"No. Not often." she admitted, watching him drink. She knew he was playing with her, but she wondered why. Did he have a death wish, or did he believe she would free him if she thought he was nice? "I am assuming you are used to other kinds of visitors?" She knew many women (and men) in Rome admired gladiators, or even believed that they had some kind of... supernatural allure. She was not one of those people, but she did find it curious.
Lexus looked... well, he looked like he had just been in a fight, dirt, blood, sweat and all. From the seats in the arena, it seemed like a performance... up close, she was reminded it was real. He had faced actual death, and won.
And now, he was flirting with a Vestal.
Calpurnia carefully kept a straight face.
"They didn't give you a drink?" she tilted her head, looking at the small cell. For someone whose name was being yelled by thousands of people, this place was... dire. Calpurnia waved a hand to the slave, who was carrying a basket of food and drink for her (no one went to the games without some food and drinks). She held it up to the bars. "There."
The gladiator lived. Many wanted to see him die, thirsty for more blood on the sand, but the decision had been made, with the help of the Vestals. Vestals rarely voted for death; blood thirst was beneath them. She watched Lexus walk away from the fight, with a mix of celebration and discontent from the spectators. The Roman crowd was a fickle thing.
As the fights continued, Calpurnia nodded to the novice and the slave that accompanied her, and left her seat. She made her way down to the ground hallways of the amphitheater, and asked to be led to see the fighters. No one argued. While it was somewhat unusual for a Vestal to venture here, her position as someone who had the power to advocate for slaves allowed her to walk among them.
She was led to the cell where Lexus was resting and stood at the entrance, watching him through the bars of the door. "That was an impressive fight."
Calpurnia was not well versed in the games, but she could tell that Lexus was good. Very good, at what he was doing. The fight was drawn out enough to be exciting, but in the end he came out on top. The crowd roared his name. It was the moment where the decision was to be made: should the defeated gladiator live or die? While Calpurnia was impressed with the skill Lexus had shown, she was not particularly fond of killing. The Vestals raised their hands to signail their opinion; Calpurnia held up her thumb. He should live.
Calpurnia would not have recognized Lexus in the murmillo armor, but she didn't need to; his name was announced, and met with a roaring ovation from the spectators. He was popular. And he looked formidable too, against his opponent. Calpurnia watched the fight with keen eyes; she saw the slight tilt of his head as he slammed his opponent against the wall below her. Did he look at her? It was hard to tell. But he hesitated for a moment, and it gave a chance to his opponent to bolt a way. Calpurnia winced; she leaned forward, opening her mouth, and she barely managed to bite back a cry of warning. She was not supposed to act like this. Sure, sometimes even Vestals were carried away by the excitement of the fights. But she felt guilty about it.
Germania. He sounded Roman, but he was sentenced to the arena as a slave. Calpurnia knew about Germania, from books and from stories from others, but she'd never met someone who actually came from there. The cart began to move, and he asked if she'd see him fight.
"I might" she smiled after him. Smiling at someone openly was not really fitting for a Vestal, and she returned to her usual expression in the next moment, turning to return to the house.
The next fight came several weeks later; the gladiators needed time to heal. Calpurnia was offered a chance to accompany her sisters, and this time, inconspicuously, she agreed. The Vestals had their own seats in the Amphitheater, good ones; she could see the entire arena very well from hers. She had to admit, while she usually didn't care much for the fights, right now she was curious to see how Lexus would do.
Calpurnia gave him a surprised look; she was speaking more forwardly than most men she spoke to. Even senators did not dream of talking about her touching them. Slaves definitely didn't, even though they, unlike senators, had a very good reason for wishing so, and it had nothing to do with her being a woman.
"Where are you from, Lexus?" she asked curiously. He said he had been named; which didn't mean he was not from Rome, exactly, but it did make her cuious.
"Calpurnia." She answered. He leaned closed, but she held her ground; she was not the kind of woman to shy away from men. As a Vestal, she did not use her full family name. Not with strangers, anyway.
The girl returned, carrying some fresh linen kerchiefs that were used for washing. Calpurnia took them, and offered them up to Lexus. "Seems like it might take some time for the road to be freed" she noted, craning her neck towards where the crowd was gathering up. "Use these. For your wounds."
So, he did win. A slight smile played on Calpurnia's lips, seeing his confidence. He had narrowly avoided death, judging by his injury; she had seen enough in the arena. And yet he spoke like it was natural.
"No, we don't" she answered his question. Dealing with blood and gore was not something the Vestals did. Also, he was likely a slave. A touch of her hand could free her if she wished. Every time she thought about that, it always came with a strange sense of power.
The wagon was still not going anywhere, though. Calpurnia tilted her head, thinking, then waved over the novice that accompanied her, whispering to her. Surprised, the girl scurried away. Calpurnia turned back to the gladiator. "What is your name?"
"You come from the arena." Calpurnia observed. No doubt they were on the way back to their ludus. "Did you win?"
Not all fights went to the death. Although the men, at least the tall handsome one, seemed like they would win. She tilted her head; at her height, she could see over the edge of the wagon. "You are injured."
Another day in the arena, another match won. Lexus was beaten and bloody, he was pretty sure he had a cut on his one thigh, because it was hurting worse than Hades in the midday sun. But he was alive and the crowd had cheered for him, when the two other gladiators lay on the ground, bleeding out. He enjoyed that part at least, the roar of the crowd when he won and could raise his arms and just take all the praise. It was all the praise he got anyway, so he had to take it. Now hopefully his master and the doctore would also both salute him, although he didn't make a habit of losing the matches. Else he might not live so long. But he was still a slave, still not free. And who knew when his master wanted to host an orgy again and he'd be invited to join, because who didn't want to bed or be taken by a gladiator like him? Not that it was all bad, it was more that he didn't have a choice. That was the issue. But at least not today, because something had to be done about that cut on his leg.
He left the arena and in the back of a wagon he sat now, travelling with some of the other gladiators back towards the ludus that was their home. A woman passed the wagon as it made a stop because the street was crowded and she offered him water. Apparently she'd seen him fight. Lexus winked at her and she blushed. Well he still had that in his favor too. He could make a woman blush, even when he was still covered in the blood from his opponents.
"Where are we anyway?" Asked a younger gladiator, one of the newer ones. Alexius looked around, "The Forum. The Vestal temple is right there." He said, looking towards it just as a group of Vestals left the temple and came down the stairs, apparently in their direction.
It had been a long time coming. Too long, perhaps, but it was better to correct an oversight than to ignore it in favour of the status quo.
Rather than a more formal dinner party with entertainment, it was a small private gathering of Aulus, his wife, his eldest son and daughter and one or two close friends and family members who took their places in the summer triclinium which overlooked the garden. The smaller number could recline on the dining couches which were arranged in the usual fashion around the table in the centre, allowing for quiet conversation over good food. There was a single space left once everyone had taken their places, which might look (in a more slapdash sort of house) as though the host had miscounted or couldn't be bothered to try to get the right number of people to come.
"I beg you will indulge me for a moment before we begin our meal," he said to his gathered guests. "We have one further guest, though I think it may come as a bit of a surprise to him." He turned to one of the waiting slaves. "Tell Felix to come here."
"Yes, Domine." The slave turned and departed on his errand.
It was only a moment or two before Felix appeared, as quick and attentive as ever. Aulus indicated the spare place. "Felix, I would like you to join us, if you will."
77AD, late February (a few days after Barbatius' capture)
Calpurnia liked to keep busy, and liked to be thorough. When she took on a new task - like the home for pregnant women he had discussed with Horatia - she liked to put a lot of effort into doing it right, understanding the details, and planning well so she did not have to plan twice. She liked having clear goals, and making them happen. So, on this sunny late winter day, she was on her way to the library in the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine. The best library in Rome. She was going to see if she could find any books on the work of midwifes, and women's medicine in general.
Maybe even some information on avoiding pregnancy altogether.
Calpurnia's discipline was somewhat shaken by the memories she kept circling back to: the evening she'd spent with Alexius. It had been wonderful. And memorable. And she wanted to be with him again, if they could find a way to do it. Safely, in more ways than one. Calpurnia was mostly past childbearing age, but she still bled, and she did not like leaving things up to chance. Also, she did not want her lover to get killed by he family, either.
Walking up the steps to the library, dressed in a blue stola with her palla wrapped around her for warmth, Calpurnia only noticed the familiar figure when she finally looked up. Was he...?
It was nice to have something else to think about. Something that had nothing to do with crazy and insane killers in Rome. Something that had nothing to do with innocent people being attacked and cut, just because someone liked to do so. Alexius would distract his mind with other things, much more pleasant things. Like the woman he met recently, Calpurnia. She was one of a kind! Alexius was unable to count how many lovers he’d had over the years, but really, he actually did not keep track of them. And many he’d picked up, or they had picked him up, while he was drunk and defeated and needed someone to need him. But Calpurnia was not such a woman.
This was different. He met Calpurnia in broad daylight and she was nothing but kind and with plenty of smiles for him. He amused and entertained her, and he had enjoyed doing it. Their conversation had been so… so… fluid, hadn’t it? Like he didn’t need to charm her or kiss her to keep her interest in him, no, she wanted to talk to him and he wanted to talk to her. And she was so lovely. So near his own height, so independent and so stunning in everything that she was and had been… Alexius could barely any flaw. Or, he could find one, just one! Her brother… that was the flaw and that was hardly her fault. It was a big one though, but they had to figure it out anyway. He wanted to, he couldn't help it. It just meant he had to be more careful with her.
So he’d found the perfect hospitia for their next meeting. He’d spent many of his savings on the meal and the room and the discretion of the staff… and he had even had to promise them to do a little dirty work for them, just as an insurance. Then he had asked his son to help him write a short message for her... just the name of the place and a date. Nothing more.
Before heading to the hospitia, he’d spent some time at a thermae. Then he had put on the nice clothes that Ovinia had ordered for him. A tunic in a soft fabric and in a deep green shade, it went to just beneath his knees. There was also a pair of breeches that went with it, but for Calpurnia’s sake, he tried to look as Roman as possible. So no breeches. Besides, would he really be needing them? What he did need however was the dark cloak he put on, in a faint hope of hiding his shape so people wouldn't see where he went. And now he was here. In a comfortable room with a table and a very comfortable bed – usually very much out of reach for someone like him… and wine and a simple meal had been served on the small table in the room. Alexius waited. Hoping she had not changed her mind.
Three months after Quintus was born and Horatia was feeling more like herself. Of course, even in a domus as large as theirs the fact that their new child didn't grasp the concept of sleep was inescapable and she stifled a yawn on the back of her hand as she sat with the boy in the gardens. The spring sun was warm and mottled the grass beneath the blanket on which the gurgling infant was laying, Horatia sat alongside him.
They had adapted to a new rhythm fairly regularly in the house; her elder children were keenly aware of their newest sibling but let him be for the most part, tended to by his wet-nurse, nurse maid and mother whilst they busied themselves with teenage pursuits. Aulus was as doting as she could remember from Titus' infancy, but he was busy as always which left Horatia and their newest addition alone more often than not. Not that she complained. And not that she was truly alone. A shadow blotted out the sun and she turned her face up, squinting with a familiar smile as she saw her company.
"I know we should be preserving our patrician, pristine white skin but with sun this beautiful, it seems a shame to sit in the shade." Although Quintus was led in his basket in the shadow of one of the trees. "Aulus has gone to the Temple of Juno," She said with an amused smile playing on her lips to her sister in law, "I imagine to make amends."
End of January, 77 AD
Calpurnia was at the Emporium, shopping for fabric. It was her new favorite pastime, and Aulus was gracious enough to sponsor it. The marketplace gathered all the treasures and luxuries of the empire, anything money could possibly buy - including fabrics of all colors and materials, for the pleasure of those who could afford it. And those who had the eye for their possibilities. Calpurnia definitely had. She knew that as a former Vestal people still expected some level of modesty from her... but she didn't much care. Besides, the secret of good dresses was not in the price of the fabric, or its rarity. It was in the hues, and the quality of the weaving. Something that was cheap could still be exquisite when tailored right. And had just the right color. Which is why she tended to spend several hours shopping around, blissfully immersed in the world of texture and color. For today, she was wearing a sky-blue stola and a darker blue palla that complimented it just right, with gold and silver jewelry.
The merchant knew her well. The moment she appeared, he had his best new wares on display, with several of his slaves running around, unfolding bolts and lengths of fabric, until the space in front of the shop was a maze of fluttering fabrics in all colors of the rainbow. Egyptian cotton, Hispanian linen, iridescent silk from beyond the empire. Calpurnia stood in the middle of the whirlwind of fabrics, listening politely to the merchant's sales pitch, touching the fabrics, enjoying the show.
That is, until the sound of running was heard over the commotion of the market, and someone barreled straight into the fabrics, pulling some along.
After that, it was a whole lot of colorful chaos.
July, 61 AD
Calpurnia was excited to meet her sister-in-law for the very first time. She had gotten a letter from her brother a few weeks before about their impending return to Rome, with the good news of the new bride already being with child. Having a family of her own was a far-off concept and a vague possibility at best for Calpurnia, and thus she was fully prepared to dote on her nephews and nieces in the future. She just hoped that the new sister-in-law was someone she would get along with.
The tall woman hurried along the hallway of the Vestal House to the room where they entertained guests. A servant had told her earlier that Horatia had arrived, and they had shown her in. Calpurnia was wearing the traditional white clothes of a Vestal, but her face was flushed with excitement. Now she'd get to see if her brother had chosen well...
"Salve" she smiled politely as she entered the room. "You must be my sister-in-law."
Early 76 AD
Calpurnia was settling into her new life at her brother's domus. It was a little strange, living without the strict structure of the Vestal House, but she enjoyed the company, and the leisure time. And the colors. Oh, how she had missed wearing colors. She might have spent some of her money on new stolas and pallas, and she did not regret any of it.
She did, however, still need a body slave. Her brother offered that she could choose one from the household, or go out and buy one. Calprunia had only ever purchased one slave before - a headstrong Briton chief, whom she had immediately freed, to controversial reactions. She did not feel like shopping for a person, so she decided to take her brother's advice first. There were a couple of women in the domus, and one in particular had caught her attention.
"Tacita, right?" she called out to the young woman. She had been sitting in the triclinium, having an early lunch alone, and saw her passing by. "Can you come in for a moment?"
End of the year, 75AD
Calpurnia was accompanied by a procession of servants on her way to her brother's domus. She was glad that he'd agreed to host her, for the time being (which, if it was up to her, would be quite a long time). It was a day of firsts: the first time she was outside, wearing a civilian's stola rather than the Vestal veils. The first time she walked the streets as a Roman maiden (the thought made her smile) rather than a Vestal Virgin. The first time she would be visiting her brother with the intention to stay. The first time she would live with her family since she was nine years old.
It was a strange thought, after thirty years of service at the Vestal House, to return to society as a civilian woman. She wondered what her family would think now. On her part, she was feeling elated. Cheerful, even. She got out of the litter the moment the domus came into view, and walked up to the door herself, dressed in a sky-blue stola and a matching palla in a darker shade. Now that she was allowed to wear them, she planned on wearing a lot of colors.
"Tell my brother I am here" she told the slave at the doors. She needed no introduction.
40 | 25 May 36CE | Senatore | Former Vestal | Heterosexual | Canon | Hannah Waddingham
Clever, proud, and independent. Born into a senatorial family, and raised to be a Vestal from an early age, Calpurnia is used to privilege. She is confident in the world, she has had exceptional education, and the freedom rarely awarded to any woman outside of the House of Vestals. Now that she is back in Roman society, she is determined to keep that freedom, and enjoy the finer things in life. She is a great conversationalist, although she is sometimes too direct with stating her opinions, and she absolutely does not suffer fools. She can be intimidating when angry, but it takes a lot to really anger her. She cares deeply for the people she holds dear: her Vestal family, and her actual family. She does not often let her guard down around strangers. She seeks knowledge for knowledge's sake, and does not much care for politics, although she follows them with the attention of a historian.
The first thing people tend to notice about Calpurnia Praetextata is that she is tall. Standing at almost five foot ten she towers over most of the women in Rome, and she is only a bit shorter than her brother. That, combined with her thick blonde hair, would have had her mistaken for a barbarian quite a few times, had she not been a Vestal since the age of 9. He appearance still earns her strange looks, but over the years she has grown from lanky, awkward girl into a proud woman with a straight posture. She carries herself with the dignity befitting her privileged station, even though she is not a Vestal anymore. Since she has left the House of Vestals, she enjoys dressing in colors, and appreciates fine jewelry. She has blue eyes and a wide, bright smile when she is truly amused.
Father: Tiberius Calpurnius Praetextatus (alive)
Mother: Aurelia Faustina (alive)
Siblings: Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus (born 33CE)
Extended family: none
Other: Former Vestal Virgin
36CE: Calpurnia Praetextata is born as the second child (and only daughter) of her parents. She admires her brother and annoys him by following him around.
45CE: At a little over nine years of age, Calprunia is chosen to be a Vestal Virgin. It is considered a great honor by everyone, and she does her best to rise to the task. She leaves her family, and begins her training at the House of Vestals. She devours knowledge, and is curious about everything.
55CE: At nineteen, Calpurnia concludes her training in the House of Vestals. From now on, she serves as one of the six Vestals guarding the flames. She takes her position and her duties very seriously, and begins exploring the privileges granted by her station as a Vestal. She still studies and reads a lot, honing her knowledge of history, literature, and politics.
62CE: Civil war breaks out. Calpurnia is worried for the rest of her family, especially her brother. Publius Cotta breaks into the House of Vestals, and in an unthinkable, unspeakable act, he kidnaps one of the Vestals, a woman who was a mentor to Calpurnia, and shielded the rest of the Vestals from the attack. Calpurnia is too scared to do anything but shield the others too, and she still harbors regrets about not putting up a fight. Later, after Cotta is killed, the Vestal returns, but since no one can be sure her vows had not been broken, she is allowed to quietly disappear, and a new Vestal is chosen in her place. Calpurnia is shaken by the events, and takes her duties even more seriously after this, not just as a Vestal but also as a guardian of Rome's honor. She is relieved when she receives news of her brother's survival.
65CE: After ten years of service, Calpurnia takes on a student that will one day replace her as a Vestal. She is also a likely candidate to become Virgo Maxima, but she tactfully avoids the possibility, as she is not sure she would like to stay on after her 30 years of service. She is known to be a good (although stern) teacher, and also for having a soft spot for using her Vestal powers to occasionally save people from execution.
74CE: Calpurnia purchases Eppitacos at a private slave auction, and sets him free, mostly out of respect to his reputation as the leader of free people who put up a valiant fight against the empire. Her decision is not unanimously seen as wise, but she sticks with it, making sure Eppitacos can start a new life as a freedman.
75CE: Calpurnia's 30 years of service as a Vestal officially come to an end. She spends some time contemplating the decision of staying or choosing to leave. Eventually, at the end of the year, she leaves the House of Vestals, and re-enters Roman society. She still harbors some curiosity about all that the wider world has to offer, and she is determined to learn by exploring this time.
76CE: Calpurnia currently lives with her brother's family. As per customary, the search for a suitable husband has begun, although she is determined to make that choice for herself, thank you very much.
Chevi | Central Europe | Discord