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JULY, 74 CE As he shovelled another pile of manure out of the stall and peered around the wider stable to no sight of a groom, Manius had begun to believe he’d never left Greece. A hundred-thousand denarii in my hands and appointed to one of the most prestigious posts in the city, yet here I am... still covered in shit! A sudden commotion around the exterior of the building would alert Manius to a nearby presence. Resting his spade on the stall’s curtain wall and exiting through the gate, he continued on his path towards the ruckus. A distressed neighing, followed by the thumping of hooves and high-pitched laughter would instil Manius with clarity of the situation; a young slave of the faction, with a mare in tow, waylaid by stone-throwing youths. Upon closer inspection of the scene, his comprehension of the perpetrators became clear, “Is that you, Alfius?” Manius paused in his admonishment momentarily, to scowl in disapproval of the young man. “That boy is half your size and three-to-one is hardly a fair fight,” he rebuked of the youth and continued, without giving the assailant a chance to reply. “Not to mention that you of all people should know better than to startle the horses. Your dolt of an uncle got himself killed that way. It seems stupidity must run in the family, at least on your father’s side. I think my wife may have words for your mother tomorrow evening, at the Ludi Victoriae Caesaris,” he threatened. A crowd began to gather around the rather public scene, causing the cheeks of the vilified boy to burnish a bright red. Alfius’ darting eyes began to tear up at the possibility of punishment from his parents for his cowardly actions, leading to his immediate flight, less he bore a two-fold embarrassment. Manius huffed at his small victory, glad that the neighbourhood boy hadn’t possessed a sturdier backbone or the rabidness of the racing fans he was accustomed to. He shifted to assist the wounded slave to his feet, before recovering the scampering mount. Upon their return to the stable yard, Manius was surprised to spy another unwarranted visitor. This one was a young woman, who seemed to have taken an interest in one of the steeds that appeared to worm it's way out of a stall. No grooms and no guards. What am I paying these incompetents for? “Eh, little lady!” Manius exclaimed a brusque reproach, whilst trudging in her direction. Upon a sudden dawning of realisation at the evidently aristocratic bearing of his target and the unwarranted sternness invoked in his tone, he sighed in exasperation before adulterating his annoyance towards the stranger. “Uh. My apologies, milady,” he respectively amended his patter, before continuing, “but a stable is hardly the place for such fine silks.” @Gothic
(Takes place about a week before the Senate meeting.) The sweltering heat of Roman summer was a probation Titus had let himself grow unaccustomed to. The noxious odours emanating from the Tiber nauseated the whole city and gave way to legions of mosquitos out for the citizens' blood, sucking away their energy and leaving behind torpor, sickness and infernal itching. Rome was lethargic and its ennui spread to its inhabitants; Titus' household had been no exception. His wife, usually so agreeable, was keeping the slaves on their toes with sharp criticism of their fanning skills. Little Valeriana had scratched her legs raw thanks to mosquito stings and would take no comfort from anybody except her nanny. Flacca and Publius had engaged in a lively discussion about which sorbet was best that had yet to come to a conclusion, even after Titus had taken them out to buy some for the three of them (and conceded Flacca's point that strawberry ice was clearly superior to honey ice). It was getting to be just a bit too much, and claiming some vague meeting Titus slipped away from his stuffy residence. The Gardens of Sallust were a veritable oasis in the city. Lush vegetation grew in all directions, displaying infinite shades of green. Venerable trees provided shade and a respite from the heat, their leaves murmuring in the summer breeze. To Titus it almost felt like being in Gaul again, where the weather had been milder and the nature wilder, rural as it still was. Dacia had the best summers, its mountains and forests keeping the temperature pleasant. Britannia hardly had summers to speak of, between the constant drizzling and the attacks of the natives. A wretched land, truly. Titus strolled down the stone path at a leisurely pace, adjusting his gait here and there to stay in the shade. Some bird was singing in the distance, but Titus was not familiar with its cry and therefore could not identify it. He was too deep in thought, anyway. It had been half a year since his return to Rome, but he felt no closer to coming to a decision now than when he had arrived. At first it had been easy to delay the matter, for his family had kept in busy, and old acquaintances and clients required proper greetings; then he had had innumerable news and rumours to learn of, new information to acquire. Then came festivities, and Senate meetings, and dinner parties... And now it was summer already. Old man Chronus and his wheel waited for no one. He stopped briefly to drink from a fountain and caught sight of a small pavilion. Perhaps contemplation of the building's simple colonnades would bring the clarity his mind sought. @Sharpie
JULY, 74 CE Ambrosius awoke to the aching of limbs and the cold press of iron shackles against his wrist. He’d managed to achieve some desperately needed rest in the night, despite his stilted position and the makeshift mattress his cage wall provided. Upon noticing the slave stirring, a Roman soldier kicked at the young man’s shin and barked, “Get up!”. Ambrosius’ eyes fluttered a moment, before his face assumed an irked expression. If looks could kill, his captors would currently be the ones at his feet. The Romans would prove to be in no mood for games, as Ambrosius suddenly felt a brutish and calloused hand upon his nape, wrenching him upward and using the momentum to thrust him forward, towards their destination. Making their way in to a long and dark corridor, with no candles to illuminate their way, Ambrosius would form a daisy chain with three other slaves and their legionary guards, so as to not lose their way in the sprawling and unfamiliar complex. Upon turning a corner and reaching the building’s atrium, they would be blinded with a sudden assault of light to their unaccustomed eyes. As Ambrosius’ vision adjusted to his surroundings, he took note of the opulence present within the structure he now occupied. Silk carpets, rich tapestries and marble busts littered the room, and a strong perfume struck his senses.The senior legionary addressed one of the household’s female slaves and demanded, “Go find your master, girl!” The legionary turned back to the assorted slaves he had accompanied and smirked, “Welcome to your new home, curs. If you survive that long.” @Brian