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June, 75 AD

The races didn’t interest her very much at all. She was here for Claudia’s sake and that was it. She had stood behind her beautiful mistress during the whole racing session and now, someone had won and someone had lost – and Claudia was safe and happy, which was all that mattered to Cynane. The incident with the bandits might be a long time ago now, but she had not forgotten and she would not forget. She would not leave her mistress alone if she didn’t have to.

But after the day’s race, Claudia was returning to the palace with the imperial family and told Cynane to take a little time off. She’d been busy standing, after all. As if you could call that busy. Claudia even gave Cynane a little extra coin to spend and soon they parted ways, after Cynane had talked to the other guards and informed them to come find her if she was needed. She would not venture too far away from the area of the races.

And then she left on her own. Think, that after all this time, people were still staring at her – because she wore a somewhat masculine tunica, a leather vest and braccae and good sandals, not those simple ones that would fall apart the moment you walked more than ten steps in one go. Her hair was pulled away from her face as usual, with the twists and the braids she liked. Yes, she still looked foreign. No, she didn’t really care.

She found a nearby tavern and walked in to find a drink – only to find that it was almost impossible to find a seat, because one of the charioteers had ventured into the very same taverna and now the place was crowded because charioteers were popular... “Can a woman just get a drink, or what?” She asked, trying to make her way through and someone hissed nearby, “It’s Cynane! Make way or she’ll gut you!” Someone said with a laugh and she rolled her eyes, although at least she could finally reach the bar and order her ale. Stupid gossip though, as if she had a knife with her at all times – as if she needed one! Soon though, she had her ale and now… how to find a seat in here?

@Echo

 

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Victory was surely sweet. Marcellus had won his race today and, flush with the glow of victory, he and a group of his friends decided to go get a drink to celebrate. The closest taverna was not the most classy establishment, but that never stopped Marcellus before. As they made their way to the taverna, a small crowd gathered, wanting to be nearby the winning charioteer. Once inside, the crowd grew so that there was barely anywhere to sit - Marcellus had prime seating, of course, in the middle of the group, reclining, sipping a goblet of ale. Life was good. 

After a while, a strange woman came into the tavern and Marcellus's eyes were drawn immediately to her, because of her strange clothing and mannerisms of standoffishness. He heard her complain that it was difficult to get a drink because of the crowd and the charioteer laughed at her comment. He was curious about this one, and noticed that she was looking for a seat in the crowded establishment. With a wave of his hand, a seat became available at Marcellus's table. "Over here," he called with a smirk. 

@Atrice

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She both liked the gossip in Rome about her own person... and at the same time, she was a bit tired of it, although she did enjoy it when someone told her that apparently, word got out that she and Longinus had a past. And that she was better than him. That people feared her and made way because they thought she'd gut them, that wasn't very nice though. Maybe she should not have com here, but there was little to do now, especially now that she also had a cup of ale in her hand. She was looking around for a place to sit and suddenly someone waved at her. Wasn't that the charioteer? Would he have her sit next to him? Why? Did he think she would be his fangirl too? He could think all he wanted, but it wasn't going to happen. Her feet were tired though, so she sighed and gave him a smile and made her way over to him. She sat down on the bench next to the man, she knew he was a charioteer, but not his name.

"Thanks." She said to him and downed a bit of her drink, "Although I wonder what you want with me, seems there's plenty of other fish in the water here for you." She gestured to everyone else at the tavern. The owner must be pleased to have such a famous visitor, she bet they were making plenty of coin now. 

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Marcellus grinned at her as she approached, a smile on her face. She seemed a little tense though; Marcellus had heard a few hisses and whispers as the woman had entered the taverna, and he wondered why that was, other than her strange clothing and hair, of course. He was curious to get to know her - she was strangely attractive, much different than the mousy Roman women. There was something different about her. 

"Of course," he said smoothly, taking a sip of his ale while gazing at her over the rim of the cup. "The crowd could stand to disperse," he said with a chuckle. "My being here is no reason for such a lovely lady to have to stand. My name is Marcellus. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?" He grinned crookedly at her, an eyebrow cocked. 

@Atrice

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Oh Cynane was definitely different than any mousy Roman woman. Not even after over ten years of enslavement had she changed; she didn't have to. As a gladiatrix, you were supposed to be fierce and it made no sense to beat all of that out of a woman, who was going to pretend to fight for her life. And then she became a bodyguard to Claudia and that also required someone strong and able. And she certainly was, still. Experiences the past year had taught her even more to just care less about what other people thought of her. She didn't know what the charioteer made of her either, he was grinning to her, probably thinking she too would swoon at his mere gaze. Not by any chance.

She wondered then why he would have her sit here with him, but he said that of course she could sit with him and he was no reason for a lovely lady to stand. She arched a brow, lovely lady? Oh she knew some people thought her exotic and interesting, but she was no lady. Then he introduced himself and wanted her name.

"I'm Cynane... thanks for the seat, Marcellus. I am afraid though, that you are not speaking to a lady. In case you couldn't tell." She added, but with a small smile, amused that he'd consider her a lady. She was probably the least lady-like woman in all of Rome... or at least one of them. Marcellus kind of reminded her of Lucius, that she met one night in another tavern. He thought he had it all. Well, she'd see about that.

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Marcellus noted the arched brow at his comment. This one was definitely a challenge. Not that he really wanted to bed her right now, but being a people person, he liked to meet interesting people, and women who weren't ladylike were some of his favorites. "Nice to meet you, Cynane," he said, dipping his head. She then thanked him for the seat and he shrugged. "It's not a big deal. Sometimes you just want a drink!" Speaking of, he had just finished his first one and gestured for someone to get him another one, which was quickly done. 

Cynane confirmed what he had been thinking, that she was no lady, and he laughed outright at her comment. "Oh, well, that isn't an issue." He leaned in. "I've found that ladies are a lot less fun." He winked and sipped his newly refilled ale. "So, Cynane, where are you from? Not Rome, clearly."

@Atrice

 

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Why should she be a challenge? He could also just talk to her like she was a normal person, but she doubted he would. Marcellus was known in Rome, she had heard the name before. Some debated who was the worst womanizer, Marcellus or the former gladiator Alexius. She heard the gossip. And meanwhile, the gossip around her own person was completely different and not as bad as it could be. Marcellus said it was nice to meet her and said it was no big deal to offer her a seat. Then she said that she was no lady and of course that was no issue to him, because ladies were less fun. She arched a brow again, was this to be her company for the night? She was here to have a drink and relax and rest her feet, not here to be his entertainment for the evening. She didn't answer him though, until he asked her a question.

"I was born in Britannia and lived there until I had lived 18 summers." She explained and tasted her drink, gods it was good with a drink. Meanwhile Marcellus was refilling his own cup, did he plan on getting drunk? Most likely. It was hard, however, to stay alert and capable, if you were drunk. Cynane could enjoy a drink, but she very rarely got herself drunk, "Does that interest you... did you ever travel outside of Rome?" She asked and then instantly thought it was stupid. Men loved talking about themselves. Why did she ask him to do it?

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Marcellus had also heard the debates about himself and this strange man, Alexius. He had no interest in having a higher body count, really; it wasn't a question of quantity, but rather quality, and Marcellus had plenty of both. He had never met Alexius, either, but was curious to. Perhaps they'd be friends. But for now, he was here talking to a fascinating woman who seemed to have no interest in him, or anything for that matter. 

Cynane explained that she had been born in Britannia and lived there for some time before coming to Rome. "Ah, there are a lot of your type in Rome nowadays," he said thoughtfully. "My mother was Germanic; close enough, right?" His mother had never seemed keen on talking about her homeland, so he had little reverence for it. He was more Roman than anything and he was fine with that. "Traveling would be fun, but I'm always tied up at the races. Not that I ever tie with anyone," he said, meaning that he always won (even though that wasn't true). "I'm a charioteer, you know. What do you do?"

@Atrice

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Plenty of things interested Cynane – it just wasn’t stuck up Romans, who thought they were superior to anyone else and thought they could conquer the world and every woman in it. To be honest, Marcellus did not seem that bad so far, but she wasn’t about to tell him that or show him. He might end up with his head in the sky and think he was almighty. He was popular enough already. It would be a pity for all his fans here if she had to kick his ass. So it was a good thing they were talking about other things, like where she was from and she explained it, although also wondering if that interested her.

Marcullus said there were a lot of Britons in Rome and that his own mother was from Germania – but he had not travelled and he boasted about how good he was with the races.

“I know. I just saw you race.” Cynane replied to his last question, “I also haven’t travelled since I arrived in Rome a long time ago. I’m a bodyguard.” She then revealed, looking at him to see his reaction. It’s not like female bodyguards were everywhere in Rome; in fact she had not really met a single one here. She wasn’t about to reveal the name of her mistress just yet, she didn’t trust Marcellus that much yet. And she didn’t want him boasting about hanging out with the bodyguard to a princess. That would be bad reputation for her princess.

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Marcellus was in no danger of getting his head stuck in the clouds - he was shooting for the moon, after all! He did have a tendency to get a big head, though, so Cynane was wise not to compliment him. She spoke again, saying that she had just watched him race, which made him grin. "Oh, you did? What did you think?" He wasn't really fishing for a compliment (but it wouldn't go unappreciated!) He had outdone himself today, along with the rest of his team, of course. He was proud of them all. 

Cynane then explained that she was a bodyguard, which raised his eyebrows. "Ah, so that's why you're wearing... that," he said, glancing at her clothes. It was curious to see a woman wearing such clothes, but if she was a bodyguard, it made sense. "Who do you guard? Anyone I might know?"

@Atrice

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She would not compliment him until she felt she knew he wouldn't take it too much to heart and think himself better than her. So what if she was a slave? They were both people. She could fight just as well as any man. He wasn't better than her just because he was famous. Although she kind of was too, at least according to the gossip she heard some other slaves talk about. But it didn't matter so much to her, as it did to him, obviously... the fame. Now he was curious about her seeing the race and she looked at him, "What I think? About a race? Not much. I suppose it's more exciting when you're free and wealthy enough to make bets." She added, well that certainly wasn't a compliment, but she rarely shared any of such. So why start now? 

She had told him she was a bodyguard and he mentioned her clothes and wondered who she was guarding, "I don't know you well enough to tell you. Although I suppose it's not that hard to find out, if you pay attention to gossip. I don't know if you do." She added and drank a bit of her ale.

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This one had a temper on her. Marcellus didn't mind that - he found it refreshing. And her comment about bets was amusing; couldn't she just enjoy the athleticism of both the charioteers and the horses? That's what he liked, anyway. He even enjoyed the horseback races he engaged in sometimes, particularly because of the closeness between himself and his mount. "Ah, that's not a positive attitude to have! You can like races and not bet on them!" 

Then she said she didn't know him well enough to tell him who she worked for and he shrugged. "Suit yourself. It doesn't much matter to me. Do you see a lot of action, being a bodyguard?" He was still genuinely curious - he wasn't much of a fighter, except for brawls he sometimes got into when deep in his cup. But she seemed like a stoic fighter type all the way through, which was fascinating. 

@Atrice

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Marcellus seemed a bit disappointed to hear that she was not so interested in the races, but why should she be? It seemed a bit stupid, in her eyes... a strange kind of fun that lead nowhere, except to the death for some of the charioteers and slaves working there. It was just another thing the Romans had come up with to entertain the masses and she had to admit, she could see it worked. But she wasn't so fascinated by Rome that she would admit to truly enjoying it too. Although she didn't, not really. She had been there because she had to be. 

"I suppose I can. Maybe you can enlighten me on why I should like the races?" She suggested with a small smirk, daring him to see if he could impress her. Then he would know whom she guarded, but she didn't give up Claudia's name that easily to see her the source of gossip. Cynane would rather be a bit careful. He didn't seem to care then, and would know if she saw a lot of action.

"I wouldn't say I see a lot... but sometimes, things happen. And you have to do whatever it takes, to protect your mistress." She just said, thinking about the attack last year outside of Rome. Cynane had done whatever it took. If that didn't prove she was loyal... but it did, she knew. She sipped her ale quietly, looking at her strange companion to see what he'd come up with next.

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Marcellus gave her an exaggerated shocked look. "The races are only the most exciting sporting event in the world! The athleticism of the horses, the danger, how can you not love it?" Those were the reasons Marcellus loved it anyway. He always felt his blood rushing in the most exciting way before, during, and after a race. He wondered if that's what a gladiator felt like when he was in a fight. "You don't have a heart if you don't enjoy the races." He was really impassioned now; questioning the races was a good way to get his blood boiling. But he wasn't really mad now, just passionate about the races. 

Marcellus listened as she explained she didn't see a lot of action, but that she was always ready. "Well, I'm sure your mistress appreciates you. You seem like a capable warrior, from what I can see." It was genuine. 

@Atrice

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Marcellus honestly wasn’t selling the races very well, she thought to himself. She had suggested he should enlighten her on why she should like the races, and he seemed shocked, thinking it was the most exciting thing in the world and wondered how you could not love it. Then he claimed she did not have a heart if she did not enjoy the races. Cynane stared straight ahead, inhaling a breath in an attempt to calm herself. What the fuck? So just because she did not share his passion, he did not think she had a heart.

 She barely paid attention when he said her mistress must appreciate her and she seemed like a capable warrior to him. Cynane didn’t know why she was spending time with him though. He thought her heartless, just because she was different. It would be better if she just left, before she said or did something stupid… 

“I am a capable warrior, Marcellus. I don’t know what to say about you. I may be a slave, but just because I don’t share your interest… you think me unfeeling? You know nothing about me.” Cynane downed the rest of her ale and stood, “Thank you for the seat.” And then she pushed her way through the crowd to exit the tavern. He could follow or not, she didn’t look back to see his reaction. But she knew she didn’t care to listen to more of his nonsense.

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Marcellus's eyebrows raised as Cynane spoke furiously, telling him he knew nothing about her. Well, yes that was true - they had just met! But it seemed she had misunderstood him; what he had said had been in good fun and he certainly didn't mean she was heartless because she didn't like the races. He watched her in confusion as she stood and stormed out of the tavern, sitting still for a moment as a few of his friends who were sitting nearby punched his arm, teasing him that women ran away from him. He rolled his eyes and scoffed, then stood, throwing a couple coins onto the table and jogging after the woman. 

At the door of the tavern, he looked around for the woman, trying to see what direction she had gone, and he caught a glimpse of her back. After a second he caught up to her. "Wait a second! Wait!" He got in front of her, hoping to stop her walking so he could explain himself. "You misunderstood me. I was joking, of course you're not heartless." But now he wasn't really convinced that she had a huge heart, anyway, seeing as she had stormed off after a simple misunderstanding. 

@Atrice

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It certainly had not seemed like a joke, when he told her she was heartless if she did not enjoy the races. He had said it with such passion and how could she not be offended - he was practically a stranger to her, he knew nothing about her and just because she didn't see the appeal in the races it didn't make her heartless. Or did it? Was that what she'd become? No, she wouldn't believe it. But at the moment, her mood was not the best and it took nothing to make her angry. She had already been displeased with the situation when she walked into the tavern and although Marcellus had offered her a seat, he had done little to improve her mood. And now she'd stormed out of the tavern and left him behind.

Suddenly though, he was right behind her and asking her to wait. What? He had followed her? She hadn't expected that! She stopped as he went to block her way, a bit surprised by his actions. He then said he had been joking, that she'd misunderstood and that she was not heartless.

"It was hard to tell it was a joke." She replied, still not entirely convinced, although the fact that he came after her did mean something, "Not everyone has the same interests, Marcellus. I wasn't born and raised here. I do enjoy some things here in Rome, not not every part of it. You have to understand that." 

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As she stopped, he leaned over to catch his breath, his hands on his knees. After a brief moment, he straightened up and looked at her, grinning sheepishly at her flat tone. "Sorry. I get so caught up in the races, I forget that not everyone loves them like I do. So I'm sorry. Really." He listened to her speak again and he nodded, scrubbing his hand on the back of his head. "Yeah, I get it. You don't have to like the races."

Marcellus was born in Rome and raised among horses, so naturally he enjoyed the heart-racing, blood-rushing excitement of the races, both as a spectator and as a competitor. But what did Britons like? How did they spend their free time? Surely, they had horses. "Well, what do you like?" He paused again, sizing her up and psyching himself up for his next statement. "Maybe you should give the races another chance - maybe you should come sometime without your mistress. I think you'd like it if you just gave it another chance."

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It was so unexpected that he followed her and apologized! That surprised her and managed to take her aback and few things did that nowadays! But she stood her ground, stating again that not everyone had the same interests and she didn't enjoy everything about Rome. Far from it, in fact, but he didn't need to know that.  Marcellus apologized again, saying he forgot that not everyone liked the races. And she didn't have to. She nodded, deciding to give in because after all, he did seem like a somewhat decent Roman. He apologized... that was new for her. Romans never apologized for anything, especially not the men. 

"Your apology is accepted." She said, which was a big step for her too, but he probably didn't know or guess that. He stayed though, wondering what she liked and then he couldn't help but suggest that she should give the races another chance, without her mistress.

"Maybe I will, we'll see." Cynane just said, she wasn't about to give in that easily to that part. But what did she like? These days? Not much... so it was a tough question, when she barely knew him and wasn't ready to reveal her most inner thoughts to him yet! 

"I like... time for myself." She then said, "And I like spending time with my own countrymen. I enjoy... hmm... a good fight, I suppose. I guess I'm not your typical, humble and shy Roman woman. Maybe because I'm not Roman at all." She then added with a small smile, revealing she wasn't sad about that at all.

@Echo 

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Marcellus supposed he was technically a Roman, though the citizenship of a freedman was shaky at best in his opinion. He was only allowed to be free because someone had recognized his talent for the races and let him be free to pursue that career. He was totally at Spurius's whim and he sometimes resented that, making him question whether he really counted as a Roman. Romans were free. Marcellus could never truly be free of his sponsor. Cynane accepted his apology and then conceded that she maybe could enjoy the races. He brightened up at that. "Excellent. I can get you in for free if you ever want to come by yourself." As a charioteer, he did have a certain pull with admissions to let people in for free. 

Cynane went on to describe the things she liked, ending it by remarking that she wasn't Roman with a proud little smile, which Marcellus answered with his own grin. "That is clear, you certainly don't seem like those other women." He meant it as a compliment, not that she would accept it anyway. "My mother was Germanic, I think. But she never really acted like a German. She acted like a Roman." Or like a slave.

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Of course he could not know what it meant to her, that he apologized and she then chose to accept it. She could just have turned her back or pushed past him, really she could have punched his nose and pushed past him, but she chose not to. Instead she accepted his apology and the conversation that followed, when he suggested she should come and see a race for herself. Cynane wouldn't make a promise, but a maybe would be enough for now. That seemed to be more than enough for Marcellus, who brightened and said he'd get her in for free. She arched a brow, "Well if it's free, it would be stupid to decline." She said, she wasn't stupid. She was a slave and she did not own a huge amount of coin and wouldn't go to a race if she had better things to do, that didn't cost her as much... or brought her more joy. But if it was free... she might agree to come.

Then she'd explained to him what she liked doing and she was not your typical Roman woman, because well... she wasn't Roman at all! He grinned, stating how that much was clear and then said his own mother had been from Germania, but never acted like it.

"So... your mother was a slave?" She wondered, she didn't really know or care about how the races or lives of charioteers functioned, so she didn't know what kind of men sat in the chariots. Cynane assumed though, that he, like any man... would love to tell her more about himself. 

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