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The Whole Truth


Sara
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Nones of March, early evening, 77AD
Villa Sallustia 

Ovinia steadied her trembling hands by wrapping her arms firmly around her waist as the party made their way through the gardens towards the Villa. To look at them; Lucius, Pinaria and her, they might have looked as if they were attending some sort of dinner or function at the Imperials' residence here. Which was for the better, and was key. Discretion was key here but even that didn't make her feel much better. Tiberius was a friend. A true friend, she felt, and their frequent letters and his gifts of the scrolls weighed heavily on her. Things would be irreparably changed after tonight, she knew that. And that was even if none of the slaves of the Villa gossiped and spilled their guts. She tried to blink the thought from her mind. She would only have Tiberius and Jason in the room, if the former demanded a chaperone. 

She exhaled deeply as they neared the gates and were admitted. She cast a glance to her companions. Her throat was dry and scratchy but she tried to make conversation. Undoubtedly Pinaria understood the gravity of what they were doing as well as she did. She wondered, briefly, if the men in her family were as furious as her father about it. "It will be over soon." She offered a tight smile to both of them in turn. She wished she could reach for Lucius' hand but knew she couldn't. So she just gave him a deep, searching look, desperate for comfort. Then she reached for Pinaria's arm and squeezed it gently - trying to impart strength she didn't feel. 

The slaves nodded quietly to the trio and gestured to a long corridor with torches lighting the way  to a door, cracked and waiting for somebody to pad through. She knew Tiberius didn't know who to expect - they, again, had kept it quiet and she tried to still her nerves whilst her heart was slamming against her chest. She swallowed. "I'll go." She offered to both of them. "I'll be back soon." and with that, and before she lost her nerve, she rounded and stalked down the corridor alone until she pushed open the door, slipping inside before closing it firmly. She saw Jason and then she saw Tiberius. She swallowed, her throat dry. She couldn't even find the words for a greeting. 

 

TAG: @Chevi @Atrice @Sharpie @Sarah

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Lucius wished he could hold Ovinia's hand. He'd accompanied the women because he knew them both, and he knew Tiberius as well. He led them to the entrance he used whenever he visited the young imperial; he was still his eyes and ears in the city, one of many anyway. Tiberius trusted him to tell the truth about people. And now it was up to the women to tell the truth, and make sure a monster died. He hated putting Ovinia into this position. Or Pinaria. He hated they had to do this at all; he wished he would have let them kill the man when they had the chance. Instead, they were here. He nodded to Ovinia, his eyes saying more than any words. The next moment, he was alone in the hallway with Pinaria.

"I am sorry you have to do this. Truly." he said after a pause.

@Sara @Sarah @Atrice

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There were no other slaves present. Jason thought there had been the suggestion that there be a mute somewhere in attendance but he had been uncomfortable with that idea and didn't think the ladies would appreciate anyone else knowing of their presence here, even if the slave in question couldn't speak.

He met them at the door and led them to Tiberius' private quarters, leaving Lucius and the older lady in a private anteroom.

"You could have brought a maid, Domina," he told Ovinia quietly. "And - thank you. We tried to find any other way but this... You're here because Tiberius needs someone who can testify. You can trust him."

He was putting a great deal of faith in his master and hoped that Tiberius knew it. He could still hear his master's own I trust you, although that was in a very different set of circumstances.

"Just tell him everything that happened," he said, and showed her into the room where Tiberius was, following her in quietly and taking up station by the wall, hands folded, ready to serve in whatever capacity he might be called on.

 

@Sarah @Sara @Chevi @Atrice

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A room in his private quarters had been set aside for the hearings. The walls of the room were richly painted, the floor patternd, a window let natural light in though it was currently closed against the breeze, but it was largely separated from the busy centre of the Villa. The whole point of this was to be discrete, to shield the senatorial women from both rumour and spectacle as much as possible. Jason was the only slave that Tiberius permitted to be present, since he was already heavily involved in the matter and the Imperial trusted his body slave not to gossip. At the same time, Jason needed to be there to prevent rumours of a completely different kind, which Tiberius didn't care to start either.

Tiberius wore his tunica with it's broad, purple stripes and over it the purple-edged toga of a magistrate. He sat on an ornately wrought curule seat, with it's crossed legs of carved ivory supporting low arms of the same and a richly embroidered cushions. This wasn't the Tiberius who wandered Rome's nicer roadways, who chatted about philosophy and society, and made bad jokes. This was Tiberius Claudius Sabucius, Imperial, son and brother of Caesars, holding a special, private hearing for the sake of their reputation.

As Jason led the first witness in, Tiberius was shocked to see that it was Ovinia, his peer and friend from their wanderings on sunny days, who wasn't afraid to challenge his musings and have intelligent conversations with him. She'd been amongst those attacked? For the briefest moment, his blue eyes widened slightly, before the young Imperial schooled his features. What a shame that Roscianus hadn't been able to secure a witness to the senator's killing. Why had Ovinia, of all people, had to cross paths with this man?

"Ovinia Camilla." Tiberius acknowledged her with a nod as she was presented. There was a second chair, more comfortable, set opposite him, should she wish to sit. 

@Sharpie @Chevi @Sara @Atrice

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Pinaria was at least not as young as Ovinia and it had not been quite as tough for her, as it had for the younger woman. Her family had not been pleased with her attack either, and they wanted to keep it quiet, but her brother also understood that a killer and attacker had to be caught and sentenced properly... and he agreed that Pinaria could testify. As long as no one would know what happened except for Tiberius. She'd been picked up by Lucius and they had gone to the villa in the Gardens of Sullust, where Tiberius now lived. She'd never actually met the man, but from what both Ovinia and Lucius said, he was both kind and perfectly honorable. Now she was waiting in some quiet hallway of the villa, while Ovinia was being led away by one of the slaves she'd seen the night at Alexius' place. She gave Ovinia a smile and a gaze to let her know it would be alright, and then the other woman was gone. 

She was left with Lucius and silence fell between them. Pinaria looked around and spied a chair and went to take a seat. There was no knowing how long it would take with Ovinia. Lucius broke the silence first.

"It's for the greater good, right? Then it's worth it." Pinaria said and looked to where Ovinia had disappeared, "I hope she'll be alright... eventually."

@Sarah @Sara @Sharpie @Chevi

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Ovinia was not the most seasoned professional at reading people, but even she could see the surprise on his face. She searched it for a brief moment, wondering if there was any judgement alongside the shock. She didn't see any, but she was sure that would come later. She exhaled and dipped her head in a respectful nod, as befit the greeting of an Imperial. When she flicked her eyes up she glanced at the chair across from him. She hesitated for a moment and then with a sigh moved to take a seat, rearranging the folds of her palla and dropping it from her hair. She tried to swallow again but her throat felt dry. She flicked her eyes to Jason. "May I have some water?" She didn't think wine would sit well with her nerves jangled as they already were. 

She cleared her throat and tried her best not to fidget. She remembered how severe her father could seem, sat stock still - not moving a muscle. She tried to channel that as she gripped her fingers on her thighs. "I...suppose I should start at the beginning." Obviously. She exhaled sharply and tossed her hair over her shoulder. "I first came across the man you have in the tullianum in July of last year." Almost a full year had passed. "He accosted me as I was walking home from a party, my slave was ahead of me and he grabbed me around the waist with a knife in his hand and I screamed and Alexius..." She sighed, trying to keep her composure. "Lucius Antonius Alexius heard and intervened. The man fled and I thought little more of it. He..." She exhaled deeply and gratefully sipped the water that had been provided. "Said 'another time then'. I did not take him literally." 

She flexed the fingers of her spare hand over the fabric draped on her thighs and tried to summon the courage. She flicked her eyes to Jason again for reassurance but she did not look at Tiberius. She could not look at Tiberius. Not for this part. "And then he found me again, on...on Saturnalia. The second night. I..." she waved a hand, "There had been a fire in my domus the night prior so we had no kitchen, so a slave girl and I went to get food from the markets. And...again," she shook her head, upset clouding her face, "She was ahead of me. He grabbed me again around the waist and placed a cloth over my mouth so I couldn't scream this time. He...he..." She blinked and exhaled. She finally glanced up at Tiberius, her face pale. "H-How much detail do you wish...need to know?" 

 

TAG: @Sarah @Sharpie @Chevi @Atrice

 

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All Tiberius had been told, as far as Jason knew, was that there were two high-class women here, to testify in private about what had happened to them. Ovinia's name had not once left his lips in his master's presence, nor would it in the future. He had promised her, and sworn it to himself.

Her voice sounded somewhat dry - understandably! - as she requested water. There was a jug of wine nearby, and a plainer pitcher of water. Tiberius would not deny her, and Jason was already turning to pour her some water, pressing her hand to impart as much reassurance as he could as he gave her the cup.

He wondered if Tiberius had any inkling at all just how much faith Jason was putting in him, and decided that he probably didn't. It hardly mattered, really - Ovinia needed to trust him, to be able to trust him, and he wasn't sure if she could. He returned to his place by the wall and noticed her glance, nodding. Tell me, if you can't tell him.

They had stopped her from hurting him, killing him, back at the insula, but here, her words would ensure his death far more certainly than the knife in her hands would have back there - and far more publicly.

He was putting a tremendous amount of faith in his master to do the right thing!!

 

@Chevi @Sarah @Sara @Atrice

Edited by Sharpie
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Ovinia asked for water and Tiberius glanced in Jason's direction, but his slave was already onto it, pouring and serving her. As she settled and composed herself, Tiberius schooled his own expression. This was not going to be pleasant, and he had to remind himself that the fact that Ovinia was a friend was irrelevant. She was a Patrician woman, a lady of status. As she cleared her throat and began her tale, Tiberius gave her his full attention, well aware of Jason watching them both. 

It didn't show on his face this time, but the fact that she'd been attacked twice was just as shocking as the fact that Ovinia had been attacked at all. Were the man's victims less random than he'd assumed? It was plain that many - though not all - were women, but the simple fact that, out of all the people in Rome, Ovinia had been targeted twice, suggested that there could be more to the man's selection of victims than mere opportunity. Unless it had been opportunity that he'd spotted her in the Saturnalia crowd and recognised her. Saturnalia was chaotic enough; she must have been terrified. 

H-How much detail do you wish...need to know?

He knew what she was asking. Did he really want her to relive the attack, describe it in detail? That hesitation brought an even more uncomfortable thought to Tiberius's mind; had the man violated her as well? Not for the first time he wished that Roscianus - or Alexius, and now he knew how he'd become involved - had simply broken the man's neck, and left Tiberius asleep. Except they hadn't, for the same reasons that he was reluctant to make a ruling on the man's life. Due process existed for a reason. 

"I don't need gory details." He said bluntly. "But, forgive me, I do need to know what he did." That was the point of the evidence, after all. "Each time he accosted you. Did he hit you? Cut you? Rape you?" He hated to be so clinical, but it was necessary, and still so much kinder than a public trial. 

"And I need you to describe him to me." He added, after a moment's thought. "How do you know that your attacker is the same man in the tullianum?" He couldn't really imagine Ovinia going down there to see him. 

@Sharpie @Chevi @Sara @Atrice

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Ovinia felt breathless and like she was going backwards. In the months since the attack she'd gotten a little better with each passing day; of course she was still afraid of being alone in unfamiliar places, she hated closed spaces, the nightmares persisted and she always ensured her slave walked behind her now but she had gotten a little brighter. She could go out alone (or as alone as a young woman like her could be alone) and she could smile and laugh and joke with friends again. But now, facing down Tiberius she felt herself shrink. It was most unlike the Ovinia of old. 

She flicked her dark eyes to Jason for a brief moment and caught his nod. It soothed her only a little because Tiberius' words were spoken with such a lack of emotion she wasn't sure if they were discussing the state of the Senate or her molestation. Her lips parted a little and she stared at him for a moment, blinking and unable to find the words. Again, most unlike the Ovinia of seasons past. Then she rallied, or tried to, after a hefty sip of water and by focusing her gaze down at her hands rather than either of the mens faces. 

Her voice was quiet but firmer. She only had to get through the next few words, the next few sentences and then this would be done. Of course, Tiberius was unlikely to see her in the same friendly way ever again, but at that moment - with his brusqueness - she found she didn't care. "He did not rape me." She swallowed. "And he didn't do much the first time, beyond holding the knife to my waist. But the second time..." Her newfound resolve faltered for the briefest of moments, "He forced me into one of the abandoned shacks by the amphitheatre. He bound my hands behind my back. He told me he would kill me, or cut out my tongue if I screamed. When I did scream and tried to flee we ended up fighting and he cut my hip through my chiton. That..." Her fingers gripped the fabric of her dress, blanching at the pressure, "Seemed to excite him. He pushed me against the wall and cut down the length of my shoulder blade. But where he held me so tightly I couldn't breathe and I begged him to stop but he still held me and I...must have fainted. When I came to I was on the floor, bleeding and Jason was there." She glanced up at the body slave, a wavering smile on her lips. "I don't remember much but I do remember him bandaging me and then he carried me all the way home. I swore him to secrecy, naturally, when I was coherent." 

She exhaled sharply. "So that is it. You may see the scar on my back if you wish." Naturally not the one on her hip which would require completely undressing. She finally flicked her eyes to Tiberius, the coldness of her tone matching  his from earlier. "And I know it is him because I was summoned to see him after they caught him last week. I told the others I was a pleb, and I did not tell my family.” Her voice was firm and her gaze finally unwavering, unconsciously echoing the power of her father.   “They only removed him to the tullianum after we voted. I voted that we kill him there and then. I trust you will not make those who voted against me, regret their choice." She narrowed her eyes. “Nor judge me for mine.”

 

TAG: @Sarah @Sharpie @Atrice @Chevi

Edited by Sara
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The man hadn't raped her. Thank the Gods. And he knew how Jason had become involved, though he'd have the rest of the details out of his slave later. His gaze drifted to the man for a moment; had he chased the fellow off? If so then Tiberius was grateful as well. It sounded like a horrific ordeal, even more so for one who was weaker than her attacker and not trained to fight. Trained to be an ornament. Said a small, rebellious corner of Tiberius's mind, which he ignored, knowing from Horatia Justinia how much power a woman could wield, if her husband and father permitted. He could see the lingering effects of the attacks on her, the way her confidence had been shattered. "I would see the scar for a moment." He said simply, obviously meaning the one on her shoulder. He couldn't imagine Ovinia making such things up, but if he was to sentence this man to death, he had to be certain. 

What surprised him was Ovinia's admission that she had been summoned by those who had captured the man, before ever he'd been taken to the tullianum, to witness him and to vote on his fate. How ever had she escaped to pose as a pleb, after two attacks? But she had. He knew Ovinia was an intelligent woman, and evidently a wily one as well. Alas but those traits had not served her well, but rather to make her a target. Once he'd heard all she had to say, he nodded slightly. "Thank you, for your attendance and your words. I will weigh your evidence on the matter." 

Then, before she could go anywhere, Tiberius rose from the curule seat he had occupied, a symbolic gesture indicating that he was no longer acting as a magistrate, and took a step towards Ovinia. The hearing was finished, but clearly Tiberius wasn't. "I'll admit, things might have been easier if you had all killed him that night, and dumped his body in the river." He admitted a touch dryly. "I can understand why you would want to, even as I appreciate that you didn't." A gusty sigh. "By rights he should have a public trial, but with so many of the key witnesses women or slaves, there is no guarantee of his conviction, and if you stood as witness, your persona would be open to attack, as I'm sure you know." So he had no illusions that her father would ever allow her to participate in the trial. "That is why I am intervening, overriding Imperial law to judge the case myself, out of the public eye." He said, hoping she understood the gravity of his actions. "That is why I asked you here, and why the formality." It had to be so. He had to follow as much of legal procedure as he could, and ensure that his judgement was without doubt. 

He'd been pacing back and forth as he explained, and as he finished he paused at her side, one hand on the arm of her chair. "I'm sorry this happened to you, Ovinia." He said simply. "I hope in time you'll forgive me, and be able to get on with your life." What else could he say? 

@Sara @Sharpie @Atrice @Chevi

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She nodded wordlessly at his request to see the scar and shifted in her seat to bare her back, pulling her long dark hair over her shoulder. She tugged the back of her chiton down lower so he could see the neat, long pink scar down the length of her shoulder blade. When she was satisfied he'd seen enough she tugged the chiton back up and settled herself back in the chair. Her fingers shook as she gripped the arms of the chair. 

I will weigh your evidence on the matter. 

She choked - despite herself. "W-weigh the evidence..." She blinked, tears coming to her eyes. "N-No, he did this..." She trailed off as he stood. He had to be punished. He had to die. There was no other way. But Tiberius started to pace, talking and she struggled to concentrate on his words - the thought he would weigh her evidence and make a judgement that...might result in him walking free. No matter how unlikely that might be. She swallowed as he came to a stop. 

She finally flicked her eyes up to him as he rested a hand on her chair. His words felt like a lead weight on her chest. Her face was open, visibly upset and she pushed herself to stand - the distance between them closing. "If you do not make the correct judgement, or if news of this gets out, I will not have a life." She met his eyes in a final hard stare before she moved away, pausing at the door to flick her eyes to Jason, a softer look filtering onto her features. "Jason should be rewarded for what he did for me. I would not be here now, I'm sure of it, without him." And with that, she turned on he heel and moved back through the doors and the corridor to Pinaria and Lucius. She looked pale and ill but she managed a smile for Pinaria. "Your turn." 

 

TAG: @Sarah @Sharpie @Atrice @Chevi

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