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The Lanista Sends His Regards


Beauty
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Late May!

He left the brothel to be tended to by his sister, Gaia Lupa, as he headed out to the Ludus with another man, following after him. He was tall, golden-haired, sharp-faced and stupid. The man’s presence appealed to him, if only because he accumulated some wealth by renting gladiators. Of course, the man was innocent of Titus’ truer motives but it gave Titus a reason to explore other options of making money, his mind always ticking as he sought after opportunities. The day was warm, sweat collected at his brow and when they arrived at the Ludus, his eyes laid upon a woman. He watched her for some time before turning to the other man.

“Who is she?” he said, pointing to the blonde.

“I believe her name is Annis,” said the man, gawking at Titus.

“Bring her to me,” said Titus quickly but the man did not budge, simply staring. Titus’ hand then wrapped around the man’s neck and shoved his head downwards. “Don’t keep me waiting.” His tone was barely cruel, merely disconnected. Like a hawk, his eyes followed as the man headed forwards, muttering a “Titus Aspanius Lupus wants to speak with you” to the woman and then pointing to Titus before motioning for her to follow him. Titus’ face was bare, revealing no reaction, as he waited and only spoke when she was indeed close.

“Annis,” he said before vacant eyes wafted to the lanista who then scuttled away. His attention returned, studying her. “How long have you been shedding blood?”

@Echo

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Annis was having a relatively normal day. She had arisen at dawn to eat a quick breakfast, then out to the training yard at the ludus. First she had warmed up by stretching and running a few laps around the yard, then she began drilling her forms, first with one sword, then with two. It was about midday when she looked up, hearing an unfamiliar voice. "Titus Aspanius Lupus wants to speak with you." She quirked an eyebrow, looking around to where the man was gesturing. "Who?" she asked blandly. Perhaps this man was some patron or a wealthy pleb who wanted to meet her. It wasn't uncommon. She gave a shrug and put down her swords, walking over. 

The man looked normal enough, she supposed. He had a certain glimmer in his eye that made her uneasy, but she wasn't about to show it, instead choosing to make her face a blank mask of disinterest. The man asked how long she had been shedding blood and she gave a little smirk. "I was born with a sword in my hand." If asked, she wouldn't really consider what she did as a gladiatrix to be fighting, not as she had done in Britannia, anyway. It was a sexy show for men who yearned to conquer women who wouldn't bow to them like the mousy Roman ladies. Sure, she got injured occasionally, but it was mostly a pre-show before the gladiators came on and actually killed each other. "And who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?"

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“Good,” said Titus simply. His eyes bore into her, untiring, already calculating and steps ahead of their present conversation. Her golden hair and foreign features made her look exotic enough. Women as a whole and some men, to him, were just play things, mere tools for him to make his own way in the world. His sister was lumped with the rest of them. She was just a thing, even if he felt a connection through blood. He had held high hopes for her but she disappointed time and time again with her weakness, the same weakness he had as a boy, being someone else’s bitch. But things were different now, times had changed. He liked to think that no one, not even the gods had power over him.

“Titus Aspanius Lupus,” he said, not yet exposing who exactly he was or what he did for a living. His name was one that he hoped would one day be heard on every corner of Rome. A mentor of old once told him that knowledge was power; however, to Titus, the only power one could have in life was money. Without it, what were you? Nothing. It was a life he was not willing to live again. “I am a man of business with powerful associates.” By powerful, he meant criminals. “I have come here to bargain. I have use for some of your talent and have a proposal that I believe might award you with more freedom, should you accept. Shall we speak somewhere more private?”

He then offered a smile, there was no true feeling to it as his eyes did not brighten or show any ounce of joy. Admittedly, he cared little for what a woman of her status would get out of his offer but a business proposal was often a two-way street. Not that he gave some who crossed his path that privilege.

@Echo

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Annis stared back at him, still unsettled but determined not to show it. Her strong spirit wanted her to protect herself from this man, and her challenging stare was how it made its first move. Still, the way he looked at her was concerning. He introduced himself, using the same name that the other man had given her before. "Nice to meet you." Titus then went on to explain himself as a powerful business man with powerful connections. He also said something that piqued her interest: freedom? That was a word that would inevitably keep her interested, even if her instincts were telling her not to trust him for a second. 

Titus asked whether they could speak somewhere more private, offering a smile that didn't reach his eyes. Annis swallowed and nodded. "Yes, we can use my quarters." By 'quarters,' she really meant her one room bedroom that she crashed in every night. But she led the way inside anyway, finally reaching her room where she gestured at the simple chair for him to sit in. "Would you like some wine?" Wine and business always went together. 

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Titus tailed after her, his motions seemingly leisurely and taking his time. As he wandered the Ludus, his eyes did not bother to observe his surroundings and instead was bolted on the woman’s figure from behind. Once inside her room, he made himself comfortable at the chair that she pointed out for him. He looked about the place, it looked hardly to his tastes. His own home was lavish for a man of his position while the Elysium was left as it was, it only served one purpose to him. There was an air of superiority with him as he raised his chin and his eyes met her.

“Yes,” said Titus simply, snapping his fingers. She made a good impression on him, she was as of yet neither too fragile nor too bold and looked to his comforts first, behaving every bit like a good businesswoman. Still, she was a slave and he looked at her no differently than he looked at mutts or the filth from under one’s feet.

“As I said, I have a proposal,” said Titus, getting straight to business. “I own the Elysium, I am sure you have heard of it, but I work in other avenues as well.” That was as far as he was willing to frankly admit in regards to his criminal ties. “You’re a gladiator. You will die one day when you grow too old or too weak to fight but I can offer you freedom. Become a part of the Elysium and I promise you, you will be making a good amount of money to see you through your years and without fear of death. You would have enough to buy your freedom.”

He doubted a woman like her would fear death, gladiators saw death everyday but he was offering her a way out. And he had no intention of ever paying the woman well. “But there are other alternatives, should that not interest you. I am willing to negotiate.”

@Echo

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Annis quirked an eyebrow at the man as he said yes and snapped his fingers but didn't comment on it. The man had every right to be rude if he wished and she wanted to hear what his proposal was, even though being servile was humiliating and made her furious. She turned to the table with the amphora of wine and poured two cups, handing one to him and sipping hers. The man then began to talk, getting right to business. Annis appreciated forthrightness in other people, because she strove to be forthright and honest. 

His offer was... less than ideal, though. She furrowed her brow as he spoke but didn't say anything immediately. He had said that she would die one day, but she doubted that; gladiatrices usually didn't go for the kill and their fights were more like sexy shows to whet the appetites of the male audiences until the real bloodletting could begin. Plus, her setup was pretty good here; she had all the opportunity she could want to let out her frustrations on opponents or dummies, food and drink enough, and her notoriety gave her admirers and sexual partners aplenty. She certainly didn't like the idea of being some common whore. 

She was quiet for a minute before talking. "Well. I think you are mistaken about the circumstances of my ownership - I am not really at liberty to be owned by another master, until my current master sells me." She didn't know if he would sell her or not, anyway; Longinus had made a pretty penny on her success in the arena. "But if you are interested in buying me, my master is named Longinus. You'll have to take it up with him." Her tone was cool, and she regarded him quietly after that for a moment. 

@Beauty

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Titus sipped the wine and listened as she spoke. Aside from behaving like a good hostess, he liked how she spoke only when spoken to, it made her a little more desirable than perhaps other women of her same status. When it came to business, he much preferred smoother transactions and less bullshit.

“I think you misunderstand me,” said Titus, his tone equally cold, shaking a finger and setting his cup down on the chair’s arm. “I am not concerned about what your master thinks or wants. Do you truly wish to let a man have ownership over you? He may own you in law and title but surely, you are your own person with your own governance. I am giving you the option of accepting my offer, not him.”

But he did consider the idea of speaking with the man, giving him a handsome sum which would, with the woman Annis, give him riches in turn. He was only thinking about money. He titled his head. “But if you are truly concerned,” he said after some time, sighing because the woman’s response wasn’t exactly what he wanted to hear. “I will need more than that. Giving me the name Longinus doesn’t tell me anything.” He waved his hand so that she would spit out more of the man’s names. “Give me his full name and where to find him. I believe this Longinus and I could come to an agreement. And eventually give you an allowance to buy your freedom when your uses are spent. Without him, we would only be splitting two ways.”

@Echo

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Annis lifted an eyebrow as he responded in turn, his tone icy. A corner of her mouth turned up, indicating amused surprise. Did this man think that throwing his weight around would work here? Annis was not afraid of much, and this man couldn't intimidate her, even if the dead look in his eye gave her chills. Titus asked whether she wanted a man having ownership of her and she laughed shortly. "And yet what would be the alternative? My ownership handed over to you? Seems I would just be trading one master for another." Another part of his statement that irked her was the fact that he suggested she was a person with her own governance. Sure, she could accept to be lent out to the Elysium part-time, between training and fights. But Longinus was really the one in control, whether she liked it or not. He had been nice enough to work with in the past, leaving her alone to her own devices mainly, because she had earned that trust. She didn't know Titus and she wasn't sure she wanted to. 

Titus then seemed impatient, waving his hand expectantly as though she would hand him her master's name like some quivering house maid. She squared her jaw and looked squarely at him. "It's Lucius Cassius Longinus. He's a senator - I don't know his every movement." Her tone was even more cool now, liking this conversation less and less the more she engaged in it. 

@Beauty

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“My ownership handed over to you?” she said. Titus smiled slowly but, in fact, he was very annoyed. Her answer was not what he wanted to hear. As usual, Titus had an idea and wanted to see it to completion. Little obstacles always infuriated him. His sister had told him his idea was far-fetched but Titus had high ambitions. He had an idea of a Rome where the Elysium was greater than the Domus Venus, its name, as well as his own, heard on every corner. Men arriving in lifeless masses to play out their most depraved fantasies, something he liked to think the Domus Venus couldn’t ever offer.

“Excellent, I shall be speaking with him so you can expect that,” said Titus. The mention of Longinus’ status as a senatore caught Titus’ attention. Failed interests were common in business, his sister often tried to cut in when he settled on a new concept, but Titus was intent on this one. She stared at him with courage. What was it with blondes and being difficult? He wanted to slap the audacity of her right off her face. Whether her or her master took up the offer, he hoped his clients would fuck the valour out of her if and when she was his. Titus took a sip of his wine once more. “And tell me what type of man Lucius Cassius Longinus is.” If he was going to face the man in person, he had to know who he was dealing with. If he was a proud man, a stupid one, or of the same vein as Marcus Barbatus. He slowly pushed himself up from his chair. “You also have a knife or a sword here, don’t you? Bring it out. Consider me a fan of your line of work, I only want to see what a woman such as yourself uses to take the lives of men.”

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Annis gazed at him flatly as he said he would be speaking to Longinus about this matter. She hoped her master had the good sense not to sell her outright; he would make far more money off of her by letting her keep fighting and winning in the arena. But her hands were tied; after all, the meaning of slavery was that the slave had little control over what happened to their ownership. Titus demanded to know more about what Longinus was like and she shrugged. She really didn't have much to do with the man. "He's nice enough, I guess. Not usually too serious. Likes a joke. I don't know him that well, he doesn't come here often." When she had been captured, he had had quite the sense of humor, particularly about her beating up that young legionnaire in front of all his comrades. 

Then Titus asked a queer question: to bring out her knife. She wasn't really supposed to keep any weapons on her; the guards locked them up at night, fearing their fierce charges making a repeat of Spartacus's rebellion. But she had managed to keep a rudius due to her good behavior; she kept it on her for when she went out, even though she was usually accompanied by a guard too. She pulled the knife out and held it out for him to see. "They keep the good weapons locked up at night, and they're only accessible in the training yard." And those were usually wooden swords. 

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It seemed that Longinus quite dissimilar to Titus. He himself cared very little for humour, though he did, at times, laugh at the works of Landicus, understanding its irony and social observations. Apart from that, not many could make Titus laugh. Very few things made him smile except for money and whores.

His eyes were glued to the knife that she held out and slowly he picked it up. He fiddled with it, playing with it between his fingers, watching it swirl with his cold, light eyes. The same way his brother used to before he had some terrible idea growing in the womb of his mind. “If he cannot whore your body out, he can whore out your skills through other means than the pits,” said Titus, his mind always searching for business expansions. It was a waste to see such talent solely used in the gladiatorial pits. His eyes slowly settled on the young woman before him, she was not much older than his nephew.

“If he is nice enough, surely he will see reason,” he said, eyes on the knife twirling between his fingers. A trick he had learned when younger. “But I will go easy on him, I suppose.” Titus had no true intention to ruin a senatore’s reputation but with wicked encouragement, he believed, he could make something out of nothing. He had high hopes for the Elysium and reasoned most men could be led astray if given the choice, the vilest of the Elysium clients only indicated that. He stopped playing with the knife and held it firmly in his hands, eyes boring right at the young woman. “Why don’t you undress and let me observe you. I know your talents but if we are to make an investment out of you with you as a slut, I need to see what the men of Rome will be flocking to fuck.”

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Annis listened with disinterest to his musings. She was not much of a business woman, more concerned with doing her job right and earning enough money to buy herself from Longinus. Her mind settled on a disturbing idea: what if Longinus really sold her outright to this man? She didn't like him, that much was clear to her. As cold and heartless as he seemed in just this short interaction, it chilled her to think of what being owned by him would be like. The way that he twirled the knife around appeared as though he was trying to intimidate her again. She was determined not to let him get into her head. She imagined taking the knife back from him and holding it at his throat until he left. 

That fantasy was enhanced as he made his suggestion. It made sense that the owner of a brothel would have to have some level of perversion, but she was not his to command. She glared at him outright now, still, feeling tension in every muscle. "Why don't you undress, so I can see the body of the man who wants to whore me out? Until you own me, I am not yours to command." Her voice was harsh but it betrayed her nervousness and the slightest note of fear. His attitude up until now, though, made her wonder how exactly he would respond. Particularly with that knife. 

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As she glared at him, he glared right back. Being a man of business, he never liked it when things did not go his way, having to then trace his former steps and follow the path of his alternatives. There were always the alternatives, certainly, but the main road was one he usually had his eyes set upon. Titus could be stubborn. While he sensed nervousness, and like a spider, was drawn to her fear, he was all too conscious of the roughness of her tone. Brows creasing and the muscles of his face grimacing, he struck her across the face with his hand.

Eyeing her without any hint of human emotion, he straightened himself as if he hadn’t just smacked a woman in the face. But women, particularly slave women, weren’t worthy of sympathy. While not the most devout, he liked to justify their suffering by the hands of the gods. Some were gifted and others cursed based on the whims of their divine betters.

“Your master needs to teach you manners when speaking to your superiors,” he said, his voice calm despite the brutality he had wrought just moments ago. While Titus had certainly provoked her, not that he saw the situation this way, he couldn’t imagine the way she spoke to her master Longinus, if she had spoken so carelessly to him like an equal. “I think you forget not only your place but that I have influential friends.” He purposely paused to let the point sink into her mind. “Don’t think I can’t pull the right strings to see you and even your master removed. What happens before that, I cannot promise will be very pretty. After all, people can only take so much. You can care nothing for yourself, that much is clear with the way you act recklessly, but surely you don’t want anything to come of the man?  I assume that you would not allow for another to suffer needlessly because of your own foolishness.”

He wouldn’t have a senator killed, let alone mistreated, as such men were more useful to Titus alive and well than dead, but he only wished to toy with her, picking a part her mind before he finally left. In the end, if her master did not comply with his proposal, the girl was still much like a bridge for Titus to wander into finer territories as surely other arrangements could be made. Or so, he believed.

“Show me your breasts and I will leave your master be. This will also stay between us. Forgotten and brushed away.”

@Echo

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The corners of the Briton's mouth had been slightly turned up at the edge at her boldness, despite the fact that she was still frightened of this man. But that quickly disappeared as Titus struck her across the face, sending a resounding crack around the small room. Having not expected the blow, her head snapped to the side and her eyes widened in shock as she rounded on him, holding a hand to her mouth which she half-expected to start trickling blood. She was speechless for a moment as he spoke, fully understanding his threat against her and Longinus. At this, she almost laughed - what did she care what happened to Longinus? But then she reasoned that if he were to meet an unexpected end, the details of her ownership would be left up in the air and she could very well end up in the hands of this animal before her. 

Could he be so bold as to threaten to assassinate a senator? Annis might not have been fully versed in the ways of Roman politics, but she knew that the senators were second only to caesar and that to threaten one was almost certain death. She pulled her hand across her mouth as blood did indeed trickle out. Fine. If this lecherous creep wanted to see her flesh, then she would show him her breasts. Not in the interest of Longinus, but because she wanted him to go away. With a glare, she lifted her tunic above her breasts. Perverted creature. 

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