Face ClaimKaya Scodelario
Truer words about horses had never been spoken, Safinia reckoned. Then again, Marcellus was being awfully diplomatic about the beasts, which, if she were to draw from her limited experience, had a good chance of meaning he was actually fond of the creatures but did not fancy an open conflict of opinions. Realising it was one of those situations where the polite thing to do was to agree to disagree, she nodded and chuckled along Marcellus' laugh, more for his sake than out of actual amusement.
He made a good point about the skills of the craftsmen; a cheap price was paid twice. "The roof falling on you is not a pleasant experience. I know." she commented sombrely, recalling the way the earth had shaken and made the building where she had lived collapse like a leaf blown by the wind. She had only just barely made it in the time to the lower floors before it crumbled entirely... but surely the stables were built of better and harder material than a dilapidated insula.
She fixed her gaze on Marcellus, studying him intently as he looked down at the apple. He seemed thoughtful, but Safinia couldn't quite tell why. His words weren't that enlightening either, not because of the content itself but because the sensation he was trying to explain was so unfamiliar to her. "So you... find it challenging? But not when she's into you? Isn't it better when both parts are in agreement?" Maybe better wasn't the right word - more like more adequate, or proper.
Was it possible for this loony idealist of a man to become even more aggravating? Yes, yes it was. Yet for someone who seemed to believe success was born of effort he looked tremendously unsuccessful himself. Taking his coin with a click of her tongue, Safinia rolled it in her hand, taking in its weight. It felt like an ordinary coin all right. "And why should I care what you believe? It's not like you look as though you practise what you preach," she grumbled, fiddling with her purse as she put the money inside it and took her sweet time fishing out the pyxis.
In the end she couldn't dally any longer and with an angry glare placed the tiny box in the man's outstretched hand. "There. Happy?"
Horses were bloody fragile creatures despite their size, that's what they were. More coddled and pampered in these stables than any lapdog, which made sense given they were at the core of many a worker's livelihood, Safinia's included... But that didn't mean she had to like them. "You'd think even horses would learn to recognise the people that are around them all the time and not be spooked by them," she commented with a judgemental shake of her head. She reached into the basket, took out another apple and, after a cursory look to make sure it wasn't wormy or rotten, offered it to Marcellus. "You also need to perform at your best. When do you think we'll be up and running again?" The sooner that happened, the sooner they could get enough money to complete the repairs and have it all back to normal, in her black-and-white vision of things.
She blinked at him, eyes wide and not entirely grasping why Marcellus would keep on putting in the work when he could simply lean back and let himself be fawned over. "Um... why bother, though? As long as you're a charioteer there will always be someone interested in you. Even if you're old and nothing special. I mean, look at Bassus. Even he has his fans."
"So you accuse me of being a career criminal just like that? Well isn't that nice of you," Safinia drawled, full of animosity towards the man. He deserved a good thwacking more than Azarion. She almost took back her acceptance of his deal because of his comment, but he was like a dog with a bone who just wouldn't let go. What was a promise to a stranger, anyway? Rome was a big city and with any luck she wouldn't see him again.
What did youth have to do with anything? The gods took no pity on children, nor did they have mercy. "And what do you think a good life is? Have you taken a look at me?" she asked, voice louder with disbelief. If he thought Safinia was a charity case, he could just give her money, walk away and spare her the sanctimonious speeches. Glaring at him, she held out a hand; there was no chance she was giving him the pyxis without hard metal in her possession first. "You first."
Even people from beyond the borders of the empire employed spices, it seemed. Safinia began to wonder which ones, but was spared having to call on her imagination by Azarion's finger pointing out a number of them - more than she had expected, in truth. Still, he was not knowledgeable enough to actually be of use to her beyond scowling and making a show of examining one of the juniper berries as if he were some plant expert.
She rolled her eyes but said nothing, taking his reaction as agreement with her own opinion. Time to haggle again then, and haggle she did until the merchant finally acquiesces to throw in another fistful of berries lest Safinia take her entire business elsewhere. Now would have been a good time for Azarion to look all threatening with that silly bow, she thought fleetingly, but overall it was a good thing they'd got out of that mess unscathed.
With all the items on the cook's list safely acquired at last, Safinia handed the spices over to Azarion for him to carry and turned round, beginning to make her way back to the market's main thoroughfare. "I think we worked hard and deserve a reward. Don't you?" Not waiting for Azarion to reply, she kept walking. "So what do you want to eat? Mind we've only got a little left," she cautioned, showing him the few coins she had yet to put back inside the purse after paying the spice merchant.
Oh. So it was. One of the many jokes that simply flew over Safinia, but at least Marcellus was kind enough to let her know of it. "There's a lot of jokes I don't get," she commented with a one-armed shrug, but did not dwell on it. Best to let him know several attempts at humour were lost in her, in case Marcellus was the jokester type.
"I don't know about that, they're so spoilt." Stupid greedy horses, if she didn't keep an eagle eye on the pantry there wouldn't be any apples for the humans. "I don't think they like me. I sure don't like them," she muttered, looking about to make sure nobody overheard that particular bit. At least one of the beasts didn't like Marcellus either, and although the bite was healing it still looked quite nasty. Safinia examined it from where she sat, frowning and shaking her head. "Why did it bite you? Was it because you didn't give it an apple? I'd think the horses were used to you." And to the other charioteers as well, but maybe not all. Or it could have been a new horse, still nervous about its new stable. Bloody beasts.
"Well, then you should lie and say you got it in a fight. Protecting a pretty woman from bandits or something. Every girl falls for that," she nodded with conviction. Then again, thanks to his occupation and looks, Marcellus didn't really need to go out and charm the ladies - they would flock to him of their own accord, excited to get close to a famous charioteer. Safinia told him as much, only in not so many words. "Didn't you already get attention from the women, anyway?"
With Azarion's stomach growling like that, it was nice to know he would not object to Safinia's budding plan. They wouldn't be able to go all out on their snack since it was the faction's money after all, but neither hungry belly would rat out the other. She followed the scent trail and soon enough the two of them found themselves standing in front of a huge table that seemed to hold every spice known to man (or rather, to Safinia) in a multitude of containers. Maybe she would be able to buy everything they needed from this vendor, instead of having to hit up several... if the prices were reasonable, of course.
A good-natured chuckle escaped her when Azarion sneezed and she gave him a small smirk of superiority. "What, didn't your people cook with spices?" If they were all hunters, maybe they didn't - but how anyone could and would live without garum was beyond what she could fathom.
Her mission springing to mind again, Safinia pointed to the cumin and addressed the wrinkly merchant. "How much for a pound?" The old woman gave the pair an appraising look and replied in a strong Eastern accent, "Six denarii." Safinia nodded; it was a fair price, she knew that much. She asked about the bay leaves and those too fell within price expectations. The juniper, however... Was she really getting enough berries for that money? It didn't look like a lot.
She turned to Azarion, entirely ignoring the fact that he might know as little as her. "What do you think? Is that a good amount for three dodrans?"
As expected, Azarion seemed about to make some stupid comment about her difficulty with letters. Safinia was no lazy matron or industrious businesswoman: throughout her life she had had more use for numbers than words, and more tangible tasks than deciphering the cook's dubious handwriting. She got her news from street gossip and corner criers, and she could count well enough not to be cheated when shopping. That was good enough! With a look of mild contempt she clicked her tongue at Azarion. Like he could read better than her.
He seemed not to be entirely happy about it, but smelled the air as she had told him to and took off seconds later, leading them further into the chaos of shoppers, stalls and tents that was the market. Safinia was not entirely sure they were headed in the right direction, or that Azarion even knew what said right direction was, but she followed along, looking about her and taking in the products being displayed for sale. A nice cut of salted ham hung from a stall, making her stomach rumble. Maybe they could get something to eat after they were done shopping. "How did you use to hunt, then?" Safinia asked absent-mindedly, thinking about how delicious a slice or two of the ham would have been on some bread. "With bows like that weird one?"
A whiff of cumin came from the left, courtesy of a sudden breeze, and she tapped Azarion's shoulder to tell him to turn. The sooner they bought the spices, the sooner they could grab a bite.
Safinia's good humour slipped rather quickly at the inane question Marcellus posed. "I don't have an apple tree," she said in confusion, looking at him with uncomprehending wide eyes. "I lived in an insula that collapsed." With her still inside. Maybe he didn't know that, or hadn't heard yet. In any case, only the very rich had enough money for a house in Rome with a garden and fruit tree, and she was not one of them; quite the opposite. His compliment, on the other hand, brought her mood right back up, and she gave him a serious nod. "I try to set the wormy ones aside for the horses."
She didn't know if she would ever be running around ever again, but for once Safinia accepted the positivism for what it was. It would be nice to be able to walk again, if running was off the table. At least it didn't look as though her leg needed to be chopped off anymore, which - again - was a positive thing. How very odd that Marcellus gave off these contagious positive vibes. As he told his story her gaze was naturally drawn to his head, and Safinia briefly compared his bruise with her own one in silence. It did not look too grave. "Those horses are more trouble than they're worth," she grumbled under her breath, knowing her comment to be a lie. Many of those horses were worth more than she would earn in a lifetime, so of course they would be kept safe.
"I don't know. I guess it's different for every woman. I don't mind them," she shrugged again, this time with her better arm only. "It's a good thing it didn't hit your face," Safinia added after an appraising look, as if Marcellus were one of the small decorated trinkets she was so fond of. "Do men like scarred women? I don't think you do."
The simple gesture that was Marcellus taking the offered apple had Safinia's chest swelling with a wisp of pride. She was being useful even in her sorry state, she felt, and thus was earning her keep - or at least not being a moocher entirely, never mind that fact that anyone with a working hand could grab an apple out of a basket. Marcellus' scrutiny did not faze her, as his intentions were rather obvious. Like just about every other member of the Whites she had come across, he was taking in her less than hale appearance and drawing his own conclusions.
"Eh, could be better," she shrugged and immediately regretted the gesture when a small wave of pain hit her shoulder. "Could also be worse, I guess," she added matter-of-factly, giving Marcellus a candid look. "It's not the first time I almost die at home, and it probably won't be the last." Perhaps this was the beginning of some repeated fate engendered by the Parcae. Without moving her head, Safinia eyed the charioteer up and down; aside from a scrape here and there, he didn't seem to be hurt. "You're looking well. Were you awake when the earthquake hit?"
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Early July, 75CE
Marcellus took a step back and sighed. The sun was beating overhead and making him drip with sweat. The whole team and their accompanying servants had turned out to help assess and fix the damage to the stables, and of course Marcellus was helping out. What else did he have to do, anyway? He could be out drinking, of course, but what was the point in that if he had to come back to the stables to sleep in an uncomfortable pallet on the ground? It wasn't worth it, though, for the hundredth time, he reminded himself to pool his money together and live in the insulae nearby. It wouldn't be a headache to commute to training, and he was a free man, free to live where he liked.
But for now, he was taking a break from moving stones into the rubbish pile to have an apple and a sit-down. He couldn't work for hours on end without stopping - no human could. He made his way into an undamaged covered area and sat, sighing again. What a boring and difficult day.
August, 75 AD
Despite everything that had happened to him, he was still here. Since Salacia was gone, he’d been thinking about her a lot. And about what happened when they first met and even before that. He remembered his first wife, his son… he remembered it when he gave himself to slavery, because he had nothing. He remembered his first owners, and then the second. He remembered the beautiful Domitilla, whom he made the mistake of falling in love with and telling her. If he had never told her, he might still have been with her. But he had been passed off again, to Cyprianus, who gave him the undeserved freedom, which he still had.
And so much had happened since then. The past decade had however been quiet for Manius, right until the earthquake, where his life fell apart again. It was slowly rebuilding now and he even got himself a job - but he had all the memories and they weighed him down.
He had always liked to take walks while thinking and that was the same case today. A good, long walk through Rome to clear his mind. Still on his own, of course. As always. That’s when he saw it. A young woman near a market stall, picking something up when the stallholder was looking away. Then she hid it in her purse and hurried away.
Manius shook his head, this wasn’t good. It really wasn’t his job to follow her, but it wasn’t right to steal like that. And maybe the stallholder would pay Manius a reward for helping.
He decided to follow her until she stopped.
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.
The day was hot, the heat bore down on him as he practised out on the tracks. But as the chariot moved, he felt the air around him move, stroking the pellets of sweat that formed against his brow and arms that held tightly to the reigns. A good charioteer had to keep “up-to-date”, especially if they wished to be better than their teammates or rivals. For a man who seemingly loved the spotlight, nodding at the spectators, he chose to bring the horses back to the stables himself without troubling the slaves. After pushing the chariot back in its proper place, he tossed the slaves who’d done the hard work some coinage to buy themselves something at the shops nearby on their next break.
It was hard not to feel pity for them when he’d once been in their position before. His time as a slave had been less than favourable but that was to be expected, he had been someone else’s property. But that was a long time ago and if you asked Bassus, it didn’t matter anymore. Dwelling in the past never helped anyone and the present was a constant battle.
When the charioteer sought for some shade, he caught sight of a girl, her skin fresh and devoid of age, so unlike his own. A cloth now in hand, he was busy wiping away the sweat that formed on his face and neck. He lips turned upwards into a smile as he approached her, nodding at her in greeting.
“Couldn’t help yourself watching the men train, could you?“ he said playfully. While first impressions were everything, youths tended to err on the side of humour. But perhaps it was the bit of “dad” that still left in him that made him make that remark. “Sorry that was rude. Bassus. Safinia, isn’t it? The new girl who sweet talked her way into a position involving lots of food.” He then lowered his voice. “Just between us, you’d be willing to sneak a weary man something during breaks?”
17 | 28th February 57 | Plebeian | Cook’s assistant | Heterosexual | Original | Kaya Scodelario
Safinia has never experienced fiery passion or all-consuming hatred. She has never screamed her heart out in grief, had her belly hurt from laughing too much or cried at the misfortune of a close one. The emotions that guide human behavior come to her only in muted, diffuse forms, like shades of grey in a world of colour. She does not know if she was born faulty like that or if it was a consequence of the fire, as her recollections of childhood are few and blurry; she remembers her father’s hands more than his face and her mother’s favourite red dress more than her voice.
As a result, she is guided more by physicalities like cold and hunger than virtuous ideals or fanciful desires – the exception being a mixture between old habit and greed that has her stealing small things here and there, sometimes to sell immediately or to keep and admire until she tires of them and trades them for coin.
Safinia’s loyalty is to first and foremost to herself, and she goes about daily interactions putting her own interests first. Despite this, she does not participate in plots or schemes, because she has trouble seeing more than face value to words and promises. That is not to say she does not lie or deceive; she will if it’s convenient to her, but her lies are spoken with the same bluntness as her truths, and more like plain denials than convoluted stories.
Social niceties are anything but intuitive to Safinia, and in spite of years of observation and ‘training’, she is able to successfully fake them only about half the time, and even then rarely for more than a few hours. To make matters worse, she is unceremonious and straightforward in speech too, seldom running her words though her defective social filter. This causes much irritation amongst the more sensitive of her peers, but has earned her a reputation of frankness with others.
All in all, Safinia feels no special attachment to other human beings; they’re often more trouble to figure out than they’re worth. Her plans for the future do not extend beyond the next couple of months, at least for the time being, and essentially consist of keeping herself clothed and fed with a roof over her head.
From her Romano-Lusitanian father, Safinia inherited her dark brown hair and average height of 154 cm; from her Gaulish mother, fair skin and vivid blue eyes – which do not provide a window into her soul, or if they do, show only a flat and undisturbed surface. Light freckles appear around her nose and lips and under her eyes when the sun is strong, and dimples form on her cheeks when she smiles, but few have had the chance to notice the latter.
She has an oval face with a small nose and thin lips and a penchant for looking people straight in the eyes, which makes many uncomfortable. Objectively, she is a pretty young woman. Slimly built, Safinia usually wears whatever she get her hands on, which given her station and wealth tends to be well-worn and cheap. Although she works for the White faction, her work guarantees dirtying of any white garments she were to wear, so Safinia sports the colour on hair ribbons instead.
Her back is covered in burn scars from a fire in her youth; they are usually hidden from view by clothes, but when they do have to be on display like at the public baths, Safinia is thoroughly unbothered by it.
Father: Lucius Safinius (b. 14 AD, d. 64 AD)
Mother: Safinia L.l. Flora (b. 20 AD, d. 64 AD).
Spouse: Marcus Dellius (b. 52 AD, d. 74 AD)
Extended family: N/A
Other: Paula, surrogate mother (b. 18? AD, d. 74 AD)
57 AD: Safinia is born in Pax Iulia, Lusitania to a Plebeian scout for the White chariot team and his Gaulish freedwoman. According to family legend, her paternal great-grandfather was a veteran of Augustus of southern Italian roots who was settled in Emerita Augusta; her grandfather, in turn, moved to Pax Iulia, where her father was also born and raised. Perhaps due to her parents’ age, she is the couple’s only child to survive birth.
57 – 64 AD: Safinia grows up in Pax Iulia. She is taught the rudiments of reading, writing and mathematics. More experienced parents might worry about their daughter always wanting to play alone, but Lucius and Flora are just grateful that Safinia is an ‘easy’ child.
64 AD, February: The Safinii travel to Rome as Lucius has some very important report for the leader of the Whites. He has been to the capital before, but it is Flora and Safinia’s first time in the eternal city. They rent a tiny house not far from the White stables, and Safinia celebrates her seventh birthday and her first outside her hometown.
64 AD, March: The house where the Safinii are staying is set on fire in the middle of the night and burns to the ground along with a few neighbouring houses. Her parents perish in the fire, but Safinia survives with some burns on her body. The arsonists are never caught, and the incident is deemed a random act of vandalism as no suspects are identified.
65 AD, early spring: After roaming the streets of Rome and stealing to survive for roughly a year, Safinia is taken in by Paula, a childless widow who pities her.
65 – 73 AD: Safinia works as centonaria alongside Paula, sewing rags and patches into a semblance of clothing. When she delivers garments to their customers at their houses, small valuables like jewellery and statuettes mysteriously disappear, although it occurs sporadically enough that nobody associates her with the missing objects.
73 AD, November: Safinia marries Marcus Dellius, a neighbour and roofer five years her senior. It is arranged by Paula, and Safinia goes along with it out of something resembling filial duty, despite having zero feelings for Marcus. He is shy, does not drink excessively and cries when Safinia dispassionately tells him the story of the burn scars on her back. Coins start to disappear from Marcus’ money purse at random intervals, but he never suspects his new wife. Safinia continues to work as centonaria, but from her new home.
74 AD, January: Paula dies of infection following a rotten tooth. Safinia follows mourning rituals and traditions, but the loss impacts her as much as what Caesar had for lunch, which is not at all. Her eyes stay dry throughout. Whatever valuables Paula possessed are subtracted from her house by someone who knew where they were hidden.
74 AD, August: Marcus and Safinia fall ill with Roman fever (malaria). Marcus dies after a few days; Safinia recovers but loses the child she was carrying. As before, she does not shed a single tear, and misses the small comforts afforded by Marcus’ pay more than the man; the miscarriage is similarly dismissed with no consequence.
74 AD, October: Safinia starts working for the White faction as cook’s assistant, name-dropping her father and his connection to the team; she makes it sound like she was taken in by a relative after the fire, and neglects to mention her sewing skills, keeping them as a card up her sleeve in case she needs to find a new employer or gain favour with the Whites. Safinia moves to a different neighbourhood, cutting contact with everyone she knew from before. Trinkets and small objects of little value start disappearing from the stables and mess hall.
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