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Annis

The New Normal

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Summer, 70CE

So, this was to be her new home. Annis gazed at her surroundings as the wagon rolled through the gates. She knew minimal Latin, but she knew enough to know that she had been bought by someone. But what she saw cleared things up for her quite well: men and women, swords and tridents and daggers in hand, practicing with dummies or other people. This was evidently one of those training places that the Romans set up for their gladiators. Annis had been chosen to join them. Strangely, she felt a jolt of pride go through her. She had been recognized for her prowess and the Romans thought she was worthy to fight for a living. Well, if they wanted a show, they would get one. 

Annis was quickly bundled into a cell, where she was washed, dried, and dressed in new but rough clothes: leggings and a blue tunic. Then, she was led back to the training yard she had seen on her way in and given a wooden sword. She glanced at it blankly. She understood that the Romans wouldn't want to give her a real weapon, but really, what was she supposed to do with a child's toy? She scoffed and turned toward her opponent. She was ready. 

@Chevi

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Saba had been at the Ludus for a whole of two days, but she was already thinking of it as her new home. At first, she was sad that her new dominus loaned her out of the household, but once she learned for what purpose, she could not help but thank her gods for showing her the way. Here, she got to wield weapons. Wooden ones, for now, sure, but she'd get the real thing in the arena. Here, she could be wild, and fierce, and loud. And she got to hit and stab things.

Saba walked around the training yard, watching the others. Such an assortment of weapons and styles! She'd already been told gladiatrices did not have the same set forms as the male gladiators did. She'd have to figure out her own style. Today, they had some new arrivals too; the doctore ordered Saba to pair up with one of them, handing wooden swords to both. Saba weighed the wooden sword with one hand, then the other; it felt comfortable either way. She looked over at her opponent, a blonde woman who seemed a little apprehensive.

"So. We fight? Have you fought before?"

@Echo

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The woman before Annis was dark-haired and had a wild look to her. But Annis was far from cowed. In fact, she was encouraged that, at first glance, her opponent seemed more than capable. She heard the broken Latin and tried to piece together what she could understand. She knew the word "fight" for sure. She thought she recognized the word "before," too. "Many time," she said, swinging the wooden sword lazily. "You?"

@Chevi

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They must have been the same age. Give or take a few months. The blonde looked like she had just been dragged from the far edges of the empire, but then again, so was Saba. They both had accents. They were both slaves given to the Ludus to fight. The blonde held the wooden sword with ease, and her chin up. Was she one of those barbarian women who fought?

"Many time. You?"

"Not many times. But I like trying." Saba grinned, deciding to hold the sword in her left.  She aimed a strike at her opponent, testing the waters "What's your name?"

@Echo

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Annis gazed at her as she grinned in response, her own face remaining cool and neutral. She had learned long ago that to let any emotion into a fight was to give your opponent the upper hand. The other woman aimed a blow at her, though it seemed her full effort was not behind it. Annis side-stepped the blow and aimed her own at the woman's arm. Then the woman spoke and she understood the word "name." "Annis. You?" 

@Chevi

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The blonde sidestepped her strike, and countered, tapping her on the arm. Saba stepped back, raising her sword, considering her options. She was up against someone who had fought many times. This was training, not an actual fight. She was here to learn, but even so, she did not want to come off as some awkward beginner, facing a hardener warrior.

"Annis. You?" 

"Saba." It was her name, but once she was a gladiatrix, she would have to pick another one for the arena. "You are some kind of warrior, yes?"

Saba lunged again, this time trying to distract her opponent with a false swing before she changed directions. She was not exact or fast enough, but at least she was enthusiastic...

@Echo

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Annis dipped her head to show she had heard the other woman's name. She had heard from some other slaves on the way that sometimes gladiatrices chose names for the arena and she had been considering whether she would do the same. She had thought of the goddess of war in her religion, Andrasta, but felt that covering up her own name was somehow a betrayal to her background. 

Saba asked if she was some kind of warrior and she laughed. "Yes. I fought Romans. But now I am here." Fighting you was the unspoken rest of that sentence. Saba swung at her, then changed directions at the last minute. Annis had been distracted by talking, so the blow landed, though it wasn't really painful. Annis reminded herself not to get distracted again. She focused her gaze on the other woman and then suddenly swung her sword in a fast, wide arc toward the woman's shoulder, putting a lot of weight behind the blow. 

@Chevi

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Her attack landed, and Saba felt pleased with herself. The blonde might have been some warrior woman, but so far she did not seem invincible.

"Yes. I fought Romans. But now I am here." 

So, she lost. She fought Romans, and lost. Why else would she be here as a slave? Saba smirked as she looked her over. "Looks like the Romans won, no?"

The next swing definitely had more force in it. Saba brought her sword up to block,  but her sword was knocked aside, and Annis' hit landed on her shoulder, sending her stumbling back. "Ow!" She regained her footing, lunging into another attack. This time she was determined to land a hit.

@Echo

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Annis gazed dryly at Saba as she said that the Romans won. Obviously. Truthfully, after her group's failed attack on the Roman outpost, Annis had been wounded and during her retreat, several Romans had found her and captured her when she was weakened. It was a sore spot but she didn't respond. She simply clenched her fist tighter on the sword as Saba went in for another attack, parrying the blow. 

@Chevi

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Now that her opponent was properly awake and probably pissed, Saba threw herself into the duel. As both of them got more comfortable with the situation, the backdrop of the Ludus seemed to fade, with the life facts of slavery with it, and all that remained was the rising challenge to defeat the other woman in front of her. Annis was a formidable opponent; jokes aside, she had years of experience on Saba in terms of handling weapons. In short order they were both sweating, scratched and bruised, covered in sand, with heir hair loose. Saba eventually stepped back after getting hit on the arm again, catching her breath and holding up her hands.

"Alright, stop? Take a break?"

@Echo

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Annis never felt more alive than when she was fighting, and the high continued long after the fighting was over. It was almost like she entered into a trance, where she barely remembered the details afterwards and only focused on defending and attacking. It was a similar feeling to when she put on woad paint - it gave her a sense of confidence. But the fighting was ending, signaled by her opponent holding up her hands. Annis dipped her head. "Yes." She put down the sword reluctantly and took a step toward the water bucket. "You are a good fighter, even if you are new. Where are you from?"

@Chevi

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Annis agreed to take a break, which was just as good, because Saba had a stitch in her side and she was ready to stop. Fighting took still, but it also took endurance, the kind she did not have as a house slave. They walked over to the water buckets together.

"You are a good fighter, even if you are new. Where are you from?"

"Thrace" Saba knelt down, splashing some water on her face, then changing her mind as she just dunked her head into the water. She came up sputtering and shaking water from her long dark hair. "I was house slave before this. You?... Let me guess, Britannia?"

@Echo

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Annis wasn't really familiar yet with all the geography of the empire; after all, she had really only been to Britannia and Rome. But she nodded as though she understood where that was. Saba continued to speak, explaining that she was a house slave before this, and then guessed that Annis was from Britannia. "Yes, Britannia. How did a house slave come here?" She laughed as Saba dunked her head in the water. This was a curious woman indeed. 

@Chevi

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"Yes, Britannia. How did a house slave come here?"

It was a fair question. Out of the two of them, Annis had the easier reason to be here: she fought the Romans, she lost, she was taken as a slave, and brought to the Ludus to fight for entertainment. As a woman, it was unlikely she'd be killed soon in the arena, unless she got reckless, or some special event came up. Still, she was here and it made sense. Thessala, on the other hand...

"People broke into the house. I fought them off. Master decided I am better at hitting things than cooking, and he knows I would bite him if he tried to fuck me, so. He sent me here."

@Echo

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Annis raised her eyebrows, impressed. "Good job. He was right - you are a good fighter." She stepped away from the water bucket to let the next person drink, and stood to the side, stretching her arms. "I was captured after a battle. Was injured, else I wouldn't have been." It was still a little fresh, but her wounds had healed since she started her journey. A pang went through her as she thought of her brother and mother - they might never know what happened to her, unless someone from her group managed to find her tribe and tell them. 

@Chevi

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"Good job. He was right - you are a good fighter."

Saba grinned. It was flattering to hear the warrior girl say that she was a good fighter. Even if she had been defeated by the Romans, she was probably raised to fight, while Saba had been raised to work in a household and shut her mouth. And yet, here they both were, and Saba was not a pile of broken bones and bruises yet. Some war goddess must have loved her very much. 

"I was captured after a battle. Was injured, else I wouldn't have been."

Saba smirked. The girl still had her pride. "Must have been some battle." She nodded at the wooden instruments "Is that how you fight? With sword?"

@Echo

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Annis shrugged slightly at her comment. "The Romans are strong. But so am I." She had had a lot of time to think on the journey here. She had been thinking about what her life was to be once she arrived in the city, and how she was going to survive. She had decided that no matter what, she would do whatever it took to keep her pride and return home. 

Saba then asked whether that was how she fought, with a sword. Annis glanced down at the wooden sword, smirking a little. "Not normally wooden. I usually have a shield, too."

@Chevi

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"The Romans are strong. But so am I." 

Saba liked this girl. She was from the other side of the empire and beyond, and was a strange barbarian warrior woman, but she was interesting, and sort of exciting. She hoped they would get to train together.

"Not normally wooden. I usually have a shield, too."

Saba scrunched up her face, thinking.

"I don't think I like the idea of shield. Two swords, maybe? Aren't two swords better than shield?"

@Echo

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Annis tilted her head in thought as Saba suggested two swords instead of a sword and a shield. "Maybe. I will have to practice with two swords to see." She didn't hate the idea, though; maybe it would help her identify what kind of character she wanted to play in the arena. Perhaps she would lean into the idea of a barbarian woman and use elements of her tribe's traditions. "Are you going to use a sword?"

@Chevi Sorry! I forgot to reply! 

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To Saba, shields seemed clumsy and awkward. Then again, she had never been a trained warrior. Thinking about it now, she was fairly sure she would rather have two things to parry and cut her opponent with, rather than using one hand to hide behind.

"Maybe. I will have to practice with two swords to see. Are you going to use a sword?"

"Most likely. But I have not tried everything yet" Saba grinned. "I don't have a... warrior tradition. I could beat people with kitchen pans, I guess."

@Echo

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Annis saw the look of doubt when she said she used to use a shield too. "It's good to have backup - blocking with a sword is harder." Though of course, a shield grew heavy and in the long hours of a battle, her shoulder often started to ache with its weight. Saba said she might use kitchen pans to fight with and Annis laughed, her first genuine laugh in a while, it seemed. "You have experience with those, at least," she said. 

@Chevi

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"It's good to have backup - blocking with a sword is harder."

Saba filed that thought away. Annis had more experience with swords and shields and whatnot. She was still not sure she'd want to be bogged down by a shield, but she could not really decide until she tried. Or she could just stick to kitchen utensils.

"You have experience with those, at least,"

"I definitely fight with them better than I cook." They both laughed, and Saba decided she liked this woman. She was pretty, too, but also a formidable opponent. Maybe they could be friends. Maybe more. Who knew?...

@Echo

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Annis chuckled at her comment. "Good to know." This woman had an interesting air about her, and Annis looked forward to seeing how her career would unfold. She had also given the Briton some things to consider about her own fighting style. Having friends and allies here could become useful in her survival, so she decided to keep a friendly relationship with the other woman. 

Annis looked up as she was called by the lanista. "I am called. Nice to meet you, Saba." 

@Chevi That can be a wrap 🙂 Thanks for the thread!

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