Face ClaimSam Hazeldine
"A holiday would be nice," Aulus allowed. "Though the position is only for a year, as I said. A short enough time, after all."
That he might well be appointed governor of some far-flung province after his term was up was neither here nor there.
"Unfortunately, Consular duties are very bad at allowing you abandon them - and I thought you would be conscientious enough not to encourage me to do so, even for a short break at the villa? Although I will allow that I wouldn't be the first consul to abscond from Rome for a month or so in the summer."
Summer in Rome was an awful hot, sweltering season where tempers frayed over the least little thing, and sitting on hard marble benches while swathed in yards and yards of woollen toga did very little to help the average Senator remained sweet-tempered.
"You may tell my secretary from me, to make it no more than a month - I do not wish anyone to think I might be shirking my work," he told her, watching her pick up her own work again.
Aulus did not particularly need to be anywhere near the Emporium Magnum but he had no real reason not to be, and no pressing need to be anywhere else. As Consul, he was preceded by a small army of lictors - personally, he though that enough prestige and entourage to go any man's head but it was only for the year and who knew what might happen after that.
"You can stay outside; there's not going to be room for everyone inside," he said, privately thinking that he'd rather not have to pay if any of them broke anything. He relented at the expression on the chief lictor's face. "Just you, I don't need everyone."
He wanted to buy something for Horatia. He didn't need to, but he enjoyed buying gifts for his wife - and he had just foisted a bodyguard on her, he really ought to make up for that with some pretty trinket or scroll (though her library possibly rivalled the new library being built by Octavius Flavius, and he didn't have a clue what she already owned).
A new slave might be just the thing - maybe a girl she could train up for Calpurnia, or a new hairdresser or something? He turned towards the area occupied by the slave dealers.
The person who would say they don't is either a fool or a liar. Make all your preparations, and leave the rest in the lap of the gods.
What is your favourite season of the year?
"What the esteemed Horatia Justina was doing coming back in via the slaves' entrance, I cannot begin to think," her husband rejoined, with a smile "I shall make certain to kick them out a lot sooner in future. And I have never thought you a fool - far from it, indeed, my dear."
She was definitely trying to put him off, yet her tone and was as it ever was - there was humour there, and the gentle sort of teasing that characterised a great deal of their private conversations.
"I only have the position for a year, my dove, but I daresay we'll be able to take time together, just the two of us. We could take some time now, as well, seeing as we're unlikely to be interrupted for a while, and your weaving is not so urgent it won't keep until tomorrow."
"I will get one of Father's clients to take him, I should think," Aulus said, equally amused. "I mean, can you imagine how awkward it would be for him otherwise, knowing it's his father waiting outside? Anyway, I am a perfectly virtuous man and I'm not even sure I know where the best lupanaria are, not since I shut down a couple that hadn't paid their fees back in my days as an aedile. Not that those lasted all that long."
And yes, he thought that Titus ought to take his toga this year - really, could there be a better time for a boy to take on the rights and duties of manhood, than in the year his father was first named consul?
"And it's as much your celebration as it is mine, anyway," he pointed out. "A man can hardly celebrate alone - that would lead to all sorts of gods know what! And I am not fool enough to think that I would have made it to this point without your support. I have certainly been grateful to have it, and your encouragement, over the years. Have I told you so before? If I haven't, it was not from the fact I didn't know it." He took her hand. "I would very much like to demonstrate my gratitude, and appreciation of you, my dove."
"They could make some poor lame excuse even if we invite them to Rome, although such a happy event would make it harder to offer an excuse," Aulus said. His expression grew fond. "I can think of a few ways a Consul and his beloved wife might... celebrate... privately..."
She had a way of looking at people that intimated that she could read one'e thoughts - doubtless a slave standing before her after being caught in some misdemeanour or other would be trembling with fear were his mistress to employ such a look. Aulus had nothing at all to fear from his wife, of course, and returned her shrewd look with a level look of his own. "Had you some idea of how you would like to celebrate should... somebody.... become Consul?" He rested his elbow on the arm of his chair, and his chin in his hand, watching her closely. She might imagine him in such a position in the curule seat he would be entitled to in the Senate, should he be fortunate to rise to that position of authority.
"You realise we would be entitled to the very best seats in the amphitheatre and the circus, second only to the Augustus and his family?" he said after a moment.
"Which would be why I wouldn't offer to help Publius unless he asked, mel mi," Aulus pointed out wryly. "After all, nobody reaches his age without being able to do things on his own merits. And it's not like I wouldn't mention his name in the right place - or Lucius' - if I'm present and they're not." The same went for his friends Sulpicius Rufus and Cassius Longinus, too. Perhaps especially for them; they both seemed to think their careers had stalled somehow and if Aulus could help by keeping their names in Caesar's thoughts when he needed to come up with people to command his legions, or for something else either or both would be perfectly suited for, he was going to mention them. Even someone as knowledgeable as Quintus Caesar needed suggestions from time to time, after all.
"I think a dinner would be perfectly, ah, a good choice." He noted the sudden tension in her jaw. "Would you prefer to impose on them in Tibur so we can leave when you've had enough, or invite them to our house in Rome, where you can be somewhat uncomfortable in familiar surroundings?" He had a suspicion that either visit would probably require one party or the other to remain overnight, but thought vaguely that the Quinctilii-Varii (or Secundus' branch of the family) had a house in the city. He was certain that the younger brother did at any rate.
"Ah. If Lucius wants any sort of support in his military career, I'm happy to put in a word for him in the right ears. Same for Publius, though he's rather less likely to need it, I suppose." He reached to squeeze his wife's hand. "I'm sorry about you and Livia. If there's anything I can do to help, you'll let me know, won't you?"
He held the needle he was holding out for the slave to take, so that he wouldn't put it down somewhere it might get lost. "The Quinctilii-Varii? Not particularly. Secundus is the paterfamilias, I believe, and his brother Tertius is a praetor - I don't think he has any ambition to any other office." Meaning, Tertius had no ambition to become Consul or even take a governorship somewhere.
"They pretty much keep to themselves, I understand, and there has been some difficulty about an heir for both of them, neither one having a freeborn son." He shrugged; Aulus had no real interest in gossip and what he knew was simply from common talk gathered from his fellow senators after the senate meetings had closed.
"I don't know if I can be any help there, though if I can, please say so," he added. Horatia was calm and not easily ruffled, but e had been married to her for long enough to know that her emotions ran deep, and she was as defensive of her family as any wild creature, though it would not show in open anger or violence. Woe betide anyone who hurt anyone Horatia cared for!
"Gods forbid! I would make a terrible housewife - and what would you do, displaced like that?"
dux femina facti - he could see Horatia as such a leader as Dido, perhaps, although reserved as she was, perhaps not. She did not have the forthrightness of Dido, but he was sure that she would inspire confidence and conviction in any who chose to follow her.
"I would have thought that you would quite like this particular story to be as epic as the Aeneid. I'm afraid it'll either be that, or a very brusque, I went into the Senate chamber, was announced as Consul and sat down in the curule seat placed for me. Gods willing, anyway," he added, not at all wishing to tempt the Fates. Too much of that kind of talk and he wouldn't get it at all, would be passed over entirely in favour of some pipsqueak like Marcus Minicius Verulus, who has done... precisely nothing of note except not get killed in the purges.
"And how are your brothers?" he asked, kissing the inside of her elbow. "And your sister?"
"My mother? Well, that probably explains it," Aulus said with a shrug, frowning at the thread. He looked up, meaning to smile at his wife, though he was defeated by the cloth between them, and had to peer around the loom at her. "I shall make sure to describe it to you at length, my dove - better yet, my father will, and likely with very little prompting. Though I will furnish you with a full description of the senate chamber, so you can picture it all properly."
He retreated back to his side of the fabric, his smile now at the memory of his return to Rome from Britannia, when he had entered the house in full Senatorial regalia, tunic and toga both (borrowed from his father) and over-awed both of his children - who had been very young at the time. Where had the intervening years gone, that Titus should be so near taking his own adult toga, and Calpurnia had become a woman?
He didn't think he would overawe them quite so much this time, although perhaps the lictors would.
Topics I Participated In
Aulus had visited the Temple of Juno where he had offered a sacrifice in thanksgiving for his wife and their marriage, and then gone on to the Temple of Jupiter to offer a sacrifice for the continued health and well-being of the Emperor, and to ask for favour in his quest for consulship - and for wisdom if he was elected (he would go and make similar sacrifices at the Temple of Minerva if he was fortunate enough to be elected).
Although he had Quintus Augustus' approbation, so that was something. He wasn't about to take it for granted, though - anything could happen between now and then, of course.
And of course he'd asked for the priest to take the omens for him, to find out if the gods were in favour or not of his ascending to the Consulship. He was ambitious, to be sure, but his was an ambition tempered with pragmatism, knowing that he wanted nothing further, nothing higher in Rome than that. A friend of Caesar's, not a rival - never a rival. He had supported Quintus Flavius Alexander through the grim dark days of civil war and would continue to support him, and his heirs.
The omens, as far he could ascertain, were favourable, and he left the smoky darkness of the temple feeling more settled and certain. He paused on the temple steps to throw his toga back (he had covered his head with a fold of it as was usual when conducting a ritual) and rearrange its folds into something more becoming a senator and less like a priest, and took a deep breath of the clean fresh air.
December 15th, 75AD
The villa in Baiae was a balm for Horatia's soul after a busy few months (years, really) with her family. She'd spent many happy months here during Aulus' long absence, with her in-laws and children and by herself, and always revelled in its serenity. She'd never asked her father-in-law whether he'd purchased the property himself or inherited it but either way it must have been worth a small fortune given its proximity to a sheltered beach and the lush orchards that stretched to the distance. She knew Titus and Calpurnia enjoyed it as much as her; Titus she suspected because he could pester his grandfather into telling stories from his youth, and Calpurnia because she felt like a proper grown-up in the company company of her refined grandmother. For Horatia it was the peace that she enjoyed the most.
She sat in a cluster of rooms designed, many moons ago, as the womens domain but they opened up into the rest of the house not unlike her father-in-laws tablinum. She'd spent the morning with her mother-in-law in the pursuit of womanly virtue. Calpurnia, to her embarrassment, had taken to bed. Her courses had started the month before and unused to the light-headedness and aches that accompanied it, had withdrawn to curl herself into her blankets in her room. Horatia tried to ignore the knot in her stomach that the start of her monthly bleed meant her daughter was well and truly becoming a woman, and weaving with Aurelia was a perfect distraction. It was not one of her favourite pastimes (although she vastly preferred it to the monotony of spinning the wool), but it was distracting and allowed her to concentrate on nothing but the interlacing and placement of the threads. She knew her family and their reputation would be under intense scrutiny on their return to Rome if Aulus' position as Consul was confirmed and she needed to keep her mind occupied so as not to dwell on it.
Aurelia had excused herself a little over an hour ago for her own respite and a lie down. Horatia, however, ever the perfectionist had decided to occupy herself with unpicking the threads that lay at odd angles and re-doing them from scratch. She worked in silence, errant strands of copper hair falling into her eyes which she had to swat away. She was dressed informally in plain stola and her hair artlessly done up, the very picture of relaxation. She suspected her husband, son and father-in-law out on some boys errand and was not expecting company when the sound of footsteps echoed and she turned her face up, her features melting into a relaxed smile. "Do not mock me," She warned with a gentle grin - she was not known for her weaving prowess and exclaimed her disinterest in it on more than one occasion to her husband, "And do not think I'm suddenly going to take up weaving every day when I'm back in Rome."
(Takes place in the evening of Ave Imperator! and Into the lion's den)
Aulus returned to his home feeling far more light-hearted than when he had left it that morning. He had almost not needed to head to the Castra Praetoria, not with Caesar's reassurance ringing in his ears, but some part of him had needed to meet the man who had unnerved his wife and threatened his children and slaves. After that meeting, he had no compunction whatsoever about leaving him to Caesar to deal with. He was still none the wiser as to why he had turned on Aulus' family, but the threat had gone and it felt as if a sweet breeze had blown through the house.
One of the house slaves offered him a cup of wine and, when questioned, the information that the mistress was in her own private study. Aulus dismissed the boy and turned to find Horatia.
He paused quietly at the door of her room, not wishing to disturb her if she was in the middle of something that could not easily be set aside. He smiled, the fond expression coming easily to his face as he watched her before knocking, the private pattern used just between the two of them.
(Title: The situation as it was before the war)
6th of October, 75 AD
Given the tragedy brought on by the earthquake only a few months earlier, Titus didn't quite feel right celebrating his birthday with huge festivities or partying from dusk to dawn - besides, this was no milestone year, just the passage of time signalling that he had officially grown older. The previous day - the actual day of - had been spent with family, featuring a relaxed and pleasurable evening with far too much food including Betua's mouthwateringly good placenta cake, and only a tiny hiccough when Valeriana loudly and vehemently expressed how unfair it was that she received no gifts, skilfully ignoring the fact that it wasn't her birthday for that to happen.
Tonight's celebration was simple as well, though less child-friendly. Going out for drinks with friends was also very agreeable, even more so when they had a decent-sized chamber and an own dedicated servant all to themselves. Drinking alone was no fun, though, even when it was Falernian and Caecuban, and Titus busied himself with deciphering the multitude of humorous scrawls on the walls and snacking on bread and olives before the others arrived - his stomach would thank him later.
@Echo @Sara @Sharpie
Feel free to ignore posting order!
Tacita woke to both Corva and Linus telling her that she would be going with Claudus to the office today. She got up from her bed and put on a simple but clean tunic. Tacita took her bag, had a quick breakfast, then headed out with Claudus. They headed through the Roman streets, weaving through various side streets until they hit the market warehouse. When they entered, Tacita hung her satchel, with her wax tablet, up on a wall hook- she wasn’t allowed to use it at work unless Claudus gave her permission. Tacita gave a quick look to Claudus with a ‘do you need anything’ look and he shook his head then waved her away. He headed off towards his office and she grabbed a nearby broom and began to sweep the room.
@Sharpie (for Aulus)
November 59 AD; Greece
The slave hadn't been very forthcoming when Aulus said that he was here to meet with his master, but had admitted him, at least. There seemed to be little reason to have admitted him because he was led past any areas of the house where either Marcus Horatius Justinus or his son Publius might reasonably be found, and taken to the garden. It was not the first time that Aulus had been admitted to the garden - he was a close enough friend of Publius' that he had been allowed access to a relatively private part of the house before.
He was not alone; there was someone sitting on one of the marble benches and Aulus stopped, unwilling to intrude further. And yet, as he began to make his apologies, he came to a stop, captivated by what he saw. He had met Publius' sister before, but she had not really caught his eye, among everyone else, with her hair done up in what must be the very latest style in Rome, and weighed down with jewellery, the very height of elegance. This simply-dressed woman was far more elegant in her simple clothing and with her hair artlessly done up.
"I beg your pardon, I had come to see Publius," he managed. "I am sorry to have disturbed you." He would offer to go, but remained frozen in place, utterly captivated.
(Just outside the Thermae Mercuari)
The Thermae Mercuari were not Aulus' usual baths, but they were close enough to his home in the Piscina Publica that he had not gone too far out of his way to visit them. A change of scenery was what he had needed and what he had got, and the massage he had received from one of the bath-house slaves had made him consider returning there in the future; the slave had managed to relieve a knot that only Felix had ever dealt with before, on rare occasions.
He had not expected to run into a vaguely familiar-looking redheaded woman who was obviously aiming for the women's section of the baths. He had certainly not intended to run into her literally and knock the things she was carrying out of her hands.
He stooped to collect up what he could.
Letter dated roughly a week after the earthquake.
Titus Sulpicius Rufus to his dearest friend Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus,
Hope all is well with your domus and familia after the recent event. No casualties on our end of thing except for parts of the roof, a couple of trees and a bust I never liked.
To take our minds off all that's happened and because it's the right season for it, my brother and sister-in-law are travelling down to Neapolis for a while and inviting friends and family to join them for their beach parties. There will be entertainment not unlike that party you hosted a few months back, as well as more family-friendly activities. As you may remember my brother Quintus was consul in 72, and given your current aspirations (which I fully support), I took the liberty of assuming you might be interested in fostering that connection.
It goes without saying that this invitation extends to your lady wife and your lovely children. Mine are also coming, so they will not be left to their own devices.
We will be heading down on the 13th (I expect the Via Appia will be fully up and running again by then), and our good friend Longinus is coming with. He has been rather morose as of late, so I will be counting on you to help raise his spirits.
Farewell, my dear friend.
May 75AD, the morning after Next steps
Aulus had time between his breakfast and his first clients to speak with his wife's body slave. Her admission yesterday had been concerning, yet she had been in no condition for him to press for details. He hoped that the distance of a few hours from the event would have fortified her somewhat, so that she would be able to recount what had happened without the immediate rush of emotions that she had naturally had
He decided to have this conversation in the garden because summoning her to the tablinum would probably make her far more nervous than need be - she would already be nervous at receiving the summons from the master of the house.
He made sure he had a wax tablet to hand in case he needed to make any notes before sending a slave to fetch her.
"Callista. I hope you have recovered from your ordeal yesterday," he said when she appeared.
Aulus had dismissed Felix and Callista and spent a little while considering the situation, turning options over in his head, before coming to a decision. Gods knew whether it would be the right one or not, but it was one for better or worse. He opened the tablet up again, memorised the list of names that it held, and calmly erased the list with the blunt end of the stylus before standing.
He had been married for over a decade. He and Horatia had faced trials and troubles of all kinds, separately and together, and weathered them. Yet he could only recall once when Horatia had had that look on her face - the night he had taken Felix and slipped out into the madness ruling the streets of Rome, to try to get out of the city, leaving her with a young child who'd barely taken his first steps, and another growing inside her. They had not known that last then, but the knowledge or lack of it would have made no difference to what Aulus had needed to do.
His wife would be in the garden - it was her safe space in the house when she needed peace, calmness and to be alone.
He found her, sitting on the marble bench in the exedra overlooking the garden, sitting very still, her hands folded in her lap, and with a look on her face that tore at his heart.