It seemed his master could be trusted, at least this far. The boy seemed to instinctively know (or had been thoroughly taught) how to approach an unknown horse - allowing him to see and smell the tools and see the boy's approach. The touch to Celeritas' flank was gentle but sure, not rough nor uncertain and likely to spook him.
Marcus could wish he'd been able to purchase the boy outright, despite the brand and the inability to speak. He would be a good investment even so, and Marcus caught himself wondering if he could be trained as a charioteer despite the obvious disadvantages he was labouring under.
"I think you'll do all right, boy," he said, low enough that he wouldn't cause Celeritas to spook.
The boy came back a short while later, with a selection of implements, including a hoof-pick - which raised Marcus' opinion of him immediately; he had one or two slaves who confined themselves to brushing the horses down if they thought they could get away with it.
He opened the half-door to let the boy into the stall. Very sensibly, the boy let the horse smell his hand again, and then the brush he was holding. Marcus nodded with approval. Yes, he'd do well here. It was early days, of course, but he wondered if he could train the boy to become a charioteer - he might be hampered by the loss of his tongue (barbaric, to have done that to a child, whoever the child was! Bloody Romans!)
"I think you'll do all right, you know," he said to the boy. "Celeritas likes you, I think. Let's see how you do with grooming him, though."
So far, so good. Marcus caught the eye of one of the other slaves, who came over to receive a brief instruction and disappeared, returning with an apple, which Marcus held out to the boy.
He hadn't made any sudden move which might startle the horse, and Marcus hadn't heard him make any sort of sound, really, except a low sort of humming just now. He seemed sensible enough.
Marcus gave the other slave a warning glance, a clear order to remain here, before reaching to the latch of the half-door, though he did not immediately open it.
"How would you begin grooming him?" he asked. "Theseus here will show you where the tack and grooming equipment is, and I want you to select everything you need and come back here."
The boy's master had at least admitted that the boy was mute before Marcus had actually accepted the rental offer. There were enough people in Rome - in the Empire, even - who'd have kept that tiny but vital detail to themselves until after the agreement had been reached. caveat emptor, as the saying went. Mute, half-feral and with a brand marking him as a runaway (well, attempted runaway)... the only reason Marcus had agreed to this was that he'd been praised to the skies about his skill with horses. And he had some sort of basic grasp of writing.
Time to put that skill to the test, he thought, aiming for one particular stall. There was nobody here but the horse; everyone seemed far to busy with other things, and other horses, which suited Marcus just fine, at least for the moment.
"This is Celeritas," he said, as the horse put his head over the half-door to investigate them.
The Whites' stable complex was the usual bustling place it always was, with slaves exercising horses by walking them round the yard - one had been re-shod and a mare had recently foaled. The carpenter was busy fashioning a new chariot, and the wheelwright was shaving spokes for a new wheel for one damaged in the last race. Slaves were mucking out stalls and doing all the hundred and one other things that kept a chariot team ready and able to compete in the furious races that had made the Whites famous.
Marcus had been closeted with a visitor for what felt like an eternity, talking about the opportunities that backing such a faction could provide, and had come out of the session the renter (not, strangely, outright owner) of one half-wild barbarian boy who seemingly had a magical touch with horses. Marcus had initially been put off by the FVG brand on the boy's arm, and the discussion over that had led to the final agreement, that the Whites would take the boy on to work in the stables for a fixed sum payable every eight days, and if not fully satisfied, the boy would be returned to his master, no harm, no foul.
They had shaken on it and the boy's master had left, leaving Marcus in charge of a boy who looked still half-feral. At least the tunic he was wearing could pass as white, Marcus supposed. If you squinted.
It was at least not blue, green or red. There was something to be said for small mercies.
"Come along, I suppose you ought to see where you'll be working," he said, leading the boy out of his office and into the bustling yard.
The Whites complex was formed of four separate wings around a central courtyard. There were stables along three sides, enough to house all the numerous horses (it was not unknown for them to put three teams into the same race), with various workshops, the kitchen and dining hall making up the fourth wing. Over the stables were hay-lofts and dormitories for the slaves, with living quarters for the free craftsmen situated over the workshops. Marcus' office was also on this second story, which had a shaded balcony overlooking the central yard, giving Marcus a good view of everything that went on, for which he was responsible.
Marcus Eppius Parthenicus
38 | 7th May 36AD | Equite | Dominus Factionis Album | Bi | Canon | Guy Henry
It would be possible to describe Marcus as a man of contradictions. First and foremost he is fiercely loyal to his faction - the only real home he has ever known in Rome as the then-leader was the one to purchase his grandfather in the first place, and his father worked for them in his own turn. He demands excellence from those around him, having little patience for anyone who cannot do the job demanded of them. He wants the Whites to be the very best that they can be, although he will not stoop to cheating; honour was drummed into him from a young age. He can be harsh with those he perceives as slacking, but his demeanour around the horses is very different, as it is towards those who likewise care for the horses from desire rather than duty. His fiercest tirades are directed towards anyone caught mistreating the horses - after all, they are unable to answer back and, not being war horses, if they lash out it's probably deserved. A slave caught mistreating any of the horses is going to feel the lash - Marcus almost never resorts to it for any other reason.
Marcus' overwhelming desire is for the Whites to have the best stable of horses, and the best charioteers and stables, in Rome. He has taken some journeys to places such as Hispania in order to buy horses, and has likewise been known to go down to the slave markets in order to find potential charioteers and other slaves suitable for various roles within the Whites stable. He is not above wishing to give others the chance his grandfather had, and of thereby encouraging other families to whom the Whites will act as employer and patron and community. He especially looks for those from places he knows have a history of horsemanship - Parthians, Hispanians, Britons.
He is fiercely proud of his background and what his grandfather and father achieved, and that he is now running the faction, and has achieved the status of equite, is something he cannot help but be proud of - being the grandson of a freedman is no stigma at all especially in the light of that.
While Marcus is competitive is not above working with other factions when necessary, although the arrangement must be mutually beneficial and he will not even touch the sort of arrangement that will mean deliberately throwing a race. He is torn between wanting to be able to hand control of the faction to his son, and wanting to see his son take a seat in the Senate, which will preclude him from running any such business directly.
Born to the son of a Parthian, and that son's ethnically Parthian wife, Marcus Eppius Parthenicus looks Parthian, with dark hair and darker than skin. Other than that, his appearance is wholly Roman; he is clean-shaven, his curly hair worn short. He stands at five feet five inches (1.6 metres) tall, but carries himself with a proud bearing. He often wears a tunic in his faction's colour, especially around their stables or when representing the Whites. In keeping with his status, his tunics are of a finer cloth than those of his employees and the faction slaves, often embroidered or with braid trimming. He rarely dons the formal clothing of tunic and the toga with a narrow purple border that is allowed to equestrians, as he finds it uncomfortable and restrictive - though naturally he will wear formal clothing on formal occasions and he carries it off as though born to it.
He has no trace of subservience, meeting people's eyes with his own dark gaze irrespective of their own standing in society.
He has sustained various injuries over the years, leading to building a collection of scars on his arms and legs, which show paler against his skin but none of which look like anything other than the scars resulting from things like scraping against protruding nails.
Father: Narses (birth name) Eppius Parthenicus (5BC-61AD, aged 66 at death)
Mother: Roshanak (Hellenised as Roxane) (b. 16AD, age 58, still living)
Siblings: Darius Eppius Parthenicus (35); Vashti Eppia (30)
Spouse: Julia Prisca (b. 44AD, d. 71AD, aged 27)
Children: Marcia Eppia (10), Drusus Eppius Parthenicus (8)
Extended family: Grandfather Timaeus (Tahmasp) (51BC-22AD, aged 73 at death) Various unknown relations still in Parthia, several cousins in Rome
Rome and Parthia have been enemies for a while and despite Mark Antony's campaign of 40-33BC resulting in a loss for the Romans, overall, the Romans brought back several captives to Rome. One of these was a young man by the name of Tahmasp, sold into slavery as Timaeus. The Parthians being known to be a people skilled at working with horses, Timaeus was bought by the then-leader of the Whites racing faction. That skill was well deserved as Timaeus won enough races to be able to buy his freedom, and a comfortable (although not large) house, and marry and start a family. His youngest child and only son Narses continued in his father's footsteps, by choice rather than compunction, serving as the Whites' trainer, working his way up through his career to become the head trainer, and working with both the horses and the charioteers, determined to get the best out of man and beast.
Narses' son, born Mithridates but taking the name Marcus in preference for his Roman friends and because Parthia by now really had very little claim on him and he had almost no interest in the place (except as the home of fine horses and finer horsemen), likewise worked at the Whites racing faction, starting as a young boy and eventually working his way up by skill and connections to become the leader of the faction - and with that professional step came a step in social and political circles as he was promoted to the ranks of the equestrian order.
36AD - born to Narses Eppius Parthenicus and his Parthian-born freedwoman wife Roshanak (Roxane)
39AD - younger brother Darius born
44AD - sister Vashti born
46AD - begins working at the Whites' stables as a stableboy
51AD - given chance to break in and train a pair of horses for the bigae, the two-horse chariot race (which was of lesser importance than the four-horse quadrigae races because less skill was needed on the part of the driver)
52AD - drove in his first chariot race, coming third
53AD - came first in the skilled four-horse quadrigae race
61AD - his father died, leaving him as the paterfamilias, which led to his decision to retire from racing and dedicate his time and skills to training
64AD - daughter Marcia Eppia born
66AD - Elevated to head of the Whites faction; son Drusus Eppius Parthenicus born
70AD - Elevated to equestrian order
71AD - Julia Prisca dies in childbirth, leaving her son and daughter to be brought up by their father and paternal grandmother