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Liv last won the day on July 5

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  1. Letter dated 8th of July, delivered by the same Dacian slave Titus Sulpicius Rufus to Praetor Tertius Quinctilius Varus, greetings. It it just as you say, many plans - and lives, sadly - have been lost to this disaster. It pleases me nonetheless to hear that your household is well, and I hope the material damage your domus has suffered is of little consequence. We will be travelling down to my brother and sister-in-law's villa in Naples in about a week and will likely stay there until the end of August or thereabouts in an attempt to evade the worst of the summer heat, so I am afraid it will not be possible for me to visit you at the end of this month as per your suggestion. However, if you find it convenient, I would be happy to pay you a visit along with Nymphias and my son Publius in the days between now and our departure, or postpone it to when we have returned to Rome if that is more agreeable to you. Regardless of date, I am sure the children will happily entertain themselves, and I should very much like to share my thoughts with you on possible next steps and hear your opinion on the subject. I shall also inform Nymphias about her sister, although since I did not know Charis until our past meeting I will not be able to elaborate on how changed should she ask. I imagine the opposite is also true, but should your slave be anxious please assure her that her sister has not suffered undue hardship whilst in my household. They will have much to catch up on, I dare presume. Sincerely, T. Sulpicius Rufus @Atrice
  2. Florus seemed confused by the new task given to him, but all that mattered was that he completed it satisfactorily. He also made a prime scapegoat should anybody ever ask what had become of the statue, Titus belatedly noted; nothing like blaming it on an illiterate foreign slave who had misunderstood his orders. The damned eyesore would be more appreciated - and useful, as far as sculpture could be - smashed into a myriad fragments than whole, whatever miracle it was supposed to work on plants. "That's good. Don't let me keep you, though. Feel free to get started," Titus half-suggested, meaning every word, The sooner it was done, the sooner the evidence could be disposed of. He needed to get back to what he had been doing, if only because jotting down what had been damaged and what could be repaired required him to stay focused on that and not think about the hidden significance to cherries and peaches and if his eldest daughter - barely a teenager, and always a baby in his eyes - had caught on to it. Bringing up the wax tablet to chest height, Titus tapped on it quickly a few times and turned towards the doorway. "Well, I'll leave you to it. Shall I call for you if there's more tile and stone debris or is is this enough for your needs?" His tone was light, but gods willing there wouldn't be much more destruction; enough was enough. As he made to leave, a thought stopped him for an instant. "Oh, and good job, Florus. Your hard work is visible, even with the way things are now." @Ejder Wrap?
  3. From what Titus had been able to gather through their blessedly limited interactions over the last few weeks, his wife was the sort who would rather die by her own hand than admit she was wrong. And wrong she was now, mistaking a mere tax collector for someone of more import (although judging from the smarmy missive, said tax collector held a high opinion of himself and would probably argue that he very much was of import). She probably had an inkling herself, what with her question and the suspicious way in which she looked at him, stroking the little boy's hair in what looked like a mechanical gesture of comfort. Decisions, decisions. Keep the knowledge to himself and watch the bloody Dacians scramble about like headless chickens for a few weeks - by far the most tempting option - or take the high road and elucidate Zia and the chieftain? That would likely mollify them, let him earn their trust, and then... Then what? Get close to a fire and set the whole damn town ablaze? Taunt them in their sleep by emptying the contents of their chamber pots in their mouths? Satisfying at that might be, it would lead nowhere. His best choice, as much as he disliked it, was to play along and clear up the misunderstanding - but first, find out why exactly the old man was displeased with him. "Displeased? Why? Have I not complied with your wishes, like I promised? Gone along with every whim of you two like a well-trained dog?" Titus countered nonchalantly, getting up and picking up an ox figurine off the floor before walking the few steps to where Luto was sitting and handing him the clay animal with an innocent smile. They were doing so well, too, until Zia had to come along and confuse her son. The little boy accepted the toy but did not smile back, instead glancing up at him with uncertainty in his big eyes. Titus sighed and trained his gaze on Zia, feeling much like a tutor with an unruly student. "No, a publicanus is not the governor. It's a..." He thought on it for a moment, chewing on his lower lip, and switched to very tentative Dacian. "Man, come to ge-- take coin." The last word was almost a question, wondering if she had understood what he was attempting to communicate; for emphasis, Titus mimed rubbing a coin between his thumb and index finger. For the sake of compliance, he continued in Latin. "He's coming to collect your taxes. You know, what you pay every year to Rome for the privilege of existing and carrying on with your lives?" Assuming they'd had previous visits, that was; wouldn't surprise him if they hadn't, the bunch of barbarians. @Sara
  4. Liv

    Once upon a time

    74 AD, during the Gladiatorial Games The journey back to their domus was very much as Titus had predicted. The moment it was just the two of them again, Publius had zeroed in on him like a moth drawn to a flame, and wide-eyed and toothy-grinned posed the question that had been plaguing him ever since the word had been uttered. Titus set his jaw and exhaled grimly, keenly aware that this was not how he had imagined the first of presumably many father-son conversations on the topic to go. But the gods enjoyed playing dice too, and this was what the roll had dictated. If he did a reasonable job now, maybe it would be a while until the next 'conversation' came. A long while. "Dad, will you tell me now what's a catamite?" The boy was all curiosity, hands folded in his lap and unconsciously bobbing up and down. Titus nodded, defeated. "First of all, it's a bad word. So you're not to call anybody that, all right?" Publius nodded enthusiastically back. He cleared his throat and continued. "It means a boy who is very good friends with a grown man, but they're not related." Well, they could be, although that would be even less appealing, but Titus chose to word it the way he did to prevent any instances of his son proudly and publicly declaring himself his catamite, since they were such good friends. The thought made him feel queasy, but the boy seemed not to notice; maybe he ascribed it to the movement of the litter. Yet, somehow that was not enough to quell Publius' interest in the topic. The boy peered up at him, confusion written all over his face. "But why is it a bad word if they're friends?" Titus ran a hand through his hair, stalling for time. "Because..." By Jupiter, there was no easy way out of this. "Well, because the adult is having fun, but the boy is not. It's very, very bad for a freeborn boy like you to be called that," Titus stated seriously, trying to impress just how insulting it would be and failing due to his lacking explanation. Publius only seemed more confused, but his childish grin had faded. Perhaps he understood deep down inside on some visceral level that this was no laughing matter. "So if somebody is ever stupid enough to call you that or tell you they want you to be their catamite, you tell me straight away, okay?" The boy assented solemnly. "Okay, dad." Silence filled the litter for a short while, enough for Titus to think the ordeal was over and lean back on the cushions. No sooner had he done it than his son was piping up again, clearly not satisfied with the resolution. "But dad, if it's bad for free boys, is it okay for slave boys? And you said it's fun for the man, but not for the boy...?" Publius' eyebrows had quizzically shot upwards, almost disappearing into his brown hair. It was a difficult concept for his young mind to grasp, and Titus quickly realised he would have to provide a definitive explanation - and do it fast, because going by the familiar incline the litter was taking now, they would be home soon. And once they got home there would be at least two more pairs of ears interested in said explanation and another pair of ears probably quite keen on co-opting it and making it even less child-friendly. Titus swallowed, muscles tense as if he were headed into battle. "Son. You know how sometimes people lie together, yes?" Publius nodded with a knowing look. "Yeah! You said that if it's a man and a woman, sometimes they make a baby!" Good, that bit had stuck. "Exactly. But sometimes, and that goes for everyone, they just do it because it's fun and feels good. But in this case, it doesn't feel good for the boy. It's not fun." Publius seemed to dwell on the information for a moment or two, taking it all in. "But is it fun for slave boys...?" All Titus wanted to do at that moment was bury his head in his hands and let someone else take over. Had he ever asked his late father this many questions? Titus didn't quite remember, but he didn't think so; he'd had his older brother to ask, which had been far less embarrassing. And most of the time he hadn't even needed to ask, the information had just been given to him. The gods were surely laughing. "I guess? I don't know, son. I was never a slave boy." Publius made a small sound of acquiescence, as if what his father had just said made perfect sense. "Do you think I'll have fun too when I grow up? Like, when I was little I didn't like wine, but now I do." Titus chuckled, feeling the stress ebb out of him. The 'wine' the little boy was referring to was at most a finger's breadth of actual drink and the rest of the cup filled with honeyed water, but it made Publius feel like he could keep up with the adults, and if that made him happy, why burst his bubble? The important thing was the he grasped that some things were enjoyable only when was one mature enough. "I'm pretty sure you will, son. " The litter came to a stop, signalling the end of their journey. With any luck, there would be no more difficult questions that day.
  5. Liv


    Now Azarion was looking repentant. That was a good thing, it showed he understood his actions. And it also looked like Safinia had guessed correctly, given his dejected air. But what was so special about that one bow? A memory flashed through her mind; hadn't Azarion said back when they had first met that he was from a family of hunters? Maybe they used to hunt with bows. His gestures seemed to corroborate it, right until he tapped his chest. Safinia thought she understood what he meant, but shook her head just the same. "No. You need to let go of that," she stated, tone as flat as the surface of a puddle on a hot day. This was the problem with so many people, she thought - they got stuck in the past. The whys was incomprehensible to her: the past was exactly that, gone and immutable. Not even the gods could change what had been done. The future was uncertain. The present was all that mattered. And yet people held on to what had been, often to the detriment of everything else, even life itself. She couldn't grasp it. "Home is where you belong now. And right now you belong in the Whites' stables. Yesterday's gone. Tomorrow's not come yet. It's the here and now that matters, and in the here and now you're a charioteer apprentice. Not a hunter or bowyer or whatever. So let go. It's not who you are anymore." She shrugged, patted the coin purse once again and began to cautiously walk towards the next intersection, hoping no annoyed gladiator would soon pop out. "Let's go. We still haven't done our shopping." @Chevi
  6. Liv


    Whatever Azarion had been thinking when he had challenged the gladiator was as much a mystery to Safinia as whatever he was thinking at that very moment. She frowned as he huffed, ready to dish out some choice words if he started getting sassy again, but much to her surprise no argument came and Azarion just stood in silence, hands still. Until he turned away and started punching the wall. This, Safinia knew, was often conflated with frustration, because very few people were stupid enough to go punching walls for fun, as Azarion's yelp demonstrated. Walls didn't punch back, but they were stronger than bone. . And where there was frustration there was often a goal that had not been reached, some task that had stayed unaccomplished. "Stop doing that," she chided, slowly standing up. If he broke his hand, she was the one who would get an earful for it. Her legs still shook from the earlier exertion, but they felt steadier than moments before. Safinia put a hand on Azarion's shoulder, wordlessly bidding him to turn and face her. "What was all that about? The bow?" He'd turned cocky about the moment he had spotted the thing, now that she thought about it. But she had never been good at guessing at what might be inside another's head. @Chevi
  7. Titus' expression gradually relaxed as Florus explained where the whole cherry tree thing had come from. So it was all Tranquillus' doing, brought about by seemingly innocent attention to detail and bits of the old tutor surfacing. He let out a breath he didn't realise he had been holding and nodded. "No, you did well. That was the right response." Good thing that in spite of his rather evident infatuation, the gardener still had his wits about him - though for how long remained to be seen, if he did go ahead with asking about some poems. "If it goes well with the peaches and pomegranates then we can consider a cherry tree next year or the one after that, provided no earthquake ruins that plan." Not that Titus was entirely comfortable hazarding a guess as to what the following years would bring, but Florus didn't need to know that and his circumstances would probably remain unchanged unless he changed behaviour overnight. Feeling he had had enough of fruit to cover a whole meal and still marginally ill-at-ease with the sudden turn the conversation had taken, Titus chose to focus back on the debris in hopes of distracting himself for a few moments more. Gods, even broken that Nabatean sculpture was still a bloody eyesore. "Florus, when you clean this room, start with the broken statue. And if it's advantageous for you to have it in smaller bits, go find a hammer and don't hold back." A shame Titus wouldn't be doing it himself, but it would attract too much attention. Ah well. @Ejder
  8. Liv


    She had barely had the chance to fill her lungs with much needed air before an arm was tugging on one of hers and pulling her along, forcing Safinia to restart the wild race. Like before, looking over her shoulder to see if they were being followed was a waste of time, and she followed Azarion in a mad dash to safety, wherever that was. Were gladiators allowed to leave their ludi unless it was for the games? She sincerely hoped not. They had been running through a maze of narrow alleyways for a couple of minutes now, probably - hopefully - far enough away to be safe from the archer-gladiator's wrath. Shaking Azarion's hand off, Safinia leant against an ancient-looking house and slowly slid down the crumbling wall until her knees gave in and she landed gracelessly on the floor, wheezing like a drowning person. Her heart was well on its way to beat a hole out of her chest, and at least one of her lungs felt like it was lodged in her throat and threatening to jump out at any moment. Between sharp intakes of breath, she patted herself down, hoping she had not dropped the money pouch somewhere while escaping and then sighing in relief when she felt it in a fold of her tunic. When she felt calm enough to speak, she turned to Azarion, glaring at him with the force of a thousand suns. "I'm definitely telling cook about this. And maybe the boss too. What the fuck were you thinking?!" @Chevi
  9. The moment Bassus stepped away from the basin after having set it on the table, Safinia let the leeks fall unceremoniously from her arms and into it, sending water splashing in all directions. Some of it landed on her, but the cool sensation was welcome after having baked in the sun whilst waiting for the basin to fill. The leeks would have to be scrubbed clean, but she liked to let them soak in water and vinegar first to kill any bugs that had unwittingly hitched a ride. Now, to get the vinegar. Safinia picked up an amphora half her size and brought it over to the table, eyes widening as she heard Bassus chuckle. What was so funny about her offer, which had been made at his request? She frowned as she removed the stopper from the amphora and poured a healthy amount of vinegar into the basin, the pungent smell making her wrinkle her nose. It turned out that questioning Bassus would not be necessary, as he began to explain his circumstances. So his earlier question about what if he had been a Jew hadn't been hypothetical. Safinia clicked her tongue; it infuriated her that people would not say what they meant or meant what they said the first time round. There would be so much fewer misunderstandings that way. "Huh, that's going to be a problem," she interjected as she stoppered the amphora again and went to put it back in its place. "Because we're having leek and ham puls today." Why anybody would willingly follow a religion that forbade them from sampling the best meat there was baffled her, but this one god of the Jews had already demonstrated he was an interesting character. Perhaps he had had a pig companion at some point that his followers had slaughtered and eaten, and to punish them he forbade them from eating pork. "So you can't eat it but you don't know why? That's odd," she commented, wiping her hands on her tunic. It defied logic. "Can you just shove the bits aside though? We can't make a special dinner just for you." Well, maybe very occasionally they could. Definitely not on a daily basis, though. "What other animals can't you eat?" If he said chicken and mutton, poor Bassus indeed, missing out on so much delicious fare. @Beauty
  10. Liv

    Truth and dare

    It was decidedly a little unusual, though altogether not unpleasant, to be the one giving advice. Normally it was Titus who requested Tranquillus' opinion on any number of subjects, but the change was more than a little entertaining. If his slave would take any of it seriously remained to be seen, although Titus' suggestions were mostly benign - and likely to get a lot raunchier when they finally arrived and he'd had had a little too much to drink. Poor Tranquillus, he would have to arm himself with even more patience than he already possessed, Titus mused. "I'm looking forward to a good swim most of all," he answered truthfully. He could already picture it in his head: clear skies, the calm ocean spreading out endlessly and the water glittering like a million jewels and a slight breeze to cool the air. It was so enticing. Maybe he'd manage to con Longinus into a swimming race at some point. "Fishing too, I guess." Not on mornings that followed nights of excess, obviously, because Titus was not into self-inflicted pain, no matter how many of Neptune's creatures woke up early to taunt him with their bounty. "Actually, just getting a proper workout," he said by way of conclusion. There were so many activities that were impractical in Rome but entirely feasible in the countryside: hunting, horse riding, peaceful picnics by the water. In previous years, Titus imagined Tranquillus had spent the most part of his short free time reading; how different would it be this year? Would the body slave stare forlornly at some nice-looking tree and think of his beau? The mental image made him chuckle, though not unkindly. "You should try to have fun too, Tranquillus. Then you'll have all sorts of interesting things to tell Florus about when we go back." He needn't be afraid of indiscretions; Tranquillus had never been that foolish before, nor did the gardener seem like the gossipy type with his one-track mind and his tasks. @Chevi
  11. Liv


    Azarion had a death wish and was on the verge of having it fulfilled for him. That was the only explanation that made sense. Fortunately he thought twice, and grudgingly unstrung the bow before putting it back on the table he had taken it from. Just in time, too, because how could Safinia have explained to the cook and the boss that she hadn't been able to control a slave and had lost him to a contest? The gladiator, on the other hand, didn't seem as inclined to let them off that easily, even though he had just been publicly humiliated. Because he had been publicly humiliated was more like it. "Quitting now? Then it's my win," the big man snarled, attempting to salvage his dignity in front of the small crowd. Safinia began to slowly back away, figuring that sooner or later the gladiator would claim the money Azarion had so foolishly bet. Should she try to blend in, hide behind the other spectators? The off-white tunic she wore made her easy to spot, but the gladiator would have to tear through the public to get to her. And news of a gladiator making targets out of the audience was not great publicity for any ludus. Mind made up, she scuttled across the crowd, zig-zagging here and there, intent on getting as far away from the gladiator as possible. Once the mass of people had thinned out, Safinia started running back the way they had come, bony legs straining to carry her away as fast as possible. She didn't look over her shoulder to see if Azarion was following, and her heartbeat thundering in her ears drowned out most sounds, but she figured he hadn't stuck around to see what the gladiator was capable of. She passed by a few training gladiators and their admirers and almost collided with two men entering the premises, but dodged at the last second and shot out of the gate as if her arse was on fire. Panting heavily and feeling her tongue tingling oddly, Safinia stopped a few feet to the left of the entrance and bent down, hands leaning on her knees to regain her breath. The tout that had welcomed them in eyed her quizzically for a few seconds before diverting his attention towards more unsuspecting passers-by. @Chevi
  12. Liv

    Happier times

    Livia looked indignantly at her sister for the unexpected scolding, but two seconds later realised on her own why Horatia had done it. A slighted worker, whether enslaved or free, could take revenge by underhanded means. She gave the man a sheepish smile while waiting for her sister's opinion on the fragrance, hoping the salesman wouldn't put something stinky in the bottle next time. Refreshing, her?! Livia beamed at the compliment, unconsciously straightening her back and pulling back her shoulders. The word hadn't so much as crossed her mind before Horatia had spoken it, but somehow it fit what she envisioned for herself and her husband-to-be. Lost in her daydream, Livia reacted belatedly to Horatia's request-suggestion, mouth forming a perfect 'oh'. "Isn't it too masculine? Lemon? I want him to think of me, not his barber..." she trailed off, not entirely convinced as she watched the man take the little bottle back and fiddle with it. "Ah, I've been thinking about it, but you know pater. Wants to invite all these dusty old relations of his while conveniently ignoring my friends," Livia protested childishly. "I'd like Livia Aemiliana to come, and Antonia Paulina. But that snake Menenia's got another thing coming if she thinks I'll invite her!" The huff that left her lips was comical in its genuineness. She wasn't sure if Horatia knew the names of her friends, but she probably recognised the name of one of Livia's old friends-turned-sort-of-enemies. Still, Livia decided she didn't want to waste precious mental space and energy on human snakes - planning her honeymoon was so much more interesting! Greece sounded nice enough. There were so many dreamy islands there! But Horatia and her husband had done it before, and thus Livia's enthusiasm for that option chilled a bit. "I'd love to go to Egypt someday! See Alexandria and the pyramids and all..." The merchant returned to them, vial in his extended hand. Livia took it automatically and brought it up to her nose. "But I daresay a villa in Baiae will be more like it... Oh!" The crisp fragrance invaded her nostrils. It was bold, but pleasant. And memorable. With a broad smile, Livia held out the vial under Horatia's nose. "You were right!" @Sara
  13. Liv


    Azarion, Safinia thought, was having entirely too much fun riling up the gladiator. And she was somebody who did not normally notice that type of thing. Did he like having the audience's attention, being the source of their whispers and the target of their applause? The only reasonable explanation for this was that he had been spending far too much time with the more experienced charioteers like Marcellus, now that he was an apprentice, and it had gone to his head. He fancied himself a star already. Nothing else made sense. Still, stardom hadn't blunted his skill with the bow, and he proceeded to humiliate the theoretically more experienced gladiator in his home turf. The gladiator, not unexpectedly, did not take kindly to this. With something halfway between a roar and a grunt, he bent down to pick up three arrows and set about partially mimicking Azarion: he continued with his own technique, but shot the three arrows one after the other like Azarion had done. The small crowd waited with bated breath, and Safinia found herself with eyes glued to what was happening. Two of the gladiator's arrows hit the centre of the target, but a third one was off the mark by half a foot. The spectators' silence was so sudden and all-encompassing that you could have heard a random fly buzzing about. The gladiator flushed bright red and turned round with murder in his eyes. Safinia felt her heart rate go up. This was bad. This was very bad. Before she even realised it, she was speaking to Azarion. "We should go now." @Chevi
  14. Had Sulpicia mentioned anything about wanting a cherry tree too? First pomegranates and now cherries - Titus got a sinking feeling in his stomach that something was up. The whole thing was probably entirely innocent, but the seed of doubt had been planted. He would have to talk to Valeria about it, so she could make investigate further. By Mars, if she was the one getting acquainted with Landicus instead of just Florus... Titus shuddered, but managed to croak out a reply to the gardener. "Let's hold off on the cherry tree for now and just go with the peaches." No fruit was entirely cleared of suspicion, but after so many peach jibes and the mention of peach blossoms, he felt like Florus had the right to have a go at raising a peach tree. "No, I don't think he will," Titus mumbled absent-mindedly, struggling to reunite with the cheap humour he'd been enjoying only moments before. Why the fuck had Florus said that? Had Sulpicia herself told him she wanted a cherry tree? Surely she couldn't be interested in him in that way, she was too young! And Florus was - thankfully! - interested in older men, it seemed. Men. Twice his age. With beards and cocks. Not girls, younger than him, beardless and cockless. Good. However, Titus wasn't fully satisfied with his own conclusion. Why not go straight to the source of his unease, then? "Florus." His eyes could have burned a hole in the gardener's face, and his tone was dead serious. "Did my daughter tell you she wanted a cherry tree?" @Ejder
  15. Liv

    Truth and dare

    From his reaction, it seemed his slave was less than impressed by Titus' choice of words, but that was perfectly irrelevant for the matter at hand. This was no formal occasion where he had to watch his language, quite the opposite - and if he couldn't speak freely in front of his body slave, then where could he? Besides, plain language left less place for misunderstandings. "I'm sure he would appreciate flowers, but I don't see those surviving the journey back. Might be a bad omen," Titus laughed cheerfully at his own joke. He briefly contemplated adding a witty comment about bringing back seaweed instead since it was, well, a weed and therefore appropriate for a gardener, but that might just be too much ribbing for one day for poor undeserving Tranquillus. "Why don't you go to the market one day and see what they've got there? Perhaps you'll find something that reminds you of him. Failing that, seashells are free and plentiful." Knowing him, Florus would probably want to use them for decoration or draining or whatever it was he thought was good for the plants; maybe he would even want to use one as a flower pot if it was big enough. The constant motion of the carriage combined with the heat was threatening to make Titus drowsy. He brought a hand to his mouth to hide a yawn and blinked lazily at Tranquillus. "So what are you looking forward to the most in Neapolis?" If Tranquillus dared to say 'the road back to Rome', Titus would personally kick him out of the carriage and make him follow on foot. @Chevi
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