The scent was overwhelming, even in the middle of the market where there were already so many smells to deal with. Spices were all good and well, individually or mixed with food, but all in one place... Azarion wrinkled his nose. Safinia, of course, noticed.
"What, didn't your people cook with spices?"
Azarion huffed, looking over the stall. Of course they did. What kind of an idea did people have about whom they called barbarians? He pointed at some of the containers. Ginger root. Thyme. Caraway seed. Strings of garlic. Tarragon. Lemon balm. He could almost taste them. Especially the thyme; the open plains in the springtime often smelled of it.
Safinia began to ask about prices; she seemed content with most of them, but the juniper berries gave her pause. Azarion had no idea how much they should cost; the last time he'd eaten them, he'd picked them himself.
"What do you think? Is that a good amount for three dodrans?"
Obviously not, or she should not be asking. Azarion pulled a ver skeptical face, reaching out to pick up a berry and inspect it up close. He shrugged. Hopefully she'd take over from there.
Azarion passed Bassus on his way back to the stables, after he handed Borena off to one of the chariot builders. H ehoped the guy would be capable enough to hold her still. There were other horses still in here, and his heart pounded as he entered th swaying building again, hoping to rescue another horse.
“Have you seen Safinia?”
Azarion paused, then shook his head. He had not. Did Safinia even sleep here, in the building? Or did she live elsewhere? As much as he didn't mind the girl's company, he did not know a whole lot about her. Pressing on, Azarion got another horse and led it outside, just as the earth finally stopped shaking.
It was quiet. Very quiet.
"We are going to check the building for damage - any further movement and I want you to come straight back here."
Azarion was not sure if Marcus was talking to him or not, but he handed the horse off anyway, and fell in next to him. He eyed the tiles on the roof suspiciously. Some had already fallen, and some looked very unstable. He pointed up at the roof, questioning.
@Sharpie @Beauty @Echo
He could see the triumph in her eyes as she figured out the answer. For someone like her, knowing of a distant place like his at all, had to be a small victory. She didn't seem like a bad person, even for a rich Roman lady. It wasn't her fault that her empire was full of assholes.
"I...don't know much about it. I know horses are important there, and archery?"
He nodded. Yes. You could say that. Horses were indeed important. So was archery. Gods, he missed archery a whole lot. It was always interesting to know what others knew (or didn't know) about the place he grew up in. In this case, by the time one got from the Danubius to the Tiberis, Sarmatia got reduced to "horses and archery."
"What...what else is it like? If you don't mind talking... With me about it?"
He quirked an eyebrow at her. Talk, sure. He was too tired to be offended by stuff like that; he knew she didn't mean it. He sighed, taking a seat again. How could he possibly explain something like his home? He made some gestures of grass, and endless plains, and endless sky... it felt very poetic. Glancing around, he noted a writing tablet and a stylus someone must have left while in a hurry to secure the place. Azarion walked over and picked it up with some hesitation. He couldn't write worth shit, but he could draw. Sitting down, he drew a yurt. For starters.
Both of them were somewhat annoyed at the other. Why were they playing this foolish game anyway? Not that the woman cared where he came from, she just needed a distraction, and probably a well-meaning ally in case the door did break down. She made a decent effort, though, and eventually showed a glint of recognition.
"S?... You are from somewhere across a river that begins with S, not in the Empire... Sarmatia...?"
Against his better judgment, Azarion just blinked and stared. She guessed it. She actually got to the right conclusion, and while he had no clue if she knew anything about Sarmatia at all, she was the first Roman to actually bother to guess where he came from. It should not have mattered at all. It really didn't. But he nodded anyway.
Sarmatia. The land on the other side of the Danube border. A place he'd probably never see again. He offered her a small, bitter smile. At least she could be proud of herself for solving the mystery.
The woman's eyes narrowed as she focused on guessing. She was momentarily distracted from the banging on the door and the ruckus outside. Good. That was at least a small win, because her guesses were getting further and further away from being right. Great start, shit follow-up.
"Dacia and Parthia are not right then...further East? Cap...Cappadocia?"
Where the fuck is Cappadocia?
Azarion sighed. The letter S didn't work. So much about being literate.
"Or not from the Empire?"
He nodded. Definitely not from the empire. He mimed water, and drew the line of a river in the air, holding his arm across it. Across the river. The one you call Danuvius. On the barbarian side. Granted, it could have meant any river around the borders of the Empire...
Azarion did not expect much from the lady in terms of guessing. She would probably go as far as 'barbarian', but that was not exactly a surprise given his present state. The rest, he was just trying to carry on her wish for small talk, not really assuming she would get the correct answer. If she understood he had not always been a slave (let alone a brothel slave) it would be enough.
"I...have heard about markings like this. I...read a lot, when I have the time and I know that some tribes mark themselves, all across the Empire but hunting and archery?"
Well, what do you know. Azarion blinked in surprise tilting his head at her. Maybe the lady knew more than she let on. He doubted she'd traveled that far into the outer provinces, but she must have heard things from someone. She seemed to have a sharp mind, whenever she was not panicking for her life. Now this was getting interesting.
"I know tribes in the East are supposedly good archers, and mark themselves. Out near Dacia and Parthia or beyond maybe, is that...is that where you're from?"
Azarion nodded slowly. Getting closer. She was not as far off as many others tended to be, writing off the young charioteer as being from 'whatever the fuck ass backwards barbarian land'. Dacia was a much more educated guess. He raised his hand to gesture. Between the rivers. He was not sure if that meant anything to her; rivers were everywhere around the empire. After some consideration, Azarion drew a squiggly line in the air. It was meant to be the letter S. He was not sure how Romans spelled Sarmatia, but it had to start with that sound. Whichever direction it was supposed to be facing...
The lady was clearly upset. She could join the team. No one was going to have a good time if the riot broke into the brothel. The owner appeared, visibly panicked, directing slaves and servants to bring furniture to block the door, and board up the windows. He was expecting to stay inside for the long haul. Great. Azarion was going to have an earful when he got back to the Circus. Or possibly a whipping, since he could not really explain in detail where he had been... Dammit.
"Yes. I...It's brought back some memories, that is all."
Ooh, lady had seen a riot before. Go figure. Azarion wondered how she'd fared the first time. Rome had its fair share of upsetting events, after all. But it was usually the poor who got the worst of them.
"I'm not...I wasn't brought up somewhere like this, I-I'm not used to it. A-are you?"
Azarion huffed again. Yeah, because he looked like someone who was raised in a brothel. Well... he did, or might as well have, but that did not mean he'd have to give up his last shreds of dignity. He turned in his chair, tapping the tattoo on his calf, with the jumping deer. Hunter. Barbarian, because Romans did not ink their skin, and someone who had been free once. Azarion made some gestures indicating tents, and archery, and endless spaces of fields and forests. Or something like it. Far away, a long time ago.
"For the whites?"
She sounded more than a little skeptical. Azarion was not an idiot, he knew that he was not exactly the epitome of all that a successful charioteer was supposed to look like. But a little faith would have been nice. It was hard enough as is to be a slave for the Whites.
The door rattled but held, distracting the freedmen for a moment, and making the lady look even more nervous. She had a lot to loose, if the rebellious crowd got into the brothel. Would Azarion try to save her? There could be a reward in it if he did. Then again, he might just die. Choices.
"How-how long have you been a charioteer? I...I have to say I'm not one for the races but p-perhaps I should come and watch you? My son loves it far more than me."
Azarion sighed a little. Back to small talk. She seemed like she was holding to to small talk like it was her last lifeline.
He made some gestures, not sure she'd follow. I'm new. Learning to race. Besides, the Whites had more... decorative charioteers for the ladies to stare at. He glanced at the rattling door, then back at her. Are you scared?
The woman looked confused at his gestures, and Azarion let out a frustrated huff. Sure, he was a slave and she was a noblewoman, but he was not her slave, and she was being difficult. She could put up with the sass, or try her luck outside of the brothel. Azarion repeated his gestures anyway. Just to make clear he was not a prostitute.
"You ride them, or tend to them?"
Oh, for the god's sake.
Azarion held up a hand. The first one. Sure, he was still in training, but he was a charioteer and not just a stable boy anymore. He loved the horses, though, and he would probably keep tending to his own team even after he was officially a charioteer for the Whites. But that was a thing she did not need to know. Instead, Azarion gestured at her, and her freedmen. What was she doing here, in a brothel?
The lady winced as it dawned on her that she was talking to a slave with a questionable past, and it was a little satisfying to see the regret in her face. Of course Azarion couldn't know a nice person or a bitch, but he rarely ever came face to face with Roman nobility, and he was not going to sugarcoat things for her.
"I'm sorry. I hope...I hope you're in a better place now?"
I'm still a slave, lady.
"What...what were you doing here before the riot? You live here, perhaps?"
Azarion scoffed. It was one thing to be looked at with pity, and it was quite another to be mistaken for a prostitute. Funny, really. That was one of the few things that the Romans had not done to him yet. He gave her an amused look, then made some gestures, drawing a C in the air and miming driving a chariot. She might or might not know what he meant, but he tapped his tunic anyway, that used to be white before the whole street riot thing started.
2nd July, 75AD - Porta Absidata
Horatia had many hobbies; foremost amongst them was reading, but besides from her book club which was flourishing, reading rarely offered the opportunity to better her family. Charitable work, on the other hand, was a noble pursuit for women of her class and it was something she genuinely enjoyed. It was why she found herself in the lowest of the low regions surveying the damage caused by the earthquake of two days ago. She was not alone, of course, it would have been suicide for a patrician and a woman to wander freely around the porta absidata without some accompaniment and the freedman employed for her protection trailed behind her, along with a slave of her husbands who had menace on his face and in his gargantuan frame - even if he had the gentlest heart underneath it.
She was here largely to survey the damage before putting plans to her father for money to repair this insulae and shops damaged. Not anything degenerate, of course, she didn't want her charitable deeds to go toward rebuilding a brothel or the like, but a herbalist? A baker? She would be more than willing to impart coin and procure an architect to help.
Her own domus, or Aulus' as it was, had survived fairly unscathed besides a few unseemly cracks that were already being plastered over. To see the devastation of some of the dwellings here though made her almost nauseous. People were still being pulled out from the rubble and she had to turn her head when a woman - of her own age and with bright copper hair so like her own - had been pulled out without life's breath. But being a sheltered woman, she was largely oblivious to the Plebs here. She rarely dealt with them, and had rarer still entered their domain in times of trouble. It was why the murmurs and the shouting passed her by. It wasn't until a stone, followed by a cup of foul smelling liquid were hurled past the small group that she realised something was brewing.
Her freeman glanced at his charge - dressed simply (no need to be ostentatious in times like this) but still obviously wealthy and murmured to her; "We should leave, my lady, it's not safe." But it was too late. The shouting became a chorus of bellows - not directed at her, of course, but at the situation as loved ones were pulled moaning in pain or still completely from collapsed buildings and children wailed in hunger as supplies had ceased arriving into this district. More things were thrown and Horatia felt her heart quicken. She allowed herself to be tugged away from the small riot that was forming from the depressed and the downtrodden, as their shouts grew louder. But her freeman and the slave were not quick enough to pull her out of the mess that the earthquake created as something was thrown, hitting her square next to her eye. The light around her grew dimmer and she fell like a sack into the waiting arms of her freedman.
When she woke up she blinked. Her right eye wouldn't open fully and she could smell acrid smoke in the air, somewhere distant. Somebody was sitting above her and she blinked her good eye and recoiled. Where on earth was she?!
The first deep rumblings did not waken Marcus. They did, however, awaken the horses in the stables, and they, in turn, woke Marcus (and, hopefully, the stable staff). And then the earth moved.
"Ahura Mazda!" Marcus swore, and rolled out of his bed. His immediate thought was for his son and daughter, his second was for his staff and horses.
He threw on a tunic and left his room, turning to his children's room. Their nurse was looking out of the door, wide-eyed. "Earthquake. Get the children out into the courtyard, and stay there!"
She nodded and withdrew, leaving Marcus to head to the other side of the house, that overlooked the stables of the White faction. There were several people already down there, milling about in apparent confusion. He looked back to see the nurse holding his children's hands in a firm grip.
"Go with Esther, I will be with you soon - I have to make sure the horses are safe, too."
He headed into the confusion of the stableyard and began to assert order.
"Stay in the middle of the courtyard! "Varica, Bassus, Menelaus, Theseus, Azarion - start bringing the horses out. Don't spook them any more than they are already. Everyone else, you will need to hold them, and if you cannot be calm, at least be quiet!"
@Beauty @Chevi @Echo @Liv @Jane
(Thread title from Horace Odes book III - post equitam sedet alta Cura)
Early June, 75CE
Azarion was a junior charioteer now. It was only a matter of time before he could join the actual races, driving a quadriga around the tacks of the Circus. He had been training for months, making progress, even building up some muscle (although he was still fairly lean for a charioteer). He was wearing the colors of the Whites, and training his own horses.
With all of those things noted, he was definitely sure that he should not be sent on shopping duty.
And yet, here he was.
Since that first, rolling pin and apple fiasco, Azarion only crossed paths with Safinia a few times, usually around meals. There was a tentative truce between them, in which she gave out his two apples, and he only tired to steal more if he was sure he could get away with it, every once in a while. He had risen in status from stable boy to charioteer-in-training. But sadly, said raise did not come with an extra amount of apples. And he had four horses under his care.
Safinia was being sent to the market, and Azarion was told to accompany her, for safety, and for extra hands to carry things. It was a disgrace. As someone a step away from being the star of the races, why did he have to accompany her to shop? Just because he couldn't talk back, and she could wield a rolling pin?... Azarion was not in a good mood as he walked behind her, out of the Circus and around the Palatine. This was not the glamourous life he had been promised.