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A day for Neptune


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July 23, 76CE

It was a hot, sunny summer day, much in need of a little shade. In other words, a perfect day for the ancient festival of Neptunalia, only celebrated by a fraction of the city's people, but one of Lucius' favorites. It was still early in the morning as he headed out towards the Porta Capena, carrying a large bundle of green leafy branches on his shoulder. He was not the only one aiming for the Appian Road, and the green fields surrounding it along the Aqua Appia. Neptunalia was a festival popular with the common people of Rome, the ones that did not have the chance to flee the city for Baiae or their villas on the shore, and instead they spent the god's day in shade built with their own hand, celebrating the fresh water much needed in the summer heat.

Lucius carried a heavy bag slung over his shoulder, filled with food and wine, as well as the green branches. He could have brought a slave along to do the carrying, but he felt like the festival was better when one was alone, free to talk to people without looking like a patrician trying to mingle. Which he was. But he did not need to advertise it. And the slaves needed a day off too anyway.

@Sara

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What was a girl to do when she'd just returned from what felt like exile in a horrible little villa outside the city? Shop, of course. She'd only returned from the fraught trip to Ardea a few days prior and she was already itching to avail herself of the pleasures of the city once more. How anybody could take any real enjoyment of the countryside astounded her - what did they spend their time doing? Reading? Walking in nature? She could enjoy it for a few days, maybe a week or so, before she was clawing at the walls. 

The Emporium Magnum was heaving and the heat wasn't helping. The slave that trailed her was lagging behind and Ovinia clicked her tongue in irritation. Her body slave was still struck down by a fever and so she'd been cycling through the domestic slaves and this one - a timid middle aged woman who usually dealt with dinners and such - was tiresome company, even when she wasn't falling behind. Still, it was better than any sort of bodyguard, a topic that had been mooted for her since her return to Rome. 

The woman was laden down with a few bags filled with bolts of fabric that Ovinia had purchased, a few items of jewellery and a bag of honey cakes and fruits she'd spied and fancied and their pace was that of a snail. Their litter wouldn't have been able to get through the crowds given it was some sort of festival (which one, she couldn't recall) so they were stuck walking back to their pre-appointed meeting spot by the Porta Capena. It was there she spied a curious sight. Hundreds of plebs carrying branches, as if they were about to sack the city but with nothing more than some twigs in there defence. She arched a brow and glanced back to the slave who just gave a limp shrug - she clearly had no idea either. 

Fortuna was smiling...or potentially smiting her though as she spotted a familiar face in the midst of the unfamiliarity. Tempted to ignore him and instead carry on, she realised too late that their paths would cross and as he walked in front of her she stopped in her tracks, forcing him to do so as well. "Your brother finally kick you out of the domus, Lucius Vipsanius?" She gestured to the branches he was carrying, "I don't think you'll build much of a house with that." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Carrying all the leafy branches made it a little tricky to navigate the crowd, especially when more people joined at the Porta Capena, carrying their own foliage. He only noticed last minute that someone had stopped in front of him, and pulled up short, tilting his head to take a better look at her.

"Your brother finally kick you out of the domus, Lucius Vipsanius? I don't think you'll build much of a house with that." 

"Ovinia Camilla, as I live and breathe" Lucius grinned at her. It had been a while since their awkward dinner, and she had not visited since, allegedly because her family took a trip to their villa. And now she was back. Surprise. "Happy Neptunalia. Coming out to join the festivities?"

@Sara

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She inclined her head with an impish smile as her slave finally caught up and shot the man an impassive look. "Lucius Vipsanius Roscius, peculiar as always." She studied what was in his hands with vague amusement but tried to project an air of boredom. 

"Neptun...alia?" She frowned and glanced back to the slave who gave another bemused shrug. There were so many festivals that she lost track and it wasn't as if she was a slave or pleb and therefore looking forward to a day off from work. She briefly wondered if she was supposed to be observing it and therefore giving the slave who had stopped behind her, laden with her purchases, a day off. Whoops. "Neptune wants you to horde foliage?" She queried and gestured to the branches before shaking her head, "And no - errands to run you see - far too busy for a peculiar festival..." That didn't sound much like a festival at all.

 

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"Lucius Vipsanius Roscius, peculiar as always." 

He probably was. In the eyes of someone like Ovinia, definitely. The few patricians from ancient families who observed the festival out of duty or tradition were moving past them with an entourage of slaves carrying their things. Instead, here he was, doing his own carrying, and being perfectly content with it.

"Neptun...alia? Neptune wants you to horde foliage?... And no - errands to run you see - far too busy for a peculiar festival..." 

"You have never heard of Neptunalia?" Lucius arched an eyebrow. Go figure. "It's one of Rome's oldest festivals. Granted, not one of the most popular. At least not with our people." Patricians, namely. Who tended to flee the city in the summer. "It's a day for those stuck in the city in the summer heat. Used to be a festival celebrating the fresh water the gods gave us." he motioned at the fresh leaves and the Aqua Appia above. "It's peculiar, but it is great fun."

@Sara

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She rolled her eyes, obviously she'd never heard of it. The main festivals of course, and even some more obscure but she didn't go around noting all of Rome's oddities in a journal, but glancing around, perhaps she should. It gave her an excuse to leave the house at the very least for something other than shopping and gossiping. 

Turning her attention back to the man at hand she chuckled. "And what? You..." She tilted her head to the side studying the branches in his arms, "Throw them in the aqueduct?" What else would one do with branches in a festival to celebrate water...? It seemed logical to her at any rate. Why Neptune would like an offering of twigs and bugs and leaves was beyond her, but who was she to question the will of the Gods?

 

TAG: @Chevi

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She really didn't know. Lucius laughed at the suggestion, a good-natured laugh of amusement. No one was required to know all of Rome's thousands of traditions, it was just a pity she did not know this particular one.

"No, not that. These are for shade." He answered, tilting his head. "You know what, It would be easier to show you. Care to join?"

@Sara

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She remembered in that moment why she didn’t particularly enjoy ( it was irrevocably drawn to) his company the first time and the last time they had met outside of the dinner: he made her feel stupid, as if an obscure ancient festival was something she should have known about. She scoffed and rolled her eyes.

”I’m afraid I can’t,” she gave him a satisfied little smile, “I have plans. But walk me to my litter?” They we’re heading in the same direction, and she had an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach that she’d be dragged into this anyway because as far as her eyes could see there were people carrying branches, which suggested that her litter would be a long while and caught up in this madness.

 

@Chevi

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Honestly he would have been surprised if she said yes. Right away, anyway. From what little he knew about Ovinia she liked to play things safe, and would not risk her reputation by mingling with the plebeians at an outdoors festival. Still, it was only polite to ask, wasn't it? (And a little bit cheeky.)

”I’m afraid I can’t. I have plans. But walk me to my litter?” 

"Sure" he nodded easily, adjusting the branches on his shoulder. He did not have to go much out of his way, and he wanted to be polite to her, as much as possible. She was being considered as Gaius' bride, after all, or that was the distinct impression he got. And he did not want to piss his brother off more than he already had. "... where is your litter?..."

@Sara

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“Not far,” She replied in a sing song voice and heated the audible groan of the slave that picked her load back up. Ovinia really was a prolific shopper when she was bored.

’Not far’ turned very quickly to ‘not here’ and she blinked. The crowds were thickening now and she couldn’t see the brawny slaves anywhere. She frowned, nibbling on her lip. “How long until this crowd settles down?” She turned her face up to Lucius and then glanced back to her slave; “Either you can run to find them, or we can wait with Senator Gaius’ brother until the crowds die down.” She didn’t know why she was giving the woman a choice…maybe because she didn’t know what she should do?

 

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The litter was nowhere to be seen. Lucius would have been surprised to find it at the porta, given the crowd of traffic that was going through the gates both ways. The Appian road had always been busy, but now it was funneling a lot more Romans than usual, heading out to the festival day. He watched Ovinia lose her confidence as she looked around, searching.

“How long until this crowd settles down?”

"I would say a few more hours. But the festival lasts all day."

“Either you can run to find them, or we can wait with Senator Gaius’ brother until the crowds die down.”

The poor slave woman did not look like someone who wanted to run anywhere. Lucius felt sorry for her. "No need to run around" he noted "Let's get out of the traffic, and we can find someone to send for the litter when the crowd thins, hm? Believe me, it's nicer outside the gate anyway."

@Sara

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"Abducting strange women out of the city?" She offered a wry grin to him but nonetheless inclined her head and dutifully followed him. His plan made sense, and she had no other feasible options. 

Doing her best to dissipate the awkwardness she felt (why did she feel awkward?) she glanced up at him again. "I take it there's no singing at this festival?" It was a lame attempt at a joke but an olive branch of sorts. She remembered that day now, even weeks later and the flush of embarrassment she felt as she realised what she'd done - sung - in public! She hated that she found it sort of thrilling. 

 

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"Abducting strange women out of the city?" 

"You're not a stranger" Lucius pointed out with a smile. They were officially acquainted, maybe soon to be related by marriage as well. Still, if she felt too uncomfortable with the idea, he was ready to leave it alone.

She followed, and they walked out through the gates and along the Via Appia.

"I take it there's no singing at this festival?"

"There is always singing" Lucius chuckled. People sang when they were celebrating. In this case, the crowd slowly dispersed, travelers staying on the road while those celebrating Neptunalia headed for the fields and hills along the Aqua Appia, beyond the gravestones and monuments lining the road. It soon became apparent what the festival was about: little huts, built from leafy branches and foliage, popped up along the Aqua Appia like a small green village; some leaned on each other, others stood alone. People sat in their shade, couples or whole families, with food spread out on blankets. They talked and laughed; children ran around, chasing each other. An outlet, bringing water to a drinking fountain from the aquaeduct to the road, was surrounded by flower garlands and singing people, splashing water at each other. It was a cheerful sight, and Lucius smiled happily as he watched it unfold.

"Fresh water means life, bless Neptune" he noted, motioning with his free hand at the scene.

@Sara

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"Not from me, not this time." She retorted with a wry grin and an arched brow. She was still deeply embarrassed at what she'd done at his goading back in the Portico, but back in his company again she found herself attempting to approach it with humour rather than shame. He seemed fairly nonplussed, but then again in his life - from what she'd gleaned - that day had probably been an average Tuesday. 

Ovinia let her eyes wander over the crowds as they dispersed to greet family, neighbours, friends and she swallowed the lump in her throat. it was odd - very odd - and not something she'd seen before; little huts and lean-tos constructed all along the road. It was peculiar but...heartwarming in a way and she gave him an amused, if not slightly earnest look. "Bless Neptune." She agreed and then whipped her head round as she saw her slave deposit her goods on the ground. Ovinia bit back the rebuke she wanted to give; it wasn't polite to chastise a slave in front of company, or it would have been if said company hadn't made it clear that he spent time with slaves doing odd jobs and all sorts. Instead she shot the woman an irritated little glare and gestured with her head back towards the city. "Why don't you go and find the litter? I know Lucius Vipsanius, I'm perfectly safe with him." the woman looked like she couldn't have given less  of a shit if Ovinia wasn't safe and merely nodded, walking away at a snails pace. 

Alone with Lucius she spread out her hands, "And where will you be building your palace?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

 

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Lucius watched Ovinia, a little amused, as she took in the festival scene. She probably would have never come out here of her own volition, and looked a little surprised by all the people having a great time sitting around. She sent her slave for the litter, but Lucius doubted she would return anytime soon. He walked off the road, searching for a good place to build a shelter. If Gaius heard he had been alone with Ovinia for half of Rome to see, there would be hell to pay, and that was all nothing compared to her brothers finding out... He glanced around as she asked, looking for a good spot to set up the branches.

"Well, I know you'll be surprised to hear, but I am not very good at this" he noted, heading for a promising bush nearby and setting down his pile of foliage. "But I was thinking I'll just add to the shade that already exists here." He inspected the bush, making sure it had no thorns, then started constructing the leafy shelter. It did not go very smoothly. 

@Sara

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Ovinia folded her arms across her waist as she followed him off of the road. Maybe she shouldn't have sent the slave away? But then again, nobody worth knowing was here, and the woman did need to learn a lesson in duties and responsibilities. Besides, she knew Lucius - or at the very least - had socialised enough with her brother in attendance that surely they wouldn't be irate by her being alone with him? Doubt crept in though now, until she was mercifully distracted by his poor house building skills. 

She grinned as she watched him, arms still resolutely folded around herself in a protective stance. She let out a laugh as half of his work collapsed almost as soon as he had constructed it. "So wine making and apple picking are amongst your skill sets, but construction is not?" She grinned, "You shall have to take an apprenticeship in it Lucius." She didn't know why she felt she could be so familiar with him but she was enjoying it regardless - although she was equally sure that the feelings of annoyance would crop up sooner rather than later. "No you need to-" She let out an exasperated sigh, trying to direct him as another bit fell back down onto the grass. "That bit," She gestured to a longer branch, "Start with that." 

 

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Ovinina was clearly amused by his lack of skill in making a hut out of branches. Some people glancing over must have had the same opinion. Lucius was not easily embarrassed, but the process was beginning to frustrate him.

"So wine making and apple picking are amongst your skill sets, but construction is not? You shall have to take an apprenticeship in it Lucius." 

"It's not supposed to be that complicated" he noted, gesturing at all the leafy shelters around them. Some were better constructed than others, and some where just large piles where the maker had clearly given up. But no one seemed to be struggling as much as he did.

"No you need to-"

"Say what?"

"That bit. Start with that." 

Lucius picked up the longer branch and arched an eyebrow at her, handing it to her. "OhCare to put the theory into practice?"

@Sara

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She was half tempted to swipe at him with the branch as he deposited it in her hands, and turn and imperiously walk off in search of her slave and her litter. It would have been very 'Ovinia' of her to do something like that, but much like what had happened at the Portico, she was easily riled and easily manipulated. The light look of challenge on his voice and the vague taunt in his words had her smiling smugly at him as she moved to examine the mess he'd made already, whipping her hair over her shoulder in his general direction as she did. She barely knew him, and yet here she was trying to out-do him. 

With rapt concentration she surveyed the scene before using her sandalled feet to sweep away the detritus he'd deposited by the bush. With a triumphant grin, she moved to push the stick into the ground until it was slanted, one end on the top of the bush, one end buried into the mud beneath the grass. It wouldn't hold in wind, but it was standing at least which was more than could be said for his creation. With a smile, she stepped back and gestured with wide open hands. "My work here is done, I'm sure you can take over from here." She grinned and set about refolding her arms protectively across her waist, "And add 'excellent in construction' to my list of virtues when you praise me to your brother, won't you?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Once again, just like with the singing, Lucius was surprised that Ovinia rose to the challenge. Apparently she was not as proper and poised a she liked to pretend, and it was amusing to see her break etiquette just to one-up him. She managed to get the branch fixed, looking extremely pleased with herself. Lucius grinned, getting to work propping up and interweaving te smaller branches to create a small shelter.

"And add 'excellent in construction' to my list of virtues when you praise me to your brother, won't you?" 

"I'll definitely do that" Lucius laughed, imagining the faces of Gaius and her brother at such a statement. The shelter looked fairly stable, so he unfolded his short cloak and spread it on the ground, setting his bag down next to it. "Is that the goal, then? For my brother to like you?"

@Sara

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She watched him work with amusement bordering on genuine pleasure as he seemed to get the hang of it, following her lead, she noted. When he paused to roll out a cloak to sit upon she made no move to seat herself, preferring to stand and watch him and the way the wind blew the shaded lean-to perilously. 

His question prompted a quirked brow and a look of confusion. He'd attended the dinner, there was no fooling anybody about what the real reason for it was beyond Tullus catching up with an old friend. She was young and eligible and in need of a husband sooner rather than later and Gaius was single and had an excellent lineage. She narrowed her eyes in suspicion, giving him a little shrug as she stood there; "Should it not be the goal?" she diverted, a wry grin spreading on her lips. "I was fully prepared to enter your domus and see an awful, goaty little man with a shock of white hair and miserable demeanour. You did him a disservice in our last conversation." Understatement of the century. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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He sat down, but she remained standing. He did not comment on that. If she wanted to stand around, it was fine. He opened the bag, unpacking a jug of wine, some apples, and some pastries carefully folded into a piece of cloth.

"Should it not be the goal?"

It was, obviously. Her brother probably would have found it advantageous to marry her to Gaius, who was definitely the ambitious brother. Still, making a good match, and making someone like you did not always go hand in hand.

"I was fully prepared to enter your domus and see an awful, goaty little man with a shock of white hair and miserable demeanour. You did him a disservice in our last conversation."

"Hey, I never said my brother was goaty." he pointed out, holding up a hand. "He's a good man. He just sees the world very differently than I do. You have brothers too, you should know..."

@Sara

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"True," She said with a vaguely amused smile, "Not goaty, I'll give you that." But equally his description and what her limited imagination had done with it in her head did not match up to the man she had met those weeks ago at the domus. 

"I do know," She chuckled, "But I think that has more to do with the fact that none of my brothers could countenance what it's like to be a woman." That wasn't a complaint and it didn't come across as such, it was merely an observation. How could any of her brothers possibly consider what life was like for their sister when they'd had such different experiences in life? It was like trying to compare apples and a dormouse and find a commonality. 

"He seems pleasant enough though," She offered with a little shrug and adjusted the palla she wore around her shoulder - attempting to seem aloof, "And no huge arguments at the dinner table between you two, so I take it that things aren't as bad between you as you made out?" 

 

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"I do know. But I think that has more to do with the fact that none of my brothers could countenance what it's like to be a woman." 

They probably didn't. Lucius wondered how much attention they paid to their sister, apart from trying to get her a good match in marriage. Ovinia seemed to have opinions about things, including life as a woman in Rome. Not many men noticed that.

"He seems pleasant enough though. And no huge arguments at the dinner table between you two, so I take it that things aren't as bad between you as you made out?" 

"We... came to an agreement." Lucius admitted with a half-shrug. "I have till the end of the year to make up my mind whether I want to be a lawyer or join the legions. After that... well, dunno. But Gaius is going to lose his patience." he unfolded the cloth and looked up. "Pastry?"

@Sara

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Okay. Interest officially piqued.

She watched him, eyes narrowed as he explained his arrangement. She had to bite the inside of her lip to keep from laughing. When she did speak she managed to barely conceal her humour. "A lawyer? Really?" Granted she'd only met the man three times now but when compared to the stuffy, ancient lawyers who shuffled in and out of her fathers tablinum...the profession didn't really seem to suit him. 

She shook her head at the offer of a pastry. "Are you waiting for company?" She asked, blinking at the pastries and fruit and wine he had lugged with him. It occurred to her that this sort of place was precisely the sort of place where one would meet friends or lovers, not babysit a patrician who had lost her litter. Straightening out her dress she glanced around. "I can leave if you are. Don't want to be a third wheel." 

 

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"A lawyer? Really?" 

"Yeah" Lucius nodded, with not much enthusiasm. He knew how ridiculous it sounded. But probably less so than hunting down barbarians in freezing rain. Maybe. For now, he did not want to think about either.

"Are you waiting for company? I can leave if you are. Don't want to be a third wheel." 

Lucius blinked then laughed. "You mean like me the other night?" he asked, amused "No, I am not meeting anyone. This is just for enjoyment. Also... barter." He glanced around, searching. A boy, maybe eight or nine, ran past with muddy feet and tussled hair in-between some games by the fountain. Lucius whistled at him, tossing an apple in his direction. The boy caught it and skidded to a halt. "Find out if someone brought honey melons, will you? You'll get a pastry for it."

@Sara

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