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  1. December 15th, 75AD The villa in Baiae was a balm for Horatia's soul after a busy few months (years, really) with her family. She'd spent many happy months here during Aulus' long absence, with her in-laws and children and by herself, and always revelled in its serenity. She'd never asked her father-in-law whether he'd purchased the property himself or inherited it but either way it must have been worth a small fortune given its proximity to a sheltered beach and the lush orchards that stretched to the distance. She knew Titus and Calpurnia enjoyed it as much as her; Titus she suspected because he could pester his grandfather into telling stories from his youth, and Calpurnia because she felt like a proper grown-up in the company company of her refined grandmother. For Horatia it was the peace that she enjoyed the most. She sat in a cluster of rooms designed, many moons ago, as the womens domain but they opened up into the rest of the house not unlike her father-in-laws tablinum. She'd spent the morning with her mother-in-law in the pursuit of womanly virtue. Calpurnia, to her embarrassment, had taken to bed. Her courses had started the month before and unused to the light-headedness and aches that accompanied it, had withdrawn to curl herself into her blankets in her room. Horatia tried to ignore the knot in her stomach that the start of her monthly bleed meant her daughter was well and truly becoming a woman, and weaving with Aurelia was a perfect distraction. It was not one of her favourite pastimes (although she vastly preferred it to the monotony of spinning the wool), but it was distracting and allowed her to concentrate on nothing but the interlacing and placement of the threads. She knew her family and their reputation would be under intense scrutiny on their return to Rome if Aulus' position as Consul was confirmed and she needed to keep her mind occupied so as not to dwell on it. Aurelia had excused herself a little over an hour ago for her own respite and a lie down. Horatia, however, ever the perfectionist had decided to occupy herself with unpicking the threads that lay at odd angles and re-doing them from scratch. She worked in silence, errant strands of copper hair falling into her eyes which she had to swat away. She was dressed informally in plain stola and her hair artlessly done up, the very picture of relaxation. She suspected her husband, son and father-in-law out on some boys errand and was not expecting company when the sound of footsteps echoed and she turned her face up, her features melting into a relaxed smile. "Do not mock me," She warned with a gentle grin - she was not known for her weaving prowess and exclaimed her disinterest in it on more than one occasion to her husband, "And do not think I'm suddenly going to take up weaving every day when I'm back in Rome." TAG: @Sharpie
  2. March, 76AD Horatia arched a brow at the slave stood before her. The girl was young, but sour-tempered and usually Horatia would have limited patience for such moods in her home, but for once she shared the girls surliness. "Did you see which one it was?" The domina asked the girl, who promptly replied with "The red-head one, domina. I don't know his name. The one who hangs around our quarters." Horatia rose her fingers to pinch the bridge of her nose in irritation and then promptly waved her hand, dismissing the girl who went back to her task. That her husband was Consul was a wonderful thing that filled Horatia Justina with immense pride. Yet like any step up in the world, it came with its downsides. A small army of lictors was her current irritation - especially a particular read-headed one who trampled in Gods only knew what on the bottom of his sandals every single time he entered the Domus. The surly slave was, for the second time that day, scrubbing muck off the mosaic and Horatia made a mental note to in a very 'Horatia' way, scold the man when he next appeared trailing her husband. "Gaius, when Marius arrives will you show him up?" The attendant slave in the atrium nodded silently and with a deep breath to cleanse herself of her annoyance, Horatia swept through her home until she reached the backstairs that led to her private study. It was a novelty still for her, to have her own space apart from her bedroom, and that it was on the rarely-used second floor of the domus made it even more of an escape and a solace for the introverted matron. Set set herself behind her desk, fingers splayed on the fine wood as she looked over the papers that littered its surface. Her life had become busier since Aulus' confirmation in January but she was in no mood to plan another party, or dedication. Her motivation to host another of her book clubs was also waning. Never one for the spotlight, now her family had been thrust into it, she found herself craving the solitude of her scrolls and her solace ever more. But needs must, and that was one of the reasons her guest was joining her today. Her body slave, Callista, stood in the corner of the room as the sound of sandalled feet on the stairs stirred her from her reverie. Gaius ducked his head through the door and with lowered gaze, solemnly announced; "The gladiator, Marius, is here domina." in a tone that would have made Horatia laugh had she been with her friends. As it was, she stood and smoothed out the folds of her stool as the great giant of a man entered the room. Her smile was warm but her eyes were cautious, studying him with intensity. "Marius, thank you for coming. She gestured to a simple wooden seat set across the desk from her. Sit, won't you." TAG: @Knight
  3. (Takes place in the evening of Ave Imperator! and Into the lion's den) Aulus returned to his home feeling far more light-hearted than when he had left it that morning. He had almost not needed to head to the Castra Praetoria, not with Caesar's reassurance ringing in his ears, but some part of him had needed to meet the man who had unnerved his wife and threatened his children and slaves. After that meeting, he had no compunction whatsoever about leaving him to Caesar to deal with. He was still none the wiser as to why he had turned on Aulus' family, but the threat had gone and it felt as if a sweet breeze had blown through the house. One of the house slaves offered him a cup of wine and, when questioned, the information that the mistress was in her own private study. Aulus dismissed the boy and turned to find Horatia. He paused quietly at the door of her room, not wishing to disturb her if she was in the middle of something that could not easily be set aside. He smiled, the fond expression coming easily to his face as he watched her before knocking, the private pattern used just between the two of them. @Sara (Title: The situation as it was before the war)
  4. Charis . slave to tertius quinctilius varus . . finished . . back in time . How to Train Your Dragon - September 71AD - Charis (Erea) & Ambrosius (Turi) Charis spends quality time with her brother in Britannia. Trading Words - Winter 71AD - Charis (Erea) & Aia (Aius) Charis trades blows with the interprex of the occupying legion. Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters - December 72AD - Charis (Erea), Ambrosius (Turi) & Nymphias (Ardra) In Britannia, Charis spends time with her family. . seventy-four AD . Little Bird Caged - Late March 74AD - Charis & Rufus Now enslaved, Charis meets Rufus in the market. The Meat Market - Late March 74AD - (NPC Charis), Tertius & Spurius Charis is sold to Tertius Quinctilius Varus. An Introduction - Late March 74AD - Charis & Teutus Charis is shown the ropes by fellow-slave Teutus. Great Expectations - Late March 74AD - Charis, Tertius & Teutus Charis is formally introduced to her dominus. Lost and Found - Late April 74AD - Charis & Cynane Lost in Rome, Charis stumbles across a fellow Briton. Respite - Late April 74AD - Charis & Gaius Charis tells her story to an old Equite. In Dreams - Early May 74AD - Charis & Tertius In the garden, passion and tension flares between Charis and her dominus. Years Apart - Early May 74AD - Charis & Airs Charis chances across the interprex again. Carpe Diem - Early May 74AD - Charis, Cynane & Helios In the gardens, a drunk Charis is too loose with her words about her dominus. Garden Games - Mid May 74AD - Charis, Teutus & Antonia Spending time with fellow-slave Teutus and his half sister, their domina, Antonia. The Bridge is Crossed - Mid May 74AD - Charis & Tertius [M - S] Having found out about her gossip, Tertius punishes Charis and forces her into his bed. Under the Morning Sun - Mid May 74AD - Charis & Teutus The next morning, Charis reflects with Teutus. What goes around... - Early June 74AD - Charis, Alexius & Helios Charis confronts gossip Helios, and is saved by Alexius. Daggers After Dark - Mid June 74AD - Charis & Thessala Charis is attacked and injured, only to be saved by a Gladiatrix. The Show Must Go On - Mid June 74AD - Charis & Tertius Charis reveals her injuries to Tertius, who takes pity on her. Life is a Lemon - Late June 74AD - Charis & Cynane Charis and Cynane catch-up. Work and Play - Early July 74AD - Charis & Helenus Charis chances across a thermae slave. Special Treatment - Mid July July 74AD - Charis & Tertius Charis and Tertius reconnect and take their relationship further. New Beginnings? - Mid July 74AD - Charis, Teutus, Tertius & Hector Charis is informed of her new position, officially becoming Tertius' bed slave. Summer Showers - Late July 74AD - Charis & Rufus Charis runs into Rufus and spends the afternoon with him. Reginus Georgus - Late July 74AD - Charis & Hector Bitter and jealous, Hector needles Charis. Lost in the Moment - Early September 74AD - Charis & Alexius Charis reconnects with Alexius, who faces the sting of a slap. A Visit - Mid September 74AD - Charis & Alexius Charis apologises to Alexius. I'm not your errand boy - Early December 74AD - Charis & Teutus Charis and Teutus make up after their vicious argument. A Trojan and a Goddess - Early December 74AD - Charis & Aeneas Charis stumbles across a face from her past. A Proposal - Mid December 74AD - Charis, Tertius, Titus & Longinus Charis serves at a meal of her dominus' and finds out about her sister. About Time - Late December 74AD - Charis, Tertius, Teutus & Hector Charis witnesses Teutus' freedom ceremony. Festivities - Late December 74AD - Charis & Tertius Charis and Tertius celebrate Saturnalia. . seventy-five AD . Unhappy News - Late February 75AD - Charis Charis finds out she's pregnant. Agony Aunt - Late February 75AD - Charis & Cynane Alone and scared, Charis seeks advice from her friend. A Favour- Late February 75AD - Charis & Teutus Charis borrows money from Teutus for an abortion. Revelations - Late February 75AD - Charis & Tertius Tertius finds out Charis is pregnant after she botches her abortion. He imprisons her in her room and they argue. Broken Conversations - Early May 75AD - Charis & Tertius Charis, broken, submits to Tertius and they talk. Time for Miracles- Late May 75AD - Charis & Alexius Alexius tries to fix Charis. Awakening - Mid June 75AD - Charis Charis feels conflicted over her struggles. Blue Sky - Late June 75AD - Charis & Tertius Charis and Tertius reconnect as they discuss their child. Evening Shade - Late June 75AD - Charis & Gaius Charis meets a soldier in the Gardens of Sullust. The Equality of Man - Late June 75AD - Charis, Tertius, Teutus & Hector As an earthquake strikes rome, the domus is cast into chaos. No Boundaries - Early July 75AD - Charis & Cynane Charis finally reunites with her best friend after five months apart. Exotic Finds - Early July 75AD - Charis & Aia Charis meets Aia by chance. A New Beginning - Late August 75AD - Charis, Tertius & Cynane Charis gives birth to her child. (44) . current . God Help the Outcasts - Late June 75AD - Charis & Aglaea Charis commiserates with another Varus slave and learns a secret. Transformation - Late August 75AD - Charis, Tertius & Teutus Charis' child is recognised as freeborn. Just One Night - Mid December 75AD - Charis & Alexius Charis lets loose for one night. (3)
  5. Early August, 75CE Why was Caecina plagued with forced visits with people she didn't care to know? It was nothing personal against those she had to meet - she just had a million other things she'd rather be doing! And Juliana had an amazing ability to make connections for Caecina while being miles away at the villa. Today's visit was no different. She had been introduced to Horatia Justina before, and had attended a social gathering, a book club, at her home as well (also spurred on by her stepmother) but had never had a visit with the woman one on one. At the book club meeting, Caecina had made the appropriate niceties and then retreated to spend the rest of the evening with the one young woman she'd known there. Because she'd never interacted one on one with the older woman, Caecina was going into the meeting today with little to no context or knowledge about her personality, and that intimidated her. The young senatore lady was of the notion that all older women were simply out to get their younger counterparts, to judge their new fashions and hair styles, to judge their adherence to the proprieties. Caecina was absolutely better at interacting with women her age than older women. But at least she had some knowledge about how to appease the old cats, so she was at least prepared on that front. Caecina dressed especially carefully, choosing a more modest chiton than she usually wore. The fabric was a light blue, Caecina's favorite, and embroidered along the edge's by the girl's own hands, something she could brag about if she needed to defend herself. Her palla was also blue, though darker, and sparingly decorated. Her jewelry was tasteful and not too garish, and she brought along a bottle of fine wine from her father's cellars as a hostess gift. Upon arrival, Caecina was shown into the entryway to wait for her hostess. @Sara
  6. April, 75 AD - same day as 'First introductions' Livia had begged and pleaded for days and finally her efforts had borne fruit. To think she would have had to grovel in order to be granted permission to visit her only sister, whom she had not seen in months. Yet here she was, blessedly free of Secundus thanks to his asocial ways ('I can't possibly go with you to see your sister, I know she and her husband laugh at me behind my back!'), if only for a few hours. With Aglaea dismissed on charitable grounds of 'go and enjoy yourself', Livia felt oddly uncomfortable, almost as if she were naked. Even in an environment that was anything but hostile, her unease only showed how dependent on her body slave she had grown, in spite of the fact that her older sister was sitting just a few feet away. Now that small gifts and platitudes had been exchanged, Livia was at a loss for words. Had she really wanted to see Horatia after long weeks of nary a word, or had it all just been a convenient excuse to get away after all? She stared at Horatia with a meek yet somewhat fearful expression, hands folded in her lap. What should they talk about? "So... how was your winter?" @Sara
  7. Mid-August, 75AD Horatia sipped her wine, eyeing the dancers with amusement and interest. It was different, for a party, she'd grant their host that. Usually there were poetry recitals or dramatic performances and such and she had to admit it got a little...dry after a while. She was pleased that Antonia had spared no expense tonight. The dancers were from some Eastern province judging by the music that accompanied them and were mesmerising. She stood alone in the sea of people invited tonight; many she knew, others she did not. Aulus was sequestered away somewhere by the husband of their host discussing politics or his upcoming (potential) appointment to the Consulship and she cast him a wry, amused smile every now and again over the heads of other people gathered in the circle to watch the dancers. She'd also, much like Antonia, spared no expense for this evening. She was wearing a stola as befit her rank and marital status, but it was fine garment of silk in the colour 1, almost akin to a burning sunset and it was left open at the arms - being held together by ornate gold clasps instead of stitched shut. Her vibrant red hair had been intricately braided and set up although not in the hyper-fashionable way some ladies piled it atop their heads. Her palla, draped over her shoulder and and arm, and the tunica she wore underneath her stola were a paler yellow. She wore minimal jewellery, as she customarily did, but the bracelets she wore glinted in the lamp light being cast across the triclinium. Whilst she didn't necessarily enjoy these sort of functions the way some social butterflies did, she always made an exceptional effort. She was the wife of one of the most powerful men in the city, and she had to look the part. Besides, she wasn't an old woman by any means and it was nice (in an odd sort of way) to have aspirational or a few longing looks cast her way. She tried to ignore said glances as she stood watching the dancers, her back leaning against a pillar that opened up into the garden. She smiled to herself at the spectacle and murmured a positive comment at the lady stood to her side, unknown to her. It was only when somebody called her name did she pull her eyes away from the rhythmic movements. She recognised Pinaria Gaia, they moved in equivalent circles although she wasn't a close friend by any means. She offered a gentle smile. "Pinaria, it's lovely to see you." She leant in to kiss the woman on the cheek, "You look lovely." TAG: @Atrice 1 The colour of her stola is this colour dress from Horatia's face claim in the Borgias, when they dressed up as Romans!
  8. November 59 AD; Greece The slave hadn't been very forthcoming when Aulus said that he was here to meet with his master, but had admitted him, at least. There seemed to be little reason to have admitted him because he was led past any areas of the house where either Marcus Horatius Justinus or his son Publius might reasonably be found, and taken to the garden. It was not the first time that Aulus had been admitted to the garden - he was a close enough friend of Publius' that he had been allowed access to a relatively private part of the house before. He was not alone; there was someone sitting on one of the marble benches and Aulus stopped, unwilling to intrude further. And yet, as he began to make his apologies, he came to a stop, captivated by what he saw. He had met Publius' sister before, but she had not really caught his eye, among everyone else, with her hair done up in what must be the very latest style in Rome, and weighed down with jewellery, the very height of elegance. This simply-dressed woman was far more elegant in her simple clothing and with her hair artlessly done up. "I beg your pardon, I had come to see Publius," he managed. "I am sorry to have disturbed you." He would offer to go, but remained frozen in place, utterly captivated. @Sara
  9. February, 74AD The Praetorium in Augusta Vindelicorum, Raetia The Praetorium was abnormally quiet. Well, it was never quiet, it was obviously far more vast than their family domus in Rome and her father-in-law's expansive villa in Baiae and so the Governor's palace hummed with the sounds of slaves diligently working or visitors going about their business. But her quarters - sequestered in the private space of the building, at least, were silent today. Titus was at his lessons and Calpurnia was attending to some matter or another with her slave. Her daughter was no longer the sweet little girl she had once been, but her rapidly evolving interests in the arts and music were a balm for the creatively minded Horatia. Straining her ears she could vaguely make out the jarring notes of her flute. She hoped her daughter would find something a little more pleasing on the ears to learn soon. So she stood, quite alone in the rooms that made up her's and the children's quarters. It was too cold to sit in the gardens, she mused sullenly, winters in Raetia were harsher than Italia. She sighed and padded aimlessly until she ended up outside her husbands study. She would usually not disturb him in the day, but afternoon was well and truly on its way and his associates and men had left for the day. She considered, for a moment, going back to her own rooms to read or sew, or perhaps dedicate some time to planning whatever function Aulus was next required to host. The latter thought lit a smile on her face. She missed her husband when he was busy or absent, even if it was just for a few hours, and gently enquiring about an engagement she would be required to organise was a perfect excuse to linger in his study, was it not? She knocked on the doorframe and leant through, a light smile on her face. "Do you have some time to talk?" She queried gently. One never knew with Aulus; she suspected her husband would look as unmoving and unflappable as he ever did, even if there was some major crises occurring that she was not privy to. Stepping into the room and smoothing down her stola, she studied him, forgetting the purpose (and what a loose purpose it was) entirely. "You look tired, you work too much." She said with a wry smile. TAG: @Sharpie
  10. June, 75AD Horatia smoothed down her stola and glanced at herself in the mirror. She was not nervous, per se, she was mostly quite an unflappable woman, but this was the first time she was hosting some of these women, and certainly the first time she'd done so without Valeria Flacca's exuberant personality to outweigh her more reserved, composed demeanour. She just hoped it would be a success; the family could use some of that. Whilst her husband might busy himself with political schemes and dealing with the troublesome Praetorian's in his own way, she knew better than most that men were made and fell at the whispers and words of women. To be seen to be hosting something for the great and the good of the City's women was valuable, especially given the diverse names on the list for today. Nobody could call Horatia Justina a snob given the equite girls that had made the cut. The house was vacant; Aulus and Felix had left the women to it and taken her son to the baths, and Calpurnia was with her maternal grandfather on the Caelian. It meant that the domus; usually filled with life was oddly quiet today and that only made her perfectionism spiral. She strode from her rooms silently and set about adjusting everything to within an inch of its life. No food was out of place on the richly decorated table in the triclinium, the copies of the Odyssey (picked for its ease for novices or those not interested in literature) for those that had forgotten their own (there would always be one!) lay on a table to the side. Couches were furnished with rich throws and slaves stood diligently by waiting to serve the guests. She had not forgotten herself, either, although in true Horatia fashion had opted for traditional reservation in her clothes. The shade of amber of her stola complimented her bright auburn hair and contrasted with her eyes. Her hair was neatly, and properly, swept up into twists and turns but it wasn't overzealous or overtly fashionable. She wore little jewellery save for her betrothal ring, a simple gold bangle (a gift from her husband) and a fine pendant with a ruby in. She didn't wish to seem as if she was promoting the families wealth, after all. As she finished adjusting everything to within an inch of its life to make it perfect, one of the slaves silently announced the first guest and Horatia put on her best, beaming smile and moved to the atrium to greet them. TAG: Open! Open to all Senatorial or Equite women who want to join a book-club with Horatia!
  11. The early summer sun was out, brightening the city’s white columns and terracotta, and with good weather came the endless prospects the outside world had to offer. While Valeria was often content staying at home with her wax tablet and scrolls, she also found herself in need of stimulation and company outside her family. Because the high-end bathhouse was a place of both leisure and a cultural hotspot with the occasional theatre or music performance and a collection of literature housing reading rooms and a library with shelves for scrolls. Despite having the litter brought to the baths where she intended to enjoy a warm soaking and massage, Valeria was gowned – for the journey – as an artist would express herself: in bright colour, with a thick, styled wig, and kohl. She made sure to have Horatia accompany her. “Think of the fun we’ll have,” she promised. After all, the weather, and an excursion anywhere put her in good spirits. As they left the heat of the sun in the front gardens of the bathhouse, they were welcomed by the coolness of the bathhouse interior. Although music or the projection of dramatic lines were not yet filling up the frescoed walls, the high domed ceiling compensated for it with the sounds of echoing footfall on marble and the flapping of birds that had found their way inside through the skylights. “Oh, I was hoping they would be here,” Valeria gasped eagerly as her eyes caught the set-up of stalls near the entrance, each were brimming with colourful trinkets and perfumes. The woman made a quick beeline towards them, pressing her fingers with their polished and coloured nails here and there as she pulled one thing out after the other followed by a “how much?” before she put it back. It was never a question of money as it was that Valeria simply liked the victory of a good bargain. After having some perfume sprayed on to her wrist, Valeria took a whiff before turning to Horatia, holding it out for the woman to smell. “What do you think? It doesn’t smell too much like a centurion’s sweaty ass, does it?” @Sara
  12. May, 67 AD It was unusual that a visit to one of Juno's many temples would elicit such enthusiasm within a not-particularly-devoted Livia, but to her it was one of many steps in preparing for the grand event next month. When June rolled to an end and was replaced by stifling July, she would be a married woman. To the man of her dreams, and not some bald, gouty old fart older than pater. Unable to keep the excitement to herself, Livia giggled out loud and only just barely managed to keep herself from clapping in delight. As she walked alongside Horatia in direction of the temple, their body slaves following respectfully behind, Livia could feel her sister's eyes on her. It was always so hard to tell with Horatia, but she hoped her sister was less disapproving of her choice of husband than their father - ideally, she wouldn't disapprove at all. But why should they? Gnaeus was so dashing and handsome and strong and brave, and his family was old as bones, and to think he wanted to take her as his wife! After all that had transpired in the last few years, at last the gods smiled upon her. Stopping impulsively in her tracks, Livia turned to Horatia and took her sister's hands in hers with a grin. "You will dress me, won't you, Horatia? In mother's stead?" Never mind that one of the slaves would probably do a better job of it; she wanted to share that moment with her sister. @Sara
  13. Aulus had dismissed Felix and Callista and spent a little while considering the situation, turning options over in his head, before coming to a decision. Gods knew whether it would be the right one or not, but it was one for better or worse. He opened the tablet up again, memorised the list of names that it held, and calmly erased the list with the blunt end of the stylus before standing. He had been married for over a decade. He and Horatia had faced trials and troubles of all kinds, separately and together, and weathered them. Yet he could only recall once when Horatia had had that look on her face - the night he had taken Felix and slipped out into the madness ruling the streets of Rome, to try to get out of the city, leaving her with a young child who'd barely taken his first steps, and another growing inside her. They had not known that last then, but the knowledge or lack of it would have made no difference to what Aulus had needed to do. His wife would be in the garden - it was her safe space in the house when she needed peace, calmness and to be alone. He found her, sitting on the marble bench in the exedra overlooking the garden, sitting very still, her hands folded in her lap, and with a look on her face that tore at his heart. "Horatia." @Sara
  14. It had been a long journey but a welcome one, from Britannia's chill to the now unfamiliar sun of Italia. Ostia had never looked so welcoming, and Aulus was impatient for the ship to dock. He would take a horse for himself and Felix and head straight up the Via Ostiensis and change out of his uniform once he got to Rome - and how he hoped that his family would be there and not at Baiae! He hired two horses, one for himself and one for Felix (who had developed into quite a decent rider over the years). He would send Felix to the house to let them know, and to bring him a toga - he had a clean tunic with him, but it was forbidden to wear armour within the pomerium, the sacred limits of the city, and so he resgined himself to having to don the hot unwieldy garment that was the mark of the citizen. It felt like an eternity before he was back in Rome itself, the toga (one of his father's with the broad purple stripe of a senator) heavy around him, with the end over his left arm, and tangling around his legs in a dreamlike familiar way. He had no time for the sights of the city, and the Porta Ostiensis was the nearest gate to his home in the Piscina Publica; Felix had reported that the family were in Rome and anxiously waiting for his return. It seemed like that dream as he walked the familiar streets until he turned into the street where his father's house stood. He could not be denied entry for long; the door-porter knew him and it was mere moments before he was in the atrium where his parents and wife and children were gathered. He greeted his father first, as was only right, and then his mother and only then could he turn to his wife, who looked as he remembered her. Perhaps a little older, maybe more careworn, but still the girl he had met in Greece, in the garden of her father's house, dressed in a simple tunica. He had been enchanted then, and found that he still was, despite the stola she was wearing now as the mark of a Roman matron. "Horatia," he managed, past the sudden lump in his throat. @Sara
  15. 62AD A day's walk from Rome, towards Baiae Horatia glanced upwards through the canopy of trees at the rain that petered down in drips and drops. It was the fine sort of rain that soaked one through and chilled the bones but was largely imperceivable until one's teeth started to chatter and goosebumps spread over your skin. She glanced sideways to Decius, who was dutifully trying to stoke the measly fire and break up the bread that they had managed to bring with them for dinner. The man was in his mid-thirties and had been, before all of this mess, a general house slave. Horatia had only learnt his name the day prior and yet now her life rested firmly in his hands. Shifting her sixteen month old son against her lap and smiling at his chattering - as all toddlers do, she tried to ignore the chill that permeated even her cloak and sent a shiver up her spine. It was still day, although the sun was just beginning to slip below the horizon - casting the forest in an amber glow. Her feet were burning and covered in blisters - rubbed red-raw by the ill-fitting sandals she had donned and her lack of familiarity with walking great distances. Her clothes were no better than the sandals; hastily borrowed from another of the households slaves - a tunica that more closely resembled a sack on her frame, made of coarse wool and offering little protection in the inclement weather. "Are you sure you don't wish for your cloak back?" She enquired gently and Decius blinked up before averting his eyes, shaking his head, "You and the little one need it more than me, domina." She felt swaddled up like a newborn - wrapped in her own cloak and Decius' to shield Titus from the worst of the weather. Unfortunately, it did little to help his squalling as he began to cry. How had she ended up here? A crying toddler on her lap, sat in the forest like some runaway slave, dressed as one as well when not a month before she'd been happily exploring her new life in Rome as a patrician, and a wife and a mother? She tried to calm Titus as best she could and regretted, almost instantly as his cries didn't die down, that she had employed the help of a series of slaves to manage him. What sort of mother was she, that she couldn't even figure out his crying? Decius - obviously noting his domina's desperation, cautiously ventured; "Perhaps he needs changing, domina?" And Horatia blinked up. She'd had to ensure Titus' sleep throughout most of the journey with a little wine rubbed on his gums, but now he was most assuredly awake and it made sense. She felt humiliated that she hadn't thought of it, and despite being only recently turned twenty, suddenly felt much younger than her years. "I haven't..." She trailed off. Like many families, she'd employed the help of an army of slaves for Titus and never once changed his cloth. Flushing she moved to stand on weary legs and rocked Titus against her chest - his weight suddenly feeling like an anvil (when had he grown so big?). She opened her mouth to say she was going for some privacy but Decius only smiled and turned back to the fire, obviously sensing her words before she spoke them. Legs like jelly, she carried the screaming Titus through the mud and undergrowth until she was sufficiently far from the camp that she couldn't see her companion, but close enough that she could still smell the smoke of the fire to guide her back. Tentatively, she took a seat on an upturned log and with another glance over her shoulder to ensure Decius wasn't watching (not that he could be, from her distance) laid Titus down upon it. "Mama!" He babbled through screams and Horatia let out a breath of frustration as she attempted - as best she could - to clean and change him using the little water she'd taken from the camp and a spare linen. And then a scream. It was a blood-curdling sound, one of pure agony, emanating from the camp. Horatia felt her heart drum against her chest like a mallet against a wooden stake but Titus, oblivious, and now content, sat there grinning back up at her. - Part 1 of 5 -
  16. AU - 70AD The villa in Baiae The letters had become so infrequent as of late that when it had been handed to her that morning Horatia had to squint at the writing on the outside to try and understand who had sent it. It was now almost nine years since Aulus had left that fateful night in sixty-two - Horatia had thought only for a few months, or a couple of years at most. Yet here she was, twenty-seven with a nine year old son and seven year old daughter, neither of whom could remember their father and the latter had never even met him. The letter was brief - no longer the tomes they used to write to one another and she set it down carefully on the table in the garden. What could she say in response to his enquiries? The children were as healthy as they had ever been? His parents were well but it had been some months since she'd last seen them - preferring to isolate herself at the villa out of their prying ways? She was well - bored and desperately lonely - but healthy? It was all meaningless chatter that didn't warrant the papyrus it would be written on, and she couldn't bring herself to elaborate any further that basic pleasantries. The infrequency of the letters between them - she knew - wasn't helping her feel any more connected to the man she called her husband, but it was all she could do. What could you say to a man you had only known for eighteen months before he disappeared from your life for almost nine years? The thought was a depressing one and she folded the letter - placing it under a book scroll she had been reading to consider later. It did her mind no good to dwell on Aulus. The villa was quiet today - the children were down at the beach with their nurses and a small army of slaves to keep them safe. She only had a skeleton staff here - the majority were back at Tiberius' domus in Rome and when she heard the gentle sound of footsteps she glanced over her shoulder, surprised to see somebody else. Seeing Felix's face, she smiled gently and inclined her head in greeting. He was a kind man, an honourable one - even if a slave. Given to her by Aulus before his departure to keep her safe, he had accompanied her throughout the years of her isolation as a familiar stalwart. He had seen her at her worst - desperately lonely and depressed at the isolation her husbands absence had forced her into - and at the happier times; the birth of her daughter, their growing up, her birthdays and losses. Felix had been through it all. Was it any wonder that the children likely saw the gentle giant of a man as more of a father than their own blood? She smiled gently at him and gestured to the seat opposite her; "The children are at the beach." She offered and pushed over the small jug of wine she had on the table, "You can relax a little." In truth, had she the authority to do so (which she most certainly did not) she would have freed him. His companionship went beyond the boundaries of a slave and a mistress, although it never dipped into impropriety - at least not badly. They talked, but never much more than that. "Are you busy?" She enquired, realising he might have better things to do than sit in the gardens with her. TAG: @Chevi
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