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10th June, 75AD TW: miscarriage Longinus sat in silence on the beach, down the cliffside path from his villa just outside of Formiae. It was deserted, even at this time of year by virtue of the setting sun which cast long shadows over the sand and reflected off the water. The villa itself was no more populated with a skeleton staff of people he had forgot he even employed; a girl to cook in the kitchen and a few odd-job slaves that crept around him with thinly veiled annoyance in their eyes that their dominus was suddenly intruding on the peace and serenity of having run of a patrician's villa without oversight. He'd left everybody else behind in Rome; Vitus his secretary had been left with instructions not to disturb him for anything (save the health of his mother or daughter). Attis was still at Titus', despite the fact the morning he had found out he had been due to go over and collect him. He couldn't face his body slave's smirks or even worse his concern or gods forbid his pity. His mother and daughter were left with run of the domus, and all of his other attendants were left behind. He needed to be alone. It had happened so quickly Longinus only now had time to breathe. On the morning of the 23rd of May he had received a flustered, tear-stricken slave girl into his house who breathlessly informed him that her domina, his betrothed was on a ship bound for Carthage - escorted by her fathers men. Abandoning his trip to collect Attis, he instead had, without a moment's thought, taken a horse to Ostia, only to find out the ship had sailed at first light and was long gone by now. The rest of the day had been spent trying to barter passage on a ship to follow it, and it was only the insistence of his mother - finally - late that night, that made him relent. He would wait, he thought, to find out exactly what had happened. He would wait to be summoned by her father, and then make his amends in the proper, dignified fashion. The letter he received on the 30th of May, the day before his wedding - when all the preparations were set, when nobody had been informed that anything was awry - was almost unbelievable. The graffiti that had gone up around the city - that he'd seen and largely ignored - had been sighted by those close to the Proconsul of Africa. He had sent his men, as quickly as good winds would allow, to collect his daughter and her sons - sweep them back into his aggressive, controlling arms. Yet that was not the worst of it. She didn't describe what happened, or how it happened, but the child was gone. Miscarried, lost forever. Gone. With no ties to him now, and her fathers rage, she - the woman he had been due to marry tomorrow had signed the letter; The last few weeks, months had given me more pleasure or happiness than I ever thought to experience. But it is not enough. I see the folly in thinking I could have so much, for ignoring my father, for ignoring my duties as a mother and as a widow. I was wrong. Please do not come here, please do not write back Lucius. This is over - even if it is not the way we ever envisaged it to end. My children - those still with me - must come first, and I can no longer tarnish their reputations via my actions. I am sorry. Goodbye. Sestia. Throughout his life he had experienced loss - as many do. His father, his mentor and friend, his men in war and in peacetime, his wife and now his betrothed and his child - who the Gods never even allowed to draw a breath. Yet the sting of this loss was so acute he could not cope. Not this time. He had packed that night and instructed Vitus to send messages to his friends on his behalf, saying merely that the wedding was cancelled and the engagement broken off. Should anybody pry, the reason was that the dowry could not be agreed. It was something simple - clean and neat that expunged them both of the dirtiness that had befallen them. He had left for Formiae the next morning after a brief, cold farewell to his mother and a challenging goodbye to his daughter. He did not know when he'd return. What was left for him in Rome now to bring him back? A daughter that barely knew him? A mother that was content to live her life as she'd always done in his absences? Friends, of course, but they would move on. It wasn't as if he had a great desire for politics or glory. No. He'd be better off in Formaie he thought. So there he sat, on the waters edge. The wine he had drowned himself in that evening gave him pleasant, muddled sort of thoughts. It took the edge off of the wound that stung like a British axe to his chest. He cried. He didn't know the last time, certainly couldn't remember the last time he had cried but there he sat, sobbing into his hands. In the space of two weeks he had gone from a man of ambition; a decorated thrice-serving legate seeking a praetorship with a beautiful woman whom he loved (he begrudgingly admitted) about to be his wife, with a child on the way, to a man sat sobbing in the sand, alone. He wondered if the Gods were laughing or sobbing with him.
Late February 75AD Getting his mother and Cassia out of the house had actually been easier than he had imagined. A light suggestion of a trip to the baths had ignited his daughters imagination, a long with a further hint of a particularly riveting new show being performed had sent his mother into delight. It had only gotten better when he had suggested that his cousins would be attending (having found out earlier in the week) and that perhaps an overnight stay with his cousin Cassia, her husband and his other cousin Lepidus would be in order. Given their youth and lack of parents (Gods the Cassii-Longini were really an endangered species at this point...) his fussing mother had delighted at the idea of the baths, a show and then some good old-fashioned nagging and prodding at his poor cousins. Still, as he walked around the oddly deserted domus he felt a grin stretch on his face. His family would have a good night and perhaps he could remedy the chaotic trip to the Esquiline a couple of weeks previous when he had visited Sestia. He tugged at the synthesis he wore and eyed the few slaves that weren't squirrelled away in their quarters, given the majority weren't required for the evening. Vitus, his secretary, had cracked what Longinus was convinced was his first smile ever at the thought of having a night away from his masters. The meal that had been prepared was nothing comparable to the lush spread that lovely Sestia had prepared but it was fine in its own simple way. Wine had been decanted into elaborate pitchers and those slaves he had kept out for the evening dutifully stood waiting for his guest. Running a finger along one of the oddities he had in his home (Longinus' decor style could only be said to be eclectic - fine antiques from Greece alongside a rusty Briton axe on the wall, and frescoes and mosaics depicting the most peculiar of scenes) and brushing off the dust he sighed, impatient. He didn't really know what he was expecting of this evening - although the more youthful side of his mind was grinning in boyish glee at a particular outcome - but he was looking forward to her company most of all. His friends in the city were largely all male, and despite their pedigree - were hardly a refined lot. The swelling of his knuckles and the splint he was forced to wear between and around his index and middle finger on his left hand a testament to that1. At least the split lip had almost completely healed. Distracted in his thoughts, a slave approached and coughed indiscreetly. "Sestia Vaticana is arriving, domine." Grinning, he practically bounded from the room to the Atrium to greet her. TAG: @Lauren 1 Longinus broke a knuckle after punching the ground during a particularly rowdy night out with Titus Sulpicius Rufus about five days before this thread.
Mid March 75AD - about two weeks after An Evening Alone Longinus paced up and down the little room, groaning audibly. This seemed all wrong. The room - because that's all it was - contained about as much luxury as the military camps he had endured; a bed, a small pitcher of water and a basin to wash and a chair. The wine he'd supplied himself - he dared not drink the swill they served in this place - and he'd only purloined a loaf of bread and some olive oil from the kitchen before the slaves grew suspicious at his excuse of 'visiting a friend'. Whether they believed him at all, of course, was another matter. He'd tried his best to make it presentable and had lit the sparse lamps it had come with, but the downside of clandestine meetings, of course, was that they could hardly go anywhere reputable. He had ruled out the Venus because a) the cost of renting a room off of a lovely, hardworking whore might have bankrupted him, and b) half his friends were frequent patrons. The Elysium - likewise - was out because he hardly thought Sestia would willingly attend a brothel where only thin curtains divided the rooms from general view. He'd settled on a tavern who rented rooms - he suspected (and it hardly needed confirming) for prostitutes outside of the law who dealt their trade on the streets rather than in licensed brothels. It would explain the meagreness of the place, at least. Once he'd settled on the venue all that remained was to let Sestia know. He'd settled on using his friends as a reasonable excuse, and had just hoped she understood the message. The last thing he wanted was for her to actually turn up at Titus Sulpicius Rufus' domus expecting a party whilst he wiled away the hours in a dank little back room of a pseudo-brothel. The message had read; Sestia, from your friend Lucius Cassius Longinus, I must thank you again for the pleasure of your company. My mother and Cassia certainly enjoyed your stories of Carthage! I write to enquire whether you would be free the evening of the new ides? T. S. Rufus is hosting a gathering, I believe, and it's got to be better than the last time he dragged me to this horrid little tavern in the Subura - 'ad cucu' - I mention its name only to warn you if he attempts to drag you there himself! It would make my night to see you in attendance. It was hardly the masterful deception of spies and the like, but he had been suitably pleased with it. He just hoped Brysias didn't cotton on. And so here he stood, in 'The Crow' with a little purse - a gift for her - gripped in his healing hand and nervously awaiting her arrival. Gods he hoped she'd turn up. TAG: @Lauren
The graffiti that went up in late May 75AD, a week and a half before the wedding of Lucius Cassius Longinus and Sestia Vaticana was poorly drawn but effective. It depicted the pair in question in what can only be described as explicitly lewd acts. Scrawled underneath the images was the phrase; 'Lucius Cassius Longinus and Sestia Vaticana fucked here. A wedding? Or a cover-up?'. It littered corners near the tavern in which they had met in the Subura, on the side of poppina's on the Esquiline and undoubtedly in other places yet undiscovered throughout the city. Feel free to post any reactions in this thread!