Felix was used to his dominus asking for his opinion every once in a while, but those opinions so far had never included discussing the ideal setting for childbirth. He smiled a little, considering the grove around them, and the age-old building of the temple itself.
"I think adding a separate building would offer less hassle, less cost, and more privacy for the women" he noted, glancing back at his dominus. Those were certainly important things to consider. But the temple was also old, and as much as women liked to frequent it, it had somewhat fallen out of favor compared to many other temples in the city. "... but rebuilding the whole temple, maybe in marble... the cost would be great, but the honor would also be great with it."
His dominus was right, the temple needed a place where women could give birth, and feel close to the goddess. But not close enough to disturb the priestesses that were supposed to serve said goddess. In a comfortable manner, apparently.
"That... seems very likely, yes. Are you thinking of adding a building to the temple, domine?" Felix ventured, looking around in the grove. There would be ample space for a smaller building, without taking away from much of the greenery.
The sacred grove was quiet and peaceful; Felix walked half a step behind Aulus, keeping up appearances, but not keeping strict formalities.
"I'm sure they did. They can wait, however. Now. Horatia has suggested, and I concur, that perhaps there should be a dedicated midwife in residence here, because Juno knows her priestesses aren't capable of acting in that capacity."
"They... do not count that among her responsibilities, no." Felix noted tactfully with a chuckle. Why, only the gods knew. Or maybe not even them.
"Obviously, such a woman needs somewhere to live, and there should be a birthing room too, although presumably any woman coming to the temple wants to pray to the goddess. I wonder how much of a sacrilege it would be to have such a room within the very walls of the temple?"
"Sacrilege is one thing. The way I understand, birth is... quite a loud and messy affair" Felix nodded. "Any room or apartment like that would have to be in a... more secluded place." In the back of the temple, or in a separate building.
"I wonder how many women have found themselves in a similar position, coming to pray and finding themselves needing the more direct intervention of a good pair of hands,"
"Some that we know of. Domina mentioned the priestess complained of such incidents. I think... it would be prudent to take this task off their shoulders." Felix glanced over at Aulus. "You have a solution in mind, domine?"
Felix worked hard to bite back a smirk as he watched the interaction between the priestess and Aulus who towered over her. No doubt she had been expecting some kind of an apology, or even gifts in compensation of what had happened. It was customary to present gifts to the priestesses for various reasons... but as far as this family was concerned, abandoning Horatia in her hour of need was not one of them.
Felix followed Aulus out of the temple into the grove, feeling the glare of the priestess in their backs.
"I think they expected presents" he noted quietly once they were among the trees.
Felix stood to the side, allowing his dominus to make the offering and the necessary prayers. The priestesses hovered nearby, supervising the offering, but also throwing sideways glances at Felix, no doubt wondering if he was carrying more gifts in the box. He enjoyed the small satisfaction of making them wait for the answer.
Once Aulus' prayers were done, with the clay uterus placed on the altar, Felix waited for him to face the priestesses. The high priestess probably had the same idea, because she stepped forward, holding her head high (which she needed to, looking up at Aulus).
"The goddess accepts your gracious offering for her blessing on your child."
Of course people didn't usually try to beat him up. For one, he was built like a brick wall, and who would willingly try to beat a gladiator? And on the other hand, he was actually a nice person. Felix sure did enjoy kissing him more than fighting him. Alexius' lips wandered along his jaw and his throat, and Felix's eyes fluttered closed at the sensation. Yes. More of that.
"Do you want to... go somewhere... with me?"
Felix looked up, holding on to Alexius' shoulders. Right. They were still out in the open... thinking about doing very private things. "Yes. Where?"
"It seems the ex-Consul is more worthy of a reception than the ex-Consul's extremely pregnant lady wife,"
"Well, there is less of a chance you'll make them handle a newborn" Felix smirked quietly and then did his best to look somber, standing behind his dominus as he faced the fluttering priestesses. Aulus announced the reason for his visit and they were guided inside the temple. Felix stood to the side, holding out the box and allowing Aulus to make his offerings and prayers. He stole a few glances at the priestesses too, who congregated on the other side, watching the box with obvious curiosity and some hesitation. They had to know they had not been too kind to Horatia...
"A few more benches would be easy enough. A midwife would be a sensible precaution, though I doubt the priestesses will appreciate the insinuation that this is a good place to have a child."
"I believe the domina has expressed the same idea" Felix nodded. Horatia was now invested in fixing things, and she had the power to do it, too. Having a midwife at the temple at least would help in cases like hers - but it would also attract more women in need of help. Which was not necessarily a bad thing...
"Thank Juno that Longinus' girl was here,"
"Indeed. I hear she is also with child." One pregnant woman helping another. Domina was lucky she had someone like that. He looked up at the temple looming ahead of them. Someone must have noted their arrival, because two white-clad priestesses were waiting at the top of the stairs.
Yes, she could hear, no, she didn't speak. And yes, she did write. Felix paused to read the letters, hurriedly scratched but decent enough.
"Writing works, if you need anything." Felix smiled, resuming the walk. He opened a door to one of the smaller rooms; two beds taken up by two girls from the household, and the third empty (although currently occupied by some tunicas). "Does this one work for you?" he asked, glancing back at Tacita. Yes or no questions. "The other two girls work in the kitchen. We can go find you some blankets and supplies and... what you need."
There was a new baby in the household - the dominus had a second son, praise the gods, born under unusual circumstances - and with it, a whole lot of new errands to run. Felix himself did not have much to do with the baby, but the presence of the little one made him more cheerful in general. And it put the dominus in a good mood too. Right now, they were headed to the temple of Juno Lucina, both the birthplace of the child, and the sanctuary of the goddess of childbirth, surrounded by lush foliage. Felix was carrying the elaborately carved box wrapped in expensive cloth that contained the dominus' offerings to the goddess. And probably the priestess.
"Yes I... that does seem like an oversight" he noted. The path, and the unpreparedness of the priestesses in general. The whole household knew the story of how one of Longinus' slave girls helped the domina deliver. "Maybe the temple could use... a few more benches along this path."And a few more midwives. More than zero. "But the goddess did grant a good birth, praise her." It was always prudent to give credit when credit was due in one's own temple.
The Temple of Juno Lucina, April 77
Aulus had felt that he should make offerings to the relevant gods for the safekeeping of his wife and infant son, and one of the most important was Juno Lucina, the person of Juno who was responsible for childbirth and motherhood.
And, most relevant, in whose very temple Aulus' wife had given birth to their second son. Apparently the priestesses hadn't been amused by this, nor had they been very helpful when push came to shove. Or rather, when push led to the birth of a baby.
He felt rather out of place in this sanctum of a goddess whose remit was that most womanly of affairs, but he needed to leave his own offerings and make his own prayers... and possibly to chivvy the old, holy bats into being a little more helpful the next time someone went into labour on their doorstep. Being even an ex-consul had to be good for something...
And once his errand here was done, he was determined to find some small gift for Horatia that she would appreciate - even a woman of simple tastes liked to be given surprise gifts on occasion, after all.
"I can't believe the priestesses of the goddess of childbirth aren't better prepared to deal with the realities of actual childbirth," he said to Felix, pausing in the walk up the hill to the temple at its summit. "Especially after they've had to walk up here."
It was no wonder Horatia had gone into labour, as late on in her pregnancy as she had been, with even the moderate exertion of this walk.
How did one even carry out a hit on someone?
Felix felt wildly uncomfortable as she waited in the alley behind the popina. He probably made an intimidating sight with his tall, bulking form in the shadows, which had been the whole point of the dominus choosing him for this task. But being strong and tall did not really mean Felix was a violent person. Or that he knew how to 'teach someone a lesson.'
The someone in question was a man named Alexius. A freedman, whom what Felix knew; someone who frequented this popina among others, and someone handsome enough to also frequent the bed of the dominus' eldest daughter. Who was unmarried, but definitely not a maiden anymore. The dominus wanted to keep the scandal under wraps, but also wanted this Alexius to pay for what he had done. Hence, he picked the largest slave in the household - Felix - and sent him out to beat the man up. Thoroughly. Break a few bones. Maybe punch an eye out. That sort of thing.
Felix could not refuse a direct order. He'd just have to get on with it. He had been in fights before a couple of times, and he had also been beaten occasionally when the dominus felt he did not do his job well enough, so he was familiar with the general concept. And the man definitely deserved the beating, for doing... those things with the lady, and ruining her honor. That part really angered Felix. The domina was kind and friendly, and she did not deserve to be seduced by some freedman from the Subura.
Yes. He should focus on that. Just punishment.
There was movement at the door of the popina, and a man stepped out into the alley. He was tall, and decidedly handsome. Fit the description. He had to be it. Felix waited for him to look towards the exit of the alley before he moved from the other side, lunging at the man, aiming to get his arm around his throat and drag him back into the shadows.
Aulus had the wit to dismiss his lictors before entering the house - Horatia had despaired when she'd learned he was not only entitled to twelve lictors as a Consul, but couldn't dispense with them. He had promised to try to make it easier for her by not having them in the house when they weren't needed, although the domus was certainly big enough for them - they had families of their own, anyway, and probably appreciated being able to see them from time to time.
Aulus and the new slave, Tacita, were therefore alone as the ostiarius opened the door to admit them. He caught the eye of one of the house slaves in the atrium and bid him fetch his mistress, and Felix.
He hoped Horatia wouldn't mind his gift, however odd she might think it.
"This is your mistress, my wife, Horatia Justina," he said as his wife made her way towards them, Felix behind her. "And my body slave, Felix."
He smiled at his wife, urging Tacita forward. "Horatia, I've brought you a gift. This is Tacita - she doesn't speak, but she does write, and is learning to read. I thought she might be useful."
There used to be a time when Felix would have never, in a million years, dreamed about one day visiting the imperial palace. It was simply not something a household slave ever thought about, and even after becoming Aulus' body slave and confidante, he still did not set his sights that high. And yet, now his dominus was consul, and Felix suddenly had access to the most elevated place in Rome. Well, as much as a slave had access to anything... But he was physically present in the palace, and while Aulus was discussing important matters behind closed doors, he was given a little bit of time to himself.
The Palatine was a stunning place. Felix was used to the Calpurnius household, but the imperial palace was above and beyond anything he had seen in his life. This was not his first visit, but it was the first one when he did not have to stand at attention behind Aulus the entire time, and honestly, he was not sure what to do with his time off. He stood by the door for long minutes, thinking his dominus might ask for something or send him on an errand, but other than some slaves moving in and out of the room with cups and plates, nothing happened. The other body slaves meandered off to the coolness of the porticus nearby, or the corner of the gardens. Eventually Felix grew thirsty and moved away from the door, heading down the hallway he'd seen the household slaves go, hoping to find one of them to give him a drink. Any maybe food. But as he took turns and walked down corridors, Felix had an increasing sense of being... a little lost. Or maybe more than a little?
24th of June, Fors Fortuna
Months ago, Alexius met the very handsome and friendly Felix when he’d gone out for a night on the town. He’d interrupted a gang of guys about to beat someone up; and that someone turned out to be Felix. This Felix was someone he’d like to meet again and they had actually planned meeting for Vinalia Prima in Aprilis, but for some reason, Felix never showed up that night. Alexius had gone to his house as planned and patiently waited for his new friend to show up, but he never came and Alexius grew impatient. It was Vinalia and he couldn’t wait all night.
So he had moved on since then, a lot had happened and at the same time, not much at all. His son had met a girl and Oriana’s father had decided she no longer needed a bodyguard to live in the house. Alexius had to move out and maybe that was for the best; the affair he had with her was doomed anyway, so he didn’t even know why he stayed. Well he knew… he had feelings for her and they were returned, but how could she ever marry a mere freedman, when she deserved so much more?
Now he had a new home and Lexus had of course moved in with him. They got along fine, although most of the time, they didn’t see each other much. Lexus had a job and Alexius took little jobs here and there too, to make everything work and so they could pay for their home.
It was late June now and time for another of his favorite Roman festivals – the Fors Fortuna. And didn’t he enjoy it? Not just because there was usually a lot of wine and pleasure involved, but also because it was the good fucking Fortuna they celebrated! The goddess of luck, the one who turned wheel and hopefully in the right way! He did earn his freedom once, years ago, and he would thank her for being alive and healthy and for having brought his son back to him.
On the way to the temple, he walked past the home Felix showed him months ago and he stopped for a moment, kind of hoping he might actually see Felix again. And Fortuna worked in his favor, even today. Or perhaps, because it was today, she did it. The great Fortuna!
He couldn’t help but grin, when that handsome creature emerged from the house, hopefully to also participate in the festival, “Felix! How good to see you! And on this blessed day, even!”
October 74 AD (location: Sitting just outside of the Spurius' Slave market)
She had been in the household about 7 months and felt like she had a family. Her immediate superiors were Corva and her husband Linus and they were good to her. To her they replaced the parents she never knew. Corva had sent her out to the garden to pull a handful of herbs and produce. Once that was done and delivered to the kitchen, she was given a basket of food to deliver to their Dominus. Tacita changed into a clean tunic as she was going to his place of work and knew she was expected to make a good impression. “Stay at the warehouse until you are sent back" Tacita nodded her head, grabbed her carry bag and headed off with the basket.
She arrived in the Emporium Magnum- if she hadn’t been born and raised in Rome seeing the number of people milling about would have terrified her, especially with her deficits, but she knew the merchants that they usually dealt with and those merchants had gotten to know her unique circumstances. Tacita pulled the basket in close so that it didn’t get bumped. She wove her way between the stalls until she arrived at their warehouse. Tacita entered the building and after her eyes adjusted to the light change, she saw the various slaves for sale as well as the staff that he employed. She got the attention of one of the workers and gestured to the basket. Tacita was informed that he wasn’t present at the moment but she could leave the basket in his office. She nodded her head and delivered the basket. Once done, she stepped back out into the main room where slaves were milling about. With everyone milling about and her being a young woman, she was careful to make sure she was staying out of the way and cautious with those she didn’t know. Tacita had a basket of mending thrust into her hands. She found a spot just outside the door where she could maximize the light and enjoy the fresh air. She took the first item to mend and after checking for what needed to be done she began to stab the fabric with a needle.
Aulus had no idea what the time was when a slave came banging on the door of the servants' quarters, bearing news that te Praetorian Prefect, Clemens, had proclaimed himself Emperor (which Aulus was aware of) and that he was out for the blood of anyone connected with the Junii-Silani and Flavii-Alexandrii (which Aulus most certainly was not aware of).
"I have to leave Rome," Aulus informed his anxious wife.
"I can't stay here, they know me, they know who I am, they know where to find me..."
"But what about me - what about Titus?" She held the baby up in wordless appeal.
"You'll be safer once I'm gone. But you should go too - we can't go together because I'll put you in too much danger. I have to go - tonight, when it's dark and we can be more anonymous."
Horatia laid the baby back against her shoulder. "'We', Aulus?"
"Two men, in tunics and cloaks - it's still cold, that won't look out of place. I can't take Linus, everyone knows he's my slave." They probably didn't, of course; nobody looked at slaves, but it would only take one person to see the slave's face and recognise him and the game would be up, and Aedile Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus would join his ancestors decade before he had anticipated doing so. He was only thankful that his father was still in the family villa at Baiae.
"Go to my father at Baiae; I'll leave enough money for that journey. You might have to walk, it'll help you stay anonymous. Take Linus, or one of the others - a plebeian family getting away from the riots won't look too strange, several of them still have families with farms away from Rome. Hide Titus in the slaves' quarters till you go - hide yourself there, pretend the family left for the country."
"And what about you? Who will you take?"
"I'll take Felix. He's about as anonymous as they come, despite his size, and people will think twice about troubling us. I doubt anyone will actually connect him with this household, anyway."
"Where will you go?"
"Where do you think? I will plan to make my way to join Quintus wherever he is and maybe we can stop this madness that has seized Rome."
It was a few hours later when Aulus, clad in a dark anonymous tunic, layered over two more, and with a cloak around him for both inconspicuousness and protection from the weather, clasped his wife and infant son in his arms, perhaps for the last time, and turned to leave his father's house from the anonymity of the slaves' side door, the taller shape of the house slave Felix following him. Aulus took a breath and grasped Felix' arm, drawing him level. "We can't be seen to be master and slave, not now. It's too dangerous. Call me... Davus. Call me anything you like, but do not let the word Domine pass your lips before we are out of here."
He did not dare to think what might befall him if the slave decided that he could maybe get his freedom by betraying his master.
30 | October 23, 44CE | Slave | Body slave | Bisexual | Wanted | Channing Tatum
Felix is quiet and observant, which often makes people think he is not clever, but that is far from the truth. While he has always been an introverted person, not many things miss his attention, and even though he was raised without much of an education, Felix has a good deal of common sense. When he does voice opinions on something, he usually does it in a short and sharp fashion, occasionally with a hint of sarcasm if he can allow himself the liberty (which only really happens around Aulus). He is fiercely loyal to his master, stubborn about completing tasks that he was given, and proud of his role as a shadow and constant companion to Aulus. He admires his master, but also is starting to believe that if he ever won his freedom, he would be able to strike out on his own and make a good life for himself. He is discreet, and has a clear sense of right and wrong when it comes to following orders from Aulus - who occasionally even allows him to argue against questionable decisions. This, however, rarely happens. Felix has a great deal of trust in his master. He is a kind and gentle person at heart, but his loyalty can sometimes override his instincts when Aulus' life or reputation is on the line. He is curious about the world and especially Rome, and soaks up information even when he appears to be doing nothing but what a slave is expected to do.
The first thing most people notice about Felix is his build. He is tall and muscular, with broad shoulders and strong limbs, which often gets him mistaken for a bodyguard, or occasionally a gladiator or soldier. While he is none of those things, he carries himself with quiet strength, and if needed, he uses his height to tower over people in need of some intimidation. He wears his dark blonde hair cut short and he is usually clean shaven, which makes him look somewhat younger than he is. He is deemed handsome by both men and women who care to take a better look, instead of passing over him because he is a slave, a shadow of his master. He has green eyes, and usually an observing look on his face, but occasionally, when he allows himself to voice his opinions, he can do so with a small smirk, or even a quiet laugh. People who don't know him see him as stoic or even dim, but if someone watches him long enough they will notice the tension in his posture, ready to act on a moment's notice, and the curiosity in his eyes.
Father: Castor, slave
Mother: Philomena, slave
Children: probably none
Extended family: none
Other: Body slave to Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus
44CE: Felix is born in the household of Tiberius Calpurnius Praetextatus as verna, a house-born slave. His Greek mother, Philomena, works in the household's kitchen, his father, Castor is a stable hand from the northern part of Latium. He was also born a slave, but he claims some Etruscan ancestry.
50CE: Felix is put to work around the household as soon as he is old enough to carry out simple tasks. He is not deemed particularly clever, so no one bothers to have him taught reading and writing. He speaks Latin, but he also picks up some Greek from his mother. He is a quiet and observant child.
58CE: Growing up, people's idea of Felix as someone well-built but not particularly bright becomes the general consensus in the household. He is given tasks that require manual labor, and with his adolescent years he grows into his physical strength. He is not deemed useful enough to become a body slave to one of the members of the family. The lack of approval stings, but it allows Felix to be alone with his thoughts. He observes the household and the people in it, and keeps his comments to himself. He is curious about many things - the world, the legions, politics - but he is in no position to satisfy his curiosity.
62CE: Felix is eighteen years old, and his world suddenly turns upside down. His master's son Aulus, who recently returned from his military service to Rome, is forced to flee the city due to the purges of the senators early in the year. Aulus decides not to take one of his body slaves on the journey, since they are too recognizable, so he selects Felix in a hurry from among the less conspicuous slaves of the household - mostly for his strength and quiet nature. Felix suddenly finds himself in the middle of a life or death adventure. Aulus and Felix make an unlikely pair of traveling companions, but the young slave proves his loyalty to his master, and also shows a surprising deal of common sense along the way. After a narrow escape, he accompanies Aulus to Cappadocia, where they join up with Quintus Flavius Caesar Alexander Augustus. By the time they arrive back to Rome in August, Felix is a loyal companion of Aulus, and stays by his side as a body slave permanently. He is still quiet and observant, but now he has someone who actually recognizes the sharp mind behind the stoic exterior.
63-74CE: Felix accompanies his master to the Rhine frontier, then to Britannia, then to Raetia. He picks up some useful skills on the way, some out of curiosity, and some out of necessity - he learns to read and write, to handle a dagger in defense of his master, and some words in various languages. Mostly, he watches over the affairs of Aulus, completing all tasks he is given discreetly and loyally. His admiration for his master grows as he watches his career advance, and his loyalty deepens into something that is beyond mere survival, or even attraction. Over the course of their flight from Rome, Aulus and Felix shared some intimate moments, which reoccur sporadically in these years, although Felix never initiates them or flatters himself by thinking his master feels any special attraction towards him.
74CE: Aulus returns to Rome and so does Felix. Felix sees the City in the whole new light: instead of a household slave, now he is a personal companion to one of the most ambitious people in Rome. The City is suddenly full of possibilities.
Chevi | Eastern European | Discord