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Liv

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Everything posted by Liv

  1. Screwing the gladiatrix was far down on Titus' list of priorities, although if the consul really insisted, he figured he wouldn't be in much of a position to say no, and so he just made a non-committal sound that could have meant anything. Women were supposed to be soft and supple and curvy and fleshy as far as he was concerned, and the woman in the arena seemed to be exactly none of those things. Said woman had just inflicted the first wound of the match to the crowd's deafening cheer, but Lexus quickly fought back with a daring move that had the public roaring, young Silanus gasping and Titus chuckling. It really was different when the gladiators were having fun and not just fighting for their lives. "She was supposed to go visit her parents, but then my sister dropped by and those plans went down the cloaca maxima. We just barely made it out," Titus complained with a glance at his son, who was busy giving his impressions of the match to anyone who would listen. "Knowing Sulpicia, she probably invited herself to dinner. If you like an audience, by all means! My domus is at your disposition." Hopefully Longinus wouldn't take him up on his offer, because that would result in a lot of explaining to do. "If not, having them come here is good enough. Bet they will be awestruck when they get up close and personal with our consul," Titus added with a cheeky grin flashed Aulus' way. "What prize does the winner get, in addition to praise and glory?" @Sara @Atrice @Chevi @Sharpie
  2. How unfortunate that the harlot was more cultured than most of her ilk. Livia suffered through the performance with lips pursed into the suggestion of a yellow smile should any of their guests look her way (which was sure to happen, although she tried not to think about it), her glare at Vibia so intense it felt like it could poke a hole into the woman's fair skin. Fortunately, the selected piece was not a long one. Unfortunately, Vibia did have a pleasant singing voice and passable plucking skills - the latter no doubt aided by her usual metier. "A satisfactory show, yes," she conceded with a curt nod, followed by a long sip of wine so she could avoid the expectation of lavishing praise upon the performer. "Your blasphemies will not please the gods, Secundus," Livia added without so much as a glance at her husband. "I'm afraid I will have to pass on your offer. I don't find it appropriate for a woman to display such skills in public, but I imagine one thinks differently when they are one's livelihood." The cup was now empty, and Livia's mood was not improved by this discovery. Gesturing at a slave for a refill and a bite to eat, she gave Vibia a condescending smile. "How long did it take you to achieve this level of proficiency? It must have required a lot of practice." A quick, mocking glance at Secundus insinuated he couldn't possibly have been the sole volunteer to be practised on. For as long as she lived, Livia would never understand what men found so appealing in sticking their precious appendage somewhere hundreds of others had done the same. @Sara @Járnviðr
  3. 'Tempus fugit'? Only when one was having fun. Each year with Secundus felt like a decade, and Livia wasn't keen on immortality. What had been on her father's mind when he had agreed to the disastrous match? The question had floated countless times through her mind, yet remained unanswered. She did not have the courage to openly doubt Marcus Horatius Justinus' judgement and demand to know why; she did not have the right either. As her father, he knew best even if he didn't - such was the way of the world. Maybe one day he would put into practice the old adagio of in vino veritas and share his reasons... Maybe. The grape in her mouth turned bitter, but was forced down with a smile. Pater seemed to find her suggested topic an agreeable one. "It takes wisdom to appreciate the wisdom of others. It's reassuring to know our ruler is surrounded by capable men and inclined to heed their advice." The last few words came out harsher than originally intended, evidence of the persistent irritation that followed mentions of her sister and her husband's perfect lives. "I hope Aulus lives up to expectations during his term. It would be terribly embarrassing for us if he failed to serve the emperor and the people of Rome to the standard they deserve." Oh, her brother-in-law would do a good job and give Horatia cause to gloat all she wanted; Livia could only imagine how much more stuck-up those two would be come same time next year. News, yes - any news would suffice, so long as it kept the focus away from her. "No, I suppose she was not," Livia smirked as she shuffled in her seat, the wry smile turning into a broader and more authentic one at the affectionate pinch. For a moment she regretted her sister was not there to witness the gesture that would likely have made her even less chirpy. "Ah, of course. Titus is what, fifteen? Sixteen this year? What an eventful year this is turning out to be for them!" She raised her cup to her lips, downing half of its contents before imitating Marcus and making for the cheese. "I wonder if they're already considering potential matches for Calpurnia." In a seldom display of ill-disguised malice, Livia added with feigned enthusiasm, "Pater, you must share your impressions of those men with them! You raised two daughters, they should find your experience valuable." Wasn't that the hallmark of a young woman from a respectable family, married off to some intolerable old fart that was closer in age to her father or grandfather than to herself? The question - not unexpected but no less unpleasant for it - had Livia staring morosely into her cup. The temptation to come clean and tell her father all about Secundus' horrid plan was there, poking at her with deceptive fingers. If she gave in, what would Marcus do? Console her for being forced to participate in the scheme? Chastise her for failing to give her husband a legitimate heir? Deceit won out, as it inevitably would, but there was no need to fake the hurt in her voice when she spoke. "I would love nothing more than prove you right, Pater. We have been trying, rest assured, but..." Livia raised her gaze from the cup to Marcus' expectant face. "... What if it's not the gods' will? I have been pregnant twice, but my husband has no known children. What if it's not in the gods' designs that he should be the one to further the family line?" Before the whole disaster that had upended her life months earlier, Livia had considered the possibility a few times in the safety of her mind. Could divorces been granted on account of infertility on the husband's part? She knew the reverse was not uncommon, and had even hoped for some time that Secundus would exhaust his barely-existent patience and return her to her father's house. But perhaps the seed of an idea could be planted on Marcus' mind and, some time after the current state of affairs had come to a conclusion, even bear fruit? She lowered her head, pretending to be ashamed of voicing such thoughts. "Many men remain vigorous even in their later years, I'm aware of that, and father children with their young wives. I know I'm hardly young anymore, but..." The segue hung in the silence. What if it's his fault? @locutus-sum
  4. Funny how a dinner party with this many attendees could be more glacial than court proceedings (or so Livia imagined; she had never witnessed any). Between Sergia's belated recognition of their host's somewhat clumsy flirting, Secundus' obliviousness to anything beyond his own thoughts and Teutus' quietude, she very much felt like she was alone in bailing water out of this sinking ship. She nodded absentmindedly at her niece's reply, taking frequent sips from her cup. "Tibur is very peaceful," she interjected during a lull in the conversation, more to make it seem like she was following it than out of actual interest. Help came in the form of Tertius, the gods bless him, and Livia gave her brother-in-law an appreciative smile before joining in with her own remarks - that hopefully Sergia would segue into some witty sentence or two. "I imagine your home would be even nicer with the pitter-patter of small feet bounding about." She shot Sergia a quick and pointed look as if to signal this reaction was something to pay close attention to, then carried on with a flourish. "Tertius, surely senator Longinus has a villa by the sea like most of us!" Livia let out a dainty, short-lived laugh before bringing the cup to her lips again. Was Lucius Cassius Longinus an unrepenting urbanite or did he favour rural retreats? For the other woman's sake she hoped it was the former, because the latter, as they very well knew, was so boring as to be tear-inducing. A peaceful prison, really. Or could have been, if Secundus did not ruin the bucolic setting with his presence. @Sara @Járnviðr @Sharpie @Atrice
  5. Artemon wasted no time in nodding his confirmation that he did indeed remember perfectly well, thank you very much. A defiant little voice inside his chest argued that now he too knew where Gallus lived, and he too would be watching! Mostly to make sure Gallus didn't come up with excuses to underpay him again. He didn't know where the witch lived, obviously; she might not even live at her master's. Maybe he should try to follow her one day... Snapping back to attention, he grew paler as he realised that he had not locked the warehouse, and spluttered sheepishly to avoid giving a definite answer. He was so tired, and so hungry, and Rome was so dangerous in the dark! "Um... well.." he dawdled, ignoring the attempt at seduction he was witness to as he shuffled his feet. Ugh. Just as he was about to give in, the idea of his future earnings giving him strength to brave the unpredictable and perilous darkness once again, he felt the familiar sting of a hair slap as the woman bid him good night. "I won't, rest assured!" Artemon declared, the door slamming in his face seconds later. If those two were going to be busy for the next hour or so, they wouldn't come out to check that Artemon had indeed gone back to lock up. He could always claim he had done as told but shift the blame to the day shift and their carelessness. Pleased with his plan, he trotted up the stairs to his tiny flat, tiptoed his way in so as not to wake Iophon (if he even was there - in the dark it was hard to tell) and tucked himself in on his straw mattress, falling asleep to thoughts of future riches. @Sara Fin
  6. If Osiris decided to claim him now, Artemon would pass on a happy man. A compliment! It sounded even sweeter coming from his beloved's lips; it was something he would cherish for days to come and draw strength from it when Gallus got on his case again. "You are kindness embodied, domina," he retorted with a bright smile. The moment the young woman spoke the magic words he sped off towards the baker's, procuring a bun in what was probably the fastest business transaction in his whole life. Within minutes he was back, presenting the bun to his nymph to examine before breaking it into two uneven halves as per her request and handing her the smallest one. Truth be told, Artemon was hoping they could have a nice sit-down chat over the bun, but he realised now it was nigh impossible. Her slaves would no doubt go snitching on them to her family, and might even forbid her from ever seeing him again! That was something to be avoided at all costs. "Domina," he started between bites (the bun was juicy all right), "please forgive my curiosity, but I must say this. I am fascinated by your hair! Not even in Egypt have I seen anything like it!" Alexandria was almost as eclectic in population as Rome, with people coming in from all corners of the empire, and whilst he had seen people with yellow hair before, none had possessed such a fair shade. "Is it a wig or is it really yours?" @David
  7. As clear as the waters of the Nile after the flood, which meant still a bit muddy. He could always hope Davus didn't ask too many questions, though, and run things past Iophon beforehand to get a better sense of how to tackle this future situation. Gallus was kind enough to let him finish before speaking up, but as Artemon watched him pick up the dripping knife, a horrible sinking sensation took hold of his stomach. This witch was no good at predicting the future, else she would have known she had come to the insula to meet her end! "U-uhh..." he stammered, following the knife's trajectory with his eyes as he considered the options. Neither was good and both were lethal... He was spared from having to reply by Gallus seemingly growing tired of his indecision, and Artemon squeezed his eyes shut for an instant before morbid curiosity won out and he opened one of them to see... Gallus smooching the witch?! Now he had definitely seen it all. He opened and shut his mouth a few times in quick succession, uttering sounds of confusion until the words sunk in. So she hadn't been lying! But how could a slave be a boss? In any case, good thing he hadn't angered her too much, and he definitely shouldn't start now! Doing his best impression of a lost puppy, Artemon cast Zia a pleading look, almost ready to prostrate himself at her feet. Fortunately he didn't have to as she agreed to up his pay, and he nodded furiously at the conditions she set, making himself dizzy with the movement. "Yes! Understood! I won't let you down, you can count on me!" he exclaimed, forgetting that he was practically shouting in the hallway in the middle of the night. This was the best day ever! Come his next wage, Artemon would treat himself and Iophon to a proper meal of bread, stew and beer to celebrate. Gaze jumping expectantly from Gallus to the witch, he decided to push his luck one more time. "Since I'm already here, may I consider my shift finished and go home to sleep?" @Sara
  8. "Light, of course!" Artemon slapped his knee with great enthusiasm. This is why it was nice to have clever friends - they always remembered things he didn't. "We only have one window, but maybe it'll be enough." If the plant required many windows, that would be a problem: he couldn't ask Gallus to take care of him for it, he couldn't keep it in the warehouse... Maybe Alexius would be willing to keep it for him? Or - wait - maybe Davus could! Artemon smiled to himself, amazed by his own resourcefulness. First, however, he had to find out if the plant really needed more light than their crude square cut into the wall could provide. "Ah, that's nice! Not your master, I mean! It's not nice that I can't visit you!" he explained, the words tumbling out of him like dates from a dropped basket. "I meant that you get to come out often and that is nice!" Right? Or were slaves who stayed at home higher up in the ranks than those who were sent on errands? Hoping he didn't goof too badly (wouldn't be the first time anyway, and certainly not the last), Artemon attempted to come up with a schedule. "Sometimes I work nights and then I sleep during the day, so I think it'll be hard to meet on those days..." Hmm, this was more difficult than it appeared. "Maybe we could meet here on the same day at the same time next week? If you're not busy, that is," he suggested, eyes glinting with the hopeful prospect of a new drinking buddy. "Or you can always come and see if I'm home, if your master doesn't mind. This is how you get there," with an extended finger Artemon drew a map on his palm, mentioning recognisable establishments as reference points. "My place is on the top floor right at the end of the corridor." How exciting to have a visitor! He would just have to sort out what to offer Davus, as it was rude to let your guests remain on an empty stomach. If both he and Iophon were skint the day of, maybe Alexius could spot him some bread and olives. @Sharpie
  9. Third floor, huh? Greedy Gallus was raking in the sestertii and shafting Artemon at the same time! But oh no, things were going to change now! If Gallus got cheeky, Artemon would come down in the middle of the night and bang on the door (and then hide or beat a speedy retreat). He smiled victoriously; this knowledge changed everything. Finally they would be able to afford bread every day! "Lu-to..?" he repeated, slightly puzzled by the name. It wasn't one he could recall having encountered before, but he supposed the boy was German since the witch was German too, and he didn't know a lot of Germans. He was starting to think they were scary people, and the fearsome look directed at him only cemented that opinion. "Um, no, not really," he confessed, already wincing in preparation for whatever punishment she would inflict on him. "If I ask my friend about the boy, I'll have to tell him why. He's really smart, so I can't just lie to him." Not to mention that one shouldn't lie to their friends! Any possible clarification by the woman was interrupted by her coming to a halt in front of a door on the third floor and knocking just once. Was this some kind of code? Artemon squinted, deep in thought. He should learn this code and teach it to Iophon in case it was ever necessary. Gallus' familiar voice brought him back into the present, and Artemon straightened up, attempting to look all prim and proper. "I found this woman trespassing, but she said she's your boss? So we came to see you. We're neighbours, by the way!" he beamed, pointing at the ceiling with his index finger. "I live on the top floor." Now, when would be a good time to bring up that pay raise? Well, here was one possible avenue he could try. Still grinning, Artemon went on. "And she said you need more people to work. In that case, since I've been a good employee for a while now, I would like to be rewarded with more coin!" There - professional and concise, just like Artemon. @Sara
  10. What was it they needed to? Artemon never found out, as the second he opened his mouth a familiar hand rushed to cover it. He fought the impulse to bite it and let himself be yanked unceremoniously to the perceived safety of hiding behind a pile of crates. Crouching low on the ground, he peeled Iophon's hand away and let out a shaky breath, hoping the guard would not hear it. How loud was a breath, anyway? The creak of a door opening broke the silence, followed by heavy footsteps as the guard entered the warehouse. Artemon didn't dare poke his head out to get a glimpse of the man and how dangerous he was likely to be based on size alone. If push came to shove they had the knife he had used to make the hole, but he would rather run and live to come back another night. He exchanged a nervous look with his brother as the guard bumbled round, his footsteps coming closer and then growing quieter as the man walked away. "Gotta find me a lamp," the man muttered before shutting the door behind him and exiting into the dark, presumably to perform his self-appointed task - one that only had been audible because the warehouse had been deathly silent. Artemon sighed, shoulders slumping, and slowly stood up behind the crates, peeking out to check that the guard was indeed gone and not just fooling them. Satisfied that their momentary enemy hadn't been that smart, he turned to Iophon for guidance. "You were saying...?" @Chevi
  11. Artemon shot Iophon an offended glare, although the darkness took away much of its intended effect. "I didn't do it on purpose," he mumbled, lower lip protruding in a pout as he kept picking at the wood. What with the way Tyche had been blessing them tonight, surely the guard was at some distant point of his perimeter. So it wasn't a spice. Bummer! He breathed in the musty air as if to make sure his brother was right, heaving a sigh at the confirmation. Well, there went his dreams of becoming a rich spice thief trader. "Yeah, it's a bit intense for perfume, isn't it?" And very in-your-face too, not discreet at all. Perhaps it could be marketed as a fragrance for sweaty sailors? It might just mask body odour very well... Already thinking of his contacts in Ostia, Artemon was pulled out of his musings by another wise suggestion by Iophon. "Oh, that could be it! Maybe it's one of those shifty cults and that's why it's a secret!" Artemon's excitement meant he was unable to keep his voice down; all thoughts of the guard had vanished from his mind. As if on cue, the wood under his knife finally gave in and a small hole just wide enough to stick two fingers in was now carved into the crate. "Hah! I did it!" he raised a victorious fist and shoved his knife back into its hiding place. "All right, how do we get this out now?" They could flip the crate and gather whatever fell on the floor, but Iophon was clever, so maybe he had a better idea. As Artemon stared at the hole, pondering how best to access its contents, a gruff and somewhat muffled voice could be heard from the outside."Oi! Anybody in there?!" Uh-oh! @Chevi
  12. Ah, the insolence of youth. Luckily for Marcus Silanus, this was a 'been there, done that' sort of thing - something that all men went through (and some never grew out of). In a couple of years it would be Aulus' son with an insolent tongue, and a few years after that Publius. Possessed of unusual magnanimity, however, Titus chose not to voice the retort he would have liked to and remained on the topic of gladiators instead. "Feels like it was only a few years ago... But you're quite right, Consul. It was the year I got married." Time did pass by quicker the older one got, no matter how much Longinus wanted to pretend he was still a spring chicken. In Lexus' case, though, it did not seem to have dulled his movement or agility - he was doing a good job against the gladiatrix. She was also putting on quite the show, and giving the crowd a good run for their money as she taunted her adversary. "Yes, and then you can tell our curious friend here what else she's talented at," Titus peeled his eyes away from the arena to shoot Longinus a sassy glance before defending his erstwhile slave's honour - whatever amount of it a barbarian possessed. "He wasn't complacent when he left my service, but if your your body slave's familiarity with his master is anything to go by, well..." he concluded with a shrug and returned his attention to the match, this time with an added focus. She was athletic all right - maybe a bit too much, even. Her muscles were probably as hard as a man's, Titus conjectured with a frown. Come to think of it, the youths (and their elders) might enjoy seeing the fighters up close, regardless of who won. Leaning forward in his seat, Titus addressed his friend. "Say, Aulus, any chance of personally congratulating our entertainers once it's over? The boys might like it." And if their presence made Marcus Silanus feel young and puny, perhaps next time he would choose his words more carefully. @Atrice @Sharpie @Chevi @Sara
  13. Disaster averted - or so it seemed for the time being. The embrace did not last too long, and Livia let out a breath she had not realised she had been holding. The red-haired slave, having learnt his lesson, was quick to offer her a full goblet as soon as both patricians were seated. She let go of her father's hands and examined him surreptitiously as she sipped at her wine. He seemed well - somewhat entertained, even - and not too worn out by the trip. A good starting point, and it was up to her to keep him in a good mood throughout his visit. It was also up to her to keep herself in a passable mood. Her father's brief summary of news from the capital did not help matters, but Livia forced herself to remain cheerful. "With the weather getting hotter, everybody will soon leave for their villas around Neapolis, and then you can thank Apollo for making life even slower!" A childish joke, and she was quick to disguise her laughter behind her goblet in case Marcus found it too childish. "Oh yes, very peaceful!" Livia smiled a little too wide. Much too peaceful indeed; deathly boring would have been a better description. "It's not as unbearable as Rome on hot summer days, and if it ever becomes too much there is a stream at the edge of the property. It's very pleasant for swimming or even just resting." It had once come in handy for other things too, but those were in the past, fading beyond the veil of nostalgia. "It's not as stinky as Rome either," she added with a mischievous giggle before taking another sip of her drink. "But it's just as you say, pater. I am no longer a little girl, nor a newlywed. Time passes by in the blink of an eye," she commented, raising her eyes to see the bronze-skinned boy come bearing a large platter full of juicy grapes and various cheeses. He set it down in front of them and quietly retreated, presumably to fetch more food. She plucked three grapes the size of eyeballs and popped them into her mouth in quick succession, gesturing at Marcus to help himself as she swallowed. "It is three years this year since my husband and I married." Three years of Hades above ground, only made bearable by the companion that had so selfishly been taken from her. Livia stifled a sigh and raised her cup for a toast instead. "And it is the first year of our new emperor's reign. May he always be in good health." An imperious look at the ginger slave saw him refilling both drinks in a heartbeat and slinking back into his place against the wall. "Are you finding it difficult to 'establish your relationship' with him? Does his youth make him unreasonable?" Livia smiled again with a hint of girlish malice. In all actuality she had no interest in new or old imperial doings, but establishing her father as the wise and more experienced party versus a young man's boldness and enthusiasm miht please him. @locutus-sum
  14. Hmm. Was it completely dried? That was the million sestertius question Artemon did not know the answer to; yet he felt encouraged by the other Egyptian's optimism. Okay, maybe it wasn't straight optimism, but it wasn't a resounding 'no way' or 'that's ridiculous' or '...what?', so he would take what he could get. "I think I'll give it a try! Plants just need water and soil, right? And a pot?" He chewed on his lower lip, wondering if he was forgetting something. Plants didn't eat, so it seemed like that was it. "If I'm successful, Davus, I will tell you all about it!" Even if it took weeks or months. It was only fair that his new friend be updated on the quest he had helped embark on. "Oh, how rude of me! I am Artemon," he returned, silently relieved that he had not forgotten after all. His mother always told him his brain was like a sieve, and Artemon struggled to prove her wrong. If only she had been here to witness it! "I live in an insula on the Esquiline," he added, only remembering moments too late that Davus did not have the same freedom to come and go as he. Oops. "Are you sent on errands often? Or could I visit you at your master's house?" It was the first time Artemon befriended a slave who did not work at a business, and he did not want to cause Davus trouble by doing something wrong. @Sharpie
  15. "Oh. Right." Artemon stayed his hand as he felt Iophon touch his shoulder, conceding that, as usual, his brother made a good point. Or did he? "Can't rats climb, though?" he scrunched up his nose, tucking the knife back into his underwear before following Iophon down. The descent was almost concluded when his foot slipped and his little toe caught in the corner of a crate. A howl and a stream of invective, first in Egyptian and then again in Greek for good measure, left his mouth before he could stop himself, and when Artemon finally hit the floor it was with wounded pride and a very painful toe. When he had enough money, he would go to the shoemaker and demand a pair of closed shoes! Once the pain had subsided enough, Artemon got to work, trying to hack away at the wood as quickly and silently as possible. "Can you smell it? What do you think it is?" he asked his twin, having noticed the scent seemed stronger down there than up by the window. "It's got to be medicine, right? It's too cloying for spices, don't you think?" @Chevi
  16. She was even more beautiful up close, if that was even possible. Artemon's body felt as light as Hermes' winged sandals, and he himself could have taken flight that very instant. His heart soared at the dulcet tones of her voice. This was his lucky day, the day his fortune changed and the gods smiled down at him. He just knew it. His grin grew impossibly wider as the lady took his present, apparently pleased with it and entirely oblivious to her dwindling keenness. "Its beauty is nothing compared to yours, of course, but it crowns your hair like a kiss from Isis," Artemon said, watching as if transfixed as she pushed the flower into her elaborate hairstyle. He had scraped off the thorns, he thought - hopefully he hadn't missed any. "But of course, domina! Anything to make you happy!" was his eager response, and Artemon almost took the young woman's hand in his before he remembered that such boldness would land him into trouble. "I shall come, rain or shine, to fulfil my vow to you!" First, however, he would have to check with Iophon or somebody equally wise just what flowers were in bloom that season. The neighbours downstairs sold fruit, maybe they knew a thing or two about flowers? Or the Dacian witch? No matter; he would find a way. All he had to do was not mess this up. A difficult task and one he had never quite succeeded at, but Artemon was nothing if not persistent. "Domina, if you are not too busy, will you share with me the gift of your presence over a blackcurrant bun?" His eyes glinted with hope. The baker's stall was just across the street, so her attendants should be able to see that nothing improper would take place! Not that Artemon would even think of it, of course. He was a gallant, although often misunderstood, gentleman. @David
  17. Artemon could only hope she wouldn't tell Gallus to expect a long list. Maybe he would have to do some sleuthing and ask round - Iophon knew lots of people, so that was a good place to start. Alexius had guests over all the time too, maybe one of them would be interested in earning a few extra asses. In the worst case scenario, he could always take his skint bottom to Ostia and see if any sailors out of work wanted a job on land for a while. It might have been wise to ask for a commission, a fixed percentage for every successfully referred new worker, but wisdom was not Artemon's forte. He made some energetic noncommittal noises and prayed that Gallus could read Greek, because his Latin scribbles would put a young child's to shame. Speaking of children, he couldn't recall Davus mentioning any little boys, but the attempt to dig deeper into his memory was aborted by the woman's confused tones. "Yeah, this is my insula!" Not his his, of course. Still, the shock brought on by the witch's deduction made Artemon's jaw drop to the floor. "You mean Gallus and I are neighbours?!" His eyes grew impossibly wider, almost threatening to go flying out of his face like projectiles hurled by a sling. "That makes my life so much easier!" He took the woman's hands in his own and clasped them with enthusiasm, shaking them up and down. "I can just go ask him for an advance! Thank you, witch!" Her powers were truly wondrous. Now it was his turn to shine - or rather, strut into the insula like he owned the place. "I live on the top floor," he informed gaily, forgetting to keep his voice down. "What's his?" They would have to go up at least one flight of stairs, anyway, unless Gallus secretly kept a shop and slept there too. As they went up, Artemon had regained enough brain power to allocate to the matter of little boys. "Um, if I do I don't remember right now. Sorry," was his contrite admission before brightening up again, "but I can ask my friend next time I see him!" The gods knew when that would be, but Artemon did not lose heart. "And this boy, what is he called? Is he your son or little brother?" Or maybe she wanted the child for more nefarious purposes, like a blood sacrifice! Faintly scandalised by his own conclusion, he gave the Dacian lady a suspicious side look. She didn't look the type to do such a thing, but ships didn't look the type to sink until they were taking on water. @Sara
  18. "I am sure they are well-founded and much deserved," was Titus' cheeky response to the slap on his back. It was, however, nice of Longinus to spare him from having to introduce himself to the young man sitting nearby. "No, I don't think we have, although I've heard good things about you and your brother," he told Marcus before rolling his eyes at the mention of Britannia. It wouldn't be Longinus if the bloody island didn't come up at least once in conversation. The reassurance that he had missed nothing of importance had him settling comfortably in his seat, Publius' lively conversation with Titus Calpurnius Praetextatus a familiar murmur. "Lexus? I thought he had retired many years ago." Titus squinted at the man in the arena whose movements almost seemed like a dance, so effortless they were. It was Lexus all right, beloved by the lowborn and elites alike. The gladiatrix was less familiar, but equally skilled and a more than worthy foe; she wielded her swords better than many a fresh legionary his gladius. All in all, a most exciting match. "So you've placed bets? Who does our consul favour?" he grinned at Aulus, not really expecting a direct answer. Picking the right horse to bet on, so to speak, was going to be no easy feat from what Titus could see. "Drinks on me if the Thessalian wins. Shame we can't have her train a few recruits." Cocking his head to get a better look at Marcus, he addressed the lad, hoping to put him a bit more at ease should he be feeling shy. "Had you seen Lexus fight before? He was really good back in the day!" Only drove home how old they were all getting, really, as if Longinus' short explanation from earlier hadn't been enough. @Atrice @Chevi @Sara @Sharpie
  19. The fateful day had come. The day when Livia had run out of excuses to politely refuse a visit from her father and was forced to accede to his request. Her hand had shaken as she wrote the reply the previous week; her whole body trembled now as though she had a fever despite the summer heat, making it nigh impossible to put on her pearl earrings. Standing a few feet away, Ursa merely stared at her feet, having already been subject to two verbal lashings: the first for not rushing to help straight away and the second for being so infuriatingly inept at it that Livia was better off doing it herself. Aglaea's soothing manners were sorely missed, but Livia could not let her father or any of his retinue catch glimpse of her body slave, and so young Ursa was forced to take on the mantle - and, unfortunately for her, was not performing to her mistress's standards. As the damned second earring finally went in, a bronze-skinned youth came into the room and murmured that her father had arrived and was being shown in. An quick expletive escaped Livia and she hastened to the atrium, smoothing the sides of her loose-fitting, rather drab brown stola and adjusting her honey-coloured palla so that it too was loosely draped over her figure. Behind her, Ursa followed with anxious steps, already preparing herself to be blamed for a treacherous brooch sliding off or a similar occurrence. The atrium came into view and with it the silhouette of Marcus Horatius Justinus. "Pater!" Some of the elation in Livia's voice was genuine, and she used it to cover the uneasiness that lay beneath. She held her hands out to him, silently hoping he would be content to take them in his rather than draw her into a hug. "I trust you had a safe journey?" A sharp glance at a red-haired slave spurred the poor soul to action, and within seconds he was generously filling a goblet with wine and handing it to their esteemed guest. If there was one thing Secundus was right about was that their slaves were sorely lacking in discipline! "You must tell me all the news from Rome! It always takes so long to get here," Livia complained as she motioned for them to move to the sofas, fully assuming the role of the spoil younger daughter that she was so adept at playing. @locutus-sum
  20. Early July, 76 AD It was a sweltering day in Rome like so many others, but the heat did not bother Artemon, who was used to Ra visiting worse punishment on him. It was also a very rare day off for him, and after sleeping in past lunchtime he felt very much ready to start his day - get dressed, eat, hit the thermae, steal a certain something from the nearest public garden and busy himself with people-watching. In this case, however, there was one person Artemon was hoping to see, and even amidst the bustling crowd, his eyes found their intended target. There she was! A nymph, the loveliest creature the gods had ever made. Nay, she was Ken herself come to Rome and walking among mortals, may his father forgive him for such blasphemous thoughts! From behind a marble column Artemon studied the young woman's activities. Such grace! Such beauty! And that hair, fairer than the emperor's togas and shining in the sun like a thousand aurei! She was a dream, a vision, a balm sent by the gods to rest his tired, bulging eyes. And she was walking in the opposite direction. Springing into action, Artemon left his hiding place and broke into a jog to catch up with the lady. "Domina!" he called out, hoping to get her attention, and produced a single, slightly crushed rose from a worn pouch around his waist. "For you, as a token of my appreciation," he beamed as he held out the flower for her to take. @David
  21. So he was getting a raise after all! Artemon uttered a sound of self-satisfaction as he followed the witch. Maybe she wasn't that evil after all. There was also the merit of his help, of course, and now that she had seen just how cooperative he could be, surely she thought he deserved more than his current pay. Already thinking of all the fabulous thing his new wealth would afford him, he was pulled out of his reverie by the witch's long hair slapping him in the face. "My... view?" Well, he did have a few friends, but he wasn't sure they would be interested. Iophon preferred to stick to storytelling; Alexius was big and brawny but the pay was perhaps too low for him; Davus was a slave, so he couldn't work... This was harder than it first appeared. "I'll see what I can do," Artemon replied with an air of self-importance - not that the woman could see it with her back to him. Her second question was easier. "Yes! One of my friends is owned by a senator!" Artemon produced a smug grin that was just as invisible. All senators were noble, right? (These Roman classes were so hard to keep up with; things were much easier in Egypt.) And thus the houses they lived in must be noble too. Ah, how satisfying it was when all the pieces fell into place! "But that means he's not got a lot of free time. What do you need from him? You may have to buy him if the task is very... very..." What was the word again? "Exhausting? Exhaustive?" Eh, she knew what he meant. Lost as he was in conversation, Artemon had until that moment failed to notice that despite the barely existing lighting, they were entering familiar grounds. Very familiar grounds. He looked all around him like an owl, blinking and rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn't dreaming, and tapped the woman on the shoulder to get her attention. "Why did you bring me home?" @Sara
  22. Oh. Well, he had asked. Perhaps his friend's master was one of those idiots who saw no value in letting his slaves learn new things. Artemon swatted a fly buzzing about and looked around to ensure nobody was listening in on their conversation before leaning forward and lowering his voice to a conspiratorial murmur. "Do you think that works for dried plants too? Can they come back to life if you plant and water them?" If, and it was a big if, that worked... Pretty soon Artemon would be rolling in the gold too! And all thanks to his fellow countryman, who would naturally be rewarded for his contribution. His eyes bulged in awe. "You really are smart, uh..." Whoops - they hadn't exchanged names yet, had they? Or had Artemon simply forgotten it? Wouldn't be the first time - and thanks to prior experience, he knew a polite way of asking. "I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?" @Sharpie
  23. Emboldened by Iophon's trust in him, Artemon nodded back and focused on the task at him, lips moving silently in apparent inability to keep a solely mental tally. Once the guard was out of the way, he hurried after his brother, scurrying all the way to the window that was to be their way in. "All right," he nodded, and hoisted himself onto Iophon's linked hands and up the wall, his calloused fingers quickly finding purchase. With surprising ease he pulled himself up through the window, feeling ahead to check that the usual crates were there and piled to the usual height lest he fall and break his neck. Phase One concluded - now to start Phase Two. Feet firmly planted on the top crate, Artemon hung his upper body out the window and pulled his twin up as agreed. The warehouse was peaceful; nobody seemed to have spotted them. "So," he whispered eagerly, "shall we try this one first?" He grabbed the file they had brought and switched it from hand to a hand a few times, trying to work out how to make these murine marks Iophon had suggested. Coming up blank, Artemon handed the file back to his brother. "Here, you use this and I'll make the hole." Producing a knife from the folds of his subligaculum, he waved it with a cocky grin, again forgetting the darkness didn't lend itself way to visual displays of prowess. He sat down, folded his legs and started picking away at the wooden lid that was supporting them, oblivious to the mechanics of retrieving their prize. @Chevi
  24. To think attending gladiatorial games was such a complicated affair! To start things off, Titus' reply to Longinus' missive had been delivered to Lepidus Cassius Longinus instead and far later than it should have, thanks to a new and particularly dense slave that had been promptly taken back to the market following the mishap. Then, for some nebulous reason not even the gods must be privy to, his cunning big sister Sulpicia had chosen that very day to pay them a visit after weeks of forgetting Titus and his family even existed - probably to discuss summer arrangements and figure out how long she, Lucius and the boys would have the villa in Baiae to themselves for. By the time he had managed to extricate himself and Publius from said visit by claiming a prior and very important commitment (which wasn't a lie!), the sun was already dipping beyond the horizon and the event was well underway. Nevertheless, they made it in one piece and wasted no time in finding their seats - one of the perks of being a friend of one of the Consuls was that they indeed were very good seats. Titus greeted his fellow patricians and sat down, mumbling an apology about their lateness and trying to gauge how far into the match the gladiators were. "Your cousin Lepidus sends his regards," he told Longinus as Publius too saluted the others and took his seat. "What did we miss?" As far as he could tell, not a lot - the gladiator had just tried to duck under his opponent's twin swords, and neither was yet covered in blood. It wasn't every day that one could witness a gladiatrix and a gladiator facing off against each other in the arena, but the Venus' usual brand of entertainment wasn't of your everyday variety either. @Atrice @Chevi @Sara @Sharpie
  25. Welcome, David! Glad to have you join us, hope you find Ancient Rome as interesting as Ancient Greece Looking forward to writing with you!
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