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Tertia Charis
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Peregrinus was against her chest, tied to her with a piece of fabric wound over him and around her back, finishing with a knot at her waist. The six month old boy seemed unperturbed by it, and it had the benefit of keeping her hands free - something she sorely needed. In one hand she carried a rough woven sack filled with blankets and cloth for Peregrinus, and in another bag slung over her shoulder she carried a spare tunica for herself, what little food she'd been able to swipe and a wineskin filled with water. She was shrouded in a cloak, but besides that and the bags she carried and her son, that was all she had in the world. She bit back bile at the thought. 

It was late, or was it early? Somewhere after midnight, either way, but the streets of Rome were full of laughter and merriment of some festival that Charis had never learned the name of. She looked a little out of place; child strapped to her body and lugging her bags, but the city was full of unusual sights and most people paid her little heed. She drew to the appointed spot, at the gate leading out to the via Flaminia. What are you doing. Cynane wasn't here, she should be here by now, shouldn't she? Charis was sure she was already late and her courage was failing her. She shouldn't have done this, she shouldn't even be thinking about it - she was positive that even the thought of escape warranted crucifixion. She felt the bile rise in her throat again and fought the urge to be ill. Hold your nerve.

This hadn't been planned for long, only a matter of weeks ago she had been contented enough in her life - Peregrinus was growing, strong and healthy and things with Tertius were a little less awkward and then she had met with Cynane and it had all unravelled. The thought of trying to do this, be here, forever without her friend - who was so determined to leave and forge her way back to Britannia...Charis could have cried - and she was not a cryer by nature! The image of her son, growing up free and happy and healthy in the wilds and forests and fields of her homeland, away from his fathers pervasive, insidious influence, with her - and not just her as a slave, her as a free woman and his mother...it was too much for her to refuse. She had agreed, and now here she stood. But the nagging doubt did not escape her and the longer she waited in silence, alone, the more she wanted to turn on her heel and make haste back to the domus. Where are you Cynane. 

 

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Cynane had her doubts too, even as she stood there, looking at Claudia one last time. Volusa slept peacefully on the floor by Claudia’s bed and Claudia just as peacefully in the bed. She was beautiful, in her sleep. Her dark and wavy hair fell over the cushions and over her face and she was smiling with closed eyes. Cynane sighed, but there was nothing to do. She had waited long enough for a freedom that might never come. Claudia would never part with her and she knew that if she freed Cynane, the desire to return home would just grow stronger. So she had to take the matter into her own hands; she couldn’t stay.

Around her and over her shoulder she held a bag with her personal items and in her arms a bundle that was her warmest cloak. She reached out a hand to brush Claudia’s hair away from her eyes, but stopped herself. She couldn’t risk the princess waking up. She could not risk touching Claudia one last time. Quietly she left the chambers and avoided the praetorians on guard tonight. Once outside, she put on her cloak. Somehow she managed to escape the palace unseen and then she made it through the dark streets of Rome. People were out celebrating for something, but it didn’t matter. The crowds that gathered in certain places might just make it easier for Cynane and Charis to disappear. Gods, she hoped Charis would join her! She’d hate leaving her friend behind here. Peregrinus deserved what she believed was a better life, than what the young boy’s Roman father could offer. A man who would violate his own slave just to prove his control was not a man Cynane thought would be a good father. Peregrinus would be happier without him, she was sure. And so would Charis. If she didn’t get cold feet tonight.

The gates were not far away now. She had this feeling that Charis might not show up. That she would choose to stay with her master anyway. Cynane felt sad just thinking about it, but she could not afford such emotion now. She had to stay strong, else this would never work. And she didn't even want to think about the punishment if they were caught. It wasn't worth it, to think about it. She could use fear as much as she could use sadness. All she had to do was stay focused and determined. Then she was finally there and looked around and found Charis in the dark shade next to the gates, “Erea!” She said and ran the last bit of the way, “You came!” She would have embraced Charis, if she wasn’t also carrying Peregrinus, “Did it go well? You weren’t seen… or heard?”

@Sara

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Charis jumped out of her skin when she heard her name called. Even after her time in Rome, the sound of her British name called her attention and she snapped her eyes round to see her friend, her best friend, looming out of the darkness. "Cinnia." She breathed, relieved, and immediately she felt her nerves settle. She wanted to wrap the blonde woman in a hug but the squirming of Peregrinus - even asleep as he was - made her hold herself back. 

She shook her head and glanced round furtively at those nearby. "Nobody saw me," She confirmed, "Everybody was asleep or in the kitchens and I slipped out of the garden door." It would be hours until anybody realised they were gone - possibly not until mid-morning. Peregrinus had not been sleeping well, and the other slaves knew not to disturb Charis or the little one in the mornings to allow her some hope at sleep. 

She let out an unsteady, shaky breath. She had always thought of herself as confident, certainly back in Britannia she had been self-assured with an easy smile or sarcastic quip here or there. But her time in Rome had changed her, made her more cautious, more afraid. She needed courage now and it was failing her. Gingerly she reached out a hand to squeeze her friends. "We can do this." She said, but more to herself than Cynane, as if trying to convince herself that this wasn't impossible. "Shall we start?" She didn't really know what the journey had in store for them, nor how taxing it would be. On the reverse journey - when she had been brought here - she had been in a cart and spared the aching miles on foot. 

 

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It was in many ways incredible, that she had managed to persuade Charis. Her friend was much more cautious than she was, here in Rome. She’d been through so much and that time basically in captivity in Tertius’ house had changed Charis. But she dared to come. She knew too, that she could not stay in Rome forever and that a free life far away from Rome would be better for her son. The consequences if they were caught… no, she shouldn’t think about them. She had to stay focused. Charis seemed happy and relieved to see her and explained that no one had seen her.

 “Good. I don’t think I was seen either. I know the palace well and I know where the guards gather. So I went another way.” She replied and then Charis took her hand. Cynane squeezed her hand back, giving her a smile, “Yes… we must be on our way. We need to get as far away as possible before the sun rises.” Cynane replied and hand in hand, cloaks pulled over their heads, they went through the gates and away from Rome. Wearing a cloak like this, along with the clothes Cynane most often wore, they could almost appear to be a couple with a  child, walking together.

 Soon the walls were behind them. There were buildings out here too, people living here, but it seemed to be a little bit more messy than in the streets and not as guarded. And it was quiet, mostly. She looked at Charis, “It’ll be a long journey. Once we’re further away, maybe we can get a carriage... or some horses. Can you ride?”

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Charis expected to feel...something as they stepped through the gate, out of Rome's insidious grip; a wave of relief, or a great relaxing sensation...but there was nothing. The anxious nerves still bubbled in her stomach mingled with feelings of regret and excitement. It was disappointing. 

She nodded at Cynane's instructions as they settled into a comfortable walking pace, although Charis wondered if her friend was limiting her stride so Charis herself could keep up. She was unused to walking great distances in Rome, but it had been commonplace back in Britannia - she'd walked miles and miles between villages and to markets, and she was relieved her ability hadn't dwindled too much in the years she'd spent in Tertius' house. 

"I can ride." She confirmed with a nod and quiet words, "My family were smiths - sometimes my father would shoe horses on the side for a bit of extra grain or game," She smiled at the memory, "Although it's been years..." She was trekked from Britannia to Rome in a cart, caged up like an animal, and there hadn't been any opportunity to go on horseback as a slave. She squeezed Cynane's hand as her breath settled a bit and the nerves dissipated slightly; it would be a long journey, and being on edge would serve her no good. She gestured to Peregrinus strapped to her chest, "He'll be asleep for a little while. I..." Drugged him, "Gave him a tisane to help him sleep, I figured if he started crying as we were walking out of the city we'd get even more attention." 

 

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It felt good to slowly leave Rome behind. Cynane had wanted to do this ever since she came here... of course she had left Rome before, but that was together with Claudia and Cynane had not been a free woman with her. She cared about her mistress, no, just about Claudia, more than she probably knew, but she hadn't been free. And that's what she longed to be. To have control over her own body and what she could and could not do. And she'd be able to do that now and even more, the further they got away from Rome. It would be a long travel, she recalled it may have been months when she travelled to Rome, and this was the other way and she didn't know the way. Just that they had to continue North. And she knew a few names of places and cities towards Britannia, so they could ask for directions. She'd been careful to at least do a little bit of research first! 

She wondered if Charis could ride, and she confirmed that she could, because of her family business where she came from. She said it had been years and Cynane just smiled, "Luckily it's one of those things your body just remembers how to do. Just like I think I'll always know how to fight. And I never forgot how to ride either." She explained to her friend and Charis then spoke of Peregrinus and how he'd be asleep for a while, she'd given him something so he'd sleep better.

"That's probably for the best. Although... I don't know if it should be a habit. Something could go wrong, after all." She was thinking about how Charis once herself took a tisane - to get rid of the child she now held - and that went very wrong. She didn't want anything to happen to little Peregrinus.

"I guess we should stop calling him his Roman name." She then said thoughtfully. Either stop with the Roman name or at least the name Peregrinus.

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Charis swallowed the lump in her throat and fought back the urge to snap at her friend that she knew what was best for her son. She was on edge, and anxious, and tired already and she knew it wasn't Cynane's fault. She didn't wish to start their journey on argument, not when they still had so much left to do and so much more land left to cover. Instead, she bit at her lip and then nodded slowly; "I know, you're right." She sighed, "It will just be for bits where we need him not to cry." She tried not to dwell on what those circumstances could be as she shuddered. 

But Cynane's next comment caught her off guard and she instinctively glanced down at the little bundle asleep against her chest. She had never considered another name for him; it would have been too dangerous to ever use it in the domus lest Tertius, or Antonia or even some of the other slaves heard. No - it had been better for her mental health (fragile as it was) to always know him as Peregrinus. Now though...?

"I...I don't know what to call him." She glanced across at her friend. "Not anything for my brothers or father," She didn't wish to explain why - she was feeling fragile enough as it was, she didn't want to verbalise the complexity she felt that it would be disrespectful to name a Roman boy after her British family. It was a mess. "Did you have anybody that meant a lot to you, that we could call him?"

 

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Cynane nodded, glad that Charis would not use a tisane on her son too often. Of course it wasn’t up to her to decide, she wasn’t even a mother and most likely never would be, but she helped bringing Peregrinus into this world and she cared about the boy. If anything should ever happen to Charis, Cynane would take care of him. Not that she wanted anything to happen to her friend. That’s why they were leaving. So they could be free from people wanting bad things for them.

 She suggested finding another name for Peregrinus and Charis seemed surprised and uncertain about it, she didn’t know what to call him. Then she wondered if Cynane had anyone… “My father’s name was Owen. But I’m not sure I think it fits him.” Cynane said, looking at Charis and the sleeping bundle of the baby that she held. Did she ever feel anything for any other men? Her brother Herne? But that was also long ago. Then there was Eppitacos… the man she’d admired, even though he was to marry her cousin (who betrayed him) and then Cynane was captured in the battle that was otherwise won by the Britons and Eppitacos. It was his fault too and she was the kind of woman who could hold a grudge for a long time.

 She shook her head, trying to think of a better name, “How about… Perry?” It was just a short version of his name, but it didn’t sound so Roman at least.

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Charis looked down at her son with a sad little smile and nodded. "Perry. Perry is better, I like it." She said it over and over again in her head; Perry, Perry, Perry until it rolled off her tongue silently. She'd grown so used to his complicated, annoyingly long Roman name that unlearning it was going to be a challenge. She glanced across at Cynane with a similar, sad little smile; "How is it that we know so few good men? To name him after?" She sighed and wrapped an arm around him, squeezing him to her chest tighter. 

She walked on in silence for a little while. The suburbs surrounding Rome seemed vast with endless strands stretching out from the city walls into the countryside. She knew she wouldn't feel at ease until they could see green fields and farms and knew that the city was far behind them. She glanced across to her friend, a touch concerned. "When...when will we sleep? I'm not used to this sort of thing," She chuckled, "When you were a warrior you must have marched and camped and such but...not me. If we walk all night and then all day we'll be dead on our feet but surely if we camp in the day they'll...catch up and find us?" She hated verbalising it, and instinctively she shuddered at the thought. 

 

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Cynane nodded with a smile too, “Perry it is then.” She said to her friend, who still seemed so oddly sad. They really had to do something about that. The reason for leaving Rome, for running away, was to leave all the bad things and memories behind. But she suspected Charis didn’t feel safe yet and she wouldn’t be happy until she felt safe. Her friend wondered with a sigh why they knew so few good men and Cynane sighed too, “Because few men are good, I guess. I can’t say I’ve met a whole lot of good men in Rome.” A few, but not a lot. She had liked Florus, although he was weak. Florus was no Roman though, and he was a slave. Marcellus she had ended up liking too, but he was a former slave too. And besides those two… none.

 They continued walking in silence and Charis wondered when they’d sleep and when they would be on the move, “I think we have to walk as long and far as we can right now. When we tire, we find someplace good to hide and sleep and rest.” She said, “We’ll sleep at night and walk during the day. That will be easiest. We’re in danger when we rest, no matter if it’s dark or light, after all. But the further away we get, the better it will be.” She looked at her friend, concerned, “I hope you won’t regret doing this.” It was too late to turn back now. Charis had already run away; if she turned around now, it would be day when she reached the house and they’d know she had been gone. They had to keep moving.

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Charis listened to Cynane and nodded. Her feet were already aching and the weight of her son on her chest was causing an ache that spread throughout her hips and back, but she knew she could handle it. When she was home, back in Britannia, she thought nothing of trudging for miles and miles throughout forests and farms to visit friends and sell their wares. She had walked in Rome of course too, but she was glad she didn't know how far Britannia was. If she had known, she would have stoped in her tracks right then and there.

Her big blue eyes darted to her friend though at her next words and blinked, her chest heaving with anxiety. "Don't say that." She shook her head sternly. "Either we make it or we die, Cinnia." She swallowed and shook her head, wrapping her forearm tighter around Peregrinus and giving him a firm hug. "I knew the risk...and...he will be alright, no matter what. Either he grows up free in Britannia with us or..." She swallowed, "He grows up free with his father. Either way, he'll have his life." Even if chairs and Cynane herself wound up on a crucifix or worse. 

She reached her spare hand to grip her friends and gave it a hard squeeze. "But we will make it, we will." She couldn't disguise the uncertainty in her voice.

 

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Cynane had barely slept the last few days since they left Rome. She was taking care of Erea… her friend was also a mother, after all, and she had hard work with keeping Perry in check and keeping him happy while they were on the move. She had quickly gotten used to thinking about the small child with his new name, because she liked it. It wasn’t very Roman, after all… and that made it better than Peregrinus.

 They had to make it, because she didn’t want any of them to die. Of course not. And they knew Perry wouldn’t… as Erea mentioned, he’d grow up free somewhere no matter what, but without his mother? No, that wouldn’t happen. Cynane would take care of them both. She liked having someone to take care of and protect. And now she had them. Letting Charis rest, while Cynane was alert and watching out for them all. The further away they got from Rome though, the more she relaxed. They made sure to not use the busiest roads and when they walked through forests, they’d sometimes avoid the roads altogether. Cynane knew they were walking in the right direction though, because she had not forgotten what she learned back home. She knew how to find North by checking the signs of nature. At least it was springtime. It was a good time of the year to travel.

 Another night had gone by and it was early morning now. They were in a forest, again. Cynane had woken first once more and lit a small fire, roasting some roots she’d managed to find. It really would be nice with some meat soon, maybe she should try some hunting? She looked over her shoulder, seeing that Erea was finally stirring a bit and so was the little guy, “Goodmorning Erea… slept well?” She said with a smile to her friend, “The weather seems good today. I think it’ll be a good day.”

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Charis groaned and tossed her forearm over her eyes as Cynane spoke. She had never been a morning person, and being a mother and a slave - up throughout the night and at the crack of dawn to work, hadn't solved that. She heard Peregrinus grumble in the little cocoon she'd fashioned for him out of furs and the bag she'd brought with her in an attempt to stop him from rolling all over the place in the night. She cracked open one eye and squinted up at Cynane; "Good morning..." Her words drifted off with a yawn as she stretched out her arms and took up Peregrinus with a groan of effort, nestling him into her side. 

"A good day for walking?" She grinned, making a joke. As if they did anything else! Peregrinus was grumbling by her side, blinking his big blue eyes up at her. As he aged the colour had lightened and they looked more like his fathers features every day. She sighed, and stroked a soft finger of his cheek. Unfastening the ties of her tunica, she shifted Peregrinus around at her side so he could nurse. She felt wrung out; the walking, little provisions they had left and nursing an increasingly heavy and alert Peregrinus was tiring her, but she didn't complain. She had been through worse, and it would be worth it in the end. 

Glancing up at her friend as her fingers stroked the soft hair on her son's head, she studied Cynane with sleepy eyes. "Do you have...the faintest clue where we are?" She grinned. "For all I know we're walking off the ends of the Earth, in completely the wrong direction..." she'd feel better when they hit the coast, she thought. 

 

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She was sweet when she did that, just wanting to sleep in, but there was no such thing as sleeping in, when you were a slave on the run from your master. The sooner they got further away, the better... because the further away they got, the better! Cynane smiled at her friend though, who eventually cracked open one eye and bid her a good morning. She reached out for her son and then joked about their walk, "Yes, it's as good a day for walking. I think we should take a stroll." She replied with a little laugh, while Charis caressed her son and didn't get up yet. Instead she wondered where they were and feared they were moving the wrong way. 

"We're heading North, because that's the way Britannia is." Cynane said, "I believe we're going to reach Gaul soon. Then we can hopefully find a wagon or something, make it easier to travel." She said and looked at her arm. She really had to get rid of the slave-brand that was on there, that she got when she was a fresh gladiatrix in Rome. They'd see the scar though, if she cut it off. Maybe she should burn something else on top of it instead. It would hurt, but it might be worth it. As far as Cynane was concerned, they were no longer slaves. They were escaping, they'd run away and they did that to be free. So they were free. 

"Do you want me to teach you how to see the direction?" She asked, "Once you're up, of course. There's a little to eat if you're hungry. And there's a stream not far from here." She smiled at Charis, wanting to make this trip as easy for her as possible, because Charis also had Perry to think about. 

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Charis arched a brow and nodded. "I think I passed through Gaul on the way to Rome," She frowned, trying to remember. She'd been so unwell after the loss of her first child that the journey was a blur, which was probably for the best. "But we shall hopefully stick out less there. I don't think the Romans know accents very well," She offered a sleepy smile to Cynane, "They won't know if we're Gauls or Britons if they come across us." And Peregrinus was mercifully dark haired and blue eyed to match her own colouring so he'd receive few odd looks. 

She shifted her position on her side and slowly took Peregrinus in her arms, still latched and nursing, as she sat up. She shifted so she could lean her back on the tree behind her and smiled at her friend. "I think you'd better teach me," She agreed with a nod but the rest of the sentence went unsaid in her mind in case we get separated and I can't find my way back without you. "And you shouldn't have cooked," She chided with a stern enough look, "You do enough for both of us, at least let me cook for you." Cynane was navigating them, defending them if needs be and helped to set up the camp each night. Charis also knew she had slowed her pace to match her own and overall, were it not for her blonde friend, she'd still be in Tertius' bed and grasp. She owed Cynane more than she could say, so at the very least she was determined to look after their camp which included cooking. 

Peregrinus satisfied, she shifted him on her knee and nimbly retied the knot at the shoulder of her tunica. The further north they went the more impractical her Roman tunica's seemed, but it was exhilarating and Gods how she'd missed the cold! 

She saw Cynane look at her arm though, she'd seen it a few times since they had left Rome and frowned, tilting her head to the side to study her friend. "Something is bothering you?"

 

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Cynane nodded to Charis pointing out, that the Romans probably couldn’t tell a British accent from a Gaul, so they wouldn’t stick out so much, once they got that far. It had been a while since they’d been near any town though, but she assumed they had come far away from Rome by now, “You’re right… we’ll stick out less the further away from Rome we get.” She agreed and had wondered if she should teach Charis how to tell which direction they were going in. Since her friend didn’t seem to know. Charis smiled and confirmed she’d like to learn it and then went on about how Cynane did not need to cook for them, since she did more or less everything else too.

 “Don’t think about it. I didn’t want to wake you… and I thought you’d be hungry once you were up.” She said and with her small knife she picked up one of the edible roots she’d been roasting on a flat piece of stone placed on top of the embers in the quickly made fireplace. She reached it over towards Charis, who was shifting with Peregrinus now. And then she’d glanced at her arm and the slave brand there, which she really should consider getting rid off.

 “I guess… this?” She pushed the sleeve of her tunica a bit further up to properly show the old brand that she got when she became a gladiator. It had once been a letter, she couldn’t remember which. It was brightened by the sun long ago, barely had the right shape, but you could tell it wasn’t a natural part of the skin either, “I’m thinking about removing it. Or branding something else on top, something less… slave-like. I guess you don’t have one. Would you help me with it?” Charis’ master had done terrible things to her, but at least he never branded her, as far as Cynane knew. Cynane had been feisty enough to be taught a lesson when she was a young and wild Briton in Rome. And she still wore the mark of that lesson.

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Charis tutted and placed Peregrinus on her lap as she sat up cross-legged; "You're too nice, that's your problem." She chuckled and shook her head, "When we get somewhere safe, stable,When we get home to Britannia, "You had best believe I'll be doing all the cooking and cleaning and whatever else." She wondered what people would think when they got home. It had been years now, for both of them, and how their society functioned might have irrevocably changed. One of the few saving graces of Rome had been how generally lax they seemed to odd living arrangements, whereas her memories from home didn't compare. In her old village, now likely burned to the ground, two women living together - when clearly not related, would be viewed with suspicion at best. Still, she swallowed the lump in her throat, they'd cross that bridge when they came to it. Maybe they'd fare better in a city?

Charis picked up the root and tore a bit off, keeping Peregrinus contained on her lap between her knees. She frowned as she saw Cynane's arm, but her face remained neutral. A few years ago the sight of it would have made her nauseas, but now? She'd seen far worse on slaves, which was horrifying in its own way. "I don't," She shook her head, "He never branded me." Which was one of the small mercies Tertius had given her. Visibly, besides the baby on her hip, she looked mostly unchanged from the day she'd walked into his Domus a wildling Briton. "And of course I'd help, I can prepare a salve," She nodded and reached out her fingers to brush over the scar, "My family were smiths - this isn't even that bad compared to some of the burns my brothers used to get," She chuckled, "If you burn over it I can put the salve on and it'll help it scar smoother - or I can stitch a wound if you cut it." Gods above, how awful to talk of some things. 

She let her finger trace down her friends forearm until she found her hand and gave it a squeeze. "A fresh start for you, when it's gone, hmm?"

 

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Cynane chuckled when Charis called her too nice and then promised she’d do all the chores once they were safe, “And what I’m supposed to do then?” She added with a grin, although she could imagine she’d be working, somehow. What would a woman do for a living in Britannia? Would they accept female bodyguards, now that the Romans had come and worked on imprinting their way of living on the people there? It was for certain she didn’t want to do some kind of women’s job. She wasn’t made for that, ever. She was more comfortable in her breeches than skirts and she doubted that would change.

 She’d been lost in her thoughts a bit, just like Charis seemed to be. Most importantly, or almost most importantly, Cynane would have to get rid of her slave brand to begin with. Else she’d be caught for sure, branded a fugitive (a second brand!) and brought back into slavery, unless they’d just execute her and make an example of her. Fucking Romans. She had to get rid of the brand.

 She told Charis about her issues with the brand on her arm and wondered if she’d help her. Charis had never been branded and then suggested she made a salve for Cynane, once she’d done something about the brand. Charis didn’t think it looked too bad, because she’d seen worse. But accidents in a blacksmith weren’t quite the same as someone intentionally holding down a slave to burn their skin in front of all the others. She rarely thought about the day it happened, but it was certainly not forgotten. It had hurt for weeks, both the scar and the shame. Thankfully it didn’t get infected. The medicus had given her a salve against infection, but only once and it didn’t take much of the pain. And now she had to remove it on her own. She inhaled a small breath, if only she could erase all that happened to her since she was captured. If only both of them could. She blinked and looked up at Charis when she squeezed her hand.

 “A fresh start… for both of us. All three of us. That’s what I want.” She said with a small, sad smile, “I think I’ll cut it, then you can stitch it and it’ll just look like another battle scar.”

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Charis squeezed her friends hand more firmly this time and offered a soft smile, directing a firm gaze at her friend. "That's what I want too." She let a light sigh escape her lips and nodded, "And it's what we'll have, I promise. We've come this far, haven't we?" She hoped she sounded more resolute than she felt. Charis considered the fact that they hadn't been captured yet a miracle. They were hardly conspicuous - a tall, striking blonde woman in breeches and her with Peregrinus. If anybody had their descriptions and was looking out, they'd be captured before they could even utter a word of protest. Maybe the Gods were looking out for them? 

"Yes, that's a good idea...now?" She asked and lifted Peregrinus up from her lap with a grunt of exertion, setting him down on his stomach on the blanket she had been using to sleep on. She pushed a wooden spoon towards him, which he promptly stuck in his mouth to gnaw on with his gums. She swore she had a needle and thread around here somewhere, and it was amazing how much necessity forced her back into the practical, pragmatic woman she used to be. She grabbed her rough bag to rummage through it, hunting for her tools. 

 

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They both wanted a fresh start, that much was obvious. Else they would not be here, so far from Rome… but there was still a long way to go and Cynane needed to get rid of that scar. She squeezed Charis’ hand back and nodded, “You’re right, we came this far. And we’re not going back.” She added with a little smile. Then she’d decided she would cut the old brand away and Charis could stitch it afterwards. It had been years since anyone stitched her up, but it had happened before, when she was a gladiatrix. So she’d tried it, at least.

 “Now, yes… get it over and done with.” Cynane said and while Charis busied herself with finding something to stitch with, Cynane looked at her knife. She tried to make sure to sharpen it every day, if she had a chance to do so, so it should be fine. She’d heat it and cleanse it in the flame of the fire and then… then she would cut. Once Charis was ready to stich, Cynane knelt in front of the fire, putting the tip of the blade into the flame.

 Then she sat back, “This is going to hurt.” Did she tell herself or Charis? It’s not like Charis could feel it. But she’d know. As if she didn’t know already. At least this time, it was Cynane doing it, and not some fucking Roman… she looked at the old brand on her arm one last time and then she stuck the pointy end of the blade into her skin. It bled, but she gritted her teeth and kept on cutting, until it reached the other end of the scar. Blood ran down over her arm and dripped towards the ground and Cynane had tears running down her cheeks, but she hadn’t whimpered or sobbed. She looked at Charis then, “Maybe… maybe we should… clean it before you… stitch?”

@Sara

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Charis found the needle and the linen thread. It was used for stitching clothes, and so was much larger than what medici used for their patients. She winced. Gods above, poor Cynane this was going to hurt. With a gentle hand on her friends shoulder as if to give her strength she bit her lip and her friend began cutting. The blood was vivid but Charis had a strong stomach and she kept her eyes trained on her friend, fingers ready to nimbly stitch the skin back together. She wanted to wrap the other woman in a hug and kiss her hair and wipe away her tears, but didn't. She knew the other Briton was strong and she wasn't going to get emotional when she needed Charis' strength as well.

Nodding she quickly reached for her waterskin - lying next to her son and unscrewing the top, doused the bleeding wound with fresh spring water. The blood didn't stop, but at least it had been rinsed. Reaching for her bag, her threaded needle in one hand, she drew out some scraps of linen she used and cleaned for Peregrinus. They would have to do. Deftly, she covered one half of the wound with the cloth to stop the bleeding as she punctured the skin with the needle at the other end, drawing a knot through it. "I'm sorry," She mumbled as she stitched, trying to do so one handed as she kept pressure on the other side of the wound, "That this hurts. I'll be quick but can you hold this down?" She gestured with her head to the cloth and when she had both hands free, she was speedier. She stitched carefully, drawing the skin together in a thin, neat line. She wasn't a professional but had done this enough for friends and siblings back home. 

When she was finished her fingers were dripping with blood but as she knotted the last section and then bit off the thread she sat back, relieved and with a weary, worried smile. "I'm all done, you're all done." She moved to squeeze her friends hand with her own bloodied one. "It's off, you're free, Cinnia." 

 

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Cynane carried out the tough job of cutting through her old brand on her own. She didn’t sob, but she felt the pain, also deep within, like the day the brand was made. Now it was removed. After the deed was done, she looked at her friend, suggesting they cleaned the wound. Charis found the waterskin and a piece of cloth and while it didn’t stop the blood, at least it removed some of it. Then Charis continued her task, stitching the wound. She said she was sorry and that she’d be quick. Cynane nodded, “Of course.” She simply said, and then she didn’t say more while the needle punctured her skin again and again.

 She’d had wounds stitched before. But it was years ago and it did hurt. But just like with how she cut the scar in the first round, she said nothing as it happened, merely held down the cloth and kept the pressure while looking towards the little campfire they’d made. It was easier when you didn’t look at the needle. She also fixed her eyes on Peregrinus a bit, but he seemed to be fine, rolling around on the forest floor near them on his own. He even chuckled. It made her smile through the pain.

 Then Charis was suddenly finished and sat back. Cynane looked at her and nodded, “I was free before, but now even more. Thanks.” She said, squeezing Charis’ hand back and then she looked at the stitches, “I think it’ll heal nicely. We should find some yarrow to cover it with. I remember we used that for wounds back home.” And home, that’s where they were going now. Cynane stood then, “And we should pack up and get going, I guess. Towards Britannia.”

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Britannia. Home. They were home. But it wasn't a home Charis recognised. She'd never been to Londinium, or at least couldn't remember going en route to Rome and as they had disembarked the boat she had to swallow a cry. It was colder, and wetter but...unmistakably Roman. The buildings were in their style, the men and women that milled about wore their clothes and giggled and chattered in Latin as Charis, Cynane and Peregrinus wove through the streets and to the countryside beyond. She hadn't known what to expect when she returned here, but to see her homeland already disappearing in the face of those who had caused their party so much pain...the let down had been almost indescribable. 

But for all her pain at seeing their ways of life slowly being eroded, she was at least grateful for their roads. She knew they needed to get North, away from the more Romanised cities of the south and they had stopped in Durovigutum for a few days to regain their strength after their journey. Charis was exhausted, as was Peregrinus and Cynane...well, she didn't know how her friend was still standing either.

Of course, now they were here again new problems arose, namely their destination. It had always just been 'Britannia' but now they were here, it needed more specificity. Back in both of their youths their tribes - Parisi and Brigantes had been warring neighbours, and whilst that might have settled with the advent of Rome's invasion, she wondered if old wounds ran deep. Turning to Cynane in the little room they had procured within the town, Peregrinus propped up on her lap, smiling his gummy smile at both women, Charis ventured; "I know we need to decide where next..." 

 

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The wound was healing nicely on the way back to Britannia. Finally they had reached the sea and managed to get on a ship going to the other side. To Britannia. Finally it was there, the beautiful, green country that she'd missed so much. Of course it looked grey and somewhat misty, as it appeared from the horizon. The sun would shine too, but this looked normal to her. They set foot on land and Cynane looked around, unsure if she was pleased with what she saw. The buildings didn't look very British to her. They looked Roman. She heard Latin more than once. But she stuck close with Charis and they moved through the streets, away from the busy harbour and somehow they'd find a way to the countryside. And the countryside was stunning! Just look at all the green and the forests and the rocks. They passed by more than one of the ancient stone circles or temples, the ones even more ancient than their own peoples, and she felt at home. And the further they got away from any cities, the better she felt. 

As they had found yet another Roman city on the way North, they managed to find a room for the night to rest and recover. They were coming closer and closer to their own lands and had to find out if they were to part ways, or stay together. Cynane knew what she preferred. Charis was the first to say it out loud though.

"I guess we do. Do you think it will be less Roman further to the North?" Cynane mused, "I hope it will be. Do you think there's anything left of our tribes?"

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Charis sighed and pushed her hair back over her shoulder so it was out of Peregrinus' reach, "I don't know...they were coming north when they got me, and you as well I presume." And the Romans were quick, in the couple of years since she had been enslaved she had no doubt that they had made their presence known to the northern most tribes like theirs. 

She swallowed and shrugged, "Some, I think. I think we might have faired better than yours," Given the Brigantes were the instigators to a lot of the strife with Rome compared to her own tribe at least. Swallowing, and hating the difficulty of the conversation already she sighed. "Do you think we should look for our people? Your siblings, they might still be here, and my own..." She knew her sister was in Rome but Turi might still be hiding here, biding his time. The thought of seeing family again made her heart ache, but then she glanced up at Cynane and she felt it split further in two. How could they return to their lives as before? She swallowed, "And I don't know, maybe tribes are different now? Maybe they'd accept a Parisii and Brigantes travelling together? Living together?" Better out with it than in...

 

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