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  1. July 76, the Circus Neronianus* It was still summer in Rome, still hot, and yet with the advent of a new Caesar, there was a new air of excitement and anticipation even in the heat that pervaded Rome. It was cooler outside the boundary of the city - not a lot cooler, but enough. Racing was something that everyone had an opinion on and interest in, no matter the season or who wore the purple. Most races took place in the Circus Maximus, that vast stretch of racetrack in whose shadow the Whites' stable lay, but there were other venues in Rome for racing to take place, and one of those was the new Circus outside the boundaries of the city, across the Tiber. It was a venue for less prestigious races, and therefore the perfect place to introduce a new charioteer to the business of actually being a charioteer. Marcus had made sure that Azarion had had the opportunity to drive around this smaller track so that its shorter length and tight turns would be more familiar during his first race. And now the chariots were lined up at the end of the Circus; behind the carceres, the starting gate. When the signal was given, the gate would allow all the chariots to move forward at the same time, aiming them deliberately to the right-hand side of the spina that ran down the centre of the circus. Marcus would watch this first race of Azarion's future career from near the starting gate, where he could see right down the circus on both sides of the spina, although not the curve at the far end. He had Varica stationed on the spina itself to cover that - being able to hear of any occurrences there would help with the final assessment of the day. Seven laps would tell whether Marcus was right, or wrong, in his assessment of the boy. @Chevi ( @Járnviðr and @Atrice if you want to include Menelaus and Caeso as either spectators or participants) *Two things: the Circus Neronianus was begun by Caligula (and finished by Claudius in our own timeline, there's no need to think it couldn't have been finished by AeRo's own Claudius); I have referred to it by the name it has in our world because I don't know what it would otherwise be known as. The thread is set in the Transtiberim even though this circus is technically not in that area simply because it is on the other side of the river and only just outside Rome itself. See the map here
  2. 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 )
  3. Early October, 76 AD It was dark in Rome this night. The moon wasn’t shining, there was not just a veil, but a thick blanket of clouds over the city for once. That made it all seem quite dark this time of year and Marcus enjoyed it. He had gone out with a purpose tonight, the usual purpose, wearing a cloak over his head and a proper knife by his belt, hidden by the long cloak that went all the way to his knees. He was ready for something to happen. Something he would like. There had been a few attacks he’d failed at recently and he wasn’t very happy about it. At least none of the women had been talking about him, no one had found out about him, so that was good. Even if they escaped, the next best thing was them not talking. He preferred that. Else he’d have to find them again and make sure they wouldn’t talk. He’d like to find them anyway. Maybe he’d find one tonight? Quite randomly he was walking around for some reason, ended up near the racing court. Not that he had any connection to the place, and yet… as he walked by a certain house with a few barrels in front of it, he stopped. Didn’t he once kill a girl there? It had felt so good. He didn’t mean to kill her, but she struggled and she hurt him and she wouldn’t shut up. So he made her. He’d slit her throat. And stabbed her chest. He realized he was standing still, as the memories flowed through him. He licked his lips, thinking about it made him want more of the same. There had been so much blood. Maybe some of it had sprayed onto the side of the house or something… without thinking twice, he walked closer to the scene. @Chevi
  4. Two days after the races at the Circus Neronianus (stupid name), and Jason had tracked down the boy he'd seen racing, that he thought looked remarkably like his cousin, last seen being hauled off, kicking and screaming and with blood everywhere, to be sold gods-knew-where to gods-knew-who. How and why he'd ended up here in Rome, the same city Jason was now living in, was a minor miracle. The fact that he'd seen and recognised him was a bigger miracle - how close had they been, for how long? They could have passed one another a hundred times in the Forum or the streets and never seen one another, and for Jason to have seen his cousin racing a chariot for the Whites... He had followed his master home docilely and slipped out to the garden during the night to give thanks to Tabiti for the preservation of his cousin, the last member of his family he had seen and to ask for her continued blessing on the boy (chariots were not horses, but it was closer to actual riding than Jason himself had come for several years), as well as for her favour when it came time to speak with his master. He had left as an offering a bronze coin of indeterminate provenance, whose reverse showed a horse. Tabiti would understand. That had been the night after seeing his cousin at somewhat of a distance. Today, he had permission to come to the Whites' stables to try to see his cousin from a lot closer up. Maybe even to actually talk to him, if the gods smiled on them and Azarion's masters would allow it. He entered the stable-yard and was hit full-force with nostalgia - the layout was all wrong but the sounds and scents were all right. He hadn't been so close to this many horses for the best part of ten years, and had to swallow. "I'm looking for Azarion," he managed in accented Latin, addressing the first person he saw who might spare him enough time to point his cousin out. He was in luck; the other waved him towards a stall where he could see his cousin's dark head as he moved around the horse. Feeling relieved that he'd been right in thinking the boy was his cousin, and somewhat jealous that he hadn't been renamed - though how he would have asked for him if he had been was anyone's guess, he crossed to the indicated stall. He would not interrupt Azarion's work; simply waiting would allow him to spend that bit longer in an environment that took him straight back to his childhood. @Chevi
  5. Zia rarely came out in the evenings to watch by her minions as they did their deals and made her gold, but needs must. The problem with having a lucrative business, she'd found, was that it meant everybody wanted a piece of it. Nothing had happened thus far, beyond a few gang low-lifes making offers to her own runners, but she wanted to keep an eye out and she wanted to see it for herself. Being here was a risk, she knew that, but the cloak she wore - even in the summer heat - hid the slave collar she was locked into and she kept her hood up. Gallus was - for all intents and purposes - the front man of the operation and only glanced in her direction where there was something she should see. In this case, it was a small man who seemed to be gesticulating to one of her young employees. Zia arched a brow and watched from the shadows as the conversation got more heated. She called over to Gallus; "Gang?" And the man shook his head, looking equally perplexed. If this young man was in a Collegia then he wasn't being particularly subtle about his intentions. She slipped from the shadows to get a closer look and frowned when she saw that the man wasn't talking. "What do you want?" She called out and gave him a once-over. "We don't do charity here, if you can't afford it then leave." TAG: @Chevi
  6. May, 76 CE Tarbus stood close to the mare, running his fingers through her long mane, over and over, rhythmically and without hurry. Resting his left arm against her withers, he used the right hand to tease out any tangles and lay the mane straight on her glossy neck. Fingers were more gentle than a rigid comb. And the repetitive motion coaxed more oil from the roots, adding to the silky look of the mixed black and white hairs. She was a deep, dappled grey, and the rest of her coat was already burnished, rubbed and brushed to a high shine, although a grey coat would never come close to that of a chestnut, bay or black, in terms of luster. But she was a beautiful creature none the less, well proportioned and in top condition, a far cry from the shorter, stouter mounts common to his homeland. The blood of the horses of Hispania ran through her veins, and she had the more fiery disposition that went along with such breeding. It was one of the few things of his new, unchosen place of residence – hopefully a temporary residence – which he admired. These racing horses were only one example of how the Romans bent the world to their wishes, in this case by the selective breeding of the best to the best, to produce a superior line to what nature alone could have supplied. Of course, it was superior only in terms of what the Romans desired in their steeds. Nature could not be bested in producing that which was truly the heartiest, the strongest, the most adaptable. As for the rest of what the Romans had conceived of and brought into existence, Tarbus had no admiration or awe. Rome, the city, was a hundred times bigger than anything in Dacia. The architecture and building methods were advanced almost beyond belief, even the materials used were of profound beauty. Yet they held no allure for the slave, a man once a noble in his own country, around whose neck the simple iron circlet he now bore weighed heavy on his soul, like a bitter gall. There was nothing about the Romans or their city or empire that Tarbus envied or respected, other than their power to subjugate other peoples and lands. If he could have called forth an army of millions, to sweep this accursed place into the Tiber, he would not have saved a scrap of it. Well, maybe the weapons, but nothing else. As far as Tarbus was concerned, he’d take the mountains, the snow, the forests - the modest villages and homes, with an occasional temple built on simple lines - of Dacia, over the progressive bustle of this well-oiled machine of conquest, any day! But today would not be that day, for the likelihood of Rome falling to armies of what they deemed “Barbarians” seemed remote indeed. This day was drawing to a close, in much the same way as all the days of the past two years had drawn to a close. Tomorrow was a race day, so in that it might be said things were just a bit more hectic, a bit more intense, around the racing stable of the whites. But like all things Roman, the team and all its many, many workers – slave, servant, freedmen, and plebian alike – ran like a well oiled machine, for the most part. Each person knew his or her tasks and acted like many cogs that fit together smoothly and turned with precision. Tarbus, seeing nothing to be gained by throwing any monkey wrenches in the works, at least not yet, did his part without any fuss and very few words, keeping to himself and watching all about him with keen observant eyes. With soothing sounds that were not really formed words, he hummed and murmured to the mare, as he finished a job that was perhaps not quite so urgent as the hundred others he had performed throughout the day. Working directly with the horses in the racing stable was literally the only thing he enjoyed about his daily existence, and he lingered over it, if he could. It gave him real pleasure to touch them, listen to them, try to communicate with them on some level, get to know each one’s personality and quirks. It was soothing and it was something he’d never taken, or had, the time to do, before his enslavement. Then, he had enjoyed riding and training the horses they needed for transportation and making war on other tribes, and the Romans, and other people who occasionally tried to make inroads from the north or east. But here, the contact with living flesh held some strange sort of comfort for him. Where there were no loved ones to hold him, or for him to hold, the horses provided at least some form of connection with living beings that he could tolerate. The same could not be said of many of the other people he now was forced to live and work with. His fingers leaving off combing, their part of the work done, he turned and moved to the opening of the stall to retrieve a stiff brush of wood and boar bristles, to complete the job of seeing to her mane. The mare shuffled, at the approach of another two legged creature. Tarbus’ gaze went to the dark haired boy, and he nodded a small greeting. “Ready for tomorrow?” he asked, in Latin, eyeing the other slave with curiosity. He knew tomorrow was a really big day for the mute – his debut as a charioteer. It wasn’t something Tarbus was interested in – risking his neck for the entertainment of the fucking Romans. But he knew, his story and his goals were not the same as every other slave’s - they each had ambitions or dreams according to their own experiences. He could still pray to Darzalas to preserve the boy’s health, for after all, Azarion was not a bad sort. The fact that he had no voice probably played a part in Tarbus’ opinion of him.
  7. 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. "Papa!" "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)
  8. February 75CE But for the steady huff of the horses’ breath in the heady air around him, Tarbus felt – as ever in these stables – that he was alone, a novel sensation in a city that swirled with intrigue and interference. By rights, his time was not his own these days. The shackles of ownership steered him, mostly, even if he had been released at least partially to the finer act of training horses and riders. Charioteers, rather. In truth, Tarbus did not understand the Romans’ compulsion toward chariots. They were dangerous, as most man-made things were in the end, and one could not feel the beast beneath him in those great, monstrous contraptions. Perhaps that was why Tarbus had resisted racing himself, though the pulse of promised glory lingered as a temptation. Training others and seeing, at least partially, his hand in their victory would suffice. For now. The crunch and rustle of footsteps amongst the hay drew his attention from the warm flank of the gelding to which he currently tended. In the illuminated light of the doorway stood the scrawny figure of the stable boy. Tarbus turned. “Azarion,” he piped up in greeting and lifted an eyebrow. “Had enough of racing the chariots, have we?” @Chevi
  9. (February 75CE) Marcus had no idea if the new slave, Azarion, knew just how closely he'd been watched since he'd been hired by the White faction. He had given him into the care of Varica, his head trainer, and received reports from him that made him take a closer interest in the boy. He had gone back to the boy's master with a proposition. They had struck a deal and it was that which had led to Marcus' standing on the balcony outside his office, watching the activity in the stables below, waiting to spot one particular slave. There he was. Rather than summon the kid to him, Marcus descended the stairs to the stable-yard - he would only bring the kid back down here, there was no need to make him do the trip twice for no reason. "Azarion!" he called, once he could be certain of not interrupting or disturbing him. @Chevi
  10. The Whites' stable complex was the usual bustling place it always was, with slaves exercising horses by walking them round the yard - one had been re-shod and a mare had recently foaled. The carpenter was busy fashioning a new chariot, and the wheelwright was shaving spokes for a new wheel for one damaged in the last race. Slaves were mucking out stalls and doing all the hundred and one other things that kept a chariot team ready and able to compete in the furious races that had made the Whites famous. Marcus had been closeted with a visitor for what felt like an eternity, talking about the opportunities that backing such a faction could provide, and had come out of the session the renter (not, strangely, outright owner) of one half-wild barbarian boy who seemingly had a magical touch with horses. Marcus had initially been put off by the FVG brand on the boy's arm, and the discussion over that had led to the final agreement, that the Whites would take the boy on to work in the stables for a fixed sum payable every eight days, and if not fully satisfied, the boy would be returned to his master, no harm, no foul. They had shaken on it and the boy's master had left, leaving Marcus in charge of a boy who looked still half-feral. At least the tunic he was wearing could pass as white, Marcus supposed. If you squinted. It was at least not blue, green or red. There was something to be said for small mercies. "Come along, I suppose you ought to see where you'll be working," he said, leading the boy out of his office and into the bustling yard. The Whites complex was formed of four separate wings around a central courtyard. There were stables along three sides, enough to house all the numerous horses (it was not unknown for them to put three teams into the same race), with various workshops, the kitchen and dining hall making up the fourth wing. Over the stables were hay-lofts and dormitories for the slaves, with living quarters for the free craftsmen situated over the workshops. Marcus' office was also on this second story, which had a shaded balcony overlooking the central yard, giving Marcus a good view of everything that went on, for which he was responsible. @Chevi
  11. May 74 Rufus, being his new master's body slave and not his secretary (although things might still change, of course) had been sent away when his master's visitor arrived, with the admonition to remember to stay within call, but not so close the master would think he was deliberately eavesdropping. Eavesdropping was not something Rufus had ever felt particularly comfortable doing, and he was even less comfortable with the thought he might appear to be doing so, especially as he was still on trial to see whether he would be suitable in this position long-term or not. He was not about to risk anything, and had found himself a spot out of the way across the garden from the tablinum where his master was meeting his guest, where he could see his master and hear him call if he was wanted, but where he couldn't overhear any of the conversation. It was a nice shady spot of the garden under a vine trellis and Rufus settled down. He had been allowed to borrow a wax tablet and stylus (both cheap and plain, unlike the one the master used) in order to practise his writing - he could write, he was extremely fortunate in that, but it had been a while since he had and he did not want to find himself in a position where he was taking dictation or trying to write something up neatly and found himself wondering what way round the letter S went. And there were few enough other things he could do that would occupy him for more than a few minutes at most. He leaned back, enjoying the sun for a moment before he did anything. It was rare to have any time alone, especially now, and he appreciated every second he could get away from his master (although his master wasn't a bad master, quite the opposite. Everyone needed some sort of alone time sometimes, even slaves). It couldn't have been very long that he sat there before a shadow fell across his face and he blinked up, thinking at first that he had been summoned. The person looking down at him was the boy who'd accompanied master's guest, though, and he didn't look as though he'd come to call Rufus in to attend the master. "Hello," he said. Alone time or not, he didn't mind being interrupted by someone new, especially a fellow slave. "Care to join me?" He patted the bench beside him. @Chevi
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