Face ClaimAurora Ruffino
Zia only stared the dolt down and arched a brow; "When you're clever you don't need to do the work. You get people to do it for you." She shrugged and gestured flippantly at him. It was a true statement both for her enterprise with the flower where she had minions like this man to do her bidding, and in the domus where she did the absolute bare minimum and got gullible fools like Nymphias to pick up the slack.
She turned on her heel and walked out of the warehouse without checking that the small man was following her. For better or for worse Zia had something about her that generally meant simpletons or those beneath her did her bidding. She didn't doubt that this man was such a person and was trailing her. It was a walk that would take them some half an hour, but she was determined and ignored the ache in her feet in her stupid wooden sandals as she weaved in and out of the crowds. Why was Rome so busy? Even in the dead of night?
She called over her shoulder, occasionally, to try and engage the young man in conversation as they walked - not out of niceness, mind. "How long have you been working for me?" She didn't look at him as she walked and instead kept the cloak she wore firmly wrapped around herself - hoping to disguise the ugly metal collar around her neck.
Zia was dumbstruck. Was this man an idiot? Or just a very good actor? "My employee." She confirmed in clipped, accented Latin. In other circumstances this would be laughable, but Zia found absolutely no humour in her business, business that would one day afford her and her son (and perhaps her husband if he made amends) their freedom.
She arched a brow and folded slender arms across her chest, taking the time to look him up and down with the same fiendish look of a cat trying to take the measure of some potential prey. "It's a flower." She said, and offered no further explanation - her silence deafening in the otherwise deserted warehouse.
"And yes, excellent idea." She turned on her heel and stalked out of the warehouse - only stopping when she got to the door. She was impatient at the best of times - as if waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to her harebrained schemes. She clicked her fingers at him and shot him a glower. "He'll be at home. I hope you are prepared to walk, you look like you'll drop dead." Zia herself was unused to manual labour and tried to avoid it as much as possible in her current household - not that it gave her any more pity for the dolt stood next to her.
Zia had established fairly early on in Titus' captivity that Romans were inane conversationalists and why her husband was determined to root through the mans private life was beyond her comprehension. She had to physically cover her mouth with her palm, resting her elbow on the table, to prevent herself from yawning in boredom. Her apathy was only compounded by the increasingly slurred speech of the man sat across from her. Her Latin was excellent - and she was glad of it - but even with that, she was finding it increasingly difficult to decipher his strong accent, hiccups and mumbled words. Well, at least the poppy was working and she was hopeful he wasn't saying anything too indecent. Titus seemed undeterred though, which at least made her less wary.
Zia watched the exchange with weariness and sighed into her palm as Titus progressed the conversation back to his duties. What did he hope to get out of this? She already had a plan that did not require an overt interrogation at the dinner table. The idiot. If she was more sympathetic to her husband, she would have considered that as Titus didn't know of her plan, she shouldn't begrudge his inquiries now. However, she was about as sympathetic as a stone and instead was just irritated.
Irritated and then horrified by Densus' reaction to his latest inane question. The man grew silent for a moment and Zia wondered if he'd fallen asleep - but that was soon remedied as he heaved his bulky frame up - sending the chair he had been sitting on clattering to the floor behind him. He had to support himself by leaning on the table, fists clenched and body swaying as he shot a drunken, stupefied glower at Titus. "Yo...you insult m-my honour!" His roar echoed around the room and those eating fell silent. Zia wasn't prone to panic but she could sense the tension in the room and the way drunken men flirted with the hilts of their daggers.
"I..." A hiccup, "I w-would never...never steal from the tree-treasury." He continued, enraged and he managed to lift a fist from the table to jab an accusatory finger at Titus. Zia wondered if he was actually furious because he was offended, or whether he was just putting on a show to disguise his actual guilt. She'd surely find out later. "You...you smug prick," The man muttered, "I...I am n-no thief. B-but I'd rather, rather be one than a m-man who lost a leg-legion to barbarians." He spat on the floor - whether that was an act at his disgust for her husband, or just a product of his inebriation Zia didn't know, "You are a-a disgrace."
"Enough!" Zia stood, and held out a warning hand to Densus. She didn't see Titus next to her.
Zia watched the interaction, trying to feign disinterest. Men didn't like clever women, or women that listened too intently to topics not meant for their sensitive, feminine, delicate little heads. But she was listening, rapt with the odd back and forth between her husband this handsome if insufferable man. She could feel Titus' annoyance emanate from him as if he was on fire. He really was a poor actor.
"It's fortunate then, that I have more than one my love." She grinned that feline, predatory smile and waved a thin arm about until the gold bangles and bracelets jangled as if she was clad in wind chimes. The man's reaction, a gruff rebuke and a fist slammed onto the table didn't surprise her, but it seemed to for Titus. She merely smiled sweetly at their guest - who was momentarily distracted by a comely slave girl pouring more wine for him. She quietly retorted to Titus in Dacian - speaking slowly as if to a child; "That would be because I put poppy in it1." She shrugged. Cothelas didn't have the balls to and wasn't aware of her plan.
"It'll make his tongue looser, before poor Densus has to make haste to bed because he's oh so sleepy. It gives us a chance to research his true intentions." She smirked. If he was passed out, he'd blame it on his own foolishness and it'd give the slave girl enough time to rifle through his belongings to find any notes for Titus to translate, to see if he really was here under the auspices of tax collection, or something more sinister. He wouldn't dare think he'd been drugged when they'd all been drinking the same wine - he'd seen it be poured himself from the same jug after all. The fool hadn't realised the drugs were already in his cup when the first wine had been poured in. Men are idiots.
Zia reverted to Latin as Densus' momentary distraction with the slave girl came to an end. "She's pretty, no?" She gestured at the girl. "I'm sure this evening you'll find we're more generous than just with wine and our taxes." The man glanced back over his shoulder at the girl smiling coyly at him. Zia felt a ripple of annoyance that he wasn't half as intested in her (foolish, feminine thoughts she chided herself). Good job the slave girl was more than happy to help Zia's scheme. Mediocre sex, a rifle through some belongings, stealing a letter - all for a few days off. And of course, if she got caught, Zia and Cothelas could merely claim she was a thief and execute her.
1Zia made some homemade 'cretic wine'
Zia was quite capable of tempering her emotions when needs me but this instance was beyond her patience. She let out an irritated huff and folded her arms across her chest, glowering at the little man in front of her. She let him waffle on in answer to her barrage of questions, and when he finally stopped and asked her to leave she stood still, staring at him with that unnerving glint of danger in her eyes. She stayed silent, quiet, for a few long moments considering her next move. Somebody would pay for this idiocy.
"I was informed that Gallus was being cautious with whom he employed." She started, speaking slowly as if she was conversing with an invalid or a child, "That he didn't use his real name most of the time, and that he certainly didn't tell his minions what was contained in those boxes." She gestured to them stacked high. Whilst not illegal, the crates were incredibly valuable and also desired from various other traders and brokers in other regions of Rome. She only had authority in one, and she was sure any number of others would like to kick her off her pedestal and reclaim their patch.
"They are my crates." She said with a sneer. "And Gallus is my employee. Which makes you my employee. And I would like to know just why you think I should let you go about your business when you seem intent on telling my secrets to any odd person that walks in." Danger lurked in her voice as she stared him down.
"And what is your bosses name?" She queried with all the innocence of a worldly prostitute down on her luck. She tried her best not to laugh as he puffed out his chest as if to menace her. She had dealt with far more impressive and malicious men in her years, did he think she'd be afraid? By some folded arms and a vague glare? Do not laugh Zia.
But may the Gods damn Titus Sulpicius Rufus to an early, torturous grave. After slipping her collar - much as an unruly dog might - her first few months in Rome, the current incarnation she donned sat much higher up her throat. Whilst it was only a thin strip of leather with a tablet bearing her masters name on, it was also locked in place on her neck with her dominus having the only key. It made it far more difficult to lose, as to cut it off would demonstrate a purposeful act for which she'd undoubtedly face punishment. Usually, on nights such as this when she wished for her slave past (or...present, rather) to be concealed she donned a cloak but it had slipped down too far this evening. Honestly, fuck Titus Sulpicius Rufus and his petty ingenuity.
"My master is none of your concern." She wagged a finger at him, "Or..." Or maybe she could use this, "Or maybe it is your concern friend. Do you know who the Praefectus Urbi, is? Or even what it is?" From his slack jaw, she doubted he did and she'd only been clued in by Gallus a few months ago but it was becoming very useful knowledge. "My dominus is a powerful man, one who wouldn't take kindly to an imbecile carting stolen goods around a warehouse at this hour. So...are you going to tell me what's in those crates?"
Only after she'd seen just how stupid this one was, that she'd reveal who she was.
Zia stifled a yawn with the palm of her hand as she languidly walked through the Porta Absidata towards the small warehouse. They technically had two - one at the port in Ostia and the other here - a corner of a larger building where they stashed their goods to be distributed throughout Regio IV throughout the evenings and nights. It was a storage solution she'd inherited from the schmuck whose business she'd stolen, and Gallus had kept a tight grip on it this time around - ensuring those he hired and handled valued discretion as much as the money filling their pockets. Still, despite Gallus being proficient enough, she knew better than to let those she trusted run things without any oversight - hence her visit tonight.
Gallus himself was on the streets, supervising the runners that actually sold the product and so she took the opportunity to visit the store. It was late - well past midnight and she felt exhausted, but tried to ignore it as she surveyed the crates that were stacked shoulder high. It had been a good winter for growing, the farmers had obviously perfected their craft and she was pleased. Especially so given her nice little pot of gold was rapidly building.
What she was less thrilled with though was the voice of an indignant little man shouting at her. She arched a brow as she came face to face with him, placing a hand on her hip. "Do I indeed?" She queried with sly amusement. "And who are you? Are these your crates?" She'd missed toying with people. She didn't get enough of an opportunity to do it in her day job. "There's a rumour some of the produce here is stolen. Know anything about that?" She teased with a sickly sweet smile.
Zia frowned as Titus retorted something in Greek, and judging by the way their handsome guest smirked - it was either something amusing or insulting (or possibly both). Idiots. But she quickly tuned her ear to Latin as Titus continued, and was relieved he was acting the part - or at least attempting to. Cothelas' Latin was only passable (the idiot had never committed much to studying it) but Zia's was excellent and she made a face to signal to her ex-father in law that he needn't be concerned. At least not yet.
The man looked askance as Titus finished and cleared his throat as he obviously tried to scramble together some words. Zia, for her part, tried not to flinch as her husbands fingers trailed softly over the skin of her cheek.
Zia intervened as the silence beckoned on, muttering quietly to Titus; "Thank you." in Dacian with all the faux-tenderness she could muster, before glancing back to the tax collector. "My husband gets defensive, I apologise." She added with a girlish giggle that suited her as much as this whole loved-up show did (not at all). "You are very welcome here Sextus Densus, and I'm rather glad we have you this time. Cothelas, do you remember the one who came last time?" The elder chortled and nodded, replying in Dacian that he did, which Zia dutifully translated; "He was this old man, lecherous to boot who couldn't keep his hands to himself or his judgemental comments behind sealed lips." And he'd suffered for it, but that story was for another time.
"Well...then I'm glad to be of service." Their guest finally said after another lingering silence. He might have been embarrassed, but Zia was not convinced he'd given up his suspicion. It was fair enough really, neither she nor Titus were actors and their situation was so odd. Fortunately for both of them, the publicanus had moved on to matters rather more serious. "Of course, we will need to re-evaluate the books this time around. After your...disagreement with your Roman guests," The man shot Titus a slightly withering look letting on quite clearly that he knew there had been a skirmish or a battle, and knew who was in control of the legion. Evidently he was better informed than the simple provincial tax collector they had been expecting, "You may have more value than you did the last time around. Perhaps Titus Sulpicius can help me with the books?" He smirked a feline grin at the couple. He evidently knew something was up.
Zia managed to keep her face painted in the sickly sweet image of somebody desperately in love. How, she didn't know and her spare hand repeatedly clenched and unclenched the fine fabric of her dress under the table, lest she be tempted to slap her husband square across his stupid face.
She watched their guest drink in the story with only thinly veiled suspicion. Had the Romans never heard of love? Probably not, she supposed, given the men stayed away for so long on these foolhardy campaigns and the women must have been left to pick up the pieces. She didn't have time to ponder the thought any further as their handsome guests voice and eyes flicked across to her. She felt the colour come to her cheeks again and diverted her eyes to Titus, attempting to convey that it was her husband - not the musclebound stranger - who had evoked such a lustful look.
"My tribesmen are pragmatists," She countered in that girlish voice but it had hardened. She didn't like what he was implying and Zia was struggling to control the ruse as she flicked her eyes back to him, "And fortunately - as I understand it - the politics of our match was good, not that such things really matter to me of course." She said with a light shrug, eyes trained shrewdly on their guest. She was struggling not to snap. "Although, I'm sure you didn't mean to imply I am dim? For falling in love?" She chuckled that girlish giggle and looked up at her husband with anger in her eyes. Gods these Romans! All of them insufferable! Even the handsome ones! "My husband may have something to say on that, if that is what you were implying." She gritted her jaw and Densus studied the pair.
She watched his face move from calculating to accepting and back to suspicious. Finally the silence was broken and he chuckled, shrugging his shoulders. "Not implying anything at all, love is admirable, of course." He flicked his eyes back to Titus and then continued, in heavily accented, provincial Greek, "Though why you'd love a girl as flat chested as a plank of wood is anybody's guess. She...this marriage must be something...special, eh?"
Zia didn't understand Greek - much to her irritation right now and she looked between the two men confused and concerned. Oh Gods what were they saying? She jabbed Titus in the leg with one of her spare fingers, as if to make the point; 'be careful now...'
Zia just retorted to both Davus and Titus in turn with a smug, self-satisfied grin and pushed the bowl of slop away from her on the table. Their food was always too rich anyway, and why the need to add gram to everything?! Instead, she leant over the slave sat next to her (who huffed, but said nothing after Zia merely arched her eyebrow back at her), and pulled a few pieces of cold meats loose from the spread Sulpicia had prepared, and a piece of bread.
She sat back, cross legged on the couch (who thought lying down to eat was a good idea?) and stared morosely. Everybody was in such a good mood, and she didn't understand why. Did they not see that this one, stupid festival was the Romans way of controlling them? Giving them something to be grateful for, so they didn't press their luck throughout the year. It was so obvious to her very, very jaded mind. Still, she wasn't going to say that out loud. Just as she understood that this holiday was a mechanism of control, she also knew that whatever she did today would have ramifications further down the line. She had no intention of being whipped tomorrow for an ill-timed comment today.
Instead, she flashed her feline grin to Sulpicia, "This is lovely, thank you." You see? She could play nice! "What else do you do on Saturnalia? We get to go out, don't we?" She queried to nobody in particular.
TAG: @Chevi @Ejder @Sharpie @Liv
Topics I Participated In
January 76 AD
The new year had brought about a slight increase in business, but it hadn't increased Artemon's meagre salary in the same proportion. Gallus only cared for his own purse, that's what he did, and Artemon grumbled under his breath in Egyptian as he flitted about the old warehouse, loading and unloading things here and there like a (badly) paid cargo mule.
He had just put down his last crate and made a beeline for the water jug nearby when a figure came into his line of sight. That wasn't Gallus, or any of the other labourers he knew of. For one, none of them had such long hair. For two, none had such obviously feminine features either. Who was this lady? Had she entered the warehouse by accident, lost on her way to some other place? Artemon's first instinct was to greet her and ask her if she needed help, but Gallus wouldn't have approved of that. No, he was supposed to be serious and gruff so people knew not to mess with him!
"What are you doing here? This is private property!" he parroted in his best stern tone, wiping his sweaty hands on his equally sweaty tunic. "You need to leave."
For the fifth time that day Titus had to shoo away Betua's anxious form that kept hovering about the entrance to the kitchen. Yes, it was her territory as much it was his possession, but there was a tradition to uphold. If she found the results of said tradition inedible she was free to go and serve something up on the sly. If Titus had to be honest, though, he thought he and this three helpers were faring quite well and did not warrant such levels of worry. Valeriana had helped pluck a chicken with unfettered, gleeful abandon, tearing out the feathers in small but forceful fistfuls before gathering an amount she deemed sufficient and running off giggling, possibly to disturb her indisposed mother. Publius was surprisingly adapt at peeling fruit and vegetables; in another life he might have made a fine tailor, or perhaps a medic. Still, the boy was just the right amount of both careful and daring with a blade in his hands. And Titus? Well, he had finished plucking the chicken, quartered it - clumsily, yes, but he was no butcher -, taken out the nasty bits and tossed the good ones into a big clay pot where onions, lentils, carrots and chestnuts awaited company. Copious amounts of garum and red wine and a handful of assorted herbs and spices, selected with no concern for how well they would go together but merely for their fragrance, had followed suit and the pot, properly lidded, had been placed in the oven to work its magic and hopefully turn all that food into a passable stew.
At the same time, his eldest hadn't been idle either, and had prepared quite the artfully decorated platter of assorted cheeses and cured meats before moving on to dessert: apples boiled in a mix of red wine and honey with chopped walnuts and more honey on top, and some stuffed dates and preserved plums on the side in case someone didn't fancy apples. Titus felt a surge of parental pride well up inside him: if his attempt at preparing a meal for the slaves failed, Sulpicia would save his honour by making sure they would still have something decent to eat.
The clay pot was smelling like it might be done cooking, and after a moment's deliberation with his son on how they would take it out of the oven without incurring serious burns, Titus spotted two thick and seemingly well-used squares of leather hanging from a hook just by. They served their intended purpose and soon enough the pot was set on a table and uncovered, belching out a great curtain of steam. It smelled like food, which was a start. As he portioned the stew into two big bowls Titus dipped his ran his fingertip along part of the edge of the pot and brought it to his mouth to taste. All right, so maybe he had been too careless with the garum and the gravy was a bit saltier and thicker than intended, but he had had worse. All in all, it was a valiant effort; he was pleased.
Now all that was left was to serve it to the critics. He picked up one of the bowls, Sulpicia the other and Publius the charcuterie platter and the three of them made off into the triclinium, where bread, wine and olives had already been freely made available to the servants. Titus had the feeling it wasn't only just Betua's expectant look that was trained on him, and that made him a little uncomfortable - nobody liked to be judged, after all. But a natural inclination for resting bitch face and years of making intentional use of it meant his expression remained mostly neutral, even as they placed the food on the table and began ladling the stew into individual bowls for the slaves' convenience.
"Dinner is served, my fine ladies and gentlemen. I hope you'll enjoy it."
@Chevi @Ejder @Sara @Sharpie
I suggest no set posting order since there's a few of us. Also, feel free to NPC Betua and any other slaves!
Zia leaned against the wall of an inn - half demolished by the earthquake and utterly unfixed. It had to be two, perhaps three in the morning and she stifled a yawn - green eyes hawkishly watching the passing trade. She didn't dally with the job herself, and preferred to keep a watching brief - back to the wall and picking up the names and mannerisms of clients that came back again and again, or brought their friends. She left the heavy lifting to Gallus who had a particular way about him which kept the poor in his thrall and the rich who frequented this part of the city for vice and depravity, intrigued. She smirked to herself and stifled another yawn - her bloodshot eyes fluttering shut for the briefest of moments.
The scheme had started some months prior. It had been luck and chance more than anything, although in years to come she'd claim it was a visionary idea she'd been harbouring for a while. She left the house most nights now. Her nightmares, which had started almost immediately after her capture last year and the ordeal she had been subjected to at the hands (and cocks) of the legion had disturbed her sleep and ever since that irritating run-in with the master of the house past midnight, she had sought solace and to calm herself down out of the house. So every night, pretty much, she slipped out of the slave entrance and into the dark of the city. She had smelled it before she saw it and heard the chatter of her mother tongue down by the Tiber. Back in Dacia, the flower1 was largely only smoked or inhaled by their priestly class, but as the wife to a future chieftain she had held her own plentiful supply. She missed it, and the smell had brought her right back. She was not a friendly woman by nature, but she had made an exception for this lot and before the week was through it had been her little ritual to meet them down by the river to share the smoke of the flower and relax. Her mood had improved immeasurably, and it had only helped her see a way out of all of this mess. She smirked to herself now at the memory. That had been three months ago.
In that time, those friends had long since departed this world or Rome - she didn't care to know which, and their supplier - a foolish man that liked a fuck more than he liked his money, had readily admitted his own source of the flower before he'd even climaxed. Men were too easy. He too was currently whereabouts unknown (many thanks to his once-employee, Gallus). Once she'd got the name and understood the distribution network he'd set up (the man was a fool), Zia had swooped. She'd employed Gallus on credit, the man also liked a fuck but he was canny and could respect intelligence and drive when he saw it. He had been the fools, but equally couldn't stand him. He came willingly to her venture, she hastened to add. Over the last three months they had successfully, together, taken over the distribution of the flower in Regio IV, carved out a little corner of a warehouse near the spice markets to store their stash and made a decent few coins. The first few always went to Gallus to pay off the credit she had endured to take him with her, but the rest was hers - and in the future they had agreed a 65-35 split, Zia to Gallus, once the debts were settled and the runners paid.
She smirked again as she leant against the wall. She never used her name, but should anybody in the city be looking for that sweet, calming high they knew where to come. Gallus the Great, would show them a good time. Nobody knew her, and that was the way she liked it. She lurked in the shadows for now, reaping the rewards of her ingenuity, and when the time was right? Well. She couldn't wait to see the look on her dominus' face.
Nymphias was a little self-important now, if only because she had been promoted. No longer was she the whimpering little child that she was. She was a grown woman now. She was mature. At least, that’s what she thought. Now she even tried fashioning her hair in ways that appeared Roman-like, after much struggle and awkwardness, of course, and she prayed to their gods now, Helios had told her it was a good idea and if she continued to listen to him, she would be free in no time. Together, they would be married and have a humble number of seven children. After working many long hours, she was dismissed, giving Nymphias time to herself.
She walked with her head held high and tried to adopt older mannerisms. She had been promoted, after all. This was how promoted individuals behaved. Rome was hot now, so hot that she felt her skin bubbling and the air around her was thick. Wandering through the domus, her gaze fell onto a familiar figure. When she first met Zia, she had looked up to the woman, even wanted to be like her, she had seemed so confident despite enslavement, but as time went on, Nymphias’ wasn’t sure anymore. She did not have a single cruel bone in her body and hoped in some small way, they could one day become friends. And she was promoted now, who was she to fear anyone?
“Zia,” Nymphias said, playing with her fingers, for a moment her “mature” façade disappeared, showing her youth and evident nervousness. “What are you doing now? I want to ask you something. It is very important.” In reality, the thought just popped into her head. “Are you free?”
Attis had already decided that he was not going to wear his best tunics while here, if he could possibly help it. Especially if he was relegated to helping in the kitchens. There was no need to let them get grubby and stained with gods-knew-what in the course of his duties, though he would probably have to sacrifice at least one of the three tunics he'd brought with him (quite apart from the one he'd been wearing yesterday).
The other slaves seemed decent enough (unlike their owner) and Attis proved he was no stranger to hard work , which might help him get on the good side of the cook. She'd rapped his knuckles when he tried to sneak a bun that was cooling and he'd given her his most charming grin. He'd get there with her, in time.
He had a few minutes to himself and went to splash himself with water from the fountain, ignoring the tablinum where the master was working, straightening up to find that he was being watched, although not by the master.
AU - 72CE - Dacia
Zia slammed the door to her quarters so loud she was sure the wood would snap off and splinter. "Zia!" The voice beckoned from outside, booming through the wooden walls that made up the Chief's residence. "You have to listen to reason now girl." Zia huffed and kicked at a box that lay at her feet, aiming it at one of the slaves who squealed and jumped out of the way. From down the hall she could hear Luto cry. He hadn't stopped crying since she had broken the news that his Papa wasn't coming home. The handle to the door rattled and then the oak opened up and the face of her father-in-law, stony but sorrowful, loomed into view.
"Get out of my room." She swore and aimed another kick - this time at a loose bundle of clothing - which landed at his feet. The man raised his hands, and she could see from few paces away that tears pricked in his eyes. Weak. Pathetic. Scared. Was all that came to mind as she looked upon him. "He's all we have. You have to see reason." She scoffed and shook her head, a glower on her face. "At least meet him with me. And then we can see, hm?" Zia huffed again and appraised her father-in-law Cothelas (or not her father-in-law, now?). She only nodded her assent, and it was reluctant assent at that before clicking her fingers at the slave. "Find me something to wear." Her father-in-law smiled, relieved and inclined his head - backing out of the room slowly. She noted he didn't turn his back to her as he walked away. Smart.
It was some hours later that she was in the great hall. Those survivors of the battle two days prior were there; a motley court of the injured and the afraid; filling the room but leaving a gap in the middle. Zia was arrayed in her finest, gold glinting from her wrists and her armbands and a diadem atop her hair which was left long down to her waist. Her son sat next to her - between her father-in-law and herself, eyes still red raw from crying but mercifully quiet for now. She could tell Cothelas was nervous. He picked at the skin around his nails and his eyes were red-rimmed from tiredness. She supposed losing both of one's sons in one fell swoop was bound to do that. She dared not dwell on Diegis lest her face crumple. No, keep projecting strength, that was what she told herself. Somebody has to.
The battle had been short and bloody. The Ratacenses, her husbands (late husbands) tribe were fearsome and well equipped, and had decimated the legion that had surrounded them. A winner could not be declared; they had both lost their commanders. The Dacian's had lost Diegis and his older brother, heir to the chieftaincy, and the Romans had lost their legate and tribune. The former of which had been sat stewing in a dank little hole for the past two days, but now he'd finally see the light and the Dacian's own particular brand of mercy. Many had called for his execution; something public, something painful. He had taken their hope in the form of the two heirs, and Zia had at least initially agreed. Yet Cothelas, in one of his rare moments of intelligence had held a different idea. Luto, her son, was now to be named the heir. He was, however, only four and utterly fatherless and frail in the way that all children that age are. Besides, Cothelas knew that the Romans would be back - braying for blood - and Luto would be first on the pile. Hence his simultaneously utterly ridiculous and utterly brilliant plan. What better way to appease the Romans than by aligning yourselves with them? And what better way to do that and keep your independence then by matrimony?
Zia had been appalled, but understood. If she married this Roman and eventually had further children, they would be of both Roman and Dacian blood. Half-brothers and half-sisters to their future chief, and beholden to two lands. It would show that their tribe was serious about peace, but would not surrender in the traditional way. Yet despite the logic, she didn't like the idea one bit. Cothelas knew that as well as anybody and so had arranged, after a public greeting of the man (whose name Zia had already forgotten), there would be a private summit between his daughter-in-law and her future spouse to...test the waters, as it was. Her nails dug into the wood of the chair as she gripped onto it.
The doors at the end of the hall broke open and the room was bathed in light. She squinted those narrowed green eyes at the figures that approached, a man bound in rope at the wrists, escorted by two of the surviving (and purposefully largest) Dacian warriors.
She turned to Cothelas when the Roman was in earshot and scoffed. "This is him?"
Mid-Spring, 75 AD
Yet another night of sleep cut too short by nightmares or memories – Titus didn’t bother to try and tell the difference anymore. He didn’t bother to stay in bed anymore either, tossing and turning and pleading in his head for sleep to return and getting invariably frustrated when his prayers went unanswered. He rose as slowly and silently as he could, freezing mid-action as Valeria stirred and murmured something unintelligible before rolling over; the sound of her even, deep breathing reassured him that he hadn’t woken her up.
The house was as quiet as he expected it to be, with some very faint snoring coming from different directions. A glance at a big clepsydra, dimly lit by a couple of candles, told him that dawn wouldn’t come for at least another hour; he could expect some degree of peaceful solitude until then. The peristyle was equally quiet, but a cool breeze flowed through the air, causing leaves and petals of various plants to rustle pleasantly as it touched them. No frog had dared to make a home in the shallow pools and it wasn’t quite so hot yet that mosquitoes would be attracted by those same pools.
Titus sat down on a bench, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees as he looked absent-mindedly at the waning moon’s reflection in one of the pools, small ripples running across the surface as the light wind blew. He stayed like that for some time, though he couldn’t possibly say how long – almost in a trance-like state, his brain flashing through episodes and incidents like it was browsing a catalogue of horrors and picking things out here and there.
A sudden, closer, louder sound had Titus snapping out of his haze with a start as he instinctively looked around for anything that might be fashioned into a weapon. Given the time of day and place, a decorative rock was the most suitable candidate, and after picking it up Titus creeped up behind a marble column, just in time to see a human-shaped shadow walk cautiously into the peristyle. It was hard to tell in the dark, with only faint moonlight to counter it, but he thought he saw long hair. Reason advised him to wait for the person to come close enough to be seen in case he did regrettable damage by acting too hastily, and although it went against his trained reflexes, Titus decided to do just that, squinting from behind the column with a loose grip on the smooth rock.
Mid February 75AD
Zia glowered at those she met on her walk. The meeting with Diegis had not gone well. Well, the first part - a hurried greeting and then a heady, lust filled few minutes up against the wall of the room assigned to him were excellent but the conversation that followed had riled her beyond her usual irritability. Whilst she saw her husband far more than she saw her son, it did not stop the meetings descending into petty squabbles. She'd seen the way he glanced at the girls as they walked to his room and the way he talked with such animation about his new role. She had snapped, exclaiming that he seemed to be enjoying his life of slavery and his stuttered denial had ended with her throwing a half-cup of sour wine over his face and leaving the building in a storm of fury. She'd send a message by some stupid, gullible slave, with an apology at some point. But not yet. Now she needed to stew in her anger.
The walk back to his domus, her newfound home was long and her feet were already aching. Even her anger wasn't enough to carry her through and with a mumble of discontent, she stopped to rest against a building. Swatting some of her loose - dishevelled hair from her face (those few minutes of passion had suitably destroyed her respectability) and pulling at the itchy, plain tunica she huffed. Even in winter, Rome was unbearably hot to her and the irritation she felt at that moment wasn't helping.
She heard footsteps to her left and before she had a chance to caution the person, their sandalled foot stomped down on her toes. She let out a yowl of pain, and without stopping she snapped, standing to her full height; "Watch where you are going you cretin." She glared. It was something she had said, in such a tone, hundreds of times when she had her own slaves, when few men and fewer women outranked her but now she was the lowest of the low, and after blinking she realised that such a tone, such a statement was entirely inappropriate. Swallowing her anger and her biting comments she dipped her head, "Apologies." She said with a sigh, "It hurt."
Early May, 74CE
Zia grinned at her son, holding his hand firmly but letting his little legs wander as he took in the sights and the smells of the military camp. To a child, what had happened and where they were now was some great, drawn out adventure. To Luto's four year old mind there was nothing sinister in all the men in their red cloaks, nothing malevolent in the tent in which they were hurriedly stored in with all of the other women and children. His big brown eyes took it all in as if he were living one of the great tales of heroism his father and grandfathers had told him. Little Luto even went so far as to wave at a few of the passing legionaries as they were escorted through the maze of straight lines to, what she presumed, was the commander's tent. Her smile was in part for the energy of her son, but also for the thought he'd be sleeping in a tent like the rest of them during this very uncharacteristic May rain which drizzled down on them, soaking man and woman alike to the bone.
She'd not told anybody who she was since her arrival in this place, but presumed somebody else had spilled the beans. Probably Diegis, the idiot. She had considered it safer to be an anonymous woman and boy caught up in the chaos of the skirmish than one of its architects. That anonymity, clearly, was not to last. She'd not seen her husband since he was bundled away under a swathe of red cloaked men in stupid helmets, but she knew he'd seen his father and brothers fates. A small part of her ignited at the thought that it left him as the chief, a bigger part hoped he wouldn't prattle on about it too much. She'd heard rumours about what had happened to the chieftains of occupied provinces; paraded through the streets of Rome in chains. She hoped her husband had more sense than to prattle on about his family.
Finally drawing to the tent she cast a dismissive glance over it, her nose wrinkling in displeasure. This was where the great and the good of Rome lived? She was a little horrified. Shunted through the flaps, her hand still clasping her sons, she blinked into the dim light. It was barely dawn outside, and the candles that lit up the canvas made it smoky and hard to see. She didn't recognise the man sat in front of her, but then they all looked the same in their silly little outfits to her. Luto, however, unfettered grinned at him and pointed at the crested helmet set aside, beaming whilst he asked in Dacian; "Can I play with it?" Zia yanked back his arm as he moved to touch it and reminded herself to drill some sense into her boy at the next opportune moment.
She said nothing to the man and instead just arched a brow, waiting for his big speech.
26 | November 11th 49CE | Slave | General attendant/seamstress | Heterosexual | Wanted | Aurora Ruffino
Tough, prideful and ingenious are all words that come to mind when considering Zia. Her marriage was a partnership and whilst Diegis had brains himself, he was not above differing to his wife's opinion. A keen strategist and lover of games, Zia is continually thinking about her next move and what would bring her the most gain. Whilst not without warmth, her life thus far has moulded her into a woman where strategy and glory come first, and emotion second. She's not a naturally loving person, although her son is an exception, and sometimes struggles to bond with strangers. Being brought down several (hundred) rungs in the social ladder from future wife of a chieftain, to a slave, has been a shock for her but she still holds her head up high and bides her time. She's adapted fairly well to life in slavery, although a significant portion of that is an act designed to make her masters pity her, or feel more comfortable around her. She misses her husband dearly, and relishes the opportunity to see him (not least because it gives her time to plot and scheme). She finds the tasks she's given in Titus' house dull considering she used to occupy her time with political stratagems and hosting the great and the good. Her Latin has improved immeasurably in her time in Rome, but her accent often makes people believe she's without wits which mask her deeply intelligent, but often incredibly ruthless personality.
Standing at about five foot five, and with an athletic figure, Zia's appearance mimics her stern personality. She dresses simply, as befits a slave, but hasn't forgotten her roots and her standing and her countenance all speak to a proud woman. Her back is arrow straight and she only lightly averts her eyes if required to look away from her masters. She has long dark hair, tanned skin and light hazel eyes. Her life, as the daughter of a Dacian chieftain and wife to a future one kept her away from the majority of the hardships of her people but that is not to say she hasn't worked. Her hands aren't smooth like that of a Roman woman and she bares small scars across her arms and legs from childhood grazes and mishaps. Unlike a lot of slaves, she doesn't look like a girl anymore and her features - whilst attractive - are stern and mature. She's not a simpering sixteen year old (and forgets she ever was), and whilst she's not the most stunning of Titus' haul from Dacia, her confidence and pride make her stand out as a force not to be underestimated.
Father: Brindis (chief of the Appuli tribe, middle Dacia) - alive.
Mother: Rescuturme (second wife of Brindis) - deceased.
Cotiso (half-brother by Brindis' first wife, future chief of the Appuli) - alive.
Mokson (half-brother by Brindis' first wife) - alive.
Cotys (full younger sister by Rescuturme, married to a prominent warrior of the Appuli) - alive.
Rholes (full younger brother by Rescuturme) - alive.
Dotos (half-brother by Brindis' third wife) - alive.
Spouse: Diegis (now a slave, youngest son of the chief of the Ratacenses tribe, eastern Dacia) - alive.
Luto (son, now a slave, 4 years old, residing in an equite house known to Titus) - alive.
Extended family: Numerous nieces and nephews by her siblings. Numerous cousins, including Tarbus (now a slave). Sisters in law by Diegis.
Titus Sulpicius Rufus
49CE: Zia is born, the first daughter to the chief of the Appuli tribe and his second wife. Her birth is celebrated, as it heralds a new opportunity for alliances with other tribes, through marriage.
52CE: Her younger sister, Cotys, is born.
56CE: Her younger brother Rholes is born, Zia's mother dies in childbirth. Brindis grieves deeply and rules out remarriage for the foreseeable future. Their tribe is largely kept out of the ongoing war between Rome and the various eastern tribes.
60CE: During the close of the war, Zia is sent with her younger siblings and with her cousins to safety to family with the Caucoenses.
63CE: Zia and her family return to Apulum. Her father, keen on establishing strong bonds in the face of consistent Roman aggression and military movements (even after the close of the war), procures an honourable match between his first born daughter and the youngest son of the Ratacenses tribe, Diegis. Only a couple of years older than her, Zia is nonetheless unimpressed, finding him brutish and macho and beneath her.
64CE: After the start of her first flux, to ensure she is ready, Zia and Diegis marry. To ensure her safety, her cousin Tarbus is married into the tribe through a cousin of Diegis and accompanies her to Surcea.
66CE: Zia miscarries their first child. The couple drift apart and Diegis has a son with a local woman, infuriating Zia who promptly has her exiled whilst Diegis is elsewhere in Dacia conducting discussions with eastern tribes on the future of their land.
68CE: The couple reconcile and Zia, having withdrawn to Cumidava in fury, returns home to Surcea. Diegis agrees to give his wife more say in their future, and his father respects her tenacity. Early wobbles in their marriage are largely forgotten going forward.
69CE: Her father remarries and has another son.
71CE: Zia gives birth to their only child, a son, named Luto for Diegis' grandfather. The birth is celebrated and Zia relaxes slightly, feeling more secure in her position. She begins to involve herself more and more with politics, and Diegis continues to encourage his wife's lightening fast mind. She begins to suggest that the Roman occupation of the east is more fragile than previous tribes gave credit for, and Diegis and his father begin tentative discussions on next steps and begin small skirmishes to disrupt supply lines and raid outposts.
73CE: Tarbus warns his cousin and her husband from provoking Roman aggression, but nonetheless supports their underhanded attempts to provoke instability (if only out of concern for his cousin).
74CE: Their years of intrigue catch up with them, and whilst hosting a feast for the leaders of several smaller tribes far from Surcea after a very successful raid on a Roman cohort, Rome's great and powerful swoop in. Many are killed and maimed including Diegis' father and oldest brother, leaving him the chief, in name only. Diegis, Tarbus, Zia and her son are captured for inciting and provoking discord in the territory. Given as spoils to the legate, the four are shipped to Rome. Zia is placed in the household of said legate apart from her husband, as surety for his good behaviour. Their son - much to her horror and fury - is enslaved and placed in the house of an equite known to their captors as surety for her good behaviour. She has no sense of where Tarbus is.
75CE: Having been in the house for several months, Zia has adapted well although she is forever plotting her next move and how to spin her newfound situation to her advantage.
Sara | GMT | Discord!
Other Characters by this Player
- Slave of Tertius Quinctilius Varus
- 621 posts
- Player: Sara
- Face Claim: Alexandra Dowling
- Location: Rome
- Wife & Mother
- 325 posts
- Player: Sara
- Face Claim: Lotte Verbeek
- Location: Rome
- 372 posts
- Player: Sara
- Face Claim: Michiel Huisman
- Location: Rome
- 17 posts
- Player: Sara
- Face Claim: Matthew Goode
- Location: Rome
- Wife & Imposter
- 21 posts
- Player: Sara
- Face Claim: Gugu Mbatha-Raw
- Location: Rome