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It was rare to catch her away from her Domina.

Annia did not like to have her away from her side. 

A body slave was always expected to be by their Owner's side, no matter what. The family did not live near the Ludus and would have to travel there in order to oversee the business was being conducted correctly. There was a difference between their legal and more illegal businesses, no doubt Clio was aware of it and saw a decent amount of the family business. Titus' relationship with his wife was loving and a part of him knew that his wife was ambitious, willing to do anything, and he wanted to keep an eye on her. In many ways, she was the female version of himself and that gave him cause for concern. He sent for Clio and waited inside his office for the slave to arrive, and wondered if his wife would soon come afterwards to ensure that he did not touch her. Annia had no cause for concern. He would keep his promise to keep his hands off her slave. 

In his seat he glanced down at the various pieces of parchment in front of him. Some were legitimate, others, not so much. He was not left waiting for very long. Footsteps alerted him to her approach and when she arrived. He paused and looked past the doorway to ensure that Annia was not eavesdropping on their conversation. Once he was satisfied with the fact she was not lurking in the corner. He turned his attention back to Clio. His gaze moved over her steadily and it made sense for her to be beautiful. Annia loved the company of comely female slaves. 

"Clio, you have served my wife for some time now," He said, and through her, himself. "How has she been doing?" Titus asked, naturally, he did not invite Clio to sit with them like they were equals when they were not. Titus was not going to press her and see how much she was willing to share with him. He watched her, lifted his goblet and sipped wine from the cup. 

 

@Liv

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How extraordinary for the master to ask for her. The request came unexpectedly and left Clio with a mild feeling of uneasiness, like so many butterflies fluttering in her stomach. 

He had never been unkind nor untoward in their dealings, although how much of that was solely due to the domina's requests was unknown to Clio. Annia Comna was a good mistress, far better than a slave like her deserved, and one that did not appreciate anybody else putting their hands on what she viewed as her sole property - Clio. Not even her husband. For that and more, Clio was ever grateful.

Whatever the reason, it would not do to test the master's patience. He awaited her in his office, the messenger slave had stated, and so her destination was clear. There was purpose in Clio's stride, a mission; yet she hoped the slight inflection of her brow  did not betray the apprehension she felt on the inside. Letting her footsteps herald her arrival, Clio stepped into the room, sneaking a furtive look at her master before casting her eyes downward and uttering a quiet "Domine" in manner of greeting. 

Parchments. Plenty of them. They were often related to business, as Clio had come to understand. And money, consequently. Were the household finances not as they should be? A world of possibilities, some more unpleasant than others began to take form in Clio's mind, but she did her best not to let it show as the master scrutinised her from his seat. Was it necessary to gain liquidity by selling some property? Or even worse, could there be suspicions of theft? Her fingers twitched in her joined hands.

Clio straightened her back at the master's inquiry, much as a soldier before his general. "I have, Domine," she agreed with a nod. Her dark brown eyes were still trained on the stone floor. "The domina has been in good physical health. She sleeps well and eats normally. She is often preoccupied with the future, and continues to visit the temple regularly so that the gods might favour her with a son." It was a sore spot for these Romans, the lack of a male heir. A girl was only useful for marriage, whereas a boy could take over the business, achieve glory and elevate his family's station. The Canici Phisceri were good parents to their daughter, but the poor girl had been doomed to be a placeholder from her very birth. 

She stole a glance at her master. Had her answer been satisfactory? Hard to try and read his expression when a cup of wine was obscuring its lower half.

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Titus waited to see how Clio would respond without any pressure or encouragement to continue what she was saying. He wanted to hear the truth about how Annia was going. He did not move or comment when she answered him. It was all to be expected. A son.... Gods... how he wanted a son to call his own. Yet Titus did not show his desire on his face. He figured that there was a chance that Annia would confide any concerns or fears about the matter to Clio or a friend. So long as he received the precious son in the end. That was his primary concern. That meant that there were practical matters. Women's fertility ended, as Numeria, his Mistress would frequently whisper into his ear whenever he took to her bed that perhaps there was a reason why Annia did not provide him with a son to call his own and carry on the family name for the future.

His legacy. His father's legacy. 

"Good, good... I am pleased to hear that she is in good health," He said, despite it all, Titus did love Annia and want what was best for her. There was always a chance that the Gods would be kind to them and give them a son. Yet... even as a man who dealt with betting, there were always ways to increase your chances of getting the outcome you wanted and it was vital to play your hand in order to get what you want. 

Now came a more pressing question...… "What of her monthly courses? Do they still remain?" Titus asked both questions. Normally he would have considered these questions to be 'women's troubles' and dismiss them. However, women and priestesses told him of the importance of these. Women would reach a period when a child was no longer possible, and the risk of a deformed child would be too great to risk. 

What would he do then? 

Again, he did not move nor press her. Titus wished to learn more but not impact the quality of what she told him. He needed to know his answer and have it be truthful. Knowledge was power, even information about his loved ones and those he cherished. 

@Liv

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There seemed to be no signs of anger or displeasure in her master's brow. Clio allowed her tense shoulders to relax just a fraction of an inch. Their conversation, if it could be called one, was off to a good start in her opinion, biased as it was. No harsh words, no shouting, no punishment or promises of it - yes, it had started off well. To be fair, Clio had nothing to complain of in her current household: she was treated with respect, food was always abundant, the masters were fair to her and, thanks to the domina's influence, nobody had tried to put their hands on her for the last two years. Clio hoped it would stay that way in the future, too.

It had apparently been a good idea to bring up the domina's efforts, but it was a bit jarring to hear her master ask about such feminine matters. it felt inappropriate, shameful even, to discuss the minutiae of a woman's troubles with a man. But Titus Canicus Phiscerus was not any man; he was the master of the household and all his slaves owed him complete obedience and loyalty. Clio cleared her throat awkwardly, unsure of how to start.

"Y-yes, domine, they remain. They shall for several more years, may the Bona Dea have it so." It was certainly the case that a woman was at her most fertile in young adulthood, but many gave birth to strong children when they were already in their forties and proud grandmothers. The Vestals the Romans held in such high esteem, for instance, could still bear children after fulfilling their service to the goddess, and several had done so. Annia Comnia had already given birth to a healthy and well-formed baby years ago; reason followed that she could do it once more, if the gods so wished it. From what little Clio knew, the birth of not-so-little-anymore Canica had not been particularly traumatic, so all the equipment should still be in working condition.

Clio felt a strong impulse to defend her mistress. "Please, domine, do not judge domina too harshly. She tries very hard not to show it, but the matter distresses her greatly. Every wives' tale there is, she has tried it." She wrung her hands, a tinge of desperation seeping into her voice. "Domina wishes for nothing more than to honour this house with a healthy son." There might eventually be the need to employ more drastic measures, but Clio dare not even think of those. "She prays every night for a son to inherit the ludus and bring renown to this family."

@Brian

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Titus listened quietly and did not like how the need for a son caused her considerable amounts of distress. His fingertips tapped idly at the thought. He did not like the idea of hurting Annia yet a son was a business matter. The name would live on. It needed to continue for the benefit the world. The Ludus could not be inherited as it was the property of Caesar, however, there was no reason for a contract to move outside their family. There was also the matter concerning the Wolves of Rome. Would they respect a woman or would they devour her in the quest for more wealth? A son simplified things. He raised his eyebrow at this, Clio should know how things worked in the Ludus and dismissed it when he was caught up in his thoughts. 

"I know she does," He admitted and sighed, a son was the symbol of many things. Titus loved her. He wanted to ensure that she would be happy and healthy. In his dreams, they were together and the pair of them had a son. There were a few material gains he wished to achieve. Yet there was still the reality they lived in. He needed a son. 

Titus exhaled slowly. Still, he needed to keep Clio's eyes on her. Numeria was a love of his yet Annia would always have a place in his heart. "I will send for you several times in order to ask you about her monthly courses, and health. And if there any changes you are to report to me about this." He answered, some women struggled with conception and later on childbirth. They had one child already.

Surely that meant that another would follow? 

"Now, what has your Domina been up to of late?" He asked, popped a plump grape in his mouth and looked up at her. Interested in what she would answer. Annia was devious. Yet that was one of the reasons why he loved her so much. 

@Liv

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By the gods, how nerve-wracking this was! Try as much as she liked, Clio's expression was sure to be transparent for someone as used to dealing with shady characters as her master; no doubt he could read her as easily as one of the pieces of parchment placed in front of him. It seemed her passionate defence of her domina had been successful, though. 

Clio stood attentively, listening to her new orders. They did not seem to conflict with those her domina would give her, and so she would not have any difficulty following them. It did not, however, mean that she would not have to be careful. There may be times to come when what the dominus wants to hear and what truly is happening are not the same, and Clio would have to juggle that fine balance in the information she would give. She had a closer relationship to her mistress and thus felt more loyal to her, but it was the master who held the actual power over his household, wife and child included. To even try to deceive him would be utter foolishness. "Yes, domine, I understand. I shall keep you informed."

Well. Now this was the truly hard part. Clio chewed on the inside of her cheek thoughtfully, considering what to say. She did not want to cause a rift between husband and wife, but neither did she want to arouse the master's suspicions. "I am not always privy to all that happens, Domine," she started timidly, "but she has been observing a number of gladiators training in the arena lately. She often comments on their talents and flaws, and fighting styles. It is my impression she may be considering which ones have a better chance of being successful in actual matches, although I am but an ignorant slave on this matter, Domine." She attempted a small smile. What Clio did not dare tell her master is that the domina also often commented on their physical prowess and appearance, and had on more than one occasion asked for Clio's opinion on how a particular fighter would perform in bed.

"Domina has also been trying to cultivate acquaintances among the higher class, Domine. Results have been... mixed." The more conservative crowd had no interest for the parties Annia Comna organised, whereas those of a more Epicurean nature seemed to look forward to the next such event. Regardless, both parties talked about the mistress and her parties, whether to disdain or praise them. Clio had once heard that there was no such a thing as bad publicity in the business world, and her mistress seemed to be aiming for exactly that - putting her name, and by extension that of the Ludus Dacicus, in the mouths of Romans everywhere.

 

@Brian

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Titus felt for Annia. It was not easy. Infertility and shame were often attributed to the women. He refused to think whether or not it could be him, or due to him. There have been other household slaves who had produced sons. None he would ever willingly claim as his own. Yet Numeria had also not managed to produce a son for him either. There was a chance that she would prefer to wait to see if they married first. It was difficult to say. 

However, when Clio began to explain about the Annia eyeing up the gladiators and suggested that there may be more behind it. He felt himself exhale slowly, his blood beginning to boil in fury and he had no desire for his wife if she shamed the wedding bed. He would definitely need to have her watched, followed and all to ensure that she did not stray. Still... he hoped it was entirely concerning profit. Not to mention, the slave was not purposely trying to cause any discord between the husband and wife. "Hm," He answered her, and knew that a talk with Annia was needed. 

Fortunately, Clio spoke of Annia reaching out to the members of the nobility and frowned. If, or when, he had his son, it would be easier for him to come from a well connected family who would be able to give him a head start. At least she was doing something to ensure the growth and success of the family. "Mixed results are to be expected," He said, many of the older families did not like the rising Equites (or freedmen) class. Yet there was always something illusive about those involved with the Ludii. Unfortunately, in Rome, he had three competitors who he constantly had to be on the lookout for. Especially Appius Albinus Posca. 

"Tell her to keep going with making those connections as needed." Titus said, there was the eventual matter of finding a suitable marriage for his daughter. Yet that was not an appropriate conversation to have with one of the slaves. 

@Liv

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Clio made to swallow and found out her throat was as parched as the swaths of land the Nile did not reach, according to her meagre knowledge of Ægyptus. Up until today, the image she had of her dominus was of a serious man, continuously (pre)occupied by business matters, but after this meeting, that image would be tinged with a shade of fear. She got the feeling that even freeborns would not enjoy finding themselves on the bad side of Titus Justinius Canicus Phiscerus... As her master exhaled, Clio's own breathing caught in her chest, and she tightened her fists until her knuckles shone pale against her brown skin. Was a storm coming? Had she said the wrong thing? 

The moment of doubt was over as quickly as it came, and Clio allowed herself to let out a shaky breath. No more talk of gladiators, unless the master brought it up first. Domina was an intelligent woman with a keen eye for quality wares, but when said wares were fighting men, it would be unwise to arouse her husband's suspicion, and if Clio were the one to do it by mistake... well, it would be a very costly mistake for everyone involved.

She quivered as the master spoke to her, but somehow managed to relax her hands; her fingernails had left crescent-shaped marks on her palms, and they were starting to smart a little. "Yes, Domine, I shall!" she nodded vigorously. "Is there anything that should be brought to Domina's attention before the next event?"

What Clio really wanted to ask, but would never dare to, was how much longer this interrogation would go on for. She hoped she had a little more tact than that, and so she would stand up as straight as her unease would let her until the master dismissed her.

@Brian

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There were many times when he had noticed her. Clio was beautiful, and yet... there was the promise he had made to his wife not to touch her. It was strange. Denying someone something tended to make them desire it more intensely. Titus looked away. He did not wish to have his desires betrayed when he looked at her. With a frown of frustration at his own desire, he lifted up a glass of wine and took a sip of the liquid. 

Over time, he had begun to get suspicions of much of his wife's conduct with the gladiators, and while he was socially permitted to be as free as he desired. Titus did not like nor approve of her increased contact with them. Despite his love for her and appreciation of her business sense. Or, perhaps his own jealousy was fueled by his own desire for the one slave he was not permitted to have. The only one

"I want everyone to go through the Ludus Dacicus, and to promote us. Naturally, she can use flattery and invite prominent members of the wealthiest families to attend the Ludus. Show off, send out bribes of food to the plebs and proles, that sort of thing." He answered, there was only so much he could do from the illegal perspective. His Ludus needed to be the best through its own merits. Through his skill and mastery. His wife would be the perfect picture. The hostess of their home. His line of work may be infamous yet it certainly came with rewards. 

The temptation of using other methods still remained strong. 

He did not need to tell her this. Yet... a part of him felt drawn to do so. 

"I will be purchasing new slaves to train and if they proved useful. They will have the honour of becoming gladiators." 

@Liv

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