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Before it begins, (open)


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Jan 73CE.

Set before the Imperial Banquet

The afternoon had finally arrived. Claudia had been assisting Drusilla with the decorations and the preparations for the Imperial banquet. It was the first time she could remember being in Naples, it had not been an overly exciting journey to get to the villa, and she awkwardly dozed most of the way. The city was beautiful. Slaves had assisted her when it came to bathing herself in the ornate baths and relaxed in the water. Once or twice she nearly nodded off being being awoken by one of the slaves. Her body was dried, perfumed, and her hair began to be decorated and styled. Claudia was not oblivious to the fact that as a young, unmarried woman that she would be on show for the supporters of the family. Marriage, it was something all women had to go through. She was well beyond the accepted age of the Vestals nor did she wish to be as restricted as they were.

Her chiton was a pale blue, decorated with semi-precious stones and clung around her waist with a decorated belt. Her sandals were made of lambskin, soft and delicate. Also decorated with semi-precious stones. Casually she chose the jewelry she would wear as it was placed on her body. She stared into her reflection and had to wonder what this night would bring. Claudia stood, drew her gold trimmed palla around her and wondered whether or not she would lose it by the end of the night.

There was a little time before the guests would arrive, and Claudia did not wish to be the first one at the banquet. She wanted to be fashionably late yet not excessively so. In truth, her mind raced with a variety of thoughts about what the night would eventually bring.

Slowly she walked towards the decorated gardens and saw a person. "Salve?" She greeted them questioningly, not yet able to see their face.

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At 38 years of age, Antonia Vitellia had managed to endure, and bear witness to, more things than the average Equite. She'd watched Caesars rise and fall, their wives with them, their children become adults. She'd even, on more than one occasions, advised the wives and helped with the children. She'd fallen in love, twice, once with a man and another time with a woman. She'd forged trade deals, exercised her wiles for the sake of politics, and even started a war (due to the aforementioned man deciding to exercise his wiles on the wrong woman). She'd taken in the infant, bastard son of a Hebrew King and passed it off as her own and then, later, managed to bear her own living child: a daughter. She'd married twice, divorced once, and found herself widowed the second time.

And, of course, she had found the ability to take control of a gang of women called the Lovers of Eris. They acted not only as assassins, but as spies, courtesans, messengers, and purveyors of all things necessary. Through them, she had taken in a countless amount of orphans, raised them up, and then chosen the paths through the Lovers for them to serve Rome's greater interest. Eventually, she knew, someone would come and take them from her. She'd be murdered, as had the first Vulpina. It was, at this point, tradition.

And yet, despite all she'd seen and heard and done in her life, nothing ever gave Antonia as much of a deep thrill as striding into an Imperial banquet. Dressed in a deep crimson embroidered with golden birds and branches, Antonia looked more dignified and elegant than she had in her youth. Whereas before she had been seen a luscious and sensual, she was now a woman grown into both knowledge of her power and the comfort to use it when she needed to. Her sandals were of good quality. Her mahogany curls bound upon her head into a twisting confection that ended with a cascade down her back. Typical of her fashion throughout her life, she had studded the curls with jeweled butterflies. Whereas a younger Antonia might have sought to draw attention to her more sensual facial features, the older version merely applied the cosmetics and let the eyes wander where they would.

This was a woman who no longer felt the need to rely solely on her feminine wiles to get what she wanted. This was a woman who had learned just how far her reach was and how to use it to her advantage.

Beside her, Renius Suetonius Metellus Minor, her son, stood and looked around without bothering to conceal his awe of the event's beauty. At fifteen years old, he stood at an approximate height of five feet and seven inches tall, though he was still growing. His body type was still developing, though for now it appeared more lanky than anything else. In truth, he reminded Antonia of a colt in the throes of a growing spurt: all awkwardly long legs that couldn't quite figure out where they were going.

"Minor," she murmured to him, "I do believe you'd make a far greater impression upon the ladies here if you learned to close your mouth when stared so obviously." Her light blue eyes danced with amusement as her son flushed and closed his mouth which had indeed been hanging open. "Remember: these people are your people," she continued, turning to face him, "You are a Roman citizen, a boy almost a man. You will one day be a soldier who grows into a great general. You already own a trading empire, to which you have been groomed to run to perfection once I am gone. But...most importantly, you are the son of Renius Suetonius Metellus and Antonia Vitellia. There is pride in your blood that no one can take away, my love, and you must grow into it." She gave him a decisive nod before turning him loose. "Now, go and flirt or do whatever pleases you. If you need an introduction, find me and I'll make one for you. Run along!"

Minor needed no further encouragement. He strode off, almost tripping over something not quite as well lit, and Antonia could almost feel the heat coming off his ears as he recovered. She laughed softly to herself before turning her attention back and finding her eyes drawn to a figure swathed in blue and gold.

"Salve, Claudia," she called out and approached the figure, her red mouth curving to reveal white, even teeth, "You are truly resplendent. Take care not to lose the palla before the night's end." She paused and then added, with a grin, "Or, if you do, make sure to lose it somewhere that'll cause tongues to wag in your favor. You aren't nervous, are you?"

She couldn't imagine the amount of pressure her favorite Imperial daughter might be feeling. The girl was old enough to wed and one of the more obvious choices as a potential bride for anyone in Rome. Events like this were like feeding frenzies where youth, beauty, and breeding caused sharks to sense blood in the water. She only hoped it didn't cause Claudia to feel overwhelmed.

Claudia Caesaris

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At the age of only twenty-three, Lucius Junius Silanus was already the head of his family. His birth parents died when he was almost too young to truly remember or understand it. His foster-father, who was also his uncle by blood, was killed in battle in Britannia as the end game of a great betrayal by a household slave whom Lucius had come to see as one of his only friends. Lucius killed that slave - the first life he took - when he was still an adolescent. After that he returned home to live with an aunt he had never met, who then lost her life during Clemens' grab at power, and he was whisked away to Africa along with Flavia Juliana, a woman who was not bound to him by any ties of blood, but had become the closest thing to a mother he had. He had parted ways with his sister, Junia, for several years until Quintus Caesar restored order to the empire and made Rome safe for them.

It was because of Juliana that Lucius was at the banquet. It was necessary for him to better integrate himself with the nobility in order to further grow his career... and, as she was very keen to remind him: He needed to find a wife. With the pedigree of his family's name, and his close connections to the Imperial Family, Lucius would be a catch for any woman. He was well-spoken, well-dressed, and a very controlled man. His main fault was his lack of emotion - or inability to express it properly. He had learned in his youth that letting emotions control him only made him weak, and he had dedicated himself to a more stoic and Spartan way of life. Nevertheless, he was at the banquet making the rounds. He had arrived with his sister Junia and younger brother Marcus, both of whom left to greet their own acquaintances.

He watched from the corner as the guests mingled and laughed among themselves. Lucius had learned to calm his nerves before charging into battle... but this was an entirely different battlefield for him, and one that he would have to conquer.

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Claudia smiled, relieved that she had some quiet time with Antonia before it began. Drusilla would likely be some time before she would arrive. She breathed a sigh of relief, walked closer to her and placed her hands on Antonia's forearms, leaned forward to place air kisses on Antonia's cheeks. She would have kissed her cheeks except she did not wish to stain them with her cosmetics. "Thank you," Claudia blushed and laughed, "I had best keep an eye on it then," She answered, drew the palla closer around her body and let out a soft sigh of amusement. Claudia was unsure whether there would be flirtation or more occurring at the Imperial banquet.

There was always a chance she would meet her future husband here tonight. A chance that all of the Imperial children would meet their future spouses. She hoped her uncle would find a suitable match for her and was thankful it was him, not her brother-in-law who would be making the selection.

"I am," She admitted after a moment. Her gaze moved around and saw people gathered in the distance. The banquet would likely be starting at some point. In the distance, she recognised Minor, Antonia's son and saw Lucius, Junia, and Marcus. There were members of the nobility that she did not recognise being present. Over time Claudia had gotten used to the public appearances and had developed social graces, befitting her station. Another look at Antonia made her envious. She was so experienced, at ease, and dignified during these occasions. She was a natural.

"Although, there is nothing good company won't fix. How is Minor?" She asked.

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Juliana had arrived with her stepdaughter, Caecina in tow. She was without her husband who was still serving in Britannia, and her children remained the villa in the city. She had kissed the children goodnight, left instructions for the slaves entrusted with their care, and had spent time getting prepared. This was perhaps the most social she had been for a long time. Sooner or later, Caecina would need to be married and Caecina's father would look to Juliana to find a suitable husband for her. Her connections would likely need to be used. Caecina hurried away to speak with friends, and with a brief word for her to remember her manners. She watched, shook her head in amusement, and lifted a goblet of wine from one of the passing servants tending to the needs to the guests as they arrived.

In the distance she caught sight of Lucius, Junia, and Marcus. They were still her family, despite the marriage ending in the death of Decimus and she had to get used to the fact Lucius was his own man now. She smiled, lifted her hand to greet him and was pleased he had come. She had used her familial connections in order to further his career. What connections he ultimately made today would be up to him. Absentmindedly she thought of the future and found herself accidentally bumped into someone. Her hand on their chest in both an offer of apology and to keep them at bay.

"Pardon me, I should have looked where I was going," She apologised and slowly began to withdraw her hand.

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Tiberius and Juliana

The young Imperial and last of Caesar Claudius's sons turned to see who had jostled him, and broke into a broad smile when he recognised Juliana. "Not at all, cousin." He assured her warmly, dismissing any possible offence. "This place is only likely to get busier." And thus people more likely to bump into each other, especially as the wine flowed.

The elite of the Empire would be here tonight, to see and be seen, and that of necessity included the various members of the Royal family. Tiberius wasn't much of one for finery and public show, but he understood the importance of appearances. His fine, white linen tunica bore a band of gold threads woven in across the front and back of the shoulders, and again at the hem, and was offset by the rich red woolen toga, edged in braid woven of gold thread and purple silk. His slave had combed his dark hair and ensured that the cloth of his garments sat just so. He'd drawn the line at any jewellery or further adornments, preferring to let the good cloth speak for itself.

The banquet was likely to be one long, extended family reunion, amongst other important peoples, and he was glad to have started it by bumping into his cousin; literally. "How have you been, and how are the children?" He asked. If he recalled correctly her husband was away on campaign, but at least Juliana herself could attend.

Speaking of family, Tiberius scanned the room and spied his sister Claudia, speaking with Antonia, who had been their mother's close friend and confidant, someone he'd not had the opportunity to speak with in a while. His sister, he knew, had helped Drusilla significantly with the organisation of the banquet, taking up her duties as a lady of the royal family.

Flavia Juliana
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Tiberius & Juliana.

Juliana smiled, happy it was her cousin she had bumped into and not some easily irritated noble. She looked at him more closely now. Tiberius had grown considerably over the years, he was a boy no longer and now a man in his own right. It would not be long until he began to take a further role in the Empire, and she was interested in seeing how well her cousin performed. Jullus, her father and Lucilla, his mother were twins. There was a chance that he or Claudia would end up having twins of their own.

"I have been well, as have the children," She answered. Her son had wanted to come to the festivities and no doubt wanted to see his numerous relations. The girls were still too young. "They are in Naples yet they are currently back at the villa. I am sure they would love to see you sometime before we all head back to Rome," Juliana invited, plus there was the added benefit of being able to have a quieter conversation without the threat of eavesdroppers. No doubt Caecina would like to see him.

Gave a quick glance around them as more members of the nobility began to arrive. It was essential for her family to remain in the good graces of Caesar, and his heirs. Especially those whom were her kin. When her gaze returned to Tiberius, she smiled when she noticed he had been watching people as well, and in particular he had been watching his twin sister, Claudia. It had been a blessing from the Gods when the twins were reunited with each other.

"My husband sends his regards as well although duty keeps him from Rome," Juliana added, laughed a little. "I'm happy the pair of you are reunited."

Tiberius Claudius Sabucius
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She had scowled the whole way. Her mother insisted on prattling on about how fun it would be to be here. Did she not realise this was a political event? Eyes would be on them and tongues would wag if they said the wrong thing. Why did she always have to protect her mother from herself? They had arrived a day earlier to prepare the rented villa for a chance to go to the banquet. While they were not prominent and distantly connected, it would not be wise for either of them to get on the wrong side of Caesar. If the Gods had not been cruel. Her father would have had that position. She would have been a Princess and not... whatever she was now.

Corinthia's fists clenched idly in frustration as she gazed through the curtain of the litter. It was hard to go to these events, it was difficult to smile at people who she believed were mocking her behind her back, and knew they would happily kill her if they had a chance. She was dressed finely, her clothing designed to cling to her figure. Her lips were touched with paint, her eyes surrounded by kohl to highlight them, and jeweled serpents hung from her ears and around her wrists. The fabric of her chiton was semi-transparent Egyptian linen and she used many layers to conceal her body. Yet her lithe frame could be seen. Beside her, Gaia walked all sunshine and rainbows. Simply happy to be invited.

She entered and saw people gathered around. Corinthia had to be ready for battle, and keep an eye on her mother to make sure no mistakes would be made. She had no desire to die because of her mother's foolishness. She breathed deeply and entered the gardens where the gathered nobles circled, some caught in discussion with each other, and she wondered how many of them would recognise her mother. Tongues always wagged

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He was in good spirits. Octavius came with his wife, Valeria. Years ago the political marriage had blossomed into one of deep love and affection. They had arrived earlier in the day with a rush from Rome. He wished to ensure the city was secure during the banquet and therefore they had arrived in Naples with not a lot of time to spare. It did not take him long to prepare for the banquet. During meetings with the Senate, he would wear the professional attire yet had never lost his preference for more workmanlike clothing. His tunica was clean, trimmed with gold and darker in colour. He wore a toga, the symbol of the Roman citizen and entered the villa with Valeria on his arm. She looked beautiful like she always did. His free hand patted hers, while Octavius Minor walked alongside while the younger of the two children, Valeriana remained at home at the villa.

Octavius looked around and noticed there were a gathered group of people, yet the hosts were not present yet. It made sense for everyone to arrive before they did. "Minor, go look for your cousins, and enjoy yourself." He said down to his son. Minor had his facial features but Valeria's eye colour. While Valeriana was more of a mixture between both sides of the family. At this time, neither of them discussed or planned more children. Octavius would happily receive the blessing of more children. Yet did not wish to go through the experience of losing yet another wife to childbirth.

"I hope he doesn't go too crazy with too many sweets," Octavius added jokingly to his wife. As he watched Minor go off in search of his cousins and other relations present for the banquet. The family was numerous. Again he patted Valeria's arm affectionately and led her into the atrium to mingle with the other guests.

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When word of the Imperial Banquet was released Julia flashed back to the more recent Imperial Banquets she had attended over the years. Some had been moments of joyful celebration but often many of them ended in tragedy or a struggle of some sort. She, in her decision to go, had prayed that everything would go off without a hitch. As the event was at the Imperial Villa in Naples, Julia and her husband had rented a small villa to stay in for the duration of the event however her husband would not be going with her to the actual event. She would be attending the event without her husband for two main reasons…besides the drop in her husband’s status due to his involvement with Clemens, her former young charge Claudia had made a very clear threat- if she ever saw him she would rip him to shreds.

Julia, for the occasion, had donned one of her more elaborate stolas’- a dark emerald green dress with hand embroidery followed by a lighter green palla. After twisting her mass of curly hair up into a formal updo Julia said goodbye to her husband and stepped into the litter she would travel in to the event itself. The littler wove its way from her home in the Roman countryside to the palace gate and when it arrived, she stepped down with the help of one of the slaves, gave him a quick thank you and proceeded inside.

Entering the hall she noted already that a good number of people had arrived. As hosts of the party, many of the Imperial Family had already made their arrival- she noted her two former charges, Claudia Caesaris and Tiberius were already engaged in conversations. She would make her greeting to Claudia later when she wasn’t engaged.

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t had been some time since he had been involved in anything political. However, as Alaricus grew he needed to be aware of the world he lived in, and Seia wished to speak to the Augusta about something. Like many families, they kept the younger of their children at home and took Alaricus to the function. It would be wise to introduce him to Caesar, and other members of his family. As he entered with Seia on his arm, he looked around and noticed how much older they all looked. Seia was still (and always would be) beautiful. Around them the next generation of people who would be running the Empire could be seen. A part of him had to wonder how many of them would last.

In the distance, he saw Tiberius, the boy he helped to escape when he was a member of the praetorian guard. He was growing into manhood. A blessing, and had been an action to save him from his family's wrath when they came into power. There had been no political reason behind it. Alaric simply wanted the barbarity to stop. In the end, it did and even he had suspicions about some of the men who remained. How many were secretly complicit in what had occurred?

He recognised Julia. A woman had an incredibly chaotic past of her own. Alaric found her absent husband and meant to ask about his welfare. Of late, they had grown apart yet Alaric was not a man who would forget a friend in their hour of need. Seia excused herself and went to catch up with one of her friends.

"Salve Julia, it is good to see you."

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Although she was still a part of this society as she had retained her family’s status upon marriage to Canus, she of course knew that the fact she was married to him in the first place was a little unusual. Looking around the room she noted how many people had arrived there with their husband or wife on their arms. When she had received the invitation, she knew right away that she would be attending alone. Her husband did not particularly enjoy social gatherings and with his ‘punishment’ handed down by Quintus it really wasn’t socially acceptable for him to be amongst the upper class of Rome anymore. She had debated about staying home, but they both knew that her loyalty would always be to the Imperial Family and it might be perceived badly if she gave an excuse that wasn’t true. She would eventually make her way to those she was familiar with but for the moment she was content to do what she had done for many an Imperial social gathering- stand on the fringes of the room and figure she would be ignored. But that wasn’t to last very long.

She had always been good any ‘people watching’ and she noted Alaric, technically her husband’s land lord, enter the room with his wife Seia. It was good to see them attending the event- he had been so instrumental in helping to protect the young children during the uprising. His wife after making her entrance must have excused herself as she went off in a different direction, perhaps to greet a friend she had seen. Julia followed her for a moment until Seia disappeared in the crowd.

"Salve Julia, it is good to see you."[/]

At the sound of a deep voice next to her Julia turned her head to see Alaric standing at her side. With a smile she turned slightly to face him. ”Salve, it is good to see you as well Alaric. I believe I saw Seia come in with you? I hope she and your children are doing well?” When her husband had been released from Livia’s service Alaric had offered her husband a small plot of land to do the one thing he had always wanted to do-raise horses. Technically they rented the land from Alaric and Julia took it upon herself to make sure rental money was made available/offered for payment and sometimes Alaric would take it, other times it would seem he simply ‘forgot’ to collect.

Alaric Aetius Stilicho

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Gaia twiddled her thumbs while Corinthia sat across from her in the litter. Corinthia was angry with her, yet this time, she had no idea why. Corinthia was angry with her. Yet it seemed like the regular occurrence for her. She breathed deeply, it had been sometime since she had been to one of these functions put on by the Imperial family. What was her status now? What was Corinthia's? At times, she wondered what would have happened if she had of pressed their rights. Yet one look at Cyprianus, Clemens, and others they were associated with let her know they were going to use them for their own ends. Therefore an escape to Greece was made. The invitation from the Augusta had come as a welcome surprise, and she was delighted to accept.

She smiled happily, loving the feeling of being able to be involved with things. She looked at Corinthia, her daughter looked beautiful and soon she would be ready for marriage. What sort of man would want her daughter? Would Corinthia try to kill him? Away from her watchful eye. What kind of a monster would she be? While her daughter wore white, she wore a pale blue chiton and golden jewels. Her hair was curled, dressed and framed her face with additional hair pieces to add volume to her hair. Corinthia naturally walked ahead of her, and she shrugged to herself. Her pace slow as she gazed at the surroundings around her. There was a time when all the physical beauty of these villas would have left her in awe, they still did. Looking at Corinthia, one could forget that she was the daughter of a slave. Who would have been a farm girl if the Gods had not intervened all those long years ago. She could not help but smirk at the thought.

People had already arrived and she began to wander around. She lifted a goblet of wine from one of the slaves with platters as they walked around her. Gaia walked towards the edge and looked in on the gathered nobility before taking a moment to people watch.

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Silanus & Corinthia

"If it isn't Lucius Silanus," a familiar voice called out in Lucius' direction before the speaker arrived. Lucius turned to see none other than Lucius Cassius Longinus, the man whom had taken over in Britannia after Decimus' death, and Lucius' commander when he was stationed in the province.

"Commander Longinus," Lucius gave a formal salute, and Longinus laughed it off.

"Citizen Longinus for the time being," he said, returning the salute. "How long have you been back in country now?"

"Just over a year, sir." Old habits died hard. Lucius cleared his throat. "Just over a year, but seeking out my next appointment."

Longinus smirked. "Ah, then it's not the young ladies that catch your fancy? Or maybe the older ones?" For all his valor and battlefield successes, Longinus had become known as quite the ladies man within the upper circles of the nobility. "Truth be told, I detest these get-togethers... it's the after parties where all the fun happens. Say... Silanus... fancy a wager? A little friend competition."[/i]

Lucius was never one to back down from a challenge; Longinus and he had bet against one another often in Britannia. "Sure," he said. "That ought to liven things up a bit."

Longinus still wore his smirk. "We each challenge each other to entertain a woman. Whoever gets rejected first is the loser."

"Alright," Lucius started, "but what's the wager? And how exactly are we defining a rejection?"

"Ahh, let's say a hundred denarii? And any sort of word, action, or motion that disengages the target from conversation."

Lucius nodded. "Alright, I can agree to those terms." He had already found the target for Longinus. "Your target, there. Good luck."

Longinus chuckled, though Lucius thought he could hear the worry in the sound of it. "Well... shit," he laughed again. "You always were cunning; thinking ahead of the challenge." The man scanned those gathered and pointed out a young woman whom Lucius didn't believe he had ever seen, though her dress and manner of walking implied that she was someone of some importance. "That one there," he said and then held out a forearm for them to shake. The challenge began with that shake and Lucius was off to his target.

It wasn't until he approached that he realized how potentially scandalous her clothing was - nearly transparent linens layered in an Egyptian style that, while covering her body, still clung tightly to its shape. He watched for a few moments, observing how she interacted with the woman beside her - whom, based on their similar facial features Lucius presumed to be her mother - and whether she took the lead or rear in introducing herself to those who approached them. He then watched the eyes of the other guests as the mother-daughter duo made their way through the growing mass of attendees. Then, he saw his opening.

He approached behind her, tapping on her shoulder. "Calpurn-" he said, purposefully uttering the wrong name of a girl he didn't even know only to apologize when he 'realized' he had the wrong person. "Oh, apologies miss," he was quick to add. "I mistook you for someone else." A quick glance across the way informed Lucius that Longinus was doing quite well in his task.

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She stood with her mother. Silently she wished her mother would shut up or fill her trap with the dried peaches she loved so much. Corinthia exhaled slowly, irritably, and sighed to herself when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She jumped, instantly spun around and smacked Lucius' hand sharply before realising it was a nobleman. She smiled although it did not reach her eyes. "Pardon me, you startled me." Corinthia said. Corinthia did not like surprises.

Beside her Gaia gave a wide and incredibly cheeky grin, looked from her daughter to Lucius, then back again. "I will give you two a moment," She said, winked at Corinthia and moved to take a large portion of dried peaches, before moving to not-so-discreetly hide behind a statue surrounded by plants to peek out and watch them. Every so often stuffing a peach into her mouth.

Corinthia's mouth dropped and instinctively reached for her mother's hand. Momentarily unsure about how to proceed. Gods... now she decided to leave her be? She looked up at him. Calpurnia? Her gaze moved up and down, looked at him. A hint of a snarl on her lips, they rose to meet her eyes and she waited for some sign he was mocking her. He had to be. After noticing that he had not walked away to seek out this Calpurnia. She paused, sipped her wine and watched him over the rim of her goblet. Slowly a long finger, decorated with rings tapped along the surface, and lowered it. Her lips were still moist with the wine.

"I don't think your Calpurnia is waiting here for you," She responded. Corinthia smiled, tilted her head to the side and smiled softly. It did not occur to her that it could have been an excuse to speak with her. For whatever reason that happened to be.

Lucius Junius Silanus

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Silanus & Corinthia

Lucius kept a small smirk on his face as the young woman looked up at him, seemingly unsure of whether to be offended or intrigued.

"Indeed, it seems she is not," he said, and then purposely took his eyes from her to do a quick and completely scripted scan of the room for his fictitious Calpurnia.

"I am sorry to have startled you... miss?" That was the best way to probe for a name, right?

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(Quintus Caesar)
 

The Imperial Family had enjoyed their vacation to Naples for the winter. Though it was typical of Roman nobility to flee the oft insufferable heat and misery that was Rome in the summer - especially August - Quintus had decided that he would remain in the city with the regular toiling plebs. It was a political move, to be sure, but also he naturally preferred hotter climates, and was not a fan of the cold.

The banquet had been planned some time in advance, mostly by others in the household outside of Quintus - parties and decorations weren't really his forte - and so he had gone to Naples with the idea of spending most of his time preparing his sons for the event and catching up on missives. What he didn't expect was the amount of time that would go into searching for the one-eyed cat who had been allowed to live in the Naples palace in order to hunt vermin. Drusus had given the animal the entirely outrageous name "Monophthalmus" - after Antigonus One-Eye, a general to Alexander the Great, and founder of the Antigonid dynasty of Macedonia that met its end to Roman arms - and Quintus had become the unwilling participant in search parties to find the disheveled and grumpy cat.

When everyone was supposed to be ready to make their appearance at the banquet, as a family unit, Drusus had disappeared. Titus and Tiberius were sent to find the boy, and pulled him away from his hunt of one-eye. And so, fashionably late, the family at last made their entrance.

Caesar was flanked by his wife Drusilla to his left, and to her side stood his daugher Flavia, and then his youngest son Drusus - who was obviously frustrated. To Caesar's right stood his eldest son Titus, who was flanked by his cousin, and Quintus' ward-and-nephew Tiberius.

It would be an important night for the future of their family, and the future of Rome.

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Corinthia was not sure what she thought of him. Warily her gaze moved up and down, her posture was at ease and she could see her mother peeking behind the plant to observe them. She sighed and gestured with an open palm out to the gathered crowd of people.

"It seems she may be hiding from you," She replied tartly. The reality of her situation was that she would need to marry. The sooner the better. Gods.. the better ranked, the better. Without it she would not be able to rise in the world.

Now if only her mother's name would not hinder her.

"Claudia Corinthia, and... may I ask your name?" She asked politely. It could not hurt to train when it came to mingling with people. There were others here who would be far less interesting. Around them there was the commotion of the arrival of the Imperial family. Corinthia glanced upwards in their direction with a frown. Her mother thought highly of them yet she did not. They had power and position. Both things that should have been hers by right.

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Blue was her color tonight as it often was. It complimented her eyes and skin so well and one had to look good at these things. Arriving with her family, Junia had shown them none of the apprehension she felt in going. Lucius and Junia had yet to truly rekindle their relationship or even talk much about what had occurred while they had been separated. She hoped he didn’t think her a loose woman for having led Ursus on in order to keep herself safe. Like with most everyone, she felt the loose connections fail to strengthen so far with her brother, though she greatly appreciated him.

She wasn’t particularly in the mood for being social but she knew a face had to be shown and wore it with practiced ease. Her smile radiant. Her eyes bright and interested. Her posture attentive. An arrival caught her eye and Junia caught the familiar clues of someone in her like mind who would have preferred not to be exposed to all this socializing. She stayed near her brother but said very little, simply listening instead unless addressed directly. That is, until he began speaking to old friends who decided to use the young ladies here for their entertainment. Shaking her head in amusement, she hoped they all got rejected. Moving away, she found herself alone and glancing around for a prospect of a conversation that wouldn’t be terribly dull.

The Caesars arrived then and Junia stepped neatly out of the way, watching them curiously, remembering her near achievement of exactly where they were.

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(Pinaria)

It was Lucretia's first event since her son had been born, having listen to her midwife and physicians to limit most of her public outings until she had regained her strength. Tonight, however, she knew she couldn't get away with not being at the banquet. She was dressed simply. The favored pure white, simple fine jewelry. Her soft brown hair was curled and braided, arranged in a simple style. She stayed outside of the gathering crowd, who barely gave her much thought and suited her.

She was seeking her husband when Caesar and his family arrived, and all attention turned to them. It was, as she noted, good to see them together. Though, in truth, in the years since her marriage to Quintus' youngest brother she had seen more of the Augusta and the young princess and princes than she had seen of Caesar himself. She was about to take a step forward to greet them when she felt a familiar hand on the small of her back.

"Husband..." She murmured fondly as she stepped back into the touch, her attention swinging fully to her husband now.

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(M.S Alexander)

It was easy to find his wife in the fray of beautiful woman waiting to welcome the imperial family. Well, at least it was easy for a man that was clearly in love with his wife. A hand pressed to the small of her back as he came to stand next to her. He took pride in the healthy blush on her face as the others moved to allow Quintus and the others to move deeper into the room.

"Wife" He replied fondly as she looked up at him, his eyes no longer on his brother as he dropped his gaze to Lucretia. Even in her simplicity she was a beauty, the prim example of a proper roman wife. Even if all of that was on the surface and he knew of her precocious behavior rather well. He was a lucky man.

Gently he gripped her elbow and lead her away from the crowd, wanting a few minutes to talk to he alone before they were focused on by other members of their family..

Pinaria Lucretia

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Tiberius and Juliana

The rest of the family had been slightly delayed, something about Drusus and a cat that lived in the Naples palace. Whilst he liked animals he was more interested in people and Tiberius had managed to avoid getting roped into the search for Drusus’s search for the cat by goading Titus into declaring that he was more than a match for the task himself, and then taking him up on the boast. Instead Tiberius had arrived a little before the main royal party, giving him time to spy out who else was attending, and as it turned out, bump into his cousin. Well, be bumped into, which was quite alright with him.

The look that she gave him was one that Tiberius was growing accustomed to; the long, measuring glance up and down, and no longer felt the urge to straighten up before it, like a child before a tutor. Claudia had already transitioned from lanky adolescent to confident young woman, in the precocious way of girls and women, and Tiberius himself was now on the cusp of young manhood, though there were still distinct flashes of teenage awkwardness about him. He gave Juliana a lop-sided smirk as she finished inspecting him. “Tell me my toga’s straight.” He said good-humouredly.

Always interested in the doings of family, Tiberius smiled and listened as Juliana spoke of her own. “I hope the children enjoy the change of scenery.” He said earnestly, a boyish openness in the comment. “It’s a shame that Tuscus couldn’t be here,” he said, referring to her husband, “but I’d love to stop by before we all travel. I haven’t seen your littles in some time; likely they’re not little any more.” He grinned, even as he spotted what had to be her older daughter across the room. Definitely not ‘little’ now.

If he recalled correctly, she also had an extended brood of stepchildren, having been wed thrice and widowed twice in her tender years, once to one of the Junii-Silani, lost to the troubles. “Do you see much of Junia these days?” He asked curiously. The two were of an age, good breeding and both widowed. Whether they had any more in common he did not know.

A few moments later a certain amount of noise and the hint of a familiar voice from the atrium suggested that, at last, the great circus had arrived. “Excuse me cousin.” Tiberius gave Juliana an apologetic smile and a quick peck on the cheek, before disappearing out between a pair of columns.

Tiberius in the Royal Party

Shortly thereafter, with the appropriate fanfare, the royal family made their grand entrance with Tiberius at Titus’s side, the pair of young men walking sedately beside and slightly behind Caesar himself, though not before Tiberius had visually inspected Titus for cat-scratches. All eyes turned to them, and Tiberius fought the instinctive self-consciousness; this was his life, and would become even more so. He made a point of looked from face to face, recalling names and families where he could, noting both Marcus Aemilius to one side, and then Junia Silana to the other. Once she would have walked here, at the side of his brother Junus, who had been Caesar after Darius. And it still felt odd not having his twin by his side, though he knew that modern society held different fates for men and women. Suddenly Tiberius felt the burden of being the last son of Claudius Caesar rather acutely, and was glad that tonight's focus was shared by Quintus and Titus.

Flavia Juliana Q. Flavius Caesar Alexander Augustus
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Juliana and Tiberius.

Juliana smiled, jokingly paused and studied him again before she nodded her head in agreement. "Yes, it is even, and it is a good look on you." She added, it still felt strange to no longer be among the younger members of the family. It would not be long until Tiberius had completely grown so much over the past years.

"You are welcome as always," Juliana answered, it would be pleasant to see him either here or another time at the villa. The children frequently asked about when they would go to Rome to visit the extended family. She thought of her husband in Britannia, an island she had no desire to ever step foot in again, and over time the pair of them had grown to love each other. "I will tell him to write to you sometime, and yes, feel free to come by. It is likely that we will be here for at least a week." She continued, slowly she glanced in the direction of the gathering members of the nobility, before it returned to Tiberius.

It seemed out of the blue he asked about Junia. The ill-fated spouse of young Junus, who he himself had been lost to an assassin's blade.

"No, not of late. She is supposed to be here with her family," She answered, the Junii-Silani were restored and naturally back in a position of importance. "I hope to see her sometime tonight." Juliana added, they had been close since Junia's marriage to Junus and hers, to Decimus.

Juliana also heard the sound and turned her head to look. Her hand placed on his shoulder, as she felt the peck on her cheek and watched as he went to join the Imperial face. A speech of some kind was likely to follow.

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(Valeria Maxima)

"I'm sure he will. And when he does he will suffer from overeating. It'll be his fault and we shouldn't pity him." She teased her husband with a happy smile. Valeria watched as her son ran off to find his cousins, her smile dimming to bittersweet. Minor was growing up so fast, the last ten years of peace had flown by so quickly. She wonder if the next eight or ten would do the same. Would she blink and find a man standing in place of the little boy that would pull up flowers from his grandmother's garden to bring to her. Dirt and roots still attached.

She knew he would be his father made over. There was very little of herself in that boy. She didn't envy it though. Her husband was still a good looking man, age had only made him more so. Her son would make a fine soldier and scholar one day, as he would be a fine match for any young woman in Rome. She hoped he would have good sense to know that there is value in becoming close with the wife chosen for him. As she and Octavius had found in one another. Valeriana, on the other hand, was her spit thus far. Her once pale locks slowly giving away to Valeria's own coppery red. A beauty to be she was praised.

But still, her mother's heart longed to keep her children young. "One day he'll be too old for sweets." She mused aloud, mostly to herself, the unspoken 'to old for his mother's affection' hung at the end of her sigh. She glanced up at her husband before noticing the fanfare. Quintus and his family arrived, and she sighed in relief, no longer to be her husband's center focus for the time being. "It is good see them in such good health." She commented with a fond smile, looking across the room and laughing softly when she noticed Laelius pulling his wife away from the crowd.

"Our Emperor and his beautiful Augusta has failed to snare the attention of the love birds," She whispered softly, nudging Oct's attention to his younger brother and their sister in law.

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Octavius watched as his son pick up some of the sweets while he spoke with his cousins. He smiled, reached down to give Valeria's hand a loving squeeze and nodded in agreement. Later, he would have a stomach ache to deal with and soon, he hoped, he would grow out of it. Octavius did not have the same worries that Valeria had concerning their children growing up. All he hoped was for them to have good fortunes and make virtuous decisions in life.

"True, true, no doubt he will be complaining in the litter on the way home. Actually, I should tell him it is unsoldierly to eat them." He grinned, winked at her and listened to her comment about their son's age. The arrival of Quintus, Drusilla, Titus, and Tiberius let him know an announcement would likely come. He gazed up at them, smiled and could not be happier for them.

"It is," He answered, hoped that they would have a moment in private together later on. There was still a passion between the pair of them, a deep love that remained, even through the various trials of life. Octavius looked in the direction Valeria had guided him towards. Laelius and Pinaria. His youngest brother and his wife.

"I do not think even the Gods could distract those two from each other." He whispered back, watched them and smiled down at Valeria. "They are both good for each other." Octavius added, pleased with how politics and the personal relationship between them had paid off.

Valeria Maxima

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