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  1. The smell of fried onions and cooking meat beckoned to Clio irresistibly. She had walked past the thermopolium a number of times over the past few weeks and nearly succumbed to its delicious aromas, but it was only now that she had the agency (and bravery) to actually become a customer. She was a faithful slave on a secret mission: to sample the wares of the Wolf-man. If they passed the taste test, she was to bring some back - discreetly - for her domina to try. If they didn't, she got a free meal out of it anyway. From inside the shop the owner's voice boomed, and Clio trembled in anticipation. The shopkeeper's reputation preceded him, and it was not the first time Clio heard him ranting or complaining at one of his helpers, probably a slave who knew better than to argue back or really do anything but nod. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and approached the stall. It's for Domina, she told herself in a bid for courage. Clio had not dared to bring up the subject, but could this particular craving of her mistress's be caused by new life in her womb? Pregnant women were known for wanting all sorts of extraordinary foodstuffs, after all. On the other hand, it might just be due to wanting to try some tasty commoner food. Clio would reserve judgment until a later date, when things became clearer, before reporting this to her master. "Hello," she greeted timidly, elbowing her way between two patrons, each busy with gorging himself on bread and meat. The smell was enough to make anyone's mouth water. @Gothic
  2. Liv

    Joining forces

    Titus was happy to notice he and Aulus shared a common reasoning; he often feared he acted too quickly, too rashly, and to have someone he saw as calm and pondered come to the same conclusions boosted his self-confidence significantly. He followed Aulus to the shade of the oak and motioned for the two men to sit down like he had been doing up until a few moments. A party of three travellers taking a break under a tree and chatting would attract less attention than if they were to keep standing by the roadside. "I'm thinking of going to Ariminum. The harbour there is bigger and busier than Ancona's, so there must be more ships headed to Illyricum." There should also be better, more stable ships that would traverse the sea more quickly; if fishing boats were the only option, Titus was not sure he wouldn't turn back and ride on horseback across Histria and Dalmatia in order to keep his stomach inside his body. If the gods had intended for men to spend a big part of his life in water, they would have given them gills and fins - yet they hadn't, and Titus did not fancy testing their patience. "Getting to Salona or Dyrrachium is my short-term goal. I'll probably just embark on whatever ship leaves first." From there on out, his plan was blurrier and the path less clear, but he was sure of one thing - maritime travel was only an option when choosing land over it would result in extreme delays. "What is your plan?" If Aulus had a better idea - which may very well be the case, as he had more experience -, then Titus was all ears. The body slave had been quiet and withdrawn from conversation, and Titus wondered if he had sufficient notions of geography to know what they were discussing. He had shown himself to be loyal to his master, but was he educated? Time to find out. "Felix, wasn't it?" he asked, turning his head to face the slave. "How familiar are you with the Eastern provinces?" @Chevi @Sharpie
  3. Liv

    Chevi's Plotter

    Sounds great! I'm going to have a busy couple of days, but can start some threads on thursday. Or if you'd rather start, by all means
  4. His friend was far more generous than Titus deserved, giving away expensive wine like that. "Then they're already halfway to being civilised," he chuckled. The barbarians could sing their praises of beer all day long, but few things were more satisfactory than a cup of a fine vintage. Beer was best consumed in stews, anyway. "You have my thanks, Aulus. Let us drink it together and toast to the glory of Rome!" Good company made good wine even better. Maybe he should invite the other man and his wife over for dinner sometime soon; Valeria probably would like that. "A year, huh? That's not too bad." Titus took a seat next to Aulus and sighed pensively. "I can't really complain. Returned from Dacia a couple of months ago. It's nice to be home and spend time with the wife and kids, but..." He pinched the bridge of his nose, secretly miffed at not being able to express himself as eloquently as he would like. "After four years away, I thought this was what I wanted, what I missed. To be back in the city, able to take part in Senate meetings again, stroll down the Aventine... But somehow, it's all become so dull." A few months in and the magic seemed to be dwindling fast already. "To be completely honest with you, Aulus, I'm not sure what to do." @Sharpie
  5. Liv

    Joining forces

    Titus expressed his delight at being recognised by flashing a toothy grin. "The very same," he confirmed. How kind of the gods to have Aulus' path cross with his own. The man had left a powerful impression on Titus some years prior, when they had both been stationed in Gallia, and would undoubtedly be a valuable ally on the way to the East. "I was lucky to hear of the news in time. It would've been madness to try and head south, with Clemens' cronies out for blood." He spit on the ground with contempt. That same gesture would have been an unforgivable provocation in Rome, but here and now, between like-minded people, it illustrated just how little Titus thought of the usurper and his friends. So the sturdy-looking man was Aulus' slave. Social conventions be damned, it was useful to know the slave was loyal to his master - which was more than could be said of Titus' quick-legged erstwhile servant. He nodded back his acknowledgment at Felix, figuring he owed the two men an explanation as to why he was alone. "It has, haven't run into any trouble yet. Well, aside from my slave abandoning his duty already on the first night," he scowled. Hadn't it been for time being of the essence, Titus would have looked for the boy and shown him just how they handled deserters in the army, but that would be a matter for another time. "But I had to move on, and here I am. On the positive side, it's faster to travel alone." It was meagre consolation, but Titus was not one to dwell on what could have been; he preferred to direct his energies toward what actually could be done and put it into practice. "Are you also headed to Ariminum? Or Ancona, perhaps?"
  6. It had come as a surprise to Clio herself, but she was indeed curious about how the slaves that took care of this place lived. It must be a very different life from hers, and yet very similar too: having to tend to the master's every whim and will, not being able to go out freely, not knowing if they would be treated with dignity or disdain that day (though that last part did not really apply to Clio's current household, fortunately)... And she, at least, was fortunate enough to live in a place with proper ventilation. There was no way all that tepid water could be healthy long-term; quite the opposite, probably. It seemed they were approaching the private areas of the thermae, which patrons did not have access to. The corridor had got narrower and darker, and the beautiful frescoes had dwindled to nothing; it was clear the architects and builders had seen no impress those who would walk down these hallways. The idea of being led around by another slave lost much of its appeal suddenly, and Clio failed to suppress a shiver. Outwardly she could blame it on the colder air, but she knew that was not the reason. Her throat got progressively drier and she had to swallow a few times before managing to answer the male slave. "I'm called Clio. At least here in Rome, I am. Back home, it was more like Kleio." The difference in pronunciation had never bothered her, and a slave had whatever name their master chose to bestow upon them, anyway. She wrinkled her nose at the stench in the air. It felt clammy and smelled of old sweat mixed with mould and unwashed clothes. Her domina would kill her if she turned up smelling like that, so Clio made a mental note to stand by one of the incense burners and allow herself to be fumigated once they were back at surface level. "Um, maybe later. Do you have kitchens down here? Or your own baths, maybe?" It did not seem wise or to let herself be shown the sleeping quarters just yet - or actually, ever. This was turning out to have been a really bad idea. Why had she let her pride blind her so easily? She should have just stayed put and waited somewhere for domina to be done with her bathing routine. Foolish, foolish Clio. She prayed silently to every deity she could remember not to let her come to harm, promising them daily offerings for a month if they protected her. Being in this deep, it was all she could do. @Atrice
  7. Liv

    Gothy's plotter

    I'll try to start that Uber Eats thread in the next few days, should be fun No preference really, I'm fine with either! Hmm, Clio has a more dramatic/tabloid-like life story, whereas Titus is going through the age-old dilemma of doing what he likes vs what's expected of him. Don't know which one Gaius would find more interesting or unusual. Maybe Clio for diversity's sake, since she's more limited in her character interactions?
  8. Liv

    Chevi's Plotter

    Hmm, don't know about Clio since she's a bit limited in her scope of interactions, but she could eventually come across Azarion in town while on an errand or enjoying some free time. She's a bit arrogant, though, so I imagine they'd frustrate each other to no end. Titus, on the other hand, could/should definitely visit Theodorus and have some older and newer injuries checked out! He might also know of Aia from his time in Britannia, don't know if you'd like to explore any links there.
  9. Liv

    Gothy's plotter

    Can't believe I hadn't posted here yet Clio might pay Caius Lupus' McD a visit one of these days, either to eat in or take away (her household's little secret?). Titus and Quintus should have a chat sometime soon. Don't know if Gaius Petronius would be interested in taking down some notes on one of these two. I'm game for anything!
  10. Hearing a voice call out his name, Titus whipped his head round with an intrigued look on his face. Coming across acquaintances happened all the time in the city, but he did not expect it to be the same in the gardens, especially in the peak of summer when an overwhelming part of the upper class retired to their villas in the country: to Baiae, Puteoli, Stabiae and a number of fashionable seaside resorts. His inquisitive expression gave way to a broad smile when he recognised the man who had called out to him. "Mars Gradivus, if it isn't Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus! " Titus hurried to the other man's side and greeted him with the customary kiss. How long had it since they had last seen each other? Years, certainly, not since after Aulus' stint as praetor came to an end. "And you!" he grinned genially. "The Raetians seem to have treated you well. Did you manage to get those bastards speaking proper Latin?" He motioned for his friend to follow him to the pavilion so that they would have more privacy and not risk interruption from drinkers or other passersby. "More importantly, what would you have in exchange for an amphora or two of Raeticum?" Titus laughed, but he was only half-joking; the wines from that province were second to only Falernian vintages. "Are you back in Rome for good? Or just passing through?" Titus asked as he took refuge from the unyielding sun under the pavilion's marble entablature. In hindsight it had been madness to go out in the middle of the day, but the gods had rewarded his daring feat with a reunion with a dear friend. @Sharpie
  11. Liv

    Joining forces

    One of the men pointed to the oak, but the other seemed to hesitate. They'd probably had the same idea as Titus, and the fact that they wanted to take a break so close to the city had to mean they had been walking for a while, perhaps even the whole day. He understood why they were reluctant to approach; one never knew if fellow travellers could be trusted, and there was no shortage of gruesome stories about robbery and assault. A friendly gesture would have been to share food and drink with the pair, but he was all out of both. Of course, there was the small chance that they weren't friendly at all, but for the time being they seemed to be more wary of Titus than he of them. Besides, he still had that nagging impression that he had seen the oldest's countenance before. He made a decision. Titus rose slowly as not to alarm them and lifted his hands with palms facing the strangers; at the same time, his elbow pushed the cloak away to the side so the pugio was visible - a silent message that in spite of meaning no harm, he was neither harmless nor unarmed. A cautious smile played on his lips. "No need to be suspicious, citizens. This oak is large enough for the three of us to sit under." One, two, three careful steps away from the tree and closer to the men. Close enough to see their features now. The younger man was a complete stranger, although his simple appearance belied a strong complexion. A quick examination of the older man, however, made Titus' eyes light up in recognition. "Sir... are you, per chance, Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus, former tribune?" If his guess were confirmed, Titus imagined he would feel very much like a glutton presented with a bowl of globi -or, in parlance of two millennia years later, like a child who'd seen Santa Claus. @Chevi @Sharpie
  12. Liv

    Joining forces

    Outskirts of Narnia, days after Clemens' proclamation For nearly three days Titus had walked along the Via Flaminia, moving steadily away from Rome. News of the Praetorian Clemens declaring himself Caesar had spread through the city like a wildfire, and Titus, being the man of action he was, could not simply stay home and wait for the traitor's thirsty supporters to knock on his door. No, his first course of action had been to entrust the safety of his wife and daughter to his older brother. Quintus had always been good with words, a proper diplomat, and he would no doubt find a way to send Valeria and little Flacca to stay with his own wife Cornelia, at a sufficient distance from Rome. His second course of action had been to change to his most nondescript tunica and cloak - one grey, the other brown and both unremarkable in every way save for the quality of the fabric and the attention put into the seams -, tuck his trusty pugio into his belt and grab a good amount of coin. He'd need it for the long journey to Cappadocia, and a larger amount than under ordinary circumstances. Silence and safe passage would have to be bought at some point, and perhaps a horse if he was feeling bold enough. Laurus, his faithful body slave, was ordered to stay behind despite hearty protests. The man was getting up in age and his eyesight had been failing for some time, and Titus feared the slave would simply be too recognisable. Instead, Laurus was to stay and protect the house from looting and thieves, and the teenage son of the cook was to accompany Titus on his way to Quintus Alexander's legions. They would pretend to be a slave trader and his servant, making for Dacia to secure a new batch of conquered hands to sell in Rome. It was a good plan at its inception, or so Titus thought. They would exit the capital from the north so as not to arouse suspicion; Clemens and his men would definitely expect the high-ranking class to take the Via Appia to the south, whether to seek refuge in their villae or to board a ship headed eastward, or attempt to escape via the port of Ostia. Taking the Via Flaminia toward the north-east through the mountains did not seem plausible enough to Clemens as a means of exiting Rome, as he did not seem to have increased his men's monitoring of it. The first day had gone well. They had made good headway after leaving the city at nightfall, and the boy slave was quite adept at lighting a fire when Titus decided they had come far enough to get some rest. Too bad the boy had been gone by dawn, the dimension of his task too much for a boy of 13 who had never been out of the city previously. It was a minor setback, but the slave's presence had been far from crucial. Titus could start a fire easily too, and only having himself to worry about should there be a fight certainly made things easier. Sleep would have to be visited in short light bursts, but that was nothing his service hadn't trained him for. The last milestone he had passed told him he was only three miles away from Narnia. Once there, he would have to opt to continue following the same road or making a detour through the Via Flaminia Nova, but given the lack of trouble thus far, Titus was inclined to stay on the main road. He was yet undecided as to his final destination on mainland Italia: Ancona had a more geographically favoured position, but the port of Ariminum was busier and more developed. From one of these cities Titus intended to cross the Adriatic to either Salona or Dyrrachium, and then make his way overland to Cappadocia. Another option was to sail to Tarsus in Cilicia and then cross the mountains to Caesarea, but Titus was not a fan of ships and preferred to stay on firm ground as much as possible. His stomach would thank him for it. Despite the short distance left, Titus' feet were clamouring for some rest. The prickling of thirst in his throat was getting harder to ignore, too, and so he decided to make a quick stop. Just a couple of passi off the road was a great oak, and Titus wasted no time in accepting its silent invitation and nestling down between two big roots, back leaning against the trunk. He emptied his water skin and wiped off a few errant droplets with the back of his hand. There was no longer any bread left, but he could resupply in Narnia, perhaps buy some smoked sausage and dates too. And a horse, because at this rate - even at his good marching pace - it was going to take far too long to reach Quintus Alexander. Over on the road a cart plodded along; even from this distance Titus could see the driver's fabulous red moustache, and immediately pegged him for a Gaul. Not far behind, two men followed the same path. There was nothing particularly eye-catching about them, but the older one's countenance seemed familiar. Titus squinted. It might not be wise to rise and approach them out of the blue just to get a better look; they might think him a thief or a roadside bandit. If only the oak had been a little closer to the road... @Chevi @Sharpie
  13. It was getting progressively harder not to let her impatience shine through, but Clio knew how important perseverance was in the end. She had to act the part and keep a cold head, for irritation would only bring about inattention. Still, she couldn't help but feel annoyed at the other slave's duality: he seemed to have moments of self-agency, and then a second later it was back to 'my masters' this and 'the rules' that. What a stick in the mud. Now she had no choice but to agree to his proposition - it was very similar to the one she'd put forth herself, after all. And after putting on charming airs, it would be mostly counterproductive to suddenly change her mind. "That sounds fair," Clio admitted. But it didn't completely do away with her reservations, for another slave could still enter the chamber during their absence and spirit away some of Annia Comna's belongings. What to do? If something was amiss when they returned to the chamber, how could she lodge a complaint? Clio only hoped it wouldn't have to come down to that. She gazed at the hand the baths slave offered her. It looked strong, but not calloused like those of the farm slaves of her childhood, and it was bigger and rougher than her own. With a hardening of her jaw, Clio took his hand. His olive skin felt warm to the touch. "I'd like to know more about your life here." That much was true; she was curious about the duties of capsarii and how they juggled serving their many masters. Hopefully he wouldn't take her anywhere too scary... "What was your name again?" @Atrice
  14. (Takes place about a week before the Senate meeting.) The sweltering heat of Roman summer was a probation Titus had let himself grow unaccustomed to. The noxious odours emanating from the Tiber nauseated the whole city and gave way to legions of mosquitos out for the citizens' blood, sucking away their energy and leaving behind torpor, sickness and infernal itching. Rome was lethargic and its ennui spread to its inhabitants; Titus' household had been no exception. His wife, usually so agreeable, was keeping the slaves on their toes with sharp criticism of their fanning skills. Little Valeriana had scratched her legs raw thanks to mosquito stings and would take no comfort from anybody except her nanny. Flacca and Publius had engaged in a lively discussion about which sorbet was best that had yet to come to a conclusion, even after Titus had taken them out to buy some for the three of them (and conceded Flacca's point that strawberry ice was clearly superior to honey ice). It was getting to be just a bit too much, and claiming some vague meeting Titus slipped away from his stuffy residence. The Gardens of Sallust were a veritable oasis in the city. Lush vegetation grew in all directions, displaying infinite shades of green. Venerable trees provided shade and a respite from the heat, their leaves murmuring in the summer breeze. To Titus it almost felt like being in Gaul again, where the weather had been milder and the nature wilder, rural as it still was. Dacia had the best summers, its mountains and forests keeping the temperature pleasant. Britannia hardly had summers to speak of, between the constant drizzling and the attacks of the natives. A wretched land, truly. Titus strolled down the stone path at a leisurely pace, adjusting his gait here and there to stay in the shade. Some bird was singing in the distance, but Titus was not familiar with its cry and therefore could not identify it. He was too deep in thought, anyway. It had been half a year since his return to Rome, but he felt no closer to coming to a decision now than when he had arrived. At first it had been easy to delay the matter, for his family had kept in busy, and old acquaintances and clients required proper greetings; then he had had innumerable news and rumours to learn of, new information to acquire. Then came festivities, and Senate meetings, and dinner parties... And now it was summer already. Old man Chronus and his wheel waited for no one. He stopped briefly to drink from a fountain and caught sight of a small pavilion. Perhaps contemplation of the building's simple colonnades would bring the clarity his mind sought. @Sharpie
  15. For the first time in four years Titus stepped foot inside the Curia Julia again. Many of his fellow senators had already arrived, but there were still plenty of open seats. Their togas, perfectly immaculate in most cases, gave the event an air of equality and complete fairness; the taking of seats, however, betrayed the illusion: those closes to Caesar and highest in rank sat foremost, while those of lesser authority - like Titus himself, in his role as former quaestor - were relegated to the back, farther from Caesar. It suited Titus just fine, as fewer would see him fidgeting under the unbearable itchiness of his toga. A few familiar faces cropped up here and there, and Titus acknowledged those around him with nods and short greetings as he moved closer to the seats. Spotting his brother Quintus together with Appius Scipio, Quintus' brother-in-law, he made a beeline for the two men and greeted each with a vigorous handshake and a promise of catching up after the meeting. Sitting not far away from the pair was Aulus Praetextatus, whom Titus also knew well; he greeted the older man with an enthusiastic nod, and, at last, proceeded to take a seat at one of the back rows.
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