Astrius was lucky to not have been thrown back in the cage after these last few minutes. Most people would decide that he was too much to handle, which was fair. He certainly was too much to handle. But Astrius didn't see it as that. He thought that he was still human and deserved human rights. He didn't really see himself as a slave, which was part of the problem. He saw himself as more than most humans, the chosen messenger of Vulcan. Not many people could say that.
When Theo spoke, Astrius gasped loudly. He was going to let him keep his beard! Oh, bless this man! May Vulcan send him all of the gold and blessings he offered. "Quintus Flavius Theodorus is a saint from Vulcan himself!" He said loudly. "Astrius will be your humble servant. Quintus Flavius Theodorus has taken kindness on poor Astrius. Astrius will forever be in your debt from letting him keep his beard." He sounded so happy, more than he had been in a long time. Most slave owners would just rip the beard out of his chin.
Astrius always adapted to change very well, but when it came to his beard...he really didn’t want to depart with it. It was his legacy, his pride (not that he had much pride), and his dignity. Without his beard, Astrius felt as if he was nothing. There was nothing to shield himself with.
Astrius panicked. “Listen, Quintus Flavius Theodorus, Astrius will take a bath. Astrius will shave his head. Astrius will scrub his body and beard until no more bugs bite him or his master. Astrius will not bite anyone. But please, may Quintus Flavius Theodorus and the Vulcan have pity of Astrius’ poor beard!” He loved his beard. He had been growing it out for years now. It was ugly and patchy, but Astrius adored it.
“Astrius will be the best slave and be in the man’s debt if Quintus Flavius Theodorus lets him keep it.” He was so strung up on the beard, Astrius couldn’t think about anything else.
Astrius wanted to go to the man’s home and take a nap. He was tired from all the standing around in the cage and all the questions he was asked. He would rather sleep for a long time than bother with useless questions! Most slaves were so boring, but Astrius definitely wasn’t most slaves.
Theodorus said that he should go to the barber and Astrius gasped. “Quintus Flavius Theodorus wants to get rid of Astrius’ beard? No, please, no!” He begged. “Astrius almost bit the hand off of the man that tried to cut his beard the last time. Have pity on me, Quintus Flavius Theodorus!” He yelled, almost in a panic.
He could handle a haircut and a bath, but Astrius loves his beard. It wasn’t much, but it was his pride and joy!
Astrius couldn’t imagine doing anything clean. He had done almost every job but handling clean equipment. Sure, he cleaned houses, but never a job like the man had described. He didn’t know the first thing about helping a medicus. He assumed he would learn. That was if he would be able to pay attention long enough.
He came down from a fit of laughter when Theodorus spoke again. He said he bought him because nobody else is going to? What a strange reason. “Astrius would usually call any man who said that a liar, but Astrius does not think that Quintus Flavius Theodorus is lying. A strange reason to buy a slave...out of pity...” he said, questioning why. The man moved on to the next question as well as headed down the street.
“Lice? Astrius probably has lice. Little buggers in the head. Always bothering Astrius.”
Astrius has no idea what Theodorus did for a living. He obviously wasn’t a rich man—if he was, he certainly wouldn’t have bought Astrius. He couldn’t tell just by looking at him either. He wanted to make fires and lift heavy things. That’s what he was good at. But when he spoke and said his occupation, Astrius stopped dead in his tracks.
“Quintus Flavius Theodorus is a medicus?” He said, igniting Theodorus’ first comment, in a surprising tone. After a moment of silence, the man threw himself into a fit of laugher. He was a loud laugher too, one that people might dart their eyes to in the street.
“And...Quintus Flavius Theodorus wants...Astrius...to clean?” He said in between his laughter. “Astrius thinks that is funny! People always say how dirty Astrius is. But the man bought Astrius so he could clean? By Vulcan, that is the irony of it all!” He couldn’t stop laughing.
Why anybody would buy Astrius was beyond him. Even he knew that he was as cheap as dirt. But this unusual man was different...he didn't seem like the type of man to own a slave. So why did he want a slave? And Astrius, out of all the good slaves? He couldn't even read! If he wanted him to fight in as a gladiator, well, he'd have another thing coming. Those gladiators would snap him in half like it was nothing! Astrius was grateful, yes, but he was also skeptical. Nobody bought a bargain bin slave for no reason, right?
Astrius was dragged out of the cage, stumbling and almost falling down. He gave a smile to the merchant, and then gave a smile to the man. He introduced himself to him. A name that matches with the unusual man. "Quintus Flavius Theodorus, Astrius has already proved that merchant wrong. Quintus Flavius Theodorus bought Astrius when the merchant thought it impossible!" Astrius snickered.
His tone went serious, though it had a hint of curiousity. "And now what will Quintus Flavius Theodorus do with Astrius? Will he throw him in the pit? Will he let him make fires? Quintus Flavius Theodorus must have some plan for Astrius or else he would not have spent his coin."
Astrius really didn't think he was an idiot. Maybe he spoke as such, and maybe he didn't get any sort of education, but...well, maybe he was an idiot. But when it only came to books. He wasn't the child of Athena, after all! Vulcan didn't care for smarts, which was definitely a good thing for Astrius. He was chosen, after all, so he couldn't be a complete idiot. At least, that's what Astrius thought. He was convincing after all, despite being seemingly insane.
The merchant said he was useless. Astrius couldn't help but chuckle. Of course he was useless! He wouldn't be a bargain bin slave if he was beautiful or strong or talented. Astrius didn't believe that the merchant had any talents either. The real talent would be actually convincing someone to buy him. He just stood there barking orders and hitting Astrius' bars.
This banter was fun, but he knew it would come to a close soon. Astrius would find the next fool and it would go on and on. The man spoke again, but Astrius couldn't believe it. His jaw dropped. He actually wanted to buy him? Why? He was useless! Oh, the man would be in for a treat! "Scrawny man wants to buy Astrius? Vulcan blesses thee!" He said, a large smile on his face. "Merchant is the one that is useless. If Astrius did not make a fool of himself, the man would not buy Astrius, no?" He said with a smirk.
Astrius really didn't have any talents. Sure, he could lift heavier things than most people thought he could and he could do his job when he wanted to, but not many people would consider those talents. He was definitely talented in the amount he drank, but it wasn't like he could hold his alcohol well either. He couldn't tell what this man wanted from him. Astrius was practically nothing. Once he had been bought as a body slave for some strange old man, but he refused to do his job. He wondered if this man had the same intentions. He was too well kept to want a man like Astrius!
The man talked about possible buying him. Would he have an owner once again? Oh, what a strange conversation this was! He also said he would need to make himself useful. Astrius had never been good at that before. He then mentioned the Ludus. Astrius rolled his eyes. "Astrius is no idiot," he said, sighing. He knew what a Ludus was. But why would the man want someone as dirty as Astrius to help in the Ludus? Of course there were many dirty people there. "Astrius can lift heavy things that the scrawny man can't! And Astrius can make fires to help with...something!" Astrius calling the man scrawny was definitely hypocritical of him. Astrius was a lot scrawnier than him, almost looking like he was on the brink of starvation. But it was the only thing that made him semi-useful.
Vulcan was the one thing that Astrius did not joke about. He was seriously committed to doing the will of Vulcan. The whispersin his ears told him to do things on Vulcan's behalf, making him believe that it was actually the god speaking to him. Astrius did not doubt the voice. Why would he ever turn away the voice of a god in his head? That would not make sense! But nobody understood. Astrius was the only one that could even grasp his power.
The man asked if he had experience with blacksmithing. Astrius laughed. "Dominus had experience with blacksmithing, Astrius only helped. No, Vulcan has a different plan for Astrius." He smiled and nodded. Blacksmithing was not something he could do, but he did like the sparks and the flames that came with the trade. He understood that blacksmithing was important and that it was his chosen god's trade. He respected the trade more than any other trade.
Astrius could never tell when someone was genuinely interested in him or mocking him. Even if he could tell the difference, he didn’t think he’d care. At least they were talking and amusing him. It was better than having a one-sided conversation with the merchant, that was for sure.
He raised his eyebrows when the man asked what god he followed. Ah, now that was the golden ticket question. Astrius smirked. “Vulcan is the one true god, if that’s what the man is asking Astrius. Astrius is here to carry out His will.” His time of voice seemed intense, almost passionate, when talking about Vulcan. It was truly the only thing he took seriously. Well, he took drinking seriously too, but he didn’t think that counted.