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Fire And Lamp And Meat And Bread


Tarbus
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Spring, 67 CE , Cumidava, Dacia

 

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Sometimes… he wondered. He wondered if his cousin did these things simply to annoy him and make his life more difficult. Of course, she didn’t. He knew that. But he also knew that she would fully realize how her headstrong and impetuous decisions so often wreaked havoc on his own affairs, and that Zia wouldn’t give a toss that they did. That was so her. An idea came into her head and it must be done, immediately. Tarbus wondered if age would ever soften her sharp edges, or bring wisdom to sit more easily with impulse. He seriously doubted that it would. Yet one should never give up hope.

 

The days stretched long here, in Cumidava, and sat uneasily upon his shoulders. Nights were longer still, without the comforts – both of the body and the mind – that his sweet Docia brought to him so willingly and tenderly. He missed her. He missed their son, Duras, who had taken his first steps only weeks before this petulant move of his cousin. They passed word back and forth, regularly. And the distance between them was not great. But it felt like he might have passed into some other world, sequestered here to the north, forced into segregation by Zia’s wounded pride.

 

Yet another night was already well on its way to claiming the clear sky above. Soon Bendis would begin her ascent, and her path would sparkle with stars in the high vault of the heavens. Inside the homes of the village, behind wattle and daub walls and under snug thatched roofs, oil lamps would be lit, before families readied to retire and sleep. Wooden shutters and doors would be closed against the lingering chill of late spring, and the fire pits would be carefully tended to make sure warmth lasted through the dark hours.

 

Having seen to his horse already, Tarbus sighed inwardly and squared his already square shoulders, before pushing aside the leather flap that added an extra layer of insulation at the doorway. Four skinned and gutted hares he carried in one hand, tied by their feet with twine. In his other dully gleamed his knife, clean yet in need of sharpening, which he intend to do before he slept. Stepping inside he smelled meat roasted on a spit and other fare, seasoned with local herbs, such as dill, parsley, celery leaf, lovage and thyme. Salt mines right in the area provided an abundance of that precious commodity for all. He nodded at a servant who came forward to relieve him of the hares, asking, “Is your mistress returned?”

 

With Zia, there was never any telling where she might be, or what she might be about, although nine times out of ten, the answer to both might be ‘making mischief, somehow.’

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Zia folded her arms across her chest as she listened to the messenger, giving absolutely no reaction to his words beyond a withering look at occasional intervals. This was Diegis' latest attempt to lure her back to his homsetead, one which she was adamant would not work. From what she'd gathered he'd been merrily enjoying the first few weeks of her absence, and as those weeks had stretched to a month and beyond, he had resumed his bachelor-life. She found it intolerable that the men of her homeland had such impunity to waste their time with slaves and serving girls, whilst she had to bite her tongue. Utterly intolerable. 

"Well, you can thank him for his pretty words." Zia offered a polite, if not bland smile to the taciturn man stood in front of her, "And for the bracelets. I'll be holding on to those. But you may tell my husband that I'll return to him when that ogre he fathered a son off of sprouts wings and learns to fly. Have you got that?" She arched a brow and swept out of the the room they used for more formal occasions, and back into the chill of the night. 

She didn't like Cumidava, it was a shithole compared to the relative grandeur of Surcea, but she knew there was value in remaining within the bounds of her father-in-law's lands. Had she fled back to her father, her in-laws could have claimed a break in the treaty that had accompanied her in her marriage. Besides, she wanted to give her husband the dissatisfaction of knowing she was in reach, but just out of his grasp. 

Sweeping into the room she grimaced at the smell of something roasting, and further grimaced when she saw her cousin. She had no mood for his peevishness, nor his judgement. "Tarbus," She said as she shrugged off the thick furs around her shoulders - depositing them on a chair to her left as she waved one of the slaves away. "I haven't seen you for a while," She frowned and glanced back over her shoulder at him, "Where have you been squirreling yourself away? Plotting something cousin?"

 

TAG: @springy

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The servant intimated that the current mistress of the humble domicile was out, in conference with a man of her husband’s household. The woman looked at Tarbus meaningfully, but there was little hope in the lined creases of her face. They were all of them stuck here, until Zia declared otherwise. And when that might be and what might prompt it, none of them could say. Her retreat to this northern stronghold had been strategic, at least in her own mind. No doubt her concession to return would be as carefully thought out, the point being to inflict some sort of injury to her husband and his pride. The servants and slaves – those with ties to Surcea - might wish her to act with haste, as time stretched out with no reprieve in sight. Tarbus knew she would not.

He nodded, without any sign of emotion on his own stony features. It wasn’t for servants to gossip or pry into the affairs of their masters, even if he felt a kindred longing to their own. The woman went about her business, leaving the room hares in hand. Tarbus removed his bear skin cloak, arranging it on the floor near the crackling fire, where he then sat upon it, cross legged, alone for a short moment. Although in any household, community living when indoors meant a near constant coming and going of servants, slaves, retainers and family. No doubt his solitude would be short lived. He drew a whetstone from a pouch at his belt, and began the rhythmic slide of stone on metal, the accompanying schickkk schickkk a pleasant harmony to the low susurrations of the flames as they slowly devoured their wooden repast.

As anticipated, this state did not last long. With a herald draught of chilly air, as the door opened and the curtain swept aside, Zia entered. Her face told the tale of how the audience with her husband’s ambassador had gone, as Tarbus looked up at her and nodded in greeting as she acknowledged his presence. Another slave had hurried into the room – all of his cousin’s household staff knew the wisdom of giving sharp attention to their mistress’ needs, and no doubt they’d been on the look-out for her return.

“I’ve been out hunting,” he replied succinctly to her inquiry, knowing full well her small but competent network of spies would have kept her in the loop of his activities. In a place such as Cumidava, one could hardly fart without the entire miserable village hearing about it before the odor had even dissipated. “My plots have concerned only the tracking of a crafty stag. The crown of antlers he carries bear testament to his cunning. Each passing year has added to both, sharp tine, and wisdom.” Would that were the case for his cousin. If Tarbus was speaking in allegories, he had no intention of pointing that out to her.

“And you? I hear you’ve had yet another messenger sent by Diegis?” He did not mean to beat about the bush on this subject. There was no need. Of necessity, he needed to know what was going on between the two unhappy spouses. Well, at least Zia was unhappy. Tarbus was relatively certain Diegis was quite content to be leading a much more carefree existence without his young wife to scowl and scold at him. Yet man and woman apart was hardly likely to produce the heir which was Diegis’ father, and tribe, would want and expect. Otherwise, why form an alliance between their two people? The two must reunite in some capacity, sooner or later. Tarbus could hope for the former, but it was out of his hands. His duty lay in protecting Zia. If her father, his uncle, had any thoughts that she would listen to her cousin’s counsel, well, the man had deluded himself. Zia took her own counsel, in all things.

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Zia accepted a cup of...something pungent and alcoholic smelling from one of the slaves with a curt nod of thanks, and settled into a chair across from a fire. The winds were whipping up a storm and the draughts in this place were intolerable. She felt the chill in her bones and did her best not to let her teeth chatter as she listened to her cousins honeyed words. She tried to feign interest, she really did, but he lost her attention as he began speaking in allegories that were obvious enough that she suspected an infant would see through them. She was in no mood to be scolded or mocked in fanciful words and turns of phrases. 

"He is relentless, I will give my husband that." Relentlessly irritating. "But it was just some man bringing me baubles," She jangled the heavy gold bracelets on her wrist until they sparkled in the firelight, "And asking me to go home. Which I have no intention of doing anytime soon." She smoothed her dress over her knees with her spare hand and sipped from the drink with the other. "And no, I don't wish for your opinion on it." She gave her cousin a warning look. Knowing Tarbus, he'd try anyway, but she was in no mood to be lectured to. "You trust me, don't you? That I know what I'm doing?"

 

TAG: @springy

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