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Early October, 76 AD

It was dark in Rome this night. The moon wasn’t shining, there was not just a veil, but a thick blanket of clouds over the city for once. That made it all seem quite dark this time of year and Marcus enjoyed it. He had gone out with a purpose tonight, the usual purpose, wearing a cloak over his head and a proper knife by his belt, hidden by the long cloak that went all the way to his knees. He was ready for something to happen. Something he would like.

 There had been a few attacks he’d failed at recently and he wasn’t very happy about it. At least none of the women had been talking about him, no one had found out about him, so that was good. Even if they escaped, the next best thing was them not talking. He preferred that. Else he’d have to find them again and make sure they wouldn’t talk. He’d like to find them anyway. Maybe he’d find one tonight?

 Quite randomly he was walking around for some reason, ended up near the racing court. Not that he had any connection to the place, and yet… as he walked by a certain house with a few barrels in front of it, he stopped. Didn’t he once kill a girl there? It had felt so good. He didn’t mean to kill her, but she struggled and she hurt him and she wouldn’t shut up. So he made her. He’d slit her throat. And stabbed her chest.

 He realized he was standing still, as the memories flowed through him. He licked his lips, thinking about it made him want more of the same. There had been so much blood. Maybe some of it had sprayed onto the side of the house or something… without thinking twice, he walked closer to the scene.

@Chevi

Edited by Atrice
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Azarion was making his way back to the Whites' stables. It was dark, and even darker in the side alleys, away from the torches and the rumble of carts. It was late now, and he was planning on slipping back in without too much of a fuss. He had been sent out by Marcus on an errand, but overstayed his time, wandering the streets, hoping to see or hear something that would be useful. Anything, really. Azarion was a lot of things, and stubborn was definitely one of them. If a man was going around Rome killing and injuring women, someone was bound to know *something* about him.

He turned the corner, and his stomach twisted as he neared the side door with the barrels. He hated that place. He could not pass it without seeing Safinia lying there in a pool of blood. He would never forget that image, and it made his heart sink every time. He frowned, pulling his cloak tighter around him, hurrying his steps.

He almost ran into the man before he looked up and stopped.

Someone else was standing there, in the shadows.

@Atrice

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  • Atrice changed the title to In The Darkness [M - V]

What an idiot he was sometimes. He couldn't see anything in the dark - he could see the wall, of course, but in the darkness, everything would seem to be some nuance of grey or black. There wasn't anything to see at all. If only he had a lamp of sorts, he could find out if there were any bloodstains left on the wall. He would really like to see that. How it had ended up looking like. The shapes of it. But there was nothing to see right now and he turned around, didn't hear the steps coming towards him. A moment later, a young boy almost walked right into him as he was about to leave. He wore a cloak too. How weird was that?

"What are you looking at? Get out of my way." He hissed, to the boy, who just stood there like he was stupid or something. He didn't even apologize for being in the way and staring at Marcus. Maybe he was stupid. Marcus could make out the slave collar in the dark. He hated slaves. With a hand near the knife, Marcus aimed to push past the boy to leave.

@Chevi

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Not many people used this side alley by the stables, but that did not mean finding someone there was anything out of the ordinary. And yet... Azarion had a bad feeling. The man was just... standing there. Right where Safinia died. Wrapped in a cloak. His blood ran cold.

"What are you looking at? Get out of my way."

The voice made sure he was a stranger. Azarion knew the voices of the people he worked with in the stables. The charioteers, the slaves, the stablehands. This man was not one of them. He sounded annoyed, and moved to push past him.

Azarion stepped to the side, blocking his way. Hoping to get a better look.

The fuck am I doing...

@Atrice

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Marcus didn't know there should be anything wrong with him being out and about in Rome, in the dark evening, wrapped in a cloak. That's everyone in Rome who went out after dark, wasn't it? He wasn't out of the ordinary. He was just here, nothing to see, please move on. Except he wasn't. But he knew he should leave here, because there was also nothing to see by the wall in the darkness. And why did this slave boy stand in his way suddenly? When Marcus moved to push past the slave, the other did step aside, but instead of stepping out of Marcus' way... he blocked his way.

He stopped, because he couldn't not stop when the other blocked his way... "Are you stupid or something?" Marcus hissed from under the cloak, "I said move." If he didn't move, Marcus would have to make him. And since this was just a slave, he couldn't say that he'd make him move nicely.

@Chevi

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Azarion's heart was beating in his throat. He had learned the hard way slaves were not supposed to do any of this. He could get beaten, lashed, sold, whatever, for messing with a free Roman. And yet... this man. Here in the alley.

"Are you stupid or something? I said move."

He was all wrapped in a cloak, and clearly not happy about being seen. Or maybe he was just annoyed that someone was blocking his way... Azarion stood his ground, trying to see past the shadows. Maybe, after a year without Safinia, he was finally losing his mind. Maybe.

@Atrice

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Why wasn't the slave getting out of his way? Maybe he really was stupid. Or deaf. Or both. And a slave. Who on Earth would want a slave like that? Someone very unwise, clearly, because this was not an obedient and useful slave. In fact, the exact opposite, Marcus judged. Especially after he told the slave to move once more and the slave did not move. He stood his ground.

At least this evening was quite dark. He silently thanked the gods for the darkness, before his fingers wrapped around the handle of his knife and pulled it from the simple sheath by his belt under the cloak. He decided to give the stupid slave one last chance to obey. It wasn't his slave, after all... and damaging someone else's property without paying first could have consequences. His low voice, still kind of hissing, sounded angrier now. More and more irritated... "Move, or you will be sorry you didn't." 

@Chevi

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"Move, or you will be sorry you didn't." 

There was that movement under the cloak. Azarion had not been around free people who carried arms for a long time, but he still recognized the way someone drew a dagger or a knife. Not a sword. But definitely something deadly. His eyes narrowed.

A man in a cloak. In the alley, where Safinia died. With a knife.

You killed her.

He was using the sign language his people understood, but it was not likely this man would. Still, the gesture of him pulling his finger across his throat was pretty clear.

@Atrice

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The knife could definitely be deadly, but right now Marcus just needed to get away from here and the slave was in the way. And why was he in the way anyway? Why did he stare at Marcus like that, why didn't he move away after being told to do so more than once? He must be stupid. And Marcus already made his threat. He'd have to force the young man to get out of the way and he'd make him bleed while doing so. At least he had a reason to do it now. He always tried to look for a reason, because he did know it wasn't right to hurt people like that. But he wanted to make it right. So he found reasons for it. Looked for some justification. And he had plenty now.

The slave still did not move, instead he pulled a finger across his throat while staring at Marcus. Marcus wasn't sure what it meant. Did the slave want to kill him? Did the slave want to die? He did not imagine the slave knew the girl Marcus killed here. The memory of the blood splashing from her throat returned to his mind. But the boy didn't have that memory. He must know something though. He'd probably noticed Marcus had a knife.

He made a move, quickly shifting the knife to his other hand and in the same motion, moved the knife upwards towards the slave's throat, "How sorry do you want to be?" He hissed as he did it, "You need to learn doing as you're told."

@Chevi

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Azarion kept his eyes on the man; he could not make out his face in the shadows, but he could see the movement under the cloak. He was getting very, very annoyed with the slave standing in his way. Somewhere in the back of his mind Azarion knew that if he was wrong about all this, he would pay dearly for it. A bigger part of him, however, believed he was not wrong.

The knife at his throat confirmed that, at least in his mind.

 "How sorry do you want to be? You need to learn doing as you're told."

Fuck. You.

Azarion lashed out on instinct, batting the arm holding the knife to the side, out of his way, away from his throat. He was shorter than the other man, but he was past caring as he lunged forward. If his momentum carried him enough, his forehead would collide with the man's nose.

@Atrice

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People fought back, Marcus knew that. And he was at the disadvantage, because he preferred to come at people from behind. Either that, or he'd have them by a wall or a corner, so they couldn't escape. But they weren't doing any of those things right now. So he braced himself, his stance firm and his arm too. The boy lashed out a moment after Marcus made to attack him, he tried to bat Marcus' arm away and it worked some, he didn't get a chance to cut the slave. But he had a good hold of the knife - he always did, he loved them - so at least he didn't drop it. Then the young man lunged forwards towards him. Marcus stepped back, causing the slave's head to collide more with his chest than with his nose. He let out a sound by the collision, but quickly continued to react. This was turning into a fight. He hated fights. He'd rather just... cut... or kill. 

"Gods you're stupid!" Marcus hissed and reached out with his free hand to try and catch the slave and either pull him close or maybe force him to the ground. His other hand was ready with the knife to slash at any visible skin, should he get the chance.

@Chevi

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Was he stupid? Probably. What slave in his right mind would attack a man who had a knife? No one. Except Azarion did not think of himself as a slave. Not in a way the Romans wished him to be. And right now, he was not thinking at all.

The man stood his ground, and pulled back just enough that Azarion collided with his chest. He still had the knife. As much as Azarion wanted to strangle him, none of that was good. He threw a punch as his gut and a knee at wherever it would land, trying to shove him away and gain some distance before he got stabbed. Not that he was going to run away. He had to make this fucker pay.

@Atrice

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Marcus definitely thought the slave was stupid. But then most slaves were. He didn't know why, it was maybe meant to be for them, to be slaves. Had they been smarter, they might not have been slaves, but free men like Marcus. His mother's second husband had been stupid too, after all, and he was a freedman. A former slave. And now here was this current slave, also being an idiot. He didn't manage to grab the young slave, before the other tried to punch and knee him. The punch landed, but he managed to jump out of the way of the knee.

"What is your problem?" Marcus asked, because the slave had not uttered a single word yet. Marcus' back collided with the wall and he was quick with his free hand to pull the cloak over his head back into place. Was the slave trying to kill him or something? Why? They didn't know each other, he never saw this slave before in his life. Maybe he was just crazy. Then he'd be better off dead. Why would any owner want a slave as crazy as this one?

"Come at me then." He said, holding the knife ready in front of him for the next time the slave lunged at him. He'd not get the chance for another punch or the slave lunging into him again. If he did, he'd either run right into the knife or his arm or leg or whatever would collide with it.

@Chevi

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The punch landed, the kick didn't, but at least the man was thrown back against the wall, and Azarion could scramble back away from the blade, putting distance between them. This fight was not weighed in his favor, but he had rage that carried him through.

"What is your problem?" 

You killed my only friend.

"Come at me then." 

Azarion had never trained as a warrior. He knew how to hunt, and use the weapons made for hunting, but he had been to young when he became a hostage to start his training as a warrior. Of course, he had wrestled and roughhused with other boys his age, and sometimes his older cousins, but that was far, very far from taking on a killed unarmed.

But he was also not going to just let him walk away.

Azarion stared the man down, keeping an eye on the knife. For someone who attacked women, he did not seem like a vicious murderer. He did not lash out or attack. Didn't like fighting face to face? Azarion sneered at him, glancing around for anything that he could use as a weapon. His hand wandered to his chest. The slave tablet. It was a sturdy piece of wood, heavier than it needed to be, and he hated wearing it whenever he left the Circus. He lifted is from around his neck quickly, pulling the rope over his head, then lashed out with it towards the blade, lunging into an attack again.

@Atrice

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The young slave scrambled away from Marcus when he was thrown against the wall and Marcus braced himself for another attack. Even asked for it. He didn't enjoy fighting much, he preferred having the upper hand, which was why he mostly chose to attack women or young men. He had not planned to attack this one, but now he had to get away from here and if the other was hurt in the process, Marcus would just enjoy it more. He wasn't stupid, after all. The slave clearly was.

At first the slave looked at him, as if wondering what to do. It gave Marcus some time to plan what he could do. He already assumed the youth would run into his blade, but then the slave lifted the slave tablet off his neck and chose to attack Marcus with it. Which wasn't a bad idea, to be honest. But he only had one knife and held the knife with one hand. He had the other hand free. And when the tablet came at him, he reached to grab hold of it. He didn't know what he managed to grab, but he got hold of it and while holding that, he lashed upwards with his knife towards the arm holding the slave tablet. He felt something wet on his hand as he pulled it back.

Blood. Warm and wet blood... 

But he couldn't stop, else he'd be exposed and the slave clearly wanted to attack him. So he scrambled in the other direction, hoping to get towards the street so that he could run once he got the chance. 

@Chevi

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The man raised a hand and blocked Azarion's attack. The tablet was heavy, but not enough to have momentum. Azarion growled, and the knife flashed, tearing into his forearm. Blood pooled from the wound and pain shot up his arm, making him dance back from the man.

Motherfucker cut me

It was still not an all-out fight. While the man had the upper hand, and the weapon, he seemed intent on scrambling away and making a run for it, rather than standing and fighting. Azarion lunged at him again, but the pain made him slower, and he missed. The attacker had an opening to run to the street. Dammit. Ignoring the warm blood trickling down his arm, Azarion used his left hand to grab at the man's hood and cloak. If he was going to run, at least he needed to see a face in the shadows...

@Atrice

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The slave must be insane to attack him like that. Especially considering the slave was unarmed and Marcus was not. And he managed to cut the slave now. Gods a part of him wanted to stay and finish the job. Not that his goal was to kill people, he just wanted to see them bleed, because it made him feel very good, but sometimes... killing was the only option he had. Like when he killed that girl here. Two kills in the same spot? It almost did sound beautiful. Maybe that's what poets felt? 

No, he should get out of here. He hadn't intended to get into a fight here, but now it happened and he would have to either run away or kill the slave. Fight or flight. He wasn't sure which he preferred. But he was sad that he didn't get to enjoy the fact that the slave was bleeding. Marcus scrambled away towards the other side, towards the street. The slave lunged at him and Marcus backed away, knife in front of him. Luckily the pain was slowing the slave down. It would be so easy to just... cut him again. Produce more blood... that's what he wanted. 

Then the slave reached for his cloak and Marcus looked bewildered, he did not want to be seen! It happened fast, the slave grabbed at his cloak and Marcus pulled it too with his free hand. As he did so, he had an idea and used the momentum to pull the slave close to him, pointing the knife up towards his throat, "You let go, now. Or I'll hurt you more." He wanted both of those things. He wanted the slave to let go so he could run away. And he wanted the slave to not let go, so he could hurt the slave. He felt that familiar tingling in his body, leaning towards the most painful option for the other party involved... give me a reason to hurt you...

@Chevi

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Azarion grabbed the cloak and pulled, but it did not come free. Instead, the attacker turned and yanked him closer, pressing the cool blade of the bloody knife to his throat. Why was he not just killing him right there?... He glared at the man. They were up very close now. Was this the last thing Safinia had seen? This face in the shadows?... Azarion strained his eyes, taking in what he could see. There was no doubt in his mind it was the same man.

"You let go, now. Or I'll hurt you more." 

He didn't want to let go. He wanted to fight. But it was going to be a short fight indeed, ending with him with a knife in his throat. If he let go, the man would run... Azarion bit his lips. And let go.

@Atrice

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He could easily kill the slave right then and there, but that would be two murders in almost the same spot, a year apart, and that might be a little bit too suspicious. He didn't want to be found out about, because then he could not keep his business and keep doing what he did. But he did wish to hurt the slave. Make him bleed some more. So when he'd pulled the slave close and dared him, the other was glaring at him and Marcus was just hoping the slave would not let go of his cloak. Don't let go. Let me use the knife. Let me make you bleed. 

His blade was already on the slave's throat. Just a little closer, just a little bit. Such a close shave it would be. It would be so easy to just...

And then the slave let go. 

"Forget this." Marcus then hissed and turned to disappear into the Roman night, hopefully to never see that slave again and never be recognized. And if he did see the slave again, and the slave did recognize him... he would have to die. It was just a slave anyway.

@Chevi

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He would never forget this. He would have a new scar to remember it by, one of many. And he had a face now, and a voice, although both shadowy, and not much to go on in the multitudes of Rome. But for the first time, Azarion felt like he was not insane. Safinia's killer was still out there, and dangerous. He stood there, dazed, for a moment, wondering why he was still alive at all. Eventually, he swayed. Blood was still dripping down his arm, and as the rush started wearing off, the pain shot through him.

Azarion turned, and made his way back to the door, leaning against the wall and the crates as he went. Hopefully, he'd make it to the stables before he passed out.

@Sharpie @Atrice

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Marcus was doing the rounds of the stables - not a thing he did every evening, but something he liked to do, and at various times of the day, to show that he did pay attention, that corners could not be cut and that he was not aloof and distant but kept an eye on the various comings and goings of the faction.

He was talking with the head trainer when the side door opened and someone practically fell through it, landing more or less in a heap. Why that should be was a question that could be answered later. Right now, action was needed.

Marcus had automatically moved to see what was going on - he had the ultimate responsibility for everything that went on here, and for the care of the horses and slaves and equipment belonging to the faction. The first thing he noted was that it was the Whites' newest charioteer. It wasn't until he moved the boy to a more comfortable position that he realised there was blood, and immediately turned to one of the onlookers.

"Fetch a medicus! You, and you, take him to the refectory."

They could lay him down on one of the tables - the evening meal was long over and they wouldn't be disturbing anyone - and there would be room for the medicus to work.

"And you! Bring a lantern or two, he'll need light to work by."

His orders were hastily obeyed and he glanced around, to see that the door was still open. He indicated yet another bystander. "Take a torch and see if there's anyone out there - this wasn't an accident."

 

@Atrice @Chevi

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The world spun around as Azarion tumbled through the side door into the stables. There was yelling and the sound of running, but for the of him he could not tell who was who. He just needed to tell them something. Something very important. It was more important than anything that he told them what he had learned. But when he tried to talk, he couldn't. What was happening?

Hands picked him up and carried him, and then he was placed on some hard surface. Not a bad. Lights danced around his head.

"Take a torch and see if there's anyone out there - this wasn't an accident."

Accident. It wasn't an accident. Azarion's eyes opened. His head was still spinning, and he was in pain, but he recognized Marcus now, giving out orders. He reached out with his good hand, grabbing for his arm. He needed to know.

@Sharpie

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Marcus stayed by the boy's side - what happened to him was Marcus' responsibility, at the end of the day, despite the hierarchy of the stables that meant Azarion was one of the lowest on the totem pole while Marcus was at the very top.

He looked down as Azarion reached out with his uninjured arm, grasping Marcus' own arm with a surprisingly strong grip. He patted the boy's hand. "Don't fret, we'll have a medicus here in a moment, you're perfectly safe now."

"Sir?"

Marcus turned, to see the faction's medicus.

"Ah, Nicandros, your patient is here."

"What happened? - no, hold still, let me see. Yes - I'm going to have to stitch it, I think. I'll need more light."

Not for the first time, Marcus found himself cursing the idiots who had rendered Azarion mute. How they were going to figure out what had happened was going to be... interesting.

 

@Chevi

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"Don't fret, we'll have a medicus here in a moment, you're perfectly safe now."

Azarion was fucking fretting. The murderer had gotten away again. His thoughts were fuzzy and his head was spinning, but that much was clear. However, the arrival of the medicus interrupted his attempts to be understood.

"What happened? - no, hold still, let me see. Yes - I'm going to have to stitch it, I think. I'll need more light."

For all the injuries he had had before, Azarion had never had a wound stitched. His previous owners all just kind of assumed he was going to die, or survive on his own. His arm still hurt like hell, so he allowed the medicus to work, but on the other side, he was still reaching out for Marcus' attention. He pointed at his injury, then pointed towards the door he fell in through. The alley beyond it. He dragged his finger across his throat. Hopefully, Marcus would remember who else had been attacked out there.

@Sharpie

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Azarion was fretting and not calming down. Marcus took a breath and tried to follow what he was motioning about. "All right, you were out in the alley and you were injured there."

He glanced towards that side door again. This was not the first time Azarion had come through that door and demanded his attention, covered in blood. The finger drawn across Azarion's throat confirmed it.

"You saw someone there this evening. Someone dead?"

He really did not like playing guessing games, especially with a slave, but there was no other way to get information out of Azarion, especially given his current excited state and his injury.

"How serious is he hurt, Nicandros?"

"It'll sting. He will need to keep the arm clean, so nothing with the horses until it's begun to heal. There will be a scar but nothing worse - I will bandage it and will take another look at it in a day or so, with your permission?"

"Of course." Marcus sighed. He would need to keep the boy busy and out of trouble while his arm healed. That wouldn't be a challenge at all... He'd find something, somehow.

 

@Chevi

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