The water boy brought him wine at the behest of his ever dignified mistress, and Spurius nodded politely in acknowledgement in Titinia's direction, before taking a sip. It was a good vintage, the madame was gracious to serve it, but that was something that he'd observed about her. Perhaps it was a front that went with the elite clientelle, but then he was no different with his own salesman's face.
But she was pleased with Justinia, which was well. The girl seemed just as pleased, even as Titinia lamented the tendency of her best slaves to earn their way to freedom faster than she'd like. Well, she didn't have to free them, but her slaves seemed to respond well to the possibility. Certainly Justinia seemed positively delighted with her current circumstances. "Only a problem if she wishes to leave." He observed, voice deepening slightly in amusement, accompanied by a humoured twist of the lips, as he glanced at the young lady in question. She was exquisite, as Titinia described her, and had flowered further with access to the arts and wiles of the brothel, turned out in a manner that brought out the best of her beauty.
"What would you do, if you were free?" He asked Justinia on impulse, carefully lowering himself into one of the available chairs, using his staff for support. Even as he asked he observed Gaia out of the corner of his eye, aware that she had been a slave herself once, though he would not be so crass as to draw attention to the fact. She had also been the wife of an Imperial. A person's fortunes could change, in the blink of an eye. He was all too aware of that. Right now Justinia's seemed to be rising.
Even Spurius's might be said to be positive, surrounded as he was by three beautiful and confident women. Definitely the thorn amongst the roses.
So I know he's not the imperial ally that you asked for (at least, not yet) but I was wondering whether Spurius Antius Claudus might be of interest? If not as a potential husband then maybe as a friend or paramour? He's a plebian but quite well off, he's been a successful slave trader for some time now. There is the definite potential for him to become ambitious in politics, with the right motivation. He's close to Julia in age, never been married (prefers to pay the tax, the source of some speculation), used to be a soldier but came back injured and walks with a distinct limp.
I just thought I'd throw him out there.
He sold a lot of slaves, and whilst he generally remembered the Roman ones, at least vaguely, he never really expected to see them again, except possibly in passing. There were a few exceptions, household slaves for wealthy customers where he would take his wares to them, and the occasional troublesome return, but the majority moved through his care and onwards, to whatever life held in store for them.
Thus he wasn't expecting the additional greeting when the blue-clad whore entered the room and greeted her mistress, before turning to him. He looked her up and down, hazel gaze noting that she looked well indeed, and seemed to have taken to the life that chance and he himself had thrown her into. That was well. And yes, he remembered her, the obedient slave who's only real need had been some consistency in her life. "Justinia." He acknowledged, with a slight inclination of his head. He hadn't intended to visit the Domus Venus or see the slave he'd sold, but Fortuna was obviously in a whimsical mood. "You are looking well."
It was an odd feeling. As one who handled slaves every day, the turn-about of Saturnalia left him feeling slightly discombobulated, the usual social expectations overturned. What did one say to a slave who was one's equal on this night of nights? Perhaps it was doubly so because he wasn't accustomed to slaves he'd sold being quite so pleased to see him. He settled for, "I'm glad the Domus suits you." Not without a glance at Titinia; did she suit the Domus? That was always the more pertinent question.
((My turn to apologise! Had an attack of real life.))
June 74AD, Emporium Magnum
Whilst a lot of the more select sales occurred either in the buyer's residence or out of the large warehouse he owned that doubled as a human stables, it always paid to maintain a presence in the market itself, especially when the slave auctions were happening. People were here looking for slaves, and so the slave traders were out. Spurius was naturally amongst them, notable for his height and the tall staff he carried, much like an oversized shepherd's crook, complete with hook. It wasn't meant for sheep, though it was rare that he actually had to use it.
With the war in Britannia over the supply of barbarians what could be sold wholesale for the gladiatorial games had dwindled to it's usual trickle, though Spurius had made the most of it while it lasted. Those he could wrangle and shift quickly in bulk, but today he had a more refined selection. Only one of them was a chalk-foot, and she was a strikingly beautiful black-skinned woman all the way from Aegyptus, and probably beyond. He doubted that she'd be here long. She didn't have much in the way of skills but she'd be snapped up for her looks alone. The placard hung around a young girl's neck declared that she was versed in make-up and hair, not as experienced as she would become but cheaper for it, very affordable to an upwardly mobile Plebian or Equite lady. A youth with experience handling animals, an older man who could read, write and do arithmetic - suitable as a clerk or tutor and thus worth a pretty denarius - and a woman who'd served as a general house slave and could cook and sew. Her back wasn't what it had been, though a few days on light duties had seen a marked improvement.
See and be seen, that was what was important. One never knew when a customer might come looking for just what he had to offer. And if he didn't have it on show, there might be something suitable back at the warehouse. And he had his sources if the customer was after something very specific. He aimed to please, it lined his pockets.
He didn't usually allow the slaves he sold much freedom of speech, but Justinia had proven largely obedient and he saw no harm in humouring her; she might even see it as reward. Had they not been alone he most likely would have refused, but there was no one present to get wrong ideas. Still, he reserved judgement on his own decision until he heard what she had to say. Her words, when they came, were unexpected, though he didn't let surprise show on his horsey features. Instead he responded with a slight nod, inclining his head in acknowledgement.
Her words only confirmed what he himself had determined over time. Slaves, like horses, dogs and children, benefited from routine and from knowing what was expected of them. Many of their behavioural problems were brought on by their own masters. It was hardly surprising that they responded poorly to a cruel master, when nothing they might do brought reprieve, or a mercurial master, one who might lavish praise one moment and beat them the next, for there was no obvious cause and effect. In a way Justinia had suffered the latter, beloved by her Domina but used and despised by her Dominus, and no doubt for the same behaviours. Who could blame her for being confused and anxious?
Spurius himself had no time for those who could not control their passions and tempers. He maintained a stable environment in what was already a stressful and uncertain process for the slaves involved, and very clear rules. Good behaviour was rewarded with peace, warmth, food and a very limited freedom. Bad behaviour was punished, but even the latter had no malice. Punishment was delivered with the intention that it be learned from, and not require repetition. And it was amazing how many 'bad slaves' responded well to the firm but fair approach. And indeed appreciated it.
That hazel gaze held Justinia's dark one for a long moment, before the corner of his mouth quirked in the suggestion of a smile. "Your best thanks to me will be to serve your new mistress well." He said simply. Titinia also understood the importance of handling one's slaves properly; Justinia would likely flower under her guidance. "If you do, you will probably never see me again." Meaning she would not need to be re-sold. He wasn't accustomed to slaves declaring that they would miss him, but he suspected it was simply that she would miss her first stable home.
"Go now, you may continue with your chores. Indoors only, I want no blemishes on your skin before I take you to the Domus Venus." It was clear that he considered the interview to be over.
Usually Spurius would admonish a slave who spoke out of turn – for the first infraction. If they proved hard-of-learning then other methods of aiding the memory occasionally had to be employed, though he far preferred to achieve what he could without any risk of damaging the merchandise. In this case Rufus received only a warning glance; the customer had asked the question and if there was some connection there then fostering it might well lead to a sale, especially if the customer did not learn all he wished to know without buying.
There were different schools of thoughts on slaves; some people became close to them, some too close, and others preferred to be distant. The other potential customer seemed more the latter, as he whispered something to his friend, perhaps warning him against hasty purchases, and redirected the conversation.
As Octavius addressed him Spurius returned the smile warmly. “Of course. Aside from this young man, I have this woman, quite the accomplished seamstress, if you wish to ensure the latest fashion for yourself and your lady, and good clothing for the entire household.” He gestured to a middle-aged woman standing nearby, neatly turned out and obviously Roman-born. She might serve a business better, but one never knew.
“Then I have some more exotic specimens.” He gestured to the cage behind him, which held a varied selection of chalk-foots. “If you’re interested in taking a punt in the arena I have three that show potential as gladiators. That pair from Aegyptus are quiet,” the two men indicated had coal black skin and enticingly exotic features, “and would make a striking pair of personal guards, or perhaps litter bearers, with a little training.” He suggested.
Most of the rest were untrained and Spurius recommended them as farm labour, or general house slaves. There were a few women amongst them, and all were a mix of ages. “I do have a few select individual set aside for private viewing this afternoon, but depending on what you’re looking for, they might interest you.” He suggested, inviting Octavius and Titus to express their needs.
Pursing his lips thoughtfully for a moment, Spurius nodded, underlined literate and added speaks Greek dialect. That would do for the moment. Whilst he sold some of his choicer slaves out here in the markets, he usually found more interest for slaves like Rufus in private showings, or when someone came to him looking for something specific. Satisfied, he placed the board around Rufus's neck. There was no roughness in the act, the slaver was simply businesslike. If he didn't sell this morning, there might be time to find out more about him later.
Right now however he had customers, and important ones. Turning, Spurius took in the good clothing and fine manners; likely Senatores, possibly Imperials. "Ave, my lords." He smiled warmly and bowed, suddenly very different from the distant manner he'd used with Rufus. "Of course, I-"
But his usual spiel was interrupted by the younger of the two, who clearly recognised the new, read-headed slave. "Ah, you know this one? His previous Dominos passed, and his Domina wished him sold." Spurius supplied, regarding the interaction between the two with a mild and practiced expression. Why she'd wanted him sold in Rome, he neither knew nor cared. Some people developed attachment to slaves - sometimes a strong attachment - and that could usually be leveraged to guarantee a good sale. And some people came to loathe certain slaves, and wished them gone. Perhaps Rufus had reminded his old master's wife of his master overmuch. Perhaps this well dressed fellow might want to buy him?
It was best that Justinia's questions about her future went unasked; even had he wanted to, Spurius couldn't answer them. The training of whores and prostitutes was the realm of others; he just sold them. He was however quite sure that her new mistress would not hesitate to make known what was expected of her.
At least there were no protestations. Some female slaves appeared horrified at the idea of being a prostitute, however familiar their previous master might have been with them. Perhaps there was a difference between one and many? Others seemed resigned, some almost intrigued by the idea. If anything Justinia seemed to fall into the last category. It was, at least, a very good brothel. Spurius didn't tend to handle the kind of slaves that would end up in the poor ones.
Good, she understood. That was all that was necessary. Understanding, and acceptance. He'd take her down there personally, not trusting one of his factors not to get swindled by the madame. Besides, he enjoyed the verbal sparring with Titinia, though that was all that he enjoyed from her and hers.
And that would normally have been the end of it, had Justinia not spoken. Spurius raised one eyebrow at her in an appraising manner. "You may." He said after a moment, humouring her.
One thing that Spurius wasn't, was quick to judge, though he could make a rapid business assessment if needed. He preferred to make a full assessment of a situation, find the best angle, and that included his wares. He noted the southern accent, almost a dialect, as Rufus spoke, but the slave answered his question simply enough.
Spurius didn't tolerate uppity behaviour from slaves, but when Rufus volunteered additional information it was done in a suitably respectful manner. It was the kind of thing he'd ask about next, but obviously the slave wanted to work with him, and that was all to the good. It demonstrated willingness and a suitably cooperative manner, and drew a momentary raise of one brow from the slaver, a thoughtful expression. "Indeed? How well?" He asked. "A few words, or could you take dictation?" He asked, thinking of the semi-literate Tacita. If Rufus was fully literate that would improve the range of options for him; he might well serve as a clerk and be treated well; literate slaves could be valuable.
"Do you have any other skills?" Spurius asked, already reaching for a board that would be hung around Rufus's neck, and beginning to paint letters onto it. Roman born, house slave, obedient, literate,... he looked at Rufus expectantly.
Sometimes slaves arrived into Spurius's keeping in large batches; particularly those from recent conquests, mostly headed for the ludii. Some in small groups, such as when a household was disbanded, or taken over by a son who didn't care for some of the older slaves, and sometimes they arrived singly, for a whole host of reasons. The slave trader tended to be most wary of those; there had to be a reason that an individual was singled out for sale, but at the same time a slave who looked like a barbarian but was Roman born and raised could fetch a high price to a discerning buyer. People often liked the exotic looks but didn't want to handle the attitude and training of a fresh barbarian.
Generally he preferred to interview and inspect new acquisitions back at his warehouse, rather than out in the middle of the marketplace, but there hadn't been time. So, after briefly ascertaining that the aptly named Rufus was at least no flight risk, he'd decided to take him to market as well. There was no board around the young man's neck yet, and one might be forgiven for thinking that Spurius owned him personally.
He only had one cage of assorted chalk-foot barbarians for auction this morning. It was a relatively slow day, and he had an appointment for a private showing of some more select slaves that afternoon; would Rufus be worth taking with him? Perhaps. He focused his hazel gaze on the red-haired slave, who was standing free of the cage next to an older woman who already wore a board describing her as an accomplished seamstress.
"So your Dominus died, and your Domina sold you. Is that correct?" Spurius asked Rufus, during a lull in the market. There were plenty of people around but none seemed specifically interested in his wares at present. "What did you do, in your previous household?" Hazel eyes regarded the youth without curiosity, only a businesslike assessment as the slaver leaned on his staff. It was really a giant shepherd's crook, and he did use it for dealing with the more recalcitrant slaves.