Face ClaimRami Malek
It was a slightly disappointed Artemon that nodded as his nymph explained she would save her half of the bun for later. He had hoped they could discuss its rustic yet exquisite flavour and that in doing so he might entice her to sample more foods in his company, but her reasoning was perfectly sensible. In fact, now that he thought about it, it was very flattering indeed! "I hope you enjoy it," he mumbled with uncharacteristic shyness. It was the first time in forever that he was the target of such a nice compliment.
That hair really was something. Artemon watched as if in a trance as the fair strands moved and bounced in synchrony with their owner's movements - he could swear they did a little happy dance of their own when she laughed! Or that might have been his heart fluttering instead. "Wow!" he let out, unable to hide his awe. It was not a wig, could you believe that?! Artemon was sorely tempted to bring his clean(er) hand to a silvery golden lock and give it a good tug, but the lady would not appreciate that at all. Her slaves would probably beat him up if he even tried. What a shame it was not to be able to touch it!
"So your ancestors had the same hair colour? Is it common amongst people from the north?" He wasn't quite sure where or what Noricum was - all these Roman city names sounded the same anyway, and 'the north' was as faraway a concept to him as the source of the Nile: he knew it existed somewhere but that was about it. "It is not only beautiful, but very practical as well! I imagine lice are much easier to detect, aren't they?" Like dark stains on a white toga! "Lice are a big problem in Egypt, lots of people wear wigs instead," he commented with the most serious of looks before finishing up his half of the bun and licking blackcurrant juice off his fingers. "I remember when I was little one of my sisters got lice, my mother had her hair all shaved off before they spread to the rest of us." Unconsciously, Artemon ran a sticky hand through his own unruly mop. No lice there! At least not as far as Artemon was able to tell - sure, his scalp itched every now and then, but it was mostly due to sweat what with how hard Gallus worked him... or so he thought.
Artemon had just begun nodding in response when he caught himself again. The problem with being a naturally very expressive person was that it was hard to remember not to act his usual way whilst sitting in a chair with a barber's blades mere millimetres from his flesh. "No problem!" he chirped, trying to sit very still as Barbatius' body came into view - he did not want to leave the shop with lopsided hair. "What would happen to the Reds if everyone liked the Whites, eh?" For once Artemon managed to stop a shrug in time, and he beamed with pride before acknowledging his new barber friend was probably not used to socialising with the, ah, not wealthy or comfortable. "I understand. You prefer to make friends with people of higher station and heavier purses. From one businessman to another, I cannot fault you for it!" His blue eyes shone with seriousness and he would have clasped Barbatius' hands for emphasis had they been free rather than about to snuff the life out of his stubborn and overgrown curls.
He was good at obeying, and so he closed his eyes like the other man suggested. Ending up with an eyelash in your eye was painful enough that he had no desire to find out if it would be any worse with hair. "Speaking of business, it must have taken you some time to build your clientele. How long have you been established here?" Hopefully this line of questioning would segue into an opportunity to enquire about patronage and investments; yet before Artemon could formulate the next question in his head, a voice coming from outside interrupted his thoughts unceremoniously.
"Hello? Is this the barbershop of Marcus Barbatius?"
Great. Now it wasn't just Artemon's thoughts that had been interrupted - his chance to conduct self-serving research was most likely gone. Unable to stifle a disappointed sigh, he opened his eyes again, barely registering that the quiet slave had moved towards the door. "It seems like your skills are in high demand today," Artemon commented in a sulky tone, knowing perfectly well this was to be expected but wanting to feel all posh and special for just a little longer.
The barber did not like parties, he said. Artemon gasped as his eyebrows shot up and nearly disappeared into the curls Barbatius hadn't got round to yet. How could one not like parties?! Where there was - most of the time - food, drink and merriment?! He started to shake his head in disapproval, stopping as the cool metal of the scissors touched his skin and he remembered where he was and why he was there. It would be foolish to ruin this very expensive haircut with a thoughtless motion.
"Maybe you haven't been to a good one yet!" he countered gaily, eager to change the other man's mind. "Tell you what, I will check with Alexius when the next party will be and then I'll come and invite you and we can go together," Artemon explained without so much as a pause for air. "And then when other guests ask you who you are, you can just say 'ah, I came with Artemon!" And then Barbatius would see for himself that parties could be really fun. "We live in an insula on the Esquiline. I live at the very top with my brother and Alexius lives downstairs with his son. It's a nice place!" Sure, it was a bit shabby here and there, but it wasn't like he and Iophon could afford much else. "Not as nice as this, of course," he waved his hand in a sweeping motion, "but it's cosy! People are nice and there haven't been any fires yet!" Yes, that clinched it; his new friend Barbatius should really come and visit.
What a bore life must be without friends! Artemon raised a sympathetic eyebrow and would have given the man a look full of pity if he had been able to see him, but people didn't have eyes in the back of their skulls and even if they did they would be obscured by hair anyway. Then again, it made sense for Barbatius not to have many friends - they would all want a free shave or haircut! Artemon was well familiar with these parasites: they had accosted him in Egypt and they still accosted him in Ostia and Rome, always looking for freebies.
The tangent his mind had gone off on was cut short by the barber's words, the rhythmical snip snip snip of the blade their background music. Not even the slightest tug! Artemon was impressed with Barbatius' skill. "Um, yes. So a few days ago I was looking for my brother, and when I went down to ask my neighbour Alexius if he'd seen him, he was throwing a party, so I decided to stay." He smiled at the memory; despite it being the shortest and most poorly supplied party he had ever attended, it had still been fun. Alexius was a good entertainer.
"There were quite a few people there! Some were our neighbours, like the fruit lady and that doctor, but the others I didn't know. I don't know how he and Alexius became acquainted, he's really not that good-looking," Artemon concluded with a frown. Sure, Alexius' reputation preceded him, but he could have his pick of the comely denizens of Rome! Why he would go for that scowling kid was beyond Artemon.
"If you would like to make more friends, maybe I can ask my neighbour when he's next throwing a party and tell you? And then you can come too?" he suggested, certain that nobody would mind an extra guest. After all, this Barbatius guy seemed quite alright.
Who knew but the gods? Artemon shrugged, completely oblivious to the effect the motion could have had on his haircut had Barbatius already begun. Well, maybe his witch employer had some spell to predict the future, but he hardly dared think about it - what if Sobek took offence and cast misfortune upon him? What if crocodiles appeared in the Tiber? Frightened at the things his brain was coming up with, Artemon shook his head and vowed never to tempt Tyche in such a way again.
Ah, now it was happening! His hair was thick, but the barber combed through it effortlessly; clearly he had done this many times before. Artemon hummed, pleased, before entering a state of slight panic at the questions Barbatius was now posing. So many of them! Clearing his throat to gain a few seconds and collect his thoughts, Artemon launched into his reply. "Yeah, he looked younger than me, although I couldn't tell you his age," he admitted, squinting as he recalled the young man's appearance. Definitely younger but not by more than a handful of years, he reckoned. "And yes, he had very dark hair. I suppose it was a bit longer than mine, now that I think about it." Terribly unfashionable it had been, too!
He hadn't noticed no collar, but then again, he had been more focused on his growling stomach at the time. "Don't remember if he had one." What master would let his slave wander off to a party, though? Perhaps the same who let the witch run her business. Somebody very clueless, obviously; Artemon's superior intellect could easily discern that. "Is he your friend, perhaps? Someone at the party said this boy had a barber friend. Of course, it could very well be someone else!" he chirruped, backtracking in case were not friends but rather sworn enemies.
The combing session was over, much to Artemon's disappointment. Oh well, it had been good while it had lasted. Now, the real action was about to begin! Artemon shuffled in his seat, as excited as though he were watching the races.
A smug grin blossomed on Artemon's lips at the barber's admission of not being well-travelled. "Indeed I am lucky! Not everybody has had the fortune of being an important part of a successful enterprise," he gloated in soft tones, bringing a cocky hand to his chest and patting it a few times. "I hope you are able to visit it in your lifetime, my friend," he added with heartfelt conviction. Everybody deserved to see that city so great, second only to Rome.
"Uh, I am a ladies' man!" he interjected, his feathers suddenly a little ruffled. "And a gentlemen's man!" Why miss out by restricting yourself to one or the other? Still peeved, Artemon sniffed at the new vial, taking a good whiff of the scent before proclaiming his acceptance of Barbatius' suggestion. "Yes, this one will do." It was a pleasant herby fragrance, although it faintly reminded him of food.
No matter. He had come here to take care of his hair, like the barber pointed out. "Right. So I usually get it cut short, but not too short if you know what I mean?" Artemon tried to demonstrate with his hands, failing miserably at depicting anything beyond a toddler's attempt at invisible pottery. A new flash of brilliance struck him - maybe he could kill two birds with one stone... "There was this lad I met with hair just like how I want mine. I tried asking him about it, but he didn't really speak." This was one of the biggest lies Artemon had ever told, because that boy at Alexius' party had had an absolutely unappealing hairstyle. "Did he come to you, perhaps?" He got comfortable in his seat, waiting for Barbatius to start snipping away.
Artemon bit his lip at the barber's hesitation, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing. Maybe this Barbatius fellow had that condition that made a person's skin break out in hives and rashes when they touched something. Fortunately, he was spared from supposing any further when the other man presented another vial for him to smell. Ah! There it was! He had never been rich enough to buy a lemon and know what it tasted like, but he recognised the scent. Before Artemon could squeal his approval, the vial disappeared from under his nose.
"Oh..." was his disappointed reply, although it hardly came as a surprise. The haircut was already pricey, of course any add-ons would be too. Artemon's eyes met the barber's and, sensing no openness to haggling, gave a resigned nod. "Er, what about pine?" Was that cheap enough? He had no idea. Trying to dissipate the awkwardness in the air, Artemon eagerly launched into small talk. "You know, lemons remind me of Alexandria. The people I worked for shipped mostly wheat, but every now and then we'd get other wares coming from the east. Have you ever been to Alexandria? It's really an amazing city!" he chatted away, casting a curious glance at the very quiet slave that was busy staring at the floor. Perhaps the poor lad wasn't allowed to speak - he need not be concerned, for Artemon would talk for the both of them.
Artemon's shoulders drooped with relief as the barber pronounced his funds sufficient, and a moment later he was retrieving his pouch with a nod of assent and a look reminiscent of a pleased cat. It wasn't by any means a paltry sum for him - yet there were times in life when you had to fake it till you made it. He therefore decided to frame this expensive haircut as an investment in his future.
"Oh yes, that would be great!" he agreed, a cocky smile playing on his lips for a few seconds as he pondered the question. "Well, you're not wrong. They do like them." Maybe that was why Artemon had the worst luck with ladies: he didn't smell good enough. Fortunately Barbatius could help with that. Artemon leant forward to sniff the vial in front of him, recognising the scent right away. "To be honest, this isn't quite what I had in mind..." was his sheepish admission as he avoided eye contact. "Do you have something a bit..."
More masculine? Sharper? Crisper?
Now wasn't there something he had heard recently about a barber and lemons? Artemon squinted, trying to jog his memory. Of course! At Alexius' party! One of his guests was looking for their barber friend. Too bad Artemon hadn't caught the boy's name so he could ask Barbatius; he would have to try a different, subtler approach.
He looked up at the barber again, pretending to have thought hard about what he wanted. "A bit... fresher? You know, like lemons?"
Hah! So Marcus Barbatius had rich patrons; just the sort of thing Artemon liked to hear. He beamed at the other man, managing to look even dafter than usual. "Oh no, I have complete faith in your ability!" After all, if it was good enough for a prosperous clientele, it was certainly good enough for him. A brief interrogation floated through his mind - would Barbatius share the identity of some of his illustrious customers? Artemon's mouth opened to voice the thought, but he closed it again a second later. No, first he had to earn the barber's trust and then he could ask questions, maybe even form a successful business partnership. He sank into the chair, pleased with his reasoning.
The question caught him unaware, but Artemon quickly straightened up and nodded, grinning back at the man in hopes of seeming more trustworthy.
Here came the moment of truth. Fidgeting with his ratty money pouch, Artemon felt the coins through the worn leather before presenting it to Barbatius with a nervous motion. "You tell me!" What if the barber told him it wasn't enough? Well, at least there weren't any other customers around to witness Artemon's humiliation. And he would have a word with Menenius too - just how much was that sod getting paid if he could afford Barbatius' skills?
He glanced up at the barber, eyes bulging in expectation of his verdict. Hopefully his prices hadn't increased in the last few days.
The gods were surely on Artemon's side that day, seeing it as this purportedly very skilled barber could in fact accommodate him then and there. He looked very professional, at any rate, holding his razor so confidently. Artemon felt more at ease almost immediately and smiled back at the other man, paying no mind to the scrutiny of his near-nonexistent facial hair.
"Yes, just the hair," he confirmed, taking the seat offered to him as the barber turned round to retrieve something. Who would have thought getting a haircut could be so exciting? He would definitely have to tell Iophon all about it when he went back! Overwhelmed by a surge of boldness come out of nowhere, Artemon made an unusual decision. "I usually cut my hair the same every time, but today I'll leave it to your expert judgement!" An experienced man like Barbatius had probably seen enough faces and hair types to know what fit one best.
It was perhaps unfortunate that Artemon didn't go in for a shave, as that would have kept him far quieter than a haircut could hope to achieve. "My friend who told me about you also works at a warehouse. Do you get many customers like us or is it more of a mixed bag?" If Marcus Barbatius had wealthy customers... and Artemon happened to come across one of them at the shop... and have the chance to discuss business... that might just be the lucky break he needed!
Topics I Participated In
On that crisp morning, as Eos drove her chariot across the sky and painted it a pale pink that slowly turned into blue, Artemon had briefly admired his reflection on a still puddle of water as he made his way home after a long night of toil. This contemplation had allowed him to confirm what he had been suspecting for a few days now.
His hair was getting too long.
The problem with that was that it would soak up sweat like a sponge, leaving him to feel as though he had dunked his head in a mix of clay and oil. It made for very uncomfortable working and for a very unkempt appearance. And that would simply not do! Gallus would never increase his pay with him looking like that.
So he had gone home, taken a short nap, eaten some stale bread and collected a few coins from the literal hole in the wall where he kept a figurine of Sobek to guard his hard-earned savings, and with this money Artemon marched out again, keen on finding a barber that wouldn't scalp him. One of the men at the warehouse, Menenius or something equally uninspired his name was, had mentioned one a couple of weeks prior that he claimed to be happy with. 'Not cheap', Menenius had said, 'but when he's done you come out feeling like the emperor!' And that was just what Artemon needed - a mood boost and looking like the shrewd businessman he was deep down.
Walking through the busy streets jogged his memory, and the young man found himself standing by the entrance to one Marcus Barbatius' shop. After a quick, nervous look at the contents of his money pouch followed by an equally quick and nervous prayer that it would be enough, Artemon entered the shop, announcing his presence with a greeting.
"Salve! I come to this establishment at a friend's recommendation." (Fine, Menenius was just a chatty coworker, but the barber didn't need to know that. Maybe he'd even give him a referral discount!) "As you can see, my hair is in need of being put back in its place." Artemon eyed the other man expectantly, like a puppy wondering if it's going to get a treat. "Could you take care of that now or should I come back later?"
December 22, 76AD, evening (after The hunt begins)
In retrospect, they could have tried to find a bigger place for this, Lucius thought. They barely fit inside Alexius' apartment, and his son was not even home yet. But it was still better than nothing, and the place was inconspicuous enough not to raise any suspicion of the ragtag gathering of slaves, freedmen, plebeians, and one former patrician. They really looked like an unexpected group of people as they all filed in. Lucius, still in his vigiles uniform (he had to go on patrol while the others looked for more clues, and he jut got back for the evening). Alexius, the ex-gladiator, towering over the rest of them. Jason, the imperial body slave, and his cousin, the mute charioteer, who was leaning against a wall with his arms folded, sizing up everyone. A girl - Didia? - who had been attacked by the killer, and apparently also lived next door. And she brought another, soft-spoken older man along, who introduced himself as Theodorus. Medicus for a ludus, apparently. Well, Lucius thought, there was a possibility that a medicus' services were needed before this was all over.
Lucius had brought some wine for everyone, and also a rolled-up map of the city. It was a little dated, and barely marked more than the main streets and the regions, but it was the best he could rustle up on a short notice. He also had a new writing tablet, instead of the one he'd borrowed.
"Is this everyone?..." he asked, glancing around at the assembled people. How were they even... supposed to do this? "I know we don't all know each other, but apparently we have a common enemy. Someone who has hurt... and killed... a lot of people." he glanced at Didia, and cleared his throat. "Someone no one has paid attention to, or connected the dots, for too long. And we need to find him, fast. Before he hurts someone else."
@Sara @Atrice @Sharpie
Early July, 76 AD
It was a sweltering day in Rome like so many others, but the heat did not bother Artemon, who was used to Ra visiting worse punishment on him. It was also a very rare day off for him, and after sleeping in past lunchtime he felt very much ready to start his day - get dressed, eat, hit the thermae, steal a certain something from the nearest public garden and busy himself with people-watching.
In this case, however, there was one person Artemon was hoping to see, and even amidst the bustling crowd, his eyes found their intended target.
There she was! A nymph, the loveliest creature the gods had ever made. Nay, she was Ken herself come to Rome and walking among mortals, may his father forgive him for such blasphemous thoughts! From behind a marble column Artemon studied the young woman's activities. Such grace! Such beauty! And that hair, fairer than the emperor's togas and shining in the sun like a thousand aurei! She was a dream, a vision, a balm sent by the gods to rest his tired, bulging eyes.
And she was walking in the opposite direction.
Springing into action, Artemon left his hiding place and broke into a jog to catch up with the lady. "Domina!" he called out, hoping to get her attention, and produced a single, slightly crushed rose from a worn pouch around his waist. "For you, as a token of my appreciation," he beamed as he held out the flower for her to take.
January 76 AD
The new year had brought about a slight increase in business, but it hadn't increased Artemon's meagre salary in the same proportion. Gallus only cared for his own purse, that's what he did, and Artemon grumbled under his breath in Egyptian as he flitted about the old warehouse, loading and unloading things here and there like a (badly) paid cargo mule.
He had just put down his last crate and made a beeline for the water jug nearby when a figure came into his line of sight. That wasn't Gallus, or any of the other labourers he knew of. For one, none of them had such long hair. For two, none had such obviously feminine features either. Who was this lady? Had she entered the warehouse by accident, lost on her way to some other place? Artemon's first instinct was to greet her and ask her if she needed help, but Gallus wouldn't have approved of that. No, he was supposed to be serious and gruff so people knew not to mess with him!
"What are you doing here? This is private property!" he parroted in his best stern tone, wiping his sweaty hands on his equally sweaty tunic. "You need to leave."
After a day's work Artemon all but stumbled in through the door of the tiny one-room flat he shared with his twin, body aching for some rest. It seemed like he was the last one to get home that day, he concluded as he spotted Iophon's figure in a corner. "I bought us food, brother!" he announced cheerily, putting down on the table a clay bowl with finger-licking good stew he had got on the way home from the place Alexius had introduced him to.
"Iophon," he started, brow furrowed in deep concentration. "I've been thinking hard about something. What do you think is in those crates I carry back and forth for Gallus? I thought it was some kind of spice, but it doesn't smell like any I know." Granted, Artemon didn't know a lot of spices as his finances only allowed for the most common ones such as fennel and cumin, but that was no skin off his nose as he broke a piece of bread from a round dark loaf and sat down to dip it into the stew with gusto.
In between loud mouthfuls he carried on. "Do you think it's that plant women use so they don't have babies?" Whatever it was, it seemed like business was booming. And Artemon would very much like to be in on it too.
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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