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April, 77AD

Hilda stood in the Forum, trying desperately not to look as gormless and impressed as her man Gerfrid did as the pair of them took in their surroundings. Weeks on the road had brought them to this place and yet she was...underwhelmed. The weather was already too warm and it was only early Spring, the crowds were vile, the people rude and in her estimation the only thing Rome really had going for it was its size and the buildings. She'd never seen anything quite like it before, even on the Limes when her husbands people used to trade with the forts that dotted the area. This was something else entirely. 

"Where should we start?" Gerfrid asked uneasily, eyeing Hilda. He had been a family friend for years, a cousin of some description, but the weeks on the road and dominance of the city had made the usually proud, powerful man a little...nervous, it seemed. It had no such effect on Hilda who glared around the bustling square. "Mother said his name was Varus, the man Wulfric was to meet." She replied in their language, ignoring the curious looks the pair of them were receiving. She placed both hands on her hips, hiking the bag she wore further up her shoulder as she did. "So we find Varus first, and then we find Wulfric. Go and ask around." She gestured with her head to a group of important-enough looking men congregating at one end of the Forum. "I'll start there." She didn't leave room for negotiation as she made a beeline for one of the illicit market stalls set up around the periphery which seemed to sell some sort of pastry. Who knew, maybe they traded in information as well as delicious looking food?

 

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While the slaves were watching the thermopolia together with her father, who had been doing alright this morning, Melissa had taken a bit of time off to go to the Forum. She needed a new belt, so needed to buy some leather to make it. The old belt was just holding it together right now, but she feared it might break any day now. Carefully she adjusted her palla and the bag she carried over her shoulder. She did not dare to hang her purse in the belt, since it was so worn. The bag seemed the better choice. It wasn't that hard to find the stalls with leather strips and she purchased a few and moved on. Maybe a bit to eat before she went home... she glanced in the direction she needed to go in, to get back to her home, feeling a little worried. Maybe she should go home. No, she deserved a moment on her own! 

And so she determinedly made her way towards a stall selling sweet and flaky cakes. There stood a strange looking woman in front her in the line, her hair was definitely not made up in a Roman fashion and nor were her clothes, actually. Not that Melissa had not seen such people before, all kinds came to Rome and to her place too, but she got curious. The woman reminded her a bit of that infamous gladiatrix, who now served the Imperials... maybe this was a relation or something? 

Finally the line moved forwards and the woman in front of her could pick a cake. Melissa looked at them too, while looking for an excuse to speak to the stranger. Maybe she could persuade her to a proper meal at her own thermopolia? If she was hungry anyway... she looked up, seeing the stallholder being busy with something in the back, having his back turned towards them.

"They all look so good..." Melissa said, pretending she was talking to herself, but then she looked at the other woman, "What's your preferred type?" 

@Sara

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The queue was long but Hilda was famished. She had some coin, traded and bartered for with the belongings they brought with them and the small stash of Roman currency she had procured during her years living at the border, but the cost of things still confused and surprised her. It was why she and her companion had camped along the way rather than seeking shelter in any number of the inns and hospitia that lined the road to Rome. 

She was trying to peer over the shoulder of a tall, gangly man to get a better look at the food when a voice caught her attention. She pivoted round to see a young woman and quirked a brow. The first person in Rome to actually try and talk to her...if you discounted the jibes and heckles and propositions she'd received. Curious. "I don't know." She shrugged and huffed as the slow, tall man deliberated over what he wanted. "I've never seen these before. What are they?" They smelled delicious but knowing Romans they were probably laced with something peculiar and vile.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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The strange looking woman seemed surprised that Melissa spoke to her, but then she seemed to accept it and replied. Her Latin was good, perfect even. But of course she had an accent you could not ignore. Melissa saw all kinds of people at her working place and home. This one sounded like she was from the North. Not Briton. It was more rough, her accent. Maybe German? She enjoyed playing these little games with herself, trying to guess things and find out afterwards if she guessed it right. 

She smiled at the stranger, "They're cakes, most of them. And sweet buns." Maybe the woman was new in Rome, since she didn't know what cakes were? Well Melissa was happy to lend a hand in figuring things out. "They make them with honey, almost, dried fruit, dates... sometimes fresh cheese and fat too." She said and inhaled the scent, "I think it'll be honey for me. Once he's done." She added with a cheerful grin, nodding at the slow man in front of them and luckily he was so busy trying to pick what he wanted, that he didn't hear her. Else she could be in trouble.

@Sara

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She arched a brow as the woman explained and glanced back at the stall. Such variety. It was novel, and made her stomach rumble. Weeks on the road eating preserved meats and tubers and whatever they could hunt or forage had made her leaner than she liked to be, and now she was here she was determined to take advantage of, perhaps, the one positive here in Rome. The food. 

"If you recommend it, I'll have it." She said decisively and turned her attention back to the front. The man was taking an age and Hilda was growing impatient, she called out, unfiltered, "I'm going to waste away. Can you hurry up?" And he turned round to glare, deciding to stall for time a little more instead. She glared daggers at the back of his head and then glanced to the woman next to her once more. "I am not just buying cakes. I'm looking for somebody. Do you know Varus?" Better start somewhere and as always, Hilda was straight to business.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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The stranger listened while Melissa told about all the sorts of cakes there were, although she did not see all of them in this particular stall. But she knew where to find them. The woman then said she'd have a cake if Melissa would recommend it. She chuckled, "I definitely recommend it, just be careful you don't get addicted." She said, the woman was young - maybe around her age - and very slim and nice looking. It would be a pity if she ended up looking like a Nubian queen or something, she'd heard they ate a lot to grow to enormous sizes because apparently that was beautiful there. And the more fat you were, the more wealth you had. But that was not a standard in Rome, at least not as far as she knew. 

The other woman then began talking to the man in front of them, complaining about how slow he was and the man glared at her. Melissa wasn't sure if she was very brave or very stupid, the strange looking woman. Maybe it was not smart to speak to her after all. But it was too late and the other said she was not just buying cakes, but also looking for someone called Varus.

"I know of a Varus. More than one actually, I think." She said, tapping her chin, "Why are you looking? If you don't mind telling me." She asked then, looking the woman over. Why would a foreign woman like her be looking for someone with such a name? Varus. It was famous, of course, and for more than one reason too. Not just historically. She'd read his name on a wall more than once. And didn't they say a Varus had moved in in an insula not far from the thermopolia? Maybe he'd even visited without her knowledge, since she just handed out food, didn't ask for names. Sometimes it was handy though, working in such a place where people talked. Melissa was a good listener.

@Sara

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If Melissa was surprised or annoyed by Hilda's proclamation to the man in front of her, the Germanian woman was utterly unaware. People were far less forthright here, that was something she'd established fairly quickly. At home if you had a problem you would lay it out, plainly and deal with it. So far here all she'd discovered was people talked in riddles and grumbled under their breath when they were irritated. It was odd and jarring to a woman like her.

But her attention snapped back to the other woman as she said she knew of a Varus and a feline smirk spread across her lips. Gerfrid would undoubtedly be furious that she'd already uncovered something whilst he likely would come back empty handed. The male ego was a fragile thing. "He knows my brother." She stated with a shrug as she glared at the man, still deciding what he wanted in front of the two women. "I need Tertius of the Varii." She added to clarify, "Who do you know?" She demanded although her tone wasn't unfriendly, just very direct and to the point as Hilda often was.

 

TAG: @Atrice

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