Azarion turned somewhat read at the mention of sex. Nope. He knew enough about sex to know he did not want to do it in an alley on a whim. Ew. Rufus noted, somewhat rattled, that he probably preferred girls to guys. Azarion shrugged, making an ambivalent gesture. Girl or guy, didn't really make that much of a difference. He was just... not sure what he was supposed to feel yet. While makig out with someone.
He finally reached out, for lack of a better option, and patted Rufus on the shoulder. He did what he could. He turned back to scratch on the wall. RVFVS FRIEN
All the riders line up at the starting line; inspections were finished. Azarion felt his horse tremble, anticipating the starting horn. He was ready. In fact, even without the stirrups, he couldn't wait to ride. Without a chariot, for once. Show the Romans how it was done.
The blast finally sounded, and they were off. There was a thundering sound, the hooves of the horses mixed with the cheers of the crowd. Azarion briefly wondered if Tiranes was up there somewhere with his imperial master, watching. He hoped to make his cousin - the only one of this people around - proud.
@Sarah @Sara @Sharpie @Atrice
A cheerful woman he didn't know walked up to him, greeting him. Azarion looked at her a little sheepishly. Varinia. He tapped the tablet around his neck; if she could read, she'd know his name. Otherwise, she'd just think he's weird. She asked if he wanted cake, and Azarion nodded. Cake was always good.
Thank the gods, Alexius made an appearance; Azarion greeted him with a relieved smirk. He was not sure he was technically invited, but at least Alexius did not seem like the kind of guy who would kick him out. He shook his head, glancing at Varinia. No, they did not know each other. But if the woman was giving him food, she was alright in Azarion's book.
@Atrice @Sharpie @Sarah
Azarion wandered into the courtyard of the insula a little sheepishly. He had been there before, back when they were trying to hunt Safinia's killer down. And even though the others (apart from Tiranes) were all free, they still decided to invite the Sarmatian slaves to their Cerealia party. Whatever that entailed. Azarion did not want to go at first; it would have felt weird, and it wasn't like the others were his friends anyway, just because they shared a common enemy. But everyone else at the stables was going a little stir crazy with preparing for the Cerealia games, and he needed a break. So, he showed up.
Apparently, he arrived early, because he couldn't see any familiar faces. There were tables set up, and flowers everywhere, and the scent of food in the air. Azarion wandered in cautiously, looking around. If those who invited him weren't here, he'd have a hard time explaining why he showed up...
The stirrups turned out to be a one-time thing. No doubt Marcus had to use some finesse to convince the judges at large that the mute Sarmatian did not need to be banned from all further racing. So, they just banned the stirrups instead. Idiot Romans. As if that could keep Azarion from winning.
The racers were lining up now. Many of them in their traditional colors - white, blue, green, goddamn red - but some without an affiliation to a faction. On festival days like this, racing was open to others as well, although not many decided to take up the challenge against the professionals. Azarion led Pagos to the starting line, and kept a blank face as the judges inspected the harness. No 'cheating' this time, they declared. Azarion rolled his eyes, and vaulted up into the saddle. He'd still win.
@Sarah et al
Truth be told, Rufus was probably doing his best. He was not someone Azarion particularly wanted to kiss, although he was handsome. And he was gentle too, the way he kissed her, threading one hand into his hair. With his eyes closed, Azarion felt more of the sensation of being kissed gently by someone. It was pleasant. Tentatively, he moved his lips too, pressing back against Rufus'. Maybe he could do this. Maybe the scribblings were wrong.
Azarion pulled back, a little flushed by the sudden intimacy. He looked at Rufus sheepishly, nodding. For lack of a better reaction.
Aaaaand now everything was going to Tartarus in a hand basket. They were handing the man over to be publicly executed. Azarion frowned. Voting was useless. He wanted to kill the man. Torture him and kill him, and offer the blood to Safinia's spirit.
Especially when he woke up and smiled.
Azarion snarled, but the black-haired girl was faster. To her credit, she managed to grab the knife and lunge before the vigile could wrangle her. The knife clattered to the ground, bloodied, and Azarion snatched it up, turning to face the man who was still held up by the praetorian.
He could stab him. Everyone was in shock and chaos. He could just stab him now.
Instead, Azarion stepped up close to the man to look him in the eye, holding the knife at his chin. The look was all he had, but it spoke more than any words.
@Sains @Sara @Sharpie @Atrice
Azarion was not convinced the man would get what he deserved. The others seemed to believe that justice would be served, but Azarion did not trust the Romans as far as he could throw them, especially when one of their own was concerned. Although he did think that killing a senator would probably royally piss everyone off, so there was a chance they would be right.
On the other hand, he wanted to cut the man himself.
Azarion rolled his eyes at the snappy dark-haired girl. Like hell he was not getting a vote. Safinia was owed a vote on this, and she could not be here to cast it, although Azarion believed her spirit was not at rest. In the end, Didia called an end to the bullshit, which he appreciated. And she called for a vote.
Didia raised a hand. Azarion didn't.
@Sains @Sara @Atrice @Sharpie
Tiranes grabbed Azarion before he could lunge at the man. Seething, he struggled for a moment. There were too many people in the room, nondoubt with their own opinions on what to do. One soldier, one vigile. Women he'd not seen before. Azarion huffed, looking at his cousin.
He needs to die, he signed. With pain.
He could make sure of that.
What do the Romans do with him?, he asked. You never knew.
@Sharpie @Atrice @Sains @Sara
The moment Tiranes shook him awake Azarion knew that something was very wrong... or very right. Praise the gods, it was the latter this time. They caught him was all he needed to hear; he was wide awake, and out the door before Tiranes. He almost ran all the way to the insula, but his cousin seemed tired, so he managed to hold back, but only barely.
There he was. With the rest of the group that had planned on catching him (and some new faces he didn't care about), tied up on the floor and gagged. Azarion recognized him immediately. Why was he still alive? Azarion snarled, lunging for the man, but someone had grabbed his arm before he could reach him.
@Sara @Sains @Atrice @Sharpie
Mid April 77AD
It was Cerealia. The year had turned, the days had warmed, the grain fields were sprouting and Ceres had found her daughter Prosperpine and was enjoying having her at home again. Varinia could understand how she felt, now that she'd been enjoying sharing her son's home for the last few months, after years of separation. And enjoying her freedom, of course. She had grown more accustomed to it over those months, and was really starting to enjoy being able to do even just simple things when she wanted, as she wanted.
Like making little flatcakes. Flour and water and eggs, honey and dried fruit soaked in wine, all mixed together and fried on a griddle to make little warm, puffy rounds of deliciousness. She'd packed them into a basket lined and covered with cloth to keep them warm, and carried them down to the insula's inner courtyard. The building was home to a range of people, from those who lived in multi-roomed insulae like themselves, to those who lived behind their shop fronts on the ground floor, to those who rented single rooms on the top floor. Every one of her neighbours whom she'd met had been lovely so far, and she was looking forward to meeting more as they celebrated the turning of the year.
On top of the basket she carried a spray of wildflowers that she'd collected early that morning from down by the river and these she strewed over one of the tables that had been set in the courtyard, before placing her basket on top of it. She was pretty certain that Alexius would appear once he smelled food, and of course there was her own household. Who else might appear, with a plate or basket if they could afford to share food, or just themselves if they could not? All were welcome in her eyes. This would be fun.
Mid April 77AD
It was mid April and the weather was warming, trees were blossoming, and most importantly the first green sprouts of wheat from the grain which had been planted earlier in the season had been confirmed in the fields; the grain was fertile and growing and Rome would not starve. Ceres' blessing was on them for another year. In celebration, as was traditional each year, sacrifices of pork, wheat, salt, and incense had been offered to Ceres. Her statue had been draped in garlands of spring flowers and ceremonially paraded from her temple to the Circus Maximus, where she held the seat of honour next to Caesar himself, who sat in the Goddess's presence. There were to be races today, not of the chariots of which Romans were so fond, but of horses, in the more traditional form. Their riders would goad their individual steeds around the track, whilst the spectators looked on.
Immediately below where Titus sat with the decorated statue of of Ceres was the space reserved for the rest of the Imperials. Tiberius occupied this area, cool under a cloth canopy, clad purely in white as was traditional; a bright tunica and toga candida. Immediately about him there was space who those whom he had invited; family of course but also the younger generation of the Senatorial class, both male and female, whilst the more senior Senatores and their wives had space reserved to either side of the Imperials, within conversation range should they desire. It was an arrangement intended to demonstrate openness and largesse, whilst also allowing his own generation - stunted somewhat by the chaos of the purges - to meet, mingle and forge their own friendships and alliances.
As he watched the stands gradually fill, Tiberius wondered whether he would be able to spot Jason's cousin in the race.
(Right after Whoever brings the night)
Aia was sitting on a chair in the apartment she and Decimus had only recently vacated. No one had moved into it yet, so it was mostly empty. And thus, and excellent place to stash the piece of shit they had just apprehended. While Aia would not have minded just stabbing him right in the alley, Alexius claimed he didn't deserve that. He deserved worse. She liked that idea.
It seemed that a whole lot of people had a bone to pick with this man. Everyone ran everywhere, carrying to news, leaving Aia to get patched up by Theodorus while the two of them waited for the rest to return. Aia had her largest kitchen knife at hand, just in case. And Theo was there to make sure she didn't just stab the man anyway.
Aia frowned, drinking from a cup of unwatered wine as Theo bandaged her wound. It was deep, but not serious; he stitched her up, which hurt like a bitch, and put her in a foul mood. The man on the ground was still unconscious, although he groaned sometimes. Alexius had done a thorough job tying him up like a prize hog, and Theo had helped gag him in case he woke up. He was not going anywhere anytime soon. Or maybe ever.
@Sharpie @Atrice @Sara@Sains
(After Crime Scene Investigations)
It was early morning, but Azarion had not slept much. He had work to do. He had to train, and make better gear, and work with the horses, because by the gods he was not going to lose to the same Red dipshit twice. Or ever.
He started the morning by dunking his head in a bucket of water, and now he was wide awake, motivated by sheer rage. He had lost the Equirria race to the Red charioteer, and that grin was burned into his mind. He also felt like he had been shaken and broken, which was not far from the truth after an intense race like that. He had some new scrapes and bruises. He'd live. His pride might not.
He was on his way across the courtyard to the stables when he noticed his cousin walking in.
Early March 77AD
A bright, sunny day brought the early promise of spring to the city of Rome. The air was getting warmer, green was returning to the gardens, and everyone seemed a little more cheerful. Even the horses were happier about going outside.
Azarion had taken Borena out of the stables for a trot around the race tracks. They lingered, outside the stables, close to the gates that opened to the street. Azarion had stopped to struggle with his hair. He had been growing it out ever since he became a charioteer; a small sign of connection to his former homeland. But now his dark hair had reached the length where it was not long enough to be tied back properly, but not short enough to not get into his eyes. So, he stopped, with a leather tie between his lips, trying to figure out how to braid it back and out of his face. Borena made some whinnying noises, poking his elbow with her nose impatiently. Azarion gave her a glare. Not helping.
February 27, 77AD
Azarion's heart hammered in his chest as he checked over the horse's harness one last time. He had made modifications in the past few days, after finding out the Whites were participating in the Equirria races on the Campus Martius. his chariot and two horses were also ready for the run later that day... but right now, he was not looking after them. This horse, from the White's stables, was not assigned to a chariot yet; not fully trained to run alongside someone else, or keep a steady pace. Which suited Azarion just fine.
The festival, in honor of the old ways of Rome, started with horse races, rather than chariots. Romans were much more fond of the pageantry of charioteers now, especially when all four factions were represented - but still, tradition was tradition, so the tracks were cleared for riders. Azarion had caught glimpses of the others - mostly young men who were riders in the Circus as well. They had good horses, and experience. But Azarion had something they didn't.
He had been considering this for a long time, but stirrups were no use in a chariot race. This was an opportunity he did not want to pass up. To ride again like they used to, in Sarmatia. He was not sure if Tiberius and Tiranes were going to show up for the festival, but he knew his cousin would go out of his mind. Azarion did not let anyone in on what he was preparing for. Not even Marcus.
He was wearing the uniform of the Whites, but without the reins wrapped around his body this time. He tied his growing hair back as much as he could manage. Patting the horse on the nose - in his mind, he called him Pagos -, Azarion was ready to walk out to the starting line, when Marcus made an appearance...
The stables were not exactly teeming with reading material. Azarion had learned the basics of writing and reading on his own time, but if he wanted to practice, he had to venture outside of his usual stomping grounds. Which is why he rarely ever got around to practicing. Most people had learned his gestures and signs by now, at least the ones he needed to have daily interactions with. As far as letters, he only really encountered them when they were scrawled on the walls.
And those walls were everywhere.
Azarion was on his way back to the Whites' stables from the forum, where he had purchased some small things for his new harness, when his eyes caught some of the scribbles on a wall. He was in no hurry, so he slowed down, and began to put some of the letters together. How did Romans have so much time to write shit on the walls?... And what did they even have to write about?
The first word he managed to piece together was F-U-C-K.
Well, that made sense.
December 22, 76AD, evening (after The hunt begins)
In retrospect, they could have tried to find a bigger place for this, Lucius thought. They barely fit inside Alexius' apartment, and his son was not even home yet. But it was still better than nothing, and the place was inconspicuous enough not to raise any suspicion of the ragtag gathering of slaves, freedmen, plebeians, and one former patrician. They really looked like an unexpected group of people as they all filed in. Lucius, still in his vigiles uniform (he had to go on patrol while the others looked for more clues, and he jut got back for the evening). Alexius, the ex-gladiator, towering over the rest of them. Jason, the imperial body slave, and his cousin, the mute charioteer, who was leaning against a wall with his arms folded, sizing up everyone. A girl - Didia? - who had been attacked by the killer, and apparently also lived next door. And she brought another, soft-spoken older man along, who introduced himself as Theodorus. Medicus for a ludus, apparently. Well, Lucius thought, there was a possibility that a medicus' services were needed before this was all over.
Lucius had brought some wine for everyone, and also a rolled-up map of the city. It was a little dated, and barely marked more than the main streets and the regions, but it was the best he could rustle up on a short notice. He also had a new writing tablet, instead of the one he'd borrowed.
"Is this everyone?..." he asked, glancing around at the assembled people. How were they even... supposed to do this? "I know we don't all know each other, but apparently we have a common enemy. Someone who has hurt... and killed... a lot of people." he glanced at Didia, and cleared his throat. "Someone no one has paid attention to, or connected the dots, for too long. And we need to find him, fast. Before he hurts someone else."
@Sara @Atrice @Sharpie
December 19th - Saturnalia - 76AD
Vibia loved Saturnalia, if only because it meant her coin purse was fatter than any other time in the year and the men she serviced were more pliable. So she suffered through the parties and the late nights, stifling yawns behind her hand and blinking sleep from her eyes because it'd be worth it in the end. It's how she found herself in a domus on the Quirinal surrounded by rich men; their wives shunted off for the evening. There were others here too, not just prostitutes for the inevitable orgy but Gladiators - dressed up in their regalia, and Charioteers too - undoubtedly plying for patronage as much as the girls and boys she was with were.
Most of the men were in the gardens, downing their cups of wine and grinning lovely, lascivious grins at their guests. Vibia sniffed and made a beeline for the triclinium, hoping to find something more interesting to do than a sweaty old man - no matter how rich he was. Picking a cup of watered wine from a slave she made her way to the corner of the room, surveying the scene. There was a big burly gladiator in the centre being pawed over by men - ostensibly to check his pedigree for patronage but only a fool wouldn't see that the men were taking their sweet time checking his muscle tone. There were a few people in idle conversation and in the opposite corner there was a little man who seemed to want to be anywhere else. Or at least it seemed that way to her. Curious.
Taking a sip and weaving through the crowds, the flimsy cut of her dress leaving trails of fabric, she sidled up to him. "You don't belong here, do you?"
Saturnalia, 76 AD
Cynane was waiting just outside the palace and hoped that Tiranês would show up soon, as they had decided. It was, after all, Saturnalia! The one holiday the Romans got right, at least. The one holiday where slaves got to feel like free people and could do (almost) anything they pleased. As long as they’d show up for work the next day. Well there was always the next day. Sometimes she’d thought it was a way to mock the slaves, tell them to go and have fun, but remember, you are still slaves. There’s always tomorrow!
But tomorrow was not now. She was unsure of where they were going, but her blood-brother said he had a good idea and she’d happily see what he had in store. And keep him safe on the way. She had tried to dress up, but she still didn’t want to look like someone she wasn’t. So she still wore breeches and a thigh-long tunica, easy to move around in. She’d dropped the leather armor for tonight, but she still wore her braids. Maybe a bit fancier than on a daily basis, since it was Saturnalia. She recalled Tiranês speaking of many smaller braids in the hair, she didn’t know if it was a style the women among his people kept, but she’d tried to recreate it.
Casually she leaned against the wall, ignoring the stares of anyone passing by, like she always did. If they glared at her and she did look back, they’d wish they didn’t. She didn’t want their attention. All she wanted was the company of someone she liked, and she didn’t like many people in Rome. And luckily, soon enough it was Tiranês who joined her and she greeted him with a smile, “Finally! Shall we go? And... where are we going?”
@Sharpie @Chevi ( @Sara )