“Yes, like Caesar,” he said sarcastically, looking down at her and trying to fight back a laugh. For all her seriousness, there was some strange innocence to those words. At least, the way she said it. He’d met important government officials of Judea, certainly not the Caesar himself. Scribes played a very important role in his country, a similar way that senatores did in Rome. But Bassus did not long for his old life, he simply went where life took him. There was no point wanting anything.
“A very important text written by important Jews or their god, depending on who you talk to,” he simply explained to the young woman, soon entering into the kitchen. The coolness of it certainly took away every bit of heat that had been prickling against his skin and making him feel more like a roasted boar than a human.
He copied the way Safinia placed the leeks down. He’d cooked for himself before, he wasn’t a novice when it came to cooking but he certainly was not as skilled as someone who was a cook or their assistant. Bassus waited for her to continue her work as he looked around. Kitchens where he was from was set very differently but being rather adaptable, Bassus learned quickly to accept it.
“You must be quite the lucky young woman working in the shade all day,” he said, folding his arms. His hands now smelt of leeks. “While I’m sure you are fully capable on handling yourself…” Young people liked hearing that sort of thing. “Anything you’d like to know about this place? Or who to avoid when the races get really rowdy?” It was always good to give a head’s up or see if one of the newest members of the White Team was missing something that they otherwise wanted to know.
Bassus didn’t doubt that the establishment took a lot to keeping run, most businesses did. Bassus’ own family had owned lands, one in which they cultivated into an orchard to earn more coin than they already had. Admittedly, Bassus did not like Gaia’s brother, the owner of the brothel. There was something off about him and the unhappiness of the prostitutes in the work place left Bassus with a bitter taste in his mouth. But the man had money and was a born and raised Roman citizen, and with a touch of power came evil.
“My dear, these claims are sorely mistaken,” he said, seemingly coy and swirling his drink before downing it. “Certainly my stunts, my moves are all real.” She wasn’t entirely wrong but the people weren’t fond of engineered games, they wanted something real, not fake or they got bored, and that was what Bassus liked to give them, if he could. He’d give a trick or two for the people to gasp before moving his chariot in a way to entice cheers. “You sound like you could use a visit to the circus maximus and see the races for yourself and if it looks rigged to you. I tell you what, I’ll give you the perfect seat, perhaps next to the infamous Aelia. She often gives us a visit.” He nodded around him. “It will be a day away from all this and locking arms with notorious company.”
He then reached for some grapes. “And when that time comes, you ought to give me one of these midwifery literature,” he said, deeply interested in what she had stated before. He did not have many female friends, and much preferred them too to his male ones, so he took a woman’s friendship where he could get it. “There are some Jewish passages that state a midwife knows whether a child is a boy or girl based on where there face is confronting. A boy looks to the ground because he was made from earth and a girl upwards because she was made from a man’s rib. Are you made from your brother’s rib?” A mocking jest towards her brother.
Holding the leeks, he followed after her and headed towards the kitchen. He remembered when he would return home in Judea, sweat embalmed on his body from his land’s heat and the sweltering kitchen’s heat sticking to his clothes. “Everything” could have meant anything, it was fairly vague but then she went on to elaborate and he nodded his head in what could only be read as genuine interest before she turned the tables on him.
“No,” he said amiably enough. “You could say I did a bit of everything as well.”
He’d been well-off in his “past life”. He’d been many things as a slave, from an object used against his will to an accountant. He admired her work ethic and the skills she’d developed throughout her young life. But he supposed she didn’t want to hear about that, that he had been a slave once, though it was likely obvious with hints here and there if one squinted hard enough. From the scars beneath his close to, perhaps, his name. It wasn’t that he hid the fact that he was a slave, he just never mentioned it.
“My family owned an orchard,” he said matter-of-factly. He turned to look at the young girl, a smile still on his face. “They were scribes too and so I worked under important people. But life has a funny way of shifting our journeys. And so here I am and you are stuck with me.” He nudged her playfully. “At least, until you decide to get rid of me, that is. Earth you are, and to earth you will return. Have you ever heard that before?”
“Good looks” wasn’t what Bassus saw when he saw his own reflection but took Lucius’ word for it. He reasoned any woman coming to him for his reputation or looks wasn’t a woman coming to him for his character, which was something Bassus valued above everything else. And naturally, as a result, he felt protective of his friend and cautious as to what type of woman the man would attract. Bassus himself didn’t care much for looks, a woman’s weight or her station, so long as she was kind and contributed decently to conversation. He expected a similar woman for his friend. A companion, not a trophy or someone only interested in the man for his money. Whoever he married, he wanted to get to know her but it would not become a marriage of three.
Lucius surprised him with an amusing quip and Bassus let out a laugh as the man brought the attention back to the horse. Of course, it was hard to concentrate and Bassus couldn’t help but say one thing about it. “Great, shining teeth,” he said. “All the better to kiss your new wife.”
Another voice came into the picture, snapping Bassus out of his trance. He turned his attention to the man and at the mention of “Oriental”, his ears shook curiously. While he trusted this shopkeeper in particular, owing to why he’d suggested the man in the first place, Bassus wanted to see for himself if the horse was everything the shopkeeper said it was.
“That you ought to know about? No,” he said, picking up the pace and trying to keep up with the third man in their midst. “Just stable boys flirting with slave girls without inviting me and kitchen girls looking at me like I just defecated into their hard work. You know, the usual. And yourself? What has the noble Lucius Furius Pontius Thracius Minor been up to? Tell me every juicy detail, leave nothing out.”
@The Young Pope
When she asked him if he “eavesdropped a lot”, he answered her with a quick “you bet”. He didn’t go out of his way to gather information on other people but he heard and saw enough, perhaps from being in close proximity to others but also simply because he was a fairly observant person. He liked to be aware of his surroundings and know the people he was around.
He reached forward to take the leeks but his movements were deliberately slow in case she changed her mind. He didn’t have to offer help but he did so anyways in what he believed was a peace-offering or an offer of friendship. There were some who did kind deeds to get something in return, sometimes what they wanted was not coming from a pure place. But in Bassus’ case, he tended to want nothing. While he had surely wanted many things in the past, he couldn’t think of anything that he wanted in the physical world as of recent. He was content with just breathing and so he let out a laugh.
“I’m not helping you to get something out of you,” he said honestly, quite amused. “But that makes two of us because I have nothing of value that you or anyone could possibly want, which makes us a very pathetic pair.” He offered her a playful wink. He had very few items from the past few years, including his earlier life in Judea, and now in Rome, he tended to spend very little of the money he made. Not only because he was saving money but because he didn’t have people to spend money on anymore.
“Were you always working in kitchens, Safinia?” he said curiously. She seemed serious, very serious, in which case, she probably took her job very seriously and so work seemed like a good thing to bring up.
Comedy? Bassus cracked a grin. He’d never found himself particularly amusing, the only people who’d ever genuinely laughed at his jokes were his young son and wife but that had been years ago. The conversation moved forwards. From old times to being unmarried, it was one of the reasons why Bassus liked Lucius’ company, one could never get bored by conversing with him.
“Of course, I’m still unmarried, take a good look at me,” he said, his tone was warm but Bassus’ expectations were low despite what women sought his attention at races. He wasn’t expecting another wife, let alone a lover. But if it happened, it happened. As a freedman, perhaps he had the luxury of having to not search high and low for it. But they were also less likely to be educated and thus, less likely to have the same interests as him.
“Anyways, if your sister is so concerned, she can do a little talking with the women of Rome or have her husband introduce you to some fathers and brothers eager to get their daughters and sisters wed to a man of your station.”
With the shopkeeper greeting them, Bassus gave the man a nod and listened before turning to look at his horses. Bassus set a hand on his chin, eyeing the horses as if inspecting.
“No questions,” said Bassus, concentrated on the horses. Just by looking at them, he could tell which ones were healthy and already trained based on their behaviour, there was always that little impulse that gave it away. From the latter, it gave him an idea where the horses may have been acquired but it also begged the questioned why such a horse had been given up in the first place. But the health of a horse mattered as well as their age. “Well, Lucius, see any of interest? Or is this too close to home, like looking for a wife?” He chuckled deviously, then pointing forwards. “This one here has good teeth. You don’t want a horse with bad hygiene but it’s not your breed.”
@The Young Pope
Bassus wasn’t interested in sex for the sake of pure pleasure with someone he didn’t know but he wasn’t a romantic either. He simply had no interest in anything fleeting with some face he would forget, someone he couldn’t talk to as either a friend or something more. Outside of his own complicated views on forced prostitution, he’d accompanied his friends to the Elysium due to its cheap prices but found himself keeping his mouth shut about how he felt a little unsettled within its walls. The whores did not look happy, even beneath those false smiles. He was one man who lingered quietly behind while his friends hungrily picked through the women or men that they found of their liking.
He was not a prude but it was ridiculous how quickly men’s wits disappeared in the face of sex. To Jews, sex was a sacred tool but was an act viewed in various interesting ways. Romans would be surprised if they looked past judgements. But there he was, bored out of his mind, he preferred mental stimulation to mindless “feel good” interactions. He had been an awkward fifth or sixth wheel until a familiar face approached him. Gaia, a woman he’d met a while back from another such event where he, once before, was a fifth or sixth wheel. She had the intelligence to bring him into a back room with fruits and wine for entertainment while his friends were being entertained in other ways.
He folded one leg over the other, sitting comfortably in the chair while he propped one fruit into his mouth and then another.
“You ought to run this place,” he said, beginning conversation. “Where is the big man himself?” Bassus playfully looked around him before settling his attention on the woman. She didn’t look like she belonged in such a place, no more than he did. “Thank you for nursing me while the adults are talking. And, tell me, how is being a midwife going for you?”
Bassus had been in the middle of conversation with his fans, arms folded, laughing, seemingly soaking in all the praise and trying to ignore the young woman throwing herself at him by annoyingly interjecting the discussions he had with some of the others, even if he politely regarded her every now and again. And he got annoyed when some mentioned Menelaus. At the mention of Menelaus, some began to scream harder, slightly more than they had when Bassus made his entrance but not before long the people before him gasped, pointed and began to make more noise.
Bassus turned to see the mare Azarion had been holding becoming jumpy and the young girl with him fall down flat on her bottom. Bassus extended a hand to the fans as if saying “wait, I’ll be back” before rushing on over to see if he could lessen whatever damage there was. He placed a hand on the girl’s back and held her hand to pull her up gently. “On your feet, little lady,” he said gently. “Are you all right?” She nodded, lips white and shut, clearly nervous. “Not hurt anywhere?” She shook her head, staring up at him dumbly. Beneath his touch, he could feel her shaking. He let go of the girl.
He turned to Azarion, evidently impressed with the boy’s skill and quick thinking even if his words showed something different. “This is what happens when you flirt on the job, Azarion,” he said sternly. A swift scolding, he wouldn’t say more than that. He wasn’t the boy’s father. “You should put her back in the stables, I think she’s had enough for today, wouldn’t you say? We’ll talk later about this. You can join him.” He nodded to the girl, her falling down was punishment enough for walking where she wasn’t supposed to.
@Chevi + myself 🤣
The good thing about having been the son of a wealthy scribe and orchard owner was that Bassus had the opportunity to have been able to travel throughout some of the world near to Judea, following others of interest or in need of his work, such as government officials, which ultimately had lead him to Lucius. He’d remembered the boy, curious and wide-eyed, as youths are, but now wizened with age.
“Just you and me? No one to bother us?” said Bassus, raising his brows but not before his lips upturned. “How very romantic. I hope I don’t fall in love with you.” A jest, clearly. Bassus, at times, could be quite the tease. Sometimes it was misread as interest but he had a way of sounding coy when he was just seemingly comfortable with himself and his surroundings. But for what it was worth, a visit to the countryside was a splendid idea. Besides, it wasn’t every day you met someone in Rome who wanted to have deep and thoughtful conversations. As much as he enjoyed his work, he missed being around educated, scribes and scholars.
“But I suppose I can make time to go in the summer,” he then said with a shrug. “And we can have one of our thought-provoking discussions.” As a freedman, he had more freedom but as a charioteer, any time away from the chariot meant his body lost its physical memory. But perhaps even a charioteer needed rest as soreness did not help with winning races either. As Lucius, spoke, he listened and as the horse handler approached, having heard the last bits of Lucius’ words. Bassus nodded to the man in greeting before turning to Lucius, setting his hands on his hips.
“Remind me why you never became a poet,” said Bassus. “The breed isn’t going to be the problem. Price aside.” Assuming the shop had what Lucius was looking for. “Horses are like people, each with their own personality. If you want a horse that works with you, you need a connection with it. I think you need an intelligent and well-mannered creature, not hot-headed.” The shop-keeper looked from one man to the other, appearing a little confused.
@The Young Pope
“Because people are people,” he said simply in answer to her first question. Most people liked to cause excitement or trouble where it wasn’t needed or picked and preyed on people they thought were “easy” targets, whether they were or weren’t. Even amongst communities or works such as the White Team, rivalries and butting heads happened. It was unavoidable. Bassus himself usually steered clear of that sort of thing, remaining rather neutral unless he had to intervene. Though, he sometimes felt competitive against the other charioteers. But that was different, you had to be or else risked being one of the charioteers playing catch up.
“And I have eyes and ears, I use them,” said Bassus to her second question. “Do you think I wouldn’t notice a fresh-faced girl? I can spot a pin in a haystack.”
With the way she spoke and behaved, he couldn’t tell if she was afraid and her fear came out differently than others, she was hiding nervousness, or was something else entirely. But she was new. She likely, he assumed, had no one to talk to, let alone be friends with. And no matter who difficult people were, Bassus tried and remained fair.
He then pointed to what she held. “Leeks, delicious,” said, trying to continue conversation as he set the cloth he’d been using to hang snugly on his shoulder. “Why don’t I lend you a hand with that?” A simple, nice gesture of trying to offer friendship.