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December 19th - Saturnalia - 76AD

Vibia loved Saturnalia, if only because it meant her coin purse was fatter than any other time in the year and the men she serviced were more pliable. So she suffered through the parties and the late nights, stifling yawns behind her hand and blinking sleep from her eyes because it'd be worth it in the end. It's how she found herself in a domus on the Quirinal surrounded by rich men; their wives shunted off for the evening. There were others here too, not just prostitutes for the inevitable orgy but Gladiators - dressed up in their regalia, and Charioteers too - undoubtedly plying for patronage as much as the girls and boys she was with were. 

Most of the men were in the gardens, downing their cups of wine and grinning lovely, lascivious grins at their guests. Vibia sniffed and made a beeline for the triclinium, hoping to find something more interesting to do than a sweaty old man - no matter how rich he was. Picking a cup of watered wine from a  slave she made her way to the corner of the room, surveying the scene. There was a big burly gladiator in the centre being pawed over by men - ostensibly to check his pedigree for patronage but only a fool wouldn't see that the men were taking their sweet time checking his muscle tone. There were a few people in idle conversation and in the opposite corner there was a little man who seemed to want to be anywhere else. Or at least it seemed that way to her. Curious. 

Taking a sip and weaving through the crowds, the flimsy cut of her dress leaving trails of fabric, she sidled up to him. "You don't belong here, do you?" 

 

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The Romans just kept inventing new forms of torture. Azarion had been at this... party for less than half an hour, and he was already considering bolting through a window. He liked Saturnalia as a concept, but this was the first time he was deemed important enough to attend a patrician's feast - as a Whites charioteer. He was a... what did Marcus say? Prospective champion?... Which was a fanci way of saying curiosity. Freak, even. Whoever the hell would want a mute slave with scars and brands and tattoos at the festivities? He hoped they were not planning on touching him all over like they were doing to the gladiator. Yikes.

Azarion tried to make himself small. He was wearing a nice clean, dark blue tunic, and his hair was washed and combed. It was too long now to look decent, but too short to be braided, so he had some of it tied back out of his face. He was not required to wear his slave tablet for the night, but there was a man somewhere nearby keeping an eye on all the Whites. The others seemed to be doing well. Azarion was doing his best to become part of the wall painting. 

"You don't belong here, do you?" 

Azarion blinked, looked at the scantily clad and very attractive young woman. Was she talking to him?... Clearly, because she was stating the obvious. On the other hand, she looked exactly like she belonged here. He shook his head. No, he did not belong to this fucking party.

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The man (boy?) looked confused and she tilted her head to the slide. Judging by  his appearance he wasn't a gladiator. Maybe a charioteer - but not a famous one, clearly, else he'd be swamped by the leeches that were attending the party. 

He shook his head and she frowned a little, a wry smile on her lips. "What?" She glanced over her shoulder, her waist length blonde hair falling in a wave as she did. Her eyes comically scanned the room in a slow circle before returning back to him. "Are you waiting for a better conversational partner? Or maybe you just don't want to speak to me?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Everything about this woman was a show. Her blond hair, her low cut dress, the cup she held, the way she looked around like was making a performance. She was definitely here for entertainment. And somehow, inexplicably, barking up the wrong tree. In the wrong forest. He clearly did not give off the impression of a wealthy patron. Azarion wondered if Menelaus or someone had put her up to this.

 "What? Are you waiting for a better conversational partner? Or maybe you just don't want to speak to me?"

Azarion rolled his eyes, and waved a hand at his throat, signaling that no, lady, he could not talk. Then he made a show of looking around too, like she had. She could definitely find a better conversation partner... maybe the guy with the golden bangles who was throwing up in the atrium?

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He gestured to his throat and Vibia arched an eyebrow. Ah. A mute. How sad, and dull. Morbid fascination caught her though and she narrowed her eyes. "You lose your tongue or were you born like it?" Maybe that was too personal a question to ask, but he was hardly a wealthy senator - she figured she could get away with it. 

She followed his eyes and found the man throwing up. Wrinkling her nose, she shrugged. "Letia has him," She returned her gaze to the mute with an impish smile, "He owns half the insulae in the city, apparently. She's as keen to fill her purse as he is to fill his wine cup so..." She shrugged, "I'm on the hunt for something different." She took a sip of wine and swallowed it, eyes narrowed on his face. "I'm presuming I'm out of your league though?" Obviously.

 

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"You lose your tongue or were you born like it?" 

Azarion arched an eyebrow at her. Why did that matter?... It was not exactly well lit in the domus this late at night, so maybe she did not notice the scars and brands at him. He waved a hand again, making a cutting motion at his mouth. There. Romans.

"Letia has him. He owns half the insulae in the city, apparently. She's as keen to fill her purse as he is to fill his wine cup so... I'm on the hunt for something different."

She was a prostitute. Well, that made sense.

"I'm presuming I'm out of your league though?" 

Azarion smirked at her. If she had not stated that out loud, he would have agreed. Maybe I am out of yours.

... Yikes. Good thing he couldn't have said that out loud.

He made a gesture at his chest, outlining the missing slave tablet. He obviously had no money to throw around. He pointed at her, miming the same thing, but as a question. Was she a slave too?

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Well, he was shit out of luck there then, she thought as he mimed his tongue being cut off. She'd not been subject to anything particularly cruel during her years as a slave but had seen plenty of brandings and whippings and such. It was a fact of life when one was shackled, and maybe this one had deserved it. Probably - judging by the sassy way he glanced at her.

"Go figure." she chuckled as he mimed - what she presumed was - a slave tablet. But she shook her head, gesturing up and down her thinly concealed figure with a sweeping arm, "Do I look like I'm a slave? Tsk." Then again, the Venus had plenty of slaves and they were almost all as well dressed as her. People paid for the best, after all. "No. I'm not." She gave a satisfied little smile, "I escaped that fate a few years ago. Something for you to aim for too, perhaps." 

She gave him another look. "Okay mute, what are you doing here then?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Do I look like I'm a slave? Tsk."

Azarion arched an eyebrow at her again, gesturing at the rest of the party. It was Saturnalia. No one looked like anything. And slaves didn't normally look like slaves either... well, he did, but that was the fault of the FVG brand. Her kind, however, was as likely to be enslaved as not.

"No. I'm not. I escaped that fate a few years ago. Something for you to aim for too, perhaps." 

Azarion tilted his head as the sarcastic smirk persisted, and poked his thumb towards the guy who was still throwing up, with a considerate prostitute patting his back. Like, try him, for example?

"Okay mute, what are you doing here then?"

The look he gave her spoke for itself. It took a moment before he finally mimed for her. He was getting good at miming the motions of driving a chariot.

Well, hooker, I am a charioteer.

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She chuckled in amusement and folded one arm across her chest, the other hand still holding her almost empty cup of wine. For some reasons, her charms weren't working on this one - not that she had any business charming him, given he wasn't a prospect, but still...sometimes the thrill was in the game for her. 

Then he mimed and she laughed out loud. How sweet! She gave him an appraising glance from his feet to his head and cocked her head to the side. "I take it you're a new charioteer?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Azarion recognized it when someone's sarcasm matched his own, spoken or unspoken. Times like this he always keenly felt the loss of speech. So much wasted talent. She looked him over; she was probably used to people falling all over themselves for her, because, well, she looked extremely attractive.

"I take it you're a new charioteer?" 

Ouch.

He mirrored the look she gave her, looking her over as well.

I take it you are an experienced hooker?

None of that translated into gestures. 

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She frowned as he looked her over and glanced down at herself. Nope - not a hair out of place. She glanced back at him, not understanding his meaning at all. She presumed, from her own insult, that he was trying to return the favour with some barb of his own but she didn't understand and it didn't matter. She gave him an imperious little smile. 

"So...what, you're here to get patronage?" Presumably so, unless he also doubled as a sex worker when he wasn't about to get killed in the races, "Want me to point out the wealthiest here for you...?" She sidled up next to him and tilted her head, "Or the ones who are willing to take on risks, perhaps?" 

 

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"So...what, you're here to get patronage?"

Of course his inner comments were lost on her. Such a pity. He shrugged, then nodded a bit. Technically, he was; as a prospective champion of the Whites, he was toted as the next big thing, for potential patrons. All of whom were way more occupied with pawing the gladiators or fucking the prostitutes.

"Want me to point out the wealthiest here for you...? Or the ones who are willing to take on risks, perhaps?" 

She moved to his side. Was she this bored, or making fun of him? He rolled his eyes at her. Risks indeed. He made some more easily interpreted gestures. I am not fucking any of them. The thought made him very uncomfortable.

@Sara

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The little man was amusing to her; reminding her of her youth when sarcasm dripped from her tongue before she learned to reign it in. She supposed it was - in some ways - easier for him; that he couldn't talk meant that he couldn't openly be rude. That being said, his gestures spoke volumes. It was really quite impressive. 

She got his gist fairly quickly and grinned, indicating with her head to the gladiator being pawed over. "That's what happens with champions, or slave champions at least. Men...and women, I hear, want to ride the best of Rome." She wrinkled her nose as she surveyed the crowd, "Beats me why they want too though when there's perfectly talented guys and girls in the Venus for them to use at their leisure." Who would want a sweaty, smelly Charioteer after a race when you could have Helios or herself, after all? 

She arched a brow down at him and tilted her head. "I'm assuming your dominus didn't tell you about that part of the job, huh?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"That's what happens with champions, or slave champions at least. Men...and women, I hear, want to ride the best of Rome."

Azarion wrinkled his nose. Suddenly he did not want to be a champion all that much. Sure, there were some attractive matrons probably who could be fun... but he would never have the choice. And he did not like the odds.

Romans were fucked up.

"Beats me why they want too though when there's perfectly talented guys and girls in the Venus for them to use at their leisure. I'm assuming your dominus didn't tell you about that part of the job, huh?" 

Azarion frowned, and shook his head. He gestured at himself and waved a hand. Who would want to... ride this, with all the gladiators and the other charioteers around? Maybe he could get away with... well. Being good with horses. Why did the Romans need to make anything so damn complicated? He had been lucky enough so far that the one thing his masters did not do to him was force themselves on him. He was not about to give that up now.

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Vibia had exactly the same thought. "Why would they want you?" She asked, as if repeating his unspoken question. "Same reason a man wants any man or woman - old and sagged and wrinkled they might be," She took a sip of her wine with a despondent little sigh, "Power." She'd seen plenty of it at  the Venus, although she wasn't the retiring wallflower type and so generally men came to her looking for the banter or the wit. If they didn't well...Falco was often on hand to see them out of the door if their displeasure got too much. 

"Come on," She jerked her head towards the gardens. "I'll keep you away from lecherous matrons." 

 

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"Why would they want you? Same reason a man wants any man or woman - old and sagged and wrinkled they might be. Power." 

Azarion frowned. She was not wrong. Th thought also made him want to spit, but he knew someone might punish him for being too rude at a nice polie orgy or whatever. He had been in other people's power long enough to not want any more of that, thank you. He unfolded his arms, showing the woman the FVG brand on his arm. Fuck power.

"Come on. I'll keep you away from lecherous matrons." 

Azarion looked a little surprised, but he followed her towards the gardens, grabbing a new cup of wine as he went. And something that looked like a pastry. He nodded back over his shoulder with a questioning look. Shouldn't you be working?...

@Sara

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Vibia glanced down at the brand and winced. She'd seen plenty get similar treatment, including a girl at the Venus who had been branded and promptly sold on - undoubtedly to one of the less reputable brothels who didn't care if their girls had scars. Men weren't paying for their faces, after all. 

As they weaved through the crowds to the garden she saw his questioning look but it took her a moment to work out what he was asking. She frowned and then it clicked. She followed his gaze to the men, pawing over her colleagues and flashed Azarion a feline grin, shrugging. "There's plenty of hours in the evening still to work. If you must know," She drew to a stop at a couch that had been dragged out and set down in the gardens, reposing herself on it, "Experience tells me not to find a fish this early on in the evening. They're either the men who will burst at the seams with excitement and tip poorly, or they're already too drunk. Another hour or so and the shy men will come calling, the ones who are better lovers and feel guilty enough that they've used you and so pay double in penance, they're the prize tonight." Her lips quirked in amusement. It was really more technical a profession than people gave the whores credit for. 

"But colour me intrigued," She took a sip of her own wine and arranged the folds of her clothes so the chiton slipped off her shoulder, her hair falling likewise. She saw a man glance up from his companion but she kept her eyes on Azarion, "How did somebody like you end up as a charioteer?" 

 

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Well, the woman was truly a professional. She did not only come here looking for clients, she also knew the kind she wanted, and she had the freedom to pick them. Azarion could respect someone who was good at her job, even if said job was getting off rich pasty Roman senators. Which still made him shudder. He followed her into the garden, and as she reclined on the couch, he unceremoniously sat down on the ground next to her. She was like a statue, with her clothes and hair falling all over the place. She did look... nice.

"But colour me intrigued. How did somebody like you end up as a charioteer?" 

Azarion arched an eyebrow. Someone like me? What? Mute? Small? A slave? Sarcastic? Sarmatian?...

He shifted, pulling up his leg to show off his tattoo. Some people knew from that he was a barbarian, but not many guessed Sarmatia. He mimed arrows, and horse riding. Good with horses. He sat back, sipping strong wine from his cup, and motioned at her. How did someone like you end up as a hooker?

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If Vibia had been able to read minds it would have been 'yes, all of the above' but instead she followed his hands, looking at the tattoo and then trying to work out what the hell he was miming. Had anybody been looking over, they undoubtedly would have been confused. But that was her plan - she wasn't talking to him (or...at him) out of the grace of her heart; she was counting on some rich Senator barging in to steal her attention. It had never failed to work before. 

She got the gist, after a while. "Archery? And horses? I'm presuming before you were made a slave...which must have been recent enough, if you're proficient at both?" She wondered what it was like to lose freedom. She'd only ever gained it, having been born into slavery herself. Some of the men and women who were fresh arrivals to the Venus were painfully pathetic with their tears. It really was irritating. 

His next question was much easier to understand and she smirked impishly. "A lack of fortune and a desire to get one. You realise how much I'm paid, right?" That was nowhere near the truth, but she was hardly going to explain the intricacies of debts and bondage and gangs to a perfect stranger. "And I enjoy it." rarely"And it's not forever. I'm a musician too...and a good one. Not just a pretty face." 

 

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 "Archery? And horses? I'm presuming before you were made a slave...which must have been recent enough, if you're proficient at both?" 

No, I was born that way. He sighed, shrugging it off. Try explaining Sarmatia to the Romans. Or whatever she was. He held up eight fingers. Had it really been that long?... He was a grown man now. Back home, he would have been a warrior. She answered his unspoken question in return.

"A lack of fortune and a desire to get one. You realise how much I'm paid, right?"

He shrugged, giving her an innocent look. How the hell would I know? Women made a fortune here for fucking senators?... Yeah, alight, he could see that.

"And I enjoy it. And it's not forever. I'm a musician too...and a good one. Not just a pretty face." 

Azarion arched an eyebrow. Sure. People would obviously pay more to listen to music than to have sex with someone like her. Once again, his sarcasm seeped through without any words. And I am a great archer and yet here I am.

@Sara

 

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At his shrug she grinned. "It's more than some plebs make in a month, for an evening of my time." Of course, a very large proportion of that money went back to the Venus. Her actual earnings were...somewhat meagre. It's why she took the gigs like tonight and parties where she was only hired for her music. She was not bound by a debt, but money might grease the palms of the gangs that held her eventually...she hoped.

She tilted her head to the side, studying him with an amused glimmer in her eyes. "I don't know what you're trying to say but you really should smile more." She gestured to a crowd of men a little way in front, laugh and joking and smiling. Friendly enough. "It'll make them more likely to sponsor you-" She held up her hands in defence, "No other services necessary. That's why you're here right? To get sponsors?" She narrowed her eyes on him, "Who do you have so far?"

 

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"It's more than some plebs make in a month, for an evening of my time." 

Oh. Alright, then. She had a crap job, but at least she was making decent money from it. She did not look super wealthy, though, and the fact that she had to keep doing that job spoke volumes. The money, obviously, wasn't everything. His face must have said as much.

"I don't know what you're trying to say but you really should smile more. It'll make them more likely to sponsor you- No other services necessary. That's why you're here right? To get sponsors?"

Right, because people were going to pay him for his smile. Azarion smirked at the idea.

"Who do you have so far?"

The smirk turned into a frown, and Azarion shrugged, showing his empty palms. Literally no one was sponsoring him yet. Probably not because of his smile. He gestured some. They should come to the tracks, and watch the actual races... Otherwise, why sponsor a charioteer?

@Sara

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The man was really quite amusing. Had her time been her own, she might of volunteered to spend time with him of her own accord but alas, she had such little free time these days, and the time she did have, costs. But advice was free. 

"You have nobody?" She arched a brow and surveyed the crowd, an amused smile toying at her lips. "That's because you need to put on a bit of a show. You're not going to win them over with your looks," She looked at his face, "No offence of course. You're handsome enough but look at the gladiators and men built like insulae here." She gestured to one such brawny man - biceps wider than her waist, "So win them over with your humour. Or your skills. Did you bring your bow?" She assumed as an archer, he'd have one at the ready.

 

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"You have nobody? That's because you need to put on a bit of a show. You're not going to win them over with your looks,"

He rolled his eyes at her, playing at being offended. That was clearly a show. Obviously.

"No offence of course. You're handsome enough but look at the gladiators and men built like insulae here."

He blinked. Did she just call him... handsome? Against his better judgment, Azarion looked away, a slight blush on his cheeks. He had never considered that. She was probably joking. It was not a good joke.

"So win them over with your humour. Or your skills. Did you bring your bow?" 

He actually let out a short laugh at that. Sure. They would let the barbarian slave bring a weapon along to a party. That was genuinely amusing. He made a gesture, reminding her of the slave tablet he was not wearing right now.

@Sara

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He laughed and tapped the space where a slave tablet would usually be. She remembered the feeling of wearing one well. She quirked a brow with a little shrug. "Well-behaved slaves get privileges, one of which might have been the use of a bow as a spectacle." She shrugged and then very subtly, very softly jerked her head to the group of men a little way off. "One of those is Lunaris. One of the wealthiest men in the senate and not a clue how to spend it." Beyond the unreasonable sum he spent coming to the Venus most weeks. 

"Come here." She tapped the seat on the couch next to her. "Put on a show for him, you'll be walking out of here with a sponsor or two. Trust me." She held out a hand for him to take. Why she was helping him when she couldn't recall a time where she'd helped anybody was...beyond her. Maybe it was affinity for an equally sour faced victim of the Empire.

 

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