Before Azarion could use some extremely rude hand gestures to let the blacksmith know exactly where he could insert a bit for that amount of money, Cynane pulled him aside by the shoulder. She either knew what was going to happen in advance, or she just wanted to have a discussion. Either way, Azarion shot a dark look at the man (who probably knew perfectly where how ridiculous his price was), and followed along.
“You don’t have that kind of money, do you?”
Azarion shook his head in a definite no. And even if he did...
“We could haggle for a better price. How much do you have?”
Azarion looked at his purse than furrowed his brow, thinking. How much money he had was one thing, how much he was willing to pay was another... he considered the question, then held up his hands. Ten denarri. Let the bargaining begin.
There was not much for Azarion to do, other than allow Cynane to talk, and try to explain what he needed. She was a capable woman, and hopefully this blacksmith was better at his job than the last one, and was not trying to sell unusable items.
“Greetings… this young man here is looking for a good bit – he works with horses. Do you have one? The last blacksmith didn’t have a good one. We’re hoping your wares are better.”
Clever. Competition was good for trade, and no one hated each other more than craftsman selling at the same market. Azarion smirked as the man seemed to perk up at the challenge.
“I’ll see what I have.”
Azarion glanced at the woman and gave her an appreciative nod while the man's back was turned. When the blacksmith emerged again, he placed a bit on the table. Azarion leaned over it, examining it from various angles, running his fingers along the edges to make sure it was well made. After long moments he nodded, and held up a hand, making the universal gesture for money. How much?
Azarion's eyes went wide, and he threw his hands up into the air. What was this, a fucking robbery?!
The young man seemed intent on making friends with all the horses, undeterred by the fact that they did not want his company. Azarion rolled his eyes as he moved on with the unclaimed apple to the next stall. The other mare, Tabiti was less skittish than Arite, but that did not mean she would be nicer.
"And who do we have here? I wish you could tell me their names."
You know, dumbass, I wish that too.
Azarion huffed, stepping back to wait and see how the second attempt would go. Tabiti poked her nose out of the stall, sniffing at the apple and making some snorting noises. Finally she decided to accept the offering, so she took the apple, and then swung her head and bumped it into Gaius' shoulder, either for good measure, or in a playful gesture, it was hard to tell. Tabiti withdrew into her stall, crunching the apple, and Azarion snorted in amusement.
Azarion glanced back as Rufus called him by his name, and for a moment, he flashed him half a smile, and nodded. As slaves, neither of them could promise anything for sure about a next time - but their encounter had already proven better than any other Azarion had had in Rome so far.
Maybe their luck would hold out.
See you again soon, Redhead.
"Six? Ugh. I'm sorry,"
It was no big secret, even for a mute boy, that being sold six times was not all fun and games. Even a houseborn slave like Rufus could understand that, to an extent. Azarion shrugged at the sympathy.
"You like horses, huh? Do you work in the stable, then?"
Again, liking horses. Azarion huffed, then nodded. He worked in the stables, for lack or a better option, or any option, really. The horses were divine creatures, even if they were not his own.
"It's easy to guess that, when you go somewhere wearing straw, though."
Azarion winced when Rufus reached for his hair. There was no ill intent behind the gesture, but the boy was not exactly used to anyone approaching him like that. He huffed and an both hands through his hair, shaking out a few more pieces of straw. He had tried his best to clean up before they came here, but some things were harder to get rid of than others.
There was a lull in the conversation next door, and in a few moments, Azarion's master emerged. The boy stood up, not with the sharp motions of someone eager to please, but fast enough not to make Alucio look bad. He glanced back at Rufus, and nodded to him, in thanks for the writing lesson. He would have to go with his master, but at least the waiting time was spent well...
They both headed for the other blacksmith shop. The woman was not very chatty, which fit Azarion just fine. He could deal with two kinds of people: the ones that did not talk all that much, and the ones that talked enough that he did not have to make an effort next to them. The ones in the middle, the ones that asked questions and tried to have long conversations - those were the annoying ones. Luckily, not many of them ever visited the stables.
The other shop was smaller, with less wares on display, but the tall, wiry man working in it looked less hostile than the other one. Azarion nodded in greeting, and glanced at Cynane, waiting for her to explain what they were looking for.
“Well it’s true. If you’re good with horses, that’s a good name for you.”
Azarion smirked. He was good with horses. He was born into it, like all of his people, because the gods of the free plains blessed them with the speed of the wind. It was only a part of his name, but he'd take it, for now, from the gladiator lady.
“I just knew the gladiator. I didn’t fight with him, if that’s what you ask. A gladiatrix is more for… the men’s pleasure than anything else. It’s a long time ago now though.”
It was what he had been trying to ask, but the response was a little disappointing. Romans only had women fight other women? What, did they think she could not win against a man? Azarion's people had women fight as well as men, just like Cynane's. It was just a better way to survive. He made a face and rolled his eyes when she mentioned pleasure. Romans were strange.
“Did you see any other blacksmith shop?”
Azarion nodded, pointing down the street where he had passed another stall. It was smaller than the one they had just tried, but maybe it was a worthy second best option.
"Am I...? Oh. No, I'm not my master's secretary. Tell you the truth, I'm not quite sure what I am, exactly. I'm new in this house, you see. I'm doing some of the things a body slave does, but he also wants me to tutor his son, sometimes. I learned this, at my old master's, I suppose he thought I'd be useful as a secretary or something. I've only been here about a month, I'm still figuring things out - I was verna before I came here."
That was a much longer answer than Azarion had expected. Why was it so complicated to be a house slave? Masters gave orders, and the slaves did their job, that was how things usually worked. Except Romans had to make everything more complicated. Even slavery. Body slaves, house slaves, comfort slaves, kitchen slaves, verna, secretaries... there was a person for everything.
Azarion returned to doodling the letters of his name again. He would probably never be anything else but a stable boy, but at least he had a name to write.
"What about you? Is he your first master, or have you had others before him?"
Azarion looked up and smirked. He tapped the FVG brand on his arm, then counted on his fingers, making a face for each master he remembered. None of those expressions had anything but disgust and frustration. In the end, he tapped his sixth finger and nodded towards the room occupied by both of their masters. Alucio was not so bad, in the end, compared to the others. He'd seen Azarion's talent with horses, and did not beat him unless he really had to. Azarion marked all that with a shrug. Good enough.
“It is a pleasure to meet you too… I just wish I knew what to call you…”
Azarion shrugged, and raised a hand to snap his fingers with a smirk. His master usually called him like that, maybe with an additional 'hey, you', but really, snapping was enough to get his attention. Slaves did not really need names, did they? He'd managed to get all the way to Rome without anyone giving a shit.
“I once knew a gladiator named Arion. He was good with horses and named after an immortal horse fathered by the god Poseidon. At least that’s what he told me. Arion might suit you well too.”
Azarion blinked. That was... a part of his name? She'd just happened to think of a name that was half right, and had something to do with horses none the less? He shook his head in surprise as he followed along. Maybe the gods were playing some kind of a trick on him. He made some cutting motions and some frowns, mimicking a gladiator fight. Did the guy with the divine Poseidon-related name die in the arena? Did she kill him?
"Azarion - is that how you say it?"
For the first time since he'd left his home, someone said Azarion's name. It sounded strange. No one had uttered it for years, not even Azarion himself. There was a strange accent to it, having been pronounced by someone who spoke Latin, but it was close enough. Azarion nodded slowly, taking in the strange weight of the moment.
"You write it - it's your name. Once you know how to write it, once you know the alphabet, you can write almost anything. Anything that's in here is yours for keeps and nobody can take it away from you, ever. Even if you're just a slave. And Latin's a really simple language, if you know how a word sounds and you know all the sounds of all the letters, you'll be able to work out how to write a word - to write anything."
Anything that's in here is yours to keep.
Yeah, except for my tongue. Or my eyes, if I get too cheeky.
It sounded good, but honestly, wasn't as useful as an educated slave made it out to be. Still, Azarion leaned over the tablet, copying the letters one more time. He was fairly certain he could remember them. He'd commit his name to memory, and work on the rest.
He looked up, and saw Rufus glancing across the garden. Tilting his head, he nodded towards the tablinum, where both their masters were still immersed in conversation. He tapped the tablet, the writing, and the motioned at the other room. Was Rufus an assistant to his master, or something?