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Cynane

Strength lies In Differences

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Cynane had been in the imperial palace a few years now – and she felt she’d adjusted as well as she could, to being a guard to a princess. She’d learned early on that the princess never actually had her own, personal guard before – and now she didn’t just have any guard, she had a warrior and a former gladiatrix watching over her, whenever she left the palace, whenever she attended a social event or just whenever it was really required. And Cynane found out she was happy to spend time with her young mistress, who was usually very kind towards her, despite of course still treating Cynane as a slave – because that’s what she was.

 Yet at the same time, from the very beginning, Claudia had proved curious and willing to learn from someone more mature and experienced. Cynane, as her guard, wanted Claudia able to defend herself and she had already on her first day shown Claudia some useful moves. By now, they did not practice as often anymore, as the young princess also had other things to do, but Cynane made sure her mistress didn’t forget. Just in case.

 Today was a day like any other. Cynane woke and made herself ready for the day. With just her hands feeling her hair, she created three braids starting from her forehead and ending on top of her head. She pulled those three braids into one thick braid and let that fall down her back. Then she put the leather vest on top of the light blue tunica and added whatever else was needed for her outfit. She hadn’t actually had to defend the princess yet, but she had to look her part and she had to be ready. At all times, she would stay alert.

 After a short visit to the kitchens to break her fast, she moved on towards Claudia’s chambers to find her mistress and find out what was in store for the day. As she approached the right chambers, she saw Claudia’s shy and very loyal body slave, Volusa, coming out from there, “Greetings, Volusa. Is our mistress up yet?” Volusa and Cynane were both among those considered Claudia Caesaris’ personal slaves, and while they didn’t always get many chances to talk, they knew each other at least - maybe not so well, but that's just how it was. Volusa was very young, they didn't have a great deal in common, but here they were, tending the same person. Cynane had before considered if she should also attempt training her a bit. Anyone taking care of the princess should know how to defend her. It would only be right, wouldn't it?

@Sharpie

Edited by Atrice

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Volusa was wearing her favourite rust-red tunica today, with a large square of sage-green linen folded corner-to-corner and tied around her waist. Being a slave, she didn't have much clothing, but liked finding new ways to dress up what she had, and the square of linen was a new acquisition. She had very carefully torn a strip from one side and spent precious time sewing the edge so that it wouldn't fray, and had used this to put her hair up in a vaguely Greek style, keeping her braided bun from slipping and adding interest.

Her mistress hadn't wanted her just yet, giving her half-an-hour or so to herself - precious time, especially at this time of day. She slipped out of her mistress' room as quietly as she'd entered it and was a little startled to hear her name called. She turned to see the tall British gladiatrix, her fellow-slave and the mistress' female bodyguard. She had grown used to the other woman's slightly manly appearance, in a shorter tunica than Volusa's own calf-length garment, and braccae and the leather breastplate that made her look like an Amazon to Volusa's eyes. The comparison was helped by the other woman's height; she was half a head taller than Volusa and always made her feel a little nervous.

"Good morning, Cynane," she said, trying not to let that slight nervousness show. They might serve the same mistress, and both be with her nearly all the time, but they themselves hadn't interacted very much - mostly due to the fact they were both with the mistress nearly all the time!

"No, our mistress isn't up yet. She sent me away for a little while, so I think she doesn't want to get up yet." She shrugged; it was not often she had time to herself in the morning - maybe this could be a chance to get to know her fellow slave a little better?

"We can... We can talk here, if you want," she said, indicating an alcove out of the way, where they could talk privately and still be within calling distance if the mistress wanted either of them. It was not, thankfully, such a small alcove that Volusa would have to stand very close to the other woman and crane her neck to see her face.

 

@Atrice

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Cynane was unaware that she made Volusa feel nervous – she didn’t know why she should. She was no threat to the young slave, who was more or less the same age as their mistress. And since Volusa was a body slave, there was a good chance she’d follow Claudia for many years to come. Cynane knew the young woman had been born into slavery and could barely grasp how that must be like – to never have had just a tiny taste of freedom, to grow up knowing your body belongs to someone else. Ever since childhood! Cynane still longed for freedom, even now, and she had not forgotten her past. 

But Volusa was not like that. She stopped when Cynane spoke to her and greeted her right back. Informing Cynane their mistress was not up yet and that Volusa had been sent away. Cynane nodded silently; so she wasn’t needed yet, unless Claudia asked for it. It would probably be a calm day. Then Volusa suggested they talked in a nearby alcove and Cynane nodded again.

 “Yes, we can do that.” She said and moved over there, leaning against the wall once they were in there, “And how is our mistress today? Do you know if she has plans for the day, is she going somewhere or just staying here?” Cynane was mostly focused on the job and only now realized she should be nice and ask Volusa how she was doing – and not just focus on their mistress, although of course, as a good slave, that’s what she should do.

Still though, they weren't tending to Claudia right now, they were just here, talking... "And how are you today, by the way?" 

@Sharpie

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There was no need at all to be nervous of this woman, no need at all, and yet Volusa couldn't help the very slight frisson of unease that came from being in close proximity to a woman who was a trained fighter, who'd been captured in war and whose arms were far more muscular than Volusa's own.

If she were ever asked to describe the Queen of the Amazons, Cynane would be the first to come to mind.

"I don't know the mistress' plans yet," she admitted, comfortable with the not knowing; a slave was rarely given fore-warning of any plans short of the upheaval of the household every summer to head into the countryside and avoid the baking heat of Rome in July. Volusa knew that Cynane had not been born a slave, and wondered what that was like - it must be hard for her, to be so restricted in what she could and could not do now. Volusa had never known any different, the restrictions did not chafe at her as they might at someone born free.

There was the very slightest pause before Cynane enquired after Volusa's health, causing brown eyes to jolt up to meet blue. "I am... very well, thank you for asking. How are you? And... I like that blue tunica you are wearing, it's very nice with your hair."

She also liked what Cynane had done with her hair today, what little she could see of it from her vantage (disadvantage!) point.

@Atrice

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Volusa was very Roman and very unlike Cynane. Of course, since the younger slave was born as one, she had grown up here and knew no other life. She dressed as a proper Roman slave, made her hair like one, spoke like one, acted like one… Cynane’s job here and her previous life could not be more different than it was.

 She explained she didn’t know Claudia’s plans yet, so Cynane thought they’d just have to wait. It would be easiest to just stay at the palace, although a good walk around Rome wouldn’t be bad either. Cynane didn’t mind walking – it kept her fit and she grew more and more familiar with Rome every day. As a gladiatrix, she’d mostly been kept in the ludus and walked to the arena; as a palace slave, she got out a lot more and it was nice.

 They had moved to the little alcove to stand out of the way, and Volusa seemed almost surprised when Cynane asked how she was doing. But she stated she was well, returned the favor and complimented on Cynane’s tunica.

 “I’m well too, thanks.” Cynane said with a little smile, “And thanks. It’s what’s most convenient to wear, when you’re in my position here. I couldn’t protect our mistress very well in a dress.” And it was rare she ever wore one, after she came to Rome, “Good thing though, that it’s not actually been needed so far. But you never know, do you? Were you here at the time of all the… unrest, so many years ago?” Maybe she was, but then again, she might not remember it well. Cynane thought Volusa to not even be twenty years of age - she was probably around the same age, as when Cynane was removed from a free life in Britannia.

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Cynane seemed very... formal, was the word that occurred to her, when she paused to try to work it out. Perhaps stiff - perhaps it was just that she was not really used to interacting with people in these surroundings?

Which was silly, she'd been here a while, hadn't she? Though the Imperial palace must be a very different place to wherever she'd been before. Were female gladiators kept in a ludus as the men were? Volusa didn't know, couldn't imagine such a place.

It was pretty amazing what could be done in a dress, but then Cynane probably wouldn't want all that fabric tangling around her legs if her skills ever were needed for real in protecting the mistress. And she looked much more fierce and capable in a tunic, so perhaps that would dissuade people from trying who might do something otherwise?

"I was... very young," she said, and shrugged. She had been aware of it, on some level, but most of it had passed her by, whether because it had happened elsewhere or simply because it was all political and the slaves were more concerned with everyday things, like cooking and cleaning. "I don't remember any of it, not really.

But that opened up the opportunity for Volusa to ask a couple of questions of her own. "Have you been in Rome long? I suppose it must be very different, to..." To what? Freedom? What her life had been like before? She didn't really want to remind the other woman of what she'd lost, and could think of no other way around the conundrum than to conclude, "to... before, I mean."

 

@Atrice

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It was actually kind of odd that they had worked together for years, but they rarely spoke. Of course they rarely had the time for it and when they did, they would be tired and preferred to not be slaves, but just people, doing what they liked… when they were able to, anyway. But here they were, quietly talking not too far from their owner, just in case they were needed. Cynane didn’t know the other slave considered her formal or stiff – it was just the way Cynane was. You had to have some discipline as a warrior and also as a gladiator. If you did not stay focused, you would not do well. And now as a guard, who was also a slave, it was the same. Now it was almost expected of her to act like that, but it came naturally by now. She didn’t think about it.

 Cynane had been curious about whether Volusa was here at the time of unrest, just before Cynane arrived in Rome in fact. The other slave simply said she’d been very young and Cynane could easily imagine that to be true – she was still very young, Cynane thought, or… she appeared to be so. Volusa apparently didn’t even remember what had happened back then, and Cynane nodded, there wasn’t much else to add to that then.

 But the other slave then had her own questions about Cynane, “I’ve been here more than ten years now. And it is very different… very…” She trailed off for a moment, thinking, but then shook her head slightly and came back to the present, “But that’s just the way it is. If I ran away, I might be caught and branded or worse. I prefer staying alive.” Even if staying alive meant being a slave.

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There was something wistful - almost sad, in fact - about Cynane's expression as she told Volusa she had been in Rome for more than ten years. Volusa could not imagine it - being torn from.... what? What was it like in Britannia? There were tales of barbarians, savage fighters with red or blond hair who spoke in strange tongues. Despite Cynane's very masculine clothing, she did not seem so very different to Volusa herself, not really. Was that the civilising effect of living in Rome for so long? But surely living in a ludus (did gladiatrices live in ludi along with their male counterparts? She would have to ask, one day, when they knew one another better) could not have really been such a civilising force. Perhaps all the stories and tales she had heard were wrong. She would like to ask, but feared reminding Cynane of her home and that she might not return there - though serving as the personal guard to one of Caesar's family surely meant that freedom was more likely than if she had remained only as an arena fighter.

She found herself drawn to the older woman, touching her hand sympathetically at that sad look on her face.

"I am sorry, you must miss it very much," she said quietly. "But you are serving one of Caesar's own family, I'm sure you will get your freedom one day."

Something Volusa could not imagine, although she tried to, sometimes. What would it be like to wake without someone expecting her to be there, to fetch and carry and obey even the smallest command? What would it be like to be able to walk anywhere in Rome - any where at all! - just because she chose to?

"What is it like, to be a gladiatrix?" she enquired, at last, wanting to know something of the other's strange life, and not wishing to intrude on memories of her home that must be painful to recall. She would dearly like to know about Britannia, but not if the recollection would be too painful.

 

@Atrice

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The Romans called her people barbarians – she called them her people, her family, her kind. The British people thought the Romans were just as much barbarians as they. Shaving their faces and the men would wear long dresses instead of breeches that you could work in! And living together in huge cities instead of villages with plenty of space and air and a tight community. But this was where Cynane’s life was now and sadly, she couldn’t do much about it.

 Cynane looked down at her hand, when Volusa suddenly touched her – for some reason, she was quite sensitive to touch and always reacted. Volusa had a sad look on her face, she was sorry for Cynane missing her home but she was sure she’d be free again one day.

 “I do miss it. Even if it might not be the same if I returned now. And yes, maybe I’ll be free one day. Maybe.” And that’s just it, maybe. You couldn’t be sure. Of course she hoped, but that’s all it was, a simple hope and not something she knew would come true one day. Volusa then went on, wondering what it was like to be a gladiatrix. Cynane leaned against the wall behind her, it seemed Claudia was in no rush to get up anyway.

 “It was a very different life than this. There weren’t many of us among all the men, and we had our own sleeping quarters in the ludus. But we trained with the men and we spent our days with them. And we fought hard in the arena.” Often just to be laughed at or mocked though, but Cynane hated pretense, so she actually fought, “And we weren’t treated as well as any palace slave. We were just…” She trailed off, unsure if she wanted to share that with Volusa. She didn’t know her so well. Although it was a well-known fact that especially the female gladiators were used as whores too. That was the worst part of it. The part she disliked most. This life here was better… “We were just items to be used. I’m grateful I’m not there anymore, at least.”

@Sharpie

Edited by Atrice
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So it had been a ludus! Volusa still couldn't imagine it, though she tried - but her thoughts were all jumbled with men in their full gladiatorial gear eating meals and... training, she supposed, drawing a blank as to what else they might do. Though it was not at all unknown for high-class ladies to wish to pay to sleep with a gladiator. She wondered if the same was true of the high-class men and the female fighters, and thought - hoped! - not. But of course they were, there was something intriguing about the almost masculine way Cynane presented herself - almost masculine. Her hair was feminine, for a start.

In fact, now that Volusa had the chance to actually look at her properly, she thought Cynane was actually rather pretty, under the rough exterior she presented. It was an unusual combination: prettiness that could be very feminine, if she chose, and a masculine style of dressing. What would it look like - what would people think - if she wore her hair up in one of the styles Volusa wore hers in, perhaps plaited with a ribbon woven through, or something? There were several things that could flatter her more, that would also keep her hair out of her face if she were required to act in the mistress' defence. Two plaits wound round on the crown of the head, perhaps - the look of a warrior queen?

It was unlikely that Volusa would be able to offer, though; she was required to spend most of her waking hours in her mistress' company. Anyway, she was not an ornatrix, a hairdresser; she was a body-slave.

"It's much the same for the general slaves in the palace," she said, with a shrug.

"I... I like your hair," she added, a little hesitantly. "Have you ever plaited a ribbon into it?"

 

@Atrice

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Of course the high-class men had paid to get to sleep with a woman like Cynane. If anything, they might be even more popular than the male gladiators. To see a woman fight in the arena – fight, as if she were a man! – and then simply pay to bed her, to conquer her, to prove who was in the end more superior than her… and then together with a woman who was at the same time quite attractive. It was hard to resist for some. Cynane had been used. But now she had been here two years and life at the palace was very different. No one prostituted her body here. She was simply the bodyguard to a princess and that was it.

 Volusa did not comment on the story at all though, instead she kept looking at Cynane as if she was from another world – in a way, she was – and then she said life was much the same for most slaves in the palace. But went on admiring Cynane’s hair and wondered if she ever decorated it with a ribbon. What an odd question.

 “I mostly use leather… it blends in. In Britannia I’d make it look nicer. But I don’t have to here… not like that, anyway.” At home, she would make herself look nice… she had been young, she might have been a warrior, but she was also almost an ordinary woman there and she was of an age to find a husband when she was captured in that battle. But women would of course make themselves look nice for the men; and vice versa. Here she had no men who’d try and woe her, not like that anyway.

 “If you want, I can do your hair someday?” Cynane then suggested, they often had a bit of time in the morning before duties and she could braid and style Volusa’s hair easily.

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"You might not have to... but don't you want to, sometimes?" Volusa  asked, her head a little on one side. "I mean, just because you want to, not because anyone says you have to, or anything."

It was pretty - somewhat unusual, although not unknown. Most people had brown hair of one shade or another, with blond hair being more common among those who came to Rome from elsewhere in the Empire.

"I can find you a blue ribbon, I think - or maybe something like this." She turned her head so that the other woman could see how she was wearing her own hair. "Or if you prefer, there are other ways so it wouldn't be in your way at all."

Her smile was a little shy, but genuine. "I would like that - I could try something with your hair in return, maybe? It isn't always easy to do it yourself, after all. If you would like, I mean, of course."

Especially because putting hair up required two hands and was easier to do when you could see what you were doing - and actually fixing it in place required a little skill and patience. She wondered whether Cynane would like to try her hair in a rope braid - it was an uncommon style, and would suit the uncommon sort of woman that she was.

 

@Atrice

 

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Did she want to dress up and make herself look pretty? She knew that she was more than a bodyguard here at the palace – she was also a showpiece and that’s why she was allowed and more or less required to wear the simple leather armor she wore, and why she could carry a blade on her person. It was why she had to look impressive. She didn’t consider since she came here, that she could make herself look pretty for her own sake. It honestly didn’t cross her mind as she didn’t see why she should. She had no one to impress on that matter.

“I have not really considered that.” Cynane confessed to the younger slave, who had plenty of ideas and now spoke of a blue ribbon and showed off her own hairstyle to Cynane. It was so… Roman, though. Not that it didn’t look good on Volusa. She just wasn’t sure it was something she should be doing. Cynane had suggested she made Volusa’s hair someday though and the younger woman smiled shyly and said she’d like that and she could do Cynane’s hair in return.

“It would be interesting to try. Let’s make that deal then.” Cynane said with a smile, “Some say it’s healthy to try something new. I doubt it’s hair they are talking about, but it’ll do for now.” She added. A blue ribbon might indeed look nice, although the reason for it she still wasn’t sure of and she still thought you’d only make yourself look so pretty if you wanted someone to notice. Which made her wonder if Volusa had that idea…

“Is there someone special for you?” She knew slaves could have lovers of course, although they were still just property, so technically they would always belong to their owners, but who knew if young Volusa had a lover somewhere?

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It wasn't exactly how Volusa had planned on bonding with the other woman - she hadn't really had anything particular in mind, but she had wanted to get to know the other better, especially as they both served the same mistress and spent time in one another's company (although without really being able to talk together).

Doing one another's hair might be fun. It might be a total disaster, of course, but hairstyles could always be brushed out and redone, and they might each find something new that they liked. Volusa knew that her own appearance was 'Roman' (she'd been born and brought up in Rome, how could she be anything other than Roman?!) and the other had a barbarian look that might or might not be her, or might be a carefully cultivated persona of sorts.

"Let's. It could be fun - and who knows that we might not find something new that we like?" she said. She did feel a lot easier with the other now, despite her height and the somewhat severe expression her face took on. It was nice to know that it wasn't somehow caused by Volusa, that the other didn't disapprove of her for some reason.

"Someone special?" She shook her head. "No, not really. There's one of the house-slaves that I've always thought looked cute - Linus - but there's never been anything, and it's harder now that I'm..." She shrugged; it didn't matter.

"Is there, for you?" she asked in return, wondering whether there might be here, or back in the ludus, or even back in Britannia. There was so much Volusa didn't know about the other - perhaps her reserve that was one reason why Volusa had been a little cautious around her. It was silly, really, but she couldn't help her shyness.

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Volusa agreed on the deal that they’d make each other’s hair sometime, and then Cynane had wondered if the other woman wanted to make herself pretty for someone. But Volusa shook her head and said there was only one she thought had looked cute, but for some reason it was hard to get to him and even more now… why? Cynane arched a brow and was about to ask into it, but then of course the question was returned to her.

“There has never really been anyone. I hadn’t met a true connection in Britannia, although I would probably have married anyway as part of some alliance… if I hadn’t been captured. Here in Rome there’s not been anyone special either. Plenty of… incidents, but never for anything but duty and pleasure.” Although it was mostly duty and few times that had to do with pleasure. Cynane always found out hard to enjoy sex she hadn’t chosen – and since she was a slave, she couldn’t always just and she definitely wasn’t allowed to say no to any master telling her what to do. Here at the palace, that wasn’t something anyone asked of her, but she still didn’t feel she had any time nor desire. Maybe if she found someone she really liked… but that was easier said than done.

She shouldn’t have brought it up, she felt a little awkward now… “Anyway, it seems we don’t have time for any of that. Our mistress though, do you think Caesar is looking for a husband for her?” Cynane imagined he was – Claudia was growing up, becoming a very beautiful young woman and any senator in Rome would probably happily marry her to gain a connection to Caesar. It worried Cynane a little; she’d come to care more for her mistress than she ever imagined she would.

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Talk of sex and relationships was not the easiest of subjects for a slave to discuss, of course. An awkward subject easily dropped - best dropped, perhaps, for the other woman. It was easier for Volusa, who had never known anything different from the life she lived now, but for someone brought to Rome as a captive, who had probably left family behind (had probably been forcibly removed from family, Volusa thought; the previous wording sounded more as though it had been a choice when it would not have been at all!)... No, it was best not to dwell on such a subject.

"It... I would be surprised if Caesar was not looking for a husband for the mistress," she said, in reply to the other's question, on a far safer topic now. "It would be strange if he hadn't begun at least to think about it. Probably some Senator's son - or a Senator himself, even." Hopefully not some fat old goat who'd spend his time chasing his slave-boys around, but someone younger - not a child, though, or one who'd only just put on his toga virilis, or received his first post on the cursus honorum. It would be easier for Volusa, who would go wherever her mistress went, but for Cynane, that was not so assured.

"It's not likely to be for a while yet, at least," she said. It was entirely possible that Cynane would have her freedom by then, of course; the British woman looked so utterly capable of dealing with any unwanted attention that the mistress might attract that surely, surely, she could not fail to be rewarded with her freedom.

Eventually.

 

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Cynane felt a bit awkward and had decided to change the course of the conversation, which Volusa didn’t seem to mind, luckily. Sex and love were two subjects that were on her mind often enough; but sex in the past had not always been very pleasant for her, and love, well she couldn’t really speak about that. She didn’t know it and didn’t know if she would. So she wondered about the future of their common mistress though; what was her love life going to be like?

Volusa did defintitely think that Caesar was looking for a husband for sweet Claudia and she imagined it might be a senator’s son or even a senator. Oh she hoped Claudia would not have to marry some old and disgusting man just for the sake of alliances. She deserved better than that; someone kind and someone who’d listen to her. Good luck finding such a man in Rome! She nodded quietly to Volusa’s comment and the younger slave didn’t think it would be soon.

“You never know. At least we can hope to follow her, if she does marry.” She could not imagine another personal bodyguard to Claudia now. And how could they find someone who’d follow Claudia anywhere – even into her private quarters? At least she’d taught her mistress how to defend herself. However would she, if it was her husband who was out to hurt her? Cynane didn’t consider she might be freed; she probably should, but she didn’t know why they should free her. She was a war-captive and useful still. Why would they then free her?

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Volusa had no doubt at all that she would follow the mistress; she could not even begin to comprehend what freedom would look like, and had done nothing of note to be rewarded with her freedom. Anyway, it was usually the male slaves who were able to do amazing things like defend their masters or rescue the newborn son from the kidnappers. Cynane would be able to hold her own in any of those scenarios, unlikely though they were - but their mistress was a relation of Caesar's and that made something along those lines far more likely.

"Even if she does marry a senator, that doesn't mean he's going to be old and fat and ugly," Volusa pointed out. "I mean, they start their career properly when they're not much older than the mistress - all the really old ones are married. Though I suppose they might divorce their wives if if meant that they had the chance to marry a relation of Caesar." She looked up at Cynane. "Do they have divorce, in Britain?"

 

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Volusa didn’t think their mistress would have to marry an old and disgusting senator – she imagined someone younger and explained why. Volusa knew a lot more about how everything worked in Rome, than Cynane did. She might have been here over ten years, but she’d spent most of her life in a ludus and still no one had ever really sat down with her to explain Roman traditions and etiquette. She had to figure it out for herself, if she wanted to. She knew some things, of course, but certainly not everything. She’d heard about slaves from the North who ended up quite Romanized, but she would not be one of those.

 “Anyone here seems to want a relation to Caesar. So I’m quite sure they’d divorce if they stood a chance with our mistress.” It was like Caesar was a god or something, sometimes. Volusa then wondered if divorce existed in Britannia. She thought about it shortly.

 “I think marriage… works differently. We’d refer to each other as husband and wife, but we bind ourselves to the other. That’s the term, I think. And you do often marry because of alliances, just like here, but men can also gain a wife in other ways. They may steal a wife. And if you are bound to someone, you often stay together. A man can also abandon a wife, but that’s also different than a divorce is here. Women have little say in it, unless they’ve proven themselves worthy among the men.” It was really more or less the same as in Rome, really. Here women also had to prove themselves and even then, they’d not always get things how they wanted them. It really didn’t suit Cynane that it had to be like that, for some reason. She was much too proud to be bound to a man; she could hold her own. If she was ever free, no man would tell her what to do again, ever.

 “I don’t imagine marriage is part of my future though. I can’t see myself submit completely to a man like that.” She added, looking at Volusa. It was easier to imagine Volusa as a sweet little wife. She deserved better too though… “I guess it’s good no one really knows the future.”

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"It would be an honour for anyone to marry the mistress," Volusa said, slowly, thinking as she spoke. "But I am sure that even Caesar will not force her to marry anyone old enough to be her grandfather." She shivered; it did not take much imagination at all for a slave to picture such a scenario. She was very sure that even the mistress would not acquiesce to such  thing if there were any way out of it. Anyway, there were enough senators' handsome sons on the lower rungs of the cursus honorum that the mistress need not marry any of their fathers.

"No marriage ceremony? No throwing nuts and... and tearing the bride from her mother's arms?" Volusa asked. It all sounded rather boring, if all they did was simply declare they were married. Where was the fun and the torchlit procession from the bride's house to the husband's? Admittedly, 'ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia' wasn't much of a ceremony, but there was all the traditional stuff around it, from the flame-coloured veil to the aforementioned nuts.

"I think I would like to marry," she said, even though slave marriages didn't have all the ceremony the citizens had. Slaves were lucky if their masters recognised the marriage, a lot of masters didn't, after all. "It isn't all bad, really."

@Atrice

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You never knew whom the Caesar might find to be a perfect husband for the princess… she was very valuable and anyone marrying her would also earn a high rank and position. So it wouldn’t be a nobody. Then Volusa had wondered how people were married in Britannia and apparently Cynane had explained it to make it sound like there was no ceremony.

 “Of course there’s a ceremony. But we don’t throw nuts.” That was just weird, “Tearing the bride from the family… that happens if a man decides to steal his bride, but it’s far from romantic. The ceremony is about the union of two people and declaring them husband and wife before the society and our ancestors. And it is done in a sacred place. We don’t have temples like you do, though.” She added; maybe they had temples now, a lot could happen in ten years. There were the ancient stone circles though, risen long before any living person could remember and those were sacred spaces of the ancestors. She doubted that Volusa would understand the meaning of them though. To the Romans, they were mysterious and almost fearsome.

 Volusa said she might like to marry and it wouldn’t have to be all bad, “I suppose not. So far though... I’ve not met a man in Rome I’d like to call my husband.” And she highly doubted it would happen!

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Volusa couldn't help smiling at the look of honest puzzlement on Cynane's face at the mention of throwing nuts at a wedding. "It's a fertility thing - throwing nuts, I mean. The bride and groom do it, for the onlookers." There were all sorts of other traditions too - the flame-coloured veil and the special hairstyle, which was similar to that worn by the Vestal Virgins (and probably signified the bride's chastity).

"I don't think it needs all that - the ceremony itself is as short as anything. But it's fun and colourful, and, well, who doesn't love a wedding?"

Sacred spaces, Volusa could understand, sort of - there was still the shepherd's hut that was supposed to have been the place that Romulus lived, either before or soon after he founded the city - and of course there was the Lupercal, the cave that was the den of the wolf that suckled the infant twins. There were other sacred places, too, but Volusa could readily admit that several of them had temples associated with them by now.

"What sort of man would you like to marry?" she asked, trying to think of how she would answer that question in turn, and then grew conscious of what she'd just said. "Oh, I'm sorry - you don't have to answer that if you don't want, truly!"

 

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It was still odd to throw nuts, but she understood the thing with the fertility. In Britannia, they sometimes did something similar, but instead with seeds for grain, so that the fields would grow well. Volusa seemed to enjoy weddings and Cynane thought she might too, if she ever got to experience one where she was just a regular guest. She had attended a wedding party once as a gladiatrix, but she was there as a showpiece and later in the night, as something the men could amuse themselves with. That wasn’t quite the same.

 Silence fell shortly, as they both seemed to be in their own thoughts… and then Volusa piped up, suddenly wondering what sort of man Cynane would marry, if she had the choice. And then she took it back, in her own sweet and submissive way. It was a strange and very personal question to suddenly be asked and Cynane had honestly not given it a lot of thought.

 “I… haven’t really considered that, recently. A man who’d listen to me, maybe? A man who wouldn’t make me feel inferior. Who would respect me and not hide me away and keep me silent.” Cynane said and thought about how that would be the perfect man and nowadays, she doubted such a man would even exist in Britannia… maybe her standards were just too high? Or maybe men in general just weren’t all that interesting to her anymore… “I guess such a man is nothing but a dream. Do you have any thoughts towards what man you'd want?”

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Volusa nodded. It made perfect sense, of course Cynane would want someone who'd listen to her and not treat her as though she were inferior. She had enough of that as it was right now. "I'd like the same, I think - someone with a business I could help with, even, where I could be useful."

Useful with more than just running the house, anyway - though running her own home would be nicer than being property in someone else's.

She smiled, a little of her habitual shyness reasserting itself. "I'd like someone who could be a friend as well as a husband, I think, someone I could talk with, laugh with."

There was a brief pause. Of course Cynane wouldn't want to be hidden away, kept silent - that wouldn't suit her at all. "This isn't... this isn't Greece or... or somewhere, where women can't go out without a man," she added. "I mean, there are places where women can't socialise with men, even, but even the mistress goes to dinner parties and the theatre and places."

 

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Cynane liked being useful too, like Volusa, but just in a different way. She couldn’t imagine running some business. In fact she wouldn’t know what to do if she was suddenly freed. Probably try to get back to Britannia somehow, but then what? She couldn’t be a freed female bodyguard, could she? It wasn’t in the cards right now anyway, so why even bother thinking about it… instead she listened to Volusa, who mused about how she’d like to be friends with her husband too.

“You don’t need a husband to have a friend though… or to have someone to laugh with.” She said with a smile to the young woman. Volusa paused and then spoke of Greece being worse than Rome when it came to how women were treated.

“I know. I go out sometimes too, now that I can. I couldn’t as a gladiatrix, but now I can. Not that it’s always a good thing to do.” She had some less good incidents to think about. It was hard to gain respect in Rome!

“Do you ever leave the palace unguarded? Maybe we could go out together sometime. If you’d like to.” There was of course the chance Volusa wouldn’t like that at all.

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