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Cynane

No Boundaries

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July, 75 AD

For how long had she been coming here now? Last time she saw Charis in person was in February, before she attempted to get rid of the child. It had been months now since she last saw her friend and she supposed most people would have given up by now. But not Cynane. She did not give up on her friend, not when she had promised she would be there when Charis needed her. And so here she was, again, standing opposite the home of Tertius Quinctilius Varus, where Charis lived. She hadn’t tried to approach anyone from the house, not since she met Teutus, who had been entirely unhelpful. Such a friend he was!

She still hadn’t seen Charis though and she came here every week, on the same day they used to meet and around the same hour. Nothing had changed when it came to that. But there had been no sign of her friend and she didn’t wait as long as she once had. Maybe it was pointless. Maybe she should give up and return to the palace and come back next week…

But then, just as she was about to turn away once more, a petite figure left the domus and it was a figure that was easily recognizable – even with the bump she had, she was quite a few months pregnant now, wasn’t she? Cynane felt slightly bad for having almost scolded Charis for wanting to get rid of the child. It wasn’t a child of love, after all. And her friend almost died because she didn’t want it – but now she was having it anyway.

She almost felt shy, as she decided to approach her friend. She walked closer, hoping Charis would see her, unless she had forgotten everything. She didn’t seem to notice Cynane, so she approached her and touched her shoulder gently, suddenly feeling almost on the verge of tears and overwhelmed by meeting Charis once more… “Erea…”

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Charis' days were largely spent the same every week. She had her routines and she enjoyed them; visiting the baths on Mondays and Thursdays, going to the markets on Wednesdays and spending the rest of the time in the domus, making ready for the child and tending to the garden. A sort of peace had settled over her; things with her dominus were certainly more stable than they had been in a long while, the household was well after the recent earthquake and besides a seemingly permanent backache with he pregnancy, things were progressing well. Of course, when a new challenge arose such as the one this morning, she rose to it. Poor Rhoda was shocked and horrified by the spate of insects that had devoured through a supply of vegetables for that evenings cena. Whilst not usually one to venture to the markets on a Tuesday, she had offered having seen the woman's red-rimmed eyes and her flustering. Besides, she needed a few things for the garden and had time to spare. 

She took a little canvas bag with her and slipped out of the slave's entrance round the back - lost in her little world as she walked. It was, until, she heard a voice calling her name and a featherlight touch on her shoulder. She choked and turned and there staring back at her was a ghost of another life. It had been five months, and she had thought about Cynane almost every day since then. "Cinnia...?" She said, not really believing the towering blonde woman was standing in front of her. 

She had been trying, for weeks now - since that fateful day with Alexius actually - to not dwell on her friends. For the first few months whilst she had been in her daze, the worry of her friends hadn't crossed her mind, but now she was better to think of it was painful. She had debated sending word, especially to Cynane, but the risk had been so high - what if Tertius found out? What if she was punished? She couldn't risk it, not for her child. Yet when faced with the woman who she had abandoned, she felt sick with guilt. How could she have been so selfish? Quickly, and quietly, she tugged on her friends arm to lead her to a more secluded spot where one of the other household slaves or passersby were unlikely to see her. Before she could say anything to her friend she reached up on her toes and wound her arm around her neck, squeezing her tightly in a hug. She managed to choke out; "I'm so sorry..." 

 

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Cynane wasn’t one to cry easily – actually she rarely ever did it. She wasn’t some humble and submissive woman or wife, even if she was a slave. She was supposed to be submissive, but Claudia did not really demand it of her and their relationship was… special. Cynane felt it wasn’t quite the same thing as many other slaves had with their owners. Claudia never made her cry. No one did. But now that she was finally looking at her pregnant friend again, touching her (she was there, it was real!) and speaking her name, she was overwhelmed.

Charis turned to her, she didn’t seem startled, but her expression was kind of… surprised, in a strange way. She spoke Cynane’s real name too and she smiled, although sadly, “Yes, it’s me.” She said, almost afraid to talk. Her eyes were watering and she blinked. She hadn’t known it would be like this to see Charis again, but Charis had quickly become her best friend here in Rome and she hated not seeing her and knowing she was mistreated. And not being able to help her. But here she was…

Charis then took Cynane’s arm and led her away from the busy street and the house. Once there, she reached up to embrace Cynane and Cynane returned the embrace as if she never wanted to let go again. Cynane didn’t tremble, but she blinked another tear away. Charis then said that she was sorry! Sorry! Why should she be sorry, none of this was her fault, it was that fucking stupid and mental owner she had!

“Don’t be. There’s nothing to be sorry about.” Cynane replied in a whisper and kissed Charis’ hair, “I thought it might be over. That I would never see you again.” She was so glad now, that she didn’t give up after all! But she couldn’t dwell on her own emotions and thoughts on it all, because she was fine and Charis… that might be another story, “How are you?”

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Charis sunk into her friends hug, gripping more tightly than she'd held anybody in so long. She blinked back her own tears as her friend spoke. The months of suppressing everything, even after she started to feel more well, came bursting out of her in the arms of her friend. It was the same overpowering emotion she felt when faced with Alexius' kiss, only this time she didn't run from it - this time she sunk into the upset and the feeling. 

"I...I'm still so sorry, I should have got word, I should have..." She trailed off and swallowed the lump sticking hard and fast in her throat. What could she say? That she was so selfish as to not even think about her friends feeling in all of this? She had to explain. She shook her head, "I-I'm fine, do you know anything? Are you okay?" Of what happened she meant. Of course she didn't Charis. Who would have told Cynane about any of this - it wasn't as if she had friends to drop her a note, not many anyway and Rhoda was too fearful to even consider crossing the dominus - despite her sentimentality for Charis. 

Finally, begrudgingly, she released her friend from the hug and settled back on the flats of her feet - peering up at the blonde Goddess before her. "I...I don't know where to start." 

 

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It felt good to hug Charis once more, even though the pregnant belly was kind of in the way – but it suited Charis to be pregnant, she could not deny that. Her friend was beautiful as ever. And she was here, now. It wasn’t something Cynane imagined, it was happening and she didn’t know if it ever would… or if Charis was lost to her forever. She felt Charis’ tears against her skin and then Charis apologized and said she should have sent word to Cynane.

“It would have been nice, but if you weren’t able to…” Cynane said with a small sigh and then she’d asked how Charis was doing. She said she was fine and wondered if Cynane knew anything and if she was okay.

“I’m better now, thanks.” She replied, while Charis pulled out of her embrace, although Cynane didn’t really want to let go, “I know only what your so-called friend Teutus told me. Rhoda the kitchen slave wasn’t to much help. Teutus wasn’t either, to be honest. I wanted to get a message to you, but he wouldn’t even try.” She rolled her eyes, still upset about that part.

“None of that matters now though, now you’re here. And don’t think about me. It’s you who were locked up and… I was so worried. So worried.” She said, “Do you want to go someplace to sit?”

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Charis frowned, her mouth falling ajar; "You spoke to Teutus?!" The little shit. He'd not passed on any message to her! Although the rational part of her said she had been in no fit state to receive a message until a month or so ago anyway. Come to think of it, maybe he had said something but she had been so lost in her daze, so consumed by the pain that was eating her from the inside out that she didn't even remember it. Gods above. 

She squeezed her friends hand as if she was a mother clinging onto her child and nodded, but she cast a nervous glance over her shoulder. "I don't have long, I..." She winced. She was no longer being watched - she didn't think - but she still needed to be exceptionally careful. She couldn't risk it. "I know a place." She nodded and drew her friend by the hand, intertwining her fingers with the other woman's and pulled her through the back streets away from the domus and to a secluded little enclave by a fountain, a few streets over. It was quiet enough, and few slaves from the house ventured here - they preferred the one a few streets over with a shorter line. 

She perched herself on an upturned barrel and still didn't let go of Cynane's hand. She swallowed, her mouth suddenly felt very dry. "What...what did Teutus tell you?" 

 

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She nodded, “I did speak to him. But only briefly. He wasn’t very useful.” Cynane explained to her friend, who seemed a bit surprised that Cynane even met him. It was easy to tell who he was, he looked a bit like his father and while Cynane had never met Tertius in person, she’d seen him plenty come and going from the house, when she’d come to watch it. She wondered if they should go and sit somewhere and Charis squeezed her hand, but seemed nervous. She didn’t have long but she knew a place.

Why was she nervous? Would Tertius lock her up again, for seeing a friend? She inhaled a sharp breath by the thought, the more she knew about the man, the less she liked him. The more she wanted to kick his ass, just like with Longinus. Fucking Roman pricks. But she said none of that, instead she quietly followed Charis, holding her hand like they used to do, until they reached a little fountain and Charis sat down, asking what Teutus had said.

Cynane tried to remember it all, “He said that after you tried to get rid of the baby, you fell ill and his father wouldn’t let anyone else but himself see you. And he said you were both stubborn and that there was no way anyone could give you a message. Not even those who brought you food. And he wouldn’t even try to talk to his father about the matter.” She sighed, “I didn’t demand a reply or anything. I just wanted to get a message to you. Anything I could do to help. But I couldn’t.” For the first time in her life, or maybe the second, she had been utterly useless. She couldn’t help her friend when she needed her. She wasn’t likely to forget that.

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Charis listened silently, the muscles of her jaw tensing and working as her teeth ground together. Hearing it like that; spelled out quite so bluntly was...unpleasant to say the least and she couldn't keep her eyes on Cynane, instead turning to look down at her hands. "He was right," She nodded, "Dominus was incensed - he wouldn't have been spoken to by anybody, least of all Teutus." She was not immune - in her past life, before all of this - to the curious look her dominus shot his son and her, as if he was working something through in his mind, trying to prod to see if there was anything under the surface. Tertius could be a spectacularly jealous man, when he wanted to be. 

She felt embarrassed, and guilt ridden. She hadn't even thought of her poor friends. "I..." She winced, where on earth did she start? "I took a tisane, but it didn't work...obviously," She gestured to her bump, "But it made me very, very unwell and when Dominus came to see me I was so...defeated? So angry? I said some awful things, honest things, but awful things to him and so he shut me up in my room and would visit me every week and for the first few I just told him to fuck off, pretty much." She laughed a little at the small victory she had felt, "But then...I...I don't know, something happened to me. I don't, truthfully, really remember it but I felt so, so sad but so...at peace? I thought that I had to be a good slave, the perfect slave, I felt so guilty for talking to him as I did...he broke me, utterly." She swallowed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, "It was like I was dreaming - I think and it's only been the last few weeks that I've started to feel better, properly better..." She sniffed a little and shook her head - finally finding the courage to look up at Cynane. 

"When I was bad, I didn't think to write - and when I started to feel better I wanted to but..." She swallowed, "I have to be good now Cynane...for the child. I can't keep sneaking around and lying to him, he...he hasn't said what he'll do yet, about the baby and I cannot risk it..." 

 

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She had explained what she knew from Teutus and Charis confirmed it, but that didn’t change her view of this Teutus. He wouldn’t even try. Charis was supposed to be his friend and he would not even try to improve her situation. Cynane would have, no matter the consequences. If she had any chance, but she didn’t, because this was not her household and she also had her duty to Claudia. And while she might get in trouble trying to help Charis – betraying Claudia would surely end with her death. And she didn’t want that. She chose not to die a long time ago and it would remain so.

Charis then began explaining exactly what happened, how the tisane made her ill and she had been so angry and defeated after, that she had told her dominus some honest, awful truths and that had of course not pleased him… so he shut her in the room. And eventually he broke her. Cynane felt her eyes water too, when Charis spoke of how she had been broken. She didn’t want anyone to break Charis. She was perfect the way she was. But she was changed now. Her dominus had succeeded… he had broken her. She didn’t know what it meant when Charis said she had begun to feel better and Cynane laid an arm around her shoulder, while she said she had to be good for the sake of her child.

At first she was speechless. What did one say to such a story? A true story…

“I’m sorry, Charis. I am.” She said. She understood Charis had to be good for the sake of her child, but… “I don’t know what to say. I wish I could help you… make things better for you…” Maybe she should speak to Claudia about it. Maybe she could do something?

“I want you to be well… you and your child. And I… can’t imagine you as some humble and docile little house slave. And what does it mean? No more wine and honey cakes in the gardens?” If that was the case, she would have to kick someone’s ass for this unfair treatment. And for ruining one of the few really good things she had here. Maybe it was about time to find Helios and tell him what he set in motion, that day last summer… it all started with him.

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Charis felt upset, deeply upset that she had caused her friend pain but even moreso now she had to admit that it would continue - this absence. There was too much at stake. She managed a half-smile and a hoarse little laugh and wiped her eyes on the back of her hand. "I don't think I'll ever be a properly humble and docile slave..." She sniffed and dropped her hand back into her lap. 

She willed herself to look at her friend and finally did, watery eyes concentrating hard on the blonde woman's face before she lost her nerve, "But no wine and honey cakes, at least for a little bit, just a little bit - just until the baby comes." She leaned out and offered her hand for the other woman to hold. She desperately wanted to make it better. "If...If I have the child he has said he may free it Cinnia...but if I don't then he'll take it from me." She choked the last words out, like ash in her mouth. "I...I can't risk that. You do understand that, don't you? It's just until he is freed and then nothing matters, he'll be alright but until then..." She trailed off and bit the inside of her cheek. None of this was fair.

 

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This Roman world was so unfair to the slaves. She recalled her own people had slaves too, but they called them thralls and they weren’t stolen from other countries or people. Sometimes they were people working off a debt, sometimes they were just the poorest who worked in order to have a roof over their heads and food. There was a point to them becoming slaves. There wasn’t any here and there wasn’t any point to how they were treated either, Cynane thought. Especially not Charis, who ended up with such a terrible owner.

 Charis let out a laugh as she did not think she could be a humble and docile slave, but then she sniffed again and looked at Cynane with watery eyes. And said there would be no wine and honey cake until the baby came. Cynane inhaled a deep breath. She had missed Charis and to think she would miss her again… of course Charis did it all with good reason, she was thinking about the child and she wanted it freed.

 “I understand. But…” Cynane said, she did, but that didn’t make it better and it didn’t change anything. Charis had been taken away from her. And who was to say that Charis would return to normal after the baby came? Then she’d be a mother. And a mother’s duty was always to their child first. So this was it. It would never be like before. She didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t Charis she was angry with and she feared she’d say the wrong things and it would be misunderstood. None of this made sense. She blinked another tear away from her eye and looked away, feeling defeated too.

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Posted (edited)

Charis felt awful. Proper, stomach-gripping, nausea inducing awful. But what could she do? She was well-wedged between a rock and a hard place; to be bad in Tertius' book meant to be a good friend to Cynane and spend time laughing and enjoying the summer - potentially at the expense of her child. To be good in Teritius' book was to be a bad friend; to cut off her best friend - the woman who had made her time here bearable. "Please...please don't be angry." She pleaded with watery eyes and swallowed, "Cinnia I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I..." 

She reached for her friends hand again and squeezed it, wracking her brain for a solution. She considered saying that perhaps if they happened to bathe at the same baths on the same days they could see one another but that was duplicitous and a last resort. No. There had to be another way. She bit her lip hard before she spoke; "I'll speak to dominus. I will ask him, ask his permission to see you, I-I'll convince him, I promise." 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Cynane didn’t want her friend to feel awful – it wasn’t Charis fault, any of this, it was her fucking idiot of a master and Cynane would like to kick his ass a few times. But she couldn’t, she couldn’t do anything for Charis and instead, she was now losing a friend because of Charis’ owner. That’s what she felt at least. She was speechless and didn’t know what to say. She felt sad and angry at the same time and also useless… and together, those feelings did nothing good for her. Cynane never cried. And she never felt defeated.

 Charis asked her to not be angry and apologized, “I’m not angry. Not with you.” She ensured her friend and felt Charis’ hand wrap around her own again and she squeezed it. She said she’d speak to her dominus and convince him to let her see Cynane.

 “I don’t want you to get into more trouble with him… it seems there’s been enough…” She looked at Charis again, “And I don’t want to be the reason for the trouble either.” This was such a dilemma and she didn’t know how to solve it. She wanted to see Charis again, she didn’t want to wait months again. But she also wanted Charis and her child to be safe and for that child to see freedom. That mattered more. It had to matter more.

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Charis returned Cynane's squeeze of her hand and nodded as she affirmed she wasn't angry at her. It didn't help assuage her guilt much though. "No, no I won't get in trouble for it," She tried to explain although she must have sounded as unconvinced as she felt, "I...I'll tell him that I came across you here - he'll be pleased that I admitted it honestly, I'm sure, a-and I'll ask him if I can visit the markets with you - or the baths. You're a Princesses bodyguard, I-I'm sure he'll understand and be pleased that I'm asking permission." she swallowed the lump in her throat. She really had no idea what Tertius would say to the suggestion. 

She sighed and wiped her eyes again with the back of her hand, pulling her gaze away from Cynane to stare out into the distance. "It won't always be like this, I promise and when the baby comes, when the baby is freed I will do what I want and I won't care, he can't take it back and just think - we can go for honey cakes and wine in the gardens all afternoon long and I can say that the baby needed fresh air. You will be the best aunt to the baby, Cynane." She said and nudged the woman lightly - trying to feign a smile. She didn't even know if her friend liked children, let alone wished to be considered an aunt but the terminology was used much more loosely in Britannia than here and when she was growing up she had six or seven aunts and uncles who were mere friends of her parents, rather than kin by blood.

 

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She did want to see Charis again and she didn’t want to wait months this time, but on the other hand, she didn’t want her friend to get in trouble. Charis said she’d not be in trouble and said she’d be honest with her master, which he liked. Of course he liked that. But how could he know though, that she was honest? Cynane glanced around them, wondering if he had Charis followed, but no one seemed to be glaring at them.

 “Maybe he will. But be careful, please. I can’t stand the thought of him harming you more than he’s already done.” Cynane said, she felt it was more than enough already. First Charis’ master had punished her for speaking truths to Helios, who then sold it, and then he had taken advantage of her so many times, that she was now pregnant with his child. And that made her want to die or something close to it. It made her harm herself. She couldn’t stand the thought of more like that.

 Charis then wiped her eyes and glanced away again, said it wouldn’t always be like this, she promised that once her child was freed, she could do what she wanted. Cynane smiled slightly when Charis said she’d be the best aunt, “I can’t believe I’ll be an aunt.” She said with a chuckle, “But… please just promise me to not do or say anything to your master, that’ll make him want to hurt you again. Or that will make you want to hurt you again. I… love you like a sister, Charis.” Her own sisters that she knew back in Britannia, they were gone for good. She hadn’t even had it in her to look for them. They could be dead or alive, she didn’t know and it was all so long ago now. But she had Charis. And she wouldn’t lose her again.

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Charis grinned, "An Aunt indeed. Which means you have to teach the little one all about fighting and how to be a good person." And be there for them, if I am not. She added mentally in her head but brushed the thought aside. She was trying not to think of the birth; that was an obstacle she'd face when the time came. 

"I promise, I promise I won't." She shook her head and then wrapped her arms around her friend in a spontaneous hug, speaking into the blonde woman's neck. "I love you too, you are my sister." If she'd had a sister like Cynane growing up then she doubted she would have ended up in the mess she now found herself in. She swallowed and reached dow to squeeze her hand as she withdrew from the hug; "I...I want you there at the birth as well, if you want to be - of course. I...I asked my domine." 

 

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They both enjoyed a little laugh over the idea of Cynane becoming an aunt, but she thought she liked the idea a lot actually. She might never have children of her own, so why should she not enjoy Charis' child indeed? She thought of being the aunt that would teach him about his heritage and also spoil him. Of course she knew that would not be the case. Both the mother and the aunt of this child were slaves and they could not just choose who they were or who they spent time with, apparently. This was the first time she'd seen Charis in months and with all these news... and now Charis of course also wanted Cynane to teach him about fighting and becoming a good person. She nodded, "I will... as much as I am able to." She promised her friend and had then wanted Charis to stay safe with her master. She didn't want her friend harmed and then she confessed how dearly she'd come to care for Charis. Like a sister.

Charis promised she would be careful and then wrapped her arms around Cynane in a hug, which was of course returned. Charis returned the kind and warm words and Cynane squeezed Charis and kissed her hair, "As you are mine." She whispered, and then Charis let go and said she wanted Cynane to be there when the child was born. And she had already asked her master about it!

"I would be honored, if he allows it. I'll try not to murder him in his sleep while I'm there." She added with a little laugh, but perhaps she was more serious about that matter than she showed. That man had hurt Charis so badly in so many ways. He deserved to be murdered in his sleep. But she knew it wouldn't happen. Maybe one day, if she grew tired of her life and wanted to be properly executed, she'd do something so rash. But not now. At least she didn't think so.

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She grinned, sniffing back tears. "I will make sure he does a-and if he meets you, and you are good," She laughed a little with an arched eyebrow at Cynane, "M-maybe he'll let us meet more overtly? Together?" It was fantasy, but if she could give Tertius a healthy child, if she could be good, if Cynane could be respectful and Tertius saw the opportunity in being pleasant to a slave of the Imperial family, then maybe it was possible. She ignored the great swathe of 'ifs'. 

"He said he would think on it, and we can't speak our language but, but I don't care...I want you there." She squeezed her friends hand as firmly as she could. Cynane's presence would have the added benefit of riling Hector which would amuse her, but she dared not admit that. Her spare hand fluttered to her bump as the baby moved - switching positions, "I...I think it's a boy you know, I have a feeling. My mother used to go to a druid apparently when she was with child, to find out, and she was convinced she knew the signs...I just..." She swallowed, "I just hope if it is a boy that he's better than this father." 

 

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Charis said she’d make sure her master allowed Cynane to be there for the birth – and if Cynane was good, they might be allowed to meet more often. She arched a brow back, “If I’m good? Of course I’m good.” She said with a grin, she would have to try her best to not speak up against Charis’ master, because she did not like him or what he did to Charis, not one tiny bit. It wasn’t entirely a joke, the part about murdering him in his sleep. But she’d try and steer clear of him, maybe that would do the trick. She would have to do her best, for Charis’ sake.

“I’d love to meet with you more often and openly.” She then added, sincerely, and Charis said they could not speak their own language, but she didn’t care. What the… he didn’t want them to speak their own language? Cynane liked Tertius less and less the more Charis said. Fucking Roman.  

Charis had been squeezing her hand, but then suddenly she moved her other hand and spoke of the baby, how she was sure it would be a boy and mentioned her mother. And that she hoped the boy would be better than his father.

“With you as his mother, and present… how can he not become a good boy and man? And if your master sets him free… he’s off to a good start, at least.” She said with a smile, hoping the child would be freed, hoping her master was not that mean and cruel that he’d keep Charis’ child as a slave, like he’d done with his other son. You never knew with the Romans though. She wouldn’t trust it until it happened.

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Charis chuckled and arched a knowing brow, "You're Cynane the fearsome warrior - you can't always be good. And he'll want to talk to you but..." She narrowed her eyes, "He might enjoy talking to somebody from the Palace, I think he is intrigued more than anything." Because how often was it when one met the personal bodyguard of an Imperial princess? She merely nodded at Cynane's agreement she wished to meet more often. Charis did too - she craved it, in fact, but she couldn't risk doing it covertly at the moment - not with everything at stake. 

She merely offered a shadow of a smile at Cynane's sweet words. "But...he might not be freed," She shook her head, "Domine hasn't confirmed it at all and one wrong move and he said he'd take the child from me..." Her voice sounded hollow as she mentioned it, before she continued - already on a dark track; "A-and if something were to go wrong, at the birth, I've heard such horror stories and I try not to think about it b-but it's hard...he'd be all alone, no mother, no father and..." She cut herself off with a little pained choke and shook her head, "I...I'm just scared." She glanced across at her friend, "W-hen you were back in the arena, or before a battle, h-how did you stop yourself? Feeling so terrified?" 

 

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