Deianira seemed to be enjoying the story. Iophon liked a captive audience. This tale could have gone either way when told in a brothel out of all places, but so far, it seemed to hit a chord with the young woman, and some other women who were halfway listening.
"If only I were so talented,"
"Oh, I am sure you have plenty of talents" Iophon grinned at Deia. Coming from another man it would have sounded sleazy, maybe, but he actually meant it. Women (and men) in these kind of places were usually a lot more than they though about themselves.
"Anyway. Rhodopis soon became a popular hetaera, and Charaxus... well, he disappears from our story. He probably went back to Lesbos to beg money and forgiveness from his sister, with his tail between his legs. Or he got lost in Egypt. Who knows? Rhodopis did well on her own, all things considered. And this could have been the end of the story, with her living comfortably... if it had not been for the eagle."
Iophon held a dramatic pause for good measure, and took a drink before he continued.
"Now, I'm not talking about the Romans" he grinned "I am talking about an actual, feathered eagle. It flew over the River Nile one day, and it spotted two things: a beautiful young woman, bathing in the water, and a pair of her sandals in the sand on the riverbank." Iophon smiled at Deianira. Obviously, she would have been the beautiful woman in this situation, had she been born in another era. "The eagle, alas, did not care for the lady, beautiful as she was. But it did care for her sandals, which looked like small creatures from above. So the eagle swept down, and stole one of them. And wouldn't you know: it was the luckiest thing that ever happened to Rhodopis..."
"I am warrior, back in Germania. My mother, daughter to our chief... our king. I am his guard... when I not here."
"OH." Iophon blinked, almost choking on his drink. Good ol' Dad Varus did not just bed any German maiden he'd come across. He's bedded a king's daughter. Wulfric did not seem all that noble at first glance, but different places had different ideas of nobility, even if Romans didn't recognize it. In this case, the barbarian-looking visitor was actually... "You're a paretorian." he reiterated. It was the Roman term, but it would have to do.
"The king still alive. His brother also. But if they die, Wotan forbid... I will be king. Much responsibility."
"Whoa whoa whoa" Iophon held up a hand "I am in the presence of royalty?! Way to bury the lead, my friend."
Maybe it was not nice, making jokes about someone's ancestor losing three legions to the Teutoburg forest. Then again, Wulfric was a special case, and hard to see which side of that story he would come down on. It was a fascinating story either way.
"That is surprise, you are right. But... this time, he did not die. Or get army killed. Something good came, instead. Me! I hope he will think so also."
"He came, he saw, he conquered." Iophon grinned over his cup "It's hard to imagine he would mind having a son like you. You've made a long journey to meet him... What were you doing, back in Germania? Do you have a trade?"
“I do not know if I will behave Roman. But right. Behave right. No make ashamed.”
"From my experience, those two go hand in hand" Iophon noted with a grin "But sure, we can work on that." A Roman nobleman would generally be more inclined to accept his half-barbarian son if he could behave like a Roman in polite company... whatever that may mean. Iophon only had second hand information about how the rich and famous lived in the city. The stories were pretty great, though.
“I know not if he is rich. Maybe? You hear name Varus before? Except for in stories about Germania.”
The storyteller arched an eyebrow.
"Except for the stories?... I mean, I'm sure the family still exists... But to be honest, I am a little surprised they would still send a Varus, any Varus, anywhere near Germania..."
"No, I haven't. Perhaps next time, you can recite some of her poetry?"
"I'll come prepared" Iophon grinned and nodded. Sappho's poetry was... definitely unique, and he suspected it would go well with the atmosphere of the brothel. But he could only recite a few pieces of her work by heart, and right now, he was telling another story.
"Well, what did Sappho do about her brother spending all his money on Rhodopis?"
"Well... she chided him in letters and in poems, and tried to talk some sense into him, but to no avail. Rhodopis' charms were stronger than a sister's reasoning" Iophon chuckled, continuing with the story "Charaxus spirited Rhodopis away to Egypt, where he hoped to set up his business. However... as we have already seen, the gods had not blessed him with talent for making money. Or holding on to it. Eventually, as much as he enjoyed life with his new mistress, he fell into dire straits. And when he was all out of ideas, he had to put Rhodopis to work. She had learned a lot by then, and soon she became one of the most popular hetaeras in Memphis. She was charming and beautiful, sure but she could also entertain her patrons with dancing, singing, and telling stories..."
"It is very long story. Since it began... before I was born."
"True enough" Iophon agreed, raising his glass. The story of Wulfric's parentage reached back to whatever Roman man ventured into Germania and had some kind of relations with a woman. The details made the story, as usual, but he did not want to pry too far into that just yet.
"But I do know some things. A little. I know a name. I want to know Rome first though. I want to know how... to behave. Before I find him. Maybe you can help... Iofon?"
"You want your Roman father to see you behave like a Roman" Iophon summarized with a slow nod "That's... well. You will get used to the city eventually, the rest depends on how high his expectations are... Is he rich? They are always snootier when they are rich."
The man was looking for his father, a man he had probably never seen, in all of Rome. Iophon now felt intrigued. Was it possible to accomplish such a quest? And if it was, what would the Roman man say, seeing his son from Germania? Romans were not generally fond of barbarians. Iophon was not sure if that exempted barbarians they'd made...
They definitely needed a drink to discuss this further.
"I thought you show me place to stay. But drink... is good too. Just not drunk. It is early."
"Got it" Iophon walked into the popina with Wulfric in tow, waving a hand "New guest coming through! Will someone please give us a drink, my friend here has had a long journey and it's not over yet. Thank you love." he grinned at the girl who hurried over with some cups and wine. Since it was the middle of the day, the popina was not overly crowded yet. Iophon found a place for the both of them to sit, and talk undisturbed.
"Sooo" he said, taking a drink "You are searching for a father who doesn't know you exist. And you were born in Germania... I feel like there is a longer story in there. Is there anything in it that can help you find him?"
Iophon loved seeing someone being pulled into a tale. Sure, humor and sarcasm were entertaining, but there was something deeper in honest awe. And the men and women who worked at Elysium probably rarely got to experience that. He just hoped a client wouldn't come in before he was finished with this story.
"Be careful flattering me, Titus might think you are here for other reasons,"
"I would never" Iophon gasped in well faked shock, placing a hand on his heart. Oh, he would. But he was not trying to get a freebie right now.
"What happened to Rhodopis?"
"Well, for a while, she lived in the rich man's household in Samos. In fact, she made some friends. They say that in the same household there lived an old Phrygian slave, whose name was Aesop..." he paused, watching for a reaction. Some people were familiar with Aesop's tales, and others were not. "... he was a marvelous storyteller, and Rhodopis spend many evenings listening to him. But eventually, things changed. One day, a wealthy young man visited the household, and took a fancy to Rhodopis. His name was Charaxus, and he was on his way to Egypt to make his fortune from trading. But instead, he spent a lot of his seed money on buying the red-cheeked girl." Iophon took a sip of his wine "Ever heard of Sappho, the poet from Lesbos? She was quite famous at the time. And, if we can believe the legends, quite upset that his brother spent his savings on some girl."
“I know little about family here. I only know name. I think not… They not know I was born. It will be surprise. I hope it will be good.”
Iophon's eyebrows ran up, and then the realization dawned on him. "Oh... OH." Now he got it. Wulfric had come from far away into the great city of Rome seeking family he had never met before... and even more than that, family that did not even know he existed.
"You are looking for your father." he stated, suddenly even more intrigued. It only made sense. Mothers were usually keenly aware that their offspring existed. Unlike fathers. And if some Roman man had fathered a son in Germania, someone who was definitely not Roman... Well, there had to be a story there. "You are going to need a drink." Iophon stated, steering Wulfric towards a nearby popina that he sometimes brought guests to.
The Romans had been generous about granting divinity to such people as Caesar and Augustus. It was as much for show as it was for true devotion, but as a storyteller Iophon had to admit that many of those illustrious men had achieved true immortality by carving their name forever into the memory of people all over the empire. Names spoken meant the person living on. They had that in common with Egypt.
"Some say we all have such ancestry. That the gods walk among us long time ago, were like us. But they do that even now, too. But they hide, look like us. So no one guess who they are. To keep eye on our behavior."
"Yes, my people say the same" Iophon nodded. Many stories featured gods in disguise "You could be a god, disguised as a stranger. Or I could be a god, welcoming a traveler into my city. Or we could both be gods who've never met! There's a funny thought. Here we are, huh?"
Maybe there was a story in there. One he should not tell so close to the temples...
"You said you are Greek, from Egypt. Are your gods like Roman gods?"
"Oh. Egypt has many, many gods." Iophon nodded sagely "Some Greek, some Roman. Some Persian. But then there are the old gods. Now, there are some stories..."
They crossed the Forum and turned onto a street that curved towards the Esquiline. Iophon decided to drop the talk of religion.
"Enough about the gods, for now. We are in Rome! Tell me about your family. Who are we looking for?"
Early September 75 CE
"Now, it may not seem like much at first" Iophon told the half-dozen mildly interested passersby, standing under one of the many columns of the Basilica Iulia. "But believe me, had you stood here say... thirty-nine years ago, you would have seen a wonder. No, I am not talking about the Basilica, or the temple of Castor and Pollux" he added, gesturing to his right "... or even the Capitolium" he swung his arm to his left "... but right here, on this very column, you would have seen a cage. And what was in the cage you ask?" he winked at one of the young women, who paused with her shopping basket on her arm to listen. "Well... it was a true wonder of nature, a rare creature of legends, a being summoned from fire from the farthest reaches of Africa... It was a phoenix!"
Iophon took a pause, looking at the faces of his listeners. He hoped he had hooked their attention, and also wanted to gage if they had any idea what a phoenix actually was...
"Go on right in my friend, you are entering the realm of the Blessed" Iophon said with a flourish, as he ushered another guest inside the brothel. It was a steep exaggeration, steep enough that even he himself kind of felt bad about it. The Elysium was an establishment notorious for many things... but blessings were not one of them. Still, they gave him coin if he steered some guests their way every once in a while. Iophon tended to pick the friendly, harmless looking ones. The girls and boys deserved a break sometimes.
"And how are all the nymphs and goddesses and demigods doing on this fine evening?" he asked, flashing a friendly grin at the people in the parlor of the brothel. Must have been a slow night, because a few of the prostitutes were sitting around, drinking, eating, chatting while they waited for the next guest. Iophon had seen some of them around before "Does anyone have a cup of wine for the dry throat of a poor storyteller? I am entirely willing to sing for my supper."
Early September, 75 AD
This place was… huge! Wulfric was barely even sure when he entered Rome, it seemed to go on forever and it felt like he’d been walking for days, when he reached this part of it. He had planned to make it to the center of Rome and people kept pointing him this way, towards the so-called Forum of Rome. He knew a forum was a marketplace of sorts, but when he entered this part of Rome, it seemed to be a marketplace for white marble rather than anything else. And painted statues and gold and people literally everywhere.
Wulfric grew up in a town, it wasn’t small, it was large actually, for a Germanian town. He bet the Romans would not say it was even a town, they would call it a village. A gathering of houses, even. And the houses were barely houses, compared to what they lived in. And this place, Rome, was not even a town, it was a city or was it actually a country in its own? Of course he knew it was an Empire, but that word was almost beyond his understanding. He’d never seen so many people before in his entire life, nor had he seen so many buildings made out of brick and marble and he’d not seen… well any of this. The towns he passed through on the way here did not compare to Rome. He had been somewhat prepared, but he was still astonished by this. Some called it the eternal city, because it had already existed in centuries, and he’d believe it if it still stood when all men had gone.
It was also a bit confusing, to be honest. Where did you go? Wulfric wore nothing but his travelling clothes, the more ordinary clothes, and on his back he had a sack with the rest of his clothes and other personal items. He should find a place to sleep, he’d been sleeping under the sky and with friendly people on the way here. He’d even stayed in a few places where you could buy a drink and pay for a bed, which he never tried before. Perhaps they had such places in Rome too? He should also find the palace though. He was a prince. And most importantly, he should find Varus!
But where to begin? He stood staring up at a huge building of white marble, he understood it was a temple of sorts, to their gods, although it was nothing like the temples they had where he came from. It was as huge as everything else. Wulfric scratched the back of his head, he probably looked as disoriented and confused as he felt.
22 | 10th December 52 CE | Peregrini | Periegetes (Tour Guide)and Fabulator (Storyteller) | Bisexual | Original | Robert Sheehan
Iophon is friendly, easygoing, and talkative. He is eager to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, and charming enough that it doesn't feel pushy. He is honestly curious about people, and stories, and the world around him. In fact, he loves stories wholeheartedly, and sees them as a tradition and art form, rather than an easy way to make some coin. With that said, however, Iophon loves an easy way to make some coin. He is clever, with a good memory and a winning personality, but he is not ambitious at all; he likes the finer things in life, and likes spending his free time with enjoyable activities. He is not one for hard work, or an established career. He is the embodiment of "carpe diem". He also has no qualms about making up a story and telling it as true whenever he feels like it; he is an enjoyable guide for visitors to Rome, but he is an abysmal academic source...
Iophon is tall, long-limbed and lean, with curly black hair, short cropped black beard (he's still working on that), hazel eyes, and a bright, wide smile. He tans in the warm months of the year, and has some freckles. He is fraternal twins with Artemon, and not many people can tell by looking that they are related at all. Iophon generally has a decent appearance, he likes his tunics clean and presentable, but he is fighting a constant losing battle against keeping his hair in check. He is usually seen hanging around monuments, temples, and other sites of interest, with a satchel slung over his shoulder, filled with interesting tidbits, and trinkets for sale.
Father: Empedion (b. 18)
Mother: Tsillah (b. 23)
Siblings: Euphemios (b. 40), Apollodora (b. 42), Hermolaos (b. 46), Niketas (b. 49), Chrysanthe (b. 51), Artemon (twin brother, b. 52), Tryphosa (b. 57).
Extended family: aunts, uncles and cousins
52 CE – Iophon is born a few minutes after his twin brother, Artemon, into an Egyptian Greek family in a village near Ptolemais Hermiou. Just like all his siblings, he receives a Greek name from his proudly Greek father, and a deep sense of being Egyptian from his mother. Iophon is a bright and curious child, who loves stories, and loves exploring interesting places as soon as he can crawl.
59 CE – The family is somewhat struggling food and livelihood, and the older siblings go off to work or marry. Artemon takes on fishing. Iophon is showing signs of being an intelligent child, so one of his Greek uncles, who works as a scribe, takes him on as an apprentice. He doesn't live far from the family's home, so Iophon spends his days with him, and his nights at home. His parents hope he might become a scribe, or even - his father's ambition - a scholar. Iophon begins to learn to read and write and count, and he takes to it easily. At the same time, he is fascinated by the endless stories his uncle Eumaios tells him. He begins to learn history, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman, and alongside he begins his lessons in Latin.
59-68 CE - Iophon learns letters and languages, but as clever as he is, he is not ambitious at all. He loves to talk, however, and his easygoing and friendly manner makes him popular, not just among the village youth, but also with strangers (especially around the taverns). He picks up the most colorful and useful bits of his studies, and he starts spinning tales for visitors, making up ancient curses and local legends wherever his deep store of tales from his parents, grandparents, and uncles runs dry. His father is more and more disappointed, but Iophon discovers that a good story is worth a pretty coin. He starts visiting the elders of the village and even farther, fishing for the best stories to tell.
68-74 CE – Iophon's father puts his foot down about his twin sons making themselves useful (and gainful). Partly under parental pressure, and partly to look after his thick-headed twin, Iophon joins up with a company of merchants alongside Artemon. He is a shit sailor, but he can keep everyone entertained, and even though he tries to get away with the least amount of work, he does enough not to get kicked overboard. The silver lining in the venture is travel: for Iophon, the world is made of stories, and new lands mean new stories. He is excited for adventure. When Artemon eventually suggest they should go to Rome and seek their fortune, Iophon cheerfully agrees.
74 CE – The twins disembark in Ostia, and while Artemon finds himself work around the docks, Iophon heads straight to Rome. The big city is full of marvels, and Iophon devours all of it: the games, the races, the markets, the baths, and temples and the brothels. While Artemon struggles to find the next big break, Iophon throws himself into life in Rome, not really thinking about tomorrow. He frequents the libraries available at the baths and other public spaces, and eventually starts spinning his tales again, working as a guide for people even newer to Rome than he is. Many of his stories are real, while others are completely made up by him, and not many notice the difference.
75 CE - The earthquake hits Rome, and everything is turned upside down. Artemon decides to move into the city permanently. Since neither of them has money for a house, the brothers rent a small one-room space in an insula, and move in together. Artemon is still chasing the next big thing, and Iophon is beginning to strike deals with brothels, shops, and other tourist attractions, channeling people their way, and getting a piece of the profit... usually in goods.
Chevi | Central Europe | Discord