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Mid-August, 75AD

Horatia sipped her wine, eyeing the dancers with amusement and interest. It was different, for a party, she'd grant their host that. Usually there were poetry recitals or dramatic performances and such and she had to admit it got a little...dry after a while. She was pleased that Antonia had spared no expense tonight. The dancers were from some Eastern province judging by the music that accompanied them and were mesmerising. She stood alone in the sea of people invited tonight; many she knew, others she did not. Aulus was sequestered away somewhere by the husband of their host discussing politics or his upcoming (potential) appointment to the Consulship and she cast him a wry, amused smile every now and again over the heads of other people gathered in the circle to watch the dancers. 

She'd also, much like Antonia, spared no expense for this evening. She was wearing a stola as befit her rank and marital status, but it was fine garment of silk in the colour 1, almost akin to a burning sunset and it was left open at the arms - being held together by ornate gold clasps instead of stitched shut. Her vibrant red hair had been intricately braided and set up although not in the hyper-fashionable way some ladies piled it atop their heads. Her palla, draped over her shoulder and and arm, and the tunica she wore underneath her stola were a paler yellow. She wore minimal jewellery, as she customarily did, but the bracelets she wore glinted in the lamp light being cast across the triclinium. Whilst she didn't necessarily enjoy these sort of functions the way some social butterflies did, she always made an exceptional effort. She was the wife of one of the most powerful men in the city, and she had to look the part. Besides, she wasn't an old woman by any means and it was nice (in an odd sort of way) to have aspirational or a few longing looks cast her way. 

She tried to ignore said glances as she stood watching the dancers, her back leaning against a pillar that opened up into the garden. She smiled to herself at the spectacle and murmured a positive comment at the lady stood to her side, unknown to her. It was only when somebody called her name did she pull her eyes away from the rhythmic movements. She recognised Pinaria Gaia, they moved in equivalent circles although she wasn't a close friend by any means. She offered a gentle smile. "Pinaria, it's lovely to see you." She leant in to kiss the woman on the cheek, "You look lovely." 

 

TAG: @Atrice

The colour of her stola is this colour dress from Horatia's face claim in the Borgias, when they dressed up as Romans! 

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It was already a while since that dreadful earthquake, which naturally no one enjoyed. By now, at least the most prominent buildings in Rome were restored – or some of them were. Those that had patrons who could support the rebuilding. The same went for the most beautiful villas and houses in Rome. If they were owned by someone with a lot of money, they were being restored. That was clearly the case for this beautiful home, she thought, as she walked around. Her brother had made her come. He wanted her to be seen, wanted her to let it be known that she was on the lookout for a husband. And she was! She wanted a good father for her son. So she’d dressed up in one of her good dresses, a light green color with a darker green over it, it was like spring leaves compared to those in the high summer.

Even wearing your good dress however, didn’t make it easy. Good men were so few and far from each other. And even the best of them were not necessarily the best after all. She had considered approaching a few of the eligible bachelors that weren’t too young, but found that there was gossip about them that brought down their reputation. For example, that handsome and infamous womanizer, Cassius Longinus… the stories were not few concerning that man! And even the man rumored as the next consul, Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus, even he had people writing nonsense about him on the wall. Pinaria had seen her own name somewhere too, so she wasn’t free from it either. But still… good men were so few in Rome.

And look over there, there stood Horatia Justina, the woman who held the interesting book club Pinaria attended a while ago. She was married to Praetextatus and outwardly, their marriage was perfect. They had been married many years, they had two beautiful children and Praetextatus was possibly moving up in ranks here in Rome. Pinaria stood for a moment with her wine in the hand, wondering what Horatia thought of the gossip. If she even knew it. And if there was any truth to it? Perhaps she should find out. It couldn’t hurt, right?

So she approached the woman, calling out her name and Horatia turned to smile to her and she even complimented Pinaria, “So do you, quite stunning, in fact.” She said and she meant it. Horatia was a beautiful woman. It was almost a pity that she preferred her husband and no one else. At least that’s what they said.

“You’re admiring the dancers, I see. Are they any good?”

@Sara

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Horatia waved a hand and gestured with a jerk of her head to the bevy of beauties that filled the room. "Ah, you're a liar Pinaria." She was not the most attractive, or the most forthright woman in Rome, but she had her charms. Of course, they were exclusively reserved for her husband now, unless a bit of light flirtation was required for a guest of her husbands to make him feel flattered or charmed. 

"Mhmm." She responded at the question and turned back to watch them briefly, blue eyes flicking over the group. "It's nice to have something a bit different for once, Antonia is never one to be outdone." Her lips twitched in amusement. She didn't much care for the older woman - in her fifties and married to a terribly dull and drab Senator - but socialising at these sort of things was important for the family. 

"How have you been keeping?" She enquired gently and glanced to the woman, a genuinely concerned look on her face, "I hope you weren't too impacted by the earthquake?" 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Horatia called Pinaria a liar when she commented how stunning Horatia looked, but Pinaria shook her head, “I most certainly am not. You should give yourself a bit more credit, Horatia.” She said. Pinaria wasn’t young either, not anymore, but she knew she had her looks too. And Horatia certainly did too, she thought. Plus her dress was amazing. They then looked at the dancers that Horatia had been watching and she said it was nice to see something different.

“It is different. And they’re not bad, it seems.” She said with a smile and then Horatia had wondered how Pinaria was doing after the earthquake. They were exchanging pleasantries, as everyone did at these parties. At least to begin with. She wasn’t terribly familiar with Horatia as a person, she just knew the stories about her and had of course watched at the meeting about the Odyssey too. But besides that, she did not know Horatia well.

“Our home here took some damage… but I wasn’t there. I’d gone to visit a friend by the beach in Naples in June and on the way back to Rome, I stopped by another to stay a few days too. We felt the earthquake, but they were good at getting us all outside. We were all safe.” She explained, “How about you… and your family? Are your children and your husband well?”

@Sara

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Horatia smiled. She liked Naples, although she liked Baiae more. What was the point, she pondered, of swapping the business and hustle of Rome for the crowded streets of Naples in the summer? She much preferred the solitude her father-in-law's villa offered, although she didn't say as such. She only smiled and let out a little sigh of relief; "Good, I'm glad to hear it. It was awful." The actual earthquake, granted, wasn't as frightening as the riot she had been caught up in the next day granted, but again - what happened then and her need to shelter in a brothel was entirely inappropriate for this conversation. 

"They're well thank you," She nodded - her face lighting up a little at their mention, "My son has only just turned fourteen and will be putting on his toga virilis shortly, if you can believe it." She laughed, she couldn't. How on earth was she old or mature enough to have a nearly adult son! "And my daughters rapidly becoming a woman as well at twelve. It's a little frightening, truth be told." She smiled wryly and sipped her wine. 

"And your son?" She asked, recalling that Pinaria had given her late husband a son before his passing although he couldn't quite remember when she heard it. "And your siblings? I'm sure Aulus would like to reconnect with your brother, if he's come with you this evening?" It was a bit of a loaded question, although expertly disguised. Who else would an unmarried woman come to this sort of party with? 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Talking about the earthquake was only natural now – it was still on everyone’s lips and probably would be for a while yet. Homes had been destroyed and lost, people had died and lost everything or at least a lot and now everyone (or everyone’s slaves, rather) were busy rebuilding everything. And it was still something you could talk about with anyone, because they had experienced the same event. Horatia was kind enough, said she was glad to hear Pinaria was safe and called the event awful. Then she continued to talk about her own family. Well Pinaria did ask.

She already had a son who was almost growing into a man and her daughter was also barely a child. Pinaria just had her son and he was so young. If only she’d been able to marry younger…

“I can imagine it is frightening to see your children at that age. I’ve heard they can be troublesome.” Of course she (and Horatia) had been young once too, but she did not recall that she was so troublesome… but maybe she was. It had been a difficult time when she was young, it was during the riots and civil war. Horatia continued to ask about Pinaria’s family then and Pinaria sipped her wine. She could see what Horatia was trying to do.

“My brother is not here tonight – he does not need to watch my every step.” And besides, she was hardly a child. She was looking for a husband, yes, but she did not need her brother to watch over her while she was supposed to be looking. She was a widow, she had a son. She was not a child. But enough talk about her, she thought.

“What about your husband, is he here with you tonight? Or has he left you… alone?” She asked, glancing around. She couldn’t see the man anywhere. Perhaps he too was looking for someone new to marry, as the gossip said. You never knew with men.

@Sara

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"Mhmm." Horatia said with a smile, "The moods of teenagers...I swear I wasn't quite so...morose or stubborn when I was their age, and if I was I shall have to goo back and apologise to my Father." She chuckled. They were good children, really. Titus had a good head on his shoulders and took after his father more than her, which she supposed was a good thing given her own reserved nature. Calpurnia, likewise, was beautiful and charming but quiet and a little more introverted. The ideal future bride, she supposed with a heavy heart. 

Interesting. She arched a brow lightly. "I meant no offence," She quickly offered, "Only that it's been a while since I had seen him, and I am sure Aulus would have liked to say hello." She wasn't even aware if Aulus actually knew the man but her husband offered plausible deniability in a circumstance such as this. Her eyes narrowed a touch, although she kept the same genial smile on her face at the woman's odd choice of phrasing. Horatia wasn't much one for gossip, nor reading the latest graffiti and didn't have any sort of idea what she was referring to; "He is," She gestured her head over the heads of others at the party to where her husband stood, "He's been sequestered away by our hosts husband...something political and urgent to discuss no doubt." She let out a small laugh and sipped her wine, "Why do you ask?" She queried gently, "Were you hoping  to speak with him?" 

 

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Horatia spoke of the moods of teenagers and didn’t think she was as stubborn when she was that young, “I don’t know what I was like… it was a confusing time, back then, when we had to flee Rome and all that. Good thing that’s in the past.” Pinaria replied and then Horatia had asked if her brother was here and thought her husband would like to meet with him. But he wasn’t here, her brother, thank the gods! Else he might be watching over her, making sure she talked to the right people. Well if Horatia wasn’t right, who was? With her husband possibly climbing higher in the Roman hierarchy of nobles. How high though?

The other woman said she had not meant to offend Pinaria and then went back to speak about her husband, “I’m sure he’s more than welcome to come to our house someday. Maybe both of you?” Pinaria suggested kindly, although she wasn’t sure if her brother and Horatia’s husband had much in common, but friends in high places were always welcome.

When she had asked if Horatia’s husband had left her alone here, the other woman smiled and said her husband was here, nodding towards him and then wondering why Pinaria would ask about it.

“Oh me? No… I don’t really know him. I was just curious, with the things you hear these days. You never know with men, after all, but of course, a wife must trust her husband. I imagine you two are happy together.” Pinaria added with a smile and sipped her wine, glancing towards the man. You’d read the strangest things on the walls sometimes.

@Sara

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"I'd be delighted to come, and I shall ask my husband." Such offers of social calls were often made and then completely forgotten about the next day, by many women. It irked her no end. if one put out an invitation, one should follow through with the offer. It was just good manners. She'd wait and see what sort of woman Pinaria was, she supposed, about whether a note dropped onto her new desk in her own study at the domus. Poor Aulus, being dragged to inane social events out of social politeness. 

But Pinaria's words caught her. She hadn't seen the wall herself, but could read the woman's insinuation clear as glass. What on earth was being said about her and Aulus? She glanced across and spied her husbands head above the crowds and narrowed her eyes on it in thought for a moment, before glancing back at Pinaria. She affected a gentle smile but her words held iron; "Oh Pinaria, you mustn't listen to mindless gossip." She chided gently but her blue eyes flashed with danger. She was not going to have scandalous rumours circulated about the state of her marriage by bored housewives or widows, "We're very happy, but I thank you for your concern." She sipped her wine and dragged her eyes back to stare absently at the dancers, talking to Pinaria without looking at her; "You do  hear and read all sorts of awful things don't you? I could have sworn I read something of you and your sisters, but of course, I don't believe all that's written on the walls of Rome, I'm not that naive." 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Horatia said she’d ask her husband about visiting with Pinaria’s brother and would be delighted to come too, but somehow, Pinaria sensed it wasn’t going to happen. This was just a conversation, an exchange of words and she could not quite figure Horatia out. On the façade, the woman was so soft and sweet and she was certain there was something else underneath all that. Especially since her husband was aiming for consul and who knew what he’d want after that? Sure, it was just gossip, but there was a saying that even fairy tales had their origins in truth.

They went on, speaking about Horatia’s husband and Pinaria let it drop that you heard certain things, it was unsaid that it was about Aulus, but she was sure Horatia would pick it up. And you really never knew with men. She noted how Horatia glanced at her husband for a moment – perhaps a bit uncertainly? – and then she smiled ever so gently at Pinaria, saying she should not listen to gossip. But she was angry. Her voice and her eyes said much more than her words. She concluded they were happy but then said something about Pinaria and her sisters. Of course, she could not defend herself, so instead she attacked. It was for certain now, all the sweetness Horatia showed on the outside was indeed covering up for something behind that.

“Oh me neither.” Pinaria agreed, she was not that naïve. And she knew they wrote things about women named Pinaria too. Not that she cared, she knew the truth after all. What she didn’t know was the truth with Horatia and Aulus and she was very curious, “But there are jokes and there are… stories. Do you even know what’s said about you and your husband? I mean, they may just be stories, but someone must have heard something somewhere, because you don’t just make that up. Right?”

@Sara

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Horatia smiled to herself, and arched a brow - still not turning to face her company and instead pretending to be transfixed by the dancers. She felt her blood thrum with the good game. Men battled wits and wills in political and military theatres whilst women were confined to expend their intellect in gossip and such. Fortunately, she was very good at it. Not for the first time she thought herself wasted in her gender. 

"I don't know." She clarified with a little shrug and then glanced sideways at Pinaria, "But I suspect you'd like to tell me?" She arched a brow, eyes full of challenge but a gentle smile still on her face, before she turned back to look at the dancers. "I must say though, it's a little rude to corner a woman under the guise of a friendly conversation Pinaria, only to fill her ears with the mindless chatter of plebs and bored widows." She glanced back at Pinaria and shook her head, "No offence intended of course." 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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She saw Horatia smile as she watched the dancers, considering Pinaria's words, obviously. She had offended the other woman, but Horatia made no move to leave her side nor to state that she was offended. Instead she stood there, sipping her wine and finally saying she didn't know what was said about her and her husband. Then she called Pinaria rude to corner her and talk about gossip, because that's basically what she said. She also called Pinaria a bored widow. She was no such thing, she wasn't bored. She just wasn't getting far with her brother's plans of a new husband for her. Horatia said she meant no offense. Right. 

"None taken." Pinaria simply replied, "I did not mean to corner you though - and I did intend friendly conversation, Horatia." Pinaria said. It was actually true though, that she had approached Horatia because she was curious about the stories. But what she was mostly curious about, was finding out how true they were. And it was better to know the truth than only listen to the gossip, right?

"It's impossible to know these days, what is mindless chatter and what is more, though. Which is why I am curious and thought I'd learn from you, rather than what the grapewine says." She said with a small smile, "Do you want to know, even? I won't tell you if you don't want to know... sometimes it's better not knowing, right? But if any of the stories hold up, of course... I'd be sad to know you were caught off guard, rather than at least be a little aware." Pinaria arched a brow at the other woman. At least this was more interesting than searching for a husband. Far more interesting.

@Sara

 

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Horatia listened, utterly disinterested. She'd heard all sorts over the years about her family, her husbands family, herself, her friends. There was even the rumour last month that her closest friend Valeria Flacca was dead! It was just the idle chit chat of people that had nothing more pressing to fill their days and it was pitiable, really. 

"I'm touched by your concern." She offered with a gentle smile and shook her head. Horatia had always been excellently at retaining her composure. It's what some considered so irritating about her, and why some women found her cold and stand-offish apparently (according to her father at any rate). She was always incredibly careful about her choice of words - should this conversation be recounted, for example, nobody could say her words were not polite. And she'd maintain to the hilt that she had meant no offence and Pinaria had only misheard her tone. 

"Do go on then," She said as she dragged her eyes back to watch the dancers and their rhythmic movements, "Enlighten me." She cared little to hear the latest vain gossip but Pinaria seemed intent on telling her, which told her this was no idle, easily rubbished issue. She felt a roll of her stomach that this might be related to the dealings with that never to be named Praetorian Tribune.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Pinaria did not have much to do in her life at the moment – she took good care of her son and helped her siblings run the house. And then she spent time with her freedwoman, of course, who was more than just her friend. It was probably a badly kept secret, Lucia once told her she’d read on the wall that there was a rumor about them, even. But it was unofficial, of course. There was so much gossip and some was just gossip and some was true. It was difficult to tell apart, which was why she was happy to talk to Horatia, whose words were polite, but filled with poison, she felt. Pinaria was too curious for her own good though, so she stayed.

Horatia smiled, claiming to be touched by Pinaria’s concern and then asked her to tell what she’d heard. Well where to begin! There was that story about Horatia and her husband’s body slave and then there were the even more interesting stories about Aulus. Horatia claimed to not be interested, but she must at least be curious. Honestly though, she seemed a bit haughty, to think that she was above all that – when she too was a part of it. They wouldn’t tell stories about her if there wasn’t a reason, right?

“Well… where to begin…” Pinaria said, pausing elegantly and she put a finger on her chin in thought, “Well there is something about your husband being elevated to consul. I’m sure that part is true, it would be an honorable position. But…” She leaned closer to Horatia, whispering now, “They also say he wants to be Caesar and replace our good Quintus. Imagine that. You’d be Augusta, if that was the case.” She said, arching a brow at the other noblewoman. Honestly, she could easily picture Horatia as some arrogant Augusta. She would probably enjoy it too, being elevated above the rest like that. She already would be as a consul’s wife of course.

@Sara

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Horatia didn't look at Pinaria lest she let out a little giggle at the facade of respectability and intrigue the woman was presenting. As it was, she continued to watch the dancers, and let Pinaria talk and lean closer to whisper. But as she finished, Horatia's face flipped into a mask of reproach and she shot the other woman a particular glare; "Don't be so foolish, Pinaria." There were no veiled references now, "You no doubt know as well as I do that Aulus has been friends with Caesar for years and has supported him just as long." She shook her head and turned her body so her arm was resting against the pillar and she was facing the other woman directly. 

"I don't think his ambitions to the Consulship are a secret," She shrugged, "He's incredibly talented and Quintus knows that, but the purple? Really?" She scoffed, although realised she hadn't overtly denied it up until that point, "I can promise you, my husband nor myself have any designs to replace the Emperor, who Aulus himself counts as a friend." She shook her head and with another reproachful look, sured to face the dancers again. "I had hoped the gossips would be a little cleverer than to spread malicious treason, but alas," She shrugged, "That was a vain hope it seems." 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Pinaria listened with interest as Horatia responded to her little spill about the gossip. Horatia called her foolish, because her husband was friends with Caesar and was his supporter. Well that was a well-known fact, but that did not change those rumors that were all over the place and had been for months already. Horatia claimed they did not have such aspirations though and she called the gossip treason and nothing else.

“Well, I am glad to hear it from you at least, that you have no such intentions as to replace our most beloved Caesar. I didn't think so, but I am glad to know the truth now. He brought peace to the Empire - he deserves the purple more than anyone.” She said with a smile, “But still, isn’t it good to know, at least… then you would be prepared, in case someone less smart and just as loyal to Caesar listen to the same gossip. And decide to try and… have your husband removed, to lessen the risks.” That was something useful at least, she thought. The mob would run crazy sometimes, everyone knew that. If an idea got into someone’s head, the right someone, they could stir the whole city and they’d have a new civil war on their hands. Surely it was good to know the gossip beforehand, so you could crush it.

But there was more to the story… and Pinaria for one did not really buy Horatia’s sweetness. Sure she said she had a happy marriage and they seemed so perfect on the façade, but there was clearly something off, when such rumors occurred in Rome. They wouldn’t come out of nowhere, right? She wanted to tell Horatia the rest, but was unsure how much that might anger Horatia. So she didn’t say more yet.

@Sara

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Horatia nodded and wound an arm around her slender waist as she watched the dancers absently, mind elsewhere and strategising. "Indeed, he has my eternal thanks." She repeated with a small smile and a nod, "I'm so pleased those days of war are behind us, lets pray to the Gods we never have to repeat it. " She cast a sideways glance at Pinaria. Foolish men with foolish plans and larger egos had caused the war, and killed how many thousands in battles and riots and the destruction that followed? 

"I'm not so sure Caesar keeps company with men of that little intelligence," She arched a brow and shook her head, "And he knows Aulus, trusts him. But I thank you for your concern." She inclined her head again but didn't take those cool blue eyes off of Pinaria's pretty face. She couldn't completely read the woman which was unnerving for a woman who usually could see the intentions of the senatorial classes from a mile off. She didn't say anymore but merely watched the other woman for a little longer before turning her attention back to the dancers who were reaching the zenith of their piece. It provided Horatia with ample time to muse, and a distraction to do so uninterrupted. 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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Horatia was being defensive in the strangest way and Pinaria was not quite sure why. She had only come to figure out whether gossip was true or not and Horatia was ever polite, as if someone smeared honey on her tongue before Pinaria had reached her. It was almost too much, to be honest. And now Horatia mentioned how happy she was that the wars were behind them, since Pinaria mentioned how their Caesar brought peace to their empire. She nodded at Horatia’s words and then the other said she doubted Caesar had friends with little intelligence, as if she was not afraid anyone would try and murder her husband because he strived for the same position.

“You never know with men.” Pinaria simply said, watching Horatia watching the dancers. She was more curious but decided enough was enough. She could not say it was easy or even entertaining to speak with Horatia. Sometimes, you just had little in common with other people and at least, she learned that tonight. That she and Horatia were two very different people and it was obvious Horatia was not all that interested in Pinaria in the first place. She glanced around and then she took another sip of her wine.

“Oh, it would seem this needs to be filled again.” She said, her cup was empty, “Excuse me, Horatia… if I am not interrupted, we can speak further when I return.” Pinaria said, quite sure that she would be interrupted, and it did not seem to her, that Horatia wanted much to do with her anyway.  

@Sara

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