It wasn't as though Davus had seen all that much of Alexandria, all things considered, though he had probably seen more of it than Artemon, which was a slightly weird thought.
"I was pretty young, yes," he said, and shrugged. Such was the life of a slave, though looking back, he was surprised that he hadn't stayed there, that someone had thought it worth their while to ship him across the sea to Greece and the hugs slave market of Delos. And despite his thought of a moment ago, he couldn't help saying, "I spent some time in Corinth before I ended up here - I suppose you must have been there, too?"
He would be surprised if the other man hadn't. Corinth, like Alexandria, was a huge centre for trading, the gateway to Greece - or one of them, anyway. Even with his mixed feelings, he managed a grin. "I don't really like the sea, though, it doesn't agree with me. I suppose it's different, if you spend a lot of time on a boat?"
"I told you I'm from Alexandria," Davus said, hastily swallowing the mouthful of cake he'd just taken. "That's in Lower Egypt, right by the sea. It's a big city, though I don't think it's as big as Rome, and a lot flatter. Most of it, anyway. There's an island just off the coast, with a causeway running out to it, so you've got two big harbours, and the Pharos is out there, with a beacon to guide ships in safely. And there's the Library, and all sorts of temples and everything." He shrugged. "I wasn't that old when I left, and went to Corinth, which is another big city near the sea."
He looked up at the hill above them, with the Temple of Jupiter stark against the blue Italian sky, and then brought his dark gaze back down to his companion. "I think, I miss the sea more than anything. Just being able to look across the blue water to where it touches the sky - there aren't any horizons in Rome."
"Feisty and beautiful could describe most Egyptian women, I think" Davus said, and shrugged. "But yes, that's the place. My mother was a courtesan there." Well, there could easily be more than one place of the name in Alexandria, but whether they were talking of the same place or not hardly mattered, not this far away from the city and after so many years.
"So you're a sailor?" he asked. "You must have seen a great deal of the empire then - the port cities, at least."
Including Corinthos, but Davus wasn't about to mention that name, it didn't really hold much in the way of good memories for him, after all. Davus' own view of the sea and the harbours had necessarily been limited, considering his position as cargo the few times he'd been in a ship.
"I suppose you must have some interesting stories to tell," he added, thinking that he himself didn't really have anything of interest to bring to the conversation, but most people liked talking about themselves and if Davus could help the other man get over any lingering embarrassment by showing interest in his travels, it was a small enough gesture. And far more interesting than haggling over onions and garum.
He had been trying to offer her a compliment and it had fallen flat. Oh well, never mind.
"But she lets you attend services for your own god, though. A lot of mistresses wouldn't."
He thought she was behaving as though she had permission to be out, anyway, but maybe she had just been sent to market for something and had taken the opportunity presented to her.
"I'm sure you're a good teacher, too. Though I wouldn't blame you for not wanting to be."
Of course the Dacian was going to do her best to cast a damper on the whole festival, sitting there bolt upright with her arms folded and a scowl on her face.
Whatever the master was ladling out smelt... interesting, as though he'd just added herbs and spices because they'd been in his reach in the kitchen. Oh well, it was his money at the end of the day.
He adjusted his own position - reclining to eat felt odd - and accepted the bowl and spoon given to him. Well, whatever was in the bowl was hot, at least, judging by the steam coming off it.
"Io Saturnalia!" he said, shifting his feet so his couch mate could tear a chunk off a loaf of bread, seeming to prefer to dip that than try with a spoon.
"We could always make you taste it first, but that's hardly in keeping with the season," he told Zia, dipping his spoon and blowing the steam off before taking a cautious sip.
@Liv @Chevi @Ejder @Sara
"It's all right," Davus said, trying to lessen the other's embarrassment - not that he seemed to need the help because he brightened again almost immediately, as if there was nothing amiss at all. He couldn't help similing in response to the other man's enthusiasm and overall cheeriness.
"I don't know if senators can go to Egypt or not. Even if they can, I'm not very likely to get the opportunity to go with him." If they could, and if Davus' master was sent to Egypt and if a whole bunch of other things...
"I don't really know what I ought to even ask about," he confessed. "I don't suppose you knew the House of Isis, near the Library?"
It hadn't been much of a place, not really, but it had been 'home' for the first few years of Davus' life. He'd made himself useful, running errands and keeping the girls amused in the way kids could, and tried to stay out of the sight of the patrons.
"It's a very big city - almost the size of Rome, though I'm sure it's a lot less hilly." He would like to go back, sometime, he thought. Maybe one day, if he got the chance. He paused for a moment, fantasising about going back and becoming a glassmaker or something - Egyptian glass was highly prized all over the Empire, and he was sure it would be a good way to make a living. Better than running all over Rome buying fruit and vegetables that the usual delivery people didn't have, or sweeping floors that the Dacian hadn't done properly because the work was beneath her.
Davus took the cake she offered him, and shrugged. "I don't know if sweeping the floors and pouring drinks is exactly important work. And I'm sure there are plenty of worse masters in Rome - he's not bad." He wasn't; Davus could count getting the odd afternoon off to do what he wanted, so long as he was back by nightfall. "It's nothing like the as important as being his secretary or something like that, though."
He couldn't write, so anything more impressive would be out of the question. Still, his chores were easy enough, and it meant that he got time to sit outside in the sun, eating honey-cakes with a pretty woman. Which was about all he could ask from life, really.
"It's not as important as your work, even. Body slave to a senator's wife - making sure she looks nice when she goes out, and going shopping with her - I bet you have nicer things to carry home than just onions and cucumbers!"
"I wouldn't think beer would travel as well as all that, and it's easy enough to brew, isn't it?" Davus asked. It tasted like the stuff he'd had back in Alexandria, but who knew whether it would taste that good here if it had been brewed there? Davus didn't know one iota about such things, he just enjoyed them when he had the chance to, which wasn't all that often, not really.
"Doesn't the collar give it away?" he asked, probably about to completely embarrass the other man as he gestured to the tag hanging with his master's initials. "No, I haven't been back. I don't know if I want to or not - it's bound to have changed a lot." And going back would confront him head-on with lot of memories, not all of them good. If he didn't go back, he could pretend his mother was still there, singing her old songs as she ground grain into flour for bread.
"I belong to a Senator. The money's terrible," he added, trying to lessen the other's potential embarrassment with a bad joke (he wasn't used to making those, either).
Davus missed an awful lot about his home (if it could really be called 'home'), but he wasn't about to spill any of that to someone he'd only just met. Especially when one of those things was his mother. Beer would do as a substitute for any of that, at least for now. "I don't think I've found anywhere outside Egypt that knows anything about making proper beer," he said instead. "And... yes. Though it was rather a while ago."
Hopefully that would explain some of his hesitation over some words; it had been rather a long time since he'd had a full conversation in his mother tongue with anyone.
He wasn't entirely certain that the other would appreciate describing a slave as a friend, especially a slave who was as low in the household pecking order as Davus was, and anyway, could anyone really be friends with someone they'd barely met? Friendly, maybe.
"So, how long have you been in Rome?" he asked after a pause during which he sipped his beer while trying to think of something to say - Davus didn't often have conversations with people he didn't know, after all.
Davus favoured her with a shy smile. "I can manage Greek and Egyptian as well as Latin, but that's all the Hebrew I know." The Jews had kept pretty much to themselves, after all, or at least had not wanted to socialise with a child slave much, which was fair enough - they had looked different enough from everyone else (though all the different people in Alexandria looked different enough that it was pretty easy to work out whether someone was Egyptian or Roman or whatever).
"Thank you," he said, accepting the offer of even the small expenditure that a cake was. "Yes. Six years - like I said, I haven't been anywhere else that long since I left Alexandria, but I'm nothing special in the house, not like a body slave or a secretary or anything." He took the cake she handed him. "Your mistress must like you, if you've been there as long as that." He was still a bit shy but she was easy to talk to, and non-threatening, and she had been nice enough to spend some of her money on him. Of course he could sit and chat with her for a bit - it wasn't as though the house steward knew ho long his shopping trip was going to take, after all.
For the fifth time that day Titus had to shoo away Betua's anxious form that kept hovering about the entrance to the kitchen. Yes, it was her territory as much it was his possession, but there was a tradition to uphold. If she found the results of said tradition inedible she was free to go and serve something up on the sly. If Titus had to be honest, though, he thought he and this three helpers were faring quite well and did not warrant such levels of worry. Valeriana had helped pluck a chicken with unfettered, gleeful abandon, tearing out the feathers in small but forceful fistfuls before gathering an amount she deemed sufficient and running off giggling, possibly to disturb her indisposed mother. Publius was surprisingly adapt at peeling fruit and vegetables; in another life he might have made a fine tailor, or perhaps a medic. Still, the boy was just the right amount of both careful and daring with a blade in his hands. And Titus? Well, he had finished plucking the chicken, quartered it - clumsily, yes, but he was no butcher -, taken out the nasty bits and tossed the good ones into a big clay pot where onions, lentils, carrots and chestnuts awaited company. Copious amounts of garum and red wine and a handful of assorted herbs and spices, selected with no concern for how well they would go together but merely for their fragrance, had followed suit and the pot, properly lidded, had been placed in the oven to work its magic and hopefully turn all that food into a passable stew.
At the same time, his eldest hadn't been idle either, and had prepared quite the artfully decorated platter of assorted cheeses and cured meats before moving on to dessert: apples boiled in a mix of red wine and honey with chopped walnuts and more honey on top, and some stuffed dates and preserved plums on the side in case someone didn't fancy apples. Titus felt a surge of parental pride well up inside him: if his attempt at preparing a meal for the slaves failed, Sulpicia would save his honour by making sure they would still have something decent to eat.
The clay pot was smelling like it might be done cooking, and after a moment's deliberation with his son on how they would take it out of the oven without incurring serious burns, Titus spotted two thick and seemingly well-used squares of leather hanging from a hook just by. They served their intended purpose and soon enough the pot was set on a table and uncovered, belching out a great curtain of steam. It smelled like food, which was a start. As he portioned the stew into two big bowls Titus dipped his ran his fingertip along part of the edge of the pot and brought it to his mouth to taste. All right, so maybe he had been too careless with the garum and the gravy was a bit saltier and thicker than intended, but he had had worse. All in all, it was a valiant effort; he was pleased.
Now all that was left was to serve it to the critics. He picked up one of the bowls, Sulpicia the other and Publius the charcuterie platter and the three of them made off into the triclinium, where bread, wine and olives had already been freely made available to the servants. Titus had the feeling it wasn't only just Betua's expectant look that was trained on him, and that made him a little uncomfortable - nobody liked to be judged, after all. But a natural inclination for resting bitch face and years of making intentional use of it meant his expression remained mostly neutral, even as they placed the food on the table and began ladling the stew into individual bowls for the slaves' convenience.
"Dinner is served, my fine ladies and gentlemen. I hope you'll enjoy it."
@Chevi @Ejder @Sara @Sharpie
I suggest no set posting order since there's a few of us. Also, feel free to NPC Betua and any other slaves!
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."
"Onions, garlic, figs, cumin, lentils," Davus murmured to himself, repeating the shopping list over again (minus the items he had already bought, of course). "Onions, garlic... oof!" He had been distracted in his search and ended up very nearly walking into someone. The someone, when he'd recovered his wits and stepped backwards, an apology ready, turned out to be a young woman, of similar complexion to him, dressed simply, and with a veil over her head.
"Apologies," he said, checking that he hadn't dropped anything - he hadn't. "I wasn't watching where I was going - I hope you're not hurt?" His Latin was perhaps more melodious than a native would pronounce it, thanks to his Egyptian Greek accent.
24 | July 51 | Slave | House slave | Straight | Original | Max Minghella
Davus is generally a quiet, reserved type of person. This is partly due to his upbringing and station in life and partly from natural reserve. He is thoughtful, intelligent and observant, traits that might otherwise get him in trouble - and did so on more than one occasion in his younger days, until he learned to rein himself in and just be what the Romans wanted him to be, a useful tool and of no more intelligence than that. He is very aware of the insecurity that comes with being a slave, having changed owners several times since he was ten, and while he has served in the household of Titus Sulpicius Rufus for six years (the longest he has spent in any one place since his birth), he knows that it would take one word from his master to see him at the slave market again, and he would do almost anything to avoid that.
Of average height, Davus is clearly one of the many foreign-born slaves in Rome, although this is given away more by his features than the colour of his skin. He has the dark eyes and dark curly hair that denote his Egyptian background, although the paleness of his skin owes far more to his Roman father than his Egyptian mother. He looks more exotic the more time he spends out of doors in the sun as he naturally tans. He wears the clothing provided by his master - simple tunics in undyed linen with a plain leather belt, although he may be given smarter clothing if he is to serve guests at a party or other event. If he leaves the house, he will have simple leather sandals.
Father: unknown (in reality Gaius Clovius Frontinus, a legionary stationed in Alexandria)
Mother: Tabia (slave)
Siblings: None known
Extended family: None
The web of the Roman slave trade was a wide net, cast right across the Mare Nostrum from Aegyptus to the Pillars of Hercules. Davus was born a slave, the son of a slave, in an Egyptian brothel in Alexandria, but was fortunate enough not to be exposed to die as many prostitutes' babies were. He grew up in the shadow of the Museion and the great Library of Alexandria, although he never had the fortune of entering the place. When he was ten, he and his mother were shipped across the wide blue Mare Nostrum to the biggest slave market in the world at Delos, where he saw even more people than he'd seen in Alexandria, and with other colours of hair like red and gold and very pale skin, which he couldn't recall ever seeing before.
It was at Delos that he was separated from his mother; her buyer didn't want to spend even the few sesterces a ten-year-old would cost, and so Davus endured the first and greatest heartbreak of his life. He was eventually bought by a trader from Corinthos. He served in his house for a few years, before eventually being sold again when his master's fortunes took a turn for the worse. Now aged fifteen, he was sent west across the sea to Ostia and thence to Rome (along with sundry other slaves and various goods from all over the Empire and beyond).
Unable to speak anything other than Greek and a smattering of Egyptian, he was sold again to a senator in whose house he learned Latin (which he still speaks with an Egyptian Greek accent). Eventually, aged eighteen, he exchanged households yet again, finding himself being given as a welcome home gift to one Titus Sulpicius Rufus and his wife, and he has been in their household for the last six years.
He has heard stories of the Christian God all his life, but has not yet decided whether this path is one he is willing to embark on, despite being told of the love and comfort that believers have found in Him.