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Charis

An Introduction

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Charis glanced around her new home with a frown. Having been deposited there by Spurius as promised the previous day, she now found herself examining her surroundings and life properly. She had been told, from what she understood, that her name was now Charis and she should forget she had another one. It had confused her, but realising this was not the hill she wanted to die on, had only nodded meekly. She had equally be instructed that she was to cook and clean but had been given no further details than that, and as she frowned at the kitchenware, she had no idea of what to do. From what she had gleaned from snatches of conversation she had understood, her predecessor had died, but how or when was beyond her comprehension or her abilities with their confusing, peculiar language.

The others in the house had largely avoided her thus far. She didn't even really know who lived here - whether there was a family bursting at the seams, or just the man that had been at the market. Even then she wasn't sure that he was the man she would call Domine. At least now she looked more presentable. The journey from Britannia had been long and hard, and opportunities for bathing had been severely limited. The relief to be in fresh clothes and with clean hair was something she never expected to feel. Yet, the relief that she had been afforded a modicum of respect in her new home quickly disappeared. She was stood alone in the kitchen, the morning waring on with no idea what was expected of her. The burly older woman she assumed was her equal had left on an errand, and without instruction had left the new slave to her own devices. 

Fingers tracing the earthenware and produce that littered the room, she glanced up as another figure came in to join her. Her grasp of Latin was rudimentary, and not understanding that not everybody was her Dominus and she shouldn't refer to fellow slaves as such, she quickly offered a broad smile, although her accented voice was tentative; "I...I'm sorry, Domine...She glanced sheepishly at the man, around her age, but her smile was warm. He was wearing clothes of a similar standard to her own and she presumed he was not one of her masters, although she couldn't be sure. Still, she couldn't just stand here doing nothing for the rest of the day and concentrating on sounding out the unfamiliar language, she asked with amusement; "I...don't know what to do...here...nobody has said..."

 

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Teutus had been informed that there was a new slave who was going to help with the cooking and cleaning and general stuff around the house. Gathering, somehow, that she'd been dumped in the kitchen and left to her own devices, Teutus headed there as soon as he had a moment.

She was standing in the kitchen looking lost and confused. Jupiter Optimus Maximus, did Tertius really think a brand-new slave would know anything about what to do - what they could and could not do - without being told? Of course not.

"Salve," he said easily, returning her tentative greeting, offered in accented Latin. Minerva! Did she even understand enough Latin to understand anything he might say?

"I'm not the master," he added, speaking slower than usual for her benefit, his own accent that of a native speaker. "My name - nomen meum - is Teutus." He pointed to himself. "Teutus. I'm a slave too." He grasped one wrist lightly with the other hand, signifying a shackle, and hence the concept of captivity, servitude, and pointed back to himself.

Not even the cook was present. Lazy thing - she could have given the girl some clue what was going on, some hint as to what to do.

"What's your name?" he asked, pointing at her and raising and eyebrow in query. Let's start with the basics...

 

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Charis frowned, trying to follow his words. She had always been good at picking up languages, often the intricate differences between the tribes that her family traded with, but her intelligence was being put to the test with their confounded Latin. Understanding, however, that Domine was not a word for everybody, she inclined her head in apology, mumbling a "Sorry..." under her breath. Their confusing words and accents would be the end of her. 

"Teutus..." She sounded out his name, silently, after him as if trying the name to see if it fit. Still, as he mimed a shackle - obvious even to a foreigner, she lowered her eyes. It wasn't that she was upset, her long travels had made her resigned to her fate - as appalling as it was to a free woman, but nonetheless she didn't want to be reminded of it. To a seasoned slave it was a naivety, but for Erea or Charis now, this situation was only fleeting - it would be resolved, and she'd be home soon. 

Still, bright blue eyes drew up to his face as he asked - judging by the tone of his voice - a question and she surmised he was asking about her. After a hesitation, she smiled wanly, "It was Erea," She corrected herself, "I was Erea...now..." She frowned, trying to remember how they had pronounced it, "Charis. I am Charis." The name was not awful, but it didn't sound...right to her ears, and she couldn't help but wonder why the man who had bought her had picked it. 

Not understanding if he wanted to know more, she continued in stilted, accented Latin, hesitating often as she spoke; "I...am Briton...Britannia, to them." But it was confusing to her. She had assumed that all slaves here came from her homeland, those she had travelled with obviously did. Yet he spoke their language perfectly, as if he was born amongst them. Deciding, in frustration, that her duties (whatever they were!) could wait for a while, she took a seat on a small bench, chin in her palm as she eyed him. "You are not Briton T-Teutus? But a slave still?" Were the Romans so barbaric as to enslave their own people as well? 

 

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Jupiter, Juno and Minerva! British. His father had picked not just a chalk-foot slave but a gods-damn Briton? And of course everyone else had scarpered leaving Teutus to pick up the pieces and try to explain things. Things that were pretty tough to explain to anyone, never mind someone to whom even Latin was going to be a challenge.

He was going to have to rely on signs and gestures as much as words. And the ever-so-complicated relationship between himself and the master his father was going to probably remain unexplained for a while.

First things first. He nodded in response to her question - did they not have slaves up there in that benighted island or something? "Yes. My mother was a slave."

That shouldn't be so hard to understand -  slave mother giving birth to a slave son.

"I'm Roman - not a citizen. I was born in Rome."

Had she eaten at all since being brought in from - presumably straight from the slave market? "Are you hungry? Thirsty? Do you want something to eat, or to drink?"

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She frowned, and nodded, signifying she understood even if confusion lingered. Teutus the Roman slave, or Teutus the kind Roman slave. She had not expected somebody to give her this much patience. It was a welcome relief, and she only hoped the rest of the household were this tolerant. 

Failing to understand what he was asking, she stood up and moved to run her fingers over the pots and earthenware on the surfaces of the kitchen. Glancing at him, she pointed a finger, "You are hungry?" She, herself, was starving but hadn't realised that was what he was asking. Groaning in frustration, she moved to shove a pot back on the surface hard with a thud, almost chipping it. She spoke to herself in her own language, in frustration; "I don't know what these people bloody want from me...how on earth can I cook when they don't tell me what they want?"

Moving to brush stray stands of hair from her face, tugging them behind her ears she glanced up at him. "Sorry." She winced, trying again; "What shall I cook?" She suspected her own country's foods would be unpalatable to these people, as their food looked to her. But what else could she do but try? Glancing up at him as she reached to try and prepare something with the scattered ingredients, she asked with curiosity; "Are you important slave?" What she had wanted to ask was, if some slaves were more important than others, but she couldn't find the words.

 

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Teutus abandoned his pleas to the Capitoline Triad.

"O Apollo, grant me patience!"

He shook his head, taking her wrist gently and encouraging her to sit back down. "Are you hungry, is what I meant."


He pointed to her then made the motions of eating before shrugging. He, at least, knew where to find food in here, and what was allowed the slaves to eat, and of that, what could be prepared without needing to cook anything.

He found her a plate and some bread, offering olive oil to dip it into, and a beaker of water.

"Am I important? Well, there's a question for you! Sort of, but there are more important slaves than me..." He stopped, registering the look on her face and tried again.

"Hector is the master's body slave, and there's his secretary. They're important, but they don't come in here. I run errands and look after Antonia Varia, the master's daughter."

How to explain the complication that was his relationship to the master,and to Antonia?!

 

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Embarrassed, Charis did as she was bidden and sat down. She was not used to this, being so unconfident in her abilities. Miserably, she nodded that she was hungry but placed her face back in her palm, looking despondent. 

Once her new company had brought the food back to her, she eyed it suspiciously but tentatively broke some of the bread off with thin fingers. She listened with concentration at his words as she ate a little. So he was important, but there were others more important still? She frowned, but at least understood him a little. With an amused grin, she pointed to herself; "And I am...not important?" It was a rhetorical question, she knew the answer to that. 

Still, her eyes had regained a flicker of lightness at the mention of a daughter, a word she recognised. She had used it herself when the occupiers had come enquiring after her father. But Teutus did not mention a wife, but perhaps the Romans were not so stringent with their need to be married, or at least more relaxed about it than she had assumed. "How old daughter?" She shook her head, trying to correct herself, "How old is daughter?" 

She wanted to ask him more, about how long she would be expected to stay here, whether she could speak to the man who had bought her about her situation - the mistaken identity that had landed here on a boat from Britannia, but she didn't dare, and even if she did - how on earth would she communicate it? There was one question she knew she could ask, however, and she said it with a wince. A genuine flicker of concern on her face. "But...we are...treated well...not hurt...here?"

 

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Teutus leaned against the kitchen table, watching her eat. He shrugged when she asked whether she was important; in truth, she probably was not, but Tertius would want to see her and who knew what strange fancy might take him, although Teutus hoped that it didn't, for everyone's sake.

"She is nine years old," he said, holding up nine fingers in case this girl didn't know Latin numbers - always a possibility with barbarians, although she was not half as barbaric as Teutus would have expected. A tame barbarian, then, but a very pretty one - she was almost shy, but that might just be a cover.

"Yes," he said, in answer to the tentative question about how they were treated. "We have good food, a place to sleep." In truth, a lot depended on the slaves themselves - if they obeyed orders and did their work properly, they could expect better treatment than those who slacked off and joked around and did their work half-heartedly at best. Unless this girl turned into a proper barbarian wildcat, Teutus did not think she would experience punishment. Certainly Tertius was not one to ill-treat his slaves.

"Do you you want more food?" he enquired, watching her eat. There would be no need at all for her to pass out from hunger, not while he was here, and who knew when (and what, and how much) she'd last eaten.

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"Nine..." She repeated with a smile. It was painful to think about, children. She didn't know if she would have had a son or a daughter, but either way she would have been overjoyed, as would Immin. Then again, had the pregnancy lasted on her travels and she had been forced into childbirth in Rome, as a slave, Gods only knew what would have happened. With an arched brow, she eyed her company. "Can I meet...Antonia Varia?" She supposed it sounded like a strange request, "I...I'm good...with children." Taking care of younger siblings had given her a natural ability. 

Still, relief washed over her. From his body language and his tone, as well as the words she gleaned, perhaps she had been lucky with her choice of buyer. The slaver had certainly threatened the lash (and she had a scar across her shoulders to prove it), but he'd also suggested that they could face far worse in their eventual homes. At least here, it seemed, there was a modicum of respect. 

Shaking her head as he offered her more food, and placing a hand over the remnants of bread she grinned. She had eaten so little on the journey that she knew she needed to pace herself. She didn't want to become ill just as soon as she was bought. Eyeing him, she looked amused, joking at his expense although not maliciously. "You are kind...like a woman." She meant no harm by it, but the accent and language made it hard for her humour to land well. 

She had not been expecting kindness, and it had thrown her. Gauging his reaction, she began speaking tentatively and slowly, but was prepared to shut the conversation down almost immediately based on his reaction. "I...was not...supposed to be a slave." She watched him, "The Romans...you..." She pointed at him, "Got me wrong...they were wrong, and..." She stopped herself. She wanted to say 'and I am going to go home soon' but thought better of it. 

 

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Yeah... if she met Antonia, Teutus didn't think that the complicated situation of his own status would remain much of a mystery for very long. Though perhaps the language difference would be a bar to Antonia's explaining just how complicated that situation was. Perhaps here lay the answer to Tertius' quandary about someone to care for Antonia properly?

Though, really, a half-tame barbarian who struggled with Latin might not be the best choice!

Kind like a woman? Teutus' eyebrows went up at that. If it was meant to be a compliment, well, the British had some peculiar views on the place of women. And if it was not a compliment... What else was it supposed to be? Best ignored, either way.

'The Romans' - the soldiers who captured her? As for 'not supposed to be a slave' - welcome to the club, Charis!

"Wrong, how?" he asked. The only people who were never supposed to end up as slaves were those who were born citizens; everyone else was fair game, which was precisely how he had ended up in that situation, and still was.

He was his master's son by a slave woman, and just because the paterfamilias had decided he should take his mother's status...Tertius had made promises, many of them, about freeing and adopting him, but he'd not seen those promises kept, and wasn't about to hold his breath till they were.

"If you have finished, shall I show you around?" he said. Anything was better than taking up room in the kitchen - anyway, best she was kept away from potential weapons for now. Just in case.

 

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"Wrong..." She hesitated, trying to find the words. "They had...bad knowledge. They thought we, husband...me...we were doing bad things." Of course she wouldn't have put it past Immin to be covertly involved in something, but she would have expected to know about it herself if he had. The idea that they were leading a great crusade against their oppressors was laughable to her. "I...did not deserve this." She said, with frustration in her voice.

She wanted to say more, but realised the futility of it. Her concept of why she had been brought here was flawed - although she remained unaware, as was her general knowledge of what was expected of her now. Whilst her Latin had improved on the journey from the feeble grasp she had had before, it was still poor and most of what the Romans had said had passed her by. 

Nodding, she stood and gesturing with a hand, offered a grin. "You first." She really had no sense of what a Roman household was like, but from what she had gleaned so far it was wildly different to her own with her family. Fanning herself with her hand as she walked, her cheeks flushing, she wondered if she'd ever get used to the heat. "It's so warm..." she mumbled, more to herself than him. Even in the relative shade and coolness of the house, she felt as if she had been placed in a brick oven. Following him out of the kitchen, she glanced around with a newfound appreciation. She had been so downcast when brought here, she hadn't noticed it's beauty as a place (or...beauty at least for her given her previous background). With an amused grin, she eyed him. "He is rich? Man who...owns this? Owns us?Being forthright had always been in her nature. 

 

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"Bring your water," Teutus said, indicating the earthenware beaker of water he'd given her, and shrugged, turning to lead the way out of the kitchen.

"This is where we sleep," he said, pulling aside a curtain to another room, with straw pallets arranged neatly. "You sleep here," he said, indicating one partway down the room. They could get more straw, if it was too lumpy for her, but how on earth did you convey that to someone barely able to ask your name?

It was warm, too - though it would be far hotter out in direct sun. He supposed it must be truly cold in Britannia - did they have summer there, even?

"Our master is Tertius Quinctilius Varus," he said, enunciating the name which would probably be so much gibberish otherwise. "Yes, he is rich - a senator."

Jupiter! How do I explain this?!

He sighed, bent down and 'drew' an invisible triangle on the floor between them, merely sketching the lines on the floor with a fingertip. Indicating the top point, he said, "The Emperor - Imperator Quintus Flavius Alexander Augustus Caesar."

A little further down, "Senators, like our master. Then the equestrians. Then the plebeians. Then the peregrini - free foreigners. Free not-Romans.  Then the freedmen. Then the servi - the slaves, us." He indicated Charis and himself.

 

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Charis peered in, miming horrified shock on her face, "Men...women...together...alone?" She arched a brow. It was obviously not uncommon, and certainly wasn't in Britannia, but she had heard the Romans had different morals and sticking men and women together in a confined space seemed like a recipe for disaster, if that was what he was suggesting. No wonder they had slaves born of slaves.

"Sen..a..tor." She mouthed it out, trying to get the enunciation right. She had no idea what it meant. Had she been from higher stock in her homeland she might have had an inkling, but a smith's daughter, even one with intelligence and enterprising acumen? No chance. 

Watching him draw out his triangle, she couldn't help but grin. He was trying, at least, and she couldn't fault his persistence. Kneeling down so she was next to the invisible lines, slender fingers traced the areas he pointed to. She suspected she needed no knowledge of those other than her master if she was to be confined to cooking and cleaning and housework, but she moved two fingers between the freedmen and servi portions, looking up at him from her position on the floor. "We can't..." She gestured an upward trajectory from the slaves to the freemen, "Move up? Be them?" We can't be free, can we? 

Feeling frustrated at the language and the lesson, she sighed heavily. Glancing up at him with wide blue eyes, but an almost impatient look, she shrugged her shoulders. "What is next lesson, Teutus?"

 

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Why don't you speak Latin like any civilised person can? Teutus thought, though he kept his expression neutral, as he had had years of practise at doing. He should probably have used the word 'patrician' but introducing that word now would only muddy the waters further.

And it was perfectly possible to move up the pyramid - Teutus himself hoped to make the astonishing leap to senator's legitimate son, maybe, maybe be able to hold political office, which would surely require Caesar's intervention to allow -but right now, just getting his promised freedom was a slender hope. If Tertius wanted his son to be able to follow him, he'd have to do it soon or Teutus would be fighting to get anything done at the age allowed.

But Teutus was a special case. The young woman kneeling on the floor was far more typical and would have a far more typical story.

"Master gives money - small money, little money - to us, every week. pecūlium. To save, or spend. You save, after long time, you buy... yourself. You will be freedwoman." He tapped the level up from the servi portion of his invisible diagram.

Minerva, when did I start speaking such bad Latin?!

"What do you want to know next?" he asked, being very careful to use correct Latin; she would never learn to speak properly if everyone merely imitated her own poor Latin grammar back to her.

I suppose showing the rest of the house might be a good place to start...

 

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She narrowed her eyes at him, intrigued. "How much is little money?" Before she shook her head and waved a hand dismissively, "It does not matter." She didn't understand their currency properly anyway. Immin always handled the money when dealing with Romans, even if it was her that pulled the strings behind the scenes. 

Standing up and brushing down her tunica, she moved to place her hands on her hips. What did she want to know? How to learn their impossible language quickly, for a start, but she thought it beyond her comprehension to ask. With a shrug, she pointed out of the space they were occupying to the rest of the house, and began confidently walking, not waiting for him to lead her. 

"Where else in this house." The rest of the house, she meant to say, but it came out stilted...and wrong. As they walked, she looked up at him with narrowed gaze. "And about master...what I should not do...and what I should..." She added for good measure, "And about you...Teutus." She butchered the pronunciation of his name, but the meaning was there. If she was to live amongst these people, these foreigners, it would serve her well to know who they really were. Besides, he'd shown kindness. It was only polite to pay him interest. "You like your life?" She pointed at him, "Happy?"

 

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"Few asses. Maybe sesterce." He'd have to teach her that too, wouldn't he, judging by the blank look and then the dismissive motion of her hand.

"Master... does not like..." Tertius did not like a lot of things, of course. Probably top of his list would be "Rudeness. And mistake, once, fine." He shrugged. "Same mistake, and same again, and again..." He shook his head. Please be a quick learner, for everyone's sake.

"This, is all the slave quarters," he said. She would see the difference the moment they passed through the curtain to the main part of the house, with its painted walls and mosaic floors. The slave quarters were plain, with whitewashed walls and flagged floors. He swept the curtain aside, unable to resist the tiny act of drama at the reveal - it was fine, the master would be out at this hour, at the baths or somewhere, attended by Hector.

"My life is... complicated." He sighed. "The master is my father, Antonia Varia is my sister. Her mother was free, my mother was a slave."

 

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As he swept back the curtain, her eyes widened. She didn't hesitate, even a little, as she stepped through - confidently walking to admire the beauty of it. It was unlike anything she had seen before. Grinning, she arched a brow at him over her shoulder. "Master's...very rich." to have this sort of house, at least to her. Why one man needed such opulence, however, she didn't know. Maybe it was so for men that no longer fought - the need to show off in other ways than battle prowess, with slaves and riches instead. 

The thought made her uncomfortable. 

Still, moving to lean against a pillar as the conversation continued and the heat got the better of her, her eyes widened. "He...keeps his son as slave?" She must have looked horrified, but she was in equal measure angry. What sort of parent cast their child into a life of constant servitude? Maybe for a Roman it was commonplace, but as a woman who had only recently lost her own child, the thought of it made her nauseous. 

Shaking her head, she eyed him firmly and spoke in Latin with renewed confidence. "He's a bad man. To do this." She gestured to him, and then another thought struck her, one that made her even more uncomfortable. "He has more children? With slave?" Almost instinctively, she wrapped her arms around her waist, as if shielding herself from the suggestion, all the while muttering under her breath; "Bad man."

 

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"The child of a free mother is free, the child of a slave mother is a slave," Teutus said, with a sigh. This complicated sort of life was all he'd ever known, He had the assurance that he would one day be free, but there was no date for that set in stone, only assurances that it would be soon.

"It's the law. And no, no other children. Only me, and Antonia. I was born before he married Antonia's mother, and she died."

Tertius was not a bad man. A slightly awkward, contradictory sort of man, but not a bad man. He lived within the constraints of his society, as they all did. "I think... I think he would have liked me free, but his father, the paterfamilias..."

Oh, Juno, help!

"When a baby is born in a house, any baby, they lay it at the feet of the paterfamilias. If he picks the baby up, it is free. If he does not, it is slave. The paterfamilias is the... head, the chief, of the family." Theoretically, it meant that the paterfamilias could declare a slave's baby to be free, but Teutus was unaware of any instances where that had happened.

He could wish it had, just once.

"Shall I show you the house?" he asked, thinking it would probably be wise to change the subject - he couldn't explain why things were as they were, only explain that they were as they were.

 

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Charis sighed a relieved breath that he did not have a litter of bastards around. Whilst her new position was untenable to her, the suggestion that she could have been sold into a brothel or ludus had been petrifying on her journey. At least here she was presumably free of the advances of men, even if she thought her master’s actions cold-hearted or bad. 

Unable to follow Teutus’ explanation she shook her head weakly. It was something about children and feet? He is making a fool of me, a joke? With a frown she shrugged, “I do not know...the words.” Why are you talking so quickly? Of course I can’t bloody understand.

But she was relieved the conversation had changed track. For now she just felt frustrated, but in time she might be able to understand the complexities of his words. With a nod at his suggestion she continued to walk through the house, fingers trailing over the ornate paint on the walls and eyeing the housewares proudly on display.

“The best room?” No, that isn’t right, “Your f-favourite? Room?” Charis, in her life as Erea, had always enjoyed gardens; the planting and planning of them. She didn’t even know if this home had one. “You start,” She gestured for him to go first and lead, sipping from her water, “Son-Slave Teutus.” She added the epithet to add some levity, and only realised after she hoped it didn’t sound cruel. 

 

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"It's not a room, really," Teutus said, and led her down a short corridor to a folding door, which he opened. "The garden."

It was the usual sort of garden to be found in a Roman town-house, surrounded on four sides by the peristylium with other rooms opening off it, and with statues of various gods and mythological creatures here and there.

He had noticed her blank expression as he attempted to explain the tollere liberos, the ritual taking up of a new baby, but did not really feel like trying to explain it again unless she asked him to. "I'm sorry - if you want me to slow down, or say something again, tell me. Or if you want to ask a question."

He merely shrugged at the epithet; he'd heard that, and worse, from people for almost as long as he could remember.

 

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Charis smiled genuinely for what was possibly the first time since she had been taken from the village. It was a grin of pure pleasure that stretched across her face as she took in its beauty. Instinctively, she reached out to touch some of the flowering plants. "So lovely." She said, in appreciation, and glanced back over to him. "We are allowed here?" She could probably spend an entire day here, sitting and looking at the flowers and herbs, and deciphering the idols that littered it. 

Basking in being somewhere that felt like home, she felt herself relax. She hadn't realised she had been on edge, but here, now, she felt her shoulders lose some of their tightness and drop, and her breaths became longer. Nature had that effect on her, and to be walled into a kitchen to work sounded like torture for her. 

Glancing at him, she offered a smile. "You have been good." Helpful, what is the Latin for helpful? "Thank you...Teutus." Without a prompt she moved to take a seat on one of the benches placed there. The heat was still oppressive but the breeze in the little courtyard was a welcome relief. "It was joke...slave-son." She offered with a little smile of apology, "I miss jokes...laughter...I hope," This was probably a stretch, "We friends...soon." Company had been poor on the journey, as was to be expected and in the weeks she had spent in the cage and on the road, she had contemplated that one of the most acute losses she felt was that of the loss of her friends, her family. Of being alone. 

"What does you do?" She said, sounding out the words hesitantly, "If I cook and clean...what do you do?"

 

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"Yes, but not when we are supposed to be working, and not when the master is here, unless he sends for us," Teutus said, careful to speak slowly so that she would have the best possible chance to understand him. "Good? I have helped - I have been helpful." Or informative, maybe. Oh Minerva, goddess of wisdom, help me understand what she means with her bad Latin!

"I would like to be friends," he said, sitting down beside her, careful not to sit too close; who knew what the British might find offensive or over- familiar, after all. Whether their friendship would last or not, thanks to his anomalous position, remained to be seen. But friendly, at least... he hoped they could remain friendly.

"What do you do," he said, repeating her question in correct Latin, confirming her own correction. "I run errands, I look after Antonia, sometimes I take her out if she wants to go somewhere. I help in the house, I serve at meals." He shrugged. "Sometimes I attend my father - the master - if he wants someone to go with him when he goes somewhere. He usually takes Hector - his body-slave." He leaned back. "A body-slave is... a personal slave, just to help the master, or the mistress."

@Sara

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Charis smiles as he joined her. Including her head, she repeated affirmatively; “Friends.” He could only be a few years older than her at most, she guessed by looking at him, whereas some of the other slaves she had encountered seemed to take dislike or offence at her youth and inexperience. 

Nonetheless, she frowned at him, concentrating heavily. “It is hard? To look after sister?” When she has everything, and you have nothing. She kept the latter thought internal. She didn’t know how he could stomach it; serving and being owned by a family that should by right be his own. But it spoke volumes to her, and slightly unnerved the young Briton that there must be a reason. She had heard whispers of the punishments inflicted on slaves, whilst on her journey here. She supposed it was a fool’s game to try and influence or directly oppose a master, especially when it was over something as personal as inheritance and family, when the stakes were so high. She only hoped her new Domine would be more understanding of her own predicament. She was completely oblivious to the fact that for the man that now owned her, and the slaves she worked with, her story was the same as hundreds of others, and equally unimportant. 

Stifling a yawn, she glanced across at him, trying to lighten her mood. “As friend,” She started with mischief in her voice, “Tell me something you would not say other slaves...secrets I should know.” Whether about the master or the house, or even Teutus himself, she didn’t care. She was craving knowledge. She felt like she had been thrust into a room only to have all of the sconces put out on her, and she was desperately trying to find her way in the dark.

 

TAG: @Sharpie

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"Hard, to look after my sister? You mean because she is free and I am not, I suppose." He rested his elbows on his knees and let his loosely-clasped hands hang between them. "No - it is all I have known."

He turned to look at her. "You have known freedom. I have not, how can I miss what I have not known?" Yearn for it, yes, but only because it had been promised, so many times. One day, Teutus, I promise, we'll have that ceremony and I'll adopt you. One day...

He was growing stupidly morose. What was it about this woman that was making him think about these things that he tried not to think about? And then she spoke, sounding mischievous, light-hearted. Tell her something he would not say to the other slaves, a secret she should know.

It wasn't as though he really talked to the other slaves, particularly. For them, the master's 'one day' was far more concrete than it was for Teutus. Far more definite.

"I don't really have secrets," he confessed, with a shrug, before fishing out the leather thong he wore round his neck. Many slaves wore a small tablet with their owner's name on, or some sort of collar proclaiming their status, but all Teutus wore was a stone, a natural pebble with a hole right through it, through which the cord was laced.

"My mother gave it to me, I don't know where she found it, but she said that if you find a stone with a hole in, keep it because it's lucky."

 

@Sara

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She smiled broadly as he fished out the stone, eyeing it with appreciation. She had to restrain herself from moving to touch it. "It is lovely." She affirmed, "And we say it is lucky also...the stone with hole." She added with an inclination of her head, "But it has not brought you to luck yet." It was more of a statement than a question. If he had luck from his talisman, he wouldn't be sat talking about their lives as slaves, would he? 

Extending her wrist, and deciding to share her own secret, her other hand played over the small leather bracelet. "My own luck. My husband, Immin, made it." She smiled at the memory. It had been just after they were married. It was depressing to think it was now the most precious thing she owned, when before it had gone unnoticed, almost forgotten on her arm. 

"I do not know what happened to Immin." She said, without prompting. She had been given very few opportunities to talk about it, what had happened. It was cathartic in a way. "I think he dead. He is dead." She corrected, shaking her head. "My sister and mother...I think slaves, my mother definitely...they took her before me." A thought occurred to her, and she peered curiously at him. "How would find them? If they are in Rome?" 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

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