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January, 75 AD

 

Oriana was so lovely. He could not get enough of her when they were together, but when they were not, he was not sure what to think or feel. He knew she sometimes saw actual suitors and he knew that despite what she told him, she probably did want to rise in ranks here in Rome. She enjoyed her luxuries and she was clever and independent. And she didn't want her man sleeping around, like he had a tendency to, at least before he met her. Alexius tried to stay true. He tried hard. Did he fail or not? Well that was something he did not talk about.


Something else had occurred in her home too though; in the fall, the arrival of his son Lexus, whom he had never met before, but now knew in person. Lexus was a handsome young man, but a lot more clumsy than Alexius and a lot more... inexperienced. Alexius did not think he was that inexperienced even at his son's age! Lexus' mother's death had been hard on the boy though, so he wouldn't push the boy either. 


Today, Lexus was busy in the garden and Oriana had again left the house without caring to ask her bodyguard to come! Probably to see a suitor again, he had an idea that's why she did not tell him. She knew he'd be jealous too. It was all a mess, the affair with his employer, and he often considered just quitting the job and leaving her to maybe ask sweet Gaia if she'd have him work for her. But then Oriana was so lovely in the nights. There were so many things he could do, and then there's what he did... and since his employer was gone and his son was busy working, Alexius thought he might just find himself a drink somewhere.


It was still broad daylight when he entered his old favorite tavern, not so far from the ludii and of course run by the most amazing freedwoman and former gladiatrix, Bellona. He entered the place and was about to get himself a cup of wine, when he spotted another familiar and quite pretty lady in there, sitting all alone. Well she was not that familiar, but also not unfamiliar. He'd seen her at one of the ludii where he'd gone to see the gladiators train. And at one of the ludii, he had not failed to notice this particular pretty woman, also watching the gladiators train, but from the inside of the ludus. She was probably a slave, but that mattered little to him. He had seen her before, she was quite attractive and all alone - and he decided she was familiar enough to approach her. First though, he bought a jar of wine and seeing that she already had a cup, he only needed one for himself. Hopefully she would not deny good company and wine, since she was on her own.


Then Alexius approached her with a friendly smile on his face, "Greetings, lovely lady... I hope you won't mind if I sit down here and share this with you?" He nodded to the jar of wine in his hand, "I think I've seen you at one of the ludii, haven't I?" 

@Liv

Edited by Atrice
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Another day off rounded off by a visit to a tavern before heading back to the ludus. This had been one of Clio's routines for quite some time, and she enjoying the hustle and bustle of the establishments and their many colourful patrons; sometimes she wished she could stay a while longer, and sometimes what she saw and heard made her return to the ludus and its familiar surroundings a veritable relief. Her particular circumstances shielded her from much unpleasantness all things considered.

On that particular day, however, the pit stop at Bacchus' Cup was a relaxing one. Even their cheap wine was more decent than most other places, and the no-nonsense attitude of the owner left little place for altercations and rowdiness. Clio was enjoying her drink, nothing to herself how smoothly it went down her throat, when a male voice sounded just by her, greeting her and complementing her looks all in a single breath.

She looked up at the intruder, frowning when she did not recognise him. Although he was holding a jar and a cup, he didn't seem to be drunk yet. Just one of those over-friendly types, then, on the prowl for a bit of fun. And given his looks, he probably found what he was looking for quite often, Clio admitted to herself. Tall, well-built, a good-looking mug and lovely green eyes. The sort of man her domina would enjoy a romp with. She debated informing him that she did in fact mind and could he please look for a bed mate somewhere else, but his last words left her intrigued.

He had been to the ludus, then. Yet he was completely unfamiliar to her. Was he perhaps a former gladiator who had left before her time there and had gone back to say hello? Or a new business partner of her master's? Either way, she didn't appreciate that he knew of her whilst she knew nothing of him, and was intent on remedying that situation.

Appraising the man from head to toe with a curious look, Clio nodded and gestured at the empty seat beside her in a silent invitation for him to take it. "If you're in a sharing mood, then do go ahead." She gave him only a very slight curl of the corner of her lips, not a fully fledged smile - for him to earn that she'd first have to find out a bit more. "If you frequent the Ludus Dacicus, you probably have. Though I can't say I've seen you there..." she trailed off, eyes narrowing into a suspicious squint. "In what capacity did you visit?" Best to measure her words carefully at first, just in case this big bloke turned out to be someone more important than his appearance suggested.

@Atrice

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The lovely young woman, with her dark hair and eyes, looked up at him and frowned. Alexius noticed that, but then she looked him over - good, he thought, he was not shy, luckily! - and after a few moments, she gave him a nod and said he could sit. If he was in a sharing mood? Always! Especially if there was a tempting... someone, nearby. And it was always more fun to drink with someone, rather than alone, right? Alexius sat down with a smile, "How could I not be in a sharing mood with such fair company?" He said while sitting, and she gave him a small smile.

Then she of course wondered how come he'd seen her, but she had not seen him and of course she wondered why he visited a ludus. Alexius had plenty of reasons to visit such places, but of course she did not know because she did not know him. Yet.

"Why would any man, not living in a ludus, visit it? To watch them train, of course." Alexius said while pouring wine into his own cup, "And it was there, on the other side of walls and bars, that I saw you, also watching the gladiators train." He gave her a smile, "Is there any one of them you fancy more than the rest? Or do you do your best to stay out of their business entirely?" He wondered, happy to have someone to talk to and someone who knew more about gladiators, because she was on the same side of the wall as they. He was trying hard to not mention that he'd once been a gladiator too, but it was bound to be spilled at some point. Maybe after a drink or two. For now, Alexius tasted his own wine and glanced to her cup, making sure to fill it up in case she had taken more than one sip. 

@Liv

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Clio tried very hard not to sigh audibly at the cheap compliment and successfully managed to only exhale with a little more force than usual. Had she been more sure of the man's rank, she might have added an eye roll for good measure, but uncertainty determined her reaction. If he turned out to be someone of relative import and make a complain with her master, it would put her in an uncomfortable position no matter how much influence her domina exerted with her husband.

Fortunately her new companion seemed to be in a talkative mood, and Clio put into place the patient rictus that slaves all over the world had down to a science. Much to her surprise, the man was refreshingly candid about his reasons for visiting the ludus and chatting her up. Her brown eyes grew wider in something akin to disbelief as she tried to make sense of his words. Since he was not drunk, he could only be of the brutally honest, straight-to-business variety; whether that came from stupidity or simple lack of malice remained to be seen. Seeing that he had eyed her cup to check how full it was, Clio hurried to bring it to her lips and have a drink, putting it back down on the table when it grew half-empty. A stray drop of wine left a reddish trail down the corner of her mouth, and although she normally would have licked it off, she did not want to encourage the man by making him think she was doing it at him (flirty men were capable of thinking anything!); instead, she wiped it off with her thumb.

"That's true. Although he could also have come to offer his services," Clio replied with an ambiguous smile, leaving it up to interpretation just what sort of services those could be. "Many a man seek out glory in the arena of their own free will." Was this one such a type? He certainly had the build for it, although he didn't look to be a spring chicken anymore. "So you say you went to watch them train, yet you saw me watching them. I don't know that I believe you..." she trailed off in a playful tone, tucking her black hair behind her ear. Turn up the charm a little and he would most likely lap it up, this poor sod. And maybe refill her cup while he was at it. "Or are you easily distracted? That's not a good trait for a gladiator to have," Clio continued to tease, now smiling a little as she looked at him.

It was a bit odd, but the man seemed to be almost as interested in the whole gladiator thing as he was in her. Could he be a spy for a rival ludus, trying to pry some secrets out of her with his admittedly handsome looks? If that was the case, he would return to his boss empty-handed - even if she had actually known something, Clio would not say a word of such dealings to a perfect stranger. On the other hand, he could be a doctore looking for new employment, and that might be worth scouting out. "My domina doesn't like me getting too close to them, says it could give them ideas. I find myself fully agreeing with her. Watching from afar is enough for me." The overwhelming majority of them were oafish and uncouth, even the ones relatively pleasing to the eye like Ares or the limping Briton, and if that hadn't been enough to put her off them, the risk of incurring her domina's wrath definitely was.

"Ares is my favourite though, if you must know. He's very entertaining to watch. Knows how to work the crowd, reads his opponent well, takes risks. Who is your favourite?" Clio asked impishly, flashing the man a coy smile.

@Atrice

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Alexius was only pleased to sit down with this lovely lady, who was probably a slave, and share a drink with her. And his compliment might be cheap and easy, but it was true. She was good looking and of course he was in a sharing mood with someone like her! He had already told her he had seen her before and she wondered about that of course, so Alexius explained it easily. All while also making sure to refill her wine, seeing that she had halfway emptied her cup already. He did also notice the drop of wine trailing down from her mouth, but he made no fuss over it. Alexius just wanted to talk to someone and she was a good choice! 


She argued that a man could visit a ludus to offer his services and Alexius nodded, "This is true." He simply said for now, trying to not tell her his whole gladiator story right away. He had indeed considered to offer his services before - but that was before his current employment with Oriana and he had a fine job, a home and a steady pay right now. He could hardly complain, especially not when his employer also happened to be his lover. But maybe, if she decided that he ought to leave for one reason or another. Or if she married and he could not stand seeing her with a husband. Of course there was also young Lexus to consider now...


Right, the current conversation! The lady said she did not know if she believed that he'd gone to see the men train and then he had seen her. She was certainly looking sweet, he thought while she was talking and then he smiled when she wondered if he was easily distracted. 


"I am only easily distracted, when the distraction is interesting enough. So it must have been." He said with a grin and a wink over the edge of his cup of wine and had another sip, watching her with her alluring smile and mischievous eyes. Did she even know she had all this? Moments later she said her domina disliked her getting too close to the gladiators, so she would not get ideas. Alexius nodded, "That makes sense... it's not difficult getting ideas while watching so many handsome shapes parading in front of you. Your domina is clever, I guess." Alexius smiled, yes he enjoyed her looks and he loved women - but he was also not afraid to admit he admired muscular, handsome men too. Gladiator types, of course. Feminine men were not really his thing. Feminine women, however. And independent women too. Women in general, really, now he thought about it.


The lady explained which were her favorite gladiators and Alexius nodded, "I've seen Ares, he's certainly very skilled. There are many good ones from the Dacicus." He said, "My favorite is from the Magnus though... if you don't mind me naming a gladiatrix. Thessala is quite a sight, have you seen her? Now that would be something, Ares against Thessala! It's a pity they won't let the males and females fight together in the arena." Alexius was definitely in a talkative mood today! Males and females, yes that would be a sight, he thought and allowed his mind to be distracted by that for a few moments.

@Liv

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A master in the art of flirting, this friendly giant. Yet he was refilling her cup and hadn't made any outrageous comments yet, so Clio was willing to play along a while longer. She took a gulp of fresh wine and chuckled at his poor explanation and devilish wink. "Why, thank you! Let us hope we never cross paths while you're working, lest you become distracted and I take the blame for it." Maybe with a bit of teasing banter the man would tell her what he did for a living, and she could adjust her words accordingly.

"She is indeed." Too clever, in truth. "Sweaty bodies training in the sun, rippling muscles, breezy clothes or none at all... Both sides could get ideas," Clio suggested in a tone that was anything but innocent as she hid an amused grin behind her cup and another swig. If anyone were to ask her, the green-eyed man was the sort to have aaaaall the ideas, and possibly act on them. He seemed to be the easy-to-read type.

He made a good point. Ares facing off against Thessala would have been a match fit for the emperor! Both were graceful yet deadly, and beloved by the crowds for their entertaining antics. Perhaps in a future collaboration with the Ludus Magnus, Clio could make the suggestion to her master - but best to run it by domina first to see if it could be well-received. "I have. She's very feisty, and very skilled too. The Magnus is very lucky to have somebody of her calibre." The aforementioned ludus had certainly played a part in honing the gladiatrix's skills, but Clio would obviously neglect to mention it.

She shook her head in disagreement with the man's opinion. "That would never be a remotely fair fight, men are much stronger." A gladiatrix could train long and hard, but when it came to sheer strength, even a middling gladiator would overpower her. Speed and agility helped little when a single blow could floor her. "It'd be over very soon, and then the public would be displeased." And nobody liked that - not the booed gladiators, not the humiliated client, and certainly not the emperor. Angry poor people were hard to control.

"Do you visit the other ludi as well?" If so, who was this man that apparently had carte-blanche to come and go as he pleased, and why?

@Atrice

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Why would he not flirt with such a fine looking and friendly woman? Alexius enjoyed them all and more than that. He watched her take her drink, before she thanked him for his compliment and then she teased that they should never cross paths while he was working, because he might be distracted, "That, we cannot have. I would not have you blamed for standing out." He said with a grin to her, and they'd then talked about how it would be easy to get ideas while watching gladiators. Alexius too knew all about that, after all. 


His companion agreed that her mistress was clever and then described the look of the gladiators very well and he arched a brow to how she hid her grin behind the cup, "Indeed!" Alexius simply agreed, before he spoke of which gladiators he favored and then he thought it a pity of course, that men did not fight women in the arena. And then he could not help but mention Thessala, whom his companion had indeed seen and Alexius nodded at her words and was sure to remember them until next time he saw Thessala. That was quite the praise the lady here gave her! 


But then she did not think it would be fair to let men and women fight each other, because it would be over too soon, "I think it could be very interesting. Men may have the strength, but women have the stamina and their... feminine skills to use too." He said with a grin, Alexius should definitely never have fought a gladiatrix in the arena, because he'd be too distracted if she dared to send him flirty eyes. And then she would win. Sparring with them was fine though. His drinking companion brought him back to the present though, wondering if he also visited the other ludii.


"I do, all of the different ludii each have their own speciality, after all." Alexius said and then it came, because honestly, how long could he keep it a secret? He had a few drinks already, after all! "I used to live in one of them too, once, many years ago. First as a gladiator and later as lanista."

@Liv

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Her joke seemed to have been well-received from the way the friendly giant was grinning. He certainly didn't admonish her for thinking too highly of herself; what with the flirty compliments he had been spewing, all things pointed to him agreeing with her. Well, now that Clio pondered it, he seemed to be agreeing with her on almost all counts - yet another mark of the professional flirter. 

Clio had to suppress a chuckle at the man's mention of 'feminine skills' the gladiatrices could use. What would they do, bare their breasts in hopes of stunning a male opponent? Moan sultrily and blow kisses? There was no doubt that sort of match would still draw an audience, but then again, a brothel would provide similar entertainment. For a brief second, she wondered what Thessala of the Magnus would say if she could hear the man at that very moment. Possibly run him through with a sword in a very feminine display of skill.

She sat up a little straighter and slowly pushed her cup towards the man in a silent request for a refill as she paid more attention to his words. So he did go to the other ludi... And when his sudden admission came, Clio was glad that she had no cup in her hand nor drink in her mouth, because she would have made a spectacular mess of it all. She had not seen it coming. "You were a gladiator?!" Her voice strained with incredulity and surprise, but somehow Clio managed to keep it low enough that the other patrons would not hear.

Yet it made perfect sense. He definitely had the physique for it, even now. And he must have been successful and well-liked, since the ludi allowed him to come and go. And then he even went on to make it as lanista! Mouth agape, Clio looked at her companion with newfound respect. "Wow... That is very impressive. You must have been very good." He had to have, since he was still in one piece, not missing limbs or eyes, and sported no disfiguring scars.  "What were you called? And when did you retire? Did you gain your freedom?" Clio rattled off breathlessly, looking at the man with big astonished eyes. 

@Atrice

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Maybe he was a professional flirter, but he didn’t think about it like that. It wasn’t like he disagreed with what she said, after all. Alexius wasn’t the type of guy who would lie to get a woman’s attention. If he said something or agreed with her, it was because he meant it. She chuckled when he spoke of feminine skills that gladiatrices had. Well they did have them! Alexius could focus on a fight, even with a woman, but if she started flirting with him during the fight, sending him certain glances, he would not say he would not be distracted. And he knew they knew it too.

His companion pushed her cup towards him, a refill already? Alexius happily gave her more wine and then answered her question concerning the ludii and then kind of mentioned that he used to be a gladiator. He expected her to react, but not in the way she did it! She seemed very surprised and he let out a laugh at her reaction, “I were.” He confessed and downed a little bit more of his own drink.

She was almost stunned by the fact, it seemed, he noticed how she looked at him and nearly dropped her jaw. Gods that was amusing! He got her attention now, it seemed!

When she could finally speak again, she called it all impressive, spoke of how he must be good and then had a few questions of course. Alexius was unable to hide his proud smile.

“I was good… very famous, back in the day. My name was Lexus… if you ever heard of me. Now I’m Alexius.” And a bunch of other names, but they weren’t that personal to him and never would be. Was she even old enough to have known about him or would she remember him? She did appear young, but he never was good at guessing women’s ages. Right, her other questions… “I was freed… let me see…” He paused to try and count the numbers in his head – he could count, after all! “I think it must be 14 years ago. Wow, time flies, doesn’t it?” He said thoughtfully, sipping some more wine.

@Liv

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