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I Shall Be Your Aphrodite, and You My Ares!


Mania Victoria
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July 76 CE, at a dinner party

It was a warm night in July and Mania was once again enjoying herself at a dinner party. Excruciatingly boring affairs most of the time, she thought. Rarely ever did anything exciting happen, rarely ever was there something worth gossipping about the next day. Tonight, however, the monotony would finally be broken, as a Senator was present, and a single Senator and decorated military man to boot! If Mania were to pass up the opportunity to get to know him, she would declare herself as weak-minded and naíve as her younger brother.

Finding one man amidst dozens is, however, no easy task, and one requires hydration to keep going. And hydrate she did; wine, calda, mulsum... The warm temperatures didn't exactly contribute to Mania's resistance to the effects of wine, either. By the time she had finally found out just where in the host's domus Lucius Cassius Longinus was hiding, her body had become as light as a cloud, her movements as fluid as water. As she reeled down the hallways of the residence her jewellery jangled loudly, and to anyone who had ever had the displeasure of running into Mania Victoria in a semi-private setting such as this, said jangling jewellery would certainly sound like an alarm bell and the smartest course of action would be to clear the premises. However poor Lucius Cassius must have had no idea of just who was looking for him, and, more importantly, of the state she was in. Fortuna wasn't holding him in her favour tonight.

As she walked into the room, she did her best to not attract attention to herself, of course hoping for the opposite effect. She paid him no mind, however still glanced towards him, completely by chance. The fact he hailed from gens Cassius must not have been a coincidence, for he was a good-looking man and certainly had every reason to be vain. Thankfully, she had chosen to wear silphium perfume tonight, just in case an eligible bachelor were to be present, and a virile warrior such as himself would certainly notice. She made sure to pass him several times, so that the aphrodisiac's scent would find its way to him. The elaborate updo her blond hair had been fashioned into would certainly catch his attention, too.

@Sara

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If there was one thing Longinus was completely torn on, it was parties such as these. On one - very good hand - it was an opportunity to see friends and drink. On the other - very mind numbing hand - it was an evening spent dodging people he really, truly didn't wish to speak to. Unfortunately the former had been in sparse supply tonight - where his friends were, he didn't know. Probably at a better party. He felt a twinge of annoyance. Currently he was stuck in some godforsaken conversation with some equite whose name escaped him, about the varying virtues of the different wine producing grapes in vineyards. The man seemed enthralled by his own voice and it took all - all - of Longinus' concentration not to outwardly yawn. 

He only half heard a question directed at him, but presumed the man was asking what he had in his own vineyards and Longinus shrugged, frowning and trying to remember what Vitus had said. Didn't he say a crop was failing? Or was that on his farm? He frowned, trying to dredge up the memory and failing before muttering a made up answer of; "The allobrogica grape, I think it's called?" That had evidently been the wrong answer as the man launched into a diatribe, red cheeks inflamed about the virtue of a particular sub-type of the Aminean grape. Gods give me strength.

They didn't give him strength, but they did give him a suitable distraction. He'd eyed her the second she'd walked in and had been tracing her gentle glides past in his minds eye ever since. He couldn't recall seeing her before, but he saw a slew of beauties - his intended included - frequently at these sorts of things, so much so faces - no matter how beautiful - tended to blend into one. He did catch the waft of her perfume though, and as the man in front of him proceeded to start naming other sub-types of grapes, he took his opportunity as she made another purposeful arc past their conversation; "My lady, are you quite alright?" He turned to her, but not before an entirely false 'I'm so sorry about all of this' look to the man in front of him, "You've made quite a few turns around the room? Are you looking for anybody in particular?" Her game was as obvious as anything, his late wife had done similar, but who her intended target was, was anybody's guess. 

 

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Mania was very pleased with herself; her tactic had obviously worked. Now, all she needed to do was get him somewhere more private, and she knew just how to do so. After all, someone as esteemed and respected as a Senator certainly wouldn't want to lead a more intimate conversation in the midst of a crowded party. However, the effects of the refreshments were slowly making themselves known, and thus Mania stumbled slightly and, at first, apologised in Noric. After a few moments, she composed herself again. "Oh, excuse me - I usually spend the summers in Noricum, so speaking the language in the warmer time of year has become somewhat of a habit. I'm looking for my older brother, however he seems to have disappeared..." Of course, Mania wasn't looking for Primus; the only time she would possibly think about seeking him out on her own volition was if she had a foolproof plan to embarrass him in front of all the guests present, and besides, Primus himself wasn't even here. Mania usually attended these dinner parties with her mother, who thankfully got lost in conversation rather quickly, thus giving Mania free reign to do whatever and talk to whomever she pleased. Once Mania would tell her she had made the acquaintance of a Senator, she would surely be proud. "Forgive me if I should be too impudent, but would you mind accompanying me for a breath of fresh air? I'm afraid crowds like this one don't do me well at all, and a lady can never be too careful in Rome, can she?" If Longinus posessed an ounce of chivalry, he would surely agree, and besides, the conversation she had just saved him from didn't seem too enjoyable, either. "Shall we?" she asked innocuously, before hinting towards the door leading to the peristyle.

"Ah," she said as they reached the garden, "the evening air is such a welcome change to the often stuffy atmosphere of parties, don't you think?" She truly needed some fresh air at the moment, too, unless Longinus was hoping to see her arrange the meal served tonight on the floor in a rather avant garde manner. She wandered around the garden for a little before turning to Longinus again. "Do such crowds often form around you? Please, forgive my ignorance, but I'm afraid I'm not very well-versed regarding Rome's who-is-who these days. However, with how vast the Empire is and how many people of note there are, you won't hold that against me, right?" This was, of course, a blatant lie. Mania had years of research regarding Rome's people of interest under her belt, all of it fanned by her mother, who wished for her to marry up in rank for the good of the family. She knew exactly who Lucius Cassius Longinus was, she knew he was a Senator and had served in the army, and she also knew about his first wife who had died and his wife-to-be who had left him mere moments before they would have tied the knot. Unfortunate for both his wives, but all the more fortunate for Mania in return. Hopefully, he was desperately lonely and looking for company.

@Sara

Edited by David
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Longinus blinked at the foreign language. She had unusual colouring for a native Italian and he would not be surprised if she hailed from some outreach of the Empire - Rome now seemed full of nouveau riche families from the provinces, but then she corrected herself and switched to flawless, unaccented Latin and his intrigue solidified. Her request made him blink, it was unexpected, but he was never going to pass up the opportunity to speak to a beautiful woman - nor a way to extricate himself from this horrifically dull conversation with the wine-obsessed fellow opposite him. With a grin, he inclined his head. "But of course, you'll excuse me?" He asked the man, but made no move to wait for his reply as he accompanied the statuesque blonde into the garden. There were people here too - probably for the better for her reputation - but it was at least cooler than the triclinium. 

He nodded and sipped his wine as she took in the air before drawing back to him. "It makes a change, you rescued me from some terrible company so I'm indebted by lady." Letting out a boisterous laugh he shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. He was not a man easily flustered, but he was not immune from the charms of a beautiful lady - even if he should be, given his engagement. "And not at all, I rather think most people run a mile when they see me, so you're a novelty. And it's Lucius Cassius Longinus." He inclined his head, "And you are...?" He winced. Maybe he should know - maybe she was the daughter of somebody incredibly important, but he'd never had the patience or inclination to actually learn the who's-who of Rome. He left that to his mother. 

 

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Longinus had fallen for her guise, it seemed to Mania, hook, line and sinker. She knew he wouldn't be able to resist her charms - she was, after all, a beautiful woman, and Longinus was a man. He may have been highly decorated and influential, but he was still a man, and a Roman to boot. Roman men were perhaps the most gullible in all the world, and all one needed to exploit that was to be a woman. She knew very well who Lucius Cassius Longinus was, as did most others. First he spent several years in the army in Britannia, and now he was a civil servant - he seemed to live in perpetual servitude to the Empire, the Roman ideal. However, he was still not immune towards the charms of a woman. To Mania, this seeemed almost comical. This must be, she guessed, the silver lining of otherwise having a terribly unjust position in society.

"In that case, I shall hope my company won't be as terrible," she joked, giggling. She was somewhat surprised at how candindly Longinus spoke of others, but then again, this was a dinner party, so she imagined Longinus would prefer to let loose at such events after spending most of his days intertwined in political debates and superficial niceties like the conversation she had just gotten him out of.

"Oh, please forgive me!" she said as he introduced himself, as if to solidify the guise of not having recognised him. "How ignorant of me, truly! Of course, we've all heard of your heroic feats in Britannia! You've accomplished more than most men could hope to accomplish in a lifetime!" And by the looks of it, he must've looked damn good doing it, however Mania wouldn't make her attraction to him that obvious just yet - that is, if the wine seeping into her brain would play along. As it turned out, however, it didn't intend to do so. "Mania Victoria! My accomplishments do not compare to yours, I'm afraid," she joked again, "but my father is a rather well-known goldsmith - he owns a shop on the Emporium Magnum, perhaps you've heard of it?" Mania found it rather embarrassing that her only accomplishment was being a well-known man's daughter. Her brother, Primus, at least, could say he was heir. That carried some weight and sounded at least somewhat impressive, even if he was born into that position and had done nothing to achieve it on his own. Mania's position was daughter. Every woman in the world was somebody's daughter. Plebians, Peregrini and slaves were daughters, too, for Jupiter's sake! Even just thinking about it made her angry, however she composed herself enough to contain her anger and not have it show.

"Oh, how surprising!" she reacted to his calling her a novelty. "Why on Earth would people run away from you? Well, unless they were invaders on Britannia, I suppose...The wine had, by now, distributed itself all throughout Mania's body and she had difficulty concentrating, although the state of inebriation had not yet become apparent in her speech.

She made a few steps towards him, while giving him a sultry look. "I must say, Senator, I feel rather... attracted to you myself. Trust me, I have no plans of running. If anything, I wish for there to be less distance between us."

@Sara

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Longinus had a bit of a dichotomous personality - on one hand he was modest, he wasn't vain, he didn't place much stock in material or expensive things but on the other hand, he was exceptionally proud of his service in the legions and his rapid assent to legatus at twenty-three. That she complimented his feats stoked his ego and he furnished her with a warm grin, inclining his head; "You're very kind, but it was a long time ago now." And it felt like it. Since he'd returned home from the frontier for the last time close to four years ago now, he'd been...well...not particularly busy. A half-hearted attempt at running for Praetor hadn't got very far after he'd been set adrift by the loss of Sestia and his unborn child. 

His brows rose on his forehead and he chuckled, wincing; "I'm afraid I'm not so much into my gold," He swept a hand, indicated at his form. Besides the signet ring of his familia which he wore as paterfamilias, he was absent of much more decoration. But realising he was probably sounding more rude than he intended to be, he offered her a wink; "But that's because men without women are often fashion-less, so take no offence Mania Victoria." 

He nimbly swiped another goblet of wine from a passing slave, replacing his empty one on the tray (and nearly knocking the poor sod off balance in the process). He took a sip of it (cheap wine - poor hosts!) and was about to clarify what he meant when his company spoke again. He coughed on his wine as he swallowed it down and let out a garrulous laugh, grin spreading on his face. "Well," He said as his chuckles settled down and his grin straightened to a wry smile, "If I didn't think I might get a broken nose from your father or...brother? Or whomever else is escorting you this evening, or my own intended, I might take you up on that." Things with Sergia were still to be finalised, but it was almost completely a done deal. Quirking a brow, he considered the beauty, "Are you always so informal, Mania Victoria? I'm sure less virtuous men - had they heard what you just said - would jump at the chance..." 

 

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"Rome was founded a long time ago as well - does it's age tarnish it's greatness? Quite on the contrary; the fact it has persisted adds to it's prestige, and I'm sure your military accomplishments shall go unparalelled for just as long as Rome shall stand!" Her words were slowly beginning to slur and her intonation much resembled the landscape of the city; a cluster of valleys and peaks. She was, unfortunately, too inebriated to notice. If the Gods were to be kind to her this evening, she would forget what was yet to come, and Longinus would aswell.

So he was "a man without a woman," as he himself had put it. Fortuna herself seemed to have arranged this meeting, for things were very much playing out in Mania's favour. For now, at least. She had made the acquaintance of quite possibly one of the most desired men in Rome, and was pushing all the right buttons judging by his responses. But hadn't she heard something about him being engaged? While he did make mention of her, the engagement didn't seem set in stone just yet, so the window of opportunity seemed to be at least somewhat open, and, by Juno, Mania would get a foot in before it closed completely. Then, she might finally have the upper hand on her brother for once.

She helped herself to another goblet of wine as he did. She took a deep sip from it, evident by the slight dark purple hue her lips took on afterwards. "Oh, my father isn't much one for parties, I'm afraid; he much prefers the company of ledgers to that of people. As for my brother, I'm sure he's off to find himself a naíve companion for the night, as he always does at events like this." Had Mania been sober, she would never have let something like this slip out of her mouth. After all, her reputation was tethered to that of her family, and Primus, as heir, could destroy it within seconds. By now, she was too drunk to care. All she cared about in this very moment was Longinus. "Your intended shall, I'm sure, understand she's not the only woman who enjoys your company." This was unlike anything Mania had ever said or would ever say. She prided herself on being reserved and respectful, especially in the company of such high-ranking officials, however there was a reason alcohol was commonly referred to as liquid courage. After tonight, liquid idiocy should be considered as a more fitting metaphor.

@Sara

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He arched a brow as she spoke of her family. He often did the same, although his family was small enough to count the members on one hand - himself included, but he supposed that was different; he was paterfamilias and had the right to joke at the expense of irritating cousin Lepidus and his mother. This young woman was very much still at the mercy and whims of her father and brothers - they'd dictate her life, and he was surprised at her candour. That didn't stop him being amused by it though and he let out a low chuckle. Good for her. 

The chuckle morphed into a genuine laugh at her statement. Gods above she really was bold! And beautiful, and charming in her own-forward sort of way. She was a reminder of his late wife in many ways; bold, blonde and so forth and sense told him to watch himself given the tempestuous, often chaotic marriage they'd had, but on the other hand...No, you idiot. Men of his rank and age usually had a slew of women; slaves, sex workers and such but noble women? No, they were off limits. Definitely pure ones. He was a fool and played the joker a lot in his life, but he did have some common sense and he wasn't about to risk a snapped neck or worse on account of the fact this woman was clearly after him...tempting though it might be. Gods, look at her. 

"Mania Victoria," He started, a chuckle and warmth still in his voice, "You're quite unlike any other woman here, I think it's fair to say." He sipped his wine and jerked his head to the triclinium a little way off, "But I'm not about to go and besmirch your reputation - or mine," He grinned before adding with an amused lilt to his voice, "Besides, I'm more than positive all the private rooms are currently occupied." By people who had less honour than him, clearly. "How about I escort you to find your brother?" 

 

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Damn it! It was all slipping away from her! No! Well, thankfully, by now, she had drank enough to not be upset by her plan to make Longinus hers falling through, but rather by how much of a bore Longinus seemed to be. Weren't men supposed to be brutish slaves to their animalistic desires? Her mother had lied, it seemed. Truth be told, she hadn't originally planned to be this forward in her pursuit of him, but if there were any truth to her mother's words about men, behaviour like this should have made him lunge towards her like a tiger towards a helpless novice gladiatrix at the ludi. The rumours scribbled onto the wall, describing senatorial debauchery, also seemed to be untrue... After all, who could resist this?! A statuesque Noric beauty with hair the colour of golden sheathes of wheat, with a face which seemed as if it had been kissed by Venus herself?! No one! No one! At least, this line of thought made perfect sense to Mania Victoria in her current state. Sober Mania Victoria would have recoiled at such extreme thoughts of vanity, even though her appearance was a source of great pride, but that was a problem for tomorrow, along with the bestial headache she would wake up to.

"Senator," she began to speak to him after letting out a slight sigh, "I was mistaken. You are a most boring man. Hypnos personified, perhaps," she slurred at him, all while averting her gaze. She took a few steps back towards the triclinium while stretching out her arm towards him behind her, so as to signal to him that he shouldn't follow her. "Now I see why people run from you, and, trust me, it is not due to your daunting aura or military prowess." She made her way back into the triclinium on her own and reclined on one of the couches, paying him no more attetion. For a moment, she thought about looking for the man who was talking to him earlier - even talking to him about grapes should be more riveting than what had just transpired between her and Senator Longinus.

@Sara

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