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Sister and Brother


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April 77AD

“You know you’ll be sorely missed Wulfric.” Said one of his co-workers at the market, as they helped each other load a cart with sacks of grains, “You’re nicer than any of the other overseers.” The man said with a grin and Wulfric smiled, “Thank you. Maybe I will miss you also.” The work had been different from what he was used to, but he hadn’t hated it. In fact, working like this felt rather good. And earning coin felt good too. They were his coins. Not given to him because of his rank or because people wanted him to do favors for them, but simply because he was good at what he did and he did the right things.

 They finished loading the cart and his co-worker picked it up at the front, “I will come tomorrow.” Wulfric promised and the other waved, before he pulled the cart himself into the warehouse. Wulfric’s shift was finished for the day and he went to find the overseer to tell he was leaving and would be back tomorrow. He still had to settle the deal he’d had with the landlord of the building where he lived, and there were other loose strings he needed to tie too. Like writing that letter to his father, as Varinia had suggested.

 He needed to figure out what to say in the letter though. Wulfric usually didn’t write letters, after all, so how to even begin? He was going over it in his mind as he left the warehouse and walked straight into a woman on her way in. They both stumbled and he looked up first, “Apologies.” He said quickly, not one wishing to stir trouble. He looked at her, about to ask if she was alright, when he noticed her familiar features… “Hilda?”

@Sara

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Hilda strode forward at pace, right into her brother. That hadn't been her intention, the intelligence had come through a fairly long-winding, convoluted route via the vigiles (thank you Tiberius!) but it wasn't a guaranteed certainty. Apparently there was more than one barbarian who was 'so' tall with fair eyes, a beard and dark auburn or brown hair. Go figure. Still, it was the first lead she'd had for a while after Tertius' little wife had failed to show up for their appointed meeting (spineless) and so she'd set out at pace, not stopping until she literally slammed into him. 

She choked, gathering her breath and readjusted her braid, flipping it over her shoulder. "Aha!" She grinned and immediately moved to wrap her arms around his shoulders in an embrace as he recognised her. It took a moment. It had been six...or was it seven years since they'd last seen one another, not since her marriage and she supposed she'd aged in that time. He looked just as she remembered him though - evidently Rome hadn't quite beaten the Germanic bits of her half-brother. Switching to their language she pulled back and moved closer to study his face. "You look thin." He didn't, but it was the sort of patter she had missed between her siblings. "Surprise, I suppose." She grinned. 

 

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It had been years since he last saw her, but he grew up with her, or she grew up with him and he knew her. She looked more like their mother than ever before, beautiful and grown. But she was in Rome. She was in Rome! She was in... Rome? Why? Wulfric had a ton of questions while she flipped her braid over her shoulder with a grin and wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. Yes, it was definitely Hilda. What the why? Wulfric returned the embrace, he didn't know how much he'd missed such a warm embrace from someone who cared. The closest he came to that was the night he slept (literally too) with Ione and their evening at Saturnalia. But this was his sister. He buried his face in her neck for a moment, as everything that happened in Rome crashed down on him for a few moments. Not that he was crying or anything! He just needed this!

Then she pulled back, commenting on his looks and Wulfric let out a laugh and replied, happy to be able to speak his own language too, "Well you look big." He said with a grin, but winked. He wouldn't be able to get away with something like that to any other woman, but Hilda was not any other woman. Last time he saw her, she had just married and was leaving their own village, so what was she doing here in Rome? "It is a surprise! What are you doing here? Why?" 

@Sara

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She grinned, broad and devilish at his quip when he finally removed himself from her embrace and let out a loud laugh that a few passers-by quirked eyebrows at. She didn't care a jot what they thought, she'd found her needle in the haystack and Roman propriety be damned. 

"It is the longest story," She groaned and moved to grip his forearm, still unsure that he was real after weeks and before that months on the road thinking he'd be an enigma she'd never find, "Almost longer than the journey here. We should talk...and eat." She nodded. "And drink. I know a place, on the Es-quiline." She still couldn't master the pronunciation, but she was now a regular in Melissa's place and the girl was good fun. This wasn't a conversation to have in a marketplace, even if nobody could understand them in there language. "I missed you." She said genuinely with a feline grin and jerked her head for her to lead the way if he'd follow, "And I want to hear all about your adventures here. So will Gerfrid," She mentioned the man - who'd been with the tribe for longer than she'd been alive, "He came with me." 

 

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Hilda said it was a long story about why she was here and wanted to talk and drink with him. Said she knew a place. Wulfric was still puzzled about why she was here, the travel to Rome was long and not very amusing and yet here she was, his little sister. Alone? With her husband? With someone else? There were a ton of questions here and he needed them all answered! She must have been looking for him. Well it was lucky then that he'd not left Rome yet! As he planned. Gods, and he still planned on doing that. But now Hilda was here, maybe he'd need to stay. Ione might not mind, she was the only one here who seemed able to miss him. Hilda would too, but he wouldn't leave without her. 

She spoke of missing him and wanting to hear his adventures and mentioned Gerfrid. Wulfric arched a brow.

"You brought Gerfrid here?" Wulfric said, the man was stern and not very adventurous and then he'd come all the way to Rome? "I hope he'll survive this place." He added with a grin, "Let's go and eat and drink. I think I know the direction of the Esquiline." He'd lived here long enough to know and sometimes he went with the work-crew out to deliver grains or vegetables to private households around Rome. That included the Esquiline. So they walked alongside each other. Wulfric was glad his sister was here, but since he didn't know the reason, he had to wonder... there was one obvious reason though... "Do you bring news from home? Did something happen to Hrodulf?" Their grandfather, the leader of their people. That was a valid reason for her to come, if something happened to him and their uncle ruled in his place. Or maybe something happened to their uncle. It wasn't for nothing they, at home, called Wulfric a prince.

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Hilda snorted and grinned devilishly. "I brought him. Reluctantly. He's already miserly about the city, but he does like the actresses." They'd walked past a few street performances in their weeks in the city and the man had been enraptured by the beauties on stage. Their bare breasts in particular, Hilda assumed. 

She followed him - not knowing the direction any better herself, she tended to just walk until she recognised something or saw some official looking person to set her back on the right path if she was lost. "Hrodulf was fine when I left." She said with a shake of her head, her smile turning a little more wry, "Still clinging on. And Hrolf. They're fine, don't worry." Or at least they had been when she'd left her families lands months before. Winter was harsh, she  knew that, and anything could have happened in the interim on her walk here but she trusted the Gods that they'd be fine. She needed to stay in Rome for a time and couldn't fathom the thought she'd have to do it alone if Wulfric was pulled back to their lands as an heir. She shook the thought from her head. 

"Mother sends her love too." She grinned at him, "I think she wanted to come but..." She shrugged. Frieda was a beautiful woman, but she had duties to dispatch in their lands. Besides, having met the utter prick Tertius, she was glad Frieda wasn't here to see him. "But," She turned to him with a grin, moving to nudge him briefly as they strode through the busy streets, "How have you been big brother?" 

 

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Wulfric chuckled when Hilda spoke of how Gerfrid felt about the city. Old-fashioned stern brute that one, as far as he recalled, not really someone who'd fit very well into Roman life at all. Even worse than Wulfric. But at least Hilda's companion liked the actresses... "He may like the prostitutes too. If he can pay." Wulfric said, not that he'd known a lot of them, really he just knew Ione, but that was enough for him. 

Then he continued to wonder why his sister had come, his very pretty, but also very German-looking sister. At least he'd gained more Roman-like clothes here, although he still kept to the style that he was used to. But lighter fabrics to deal with the heat and such. He had to suggest that to Hilda too. She'd look pretty in a chiton. She explained that their grandfather and their uncle were still fine and that didn't help one bit. Hilda continued about their mother and Wulfric smiled, "I do miss her here." But he'd met another one, not quite his mother, but Varinia was up the same alley. And since she was mother to his half-brother, she could almost be his too. Not that she'd ever compare to Frieda, but still... then Hilda nudged at him and wondered how he'd been.

"I have been fine, most of the time. Not that I am getting anywhere with my father..." He said with a sigh, "But I'm planning to write him a letter." He looked at Hilda, "Actually, I had planned on leaving Rome soon... I've made all the arrangements for leaving already. You're lucky you caught me before I did. I didn't know you were coming." Not that it was an issue, or it was, but he didn't want to disappoint his sister. And now that she was here, he felt a responsibility to take care of her. He was her brother. She was his responsibility, especially since she wasn't here with her husband. And why wasn't she, by the way? So many unanswered questions hung in the air still...

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Hilda chuckled. "He can't. I have his coin." A sore point Gerfrid consistently challenged her on. She trusted the man with her life, hence why she'd taken him on her flight from their fractious region, but she didn't trust him with her hard-stolen gold. 

She merely smiled softly as he mentioned their mother and nodded. If her plan worked it...would be a while before Wulfric saw her again. Not forever of course, but a while. But she quirked a brow as he spoke. Leaving? Nope. That wouldn't do. Nor would his shit of a father. "He's a prick." She countered with a groan and a shake of her head, moving to throw her arm around her brothers shoulder as they walked. "Mother told me before I left, and I don't know what I was expecting but...He threw me out of his house, or all but did. Unfortunately for him, I have my ways and means of finding you without his help." She grinned, "Would you rather we wait to talk about him over a drink?" Probably wine. The Romans seemed to love the stuff. 

 

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Wulfric chuckled when Hilda did, saying she had whatever coin Gerfrid would need. Well maybe she could give him a little, so he could maybe try and enjoy Rome some? Not that Wulfric had enjoyed it much. He had enjoyed it some, of course, it hadn't only been bad, but he still didn't feel welcome here. Didn't feel he was wanted by anyone but Ione and maybe Teutus and Varinia, who had also been kind. But not the rest. 

He then told Hilda that he had planned on leaving and wasn't getting anywhere with his father. She called Tertius a prick. Wulfric gave her a surprised look, she went to see him? Well he looked forwards to hearing more about that. And she told him instantly, about how she knew about the connection and how Tertius had thrown her out of the house. That earned her another surprised look! What did she say to him? The notion he got so far was that his father liked young women and he'd clearly liked their mother. And Hilda looked like her. But she went on, wondering when to talk more about his father.

"We don't have to wait. You've met him. You know what he's like. I left on my own accord last time I saw him, at a dinner. I came back again. But for some reason he's just never at home and nor are any of the other family members. He has a daughter, Antonia, another half-sister of mine. And I've never even met her." Wulfric said, "It's not fair he gets to decide for the rest of his entire family, what to think of me. I haven't asked for anything but knowing him. But he won't believe me." He went on. Gods it felt good to talk to someone about all this, he'd had no one to discuss it with. Ione of course knew some, but he couldn't tell her everything. Hilda however, he'd trust with all he said... "So maybe your word for him is the right one. He is a prick." He inhaled a breath, thinking a drink would be really nice now.

@Sara

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Hilda arched a brow and listened as her brother launched forth, interjecting only to say; "I didn't meet the daughter but met his wife...although she looks young enough to be his daughter." She rolled her eyes, "I was supposed to meet her two days ago but she never showed. Doesn't matter though because the Gods are smiling on me and I found you anyway." The timid little woman could go suck eggs, she found Wulfric without whatever measly help she was likely to offer. 

But then a pang of guilt as Wulfric explained he'd never asked his father for anything. Ah. She winced. She had, but she was far  too combative for her own good often and refused to tolerate the plain disrespect that the man offered her. She swallowed down any mention of it though...she'd tell Wulfric after he'd had something to drink. That would be better, yes? 

"An utter, utter prick." She agreed with a resolute nod and a chuckle. "We're nearly there," She added as she saw Wulfric's look, "And then I want to see where you live once we've drunk ourselves stupid. I hope you snore less than Gerfrid?" She grinned, it had been more than a few years and she'd almost forgotten what it was to live with her brother.

 

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Wulfric looked at his sister, when she said she'd met his father's wife. He didn't have a wife... or he didn't, when Wulfric saw him last, but then again, that was a long time ago. Who had he married? Someone young, apparently, and someone who had wanted to meet Hilda, but then never showed. Maybe she was afraid of Tertius, that would make sense. He gave his sister a smile when she said she found Wulfric anyway, "You did. I am glad you are here." He said, with an arm around her shoulder to squeeze her. He was still a bit confused for the reason she was here, but hopefully she would tell him.

He decided to agree with Hilda that his father was a prick then and Hilda agreed with a chuckle, before saying they were almost at the place she knew, where they could. Then she wanted to see where he lived. Right. A small one-room insula with space enough for himself and maybe company like Ione. But his sister and then Gerfrid too?

"You don't have a place to stay in Rome already?" He wondered, suddenly feeling a bit weird about telling his sister about the humble room he had. It was nothing compared to their house at home, but he had found he didn't need more. Even Ione thought it weird though, that he was a prince and lived so humbly. What would his sister think?

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"I do." She said with a little smile and a nudge into his arm. "But I want to see if where you've landed is better." That was unlikely given she had been given rooms in an Imperial villa, but all the same she knew her brother was resourceful. He'd survived over a year here after all. "And in any case, we should stick together." She said with a firm nod. She felt safe enough in the city but the whole point of her coming to Rome was to join up with Wulfric and stay put. She didn't much want to try and stick out a few years here by herself.

She could see Melissa's place up ahead and grinned to her brother. "It's not like the food from home but it's decent and the girl is nice." She liked Melissa, and as she ducked into the place she was disappointed not to see her. They joined a queue and she glanced up at her brother. "You can pay, given you're working. Doing...what exactly?" She narrowed her eyes at him. Manual labour it seemed like.

 

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He wondered where she was staying in Rome. Probably in an inn or maybe even a hospitia, if she knew how to work around such things. He'd also lived in such places at first, until he found the insula where he still lived. Now he felt a bit odd that his sister wanted to see the place, "I don't mind showing you. But... it may not be what you expect." They had plenty of space at home, after all. But this wasn't home, it was temporary and he was leaving soon. Unless Hilda wanted him to stay. He wouldn't leave her here... even if he had already planned on leaving and said his goodbyes to certain people. Not everyone though.

They were now approaching the thermopolia she knew and she said it was decent food and there was someone nice there. Soon they stood in the queue and Hilda was now also asking into what he did for a living... "I've been working in a warehouse at the market. Doing various stuff, whatever's needed. It's alright. And it gives me coin to pay for my place and for food." He said, "I don't know for how long you've been here, but here you need money to live. So I had to find a job. It's not like at home, where we help each other. Here everyone's out for themselves." And that's one of the things he had learned to live with in Rome, but he wasn't fond of it. At home you'd trade with each other and a village helped each other whenever it was needed. You didn't need coin to get food or to get a new pot if the old one broke. Yet in Rome, you'd get nowhere without coin.

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Hilda arched a brow and watched her brother as they joined the queue for food inside the thermopolia. "Do they know who you are? Who they have labouring for them? I took some of their coins with me, before I left. Used to get them from when we traded from those that crossed the Rhine and the forts." She shrugged. It wasn't stealing, she'd taken it from her married family. Didn't mean she hadn't done it in secret though. "But I don't understand it." she said with a frown and a shrug, wrapping her arms over her chest. "It's like they don't care who we are at all. Or most people don't." She was used to commanding respect, despite her sex, but in Rome she was just a foreigner, a German and somebody to be viewed with distinct caution and - in some cases - hatred.

As they came to the front of the queue she switched to fluent Latin. "Two bowls of stew. And bread. And two cups of wine." The person behind the counter (Melissa's father, maybe?) merely grunted and nodded, "We'll sit in. There." She gestured to an empty table in the corner and then gestured for Wulfric to pay before flouncing off in that imperious style she had, to take a seat, presuming they'd bring it over. She was rarely nervous but...admitting why she was here was...difficult. She sighed as he came to join her, offering a wan smile. "So...I'm not here just to catch up." She swallowed.

 

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He shook his head, when his sister asked if his employer knew who he was. He hadn't told them he was a prince. Really it was nobody's business in Rome, what he did at home. He was not here on official business and despite being a prince, he was only happy to prove that he could work too. He wasn't like the leaders here in Rome, who had everything done for them. Wulfric didn't mind the hard work. He kind of enjoyed it. Plus it kept him strong. And he earned coin. Really it was not so bad.

"I did not tell who I am at home. I didn't come here as a prince. I came here as a son." He explained to his sister, who then frowned and crossed her arms, apparently suddenly upset that people didn't care who they were, "From what I've learned, they mostly consider us barbarians. And I don't wish to get into more trouble than..." He trailed off, it wasn't like he got into trouble because he was who he was, but he did get into trouble because of Ione and because he didn't understand how things worked with such women. It was embarrassing though. He didn't like having to tell Hilda about it. Later maybe.

Luckily they arrived at the front of the queue and Hila ordered some food and wine and picked a table. She was so forwards. So different from the Roman women he'd gotten used to now. He kind of missed those at home then. At least he had his sister, for now.

Once he'd paid for their food and sat down, Hilda sighed and spoke... about not just being here to catch up. Wulfric tilted his head, "I thought there was more. Do tell." Because he was very curious about learning why his sister was here and not busy about going home again.

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