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  1. The summons to a private interview with Quintus Caesar Augustus could not have come at a more opportune time, as far as Aulus was concerned. He had news that he needed to impart, and the sooner the better, for all concerned - if he could. He arrayed himself in his Senatorial finest, reflecting that the last time either man had seen the other, they had been in far more comfortable military gear. He idly wondered if Quintus Augustus would recognise his former tribune out of his breastplate and military cloak. The Domus Augustorum was designed to impress and overawe those who approached it. Doubtless the original house, inhabited by the Divine Augustus, had been somewhat less impressive - he had been famed for the simplicity of his habits and lifestyle, after all - but it had been extended and improved upon until very little, if anything at all, could be discerned of the original. Aulus refused to be overawed; he had a previous acquaintance with the primary inhabitant of the place, which many of the visitors to it did not, and Quintus Augustus would be the same man whether Aulus met him here or in the midst of a military encampment in Cappodocia. He gave his name to the slave at the door and was allowed inside, guided within the rabbit warren to the very heart of the palace, to be admitted to the presence of the Augustus himself, a private interview without the presence of all those who wished to present petitions for this favour or that. He went forward, enough to be seen by the man seated upon the curule chair at the far end of the room, and waited to be acknowledged. @Chris
  2. Letter dated roughly a week after the earthquake. Titus Sulpicius Rufus to his dearest friend Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus, greetings. Hope all is well with your domus and familia after the recent event. No casualties on our end of thing except for parts of the roof, a couple of trees and a bust I never liked. To take our minds off all that's happened and because it's the right season for it, my brother and sister-in-law are travelling down to Neapolis for a while and inviting friends and family to join them for their beach parties. There will be entertainment not unlike that party you hosted a few months back, as well as more family-friendly activities. As you may remember my brother Quintus was consul in 72, and given your current aspirations (which I fully support), I took the liberty of assuming you might be interested in fostering that connection. It goes without saying that this invitation extends to your lady wife and your lovely children. Mine are also coming, so they will not be left to their own devices. We will be heading down on the 13th (I expect the Via Appia will be fully up and running again by then), and our good friend Longinus is coming with. He has been rather morose as of late, so I will be counting on you to help raise his spirits. Farewell, my dear friend. @Sharpie
  3. Sara

    Lazy Days

    February, 74AD The Praetorium in Augusta Vindelicorum, Raetia The Praetorium was abnormally quiet. Well, it was never quiet, it was obviously far more vast than their family domus in Rome and her father-in-law's expansive villa in Baiae and so the Governor's palace hummed with the sounds of slaves diligently working or visitors going about their business. But her quarters - sequestered in the private space of the building, at least, were silent today. Titus was at his lessons and Calpurnia was attending to some matter or another with her slave. Her daughter was no longer the sweet little girl she had once been, but her rapidly evolving interests in the arts and music were a balm for the creatively minded Horatia. Straining her ears she could vaguely make out the jarring notes of her flute. She hoped her daughter would find something a little more pleasing on the ears to learn soon. So she stood, quite alone in the rooms that made up her's and the children's quarters. It was too cold to sit in the gardens, she mused sullenly, winters in Raetia were harsher than Italia. She sighed and padded aimlessly until she ended up outside her husbands study. She would usually not disturb him in the day, but afternoon was well and truly on its way and his associates and men had left for the day. She considered, for a moment, going back to her own rooms to read or sew, or perhaps dedicate some time to planning whatever function Aulus was next required to host. The latter thought lit a smile on her face. She missed her husband when he was busy or absent, even if it was just for a few hours, and gently enquiring about an engagement she would be required to organise was a perfect excuse to linger in his study, was it not? She knocked on the doorframe and leant through, a light smile on her face. "Do you have some time to talk?" She queried gently. One never knew with Aulus; she suspected her husband would look as unmoving and unflappable as he ever did, even if there was some major crises occurring that she was not privy to. Stepping into the room and smoothing down her stola, she studied him, forgetting the purpose (and what a loose purpose it was) entirely. "You look tired, you work too much." She said with a wry smile. TAG: @Sharpie
  4. Sara

    Next Steps

    April 75CE After Gentle Persuasion, Every Man Has His Price and Gathering Storm Horatia tapped her fingers against the table, trying to concentrate on what she was reading. She had, in her life, never not completed a book - it wasn't in her nature to abandon things and she stubbornly, and steadfastly, ploughed through every scroll she had bought. Unfortunately for her this one was especially dry and no amount of concentration could convince her otherwise. There was only so much she could read about the heroes at Actium before her eyes started to roll and yawns crept in. Still - she considered her day well spent - every day she learnt something new she was adding value to her life. That was why her overflowing collection of scrolls in her cubiculum ranged in diversity from traditional manuals in feminine arts, to the great histories, to myths and poetry, to mundane descriptions of war and equally dry instruction of political spectrums. Still, she absorbed it all like a sponge. It didn't change her mood though and she set down the scroll, marking her place with a clip and re-rolling the aged sheets. The domus was quiet; Titus was still in his lessons and Calpurnia had, bless her, been taken ill with a belly ache in her room that Horatia had suspicion was a signal it wouldn't be long before her fluxes started. She was almost twelve and had shot up in height and in figure. Poor Aulus, she thought with a wry smile to herself, he'd arrived back to a five year old girl and before he could blink she had almost become a woman. She glanced about and noting one of the household slaves tending to the lamps that littered the peristyle, she arched a brow; "Is Callista back?" The slave shook his head, "No domina, nor Felix." Horatia's brows rose higher. Surely they wouldn't be foolish enough to shirk their responsibilities and go off with one another in the middle of the day? She'd sent Callista out hours ago and it was nearly sunset now. Pushing the scroll and her cup away from the edge of the table, she uncurled herself from her reading spot in the garden (the slaves would clear her belongings before she could blink), she padded silently through the house. It was almost evening, Aulus' clients had left for the day and so she went barefoot and dressed only in a tunica. She drew to outside Aulus' tablinum and ducked her head beyond the curtain. "Do you have a moment?" He'd been busy all day - she guessed with his thermae project - but didn't pry or care to disturb him. He'd find her if he wished for her company. Taking a step into the room she said gently; "I sent Callista out on an errand more than a few hours ago and she's not come back, it should have only taken a hour at the most. I also understand Felix isn't yet home." She smiled ruefully. There was no real risk with either two absconding seriously, at least she hoped not. "Can I ask when you sent him out?" She didn't hear the pair of them arrive into the slave entrance at that exact moment. TAG: @Sharpie, @Chevi & @Laria Laria - a thread for Felix and Callista to explain to their dominus and domina what's happened at the Castra!
  5. 75CE, the afternoon after Ave Imperator! Aulus was not looking forward to this visit. Well, not entirely, anyway; there was part of him that was. The same part of him that thrived on the adrenaline of a battle, and the thrills and spills of the races. Usually, however, it was not his own life, or those of his family, that was at stake. (Well, with the exception of the battles - and even then, it would be a rash and foolhardy commander who allowed himself to get caught in the thick of the melee.) His walk from the Palatine to the Castra Praetoria on the other side of the Quirinal was not a short one, but he took the journey at an easy unhurried pace, the sort of pace that allowed every Legion from Judea to Britannia to cover twenty-five miles in a day and still have breath to pitch camp at the end of their journey. "I wish to see Tribune Cornasidius Sabinus," he informed the guard, as if he was expected, although he knew perfectly well that he was not. @Lauren
  6. Guest

    Temporary Respite

    The first Recess had been called. The frenzied excitement of the first title bouts had brought the crowd to the limits of their mental and emotional patience. Throats were parched from cheering and shouting; fingers aching from gripping too hard. Bets had been won and lost, friends lost and enemies made. The great magic of the Games was that they served to bleed bodies of their vital humors. Happiness, sadness, lust, anger, jealousies, the whole gamut of human emotion could be encompassed in only a few moments within the walls of the Arena. In order to prolong the day – and to allow spectators and participants alike time to recover – a helpful number of Recessions had been built into the daily programme. Her back and rear aching from the uncomfortable seat, Sestia took the occasion of the first of these to find some respite herself from the crowd by taking herself off to one of the number of exclusive bars and eateries that sat in the shadow of the arena, catering to the upper class revellers. Most of the spectators would stay put. The headline acts may not be taking place at present but the organisers were paid to ensure that the activities kept coming. The breaks were traditionally used for more low-brow spectacles – loosely termed entertainments – that appealed more to the plebeian mob. Sometimes there were bawdy pantomimes. More often the time was given over to the blood-thirsty and grim despatching of criminals in a manner of imaginative ways. Wild beasts were a particular favourite of the people. If the organisers fancied themselves connoisseurs of mythology it was not unknown for them to create elaborate means of reliving traditional tales but featuring real life animals and real life people being devoured by them. Personally, none of this was much to Sestia’s taste. You could fathom the appeal of gladiators fighting one another – there, at least, was an element of mutual acquiescence in their predicament as it was, after all, their job to risk life and limb. It was completely different, however, to watch a thief try and flee from a bear or a Christian try and scramble up a column to escape a starving lion. With this in mind, and anxious to escape the sea of emotion that even the senatorial stands had become, Sestia had taken the opportunity to take some air and time away from the crowd. The environs of the Arena were full of establishments like this, each catering to a different type of clientele. Cheap food and drink for the plebs; higher class (and higher price) affairs – with security staff on the door to turn away riff raff – for the higher orders of society. This bar had the added advantage of having invested in a modern rig of linen retractable awnings, allowing patrons to be able to sit outside yet out of the gaze of the weak Spring sun. Sestia had taken a table in the outer area and was currently sat, slightly hunched forwards, as her attendant, Brysias, massaged her back up and down to work out the knots of physical tension from hours of uncomfortable posture. A glass jug of watered wine sat on the table in front of her next to a small dish of untouched olives in a shining vinaigrette. A waiter had informed her, in a rather punctilious tone, that the kitchen was not yet open, despite the hour. However, as she saw several other male revellers eating at tables nearby, she assumed that what he had meant was that this was presumably a kitchen that was closed to orders from women. Unaccompanied as she was, the ass-of-a-waiter probably assumed she was a high class courtesan and he was thereby taking the supposedly moral high ground by refusing to serve her beyond the bare minimum. A table across the way of overly made-up young women with gawdy jewellery and fake hair-pieces showed that the establishment did get its fair share of such women but this made Sestia all the more cross that she – a daughter of a Proconsul – should be tarred with the same misogynistic brush. As if sensing her mistress’ increasing temper, Brysias kneaded her back muscles a little harder and whispered quietly, “Please, Domina, there is no need to make a scene, we can go elsewhere.” @Sharpie
  7. Aulus had dismissed Felix and Callista and spent a little while considering the situation, turning options over in his head, before coming to a decision. Gods knew whether it would be the right one or not, but it was one for better or worse. He opened the tablet up again, memorised the list of names that it held, and calmly erased the list with the blunt end of the stylus before standing. He had been married for over a decade. He and Horatia had faced trials and troubles of all kinds, separately and together, and weathered them. Yet he could only recall once when Horatia had had that look on her face - the night he had taken Felix and slipped out into the madness ruling the streets of Rome, to try to get out of the city, leaving her with a young child who'd barely taken his first steps, and another growing inside her. They had not known that last then, but the knowledge or lack of it would have made no difference to what Aulus had needed to do. His wife would be in the garden - it was her safe space in the house when she needed peace, calmness and to be alone. He found her, sitting on the marble bench in the exedra overlooking the garden, sitting very still, her hands folded in her lap, and with a look on her face that tore at his heart. "Horatia." @Sara
  8. Sara

    Boys Night

    Nones of May 75AD Longinus sat drumming his fingers against the rim of his wine cup, occasionally glancing at the door. What he enjoyed most, of course, about the Poppina Via Lata was the two-building scheme. The night would start here, in the building reserved for Rome's upper echelons before descending into the depravity with the plebs and the slaves next door. He took a sip and resumed his drumming, waiting for both Titus and Aulus, nerves eating into the pit of his stomach. Judging by the surprised reaction in their letters neither of them were none the wiser as to the true (at least initial) motivation behind the wedding which was a relief. He'd carefully considered what he'd say and it largely centred on; not being sixteen anymore so knowing what he wanted; that he likes and admires Sestia; he's not getting much younger and needs a son, and well...it is him. Longinus was certainly never a man that could be considered entirely conventional. He did hope to brush the whole 'permission from her father' under the rug as much as possible, but his friends were astute men and would likely ask. He just hoped he'd come up with something convincing on the spot to explain it, because so far his mind was coming up decidedly empty. His attention was caught by a shadow blocking his path and he glanced up from his thoughts to the face of his friend. A wide, beaming smile crossed his face as he embraced the man. TAG: @Sharpie @Liv
  9. Given it was by far not the usual way these sorts of things were done; there was no formal betrothal ceremony, no exchange of contracts, not even an inkling that such a thing was happening - really - Longinus felt it imperative that word got out on his own terms. But not to everybody. After a fairly frantic exchange with his mother, the man set down to put ink to papyri and drafted a series of letters. The first were for his cousins (the only other remaining Cassii-Longini) Lepidus and Cassia. Then came one to his old friend, and former mentee Silanus all the way in Greece - lightly alluding to the fact that he might well be visiting in person (there had to be some benefit to sailing all the way to Carthage, and a roundabout stop on the way back to see Lucius was a silver lining). The final few were for his friends. Amongst those he composed two to his two closest friends. They were very similar (he was not a man to dally with correspondence any longer than necessary, and thus copied out most of the first letter into the second), albeit there were amusing differences in tone - far more jocular with Titus, and far more reserved with Aulus. They were delivered to May the 4th, two days after the engagement by his Secretary who muttered and swore as he trekked over the city in the May sun. To Titus Sulpicius Rufus from his friend, Lucius Cassius Longinus. Greetings! I thought I'd drop you a note to a) enquire about how Attis is getting on, b) to inform you I'm getting married and c) ask if you are free for a drink next week? I suspect your eagle eye will have picked out the second point as the most interesting (although I do wish to hear about Attis and whether he still has all his fingers), and I'm pleased to say that Sestia Vaticana and I are to marry on the 1st of June given it's auspicious date. I believe you know the lady in question - she only had positive things to say about you - which I have corrected, don't worry. It'll be a small affair in the city, but obviously I would be delighted if Valeria and yourself save the date and make yourselves available. I've also sent a very similar note to our good friend Aulus, and in said note have asked if he is free on the nones for a drink or two. As always, I expect you have no plans of any consequence, or no plans you cannot cancel to ensure you can come for a drink with a soon-to-be married man. We could slum it in the Poppina Via Lata? Your friend, Longinus. TAG: @Liv To Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus from his friend, Lucius Cassius Longinus. Greetings! I'm writing for a dual purpose today, to a) ask if you are free for a drink next week? b) to inform you I'm getting married. I suspect your eagle eye will have picked out the second point as the most interesting, and I'm pleased to say that Sestia Vaticana and I are to marry on the 1st of June given it's auspicious date. She mentioned yourself and Horatia met her at the Games not so long ago - I trust you approve? It'll be a small affair in the city, but obviously I would be delighted if Horatia and yourself save the date and make yourselves available. I've also sent a very similar note to our good friend Titus, and in said note have asked if he is free on the nones for a drink or two. We could slum it in the Poppina Via Lata? Your friend, Longinus. TAG: @Sharpie
  10. Britannia, late 67AD Nostalgia hit him with full force as Titus entered the military camp on a chilly (for one, not rainy) morning. It was early, but the camp was alive with the hustle and bustle of hundreds of men going about their tasks... Except for a group of four off to his left, where two huddled close to the ground and two others stood and watched. As he got closer to them, the familiar sound of dice rolling inside a cup could be heard, followed by sudden silence and a mix of boastful laughter and groaning. Fasces in tow, Titus approached one of the spectating legionaries and barked a question at him. "Soldier! Where is your legate?" The man flinched and whipped round so quickly he nearly broke his neck, showing a face full of pimples. He had the presence of spirit to step away from his comrades and salute Titus. "I-I d-don't know, sir!" the young soldier managed to stammer out. Titus was unimpressed. "Then why don't you do something about it?" The legionary stared at him with an asinine look. Titus hoped Balbus Papulus was at least a good fighter, since he had neither beauty nor brains. He rolled his eyes, feeling his patience dwindle. "Go find out, then come back here and take me to him, you idiot!" The order spurred the young man into action at last, and he sprang off in search of his general. In the mean time, Titus busied himself with shooting the gambling soldiers dirty looks until the sting of disapproval - or the threat of the fasces - was strong enough to make them put the dice away and start polishing their boots with exaggerated gestures. Balbus Papulus came back surprisingly soon and lead Titus through the camp to one of the bigger tents. The young man did his best to announce that "Qua-quaestor Titus Sulpicius Rufus is he-here to s-s-see--", but Titus dismissed him with a sigh and a wave before he could finish and strode into the tent. A quick look around the tent and its occupants let him know he needn't be too formal, but proper greetings were de rigueur in case someone was lingering just outside, trying to listen in. "Salvete, legate, Aulus Calpurnius," he greeted each man with a nod, predictably ignoring the slaves in a corner. Now that that was out of the way, Titus relaxed his posture a little, but still did not smile. "Did you know you have men gambling for money this early in the morning? At least teach them to be discreet about it." @Sara @Sharpie @Chevi
  11. It had been a long journey but a welcome one, from Britannia's chill to the now unfamiliar sun of Italia. Ostia had never looked so welcoming, and Aulus was impatient for the ship to dock. He would take a horse for himself and Felix and head straight up the Via Ostiensis and change out of his uniform once he got to Rome - and how he hoped that his family would be there and not at Baiae! He hired two horses, one for himself and one for Felix (who had developed into quite a decent rider over the years). He would send Felix to the house to let them know, and to bring him a toga - he had a clean tunic with him, but it was forbidden to wear armour within the pomerium, the sacred limits of the city, and so he resgined himself to having to don the hot unwieldy garment that was the mark of the citizen. It felt like an eternity before he was back in Rome itself, the toga (one of his father's with the broad purple stripe of a senator) heavy around him, with the end over his left arm, and tangling around his legs in a dreamlike familiar way. He had no time for the sights of the city, and the Porta Ostiensis was the nearest gate to his home in the Piscina Publica; Felix had reported that the family were in Rome and anxiously waiting for his return. It seemed like that dream as he walked the familiar streets until he turned into the street where his father's house stood. He could not be denied entry for long; the door-porter knew him and it was mere moments before he was in the atrium where his parents and wife and children were gathered. He greeted his father first, as was only right, and then his mother and only then could he turn to his wife, who looked as he remembered her. Perhaps a little older, maybe more careworn, but still the girl he had met in Greece, in the garden of her father's house, dressed in a simple tunica. He had been enchanted then, and found that he still was, despite the stola she was wearing now as the mark of a Roman matron. "Horatia," he managed, past the sudden lump in his throat. @Sara
  12. February 75AD Aulus had been working on his proposal for a new set of baths; he needed to lay something before Caesar, after all, and a concrete plan and idea was much better than an abstract. Theories and hypotheses had their place but Quintus Augustus and Aulus Calpurnius had a common school of thought that actual concrete workable plans were much better than suggestions and ideas, and he had no wish to waste Caesar's precious time when he finally sought an audience with him to discuss this. Aulus did not have an Empire to run and therefore his time was less valuable than the Emperor's, and he wished to have as many details of this project pinned down as he could before Caesar began asked sharp direct questions about his ideas that he could not answer because he had not thought seriously about his idea. People who came to him with suggestions and merely answered his own questions with 'I don't know' and 'I hadn't thought about that' and 'I don't know' were the sort of people Aulus had always found supremely irritating and he had no wish to be one of them. So, while he had thought about it and asked the opinion of people close to him, he wanted to hear what others thought, who might see flaws that Felix and Horatia (and Longinus and Titus Sulpicius) had not. People who might care to actually make use of his thermae, once they were built and open to the public. He happened to look up from the rough proposal on his desk as someone crossed the atrium towards the front door. He recognised the shock of hair, even from the back - his son's lessons were obviously over for the day. "Cleisthenes - do you have a moment?" @Jacob
  13. September 74AD It had only been a few short months since the family had returned to Rome from Raetia. It had been an interesting few weeks, settling back into their own house (technically, it was Aulus' father's house, as he was still alive and thus the head of the family, but he didn't really bother them, allowing them to get on with things). It had been a busy day, but it was evening now and Aulus was sitting under the garden colonnade, with a wineglass to hand and a sprig of grapes, although cena was over. It was nice just to sit, watch the moonlight silvering the plants and enjoy the coolness and scents of the garden in the evening. He saw a familiar shape heading towards the atrium, and raised his voice. "Felix!" @Chevi
  14. November 74AD The house had been readied for the evening, all breakable items moved out of the way to less public areas of the house than the atrium, triclinium and garden, soft drapes hung, and musicians ensconced in a corner where their playing could be heard. Scantily-clad slaves (both male and female) were stationed in various places throughout the public parts of the house to direct guests or serve them in whatever way they wished - offering further food or drink or more personal attention. They were the prettiest Aulus could find, and their clothing, such as it was, left little to the imagination. Aulus himself was stationed in the atrium to greet his guests. He was wearing a synthesis, a light garment more suitable for an evening occasion like this than the heavy toga or even the less formal pallium. He had stationed a slave nearby with a tray of wine-cups to offer the guests as they arrived. (Please note: Any other people who know/could know Aulus are invited, and any characters who could be hired/lent for such an event are also welcome to join in - just reply to this thread and I'll add your character to the tags list! Once the party is under way, feel free to make your own threads in this board.)
  15. 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
  16. (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
  17. May 75AD Circus Maximus Aulus had changed seats after his conversation with Gaius Fabius Maximus had come to an end, and found himself sitting next to a woman he recognised as belonging to gens Cornelia - one of the Scipinones branch, he thought. More importantly, though, she was the wife of Quintus Sulpicius Rufus, whose brother had ended up joining him on his flight from Italy a decade earlier. "Good morning," he said to her, being polite. He had moved to sit by her; it would be unforgivably rude to ignore her, especially as she was related to friends of his. "I see you seem to have been lucky in your betting so far - pity about the Reds' shipwreck earlier." It had been rather a spectacular crash, with the Blues' driver pulling ahead and cutting in on him, forcing him into the spina which rand down the middle of the Circus, forming the centre of the oval race-track. He had bet on the Whites, who had come in second after the triumphant Blues, a team he did not think anyone had really expected to win that race, the driver being a new man and therefore an unknown quantity. @Anna
  18. It had been another day, another Senate meeting, another long discussion about things Aulus really (in all honesty) cared little about, personally, merely taking an interest in things because it was expected of him, because it was the right thing to do, because who else would govern the Empire if the Senate abrogated its responsibility - and if everyone felt as Aulus did and did not attend the meetings they should, then civilisation would crumble. imperium rested with Quintus Augustus, naturally, but he required advisers, and nobody could presume to advise unless they knew about the matters their advice would be required on. Anyway, it was the duty of a Roman to put Rome first, his own opinion and feelings on the matter notwithstanding. Aulus twitched his Senatorial toga straight, so that the fall of fine wool over his left arm showed its broad purple stripe to best advantage and turned to the exit, to collect Felix and find a cup of wine in a caupona somewhere. The senator between himself and the outside was a man of bout his own age, but who hadn't started his political career until quite late, although he had had a promising military career, ended with a bad wound which he had been recovering from when Aulus had taken his own (aborted) first political step. "Junius Calvus! It is you, isn't it? How do you do - I don't think I've seen you since... it must be four years ago." @Mord
  19. June 74CE. (After In the hot seat.) Eventually, the trio at parted after the meeting at the Flavian Colossuem and Octavius had spent a little more time with Ario. Before they had parted. As promised, Octavius made himself available to seeing Aulus and catching up on all the news from the provinces. No doubt Aulus would wish to see his sister and ensure his family was settled in. An invitation for a midday meal was sent earlier in the week in order to ensure that it did not impede Octavius' busy schedule, and hopefully showed courtesy to Aulus' as well. Messengers passed back and forth in order to work out a date. Sometime, an arrangement would be made for the families of both of them to meet and spend time together. However, this meeting would be for the two men. To catch up for old time's sakes. The home still had signs of Octavius' father and the family members who had resided here for a long time. However, over time, the current generation had begun to leave their mark on the place. The hour of Aulus' arrival was gradually getting closer. Rufus waited nearby and had gradually become part of the household. Octavius continued to work, writing and preparing things for the next day. His scribes behind him were also working, occasionally they would check with their Dominus about whether the work was acceptable or not. "Turio greet my guest when he arrives and bring him to the Atrium," Octavius instructed and the slave obediently walked to fetch the guest. Food and wine had been prepared. He had planned a meeting in the garden rather than the office he regularly worked from when he was at home. Eventually, he would rest and have a break while meeting his old friend from the past, and to be able to fully catch up with what had taken place between them. Eventually, Octavius hoped for their families to be able to meet. @Sharpie
  20. Aulus had promised his son that he would take him somewhere, just the two of them. He had had to discharge several duties first, but had cleared a day, refusing to make any appointments of any description. He'd had too many occasions recently where things had come up at the last minute (the curse of a provincial governor the Empire over!) but now that he had resigned his imperium and was a private citizen again, he could refuse to see anyone and everyone for a day. He felt almost like a youth again himself as he took Titus to the Campus Martius. There were temples there, a circus (smaller than the Circus Maximus, naturally, but still in use), the Augustan Mausoleum, and the potential for watching Praetorians at some military drill. Aulus had foregone his toga for a comfortable linen tunic in blue, with a darker blue pallium, edged with silver embroidery that picked up the silver creeping into his hair. "I suppose you don't really remember much of Rome?" he said, looking down at his son fondly. @Mim
  21. Aulus wasn't entirely sure how he'd heard of the young Athenian - he was the client of a friend of a friend - but he had enough recommendation to at least be considered to tutor Titus in the finer points of rhetoric and philosophy. If Titus didn't follow in his father's footsteps, Aulus would be surprised. He could go into law, he supposed, or take a full military path, but he had three or four years yet before he had to make that choice, and in the meantime, learning the art of oratory and rhetoric would stand him in good stead whatever he chose to do. He looked up as a slave appeared at the door between the tablinum and the atrium. "Domine, the philosopher is here." "Send him in." "Yes, Domine." There was a very slight hesitation in the slave's voice but the man withdrew before Aulus could query it. The reason for that hesitation became obvious as the slave reappeared with a stranger in tow. He didn't appear very Greek - in fact, he looked almost British. "Cleisthenes? Of Athens?" Aulus said, coming to his feet behind the desk. @Jacob
  22. Aulus had no idea what the time was when a slave came banging on the door of the servants' quarters, bearing news that te Praetorian Prefect, Clemens, had proclaimed himself Emperor (which Aulus was aware of) and that he was out for the blood of anyone connected with the Junii-Silani and Flavii-Alexandrii (which Aulus most certainly was not aware of). "I have to leave Rome," Aulus informed his anxious wife. "Leave...?" "I can't stay here, they know me, they know who I am, they know where to find me..." "But what about me - what about Titus?" She held the baby up in wordless appeal. "You'll be safer once I'm gone. But you should go too - we can't go together because I'll put you in too much danger. I have to go - tonight, when it's dark and we can be more anonymous." Horatia laid the baby back against her shoulder. "'We', Aulus?" "Two men, in tunics and cloaks - it's still cold, that won't look out of place. I can't take Linus, everyone knows he's my slave." They probably didn't, of course; nobody looked at slaves, but it would only take one person to see the slave's face and recognise him and the game would be up, and Aedile Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus would join his ancestors decade before he had anticipated doing so. He was only thankful that his father was still in the family villa at Baiae. "Go to my father at Baiae; I'll leave enough money for that journey. You might have to walk, it'll help you stay anonymous. Take Linus, or one of the others - a plebeian family getting away from the riots won't look too strange, several of them still have families with farms away from Rome. Hide Titus in the slaves' quarters till you go - hide yourself there, pretend the family left for the country." "And what about you? Who will you take?" "I'll take Felix. He's about as anonymous as they come, despite his size, and people will think twice about troubling us. I doubt anyone will actually connect him with this household, anyway." "Where will you go?" "Where do you think? I will plan to make my way to join Quintus wherever he is and maybe we can stop this madness that has seized Rome." It was a few hours later when Aulus, clad in a dark anonymous tunic, layered over two more, and with a cloak around him for both inconspicuousness and protection from the weather, clasped his wife and infant son in his arms, perhaps for the last time, and turned to leave his father's house from the anonymity of the slaves' side door, the taller shape of the house slave Felix following him. Aulus took a breath and grasped Felix' arm, drawing him level. "We can't be seen to be master and slave, not now. It's too dangerous. Call me... Davus. Call me anything you like, but do not let the word Domine pass your lips before we are out of here." He did not dare to think what might befall him if the slave decided that he could maybe get his freedom by betraying his master.
  23. May 74AD It might not have been within the very hour of his arrival back in Rome, but it was not so very long afterwards - a mere handful of days - that Aulus found himself walking the old familiar streets from the family domus to the Atrium Vestae, the building near the Forum Romanum where the six Vestal Virgins lived. Felix had fussed his toga into folds as perfect as he could manage, despite repeated warnings that he would only have to straighten them again once they arrived at their destination. "There is something to be said for having lictors," he said, tossing the remark over his shoulder to Felix, his capable body-slave who was almost his master's shadow when they went anywhere. "Possibly, Domine, but you always said that they restrict anyone from being able to be anonymous." Aulus couldn't help the smile that rose to his mouth at the words. It was a moot point, anyway; he was no longer a praetor with imperium and six lictors to precede him everywhere he went. Nor was he a governor, barely able to step foot outside the governor's palace without finding himself attended by approximately three quarters of the province's populace, all needing some judgement or intervention. To walk the streets of Rome, arrayed in tunic and toga as a private citizen, was a breath of fresh air. The same couldn't be said of Rome itself, especially in the Forum, which lay in a valley between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. Aulus did not expect to gain entry to the Atrium Vestae - he presumed there might be a place within the walls where men were permitted - but the Vestals were very much a private sort of group, as was only right for people in their position in society, and who had as much to lose as they did. The actual Temple of Vesta, its circular shape a stark contrast to the usual rectangular plan of the other temples to be found in Rome, was a different prospect, and it was in that direction that Aulus turned his footsteps, ignoring the long-suffering sigh of Felix behind him. The sacred flame in the middle of the temple was being tended by a Vestal. Not his sister, but one of her fellows, he thought. "Salve," he said, as soon as he could absolutely certain that he wasn't interrupting a prayer or sacred rite of any sort. He snapped his fingers at Felix, who stepped forward with the offering he had brought - a basket of bread, some cheese, and some of the smoked sausage that was a speciality of the region where he'd been posted. "A gift, for Vesta." @Gothic @AzraelGrim
  24. (Letter dated in April 74) To my dearest sister Calpurnia, from your own brother Aulus, greetings. I am writing to you on the occasion of my recall to Rome by our lord and master Quintus Flavius Caesar Alexander Augustus - not, I hasten to assure you, because I have done anything wrong or committed any great crime during my tenure here in Raetia, but in order to further my career politically - it is hard, if not impossible, to become Consul while physically as far away from Rome as I am while I write this. Your nephew and niece are grown so much I doubt you will recognise them. Horatia has recovered from losing another child (she assures me she has, but I will not be pushing the pace of our return, out of concern for her health - although I long to see you and Pater once more). You should not look to see us in Rome before May, and I am sure we shall not be in the city for long before we have to retreat to the cooler weather to be found elsewhere, probably by the sea or around Herculaneum or Pompeii - we have grown almost acclimatised to the weather here, which tends to be colder and softer than that of Italia. I do not understand how you can bear the heat of a Roman summer; I am fortunate enough to have been able to move around somewhat even in the hottest of places I have been. We shall be back in Rome as soon as ever we may, and you may rest assured that I shall not delay in seeking you out, if a man may call upon a Vestal his blood-sister without being thought impious. I shall soon have a new will to lodge in Vesta's temple anyway, so it need not be thought improper - or perhaps I should speak with one of your fellow Vestals about that? I have written separately to our father but you may pass on my filial duty to him regardless if you so desire. Until our next meeting, farewell! @AzraelGrim
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