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Annis

Performance in Woad

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Early May, 75AD

Today's fight was actually a challenge. Before the fight, Annis decided to forego one of her usual swords for a shield, reminiscent of how she fought in Britannia. Given a little freedom to choose her own style, she had decided to go for a wilder look than usual. She shaved half of her hair off and let the other half remain long, braiding it along the divide between short and long. She had also applied a generous amount of makeup: dark kohl under her eyes and, most noticeably, woad paint. She usually used the blue tint to remain close to her heritage, but the application of it always made a wave of calm wash over her, as though the fight was easily won. 

But this fight wasn't easily won. Her opponent was taller and stronger than her, which clashed with Annis's fighting style. She was used to being the taller of the two opponents, so she didn't have to use much speed or finesse, but rather her strength. But now she was forced to change it up, going in for quicker attacks and being deft with the use of her shield. Even though the battle was difficult, Annis had been trained to be flexible, so she narrowly won, leaving the arena with a few cuts and bruises. These made her feel alive, at least. 

After the battle was won, she was escorted by the armed Roman guards to a room under the arena. Here, she would be seen by patrons that paid to meet her. It was just another part of the performance. 

@Lauren

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These days Titus rarely ventured to the amphitheater. He hadn't the time. He was also in two minds about the performances. Most were so choreographed and scripted that it was more a dance than a real combat. In his experience real fighting was not so elegant. It was sweat, grunting, panic and anger. Short, sharp thrusts over or under shields in the close press of men, treading on guts and fingers, praying and screaming. It was a gory, dirty, tiring affair. There was no polite applause when the combat was won. You did not just walk over, throw back a glass of wine, and have a wash. What gladiators peddled to the people was a lie. A lie the people lapped up but a lie nevertheless.

Here was here today essentially out of peer pressure. He rarely gave in to the entreaties of his fellow Tribunes in the Guard but today he had made an exception. Most of the Tribunes were young equites, happy to have an easy posting in Rome where they could enjoy the delights of the capital, take a fat salary and debauch themselves as much as they liked. It was, indeed, a privileged position. He felt his attitude was far more professional than theirs but, nevertheless, they were his brother officers. That morning, in the mess, he had shared with them the news that he was planning on getting married. Never needing much prompting for a celebration, his brother officers had decided that it was imperative that they all get drunk and take the city by storm in honour of the news. As it was on his behalf, he could hardly say no.

Unlike most of them, he had been moderate in his drinking. He therefore felt absolutely clear headed whilst most of his companions were in various stages towards the end of the spectrum of drunkenness. One of them had suggested coming here. The daily roster of pairings suggested that it was female fighters - always something guaranteed to draw a male crowd. Women, in sparse clothing, getting all sweaty and fighting. What a great way to spend an afternoon. Titus would have begged to differ but, again, he felt compelled to go along with it and play the role of the happy bachelor-but-not-for-long and had sat with good grace whilst his colleagues made bawdy jokes from the stands about how his days of chasing women would be over. None, of course, knew Marcella or, for that matter, knew much about him if they thought that.

They had suggested seeing the winners afterwards. They wanted to gawp at them. Titus would have rather gone home but his suggestion that he would only generated howls of protest so, with reluctance, he joined them in the stadium's entertainment suite where the fighters would be paraded like animals for their enjoyment. As the women were led in, his drunken colleagues gave cat-calls and cheers. Titus rolled his eyes and did not join in.

@Echo

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Posted (edited)

Even though she had been a gladiatrix for several years now, Annis never really got used to this part of the job. Roman men were pigs, with little exception. She had a new friend in Alexius, but he didn't count. Even though he was a freedman, he was originally German. She had yet to meet a Roman man that didn't just want her body or to gawk at her. Alongside the other winners, she was led into the entertainment suite. She tried to keep a neutral face but the faintest hint of a sneer showed through the mask. That, combined with the smeared blue paint, blood, and the new haircut, she made a very unpleasant sight indeed. She looked over the various men here.  Some lower-level senatorial characters, she could tell from their clothes, as well as lower-class men. Typical. But she and the other winners were compelled to wander among these men and entertain them. 

Annis wandered toward a group of particularly drunk men, who could be more manageable because of their status of drunkenness or less. She hoped for the latter. This was completely humiliating. What she wouldn't give to have her sword in her hand right now, to show every man here why she had truly been chosen to be a gladiatrix. 

@Lauren

Edited by Echo
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As the blonde gladiatrix who had fought earlier approached, his friends began to nudge each other knowingly. "G-go on, Titus, old boy," one of his fellow Tribunes slurred with a wink "t-two hundred sestercii says that bitch will suck me if I say I'm in the Guard." Titus rolled his eyes, catching the attention of one of the servitors, he helped himself to a chipped pottery beaker full of unspeakably tepid, grainy wine.

"By all means, Numerius, try your luck," he said, nonchalantly. The woman had fought well or, rather, well for someone who was having to stage fights for entertainment. She was too pale and fair to be anything other than a prisoner of war slave. Presumably a Briton or maybe a German. Someone from those unspeakably awful tribes who worshipped horses and lived in holes in the ground. He couldn't deny that she had an allure, though. That pale hair was something so alien to Rome. She had a fiery look in her eye too. The sort of look that showed her spirit wasn't broken yet. Bizarre, really, for a gladiator and a slave, because that was normally something knocked out of them - especially the women - very early on.

His fellow Tribune was drunkenly bragging on and on to the others about various other famous female arena fighters he claimed he had taken. Titus sincerely doubted that he had even spoken to them, let alone had them.

"Here," he said, waving his arm in the air at the blonde woman to get her attention, "yes, you. My friend here would like to compliment you on your performance."

@Echo

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Annis had learned a lot of Latin in her time in Rome. She had to, in order to communicate with the other gladiatrices and patrons. So, when she heard the lewd comment, it took all her self control not to take him by the hair and slam his head into the table. But that would be suicide. A more subtle approach was necessary: namely, not reacting at all and simply getting through the evening. Annis noticed one of the guards waving to get her attention and she slowly stepped up to him, listening to him speak. 

Smirking, she crossed her arms and looked at the man who had made the lewd comment, and who was now spouting off about all the gladiatrices had had. Doubtful. Most of the people who paid to have her were wealthier; she didn't come cheap, particularly after a victory. "I'm sure he does." THe faintest hint of sarcasm filtered through. "And a man who has had so many of my sisters-in-arms would be the expert, no?"

@Lauren

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Titus laughed as did not of his companions at her crisp response. The man in question had the decency to look shamefaced and bumbled his way out of eye-sight, muttering about the lies of slaves and barbarians. The gladiatrix stood before them with a confrontational look that Titus had to wonder if it ever left her face. She was not on the sand anymore but still seemed on her guard. Staring at them with an ill-repressed defiance. He wondered how many beatings and humiliations she had suffered but still carried around that feeling of indignation?

"You did well, though," he said, matter of fact. "I am guessing that you have some training of all of this prior to...coming to your current station?"

Some of the wilder tribes in the north actually allowed their womenfolk to fight. The idea of Roman women doing likewise was ludicrous and frankly risible. They had instead embraced the gentler pursuits now typical of their gender. The barbarians cultures of the north, however, were either more progressive or benighted - depending on how you looked at it - by allowing this sort of conduct to take place.

Trained warrior or not, in hadn't done too well for her because she was here now and not in whatever hill fort or mud hut she had called home once upon a time.

@Echo

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Annis smirked as the man shuffled away. "What, was it something I said?" She turned to the other man who complimented her in a matter-of-fact tone, dipping her head in response. "Thank you." He then commented that she had perhaps had some training prior to being in the arena. "I have. I am from Britannia. I was a warrior in my tribe there." She sized him up briefly. He was in good shape and evidently not the poorest, judging from his attire. "You must know what to look for. Are you a soldier?" 

@Lauren

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Ahh, a Briton. That made sense. The colouring. The cheek. Titus has served for several years as a military tribune in two legions stationed in Britannia, involved in that interminable war against those wild savages. Whilst he had enjoyed the camaraderie of the legions and made several helpful contacts in them, he had nothing but a long standing residual dislike of that God-forsaken island. So damp and cold. The abundant riches that he had been told lay in wait were nowhere to be found. For Jupiter's sake, he had been told the island was drowning with pearls! Well, that turned out to be utter rubbish. The new settlements that Rome had built were tin-pot shanty-towns, little better than glorified barracks, with no culture or diversions worthy of the name. The towns of the Britons - if you could call them that - were just simply dog holes.

His war there had been an...experience. Few set piece battles. Rather, it had more been the constant stress of leading patrols or convoys through uncharted territory, always on the lookout for ambushes, hit and run raids and the like. If men had strayed too far from the column or from camp they were regularly found, days later, dismembered and staked out in grizzly poses. Some, perhaps, the victims of human sacrifice. He still sometimes woke with jolts from dreams of blue painted men and women, their hair spiked with animal fat, screaming out of forests and ditches.

He looked at her again in this context. He wondered if he had come across her before? Tried to imagine her as one of those wild Furies. He almost shivered. Well, now she was here. A slave. That was Rome in action. The wild enemy tamed and brought to the capital for public enjoyment.

"Ah, a Briton, yes. I have some experience of that place. A soldier, yes. A Praetorian so you might say a cut above the usual class of legionary grunt. What was your tribe then, young lady? Presumably not a very lucky one if you are here, rather than there."

@Echo

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Caecina observed him as he spoke. He had a certain tone that she didn't love when he spoke of "that place." There was nothing she wanted more than to return to her home, see her brother and mother again, visit the grave where they had buried her father's body. But her conversation with Alexius had struck her with some doubt; would her tribe even accept her again? 

She realized she hadn't responded. "The Caledonians. Northern Britannia." The region was not completely occupied yet, and she had left the tribe at a young age to avenge her father and wreak havoc on the Roman troops. "My tribe is still intact. I struck out on my own when I was young and I was captured, injured, after a battle." Otherwise, I would still be there, killing every Roman I saw. He had said that he was a Praetorian. She didn't know everything, but she had heard that his type were responsible for the imperial family, and he had said himself that they were a cut above the rest. A bit proud of himself, wasn't he? "And what brings you here today?"

@Lauren

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A Caledonian. One of the ones who hadn't been broken yet. Fierce bastards. From the frozen far north of that dreary island. If he was correct the army in Britannia was still campaigning against them in a desultory fashion. Not getting anywhere very fast. The savages had a habit of disappearing almost into the earth. Swallowed up in forests or swamps. Appearing out of the night. Gods, how could people live like that? Did they not see the advantages of living in the Roman fashion? You know, not living in filth? Not having to paint yourself? Worship trees? It was the same thought that had dogged him whether he had been facing the tribes across the Danube or in the rolling fields and forests of Britannia - what made them so tenaciously stubborn in the face of what was clearly a much superior system? Why cling to something which is so clearly worse?

Well, this one had got her come uppance, anyway. If she didn't die on the arena sand she might earn her freedom. Most likely she would marry some plump citizen and bore her children with tales of the wilds of Caledonia where they'd never go. So much of the seething mass of the urban plebs was made up in this manner. Bloodlines from tribes and races all across the Empire and beyond. Very few actual Roman Romans these days. In the plebs, anyway.

"Ah, perhaps you wish now that you hadn't gone solo, eh? But you seem to have taken to this well? Hmmm? Lets out those natural urges of your people?"

"Like most Romans I am a fan of the Games. Today, though, I have been dragged here by these delinquents in honor of my recently announced marriage."

@Echo

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Annis bristled slightly. She had very rarely been alone, only at the beginning of her journey, really. And their group had been moderately successful, ousting Romans from tiny villages and the like. But they had bitten off more than they could chew with the last Roman outpost. The legions were well-organized, she had to give them that. And that particular group had done a good job of reacting to their surprise attack. Annis briefly wondered who else in her group had escaped or had been captured. She hoped they were still there, holding the Caledonian line. 

"I was not alone." But now she was. She gazed flatly at the man as he suggested it was a natural urge of her people to kill. "And what would you call the urges that the Romans have, hm? Your type seems to revel in battle as much as anyone." It was true; many legionnaires she had come across delighted in murder, especially those who took over towns and took every advantage of the Britons there. The man continued to explain that this was a bachelor's party and she laughed. "What a lucky woman."

@Lauren

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Such fire in this one! They were the ones it was most fun to see broken. They took longer, but you got an almost orgasmic pleasure out of seeing their resolve finally break and that proud, iron will become tempered with adversity and finally buckle into abject submission. He would have to speak to her lanista. He was developing a special interest in this one. It would be a shame to see her die on the arena sand. So far from her home. Unbroken until the end. She might make a nice gift for his new household. He enjoyed the image in his head of watching her fight one hour, then be dragged back to the domus the next to scrub the floors, still in her fighting garb but with a nice thick collar around her neck. Marcella had said she wouldn't mind innocent dalliances...

He shook his head to dispel the thought.

"And you name, warrior princess?" he said with a smile. These barbarian fighting women had such exotic names. It was as if they had been born to be gladiators from the very start.

It was unsurprising she should have some animosity towards Roman arms. After all, it was the military machine of the Empire which had cut short her life's liberty. For all her sass, she had a point. The barbarians might revel in war in a more animal way but so did the Romans. It was just the way they went about it that was different. The Romans made a career out of it. Hedged it about with rules, regulations, uniforms and suchlike. War, for them, was an art. It was cold and calculated. It was to be studied and applied appropriately. There was a joy in the heart of battle but they also got a joy from a well thought through campaign. He did not think he reveled in fighting. He had felt the twin mixture of fear and fascination in the heat of battle when he was drunk on blood and terror. Yet he had never been so drunk that, like an old soak, he would do anything for his next fix. That, he thought, is what sets us apart from you.

"It is the way we go about it that is different. Your style is more...organic. Ours is more...mechanical. It is progress. The future."

@Echo

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The man seemed lost in his thought, and Annis didn't like the look in his eyes. It was like he was scheming, but about what she couldn't guess; all she knew is that the look in his eye was the look of a man thinking something bad, and that it gave her a sick sort of feeling. But then the moment was broken and he asked her name. What was the right course of action here, she wondered? It wouldn't matter if she didn't give him her real name, it wasn't a difficult thing to find out, particularly for a man of coin and influence. "Annis," she said. It wasn't a terribly foreign name, after all. "And what's your name, praetorian?" 

The conversation continued toward the subject of fighting, and the differences in how the Britons and the Romans went about it. She understood what he was saying; after all, she had witnessed for herself the neat, orderly lines of the legions, and how they worked together like one large animal. But the way he spoke about it gave her a funny taste in her mouth. Progress? If progress had to be made by wading through rivers of blood, she wasn't interested in progressing. "Different styles. I see." She studied his face for a moment. Something was off about him. "Personally, I'll stick to the style I have now. It seems to be working in my favor." At least, in the arena. 

@Lauren

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Gods, this wench was a gutsy one. She was - whether she liked it or not - a slave. To ask - no, demand - his name in such an abrupt fashion could - if he was a man more willing to give free rein to his emotions - give him grounds to give her a slap. Well, he wasn't going to cause a scene. "Titus" he said "Titus Cornasidius Sabinus." What good it would do her he didn't know. Still, some people liked to know the name of their adversary.

"Yes, well, it seems to have done you well thus far. Gladiators are, however, only as good as their last match. How many bouts would you say you have fought now, Annis? What ludus are you attached to?"

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The name meant nothing to her, other than a piece of information about this man. She doubted it would matter much - she didn't have any power anyway - but she liked to know the name of someone she was talking to. "A pleasure to meet you," she said. Titus continued to talk, saying that a gladiator was only as good as their last match. That much was true, but sometimes a crowd could be inspired by a story of a gladiatrix getting hurt and then miraculously healing and regaining glory. It all depended on the crowd and the acting ability of the gladiatrix. "I've been with the Ludus Magnus for five years now. I've been fighting just as long - I don't even know how many I've fought in. But it's enjoyable work, I'll admit."

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