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Gothic
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April 73CE.

It had been some time since she had seen Aeneas. Since then, she wondered how he had been going with his training and how he had been. Gaia had visited him every so often. Checking on him, trying to help him adjust, and Corinthia wondered if her mother would ever see any type of reason. A slave would adjust or they would be removed. 

Yet... every night she could see those eyes haunting her and would awaken in a panic. Sweating, her chest pounding, her mind filled with confusing thoughts and images, and wondered what it all meant. Was this a cruel trick of some foreign God? Perhaps a hex to cause her to lose her wits? 

She commanded that he be sent for, bathed, and presented to her. Corinthia was interested to see how he had progressed, and secretly, there had been another reason why she wished to see him. Her mother would occasionally prattle on about how being considerate to your slave would be a benefit. Corinthia would pointedly ignore her. She left the household slaves and guards to bring him in while she remained in her bedroom. How would it go? Would he be more man or beast by now? 

By midday the slave would be presented to her in the atrium. Corinthia however, did not hide publicly for Aeneas to arrive at the atrium, and instead waited in her room. Occasionally her hand would be placed on her heart in order to try to stop it from beating eagerly in anticipation. She wondered how he would look now with better food, time to settle, and if he now was able to speak Latin rather than the mongrel tongue he already spoke. She sipped her wine and waited for news from one of the household slaves that he was ready to be presented to her. 
 

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There had been a change in his routine that day. Normally the Ludus was very strict in it's organisation and training sessions, and if one was late for a meal or a bout there were punishments. Occasionally there would be a half day's rest, and a few times the woman with the soulful eyes would come; sometimes to speak to him and sometimes just to watch. Gaia, he'd learned Claudia Gaia, in that odd way they had of using names. She's purchased him. But not for herself; for the younger woman with the temper; she was the one who'd sent him to be a gladiator. Claudia Corinthia. This he'd put together, come to understand over time. He'd not seen Corinthia since that day.

Except that today he was singled out, sent aside and told to wait, until house slaves came to get him. His mistress had sent for him. No explanation was given, but Aeneas had come to accept that of the Romans; they still treated him like an animal. An intelligent one, but an animal none the less. Animals needed no explanations, only commands, occasional rewards, and punishments for disobedience. Which this was remained to be seen. So he played along, reserving judgement. Good dog.

The house was... grand, in a word. Nothing like the stone or peat-brick roundhouses of his homeland. The Romans knew how to build, he would give them that. He was made to strip and bathe, not in a cool mountain stream but in a big tub, like a piece of laundry, though the heat of the water was... pleasant. Soaped and cleaned, rinsed and dried, he was provided with a tunica of fine linen. And that was it. He wasn't certain he'd ever get used to the lack of trews, and resisted the urge to pull down on the hem. He'd been told to wait, and so wait he would. He'd become accustomed to that. 

Aeneas had changed since he'd been pulled from the cage full of dirty Britonic slaves at the market. His dark hair had cut short, his pale skin now sported a wealth of freckles from the hot Roman sun. The muscle that he had lost in the journey from his homeland had been rebuilt, with more balance than had previously been shown in the left-handed smith. Fine blue tattoos wound their graceful way across his upper arms, disappearing into the short sleeves of his tunica, the same rich tone as his eyes. 

Those eyes turned in the direction of the sound of approaching footsteps. 

Claudia Corinthia

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She kept thinking about him. There was something about his pale eyes that he could not forget. They had haunted her in her sleep, something she never thought they would be able to do. What was it about him that drew her to him? He was a savage! At night she imagined her legs wrapped around his waist, gripping him tightly and running her nails along those foreign, blue markings along his arms and shoulders. For a moment, her thoughts wandered down this line again and she remembered where she was. Her body jerked as she heard footsteps. 

Corinthia scowled to herself. She was not her mother. If she was not careful she would end up becoming like her and then it would limit her prospects. She needed to stay focused on her goals... only those mattered. She remained seated, half-reclined and relaxed. How trained would he be now? The redheaded Barbus did not think much of the younger Domina, yet it was not his place to have an opinion or thoughts. Aeneas had been cleaned, dressed in a tunic and still, Barbus was not willing to completely take his eyes of him. Corinthia may be a monster yet Gaia was not. She would be heartbroken if anything happened to her harpy of a daughter. 

Barbus had no ill will towards Aeneas himself. He remembered what it was like. "Come," He said, gestured with his hand for Aeneas to follow him and led him towards his Domina. Barbus waited until Aeneas was three metres away from her. Tapped his hand on his shoulder, "That is close enough," He said, and moved to silently wait nearby if he was needed for anything. 

Corinthia watched as Aeneas entered. She felt her heart flutter with beats, a light breathlessness and her hand was gently placed on her chest. He looked much more respectable now from the filth, his skin had freckles yes, but much more colour to his skin. No longer did he resemble a walking corpse. And those eyes, they had lost none of their colour and she kept her dark eyes on him. At first she said nothing. The goblet was lowered to rest on her knee as she regarded him. 

He was so incredibly handsome. Why was she so curious about him? Her long fingernails idly tapped on the surface of the goblet, idly and she had to wonder how much Latin he had picked up during his time at the Ludus. 

"Now Aeneas, how well do you know Latin?" She asked. For the moment, she ignored her thoughts about why she wanted to know all about him and the life he had previously led in Britannia. 

 

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The footsteps belonged to a red-haired man, one of those who'd come to collect him. Sometimes the man had come with Gaia to watch him, but he didn't seem to be a husband. Perhaps a bodyguard. Was he another slave? The tiers of Roman society were far more complex than his own; whilst one man might have status over another, even the cheiftan was first amongst equals. Not so here, and he was slowly coming to understand that there was also more to it than masters and slaves.

He was not going to puzzle it all out in this moment. Barbus's command was met with the slight nod that seemed to generally suffice as answer to his captors at the ludus, and the rangy barbarian followed in his wake. Such commands he was well familiar with. The room he was led to was finely furnished, like the rest of the house, the wealth of the owners prominent. And like a carefully crafted presentation box, at the centre of the room lounged it's jewel. Stopping where he was bade, Aeneas regarded the woman before him with the frank gaze the barbarian slaves were so despised for. "Domina." He said, with a slight bow, too slight but he hadn't been taught otherwise. He'd learned the word, Mistress

She was beautiful, but it was a calculated and finely crafted beauty. From her carefully coifed hair to her long fingernails, it was a beauty that spoke of one who did no work, who existed to be admired. That sculpted elegance was overlaid on a natural appeal, but Aeneas found himself comparing in his mind this careful artwork to the natural, wild beauty of the women of his homeland. And yet, he could not deny that many back home would braid their hair and do no work, if they were afforded that luxury. Perhaps what set the Romans apart most was their leisured class. But that was built on the back of slaves.

She was beautiful, and she was also young, she still possessed that softness of face and slimness of build, her dark, exotic looks emphasised by the careful crafting of her clothing and the fine jewellery that she wore. The way she pressed her hand to her breast and widened her eyes was unexpected; fear, surprise or something else? He'd not had that reaction before, and he filed it away for consideration. Absorbing this without expression, he looked blankly across the room with the stoic patience of a slave who has been given no command. Until she spoke. Then his blue gaze met her dark, kohl-lined one once more.

How well did he speak her tongue? That depended on the subject. For matters of the ludus, very well. For complex rhetoric, he was woefully underequipped. "I speak Latin some." He replied evenly, his voice a resonant baritone. He'd done his best to learn words, actively listening and absorbing, but there was a limit to what was discussed around him. He'd taken all the help the other slaves would give him; would it satisfy her? He'd become aware that, as his mistress, this woman had the power to set him free. Or make his life a misery. 
 

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Corinthia regarded him steadily. The corners of her lips twitched with approval for his response. It was a sign that his training had been working, and he seemed to be doing better than before. It was not perfect but at least they were able to converse with each other. Was there anything he had to say that would be valuable? Interesting? Or was it as useful as teaching a dog how to speak? 

"A little? Good. Now you understand me," She answered, her lips curled up wards and highlighted eyes regarded him. Her fingertips tapped idly. There had been so many questions she wanted to ask him, yet now, none were coming to mind. All she could do was gaze into those blue eyes of his, and imagine what sort of a man he had been before. Corinthia believed he likely lived in some filthy hovel. Hell, she believed that he had been done a favour being brought to Rome and had the chance to train as a gladiator. A chance to die with honour. 

Her long fingered hand lifted and beckoned him to approach her. A closer look could not hurt. Corinthia did not move from her seated position, her lamb-hide sandals were decorated with semi-precious stones. Her feet had been pedicured, without callous and were another sign of the wealth she had. Her body hair was either plucked or waxed off. She was not some hairy barbarian, after all. Her hands were graceful, the hardest thing she grasped was a quill when she wrote and her fingernails were well-shaped. All signs of a well-bred and wealthy woman of Rome. Naturally, her eyelashes were dark and thick and only highlighted by the kohl that surrounded them. The hand moved to brush a stray, dark curl from her eyes and allowed her to observe him more clearly. 

"Do you know why you were brought to me, Aeneas?" She asked. His name the fiction founder of Rome. Corinthia hoped it would assist him in realisation that he would never see his home again. Those years were now lost to him and his future was now focused on doing his duty to please her. 

All he had to worry about was pleasing her, and ensuring her safety.

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The exotic-looking young woman who was his mistress seemed to regard him with interest. Aeneas himself had been more interested in whether this odd visit might present an opportunity for escape, and judged that if there was going to be one it would likely be during the walk back to the ludus, but he suspected that he wouldn't get far. He needed a plan to get out of Rome. 

Meanwhile Corinthia seemed particularly interested in whether or not he could speak, and understand, her language. Did she want to talk to him then? None of the Romans at the ludus were ever particularly interested in what he had to say. It was an odd thought, but he knew that his best chance of getting out of here would be to gain the trust of his captors, and be allowed the freedoms that some slaves were. "I understand you, Domina." He confirmed gravely. It was truth in the literal sense; he understood her words. He had yet to understand her as a person, but here perhaps was an opportunity

One delicately manicured hand rose and beckoned to him, and Aeneas stepped forward obediently, observing in greater detail her careful physical presentation. Calculated. He stopped at closer range, towering over her lounging form before, unbidden, he dropped into an easy crouch, sitting on his heels, elbows on his knees. It was a less intimidating stance, quite deliberate. The crouch was harder to move from, he no longer towered over her, and it brought their gazes onto the same level. It also meant that she wasn't quite within his immediate reach. Possibly it wasn't the best idea for someone wearing a tunica that wasn't quite long enough for him, depending on your point of view. Unlike her he was unplucked, his long legs furry and his fine, dark chest hair showed a little at his collar. The large, flat scar on his right forearm was easily visible, and the long, clean one on his left thigh could now be seen.

Did he know why she'd had him brought here? The easy answer was 'no', but if she wanted the stupid slave, he doubted that she would have asked. That blue gaze turned contemplative. "You ask if I understand." He observed. "You want to speak to me." He concluded logically. Did he understand what about, or why now, or even why she'd bought him in the first place? No. But right now what interested him was the opportunity to gain some understanding of his mistress.

Did he understand the meaning of the name he'd been given? Not that either; for no one had bothered to explain it to him. It seemed to him only a Roman approximation of his real name. The fall of Troy, the founding of the Roman peoples by the maternal ancestor of Romulus and Remus, and possibly the founding of the lineage of Pictish Kings, were all unknown to him. It was just a name, and not the one his mother had given him.

Blue eyes searched her face. "What you want, Domina?" He asked in the uppity way of barbarian slaves who never really accepted their place in life, were never truly broken, speaking when not spoken to. Yet there was no challenge in his tone, only a mild curiosity. Why was he here? What did she want with him? What did she want from the world? And what, perhaps, could he do to affect that?

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Corinthia nodded. What was there to say to someone like him? Firstly, why was she so interested in him? Why did he haunt her dreams and all she could think about were the tattooes. And those piercing blue eyes she could never forget. She frowned briefly when he lowered himself down yet it was a respectful gesture, one he took it on himself to do rather than be commanded to do so. They were now eye level. Although she took the liberty of a glance downwards to observe the areas exposed. The short tunica did not leave much to the imagination, his pale skin had hair on it and she was torn with her desire in regards to it. Corinthia was torn when she regarded the scars. On one hand, it was quite soliderly and masculine... on the other, it humanised him. When he insisted on what she wanted, for a moment, she was caught daydreaming as she gazed at him. 

Slowly, his words began to drag her out of her daydream. His insistance caused her to frown, her eyebrows narrowed towards him and she did not appreciate being prompted. "Manners, slave," She near growled at him. Corinthia had heard of many of the slaves who spoke plainly to their Masters, and found it utterly disgusting. She was tempted to have him sent back to the Ludus or otherwise forced to do some other unappealing chore. Curiousity got the better of her. 

"Tell me about the land of your birth," She said, lifted her goblet and sipped the contents. Naturally, she did not offer him any. Corinthia gestured for him to sit with her hand, a sign that this would be a long and drawn out conversation between them. It did not matter to her that this would end up stirring memories of home, or if it upset him. All she cared about was being able to gaze into those eyes of his. 

Britannia, it had not been completely conquered yet although had been colonised for sometime now. "What tribe were you from? What was your former name, Aeneas?" She asked him. Making a point to mention it was his old name. Aeneas. 

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As he crouched before her, Corinthia’s dark gaze slid over him and Aeneas accepted that scrutiny with equanimity; it was only different from the looks of his handlers at the ludus in that she seemed to take a closer interest in him, rather than treating him purely as livestock. He was, apparently, hers, and she could look at him as much as she liked. That at least cost him nothing. 

He’d thought perhaps that more personal interest and apparent desire for conversation might allow for more freedom of expression, but her frown at his uninvited question and curt response made it clear that no, she wanted him to only speak when spoken to. She had at least not ordered him punished or sent away, but if Corinthia was the key to his possible freedom - or his imminent death - then he needed to learn her moods. At her scold he lowered his gaze and bowed his head, the learned attitude of the repentant slave, however feigned.

Whatever purpose she’d summoned him for was apparently stronger than her annoyance at him; at her gesture Aeneas settled himself cross-legged at her feet, gazed up at her admittedly pretty face with her exotic, dark eyes, and considered her demand. The land of his birth? She wanted to know about his homeland. It was something that he tried not to think about too much, focusing on the demands of the day rather than the dwindling hope that he might one day return home to all that he had loved and been taken from. But perhaps he might inspire her to release him to it, or at least want to visit? Who knew. And entertaining his Domina gave him the chance to observe her.

“I from north Britannia.” He began. “No Romans there. Tall… mountains. Snow on them many times. Tall, green trees. Much rain.” Not like here, where it never seemed to rain. “Many small valleys, very green, good grass, many… cow. Good to eat. Many… deer in forest.” The pauses were where he searched for words he’d only heard and not yet had cause to use. How to capture the magic and beauty of his homeland with such a limited vocabulary? “We hunt deer. Drink from water run from mountains, cool and clear. Swim in… loch.” He thought for a moment. “Big water between mountains.” He explained. “Swim in sea too, and make boat, sail to Eire, see kin. Also green land.” 

What would seem truly odd or even impossible to a Roman? “In winter, lots… snow. Many many snow. Sassanach not travel, but we do. Snow make deer, rabbit, wolf easy hunt, good fur. We eat well and sleep in the snow.” He grinned. “Many days. Snow make food stay good. Then take all good hunt food home for everyone eat.” ‘Sassanach’ was their word for the southern tribes; it could also be applied to Romans.

She wanted to know his tribe, and his name? She was the first Roman to ask his name; no one else had cared. Did she care, or was she just curious? She said his ‘former’ name. Did it really matter? “I Caledonii.” He said, using the Roman approximation of their tribal name. “I name Aonghus.” He said, pronouncing it carefully for her,Angus, in case she ever wished to use it, and watched her face to see how she received that information. Was that all that she wanted, a little vicarious travel? Or was there some other curiosity?
 

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Corinthia listened and occasionally her nose wrinkled in irritation at the sound of his Latin. It had improved in the time that he had been in Rome, and training through the Ludus. Still, she wondered about the land he was from, and it was difficult to think that there was apparent civilisation outside of Rome. It all sounded oddly free and away from pressures of Roman society, something she found interesting and could not shake. How many people in Rome would have been all too happy to see her die? Death and politics were everywhere. 

"Caledonii," She echoed, Corinthia never heard of it before. The name was foreign, illusive and perhaps someone more widely traveled would have been more knowledgeable about the lands beyond the Roman borders. The fantasy was interrupted when he spoke of his name, the one before he had been given one and her dark eyebrows instantly narrowed in irritation. "No, your name is Aeneas. Aonghus is no more," She added sharply, then exhaled irritably. Her mother had told her that kindness towards slaves would often help in their manners and temperament. Sometimes the carrot was far better than the stick. Not that Corinthia happened to listen very often to Gaia's advice when it came to absolutely anything and everything. 

Perhaps it had not been wise to encourage this sort of behaviour from him?

It would not have been pleasant for him to think of a home that he could no longer return to, and for the entertainment of his Domina. The brief thought of compassion was swiftly pushed aside in favour of seeking more knowledge about his strange people to the North, they would never be able to 

She debated sending him back to the ludus, out of sight and unfortunately, not out of mind. There was something about him that drew her to him, and it still puzzled her. Her fingertips irritated tapped by her side, thinking and pondering what the next course of action should be. 

"Aeneas," She insisted again, used his new Roman and slave name, and smiled softly. Corinthia could not help it. "What of the politics of your former home? Do they have Kings or Chieftains there?" She asked, curious and interested in how these strange people's lived. 

@Sarah

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His Latin was bad, but his opportunities to practice it were few, and given that he'd never really heard the language before his capture, it was at least an improvement. And he tried, he did genuinely try to describe his homeland for her. It was only the barrier of language that stunted his poesy, not lack of love or beauty. And he answered her questions honestly, which was why he was a little surprised when she contradicted him. Why bother to ask his name and then tell him no? Or was it his poor grasp of the language; he hadn't mastered tenses yet. Not that that would have changed his answer; the Romans could call him what they wanted, he knew what his mother had named him. Thus he accepted the correction with equanimity and the slightest of shrugs; to argue would both have caused trouble, and made some acknowledgement that they had any right to name him. He knew his name.

Instead he sat patiently, silently, whilst Corinthia tapped her exquisitely manicured nails irritably on the arm of her chair. There was no point in pre-empting her, not when he didn't know her well and guessing incorrectly would lead to further trouble. Indeed, there was something almost easy about not having to think ahead, only doing as he was told and speaking when spoken to. And so he was content to wait on his mistress. Wait, and observe.

At last she spoke, and posed another question. Politics? Now that was unexpected. Was she looking for tactical information? Or was she simply curious about how a different society worked? "Have Clan Chief." He said after a moment's thought on the wording. "Clan like large family. All distant family. Also smaller septs within Clan. Like village, with chieftain." He tried to explain. "Clan Chiefs make... friend? with other Clans? Also fight. Big fight, long time." What was the Roman word for fued? Did  she want to know about local politics? "Make trade between clans and septs. Make marry. I smith, make tool, weapon. Important for village. My wife Eoife, she daughter sept Chieftain." He said quietly, yet with no less furvour. "My son Fiachu maybe Chieftain one day." 

His son. His pride and joy, and hope for the future. He remembered the day he'd put his arm around Eoife as she'd held their newborn son to her breast. Remembered the tight grip of that tiny fist on his finger, those big blue eyes looking up at him, the knowledge that he would do anything to protect his child as he grew. And now he couldn't. Because he was here, because of the Romans.

As he spoke those deep blue eyes watched Corinthia, watched her expression, the flicker of her own dark gaze. Did she understand what he had been taken from? What she was keeping him from? Did she care? He had a family; a wife who likely thought he was dead, and a son who was growing up without him. "My son not know me now." He said bitterly, the words escaping before he could really think about them. If she couldn't care about him, could she feel for the little boy, growing up without his father?

@Gothic

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Corinthia was silently pleased when he was compliant with her wishes. Although it was her divine right, how else would he have become a slave to begin with and end up in the service of Rome? A clan chief sounded a lot like a king to her, in some ways, the clans and the septs sounded similar to the clans and tribes that the Romans have. Slowly she nodded her understanding, and they too had feuds. There were families that were determined to remove each other -- a slight long forgotten that was continued by their heirs. Maybe they weren't so different? 

It was strange to think that he had a family back home. One that he could no longer see or protect. She exhaled softly, it was why she was so cunning and ruthless. It validated her behaviour. Gaia, was weak, and perhaps that was the only reason why she had been left unharmed. She needed to protect her family -- or she could be kneeling by some barbarian's feet, needing their support and grace. Her eyes glazed over in thought, her hand lifted and was briefly going to place it supportively on his shoulder. Yet... would that encourage bad behaviour from him? 

Corinthia gulped when he said that his son would not know him now. He would be a stranger in his eyes. What did Aeneas' wife tell her son about his father? Did she tell him the truth or did she made up an elaborate lie in order to ease the pain? 

She felt torn. Truly torn. 

Her hand intently tightened. How would she feel if her son (if she ever had one) would not know his father? Worse, what if she was never able to see that child ever again? For a moment, she avoided his gaze, unable to look into those pale eyes with her darker ones. Corinthia did not know what to do. A Domina would never avoid the gaze of her slave. Finally, it lowered, the reason for her hesitancy was now shown. Her eyes were glossy and strained. 

Tears. 

Silently her hand reached out and touched his shoulder, a gentle and compassionate gesture. 

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Aeneas was a practical man. The forge was unforgiving of the hot-headed and easily frustrated. He could recognise when a fight couldn't be won, and bide his time until it could. Some saw this as a weakness, some had even called him weak. Many of those no longer walked this earth, and not through any doing of his. That didn't mean that he didn't feel anger, didn't feel pain; but he harboured them away until the time was right. Might he have been so sanguine about his situation if Eoife and Fiachu had been taken alongside him and separated from him? Probably not. He remembered the Brigantean men who'd fought as their wives and children were taken elsewhere by the slavers.

But he wasn't in that situation. However much he missed them, however hard it tore his heart to think of his son growing up without him, at least they were free. They would be provided for, there was a place for them in the village. At least, he assumed they were free; in his darkest nightmares the Romans pushed further north and conquered the lands of the Caledonii, and his own family were taken as well, or killed. But from what little he'd heard the Romans were consolidating what they had rather than pushing further, and in truth they might find that land of high mountains and deep snows hard to take, especially from a people who were accustomed to lightning raids and mountain tactics; they'd had enough time to practice on each other.

He hadn't spoken of those he'd left behind to his captors; they were uninterested in anything that he had to say that didn't indicate acquiesence. Gaia had been the only exception, but in the public space of the Ludus was hardly conducive to in-depth conversation. Dwelling on the pain gained him nothing, whilst inattention during training gained him bruises and short rations, so he'd buried it deep. But talking about his homeland, his kin, brought everything to the surface. How could these people be so heartless? These Romans, did they not understand what they did? Or did they not care? They seemed to think they had some right over others. At least when his own people feuded it was out of spite, or anger, or revenge, not some idea that one tribe was intrinsically better than others. Prisoners might be taken, but they could be ransomed back. He'd never seen any indication that Romans were interested in ransom.

Or in pity. But he couldn't help it, perhaps deep down he wanted one other person to understand what had been taken from him, even if they didn't care. When she looked away, he half expected her to order him sent back to the Ludus, uninterested in his personal trials. Aeneas was aware of Barbus standing behind him, but his focus was on his mistress. She who was the only person with the power to set him free, not that he expected it. Hoped for certainly, but he didn't expect. He was, after all, a practical man. Why bring him all this way to show a sudden moment of humanity? He shouldn't have spoken, but he couldn't not.

She turned back, and he expected that angry dismissal, that petulant pout, but no, she looked down. The dark lashes of her kohl-rimmed eyes gleamed wetly, and in a move that shocked him more than if she had slapped him, one tanned, perfectly manicured hand came to rest on his freckled shoulder. She understood. He lowered his head for a moment in emotional acknowledgement and took a deep breath, then glanced up. There was no hope in that glance, no pleading, no anger, just the frank acknowledgement of something that bridged the gap between their peoples and cultures; something they both understood. That unexpected moment of compassion had more effect on Aeneas than any number of months of harsh words and beatings. Truly, one caught more flies with honey than with vinegar.

@Gothic

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Silence.

There was nothing but silence between them. The understanding of pain had been reached. A rare thing with a person like Corinthia. Vain, self-centered, and utterly entitled when it came to others. This was the closest she had come to showing any signs of concern or remorse for actions she (or in an extended) fashion would have had. Corinthia paused, her hand still rested on his shoulder before it withdrew from his shoulder and returned to a resting position on her lap. Now what? She did not know how best it would be to proceed. How else would they continue from here? Showing too much concern and softness towards your slaves did not end well, and encouraged bad behaviour later on. 

Corinthia reached up and dried her eyes with her fingertips. The kohl fortunately did not have the time to run and instead coated her fingertips. She blinked her eyes a few times, it was almost as though the moment had not happened, and no doubt she would toss and turn thinking about it later on. Why had she been kind to him? Corinthia knew that it was not for politics nor to sway him to the course she desired. It was genuine. The moment when she showed her humanity to someone she was attracted to, and had a tremendous amount of power over. 

It gave her an uneasy feeling in her stomach. Was she now vulnerable to him? 

"If your training continues to go well," She began, why was she doing this? It was not like her. "You will be my bodyguard. Your tasks will be to defend me against anyone who would wish to harm me, and to obey my orders." Corinthia continued. It was difficult to state what would ultimately happen. If he succeeded in the arena and gained fame. Freedom was possible.

While it was put forward as an offer. He was not in a position to refuse her if she desired to have him in a certain place. Why did she now want to keep him close to her? There was something about those pale eyes that drew him to her. 

@Sarah

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“The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me, if ever I fall.

You say it best, when you say nothing at all.”

 

He could have said something, he could have pushed for more, or railed at the injustice, or pressured her to let him go, but he felt that he already knew what the answer would be. And such a request would not be received well. Somehow it wasn’t needed, that moment of connection was enough, one gain however small, towards seeing the Romans as human, and being seen by them as human. It wasn’t what he wanted, what he yearned for and wept over in the depths of the night, but it was something. Sometimes the best reply was silence.

She looked away then, wiped her eyes carefully in a delicate gesture. It was a different side of her, one he hadn’t seen before, and it piqued his curiosity. Her presentation and mask had been so perfect when he’d arrived, was it her youth that meant it had cracked so easily? Or was it something else. He didn’t know, not being much older nor an expert in manipulation, but he did watch people, and those blue eyes watched her now as she composed herself. She had the front of a confident woman, yet it seemed to him that it was armour for the vulnerable girl who lived just beneath. Whether or not he was right or very wrong, only time would tell.

She was a few years younger than him, he judged; behind her make-up was the blush of youth. Yet when she drew herself up and her mask slid back into place she was as regal as any chieftain. It was an impressive transition, and he had yet to learn how rare that glimpse of her had been. Still, her words were unexpected. The last he'd been told was that he would be a gladiator, his purpose to bring glory to his mistress, and that if he died in the ring no one would mourn.

Yet suddenly a different fate was being set before him, and blue eyes looked up at his mistress, trying to fathom her intent. Word had it that the best gladiators could earn their freedom, but it was no certain path. Never the less, he'd hoped to walk it. Now she was setting him on a different one. 'Bodyguard' wasn't a term he'd heard before, but the words 'body' and 'guard' were known, and the combination was fairly obvious, especially when Corinthia described his duties. She wanted him as a ghillie, protector and attendant. He wondered who specifically might want to harm her, or whether such a role was common in Roman society, and whether there would be a chance to earn his freedom in that role. There would certainly be the opportunity to learn his mistress better.

Of course, informing him was merely a formality in this structured society. "Yes, Domina." He said simply, then cocked his head slightly in curiosity. Who would want to harm her? Perhaps time would tell. "I guard."

@Gothic

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Corinthia was still unsure how to proceed. 

It was not the norm for her to feel this way about anyone. Why was she supposed to care about a slave? Especially a new one in the household? These thoughts continued to puzzle her. Weakness meant death. She would not allow anyone to hurt her or that dimwit of a mother she had. Corinthia wondered whether he would have preferred life in the arena. There would be fame, fortune, and perhaps freedom if he went down that route. Or he would have been forgotten by time. Admittedly, there was also the possibility of him pleasing her and being able to gain his freedom through that method. 

The position of a personal bodyguard meant that he would not have to train at the Ludus and would have access to an easier life. He would be around her and her family on a regular basis. He would go everywhere that men were permitted to go. There had been the incident at the Circus Maximus, and she had received a bloody revenge for the crimes that had been made against her. The man involved had been punished. Yet the names were not yet discovered. 

Corinthia inclined her head and gave the slightest of nods with his agreement. 

"It will your duty to die to protect me from any threats and to ensure that I am safe at all times," She explained, slower than before to ensure that he understood her and what it meant for him to be a bodyguard. "You will not wag your tongue about what I do either, and you will obey me without question." Corinthia continued, admittedly, if she was under threat and was not aware of it. Was it not foolish to ignore those who may be more aware of threats than she was? 

Furthermore, why did she have such a strong desire to keep him close to her? 

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Aeneas listened as Corinthia explained his duties slowly to him. To serve and protect, at the expense of his own life if necessary. Well, that seemed to be the lot of a slave, whether that life was many years or brief. He was interested to note that she stressed obedience a second time; had she been disobeyed in the past? Or was she so insecure in her control of her slaves? She was, he reminded himself, young, however marked her poise.

Clearly she was expecting something a little more than 'yes mistress'. "I protect, Domina. I serve. I obey." He assured her evenly, as his blue gaze watched her face, trying to fathom the thoughts behind her words. No doubt time would bring understanding. Whether or not the word of a slave was worth anything was for her to decide. How did Romans feels about assurances given under duress? His own people certainly accepted them.

"What mean, 'wag your tongue'?" He asked then, cocking his head slightly in query, not familiar with that particular expression.

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She nodded slowly in understanding. At least they both knew the roles they were to take with their lives. Aeneas' skill with Latin had gotten considerably better as time went on yet there were times when he would not understand something. Corinthia sighed irritably, and completely ignored the fact that it would have taken her quite a long time to learn his native language. 

"Wag your tongue means to gossip or spread mistruths," She answered him. Better to answer and not let him plead ignorance later on. Corinthia paused, thought for a moment and frowned while she did so. There were some factors about Roman society. They were supposed to be honest yet bribes were an important part of life. The dual nature and being able to move through Roman society was vital for survival. 

"It means, you need to be quiet about my dealings and not speak of them to anyone. Including my mother. Do you understand, Aeneas?" 

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Ah, the meaning of the expression was fairly obvious once one knew. She wanted him not to talk too much, especially about her and her doings. Including to her mother, which was an interesting caveat. Aeneas deliberately kept his amusement from his face. What did his young mistress intend that her mother would disapprove of?

"I understand." He said gravely. "No say what you say, what you do." He paraphrased. Yes, he understood. Whether or not he would obey might depend on how self-destructive he thought his mistress was being. "Where I from, man who say false word is no man." He added. It was an easy way to lose trust. Including hers. But then Aeneas was not the kind to act rashly, or without reason.

Those barbarian blue eyes searched his mistress's face, wondering whether the same rules would apply for her. Somehow he doubted it, yet if they were to have that kind of relationship where they relied on each other, then there needed to be a certain level of surety. "You, I, need trust." He said, holding her dark gaze. They needed to be able to trust each other.

@Gothic

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Corinthia nodded when he said he understood, and how things worked. Her position gave her more power over him, and she had every intention of using that over him. Her nose wrinkled when he continued to talk, she did not particularly care but found herself wanting to hear him speak, and found herself wondering what was wrong with her to find herself in this position. Was a God or lemure cursing her? Corinthia loved the sound of his voice, the accent and disjointed words would have irritated her endlessly if spoken by somebody else. Yet him? She enjoyed his words. 

Her gaze regarded him steadily when his pale eyes met her dark ones. Again, there was that pang. Corinthia exhaled slowly, shifted in her seat and had to admit to herself that she did not want him to come to harm. It was baffling. Promising him something that she could not or may not deliver something would have been deceitful. Cruel, even. Both things she was perfectly happy to do with many other people. But him? 

"I will do what I can for you," She sighed, closed dark rimmed eyelashes and opened them again. "That is all I can promise you." She said with more honesty than she had ever spoken before. 

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It wasn't what he'd ask, but it was perhaps more than many slaves got. Especially gladiator slaves like him who were virtually disposable. Trust had to be earned, and that went both ways. She would do what she could for him, she said. What that might mean, he didn't know. But he would do what he could for her, at least until he learned more of her ways and motives. That would take time, but he did not intend to act rashly.

Instead he simply nodded in acknowledgement, waiting on her pleasure with the easy patience of one with nothing better to do. Did she want anything else from him? Those dark eyes seemed to scrutinise him, even as he watched her in turn, trying to fathom her nature. He did not shy away from her scrutiny; let her look, he had nothing to hide. Unlike, it seemed, his new mistress.

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He was silent. 

While it was something that was expected she had no idea what she wanted from him. There was the incredible attraction. Corinthia's thoughts raged and she was torn between trusting him or not. She wanted to trust him. Her father had trusted people, and look where he ended up. She, in turn, was deprived of the status and rank she deserved to be given. She could not afford to trust the wrong person. Corinthia lifted her goblet and sipped it. Caught up in her thoughts, and wished to distract herself from what she was feeling. 

There was so much she wanted to tell him. 

Yet she still could not. 

"You will tell me any secrets you discover. I want to know all of them." 

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