"You're sweet. I never knew you could be like this. I kind of wish..."
"That I hadn't been an arrogant idiot when you were alive?" Thessala smirked, wrapping her arms around her. In her everyday life, romance and affection had not played a very big part. Pleasure, sure. But this was something that made her feel a lot more vulnerable.
"It doesn't matter. Wishes don't matter. I won't forget you either. I don't know what's going to happen now, but... it's all so strange. What do you want to do now?"
"Use the time we have left?" she turned her head to kiss Rana again. The urge to kiss here, and the urge to talk more, were equally overwhelming. "How do you want to be remembered?"
Rana was not going to stay. Not forever, clearly, but maybe not even for long. She touched Thessala's cheek and the gladiatrix sighed.
“I thought I’d come here tonight for something else, but I just want to be near you. As much as I can.”
"I'd like that" she nodded. Holding Rana's hand gently, she pulled her down to sit on the bed next to her. Tangible and yet not all there. Thessala wrapped her arms around her. If she had been still alive, maybe she would have never been this openly affectionate. Too late. "I will remember you, Rana. Even when you are gone. I can promise you that much."
"Maybe? It is confusing. I am here, but... I sense I may not stay?"
She wouldn't. She was dead. Thessala had a moment of weakness when she saw Rana again, and got to say things she could not say before. But she was not naive enough to think that Rana would just stay around forever as if she was alive. Still, she reached out. She'd take all the time they had.
"Can you feel my touch? I can feel yours."
"I can" she nodded with a small smile. It was a faint touch, like before, not a living person's warmth, but it was there. Thessala held Rana's hand, and pulled her to sit on the bed. Could spirits sit? She hoped. She wanted to feel closer to her.
"I don't want to not be here."
"You can stay as long as you want" Thessala said quietly. It wouldn't be forever, but she would keep her company while it lasted.
"Thessala... I am here."
It was hard to tell if she imagined the words of heard them. Reality and dream seemed to blend together. Thessala thought that maybe once the rush of the fight ebbed away her brain would right itself... but Rana was there again, looking almost tangible. She sat up an looked at her. She'd never thought she'd get to look at her again.
"I can see you." she said quietly, reaching a hand out to her. "Are you here to say goodbye?"
Footsteps echoed down the hallway; some guards were approaching to escort her back to the ludus. Thessala didn't know whether they could see Rana too. There were so many things she did not know about spirits. Rana melted into the shadows.
"I don't want to go either. But... I haven't gone yet. Wait for me tonight."
She did. She was taken to the medicos who checked on her injuries and let her go with some salve for her bruises and a few bandages. She had gotten off the fight easy, all things considered. She wondered where Rana had gone as she walked back to her small room in the back of the ludus. Was she drinking more blood in the arena? Everything seemed quiet, even with the dull roar of the games in the distance. Thessala took off her fighting clothes and washed off the paint and the blood, before she fell into bed. The whole thing felt like a dream. Maybe she was still dreaming...
“There are places for the dead. Among the gods. Or in the underworld.”
Where would Rana go? Where would Thessala go?... She'd wondered about that before. It would have been strange if she didn't, given that she fought in the arena and risked her life almost every day. Death had still seemed like a faraway concept, until Rana died. And now Thessala wondered if people with different gods went to different places. Or no place at all. Rana belonged with her gods, if there was a choice. The underworld did not feel like much fun.
“It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Only that… Thessala… I also… love you.”
Thessala sighed again, not trying to hold back the quiet tears anymore. They should have done all this sooner. When Rana was alive. Maybe things would have been different then. But neither of them realized this in time.
"I don't want you to go." Thessala admitted, looking at Rana as if she was about to disappear. "But... I don't want you to get stuck in-between either. I want you to... I don't know." she sighed.
"No brothels for me. My wife... her former master owned a brothel. He wasn't kind."
"Fuck him" Thessala stated with conviction. It felt like the solution to everything tonight. It sounded like Manius loved his wife, and she deserved better than a brothel, and being lost in a damned earthquake.
"I'll go home. You can walk with me if you want. But I don't need a guard."
"Sure." Thessala fell into step next to him. Guard or not, it gave her something to do. She needed to do one thing right tonight, and if all it was was to walk Manius home and make sure he got into a bed, then she would take it. She could worry about the rest tomorrow.
Rana moved closer, and they kissed, and for a moment Thessala even forgot that he was staning in a dark ludus hallway, making out with a spirit. Even though it was nothing like kissing a living person, it was Rana, and that made it different than everything else she'd felt before.
Eventually, they broke the kiss, and Thessala looked at Rana warily, as if she could disappear any moment from her arms.
"Do you... love me?"
Thessala let out a small sigh. She would have been wary of those words too, if things had been much different. But now there was nothing to lose, and not much time left.
"I love you." she whispered, looking almost sheepish of admitting it. "I'm sorry. I..." what else was there to say? Thessala sighed, touching her forehead to Rana's "Do your people... have a place? Where you go?"
"You did what you could."
And it had not been enough. Thessala doubted that would ever stop hurting. Even more so, now that she knew Rana was still here, her spirit anyway, and she knew exactly what happened. How close it had been. Thessala wondered what it felt like to die.
Rana smiled at her and touched her arm. Thessala felt a tear roll down her cheek. She was not the kind to cry.
"I think... I need you to tell me something. Or you need to tell me something. I don't know if there will be another chance."
Kissing a spirit was nothing like kissing a living person. There was no warmth, or taste to it. But she could feel it, as she pressed her lips against Rana's. It was part memory, from the time in the arena, and part hope, and either way, it explained better than she could in words, knowing there might not be another chance.
"I know. I heard your voice."
Thessala's breath caught too. She heard. She had been so close... she almost made it. Almost. But she didn't. That almost, that hair's breadth distance between life and death, was impossible to think about.
"I'm sorry." She'd meant to say it. She'd said it a thousand time when she was alone. But this time was the first time she knew Rana was listening.
"Can you... feel my hand?"
There was a light touch on her arm. Cool, almost cold, but it made her skin rise with goose bumps as she looked up at Rana. Their eyes met. Thessala did not dare move or look away, afraid Rana would disappear.
Fall had come to Rome, and with it, the Ludi Augustales. In honor of the divine emperor, grand events were organized, the arena was decorated and the rows of seats filled with people, from the most august imperials and the Vestal Virgins all the way up to the women and slaves in the top rows. Every gladiator in all the ludi who could fight was put into the schedule; the most famous ones as often as it was possible, provided they did not get seriously injured or killed along the way.
It was the first games since the earthquake Thessala was to participate in.
The other gladiatrix facing her in the arena was someone whose name she did not bother to learn. She rarely bothered to learn names since Rana. They were not the only duel in the arena; there were three other pairs scattered around the sands, for extra spectacle. Still, Thessala felt like she was being watched. Not by the thousands of people in the seats... maybe by the gods? She shook her head, the beads and amulets twisted into her hair tinkling. She raised her two swords, crossing the blades in front of her.
Might as well get on with it.
Thessala had a whole table to herself. Not that the popina was less busy than usual, far from it; but the last guy who came over and tried to start something with her got a glare and a hissed Thracian curse that made him retreat at double speed. Thessala did not look like her usual self - her costume destroyed in the earthquake, and her will to put on her witch persona drowned in the drinks she'd been having since that day - but the way she looked now, with her hair tangled and the circles under her eyes apparently looked even more threatening than an intentional performance.
Everyone could go fuck themselves. Even the gods.
Especially the gods.
The buried Rana. She was gone. So were others from the ludus, some she missed and some she did not care about except for the way the gods decided to do away with them. All of it was shit. Thessala drank like a barbarian, nursing her cup and nursing the pain she still had in her ribs.
Whoever came over to her table next better be very brave. Or very dumb.
Early May, 75CE
Apparently, the things that rich nobles got up to in Rome differed very little from what went on in Greece. To the girl's chagrin, one of Deia's first assignments as a slave and prostitute at the Elysium was to make an appearance at a low-level noble's home for a party, as eye-candy for those in attendance. Though Deia had to wonder why the noble hadn't sprung for a worker at the Domus Venus; they were apparently more sought after than her companions at the Elysium. The only conclusion was that he was either not as wealthy as he made out to be, or he was cheap but wanted to appear like he had the wealth to spare in order to get a prostitute to stand on a platform for a few hours, and then, perhaps, bed a few of the guests. Time would tell.
Also to her annoyance, Deia was responsible for walking to the house herself, accompanied by a couple of the musclemen who guarded the prostitutes at the brothel. She was new to Rome, so the way confused her a great deal, and she was nearly in tears from frustration by the time they got there. She couldn't even read or write her own home language, Greek, let alone Latin. She could speak it, but the locals here were not very friendly. But at last, they arrived and Deia was shown to the main room of the house, where she would be displayed. For the journey, she had worn modest enough clothing, but once she was at the house, it was time to wear what one would expect a prostitute to wear. She was shown to a back room after her tour so that she could change in peace. She thought she was alone, so she sat on the floor, rubbing a hand on her forehead to try to ground herself. This was her life. She had to keep up her appearances.
23 | May 15th, 51CE | Slave | Gladiatrix | Bisexual | Original | Eva Green
Thessala puts on the personality of a fierce, almost feral barbarian warrior, but on the inside, she is a performer through and through. She basks in attention, she likes to be noticed, seen, appreciated. She enjoys pleasing a crowd, and hyping up spectators for the games. Even though she was sold to the Ludus as a slave, and her life is in the hands of her owners, she fully embraces the thrill of the fight, and takes enjoyment in every match, combining the cruelty of swordplay with the erotic excitement that is expected of gladiatrices. Since she brings in a lot of attention (and money), she is allowed certain freedoms, even as a slave, that she takes full advantage of: she enjoys good food, good parties (that she gets invited to as a curiosity), and seducing both men and women.
For all the show and the flamboyance, however, Thessala is not a shallow person, neither is she cruel. She kills if she has to, because it is part of the games, but to her, it is performance rather than savagery. She is capable of forming true friendship with the few people she deems truly worthy, and once she has befriended someone, she can be fiercely loyal and selfless with them. She is easy to entertain, and capable of taking a joke as much as she is ready to give one. If one finds a way through her facade to the private person, she can be genuinely caring.
Thessala is not muscular, but tall and wiry, due to constant exercise. She has black hair that she intentionally wears long (down to her waist), and blue eyes that she likes to highlight with kohl. She is fair-skinned like most Thracians, and while she left her homeland too young to be tattooed in their old tradition, she has some new tattoos, done in blue ink, that she's had made since she moved into the Ludus. They form geometric patterns and concentric circles around her arms and legs. She also sports quite a few scars from her fights, due to the fact that she does not use a shield, and rarely wears more armor than necessary. She has a signature, proud smirk and a loud, somewhat raspy voice to go with it, which she makes good use of when she punctuates her fights with shrill cries to intimidate her opponents. Her movements are fluid and graceful (the fact that she is ambidextrous adding to her balance), and she is flexible enough to add some acrobatic elements to her performances. In the arena she prefers practical clothes and leather armor that allow her a lot of movement; outside the arena she enjoys the finer things like colorful dresses and scandalously short tunics that show off her tattoos. She generally carries herself with dignity and a touch of flamboyance. She is easy to pick out in a crowd.
Extended family: None
Other: Owned by the Ludus Magnus
51CE - A little girl is born into a dirt poor Thracian family. She has several older siblings, and on the edge of starvation no one really believes the baby will live to see her first year. They name her Saba. Saba defies the odds, surviving her first years, although she is just as malnourished as the rest of her older (and, eventually, younger) siblings. She is nonetheless a fierce, lively child, a bit too wild for her struggling parents to handle.
56CE - The family, in crippling debt and with no funds left to survive, decides to sell one of the smaller (therefore less useful) children into slavery. Saba is deemed least likely to grow up into a decent woman, but she fetches a good price for being fairly pretty and young enough to be teachable. The family struggles with the decision, but the girl is excited to see places beyond the dirt of their farm. She is purchased by a slave merchant who takes her to Delos, and sells her to another merchant who is procuring household slaves for a wealthy Roman family.
57-70CE - Saba is a household slave in a villa just outside of Rome. She is taught Latin, household chores, and her domina has plans of having her trained as a cosmetic slave. Saba, however, is still more than a little wild - louder, bolder, more curious than a slave is expected to be. The first time one of the stable boys tries to grope her, she bites him in the face. This causes a bit of a scandal in the household, but things take an unexpected turn shortly after: when Saba is 16 years old, robbers creep into the house at night, and she fights them off with weapons improvised from the kitchens. Her domina, grateful for her help and loyalty, decides to let her behavior slide, and Saba becomes a body slave and unofficial bodyguard to the lady.
70CE - The old domina passes away, and her son inherits her slaves. Falling on hard times, he decides to rent Saba out to the Ludus, where she can turn her skills into a profession. The girl takes to fighting like a fish to water, and soon becomes a favorite among (male) spectators. She takes on the name Thessala, as a reference to the fearsome witches of Thessaly. Since she is ambidextrous, she usually fights with two swords, adding flashy stunts to her fighting style. She enjoys the attention, and brings in decent money.
71CE - Thessala's owner's financials keep sinking, and eventually they are forced to sell the girl permanently to the Ludus Magnus (driving a hard bargain for a high price, given that she is becoming a crowd favorite). Thessala does not mind at all. She enjoys the attention, she enjoys the thrill and the appreciation, and enjoys being seen for the first time in her life. She hones her fighting skills, but spends even more time honing her skills in pleasing a crowd. Given her popularity, she gains a certain amount of freedom among the Ludus slaves, and hypes up interest in Rome with her surprise appearances outside the arena (and her alleged romantic conquests).
74CE - Present time. Thessala is still a gladiatrix, one of the most notorious at the Ludus Magnus. He is setting money aside, hoping to eventually be given her freedom, but she is in no hurry to put her weapons down anytime soon.
Chevi | CENTRAL EUROPE | Discord