel named Gemellus.
“Don’t tell him boss,” urged The Decimator. “What does it matter anyway? I reckon Xerxes’ll never get familiar with girls enough to realise his mistake.”
More knowing glances.
Menas sat back in his chair. “Ignorance is bliss,” he murmured to himself.
The door flew open smacking into the wall, the resulting dent adding another mouth to a rather pleasant fresco depiction of Minerva.
“Master, master!” bounced Xerxes. “You’ll never guess what?”
Menas and his gladiators exchanged looks. Had Xerxes discovered Hypheston’s secret for himself?
“Hypheston is going to have a baby.”
He had then.
“I didn’t know eunuchs could have babies!”