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Found 8 results

  1. Liv

    Itera Thomas Coquus

    Late July, 75 AD The problem with boat trips was that they, without exception, were all far too long. The moment Titus stepped aboard a vessel whether big or small, civilian or military, his stomach began to threaten to make its way out of his mouth and quite literally abandon ship and jump overboard. It had not yet succeeded, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. He knew all the tricks in the book and had tried each of them at least once, some to greater success than others. Travel on an empty stomach. Fix your gaze upon a far-off point in the horizon. Close your eyes. Try not to move your head. Press down on the inside of your wrist, approximately in the middle. Press down on the area between the thumb and the index on the back of your hand. Promise Neptune a great many sacrifices. Curse all the gods and threaten to withhold sacrifices. In the end, what worked best for Titus was lying on his back, eyes covered by his arm so he resisted both Sol’s unforgiving rays and the temptation to open them and look about and make matters worse, and distracting himself by reviewing what was to come. Aenaria had better be all the touts promised and more, or else he would personally drown them all once they were back on the mainland. Thinking objectively on it, they were probably right: a number of quality vineyards that offered wine tasting tours, quaint little towns, pristine beaches and hot springs and therapeutic mud capable of healing tiredness if nothing else. He looked forward to spending a few days there and sampling all those portents; it would give him the fortitude to mentally prepare himself for the journey back. Fully aware of how childish he looked and just as equally unbothered by it, Titus readjusted his head on Valeria’s lap and repeated the plaintive question he had posed some three-quarters of an hour earlier, though he kept his arm in place as a sun shield. “You spot land yet?” Any similarity to their children's 'are we there yet?' of some days prior was purely and entirely coincidental. @Joaquin @open-ish
  2. Outside the Circus Maximus, the crowds were swarming and increasingly smellier as they began to bump shoulders under the hot sun while trying to push into the complex and its seating arrangements. Naturally, Valeria had very little interest in watching the gladiatorial games, much less the races, and household names like ‘Menelaus’, ‘Bassus’, or ‘Marcellus’ of the Whites evaded her. She often left such things to Titus to take Publius, but she thought of it as a treat for her children, a spur of the moment decision following a morning’s visit to her father’s. The younger two particularly would find excitement amongst the crowds, charged by the social energy and adventures that circled the track over and over again. Flacca, on the other hand, was at the age where she seemed to want to be elsewhere and instead carried reading along with her. Regrettably, it was not the great Landicus, but it was still something that made Valeria smile. Although years ago, when Valeria had done the same, would have made her father hiss a “put that away”. It was poor manner to read in company, after all, but to Valeria, it was poor form to be unread. As they tracked through the crowds towards where they could make their entrance, Valeria instinctively held onto her son’s shoulder to keep him close, while her eldest was carrying her squirming sister, who kept trying to climb over Flacca’s shoulder to point out people or animals in the surrounding area. As Valeriana pointed in one direction with a “look!”, Valeria followed as she swept through some of the people spread out and around the stadium and caught the familiar face of Pinaria Gaia. “We’ll go inside in just a moment,” Valeria told her children, only to be met with Publius’s complaint. “But our seats!” “But Pinaria Gaia!” Valeria complained back, mimicking her son’s whine, before she added “it’ll only be a minute” even though in momspeak, that essentially meant the same as when she created a side-trip to the markets with her children and had them bouncing from foot to foot in exhaustion as she turned minutes into hours of looking at fabrics and jewels. As Valeria approached, she tilted slightly as if to get a good look at Pinaria as she excitedly opened her arms. “Fancy seeing you here,” she greeted her with a laugh. @Atrice
  3. The early summer sun was out, brightening the city’s white columns and terracotta, and with good weather came the endless prospects the outside world had to offer. While Valeria was often content staying at home with her wax tablet and scrolls, she also found herself in need of stimulation and company outside her family. Because the high-end bathhouse was a place of both leisure and a cultural hotspot with the occasional theatre or music performance and a collection of literature housing reading rooms and a library with shelves for scrolls. Despite having the litter brought to the baths where she intended to enjoy a warm soaking and massage, Valeria was gowned – for the journey – as an artist would express herself: in bright colour, with a thick, styled wig, and kohl. She made sure to have Horatia accompany her. “Think of the fun we’ll have,” she promised. After all, the weather, and an excursion anywhere put her in good spirits. As they left the heat of the sun in the front gardens of the bathhouse, they were welcomed by the coolness of the bathhouse interior. Although music or the projection of dramatic lines were not yet filling up the frescoed walls, the high domed ceiling compensated for it with the sounds of echoing footfall on marble and the flapping of birds that had found their way inside through the skylights. “Oh, I was hoping they would be here,” Valeria gasped eagerly as her eyes caught the set-up of stalls near the entrance, each were brimming with colourful trinkets and perfumes. The woman made a quick beeline towards them, pressing her fingers with their polished and coloured nails here and there as she pulled one thing out after the other followed by a “how much?” before she put it back. It was never a question of money as it was that Valeria simply liked the victory of a good bargain. After having some perfume sprayed on to her wrist, Valeria took a whiff before turning to Horatia, holding it out for the woman to smell. “What do you think? It doesn’t smell too much like a centurion’s sweaty ass, does it?” @Sara
  4. Late summer, 65 AD The errant scroll had been one of many forgotten or discarded by their author after they’d served their purpose. They were a common find for Titus to make, scattered about the house when the slaves did not manage to pick them up fast enough – study, atrium, peristylium, under furniture or poking out from beneath a pile of garments. Valeria was a prolific writer and composer when the Muses came to her, and they’d been visiting at a higher frequency as the bump under her clothes grew bigger. Boredom was never too far off, its shadow always looming from right round the corner, and pregnancy brought its own set of limitations from what Titus could remember and confirm through observation: when it wasn’t swollen feet it was wobbly balance or a bladder with the sudden size and capacity of a single grape. No wonder she’d been going through wax tablets and papyrus faster than the vigintiviri at their busiest. He’d been about to toss it into the fire when a line caught his eye, the words surprisingly familiar to him. Titus unrolled it a bit more and skimmed the visible contents, eyes growing wide in disbelief. A moment later he was hastily unrolling the entire thing and reading it with a frown and full attention. His mind went foggy and his breath caught in his throat. It was Valeria’s handwriting, no question – he had seen it plenty of times and recognised it beyond doubt. What he had not been expecting was to see one of Landicus’ newest poems staring back at him, complete with annotations and crossed-out words where they had been replaced by better-sounding ones. He’d heard these verses quoted and discussed amongst the people in the city streets, and the soldiers in the provinces were always eager to study the lecherous poet’s works. And now that he thought about it, Titus had previously acknowledged instances of stylistic similarities between Valeria’s verse and Landicus’ – a word here, an expression there -, but all had been filed away as coincidence or the influence of earlier literature. Yet this was neither, and he had been a fool to ignore the signs. Jaw grimly set and the sound of his frantic heartbeat drowning out everything else, Titus left the room with a firm-one handed grip on the scroll and went around the house in search of his wife, poking his head into various rooms until he finally found her in one of them, hunched over a desk with her back to the entrance. “Valeria…” he softly called out from the doorway, the unrolled scroll hanging by his side. For the first time in forever, there was no smile in his voice when he said her name. Even if, for a single minute, he were as eloquent as putting thought to word as she, there was still no easy description of the feelings that whirled and churned inside his chest. Disappointment. Inadequacy. Uncertainty. Resentment. All of it directed at himself, for not being enough. Not entertaining enough, exciting enough, smart enough, adventurous enough for this one-of-a-kind woman who had come unapologetically into his life five years prior. That she would have to resort to her own imagination to provide what he could not hurt deeper than the deep gash to his cheek and ear and sword through his side that had seen him sent back to Rome. He waited for her to turn around and acknowledge him before walking over to where she was and dragging off a folding chair conveniently placed only a couple of feet away so he could sit next to her. There would be no screaming match or lashing out at her, especially not when she was carrying his child. Instead, Titus tossed the scroll onto the desk so Valeria could read it and silently gazed at her face, dejection written all over his own. Did he even know her at all? “Would you care to tell me about this?” His tone was quiet, just above a whisper, but Titus kept his eyes trained on hers. He just wanted to understand. @Joaquin
  5. Guest

    Like Old Times

    February 75CE The family home of Sestia's late husband's ancestors ought really to have been an antique in its own right. If someone was ever to write a book on traditional Roman interior decoration then he could honestly get away with just describing the Domus Afinii Galii. Her late husband, who had no taste in almost any of life's departments at all, had been fully content to live as his father, and his father, and his father, and so on had done. The only addition he had made was when his own death mask was placed on the wall of ancestral masks in the Atrium. She could, of course, have chosen to live in her father's townhouse. There, however, she couldn't make her mark. Here she really ought not to as this was, after all, her sons' birth right. Those sorts of nagging thoughts she pushed to the back of her mind. So, since returning to Rome several weeks ago she had, with lightning fastness, already commenced large scale works of renovation on the place. Farewell dark, drab colours and turgid, boring traditional scenes of wildlife, hunting and portraits of famous, long-dead family dogs. In their place was going to be a tasteful yet breathtaking riot of colour and murals with sensual beauty. The old Domus was a place for introspection and dull sealing off of life. The new, reborn Domus was - in Sestia's mind - to be one of the capital's pulsating social salons. As she walked along the colonnades of the peristyle garden, one of the few areas which had actually been completed, she mused about all that would surely happen here one day. She stopped and looked out over the open square garden in the middle. Rows of plants had expertly been laid out in geometric matters, smallest ones towards the front, with larger types further back. The cross-shaped central walkways were covered by a network of trellises along which ivies and creeping plants would one day form a natural canopy. A fountain of modest size stood in the middle. Its waters ran from the central basin along two channels built into the walkways and which ended up feeding into two pools at either end, in the centre of each stood tasteful yet titillating statutes of a naked boxer on one side, and a bathing nymph on the other. Sestia smiled to imagine the look her horrified late husband would have given these 'degenerate' pieces. Decoration was, however, only one aspect of the new direction in her life. If she wanted to hurl herself back into the cliquey, bitchy, scandalous world of senatorial society she had to find the right sponsors to help her gain entry into the right events. She had had her fill of the tediously dull salons of boring matrons who the Deified Livia would have loved with all their home-made weaving and lack of independent thought. Livia may have lived long and powerfully but did a woman really want to be remembered as a harpy? The lives of Fulvia and Clodia burnt shorter but with such bright flames their names were still spoken of with excitement and celebrity even today. It was with this in mind that she had sent, several days ago, a polite note to an old friend, Valeria Flacca, to invite her for a visit - a catch up, all very proper... She hoped Valeria was still the Valeria she remembered. Years, however, stood between the memory and now and so much can change in such a time. She remembered her from her youth, when Sestia had still lived cowering under the paternal pressure of her grim father and had been forced to live a sequestered, quiet and repressed life. Valeria had, in her eyes anyway, seemed possessed with a fiery spirit full of dun, independence and vigor, just like the great celebrity women of the Late Republic. She too had had the difficulties of a traditionalist family but, even then, had seemed to live in such a different way to Sestia in the same circumstances. She stopped abruptly in her aimless walking. She had been so busy wondering what she would make of Valeria after all these years that she had not once thought how Valeria might see her? She was not given much time to dwell on this reflection. One of the house slaves appeared, gave a bow and said, in a quiet, Germanic voice: "Domina, the Lady Valeria Flacca has arrived." Sestia nodded. A table and chairs were already placed nearby. "Show her through," she said curtly. @Joaquin
  6. Valeria had purposely made it be known that she had a surprise in mind, offhandedly as if it were an afterthought, as if a surprise was as easy as a roll of the tongue. She rapped her fingers and had a devilish grin on her face, a look more appropriate for the wake of a devious murder plot rather than anything that might resemble normalcy or even innocence. But beyond ‘I have a surprise for you’, she had said very little else to her husband, not what time, whether it would be that day, or what the nature of what she had in store. If it left him anxious or shivering with anticipation, then she derived more pleasure from it. She often felt satiated by watching others squirm, whether it was Landicus’s foul written word or her own love of a little mischief. Something was clearly being planned, however, and even in the days ahead of her little slip of an announcement, she had to keep not only the preparations out of Titus’s attention but her children’s, although Sulpicia might’ve come to some level of conclusion, being that she was reaching the age to grow suspicious of any degree of ‘alone time’ between their father and mother. Of course, there was perhaps the occasional overhearing her mother’s burst of laughter and “you call that a penis?” through the walls when Titus wasn’t home. But if there was anyone that had a closest idea it was Vibia. After a back-and-forth, she arranged for the courtesan to arrive at their home in the evening and be met by a servant that was definitely not Nymphias until Valeria was able to join her. When the same servant had come into the chamber that Valeria had been in, reclining in candlelight with Titus, she leaned over to observe who it was and gave a quick “thank you, so-and-so” before they could stop, catch their breath, and open their mouth. At that moment, Valeria seemed to grow a sudden amount of energy as she drew up to her feet. “Are you ready for your present?” she asked with excitement carrying through her voice. @Liv and @Sara
  7. The sun's punishing rays made sweat drops bloom on Titus' forehead like so many miniature flowers for the third time in just as many minutes, and he wiped them off with the back of a calloused hand. Was it really absolutely necessary to replace the oleanders and croci with new bulbs on one of the hottest days of the season? It wasn't domina doing the (literal) dirty work, so expecting her to take the weather into consideration was too much to ask. And he wasn't even a gardener, by Jupiter! He hoped, however, that he didn't do such a poor job that it would elicit punishment. As if on cue, the mistress's voice sounded from inside the house, calling his name. Titus set the spade aside against one of the columns and wiped his hands on his tunic; when he'd put it on that morning it had been a clean if nondescript grey, but all the digging and pottering about had stained it black and brown and several places and his hands were faring no better. If only there were a basin with water nearby... It would not be wise to keep domina waiting. Resigned that this was as clean as he was going to be for the time being, Titus quickly made his way in to the atrium, trying his best not to track dirty footprints inside. As expected, domina stood tall and proud in the atrium, but she was not alone: another, very familiar slave stood as well, appearing to await orders. Why would she have summoned Valeria too? Titus could not afford to waste time thinking about it. Taking his place next to Valeria, he bowed his head and lowered his gaze to the floor. "You called, Domina?" @Beauty @Joaquin
  8. With Publius ill, Valeria often visited her father’s in the mornings, giving him the company of his only living child and helping out her mother around the domus to alleviate the stress. His sickness, which was described by the physician as a ‘pneumonia’, seemed vile with a heavy phlegmatic cough and given his age, there was always a buried fear inside Valeria that one breath would be his last. When they had first arrived in Rome, Valeria had herded the children along with her but as time went on, it seemed better that only she went for a multitude of reasons, even if their presence did seem to brighten their grandfather’s days. After one such morning, Valeria returned home, seeking out a particular reclining seat accompanied with cushions that was brought out by the slaves into the gardens. Despite the fact the days had been growing colder, the Italian sun was warm against the skin. She was rather proud of ‘her’ garden, as she liked to call it, despite it being considered an ‘indulgence’ by some, in the summers, it would be lush and bursting with vivid flowering plants, including saffron and hyacinths, but now, the greenery had begun to fade into autumn. With a scroll that she had obtained the night prior at the launch of a novel by a writer who had gained a celebrity status, she settled down comfortably with a wine glass that was refilled frequently at her request. She had never heard of him, Pustula they called him apparently, but so far, it seemed so bad that it was good, which might have been the unintentional appeal. Intermittently through all the shuffling of the parchment, there were loud but short laughs. @Liv
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