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My other half?


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August 76AD

Tiberius hadn't had a chance to talk to Claudia in a while, and that always made him feel agitated. She was his twin, his other half, possibly his better half, and though they now both had their own roads to travel and lives to live, he liked to speak with her regularly. She was also sensible and witty and a great wall to bounce ideas off. And she would tell him when he was being a twit, which almost no one else would. That in itself was valuable beyond measure.

A question to a couple of slaves indicated that Claudia Caesaris had retired to her rooms, so he sought her there. However in the outer chamber he encountered only her Amazonian bodyguard slave, the one uncle Octavius had given her. A gift with both practicality and humour, it was so very typical of Octavius, but not whom Tiberius wanted to see. Claudia seemed fond of the woman though, and she protected his sister, and that he could appreciate.

He nodded to the woman in acknowledgement. "I'm looking for my sister. Is she in her rooms?" He asked the blonde haired barbarian.

@Atrice

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Cynane was right where she was supposed to be. Maybe not where she preferred to be, but where she should be. She'd rather be in the chamber further in, together with Claudia, but her young mistress wanted to rest and Cynane would make sure she was not disturbed. And so here she stood, in the outer chamber of Claudia's rooms. She wore her usual outfit, the light blue tunica, the dark brown leather armor and a gladius by her side. Right now she'd been leaning against a pillar, just resting a bit too, while her mistress did so, but when she heard footsteps, she pushed away from the pillar and gathered her hands on her back. It was Claudia's twin brother, Tiberius. Cynane never had much to do with him and never really had reason to talk to him before. Of course she stood guard too at social events and dinners, where both were present, and she knew who he was. And how important he was. The other slaves had filled her in on his story. 

But there he was, the brother of her mistress, approaching her now. He nodded to her. Slightly taller than Cynane, which she didn't like much, but at least he was also much younger than her and she didn't feel he was a threat to her. Not to his sister either. Of course, if he should ever speak of Claudia's marriage, that would be a different story. Cynane dreaded the day her mistress would marry and hoped she'd taught her well enough to fend off a man being cruel to her. She'd love to have a say in whom Claudia married. She most likely would be silenced though, if she tried to speak. Damn being a slave! 

Tiberius would know where his sister was and Cynane nodded at his questions, "She is, but she is resting and does not wish to be disturbed. Domine." She added, "Maybe you should come back another time." Was that too much? No, she was just giving him good advice. To leave Claudia - and thereby also Cynane - alone.

@Sarah

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Maybe you should come back some other time.

Much as he wasn't grasping, Tiberius wasn't accustomed to being told 'no' by anyone but his adoptive father. Still, if there was one person he'd take a refual from, it was his sister, and if she'd told her slave that she didn't want to be disturbed, Tiberius would respect that. He'd expect the same from her, even if he might not get it. And in truth the woman was simply conveying his sister's preference, and coming back later was the obvious thing to do.

The ex-gladiatrix had been Claudia's bodyguard for some time now - two years? - and rarely seemed to be far from her. If anything she seemed to radiate a protective aura. Tiberius found himself regarding her closely, really looking at her possibly for the first time. Protecting Claudia was Cynane's duty of course, but something about the woman's demeanor seemed to suggest that it was her preference as well. She wanted to do it.

"You take good care of my sister, don't you?" He asked, in that semi-rhetorical way that people sometimes spoke to slaves. "I'm sure she appreciates it. As do I." Gods knew it could be a dangerous thing, being an Imperial. She could do worse than have the barbarian fighter at her side. Still, Claudia would be safer when she had a husband to care for her. But clearly they weren't having that conversation today.

@Atrice

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Cynane technically hadn't told him no at all, she'd just recommended he came back another time, where his sister was not resting, as she was right now. She had, after all, asked to have some time on her own and Cynane would give that to her. Tiberius however went quiet after her statement and she hoped that wasn't a bad thing. Yet she stood her ground, she had her orders from her mistress and she preferred to take orders from no one else. Tiberius looked at her and although he generally seemed like a nice, young man, Cynane didn't know what to make of this. She said nothing more. And he didn't leave. She felt the silence was long, but maybe it wasn't. Then he spoke up, speaking to her as if she was a puppy or something. Said he appreciated she took good care of his sister.

"I am glad you appreciate the work I do, Domine. It is an honor to serve your sister." She did save Claudia from those bandits a good while ago, after all. She'd killed for Claudia once and she would do it again, if she had to. She didn't know if Claudia's brother could or would have done the same, in that same situation. 

@Sarah

 

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Cynane hadn't told him 'no', but she'd made it pretty clear that his sister had. It wasn't urgent, so he would respect that. Besides, his sister was not one to rile unnecessarily. Rather his attention turned to his sister's slave, the Amazon-like gladiatrix who was now her personal bodyguard, a thing the family were very glad of, since she'd saved her mistress's life. Uncle Octavius was a shrewed man.

"You're called Cynane, aren't you?" He asked, though as a slave she should answer to anything. "Where are you from?" He asked, suspecting that the somewhat outlandish attire was a mixture of Cynane's original culture and whatever costume had been devised for the gladiatorial ring. He might not have been so interested, had this woman not been part of his sister's household. Or he might. Tiberius took an interest in far more than politics.

@Atrice

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It was incredible that he didn't leave, but then again, he was of the male gender and had been brought up in a palace. He probably had everything handed to him his whole life, and he'd been taught how women and slaves were there to serve him and not the other way around. And now he'd chosen to stay put and talk to her, just because he could not reach his sister right now. Cynane was not impressed, but she knew better than to say anything about it. Instead she stood still and tried to ignore the way he looked at her. Then he asked for her name and where she was from.

"You are well informed, Domine." She first commented, when he spoke of her name, "I was born and grew in Britannia. If you know about the tribes there, mine was the Brigantes." She then added, he asked, she answered. She took her orders from Claudia, but she knew that any free person in the palace ranked over her and she would not speak up to him and displease him. Think if someone took her away from Claudia... no, she wouldn't have it. So she'd be good. As she was supposed to be. 

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"I know of the Brigantes." Tiberius confirmed when Cynane revealed the name of her people. "Though not much besides the name, and that they are strong warriors." The battle between the legions and the Brigantes' warriors had been bloody and not simple. "There was another gladiator, Eppitacus I believe, who was said to have been a King of your people." But he'd been injured and then sold, and Tiberius wasn't certain what had happened to the man since. Presumably he served his new owner.

And now here she was, a long way from her birth land, in the high civilisation of Rome, serving a Princess. That didn't mean that he wasn't curious about where she'd come from. Whilst obviously not as civilised and enlightened as the Romans, clearly their own culture and means had worked, for their people appeared to have grown well enough. Certainly there were now enough of them in Rome.

@Atrice

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She was surprised when he shared that he did know of her people. First he seemed to just know they were strong warriors, and they had been, at least against their own kind of people, the other tribes of Britannia. But then came Rome. Then she learned why Tiberius knew of her people. Eppitacus, of course. Eppi-fucking-tacus. Wouldn't she ever get rid of him? The name did certainly ring a bell, louder than Tiberius could know. Once she had been a young girl, almost infatuated by the infamous king, who was going to marry her cousin. And now, she was not sure that she had forgiven him, for what happened at that battle back then and that battle leading to her capture and the reason she was a slave. Still a slave. She inhaled a small breath, pushing the memories away.

"He was indeed, for a brief moment of time. I knew him, back then. He led us into battle, after all." She paused, sensing her tone may have been a bit bitter there, but what did it matter? Tiberius wasn't there, he must have been nothing but a toddler when she fought her first and only proper battle. She couldn't blame him for what happened, just like she never blamed Claudia. Still, Tiberius had more influence than his sister did.

"I don't know what happened to Eppitacus." She said, turning back to the present in the conversation, "I did meet him in Rome once, the night he was sold, I believe. I have not seen him since." 

@Sarah

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He listened, which was perhaps more than many Romans would have. But then he had asked. And was there bitterness there as she spoke of Eppitacus? Revealing that she had known him, that she had fought under him. And they had lost. So he supposed that bitterness was not unreasonable. Lost and ended up here. Lost her tribe and her freedom, perhaps in one fell swoop.

He wondered what that would be like. Really wondered, perhaps for the first time. He'd lost family to the ambition of others. If some other peoples came to Rome, with a grand civilisation, knowledge and crafts beyond their abilities, and asked only that they bend the knee, would they do so? Some states had, others Rome had conquered. Sometimes the former meant more unrest than the latter, perhaps because their society remained more intact. Peoples seemed more manageable when the Romans broke up the previous societies and remade them. That was why there were so many Briton slaves, and why civilising that far, barbarian shore was so important. Even if they didn't want it.

But it meant that people died. "You lost people you knew in that battle, didn't you?" He asked suddenly, looking at her keenly, one set of blue eyes to another as a very different point of view to his usual one suddenly crystalised before his mind's eye. "I'm sorry." He said, with surprising earnestness. Every lost warrior was someone's son - or daughter, someone's father or mother, someone's sister or brother. Every slave captured was a home lost, a family torn apart.

He understood the necessity of a strong military, but in that moment the cost of violence was brought into even sharper relief, for a young man who already abhorred it. "He was sold to a Vestal; that's all I know." He said suddenly, assuming that she would want to know of her former King, then turned to leave. He needed to think. His encounter with the barbarian slave had suddenly made the blood, death and sorrow of conquest very real.

@Atrice

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She was surprised that he even wanted to listen to her story, or even part of it. Since he knew who Eppitacus was and she knew too, a little too well, they had that much in common. But that might be the only thing they had in common, she then thought. Well that, and the love they both had towards Claudia, but while his was a brotherly love, hers was more... difficult to define. Her feelings for Claudia were all over the place and it was hard to try and describe them simply. So she better just not try. Tiberius then spoke up again, mentioning the battle she was in and how she lost people she knew. He said he was sorry and she dared to look at him. He sounded sincere enough. But was he? Romans were cunning, mad creatures sometimes. They'd make you believe one thing, but they would not keep their promises. Not always, anyway.

"I'm sorry too. I did lose people I knew in the battle... and I left my family behind too." She added, but did not lower her gaze this time. She tried to hide the bitterness in her voice, but didn't know if she succeeded. She left her family behind when she was captured and enslaved, that's what she had wanted to say. But at least she kept that part to herself. He wasn't stupid, he could figure it out on his own. Then he said that Eppitacus had been sold to a Vestal. And without waiting for her answer to that, he turned to leave. See, he seemed nice and kind, this Tiberius. But then he'd treat her just like any other superior Roman man would. He would turn his back when he was done with her, when she had turned useless to him, and she had now. He tried to appear friendly. But he wasn't much different than the rest of the lot.

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Those bright blue eyes bored into him, a far cry from the downward gaze expected of slaves, but that thought was much quieter than the sounds of imagined battle in his mind. She'd lost friends, and she'd left family. Of course she had; all first generation slaves had. But hearing it from her made it more real, more immediate. And he assumed that talking about it made it more painful for her. He wasn't in the habit of causing pain unnecessarily, which was why he turned to go, to leave her in peace.

Something made him pause. Maybe it was the directness of her gaze, the blunt honesty of her words. So few slaves would be bluntly honest with their masters, for fear of reprisal. But she seemed almost willing to talk, and it was a point of view he'd not heard much of, directly.

"If you were freed, would you go back?" He asked suddenly, then paused, trying to put the sudden thoughts into words. "I mean, I assume that you would want to see your family." That went without saying. "But, having lived the way we do, would you go back to your previous life?" Freedom perhaps notwithstanding, but he viewed the world from a very privileged position. What he wanted to know was whether Roman civilisation, as they thought of it, had changed her view. Would she go back to living in a mud hut?

@Atrice

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He didn't strike her for not lowering her gaze. Well that was something. It would have been humiliating if he'd done that, he was so much younger than her. She could have him down flat on his face in a matter of moments, she could have him begging for mercy like it was nothing, but he was her superior and brother to her mistress. So she didn't do any of those things. But she told him the truth of what she left behind and she was not afraid to speak like that. And he paid attention and didn't have her flogged for it. Well that was something. Maybe he had more in common with his twin sister than she thought. Maybe he was kind, after all. He paused, he looked at her and then after some consideration, he asked her what she'd do if she was freed. If she'd go back to her previous life.

"I would want to find my family again, Domine. I don't know if if I would return to Britannia. But I would want to leave Rome behind, if I could." The only free Roman who'd ever done her any good, was her mistress here. The rest of the good things about Rome were the slaves she'd befriended here. Not the fucking bloody Romans. It may be many years since she was captured and enslaved, but unlike the rest of them, she was still proud of her past. She would not forget it. It may be easier to do that, but life wasn't easy no matter what.

The questions Tiberius asked were interesting, because Claudia never asked her such questions. Maybe because deep within, she didn't want to know. She knew the young princess cared for her too and probably didn't want to lose Cynane. If she was freed, that might happen. She'd hate to leave Claudia behind. But she'd hate herself for staying in Rome even more - if she had the chance to leave this dreaded place, why would she stay? Now Tiberius knew though. Would he tell his sister what she said? Would Claudia feel betrayed by it? But deep within, even Claudia must know these things. She was a very bright young woman, after all. They just never talked about it. It would hurt too much.

@Sarah

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Her answer wasn't really that surprising, save in it's honesty. Certainly some slaves lived very well, but they were mostly educated, Roman-born slaves. Many slaves lived miserable lives, and those who had been born free likely always carried a certain resentment. He could believe that. But the wonders of Roman society held no particular fascination for her, from what she said. "Mmm. You would find Britannia changed.” By them, of course. And perhaps she would hate him for it.

Not that Romans held a monopoly on conquering and enslaving people. “You were a warrior, so clearly your own people made war. And Greek scholars recorded, nearly four hundred years ago, that one of the main exports of your islands was slaves.” Which had been an interesting thing to read. Mind you, the Empire had been importing slaves from beyond their borders, including Britannia, before they conquered it. But then slavery of some form or another was common across the known world. “But I think that these things are easier to accept, when you are the victor.” He observed, almost gently.

Perhaps it was unfortunate that Cynane was there when Tiberius was in a particularly thoughtful mood, having been reading Seneca and considering the future of the Empire. Or, perhaps it was fortunate.

@Atrice

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She agreed she might find Britannia changed, that’s why she wasn’t sure if she would return even if she could. She would want to find her family, but a changed Britannia didn’t sound appealing to her. At least not if it turned into just another part of Rome. She didn’t want that. She’d rather get as far away as possible from anything related to Rome. But she didn’t mention that much. Tiberius seemed smart enough to put two and two together anyway. And if she didn’t say it, she couldn’t be blamed for it.

 But then he went on about how her own people made war and how slaves were exported from Britannia. Then adding in a strangely gentle way, how such things were easier to accept when you were a victor. But Cynane lifted her chin a bit, it was like he just struck her and she refused to stumble and fall when he did it.

 “You are aware that there are many tribes in Britannia, and they have different traits? Speaking about the people from my islands as one people, is not right.” She then said, unable to keep her thoughts to herself, “I hope you are not claiming that it is my own fault, that I enslaved.” She should not speak like thus to a superior, but he was no longer as likable as just before. Her heart was beating faster, suddenly. She had not spoken like this to a Roman since that night she met Lucius Metellus, and that was different. She wasn’t on duty in the palace then. But the words had been spoken and she could not and would not take them back.

@Sarah

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The woman's pride was prickly. Inappropriate in a slave but so common in those who had been born free. Clearly Claudia hadn't had it beaten out of her; perhaps it amused his sister. But then neither of the twins were cruel, or great fans of corporal punishment. Tiberius preferred to achieve things with words, and whatever her pride she had not hurt him. She only earned herself an amused smile from him.

"Not at all." He replied, entirely unfazed. "I am saying that the same situation would look very different to each of us, if your people were the victors, and I was the slave." And that was what interested him. He tried to be objective, believed that viewing things objectively was the only way to make rational decisions that benefited all of them, and the way to that objectivity was to understand other points of view.

She was defensive of her people, her culture; perhaps it was one of the few things she had to cling to. But then the Empire was generally permissive of the continuation of local culture and worship, so long as they also abode by Roman law, and paid their taxes. Of course, those peoples who joined the Empire willingly retained more freedoms. "I am aware that there are many tribes, but I don't know much about their various cultures." He acknowledged evenly. He hadn't exactly had the opportunity to learn. "I don't believe I did speak of your clans as one people; only that the Greeks recorded trading for slaves from your isles. The document doesn't specify with whom they traded." And it might not have been her own kind.

"Do the Brigantes keep slaves? Or beholden workers of some other name?" He asked, interested. Perhaps she would not want to tell him that, or anything of her people, but if she was genuinely wishing to correct his ignorance, he was willing to learn.

@Atrice

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Why wasn’t he leaving? Did he want her to keep saying things that were inappropriate for a slave, so he could report her back to his sister and she’d be replaced. That would be the worst that could happen. Cynane was content with where she was. She had to behave better, for Claudia’s sake. But it was hard when her brother kept asking questions and making statements she disagreed with. And he seemed to want to hear her opinion.

 He seemed amused by her claim, that he said it was her own fault she was a slave. Then he commented that the situation would look different, had their roles been switched around, “Maybe. That’s impossible to say. And that’s not how the situation is.” Sure she wished things were different, but they weren’t, so she had to accept the present as it was. Even if she hated being a slave. At least she didn’t hate her mistress. She said no more and Tiberius made it clear that he did know that there were many tribes in Britannia. Oh he had a thing with words, didn’t he? So smooth, a true politician. His words could always be chosen to mean two things. And only he knew the truth. Then he wondered if her people kept slaves.

 “We do have slaves, but we do not have markets, where we sell them as cattle. And we do not make them fight each other for entertainment. It is different in Britannia, or it was, when I was there.” She explained simply, facts, nothing more. If he wanted an answer, that’s what he’d get. But it was many years ago since she left Britannia and things had probably changed.

@Sarah

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Claudia's barbarian slave seemed to be getting vaguely annoyed, presumably with him or at least his line of thought. He was not the type to torment people but it was kind of amusing, only because the woman clearly wasn't possessed of any real philosophical leanings. Ah well, not everyone was given to that level of thought and introspection, and it had been interesting talking to her.

"No, this is how the situation is." He agreed. "And we must all make the most of the situation we find ourselves in." Including being born into the ruling family when one might be perfectly happy with an estate in the countryside. But he would never pretend that was some affliction. Certainly not compared to being enslaved, hundreds of miles from one's home.

She confirmed that her people did have slaves, but didn't treat them the same way the Romans did. "It may not be that much different now; the local culture is generally left to continue, so long as it fits in with our administration." He told her. He didn't know whether that was any comfort. "But what you are saying is that you do not treat slaves so impersonally." He paraphrased. Romans treated slaves like livestock, and sometimes worse. What if, instead, they were treated as a valued tool, even a lesser member of the household. Some were of course, the more skilled and valuable ones, but many were not, especially those in the harsher professions. He knew that those who worked in mines were considered almost entirely expendable, and it bothered him.

He supposed that, amongst Cynane's people, slaves were usually captured enemy fighters, and likely far fewer than in Roman society. He regarded her thoughtfully. "If there was one thing that would make you content, to accept the situation as it is, what would that be?" He asked, wanting to know. Thoughts rattled around in Tiberius's head, thoughts about the limits of captives, the value of Roman-bred slaves, the problems with rare defiance, and the reliance of the Empire on slave labour. He could feel the shape of an idea, but not yet the content.

@Atrice

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Did he want her to say something so wrong and far off, that he’d get a chance to punish her or remove her from his sister? He didn’t seem like the worst kind of Roman, but of course, you’d never guess what lurked beneath the pretty façade of one. And Tiberius was an attractive young man. But that meant nothing, if the inside was rotten. At least they seemed to agree to make the most of the situation they were in. That’s what she tried to do. But he wasn’t making it easy for her. She thought he’d be leaving just before, but then he turned back to her.

 He asked her about how the Brigantes kept slaves and she explained it. He wasn’t sure if it would be that different now with her people… as long as it fit with their administration. What about the Brigantes and their administration? Wasn’t that good enough, when they’d lived in those lands generations? But she said nothing. She kept her tongue quiet. He said what he understood she said about slaves and she nodded, but said nothing for now. She’d rather not have this discussion with a Roman at all.

 Then Tiberius suddenly asked what would make her content about her current situation. Gods he did want her to step out of line, didn’t he? Well she wouldn’t give him that.

 “I am content with my situation as it is now. I am pleased with serving your sister. It is better than what I did before.” She said and there was not one single lie in those words. She was happy with Claudia and no matter what, it was much better than being a gladiatrix, there to fight for entertainment in the arena, before the real gladiators came onto the sands… and to be taken against her will afterwards. This was much better.

@Sarah

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It was an interesting insight that Cynane offered, into her culture's way of handling similar situations. Perhaps slaves were rarer, that they were dealt with more personally. He wondered whether it would be the same in Rome, if the influx of new captives reduced. And she was being very careful with what she said, whilst expressing herself just enough to answer his questions, but like a shadow of a thing suggests the thing itself, he thought he caught a tension in her words and manner that hinted at something deeper. Probably resentment, it was common in captured slaves, but she was managing it well.

He still suspected that if she'd been defeated and captured by the next Britonic tribe, her situation would be little different, possibly less comfortable, and that if he'd been captured by hers, his would be much less. So he viewed any possible resentment as hypocritical, but that didn't mean that it couldn't exist. Not everyone had the luxury of his position and training in modern philosophy.

And he was interested, because thoughts had been percolating in his brain of late, formed from his desire for peace and stability, genuine consideration of what a lack of conquest would mean for the empire, and the view that, whilst the Empire needed slaves, they could not be viewed and treated as less than animals. He wasn't certain where the thoughts were going yet, but he would continue to gather information.

"You were a gladiatrix, weren't you?" He asked, pretty certain that was where Octavius had found her. She certainly looked like one. He could well imagine that not having to face death in the arena on a regular basis would be preferable. "Then if you are content in your work, I will leave you to it." He said simply. "Thank you for your words." They were one more point of view, one more piece to the puzzle. If only he knew what the picture was supposed to be.

@Atrice

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