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  1. In honor of the Volturnalia, Secundus had joined in the day’s public festivities. Senators were expected to make appearances at these things; they represented most of a man’s religious life, so he performed the necessary civic duties. However, this year, he most looked forward to the night’s festivities. Secundus had been planning this party for many days now. Several of the men of the senate had been invited to join in. It would be a night of feasting, drinking, games, and music. Livia, as usual, had taken no interest in helping him plan the occasion. She considered any time spent with him wasted time. Secundus did not mind that. It made his plan easier. He could arrange for Vibia to perform as the night’s entertainment without it rising to his wife’s notice any sooner than the party itself. Although he only planned her to use her skills with the cithara, if any of the other guests took her up on another offer, he had not intention to stop them. Secundus hoped that Livia would guess what Vibia was. He imagined her affronted expression vividly as he supervised his slaves’ preparations. He wanted to provoke a reaction from her- something other than the meek, mouselike behavior of recent months. For someone so bitter and angry, she insisted on remaining dormant. Perhaps she was waiting for him to show weakness. He would force her to play her hand first. As the day’s festivities began to come to close, Secundus watched as the household finished its preparations. The party would begin soon; if everything went as planned, Vibia would be the first to arrive, with senators filing in very shortly after. Livia, who had been in her room all day, would likely want to be ready to greet their guests. He told one of the slaves to go fetch her- no need to disturb her mood before she’d had a chance to meet their guest of honor @Liv @Sara
  2. Mid-January, 76AD Saturnalia had come and gone with the fresh winter winds that whipped about the city. Although it didn't get nearly as cold as Britannia here, Longinus' body was unused to the cold after a summer spent outdoors, basking in the heat of Italia and Greece. The hypocaust was at full steam (literally) for the occasion and the paterfamilias Longinus had spent the early afternoon chivvying slaves to make his domus look presentable. It was an odd place; half-decorated in his late wife's style, a quarter under the influence of his mother with her love for garish frescos and vivid mosaics, and the rest was left up to his tastes. Tastes which bordered on the downright odd. A British battle axe on the wall in one room, some pottery he'd found en route back via Gaul in another. It was an eclectic place that had none of the polish of other Senators and Patricians his rank, but it indubitably suited him. The slaves had done their work admirably though and it was at least tidy. After he'd waved his mother goodbye (thank the Gods) to spend the late afternoon and evening with his cousin Lepidus, Cassia his daughter going with her, Longinus was left alone with the slaves. He didn't know why he felt nervous, he'd come to his decision without much fanfare after a disappointing few months looking into the impossibility of adoption, and unsuccessfully musing over other eligible women. Maybe he was nervous because of the family? They didn't have the best reputation around, and his mother had curtly reminded him as she departed that Tertius - who'd seemed at least affable, and nice enough - had recently had a bastard born son by a slave, a son whom he'd recognised. Longinus had resisted the urge to tug at the neckline of his tunic at the remark, given he'd been in the same situation some months ago with Sestia, although that was a secret he'd take to his grave. He'd invited both Tertius and his eldest brother here today though, and perhaps that was why he felt oddly ill at ease. He found Tertius pleasant enough but his brothers reputation preceded him. Unfortunately for Longinus, his plan required the paterfamilias and that meant Secundus himself. He hoped Tertius could temper him a little though, hence the dual invitations. Poor Longinus wasn't to know of the discord between the brothers. A slave disturbed his thoughts and announced one of the brothers was here. "Yes, but which one?" He asked with a frown and the slave girl merely sighed and shrugged, "I don't know domine, he's tall, dark haired..." Longinus had to suppress a chuckle, "Yes dear Merula, that's very helpful." He shooed her away with a wave of his hand and jumped to his feet from where he'd been sat in the garden. Bounding through the house with his customary energy, he drew to the atrium and slapped on a wide grin he didn't quite feel. "Welcome!" TAG: @Járnviðr @Atrice
  3. November, 75 AD It had been weeks since he first met Aglaea, the nice and gentle slave to his uncle Secundus’ wife. Since hearing about her situation and getting to know her better, she was often on his mind. Wulfric knew he should make moves towards meeting his father, but for some reason, it was difficult to pull himself together to do it. Instead he decided he would meet this cruel uncle of his first, see if there was anything he find out or anything he could do about Aglaea’s situation. Both Tertius and Secundus did not sound like good men, but so far, Secundus seemed worse than Wulfric’s father at least. He had to be careful though. He did not wish to reveal to Secundus, that he was his father’s son – that he was Secundus’ nephew. So he had to find some other excuse to visit him. Working at the market was luckily helpful. He worked in a warehouse and he found out they made deliveries to certain households in Rome. And when he asked into it from his colleagues, he found out, that they delivered to a Quinctilius Varus household. One morning, Wulfric managed to follow the cart that went towards that part of the city. Since he’d been working well and hard for a few months now, his employer had already raised his payment and was giving him more responsibility. Wulfric was to check that everything went correctly at the house. And he would. And not just in the kitchen and with the goods. Since he was working, he wasn’t wearing his finest clothes. Just the simple daily clothes, more German than Roman in the style – he was not wearing the new and finer set that he bought recently. Anyone would be able to tell he didn’t come from here, although few might guess where he had his origins. He didn’t know the master of this house might. Once at the house, he let the others unload and stood by, looking at it all. There were mostly vegetables and grains and spices. Everything seemed to be in the correct amounts, but he still had a good excuse ready for meeting Secundus. He asked if the master of the house was home at this hour and if there was a chance to see him. The main kitchen slave said he was at home but wondered why Wulfric would meet him. She wasn’t sure Secundus would meet a foreigner though, but Wulfric said it was important and insisted. At long last, he was allowed inside, into the fancy looking household. Well somewhat fancy. He had been to a few other places already and he’d seen nicer. It didn’t look so well-kept to him. Quietly, he waited in the atrium for the master of the house to appear, curious to see his uncle in Rome for the first time. @Járnviðr
  4. May, 75 AD After discovering that his money had been stolen under Aglaea's inattentive eye, Secundus had been looking for a way to find the culprit. Secundus happily seized on her mention of a male slave, Rufus, that she had spoken with shortly before she noticed the purse missing. Now, Secundus had elected to investigate the matter personally. Although they were due back in Tibur soon, he could not let this matter rest. No one could steal from the Varus family without some action being taken. It did not take long to arrange the meeting. Rufus served a master who moved in much the same circles as Secundus, and finding him lingering while his master attended to some business was easy enough. Spotting him across the way, Secundus strode purposefully towards the man. The physical description did not quite due the hair justice, he thought with some amusement. "Are you Rufus? You spoke to one of my slaves, by the name of Aglaea. I have urgent business which requires your assistance." @Sharpie
  5. Late August, 75CE It had been a good couple of months for Gaius. He’d been promoted to optio in the Praetorian guard and quickly proven himself worthy of the station. This naturally came with a substantial pay upgrade and he was considering moving from the barracks to a house of his own. He’d been touring around a nearby neighborhood, in the market for a simple domus that he could afford, and though he’d been unsuccessful, he was still in a good mood. Since it was getting dark, he decided to stop in the poppina for a drink and something to eat before returning to the Praetorian barracks for the night. He made his way into the upper section of the establishment, pleased that he was allowed here instead of the lower section. The wine here was better as well as the service. He smiled shyly at an attractive young server, just thinking that a domus was empty without a lady to guide it. He would have to remedy that situation soon. Gazing at the woman, he didn’t notice someone standing with his back to him, and bumped into him. “Oh, my apologies,” he said, blushing as the server giggled. Then he looked at the man he’d bumped into and vaguely recognized him. “Secundus? Is that you?” @Járnviðr
  6. Late September, 75CE Aglaea groaned softly as she leaned over the bucket, seated on the floor of her room adjacent to Livia's bedroom. Ever an early riser, for a few days now, the woman had been woken up in the mornings with horrible nausea, yet unable to get anything up. It was a most perplexing ailment, as it seemed to disappear after a while of its own volition. Surely, the cook was doing something wrong, and Aglaea resolved to go and give her a piece of her mind. Just as soon as she was able to rise from the floor. Life recently had been nothing but chaotic - actually, it had been chaotic ever since Secundus had come into their lives. The man sowed chaos wherever he went, frightening Livia and bullying the house staff, mumbling to himself and forcing Aglaea into the position of protecting her mistress from laying with him. Aglaea had soon decided that she would lay with Secundus and yet protect herself at the same time. Like many Roman women, Livia took silphium in order to prevent pregnancy, and like any good body slave, Aglaea was responsible for retrieving the tincture from the apothecary whenever they ran out. But unlike a good body slave, Aglaea took a small amount every time she saw Secundus, hoping with her limited knowledge of the substance that it would be enough to stop pregnancy and all the symptoms that came with it. Her head shot up from the bucket with wide eyes. It couldn't be... but what else? No sickness from food showed itself with nausea without vomiting. And now that she thought of it, she was a few days late for her monthly cycle. Oh, God. With the sudden realization hitting her like an enormous weight, she stayed stock still for several seconds, before burying her head in her hands, weeping quietly in despair and misery. How could she ever explain this to her mistress? And what would happen to the child once it was born? How would Secundus react? Would Livia send her away and refuse to ever see her again? And how could Aglaea blame her for that if she did? It seemed a horrible betrayal without context. She had done everything she knew to do to prevent herself from bearing Secundus's child. She couldn't bring a child into this household with a clear conscience, knowing what sort of father he or she would have. And the consequences this would have for her relationship with Livia, her nearest and dearest friend... her heart broke. In time, the tears subsided and she began to think logically. She just wouldn't tell Livia. She could wear a tunic that flowed more to hide her bump, maybe bind the bump with cloth to limit the appearance. And then, when her time came, she could slip out of the house, have her baby somewhere safe, and then return to act like nothing would happen. Perhaps she could even leave the child on the doorstep and pretend as though it was a foundling - those were common enough in Rome. Wiping her eyes clear, and feeling the despair and nausea subside, she dressed for the day. She could act as though nothing had happened. She had lied before. Once dressed, she slipped into Livia's room to help her dress. The day had to go on. Title inspiration @Liv @Járnviðr
  7. Mid-August, 75AD Vibia primped and preened as she always did before a client. Her various pots of lotions and potions and cosmetics were well used but still did the job as she etched kohl around her bright blue eyes and dabbed rosewater on her throat and between her thighs. There was no need to spend hours agonising over an outfit choice for this job, however. This wasn't the first time Secundus had visited her, and she knew him well enough to know what he liked. There was also the chance that perhaps the nature of her job wouldn't come into play at all, and he'd just be after conversation. But not being an oracle and knowing for definite, she still dressed in her usual sort of attire of a gauzy tunica that revealed more than a hint of what curves lurked underneath, with her rare, bright blonde hair half pulled up and half left to trail in waves over her shoulders and down her back. She made no move to attend the atrium where clients mingled and chose girls, and instead stayed in her room. Secundus knew the way, and this was a pre-booked arrangement. No need to parade herself this evening like cattle ready and waiting to be picked. Instead, she reclined on her bed, fingers twirling through a strand of her hair as she glanced at nothing in particular. Secundus was better than some but worse than others, not that it really mattered. She wasn't a slave and thus had more say in the clients she serviced but ultimately her employment rested on her willingness to service all who chose her. Besides, the man was useful. Whilst she didn't - or hadn't - sold any of his secrets back to her handlers in both the Syndicate and the Servian Collegium, it didn't mean she wouldn't. There was something intriguing about the man lurking just beneath the surface and she was determined to pry it out of him. And when she did, she'd decide what to do with it. A noise alerted her to a visitor and the door swung open, and the curtain beyond it pulled back. Vibia propped herself up on her elbows and gave a sly, seductive smile. "Hello stranger." TAG: @Járnviðr
  8. May, 75CE - After The Crush of the Crowd Even after Aglaea's enjoyable conversation with Rufus, it was time to return home and tell Livia what had happened. The slave wasn't really afraid that Livia would be angry, and she was sure that between the two of them, they could smooth it over with Secundus, if he even found out. But Aglaea was still kicking herself. How could she have been so stupid? She'd been in Rome for fourteen years and never been pickpocketed - and now, the one day she doesn't tie her coin purse on tightly enough, someone in the crowd took advantage of her oversight. And now she had to confess. Aglaea took the back entrance into the domus, greeting a few friends in the kitchen before seeking out her mistress and finding her in the master bedroom. "Livia - could I speak with you for a moment?" She seemed alone, so she figured it was safe. "You sent me shopping this morning... I got what you asked for but I... I lost the rest of the coin." She bit her lip, trying to judge the woman's reaction. "It wasn't a lot of money, but... I figured you should know." @Liv @Járnviðr
  9. February, 74CE Aglaea shivered as she pulled her shawl closer about her. It was wintertime in Rome, and a chill had stolen through the house despite the efforts of the house slaves to stave it off. But there was not only a physical chill, but one that had seeped into the hearts of those newest to the Varus household, particularly Aglaea. Only a day or two after the marriage of Livia Justina and Secundus Quinctilius Varus, the latter had presented a proposition to Aglaea: lay with him in the place of her mistress, lessen her burden by bearing her master's child. And this was the source of the chill that had entered the slave's heart. She had recently found a new faith, Christianity, but the texts of Judaism had given her trouble about the moral questions of the situation. How could she possibly take Secundus to bed and sleep well at night, with him being a married man? And, moreover, the husband of her own mistress. Though she supposed that the act of adultery was a sin reserved for those of a higher social standing - perhaps it didn't quite apply to slaves, and that was one hope she held onto. And if not, she prayed every night for forgiveness of her sins, should her acts prove to be such. Secundus had asked for her sparingly, at least, she had to give him that. Only a few rendezvouses, every other month or so. But every time she was sent for, she felt a chunk of ice fall into her stomach. Besides her moral questions, Aglaea had been skimming a little off the top of Livia's silphium every month when she was asked to retrieve it from the apothecary. She really hadn't been educated about how much to take, so she could only hope that she'd taken enough to delay the inevitable result of her meetings with her master. Tonight was one of those meetings, it seemed. After seeing her mistress safely tucked to bed, she'd been preparing to retire herself, when a young house slave had come to her with a message. She was to meet Secundus in the tablinum, that place where she had agreed to carry Livia's burden, after midnight when the rest of the house had drifted off and they wouldn't be noticed. Now she shivered against the cold that came both from within and without as she entered the tablinum and dipped her head to the man waiting there. "Good evening, dominus. You sent for me." Title inspired by this song @Járnviðr
  10. July 75 AD, one week after the earthquake The earthquake was a week behind him now and slaves and workers were busy repairing most of Rome – including Tertius’ house, of course. The ceiling had to be improved, he wouldn’t forget how bloody Charis’ arms had been the morning the earthquake happened… and all because plaster from the ceiling in her room had fallen down. And her fellow slaves had not helped the pregnant and pretty young Charis. And that was just one thing that had to be repaired. There were several others too. But that was his own home. Now however, he’d been sitting in the tablinium, deep in thought. He had not heard anything from his siblings after the earthquake. He hoped his sister and her grown children were alright, as well as Livia of course. And Secundus, he supposed, but he didn’t bother considering him much. Tertius had tried his best to be friendly with his brother, when he returned from Germania, but Secundus kept blaming him for returning to Rome and not searching for his captured brother. And he hadn’t liked how Tertius had run things while he’d been away. Things had just spiraled the wrong way and Tertius was only happy to marry and move away from his childhood home. Since then, the brothers didn’t see each other a lot. Tertius still received visits from his sister and the children of course, but not from Secundus. Still, he was worried about his family and decided to go and take a look at the house of the Pater Familias of the Varus family. Hopefully Secundus was in the countryside, as he often was. He didn’t bother to bring any slaves with him. The travel through Rome wasn’t long to reach the old house. It was kind of strange to knock here, but he did and a slave let him in. He just wanted to see how much damage had been done here and if Secundus even cared to repair it. The house where they grew up. He probably didn’t care. Quietly Tertius moved through the house and into the peristyle to take a closer look. @Járnviðr
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