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Poker Face


Atrice
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Early April, 75 AD

The market, always bustling with life. It wasn’t so much fun to come here alone though, Cynane thought to herself. She missed spending time with Charis. She missed buying a package of honey cakes with her friend and going to the nearest garden to sit down and eat them and just talk. She hadn’t seen her friend since she announced she was pregnant. It seemed Cynane was in bad luck every time she went to the domus to check for Charis, because she didn’t come out and Cynane knew better than to approach Teutus now, if she saw him. She still didn’t know what to make of him, but he was also in a strange position in the household.

So… off she went to the market. Maybe she’d buy some leather, her armor was getting a bit worn and especially the sheath could use something nicer. Not that she wore weapons today, she had a few hours to spend on her home and no one were stupid enough to let a slave out in Rome with weapons. Especially not a woman who was both warrior, gladiatrix and bodyguard. Not that she could not be deadly without a weapon, but if it fooled them, fine.

“It’s her…” She heard someone say in a low voice nearby and froze, listening in to the conversation, “I heard someone talk about her in the Poppina one night. She’s the princess’ bodyguard and she threw a sword to save her life. She’s apparently very fierce.” The person said and Cynane turned towards the little group talking about her, arching a brow. Without fear she approached them, which seemed to surprise them and she stopped right in front of them.

“I am. But you should know better than to listen to gossip.” She said to the group, they appeared to be some of the wealthier plebs in Rome. They just stared at her.

“That’s up for us to decide.” A woman said and then they all turned to walk away.

“Well fuck you too.” Cynane said, but in her own Briton language, glaring after them, wishing she knew a real curse of sorts. Cynane shook her head, they were all younger than her, but just because they were free, they thought they had the right to talk behind someone’s back. She wondered if she should follow them and scare them, or something. It was interesting though, that word got out about that incident. And that Cynane was now known for that. She wondered who spoke about her at the Poppina?

@Ejder

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Florus both liked and disliked the market. He enjoyed the semblance of freedom he enjoyed when he was able to get out of the villa. It was almost real, almost as if he was running his own errands rather than those of his master. He loved the gardens, but they were still a golden cage, of sorts. On the other hand, the introverted gardener disliked the crowded market, There were so many people, so much noise, and so many smells, many of them emanating from the many loud people. It was too much stimuli, and it was hard to deal with all at once. Often it felt like an assault on his mind. Coming to the market, though always an interesting experience, was never a relaxing one.

Lemons. He had to buy lemons. His beloved lemon trees would have to be cut down and destroyed. Though it crushed him to get rid of the trees, he knew it was the only way to get rid of the citrus canker than affected them. His latest idea had been to hold his cutting instruments above a flame when he changed trees, to limit the spread of whatever it was that caused the lesions and scabs on the leaves, twigs and fruit of his trees, but that hadn't been enough, and felt like too little, too late. He wasn't sure what had brought this infection about, but nothing he had done seemed able to stop its progression. The only thing left to do, then, was to start from scratch. He needed new seeds. It would be longer, sure, but he'd only cut down the diseased trees when the saplings had reached an interesting height. And, of course, he wouldn't grow the new ones near the infected ones.

Florus was reminding himself to breathe and stay calm among the throngs of people when he heard, very distinctly, some words in Briton that were unmistakeable.

'And their mother,' he added for good measure, looking at the woman who'd just uttered them. Of course, he had no idea about the context, but it wasn't everyday he got to speak his native language.

 

@Atrice

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It was incredible, really… Cynane had been here more than ten years now, but she was still a Briton and Brigantes to the bone and that would never change. She was still angry that she had been enslaved and still angry that her captor had not chosen to kill her rather than let her live. Oh she knew he thought she had a choice. But then he spoke of how a slave could gain freedom and that kept her hopes up. Now more than ten years later however, where was that promised freedom? She hadn’t seen the shadow of it. And she still loathed most other Romans for their views on slaves. Claudia was something else of course. She liked Claudia. Most Romans did not have the honor of being liked by Cynane.

And certainly not these, listening to gossip at the Poppina, even if the gossip was true. And now they treated her like dirt, like they knew what was best for them and she had no rights to say anything else. Fucking Romans.

As she cursed in her own language, she heard a voice nearby adding to her words and that surprised her. She turned to see a younger man stand nearby, looking at her. He appeared to be a slave, she thought… and Briton? Then he was most welcome.

“Indeed.” Cynane said with a little smile to the man, happy to meet someone who disliked them as she did, and he must… “Are you Briton?” She asked, just to be sure. There were Romans who knew her language and then there were those odd in betweens, like Aia. She wondered what he was.

@Ejder

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Florus detailed the woman who'd just spoken his language. She looked to act in some sort of warrior capacity. She couldn't possibly be a soldier, could she? Maybe she was someone's body guard. He hadn't seen women in that role before, but he saw no reason why she wouldn't be up to the part. She looked tough. And more importantly, she looked more like a Briton than a Roman, and familiar traits in a strange, foreign land were more than welcome.

'I am,' he replied. 'Silure.' By her accent he could tell she was not one of his tribe, but he couldn't place where she came from. Prior to his capture and transportation to Rome, he had never traveled outside of his native village. 'Yourself?'

 

@Atrice

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He was a handsome young man, Cynane judged so far. Dressed well too, so probably a slave belonging to some kind of a Senator. There were plenty of such slaves, but few who would comment on her words and in such a way. She didn't quite know yet why he added to her words, but she was always pleased to meet a fellow Briton here in Rome. There were many too, what with Rome's invasion and takeover up there. Fucking Romans. He confirmed he was of Britannia and said he was a Silure. She could tell his accent wasn't Brigantes, but it had been a while and here in Rome, when Britons met other Britons, they tended to make sure to speak as fluently as possible, so that others could understand them. Charis was also no Brigantes, but they spoke just fine with each other now.

"Brigantes... a while ago, now, but never forgotten." She said almost firmly and approached him further, making Briton friends was never a bad thing here, "Are you here on your own? Maybe you'd like company. I'm Cinnia by the way... but the Romans named me Cynane." He probably also had another name recently, he had an accent, so he could not have been captured and arrived here as a child. 

@Ejder

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Florus didn't know why he had added to the woman's curse in the first place, especially since he had no idea who she was cursing at to begin with, and why. It just felt good to hear some Briton, and to speak it for once.

He didn't know where the Brigantes originated from, but it was a tribe he had heard about. Mostly by the Romans, who often coupled their words with the charming fucking Brigantes. Hopefully they had made a lot of trouble for the Roman army. Decimated legions. Probably not, though, if one of their warriors had been a slave here for many years. Nowhere in Britannia did it feel like things were looking good for his people.

'I'm out on an errand for my household,' he said. 'Samorix. But they call me Florus.' It felt good to tell someone his real name. In his household, he hadn't told it to anyone. No one called each other by their real names, they just tended to accept the ones the Romans had bestowed upon them. 'How long have you been here, Cinnia?' He figured it would feel good for her to hear her real name said out loud by another person. The gods knew he wanted to be called by his name himself.

 

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It always and still felt good to speak her own language, but there were rarely anyone around to speak it with. So meeting this young man here was a welcome opportunity and she had not forgotten everything… in fact she had not forgotten anything, as she also told him. He explained he was here on an errand, of course, and then introduced both his actual name and the name the Romans had given him.

“Florus…” That meant flower, so either he worked in the garden or his owner thought him very pretty. Or maybe it was both? He was easy on the eyes, Cynane thought to herself, “Good to meet you. I think I’ll prefer Samorix.” It sounded so much better and more natural in a way. They began walking together and he asked her how long she’d been here.

“Over ten years now… 12 years, I think. What about you?” It was nice of him to call her by her own name, just like Charis did when they were together. Gods she missed her friend, but Florus here didn’t seem too bad either. She wondered if he meant it, when he added words to her curse… if he disliked the Romans too, but she was careful. It went wrong when Charis voiced her opinion to a stranger, after all.

@Ejder

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'Gratitude,' Florus replied, showing Cinnia a rare smile. He did prefer to hear his own name rather than that the Roman had given him. Samorix. It was his name. It was something that belonged to him. Maybe the Romans thought they had stolen everything from him, replacing his identity with a fake, more convenient one. But he knew who he was, and he would never forget it. They couldn't take that away from him.

Florus couldn't help but gawk at her when Cinnia said she'd been in Rome for a dozen years. He couldn't tell how old she was, but it was an incredible amount of time. Twelve years ago, he was a seven year old lad, running in the fields in his homeland, and chasing his sister around, dangling worms in front of her. He had been that lad until three years ago, but it seemed like a lifetime away.

'I was taken three years ago, but I arrived in Rome six months later.' He didn't know why he was using such defiant language. He regretted it instantly: he didn't know her, how did he know she was trustworthy? Perhaps it was the fact he was speaking in his mother tongue. He wasn't used to it anymore. The words felt lush and melodic in his mouth, they had a richness around his tongue he hadn't noticed before, and it was so completely different from the harsh sounds of the pig language he was made to speak every day.

 

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Samorix was a good name and far more powerful than the name the Romans had given the guy. She wondered if he was related to anyone powerful among the Silures, with such a good name. He seemed happy that she would use his real name with him, thanking her and even smiling. He had a very handsome smile, she thought to herself. It was rare she met Briton men in Rome and even rarer that they were this easy to talk to and at the same time good looking. But he was younger than her. And they were both slaves.

She explained for how long she’d been in Rome and he seemed surprised to hear it. Yes, it was a long time and she kept going, because who knew, maybe one day Claudia would have mercy on her and free her. She could hope, at least. That’s all she had. Meanwhile Samorix explained that he had only been enslaved three years ago.

“Were you a warrior before too? I was taken after a battle… my captor made me think I could win freedom. Yet here I am, still.” She probably sounded as bitter as she was. Here among the Romans and most of them she didn’t like very much. Least of all fucking Longinus who took her as one of his spoils back then. He deserved a kick or ten between the legs. And then some.

@Ejder

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Florus shrugged. 'Weren't we all warriors against the Romans?' It wasn't as though there had been much of a choice. You either took arms against the Romans, or you let them take your lands, and in all likelihood, your life. And that hadn't been an option. He had been young, strong, able-bodied, a man... He had to fight.

'We were farmers, though, before.' Farming and fighting had very little in common. The noise, the people, the violence and the bloodshed were as far removed as it was possible to be from the lush green fields he had grown up in. War destroyed fields. Romans trampled on the harvest, and set fire to farms. They were barbarians. 'I take it you were a warrior, then?'

Her words about still being a captive when promised the possibility to purchase her freedom made something drop in the pit of his stomach. Something leaden. He wasn't an optimist when it came to the Romans; he didn't trust them. He had always known he wasn't ever going to be able to be free again. But this sinking feeling he felt made him realise that somehow, he had still had some hope.

 

@Atrice

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Samorix seemed to think their entire people were warriors against the Romans, “Some more than others.” Cynane commented, she knew her cousin, who eventually became her people’s queen, eventually came to the Romans too. Or they took her. Either way, she now had a Roman name and a Roman husband and in Cynane’s eyes, that was not the way to fight. It was a way to survive of course, but if you didn’t plan on using it against them at some point… you’d lost.

Her companion explained he’d been a farmer before and wondered if she was a warrior, “I were. I always have been, even here. And I still am, in a way, just not free to fight as I’d prefer.” One day, she’d love to take the life of a free Roman. And not just one who threatened her princess. No, someone who really deserved it. Someone like Longinus.

“I haven’t been in Britannia since I was taken. Is it very Roman now or do people still fight? A friend of mine told me it has changed a lot.” Still she’d like to go back sometime and maybe so far North, that the Romans didn’t dare go there. What would they want up there anyway, other than claim some land was theirs? 

@Ejder

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'I wasn't much of a warrior,' Florus confessed. He'd been captured at his first battle after the death of his brother. He could count on his hands the number of times he'd actually taken part in combat. Sure, he'd started out early, at twelve, but Balorix determined earlier on that his younger brother was far more useful on the farm than with a weapon in his hands. 'I'm a gardener now, which is the best that could happen to me, in the circumstances, I think.' Florus didn't usually talk to people, but she was a Briton, and he didn't have much occasion to speak his language, hence his unusual verbosity.

'Not where I lived. We had battles often. I don't know how it is now, if they won my tribe's land, or if we're still standing strong. I don't know if there would be much I would recognize if I went back now.' The thought made him sad. Rome was not his home, and never would be, but what if there was no home to come back to in Britannia, either?

 

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Cynane listened to Samorix explaining how he wasn’t much of a warrior before and she gave him a look, thinking he definitely had the physique for it. With a bit of proper training, he could be good. But then they’d turn him into a gladiator and he would be forced to kill other slaves, maybe even his own kinsmen and that would be bad. His current work as a gardener was better in the long run, so she nodded at his words.

“I agree. It could easily be a lot worse.” Cynane explained, “They made me a gladiatrix, when I first arrived. Then a brother to Caesar picked me to guard a princess instead.” She added, so he knew her current circumstances. She disliked most Romans, but Claudia was not most Romans. And she taught the young woman how to fight; something she imagined most young women in Rome knew nothing about. But Claudia was a good student and she’d even used some of it.

Samorix said that his part of Britannia had not changed much, but he didn’t know if anything had changed since he left. She nodded again, “I imagine my tribe’s land is very changed, or at least the way things are run. I’d still like to return though, if I ever get the chance.” She just wanted to get away from Rome, really. She looked at Samorix, she was trying to be cautious here, but she had to know... “It sounds like you’re not too happy about Rome either.”

@Ejder

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Guarding a princess sounded like a high position, but at the end of the say, Cinnia was still a slave. And whether she was the slave of a king or a pauper, it didn't really matter. A slave was a slave, and didn't have any worth past the buying price for any of the Romans.

'What would you have done with your life, back home, if there hadn't been the war?' Florus would be living a peaceful life, living in harmony with nature. He didn't really have any friends, because even then he came off as distant and aloof, but he hadn't really minded. Nature was better than people. Every day here in Rome was proof.

'I think home has disappeared forever,' Florus said quietly, more philosophically than most people expected from a young man his age.

 

@Atrice

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If she could have read his mind, she’d have told him he got it right. She was guarding a princess and she did care about her, but Cynane’s position hadn’t changed. She was a guard but at the same time a slave. Everyone else guarding Claudia were official guards, Praetorians. She was still lower than them… but closer to the princess than them. It was an odd and difficult position, but right now, she could not imagine leaving Claudia again.

 Samorix however asked what she would have done with her life without the war.

 “I would probably have married someone to form an alliance between families… and I would have had a few children running around by now. But life didn’t go that way. Here I am.” She said. Not that she knew if the thing with children would be true; she never really conceived any here, when she was a gladiatrix and sometimes rented out as a plain prostitute. Maybe she could not have children. Still she wondered what life would be like… up in Britannia? She knew most about Roman marriages by now and not all of them contained any love. And Britannia was so different… the houses, the countryside, what you did every day. Now she was a slave and a guard.

 “Maybe it has. The Romans haven’t conquered everything though. I hear the lands to the North of ours, in Britannia are still untaken. And the Northern part of Germania too. Would you go back, if you could?”  

@Ejder

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Florus nodded, scratching his ear. It seemed to him as though, generally speaking, a woman's position was not that enviable no matter where she was. No matter their rank, their lot in life seemed to be marriage and children, and their opinion on the issue didn't seem to hold much weight at all. Of course, for a slave it was much worse, because slavery was terrible, and you could fall into the hands of people who would forcefully use your body and then discard you like you held no worth as a person. It could happen to men, too, he knew, as one of his initial captors had told him, holding him up by the throat and saying he should be considered lucky he wasn't to be sent to a brothel. So maybe Cinnia also had luck on her side, in a manner of speaking. She didn't look like the type of woman who would be content with raising millions of children and cooking and cleaning. But what did he know? Maybe that had been her dream. And besides, the choice had been taken from her.

'I would be a farmer,' he said, stating the obvious. 'I don't know about marriage, though.' With two other siblings, the urge for him to marry and make children to keep working on the farm had never been drilled into his head. He'd been told he'd know when the right woman came along, that he'd feel it in his heart. But she'd never come, and no woman had ever come close, either. He wouldn't have minded being a solitary farmer, he thought.

'I've heard of Caledonia,' he said. 'But there's already Caledonians there. Our lands were ours. I don't think it makes us better than the Romans if we go there and try to take theirs.' Florus shrugged. 'I just want to go back to the way things were.'

 

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He seemed a bit thoughtful when she mentioned what her life would have been like – and maybe it was indeed the gods that brought this life to her, somehow. If she could not have kids anyway, why marry in the first place? And she might indeed not have been pleased with a life with cooking and children, she was better suited for this life. She enjoyed wearing her breeches rather than a dress and she enjoyed being able to fight, especially in a world where most women were supposed to be quiet and humble. Cynane could shut up; but she couldn’t be humble. It never worked for her anyway.

Samorix said he would have been a farmer, but didn’t know about marriage, “I’m sure you might have found someone, if you wanted to. Any woman would be pleased with such a handsome man. And farming life can be good, if you like it.” She said with a smile to him, he sounded so… almost sad. And even more when they spoke of the lands to the North and he mentioned Caledonia and wanting things to go back to the way they were. She almost wanted to hug him, but she didn’t know him so well yet. Instead she gave him another little smile.

“We all do. But I doubt it’s going to happen.” She said, “And I didn’t imagine we should take the Caledonian lands. If we went there… we could work together, somehow. Cooperate. A thing the Romans don’t have the patience for.” She added with a roll of her eyes, “If they meet enough trouble, they won’t bother waiting… they’ll just take what they want, instead of leaving you alone. Or… that’s my experience.” Oh it was so refreshing to talk with someone about all this and in her own tongue too. She hoped and prayed he wasn't like Helios. If he was and she found out, their next meeting would not go so well. Helios should be grateful Cynane never ran into him again.

@Ejder

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Florus blushed and looked at his feet when Cinnia complimented him. In Britannia, he'd been young, and didn't get much attention from anyone. Here in Rome, though, he was growing into a man, and some people took notice. Generally the attention he got was rude catcalls from men he assumed were making fun of him, or women looking at him coyly. Both made him uncomfortable. They were not the kind of attention he wanted. He didn't know what he wanted in those regards, but it was not that. A pair of warm eyes floated around in his mind, but it made no sense to him.

'Farming life is good,' he said. 'I was born for it. It's in my nature.' He looked up at Cinnia. 'I don't know if having a wife is in my nature, though,' he said candidly. Maybe the right woman would never come along, and he was destined to tend to the land alone. That didn't sound so terrible. He wrapped his arms around himself, briefly, and shrugged.

'That would be nice. Caledonia.' It was up north, so it was bound to be colder than the territory of the Silures, but any frigid wasteland would be better than the paradisiac place where he was enslaved. He looked around tentatively, to see if anyone was listening. Or if anyone spoke the britonnic language. 'I'd go anywhere that wasn't within the reach of Rome.'

 

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Cynane spoke her opinion, as she had always done and it was hard to not notice how handsome Florus was, so of course she thought any woman would be pleased with him… at least if they went for looks and kindness, she thought. He blushed however and she thought it sweet, he was definitely not in his teens, she thought… but he blushed anyway and she smiled at that quiet reaction from him. Then he said that farming life was good for him, but he didn’t know about the wife.

“Well, it’s not for everyone. And some men marry, but can’t and won’t stay true to the wife they find. Maybe it’s better not to, then.” She added, unaware if he was that kind of man or if he just didn’t want a wife for one or the other reason. Then he spoke of how nice Caledonia would be and he’d go anywhere outside the reach of Rome.

“The Empire is vast now, or so I hear. So you might have to travel far, but you’re right. Anywhere might be better.” She mused, “Do you have a nice master here in Rome, at least? Maybe one day you can earn your freedom, maybe you’re more lucky than I have been.”

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Florus raised an eyebrow when Cinnia spoke about the unfaithfulness of some men. He hadn't ever found a woman he wanted to be with, physically or romantically, but to him, it sounded wrong to go looking for something else if you had found happinness in your home. 'I don't think I'm like that,' he said. He wanted to settle down on his land, and not go looking out for trouble. Whether someone else was involved or not was completely accessory. 'I just want to be happy and farm.'

Someone who looked like a gladiator, or maybe a guard, walked past them, and Florus couldn't help but to look. It lasted for a brief second, before he remembered himself, and returned to Cinnia. How he would find a wife, he didn't know. He wasn't even sure what slaves were allowed to do. Everything was a potential reason to be crucified. Probably this conversation, too, but it didn't seem like anyone who could understand it was around. And if he could potentially get in trouble for his words, so could she, so he had to trust their conversation would remain between the both of them.

'My dominus is...' Florus started, uneasy. Rufus and Longinus had been decent, as far as Romans went, but they still kept human beings as slaves. They still considered real life people as property. As such, in the young gardener's mind, they were trash. The lot of them. 'Maybe one day I will. If not Caledonia, I hear some parts of Germania remain unoccupied. Are you not allowed to buy your own freedom?'

 

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Cynane gave him a little smile, when he said he didn’t think he would be like that with a wife –since she described how some men could not stay true to their wives anyway. He added he just wanted to farm and that might make him happy. He was very… modest, she thought. He didn’t demand much. How unfair that he ended up here, “Being happy and farming sounds nice too. And I didn’t mean you, of course, when I spoke of how some men are, when they marry. I’m sure you’d be good to a wife.” She said in a friendly tone, she had not meant to offend him or anything.

A brute of a guy walked past them and she noticed how the young man looked after him with interested and she arched a brow. The guy had looked like a guard and she had little respect for those, except of course the respect she had to have a slave. But Samorix looked at him anyway. Maybe his issue with not finding a proper woman for a wife had nothing to do with the women… but the fact that he preferred something else. Good thing then a slave didn’t have to marry.

She had asked what his master was like and encouraged the idea of him maybe earning his freedom someday. First he began with his dominus, but he trailed off and changed the subject. Maybe his master was not so kind? She felt sorry for him. It really was unfair. Meanwhile he dreamt of freedom in Caledonia or Germania and wondered if you could buy your own freedom.

“You are, but it takes a lot, I think. And I have a tendency to also want to at least try and make my life here good and I like to treat my friends too… with trips to the market, like today. Have you ever tasted a honey cake, Samorix? They don’t make those in Britannia.” She added with a smile, as they walked by a bakery with a sweet scent coming from there. She wanted to cheer him up. It would seem few others did that. It was difficult saving your coin for freedom, when you also wanted to at least feel alive sometimes.

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Florus looked at Cinnia with the same kind of forced polite expression he gave to the Romans. Sure. Maybe he'd be good to a wife. The prospect didn't enthuse him overwhelmingly, but what was the other option? Again, the same vision imprinted behind his eyelids, the same person. He was quick to shake it off. He was also quick to shake off the impression the bulky man made as he passed. The neutral expression returned to his face afterwards. Florus wasn't one for smiling to others. He rarely did, of his own volition at least. Talking and thinking about his gardens made him happy, and made him smile automatically, but it wasn't something he controlled. His expression, otherwise, was well controlled. Neutral, and polite.

'There are people worse than my dominus,' Florus finished, as though that were granting Rufus anything. Still trash, though. On the other hand, his situation could have been so much worse. He supposed slaves who worked in households considered themselves lucky not to be working in the mines, and that was what prevented them from rising up. Fear that things could be worse. 'I don't have much to spend my peculum on,' he said. 'Just the baths.' As a gardener, who toiled ceaselessly, he had quickly learned to stop seeing his visits to the bath as a luxury. They were necessary, if he was going to be working this hard every day.

'I have tasted a honey cake!' Florus replied, his interest perked as a rare smile vaguely flirted with his lips. 'A... a friend in my old household shared one with me, not very long ago.' And had planted those images he saw in his mind at night, too. Attis was a friend, right? That's what he'd said they were.

 

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Maybe she had offended him after all, she thought, judging by the expression on his face after she commented on the wife thing again. Maybe he just didn’t want one or didn’t like the idea of it, now that he was a slave. Cynane didn’t think she’d ever marry either. She certainly couldn’t marry a man who would expect her to only do feminine tasks in the home. She could sew, sure, but she was never good at it and she did not enjoy it. She could cook, sure, but she’d rather have an easy meal that did not need it. And she could clean, but only if she had to. And kids… they were nice, but after she’d begun to realize she might never have them, they didn’t interest her much. You didn't have to marry if you didn't feel it was right for you.

He explained then that there were worse people than his Dominus and that didn’t say much, “It sounds you’re not at the worst place here.” He could have ended up in the Elysium and with his good looks, he’d be popular. And if he mishaved, he could end up with hard work in the mines and die in a few months. His current job seemed fine. He lived. They discussed freedom too and how you could buy it, but Cynane had not saved enough for it yet as she liked to treat herself when she could. Would Claudia let her go anyway? Claudia was as fond of her as she was of the young princess… maybe Claudia wouldn’t wish to set Cynane free.

Samorix said he didn’t have much to spend his money on, but he had tasted a honey cake, given to him by a friend. He had a handsome smile, she thought, “If I bought one now, we could share it.” She suggested, pointing at the bakery, “Where were you going to buy those seeds anyway? And what kinds of seeds… oh… I have another friend who’s a gardener too! She’s a Briton too.” She said, but with a fading smile… she had not seen Charis in months. Would she ever?

@Ejder

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'Indeed,' Florus agreed. It seemed somewhat callous to whine, even if only to himself, about being a garden slave, when others, maybe from his own tribe, were dying in the mines. He supposed that was what the Romans wanted: to foster feelings of forced gratitude and terrified obedience in their house slaves. Good way to never encounter any resistance, he figured. He didn't want to come off as whiny to this woman, though. She seemed tough. She seemed like she had had her share of hardships, and would make a single bite out of the issues he faced. Maybe he ought to emulate her toughness.

'I would like that,' the gardener said. 'If it's no bother to you.' Always the same politeness, the same cautious distance, though somehow their shared tongue made breaching his walls somewhat easier.

'Lemons,' he replied. 'I need to buy lemons, for their seeds. Our lemon trees have come down with some sort of canker, and there appears to be no solution but to cut them. I'm hoping I can restart a few trees from seed.' The plan seemed to be good. Plants, provided they had enough water, seemed to grow faster here than they did back in Britannia. He supposed it was the climate. 'You know another gardener from Britannia?' Florus was becoming more and more interested. Speaking about his gardens, in his own language, to someone who would understand him, that would be amazing. 'Does she work in a household nearby?'

 

@Atrice

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Cynane would be more than happy to teach Florus a thing or two about how to defend himself and how to toughen up. She’d taught the princess it in secret, after all. But for now, they were just talking and he stated he’d enjoy a honey cake, “Oh it’s no bother at all.” Cynane replied and would stop for just a moment by the bakery to buy a small honey cake for them to share. In her tribe, where she came from, sharing bread with someone new was more than just eating; it was hospitality and it was an offer of friendship. If someone new came to your house, and you did not share your bread, they’d feel unwelcome. Perhaps the honey cake had some of the same worth.

So she broke it in two and handed Florus the largest half and kept on walking, while he explained what seeds he was here to get. Apparently he was here for lemons, so he could get the seeds from them, “It sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so I’m sure you can.” She replied and then she’d also mentioned the other gardener she knew… one who was sorely missed…

“Yes… not that she was a gardener there, but she did enjoy nature. And for some reason, that caused her dominus here to make her his gardener.” Cynane explained, “She’s owned by a senator who lives on the Esquiline Hill. We often meet in the Gardens of Sullust, when we meet. I’ve not seen her the last few months though… she stood up to him…” Among other things, but she didn’t need to share everything, that would be unfair to Charis. She was certain her friend didn’t want the entire story out in Rome, so she chose to not share it all for now… “So he punished her. I’ve not seen her since." She sighed, feeling bad for her friend. But again it just proved to her how cruel the Romans were and how little slaves meant. Fucking Varus. He deserved a blade through his throat too, just like the bandit that threatened Claudia's life... if Cynane should ever get the chance.

@Ejder

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