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April, 74 CE

The villa of Alucio Valens Lurio

Gaius poked his head inside the barn. It smelled of cut, dried grasses and dust, horse dung and sweat, and leather. It wasn’t unpleasant – no more so than the smells in the city, and quite a bit better than some of the more odiferous parts of Rome. He stepped inside, curious and always a one to cross boundaries, even well marked ones, which this wasn’t…exactly. He’d come with his father – his biological father, not his adopted father (who was actually his grandfather) to deliver something to the owner of the villa, or speak to the man or…something. It was business related, and as such, he should have been paying more attention, when everyone was talking about it earlier that morning. But he was more interested in the chance to take a little day trip, outside the city. That’s why he asked to come along with his dad. To see something new. To go somewhere he hadn’t been before. It was definitely not because he had any interest in whatever business related matter was going down. Learning how to run a business was…boring. Totally not fun. And Gaius was all about trying to have some fun. So he'd decided to take a look around, after he and his father had gone on into the villa to speak to Lurio, and whatever it was they were talking about had dragged on and on. Gaius had made an excuse - that he needed to take a whiz - and wandered off, maybe a bit further than relieving himself actually required. This was how he had found himself outside, at the stable.

 

His eyes adjusted to the dimmer interior, as he took another step further inside. It was quiet, save for the sounds of horses. He could not see either but he noted the closed stall doors, and as he moved towards them, the horsey smell got stronger, and the soft noises of a tail swishing, a hoof shifting, jaws moving as they ground on some hay were notable. He was used to being around horses. He even knew how to ride, and enjoyed it. It was part of his education, so to speak – part of being raised a male child in a well off equites family. He was not bound for the military. But his family still had made sure he was taught to ride. Being wealthy, the day to day care of a horse wasn’t a skill he needed to know, however. But he liked horses. He thought they were beautiful, and riding was fun.

 

Of course. He was all about the fun.

 

He came to a stop in front of the closer stall, peering inside. The interior of the stall was dimmer still, but there was light enough to see the animal within. He smiled, and called in a soft voice, ”Hey there. Hey. Look at you. You’re beautiful. What’s your name, huh?”

 

His hands lifted to wrap slender fingers around the wooden slats of the door, as he pressed his face up against them.

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Arite had been skittish all morning. Azarion was not sure what was bothering the mare, who usually had a calm and patient nature, but something was definitely up. Not serious enough to bother the master about it yet, but he needed to keep an eye on the lady for the day. Earlier he took her out of the stables for a light walk, but even then, she tugged on the lead and stomped her hooves impatiently, so after taking some fresh air, Azarion took her back to her stall where she felt more comfortable. There, he examined every single inch of her, looking for signs of illness or injury. Not finding anything that could raise concern, the boy settled down inside the stall, perched on a high stool, gently brushing and petting the mare, and making soft cooing sounds to calm her. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Purebred horses like her sometimes did, even the most patient ones.

He didn't notice that someone had entered the stables until he heard the words from the door of the stall. 

”Hey there. Hey. Look at you. You’re beautiful. What’s your name, huh?”

Azarion's eyebrows ran up. At first, he thought the unfamiliar voice was talking to him, which would have been awkward - but he slowly realized that the stranger could not possibly see him in the shadows. No, he was talking to Arite. The slave smirked to himself, the horse was obviously not going to tell him her name, but at least it was endearing that he admired her. Sliding off his seat, he walked to the front of the stall, running a sotthing hand along Arite's side and neck, until he could look out over the door. He was probably not as pretty a sight as the mare, brushed shiny clean - he was, as usual, covered in dust, horse hair and pieces of straw. He looked at the stranger on the other side - a young man who could not be much older than him - and nodded his head in greeting. 

@Gil

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Posted (edited)

The sudden appearance of the other boy was surprising, but not unwelcome. Gaius did not feel awkward, because he'd been talking to a horse. He very rarely felt awkward or embarrassed about anything. In fact, he smiled, correctly assessing that this boy was probably a slave. Which didn't stop him from engaging him in a chat - or trying to, anyway.

"Hello," he said, looking at the slave.  "Are you the one that cares for this horse? He's a beauty!"" From where he was standing, Gaius could not see the pertinent parts of the animal to clue him in to the fact that she was a mare. "What's his name?"

The mare had of course noticed Gaius as well. Perhaps whatever was making her feel off had her not quite so pleased to have a visitor. Gaius had turned his gaze back onto the mare and had just raised his hand, slowly, to stroke her nose, when she shook her head and blew out through her nostrils. It only made him laugh, his eyes going to the slave again. "I should have brought an apple!"

@Chevi

Edited by Gil
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The young man did not look startled to see Azarion appear from the shadows of the stall. If anything, he looked curious. He was wearing clothes much finer than the stable boy, and he had that easy, friendly air about him that was reserved for the rich, and those who had few cares in the world. For one, he was poking around in someone else's stables, not a bit ashamed of the intrusion.

"Hello, Are you the one that cares for this horse? He's a beauty!"

He's a she, duh

Azarion nodded at the question. And yes, indeed Arite was a beauty. All three of the horses were, but she had some more of the feminine grace that made her look (and often behave) like a lady.

"What's his name?"

Azarion made a gesture with his hand, signaling to the guest that he was mute, and therefore he could not answer his question. Until he learned to write, not even Alucio could know what he had named the two mares, but honestly, Azarion did not mind that all that much. It was their shared secret.

The young man went to pet Arite, and she snorted at him, which apparently made him even more excited.

"I should have brought an apple!"

Opening the door of the stall, Azarion slipped out. He did not want Arite to make a break for it, no matter how friendly their guest was. Walking to one end of the stables, he returned with an apple. He always had a box of them lying around, for the horses and the donkey. It was unlikely that Arite would accept the apple, given her current mood, but he was not going to be the one to tell the young man that. He could find out for himself.

@Gil

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Gaius saw the gesture and when the other youth did not reply, other than to exit the stall, he hazarded a guess that here was a person who could not, instead of would not, speak. He had turned his head to see where the other boy was off to. But he did not go far - just to the end of the small stable and then back, apple in his hand, which he then offered to Gaius. Gaius took it with a grin, of course. "Thanks! Maybe this will do the trick!" he exclaimed glibly. He was not a Roman who stood on ceremony and was often far less dignified than his parents would have wanted him to be. Thus he had no compunction about maintaining strict lines of demarcation between himself and those of lower classes - usually. Especially if such a person held the promise of some entertaining activity. At this point, the other boy, who he presumed was a slave, didn't necessarily offer that potential. But he had seemed helpful in Gaius' desire to befriend the beautiful horse, so that, at least, was a start.

"Here you go boy," he crooned in an appropriately cajoling tone, as he extended his hand with the apple on his palm. The horse's attention was upon him, and the fruit, as she looked at both, a bit wide eyed - curious but wary. Her nose extended. It seemed she would take the treat. But then she whooshed and startled a bit and only knocked it off his hand as she backed up, as if he had offered her a snake. She whickered and tossed her head and twisted in the stall, restless.

Unfazed, Gaius opined, "Not in the mood, hm?" At this point he could see, his assumption that the horse was male was incorrect. So he added, "...girl." Still smiling he said to the slave, "Typical woman. Bring them water and they'll want wine and be cross with you until you do their bidding." He laughed.

@Chevi

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"Thanks! Maybe this will do the trick!"

Azarion smirked. Oh, there were tricks to treating horses like Arite, but an apple was not one of them, not when she was not in the mood. Still, she let the overly cheerful nobleman try his luck. Rich people liked to learn from their own mistakes over being told by slaves that they were being dumb.

"Here you go boy," 

Arite could always be trusted to let people know what she did and did not want. She sniffed at the apple and then started, dancing back. Azarion walked back to the stable making soothing gestures with his hands. The guest seemed unfazed.

"Not in the mood, hm? ...girl. Typical woman. Bring them water and they'll want wine and be cross with you until you do their bidding." 

Azarion rolled his eyes, not caring if the guest saw it. Arite was not a girl or a woman. She was a lady. There was a reason so many deities responsible for horses were women. There was a reason Arite was named after a goddess. Azarion waited for her to settle down before he put his hand on her neck, soothing her. He wondered what the young man knew about women anyway. Arite let him pet her for a while, before he backed out of the stall. Tilting his head, Azarion gave the guest a quizzical look. Was there something else he wanted in the stables?

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Gaius was content to watch affably as the stable boy calmed the mare, patting her. He had no place to go and was in absolutely no hurry. When Azarion finally came back out of the stall, Gaius moved, to take a peek in the adjecent one. "And who do we have here?" he asked, rhetorically.  Once again, he stretched out his hand, the apple on his palm, hoping to coax this other resident of the stable to come partake of the offering the mare had disdained to accept.

He turned his head to glance at the other boy - perhaps not wisely - and said with a sigh, "I wish you could tell me their names."

@Chevi

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The young man seemed intent on making friends with all the horses, undeterred by the fact that they did not want his company. Azarion rolled his eyes as he moved on with the unclaimed apple to the next stall. The other mare, Tabiti was less skittish than Arite, but that did not mean she would be nicer. 

"And who do we have here? I wish you could tell me their names."

You know, dumbass, I wish that too.

Azarion huffed, stepping back to wait and see how the second attempt would go. Tabiti poked her nose out of the stall, sniffing at the apple and making some snorting noises. Finally she decided to accept the offering, so she took the apple, and then swung her head and bumped it into Gaius' shoulder, either for good measure, or in a playful gesture, it was hard to tell. Tabiti withdrew into her stall, crunching the apple, and Azarion snorted in amusement. 

@Gil

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