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The prince and the horseman


Sharpie
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November 76

 

It had been a while since that first real conversation between Jason and his master. Jason had found himself getting caught up in a search for a killer who had attacked and hurt his cousin, though there was little chance he would ever get caught and brought to justice. Tiberius had been as busy as ever, and raised the idea of moving into the Villa of Sallust which was apparently situated in the Gardens of Sallust, belonged to the Imperial Family and had been empty for some while. Jason was not particularly in favour of such a move, not right after receiving permission to spend time in the stables when his work was done and he wasn't needed - who knew if Tiberius would take any horses with him to the new house, if there was even room for them there.

Right now, such a proposal was mere theory and Jason had had enough time to speak with the blacksmith, and the stable master inwardly revelling at their dubious looks when he told them what he wanted - and calmly over-riding their protests with the information that it was Tiberius Claudius Sabucius himself who wanted the things made, however outlandish they might seem.

It had been quite a while before Tiberius had a free day and Jason could raise the idea of that lesson he'd requested, suggesting that however unRoman it might be, Tiberius might want to don a pair of braccae such as the soldiers wore, and he'd thank Jason for it later. Anyway, they would help him stay warm.

"Normally, among my people, the person who wants to get to know a horse, to ride him, will spend time with him, grooming him. Even the chief." He gave a half-smile and shrug. "But I don't think that will work here, somehow, domine."

Tiberius was not the sort to get his hands dirty in that way - he was a Roman, and the Romans made their slaves do that kind of thing.

 

@Sarah

 

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Normally, among my people, the person who wants to get to know a horse, to ride him, will spend time with him, grooming him. Even the chief. But I don't think that will work here, somehow, domine.

No, it wouldn't. "You know Jason, sometimes I wish I did have time to do that." Tiberius admitted ruefully, thinking that it would be a peaceful activity, but it had taken this long to simply get them together for the lesson. As an Imperial there were always more important calls on his time, and whilst he could make time, it was always at the expense of something else. He'd been raised on the premise that the Empire came first. Still, he could see the sense in what Jason said, as he gently offered his hand to Ignis. Then he pulled a piece of apple from a pouch on his belt and offered it to the horse. Yes, he'd been watching, and he remembered.

Jason was the teacher for today, so Tiberius had done as he'd been bid, even though he found the braccae close and uncomfortable. They were crude things, worn by barbarians who didn't have access to togas, and not something associated with civilisation, but he trusted Jason enough that if his body slave said he'd be more comfortable, then he'd wear them. Right now though he itched and was resisting the urge not to scratch, or try to dig the fabric out of his butt crack, in what would only constitute a terrible loss of dignity.

"I heard you've been talking to the blacksmith." Of course he'd heard, even though the news - for no one would be so audacious as to actually complain - had come in a round about way, and he'd simply confirmed that all was as it should be. Rather Tiberius was interested to know why, though he had his suspicions.

@Sharpie

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Everything was always so complicated here in Rome that of course his master couldn't just take time for the horses. Back home, it was nothing for people to ask to see the chief - his father! - and be told he was working with a foal, or a newly-bought horse, or something of that sort. But here? Here, that would be unheard of.

"I have, Domine," he said, judging his master's mood and indulgence. He seemed calm and relaxed, and so did Ignis, so Jason risked leaving them for a moment, returning with a saddle that had been adapted to take a pair of stirrups in the Sarmatian style. The Romans had a design of saddle that Jason had never seen before, built on a frame which would keep the rider's weight from resting directly on the horse's spine, and he had filed away as much information about how it was built as he could, in case one day he could return to his people and take that knowledge with him.

Ignis was occupied with eating out of Tiberius' hands and Jason could saddle him up with no problems at all, adjusting the stirrups by eye to where he though Tiberius could get his foot in and mount without undue difficulty.

"Would you like to bring him out to the yard, Domine?" he asked, once all the straps were tightened, moving up to where his master was standing.

 

@Sarah

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On asking about his conversations with the blacksmith, Jason disappeared for a moment, leaving Tiberius alone with Ignis. Calm. The young Imperial knew that it was important to be calm around horses, for he'd learned from Jason that they were empathic creatures and mimicked the moods of those around them. He didn't need Jason here to communicate with and control Ignis, he told himself. That was the point. But he made a mental note that, when he had some rare spare time, rather than picking up another scroll to read, he would come down here to spend some more time with the horse. Tiberius had no illusions that he'd ever ride like Jason's people, but if he could at least trust the horse to bear him willingly and not throw a tantrum at the wrong time, that would be a vast improvement. He was, as Jason had described him, a prince among horses.

Right now one prince was eating out of another prince's hand, and Tiberius kept up the supply of apple slivers to keep him occupied until Jason returned, carrying a saddle. It was a standard Roman saddle, save for one thing, a pair of iron torture implements, suspended one on each side by leather straps. These had to be the stirrups. Tiberius regarded them dubiously as Jason saddled the occupied Ignis. 

Would you like to bring him out to the yard, Domine?

It would be normal for a slave to lead the horse for Tiberius, indeed do everything until the horse was ready to ride, but that wasn't the point of these lessons. He wanted to know Ignis, and to have Ignis trust him. "Yes, I would." He said simple, taking a grip on the left rein closer to the arm of the curb bit that sat in Ignis's mouth, the right rein passing loosely under the horse's chin before Tiberius's grip. "Come, Ignis." He said, pulling gently on the reins and, without thinking, giving the same slight twitch of the head and shoulder that he would when asking another person to follow him. There was a moment where it looked like Ignis was considering fighting the gentle tug on his mouth, then one hoof stepped forward, and the big chestnut followed Tiberius out into the yard. The quiet moment came with an odd sense of achievement for the Imperial, and he cast a smile that was almost shy in Jason's direction. 

@Sharpie

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Tiberius was giving the new stirrups the most dubious doubtful look Jason thought he had ever seen his master give anything, and hid a smile as he tightened all the necessary straps and everything so that the saddle was secure and would not shift under his master's weight.

He stepped back and smiled as Tiberius took hold of the reins and gave a gentle pull on the reins, apparently unconscious of the movement of his head and shoulder that he would give Jason or anyone else as a nonverbal cue to follow him to wherever he was going. He thought for a moment that Ignis might toss his head and refuse the request - apparently he had been wilful when any of the stable hands had tried to do anything with him - but the gentle pull did not become a more vicious tug, and he responded by stepping forward, following Tiberius into the yard.

"That's good, that's very good," he said, replying to Tiberius' suddenly shy smile with a slow smile of his own. "I know you haven't seen these before, Domine," he added, coming to stand beside Ignis so that he could show Tiberius the stirrup. He unconsciously rested a hand on Ignis' neck so that the horse knew where he was without having to look round, though he did anyway, seeming to want to join the conversation.

"It's like... It's like sitting in a chair. You want to have your feet on the ground so that you can stand up or lean forwards or make yourself more comfortable. Stirrups just... give you a bit of ground when you're in the saddle, Domine. That's all they are, really, a place to rest your feet. I can show you, if you like?"

 

@Sarah

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