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Cerealia: A Day at the Races


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Mid April 77AD

It was mid April and the weather was warming, trees were blossoming, and most importantly the first green sprouts of wheat from the grain which had been planted earlier in the season had been confirmed in the fields; the grain was fertile and growing and Rome would not starve. Ceres' blessing was on them for another year. In celebration, as was traditional each year, sacrifices of pork, wheat, salt, and incense had been offered to Ceres. Her statue had been draped in garlands of spring flowers and ceremonially paraded from her temple to the Circus Maximus, where she held the seat of honour next to Caesar himself, who sat in the Goddess's presence. There were to be races today, not of the chariots of which Romans were so fond, but of horses, in the more traditional form. Their riders would goad their individual steeds around the track, whilst the spectators looked on.

Imperial Area

Immediately below where Titus sat with the decorated statue of of Ceres was the space reserved for the rest of the Imperials. Tiberius occupied this area, cool under a cloth canopy, clad purely in white as was traditional; a bright tunica and toga candida. Immediately about him there was space who those whom he had invited; family of course but also the younger generation of the Senatorial class, both male and female, whilst the more senior Senatores and their wives had space reserved to either side of the Imperials, within conversation range should they desire. It was an arrangement intended to demonstrate openness and largesse, whilst also allowing his own generation - stunted somewhat by the chaos of the purges - to meet, mingle and forge their own friendships and alliances. 

As he watched the stands gradually fill, Tiberius wondered whether he would be able to spot Jason's cousin in the race. 

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The stirrups turned out to be a one-time thing. No doubt Marcus had to use some finesse to convince the judges at large that the mute Sarmatian did not need to be banned from all further racing. So, they just banned the stirrups instead. Idiot Romans. As if that could keep Azarion from winning.

The racers were lining up now. Many of them in their traditional colors - white, blue, green, goddamn red - but some without an affiliation to a faction. On festival days like this, racing was open to others as well, although not many decided to take up the challenge against the professionals. Azarion led Pagos to the starting line, and kept a blank face as the judges inspected the harness. No 'cheating' this time, they declared. Azarion rolled his eyes, and vaulted up into the saddle. He'd still win.

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Jason was Tiberius' body slave and went pretty much everywhere his master did, with the exception of the Senate chamber. And as it pleased his master to attend today's races alongside the new Emperor, Jason was there with him, interested to learn that none of today's races featured the ridiculous contraptions that were standard in most Roman races. No, today they were racing like civilised people, on horseback as was only right. Though Jason didn't think that anyone would be using stirrups, which would no doubt send Azarion into a fit of sarcasm writ large across his face - if Jason were close enough to see him. Which he might very well be, considering where the Imperial box was placed.

He would have to split his attention between the excitement of the race, and attending to his master, but this was how races should be run. Maybe the Romans could be taught civilised manners after all!

 

@Sarah @Chevi and anyone/everyone else!

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Alright, so maybe he was a bit late. Tiberius had already left once Marcus was finished getting ready, but that wasn't anything new. Although he definitely thought it seemed like Tiberius had changed a bit since that night with Vibia, it was only for the better. And they were still good friends, giving each other space when needed and spending time together when needed. Marcus was quite pleased about it all and especially about living in a villa away from any other family members. Having your own place felt good. But being so close with Tiberius meant he had a certain responsibility now. And even more than before, as he had also joined the vigintiviri by now and wore a fine, white toga with a certain stripe on it, that would let everyone know that not only was he now one of those twenty young magistrates, he was also one of those in charge of prisons and executions. Which was far more interesting than anything he'd ever done before. He didn't really feel bad about it. It wasn't his place to judge the men that were imprisoned or to be executed. They had some of the other young men and even the praetors for that. All Marcus had to do, was his job. And take care of his position with Tiberius.

At last he arrived at the Circus Maximus and made his way to the area where the young Imperials were and found Tiberius there, of course with Jason close by. How could it ever be any different? Because Marcus was of course also followed by his body slave, Silvanus. He only briefly glanced at Jason though, before his gaze returned to Tiberius as he approached him with a warm smile, "Salve, friend... it's certainly been a while." He joked, since they lived in the same villa, it was never a long while since they last saw each other. He looked down at the racing course, "Thank the gods it's not begun yet, I thought I was too late. This hair, you know. And the toga, of course." He added with a grin and ran a hand through his hair, which had been cut a little bit to suit his new rank.

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Ovinia glared over her shoulder at her  brother as they climbed the stairs that led directly up to the Imperial seating area. "Do not make any comments about me making us late." She had, in fact, made them late but she considered they were fashionably so. Nobody wanted to appear so keen they were there as soon as the stands opened and in any case, she thought the time she'd spent primping, preening and going over her notes on the scrolls Tiberius had sent her a worthy endeavour, worthy enough of making her late to meet the Imperial. 

It was an honour to be invited to sit with him, and those others he'd invited in the box, and her father had impressed that upon her as she'd left  that morning with Lucius in tow. An honour it might have been, but she wasn't about to go out and about unescorted. At least it was her middle brother with her today - he was far better company than any of her others, or her father himself. Besides, she wondered if Horatia Sosia would be there. An ideal time for her brother to meet the young woman given they hadn't actually managed to pin down a date with him for a sly introduction at home. She chose not to voice her thoughts lest she make him nervous and grouchy.

As they climbed the stairs she dropped the palla from her long dark hair. It had been expertly waved with a crown of braids, but the length was left down given her status as an unmarried young woman. Dressed in her finery - a deep blue silk chiton and matching palla with intricate silver bead work, she moved through the crowd already assembled and after paying her respect to their new Caesar, inclined her head at Tiberius and Marcus and...oh. She blinked at Jason and took a breath before glancing back down at the man who had invited her. She couldn't get distracted by his body salve, not today. "Tiberius. Thank you for the invitation, and my apologies we're a little late." She cast a glance out over the track - they mercifully hadn't started yet. "My brother, Lucius Ovinius Camillus. Lucius - you know Tiberius, and this is Marcus Junius Silanus." She gave him a slightly tighter smile. She hadn't quite forgiven the young man for his prank with the prostitute at the party.

 

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While imperials and senators filled the best seats, above the dust and flying sand of the race tracks, Rubina stood right at the sidelines below them. Many would have argued, but she knew these were the actual best seats in the Circus; right along the tracks, so one could see up close what was going on as the horses thundered past. Sure, it was dangerous occasionally, when chariots collided and things went flying everywhere - but for traditional horse racing like this, Rubina still liked to trade safety for a better view. 

The horses and their riders lined up for the first race; she saw the different colors, and also the familiar faces. 

"Come any closer, and someone will mistake you for one of the riders,girl!" one of the Blues called out to her. Rubina scoffed, standing with her hands on her hips.

"I'm only here so I can catch your sorry ass when you pull up too hard at the turn again!"

@Sarah @Sharpie @Sara @Atrice

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Posted (edited)

Plebian Area

"Be careful what you wish for, the Gods might grant you a Blue in your lap." Came the dry comment from the tier above. Spurius had decided to sit closer to the track this time, interested to watch the horse racing and see how much it differed, if at all, from the chariots. The horses still intrigued him, with their grace and power - not to mention their gift of mobility - and riding without the chariot reminded him of the officers and their mounts during the time in the legions.

Who the girl by the edge of the track was he didn't know, but she seemed to know the riders, or at least that rider. 

@Chevi

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Posted (edited)

Imperial Area

Do not make any comments about me making us late.

Lucius raised silent brows in a wronged 'who, me?' expression as the two of them made their way through the stands towards the section reserved for the Imperials and their guests. Ovinia had come through, getting them an invitation not just to some Senator's party, but to the Imperial box at the Cerealia races! Directly above was Caesar himself, seated with the statue of the Ceres, meant to be imbued with the essence of the Goddess herself during her celebrations. And below was Caesar's adoptive brother, actual cousin and son of Caesar Claudius, sitting in the shade amidst slaves and Patrician companions, looking for all the world like he owned the place, which Lucius supposed he sort of did. He'd only seen him a couple of times, but he was struck by the man's youth, and had to admit quietly to himself that he found the fellow a bit underwhelming. Slight and not overly tall, according to his sister he was far more an academic than a military leader. Perhaps the Cursus honorum would change that.

The fellow sat beside him was even younger, yet somehow struck Lucius as having more of a personality, with that easy smile and slightly touselled blonde hair, now shorter than he remembered. He'd been at the palace party, now so many months ago. What was his name? Fortunately Ovinia, being the primary invitee, took charge of introductions. Junius Silanus; that was it. Marcus, the younger brother. Another scion of a proud lineage, though rumour held that the family had experienced some trouble. Clearly not too much, if he sat at Caesar's brother's right hand. 

"Of course." Lucius smiled. "We met very briefly at the palace party." But all the young men seemed to have other, more female things on their respective minds that night. "It's an honour and a pleasure to meet you again." He bowed respectfully to Tiberius, and included a respectful not for Marcus. Then he glanced about, but so far Ovinia seemed to be the first young woman who had arrived. How disappointing. His hopes for a princess were so far not materialising.

@Sara@Atrice

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Imperial Area

"Salve Marcus." Tiberius responded with the ease of familiarity, since his closest friend lived with him. "The hair looks good." He added, thinking that Marcus cut a fine figure as a young man on the cursus honorum, rather than a rich layabout. He had faith in his friend. "All the young ladies will be ignoring me." He joked. Marcus had that easy-going nature that seemed to make everyone comfortable around him. Titus was the same, which was why he made a good Caesar. Tiberius was always a little more formal, a little more careful, and much more studious. If he hadn't been an Imperial he'd probably have gone into law. He might still. 

The riders were lining up at the start, the race officials checking the horses' harnesses and saddles. Jason was watching intently and Tiberius thought that he could see his cousin on one of the Whites horses. "If you want to place a wager," he said quietly to Marcus, "put it on the further of the two Whites riders; the one with the dark hair." Nothing was ever guaranteed, but knowing Jason and Azarion's heritage, that was where Tiberius would put his money, if he was a betting man. Which he wasn't; he preferred surety to gambling. But his friend might? That was up to Marcus. 

It wasn't long before those whom he had invited started arriving and Tiberius turned to see two similar faces, one more familiar and one less. Ovinia Camilla and one of her brothers; the middle one if he recalled correctly, who'd only come back from Hispania just before the party at the palace. "Ovinia Camilla." He acknowledged. "And Lucius Ovinius Camillus." Yep, middle brother. He recalled that the youngest was conveniently named Tertius. "It was my pleasure, and if you're late, then others are later." He gestured to the so far empty seating around himself and Marcus, indicating both that they were comparatively on time, and that they might sit where they liked. "I hope you'll enjoy the races." He said to both, before focusing on Ovinia. "I do recall that you wanted to see them." And an Imperial invitation was something that could make that happen. 

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He chuckled when Tiberius complimented his hair, “Thanks! You don’t look too bad yourself, my friend.” Marcus said, “How could anyone in their right mind ignore you?” He halfway wanted to address Tiberius as his brother, but that might be taking it too far. Even if Tiberius felt more like a brother now than ever before, because they lived together and shared so much. Of course they didn’t spend every moment together in their villa, but they took meals and relaxation and casual talks. And lovely prostitutes – not together, though. Just at the same time. He smiled by the thought. Meanwhile the riders were lining up in the arena below and Tiberius leaned close to suggest whom to bet on, if Marcus would.

 “Thanks… maybe I will…” He said, he would trust Tiberius, so he was sure about that, maybe it was actually a good idea. Not many moments later, they were joined by Ovinia, who had brought her brother along. Marcus didn’t really know the guy well, but he’d seen him around before. Ovinia introduced them all and Marcus definitely noticed the tight smile she gave him. He arched a brow at her reaction, she couldn’t still be upset over that party at the palace? If someone knew how to hold a grudge, it had to be her. Girls, sometimes…

 "Ovinia, it has been a while... I hope you've been well?" He said, attempting some casual politeness, and then turned to her brother, “Lucius, indeed a pleasure. I’ve been fortunate to meet your sister a few times, but not you. I hope you’ll find the day entertaining.” Marcus said elegantly to Ovinia’s brother, though of course only after Tiberius had spoken, since he held the higher rank here. He glanced between Ovinia and Tiberius though, there seemed to be a layer of familiarity between them that he didn’t recall from before. Was there something Tiberius hadn’t told him? Maybe it wasn’t just that Sosia he was into? Or maybe this was just Marcus, assuming wrong about his friend. Tiberius wasn’t as outgoing as Marcus in such matters. Well he was curious to find the connection no matter what.

@Sara @Sarah @Sharpie @Chevi

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Imperial Area - Grown Ups Section

It had been a bit of an odd invitation. Claudius Sabucius had invited pre-eminent Senatore families to join him at the races, with those of his own generation invited to the inner most circle, with the older generations close by. Apparently the young man had done similar before, hosting a youth event at the palace. At least this was more inclusive, though frankly Publius was content not to be sitting in the middle of the bored young things. Rather he looked forward to the opportunity to speak with his peers, should any decide to take up Caesar's brother's invitation. 

As he entered the Imperial area, Publius looked up at Caesar himself, sat with the Goddess, and bowed respectfully. So young. Both of them were so young. The loss of his wife hadn't been the only tragedy that year; Quintus's health had failed and he'd abdicated in favour of his son, who clearly had a right hand man in his brother. The whole of the Empire in very young hands made Publius uneasy, but at least he knew that they were not without guidance and counsel. His friend Aulus was one of those counsellors; perhaps he and Horatia would be joining them today, with their family. Publius's own two children were in tow, Spurius wasn't quite old enough to join the up and coming young things at Sabucius's side, but he would be soon. So the two sat nearby as Publius settled himself close enough to where the young ones were that he could observe who was speaking to whom and try to figure out the power relationships.

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Ovinia smiled brightly at Tiberius and inclined her head, smile still in place as she raised it again. "You recall correctly, although I'd expect nothing less." She wondered how much else he remembered of their conversation. Just in case, Lucia held a tablet filled with notes on the various scrolls he'd sent over, along with a bag containing them and some Ovinia had taken out of the library for him - no philosophy to be found, jovial tales of love and adventure. She figured he could do with lightening up a little. Still, if he didn't wish to talk of them she wouldn't reveal their presence. 

Turning to Marcus, her smile was a touch tighter but his easy charm was difficult to be irritated at for too long. "I've been well." She nodded. She hadn't been, she'd been dreadful but she was a better actress than she often gave herself credit for and managed an effective lie. She chose not to look at Jason lest that act crumble though. "And you?" She said as she took her seat near Marcus and Tiberius, turning over her shoulder to speak to them; "How goes the vigintiviri? Lucius," She turned to her brother, "Remind me what you did when you were in their ranks?" All of her brothers had done well and progressed up the cursus, so much so she sometimes struggled to recall which brother had done which posting. 

She opened her mouth to ask Tiberius a question along similar lines (conversation with men her age tended to focus on various postings and roles they were expected to fill), when she was distracted by another few figures to their right entering the Imperial area. She arched a brow, the face of the man vaguely familiar but she couldn't place where from. Tiberius must know though and she quirked a brow at him. "Another of your guests?" She turned back around to glance at the man, trying to place him. He hadn't payed a call at her house so he evidently couldn't be a suitor in need of a wife. Probably why his name escaped her - her father tended to only introduce her to men to whom there could be some sort of outcome.

 

TAG: @Sarah @Atrice @Sharpie

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Rubina glanced over her shoulder at the comment, and smirked at the man sitting in the row above her.

"They should be so lucky." The Blues, or anyone else. She eyed the lineup of the riders. She was trying to guess who would be better at this; having some non-faction riders in the mix made it interesting. The stables were still buzzing with the news of one of the Whites cheating in some way the last time. No wonder the inspections took forever. "Which one's your color?" she asked the man, curious to exchange some notes. "There's only one good answer" she added with a smirk.

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All the riders line up at the starting line; inspections were finished. Azarion felt his horse tremble, anticipating the starting horn. He was ready. In fact, even without the stirrups, he couldn't wait to ride. Without a chariot, for once. Show the Romans how it was done.

The blast finally sounded, and they were off. There was a thundering sound, the hooves of the horses mixed with the cheers of the crowd. Azarion briefly wondered if Tiranes was up there somewhere with his imperial master, watching. He hoped to make his cousin - the only one of this people around - proud.

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Jason was here to attend on his master, which meant that his attention was supposed to be inside the Imperial Box on the young man seated below the Augustus and the goddess to whom this festival was dedicated. He didn't really know much about Roman customs, except that there were ceremonies and festivities in her honour among the farms where he'd spent his first years as a slave - not that he'd really paid much attention to anything Roman back then without the threat of the lash.

But the Romans were finally holding a proper horse race in the proper manner, with mounted riders (although he couldn't see a single shred of evidence that anyone knew anything about stirrups - more fool them!). He spotted his cousin in the lineup and relaxed, although he squeezed his hands together where they were folded in front of him - Azarion was on a horse, as he had been born to be. Nobody stood a chance against a Sarmatian born to the saddle - even if the Sarmatian didn't have stirrups. Azarion, as well as Jason, could ride bareback without them - although given the choice, he was sure his cousin would have added them.

It was an advantage none of the others had - none of them, Jason was sure, had ever been on a horse in their infancy.

If he had any money - if gambling was allowed in this uncivilised hellhole! - Jason would lay every as on Azarion.

 

@Atrice @Sara @Chevi @Sarah and anyone else!!

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He'd heard about who was attending the races. Nobles! Senators! The Imperial heir himself! It was an event nobody could miss, made clear by the excited whispers intensifying in volume and frequency as the days ticked down to Cerealia. The news of an all-guild horse race hiked up his enthusiasm. From dawn to dusk, he put aside all unnecessary distractions like unofficial slave parties and subpar wine to focus on honing his talents. Procella complained, but Paullus knew deep down the horse enjoyed putting opponents in the dust as much as he did. Right before he was set to ride, he'd gazed at the brand on his arm, noting how the flesh depressed more in some areas than others, and done a few stretches. The branding had robbed some mobility. Harsh price.

Under Paullus's branded arm hidden by leather cuff, Procella leans his muzzle into his rider's palm, snuffling gently. Paullus smiles. He'd shortened his training the day before to let the poor stallion get some time to run around. 

"Paullus, you're up." He gets into the saddle, leads Procella out. The stallion paws at the ground; upon seeing the other horses, he's already starting to become impatient. Paullus adjusts his weight for the last time, looks to his side, sees the same boy he'd beaten in a race, and smirks. He interrupts it only to whisper something to Procella: 

"We'll show them. We'll show them all."

Blast sounds, and Procella's bent on getting some proper dust kicked up. 

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Imperial Box- Grown up section

New season which meant another festival to celebrate one of the many Roman Gods/Goddesses. This one was to honour the harvest/agriculture and the blessings of Ceres. When it came to planting one never really knew for sure if things were going to grow or not. You planted the seeds and then prayed that they took hold and grew.

This year’s festival was being celebrated at the Circus Maximus with a series of races in the presence of Caesar. Julia, now a widow, had spent her last few years around horses and although the races could be both dangerous and thrilling, she did generally enjoy watching them. On the day of the festival she donned a dark green chiton and with a lighter green palla over top. She had arranged to attend the event with 2 of her slaves who waited just outside of the box area. She had brough with her one male as an escort and her female body slave as her son was around but busy. He would join her if he got the chance. Entering the stands she looked up to see Titus sitting in the place of honour with the Goddess Ceres next to him and nearby Tiberius. She bowed out of respect to Caesar but then gave both Titus and Tiberius a smile. It truly was wonderful to see the younger generation stepping into their assigned social positions. Finding an empty seat she settled herself down and turned her attention to the races that were running.

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Imperial Box - Young Things

Tiberius smiled as Marcus protested that no one could ignore him. His friend - his brother in all but blood - was too kind, and whilst he no doubt spoke truth, the prince was quite certain that if he hadn't been an Imperial, he'd have been quite ignorable. Anyway, he wanted his friend to have some attention and enjoy his station. Stepping out into high ranked society wasn't all drudge and lessons. They were quickly joined by Ovinia and her brother - her middle brother, Lucius - who settled in with them. Ovinia looked well and he hoped she'd enjoy the events today. He'd made good on his promise to get her to a race or gladiator fight, so the race had best be a good one. With Jason's cousin in it, it likely would. 

Then Ovinia asked about a middle-aged senator who was first to settle into the wider area around the Imperial box reserved for the more senior Senators, having arrived quietly whilst they'd been talking. He recognised the man more because he made a point of keeping track of Imperial officials than because he actually knew him. "Indeed. Publius Horatius Justinius." He raised his voice slightly to catch the man's attention. "One of the Empire's senior military officers, recently returned from serving in Achaea as Quaestor." He explained with a smile in the man's direction. "Eldest son of Marcus and I believe that your sister is married to Calpurnius Praetextatus, last year's Consul." The man nodded. Well, it was reassuring to know that he had the right man. 

"Permit me to introduce Lucius Ovinius Camillus and Ovinia Camilla, and Marcus Junius Silanus." He gestured to each of the senatorial youths in turn. 

@Atrice @Sara @Chevi @Insignia @Sharpie @Jenn

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Imperial Box - Grown Ups

His children had settled nearby - close enough to hear him if he spoke to them, far enough away that they could talk quietly between themselves without getting shushed. They were old enough to give that much freedom; Spurius now wore his toga and Publius trusted him to care for his sister for a brief period. 

The box was slowly filling, and an elegant matron dressed in green which complemented her dark hair settled not too far from them. She didn't seem to be in the company of any other than slaves, but that could mean anything or nothing. She bowed to Titus sitting above them next to the Goddess, then settled herself in the area reserved for those of high rank. "Salve Matrona." He greeted her politely, since she was the nearest person. "Publius Horatius Justinius, at your service." He added, in case she needed anything, though with her slaves in attendence she likely had all she needed.

A few moments later he heard his name from the other side, where Caesar's brother sat with other young members of the Senatorial class. He turned to find the man - youth really - regarding him in a friendly manner, along with the two young men and a young woman who were with him. "Ave, Caesaris.He responded respectfully, noting each of the man's companions as they were introduced. The blonde fellow he knew of vaguely, the other two he recognised the family name more than anything. Gaius Ovinius Camillus - both of them now - was a powerhouse in the senate. He wondered what, particularly, had brought him to their attention. The brother wore his hair like one in the military but Pubius didn't think they'd crossed paths; and the sister wore her hair loose; unwed. That was interesting, she looked of an age to be wed; or rather to have already been wed. Was that old fox saving her for someone? "How can I serve?" He asked the young Imperial. 

@Atrice @Sara @Chevi @Insignia @Sharpie @Jenn

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Plebian Area

Spurius smirked as the girl by the track replied cheekily that the rider should be so lucky as to land in her lap. At least it would be a soft and pleasant landing. Before he could reply she asked what colour he followed, adding that there was only one right answer? "I'm guessing it's not Blue." He replied, amused. Clearly she was affiliated with one of the stables. 

"Brown." He said after a moment, because that was the colour he was watching. "I'm more interested in the horses, truth be told." And most of them were brown. "The way they move is pure freedom." In more ways than one. They were fun to watch anyway, and watching them run without chariots behind them would be even more beautiful. And more like the officers' horses when he'd been in the legions. 

"So go on, what's the right answer then?" He asked, mildly curious as to which team she followed. 

@Atrice @Sara @Chevi @Insignia @Sharpie @Jenn

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Re-adjusting the folds of her palla as she sat down, she let her gaze drift around the box. It was slowly filling but at the same time there weren’t a ton of people there yet. Her attention was drawn by the greeting of a man nearby her. “Salve Matrona, Publius Horatius Justinus, at your service.” Was he talking to her? Julia wasn’t entirely sure but as she was the nearest person to him she assumed he was. “Salve, I am Julia Valeria. Thank you for your offer.”

The conversation was cut-off when Tiberius caught the man’s attention and introduced him to his younger companions. Julia listened to the introduction.  ("One of the Empire's senior military officers, recently returned from serving in Achaea as Quaestor. Eldest son of Marcus and I believe that your sister is married to Calpurnius Praetextatus, last year's Consul.") The man she had been talking to certainly wasn’t a back bench Senator. She particularly noted the connection to the previous year’s Consul- he was this man’s brother-in-law.

There was a moment to absorb that information as Tiberius went on to introduce the three senatorial youth that had accompanied him. Although Julia wasn’t part of the conversation directly, she did take a note of who they were and gave all them a welcoming smile. It truly was wonderful to see the younger generation, including Tiberius stepping out into their social roles.
 

@Atrice @Sara @Chevi @Insignia @Sharpie 

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