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Cynane
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Saturnalia, 76 AD

Cynane was waiting just outside the palace and hoped that Tiranês would show up soon, as they had decided. It was, after all, Saturnalia! The one holiday the Romans got right, at least. The one holiday where slaves got to feel like free people and could do (almost) anything they pleased. As long as they’d show up for work the next day. Well there was always the next day. Sometimes she’d thought it was a way to mock the slaves, tell them to go and have fun, but remember, you are still slaves. There’s always tomorrow!

But tomorrow was not now. She was unsure of where they were going, but her blood-brother said he had a good idea and she’d happily see what he had in store. And keep him safe on the way. She had tried to dress up, but she still didn’t want to look like someone she wasn’t. So she still wore breeches and a thigh-long tunica, easy to move around in. She’d dropped the leather armor for tonight, but she still wore her braids. Maybe a bit fancier than on a daily basis, since it was Saturnalia. She recalled Tiranês speaking of many smaller braids in the hair, she didn’t know if it was a style the women among his people kept, but she’d tried to recreate it.

Casually she leaned against the wall, ignoring the stares of anyone passing by, like she always did. If they glared at her and she did look back, they’d wish they didn’t. She didn’t want their attention. All she wanted was the company of someone she liked, and she didn’t like many people in Rome. And luckily, soon enough it was Tiranês who joined her and she greeted him with a smile, “Finally! Shall we go? And... where are we going?”

@Sharpie @Chevi ( @Sara )

Edited by Atrice
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Saturnalia was... Well, it was a festival to a god that wasn't one of his, and it was also the one day in the whole year when slaves could do exactly as they liked - the whole festival was over several days but there was one day in particular when slaves legitimately weren't expected to do any work (the rest of the festival was light work not no work but you couldn't have everything, especially when you were property.)

"I'm here. I thought you might like to meet my cousin - he's a charioteer with the Whites," Tiranês said. "I think he's got something special in mind, or something."

The walk from the Palatine to the Circus Maximus wasn't far, just straight down a steep hill. Coming home would be worse - it always was; the price paid for living somewhere that overlooked so much of the city was the slog back up a steep hill when you were already tired out.

 

@Chevi @Atrice (And @Sara!)

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Cynane hadn't ever gone much to the races. They were as bad as the fights in the arena with the gladiators, in her opinion. Slaves were doing the dirty work where they risked lives and limbs and for what? The entertainment of the free Romans. Unlike some, she did not fancy going to the arena and she did not go to the circus on her own either. She'd go if Claudia went, of course she would, but never on her own. She didn't enjoy seeing people getting hurt. Especially not slaves.

Tiranês had mentioned his cousin before, but she'd yet to meet him, so that should be interesting at least, "Something special? I wonder what that can be. How old did you say he was?" She couldn't recall, but she imagined that she'd be the older of the three. Tiranês was younger than her and so his cousin probably was too. She'd heard that it wasn't all charioteers who grew very old anyway, due to accidents in the circus. Well, she'd love to meet Tiranês' cousin anyway. So she followed while her companion led the way to the circus, it wouldn't take long considering where they lived.

@Chevi @Sharpie

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Saturnalia was one of the better things the Romans had invented. It was several days of a whole lot of festivities, and a break in the hard work of slaves and freedmen. There was drinking, gambling, gift-giving, and other fun activities. Azarion had not really participated in it much in the past, but now, as a charioteer instead of a stable boy, he had a bit more freedom.

He also had drugs.

Courtesy of some lady who was probably unhinged, but she had the good stuff.

Technically, Azarion had not been old enough, back in Sarmatia, to take part on the smoking of the herbs with the grown men, but he knew the basic principle. And with so many of the stable crew and charioteers and and about in the city, he knew it was a good time to invite Tiranes over for some nostalgic celebration. He waited for him at the back entrance of the stables complex like he had before. He was a bit surprised, however, to see him showing up alongside a woman who looked... familiar.

@Atrice @Sharpie

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"I ought to warn you - Azarion can't talk," Tiranês said. Fucking Romans. "I can understand the signs he uses - it's the trading signs different tribes of our people use."

It wasn't good for nuance and details, but Azarion had little problem implying those; his face was as easy to read as deer tracks in mud, after all.

And there he was, waiting for them. Well, waiting for Tiranês, anyway. This was going to be... interesting. Probably.

"This is Cinnia," he said, once they were close enough to talk properly. "She is the shield-maiden to my master's sister... and my blood-sister."

Although he spoke in Latin for Cinnia's benefit, Latin didn't have the right words for the ideas he needed to convey and he used the Sarmatian 'sheld-maiden' and 'blood-sister'. He hoped Azarion wouldn't mind if he spoke Latin; he would much prefer to speak his own language (but it wouldn't be fair to Cinnia. The only person in this whole over-crowded city who could understand it was Azarion, after all.

 

@Atrice @Chevi

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Tiranês told her on the way, that his cousin couldn't talk, but used a sign language. She nodded, "Alright. You'll have to tell me what he says then." She said with a smile, not asking why the cousin couldn't talk. They'd tell her if they wanted to. And then they arrived and a young, darkhaired man stood waiting for them. Had she not seen him before somewhere? Met him perhaps? Tiranês then introduced her to his cousin. She hoped he wouldn't be upset about the blood-sister part of it. If this was Tiranês' only relation in Rome, he might not want to share.

"Greetings, I'm happy to meet you." She said with a friendly smile to him, "You look familiar to me." She then added, wondering if he recognized her too or what. He was definitely the younger of the three, but since Tiranês was family to them both, they were kind of family too. It was growing, then. And all because Jason was such a friendly person. She was grateful she met him properly that day.

@Sharpie @Chevi

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He'd been present for the rites of Saturn at his temple, at the Senate lectisternium, and played his part at the public banquet as a member of the Imperial family. It was supposed to be a holiday with no work, but frankly Tiberius was tired. It was a long day for the Imperials. Having been served a sumptuous feast, the slaves of the Imperials were presumably out somewhere enjoying themselves, including his own. There had of course been the traditional gift giving, and he'd given Jason a horn comb with a horse carved on it, thinking that it might appeal to him.

Tiberius could have stayed in the palace and enjoyed the food and entertainment there, but something in him yearned for more freedom, something closer to what the rest of the populace enjoyed. He knew that he had a duty to keep himself safe, for the good of the Empire, but he also felt a certain small degree of rebellion. He loved her and worked for her, but a little voice in the back of his head suggested that in some ways he was a slave to the Empire as much as any other slave. And wasn't this a night when slaves enjoyed freedom?

Perhaps at twenty he was a little old to be going through a rebellious phase, but for all his intellectual acuity he seemed to be a bit of a late bloomer in some areas that came more naturally to other young man, and rebellion was one of them. Still, Titus was busy with formalities, Quintus wasn't here and his uncles didn't stop him. So he'd donned a vibrant suit and felt cap, then wrapped plain red cloak about himself, including over his head to hide his features, before making his way from the Palace.

He didn't really know where he was going, anything more than out. Away from the palace, away from his usual constraints, which he bore so habitually they had become natural. He'd heard that many of Rome's elite held sumptuous parties at their Domii; perhaps he could find a way into one of those. It seemed as good an idea as any. As he walked quickly he passed a group of three people, nodding to them politely if unthinkingly as he strode past.

It was odd, being out without an entourage of slaves and Praetorians. It was exciting.

@Sharpie@Chevi@Atrice

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It had been a long time... maybe a lifetime, since Azarion had met the tall woman, but she was not the kind of person one would easily forget. He blinked in surprise as she showed up alongside Tiranes. For a large city, Rome really was a small world sometimes.

"This is Cinnia. She is the shield-maiden to my master's sister... and my blood-sister."

Azarion arched an eyebrow. He remembered her being a bodyguard. An imperial bodyguard?... That explained how she knew Tiranes, who also worked on the Palatine. And she was... his blood sister? He gave his cousin a questioning look.

"Greetings, I'm happy to meet you. You look familiar to me." 

Azarion nodded. He doubted she would remember him. He nodded, and made some signs for haggling for money. The rest of them, Tiranes could read. Different name. Met her at the market. Two years? Seemed like a lifetime ago.

Another person walked past, in a red cloak and a cap shadowing his face. Azarion tensed, watching him. He did not have a good experience with cloaked figures walking this alley...

@Sharpie @Atrice @Sarah

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"A different name - you might know her as Cynane?" He hadn't used her slave name because that was something that their Roman masters called her, as they called him 'Jason'. It wasn't her name, not how she thought of herself (at least, he presumed she still thought of herself as Cinnia, as he thought of himself as Tiranês.) And if they couldn't use their own names among themselves, well, they might as well admit the Romans had won.

"So what are we going to do, then?" he asked, putting one arm around each of his companion's shoulders and looking between them. He frowned as Azarion stiffened under his arm as someone walked past.

Someone with a very familiar walk and red cloak.

Ah, come on! Really? Couldn't he have one day to himself? Not that he disliked his master on a personal level but, well, they weren't friends for a very good reason.

 

@Atrice @Chevi @Sarah

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He had grown since she last met him, the younger man. Was it the mute she once helped in the marketplace? Maybe it was. He looked at her too, as if he knew her and seemed surprised at Tiranês’ introduction of her. But said nothing. Of course. He didn’t. The younger gave Tiranês a look when he said she was his blood-sister, but Cynane just happily greeted him and the other nodded and made some signs. It was right, what she recalled. Money. The market. The other signs she didn’t quite get, but Tiranês did.

 Well she was glad the younger could at least speak to someone, like Tiranês. And what person in their right mind would not want to talk to him? Knowing him in the palace sort of made life there feel easier. She had someone she cared about and trusted. That was new to her.

 Tiranês then put his arms around both of them and she chuckled and looked at Azarion. But not before someone else walked by them, giving them a polite nod on the way. She noticed both the men tense a bit and looked after the cloaked man.

 “Isn’t that… your master?” She asked Tiranês, wondering of the prince was out to stalk them or something, "What's he doing here?" They were out on Saturnalia. She hadn’t expected to see anyone else from the palace tonight. And certainly not one who was so much younger than her, but ruled over her. Tiberius wasn’t the worst Roman ever. But not the best either, in her opinion. He wasn’t Claudia.

@Sarah @Sharpie @Chevi

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There were numberous groups of people making their way through the streets with varying levels of purpose and sobriety. Tiberius nodded politely to the closest as he strode past, keen to get some distance between himself and the Palace proper before one of his uncles or one of the few others with authority over him spotted him.

He didn't expect the trio to turn and look at him. Instinctively he glanced back over his shoulder, in case they presented some sort of threat. Whilst he was no professional soldier he had been trained to defend himself and wore a dagger his his belt under his cloak. He also didn't expect to recognise two of the three, with a mixture of relief and self-consciousness.

Claudia's bodyguard, that amazonian ex-gladiatrix Cynane, together with his body slave Jason, and some third he didn't know, but he guessed might be another slave. Damn. He'd been hoping to avoid people he know until he got further from the Palace, even if they were slaves. Still, better than some unexpected attacker.

Isn't that your master? What's he doing here?

"Getting out of the Palace." He replied matter of factly. "No masters tonight remember, it's Saturnalia." He'd have thought they'd want to make the most of that. But he paused for a moment, fishing in his belt pouch and closed his fingers on three Denarii, which he drew out and offered to the trio. "Here, season's blessings. Have fun, I hope to."

@Atrice@Sharpie@Chevi

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"A different name - you might know her as Cynane?"

Yes, that was it. Azarion gave the amazon a small smile. Fancy meeting her here again, and as a blood sister of Tiranes', too. This Saturnalia was looking to be interesting.

"So what are we going to do, then?"

Azarion was starting to gesture the answer, but they all got distracted as someone familiar walked by.

“Isn’t that… your master? What's he doing here?"

"Getting out of the Palace. No masters tonight remember, it's Saturnalia. Here, season's blessings. Have fun, I hope to."

Now way. That young man... he was the chief? Azarion arched an eyebrow at his cousin. Even during Saturnalia, it was rare to see someone so important just... walking around alone. Especially around here. He still remembered being attacked in this same alley. And the man was even throwing coin around. He signed at Tiranes.

He's going to get murdered.

@Sharpie @Sarah @Atrice

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"Io Saturnalia, Domine," Jason said as he accepted the coins, completely unable to prevent himself from adding the honorific thanks to eight years' worth of ingrained habit, even though it was the one day of the year when there weren't any slaves or free and everyone was considered to be the same level (utter nonsense but it was wise to indulge the Romans in their weird ways of thinking).

He rolled his eyes at Azarion - what the fuck do you want me to do about it, genius?

"Uh, Domine - you probably shouldn't hang around here on your own," he said. Azarion was right, of course, annoyingly so - and if anything happened to Tiberius, of course they'd find a way to blame Tiranês, and probably Cinnia and Azarion too. What else was Tiberius supposed to do, hang around with them? Way to spoil the day, probably. On the other hand... Well, there wasn't anyone else he could hang around with, was there? And it wasn't as though he didn't know how to have fun - witness the party he'd held recently for all the other rich Roman kids!

 

@Atrice @Sarah @Chevi

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Cynane gave Azarion a smile too, when he confirmed he recognized her. They were about to get going then, when someone walked by. Cynane could kick herself for recognizing him, but she did. It was Tiberius, Tiranês master. He heard what she said to Jason and then approached them all, saying he wasn’t a master tonight and then he even wanted to offer them money. Well how kind of him. She glanced at Tiberius as he replied and took the money, thanking his master for them. Calling him Domine, even on Saturnalia. He shouldn’t have, Cynane thought, but she would not tell him that in front of Tiberius.

 Azarion made some gesture to Tiranês and the other rolled his eyes, but then said Tiberius should not hand around here on his own. Cynane gave him another look… he wasn’t suggesting they should let Tiberius tag along, was he? On the other hand, an Imperial, a prince, the brother of her own mistress, out on his own on this night? What if something happened to him? And Tiranês and she could have prevented it if they didn’t ignore him. Gods, really? They were doing this?

 “He has a point… Tiberius.” Cynane said, she would not call him Domine on Saturnalia. He did just point out himself he wasn’t here as their master. Although they were apparently going to treat him like one, because what would happen to him if they didn’t. Maybe he did know how to fight, a little, but he wasn’t skilled like her. And she would not trust Rome to leave an Imperial safe on Saturnalia. She wouldn’t trust Rome in general, really.

@Sarah@Chevi @Sharpie

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Tiberius hadn't expected to bump into his and his sister's slaves on his way out, but given that he wasn't yet far from the palace, perhaps he should have. Still, he didn't want to interrupt their evening or spoil their fun, he just wanted a little fun for himself. Was that too much to ask? He'd performed all of his official duties with the fervour of one who truly sought the Gods' blessings, but the party in the Palace was always fairly tame, and Tiberius's interest in what the rest of the population were doing had only grown. So he'd resolved to see for himself. He was ready to keep on along his own route when Jason's voice made him pause. 

Uh, Domine - you probably shouldn't hang around here on your own.

He has a point… Tiberius.

Even on Saturnalia, Jason called him Master. Quiet, reliable Jason. Cynane more easily addressed him by name, something which might have amused him, if her words didn't frustrate him. And they only frustrated him because he knew that both of them were right. He just didn't want to admit it. He should be a good little Imperial and stay safe in the Palace grounds, completely removed from his people. But he didn't want to. And perhaps he'd finally found a touch of rebellion.

"I'm not going back to the Palace." He objected matter-of-factly. "It's so removed from everyone, and it's boring as fuck." For a moment he almost looked surprised to hear those words come out of his own mouth. He'd tried them and wasn't sure he liked them, but they were said. Then that determined expression returned. He never usually went out without slaves and Praetorians, and he never swore. But this was Saturnalia, the night when everything turned on it's head. "I heard there are some parties in the Senatorial Domii on the hill, that's where I'm going." Which wasn't far. He wasn't planning to wander the greater city.

He turned a thoughtful eye on the other three. "Want to come with me?" They probably had their own plans, but it couldn't hurt to ask.

He was pretty sure he could get into any posh party just by asking. And he could bring friends.

@Atrice@Chevi@Sharpie

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"Uh, Domine - you probably shouldn't hang around here on your own," 

“He has a point… Tiberius.”

Oh, this was a thing now. The three of them, chiding a fucking imperial chief person about going out alone. Saturnalia was wild sometimes. Azarion felt glad his own dominus was not around to see it.

"I'm not going back to the Palace. It's so removed from everyone, and it's boring as fuck."

Oh, he is definitely getting killed.

"I heard there are some parties in the Senatorial Domii on the hill, that's where I'm going. Want to come with me?" 

Azarion blinked. He had... already been sent to one of those parties. It was a disaster, nice blonde lady or not. The last thing he wanted to do was hang out with more rich people on a feast day. He turned to look at Tiranes.

I have hemp. The sign he used was commonly known among the tribes; everyone knew what it was used for. The good kind.

Maybe getting a chief smoked was a smaller mistake than messing up a fancy party? Or letting them get killed...

@Sarah @Atrice @Sharpie

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Tiranes shook his head in disbelief. So. Either the three of them were going to join his master at one of his high-class parties (as if he didn't attend enough of those during his life as it was!) ...or Tiberius was going to join them and find himself doing gods-knew-what.

Getting high, apparently. "Hemp?" he said quietly into Azarion's ear in their own tongue.

How did Azarion get his hands on hemp - and the good stuff? Let alone enough for... well, probably for four.

"Don't kill me," he said quietly, including Cinnia this time, and then, addressing Tiberius, "Or you could come with us...?"

Actually, seeing Tiberius high would be rather interesting...

 

@Sarah @Chevi @Atrice

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She was glad that Tiberius at least didn’t lash out at them, for telling him what he shouldn’t be doing… going out alone like he did. It was stupid. Gods, he was so young and so spoiled, wasn’t he? To think he could just do this, in fucking Rome? But Tiberius was a stubborn young man, insisting he would not go back to the palace. Well at least he saw it was boring there. How very… open-minded of him. Then he continued to chat about parties on the hill and both Azarion and Cynane looked at Tiranês. It was his master. What would he do?

 Azarion made some signs to Tiranês – she would have to make him teach her some of them. If Tiranês was her blood-brother and Azarion was his cousin, they were kind of related too, now. The two had some interaction and then Tiranês whispered to both of them. And suggested Tiberius came with them. Don’t kill Tiranês? Fine. But she might have to teach him a lesson another time. Sister to brother. Because, gods, an Imperial on tow, on Saturnalia?

 “He’s right.” She then concluded, looking at Tiberius, “Either we’ll take you back to the palace. Or the other thing.” She didn’t want to say that he could come with them, besides, Tiranês already did.

@Sarah @Sharpie @Chevi

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Or you could come with us...?

The offer was a genuine surprise. His slave was loyal and well trained, but surely, on this one night of nights, Jason would prefer to be away from his master, free to do whatever he pleased? Tiberius glanced from him to the fellow whose name he did not yet know, to Cynane, his sister's amazonian bodyguard, whom he did know. She probably thought she was being stoic, but he was trained to read faces and on hers he saw what he'd expected from Jason.

"You don't want me with you." He said with a wry smile, blue eyes looking straight at Cynane. They actually couldn't stop him just wandering off again, except by force, which he supposed was a possibility. Tiberius did not want to get dragged back to the Palace. "Though it's very kind of you to offer." He added in Jason's direction. But he was all too aware of the subtle threat in Cynane's words. Perhaps she felt a duty of protection, as she held for his sister. Right now he'd rather she didn't. "There's surely some irony that anyone can walk the streets of Rome, save those who lead her." Now there was a touch of bitterness in his voice.

Perhaps it was because he was getting itchy feet and feeling stifled in the Palace. Perhaps it was because he was feeling the need to find his own place in the world. Lately, for the first time in his life, he'd been looking at his life a little less generously. No doubt everyone thought he had the best of everything, but Tiberius himself was aware that he paid a price in freedom. Of an entirely different sort to what these three had paid, of course. A more metaphorical freedom. And right now it was chafing.

"Where are you going?" He asked, suddenly curious.

@Sharpie@Chevi@Atrice

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And then Tiranes had to go and invite the imperial along. Azarion shrugged; he did not know the chief at all, and it was Saturnalia, if he wanted to come smoke, he could come. Cynane, however, looked like she was going to take a bite out of Tiranes later. It did not escape the chief's attention.

"You don't want me with you. Though it's very kind of you to offer. There's surely some irony that anyone can walk the streets of Rome, save those who lead her." 

Azarion scoffed, glancing at his cousin. Other people get killed here too, does he not know that? Boo-hoo, I am a chief and I can't run around alone.

"Where are you going?"

Azarion nodded towards the building. He had set up a small, improvised smoking tent in the back of the gardens attached to the stables; anywhere else it would have been too flammable, or too cramped. Or too obvious.

@Sharpie @Atrice@Sarah

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"It's a Sarmatian thing, I don't know the Latin word," Jason said. "Hemp. You breathe the smoke, it's very relaxing." Yeah, that didn't do it justice at all!

It was perfectly clear that Cinnia didn't want Tiberius to join them, but he felt responsible for the Imperial, partly because he was older than the prince.

He would understand it if Tiberius thought it too barbarian to want to try, but they were three barbarians together and he knew two of them. Though the Tiberius he knew was a scholar, always wanting to learn. It would be an experience for him if he did come along with them.

 

@Chevi@Atrices@Sara@Sarah

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Was she that easy to read? She didn’t like the way Tiberius looked at her, when he concluded she didn’t want him with them. But why should she want that? Why should she want to spend her Saturnalia with a native Roman? An Imperial even? It was probably his family that decided to venture into Britannia to conquer it. Sure he wasn’t Longinus, sure he had not captured her, but he was still a reason for why she was here. And even if he wasn’t the worst Roman… he was still a Roman. And she didn’t count him among her favorites.

 She didn’t reply and Tiberius went on and Cynane gathered her hands on her back, waiting patiently for them to finish talking. She had nothing to add after what Tiberius just said to her. But it seemed to be decided now, that Tiberius was to join them and Azarion nodded in the direction he’d been taking the other two. She arched a brow though, when Jason revealed what the plan was. She knew about those things, but she never tried it before. But she wasn’t going to leave the group alone, she was out to enjoy herself, with or without an Imperial (with, it seemed).

 “Lead the way, Azarion.” Cynane said and followed when the others moved. She hoped this wouldn’t be too weird tomorrow, she’d heard about what such smoke could do to people.

@Sarah @Chevi @Sharpie

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He didn't want to spoil their evening, on this one day when slaves could truly let loose. At the same time, through his bout of stubbornness he knew that they spoke sense, that he shouldn't be wandering the streets of Rome on his own. He was normally very appreciative of his privileged position, but just occasionally he wished his life was a little less structured, a bit more, well, free.

If he'd thought about it he would probably realise that he wasn't the only youth in history to feel like that.

Relaxing. That sounded nice, and it being a Sarmatian custom was intriguing. Even Cynane seemed resigned to him coming. "Well, thank you. I'd like to join you for a little while." But not for long, he promised himself. They shouldn't have to put up with him all night. "And then I'll go back to the Palace." He supposed that he didn't really have much choice. It was the sensible thing to do and Tiberius was almost always the sensible one. He wasn't sure what he was looking for out here, just that it wasn't in the palace.

Might he find it amongst slaves?

@Atrice@Chevi@Sharpie

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Well, it was agreed then. The young chief was going to come along. Azarion wondered how this was all going to play out, the three of the, barbarians, and a Roman youth, getting into mischief. Not that they were doing anything they were not supposed to, during Saturnalia. But it still felt like mischief. Mostly because none of the four had ever really done this before. He had sampled the hemp when he bought it from that woman, but not in the proper way his people used to do.

The small tent was set up in the back of the gardens. Azarion led the way, ducking inside. There were some blankets and pillows he'd rustled up, and a small brazier in the middle, with a few embers burning without smoke. He settled down, waiting for the others to join, and picked up the small box he'd purchased a few days before. Have you ever done this? he signed to Tiranes as they all filed into the tent.

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"Have I ever done this before?" he said out loud, translating his cousin's signs. "Once or twice. Oh!"

The exclamation was because it just looked like.... well, like home in a way nothing had quite looked like home in eight years. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough, for now. He found a spot and lounged back, feeling far more like Tiranês than he had felt in a long time. It was nice and cosy and so very homey.

"Find a place," he said to the others - Cinnia and Tiberius probably wouldn't know what to do so he arranged himself a bit better, tucking a pillow under his elbow. Tiberius, at least, was used to reclining for meals and the like, so he'd settle down quickly.

He could only imagine the barrage of questions he'd likely get in the next few weeks or so, but that would be a small price to pay. Tiberius' questions weren't the worst in the world, either.

And somewhere he heard a horse whinny. If he closed his eyes, he could be back home.

 

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