Quote"Might aswell be you."
Face ClaimCharlie Hunnam
His mind had shunted the world of his forefathers out of his mind, but everytime Cinnia spoke, it hammered its' way back in. He found himself looking at her again, as she replied to his instinctive little gift. Oh, he was a fool. Trying to run from the pain of his captivity, yet gifting a little part of his past to someone like her...perhaps it was his way of shaking his bonds a bit looser. Standing here, offering a member of the Brigante Royal House a trubite, it was as if for a split second, they were back in a longhouse of their folk, fires roaring.
She implored him not to forget, and...he tempted himself every night with letting those memories of home go unattended, and thereby drift away. It would be easy. It would be simple. To all those who saw him fight, he was nothing but a Roman slave, free of heritage or a life.
Not to her. She was Cinnia of the Brigante, a kinswoman.
"I'll never forget. Should my life go on until the seas boil and the world turns inside out, I'll not forget." He noted, smiling in thanks as the warrior woman took up his chainmail shirt. They began again to walk, his collar bone no longer scraping, yet the warrior held it still.
"I used to, long ago. I've carved two things in five years." He nodded towards her. "That one took three weeks." Not for lack of skill, he just had his head broken by an armoured boot a day into the process, and it had taken a week after it had healed. Should he tell her that it felt good to gift it away? To gift it away to a strong, beautiful, warrior of his people? Perhaps a dozen years before, with her husband dead, this would have been the start to a friendship, or a courtship, or some subservience.
"They'll fix me. They always do. I'm a war hound, and this will heal." He gently tapped his collar bone. "I won before the Imperial Family. There will be more fights for me upon that hill." His eye sparked, and he tried to find her gaze. "I would...would you watch? So I might learn from you, and know one of us will witness my death?"
To die, with Cinnia watching? That would...that might be acceptable.
Pain like a collarbone tended to numb after a time. He was used to that fracture pain, and it only really moved if he pressed on it, causing the two segments of bone to grind against each other - but it was starting to swell. A medicus would likely review his condition, determine how long he would need to recover, then half it and take their money. He was a commodity. But...he didn't feel any motivation to move. Pain was just pain. You got used to it. Standing here with a fellow Brigante was unique, and he wished to prolong it.
"You're right. I don't have to." Owyn stated, definitely, and then, lightly as a bird perching upon a thin branch in the forests of their home, he moved to press his hand over her's, as if to curl her fingers even tighter over the carving. "Nevertheless, I would that you have it. Without obligation or cost, only that you might never forget our home." His aristocratic lilt had come back in true strength now, but then he caught a curious glance from a slave as they passed in the main road, and suddenly the world came rushing back. He had to make it back to the Iudus, and be ready to be looked over. It might well be far worse than he thought. Time to head back to slavery, and likely never to see Cinnia again. Perhaps he would never meet another Brigante, or another Briton. Home seemed so far away, but for a few minutes, speaking to her in his home tongue, the fields of Britain had seemed just beyond the gates. He could almost smell the daffodils blooming outside their hall, hear their horses prancing in the meadows, catch the scent of their hounds mingling with hay and soot and meat and people - his people.
Best to forget it. He was never going home.
"You're right." 'Marius' stated, in Latin. He huffed through his nostrils, and pushed away from the wall.
That settled it! Simple and effective, just how he liked it! Once she was of marrying age, he'd plough her into the ground, and continue raiding around Prydain until the fucking Romans put tail between legs and fled back across the seas!
See how stupid he was back then? Young men have minds full of nothing but fucking and fighting, and they're usually only any good at the second. Still, for all his idiocy, Owyn had that winning grin that he flashed back at Annis as they moved.
"Oh, think nothing of it. We're all children of this land, and we're all one against the bloody Romans!" He declared, moving a set of elm branches aside with his spear and allowing the young girl past. His strong arm glistened with muscle, but the mud and blood had started to dry and he casually brushed a few flakes from his forearm. His short hair was drying, though the moisture had still left it plastered to his skull.
"Since the betrayal of our warleader, Eppitacos, Belatucadros save him." Owyn gave a low huff at that, but he still seemed cheerful. "We're three dozen strong, and they follow me for my blood is strong and hearty with the nobility of the Brigantes." He declared it proudly, for to be a nobleman was a great and proud thing, even if it didn't carry any brains with it.
Yeah, that was how it usually went. He knew the battle, and he'd been a few years younger than her, serving beside his father as a weapon-bearer. As a nobleman, he'd thought it such a fine thing, and he still remembered the taste of wine on his lips after the battle. Still, he was more than willing to move the topic of conversation - he still got nervous anytime he saw a notched rod. Regardless, he realised now he was speaking to an important warrior, if she was cousin to the traitor, Ysolda. Should he bow? Should he kiss her feet, and beg forgiveness for not recognising? No, he supposed they were both just slaves now.
"I don't suppose any of us do." Owyn noted, with a sigh and a sour look. "Strange. It all seems a lifetime away." He touched a hand to his scars, and then found something around his neck. An old carving of the Brigante war-god, Belatucadros, tied in a leather pouch. She clearly had poor luck in regards to battles, and...well, she was the first of his kinfolk he had found in a long time. He had a larger carving at his quarters. Standing in that little archway, with one arm agony to move, he pulled the little carving from around his neck and offered it to Cinnia.
"Technically you're royalty, so think of this as my tribute." He said, a slight smile gracing his lips for the first time. His hands had become innately talented over the years, and the carving was a fine thing, elegant and with the symbols of their home scratched in with care. "You've better weapon-luck than me, perhaps Belatucadros favours you more."
See, it was the first thing he'd been able to give in six years, and it felt like flexing an old muscle. Offering something to someone for no other reason than...well, she should have it. It seemed the right thing to do.
It's generally ill-advised to be a sarcastic prick to the people who can have you killed. It was always important to remember the simple truth, though - her people had come to his homeland, burned their homes, raped the women, and enslaved them. They had killed more of his people than any plague, any disaster. So, part of 'Marius' was always guarded against kindness, decency, and respect. There was always a reason. A soft voice often had a whispered command behind it. He avoided her gaze, picking a spot somewhere on the floor to stare at.
"Marius, domina, yes." He'd been named after some great Roman soldier, apparently. He didn't care. He supposed part of his six years as a slave had grown some attachment to the name, like a nickname you hated but got used to over time. But he could understand her just fine - while he spoke Latin in a harsh, plebeian accent, he had never found it difficult to grasp languages. Writing bemused him, but when a tongue flowed around you, you either jumped in or got swallowed up. "My Latin is passable, domina." He told her, confidently, unsure if that violated the golden rule of 'speak when spoken to - SMACK!'.
He'd been informed by a slave that he was to act as a bodyguard to his owner's wife. That was really all of it. He didn't care to know more. Roman politics were beyond him, and he didn't need to know. If anyone came within 5 feet of her with a weapon, he'd kill them. Truth be told, it was probably a good fit. Quick and brutal tended to be his style, and...well, if he was honest, he was resigned to his fate. They'd broken him a few years back, and he'd soon as climb into the sky with a ladder of rope than turn upon his masters. You couldn't win.
Still. He sat still, listening, attentive, glancing upwards from time to time. It was a strange thing. He'd heard mutterings that, long before, barbarians had broken the gates of Rome, and carried off their women. Now, a Roman woman commanded a Briton warrior with merely her voice and her position.
"I am Marius. I was...taken six years ago. I...I am..." What was he supposed to say? Before you came along, I was happy? I fucked beautiful women, I killed Romans, and I was free? "I have been fighting up and down Italia for six years. I've fought in 58 bouts, and won 45 of them. I defeated Carpophorus in Ravenna, and held Flamma the Syrian to a draw in Capua." He rattled it off, unsure what else to say. "I've been told to kill anyone who tries to hurt you."
Would that do?
Doing some good!? Er...Yes! Definitely that! That's what he told everyone! He yelled and boasted how the Britons deserved their land, and the Romans were vile invaders to be quashed and scourged and generally attacked. Truth was, though, Owyn just enjoyed it all. He was twenty one, he was born to fight, and the life he lived of drink, excitement, and violence meant more to him than any settled existence. Of course she was coming along, he noted, for she'd seen him naked and very few woman could see him naked and not follow on. Using the pila as an aid, he weaved quickly, occasionally glancing up.
"I suppose I am, yes. You'll fit right in. We love fighting, we drink, we try not to do any harm to fellow Britons..." And, because they were young and strong, they tended to revel and dance any chance they got. It was a life well lived. "You're young, but no one will touch you." and he glanced sideways at her, briefly. "Without your express and explicit permission."
He enjoyed the movement, and his voice was quiet enough that soon, the sounds of the Roman parties began to drift away.
You forgot how the other half lived, and you forgot how the other half suffered. Men were chattel, women were playthings. You had to be realistic about these things - and Cinnia had probably been raped more times than he could count. Part of him felt that same noble wrath he'd always felt at such atrocities...but that was a childish, old emotion. It wouldn't rewrite what had happened to them. In the same way she perhaps looked at his wounds and winced, he dreaded the thought of being constantly abused in such a way. Atleast there was always a way out for Owyn - just give up. For her? Not so much.
"I must confess, I never truly thought about it. I...I think you rather got the rougher end of that slice of ill luck." The gladiator replied, his aristocratic tone and vernacular starting to peek out more and more. Bones healed. His scars only really pained him in the morning, or when he slept. He couldn't sleep on his left, and his ankle went rigid in the cold, but he was never terrified of grasping hands in the darkness.
Eppitacos? He'd not known the man, only followed him! Fought as a young warrior, proud and strong! Oh, those were the days!
Back when Owyn had been a young idiot with no sense, no brains, and spiked lime hair. If he couldn't fuck it, drink it, or kill it, he found a way to do so. No, he and the great leader of the Brigantes had never met, but he'd shined as an idol in the man's mind for years. Only in slavery had Owyn come to quietly despise him. You couldn't fight Rome.
"Our great leader. I fought under him, as a charioteer. When he was lost to us, I spent near on 6 years raiding and killing, the usual sort of brigandry. What of you?" The great brute of a man moved to stand beside Cinnia, to take up less of the archway and thereby less attention. To his nose, she smelled of woad and wine, of roads and tilled fields. A thin wisp of desire stirred, but he sternly strangled it in its' crib. Here was a country-woman he could talk to and enjoy, he wouldn't ruin it with some clumsy advance.
Especially not after all she had been through.
They fought the bloody Romans anyway they could! With fire, with spears, with axes, with javelins, swords, hounds, and landslides, road blocks, horse stampedes. Fight like wraiths in the night, like hounds snapping at the heels of their masters! Bite the hand that rips away your homeland! That was Owyn's view, and he fucking loved it. It felt like he was living again.
Oh, fuck, he had best be on the hoof. They'd be waiting for him soon.
"Your father may have, but these Romans don't think like us." He cackled, looking upwards to get his bearings - yep, he knew where he was. Two miles west, and round Ceratumnus's Hill, and he'd be there. Best to get moving. "Annis. Fuck me, you're beautiful. Come on, let's get moving. We usually do raids like that, but it's all about opportunity."
Owyn was moving as he spoke, heading directly west with a practised woodsman's air. He kept speaking as he moved, skipping upwards and through the woods as he did so - this country was their home, and he knew Annis would be just as accustomed.
"So, what's a lass like you doing round here? Me, see I'm a killing man in a land conquered by sandal-wearing boy fuckers. You, you look like you should be winning sword-wife competitions somewhere. You know how to fight!"
"I'm a fucking warri- gladiator, not a bodyguard."
"Marius. You've been killing folk for 6 years. It's a cushy job. Fuck the kitchen slaves, make sure no one touches the domina, get your freedom and fuck off."
He had everything packed, but he was literally just property, so his possessions weren't exactly expansive. A little statue of Belatucadros, his patron god, a Gallic longsword, his lorica hamata, a few worn blue tunics, and an amphora of wine from Messina. He'd only been in the Iudus Magnus a few weeks, and he was being moved again. Owyn had been itinerant for most of his time in Italia, fighting bouts up and down the great cities of the Roman Empire, and earning a reputation as utterly without show, or style, but ruthlessly good at just murdering people. Packing away his belongings, his closest friend Hamilcar and he had been chatting. Hamilcar was a Phoenician brute, olive skinned and ferocious, but he was smaller than Owyn by a good few inches. They'd bonded over a few months of sparring, and Owyn had broken his arm the year before - no hard feelings. In their trade, you forgave and forgot. He was a friend, and many nights had been wiled away sparring, competing, and gambling. Hamilcar was faster, but Owyn could run for longer.
Still. All good things must come to an end. Their dominus's attendants came to escort 'Marius' up to the big house on the hill, and Owyn turned to his old comrade.
"Remember our pact?" He asked, crooking an eyebrow.
"Of course. Come buy my freedom when she sets you free. Calpurnius Marius? Calpurnius Africanus? We could open up a Iudus together."
They grinned, and touched foreheads to one another. There was that old pain that the Briton had grown accustomed to. Losing a part of you. Here was a friend who had shared much hardship with him - and though they would see each other soon, it would not be the same ever again.
The trip up to the big house was quiet, and the gladiator got a few looks and curious glances. A champion, but not a legend. Some said he could've taken any of the most famed fighters, but most agreed that such a spectacle would not be nearly so satisfying as the finest bouts of the last few years. He just wasn't...showy. He was handsome, strong, and tall - but he just killed people.
A red-headed idiot greeted them at the door, and Marius briefly loomed over him. A quick look, and it was evident that this one might be an issue for keeping the domina safe. Still, he followed the slave up, and was shown into his new charge's room.
She was exactly what he had expected in terms of her presence. Perfect, Roman, elegance made manifest. A symbol of all thar Rome held up as pious and virtuous. He'd not expected the red hair, but he knew that it wasn't unheard of amongst his captors. There was no lust in Owyn's gaze - he was eyeing her with the same look a tradesman overlooked a task.
For his part, Owyn had shaved, and his bright blonde hair was shorn in the legionary style. His best blue tunic stretched across his shoulders, and he wore the caligae of the legions. Show in, he bowed from the waist. "Domina." He intoned, with practised formality. Offered a seat, he took one, and slowly tried to ease his shoulders. He was a giant amongst them, but he kept his head down, and avoided her gaze. He was a slave. He could never forget that. He didn't know this woman. When he had been first enslaved, he'd taken liberties with Roman women whom he thought were kind and good - smiling, joking, nodding. Then they had ordered him beaten, and he still couldn't sleep on his left side.
He waited for her to speak. If they broke his right shoulder again, he would have to sleep on his front.
You don't really get used to pain. You find ways to handle it, you find ways to force yourself to. For Owyn, he turned his mind and dug into the pain in his mind's eyes. He focused on it, rolled over it in his head, and that helped him not to scream.
The medicus did it properly. Short, sharp, surprising, and you got their attention away from it. Owyn had been looking away when the shoulder moved back into place with the Roman's practised care. The agony immediately began to fade, and the Briton moved his fingers and his wrist. His icy blue eyes came up and pinned him with the wolf-like stare.
"Theodorus. Well done." It wasn't a congratulation, it was a statement of fact. Remember the name, because good healers are rare as gemstones, and this was a fine sign. He glanced down at the laceration to his leg, and huffed, a bit curious as to how the medicus would tend to that.
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Horatia arched a brow at the slave stood before her. The girl was young, but sour-tempered and usually Horatia would have limited patience for such moods in her home, but for once she shared the girls surliness. "Did you see which one it was?" The domina asked the girl, who promptly replied with "The red-head one, domina. I don't know his name. The one who hangs around our quarters." Horatia rose her fingers to pinch the bridge of her nose in irritation and then promptly waved her hand, dismissing the girl who went back to her task.
That her husband was Consul was a wonderful thing that filled Horatia Justina with immense pride. Yet like any step up in the world, it came with its downsides. A small army of lictors was her current irritation - especially a particular read-headed one who trampled in Gods only knew what on the bottom of his sandals every single time he entered the Domus. The surly slave was, for the second time that day, scrubbing muck off the mosaic and Horatia made a mental note to in a very 'Horatia' way, scold the man when he next appeared trailing her husband.
"Gaius, when Marius arrives will you show him up?" The attendant slave in the atrium nodded silently and with a deep breath to cleanse herself of her annoyance, Horatia swept through her home until she reached the backstairs that led to her private study. It was a novelty still for her, to have her own space apart from her bedroom, and that it was on the rarely-used second floor of the domus made it even more of an escape and a solace for the introverted matron. Set set herself behind her desk, fingers splayed on the fine wood as she looked over the papers that littered its surface. Her life had become busier since Aulus' confirmation in January but she was in no mood to plan another party, or dedication. Her motivation to host another of her book clubs was also waning. Never one for the spotlight, now her family had been thrust into it, she found herself craving the solitude of her scrolls and her solace ever more.
But needs must, and that was one of the reasons her guest was joining her today. Her body slave, Callista, stood in the corner of the room as the sound of sandalled feet on the stairs stirred her from her reverie. Gaius ducked his head through the door and with lowered gaze, solemnly announced; "The gladiator, Marius, is here domina." in a tone that would have made Horatia laugh had she been with her friends. As it was, she stood and smoothed out the folds of her stool as the great giant of a man entered the room. Her smile was warm but her eyes were cautious, studying him with intensity. "Marius, thank you for coming. She gestured to a simple wooden seat set across the desk from her. Sit, won't you."
Why the fuck did they always stick him against big Germans?!
Here he was, rented out to perform for the very finest of his captors, and he was losing. The bugger was three inches taller, about six wider, and he was wielding a bronze axe that probably cost more than...than Owyn did, actually. He'd smashed up Owyn's collarbone, the links of his ringmail just barely holding, so now the Briton was looking like he was going to be out of it. The haze of combat was still right up inside him, so most of the pain was a buzz in the back of his skull. The spectators weren't the rough sort - they didn't cheer, but you could see them thinking about whether or not to let Owyn live.
Bad news, but the German had lost, he just didn't know it.
See, Owyn had got a nick to his back leg near the start of the match. Now he could see the wound opening up more and more, and the brute's left foot was starting to drag. Owyn was right handed. Didn't take a fool to work out what came next.
The German came up high in a big swing, Owyn traversed to his right, and leapt past the man's left shoulder. As he did, he switched his sword to his left and lanced out at the other gladiator's kneecap. It hurt like everliving fuck, with his collar screaming across his chest, but it was worth it. Usually, a decent fighter could get their leg out the way, but not this time. Owyn felt muscle and sinew give way beneath his tip, and it was all done. The German was down to one knee, bleeding like a pig, and becoming faint.
A look, a signal, and that was that. His opponent had been allowed to live, and 'Marius' saluted his hosts with one arm, and was dismissed.
But now? NOW HE HAD TO FUCKING WALK BACK.
He was removed to a slave's quarters to wait for his escort back to the Ludus, and he didn't bother to remove his chainmail. They'd taken his sword off him, and bound a few of his cuts. Once he got back, he'd acknowledge the pain. Until then? Best just to sigh and pretend to be a big dumb animal.
It had been a hard few weeks for Annis. It wasn't often, but now was one of those times she regretted leaving her family and forging her own path. What was left of her family, anyway. She felt occasionally angry at herself for being so selfish, leaving her poor brother to run the village almost by himself. But she reasoned that she wouldn't be of any use to anyone anyway - sixteen years old, no head for politics or running a village. Wulfrun was better off without her. Fedelmid, perhaps not so much, but mothers had to let their babies go sometimes.
Annis's luck had been running dry the past few weeks, though. She had taken on a pair of Roman legionnaires by herself and gotten herself injured, though she'd managed to dispatch them. Then, she'd had to hightail it out of the town she'd done it in, knowing that someone would eventually match her to the crime. With little food or water, she'd been foraging for herself and tending to her own wounds. She almost didn't mind the silence of the forest, but she knew she couldn't stay out here forever. Her wound almost healed, she decided to make her way to the next town she knew of and hopefully find an odd job for some coin.
Stepping into town, she felt almost directionless. There was a strong outcropping of Romans here, too many for her to bother with. Sometimes, you had to sleep in the same bed as the enemy to make it through, even if she hated every second of it. She walked from building to building, inquiring for jobs that needed doing, but it seemed no one was willing to take on the skinny blonde girl, or had anything for her to do. Defeated, she slumped against the wall outside of a tavern and took a draught from her water skin. She would find something eventually, she always did.
Then, suddenly, it's over. His foe, some stupid name like 'Gaius' or something, opened his guard just a little too much, and Owyn leapt through it. Three heartbeats, and the man was on his back, gasping for breath, most of his throat torn out and an eye missing. Standing over him, you didn't really feel the pain at first. Owyn's shoulder was broken, or stretched, or torn. He could feel blood running down his leg from where the bastard had dug his gladius into his thigh - hence why he was limping - and most of his left arm was bruised and cut up.
Didn't really matter. He wasn't going to die. This fucker was.
The command came. Thumbs up. Get it over with.
An hour later, they had his lorica hamata off, and he was sat upon some high table in the hospitium. They'd gone to fetch some bloody medicus, a new one. He'd likely reset his shoulder, then stitch up his leg, then send him on his way. Owyn wasn't a pretty sight, dusty and bloody - they'd not even washed him off with water yet. His hair was cut short, his chin freshly shaved. All that lay across his back was the dark grey tunic.
He was in pain, now, but fuck you - he was used to it. Everytime he so much as twitched his right arm, lances of agony coursed through him. His leg was filthy, covered in gore. He had...part of the man's eye, under his fingernail. He couldn't move his right arm, so Owyn just sat there, trying to pick it out with his teeth.