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Spoke Just Like a Baroness


Lucius Antonius Alexius
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Early September, 75 AD

Alexius had been talking to people. Well, he always talked to people and met people and had good times with people, but he was on a mission now. A certain and very important job, because a friend of his had been attacked and he had to do something about it. Didia must have been so afraid, he thought, when that sick fucker cut her and she had to go to Theo for help and then asked Alexius to help her look for the guy. And of course he'd help her! She was his neighbor and friend and he hated to see anyone he liked, harmed. It actually felt good, for once, to know you did something that really mattered to someone. And now, that’s exactly what he did.

Galla, one of his lovers, suggested he went to the lower classes and the alleys and brothels to look for the attacker. And so he went to the first on his mind, the lovely Lucilla, who lived up on the top floor of the insula, because she knew people like that. But she said she doubted any guys like that went to the Venus. She had not heard about any men with knives cutting up anyone for fun there. But maybe at Elysium? People with sick tendencies tended to go there, she said. That brothel-owner felt no remorse and all he thought about was earning coin. The whores there got beaten up and worse and nobody cared. He'd gone out, asked around and some days later, he knew that Elysium had to be the place to go to.

So that’s where he went. If Didia’s attacker ever went to a brothel, that would be the place! He felt weird though, approaching the place. Alexius had never once paid for sex, not directly anyway. Paying to meet a gladiatrix because she fought well, and said gladiatrix then deciding she liked him enough to have him, that was different in his eyes. And now he stood in front of the Elysium, a poorly kept building, matching its inhabitants, he guessed. Poor girls and guys. But he wasn’t here for sex, at least. He was here for information.

Alexius entered the house, coming into the bar-like room on the ground level, where men (and some women) met whores who’d let them do just about anything. He felt… almost dirty, walking in here. He didn't like the idea of owning other people and then selling them to the highest bidder for one night or one release only. Some of them could be used many times in  the same night. It was disgusting. As a gladiator, he'd been prostituted too. He knew what it was like. It was not always a fun business and especially not in a place like this. He inhaled a breath and ran a hand through his hair while his eyes adjusted to the light.  

@Echo

Edited by Atrice
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  • Atrice changed the title to Spoke Just Like a Baroness

It had been some time since her last visit with Marcus Barbatius, but one time had been enough for him to have firmly reiterated her place in the world for her. The thought of his vitriol as she had explained that she might not have convinced her client that she'd cut herself made her shudder, and every night since she'd found her head jerking to watch the door when someone came in. She could keep her mouth shut. The thought of what he might do to her if he found out she'd told anyone... her blood ran cold. 

Tonight, she was on drink duty until she was chosen by a client, and she found her eyes darting to the door as the bell rang, signifying a customer had entered. But she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw it was not Marcus but a large, attractive man who seemed a bit uncomfortable. She hoisted her amphora of wine and a cup and approached the man. "Welcome to the Elysium," she said with a flirtatious smile, finding it easy to access a flirtatious side while looking at him. "A cup of wine while you choose, dominus?"

@Atrice

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He didn’t know if he was uncomfortable, it was just a place he’d never visited before and he disliked the idea of it. When you had a past as a slave yourself and even a past that included being sold to the highest bidder, without anyone asking what you wanted… you knew how it was like. Sure he’d not been abused as much as he heard some of the prostitutes in here were, but it hadn’t been amazing every time either. And just the thought of not having a choice or a say in the matter. Your body belonged to anyone who’d pay for it. Alexius thought it disgusting.

But as disgusting as that was, as disgusting was it that lovely Didia had been attacked and cut by some sick maniac… who might just visit a place like the Elysium too. So here he was, looking around at the sparsely clothed girls and boys and the filthy men in here, wanting them. They were just sitting and some were walking around, trying to decide who they were in the mood for tonight. Alexius had to approach someone too, but not for sex. For information.

He hadn’t gotten anywhere yet, when a young and dark-haired beauty approached him with a smile, welcoming him and offering him wine. Well that part, he could say yes to. Alexius was fond of wine. Perhaps a little more than he should be.

“Thank you… and yes, wine sounds nice.” Alexius replied to her. She came over fast, didn’t she? Were they instructed to just approach anyone who entered, or else? Poor girl.

“Perhaps you’ll have a cup with me?” He suggested with a friendly smile, since she was the first to approach her, she would be the first he questioned.

@Echo

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Deia had been trained well, it was true. She had always been expected to be ready to greet a guest when the other girls were tied up, ready to be chosen and used and then ready to return to the floor of the brothel to repeat the process over and over again until the sun came up. She thought it seemed reasonable to assume that this man was here for what everyone else was here for, so she was the first to greet him even though that might expose her to being chosen. He seemed nice, though, better than most customers. He thanked her and accepted her offer, and she gestured to a table and chair for him to sit as she poured the wine delicately. 

His next request was unexpected, and yet expected at the same time; she had greeted him, perhaps he had taken an interest. Some men liked to talk before going to a private room, and she supposed he must be one of those types. "Certainly, dominus," she said, going away for a moment to get another cup for herself, and to pull another chair to his table. "Perhaps I can help you find what you want. What are you looking for this evening?" She leaned her elbows on the table, fixing him with her eyes. 

@Atrice

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It was kind of incredible really, that he had spent so much of his life in Rome, his free life too… but never once had he entered a brothel before. He never liked the idea of it and even now a part of him felt sickened by the very idea of being here. At least he wasn’t here for sex. He wasn’t here to pay one of these girls to do whatever he asked of them, or allowed him to do whatever he pleased to them. Of course he could give them a good time, give them control for once, but he’d still be paying for it and where was the fun in that? It wouldn’t be real. Alexius preferred the real deal.

Not that the girl who approached him wasn’t pretty, no, she was quite tempting, but he was not going to pay to have sex with her. He would have a chat with her though and he accepted the idea of some wine. She gestured to a table and a chair and Alexius sat down while she poured for him. The way she moved, it was like watching someone perform a play. She had to do this. She had no choice. And every movement had probably been instructed before. She was pretty, but her actions were not tempting to him. Not when he knew it was all pretense.

He’d suggested she drank with him and she agreed and went to fetch a cup for herself. She sat down with him and wondered what he wanted.

“First, I want you to not call me dominus? Call me…” He was about to tell her that he was Alexius, but if Didia’s attacker came here and someone found out he’d been asking questions, that would not be a smart move, “Lucius.” He said to her and sipped his drink.

“I am not looking for anything specifically… or I am, but not the way you think. I need…” How did he put it so it wouldn’t sound like he wanted sex, but still needed her time? He was looking for information, after all, “I need someone to talk to. Maybe you…? What’s your name?”

@Echo

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Deia listened to his requests, curious about what exactly this man wanted. He didn't want to be called dominus - he must be a freedman, then, or a lower citizen, to not want to be called that. Deia had been taught years ago that it was proper to call every man dominus, no matter what social class he was in, but some men preferred to be called by their names - like Lucius here, it seemed. "Very well, Lucius," she said with a grin. 

He went on to explain that he wasn't looking for what she thought he was, that he was looking for someone to talk to. Ah, so he was one of those. Men occasionally came here who were lonely, probably unmarried, without anyone to keep them company. She could handle that - in fact, it was a bit of a relief that she wouldn't have to perform much. "I can talk to you," she said, sipping her wine. "My name is Deianira, Lucius. What would you like to talk about?"

@Atrice

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The sweet young woman agreed to call him Lucius. It was odd, honestly, that he'd had this name for more than a decade but he barely ever used it. If he had to sign documents or something like that, of course he'd use his full name, but Lucius was not his name. It was so far from the name he grew up with and it was also a very common Roman name. And while he felt more at home here than anywhere else, apparently, he was not Roman. Alexius just fit him better in so many ways, but today, he'd be Lucius. He could only hope that he wouldn't run into anyone he knew who'd call him by his most used name. Instead he focused on his current companion, trying to explain to her that what he wanted most was to talk. He hoped her master wouldn't be upset, but maybe if he paid her for it, they could pretend it was something else than what it was? As long as her master got his coin, Alexius suspected the man would be pleased enough.

She said she could talk to him and introduced herself as Deianira. What a beautiful name, he thought. It sounded Greek. He felt he'd heard it before in some story and that it was something tragic, but he couldn't remember it. Not that he had to, that wasn't what he was here for. Of course she would know what he wanted to talk about. It didn't matter what she thought about him right now, that he was a lonely husband or something, although why would he ever be lonely? He was Alexius, after all... but not in here. Here he was Lucius.

"It's something quite... delicate. I don't know if it's smart to talk about it out here." Alexius said and downed some of his wine, "Do you have somewhere private, where we can go? I only wish to talk, but I will pay you for your time, so your master won't be upset with you. If that's alright with you?" 

@Echo

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Deianira smiled delicately as he explained it was something he didn't want to talk about out here, in the sitting room. There was something odd to this situation - not threatening, no, but something funny in a way she couldn't quite explain. She watched him as he downed some more of the wine and asked where they could go to be private. "Oh, certainly, Lucius. There is a room just down the hall." He at least said he would pay, which was her main concern, after all. If she didn't make Titus some money, why was she here? She certainly wasn't worth anything unless she could make him money. 

She stood and beckoned to the man, leading him down the hallway to the room she had mentioned. The sounds of men and workers in each of the rooms haunted her ears as she did, but they lessened a little more as she entered the room and closed the door behind him. "Would you like to sit?" There was a chair in one corner of the room, and a bed, of course. She waited to see where he wanted to sit, and sat on the other herself. "Now, what can I do for you, Lucius?"

@Atrice

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It was a strange experience, speaking to someone so trained in charming others and guessing what they wanted and needed, that she always had the right smile or word for him. To lure him in. Almost like a siren, he thought. It was tempting. Just look at her smile, when he said he didn’t want to talk out here. So gentle and fine a smile, as if she was compassionate for him. But the problem he was to discuss wasn’t about him. She said she had a room just down the hall and he stood and followed her down there.

 Alexius tried to ignore the sounds from the other rooms, they were sounds of pleasure, but some sounded fake and some sounded too rough from the men and… the women had no choice, they were forced to sleep with these men, whether they wanted to or not. It was a horrible business and he found that he kind of hated that he’d support it today, by paying Deianira for her time. But at least she wouldn’t have to spread her legs for him, no matter how sweet and tempting she was. He had other things to think about.

 At last they were in the simple room, where she closed the door and wondered where he would sit. He took a glance at the bed and then chose the chair. This was awkward! Deianira was the perfect hostess though, also sitting and wondering what she could do for him.

 “As I said, the matter I want to talk about is quite delicate. Can you promise me to not tell your master about it? I don’t want anyone to track me down and… attempt murder.” He doubted they’d succeed, Alexius had fought off worse scum before, but he didn’t want them to even try, “The matter concerns a friend of mine, who was attacked recently, by a man with a knife. And with the stories I hear about this place… I have reason to think he comes here. I could be wrong of course, but I have to know. Do you know of any patrons here, who like to cut the women?”

@Echo

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As Lucius chose the chair, Deia sat lightly on the bed and crossed one leg over the other at the knee. She supposed there were worse things than talking, and when he asked her to promise not to tell her master, she smiled indulgently for half a second. Her master certainly wouldn't want to hear whatever sordid secrets he was about to tell her. But then he suggested that if she did spill his secrets, someone might attempt to murder him! Her eyes widened and she stared at him for a long moment. "I - I suppose I can keep your secret," she said hesitantly. But she wasn't sure... what if his secret would hurt Titus's business? He would kill her if she didn't tell him at once. 

Lucius continued speaking, talking about a man who had attacked a friend of hers with a knife. With those words, Deia felt her muscles tighten. Yes, she knew someone who was capable of such a thing. He visited her here every so often. How was she to proceed? Unconsciously, she shifted her clothes so that her breasts were more effectively covered - she didn't want him to see her scar. "Perhaps if I knew... more about the man..." She bit her lip. "I'm not sure if I'm allowed to..." she trailed off before she finished the thought. 

@Atrice

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He had not meant to frighten her, but when he mentioned that she had to keep her his story to herself and that someone might try and kill him if it got out… she seemed surprised and stared at him with wide eyes. Not what she expected? Probably not. She was a slave and a prostitute in a brothel that was famous for catering to the less kind and more unusual patrons. She then said she could keep his secret, or she thought she could… “I hope you can.” Alexius replied to her, as she sat there lightly on the bed.

 Then he told her the story; what he came here for. And he knew before she spoke, that she knew something. He saw how she shifted and tensed while he told her about the attack on Didia. She even shifted her clothes, to cover herself more. That also told him something was wrong; people usually happily undressed for him. But Deianira here, she was afraid and the fear sat in her body. What happened to her? Had the man he just described… visited her? Hurt her? Fuck!

 Deianira spoke up. Said she might know more about that man but didn’t know if she should tell him anything. Alexius felt sorry for her. This wasn’t her fault. Gods he wanted to wrap her up in a protective embrace and just… keep her safe. She looked like she needed that. Poor girl.

 He stood and came closer to her, but did not sit down just yet… “Is it alright if I sit next to you? Then we won’t have to talk so loudly." He felt the walls might have ears here and he would hate himself if Deianira was harmed because of what she told him, "I will keep your secrets if you keep mine. All I need is… information. Please… I need to find him before he hurts anyone again. Did he hurt you?”

@Echo

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How could she have expected something like this? It had been a recurring nightmare of hers, that she was discovered by Marcus giving away his secrets and killed for her loose lips. She thought that Lucius must be a truly excellent sleuth, though, to have found one of Marcus's favorite haunts. He was just fortunate that he was not here tonight, both because it made Deia available to meet him and so that he was safe from Marcus's wrath upon finding someone on his path. As she trailed off, she saw the pity in his eyes and felt a flash of impotent anger at her predicament. She didn't want his pity - she wanted to be away from this place, whether dead or alive, she didn't care. 

He asked if he could sit next to her as he moved closer to her and she gazed up at him a moment before nodding in assent. She didn't speak yet, listening to his explanation. She wished she could trust him. "I'm afraid you don't understand, dominus..." She looked down at her folded hands. "My master, Titus... he is paid very well for his clients' secrets to be kept. If he knew that I was speaking to you of this..." She shivered. She'd seen his 'punishments' and was not keen to be on the receiving end of it. "I'm sorry your friend was hurt," she said softly, moving the attention off of herself. Deia wondered if she had a moral obligation to tell Lucius what she knew...

@Atrice

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Alexius hated that the man who hurt Didia had also hurt the lovely Deianira here. It was not fair to any of those girls and he knew it was not their fault. All he could do now was attempt to stop it... find the culprit who hurt them and beat him up. Maybe he'd even go as far as to dispose of the man if he found him. Alexius very rarely felt a desire to kill anyone. He'd done it in the arena, but back then, it was either kill or be killed. It had not been something he really wanted to do, it was something he had to do. This was different. Such a man did not deserve to live! 

He came over to sit nearer to Deianira, hoping that might make her open up to him and she nodded, agreeing that he could sit. Alexius then sat, promising he'd keep her secrets and he wanted to know if Deianira was really hurt by the same man, who hurt his friend. Even when the wound and scar healed on Didia, she'd be scarred inside. This was the least he could do for her. 

Deianira said then that her master was paid well to keep secrets, and if he found out she told Alexius anything. He saw her shiver.

"I'm sorry too. And I'm sorry that he hurt you... it's obvious that he did." Alexius said. He felt he had to be more direct though, or Deianira would never say anything. She was too afraid. If only he could take her away from here, but he could not. Or could he? What was her price? "Deianira, I don't like this, but I must be forwards with you... if I can find him, I can... do something. Trust me, I'm a former gladiator and I stay in shape. I'm not afraid of him. And I don't want you to be. If you won't tell me anything, there is a good chance that he will hurt you again. And he'll hurt others. And he'll keep on doing it. You don't want that, do you?" He kept watching her to see her reaction, "What if I pay for you, for the night? Could I take you away from here, to somewhere more safe, where we could talk?" 

@Echo

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Deia had felt flashes of an urge to kill Marcus, but they were mixed in with the wish to disappear into the ground, or perhaps pass away in order to escape her miserable existence. She couldn't remember being happy for longer than a few minutes over the course of her life. How was that living? Lucius said that he was sorry that she had been hurt and that it was obvious that she had been. Deia looked at him momentarily, her mistrusting nature quarreling with an urge to find help from anyone who seemed remotely nice - and Lucius seemed more than kind. 

He continued to explain that he wanted to find the man who had hurt her and his friend and do something about it. His point about her role in keeping other people safe from Marcus was a fair one and she had thought about it herself. He asked if he could pay for her for the night and bring her somewhere safer to talk. For a moment, she stayed silent. Then, almost imperceptibly, she nodded. "Yes," she murmured. "We can do that." Leaving the bed, she poked her head out the door, looking for Titus. Upon finding him, she explained that her customer wanted to take her somewhere else for the night, and he agreed, only for a steeper price than it would cost to have Deia here. 

Once their transaction was complete, Deia pulled a tattered cloak around herself and led the way outside. "Where would you like to go, Lucius?"

@Atrice

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He saw how she looked at him, when he told her that it was obvious she’d been hurt by the man Alexius was referring to. Then he tried to explain again, just how important it was to track down the sick bastard, so no one would have to fear him again. He didn’t want him to hurt Didia again or Deia for that matter. She seemed very sweet and kind and undeserving of her fate, he thought. So he came up with an idea how they might talk more safely… he could pay for her, for the night. The Elysium was not half as expensive as the Domus Venus – not that he went there either – and paying for a prostitute for the night couldn’t be that pricey either.

 Deianira seemed to like his idea and then she left Alexius for a moment alone. When she came back, it would seem the deal was made. Alexius gave Deianira the fee and then she was hers. He never bought a prostitute before! And this wasn’t even for pleasure, but her master must never know that. Deianira found an old cloak and together they went outside.

 “Preferably some place far away from here. I feel the walls have eyes and ears around this place. I don’t usually come here.” Alexius explained, thinking he’d not ask further questions about the man who cut women, before they were at some destination. Maybe he should take her home? No, people knew him, they’d call him by name. He didn’t want her to know he was Alexius, because then her master could easily track him down. His appearance, manners and name were a package and he could easily be found if you knew them. He would find another place.

 “How did you end up in a place like that? You seem like a sweet girl, Deianira.” Alexius asked on the way, just to make some conversation while they were walking. Maybe it would also make her feel more comfortable and she’d know he would not harm her.

@Echo

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Deianira had been taken out of the Elysium for the night a few times - either she was rented by a wealthy senator to be entertainment for a sordid party or a man preferred to take her in some other location. It was understandable; some of the building that housed the whores was still collapsed, and though the rubble had been cleared away, it had only been covered up with large tarpaulins, which did not excite some men. 

She began to lead the way, feeling apprehension fluttering in her chest. She wasn't sure what to think; Lucius seemed a strong, capable man, but Marcus had so many knives and was so quick with them... She pulled herself out of her thoughts to focus on him; it was easier. "A place like that?" She sounded a little confused. Where else would she be? "Well, I was born in Greece. At a... place like that. It's all I've ever really known. I was born into it." She glanced at him. "You are a fighter?"

@Atrice

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It might be good to make some conversation with Deianira while they were walking, so she could think about something else and maybe relax a little. He didn't want her to feel unsafe with him and he was not afraid - and she seemed to be a very kind, young woman, so why would he not want to keep her safe from maniacs? Really it seemed as if he was no longer only helping Didia. If he could find the crazy man who cut and scared Didia, he'd also help Deia here. And maybe many others in Rome. Gods, how far did this guy get around? It was crazy to think that some people just wanted to hurt others... for no other reason than their own enjoyment. 

Alexius wondered how a sweet girl like Deia ended up in a brothel like the Elysium, but she seemed confused, wondering what he meant. And then she said she'd been born in a brothel and it was all she ever knew. Gods, the world was so unfair sometimes! If he was smarter and not a simple freedman, he might try and talk to someone, make the world a better place for people like Deia and other slaves, but he wasn't. Deianira even saw it - that he was a fighter, since she asked. 

"I am... it's all I've ever known, or almost. I'm sorry to hear your life has been like that, Deianira. And I didn't mean to offend you, it's just... the Elysium doesn't exactly have the best reputation in Rome." Alexius said, hoping he didn't offend her by saying that. She probably knew anyway, "Have you ever thought about saving some coin, to buy your freedom someday?"

@Echo 

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