"No...no I didn't want to do anything today. I wanted to see it so I could employ some labourers - or my father could - to do something meaningful but everybody is so angry,"
She did mean well, Azarion could tell. She didn't really know how to help, but at least she was trying, and she did not deserve to get in trouble for that. Also, she didn't really have anything valuable on her person, which was good on the one hand, and on the other, left her with nothing to distribute to the masses in exchange for free passage. Azarion sighed, sitting back down. This was going to be a long day.
"I don't think the riot was my fault... My freedman told me not to come today because everybody was already riled up and there was a riot yesterday a few streets over but...if I didn't come today, then the help would be d-delayed and...I can't do much, but if I can give money to re-build things, Then I should."
Azarion made some gestures. I know you mean well. If she got out of this unscathed, she might still be able to help people. They are just scared and angry. Which didn't mean they were not going to break the doors down, but she did not need to dwell on that. Azarion gestured at the doors, and the freedmen. The noise was moving on down the street. We'll be alright. In different ways, but still.
They had all the spices, and Azarion got to carry them all. Joy. Not like he dared argue with Safinia; she had even more leverage now, knowing about his little adventure at the ludus. She had always been serious trouble, but now she could get him into serious trouble too. Well, at least they had the spices. And now she wanted to eat something.
It had been an eventful day. They did what they came for, acquired the spices. They had money left to eat something (if Safinia deemed him worth of sharing a meal with). And yet, Azarion's thoughts kept returning to the bow. To the feeling of holding one again. It might very well have been the last time in his life to did so. The thought sat heavy in his chest. He thought of the Circus, the horses and the chariots. Would racing ever feel like that?
He could only hope so.
"I'm sorry...it does not sound...nice."
Azarion quirked an eyebrow. No shit, lady.
"I mean, it doesn't sound right. Or proper."
He shrugged. Well, it wasn't. Nothing that had happened to him had been fair. Not to mention proper. But he was a slave and his life sucked by default. Why was she in a brothel under siege?
"Me? Oh...Oh I was born in Rome, but you mean why I'm here? I...came down here to see if there was something I could do to help. My father is keen that his daughters are charitable and...with the earthquake, these poor people have lost so much...does that sound naive?"
It did. Kind of. She could have just sent her slaves with things to donate. Or paid some people to come help with the cleaning and rebuilding. Why she'd come herself was beyond Azarion, and it did seem kind of naive, given the end result. He tilted his head, looking at her, pointing at her servants, and looking around. Did they bring things? Did the people outside want their charity handouts, or something?
Alright, so Azarion was not a drawing prodigy. Honestly he had not done it much since childhood, when he used to draw things in the dust with sticks, so handling a stylus and trying to recreate shapes was not exactly his strong suit. But he did his best, and at least the result kind of looked like a tent. And some horses. He was better at drawing horses.
"How...how did you get here? Sarmatia is miles and miles from here and not in the Empire..."
Azarion arched an eyebrow. How did slaves usually get into the Empire? He crossed his wrists, still carrying some of the scars from him trying to break out of his shackles. He then mimed weapons and fighting, and being handed over to the Romans. Hostage. Originally. He tapped his mouth too. Once he was not useful anymore, he was not suppsoed to speak eaither. He was not sure how much she understood, but at least she'd know it was not a happy story. Tilting his head, he gestured at her. What on earth was she doing here anyway?
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...
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.