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The gift of protection


Gothic
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72CE.

Octavius remembered Aulus and Gaulus, the twin Germanic slaves (now freedmen) who were both loyal to his sister, and then to her children. While Octavius believed many within the Praetorian guard were good, he also understood human nature, and with enough ambition even the most loyal man would be tempted. A male slave may not be wise, and was too uncomfortable for him to imagine. Yet a female gladiatrix who would be able to protect his niece? That made greater sense. He had already purchased Cynane, no doubt, a gift would be given to the rest of the Imperial children. Today it was Claudia's turn. 

This would be the first day he would meet the gladiatrix or former gladiatrix. He had heard of many men lusting after the strength of those in the arena. While Octavius appreciated an athletic form, his desire was solely for his spouse, Valeria and the bond the pair shared. He had instructed the Imperial Client, who then in turn contacted the lanista to let them know that she would be delivered here. Octavius wore his toga trabea, marked him as a higher member of the Roman nobility and stood alongside his seated niece. Perhaps this was not the wisest choice of rooms? The quarters were large, this section where she could receive visitors in private and thought to the future. 

"Claudia, I have a gift for you," He began to speak, the footsteps from outside began to be heard and the Lanista arrived. Cynane, the blonde British woman was with her. 

"This is Cynane, she is a gladiator from the arena." 

@Atrice

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Her uncle Octavius had promised to give her a gift. A horse? A kitten? New items from the East? Claudia had no idea what it was. When he arrived at her quarters there were no gifts in his hands nor were they in the household slave that followed him like a faithful shadow. She was puzzled, curious and wondered what it possibly could have been. Since she was in the privacy of her home, especially her own quarters, there was no need for elaborate finery and her chiton was white. Her dark hair was loosely braided down her back to prevent knots and she remained seated, her fingers moved in anticipation. 

Just what was this gift that she was set to receive? 

It did not take her long to hear the footsteps of the people approaching her quarters. Claudia looked up at her uncle and received a small smile of reassurance that the gift would be a good one. It put her at ease. It did not take long for a man to enter the room with a blonde woman, she looked physically imposing and Claudia could have sworn she had seen her in the arena. Cynane? The name given to the Illyrian sister of Alexander the Great, a woman who held a sword in her hand and was a warrior in her own right. 

"A gift?" She asked, smiled and looked at Cynane to see what she thought about being in her service. "I've seen her in the arena." 

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Well at least it was nice, that she was no longer a gladiatrix and no longer meant to kill people, just so that the Romans could enjoy themselves. At least she was no longer killing people for sport. She had been a gladiator almost 9 years now and while at first she resisted, she learned to accept her lot in life and decided she’d rather live than die. It was either that or being sent to work in the mines or something like it. And apparently living paid off, because some nobleman, related to Caesar she heard, had noticed her and had her removed from the ludus.

 Cynane had been instructed to bathe and clean properly and she had made her hair in the preferred style she always had; braids and twists to pull her hair away from the face and to the back and top of her head instead – possibly making her appear taller and more fierce than she already was. She was given new clothes – brown breeches and a light blue tunica and on top of that, Cynane wore her old and used leather vest and belt. The lanista wanted her to appear at least a little as the warrior she was. She was told she was going to be a bodyguard to a princess, so she would also be given the proper equipment for that, but not right now. Cynane was of course told to stay quiet until spoken to, which was nothing out of the ordinary… she was a slave, after all. 

Then she was brought to the imperial palace and while she’d visited noblemen’s houses before, they were nothing compared to this place. All that space! And decorations! It was beautiful, but she also deemed that it was slightly useless. It was just pretty look at, but that’s all. Well the Romans did like their pretty things.  Quietly she was brought in where a fine-looking man stood and a young woman in a white gown was sitting. She bet the girl never lifted a finger to do anything; when Cynane was her age, she already knew how to use a weapon.

 Cynane was introduced as if she was nothing but a thing, a present, something you could unwrap and play with. Gods, these Romans sometimes! They really knew how to make a slave feel inferior. She clasped her hands on her back, standing tall and silent as instructed, not meeting their eyes. Waiting patiently for anyone to take interest in her as a person.

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Octavius silently approved of how Cynane was presented. However, the main point of concern will be how she relates to Claudia and to ensure her niece's safety. There were areas that male bodyguards and praetorians would not be able to go. Cynane would be able to, and without Claudia's reputation be negatively impacted. There was also the hope of a friendship developing between the pair of them, not that it was something that could be forced. 

"Cynane," He addressed her, his eyes were kind and his body relaxed. He never lost the desire for discipline. Octavius knew that she would understand his words. Her ability to speak Latin was one of the reasons why she was chosen. Naturally, Claudia was under her uncle Quintus' authority and Drusilla's guidance, although he doubted either of them would mind this. "I have selected you to protect Claudia, accompany her to the events where men are not permitted to go and ensure she is kept safe. With fortune, the pair of you will become friends with each other." His lips lifted a little, a friendship helped. 

He glanced down at Claudia and smiled down at her to reassure her. 

"It is not my position to say, as ownership will go to Claudia yet if you serve well, you may be freed in time," He said, there was always the chance that Cynane preferred life in the arena. Octavius had heard of people becoming addicted to the chaos, sweat and bloodshed. 

"Unless, you prefer life in the arena?"

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Claudia still looked at the blonde Briton, the gladiatrix who was to be her bodyguard and it sounded as though she would be spending most of her time with her. She was torn between being grateful and at the same time, should she not have chosen her own? Was there some kind of test? Claudia's gaze moved from Octavius towards Cynane and wondered more about her. The question had already been asked. 

She stayed quiet and waited to see what Cynane would say. 

@Atrice

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The nobleman looked at her and she remained silent when he began speaking to her. Of course she understood his words – she’d lived in Rome more than ten years now, she knew how to speak their language by now. He told her that she was going to protect Claudia, the young woman, also in places where men were not permitted. And she had to keep Claudia safe. He also said he hoped they could become friends. Cynane arched a brow at this, wondering what she could possibly have in common with the princess, but she knew better than to speak her mind right now.

 Cynane was also told she might be freed if she served well – and he wondered if she preferred life in the arena to this. Well she knew what to say to that.

 “It will be an honor to serve here, Dominus. You can be certain I will watch over her as desired, when and where that should be.” She said, her words perfect, but of course there would be an accent. She didn’t grow up here and this was not her mother tongue. Then she looked at the young woman, who still sat in her chair, just staring at her. Wasn’t she pleased? That she’d have a gladiatrix for bodyguard? If she’d seen Cynane in the arena, she must know she was good with weapons and very alert… and strong.

 “That is, of course, if the young Domina is pleased with her gift. Her will, my life, Dominus.” Cynane added, she might not have been entirely broken as a slave, but at least she had paid attention and she knew how to act.

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Octavius listened when Cynane answered him. He did not expect any other answer other than what he had heard. It was fortunate that Octavius was not a man with wicked intentions, regularly, he would put his family above himself and his own interests. The sides of his lips twitched with a soon approaching smile, happy with the news and happy she wanted to know what Claudia's opinion would be. He needed for Cynane to look to Claudia as her Domina, not him as her Dominus. 

"Excellent, I will leave the pair of you to get better acquainted," He said, bent down to place a kiss on Claudia's cheek and smiled. "Princess, I will take my leave now and this is a perfect opportunity for you to instruct Cynane of her new duties." Octavius added, before he turned and left Claudia to get to know her latest slave. 

(Octs left the thread.)

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Claudia smiled, "I am happy to have, Cynane. Uncle, thank you for the gift." She answered politely, her chin lifted and she returned the kiss of farewell on her Uncle's cheek. It did not take long before she was left alone with Cynane. There had been few instances where she would ever meet with a gladiatrix, much less, own one herself and have them protect her. She was quiet for a moment and gestured with her hand for Cynane to approach her. 

What was she supposed to say to her? Claudia breathed and relaxed. 

"How did you get the name, Cynane? It was the elder sister of Alexander the Great," She said, unsure whether or not Cynane knew the source of the name. It was not uncommon for gladiators to be named after famous people or Gods. Her grandmother tried to instill knowledge of other prominent women from history, even if they were from foreign places to ensure the daughters were well-educated and knew their worth in society. Cynane was an Illyrian, known for her strength and skill in battle. 

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And just like that, the nobleman had left and Cynane was alone with her new domina. She had said she was happy with Cynane and thanked her uncle for the gift, but then he simply left and Cynane stood there with a very young woman as her superior. It seemed wrong, somehow, that such a young woman would control a woman like Cynane. She could kill her in an instant, she wouldn’t even need a weapon – she’d learned many skills as a gladiatrix. Of course she wouldn’t though, because then Cynane would be dead too. And that was not her wish.

 Claudia made a gesture for Cynane to approach her, and so she did, until she stood in front of Claudia’s chair. It was not less degrading than when she first became a slave, to be ordered around like this. Cynane had never really gotten used to it, but she had trained herself to not show this and be discrete - she had to, if she wanted to live. Then the girl would know if she knew the name.

 “The name was given to me, Domina, by the lanista. I know she was a warrior… like me.” She explained. Cynane suited her well, actually, even if it was not the name she was born with.

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Claudia had a better look at her now she was closer. Cynane was beautiful, there was no mistaking the muscle tone and it looked as though she was taller than her, too. She thought Cynane had a pretty face, and slowly she was becoming more relaxed with the idea of having her as a bodyguard. She smiled softly, a lifetime of being careful with who she spoke to remained with her since childhood. 

"She was, she was famous and well-respected in Alexander's army," She answered with a smile of admiration. Her mother had been more martial in her education than her. Much of her education focused on her being a Roman princess, politically aware and wise to the machinations of others. 

However, Cynane was a different woman, despite the warrior aspect being shared with her namesake. 

"Tell me about yourself. I am curious about you." She paused, then stood and walked towards the smaller area with a reclining sofa. Claudia expected for Cynane to follow her. She seemed to think a little, offering food and wine to a slave was supposed to be bad for discipline. Cynane was not a citizen. "I hope we will be able to form a friendship." Claudia confessed as she began to recline. 

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She noticed how Claudia looked her over, but she said nothing to it – she knew better than that, even if her new Domina was quite young and probably needed care from a mother rather than a bodyguard to protect her life. Think to be so young and actually need a bodyguard. But Cynane would carry out the task she’d been given now and she listened while the young lady explained who Cynane was.

 “I will remember that, Domina.” Cynane replied, keeping back words about how Cynane never made it that far in her own army, because she was captured and enslaved. She noticed the smile the young woman had and wondered if it was for her or for the famous warrior she just mentioned. Then Claudia gestured that Cynane could follow her to a sofa and she wanted to know more about Cynane – and she hoped they could be friends. What was Cynane supposed to do? Stand or sit? She had only just met the lady and didn’t know her preferences yet.

 “I have been Rome 9 years and so far, I have spent them all as a gladiatrix. Before that, I lived far North in Britannia and I have been a warrior since I was younger than you are now.” She explained, wondering if that’s the sort of information Claudia wanted. So far she was merely being informative, trying to guess what Claudia would prefer and what she was like. She seemed to be sweet and kind, but you never knew with the Romans. Claudia was very young though and she knew she'd been through a lot. Given her own story, she had an idea and hoped Claudia would not be against it, "Apologies for asking, but... do you know how to fight, Domina?" Such an important woman ought to know how to defend herself. Cynane would gladly teach her, if she wanted it and if Claudia was allowed to learn.

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Claudia listened, she had heard about barbarian women being taught combat and were said to be fearless in battle. Her own upbringing had been different, even from her mother's own who had been raised with stories of war and battle. While Claudia had the same interests, it had not been encouraged in her the same way and a part of her wished for the change. Claudia already rode horses, adept not as well as her late mother reportedly did. She jumped a little, blushed at the question and shook her head. A little shocked by the question that had been asked. 

"Me?!" She exclaimed, then shook her head. "No, unfortunately not. My education has been primarily focused on being a Roman princess and a noblewoman." Claudia answered without shame. Her education meant she would learn what was expected of her in society, how to manage a large household, matters concerning finances, and more. Combat was not one of it. Claudia gave Cynane an amused and almost conspiratorial look, "There are times when I wish that I knew and the stratagems involved in commanding armies." 

Roman women certainly helped to finance armies, even encouraged men to join the cause, and Claudia did not wish to fall into the pages of history. 

"When did you start your training?"

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The young lady seemed interested in hearing about Cynane’s past, but she was surprised when Cynane suddenly asked if she knew how to fight. In fact, she more or less jumped and her face clearly showed how startled she was by the question. Then she explained how she had never learned how to fight, because she was a Roman princess. But she was still curious and wondered when Cynane started her training. It was good, Cynane thought to herself, while she also considered how to reply to the question.  

“I think I had lived 12 summers, when my father thought it was about time.” Cynane explained; her life had become very different from the life the princess would live, “I can’t imagine a life in which I am not a warrior, Domina.” She said, “And forgive me for saying this, but I think you ought to learn at least the basics. Men are… wicked, at times, Domina. And you have a high rank. I will gladly teach you how to defend yourself.” She didn’t know how much the young lady knew about men, but Cynane’s experiences were mainly not good and it was her job to keep Claudia safe – and to help her stay safe, she should know how to defend herself.

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Claudia listened. It was strange hearing about another culture and what was normal for a woman to do. It was, well, it was rather a bold thing to state! And so soon! Claudia's eyes widened and her mouth opened, she tried to find the words to answer. Although, she had to agree. Men could be wicked, cruel, and she would always depend on others for protection. It was not right. Was it? Her mother had an interest in all things martial. Yet those were different times. Was there another motive why her uncle Octavius decided to ensure the gladiatrix would protect her? Claudia could not say. 

"I... uh... hm... I cannot say I would be skillful at that sort of thing," She answered, pondered and the seed of fascination had been planted in her mind. How could she possibly escape the thought of being able to protect herself from harm? "What do you mean by the basics? Surely, any soldiers sent to hurt me would likely have military experience and would be able to overpower me?" She asked, leaned forward and was interested. Her eyes lit up with the questions, she smiled and glanced behind her at the slaves and gave a nod for them to leave them in peace. It may not have been wise to do it with a gladiatrix that someone had just met. 

Claudia's mind continued to race with the possibilities. 

@Atrice

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This was definitely not part of her plan for the day – she knew she was going to leave the ludus and become bodyguard to a princess. She had not planned to suggest training the young woman in combat, yet the idea was not bad and Claudia seemed curious at least. In Cynane’s family, women weren’t weak and they ought to at least learn how to fight, just in case they would need it. Often of course they would end up with a husband and children and not time for battle, but they would have to learn anyway. Cynane was glad she knew; then she didn’t end up as some common house slave at least. And here she was, with a princess and the princess might be able to learn how to fight!

 First Claudia’s eyes widened, while Cynane spoke and decided to tell that Claudia ought to learn the basics in how to defend herself. She doubted this was Octavius’ plan with her here, but why not, right? Claudia was young and lived in a world where men held the power… even over her, despite her rank.

 The young lady doubted she’d be skillful, but then she leaned forwards and would know what exactly Cynane meant she ought to learn. And especially when Claudia dismissed her other slaves, so they were alone. What if Cynane was sent here to kill her? She could not defend herself now. All she could do was probably scream… not that Cynane would attack her.

 “There are certain moves anyone can make – and anyone can make a man fall down flat on his back, with these moves. Even a young woman like you could do it.” Cynane said with a smile, “How do you think I survived for so long in the arena? And the basics… it’s simply the basic ways to defend yourself. Simple moves. If you will allow me… if you would rise, I will teach you something very easy right now. So you can see how it is. Domina.” She had to remember she was a slave, she could not command Claudia to do anything. On the other hand, her new mistress was young. This might not be bad at all.

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Claudia had seen some rather spectacular stunts performed in the arena. The showmanship and skill was impressive to watch. Who did not like seeing a smaller opponent throw down someone much larger? 

The thought of her doing anything remotely like that was absolutely bizarre for her to imagine.  Was this a normal occurrence? She doubted it. Still she stood and it was clear that there was a difference between the two women. Height, build, clothing, status. She bit her bottom lip and felt a little uncertain. She had no doubt that Cynane could physically hurt her if she wished to do so. Claudia did not want to be hurt accidentally in the process of learning this move or any other that Cynane planned to teach her. She also had a feeling that they had different ideas about what 'very easy' entailed. Claudia wanted to give it a shot either way. 

"Okay," She agreed, not really sure where to stand or what to do. Claudia began to fiddle with her hands, her fingers moved idly and it gave her a better view of Cynane. Her face and features were strong yet feminine. 

"I  don't know what to do now. Do I stand here?" She asked, as she looked up at the taller blonde woman and waited to for any instruction. 

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Cynane could not imagine a life in which she was not a warrior, yet here she stood before Claudia, who had never truly fought physically for anything in her life. Maybe mentally, she’d had her other issues in her life, Cynane did know about the more recent history in Rome and what happened around the time she arrived here. But those problems back then, were the exact reason why Claudia ought to know how to defend herself.

 She had dared to suggest showing Claudia something easy, if her new Domina would allow it. And Claudia was at least curious enough to rise and wonder what to do. She seemed nervous, but curious and willing to learn at the same time. And what Cynane had in mind right now, it really wasn’t hard. Any kid could do it. Even a princess.

 “Before I do anything, Domina, I’ll have you know I will not harm you. This is only a demonstration.” Cynane said and moved closer to her. Then she reached out her hands and wrapped them gently around Claudia’s throat. She did not press or anything, it was not tight. She met Claudia’s eyes, her own quite serious, “Now I could actually maim or even kill you. But what you do in a situation like this… is rise your arms up between mine and push hard to the sides. The moment I am forced to release the grip, you step back.”

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Claudia nodded slowly and instinctively drew her breath inwards when Cynane's hands went around her neck. This would be the worst possible time for one of the other slaves or one of the praetorians to enter. She could feel the strength in Cynane's hands, her hands lifted to rest on Cynane's and there the differences were clear again. The gladiatrix's hands were strong, calloused from the work, and could easily have killed her. Claudia's had only used a harp and her soft, delicate even. Cynane did not need to tell her what she could do. Claudia knew all too well and nodded her head. 

"I, uh... what if- I hu-," She stopped herself. Claudia doubted she really could hurt the gladiatrix. Not wanting to leave a challenge uncompleted she lifted her arms up and went to strike, although stopped before. Completely out of her comfort zone, she inhaled and exhaled. What if this was a situation when a man had their hands around her neck? What if there were no guards to help or protect her? 

What if she was alone, and had to rely solely on herself? 

She grit her teeth against each other sharply, her arms lifted once more with her fists clenched to give her arms more strength, and with a muffled cry she brought her arms down on Cynane's elbows. Claudia stepped backwards and said, "Did I do it right? Sorry.. I imagined it happening," She blushed a little, "did I hurt you?" Claudia asked, again she doubted that she could truly hurt Cynane but it was worth asking. 

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It was bold and daring, to stand here with her hands around the neck of her newly appointed mistress. But the young woman seemed willing and curious enough to learn and Cynane had decided it would be for the best, no matter what. Claudia needed to know this and she needed to know it wouldn’t be so hard for her. Cynane thought it might also come naturally. First the princess was about to talk, but she stumbled over her own words and stopped. She seemed nervous, but Cynane was patient and waited.

 Finally, the young woman made her move. She did as Cynane told, brought her arms up between Cynane’s and outwards, with quite a lot of force from such a young woman, before Claudia stepped back… and then apologized. Cynane smiled.

 “You did well.” She said, “I’m not hurt. I’ve been hurt far worse.” She wouldn’t even be bruised by this, she thought to herself. But how sweet that Claudia thought about it… still though, she had to stay focused here, “And good you imagined it… it made it easier for you. So you see, that wasn’t hard, was it?”

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Claudia knew the chance of her hurting Cynane was still low. Cynane may not have been bruised from the experience but she might be. Instinctively, she rubbed the spots on her arms where she had struck Cynane to ease the aching skin. She felt relieved and happy. She smiled happily, it reached her eyes and caused them to crease. Claudia felt a surge of Adrenalin rush through her body. Excitement and just a hint of pride that she had been able to do what she had done. 

Was it hard for her? 

"It wasn't necessarily hard," She admitted, shrugged a little and chuckled. "I doubt that someone who wishes to kill me with be as gentle as you were though. Wouldn't they send trained fighters to kill me?" Claudia asked. How many of them would know of the technique that Cynane had just showed her? Still, the spark was there. Claudia believed her birth mother would be proud of her. What would Drusilla say? She was not sure whether she should say anything about it just yet. 

It made her wonder what else Cynane could possibly teach her in the future. It was certainly different from the usual lessons she would receive and considerably unconventional. In areas where the praetorians nor other male guards could not enter. She was happy to have Cynane there guarding her, and hoped someday that they would become friends. 

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She watched Claudia rub her arms where she’d struck Cynane – she actually felt pain by that little… move? Cynane really did not quite understand how anyone could be so delicate. But of course, this was a princess. A princess who needed to learn how to defend herself, at least a little bit. Some would be better than nothing. Claudia smiled too though, a beautiful smile Cynane thought to herself, and the young mistress admitted it wasn’t hard.  

But of course she had questions and worried if it would be of any use.

 “They wouldn’t be gentle at all… which is why you must also learn to not be, in cases like this.” Cynane said, “But if you make sure no one knows about this…” And Claudia really should keep it to herself, because Cynane wasn’t sure she’d stay here for long, if anyone knew this! Cynane was here to watch over Claudia, not to teach her how to fight or to touch her without permission, as she had just done… “… then no one will expect you to do anything. And the element of surprise can be very useful too. Do you want to try again?” She asked and realized she’d forgotten her proper slave manners for a few moments there – Claudia wasn’t her pupil, Claudia was her mistress, so she quickly added: “Domina?”

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Claudia knew that they wouldn't be gentle. They would either be efficient to get the job done quickly or make it slow, depending on their personal morality. It would not be easy to deal with the reality that someday she could be killed for someone else's benefit. She would be discreet and hoped her uncle would be about this too. After all, Claudia had not been told not to do this by the older members of her family, so avoiding questions about it would make it go easier. Still, she nodded her understanding and smiled softly.

"I will be discreet about this," She answered, her hand reached out and was placed on Cynane's forearm. She could feel the muscle underneath and felt certain feeling stir inside her. She blushed, lifted her hand away and listened to the question that was asked. She looked back towards the door where the other slaves had left earlier. Claudia could not help but wonder if and when they would return. There were few among them that she would trust with her secrets. They had been gone longer than she thought they would have. Being asked with her title, a clear definition of rank between the pair of them and nodded. 

"Yes, we will try again but we should be quick," She said, still excited. 

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Cynane was glad that she could make this princess consider what her life was also like. Claudia was probably mostly focused on whatever a noble lady’s life was like… the next social event and party, what to wear and if she could afford or should afford any new pieces of jewelry. And when to spend time with her friends and whom her future husband might be. But she had been given Cynane as her guard for a reason, and Cynane would make sure the princess knew.

 Claudia nodded and promised to be discreet about this current and possibly future lessons from Cynane. She touched Cynane’s forearm at the same time, as if to assure her she’d be discreet and Cynane felt how the young lady seemed to not let go right away – this was not just a reassuring touch, it was a… curious touch. Claudia then looked towards her door, as if considering what to do, before she finally agreed to try again.

 “Very well, Domina.” Cynane replied, “We’ll try the same move, again. If you’ll allow me…” She said, Claudia was still touching her arm and it would probably be best to let her decide what to do. Cynane was a slave, after all. Claudia could do whatever she pleased with her. She was rather young though, but she would grow to be a stunning woman, Cynane thought to herself.

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Claudia listened to the comment. Practice made perfect. How often did a routine have to be told until it was completely put to memory? It made her curious about the earlier parts of Cynane's life and her training. It was all so different. Yet both women needed to have discipline, their arenas were different as their were many battles they would face in their lives -- Claudia's not on the battlefield. She would need to know how to keep her nerve around other noblewomen who would happily destroy her family if it meant their own would rise.

She nodded her consent to try the maneuver once more.

"Yes, we can try it again," She said, unsure whether she should brace for what would come. When an attack came there was a chance she would be taken unaware and would need to snap to attention. She had seen people taken in the hold of fear. Either lashing out in a blind panic, trying to flee or being so frozen in terror that they could not escape what would come. Claudia was determined that would not happen to her. Her heart-rate increased, Adrenalin began to rise and she waited for Cynane's move in order to bring her arms down again to break free of the hold. 

"What do I do afterwards? Would I run or-?"

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The young girl was a good student, it seemed. Eager and curious to learn more and Cynane would happily teach her. This would definitely be very different from her life as a gladiatrix, and working together with a bright and sweet young mistress would not be difficult, she saw that now. Claudia now agreed to try the same move again and Cynane came closer to once again appear to want to strangle her. Claudia had questions though.

 “You might run, call for help… or before you run, make the attacker feel even worse by bringing a knee or a foot to his groin.” She added with a small smile, “It’s an old trick, but that’s where it hurts a man the most.” She said, not considering right now that Claudia probably did not know a great deal about men – that she was not half as experienced as Cynane was by now. Instead she did wrap her fingers around that youthful and pretty neck and met Claudia’s eyes, “Ready?”

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