Face ClaimRami Malek
Had Artemon been a less experienced man in the domains of the heart, he might have found himself falling hard for his neighbour, longing for him like a dog after a juicy chunk of meat. Despite his proficiency, however, he was not immune to Alexius' charms and the words that flowed from his lips - spontaneous or well-rehearsed, they were as pleasing to the ear as their speaker to the eye.
If Alexius was sure his boy wouldn't mind then that was good enough for Artemon, although a small part of him was disappointed at not being able to show Lucilla, even through a flimsy wall, just how good in the sack he was. But there would be plenty of opportunity for it later... maybe. Plus, if he were to be practical about it - although lust and practicality seldom went together -, chances were Alexius' bed was a lot comfier than his thin, hay-filled mattress. This place was a lot nicer in general.
"Oh, getting restless? Guess we can skip straight to dessert then," he teased with what he hoped was a sexy wink, wilfully ignoring the fact that he had never quite been able to close only one eye and thus all of his attempts at winks were more like blinks. Taking advantage of their linked hands, he stood up abruptly and tugged at Alexius' arm to make him do the same. "So if that-" he pointed at the curtain that hid the kid's bed with his free hand "-is his bed, is that one yours?" His index was now stretched out towards another curtain. "Very well, I'm eager to see if you're as good a hands-on teacher as you are with the theory!" And with those words he dragged Alexius off to what was hopefully the bed and not where the other man kept his chamber pot.
It was very, very rare for Artemon to possess knowledge others didn't. It was almost always the other way round, and the extremely few times it was't, like now, he was going to milk it for all he could, even if his lack of book smarts invariably limited him in his gloating. "I'm quite sure of it," he insisted, straightening his shoulders and puffing out his thin chest just a little. "I don't remember who told me - maybe my brother, or my father, or my grandfather. But senators can't go to Egypt because of the grain! Imagine if one of them was cross with the emperor and decided to buy all the grain or blockade a harbour ? It would be ruinous for us sailors!" he exclaimed, taking another swig of his beer, before adding a few mollifying words. "And for the people of Rome, of course." The gods knew he had already been lucky once not to offend his new friend, he shouldn't risk it twice.
He stroked his chin and stuck out his bottom lip, going over the area around the famous Library in his head. House of Isis... was his compatriot not a godless soul after all? But then he would have said 'temple' rather than 'house', wouldn't he? Or could that be some feature of the Alexandrian dialect Artemon wasn't familiar with? Isis... Isis... But yes, there was one such place! Not that Artemon had dared show his face there too often, after that blunder with Herankh the courtesan and her cat early in his stint in the Egyptian capital. How was he to have known that 'tickle my pussy' wasn't referring to the lovable critter? He would have rather scrubbed all traces of the establishment from his memory, but if the other man had some sort of connection to place, the least Artemon could do was stay true to his word.
"I... uh... may know of the place you speak of. It's been years since I last visited, but it was home to beautiful yet feisty ladies. Is it of meaning to you?" His friend was right about the size of Alexandria, and to that day Artemon wasn't quite sure which of the two cities was the biggest, but perhaps the gods were feeling generous enough that the two men were indeed speaking of the same establishment, never mind the strong possibility of there being far more than one 'House of Isis' in the port city.
No pity whatsoever involved then? In that case it sounded as though there were no cons to Alexius' proposition. He was about to voice his final agreement when the finger on his cheek lit a fire where it touched, making Artemon's face feel like it had spawned its very own miniature sun in a mere instant. He stared unblinkingly at Alexius, eyes wide like an owl's, as he took in the sweet words directed at him. Alexius was not only a great host and a generous person, but he was also a talented poet! Few times had Artemon been the target of such compliments, and he was lapping them up like a hungry stray moggy.
"If this is how Venus inspires you, may she never grow tired of it!" Despite his blushing cheeks, he hadn't been rendered helpless enough not to pay back a compliment of his own. "And everything you said also applies to you, Alexius. You're a great catch yourself," he beamed, enthusiastically eyeing the other man up and down for emphasis.
Artemon shoved the bowl away just a little, done with his food, when another thought struck him. "Your son. What if he comes home? Will be he okay?" As in not mentally scarred. How old was Alexius' son, anyway? Maybe the boy was old enough to be wooing people himself. "There's my place too, Iophon probably won't be back until nightfall." And if Lucilla heard them through the flimsy walls, then all the better! That would teach her what she was missing out on!
Hmm. Maybe his new friend had a point. But Artemon was a sailor, not a brewer, so he didn't argue. But could beer spoil like that? He had always drunk any he could get his hands on before it ever had a chance to get to that stage, though. The best beer was the one in his stomach, preferably enjoyed out in the sun like he was doing just now, taking a leaf out of the book of cats all over Egypt with their fondness for basking in the warm rays.
He hadn't even noticed the collar on the other man, much to his embarrassment. To Artemon, free or slave made no difference and he hadn't yet made a habit of automatically taking note of collars, but a rare sliver of intelligence told him that it was easy for him to do when he wasn't the one having his existence restrained. He scratched his ear, looking contrite, and apologised to the other Egyptian. "I'm sorry! I was so excited to make a new friend that I didn't notice your... um..." he trailed off awkwardly, waving his hand towards the offending object. "For what it's worth," he brightened up almost instantly, "it makes no difference to me!" Embarrassment, while a very well-known emotion to Artemon, was as fleeting as a butterfly bumbling by on a hot day. If he dwelled on all the times he'd brought shame upon himself by accident, he wouldn't have the time to do anything else.
"I know that sometimes slaves travel with their masters, but senators can't go to Egypt, right?" Artemon inquired, thoughtfully chewing on his lower lip. He was sure somebody had mentioned this before: maybe his father...? Or Iophon...? No matter. "Well, a city as big as Alexandria changes every day, even if you don't always notice it right away. I doubt we knew the same people there, but if you're curious about some temple or shop, feel free to ask away. Maybe I'll know of it." He chugged his beer with little sounds of satisfaction, his mind's eye teleporting him to the Egyptian capital for a moment. "If you ever want to go back-," (the and are able to went unspoken) "I will help you find cheap passage on a ship." That was the easy, doable part - what came before, perhaps not quite so much.
No - now that he thought on it, life with Alexius could hardly be boring. Serapis knew what that son of his thought about his father, of course, but as far as Artemon was concerned, he was feeling like he had lucked out on his downstairs neighbour. If only all the other neighbours were as friendly as him! Then he wouldn't have been in this predicament with Lucilla.
He thanked the gods for his good fortune with a quick silent prayer as he helped himself to more bread and sauce-slash-stew. It tasted so good that coherent thought was briefly wiped from his mind so that he could concentrate fully on the rich flavours. The little establishment would definitely see a new patron in the future, so long as he had the coin. Caught unaware by Alexius' voice, Artemon made a successful effort to stop focusing on the food and instead listen to the person who had bought and shared the food. Right, distractions. Well, good food was proving to be a very decent one, but so was whatever Alexius had to say.
Artemon stopped chewing for a moment at his neighbour's question to make sure he had heard it right. Alexius, with his crazy handsome looks, willing to give him the best kind of attention? Only a fool would turn down such a proposition! But as much as he wanted to just say yes, he felt the need to explain his sudden reluctance. Swallowing the food in his mouth in a hurry, Artemon nodded, then wiped his lips clean with his thumb. "I say that sounds like an offer I can't refuse," he started with a smile that soon turned more serious, "but if you're volunteering just because you pity me then it's not necessary." He was a grown man and capable of getting over Lucilla on his own - eventually. Unless a little romp made her jealous...? Nah, that was a recipe for disaster. He now considered Alexius a friend and did not want things to turn awkward between them.
His new friend was in agreement - a man of taste when it came to beer, like a true Egyptian! "Indeed! I don't think they actually brew it here though, I'd bet you an as it comes on boats." As far as he could recall Artemon had never been involved in the shipment of beer, though grain was a different story. Then again, Romans had a strong appetite for grain, but not for beer. They clearly didn't know what they were missing out on.
Artemon took another healthy swig of his drink, proud of his knowledge of Egyptian accents. "Have you not been back? I can't say I blame you, Alexandria is a fine city but Rome also has a lot to offer," he conceded, caressing his chin thoughtfully. "Not long at all, I only came last year. I was working mostly in Ostia, but the earthquake really did a number on the harbour, so..." He motioned for the other man to follow him outside, where they could bask in the weak autumn sun.
"I've been working at a warehouse here in Rome since. Can't say the pay's good, but at least it's steady," he said with a shrug. "How about you?"
Even though he was not favoured by Venus or Cupid, his neighbour's friendliness made Artemon realise he was quite blessed in the matter of friends. There was Iophon, of course, his best mate since the womb, and all the sailors he had made friends with throughout his life, and now Alexius who had invited him to his home and offered him food and drink. The conclusion made him perk up and he grinned broadly at Alexius, romantic woes put aside for the moment.
"What a fascinating life!" he commented as he licked a blob of sauce off his finger. Gladiator, imagine that! Somehow it suited Alexius. And everybody knew how desirable, to put it that way, gladiators were. "Maybe the talent slept within you all along, but it was only when you became a gladiator that it woke up." It made sense to him: even the world's most talented musician could not be one if they had no access to a musical instrument.
The little mental detour didn't last long, and Alexius' question had Artemon thinking hard, eyes narrowed and brow comically furrowed as though he were a hen struggling to lay a particularly large egg. Was he in need of distraction? What was that saying again about an idle mind? Or was it idle hands? "Do you mean... find someone new so you forget about the other person?" Mimicking the other man, he drank some of his wine, still pondering the question. "Maybe I am... I guess... but what if the same happens with that new person and they won't even give you the time of day?"
Oh, so his new friend was one of those who did not believe in the greatness of the gods. What most people did not seem to get was that you couldn't just waltz into a temple and start begging for favours - no, first you had to show proper, heartfelt devotion, and when the deity was satisfied then they would look kindly on you and maybe help you a little. It was inconceivable to Artemon that somebody could be so indifferent to all gods, what with how many of them existed.
"I was fancying a good Egyptian beer after praying at the temple, but now I see that Mother Isis gave me a task when she made our paths cross. She sent me a new friend!" he exclaimed, giving the young man a hearty clap on the back. A friend who I must teach to find room in his life for a god, he added to himself. But first he would have to earn some trust.
Artemon took another drink of his beer and licked his lips clear of any foam. "Beer is one of the things I miss the most about home. Or missed, until I found this place! The owner is from Oxyrhynchus but he's lived here for decades, or so he said last time. There are patrons from everywhere in Egypt, though. And you, my friend," Artemon stared unabashedly at the other man, a broad smile on his face softening the unsettling way in which his eyes bulged, "are from Alexandria! Am I right or am I right?"
Artemon felt heat rise to his cheeks as Alexius winked at him and tried to hide any potential redness behind a sip of the wine his neighbour had just poured. If he winked like that at everyone, no wonder he was so successful with the ladies. "Then it's your talent. The gods decided to gift it to you when you were born, so it grew with you," he stated in dead seriousness as he grabbed another piece of bread and scooped up some more sauce with it. "I cannot learn it at the same level because I wasn't born with it, but I am very thankful for your tips and advice." Now it was his turn to wink just before digging in again.
"No, I also like men. Why limit yourself?" he shrugged as he reached for his cup and drank some wine. If he some day wanted to marry and have children, well, then it would have to be with a woman; but he felt like that day wasn't coming anytime soon, thanks to his rotten luck in Venus' domain. "Both have their upsides and downsides," he cocked his head thoughtfully, "but right now I feel like I can't get Lucilla off my mind." Too bad he was the furthest thing from hers. Heaving a sigh, Artemon stared down at his plate and proceeded to wipe it clean with another piece of bread. "I should do as you say and leave her be. I can't make her smile..."
Time to get some more expert advice from Alexius. "How do you get over people faster?" If Lucilla didn't want anything to do with him it was a waste of energy to spend his time thinking about her, but Artemon's usual strategy consisted of moping around until somebody else came along and caught his attention. Maybe Alexius would know of a better way.
"No, no, it was my fault! I was focusing too hard on my drink and not enough on what was in front of it!" Artemon assured the other man, hoping the admission of guilt would save him from a black eye. "I will buy you a drink to apologise. And myself another one, too." That would leave him two steps closer to bankruptcy or begging on the streets, but if he got beaten up he wouldn't be able to work anyway.
He put a beer-sticky hand on the young man's shoulder and guided him inside the popina, where the owner was seemingly pleased to make another sale so soon. As they waited Artemon examined the damage to the other's tunic as sneakily as he could, keen on avoiding a fullonica bill that he couldn't possibly afford. "Don't worry, once the smell is gone your clothes will be fine. Happens to me all the time," he explained with a smile that was meant to be reassuring.
Two full cups were handed to them and he hurried to take a good swig so the contents wouldn't spill if a second collision were to happen. "So who do you pray to the most, Isis or Serapis? Or do you pray to the Roman gods?"
Topics I Participated In
October 75 CE
After a successful praying session to the ancient gods of his homeland, Artemon was feeling quite ready to honour another Egyptian custom of old - a nice mug of beer. Even though his deity of choice was Sobek, the crocodile god to whom he had not found a temple yet, he had faith that neither Isis nor Serapis would object too much to being second best.
The small tavern a couple of streets away was mostly frequented by countrymen of his and, as far as Artemon was concerned, had pretty decent beer for its price. He hummed an old tune all the way there and headed straight for the counter upon entering, where he parted with a bit of coin and was given a big cup with a generous amount of beer inside. He took a sip, sighed in delight and made his way outside again, intent on enjoying his drink under the autumn sun...
That was, until he walked into something quite solid and proceeded to spill half his beer over it. As he processed the event he first mourned the loss of his drink, and only a moment later did he realise he had unwittingly given a young man a beer bath. With a sheepish smile Artemon awkwardly and futilely tried to pat the man dry as he apologised in Egyptian. "I'm sorry brother, my mind was elsewhere."
Artemon was feeling down for the umpteenth time that week. Things were not looking up at all. As he carried an amphora full of water up the stairs, balancing it easily over his shoulder, he ran the maths in his head once more. Numbers weren't his strong suit, but even a bad student like him knew that unless his luck changed - or Iophon's, for that matter -, keeping a roof over their heads would be no easy feat.
His thoughts quickly strayed to the topic of alternate lodging and then to his attractive neighbour Lucilla. She was so pretty and had such nice skin... hard to believe she was a laundress, her hands were never swollen and wrinkly! She must clearly use quality products and be paid well for them, since she could afford a better place than him and Iophon. If only she would give him the time of day...
Lost in his daydream, Artemon almost crashed into one of his neighbours that was going down the stairs, and after a few seconds of juggling and cursing the amphora was safely balanced between his shoulder and head again. "Sorry Alexius, I was very deep in thought," Artemon apologised to his downstairs neighbour. The man had always been friendly, so maybe he wouldn't be angry at the near-collision.
Wait a minute. Alexius was just the right person to ask! He was often in good-looking company. Looking at Alexius with big hopeful eyes, Artemon put a hand on the bodyguard's arm to stop him. "Actually, you're just the person I needed to see. I want your opinion. And your help," he added in a low conspiratorial tone. "What do you think of Lucilla who lives upstairs?"
22 | 10th December 52 CE | Peregrini | Odd jobbs | Bisexual | Original | Rami Malek
Artemon is a friendly young man with a fatal flaw: gullibility. Always eager to believe that his luck is about to turn round, he falls for the flimsiest plans with boundless enthusiasm and learns absolutely nothing from his failures. He is, however, resilient, as he picks himself up time and again while managing to keep his faith in humanity. His greatest dream is to strike it rich, and to this end he frequently embarks on a number of get-rich-quick schemes and drains his meagre savings in the process. He is a people person and will happily strike up a chat with total strangers in his native Egyptian, fluent Greek or his improving Latin – and being as credulous and naïf as he is, he also falls in and out of love very easily, coming across the love of his life on average twice a week.
Being a dimwit also has its problems, as some smarter people Artemon comes across will think he’s taking the mick because nobody could conceivably be this daft, and despite his frantic assurances that he’s not, every once in a while Artemon will come home sporting a black eye or bloody nose, or sometimes both. He’s a strong believer in magic and superstition and is thoroughly convinced that some unknown enemy of his has put a very strong curse on him that keeps him from succeeding in life - and when he finds out the identity of this person, he will make a sacrifice to Sobek and invoke the most powerful curse known to Egypt on his enemy.
He is a short and scrawny young man, courtesy of insufficient protein whilst growing up – but then again, Egyptians aren’t known for being tall, and at 167 cm he certainly isn’t. For all his apparent lack of muscle, however, Artemon has surprising upper body strength and is no stranger to loading and unloading ships at various harbours or reeling in a crocodile by accident instead of that humongous fish he was positive was trapped in the fishing net.
Perpetually bug-eyed with deep bags under his eyes that won’t go away even if he sleeps a whole day, he’s got the sun-kissed skin of Nile dwellers mixed in with a bit of Greek olive tones. He keeps his dark hair shorter than his brother’s because it gets in his blue eyes (the latter’s colour inherited from some Greek ancestor, his father would say), but if allowed to grow freely it would be just as curly. Artemon has a strong jaw made softer by the easy smile on his face and keeps it religiously free of hair, because it’s itchy and hot and he couldn’t grow a beard if he tried anyway. On the inside of his left bicep is a tattoo of Sobek, the crocodile god of the Nile.
His clothes are plain and of poor quality, betraying the sorry state of his finances, but Artemon tries to keep them as clean as possible, washing his two tunics regularly.
Father: Empedion (b. 18)
Mother: Tsillah (b. 23)
Siblings: Euphemios (b. 40), Apollodora (b. 42), Hermolaos (b. 46), Niketas (b. 49), Chrysanthe (b. 51), Iophon (twin brother, b. 52), Tryphosa (b. 57).
Extended family: aunts, uncles and cousins
52 CE – On a dark December night Artemon and his fraternal twin brother Iophon are born to an already big family in a village near Ptolemais Hermiou. He’s the oldest by a handful of minutes, but time would tell that he is definitely not the wisest. Empedion, their father, gives his new sons good Greek names, as he has done for the rest of his brood – after all, his own father was Greek, and that’s something very important to him. Tsillah, their fully Egyptian mother, doesn’t object any more than she did the previous times, and is just happy that they’re both healthy despite their small size.
57 CE – Their youngest sister, Tryphosa, is born, and Artemon and Iophon are demoted from their positions as babies of the family. Despite his young age, Artemon enjoys going fishing with his maternal grandfather and uncles and is much praised for doing his part in putting food on the table; turns out he does a good job of gutting the fish for a 5-year-old.
58 CE – In a family as large as theirs there are many mouths to feed and not enough food to go round. The Nile’s harvest is bountiful, but only a fraction of a fraction is made available to them and the children often go to bed hungry. Even as his older siblings marry and go off to burden another household or bring another pair of hands to theirs, young Artemon can’t help but lament how everything would be much better if they were rich. The rich never starve, do they? Thus he got it into his head that his one ambition in life was to become rich.
59-67 CE – Although he continues to help out with fishing and is taught the minimum of letters and numbers by his despondent father, Artemon felt like there had to be something more he could be doing to make money. First he tried collecting and selling pretty stones, but everyone could go and pick their own stones off the ground, so that didn’t work; it also didn’t help that the village kids easily conned him into trading his nice stones for others that were bigger but uglier, because arithmetic wasn’t his forte and Artemon didn’t grasp that two of his small shiny stones were worth more than a giant lump of badly-formed clay. Another time a travelling merchant came by the village and was selling herbal cure-alls at a very low price; always one with an eye for business, a barely teenaged Artemon bought the man’s whole supply in order to later sell them to the villagers for a higher price. It might just have worked were it not for the powerful loosening of the bowels the medicine caused, and as constipation hardly ever struck, his enterprise was futile.
68-74 CE – Having joined a small local company of merchants, Artemon and Iophon become another cog in the machine supplying Egyptian grain to the neverending poor of Rome. They sailed up and down the Nile, loading their feluccas with grain from the Thebaid and carrying it down to the port of Alexandria, from where it would cross the Mediterranean to feed the capital of the empire. Artemon was rightly impressed by the city, but after the first year it lost that ‘wow’ factor. When funds were running low, Artemon would team up with his brother and sell amulets against the evil eye to tourists while Iophon told his tales. Though it was steady work, a tiny sliver of ambition gnawed at Artemon: this was no way to get rich! To his simple mind, the path ahead was clear: who was buying the grain? Rome. Meaning there was plenty of money in Rome. Meaning Artemon should go where the money was – Rome! Brokering passage across the sea from himself and his brother was no issue thanks to his passable sailor skills.
74 CE – A couple of weeks after having disembarked at Ostia and gotten a feel for the place, Artemon travels onward and sees Rome for the first time, immediately feeling that this is the place where his fortune will be made. He spends the first few days in a daze, lodging at an old acquaintance of his captain’s, before his dwindling finances force him to look for employment. He found it at a fishmonger’s, gutting fish once more. It did not pay well, but Artemon managed to save a little bit of coin, which he promptly handed to a wise woman to cast a love spell to make Fabia the popina girl fall for him – and as was to be expected, the woman ran off and Fabia did not fall for Artemon. It is at this time that he becomes convinced somebody is out to sabotage his endeavours, and the wise woman was surely bought off by that person so his wish would not come true. After all, only a powerful curse brought on by envy and jealousy would spawn such bad luck.
75 CE, Jan - Jun – Artemon worked in Ostia, making the trek to Rome when his coin purse was heavy enough and returning to the harbour to load and unload shipments when it grew inexplicably empty. The earthquake put an end to that easy routine and Artemon was left scratching his head and deciding to pack up and stay in Rome for a bit – someone had told him they’d heard of a collapsed domus with lots of jewellery and precious items under the rubble that nobody had got to yet. After Artemon paid the man for the rights to inspect the ruins and spent many hours digging and removing dirt, the only things he found were broken amphorae and a putrefied goat.
75 CE, Jul – present – After many a lean week, Fortuna finally smiled upon Artemon and he found himself working for a man named Gallus, moving his merch between warehouses. What said merch is Artemon can’t quite tell, but it smells good and herbal, and if he’s smart this time maybe Gallus will let him in on it. Business seems to be going well, because there’s always work and the pay is steady; steady enough to allow him and Iophon to rent a room in an insula full of funky characters.
Liv | GMT+1 | PM/DM
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