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Ringing True


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Late October, 76

"Did you forget everything I taught you in that short amount of time away?" Burrus snarled, forcing himself up onto his feet.

Eppitacos rose from his hunched posture, turning on his heel, and looked squarely down on his aging employer.

"I forget nothing," he said, very quick and to the point. "Rather, it's you who forgets that if you don't stay calm, your heart is going to burn out faster than this kiln. Now, sit," he insisted, and thrust his prosthetic arm toward the cot that Burrus had only just escaped from.

Their relationship had become stranger than Epp ever expected it would. In many ways Eppitacos felt more like a part of the family than an employee. He supposed it was because Burrus' own son was off finding his own fortunes and cared little for life in Rome. Who else did the man have to depend upon?

Burrus rolled his tongue around his teeth in contempt, not saying anything audibly, but very much stating his objection all the same. In the end, he stayed quiet until the very moment he returned to his cot where he uttered some criticism of Eppitacos' striking form under his breath. Anything else he said was quickly drowned from the distinct ping of the work being done.

Eppitacos' had only returned to Rome two weeks prior, and work had not stopped since the day he arrived back at the shop. Orders and requests had piled in on Burrus, who hadn't the strength to finish any but the least demanding. For his part, Eppitacos rested only to sleep and eat, and he had very nearly caught up on orders... or so he thought.

"Alfidius Burrus?" A Praetorian stepped in, eyes squinty and searching heavily through the heat and smoke.

Burrus had fallen asleep. He often told Eppitacos that the sounds of the forge were like a lullaby to him.

"That's him," Epp pointed.

"And you are?" The Praetorian's eyes narrowed further, now fully focused on Eppitacos.

"Eppitacus, sir," the response came, and widened the Praetorian's gaze.

"So you are," the guard said, looking over Eppitacos' arm. And after some time, "I lost a brother in Britannia."

"We all lost something."

"Aye..." The guard looked over Eppitacos again and after a short pause rattled off his business. "Our smiths are busy seeing to repairs for Caesar's singulares. We need these weapons refitted, wrapped, cleaned, the works. Someone will be by at the end of the week with payment."

"They'll be ready." The Praetorian nodded, took a last look around the place, and then left with the weapons all still loaded into a wagon in the middle of the street.

When Epp had at last finished unloading the weapons and storing them in the shop, he stepped into the street and let his sweat-soaked tunic press against the cool brick of the building's outer wall.

He closed his eyes and just listened to the city without a care in the world of who might be around...

 

@Atrice

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Things had somehow seemed easier, since her conversation with Jason... or Tiranes, as his real name was. She'd gained a brother in Rome, for the first time since she got here, and it somehow made her feel more content. She knew she had someone to back her up in the palace, someone who would look out for her as she would of course look out for him. They didn't often get the chance to talk, as they had not done before they met in the gardens, but they'd send knowing glances. They both disliked being slaves in Rome and both were yet bound here. 

Cynane was lucky though, to have such a friendly mistress. Claudia had earlier stated that she would rest and relax in her chambers and not leave the palace, so she would not be needing Cynane. She could take some time for herself, and so she did. Not that she cared to change out of her usual outfit, she'd worn a dress once since she came to Rome and it had not done her much good. But she could still go out and that, she would. Find a popina maybe, have a drink, just relax in the autumn sunshine in Rome. It was still a bit warm, so she had not even put on a cloak.

Clouds were gathering though, as she was walking, and not long before she reached the popina, she felt the first drop of water on her face. And then another. She looked up, it would soon be pouring down. She slid closer to the wall, thinking it might shelter her a bit from the rain, but then there was a man leaning against it in front of her, blocking her way. She almost walked right into him.

"Excuse me..." She said, taking a step around him and glancing up at him. That's when she stopped. She had not seen him since that auction at the palace a few years ago. How was he here, now? "Eppitacos? What a... surprise."

@Chris

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It wasn't simply the sound of his name, but the very distinct native inflection of its pronunciation that instantly pulled Eppitacos from his quasi-meditation. His eyes spread wide as he angled his head to see who was calling to him.

He instantly recognized the face. 

A smile naturally lifted his features as he stepped away from the wall that had been his instrument for respite.

"Surprise, indeed," he said, looking over Cynane to see what - if anything - had changed since the last time they'd met. That she was alone brought the question of whether she, too, had earned her freedom. Though he suspected if that was the case, she would have long since left Rome.

"What's it been? A couple years?"

Eppitacos only then noticed the droplets of rain. For a man who lived in heat and smoke, the coolness of the drops was incredibly refreshing.

@Atrice

 

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She'd met quite a few people from Britannia since she last saw him, but despite befriending some of them... none of them knew her story or her past, like he did. And yet she would still blame him for her being here, at least to a certain extent. The Roman bastard Longinus had a huge part in it too, but if her party had not been left to fend for themselves at the battle, when the rest of the Britons were victorious... then she would not have been captured at all. And Eppitacos led that battle, for the Britons. But it was all such a long time ago and she'd felt more at ease the last time, than she had in years. She wanted to feel angry, as she always did. But for once, it almost felt like pretense.

Cynane was surprised to see him however, and then he smiled and agreed, looking her over. She noticed that something had been done about the arm he'd been missing last time... he was still missing the real deal, but he got a replacement. Seemed more whole. The rest was the same as always. Tall, handsome and one of hers. If it wasn't because she had felt so betrayed back then... 

"A couple of years is true, I think." She replied to him and looked towards the doorway near him. A blacksmith? But he'd been sold at an auction at the palace, where surely no ordinary blacksmiths had been... it didn't add up. Something must have happened in those couple of years.

"You look... well. How did you end up... here?" Cynane asked, looking up at him - few Roman men towered over her, but Eppitacos did.

@Chris

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"How'd I come to be a blacksmith, you mean?" He clarified, his smile widening slightly. "It is quite a story."

The last Eppitacos had seen Cynane, they had both been in the palace. He was then lost in the uncertainty of his future, while she - though also a slave - seemed to be in a good place, at least. Few could ask for a better situation than serving one of the imperial family.

He thought to start the story of just how he had ended up a blacksmith, but as the rain began to pick up, he remembered the kiln was still red hot. "Just a moment," he said, putting up the fingers of the hand he had left to signal he'd be right back. In a dash he ran into the shop, doused the flame, fanned the steam and smoke that rose as a result, and returned the tools to their proper places.

Burrus stirred. "Done?"

"For now," Epp returned. "Get inside. It's to rain and the cold won't suit you."

Burrus rolled off his cot and waddled his way inside where he was instantly greeted with the contempt of his wife.

Eppitacos walked to the edge of the shop, where its walls met the street, and leaned out to catch Cynane's attention. He motioned for her to come in slightly under the roof. "Come on in out of the rain," he said, and motioned to a small bench situated in the front waiting area of the shop. He turned to a table next to where Burrus had been lounging, took from it a small container of wine, pouring some for himself and offering Cynane the remnants of the amphora if she pleased.

"Now then," Eppitacos stepped back to where he was halfway sitting on a ledge, "the story. 

"When we last met I had just been purchased by the vestal Calpurnia... officially as a gift for her brother. I met him only once, but mostly remained in service to her. Running errands and such that she couldn't.

"She gave me and a handful of others our freedom during the Saturnalia that same year, and then helped me to find work here with Burrus- the man who owns this smithy. And that has been my life since... more or less."

He decided to leave out the details of his trip to Hispania and the blood feud he'd been pulled into as a result of it.

@Atrice

 

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Cynane was still surprised she wasn’t more upset with him. She felt she wanted to be and that she should be, but she didn’t really… feel like that at all. Suddenly it was just a surprise to see him and to see an old and familiar face in Rome, someone who had known her when she was young. He was the only one, to be honest. Maybe she was getting old?

 He smiled at her, saying he had quite the story, but then he excused himself. Cynane was left alone in the street with the droplets of water coming faster now. Large, heavy drops of rain. She really ought to get to the popina, but she also wanted to hear what Eppitacos had to say about his most recent story. He was a leader once. Then a slave. And now he worked… here? It didn’t take long before he was back though, inviting her out of the rain.

 “I… thank you.” She said, unsure of what else to say. Gods, really? Cynane was never at a loss for words like this! Last time she met him, she certainly had not been like this either. Was it because she was no longer alone in Rome? She had several people she called her friends, now. She had a tribe, of sorts. Quietly she followed him inside and he poured wine for himself, then he handed her the amphora. Cynane took a sip. She felt like she needed it.

 Then he sat down and began talking. About whom had bought him and how he’d been freed at Saturnalia the same year that he was purchased by this Calpurnia. So he was free now. Well that was kind of a blow, but she tried not to show it.

 “I hope it suits you… it is so far from what it used to be. Your life. But at least you're free.” She said, couldn't help but feel a bit bitter as she said it. With the amphora still in her hand, she leaned against a wall near him, “Mine has not changed since last time.”

@Chris

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Eppitacos kept his eyes on Cynane as he relayed the larger events in his life since they had last met, all the while aware that despite their shared history she had not always been the biggest fan of his. He hadn't forgotten that there was a sizable population of Britons in Rome - mostly by way of enslavement - who blamed Eppitacos for their defeat. That he had not died when others did; that he had been enslaved and yet become a celebrity.

And now he was free.

He could feel the distaste in Cynane's words as she commented on his freedom, and he knew that she was still a servant before she confirmed it herself. She was right; at least he was free. And he could not blame her for feeling bitterness.

"I see..." he started, his eyes falling briefly to the floor before flicking back up to her. There had always been something about her eyes that kept his attention. A certain fierceness. "I'd wondered.. when I saw you."

He stood from the ledge he'd been occupying.

"It is a change," he admitted. "But it gives me something to work towards. And at least I can fix my own arm." He grinned as he moved his forged prosthetic.

He took a drink of wine.

"To be truthful, I miss home."

@Atrice

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His eyes fell to the floor when she said, that her circumstances had not changed since last time. She was still a slave, as she had been for more than ten years. Ever since that battle, the last time she saw Eppitacos in Britannia... the last time she felt happy, in Britannia. Then she was captured and had rarely felt very happy since. But he was free now. She wondered why he chose to stay in Rome. And he said he'd wondered if she was free or not.

"My mistress has no reason to free me. I... don't think she wishes to lose me." Which was understandable, they had a bond, she and Claudia, a bond that was hard to explain to anyone, really. Cynane wouldn't like to leave Claudia either. But she would like to be free to make the choice herself, instead of it being forced upon her. She watched Eppitacos stand, he seemed content with the change in his life and mentioned how he'd fixed his arm. She was aware that he'd lost his arm, and that he now had a new one, but to her it seemed obvious, that it wasn't real. But it probably made him feel more whole. At least that was something. Then he said he missed home.

Which made her look at him... "Then why did you choose to stay here? You're free. You can go home." She replied. What was keeping him here, when he didn't have to be here? Honestly though, she didn't know if she would go home, if she was freed. But she would like to leave Rome, at least. 

@Chris

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It was a good question. A fair question. A question he didn't have a good answer for, but he tried to answer even still.

"In truth, I'm not sure what it would do to me," he said, "to go back. There are..." his eyes fell sideways to the ground as memories of his past life flooded into his mind. "...many things left unfinished." It was a vague statement, but true. He had his obligations to Burrus in Rome... and an unfinished war in Britannia.

Eppitacos took a deep, controlled breath and returned his gaze to Cynane's eyes. "If I were to go back, I see one of two outcomes. The first: Once I'm discovered, I'm betrayed again. Maybe they make me a slave again, or maybe they kill me. The second: Perhaps some would find hope in news of my return. Hope that might renew war, bloodshed. I am not prepared for either of those outcomes just yet."

He realized it was a cowardly thing to say, and truthfully he had felt the call to return to their homeland for some time. His most recent expedition in Hispania had only further engrained in him the realization that fighting was what he was best at.

@Atrice

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