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Thessala

Words of encouragement

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Before the games, Fall 74CE

For all her greenness when she arrived to the Ludus, the Little Frog lived up to her name, and she was improving her fighting skills by leaps and bounds. Thessala was not her only tutor, but she took interest in watching Rana train and fight. There was spirit in the young woman, something that could grow into talent if she was trained well and lived long enough. She did well in the smaller fights she participated in so far - but entering the real, big games was still ahead of her.

The Ludus, and the entire city, were abuzz with the news of the upcoming games. Messages came and went, matches were negotiated, organizers worked overtime, and everyone with half an ear was listening intently for scraps of information of what was going to happen. Training intensified for the days leading up to the games; even experienced gladiators like Thessala put in the extra effort to show their best form in the arena. This was the top of a gladiatrix's career. This was the entire point of her existence.

It was after a long day of hard work that she set her weapons aside, and went looking for Rana. There was a stark difference between their very first training, and the way the girl moved now. Thessala smirked as she watched her from the sidelines, and waited until she was finished before she waved a hand to her.

"Walk with me, little frog. I have something to show you."

@Atrice

Edited by Chevi
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Rana had quickly improved her skills as a gladiatrix, since she first met Thessala. That first day she hadn’t understood it all, but she had learned and she had trained hard. And after a good while of training, many weeks, she didn’t know for how long, she’d finally been allowed to fight in some of the smaller arenas and the small fights set up in the ludus itself, for special guests and patrons. Now there were going to be big games though and she was excited. Rana enjoyed the attention she got in the fights she’d fought so far. It was like a shower of appreciation… and how could you not enjoy that?

They’d been training again and everyone had fought hard. Rana had been lifting logs to improve her muscles and she’d naturally been training with a partner too. Thessala some of the time, but not only her. They also let her fight some of the newer male gladiators and boy were they intent on proving they could beat a woman. Only that wasn’t always the case and she couldn’t help but laugh every time she got them down on their back and they had to give the signal to end the fight, because they’d obviously lost.

It had just happened again; the new guy definitely needed to build some muscle and some stamina to keep up with her! She’d thrown him on his back and he gave the signal. She was aware that Thessala was watching her and when she stood again, brushing her hands, she looked up and gave Thessala a smile. The other woman waved at her and asked Rana to come with her.

“Alright.” She said and approached the experienced gladriatrix, wondering why she suddenly wanted Rana to come with her. She gave her a look though, “But you know I no like, that you name me little frog. If it get out, that my name, crowd will think me little frog. And they no like me.” She pointed out, she understood some of the mechanics behind the fights now and how she had to work on her reputation.

@Chevi

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Watching Rana take down the young man was definitely entertaining. Sometimes the doctore did that, pairing women with the fresh men, to teach them the valuable lesson of never underestimating their enemies. Then again, the lesson only worked if the woman won, which Rana did, and with confidence.

“Alright. But you know I no like, that you name me little frog. If it get out, that my name, crowd will think me little frog. And they no like me.”

"Well then, you are going to need a new name." Thessala smirked as they walked away from the training field "That was actually one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. You are about to have a chance to be famous. You better figure out who you want to be before that happens..."

@Atrice

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She came over to Thessala when the other woman asked her to. Rana had been here a good long while now, she’d learned a lot and she would of course still train together with Thessala. She knew she was improving and she knew there was a promise of her performing in the upcoming games, in honor of one of the major Roman gods… so she also knew that Thessala naming her a little frog wouldn’t do much good for her. Just because it meant that in their language. Rana was something completely different in the North, but of course, it wasn’t even the first name she ever had.

Thessala said she would need a new name and said she wanted to talk to her about that. And about how she could be famous.

“What you do mean? I no witch, like you…” But she did consider it, what she would be. She didn’t want to be like Thessala – there couldn’t be two of those anyway, then none of them would benefit. But she was fast, she could last a long time and she was good at cheating and stealing, so maybe they could come up with something with that.

She brushed the thought away for now and looked at Thessala again, “What do you want show me?”

@Chevi

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If there was one thing Rana was still struggling with, it was not the fighting part. Rather, the part about turning a fight into a show. It was not enough for her to be good, if she was not also memorable.

“What you do mean? I no witch, like you…”

"No, you are not. I am the witch. You need to be something else, or you will end up being 'that other woman the witch was fighting.'"

Hopefully, she would get the point.

“What do you want show me?”

"Come on." Thessala led Rana underground, to the vast expanse of corridors and tunnels that led from the Ludus to the Amphitheater. It was a maze down there, and many doors were normally kept locked, except these days people were already preparing for the games. Slaves hurried un and down the corridors, carrying things and messages from the organizers working around the arena. Thessala walked among them like she owned the place.

"I am not saying this to make fun of you" she clarified "I'm trying to help, you know. Fighting in the games will be different from what you have done so far."

@Atrice

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Sometimes she felt as if Thessala didn’t understand her or thought that she might be less smart than most people. Maybe it was because her Latin wasn’t perfect yet or maybe Thessala just didn’t like the competition from another gladiatrix in the same ludus. She didn’t know. And she could be entirely wrong in her assumptions, but it was impossible to know. Maybe this was just how Thessala was like and it had nothing to do with Rana.

Thessala clarified that she was the witch, as if Rana didn’t just tell her that she knew she couldn’t be a witch. Thessala said she’d have to be something else and she nodded quietly, as she was quite thoughtful while they walked. She wondered what Thessala would show her, but she just told her to come. They moved down stairs, down underground, through tunnels and corridors that Rana wasn’t yet familiar with. She’d heard about them though and hoped she’d never get lost down here. There were plenty other people though.

The other gladiatrix said she wouldn’t make fun of Rana, but was trying to help, because fighting in the games would be different. As if she again didn't understand it. Which she did! Why did Thessala think that Rana couldn't think for herself?

“I know it is.” She replied and looked at Thessala, daring to tell her what was on her mind, “You very… you are very… harsh. I know you try help, but it not always feel like help, always. I want us friends… if you want too.” She went quiet again, hoping she hadn’t offended Thessala and she wouldn’t be even more rough with her now. But she felt she had to say it. They lived in the same ludus and as gladiatrixes, there was no way they could avoid each other. Better be honest now, right?

@Chevi

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“I know it is. You very… you are very… harsh. I know you try help, but it not always feel like help, always. I want us friends… if you want too.” 

Thessala paused as Rana looked her in the eyes. She had grown in the past weeks, not just in strength but also in confidence. Thessala still did not know much about where the girl came from or what she used to be like (although banging her brother's wife was an admirable tidbit of information), but it still felt like she was hiding her true potential. 

And now she wanted to be friends.

Thessala didn't do friends. Friends were useless in the arena, not as much fun as lovers, and tended to disappear far too quickly.

"Well, this is me being friendly" she snapped, a little too harsh even for her usual attitude. She frowned at herself and then sighed. "Look, sweetheart. I don't walk everyone down here out of the goodness of my heart. I really think you could do well in the games, and I want to help with that. So." she motioned at the hallway that led to the arena "Let me help, alright? And if you survive the games, we can braid each other's hair after."

@Atrice

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Thessala gave Rana a strange look after her little comment on Thessala’s behavior, and then the other claimed she was being friendly… which she said quite harshly, to be honest, which didn’t exactly seem like she was being friendly… although she just said she was. Really? Rana arched a brow, not very impressed, and then Thessala again began with her namecalling (sweetheart? She wasn't Thessala's sweetheart...) and said she didn’t come down here with just everyone.

So that was supposed to make Rana feel special, or what? Thessala sure had a strange way of showing it. The other said she thought she could do well, she wanted to help out and then she mocked Rana with some strange idea about braiding hair. It was obvious she didn’t even want to try and be friendly.

Did she know just how maddening she was?

Rana inhaled a deep breath, trying to calm herself, “No need braid hair. That is not what I mean.” She said, rolling her eyes, “Sure, help. I would like that. But stop calling names. And stop think I don’t know things.”

@Chevi

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“No need braid hair. That is not what I mean. Sure, help. I would like that. But stop calling names. And stop think I don’t know things.”

Well the girl sure chose a good time to decide to stand up for herself. And she did so, vehemently. Thessala was confused about where the sudden confidence had come from; she had not done or said anything out of the ordinary, as far as she was concerned. She stared back at Rana for a moment, then huffed. It wasn't like she was going to actually braid her hair anyway.

"Alright, alright. No names. Rana." she started walking again, up to the gates that opened to the arena. They would be locked under normal circumstances, but today there was a lot of traffic in and out. "I know you know things. Just not the same things I know." she added with a smirk, pushing the gates open to walk straight into the arena of the Amphiteater. Even empty, it was a breathtaking building, towering over the sands all around. "This is where you will be fighting next time."

@Atrice

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Rana had simply just about had it with Thessala and they way she acted towards Rana. As if she wasn’t as smart or clever or good as she was. Rana came from the North, where it was mostly men who’d brag but even then, it wasn’t seen as a good trait among free people, to try and appear more superior to others that way. Sure some were and not everyone could be farmers and peasants, but still, everyone demanded respect. Everyone had their place in the society and remove a piece and it wouldn't work and they wouldn't be able to keep the Romans on their side of the border. Rana had grown up like that. And she wasn’t about to stop demanding it now.

Thessala finally promised to not call Rana names and pointed out she knew Rana knew things, just not the same things. Rana sighed quietly, following Thessala up towards a pair of gates – and now Thessala pushed them to open and she continued walking. Coming from the dark tunnels underneath the ground and up here was quite… breathtaking, to be honest. Rana had followed Thessala, not really knowing where they were going, but now she stopped. She barely heard what the other woman said, she just looked around, up at all the seats and noticed just how far away those at the top were. This place was huge!

The arena itself was huge too. The training grounds at the ludus and even the small arenas she’d been fighting in, they were tiny. This place, it was almost too large. Rana felt very small here and wondered what it must be like for those watching…

She finally turned to Thessala, full of questions, “How can they see what happen here? This really where we fight?”

@Chevi

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The look on Rana's face was priceless. Thessala stepped aside to let her walk into the arena, and turned to see the look as she did. The Amphitheater truly was a wonder, something worthy of the favor of the gods. It was also a killing field and a prison in a way, but one tended to forget that when it was booming with thousands of people.

It took a few moments for Rana to take it all in, and find her words. Thessala waited with her arms folded, an amused look on her face.

“How can they see what happen here? This really where we fight?”

"Yes, this is really where we fight" she nodded "And this is why I have been telling you, you can't just fight here without a show. People up there" she pointed up at the rows of seats "Will not see the intricacies of what you are doing. These fights here, they need to be bolder. Larger. Longer. And they have to have a story. You have to have a story."

@Atrice

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She didn’t think she’d ever been in such a huge arena before. It was astonishing to look up at the seats now and she could barely imagine what it would be like with people up there. People everywhere, watching the gladiators fight… they would be watching Rana. She kind of liked the thought actually, although she worried whether they could actually see very well. It felt like the seats were far away from the arena…

Thessala of course confirmed this was where they’d fight and then she began talking about putting on a show, because people couldn’t see everything that went on down here.

Rana nodded, “I will figure out story. Or maybe it come when I fight.” She suggested with a smile, walking further into the arena, “I use what I am good at in fight and show. I impress… I hope.” She added, she had the confidence, but it still hadn’t happened, so you couldn’t know if you’d impress anyone or the idea would fall flat. All she knew was that she had to live. And this her life now.

@Chevi

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Rana was slowly beginning to understand the scope and the weight of the games. Thessala knew from experience that it was impossible to imagine being in the arena until one actually was. 

 “I will figure out story. Or maybe it come when I fight. I use what I am good at in fight and show. I impress… I hope.”

"Oh no" Thessala raised a finger at Rana. Did the girl have a death wish or something? "You don't hope. You don't get to hope. You go into the arena half-assed and you won't have time to come up with your story." she folded her arms again "Who are you, Rana? Why should people yell your name, and not your opponent's? Come on. Impress me."

@Atrice

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Rana could only hope to impress the crowds, but Thessala raised a finger at her and said to not hope - because if she only did that, she wouldn't have time. Meaning Thessala thought she'd die. Rana had heard though that the female gladiators rarely fought to death, but maybe that was just something they told her to not take away her confidence. She watched Thessala fold her arms again ask who Rana was.

"I am not know yet!" Rana replied, Thessala was getting irritating again. She forgot that when they walked into the arena, "You knew everything when you fought first? You knew from start?" She asked, walking closer to Thessala, "Tell me, how you find out? I never done this before!" She said, standing in front of Thessala, ignoring the arena for now, only focusing on the other gladiatrix. Fuck her! Rana would learn to fight and she'd be so good that she'd best Thessala... and then hopefully the other would be sorry for how she treated Rana! 

@Chevi

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Thessala was at a loss of how to get Rana to understand what she was playing with. She had never really been the caring, friendly kind; most of what she could do was 'tough love' at best, and even that was not really working out the few times she tried it. Rana had potential, and she deserved to survive her first game, but she seemed hell bent on resisting help.

"I am not know yet! You knew everything when you fought first? You knew from start?"

There she went again, making a fuss. Thessala sighed. 

"Tell me, how you find out? I never done this before!"

"You have!" she responded with a scoff "I have seen you fight. Smaller fights, sure, but that doesn't mean you don't have some experience. What you need now is get your head on straight, Rana, or you won't get a second chance at making an impression." What did she not understand about this, really? Did she need someone to cuddle her into understanding? "And no, I wasn't born a damn witch either. I just paid attention to what I was good at, and what I was good at was being mysterious and disturbing."

@Atrice

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Rana just didn’t get why Thessala wanted Rana to know all these things right now. She’d figure it out, she always did. Not everyone could be so strict and effective as Thessala was. Rana and Thessala certainly didn’t think the same way, that much was clear now, but the other gladiatrix just wouldn’t see that.

Thessala claimed she had done it before, because she’d seen Rana fight, but she wanted Rana to make a good impression. That didn’t make sense. First saying Rana had done it before, then saying she didn’t have enough yet to make a good impression. Did Thessala even listen to herself?

“I know what I good at. Cheating, stealing, I think fast.” Rana replied, but she felt she’d already said it, “You not always know what I do next.” She added, wondering if Thessala would understand that. She looked at Thessala. As frustrating as she could be, she was still fascinating. If she’d just stop being so… hard. And how could she prove to Thessala that she could be unpredictable?

To clear her mind, she looked up and around in the arena again and walked over to one of the walls, trying to get a better feel for how high up the spectators would be. She definitely couldn’t jump to them. Then she turned to lean against the wall and watched Thessala, as she had an idea, “Come, I need try something.”

@Chevi

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Rana was not liking any of this one bit. Neither was Thessala. She just wanted to show her the arena, and maybe help her prepare and train a bit. It was unlikely that they would be paired off in the games anyway, so for Thessala, this all qualified as being nice. But it was only making Rana more agitated.

“I know what I good at. Cheating, stealing, I think fast. You not always know what I do next.” 

"Well, you got that right..." Thessala sighed. At least now Rana was getting somewhere, even if she did not realize it.

“Come, I need try something.”

Thessala arched an eyebrow, and then slowly walked up to Rana. She had to admit she was curious what was going to happen next.

"You plan on stealing your opponents money?..."

@Atrice

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It seemed none of them were quite satisfied with the other, but still they had to work together... to make this work, of course. They were both gladiatrixes, at the same ludus and although Thessala was definitely more experienced... Rana had had it with her behavior. Did she have to be so cold and harsh - and hard to understand? But Rana kind of knew her plan, it was just impossible to get Thessala to understand it. If she'd only known that they constantly misunderstood each other, but she didn't. She'd gone to lean against a wall now, taking a look around and then she decided to prove to Thessala how unpredictable she could be. 

Thessala came closer, wondering what would happen and spoke about stealing money. 

"I no think gladiators bring money to arena." She said with a little laugh, "Come closer." She beckoned her with a finger and kept standing with the wall behind her. She watched Thessala while wondering how she'd react to this idea. At least they were used to training and fighting together, so they were used to being close and touching each other. This shouldn't be too hard, she thought.

Once Thessala was close enough, she would reach out to wrap a hand around Thessala's neck to pull her closer and into a kiss. A rather hard and heated one too. It felt good. But that wasn't the point of this. If Thessala returned the kiss, it meant distraction and Rana would use that. She would quite suddenly pull from the kiss, slip quickly to the side and a moment later she'd be behind Thessala - so that she stood with her front to Thessala's back and she pinned the other woman there, against the wall... still with her hand holding Thessala's neck. She smiled, "You see what I mean?" 

@Chevi

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"I no think gladiators bring money to arena. Come closer." 

Thessala had to admit, she was curious. She had seen Rana fight various opponents in training, and she did have an innate creativity to surprise them with unexpected moves. It was not something as easily translated into a name as 'witch', but it was something that had the potential to set her aside from the crowd. More so than pickpocketing. Thessala smirked as she decided to play along, and stepped closer.

Rana reached out to hold her neck, and pulled her into a kiss. Thessala had to admit she did not expect that. She made a surprised sound as their lips connected, but didn't pull away. She was not one to give up a good kiss... and she was curious to see if this would be a good one. 

You know, this is not gonna get you off the hook for...

Thessala let her guard down, just for a moment. The next thing she knew, she was slammed up against the wall, but not in a fun way. She huffed, smelling mortar and paint. And she couldn't help but let out a surprised little laugh.

"You see what I mean?" 

"Yeah. I see what you mean." Thessala admitted, pushing herself away from the wall if she was allowed "Kiss every opponent like that, and the crowds will fucking love you."

@Atrice

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Thessala came as close as Rana wanted her to and when she’d reached out to pull Thessala into a kiss, the other woman didn’t pull back. Rana did hear the surprised sound and almost smiled into the kiss, which could have been really good, if it wasn’t a kiss to simply prove a point. She wasn’t kissing Thessala because she wanted this to be more than a kiss… at least not in the satisfying way for Thessala. Instead it went as planned, Thessala let her guard down and Rana used that moment.

She was pleased with herself when she had Thessala pinned against the wall and after Thessala had the chance to breathe, she laughed and said she understood. Rana let her go and took a step back, she was being very rational for once. Thessala said the crowd would love her if she kissed her opponents like that.

“I no plan kiss all of them. Just… surprise. But sure, if they good looking, I may kiss.” She said with a grin then, “You really think I should do that?” She honestly hadn’t thought of that idea yet – to kiss all of them – and wouldn’t it be boring anyway, if she did it every time. Then the rumor would spread and they’d be prepared. So not every time. But maybe sometimes.

@Chevi

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Rana seemed extremely pleased with herself, and her newfound idea. Surprise was a hard skill to pull off: You could only do one trick once, maybe twice before your opponents caught on, and the audience started getting bored. But for now, it was a start. The girl needed some confidence. And needed to be less smug about catching Thessala off guard with a kiss.

“I no plan kiss all of them. Just… surprise. But sure, if they good looking, I may kiss. You really think I should do that?”

"Not all of them, no. Just the pretty ones." Thessala grinned. The crowds would eat that up. "It looks good in the arena. Nothing gets men more hot and bothered than some sex mixed into their slaughter."

She would just have to make sure she kept them on their toes. Constantly ready with the next surprise, constantly changing...

Thessala's eyes lit up.

"I think I just thought of a good name for you."

@Atrice

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How could she not be pleased? The kiss felt nice and she made Thessala finally understand what she meant by cheating in her fighting. Rana could pretend, she could act, she’d done it countless times when she grew up and when she lived with her brother and his wife. She could do it in the arena too. She didn’t plan on kissing all of her opponents though, but wondered if Thessala was serious about the idea.

Thessala said to just kiss the pretty ones and said it would look good. Rana nodded when Thessala mentioned how the men would love it, “You right about that.” She said, “Some women too.” She added, because she’d seen it. Then Thessala suddenly changed the subject, speaking about Rana’s name again. Gods, Thessala really did feel the name was important, didn’t she?

@Chevi

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Finally, something they agreed on. Rana might not have been used to the arena yet, but she did know how people worked. It would have been hard not to, being surrounded by male gladiators and their followers. 

“You right about that. Some women too.” 

Some women, too. Thessala could understand that, she never made much of a distinction between male and female lovers. Females were usually more fun, just for being less of a risk to her life as a gladiatrix.

Rana did not look so sure about the sudden name idea, but Thessala didn't care. She had it, and she was going to share it.

"Protea. Goddess, seductress, shapeshifter" she grinned at Rana "She's the daughter of the sea. Any opponent of hers has to be able to hold on to her in her many forms..."

@Atrice

 

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So she'd finally done something right according to Thessala and she was kind of proud and of course very pleased with herself over that. She managed to trick her and she didn't know if she could - but she did it. Yet now Thessala turned, what could have been a nice conversation, into one about Rana's name... again! As if they hadn't talked about that before and as if Rana wasn't so very tired of it. Rana's name made sense... she had been a thief, she had stolen something very valuable from her brother. She had ranet her brother's wife. And he gave her the name.

But she let Thessala continue and she spoke of a name... Protea. It sure made sense with the name, but... Protea? It didn't sound very good.

"I no daughter of sea." Rana then replied, "I not even... seen sea. But I guess it makes sense. You really think it good name?"

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Rana did not seem as impressed with the name as Thessala was with herself for thinking of it. Maybe she didn't know the stories behind it? She tried not to look disappointed at the little frog's reaction. What did she care if she liked the name or not? She could live or die in the arena for all Thessala cared.

"I no daughter of sea. I not even... seen sea. But I guess it makes sense. You really think it good name?"

"Take it or leave it" Thessala shrugged "It's a name people would recognize as someone who always changes. Someone hard to pin down, and constantly surprising the enemy. Someone that can't be held down by a man.

Damn right it was a good name.

"Use it, or find your own, doesn't really matter to me."

@Atrice

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