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DRAWING THE LINE, 01.12.71


Sydney
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It was strange to be back in father's home. It hadn't been her home for four years, but nothing had really changed. Her room was left as it was with the exception of dust layering her dresser. The slaves from her ex-husband's old estate had dropped her things off into the room, making quite a clutter. It was nothing the maid couldn't fix. She opened her curtains, letting light into the dim room. It was close to sunset, and according to her father, they were expecting company. 

The land her father had was better than Atticus', in her opinion. It was older, yes, but it had a sort of touch to it that Atticus' didn't have. The lush green grass was watered every day, the stream that divided the land was one filled with memories, and she could even see the stables which had father's horse. The horse wasn't much use anymore because of its old age, but she remembered when she used to ride it as a child. The estate was also the only home she'd ever known before she was married, and now, it was the only one that mattered. Oriana breathed in the fresh air, closing her eyes for just a second to bask in the warmth of the sun. She was free, and she was ready to make her mark on the world with nothing holding her back. 

Her father was getting old, sometimes getting confused on certain situations. She had gotten a letter from his advisory that there was a small dispute about the lands that they owned, and Oriana was more than happy to help her father out and be at his side. She closed her curtains, lit some of the candles, and got changed into a red, silk tunica. She pinned her auburn hair up, which better showed her eyes. Not that there would be any suitors, nor was she ready for that. It had only been three days since she was notified of Atticus' passing, so she had to at least pretend to be devastated. Still, it was hard to wrap her mind around the fact that Atticus was gone, just as if her prayers were answered. 

She headed downstairs into the grand hall, knowing that a slave would be the one to help her father get up and help him into the dining room. The hall was vast, with the dining room being the second largest room in the home. Dining was always important to her father, and even as a child, she remembered dreading family meals together because she had to be kind to her mother. As the sun started to fall over the hills, she knew the guest would come any minute. She went in to check on her father, who was sitting at the dining room table waiting. She'd be the one to introduce the guests to her father, which she always did. She'd probably talk the most too, as being the woman of the house now with her father often being jumbled, she would need to take charge.


TAG: Phaedo

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*note: at this point in time, Phaedo was called Hyacinthus

They hadn’t far to travel. In fact, it was hardly a hop, skip and a jump to reach the home that stood on the land adjacent to his master’s. His dominus and domina lived for the most part in Rome, enjoying the city’s vibrancy, even if the old man was now old enough that the pleasures of his youth were almost all but gone. His age and infirmity provided more reasons to not make the trek out into the countryside, to this place, site of one of his many estates. Indeed, it might prove to be the last, should his health continue to decline. But he was a pig headed man and once he had this idea, he could not be dissuaded. Hyacinthus wasn’t completely clear what all the fuss was about. He knew it had something to do with a boundary dispute with the neighbor – this Aulus Ordovian Laencanius, whose home they were even now approaching. No, it wasn’t a long journey at all, but you might have thought they were heading to the cold reaches of far Germanica.

The mistress had fussed and hovered, as the other slaves had prepared a litter. That in itself was already a sign that the old man was fast approaching his dotage. A real Roman male walked, or rode a horse. But the litter was replete with cushions and wraps, even a dish of candied plums, regardless that the trip would only take a half hour or so, and that walking at a snail’s pace so as not to jostle the old geezer. The curtains were down, to protect from drafts, and Hyacinthus was free to look about as they crawled along. The countryside was pleasant, although unfamiliar. As his master preferred the young slave to be always ay hand, he too rarely left the city. The air smelled so much cleaner, and the greens of the gently rolling countryside were soft on the eyes. He smiled to himself as he strolled along.

In due course, they reached the villa of the Laencanii and there was a second round of fluttering and bustling as his master was helped to extricate him from the litter. He was a short, obese man, quite run to seed, with a florid complexion. The broken blood vessels that traced over his red nose like spider webs gave testament to his love of wine and beer. He was sober, at this point, though, and ready to go toe to toe with his neighbor, or so he fancied. In reality, he was all bark and had the bite of a toothless old hound. He and his wife, and Hyacinthus and the slave who would wait on the domina were ushered inside and shown to the dining room. The rest of their retinue would wait outside, and the young male slave could not be blamed for envying those of his comrades who would be at relative ease and leisure for a few hours.

He walked behind his master, by a few paces, eyes down but still able to take in their surroundings. The house slave announced them, formally, and moved aside and Hyacinthus let his eyes peep up to see who else had been called to partake in this dinner that was both social and business in nature. 

Oriana Laecania

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Oriana didn’t know what to expect. She hadn’t met her neighbors before, and her father was more of a recluse than her. She knew he hated having meetings, and with his health declining, she wondered if he’d even be able to have the strength to talk at the meeting. He had nobody else but Oriana, his only daughter, and she pitied the once great soldier. That was really the last thing any former military member, especially her father, wanted. But she couldn’t help it. If she had to, she would step up. It wasn’t like she was a stranger of being the woman of the house. 

When the three entered the room, an elder man about her father’s age, a woman she assumed was his wife, and a slave of theirs. She knew that this would be the most boring conversation in all of Rome. Oriana nudged her father, then putting in a smile for the guests. ”Father, our company is here.” She said, nodding towards them. ”Welcome,” she walked towards them, eyeing the young slave that was with them. She know he must have been important to the couple or else they would’ve not had him by their side. ”My name is Oriana Terulia,” she said, but she went quiet for a moment. That wasn’t her name anymore. She smiled at them again. ”Please, have a seat.” She held her hand out towards the table. 

She looked at her father. ”Are you able to speak about the business to our guests?” Her father nodded. She nodded back. ”Am I allowed to take a walk with your slave?” She asked the couple. ”I’m just curious about his input on the land. I know he has no opinion but it would be nice to see where the land is drawn.”


TAG: Phaedo

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The person who actually greeted them was a woman. This wasn’t at all surprising, for when Hyacinthus looked discretely around, the elderly man who was the only other non-servant in the room looked as infirm as his own master. Perhaps the woman was his wife? She introduced herself, but the Roman customs did not dictate that a woman must change her name to that of her husband. She could have just as easily been his daughter, or even some other female relative, or a fiancée. Well, it was none of his business. He moved with practiced skill to help his master settle, while the female slave who had accompanied them did the same for their mistress. Hyacinthus moved to take up a position behind his master, in order to stand ready to serve him throughout the meal, when the woman, Oriana, put an unexpected question to his master.

Hyacinthus’s eyebrows lifted. He looked at the back of his master’s head, but did not speak. Neither did his master actually, for he seemed to be having an attack of gas or reflux. His mistress replied instead, shooing the boy off, her eyes sharpening like an eagle on the hunt as she looked across the table at the other old wreck of a man, a syrupy smile on her rouged lips. Perhaps she was glad to see the other, much younger woman leaving. Or perhaps she felt like her own husband would pay more attention to the business at hand if the distraction of the handsome slave was gone for a bit.

Hyacinthus acknowledged his mistress’ command with a nod of his head, and then he raised his eyes to look at the woman for a moment. ”I do know where the boundary is drawn, mistress,” he said politely. ”If that is your desire, I would be pleased to show you.”

The woman seemed content with this and they moved off. Normally Hyacinthus would not presume to walk in front of such a lady. But as he was showing her the boundary, he felt it would be ridiculous to walk behind her. Once out of the villa, he took up a position by her shoulder, a couple of feet to her side. ”It’s this way mistress,” he said, pointing. 

Oriana Laecania

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Oriana was so relieved to not be attending the most boring meeting of the century. Two old, basically dead, men and a bitchy women was more than enough company for the young woman, so leaving was her best tactic if she didn't want to bore herself to death. The auburn-haired girl walked behind the slave, exiting the room. A sigh of relief escaped her breath. There were times when putting on a pretty, positive face was too much, and this was one of those instances. Besides, if her father lost a small bit of land, she couldn't give a damn less. If it was her own plot of land, it would be a different story. Still, even though her father was fragile, he still had enough sass and fight in him that he might be able to convince them to give over some land. 

"God, what a bore," the woman exaggerated. "If I had to stay in that meeting any longer, I think I would've just jumped off a cliff, don't you think?" She spoke to the slave as she walked. It was a charming evening outside, the weather perfect, so she didn't mind a little stroll to the boundary. Oriana hadn't got to take some time to just take a walk since her husband's death. Even if it was just with a slave, it was better than dealing with her father's land issues. It was the last stress she needed. 

"You're free to talk out here, I won't hold it against you...probably," she said, shrugging. She was kidding of course, but her tone implied that she wasn't. "So what's with your master and his wife? That's his wife, I assume. They seem problematic, to put it kindly." Just from the woman's gaze she could tell a lot about her. It dawned on Oriana as to why she was being so nice. Maybe after the terrible, or relieving, couple of days she had, she didn't have time to process her being her usual cold self. Still, she assumed she'd be back to normal tomorrow. 

@Gil

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Her comment, and the question attached – asking for his opinion about the likely excitement to be had, or not, in the meeting they’d just left behind – caught Hyacinthus by surprise. He glanced over at the woman, lips parted, not knowing how to reply. He was very rarely asked what he thought about anything. And telling the truth in answer to her question wasn’t something he was prepared to risk. Such things had a tendency to get back to the wrong ears. So he hesitated, and then she assured him he could speak the truth, in a way that in no way convinced him that he could. Instead, he vacillated.

 

”I’ve little head for business myself, mistress. There are others that see to that for my master.” He was referring of course to what was common in many wealthy Roman households – one or more well educated slaves who were numerate and good at book keeping and the like, as well as keeping their master’s affairs in order. ”I am literate, and…and at one time was in training to be a physician.” He sighed ever so faintly. ”But was never taught about business dealings. My master finds me useful in other ways.” It was probably quite clear what ways those were, just given his youth and good looks.

 

”And yes, she is his wife. His second. She is quite kind to me as well.” The fact that she took him to her bed with even more regularity than her husband did might not have been so obvious. It was really quite a disgraceful and unvirtuous thing for a Roman woman to do, although, it happened all the time, no doubt.

 

”She allows me to visit the library. That’s my most favorite thing to do.” He shrugged slightly. ”They treat me well. I have no complaints.”

 

Of course, he would say that.

Edited by Gil
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Oriana loved watching people as she spoke to them. Reactions were her favorite thing to see, and getting a rise out of people was something she entertained. Very rarely did she talk to people of lower classes, even her own slaves, but when she did, it was to get a ruse out of them. There were a lot worse ways to treat slaves, so she didn’t think anything of it. 

The girl listened to the slave. When he said he was literate, she was surprised. Not many people, especially slaves, could read. He must have gone for a lot when being traded. He was attractive, smart, and obedient. And when she said his master had other uses for him, she knew exactly what he was talking about. Of course, it didn’t surprise her. Most attractive slaves were used for pleasure, but that thought disgusted Oriana. She was dignified and would never stoop to something so low. 

He said he had no complaints. Oriana let out an audible laugh. ”Everybody has complaints, slave. They just tend to hide them to make others happy. See, if I were you, I would complain about the fact that the woman sees anyone as a threat. I saw it when she looked at me. Everybody likes a pretty young face until their husband gets a little too close.” It was true. The woman seemed threatened by anything sand that was what made her the way she was. Oriana didn’t know if Atticus cheated, but she didn’t care. If he was, it was less time spent with her, which was precious time to her. Oriana was usually the jealous type, and at the beginning of their relationship, she was. But she cared less and less the longer she was with him. 

”Yes, I can see why you’re useful. Probably expensive, too.” The woman had no desire to buy the slave. She already had many. Though she couldn’t stop being curious about him. ”I bet you just love poetry, don’t you?” The way he looked she just assumed that he enjoyed poetry. It was a lot of people in Rome who like did it, but Oriana was not one of them. 

@Gil

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Yes, it was true. In Hyacinthus’ case, both his master and mistress had reached the point of each being jealous of the other, when it came to him, and the physical pleasure he could give them. But he’d never dare complain. He wasn’t free. He didn’t have the right. His lot was to serve, as instructed, by whoever could corner him and drag him off to his or her bed. That was his life, and to complain would only make matters worse. So to her commentary, he said nothing, only listening politely, head bowed.

 

Her next observation, though, caught him equally by surprise as her first. He looked up at her, startled but…maybe cautiously hopeful? ”Y-yes, domina. I do. I do love poetry, and plays, and literature. Really, I love to read anything. But poetry is my favorite. Do you like it as well? Do you have a favorite poet?” he tone was one of enthusiasm, although it was still subdued. He couldn't forget himself.

 

It was really out of place for him to be asking her such questions. But…she had asked first. Surely, it was alright for him to ask her in turn?

 

@Sydney

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Oriana could tell a lot about how a person looked--usually. If she looked at herself through someone else's eyes, she would've saw a bitchy, spoiled noble woman with too much time on her hands. Of course, that's exactly what she was and she didn't try to hide it. With the slave, he looked strong but with a big sensitive side and probably a hopeless romantic. When she guessed if he liked poetry, she was spot on. She made a lot of assumptions about people, and she didn't care whether she was right or wrong. It was fun to assume what people were like based on their appearance. 

"I honestly find poetry boring. I don't really have time to read leisurely." She said, bluntly but not really caring. "But for the sake of conversation, why don't you tell me your favorite poet." She didn't have much to talk about, and though she didn't mind silence, she liked learning about new people.

Slave, noble, or potential husband, Oriana wanted to know everything about everyone. She was noisy, but in the most subtle way. She often talked others into talking about themselves, because who doesn't like talking about themselves? She enjoyed talking about her self as well, but she was careful never to show any weakness. She was suppose to be ruthless, and with her husband now gone, she decided she was going to be ruthless as ever. That meant more conversing, more parties, and more connections. 

@Gil

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Her response was disappointing. Phaedo could not fathom how anyone could find poetry boring. It was beautiful. It was moving. It was the marriage of intellect and emotion. But of course it was not his place to say any of that, even if his enthusiastic expression fell a bit. She put a question to him and he didn’t answer immediately. He had to think. It was so hard to choose just one!

 

”Ovid,” he finally said. ”Are you familiar with the Amores, domina?” he did not look at her, but let his gaze slide perilously close. ”I…I could recite something, if it pleases you?” Of course, she’d just said poetry bored her. So in all likelihood, it would not please her, which was a shame, for Phaedo had a gift for recitation.

 

@Sydney

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Oriana could feel the silence when he didn't answer immediately. Had she disappointed him? If she did, she didn't really care. She sometimes felt she was too nice when she should be meaner and stricter, like the way she was talking to this slave. Some people would beat their slaves, but to her, that wasted her precious time and energy. Oriana would rather sell her slaves if they weren't obedient, but most were loyal since they had been working with her father for so long.

"Yes, I am familiar," she said, knowing what Amores was. She had learned poetry and philosophy as a child despite most women not being able to learn like men. It was a way for her mother to get rid of her her while she was being taught to read, write, and do other things that were important. But a slave that knew poetry was something strange to her and something she'd definitely like to hear. "Go ahead." She said without much care in her voice. 

@Gil

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Her tone was so offhand, but she had said to proceed. Phaedo was quite happy to recite, anytime. And this had been a sort of…command…from the woman, regardless of her tepid interest. Still, he wouldn’t not recite now that he had offered and she had accepted. So, even as they walked, he cleared his throat and began, in a tone like cream and honey:

 

”It was hot and past the middle of the day

I stretched myself on top of the bed to relax

My body half covered, the shuttered window half closed

The light filtered in like it does in the forest when Phoebus descends in the west

And a fugitive light plays

Or where night is ending but day has not quite begun

The sort of delicate light that encourages girls to show themselves

When the shy or timorous hope to be able to hide their arousal

 

 

Suddenly Corinna, her dress half undone, her hair dividing to show the fair white skin of her neck, appears at the door

Semiramis herself on the night of her wedding looked so

Or Lais, on her bed with her lovers

I pulled at the dress

She tried to keep some scraps around herself

But hard as she fought, unwilling at first to submit

My final victory showed what she really wanted

 

 

She stood before my eyes, all veils removed

Her body completely revealed, and nowhere flawed

What arms! What shoulders! What breasts I see and touch!

They are perfectly formed for my hands

I stretch out my fingers, over the flat of her stomach, broad and inviting

Then down and over her thighs

But why tell all?

There is no part of her body not worthy of praise

And I press my naked form right down on hers

Want to know more?

We rested exhausted together

May many middles of days like this come to me”*

 

It was a salacious poem, to some, perhaps. But to Phaedo, it spoke of beauty and calm and love, if only the fleeting love of a man for the woman he desired. He’d sometimes dreamt of a man – a godly man in his fantasies – feeling such desire for him, and to some extent, it imbued his recitation with an underscore of wistfulness.

When he was finished, he said nothing, wondering what the lady had thought of it, expecting neither praise nor condemnation from someone who didn’t care for poetry in the first place.

*“Amores” Book I,  No. V

@Sydney

Edited by Gil
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Oriana tried not to yawn throughout the poem, actually listening instead of interrupting. She did say that she found poetry boring, and this definitely didn't change her mind. At least he had a voice that she didn't despise and the words flowed. She'd much rather see someone fight to the death than recite a poem, but she could appreciate someone who learned such a poem, even if she didn't understand why he would learn it by heart. There were so many other things to learn, and she didn't think poetry should be one of them. Still, it was something he was lucky to be able to do. Most slaves weren't legible so he was lucky to be able to read and learn it. 

"And where did you learn that? Slaves are lucky enough to be able to read. You should know your value." She said, still walking and without much emotion in her voice. She didn't praise him or scold him for speaking, and she felt very indifferent about it. Maybe others had a use for poetry, but Oriana was not one of them. 

@Gil

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