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OCTOBER, 74 CE

Pausing in the arcade of the Ludus’ domus, reserved for the household of Titus Justinius Canicus Phiscerus, Ambrosius surveyed the scene of the surrounding courtyard. The leaves upon the trees that littered the gardens had begun to exhibit tinges of saffron and brown, indicating the passing of summer and the onset of autumn. Being unaware of the exact day of his birth, his family equated the beginning of the season with such a time. It would mark his eighteenth year, but he held no doubts that he would spend this anniversary in the absence of his family, for the first time in his life. Previously, he had often shared this occasion with his youngest sister, who had been born during the same season.

The Briton had been returning to his quarters from a discussion with the ludus’ manager, where he had been briefed on the possibility that he would shortly undergo his first gladiatorial contest. Despite only having a few short months to prepare, his instructor had informed the Imperial client of Ambrosius’ perceived suitability for the tournament – though he was hardly the only one. It seemed as though they were scraping the bottom of the barrel to provide a respectable levy of gladiators for the event and hedging their bets in the process, hoping to achieve a grand victory. Some might consider it ‘desperate measures’.

Resolving to cast such thought aside and return to his room, he turned on his heels and strode towards the central hallway that divided the wings of the structure in to east and west, whilst providing him with a route from the south towards the gladiator’s quarters at the northern end of the premises. He travelled in that direction for roughly fifty meters before coming to a halt as a familiar figure exited from an adjoining room. Catching their gaze, he would recognise the individual as a woman that often accompanied Titus’ wife during periods of training, watching from afar. Her frequent presence gave the Briton youth a curious pause for thought, realising he knew nothing of the woman, despite her frequent presence becoming second nature.

“Me, uh- I sorry... mea domina[1],” Ambrosius quickly apologised in broken Latin, despite being uncertain of any wrongdoing. His very existence had been considered an offence at various times during his captivity. Neglecting her darker complexion in ignorance of geography, he presumed her to be of Roman birth and somehow of relation to the master of the house, thus the term of respect.

@Liv

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  • [1] Latin phrase meaning "my lady".
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Another day, another errand for Clio to run, so long the mistress could bear to dismiss her for a few hours. This time it was nothing urgent, just a few items to take to the goldsmith: the lock on a necklace that needed fixing and a few rings with stones that needed buffering and polishing. Her domina knew that Clio could be trusted not to abscond with them or be tricked by the goldsmith, and so the jewels were safely kept inside a tiny purse, hidden from view by one of several folds in her rust-coloured tunic. The task allowed for some free time; delays could always be attributed to some hold up on the streets or a very busy jeweller.

As she walked through one of the smaller rooms and out into the hallway, the body slave pondered on what to do for only a few seconds, her thoughts dispersing at the sight of a tall, muscular man looking at her. Clio returned his gaze with an inquisitive frown. If memory served, this was one of the ludus' newest acquisitions, and one domina was fond of watching train. A flicker of recognition passed through her face. Ah, yes, it was the young Briton with arms like gourds and sometimes a limp at the end of the sessions. 

Hearing his apologetic words, Clio could not help but laugh out loud. Domina? She? The notion was as ludicrous as it was amusing, and Clio quickly stomped out the tiny, stubborn part of her that clang to that silly daydream from a few years ago before it had a chance to pipe up.  This, the misassumption of a confused new gladiator, was all she would get, and while maintaining the illusion would have been a fun game to play, the possible consequences of being found out made it a moot point.

"No, no," she shook her head to dispel the young man's misgiving. His Latin still sounded quite clumsy; it would be better to keep things simple. She brought an extended finger up to her chest, pointing at herself. "My name is Clio. I am a slave. Slave," she enunciated slowly, "like you." The finger now pointed at him. Well, not quite like him, but that would've been too much for the barbarian to understand, given his childish Latin and his presumably nonexistent Greek. "Domina," and here she mimed Annia Comna in one of her ornate wigs, "is the master's wife. She watches you train sometimes," she explained while pointing to her eyes, then to the gladiator and making a few fighting gestures. "I am domina's personal slave. Do you understand?"

Did he? And more importantly, what on earth had possessed her to give such a kindly explanation when she could have just laughed, turned her back on him and continue on her way? Perhaps it was a foggy memory of having once had halting Latin, too. She glanced around for any onlookers; despite finding none, she kept her voice clear and louder than usual, so no suspicion would be aroused if someone were to pass by them.

"Are you lost? Do you need help to get back to your quarters?" She waved in the general direction of the gladiators' barracks. He might have had some business in the domus, but if he was done, it would be best for him to return to his cell. 

@Polarity

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He slowly nodded his head as his eyes danced from the gestures that the female slave’s hands displayed to the shapes her lips made, doing his best to distinguish and interpret any unfamiliar Latin terms from her physical guidance. When she halted her exposition to confirm his understanding he bobbed his crown more confidently, earnestly assisted by her patience.

“No, no,” Ambrosius echoed her earlier sentiment in an effort to be understood. Relaxing his demeanour and drawing on his few lessons with a Latin tutor of his master’s employ, he proceeded to explain further in deliberate and calculated terms. “I return to room. I… stop. I lose time. I sorry… Clio. I return now,” he attempted to clarify, hoping she would accept his short, yet honest explanation in lieu of a more thorough elucidation that would likely be expected of someone with better grasp of the language.

A curious thought popped in to his head at the end of his statement and he interjected with a query before his new acquaintance had formulated her own response. “You say you slave, no Roman? You well… look well. You pretty dress. Roman pretty dress. I no pretty dress,” the Briton framed his question almost comically, inadvertent as it was. The rust-coloured tunic that Clio was attired in at that very moment may not have been the best example of her finer station, but to further his point, he gestured towards the subligaculum[1] he had been assigned since his arrival at the ludus, which covered naught but his nether regions.

“Romans like you? Treat you well?” Ambrosius followed his immediate question with two more, in quick succession. He possessed an innately curious mind, but a distinct unawareness when his curiosity became intrusive and overbearing. One could only hope that this interaction would not prove to be such a case. He had made far too few friends since his arrival in Rome, thanks in part to his own reserved mentality, but largely due to his inability to communicate with his multi-ethnic colleagues and the exasperation of others to maintain stilted conversation of someone with a juvenile comprehension of the Latin language. This woman's careful corrections exhibited a degree of humanity that he had only encountered once before, since his arrival in the city. He did not wish to let the opportunity pass of knowing another sympathetic individual. 

@Liv

  • [1] A type of Roman loincloth worn by gladiators.
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Huh. He did understand more than he let on, or so it seemed to Clio. Words and phrases pertaining to fighting and training would come to him soon enough - if they hadn't already -, but it was good that he was picking up a broader spectrum of the language. Increased his value, which Titus Justinius Canicus Phiscerus would definitely appreciate. His explanation was basic but clear, earning a nod of acknowledgement from her. He might have had some business in the domus after all, but apparently knew better than to loiter.

She laughed again at his words. If this Briton failed to become a successful gladiator, he might have some luck as an actor at some theatre; his comedic sense, however involuntary it may be, was on point. "No, I am not Roman. I come from Bithynia, in the east." He probably had no clue where that was, but that mattered little. Home for a slave was wherever the master was, anyway. Chortling, she agreed with the young man. "True, you no pretty dress." Maybe an explanation of the different degrees of servitude would not be lost to the gladiator after all.

"Can't complain, I'm treated very well," Clio beamed. "And you, I think, are treated well too." No source of income and, potentially, fame and repute would be laid to waste at the Ludus Dacicus. In many ways, it was better to live in captivity and risk life and limb in the arena, relying on the gods' favours and one's own skills, than to be "free" and  fall victim to starvation or die of exposure. Gladiators didn't have it that bad according to Clio: food in their stomachs, a dry place to sleep, and a chance of gaining glory and freedom.

"There are many different sorts of slaves. Like the different kinds of gladiators, yes? Murmillo, thraex, retiarius..." The terms would hopefully be familiar to the young man. "You fight other people while Romans watch," she stabbed an imaginary opponent with an equally imaginary gladius. "They like to watch fights. And they like to see blood. Clothes hide blood, and are not practical for fighting. So you," Clio emphasized with a finger pointed at his bare chest, "don't need pretty clothes." He barely needed any clothes at all save the bare minimum to stave off the cold, and even then, not always, as the subligaculum proved. 

Clio continued her clarifications. To one born free in a barbaric land, she supposed, the idea of specialised slaves could be a challenging concept to wrap one's head around. But to someone like her, born into servitude and knowing no other life, serving a master was as indisputable as the sun rising in the east. It was the natural state of things. She puffed out her chest with pride. "I am domina's personal slave. I do things for her. Help her dress, bathe, get things for her." There were other things she had to do occasionally, but the Briton did not need to know about them."Domina likes to dress well. Here in Rome, good clothes are expensive. So if domina has a pretty dress, that means the family has money. And if I, domina's slave, also have a pretty dress, then it means domina's family is very rich and important." Granted, her current garments were not particularly flattering despite the good quality of the wool, but when carrying hidden jewels along the city streets it was wise to look a tad more ordinary.

Had he managed to grasp most of what she had said? "Do you understand now? Why you and I are both slaves, but not the same?" Clio cocked an eyebrow in curiosity. She'd got a bit carried away, but she had so seldom an audience... And it did not look like anyone had bothered telling the Briton about the minute but significant separations in slave society. For an instant, Clio felt sorry for him.

@Polarity

 

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“Eyes... from homeland, Biff-in-aye?” His own eyes winced as he referred to the black lines painted upon her lids, whilst attempting to repeat the name of her country of birth with difficulty; a product of the northern drawl to his Brittonic accent. Ambrosius would become immediately aware of the error in his recital, but was hesitant to redress it, lest he further her impression of him as a buffoon in the effort. In truth, his personal knowledge on such matters didn’t extend beyond the tribes of his Gallic kinsmen across the Oceanus Britannicus[1].

The Bithynian slave’s brief, yet definitive analysis of her treatment at the hands of her Roman masters led the Briton to question his own condition. Had he been treated well? Well enough, he supposed. He was still alive, which had to count for something. He had also been made deftly aware of the fact that his life could be good here, should he so choose and possess the abilities necessary to survive.

The potential of freedom, fame and wealth drew even free born Romans in to the arena, some were attending the very same Ludus. Yet, only the first of those possible rewards held foremost appeal in Ambrosius’ mind. Any chance, no matter how slim, that he may one day find his family and return to their homeland, was worth the trial by fire that the games were presumed to be. Suspiciously, he wondered if this was the reason they dangled these prizes before these gladiators: to keep them complacent – almost acquiescent – in death.

Clio’s following exposition on the intricacies of the servile hierarchy within Roman society would prove enlightening to the ignorant Ambrosius. Her amusing illustration and accommodating analogy, using the gladiatorial classes he had recently become most accustomed to, would serve to address a number of questions he had formed in his time within the city. He would silently note that the differences, or rather, advantages between the subsets of gladiator seemed more subjective than the objective distinctions between the status of slaves within a household. They would have to be, lest the outcome of the games were never in question and only one class of gladiator were preferred, if undoubtedly regarded as superior to the rest. Nevertheless, the Briton was grateful for the insight.

“You not fight? I not see any women, uh– gladiators?” He queried of his new acquaintance, deflecting from the awkwardness of his prior embarrassment by displaying a discernment of the syntactic difference between ‘no’ and ‘not’ through their discourse. The only women he’d seen since his arrival at the Ludus, barring Annia Comna and Clio, had been within the bounds of the domus. He pondered whether the females were trained in separate areas, perhaps different schools, or if even the Romans had some moral sensibilities they dare not shed, though he highly doubted the latter theory. He still believed he had two surviving sisters – somewhere – and the idea that they may have been forced in to a similar, brutal situation was a sombre thought to bear.

@Liv

  • [1] Latin name for the 'English Channel'; literally "British Ocean" or "Ocean of the Britons".
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The man revealed himself to be far more observant than Clio ever had considered. Few noticed the kohl lines she usually decorated her eyes with, conceivably because they were used to seeing them on women of all classes and origins across the empire. Except Brittonic women, apparently. If the rumours had any truth to them, his people preferred to decorate their whole bodies with blue drawings, which she found just as baffling as he her eye makeup.

"Um, not quite. Women everywhere paint their eyes like this, from Hispania to Syria. And in Bithynia too. It's to keep away the evil eye." It wasn't its only purpose, though: it protected the eyes from the sun and made eyelashes look longer. "And to look pretty, too," she added with a giggle. "But mostly for protection from curses." Curses were present in all cultures and places, so the gladiator should be able to relate to that. Maybe he even thought of his captivity as a curse... But, unlike her, he had been pointed towards a way out and provided with the tools to reach it; the rest would depend on his luck and skill in the arena. If Clio had been given the same opportunity, she was not sure she would have taken it. Her homeland, as the Briton had called it, was fuzzy memories of her mother's hands braiding her hair and the scent of ripe apples. Her family had only existed on borrowed time, until the master's whim or need for coin split them forever. Freedom had long become but a pretty word with no real substance; for some it was like the most beautiful of jewels, for her it had been a trap. Never again.

Clio allowed her imagination to picture herself in gladiator garb, and the humorous result made her chuckle for a few seconds. She wouldn't last a minute in the arena, which was just as well considering she had no intentions of ending up there. "There are women who fight, but not me. They are called gladiatrices. One gladiatrix, two or more gladiatrices." It would do the man well to learn more correct Latin quickly; patrons were fickle and the barbarian novelty wore out soon. Years of watching training gladiators had taught Clio that those who adapted well to their circumstances stood a better chance of succeeding. "I think the Ludus Magnus has a few. This ludus does not, as far as I know." Fighting women were a cool gimmick every now and then, but spectators, patrons and lanistas all knew that what the public really wanted was to see big burly men fight to the death. That's where true fame and riches lay. "But people prefer to see men fight. It's more impressive," she added conclusively for his sake - he needn't entertain any thoughts of finding love in the arena.

A new thought occurred to her. "Speaking of fighting... I have seen that you limp sometimes." Clio pointed at the gladiator's legs and mimicked a lame gait. "What happened to you?" That could be quite the handicap in bouts, but Titus Canicus Phiscerus was not the sort of man to let such a thing go unnoticed. Perhaps it wasn't relevant to the Briton's performance.

@Polarity

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Ambrosius had heard mention of this so-called ‘evil eye’ before, yet never had it been firmly explained. He found the elaborate Roman rituals with regards to curses and wards peculiar. The Brittonic measures were remarkably simple by comparison and often verbally administered. Even still, he could not deny that the bold lines were arresting, as the turn of the conversation would attest, nor could he dismiss their reputed aesthetic appeal. The exotic and unfamiliar had a way of revealing that inclination within people, even in the conservative Briton. The increasing markets for foreign wares in Britannia had proved that fact time and again

When Clio turned to the matter of ‘gladiatrices’, as he had just been informed, he bit the inside of his lip at her confirmation of the existence of the female fighters. He could only hope his family had found roles for which they were better suited. He’d always had a penchant for foolish endeavours and risking his life, so perhaps this was where he could feel most at home. For the time being, at least.

“Battle at Eburakon[1],” he halted his speech, forgetting himself for a moment as he floundered in memories of his homeland, causing a slip from Latin in to his Brittonic tongue. “Eboracum,” he quickly corrected.

“Roman javelin strike true. Think legionaries like seeing… suffer. Punishment for dead ones,” Ambrosius briefly outlined the circumstances surrounding the infliction of his injury, exhibiting a degree of nonchalance in his candour. Had the roles been reversed, the Briton believed an equal or even harsher penalty would’ve befallen any surviving soldiers of the Romans. Woe to the vanquished, indeed.

“Fever come, wound black. Medicus help… after time. Get better. Muscle weak. Feel numb, sometime… ache. Training help,” he elaborated further on the residual effects of the physical trauma. The cause of his limp stemmed from the growth and subsequent removal of an abscess, developing from an infection of his wound. The weeks he spent in immobile captivity whilst still held on his native soil had also begun their slow decay on his inactive muscles. Despite the setback, he had been steadily showing signs of regaining his former vigour and agility. Those were the very remarks his instructor was likely to have made to the Imperial client earlier that day, as well as the reason he was going to see his first contest relatively soon.

“You think it be problem? Not train long time. First games soon,” he requested her thoughts on the prospect of his fighting, attempting to gauge her reaction to his chances. He presumed she may have insight due to her presence during drilling sessions.

@Liv

  • [1] 'Eburakon' is the Brittonic name for the Latin 'Eboracum', located in the modern-day city of York, North Yorkshire, UK.
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The Briton seemed to grow a bit worried at her words on gladiatrices, and then sombre as he explained how his limp had come to be. Clio, too, felt the previously light mood darken at the mention of battle, and mentally chided herself for not having thought of that as the more likely possibility. His description was rather matter-of-factly, but Clio thought the gladiator must have a lot of pent-up emotions about the circumstances of his capture. She prayed he would find release and closure in the arena.

"Eboracum..." The name was as foreign in her tongue as Bithynia had been to him, and prior to their conversation she would have been unable to place it on either of the many provinces. Whatever its actual size might have been, it clearly took up a lot of place in the man's heart... 'Home' tended to.

As he spoke, Clio realised how lucky she was to never have had to experience the cruelty of war. She had never had to fear her house being razed to the ground, or run for her life, or watch the life bleed out of her loved ones from gruesome wounds. If that was what being free was like, then praise be to the gods that she had been born a slave. "How sad..." She dropped her head in respect for the dead.  Unfortunately, he was right: Romans had a taste for the suffering of others, and the complex that housed them was proof of that. And yet, had it not been for that thirst, who could tell what their lives would have been like at that moment?

At his question, she bit her lip in concentration. Just from what he had said, it was difficult to ascertain how much of the muscle had been permanently affected by the infection. One thing in his favour was that he seemed to start the training sessions in good shape, and that the limp became a hindrance only after some time - or so her observations led her to believe. "Hmm, it's hard to say. When you are well rested, does it bother you?" It might not be such a liability if it didn't.

"Well, if I were in your place, I would focus on learning to kill my opponent quickly first. If you let the match go on too long, it may become a problem. It's not good for the audience, but it's good for you. If you survive, then you can train more in the ludus." Until he overcame exhaustion and his body's protests. Then... then he could start working the crowd, goading his enemy and drawing out the fight, all in the name of entertainment and the coin it brought.

@Polarity

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"Mornings I feel, evenings I numb. Some months ago, only numb. Seems better,” Ambrosius responded to Clio’s own question, whilst lightly swinging his afflicted leg back-and-forth in a demonstrative and playful motion. He did seem to be pleased with the marked improvement he had undergone since receiving treatment, but he ultimately acknowledged the impediment it would inevitably bear should he overexert himself.

“If,” was his selectively, laconic repetition of her final statement. If he survived, he would no doubt continue that ceaseless struggle. Perhaps it might be better were he not to survive and be saved from the perpetual uncertainty of it all, but what would his family come to know of him then? Would they ever discover his weakness and spurn him for his inability to persevere? Britons were made of sterner stuff, the men of his tribe in particular. As such, he refused to yield to such self-pitying ideas, resolving to cast them aside.

Her advice to seek swift ends to future contests seemed sound, until Ambrosius considered his paramount desire – to seek his freedom. Whilst his chances of survival would be likely to vastly improve using such tactics, any chance of gaining the wealth and prestige required to obtain such sought after rewards would not. Should he ever wish to accomplish his goals, he would need to win the adoration of the crowds. He would not do the kindly slave a disservice of arguing with what she believed would be valuable advice, yet only for a gladiator with less grandiose ambitions. “Thank you. I will think,” he replied curtly, but not lacking in courtesy.

Noticing the sombre not their conversation had taken upon his tactless broaching of the subject of war, he attempted to change tack. “You have family?” Ambrosius addressed another interrogative query towards Clio, with perhaps not the subtlest of approaches. The question itself laid bare where the Briton’s thoughts lay, but as he noted the slight age difference between the two of them, he realised she was likely of a similar age to his eldest sister, who herself had been expecting a newborn child.

@Liv

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Since he could move his lame leg like that, near or even complete recovery might be in the cards. That would certainly increase his value, not to mention odds of success. With appropriate exercise and treatment and under doctore's careful supervision, his condition should continue to improve. "Indeed, it does," Clio agreed.

Maybe her advice, though well-intentioned, was not what the Briton had hoped to hear. Yes, the most memorable gladiators were those who fought well and put on a show, but he was only starting out, hadn't even participated in his first games yet. His first and foremost goal should be to hold out long enough to come back to the ludus in one piece at the end of the day. Over the years in this household, Clio had seen more than one cocky gladiator meet an early death in the arena, betrayed by their hubris. Dominus, naturally, became displeased at the lost investment each time, and would have brought the men back from the dead and killed them twice over if such miracles had been possible. She gave a non-committal shrug, as if saying 'do what you want, but don't be surprised if you fail'.

Ah, how very bound he was still. Bound to his family, to his homeland, to his past. Slaves had no need for those, Clio smiled bitterly. The memories might give you comfort in the dead of the night, but eventually they would consume you if you held on to them too tightly. Life was what it was in the now, not what it had been in the past. "I had a birth family, yes. My parents, plus two brothers and a sister. I was the oldest." She let herself wonder about their fates for a moment. Myron had been so sickly... could he still be alive? Did he and Zenais even remember Clio? Adrastos probably did, although if he had any wits about him, he ought to have tried to forget. Like she had.

Clio blinked slowly, her unfocused eyes returning to the present. "Then when I was 12 I was sold off, and then sold again some years after that, and I've been here ever since," she resumed with forced cheer and a grin that failed to make the corner of her dark eyes crinkle. "This household is my family now." A dispassionate, stony conclusion and a message of reproach in her gaze. You, too, should embrace it as yours.

But he had probably asked the question with his own kin in mind, which was only natural given his recent captivity. She should not be too harsh on him. "Do you have relatives?" If they had not all perished in the battle he had spoken of...

@Polarity

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Clio's short description of her family brought a small smirk to Ambrosius' face. The equal ratio of brothers and sisters was a unique commonality that briefly piqued the Briton's interest. Were it not for her being the eldest, she could've been describing his own family. At least, at one point in time. When she turned to the concept of viewing this household as her new family, he could not help but display his scepticism rather plainly. It seemed an odd family, unlike any he had known. A prison within which he detected little hint of the unconditional love and care that had been present in his own home. The very idea that he would ever consider a Roman his ‘brother’ or by any other familial term was obscene, especially considering how they had slaughtered his own.

“Why I fight– fought. I still fight,” Ambrosius answered uncertainly, confused by the correct syntax that would describe his situation. “Will fight,” was the Briton’s final decision on the matter. He wondered if his mother would recognise the bruised and bellicose gladiator he had become, from the quiet and soft-spoken boy she once knew. It was unlikely, he thought.

“Sisters, I hope. Maybe mother. I not know,” he replied wistfully, his eyes projecting a degree of despondency. “I had brother, older. He joined father. Now, I father’s last son,” Ambrosius explained further, sharing a small weight of his perceived burden. “I half man he was… both was,” the Briton’s inflating regret prompting a shame-filled confession. “I will find them, someday. I will make right,” his tone adopted a steely resolve, yet his gloomy gaze remained. 

“You not want freedom? To see family again? Life better here? Roman family better?” Ambrosius probed the Bithynian further on multiple fronts, ignorant to the invasive nature of these deeply personal questions. He remained unable to comprehend the preference for the company of their captors, as he certainly had never experienced such a notion.

@Liv

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The young man drew his strength from his family bonds, apparently. Whether he fought to make them proud, or in hopes of buying his freedom - or both - didn't really concern Clio, but she could appreciate his resolve from a distance, as one would watch an ant hard at work and conclude that the little creature was making a worthy effort. She could also hope his sisters and mother still lived, for his sake. "I'm sorry to hear that. I hope they did not suffer." The gladiator surely felt he had some very big shoes to fill.

"I pray that you will be reunited with your relatives some day. Until then, keep doing your best." Otherwise dominus will have you out of here sooner than you can say Ave Caesar, she neglected to add out loud. 

He almost sounded confused as he posed his questions. Could he really not fathom that they were of two minds on the subject? When Clio replied, it was in an exasperated tone."Freedom? No," she shook her head, nearly ridiculing the notion. "Freedom is difficult! Your relatives die, you're in debt, you've got to play these absurd political games, and  worry about food and shelter, and about money, and-- well, about everything!" There was a hint of breathlessness at the end, betraying the strong feelings the enquiry had aroused. "And what for? What good will it do you? You're never really free to choose your own path anyway! Want a big house and dormice for dinner? You can't, because you're too fucking poor!"

Yes, life was better here. Yes, her 'Roman family' was better. They kept her clothed and fed and warm and dry, and treated her well. Freedom was a pretty illusion and butterfly kisses and oil lamps going out and finding herself up for sale again, at the market like cattle. Freedom was cursing that bloody lying Greek until there was no more spit in her mouth. Freedom was a disappointment and not worth the heartbreak. "I can see my family when we all meet again in the Asphodel meadows." Clio did not sulk often, but the gladiator had managed to put her in quite a state. Gratulationes.

"It's no use dwelling on the past, on the whens and ifs. You've got to look ahead. Shed your skin like a snake, or you can't grow. You'll just... stagnate. And suffocate." 

She gave him a heavy look - laden with sorrow, pity, hurt, frustration , and who knew what else - and exhaled heavily. The whole situation now felt like a waste of time, and her charitable disposition was all but gone. "If you're done interrogating me, I've got places to be."

@Polarity

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Freedom is difficult. He had been born to it. It had always felt natural. It was when his family had been at its strongest and their happiest, as far as he could remember. Ambrosius wished to feel that way again and freedom seemed to be the simplest, perceivable solution. He still wondered if freedom would prove sufficient to this endeavour whilst Britannia remained under Roman occupation, but he understood the need to take one step at a time.

Your relatives die. Only ever at the hands of Romans. His father in battle, his brother in cold blood. Their deaths were a decade apart, yet both as raw to his mind as though they had occurred yesterday. Roman subjugation had displayed more of an apparent threat to his family than freedom ever had.

You’re in debt. When Romans manipulate the markets. Ambrosius’ family had a reliable trade until foreign commodities flooded in to Petuaria[1]. He may still be a blacksmith if the endless supply of superior wares from Roman Gaul hadn’t driven his family legacy in to the ground. Certainly not if his brother was still alive… or if he was a better craftsman.

You’ve got to play these absurd political games. Roman politics. Roman games. He knew naught of either until they arrived. Had he come in to his manhood whilst still a free Briton, Ambrosius would’ve been able to choose whether to partake in inter-tribal politics. Now, he would become a man in the arena, performing these so-called ‘games’ – this blood sport – for the entertainment of Romans.

Worry about food and shelter, and about money. His father owned his land by virtue of the home he had built upon it. Their community regularly farmed enough grain to sustain the village and their father traded in iron goods for other things their family may have needed. They needed not ‘worry’ about those things until the Romans began claiming the most arable land, ransacking the homes of Britons and demanding denarii to trade.

Want a big house and dormice for dinner? You can’t, because you’re too fucking poor! Though the house he had been born in was modest in size, he had never been refused dormice. He needed only catch them. He thought it best not to share this revelation; one of his better ideas.

You’ve got to look ahead. Shed your skin like a snake, or you can’t grow. You’ll just… stagnate. And suffocate. Clio had sounded like his brother-in-law, but whereas his eldest sister’s husband had ascribed such sentiment to defending themselves against Roman encroachment, this Bithynian slave had used it as an appeal to Roman appeasement. How many times must Ambrosius leave his past behind? Had memories no value to these people? They were all he had left.

“Druids say, man is immortal. Spirit lives on… someday, joins new body. Gives hope I find them, someday,” the Briton explained of his own beliefs before she departed. “If not, I hope we see you in meadows,” he offered in a conciliatory manner. Ambrosius thought she would get along well with his eldest sister, since they had a similar tone in their reprimands. Were such a fate to mean he was reunited with his family once more, he could happily conform to such an afterlife, yet he would hope his sisters would not be forced to join him before their time.

@Liv

  • [1] Petuaria is the Latin name for modern Brough, East Yorkshire, UK.
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From the gladiator's words, Clio realised they would not see eye to eye on the subject at hand, probably not ever. Since he had been born free, he would most likely cling to his memories of those days and cherish them until the day he died. It boggled her mind, how he had witnessed his people and his land ravaged by Rome's insatiable hunger for expansion, and yet his spirit had not surrendered to the unquestionable superiority of their ways. He had seen first hand that there was no hope of winning.

His druids and the Greco-Roman cult, at least, held common ground when it came to the spirit prevailing eternal. Despite her sour mood, Clio did not miss the opportunity to educate the Briton - and yes, to provoke him in retaliation for having made her open Pandora's box under the guise of harmless questions.

"No spirit leaves the meadows. If we meet there, then you cannot join a new body." A sardonic smile played on her lips. "So if that's your goal, make sure you have no coin for Charon when you leave this world."

She started to walk away with small but decisive steps, but came to a sudden halt when it registered that she was lacking a very important piece of information. Clio turned around abruptly, a serious expression on her dark face. "What is your name?"

@Polarity

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