Zia watched him, eyes narrowed like a hawk and surveying the way his hands trembled lightly and his eyes flitted across the words. She was literate, as much as she could be anyway, but the letter made little sense to her or her father-in-law. Judging by his reaction, it made little sense to her husband too. She snatched back the letter and tucked it in the small pouch at her hip. "I..." She snapped her jaw shut and frowned. No. She didn't know what a publicanus was. Or, she thought she did but judging by his reaction perhaps she was mistaken.
"Is it not the Governor?" She frowned at him and kept her hands softly stroking Luto's mop of curls. No, Zia, it wasn't. The poor woman had confused Publicanus with Propraetor (it was not her fault Latin is a foolish language where everything sounds the same). Cotelas hadn't been much better than her, flapping about the place swearing blind and informing them all it was too soon for a visit from the Governor - that she should have been with child, a half-Roman child, before such a thing happened. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from snapping at Titus - panic slowly receding in her blood but being quickly replaced by humiliation. "I assume it is not." She muttered tersely and then removed her hands from her son to fold her arms across her chest.
"It matters not," She said dismissively and shrugged, "The chief is nonetheless displeased with you."
Sixteen. How on earth could a girl still be this naive at sixteen. She had been married by then, and with child - although it didn't last, of course. She made a perfect slave though, Zia had to give the girl that; had she been Dacian, Zia would have snapped her up for one of her own slaves back home. And sheared off that lovely blonde hair as well for a wig or two. She had to give Titus and Valeria some credit; they'd certainly picked this one well.
She tried to feign sadness for the girl at the story of her family, but she sincerely felt that losing a brother or a parent was in a whole different league to losing a child - even if they weren't dead. Nonetheless, she gave the girls shoulder a reassuring squeeze and offered a kind smile at her suggestion; "Oh I'm more than sure domina knows about it and agrees; she was in Dacia with domine when it all happened." Whether Valeria knew the intricacies was another question, but she didn't doubt the odd woman would support her thick-headed sap of a husband in whatever monstrous decision he deigned. Idiots.
"But you shouldn't worry about me," She said with a wry smile and a little shake of her head. "You should worry about you. You must have a plan, surely, for how to get out of this? How to free yourself?" Zia had about twenty different variations about how to free both herself and her son (presently, Diegis could rot in the ludus for all she cared), although she was still figuring out which one to action.
Almost happened? Whilst here in Rome? That was useful information to store for later but she could tell by the way she wrapped her arms about herself she didn't wish to discuss it and Zia - for once - was in no mood to pry. She knew what it was like to be forced, and have that agency taken away from her and she didn't wish to relieve it. If the girl was referring to something similar, which she may well be doing, Zia respected that and wouldn't pry. Interesting, though.
She couldn't help the little snort of derision though, at the thought of praying together. "And which Gods do you pray to Nymphias? I'm not worshipping their bloody Gods." What a preposterous thing to think she'd do. She didn't doubt their power, the Roman Gods, but she was hardly going to get on her knees for them. She was about to explain her own Gods when the girl continued and she suddenly felt the chill come over her at the mention of Luto. Poor, sweet, Luto. She felt sick to her stomach. "Domine took him from me, took them both from me. He lets me see my son sometimes, but not often and won't tell me where he is but I know he's a slave." She felt revulsion rise in her again. "He's...five, just five, and already a slave. Can you imagine that? And my husband is a slave elsewhere, but he bloody loves it, the fucking idiot." She waved a hand. Diegis loved the limelight, he adored it in fact, and it was a constant source of arguments now that he seemed to be in his element. He should be a fucking chief, not a fucking slave.
She tugged her hair behind her ears, and leaned in. She placed a hand on the girls shoulder. Sometimes, one needed to employ a little kindness to reap better rewards. "Do you understand how heartbreaking that is for me? To be separated from my son? And domine did that to me, just out of spite..." She squeezed the girls shoulder, and gently enquired in a sickly sweet voice; "How old are you Nymphias? You may not have had a man but you had family you said? And they are gone? How can Romans be good when they hurt us so much?"
If Zia was not appalled that her son was spending time with her husband alone (which she was) then she was only more irritated that the boy seemed to actually enjoy his company. Her jaw worked and she sent a hot look to Titus, before shaking her head at her son; speaking in Dacian; "He shouldn't teach you words like that, he taught you to say something horrible about your Papa in Latin...you mustn't say that again, hmm?" A white lie - which Luto took hard as he glanced at Titus and wet, rubbery tears filled his eyes. Zia smirked back at Titus' smug smile and retorted in Latin; "Impressionable sponges that don't understand a lie."
Luto folded himself in his chair and Zia had no desire to remove him. He mercifully for now avoided a full blown meltdown and just sniffled, shooting confused glances at Titus every now and again and then back up to his Mama as she came to rest against the back of his chair; dropping her hand down to run through his curls affectionately.
Dismissively, she waved a hand and spoke in Latin; "I'm not hungry - I don't intend to become a big ball like your Roman women." Much as he might enjoy her with a little more substance on her hips and chest. Her hand moved to gently stroke through her son's hair once more as she continued. "And no, I have something much more fun for you than sex with me." She tossed him the letter and moved to wrap her other arm around her son protectively as she bent over the back of his chair to leave a kiss on the top of his head. It produced a good natured giggle from Luto, and satisfied that he was cheered up (and he had already resumed playing with his little figurines), Zia moved to pull up a seat between him and Titus.
"It's a letter, from your people. Apparently we're due a visit next month." She clicked her fingers at the nurse who hurriedly poured her a cup of wine.
Feel free to make-up what's in the letter/who is coming to visit!
It had been two weeks. Two, sodding, miserable weeks and things were no better with her husband. If one could call him that given he spent most of his day locked away in a room - a very nice room, mind - but a cell fitted out with cushions and silks was still a cell. She, of course, had taken great pains to remove anything remotely sharp or weapon like from the vicinity and even had taken such care over the welfare of her husband that she had cut any fabric that stayed into the room too short to be made into a noose, and had the slaves strip the mattress and bedding from it every morning so she wouldn't come back to discover her charming new Roman husband had decided to string himself up from the rafters. The idiot.
She dutifully attended him every other night for procreation purposes, but those times had been about as successful as the first (aka, she'd put zero effort in and they'd just argued) to the point where she'd simply given up and stubbornly slept on the opposite side to him - making no attempts to incite him into the mood.
It was early evening now, and she'd been busy all day. They'd received word that morning that they were due a charming, Roman visitor at some point the following month and she needed to speak with him about it. She was also starving but she did not wish to mention it. No point admitting weakness to a fool like Titus. She moved into the room, after dramatically, and very slowly unlocking the heavy door - purposefully so he could hear every click of the lock. What greeted her was not what she expected. Luto, her sweet little boy, grinned up at her with a gummy smile and messy hands - his nurse fluttering nervously nearby. She started to explain; "He...he asked to see him, mistress I...the chief said it was fine." But she was silenced with a glare that could have melted steel from Zia.
Luto blinked between Titus and Zia confused, having thoroughly enjoyed his evening meal with the strange man with the funny accent. She tried not to let her irritation show and glanced at Titus dispassionately, letter for discussion clasped in her hand. "Good day, my sweet?"
Zia narrowed her eyes. A similar story to a hundred others, she was sure. Poor wretch. She herself was aggrieved at being a slave but she knew the situation would not last forever and she had enough wits to ensure she flourished. The naive young girl in front of her seemed to have no such skill - she'd probably spend the rest of her miserable life parroting 'yes domine' and 'no domine' until she dropped dead of exhaustion at forty. Ah well, it couldn't be helped.
"If they did that to you, stole you, burnt your village, took your brother and sister and your mother, why do you," She gestured to the very romanesque hairstyle that sat on her head, "Dress like that? Why do you try and imitate them? They're barbarians, and it'll only get worse for you." She tutted and shook her head, "You're pretty, one of them will have you in their bed before long, even if you don't want them." She shrugged and then narrowed her eyes at the girl, "You have been with a man before, of course?" If she hadn't, that was even more valuable. Virgin slave girls, pretty ones especially, had fetched a pretty price in Dacia when she had been a woman of import. She suspected it was the same here.
At the second question though, Zia grinned that feline, conniving smile of hers and tossed her long hair over her shoulder. "I was married to a chief of a tribe." Well, only in the last few moments of her freedom given her husband was a younger son and only had assumed the chieftaincy after the death of his father and brother in battle. Still. "I was a very important woman, Nymphias, slaves of my own, lots and lots of gold - a son, and a husband." She smiled wistfully. Those were the days. Her face fell into a frown though and she rolled her eyes, "And then our domine came."
Zia scoffed at his words and tried to right herself, pushing her hair out of her face and blowing whips of it from her mouth with angry sighs. She at least hoped her foot colliding with his arm was painful. Lost in thought, she didn't register what he was doing until he had her pinned securely to his side and she let out a yowl of discontent, trying to wiggle free. For all the athleticism of her figure, she was about as strong as a twig - even when up against a man as injured as her new husband. It didn't stop her trying though as she squirmed and kicked out at his shins. "Fuck off." She muttered with a glower up at him, hair now partly obscuring her eyes. Bastard.
Of course, the position she was in meant she had no movement to slap him or hit him as she couldn't move her hands from their locked position down by his waist. Unfortunately for Titus, however, she had some movement in her fingers - and doubly unfortunate for him, she prided herself on keeping her nails manicured into perfect points. She began jabbing them into his hip - the closest part of his body she could reach, whilst glaring up at him through a curtain of hair. She did not let up the jabbing as she tried to wriggle free again.
"Is this how you turn Roman women on? Forced intimacy?" She jabbed again with her index finger, "Let me go, fuck off and go to sleep you cretin." She jabbed again. Honestly, she was in no mood for any more of his games. They'd failed at fucking, failed at making a truce and now she just wanted to sleep. Bastard.
She shrugged limply. "I'll get my son back." she was more than sure of that. Diegis, on the other hand, seemed to be lapping up the attention he was receiving as a slave. Maybe, when she got Luto she'd leave him there to enjoy it for the rest of his miserable life. "This," She waved a hand around the place, "Won't be forever." She earnestly believed that - she just needed more time to figure out a way out of this mess.
Yawning, she shrugged again. "Fine. A truce, whatever." She waved a hand. She really couldn't care less if this little man wanted to be friends, or at least wanted her to stop harassing him. She wouldn't follow through, so it really made no difference to pander to him now. Picking up her broom which had rattled to the floor, she turned her back without another word and began to wordlessly sweep. "Bye Atix." She called after him as she moved further down the corridor, a smirk on her face.
Zia choked, and frowned. She knew men in Rome had a looser view of same-sex relations than they did in Dacia, and she supposed it might be the same for women but she was not in the least bit interested in the tiny blonde thing standing in front of her. She folded her arms across her chest defensively as if to make a point. "No." She retorted and went back to laying down. Every now and again she reached her fingers to pick a little more fluff and dust from the fabric (see? She was working.) before returning to fold her arms again.
"Romans are not good people." She retorted with a frown. Why on earth with the blonde think they were? Half of her wanted to shoo the naive fool away and get some peace, but ever the strategist, Zia saw an opportunity here. With a sly smile that she tried to make look welcoming, she inclined her head for the other girl to sit down. "Tell me...Nymphias, how did you end up in Rome?" Lets start gentle, she thought. Manipulation was always easier when one took their time. It wasn't something to rush.
Zia didn't care for a single person in the domus, perhaps, maybe, the youngest of her captors children. She enjoyed the chaos that little Valeriana doled out and especially enjoyed encouraging it. But everybody else? Should the earth fall down on them tomorrow, Zia was unsure whether she'd be able to muster much more than a simple 'thats a shame' and move on with her day. That judgement also extended to the skittish blonde haired girl she'd been studiously ignoring since her arrival into the house. Not that Zia socialised much anyway, but she went out of her way to ignore the younger woman. She had no time or need for optimists.
"I'm working." She retorted to the question. That might be a stretch. She was currently sat on the couch in the triclinium, ostensibly 'picking fluff from their exteriors' but mainly just reclining. "What do you want, little girl?" Important for Nymphias? Well, that could be anything from a life or death situation to concern over the colour of her dress. Not that Zia cared either way. Still, she sighed and shrugged, gesturing for the other woman to join her on the opposing sofa as if it were her house they were in.
"What is it?"