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What the Fates dragged in


Chevi
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Aius had seen battle back in Britannia, but her heart had never been in her throat quite the same way as it was now, standing in the atrium of a magnificent villa (then again, all villas looked magnificent to her), waiting for some unseen person to decide her fate. In a battle, you could fight like a Fury and hope to get out alive. Here, she had already been judged. The decision was out of her hands. Or rather, in her hands, in the form of a carefully wrapped letter from the Proconsul himself, addressed to his wife.

Aius scratched the back of her neck, then caught herself. She was not in an army camp anymore. Clearing her throat, she glanced around sheepishly. Somewhere deeper inside the household a slave was reporting to the domina that a "young man" was here to see her with a letter from her husband. Aius knew she did not exactly cut a dashing figure. The road from Britannia had been long, and while she traveled with others most of the way, by now she was dusty and worn. She decided to travel as a man rather than a woman, because even with all the signs of long travel, she was sure she would have looked a lot worse in the end. Her hair still cropped short, she was caught between a questionable past as a man, and an unpredictable future as a woman. 

Hopefully, the woman who got to decide her future would be kinder than the Fates had been so far. 

@Gothic

Edited by Chevi
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Juliana had not seen her husband for some time. The last letter she had received from him had said that he wished she would come to Britannia. The island was civilised now, and no harm would come to her. Her and Quintus had a fond love for each other. Yet... she had no desire to return to the island that had been a cause of so many worries and pain for her. One of her household slaves had approached and told her that a young man was seeking her out in order to give her a message from her husband. Since she did not know that Aius would be staying with her, she left her quarters and walked towards the young man. Juliana could have sworn there were a few things that seemed off, she looked at the face and admittedly, there were many young boys who retained their boyish faces for some time. Any thoughts that Juliana had were kept to herself. 

"Salve, I hear you have a message from my husband?" She asked and waited. It had been a while since she had heard from her husband last time, and she was eager for any additional news. It was more than likely she would find herself traveling to Britannia. 

Yet only the Gods knew. 

@Chevi

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Aius stood at attention on instinct when the lady of the house appeared. She caught a curious glance, but there was really no way Flavia Juliana could have known in advance that the person sent to her by her husband would be a woman in disguise. Could she...?

"Salve, domina" she greeted her politely.

"Salve, I hear you have a message from my husband?" 

Aius nodded, pulling the carefully leather-bound message out of her satchel, and handing it to the lady.

"Yes, domina. I'm Aius, interprex for the ninth legion in Britannia. Your husband sent me to you. I believe he explains it in the letter."

She didn't want to launch into her long and complicated story before Juliana had time to read the message. Her husband probably explained his reasons a lot better than she could. Or maybe the letter just said 'get rid of this person immediately.' There was only one way to find out. Aius found herself holding her breath.

@Gothic

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Juliana heard the voice and then blinked her confusion. It was not the sound of youthful boy. But a woman's, and the fact she had been in the legion was even more surprising. Still, there were some youths who had feminine features. 

"Aius?" She questioned, opened the leather-bound message and still held the parchment. Juliana broke the seal, unrolled it and stared at it. Her eyes moved quickly as she read it at speed. Occasionally she would pause, her eyes widened and she stared at the parchment for a little while longer. Finally she sighed, lowered it and regarded Aius silently. 

"I do not know your reason for deciding to dress as a man and go by Aius, it would be safer traveling as a man," She said, some of her own travels had been wrought with danger and her gender was a source of danger for her. Not that she would speak of this to Aius. 

"You are to be a tutor for Quintus, and teach him the different languages, and," She emphasised, "You will do so as Aia." 

@Chevi

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"Aius?"

The lady had her doubts, and for a good reason. When living in a camp full of men, Aia could pass as a young man, in no small part because no one ever assumed that a woman would pass at all, let alone try to join on her own volition. But here, standing alone in a Roman villa, she was aware that she looked out of place, and that her disguise would not stand up to close scrutiny, even if she was used to living and behaving as a boy.

Flavia Juliana finished reading a letter and looked up. What she read must have surprised her, but did not slow her down.

"I do not know your reason for deciding to dress as a man and go by Aius, it would be safer traveling as a man," 

"It is, domina." Aius nodded. Safety had been the original concern why her father dressed her and raised her as a boy after her mother died. And this last stretch of the journey, from Britannia to Rome, would have been a lot harder as Aia, even though she was already found out.

"You are to be a tutor for Quintus, and teach him the different languages, and... You will do so as Aia." 

Aius let out a breath she had been holding. With her husband far away, the lady of the house could have put up a fight against the new tutor if she wanted to. Even now, she held the power to make Aia's life miserable. But at least she was not losing her chance at a new life right away. Aius nodded.

"Thank you, domina. I will do my best." she paused, looking a little sheepishly at her; now that she knew her secret, it was even more awkward to stand in front of her, dressed as a man. "... I'm afraid I don't... have a fitting outfit yet."

@Gothic

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"An outfit will be presented to you by one of the household slaves, along with showing you to your quarters," Juliana answered. Not leaving it chance that Aia would purchase one of her own. Her husband had informed her that she was hired by the household, and she was happy to assist. 

She did not know how to take the latest member of their household. Thus far, she was polite and well-mannered. No doubt that her husband would have known she would not suffer disrespect from anyone. 

Quintus told her to make Aia welcome and to give her patience. She loved her husband and trusted his opinion. If she said that Aia would be a good tutor than she would likely be one. The boy already had other tutors, wise Greeks who would teach him his letters, and ethics. Juliana was still quite confused as to what else she would be able to teach her son. What barbarian languages did Aia know to assist? A friend had taught her the Egyptian language many years ago that benefited her while she was in that province many long years ago. 

"My husband trusts you yet I do not know you. Tell me about yourself," She said.

@Chevi

 

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"An outfit will be presented to you by one of the household slaves, along with showing you to your quarters,"

Aius nodded, and did her best to look grateful. She would have quarters, and an outfit. A woman's outfit, at that. It all sounded strange, suddenly belonging to the husehold of this well-mannered Roman lady that would dress her, and give her a place to live. Aius was not sure if she could live up to the expectations of a tutor in exchange. Oh well, if they found out she was useless, she would worry about finding another place, and not before.

"My husband trusts you yet I do not know you. Tell me about yourself,"

Trust was a strong word, really. Her husband was a pragmatic man, one that knew how to avoid a scandal, and how to appreciate someone's skills, even if she turned out to be a woman. Aius would not have claimed she had the Proconsul's trust, but whatever he wrote in his letter, at least it was helping.

"I'm from Gaul, originally" she decided to start at the beginning, and tell the domina what she wanted to know "My father was a peregrinus. Merchant. I lost my mother when I was a child. We followed the legions to Britannia when the conquest started, and... when I was left alone, the only skill I had was speaking languages, so I volunteered as an interprex."

@Gothic

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Juliana stood and listened carefully, nodded her head in understanding and encouragement for Aia to feel comfortable with what she was saying. She had seen the types of women who followed the army camps, some retained a level of respectability while many became camp followers, or prostitutes. Aia had been lucky she had not been made to one of these. A merchant would have given her some leeway and protection from many of the soldiers. Still, it was dangerous.

"And you presented yourself as a male while at the camp?" She asked curiously. Some men had boyish and even feminine features, while some women had more signs associated with masculinity. Juliana was surprised that it was considered acceptable, or perhaps, the previous man in command had thought her skills would be more useful to them than concern about her chastity.

With her father gone. Who would have willingly protected her and ensured her safety? Not all men in the legions could be virtuous. 

She had many other questions in mind as well. Yet for now, all of those could wait. 

"What languages do you speak?" She asked.

@Chevi

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"And you presented yourself as a male while at the camp?"

"Yes, domina." she paused, realizing that it might not sound like the whole truth "My father decided to dress me as a boy when I started traveling with him. It was safer that way. And when I joined the legions, I just... stayed that way."

A girl alone, anywhere around a legion camp, would have been a dangerous thing to be. Aia knew that deception was also unacceptable, but she also would have rather dealt with guilt than harrassment. She was grateful when the domina changed the subject.

"What languages do you speak?" 

"Gallic and Latin" she answered "Also, a few Briton dialects, and some German ones from the frontier. I only know a few phrases of Greek."

@Gothic

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Despite how strange it was to Juliana. It did make sense. There were rare occasions when she was in the company of the soldiers where she noticed their eye was not always respectful. It must have been different for a merchant's daughter among their ranks. 

Her lips twitched a little, mainly barbaric languages rather than Greek and she had to wonder the reason. Perhaps it was to assist her son when it came to the day he would eventually join the legions and serve Rome. Still, it was strange. Juliana still held the letter in her hand, her fingertips tapped it in thought and wondered how far Aia's education went. 

"Do you write? And what other skills do you have that would be useful within the household?" She asked. Later, she would need to introduce little Quintus to her and see how he took to her. The boy was friendly and thus far, seemed to like everybody that he met. 

@Chevi

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Aius knew that her knowledge of barbarian languages would not be as immediately useful in Rome as it was on the frontier. She also knew that the Proconsul probably grabbet the first opportunity that came to his mind for getting her out of the camps without a scandal, and at this point all that she and the domina could do was run with the idea. She would not have been surprised if the lady was displeased with her, the arrangement, or both. It really was none of her fault. Aius stood patiently while Flavia Juliana thought about the letter.

"Do you write? And what other skills do you have that would be useful within the household?" 

"I read and write, yes" she nodded. That was the easier question of the two. She paused as she mulled over the second one. "I... am also decent with numbers, and geography." she needed both in the legions; the former was useful for keeping track of money and supplies, and the latter was useful for not getting lost between Britannia and Rome. Also, she was definitely interested in the latter; fascinated by maps of the known world and all its provinces. The rest of what she was good at... she cleared her throat. "I'm afraid many of my skills are... not very useful for a household. Unless we are attacked by barbarians, or have to camp in the woods." that last part might have been too much. Aius dipped her head, and looked at the other woman a little sheepishly. "But I'm a fast learner."

@Gothic

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Juliana listened patiently when Aia answered her questions about what skills she had. There were more than she had previous expected. Juliana's facial expressions eased as she nodded in understanding and encouragement. Aia's manners made it easier for her to relax and listen. She was better able to study Aia's face. Pale, almost boyish and pretty at the same time, and with pale eyes similar to her own.  Numbers and geography would help little Quintus. Aia was not wrong. There were not many skills needed in a household. The chances of barbarians attacking were slim. Yet banditry was always a possibility and she had no desire for her household to fall foul to those ruffians. 

"I am sure we will find a use for you. Quintus has tutors already to teach him numbers, although geography would help. You will supervise the household slaves when it comes to maintaining the inventory of the household, along with serving as a discreet guard," She answered, hoped that Aia would take the hint and hoped she would not need to further explain. It could not hurt to have some level of understanding. Quintus probably would love the idea of camping in the woods. It would admittedly give him a sense of understanding what was to come so it would not be a shock to the system. 

"There will be a place for you here, along with a wage," She said, she would need to write back to her husband and ask about this. Along with giving him any feedback. 

@Chevi

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"I am sure we will find a use for you. Quintus has tutors already to teach him numbers, although geography would help. You will supervise the household slaves when it comes to maintaining the inventory of the household, along with serving as a discreet guard," 

The lady stressed that last part. Discreet guard. Aius nodded in understanding, trying to keep her face neutral. She was not a stellar soldier, but she knew how to defend herself, or others, in a fight. If she was given something to work with, even if just a dagger or a knife, she would do her best to protect the child she was in charge of, should the need arise. But she also knew Flavia Juliana could not officially appoint her for such a task, not if she wanted her household to become the talk of society. Her husband sent Aius here to avoid scandal regarding her gender. Still, it felt good that she could be useful as more than just a tutor. It was good to be accepted as capable.

"There will be a place for you here, along with a wage," 

"Thank you, domina" she nodded again. She was put under the charge of this woman by her husband, and Flavia Juliana did not have much of a say about it ahead of time. She accepted the situation with grace, but Aius had no doubt that she would have to prove herself anyway. "If you... have any other questions, I am happy to answer," she added. Flavia Juliana knew her secret already, the secret she had kept from everyone except one person for more than a decade. But now, if she was going to start a new life and gain her trust, she would have to be honest. Or as honest as possible, anyway.

@Gothic

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Juliana thought for a moment about any other questions she had for Aia. Thus far, the interview had gone well for the Interprex and she would need some time to settle into the household. Not to mention that Aia would need to settle in, get to know the slaves and other servants of the household, and begin to learn what her new life would be like here with her. 

And she needed to send her husband a stern worded letter about what had taken place. It was still quite a surprise although the initial reaction slowly began to die down. 

"No, if I have more questions, I will seek you out. Tomorrow you will meet Quintus for the first time and one of the household slaves will bring you to us." She said, gave Aia a heads up about what was to happen and there were no surprises. She wanted Aia to have an oppurtunity to put her best foot forward for tomorrow. Behind Juliana, one of the household slaves stood silently and waited for any commands that would be given.

"Scylla will take you to where you will be sleeping now." Juliana added, thus ended the interview between the pair. 

@Chevi

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