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Azarion
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August 76 AD

It had been ten month. Ten months since Safinia was murdered. A lot had changed in that time: Azarion had grown taller and stronger, turned eighteen years old, and was now a charioteer for the Whites rather than a stable boy. He was learning to write to communicate, and he was treated well, if sternly, by his dominus. Rome had a new caesar. And yet, in a way, it felt like time had been standing still all this time.

They never caught the man who murdered Safinia. No one even seemed to care. The sensation had long died off, and no one was much inspired to look into the death of a kitchen girl. But Azarion missed her. She had been a friend, someone who rolled her eyes at him but acknowledged him as a person anyway. And the gods had to be angry, that no one was punished for her death. Sometimes Azarion wondered if her spirit was lingering, waiting for someone to bring justice to her murdered. Sometimes he wished he could talk to her.

It was late afternoon now, the training had ended for the day. Once again, Azarion had slipped out the back door of the stables, and made his way to the alley where the mudered had happened ten months before. Any clues that might have been left were long gone now, and he had been over trying to imagine the sequence of events a million times. Still, he did it again. It was not like he had anything better to do.

@Atrice

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It was quite a long time since Didia was attacked in the streets one night, by one crazy and sick person, who cut her and scared her so badly... that training her and teaching her just a little bit of self-defense was something you had to do slowly, and carefully. But she was still his friend, no matter what he was up to, she was still there and someone had hurt her so badly. He knew she tried to not think about it, but he also knew that it was on her mind and sometimes she'd react strangely to something you did, probably because of it. Sadly, he'd not gotten much further with the investigation last year. He'd promised her that he'd look into it, and he had kept his promise. But it was a dead-end he came to, kind of.

He found a pretty prostitute at the Elysium, one he wished a better fate for too, but it wasn't any better for her. She was a slave and couldn't escape it even if she wanted to. And one man who'd visited her more than once, was a man who liked to hurt her. And not just in the usual abusive way, that some men had... no, the guy didn't beat her up or knock her out before taking advantage of her. Alexius would never do such a thing, of course, but men who came to the Elysium, some of them did. But not this man. No, he had a knife. And he'd hurt her with that. And for some reason, he got a kick out of that and it turned him on. Alexius was disgusted! It was worse than those who were turned on by the gladiators. That, he could understand, kind of! But this... sick! 

Sadly, he'd not gotten much further than that. She was so afraid she didn't give Alexius a name, because she feared someone found out and would hurt her for it. Or worse. Alexius still thought about it, from time to time, because of Didia. And not very long ago, when he went out for a night on the town, he heard people talking about the races and Alexius only had half an ear on them. Until they began talking about some slave, who worked at the stables, and she was murdered brutally last year. Almost a year ago. Not long after Didia's incident and not long after he met the prostitute. Alexius decided to find out what that was all about. So off he went, towards the stables near the Circus Maximus. He didn't really go to the races, but he knew the way. He wasn't sure about who to ask about it or what to say, because it was 'just' a slave and it was almost a year ago. He stopped near the entrance, wishing he'd decided on what to do before he went here. Apparently this might just be another case of Alexius going into something without having any clue about what he was doing. This wouldn't be a first.

@Chevi

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Azarion noticed the tall man walking towards the door of the Circus. His eyes narrowed, watching to see if he would just walk by, taking a shortcut to wherever he was going. He didn't. He slowerd down, as if he was heading towards the same place not far from the door where Azarion was looking around. Was he... a visitor, at this strange hour? Or someone, returning to the site of a murder? Planning another one? Azarion's hand traveled to his belt; he was not allowed to carry weapons, but he had a hoof pick at hand, just in case. Not that it made him any less suspicious, standing among the crates and amphorae in the alley...

@Atrice

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Alexius decided he might come back another time. You didn't just go up to people and ask about a murder on a slavegirl last year, without sounding suspicious. People might think he did it! Besides, if he then began talking about the other assaults, it would sound even worse. No, he had to be more careful if he was going to find Didia and Deia's attacker. So, another time. Maybe someone would help him out, if anyone would trust him further than to the edge of his bed. He turned around to leave and at first, he barely noticed the boy standing by the side of the street. That's until he noticed the boy had a hand on his belt and a strange expression on his face. Was he up to no good? He definitely looked the part and this city needed no more of that. Alexius could not stop them all, but he could stop one, at least.

He walked up to the youth, looking him up and down. He was clean enough, nice clothes too... "Hey... got anything interesting there you'd like to show me?" Alexius asked, ready to tackle the kid or sprint if the boy tried to escape. Maybe he was the attacker! Sometimes they said that criminals returned to their crimescenes, after all.

@Chevi

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The man looked suspicious. As in, it was both suspicious that he was looking around the murder scene, and also he was looking at Azarion with suspicion. They sized each other up. He was definitely taller and more muscular than Azarion. The charioteer was ready to put up a fight if it came to that, but he was probably not going to win. 

"Hey... got anything interesting there you'd like to show me?" 

... Or maybe the guy was just looking for sex. 

Azarion made a face at him. Not showing you anything, creep. But he relaxed his hand a little. There was nothing to see there anymore, among the crates. Nothing visible, anyway.

@Atrice

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For once, Alexius was not looking for sex and while some young women might attract him, this boy didn't do it for him. Besides, that wasn't why he was here at all. He was wondering if he'd ever find the sick attacker, the one who liked to cut people, and wondered if the murder he heard about had anything to do with it. Because apparently there was a lot of blood. And why would anyone murder a simple slavegirl like that? What did she do to deserve such treatment from a stranger? Anyway, he wasn't sure what to do anyway, but he did see this suspicious looking youth and wondered what he was up to.

The other looked at him too, seeming to realize Alexius was bigger than him in all ways. But the boy didn't answer. Instead he just made a face and Alexius noticed he relaxed his hand. It was odd that he didn't talk, but at least he relaxed.

"Good." Alexius said, "You should be careful with what you do around here, or so I heard." He added. He didn't think the boy was an attacker, a sick killer, but who knew in Rome, right? The kindest people could also be the most cruel, it just depended on the situation. Maybe though, the boy knew something... "Do you live around here?" 

@Chevi

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Azarion had met many cruel people in his life, some of them - like the Roman soldiers that had maimed him - were definitely killers, but he had never met a murdered before. Not one that would stalk and kill a young woman in an alley. He had no idea what kind of person it would be, and he had not ruled out the possibility yet that this taller man could be one. But for now, at least he was not attacking.

"Good. You should be careful with what you do around here, or so I heard."

So, he knew. Azarion gave him a suspicious look.

"Do you live around here?" 

He nodded, pointing at the door that led to the Circus stables. He was close enough that if he yelled, maybe they would hear. 

@Atrice

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The boy didn't look like he trusted Alexius at all, making Alexius wonder if he should trust the youth. He made some strange faces, the young guy. Why didn't he speak though? Didn't he feel like it. Alexius mentioned that he'd heard you should be careful around here, and then asked if the youth lived here. The other nodded, pointing towards the stables.

"That is very close." He replied, "Do you mind if I follow you home? I'm trying to..." He trailed off, unsure of how to explain this without sounding like he was a murderer or some kind... well, best just be honest, right? Maybe the boy did know something, but didn't want to talk to strangers. Or maybe he'd been instructed to not do that. Either way... he inhaled a breath and began.

"Alright, I'll be honest with you. I'm here because a friend of mine was attacked last year... by some maniac. Who didn't steal anything. He just hurt her, with a knife. And then I heard someone killed a slavegirl around here last year, not long after, and I just wondered, you know, if there's any connection. Do you know anything about it?" Chances were probably that the boy heard about it, but that's what he knew. Yet you never learned anything if you didn't ask, and if Alexius should not dare to be so bold and ask, then who should?

@Chevi

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"That is very close. Do you mind if I follow you home? I'm trying to..." 

Azarion arched an eyebrow, folding his arms. He was definitely not going to take this man home to the Whites. What a weird thing to ask. He was about to march past him and leave, when he finally worked up the courage to explain himself. 

"Alright, I'll be honest with you. I'm here because a friend of mine was attacked last year... by some maniac. Who didn't steal anything. He just hurt her, with a knife. And then I heard someone killed a slavegirl around here last year, not long after, and I just wondered, you know, if there's any connection. Do you know anything about it?"

Azarion's eyes widened, and he turned back to look at the man. Now he was paying attention. He was here... looking into Safinia's murder? How did he even know about it. And... was her friend attacked by the same person? He gave Alexius a long look, then nodded. He tapped the slave tablet around his neck first, and shook his head. Safinia had not been a slave. Somehow it felt important to note. He walked a few steps the other way, pointing at the groun behind the crates. With a sad frown, he drew his finger across his neck. It was where she had been killed.

@Atrice

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He knew he was asking weird questions and he knew how it must sound to the young man he was speaking to, who didn't seem very intent on replying to anything Alexius said. Honestly he began to think the youth might be a mute! But he'd give it one last go, at trying to solve this mystery and he decided to be honest. He made his speech and this time, the youth's eyes widened, as if something fell into place. After a few moments, the young man nodded and tapped the slave tablet and shook his head. What did that mean? That he didn't think he was a slave? Alexius wasn't sure. Just that someone was not a slave. The girl perhaps? See, this is what gossip in Rome does. The gossip would break up facts until they were almost unrecognizable. 

Alexius followed the youth as the other moved and pointed at the ground behind the crates they stood by. The sign afterwards was easy enough.

"This is where she died?" Alexius said, looking at the youth for confirmation, which he was almost sure he got. The ground was just the ground now, it had been a very long time and there was no trace of blood or anything. But he got this far. Wait, how did the boy know this was where it happened?

"How do you know she was found here?" He then asked, "Did you know her?"  

@Chevi

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"This is where she died?" 

Azarion nodded. It was. The amount of blood around her, and the lack of traces, meant that she had been killed right there. He had paid for a small sacrifice, hoping that her shade would find peace, but it still felt eerie, standing on that spot, even with all the traces of the murder long gone.

"How do you know she was found here?... Did you know her?"  

Azarion nodded again. If the man wanted to have a conversation with a mute person, he needed to ask one question at a time. Yes, he knew her. He pointed at himself, then at the ground, pointing at his two eyes and the ground again. I found her.

@Atrice

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The mute boy nodded at Alexius' question, which he'd been almost sure he would. So the boy knew more about this than he could tell. Well it was a good thing he found someone who knew something. The problem was that the boy didn't talk and maybe wasn't even able to, with the way he used his body language to tell Alexius things. Well at least he had made Alexius understand so far. He asked more into it and the boy nodded. He knew the girl who died. 

Then the youth pointed at himself and the ground and his eyes and the ground. Alexius tried to figure out the puzzle. He wasn't so used to talking to people who had no words to speak with. What he got was that the boy had seen something. 

"You saw it happen?" Alexius wondered and scratched the back of his head, "Or... you just saw... her? Here?" He was almost convinced now that the boy hadn't done the deed himself. But he knew the girl and he'd seen something. If only there was a way to more easily speak to the boy. Pity it was that Alexius wasn't a good reader and he imagined the boy wasn't a good writer. That would make things easier. But it wasn't so.

@Chevi

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It was always frustrating when Azarion had something important to say, but no means to convey it. Not just because he missed being able to speak - and he never would again - but also because most people were not used to guessing games at all. Or asking one yes or no question at a time. If only someone invented a game for it.

"You saw it happen?"

He shook his head.

"Or... you just saw... her? Here?" 

I found her, you moron.

Azarion nodded. He pointed at the Circus' back door close by, then mimed walking from there, and seeing something on the ground. He closed his eyes, and drew his finger across his neck again, as much as he hated doing it. She was dead when I got here.

@Atrice

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Alexius was trying hard to understand the boy, although the boy had no words to make himself understood with. Instead he used body language. Alexius did know a lot about body language, but it was a very different kind of body language. And he could not imagine himself doing that with this boy. But he did want to learn from him, whatever he knew about the girl who died here. Whom he apparently knew. The boy denied that he saw it happen and Alexius tried to understand what the youth tried to mime. It had something to do with seeing what happened.

The youth nodded and then continued his little guessing game. He had walked from the circus and to this place, he saw something and then made the gesture for someone who was dead. 

"That's... so... you found her? Really?" Alexius was surprised and at the same time, he felt sorry for the boy. When Alexius was his age, he was already a gladiator and had seen more than one dead person, but they'd been killed in front of a crowd. This was different. There hadn't been a crowd here.

"Did they find the murderer yet, do you know that?" Alexius was curious about that, because if they did, there was a chance they also found the person who hurt Didia and Deia. Of course it didn't have to be the same, but it might be... 

@Chevi

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"That's... so... you found her? Really?" 

Finally.

Azarion nodded, folding his arms. He had, and as long as he lived, he was never going to forget it. Or forget her. She did not deserve to die like that, alone and no doubt scared of her murderer.

"Did they find the murderer yet, do you know that?" 

Azarion shook his head in a defiant motion, then spat for good measure. No, dammit, they did not. No one really cared enough to look. People died in Rome all the time, and one murdered servant girl was not going to raise any flags. 

If more people had been attacked, however...

Azarion tilted his head, motioning at the man. Who are you, anyway? 

@Atrice

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Killing as a gladiator and hurting and killing someone in cold blood because you felt like it, those were two very different things. Alexius had no choice, as far as he was concerned. It was either kill or be killed. Live or die. And he desired his freedom and missed his sister so much, that he needed to live so that he could find her again. Sadly, it was easier finding her than thinking about it or wishing for it. But it kept him alive. The man - or person - who killed this young girl was no gladiator. He was a ruthless killer and the young slave here seemed to know more than a little about it. He knew the girl. He knew who died. Did murderess even ever consider that their actions were like ripples in the water, affecting so many others than themselves? 

The slaveboy had indeed found her. And Alexius naturally wondered if they did find the murderer, but it would seem they had not. He watched the boy as the other tilted his head and made a gesture towards Alexius. Fuck this was hard! What was he trying to say? Something with Alexius. What would you say if you looked at someone like that? He was not very good at these guessing games, but he tried. Maybe the boy wanted to know why Alexius wanted to know? But he already said...

"I'm just... curious. Hust trying to find out more. I bet that sick bastard is still out there..." Alexius explained, "I'm Alexius, by the way. And you are... oh... right..." He leaned closer to inspect the collar the boy wore. Damn it that he wasn't a great reader either, "Azari...on? Azarion?" 

@Chevi

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"I'm just... curious. Hust trying to find out more. I bet that sick bastard is still out there..."

Azarion nodded. He probably was. He probably was some rich man living his life, hunting innocent women for sport. No one that the vigiles could find, or touch, even if they had not been as useless a bunch of bastards as they were.

"I'm Alexius, by the way. And you are... oh... right..."

Azarion rolled his eyes and tapped his slave tablet. 

"Azari...on? Azarion?" 

He nodded. So, the man could read, at least a little. Enough to call him by his name, which was still a novel experience for him in Rome. Azarion gestured at the ground, and at the buildings around them; he gestured at Alexius, and then shaded his eyes with his hand, looking around. Are you searching for the killer, then?

@Atrice

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It was a bit of a difficult and strange name to him, but at least he could read it. Long words and sentences was what troubled him most, simple things like names on slave collars were easier. He also knew his own name in letters, of course. He knew a bit. Just not a lot. And he only began learning after he was freed and was supposed to function as a lanista, a poor one however. But that was in the past. Just as the dead servant girl, whom Azarion here had known and found dead. Poor guy.

At least he pronounced the name right. The boy continued to gesture at the ground and around them. Another guessing game on what he wanted to say. Why the fuck did the Romans treat their slaves like this sometimes? Making them unable to speak. He assumed it wasn't by choice the boy didn't talk. And now he had to try his best at figuring out what the question was... 

"I'm looking for the killer, especially if he's the same that hurt my friend. I'm not some paid investigator. I just... hate seeing innocent and good people getting harmed like that." Didia definitely did not deserve it and he was quite sure this girl didn't either.

"Do you know anything more that might be useful?" 

@Chevi

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"I'm looking for the killer, especially if he's the same that hurt my friend. I'm not some paid investigator. I just... hate seeing innocent and good people getting harmed like that." 

So, another person who knew a few things, and had no power to exercise. Great. Well, at least he didn't look like a slave. Honestly, he looked like a gladiator. Or a bodyguard, or something. Maybe if he found the killer, he had a chance to actually kill them. And the good intentions to do so.

"Do you know anything more that might be useful?" 

Azarion shook his head slowly. He wished he did. He had been searching, and searching, but with no luck. Honestly, this man was the first new lead he had had. He placed a hand on his own chest and gestured again. I want to help. You. He tapped his tablet, the name on it, and motioned at the man. What's your name?

@Atrice

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Alexius didn't believe he had no power to exercise anything - he had his strength and he had the care he felt for Didia and honestly also for that prostitute. He felt sorry for them. He wanted to help them. And if he found the culprit who hurt them and possibly murdered the servant girl here... well... it wouldn't look good for him, that's all! As charming and friendly as he could seem sometimes, it was quite the opposite if he was angry. But right now, he was merely looking into it all. He wondered if the boy knew anything else, but he shook his head. Alexius nodded with a small sigh, he found out a little, but not nearly enough.

Azarion placed a hand on his chest and made a gesture. Alexius was also aware of the look in his eyes. He wanted to do something. He too wanted to find the murderer, didn't he? Then the boy tapped the tablet he wore around his neck and then motioned at Alexius.

"I'm Alexius." He said, not feeling up to sharing more of his name, although honestly it couldn't hurt. The boy didn't speak anyway and most likely didn't read or write either... "Lucius Antonius Alexius, if you must know." He added with a friendly smile, "Well... I don't know what else to do. Have you heard anything about anyone seeing what happened? Or if anyone heard anything? There must be something..." This was not really hidden from the street, not much. 

@Chevi

 

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"I'm Alexius. Lucius Antonius Alexius, if you must know."

Alexius. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but only in a sense that he must have heard some people mention it. Or maybe that was someone else called Alexius. Damn Roman names. He had tria nomina though, which meant he was not a slave or a peregrinus. Freedman, maybe?

"Well... I don't know what else to do. Have you heard anything about anyone seeing what happened? Or if anyone heard anything? There must be something..." 

Azarion shook his head with a frown. Marcus had already made his thorough inquiries around the Circus, and no one had anything useful to offer. But that did not mean they had to give up. He gestured with his hands again, making walking motions and gesturing around their surroundings. He had been walking a city, listening to people (he mimed, holding a hand to his ear.) He pointed at the ground and held up a finger; he pointed at Alexius and held up two. This person, if it was the same person, had hurt three women. Azarion gestured at the city again. There was bound to be more.

@Atrice

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The boy didn't really react to his name the second time either, but that was fine, it wasn't like he could comment on it a lot anyway. To this boy, it was just a name. Alexius was however now at a loss for what to do, since Azarion did not know more. He shook his head when Alexius asked again. The boy seemed to try and tell him he had been listening to people, but that was it. And then he seemed to try and point out how many had been hurt or killed and Alexius nodded.

"Yes, I think there are more too. Hmm..." Alexius scratched the back of his head, trying to think. At least he had not been drinking yet today, so his mind was clear. This was just quite the mystery! 

"You say you knew this girl and you worked with her? If she worked where you do, you could introduce me to your master. Maybe he has something clever to say on the topic?" Alexius then suggested, he thought that was the best idea so far. 

@Chevi

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"Yes, I think there are more too. Hmm..." 

Well, look at the pair of them. Fucking clueless. Azarion was feeling frustrated, but at least it was not with Alexius anymore. They were both looking for the same phantom, the mysterious person, or persons, that went around hurting women. Without any clues, that was looking for a needle in... the largest city in the world.

"You say you knew this girl and you worked with her? If she worked where you do, you could introduce me to your master. Maybe he has something clever to say on the topic?"

Azarion nodded, a little hesitantly. He was not sure what Marcus would have to say to a stranger about all this. But his master was a clever man, who had done what he could for finding out what happened to Safinia, and paid for her funeral as well. After some hesitation, Azarion headed for the door to the Circus. Maybe Marcus would want to talk to someone who would... actually talk.

@Atrice

(( @Sharpie wanna join in?))

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The boy didn't seem entirely sure of Alexius' idea about going to his master to speak, but eventually, Azarion began walking and Alexius followed. This had to be useful somehow. Of course, Azarion's employer may have looked for the murderer already, but maybe if they talked, they could figure something out. There was a maniac out there, hurting and killing women for nothing but... but what? Sport? It wasn't for coin or for sex, that was for sure. According to what Didia told, her attacker had wanted nothing else but to hurt her. Who the fuck did something like that? That maniac needed to... get a good old-fashioned beating and then some. He hoped Azarion's master knew something Alexius could use.

@Chevi @Sharpie

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One of the Whites' general dogsbodies knocked on Marcus' door, stepping in with his hands folded and lowered eyes to say deferentially, "The boy Azarion is asking to see you, Domine. He's got a visitor with him."

Marcus looked up, puzzled. At least Azarion had followed protocol this time, instead of barging straight in while Marcus was closeted with a guest. That was something, he supposed. And it wasn't as though Marcus was in a meeting right now, either.

"You may show them in."

Azarion, with his watchful eyes that took in probably far too much, and an older man. Too heavyset to be a charioteer, but who carried himself in a similar fashion. Interesting.

"I am Marcus Eppius Parthenicus, the head of the Whites. How can I help you?"

 

@Chevi @Atrice

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