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Saturnalia, 76 AD 

It was Saturnalia and that meant many nights of having fun. The first night Marcus had spent in his own home, or rather, his mother’s husband’s home. Marcus had never been adopted and didn’t really consider Tusca his father at all. But he was there, for the dinner and to have fun with the slaves. Or they had fun with him. Apparently he deserved a lot of pranks, but he supposed he should have seen it coming, with how he often treated them. This was their only chance at getting back at him. But this was only the first night.

 Days went on, more nights came and one evening he thought that maybe he should take Tiberius out for a drink or two. Or ten. He deserved a bit of fun! So off Marcus went to the palace, only to find out that his friend wasn’t there. The praetorians had not seen him and his body slave wasn’t there either. Claudia couldn’t be lured out and besides, her bodyguard was missing as well. There were a lot of people missing from the palace, Marcus learned. What worried him most was Tiberius though. It was one thing to go out with Marcus, at least they’d be two then. But alone? Tiberius, with his history, alone in Rome on Saturnalia?

 So out he went again, to look for Tiberius. Where the fuck could he have gone? He didn’t even know what he was wearing. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but he was determined to find his friend before something went wrong. He couldn’t have gone far, surely, without a litter or anyone guarding him. Marcus went in the direction of the Forum Romanum first. Something interesting was bound to happen at the Forum and maybe he’d find Tiberius there. On the way, he stopped many people to ask if they'd seen his friend. Maybe one of them would actually have a useful response?

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Her new life as a freedwoman held a lot of uncertainties and novel concepts that took some getting used to. She was working her way through them slowly, determined to embrace this change, finally granted the freedom she'd been wishing for. But if there was much to understand there, one thing she did understand and was more than comfortable with was Saturnalia. After all, having been a slave for so much of her life, it had been the time she looked forward to; that brief glimpse of freedom.

Now she was free, and had slaves of her own; well, her son's. So she'd done the right thing by them, prepared as fine a meal as they could afford, served the food and eaten it with them, then let them go for the evening to do as they would. Olipor had declared himself too old for such frivolities, but claimed the comfort of his master's bed for a sleep until Teutus returned. Jennus disappeared and, surprisingly, Prosperpine took young Amandus with her, promising to look after him.

So Varinia was left to her own devices. Feeling fully confident for the first time in a while - it would come, she knew, he just had to give it time - she stepped out of their Insula and wandered the streets of Rome. The Forum Romanum was the centre of Roman, literally and figuratively, and there was bound to be a lot going on there, so she headed in that direction.

@Atrice

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There were many people in the streets, as it was common on a festival like this one. Marcus would have enjoyed it, and he probably actually would, but he'd like to find Tiberius first. Someone handed him a cup of wine on the way and he downed it quickly, setting it aside for someone else to pick up and use... and continued his way towards the Forum. He hadn't yet seen even a shadow that resembled his good friend, but he was determined to keep on looking for as long as he could. He worried, naturally. Tiberius was schooled, he wasn't stupid. But Marcus got this idea that he was way better at politics than on his own in the Roman evening. This was where Marcus was used to going, after all. He loved a party and going out for a drink and find some girl to seduce and get laid. But Tiberius? He feared that his friend might even still be a virgin, but he didn't know. He should ask! Once he found him... 

Not all people seemed approachable on Saturnalia, so he had to choose with care, whom he asked. He didn't want to end up in a fight. He poked the shoulder of a nice looking lady then, she clearly seemed older than he, but didn't look dangerous either. Once he got her attention, he smiled brightly at her and began, "Greetings, might you have seen my friend? Patrician, a bit shorter than me, dark hair and blue eyes. Quite friendly." 

@Sarah

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She had given someone a small fruit cake she had baked, and been given a savoury morsel involving fried fish in return; such was the way of Saturnalia. Pausing by the Forum, she watched some figures dancing in the light of torches and a bonfire to the music of several musicians, varied in both instruments and talent. It gave her a warm feeling to see the year turn once again, knowing that Janus and the knew year would bring a cementing of changes and perhaps new opportunities.

As she stood there someone tapped her politely on the shoulder, and she turned and came eye to eye with a young Roman man, to guess by his appearance. Of course, part of the point of Saturnalia was that nothing had to be as it appeared.

Greetings, might you have seen my friend? Patrician, a bit shorter than me, dark hair and blue eyes. Quite friendly.

She smiled at him, then shook her head gently. "Good evening. I'm sorry but I don't think I've seen your friend." Not that she'd been paying too much attention, and it was hard to tell class tonight, which was part of the point. The poor fellow looked worried. "Where was he supposed to meet you?"

@Atrice

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Marcus did not gift anyone anything, he had nothing to give them. He wasn't going to gift people he didn't know and the household he came from technically wasn't his own. And he didn't have a lot that was his either. He was a Patrician of a good family and he had nothing. It was embarrassing sometimes, but he tried to not give it too much thought. He'd get it back, all of it and more. It might take time, but it would come to him. And he had Tiberius as his backup, which he was grateful for. If only he could find Tiberius, however! Here he wanted to take him out for a night on the town, just the two of them drinking and having fun, and then he was nowhere to be found! So he tried to find him. He poked a nice looking lady to ask her and she smiled, but shook her head.

Her voice was soft and kind and she seemed willing to help.

"Nowhere... we didn't plan on meeting, so he doesn't know I'm looking." Marcus explained, "He... lives at the palace. But he wasn't there. So I don't know where he is." And Rome was a huge city, how was he supposed to find Tiberius? Maybe it was foolish. But he worried for his friend, something could happen to him. Tiberius wasn't so used to being alone in Rome, like he was.

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A Patrician who lived at the palace? This young man had important friends. And he was well spoken, so perhaps he was a Patrician himself. He certainly didn't have the hands of one who laboured with them. But a lost boy - anyone male under thirty was a boy in her eyes - was a problem, even if he'd probably just gone off drinking with friends. But it was a problem that could surely be address with a little motherly logic. Lost children rarely got so far as they thought they did.

"If he lives in the palace, he would have had to have started from the palace." She pointed out. "So he might still be near there. Or someone might have seen him leave." She suggested gently, the person-relevant equivalent of 'start where you saw it last'. "I'm assuming he's not at the palace." Well, she didn't really assume, else she would not have asked the question, but she worded it carefully. Young men were notoriously delicate of ego and she didn't want him to get upset when he was clearly worried that he couldn't find his friend. But what a night to be looking for someone.

Unthinkingly she pulled a little fruit cake out of her basket and offered it to him. "Here, Saturn's blessings." She wished she could do more, but finding one Patrician in the riot of Rome at Saturnalia would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

@Atrice

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Marcus had very important friends and a family with a very important history. Pity he had not had a chance to do something of his own yet, but he'd get there. Not today though, or rather, tonight. For during Saturnalia, you rarely got a lot of things done. He was 18 years old now and he'd been out celebrating this festival a few times before. No one watched him anyway, he was used to looking out for himself. But the lady seemed willing to help and she asked more into it. Well the obvious questions that Marcus had been thinking about too.

"He's not at the palace, as I said. And I did ask people there. They don't know where he went." Marcus said and ran a hand through his half-long blonde locks. Maybe he should have a haircut soon... it might make him look more mature... but that would be a thought for another time... "His body slave was missing too, do you think they went out together?" Which was so weird, to go out with your body slave. Marcus wasn't out with his, after all. For Saturnalia, slaves seemed to enjoy doing their own thing instead of spending time with their owners. Unless they switched places together, but Marcus would never do that with Silvanus. Would Tiberius do it with his? 

The lady then handed him a fruit cake and Marcus took it with a surprised look on his face, "Thank you... I don't have anything to give in return though." 

@Sarah

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Varinia nodded in that quiet, calming way that mothers sometimes had, taking in the frantic energy of the children around them and commuting it into something more soothing. He'd already checked the Palace. She suspected he would have, but best to start at the beginning. His friend was missing, along with his body slave, and apparently no one knew where they'd gone.

Perhaps that was a little concerning, if this other person's usual home was the palace. "They might well have gone out together." She allowed. "Though Saturnalia usually means free doings for slaves. But if they are friends as well..." as could happen. Some masters were very close to their slaves; oh she knew that. Some were not. Who was she to judge?

Her only response to his protest was a faint smile. "Give me the gift of your company then." She replied, not really looking for anything other than to offer some comfort. "I'm Varinia."

@Atrice

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She was very kind and friendly, Marcus thought. And nice looking too, which was why he'd asked her to help him in the first place. What a pity she was so much older than he was, but maybe she liked younger men? Everything could happen, when it was Saturnalia, after all. But for now, he was most concerned for his friend, who was missing from the palace, apparently together with his body slave. The woman suggested they went out together, because they might be friends. Marcus never had much to do with Tiberius' body slave, Jason, but maybe they were friends more than Marcus was friends with his own body slave. It happened. He sighed, it wasn't helpful, but at least, if Tiberius wasn't alone, then he might be alright.

Then she'd given him a cake, a gift for Saturnalia, which surprised him. And embarrassed him a little, since he had nothing to give her. But she smiled, suggesting he should keep her company, that would be his gift for her. He really should try and find Tiberius. But maybe he could do that, while in her company? She then introduced herself too.

"What a pretty name." Marcus replied with a smile then, "I'm Marcus." This was Saturnalia and nothing was what it used to be. He saw no need to give her his full name. Maybe he would later, but she did not appear to be a slave, yet only introduced herself with one name. So he had done the same.

"You have my company then, Varinia." He added with a grin, "So... what should we do? Is there somewhere you want to go?" 

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Was it a pretty name? It was so close to the name her parents had given her, and yet so far. At first she'd hated it, now it was just her name. Not that the young man knew any of her history; that was largely the point during Saturnalia. No doubt he was just trying to give her a compliment. "Thank you." She replied. "I'm pleased to know you, Marcus."

So she had the company of a nice young man, one who had friends in the Imperial Palace. What a funny thought, but then that's what Saturnalia was all about. The social order turned on it's head, the reminder that they were all the same before the most ancient of Gods. Not a bad things to remember.

So... what should we do? Is there somewhere you want to go?

The question surprised her a little, though perhaps it should not have. "We should search for your friend, unless you've given up on that idea?" She asked. It was up to him. She was happy to help as long as he wanted to. "I wasn't going anywhere in particular." She admitted. "Did you have somewhere in mind?" Where would a young man like him want to spend the evening?

@Atrice

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He smiled back at her, when she said she was pleased to know him. Well she didn't know him at all, but maybe she would, after this odd evening. He'd almost given up on finding Tiberius now. If he really wasn't alone, but with his body slave, then he might be safe. And maybe, he could give Varinia here the gift of his company while also looking for Tiberius? That was what he was going with anyway, for now. So now that he'd agreed she would have his company, since he had no cake to give her, he wondered what she wanted to do. 

Varinia suggested they kept searching for his friend and wasn't going anywhere in particular. So she wanted the gift of his company but had no idea what to do with it? She appeared very grown-up to him, so this was kind of a surprise. He'd think she was a grown and independent sort of woman, who knew how to do things. At least she'd seemed to be, so far. But if she wanted, of course he'd take the lead! 

"I've not given up, but honestly, not sure I'll find him in the spectacle tonight." He said with a chuckle, "But we can do something... and look at the same time? How does that sound? I was hoping he'd go out with me, have some fun. So now that you have my company, you want to do what I want to do? Then we need to find something to drink. Come." He smiled and without further question, he took her hand and brought her along with him. As if it was no big deal. There were plenty of food and especially drink stalls about on a night like this and the popina's were not closed either, but open with the masters serving the drinks and the slaves telling them what to do, as it was proper on Saturnalia. There was a popina not far away and he dived into that, taking Varinia with him. Hopefully she'd be fun after a drink or two.

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Varinia herself was at a little bit of a loss this evening. Even though Saturnalia was the night when social order was turned on it's head, she couldn't escape the fact that things had changed. In recent years she would have gone out with the other slaves from her household, found some nice food, got quite acceptably drunk, and possibly found some company for the night if she saw something she liked and he was amenable. But even though the social divide was meant to mean nothing on this one night, it still did, and she couldn't just go and rejoin the slaves of the household she'd been sold from. Nor did she feel that she could join her own slaves, and Prosperpine seemed to have her own plans anyway. So she was wondering, feeling free but a little lost and empty, like a jug whose burden of wine has been poured. Perhaps something would present itself to full that space up again.

For now she had the company of this charming young man. She could feel his curiosity. "My friends with whom I celebrated aren't really available this year." She tried to explain, somewhat vaguely. So she was at a bit of a loss. But Marcus seemed to have plenty of ideas. "That sounds excellent. Lets find some drink, and also some food." Yes, good sounds good. "And we can wander our way further up the Palatine Hill. We might find your friend as we go." Because surely if he lived in the Palace, they'd been more likely to find him in that vicinity.

Marcus spotted a nearby popina doing a busy trade and headed in that direction, Varinia following on his heels. The whole street was busy, but they elbowed their way through to the shop. It appeared to be one of the larger kind where there were tables in the back - and quite probably accomodation upstairs - and one near the wall was available. Varinia happily took one of the chairs and glanced over the menu depicted on the wall. "How does a good red, some bread and meatballs in wine sauce sound to you?"

@Atrice

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This was certainly turning out to be a different kind of Saturnalia! No Tiberius to celebrate it with, but a lovely older woman named Varinia instead. One who was friendly and kind, had given him a gift and now took his company as a gift to herself. But it would seem he still got to decide what to do, which should be interesting! She explained that the people she usually celebrated with, were not available this year then, and she liked his idea of a drink. And food. Right, he had not considered that.

 She said nothing when he took her hand to take her with him to the nearest popina. It felt natural, somehow, to hold hands, even though he barely knew her. Maybe because it was Saturnalia and that was the right time for doing crazy things. Not that he never did crazy things otherwise! She followed him, weaving through the crowds, until they were inside the popina and Varinia easily found a place to sit.

 “Oh that sounds very good!” Marcus exclaimed with a grin as he too had sat down, and then he looked around, “Do you think we need to… oh…” He wondered if they should find a bar to order at or if someone would come to them. And a young barmaid appeared before he could finish. Marcus grinned charmingly at her and she looked at them both, “What will it be then?” She asked, trying to ignore Marcus’ eyes on her, “The meatballs with the wine sauce, bread and a jar of your best wine.” Marcus said before Varinia could. The girl nodded and hurried away and Marcus looked at Varinia with another grin, “I hope you don’t mind that it’s a jar of wine? It’s Saturnalia, right?”

@Sarah

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Marcus's youthful enthusiasm was delightful. He was younger even than her son and had that appreciation of things that suggested he'd seen nothing yet to sour his view of the world. It was something she could enjoy vicariously. Certainly he seemed to throw himself into things, including grabbing her by the hand, and ordering a jar of wine with the meal.

"It is, though I won't promise to drink all of my share." She replied, amused. Then again, what harm if she did get drunk, this one night of the year. She'd done it before. But she found being pleasantly tipsy preferable to completely plastered. Retaining at least some of her faculties and self control meant that she was both more likely to enjoy the evening, and to remember it.

"So tell me, Marcus who has a friend at the Palace; surely you have other friends that you could spend the evening with?"  She suggested gently. Not that she minded his company, but she was old enough to be his mother. Would he not find her boring?

@Atrice

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Marcus had probably actually seen plenty that could sour his world. Like his brother, angry enough to burn down their property and let go of all of their wealth, just because he'd been betrayed. Of course that was a good reason to be angry, but now Marcus had no wealth to call his own, he just had his name and his title. Yet he was determined to not let anything bring him down. He was young and more than ready for life to unfold before him. Ready to take new steps. And to meet new people, like Varinia here. He didn't know her, but she seemed happy to trail along. Once they sat down, he ordered food and wine for them both and she claimed she'd not drink all of her share of the wine. Marcus arched a brow with a grin.

"Why not? It's Saturnalia, after all!" He said and then Varinia attempted to make some actual conversation. Wondering if he had no other friends.

"I do, but... they are not quite like this friend. And since he is missing, I worry about him. Hopefully he'll be back tomorrow morning." He said, "What about you, Varinia? How come you're out all alone on Saturnalia?" She wasn't young like he was, but she also wasn't exactly bad looking. Actually quite nice for a woman of her age, he thought... although he didn't exactly know her age. And he knew better than to ask a woman about that. Did she have a husband though? Wouldn't he miss her? 

@Sarah

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Her new young friend seemed quite happy at the prospect of drinking more than his fair share of the wine, and generally enjoying the night. It was heartwarming in a way, even though Varinia didn't feel quite so uninhibited. When did I grow old? Marcus was missing his friend, but unable to find him seemed content with her company. Which was fine by her though, as with almost everyone she met, she wished she could solve the problem of his missing friend for him. Ah well, if the Gods were good he'd show up in the morning, probably with a hangover.

What about you, Varinia? How come you're out all alone on Saturnalia?

It was a good question, and she wasn't immediately certain how much to say. After all, part of the point of Saturnalia was that you weren't supposed to know someone's standing in society, so that everyone might mingle freely, equals before the Gods. But it was because of her change in standing that she was on her own this particular night. She considered it a moment, then decided that she didn't care. The truth was what it was.

"I was freed recently, Marcus." She said gently. "My old friends are still slaves, and... I am still making new ones." And there it was. She probably could have sought them out, but she didn't know if she would be welcome. Her thoughts drifted for a moment to Tertius, but she'd promised herself that she wouldn't cause trouble there. Still, if he magically appeared before her this night, she wouldn't complain. But the Fates had brought her this young man here, and whilst she might not be certain she felt connection to all the Roman Gods, there were enough parallels to some from her own people that she wouldn't turn down what she was given. "I didn't feel I could rub that in their faces this night." And that was it really. It was all very well to say that social standing didn't matter, but it would matter in the morning. "It's a big change. One I'm guessing you'll never have to worry about."

She was pretty certain that her new friend was a Patrician, if not an Imperial himself.

@Atrice

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He was worried about Tiberius, but Tiberius was also a guy who could fend for himself, or so Marcus hoped. He had just also hoped to spend Saturnalia with him. But not this year, it would seem. Maybe tomorrow. For now, he'd ordered food and wine for himself and for Varinia, who seemed very nice and hopefully she'd not have a bad time spent with him. After she'd asked why he was not with his other friends tonight, he turned the question back to her, wondering why she was alone. Varinia then revealed she'd been a slave until recently and was still making new friends who were not slaves. Marcus tilted his head. That was... different. A freedwoman, out with him on Saturnalia! This was new, "Ah I see. Well maybe you're making a new one tonight." He suggested, although he probably should not mingle too much with freedmen- and women, since he was of a higher rank. Tiberius probably wouldn't mind though. He seemed to care for everyone.

The food and the drinks then came and Varinia said she could not rub her new status in the faces of her friends tonight and said it was a big change. But one he never worried about. He gave her a bit of a sheepish look.

"Never." He agreed and took his drink, "But... I know it must be a big change. I never really had slaves of my own to free. But you must have been good then, for your master to free you. Or did you purchase your freedom?" That was a possibility too, after all. He tried to not sound too arrogant, like he sat on too high a pedestal, but the truth was that he had absolutely no idea what her life had been like, or what it was like now. He could barely imagine it. And he never really did. He didn't consider what it was like to be a slave. After all, as she said, he never had to worry about it.

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Well maybe you're making a new one tonight.

Having revealed why she wasn't with her old friends this night, Varinia smiled at Marcus's words. "I would like that Marcus." She replied easily. Whether he'd still want to be friends after Saturnalia was another question, but this whole festival was about living in the now and she could do that.

She voiced her guess that gaining freedom wasn't something Marcus would ever have to worry about, and he confirmed it. No real surprises there, but she listened to him speak. No slaves of his own, and he was young, so someone else must be pater familias if she understood Roman customs correctly. Perhaps he would be in time, but she wouldn't ask. It was none of her business. Then he suggested that she must have been good to be freed, or purchased her freedom.

"Neither, though I assure you I was good." She said, with a cheeky twinkle in her eye. "My son bought me and freed me. He was born to the son of my previous master, and freed by his father when he came of age." Which was a bit convoluted. No real need to go into further details. "So now I have my son back, and my freedom as well. So I have much to celebrate." She declared, raising her glass.

She considered the young man across from used, who had no slaves no his friend his night. "What about you Marcus, what do you have to celebrate?"

@Atrice

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He smiled at her when she said she'd like to be his friend. Marcus thought it might happen or it might not happen. She was just a freedwoman, meaning formerly a slave. It might depend on her other connections, what her family was, who freed her, who was her previous owner... but she seemed nice, at least. And despite her age, she was very pretty to look at, Marcus thought to himself. Briefly he wondered if she might enjoy younger men, but pushed the thought away again. Maybe not. Meanwhile she spoke of having her freedom and he didn't know what that was like. And he didn't. He just had one slave, Silvanus, and that's because his old friend Longinus gave the slave to him a few years ago. And he could not imagine freeing his body slave, that would be stupid. Then he'd be back to square one. And no thanks, he was not going that way again.

Instead he wondered how Varinia gained her freedom and she said she'd been good... then came a strange story of her son, who freed her and it sounded like a very complicated matter. Hadn't he heard gossip about something like that? Some Senator who coupled with his slaves and had children with them, instead of getting a proper wife to gain heirs with. Marcus was sure he'd not do that. Once he was old enough and had some wealth and rank and something to give a wife, he would marry. And he would have sons. His own father had sons, so why should Marcus not have them too? Meanwhile Varinia finished talking about how she had much to celebrate and wondered what he had to celebrate. 

What did he have to celebrate? Fuck. He was out here alone on Saturnalia and even without his best friend, who was lost somewhere in Rome. And he still lived with his mother's new family and his brother was far away. He had no wealth to call his own and just one slave. What did he have celebrate? 

"Just the festival I guess." He said, suddenly not feeling so cheerful anymore. In fact rather the opposite... and then in front of Varinia, who seemed soft and sweet and had so much to celebrate. Despite that she had almost nothing. But it almost seemed like she had more than he...

Marcus downed some more wine, staring at his cup, "My future, perhaps? I don't know." 

@Sarah

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He seemed like such a bright and carefree young man, warm and interested in what she had to say, which was a rarity for a woman who'd spent her life as a slave. It made Marcus's company very enjoyable, even if they were a bit of an odd pair. But that was part of what Saturnalia was all about. 

Varinia's achievements and celebrations were, in the grand scheme of the Empire, very small things, but she treasured them. Surely someone born to the Empire's upper echelons would have many things to celebrate? But as he glanced away and his smiled faded, she realised with a sinking feeling that her light-hearted question hadn't proven the opportunity to count their blessings that she had hoped. Rather the young man across from her suddenly looked rather lost. She watched him throw back his wine and stare into the cup morosely. "I'm sorry Marcus." She said, reaching across to squeeze his hand. "I assumed that a charming and well bred young man like yourself would have much to celebrate." Whilst one could suggest that one who was a member of the Patrician classes could surely have little to complain about, perhaps it just went to show that people from all classes had problems and disappointments, and that they really were equal before the Gods, as this celebration intended. 

And much as she would love to be able to fix things for him, whatever the problem was, she was pretty certain that whatever troubled a young Patrician would be beyond her means to remedy. Perhaps distraction was better. "A future is always worth celebrating. 'Do not begrudge getting older, there are many who are denied the privilege'." She quoted, unsure who'd originally said them, but certain they were wise words. "So what's your next step? Are you doing the..." she waved her hand, searching for the words, "the cursus honorum?" That was it. Secundus and Tertius had done it. 

@Atrice

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Marcus suddenly found he had very little to celebrate here at Saturnalia. He never really thought so deeply about it before. For him, Saturnalia was of course all about honoring Saturn, but also all about getting drunk and having fun. That's what it used to be. But Tiberius was missing and now he sat here with a grown woman, who was kind and gentle with him and who had everything to celebrate, making Marcus thoughtful. Making Marcus realize how little he had to celebrate. He stared at his cup, saying he didn't know what else but the festival and maybe his future, that he had to celebrate. But his future wasn't there yet. Varinia squeezed his hand and he looked up at her, while she spoke comforting words to him. In his sudden thoughtful state of mind, with all these sudden realizations, it was almost more than he could stand. Marcus blinked. What the fuck? He was not going to cry in front of her! He found himself instead averting her gaze, and she suggested that his future was indeed worth celebrating. Was it? He hoped it was. Fuck.

"I guess you're right." He said quietly and she asked if he was doing the cursus honorum.

"I am, I am starting it now." Marcus then said, but he was still thoughtful and he had an idea. Instead of just sitting here and moping, he should do something. Because he wasn't very good at doing this anyway. 

He emptied the rest of his wine then and looked up at her, "Do you want to visit the temple of Saturn with me?" 

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Varinia hadn't meant to bring down the tone of the conversation, yet the question of the future and things to celebrate seemed to suddenly draw Marcus into a sombre and introspective mood. Perhaps he'd wanted to just live in the moment tonight, and not think about whatever else was happening in his life. It just showed how wrong the assumptions she'd automatically made about his easy life could be. All of the Gods' children have problems.

Her words didn't seem to be helping much, so Varinia stopped talking, content to just be there whilst Marcus thought things through, silent support. She ate a little of the food and sipped her wine, startled for a moment when he looked at her with a sad expression, so much like Teutus when he'd learned she was to be sold. He would have been a similar age; maybe slightly younger. Whatever could trouble this young man so?

So he was starting the cursus honorum. Perhaps that would give young Marcus some purpose in his life. Suddenly his expression shifted, as though he'd had an idea, and he asked her whether she'd visit the Temple of Saturn with him. Why not? "Sure." She said with a smile, and echoed his gesture by draining her glass as well, despite a fear that the wine might go to her head. Doing something was better than sitting here moping. "Lets go see Saturn's feet." Why not? She rose to her feet and in the reversal of roles of the event, offered him a hand up.

@Atrice

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He had indeed thought of nothing more but to celebrate Saturnalia and just live in the moment, when he left the house this evening and tried to find Tiberius... he had not thought he'd consider his future and what he had to celebrate, if he had anything at all. And it didn't feel like it, suddenly, which was bad. Marcus did want to have things to celebrate, but Varinia had made him thoughtful and now she stopped talking, because apparently she didn't want to upset him further. Or maybe she just didn't want to speak to an emotional young man like he was right now. It was messed up, that's what it was! He barely knew her and here he'd spilled his heart to her. Well, they were in it together now, she knew things and had agreed to spend time with him.

So he had an idea then, of something to do. This was Saturnalia. They were celebrating Saturn, who had to do with wealth and abundance and renewal. And wasn't this then just the right moment to go and give something to the god Saturn and ask for his help in giving Marcus the things he wanted in life? If this was not the right moment, then what was? And Varinia agreed to come with him. She stood before he did then and offered him a hand. A bit surprised by the odd gesture, he took it none the less.

"Yes, let's go and do that." He said and made his way through the packed Forum together with Varinia. He inched closer to her, placing a hand on her back so they would not come apart. He wasn't going to do this alone! He just met her, but she had seen enough now and he wasn't going to let go of her, at least not tonight. Tomorrow might be different, after Saturnalia might be different, but right now, they were in it together.

As they came nearer the tempel of Saturn, he noticed the public banquet taking place in front of the temple. But he wasn't going to join it, not right now anyway. Instead he looked up at the temple and came to a stop for a moment. If they were going in there, to ask for Saturn's help, they'd need a sacrifice wouldn't they? He looked at Varinia, "What are we going to offer him? I've never done this on my own." He was honestly not good at visiting the temples at all, so he had little experience with it. But maybe she knew what to do.

@Sarah

 

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They squeezed their way out of the poppina and into the crowded streets where people were chatting and singing, and someone nearby was playing a pipe. A touch on her back caused Varinia to glanced over her shoulder, but it was only Marcus, keeping close. She wasn't quite certain what to make of the well bred young man who seemed to feel he had nothing to celebrate. From her point of view simply being born into a high class should be enough, but none of that was supposed to matter tonight, hence her suggestion that they look to the future instead. So she smiled at him and kept heading in the direction of the Temple of Saturn.

It felt a little odd in a way. These Gods, with their great stone houses, were not the Gods she'd grown up with, though of course they had been introduced by the Romans and so were at least familiar. But her people's Gods had felt closer, more real. Now they felt distant, though she remembered being told by someone that they simply knew the Gods by other names, and that their Taranis was Rome's Jupiter, and so on. Her own personal theory was that, just as some minor deities were associated with one natural spring or sacred place, even the greater Gods were still tied to their own lands, and that those she'd been born with really were distant now.

If that was true, then as they were in Rome it was right to pray to Roman Gods. As they reached the Temple and the great feast spread out before it, Marcus asked what they should offer. "My last domina said that Saturn was an old God, who brought both light and knowledge of farming to us, and we should offer the same to him." She remembered. "She would take cakes and candles." Candles were a traditional Saturnalia gift for that reason. "I have cakes we can give him." She offered. "But do you want to offer something, if you're asking for a blessing?" Making offerings to the Roman Gods wasn't something that she'd done a lot of as a slave, though she maintained the alter to the lares in Teutus's house.

@Atrice

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Marcus might be young, but that didn’t mean he was tiny and he could fend his way through the crowds together with Varinia. As long as he made sure to keep her close too, so he put a hand on her back and she didn’t seem to mind, luckily. It wasn’t a long walk to Saturn’s temple, it was just across the Forum, but it was more because the place was packed with people that it was hard getting around. But they got there, where the banquet was in front of the temple and he stopped at the bottom of the steps in front of them.

 He wondered what to offer to the god and Varinia luckily had some advice. Cakes and candles. And then she reminded him that she had the cakes. That’s how they met, she offered him a cake. Perhaps this was all connected, he then thought. Marcus rarely thought much of the gods, but he knew some people relied heavily on them, their influences and all that. Maybe he should pay more attention too. Maybe it was not just a coincidence that he met Varinia tonight, of all nights.

 “I don’t have any cakes to offer… unless you’ll share yours with me. Else maybe…” He fished into his purse for a few coins, “He’s also the god of wealth.” He said, holding the coins in his hand, “I’m sure he’ll appreciate that too. Let’s… let’s go inside.” He said, as if he too had to brace himself to do this. But then he did, climbed the stairs, expecting Varinia to follow. She was no slave, she didn’t have to, but she hadn’t left his side since they met. There had to be a reason for this, right? The more he thought of it, the more right it seemed. He went out tonight to find Tiberius and he found something else instead. Something that might help his future.

@Sarah

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