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Amends


Ione
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Two weeks after Male Fantasy, Mid-late December 76AD

Ione didn't have much free time. She was allowed to the baths, accompanied by the other girls and a guard, and to go fishing in pairs usually (unless she stayed very close to the Elysium), but actual spare time to do with as she pleased was reserved for festival days. Today was such a day; the third day of Saturnalia was amongst them and unlike other brothels, the Elysium stayed open in the evenings. Titus probably assumed the girls wouldn't complain and he'd done a killing in trade, so in reward he'd allowed them a morning and afternoon off - shutting up shop and pushing them out of the door, their meagre savings in hand. 

Ione knew exactly where she was going to go and bundled up in her cloak, its fastenings tied tight around her throat to hide the bruises and perfectly neat line of a cut mark below her collarbone, she hurried to a bakery down the street. Her savings were pitiful, but she could afford a honey cake. It was practically all she could afford and cradling it in her palms as she moved her willowy frame through the streets to the insula, she felt humiliated. A cake wasn't enough to make amends, not by a long way, but it was all she could offer. She knew her dominus would be furious that she was here, and she kept sparing nervous glances over her shoulder as she climbed the rickety wooden stairs up to the familiar apartment. She had to do this though, the guilt had been gnawing away at her since that awful, dreadful day. 

She knocked quickly and tentatively on his door and stood back, biting her lip and shooting glances up and down the external corridor. No answer. She knocked again, a little louder this time. No answer. She wondered if he could see through the cracks in the wood and was purposefully ignoring her. She deserved that. She bit her lip and knocked again, and this time a head poked out from the apartment next door. It was a middle-aged woman, dowdy and red-cheeked and she shot Ione a glare, almost as if she could see exactly what she was just by her bearing. "He's not here. He's at work. Piss off." Oh. She bit her lip again and stepped back and the woman slammed her door shut. She only had a few hours until sundown and she'd be expected back at work but she'd wait. Quietly, she moved to curl herself into a seated position opposite his door. It wasn't how most girls were spending their Saturnalia off, but it was how she needed to spend hers.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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It had been a few weeks since that night he spent with Ione. He'd more or less healed now after the fight he had with the guard, which he didn't win. The guard had been larger than him and didn't fight fair either. At least he had not lost any teeth. His jaw was no longer swollen and blue and his eyes had more or less regained their natural color too. He'd had to not work for a few days, something his employer had not liked at all, but he could see why. And Wulfric had been a hard worker until now, so the merchant let it pass and allowed him to return again. It wasn't quite the same now. Iophon was the first he'd told that he was leaving Rome, although it wouldn't be until spring of course. But now that he'd said it out loud and after this most recent experience... he didn't enjoy Rome so much. 

But to work he went, even during Saturnalia, because the people required their greens and their cereals. It was afternoon when he ventured home again, the only thought to rest a bit and then have a meal of some sort in the street, like he always did. He climbed the stairs towards his own floor and approached the door - and saw someone sitting opposite his door, by the wall. He didn't recognize her at first, just saw someone he assumed was tired and not doing well. And despite Rome not treating him well, he was perhaps indeed too good for this place, because he looked at the woman with a soft smile, "Hey... are you alright?" He asked and then he noticed how familiar the face was... and was unable to hide his surprise. The evening had been good, it had been nice to just sleep with her, but the experience afterwards had turned it all into a bad memory, "Ione?" 

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She didn't know how long she'd been there but it had been long enough that her eyelids had started to droop from tiredness and she had to pinch the skin of her arm to keep herself awake. That was another problem nobody ever talked about with her trade; the night shifts were exhausting. She was dozing, or on that odd periphery between sleep and awake when the floorboards creaked and a male voice jolted her properly awake. She snapped to attention immediately, scrambling up by using her spare hand to push herself straight, the other still gently cupped the honey cake which had dried out in the time she had been waiting.

"Wulfric," She breathed with a nervous smile and a startled expression, as if she hadn't expected to see him when it was the only reason she had come. She clenched and unclenched her spare hand awkwardly and bit at her lip, keeping her eyes down. She didn't even know where to start with an apology and so stumbled at first; "I...I just wanted to see if you were alright. I couldn't come sooner," She swallowed, "My dominus wouldn't allow it b-but I have some time off for the festival and I..." She extended her hand with the cake in and glanced up with a wince, "I wanted to apologise. I...am so sorry." 

 

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When he spoke, the young woman on the floor scrambled up to stand and he saw who it was. Surprised to see her, that's what he was. He had not expected to run into her again, and there she was, standing there with a nervous smile. She had something in her one hand, looked like some kind of bread or cake, and her other she clenched and unclenched. She seemed nervous. Why had she come? She revealed it soon enough, said she'd come to see if he was alright and had not been allowed to come until now. Then she held out the cake in her hand towards him and apologized.

"I am alright, as you see." He made a gesture towards his face, "But, it is not your fault, what did happen. I lost temper. I should not have. And I should not let you sleep either." He replied, really he didn't see how it was all her fault. He'd insisted that she stayed, that evening, and he was the one who did not wake her up when she fell asleep. It was all his fault, what happened, that's the way he saw it. She had no reason to apologize and owed him nothing, "Please, you keep cake." Was that rude of him, to tell her to keep it? But he imagined she didn't earn a lot to keep to herself, so she should have the cake. He didn't need it anyway. He didn't need anything from her. It went so wrong last time, so he should just... not do anything with her. No matter how sweet and pretty she was.

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He was alright, or looked it at least and she felt relief wash over her. She didn't know what had become of him after Darius' had dragged her away but she couldn't get the image of him bleeding and swollen on the ground. She had seen violence plenty of times before, it was par for the course in her profession, but she hadn't seen such viciousness or...rage before. From either man. 

"I should have tried to intervene." She offered weekly and shifted from foot to foot. She was a coward, and she knew that. She'd stood there awkwardly as the men throttled each other, doing nothing to help. Well...she'd tried once, early on, and received a slap for her efforts. That was all she'd done. "And I shouldn't have slept, it was not your responsibility to wake me." her dominus had called her useless...amongst other things, and the other girls hadn't had much sympathy. She should have known better, was the general consensus. They were right. "No, no," She held out her arm and tried to offer him another smile. "Please. It's Saturnalia, it's a time for sharing gifts." She gestured that he should take the cake, "I'm sorry it's not more." 

 

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A part of him wanted to tell her to leave, but she'd come here to speak to him and to apologize and how could he turn her away, when she did that? She had not chosen the life she lived, after all. It wasn't her fault. But he'd rather not sleep with her again, or any other prostitute. He didn't know the rules well enough and he didn't want it to turn out like last time. Good at first, and then... not at all. Ione said she should have intervened in the fight and that it was not his fault that she slept. Wulfric wasn't sure what to say to her. He should have woken her up, when she slept, and he should have let her leave. And he should not have lost his temper with her guard. But the man was offending him and what kind of man would he be, if he just allowed another man to speak to him like that? What kind of a king would he be someday, if he allowed others to insult him so openly in the street? He could not let such a thing happen. And hadn't. But he was beaten up for it none the less, so it didn't help. At least he tried.

He tried to tell her to keep the cake, but Ione wanted him to have it and said that for Saturnalia, you shared gifts.

"It is gift?" Then it would be rude to not take it... so he did, "I have no gift sharing for you. Maybe... I share this with you?" He then suggested, wanting her to have at least something, so he could share the cake with her. Everything in him said this was a bad idea. But how could he turn her away, when she was so kind?

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She nodded at his question and let out a relieved breath with a beaming smile when he took it. "You don't need to get me a gift," She shook her head, a little bemused, "The girls at...work, we all exchanged gifts on the first day of the festival. It's a tradition, apparently." Whilst Crete had been a Roman province for over a hundred years, her family had never really adopted the Roman festivals or their Gods. She still prayed to Aphrodite, not Venus, and Athena, not Minerva. Saturnalia - she had heard about it, seen it with the Roman men stationed in her town, but had never partaken. So far it wasn't living up to the hype, in Ione's eyes, and the paltry gift she'd received yesterday (some gaudy hair clip) hadn't much improved it in her estimation. 

Though the festival did have one upside; time off, and an ability to see the man who she'd wronged. She stood awkwardly now, empty hands clasped in front of her waist and shook her head again. "You honestly do not need to share it. It's not much of a gift if you split it in two." She wrinkled her nose and let out an embarrassed laugh, "Well...it's not much of a gift whole either but..." It was all I could afford, and it's a gesture, more than anything. That bit went unsaid. She fidgeted with the fabric of her cloak and cleared her throat. "I won't keep you," She nodded, "I'm sure you have plans of your own for the festival?" 

 

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This was his second Saturnalia in Rome and it was impossible to not know about it, when you lived here. People went almost mad, for days. It was almost like the Solstice festivals at home... almost, anyway. People in Rome tended to appear even more drunk during their festivals and often also quite a lot more... outgoing. But Wulfric didn't really celebrate Saturnalia much, although he would celebrate the Midwinter, the Solstice, as he always did. Not that he had many people to celebrate it with. But now that Ione mentioned that he did not have to give her a gift, and it was a thing people did here, he thought about his own traditions. Maybe she'd celebrate with him? Although it was stupid. He should not spend time with her, should not touch her. But he wasn't cruel either. He couldn't just turn her away.

He suggested he'd share the cake with her, but she said he didn't have to and claimed it wasn't much of a gift anyway. Wulfric smiled, "It is more gift than others give me, in Rome." He replied to her, because this much was true. He had not been given a single thing by his father. His brother Teutus was friendly enough, but a sweet cake from a girl like Ione... that really also meant something. Now she stood there, seeming uncertain. Suggesting she left.

"I have... not many plans. Not for this festival. It is not mine." He explained, "We have other festival in my homeland. Midwinter. You know it?" He asked, unsure if she did. If they had such a thing here. Solstice was important in the North, because winters were dark and cold and summers were warm and bright. The sun meant something. So celebrating the sun during the darkest time of the year, was important.

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She smiled and let out a relieved breath at his words. She felt sorry for him, which was ridiculous given he was the son of a King and a free man in Rome whilst she was...what she was, but at least she wasn't alone. She had the girls and the boys in the Elysium to celebrate with. She gave him a soft smile and shrugged her thin shoulders limply, as if it was no bother and no consequence to her. "I wanted to give it to you. You deserved a  gift." And much more besides

She nodded at his explanation at first, but then promptly shook her head. "I don't. I understand though," She gave him a meaningful look, "I...am not from Rome. In my home we have other festivals too. There was one called Haloa - which we celebrated near enough this time of year. I never liked the Roman Gods," She gave him a conspiratorial look, "Even if I should. I prefer Athena to Minerva...and Aphrodite to Venus. But..." She shrugged her shoulders - she might have been able to escape a lot of Roman influence at home on her island, but in the centre of the Empire she had to conform. Realising that she'd been speaking of herself though, she hurriedly added; "Tell me about midwinter? What do you do? To celebrate?" 

 

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She was sweet, to think he deserved a gift. His father didn't seem to think so. Not many people did, here in Rome, but Ione, who had nothing for herself, chose to give him something despite that. See, that's what kindness was all about. As long as you give something, it's more than nothing. And it means everything. He gave her a smile and she'd asked if he had any plans for the festival. But he didn't, as it was not really his festival to celebrate and in Germania, they had something different. Ione had not heard about it, but then explained how her homeland had other festivals too. One around this time of year, but it was different. And she didn't like the Roman gods, but preferred her own. Wulfric nodded, "They are not your gods." He said, understanding what she meant. He wasn't sure he liked the Roman gods either. He didn't quite understand them. But he knew his own and what they meant.

Ione would know more about Midwinter and Wulfric felt a bit awkward, standing out here and talking. On the other hand, he was kind of afraid of inviting her inside, after what happened last time. And he couldn't take her out, because what if someone from the Elysium saw them and decided Wulfric should have another round... he sighed.

"Please... come inside." He then finally said and opened his door to invite her inside and continued talking, "At Midwinter, we have great festival. With great bonfire, we celebrate sun and light at ceremony. And we eat much and drink much. Good food and drink." He said with a smile, he had many fond memories of this festival, "But great bonfire is no good for Rome, it would burn." Which was a pity, because he missed the festival of his homeland. Next year, he'd be home around this time. Next year, he could celebrate it properly.

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"They're not my Gods." She said with a conspiratorial, relieved smile and a nod. He understood. She often had to put on a facade here - claim allegiance to Venus, but it never sat right with her. She didn't know if there were any Greek temples here in Rome, she'd not had the ability to find out, but she doubted it. The Romans loved to trample over everything people like her loved.

They stood there awkwardly and she could still hear his neighbour clattering around next-door so the relief on her face was palpable as he offered for her to come inside. She nimbly ducked in behind him and shut the door gently, listening to his words. "I can't even picture it," She winced but her expression was more bemused than embarrassed, "But it sounds wonderful...although it must be freezing, surely, that far north?" She didn't know where her home was in relation to Rome, but it seemed South. It was certainly warmer all year round. "I wonder if anybody is having a bonfire out of the city?" She asked, in an attempt to keep talking so awkwardness wouldn't swell. She stood in the middle of his room. "I...haven't left since I got  here, but I heard there are fields and things outside of Rome where some people gather? And I remember seeing smoke, when I was brought here." It didn't occur to Ione that they were funerary pyres.

 

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After they'd now talked a while, it seemed most right to invite her inside, even if everything in him said not to. Maybe he was too friendly, as some had told him. But she was also so good towards him. He didn't blame her for what happened to himself, how could he? It wasn't her fault. She'd been tired. She fell asleep first and he should have told her not to. But he didn't. Again, he was too friendly. Now enough to invite her inside, while he hoped it wouldn't stir new trouble. 

They agreed that the Roman gods were not their gods and he told her a bit about the great festival they held in the middle of the winter. Usually around the shortest days of the year, to celebrate that soon, the sun would return. He tried to explain what happened and she said she could barely imagine it. And commented on the cold. Wulfric chuckled, "This is why we have bonfire." He said, "It is freezing, this time in winter. But we wear warm clothes. Stay inside. It is dark. But the festival bring back light." He said with a smile. Midwinter often seemed bigger than Midsummer, because that was the opposite celebration. There were other festivals in the springtime he considered far more interesting. 

Ione wondered if there were bonfires out of the city, but she'd seen smoke when she came and people gathered outside Rome. Wulfric tried to remember, "I do not think they be celebrating sun with fire, not outside city." He said thoughtfully, he had not stopped long enough to see what the fires were, but he assumed it had to do with burning the dead. Silence fell between them briefly and he felt awkward. Then he busied himself, setting the cake she brought him aside on the shelf. What now... she had mentioned one of her own festivals, hadn't she?

"What do you celebrate, when you have festival, at this time?" Wulfric then wondered, curious to learn about her ways too. It was always good and useful to learn about other cultures, his mother always said so. That's how she came to know his father, after all. 

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She smiled softly as he explained and nodded. She couldn't imagine it, but tried to dredge up images. She remembered a big fire in her town when she was a girl, in honour of a local man who had died. The pyre had been so high she had to crane her neck so far back she thought it might snap. It always brought back images to her of what Achilles' must have looked like. The fire had burned all night and the next day, its orange glow illuminating everything for what seemed like miles around. It had been a sombre occasion though - there had been no merriment and the feast that accompanied it had been painful and quiet. No...that couldn't be like what Wulfric was talking of...but it was her only reference point beyond the small little fires she used to make on the beaches with her friends at dusk.

"The harvest." She smiled again and shifted from one foot to the other, "And wine...it was for Demeter, Kore, and Dionysus...but only women celebrated it." The latter thought made her smile widen at the memory. "We used to gather on the threshing floor and drink and eat and talk and sing and dance..." She shook her head, "None of the men were allowed in...but they had to pay for all of our food." She grinned conspiratorially. Had she been a woman that read into signs, she might have read into the fact that those festival days where she was surrounded by womenfolk - offering crude statuettes and drinking heavily of Dionysus and Demeter's harvests would foreshadow what was to become her life; drunken nights surrounded by women and the obscene. Fortunately she wasn't a woman that was much into reading the signs and omens. 

"Things were simpler then..." She offered with a little shrug and a sigh. "But you said in the Spring you would leave...so next Midwinter you can experience your Gods again. There'll be a seat at the bonfire waiting for you, I'm sure." She offered, trying to give him a little bit of happiness.

 

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Ione seemed happy to talk about the festival in her homeland. Wulfric couldn't help but smile when she did, and even more when she said it was a festival only for women. She said what they would do and that no men were allowed. He could easily imagine it, drunk and dancing women of all ages, just having the time of their life without men. Women probably thought the world would be easier without men. But that's exactly why they needed them. Not that women weren't clever too; among the German tribes there were even some, that had female leaders. Still, Wulfric believed men were different and sometimes better suited at ruling. But of course, women should get to relax too. He thought it sounded like a festival Ione had enjoyed a lot.

"It sound like fun festival... for women." He said. Maybe the men were having their own thing, while the women weren't around? Who knew? But then Ione sighed and said things had been simpler. Yes, there were always simpler times. And then there was the present. Ione recalled that he was going to leave Rome and next Midwinter, he'd be at home. 

"Yes, I will be home then. Unless Rome give reason to not leave." Wulfric said. It was after the last time he met Ione that he'd come to terms with the fact, that he should be leaving. Rome was not a good place to be at. People didn't trust each other. And they'd beat someone up for speaking the truth... "I am sorry, you can not leave. Rome is not welcome, I think. Few nice people only. Like you." He gave her smile, it wasn't directly her fault anyway... it wasn't her fault she got involved.  

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She smiled at him softly; "You will be home with your family, and you can forget this city Wulfric." She offered with an encouraging noise. He didn't seem happy here, that was fairly plain to see. "And you can tell all of your travels and things you've seen and experienced. I'm sure there's few that have travelled all the way see from your homelands?" Especially if they weren't part of the Empire.

She shrugged though at his own statement and let out a soft little sigh. "I may be able to one day. When I'm older." Not now, not whilst she was still good for business and trade. Of course the majority of the girls like her were used, perhaps, for a decade or so and then that was it. They were sold on - if they were lucky as a house slave, but few respectable people wanted an ex-whore in their house, especially not a middle aged one, so the rest of them...Ione didn't know. To the mines perhaps? Or...she swallowed. Best not to dwell. 

She tucked her hair behind her ear at his compliment though, almost a bit embarrassed. "You're nice too, Wulfric. One of few, as you say." She had about as high estimation as he did of most Roman men, it seemed. An idea occurred to her and she blurted it out before she could stop herself; "Do...do you want to have a drink with me Wulfric? I...there is a bar, a few streets away and the owner owes me a drink." For sleeping with his son...but, Wulfric didn't need to know that. 

 

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He smiled, she was so friendly, even now... trying to encourage him, so it didn't seem like so much of a failure to go home. Because he would be with his family, far away from Rome and he could tell them stories about what he'd seen. To think, that she barely had anything to give him, yet she gave him a cake and now she gave him encouragement. It was a pity that she was a slave, but that was her lot in life and after how that guard treated him... he knew better than to suggest he either bought her or attempted to free her. There had been more than one woman in Rome he'd considered to steal away, but he knew they would be labeled fugitives and that they would meet a bad punishment, should they be caught and brought back to Rome. So he wouldn't risk it. Even if he was still considering to at least free his one half-brother from Rome. But when he couldn't come near the boy, it was difficult to even create a bond. 

"You are right... few have travelled far, as I have." Wulfric replied, "I hope, you will be able to, also." He then added, wanting to encourage her too, but he wasn't sure what else to say. Ione called him nice too and then suddenly invited him to have a drink with her. Well it was a festival out there. Maybe he should try and see what it was about. And it would be less awkward than talking here. But there was one catch... 

"I would like to, but..." It felt almost embarrassing, but he had to know... had to be sure that this was safe, both for his own sake and for hers... "We will not meet your guard, Darius? You are allowed?" 

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"I hope so too." She smiled wistfully, but her smile wasn't sad. She knew it was a rare possibility now and tried not to dwell on it. She saved those moments of contemplation until she was alone in the dark. Then the tears came. She just wanted to see the sea again, and sit on a beach by herself, taking in the wind and the view and the smells of the sea. She wanted to swim. 

His acceptance prompted a grin and an actual giggle of happiness (and relief!) for a moment before she realised he was still speaking and she shook her head hurriedly; "I'm allowed, I'm allowed...it's the festival. I have to work tonight but I have the whole afternoon and been told I can do as I wish...and I wish to spend it with you." She meant it earnestly; both to make it up to him and because he was genuinely good company. She felt...safe with him, and there were so few men who she could say that about here in Rome. "And," She spoke more quietly now - embarrassed, "He doesn't drink there. I promise." He was likely out with his own women in his favourite haunts - cheaper, nasty little places filled with greasy, men. She'd been dragged there once or twice to fish for business and was in absolutely no hurry to rush back. 

"It's not far." She gestured with a jerk of her head and an awkward little smile at him, "Come?" She waited for him to agree before stepping back outside into the bracing winter chill.

 

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She giggled sweetly, when he at first accepted her offer to go out and have a drink with her. But then his worry came, the same that made them talk so long outside his room... he was a bit afraid of what would happen, if he spent time with her. And time alone. And now, time out and about among other people. What if something happened? What if someone wanted to beat him up again, for talking to her? But she said she was allowed to do it today, that she had the whole afternoon and she wanted to spend it with him. Wulfric felt flattered. She went on, saying that the guard didn't know where she planned to go.

"I will come, then." Wulfric said and she jerked her head, asking him to come, but before doing that, he reached out for her hand to stop her and make her look at him, "Thank you, Ione. For being kind. For wishing to spend day with me." He then said and let go of her hand, once he'd finished and he gave her a smile, "That is what I wish to say. We can go." Then he waited for her to lead the way, wondering what else this day would bring.

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She paused as he grabbed onto her hand and blinked wide, expressive eyes at him. She couldn't help but blush at his compliment. "There's nobody I'd rather spend my festival with." And she meant it. She had been intending to simply come and give him the gift and apologise before leaving but...who else was there? She could spend it with the other girls from the brothel but she knew they were out to get drunk and she had never enjoyed being out of her senses. She had no other friends here and Wulfric was fascinating to her. And kind. She flashed him a smile and stroked her thumb softly over his healing knuckles before dropping his hand. 

She led them out into the cold December air. It might have been light still but the streets were already packed with revellers drinking and stumbling, singing and dancing, giggling and shouting as they made their way to the Forum or their destinations. She cast a glance back over her shoulder to make sure that he was still following as she nimbly moved her small frame through the crowds of people. "It's not far," She assured him as loud as she could as they walked. It was only a few streets away, but with the business it would take a little while to meander there. She jerked her head at an alley that was a cut through, although even that had throngs of people congregating in it. When she could finally speak and be heard, she turned her flushed face to him and grinned; "What did you do last year? For the festival?" 

 

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She was sweet, blushing as he spoke to her, but he spoke true words only. She had treated him with kindness, all of the times they’d met, and it was not her fault he was beaten up like that. It was his own, he knew that. He’d been naïve. He wouldn’t be anymore. He would leave Rome instead, he was done with it. And this was his second and last Saturnalia in the city.

 Ione said there was nobody she’d rather spend the festival with, than him, and now it was his turn to smile a bit shyly at her. She was kind. Kind and sweet. She smiled at him too, stroked his hand with her thumb, and then he’d let go of her hand. Ione led them out into the day. It wasn’t even evening, but people were celebrating anyway. She promised him it was not far and quietly he followed her through a narrow alley and she grinned at him… asking him what he did last time…

 “I think, I was new in Rome. I did not know it.” Wulfric said, “It is hard, telling festivals apart, when you are new.” He said with a grin, “Tell me what you think is right to do, at this festival? All I know is drink and food? Drunk people?” But that's what every festival in Rome seemed to focus mostly on. He understood they all had their purpose and there were rituals and ceremonies... but he didn't know them. All he knew was that Rome would get drunk.

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She nodded in sympathy. The Romans on Kefalonia celebrated their festivals but they let their Greek populace celebrate the 'old' festivals as well. There were too many to keep track of so she largely stuck to her Greek Gods. "I think that's all there is too it..." She chuckled and shook her head, "From what I understand slaves are supposed to swap places with the free people?" She glanced to him and wrinkled her nose, "But you are free so that's not so much fun." 

She paused for a moment in a quieter part of the alley as a litter tried to pass, pressing herself close to the wall to give it room. "I think you should have food and drink and maybe go to the Forum? To see some of the theatre and the street performers? And musicians! I heard some yesterday and saw some on my walk here..." She offered him a small smile, "And you should buy a gift for somebody you like, maybe?" The litter finally passed and Ione pressed on - the sight of the popina coming into view. She dodged and ducked through the crowd until she was at the door. There were benches littered outside and she gestured to Wulfric that he should sit. "I can get the wine, you should relax." 

 

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He smiled when she agreed that getting drunk was really all there was to the festival – and probably to any festival in Rome. They had different names and rituals, but in the long run, it was all about forgetting the daily life for a short time and just get drunk and have fun. Ione continued to tell however, that at Saturnalia slaves and free were supposed to swap place. He’d heard something about that too, but he had no slaves. And apparently, Ione didn’t think his life as a free person was much to speak of. At least that’s how he understood it. He felt a little offended, but she was the one inviting him out and he wouldn’t bring it up then. She was still nice.

 They both had to press close to the wall as a litter tried to pass them there and Wulfric kept close to her. She suggested what to do and he nodded, “I will maybe do that.” He said, he’d seen performances and other kinds of entertainment – his half-brother Teutus had recommended the races, so he’d taken a look at that too. And he had to admit, it was nice to have fun like that. They didn’t quite have anything of that scale back home.

 Ione also suggested he bought a gift for somebody he liked. Wulfric hadn’t met a lot of people he liked in Rome. Aglaea had disappeared. Then there was Teutus… and Iophon and Theodorus had been nice to him too. Charis too, but he wasn’t too sure about her anymore. Then of course, there was Ione. Did she try to suggest it was for her, he bought something? While he was thinking, they reached the popina, but he didn’t sit just yet, as he had an idea, “You can also relax and I get wine? If slaves and free swap places… we can do? If you want?”

@Sara

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Ione turned on her heel to face him as he spoke. She was used to being summoned to attention and so focused immediately, even with friends. She blinked at him and shook her head hurriedly. "No," But then a smile broke out wide on her face - a magnetic, beaming grin, "No Wulfric you don't need to. I asked you to come for a drink after all, didn't I? And I promise I can pay." She couldn't, but she'd cross that bridge when she got inside. Besides, this was part of her apology. She needed him to understand how apologetic she was.

She didn't give him time to argue and instead turned on her heels and moved through the crowds into the bar. It was packed, even at this time of the day. Groups of men and women loitered - many already drunk and Ione held her breath until her stomach settled at the smells of sour wine, cheap perfume and sweaty skin that pervaded the place. She reached the bar after some moments of trying to work her way through the crowds until she managed to nimbly slip in between two big burly men. She eyed the place expectantly and relief flooded through her as Hashem, the proprietor spotted her and stepped forward.

He tilted his head to the side with a wry smile. "Io Saturnalia, little bird." she grinned, "Io Saturnalia. I-" He cut her off, "Have come to call in your free drink?" She'd slept with him. It had been quick and heated and...free. She shouldn't of - she knew that, but the wine cost so much and they needed it for the Elysium. She reasoned to herself that the dominus didn't need to know because no coins had exchanged hands; just one fuck for ten free cups of wine. She had one left. She tried to keep the anxiety at bay as she nodded. "I...need two." She swallowed and shook her head, "I...can't pay today, but I can tomorrow if I-" he held up a hand and then produced two brimming cups. He set them in front of her and arched a brow. "One is yours, the other I'll add to a tab. We'll settle payment next week. Upstairs." He wasn't an unkind man and his smile wasn't cruel. It was just business for him. She nodded hurriedly, gratefully and took both the cups.

By the time she finally managed to squeeze back outside she was flushed in the face but had only sloshed a few drops of the wine. She set them down in front of Wulfric with a triumphant grin and a little nod. "For you. Yammas!She toasted in Greek and clinked the wooden cup against his and took a sip, "Io Saturnalia Wulfric. Now," She set the wine down aiming to savour it as long as she could. "Tell me of your travels back to Germania? What is the road like and the journey?"  

 

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Wulfric thought it could have been nice, to give her some time to relax and then he’d fetch the drinks. But she just shook her head quickly and said he didn’t have to. And she invited her for the drink and said she could pay. Then before he could argue, she’d left. Well, that left him with little choice but to sit down. He did. Then considered if he should follow her inside, but she seemed intent on bringing him the drink, and he wouldn’t argue with her on a day like this. Even if none of them really believed in the Roman gods and this was not their festival.

 Instead he sat quietly and waited, until she finally returned with two cups, filled to the rim with wine. She gave him a cup and one of her own and then made a toast, although he wasn’t sure if he heard that word before. But he raised his cup to drink with her, as she then exclaimed the same thing the Romans did and wanted to hear about Germania.

 He smiled, “Is that what you will hear? Travels?” He said with a grin, but then deciddd to tell her, “Roads are good, close to Rome. And in Italia. But in North, they are more dirt and not stone. And in North, weather is colder and sometimes it is rain. So roads are bad, in winter. This is why I will travel in Spring and Summer. It is better.” He explained and took another sip of the Roman wine, looking at her, “You are from Greece? Is it like Rome?”

@Sara

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She nodded hurriedly and resisted the temptation to take another sip of her wine; she wanted to make it last. She wanted to hear what it was like - her trip to Rome, by way of  Cosa with her first owner, had involved a boat to Athens, a boat to Italia and then overland travel across the province. She'd never been further north than Cosa, and from the stories some people told, it sounded completely alien to her. The way Wulfric described it, it sounded similar. "And what is it like? In the north? I hear there are forests so large you can get lost in them for days and it's always cold." She wrinkled her nose. She chose not to tell him that most of the stories of Germania and Gaul she'd heard had come from slaves in the brothel and the markets. 

His own question surprised her. Few people cared to hear of her origins, it was a depressing story after all. Although, she supposed if they were speaking of the country and her homeland it wasn't quite such a sombre tale. She pondered the question and then shook her head. "A little? It's hotter, and most people speak Latin as well now and the Romans are in every town but...I was from an island, we called it Cephallenia...although the Romans called it Kefalonia." She rolled her eyes a little. "It was very different to the mainland and Athens - they're much more like Rome and just as busy, but my island was quiet and peaceful and small...you could walk around the whole island in three or so days. We did it once, some friends and I, when I was a girl...just to see what else was out there." She gave him a small smile, "And the beaches are so beautiful - you'll never see water that clear or sand that soft anywhere else." She gave him a slightly puzzled look, "Are there coasts in Germania? On your land?" 

 

TAG: @Atrice

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