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"Well, I belong to a rich master, and don't have to do all the work of the house, so it isn't so bad. And part of my work is looking after Antonia." Bright, mischievous, kind-hearted Antonia.

And then Charis showed him the bracelet she was wearing. It was leather, a worthless thing to anyone else but... "Your husband? I am sorry, Charis."

He reached for her hand, as a brother would. "How to find another slave, in Rome? Well, it is a big city, very big, very many slaves. So, you have to be clever. Maybe at the market, or with the slaves next door, you talk about it a little, with her name and your name, where you're from. Slaves gossip, and everyone likes a happy story."

There weren't many of those, of course, not really, but getting the slaves' rumour mill to work for you was half of the struggle over - it was far easier than combing the whole city for one slave, especially when there were so many foreign slaves here now.

"Patient, though. It might take time, and you can always look, at the market or wherever, if you're allowed to go shopping." Which, admittedly, she might not be, not a brand-new slave who'd never been to Rome - how could Tertius trust her not to be silly and try to run, after all?

"I will listen, and ask, and help - what is her name?"

 

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She flinched a little at his hand, but then smiled. It was something Turi used to do, grip her hand. She nodded at him, as if suggesting she follows his words. Market, slaves next door...gossip. Maybe not all was lost? Her mother had been taken some months before her and she had no idea of the fates of her sister or youngest brother. She hoped they had arrived back to the home, seen or been told what had happened, and run. But that was a hope. No doubt they had come back and reached the same fate as Charis herself. 

"My mother is Letinie...and was taken before me...my sister Ardra and little brother Turi...I do not know." She said their names with reverence, but sadness caught in her throat. "The rest..." She waved a hand with a sigh, "Husband...father...old brother..." After some hesitation, she decided not to mention the child. That was her private pain. She shook her head, "Gone." 

She knew some had it worse than her. Some of the stories of the men and women imprisoned and transported with her had been harrowing. But she still felt her grief acutely. Squeezing his hand gently, she offered a smile and took a deep breath, trying to banish the darkness from her mind. She didn't want to dwell, not now, not here and with company. "Thank you Teutus. Helpful, kind Teutus." She offered as a new epithet, repeating a word she had failed at before. You see? I'm a quick learner. 

Feeling awkward, as if she was a great raincloud - descending and drenching everybody with sadness, she stood up quickly and brushed herself down. "Sorry...the house? Domus?" She tried the Latin on for size. 

 

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NOTES: Feel free to wrap up if Teutus is bored of showing a miserable new slave around, but happy to keep going if you are!

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It might not come to anything,; it probably would not, if the truth were known, but there was a slim thread of hope, at least. Charis' story was all too common, though, the same heartbreaking separation from loved ones occurred all over the empire every day.

"All right, the house - yes, domus. A house like this in the town is a domus, a house in the country is a villa." He stood and brushed his tunic down before offering her a hand. "How long have you been learning Latin?" he asked, curious. She was not a native speaker, that was painfully obvious, but she had a good grasp on words, only let down occasionally by grammar, or a lack of vocabulary.

"I will tell you the name of the rooms, too - it will help. You might know some of them? This is the garden," he said, indicating the green space around them. "And the exedra," he added, gesturing to the secluded alcove with its marble bench.

 

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"Does Domine have villa?" She asked with the vaguest hint of excitement in her voice. She had missed the country; the fresh air and greenery did wonders for her health. Still, at his question, she smiled bashfully with a shrug. "Little while...we were...husband was a smith. Metalsmith." She knew that word at least, "We did trade...it was good to know language after you people came to Britannia." Not necessarily for trade purposes, but certainly for the convenience of day to day life. The Romans would no doubt be perturbed to learn just how much the little woman had picked up from their conversations. "I know number better than words...I counted a lot...sold a lot." Whilst her father and older brother had been the brawn behind their operation, Charis had most certainly been the brains. Without her acumen they would have gotten nowhere, and now that mind was being confined to cooking...she muttered a swear word under her breath at a the thought. 

Arching a brow at him she nodded, signifying she understood. "I know culina is kitchens...woman told me, here." She couldn't help the bitterness in her voice. The other slave had evidently been irritated by her presence; a new person to train, and one a fair amount younger than herself. She had used the word 'savage' as well, but Charis hadn't quite deduced what it meant. 

Walking back into the domus, she admired the world she now inhabited. Appreciatively she ran slender fingers over the art on the walls with a sigh. The colours were so vivid she felt like the images were living. Glancing back at Teutus, she inclined her head, "What next?" Which room was her next education on this little tour? There could surely be nowhere grander than this? Although even as that thought occurred to her she cast a concerned glance over her shoulder, as if watching for the second said Dominus would walk in. She barely remembered his face the interaction had been so fleeting. With a little smile, and without quite understanding the gravity of what she was saying, she asked a question as they walked; "Slave keeper said he would sell me to Ludus..." She watched for his reaction. "I do not know...what it is...this is better?"

 

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"This is much better," Teutus said. "A ludus is... A school, for gladiators, where they train."

Did they have gladiators in Britannia? Probably not.

"Here," he said, leading her to the triclinium. "This is where Dominus eats dinner in the evenings - he lies down to eat. And these are gladiators," he added, indicating the painting on the wall in here. "There are different sorts - this is a secutor, with the shield. And he fights a retiarius, with the net and trident, see?"

No doubt she would consider it all completely barbaric!

"It's a lot to take in, isn't it?" he said, watching her.

@Sara

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Charis frowned at him. She'd heard of gladiators, that they fought and died for the Romans sport. "Why sell women to ludus if it for gladiators?" She assumed only men could be one, before she realised what the probable fates of the women who went there was and she swallowed. 

She nodded and examined the room, a little in awe. As he gestured to the figures on the wall, she frowned and took a step back. This was sport to them? Watching forced fighting with men that couldn't say no? "They fight to death?" She asked, horrified. "And...they slaves? Like us?" She thought briefly to her brother, Turi. He had always been a strong young man, physically fit and they had always joked he must have been born by the Gods - he had towered over his diminutive sister. She had no idea what had happened to him, whether he had been captured or sold or if he remained in Britannia. If it was the former, what if he had been sold into a ludus himself? She wrapped her arms around herself, upset. "Why do enjoy..." She shook her head, "Why do Romans enjoy it?"

She moved away from him, feeling overwhelmed and moved to sit on one of the klinai. She nodded mutely at his question, and looked up at him. "I...do not know if I can...do this..." She admitted. Maybe it was just the tiredness talking, or the images and vivid colours on the walls overwhelming her, or the fleeting discussion of her pain, but she felt troubled. And defeated. Blinking, she rubbed her face tiredly. "I cannot...live here...do this...I don't want to..."

 

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This had been a bad idea, a very bad idea. Charis dropped to sit on one of the couches, looking miserable and overwhelmed.

"No, usually not to the death," he said, which was no more than the truth - why waste all that time and training? "I don't know," he answered, replying to her question. His father enjoyed it, but then his father did a lot of things that Teutus didn't understand.

"You have to, you have to be strong, Charis," he added, dropping to his knees in front of her and taking her hands in his. "I don't think anybody wants to do this, but that's life - full of things we don't want to do. It gets better."

He hoped it would get better for her, at any rate. It wasn't all grim dark, after all.

 

@Sara

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She flinched a little at his hands on hers, and his proximity, but did not move away. He meant it out of kindness, she was sure. Glancing at him, but evidently not believing him she swallowed and willed herself not to cry. She was better than this, and it would not beat her. 

"I am strong." She asserted, but her voice was wavering. "But this...here..." She was losing patience trying to interpret her thoughts into their odd little language. Instead she let out a pained groan and took her hands from his, collapsing her face into them. She was about to sit up properly and ask what the likelihood would be, of her being able to be freed one day, but another voice interrupted her thoughts, and she whipped her face up to see the other woman - the one who had abandoned her in the kitchens alone, standing a little way off with her hand on her hip. 

"I've been looking for you! Where have you been?" The older woman eyed Teutus uneasily, and whilst her voice was not unkind, it was a bit exasperated. If Charis had been in a better mood she would have understood the woman's position - whose name she had yet to glean. After all, she was suddenly being presented a young, foreign woman with whom she'd have to work as well as taking on the burden of teaching her the meals she needed to prepare, and her role more generally. It was no surprise she was so cold. Charis mumbled as she spoke, still upset. "I...Teutus...showing me domus. You left me." She said it matter of factly, but there was a hint of accusation in her voice. She glanced to Teutus, as if looking for guidance. "Do I go with her? Or look at domus more?"

 

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"I know, I know," he said, willing her not to cry - he honestly wouldn't have the first idea what to do if she burst into tears on him. And then she tore her hands from his and hid her face in them and he thought for one awful moment that she had done exactly what he feared and burst into tears.

He stood up, and put a hand on Charis' shoulder to reassure her.

"I'm showing her the house, Rhoda. I found her in the kitchen on her own, confused as to what's expected of her, and I'm showing her round. I'll bring her back in a bit, but if she wasn't there when you wanted her, that's your own fault." Teutus didn't like pulling rank, on anyone, not when his own position was so nebulous, but really, what had Rhoda expected would happen?

"I think you should see the rest of the house, so that you know where everything is, and then I'll take you back to the kitchen. Don't mind Rhoda, she's not bad, not really."

 

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She glanced up at Teutus as he laid a hand on her, but found it reassuring. He was speaking quicker now, and whilst she followed most words it was not without concentration. She did, however, shoot a glare at the other woman. She understood a little that Rhoda must have been in a difficult position, and hadn't necessarily wanted the new slave in her company, but she surely just had to get on with it? 

She offered a small inclination of her head to him as Rhoda sighed and stalked back off where she had come from, only saying; "I need her back soon. We have work to do." as she left. Charis smiled timidly up at him and whispered under her breath; "Thank you." 

Wiping an errant tear from her eyes (she fortunately had stopped herself before a few single tears had become a great torrent), she glanced around the room. "Culina...domus...exedra..." She repeated the words she knew, and those he had taught her for the house. She frowned at him, trying to shake herself to act better, get it together Erea! "The room is?" She gestured around themselves, he hadn't told her the name of it. Her voice was still downcast as she spoke again, as was her expression. She half-heartedly pointed out of the room to another, a little way off. "What is that?" Which room is it, she meant, but at least she was trying with her Latin. 

 

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"Triclinium," Teutus said, gesturing around them, indicating the room they were in. "That is the tablinum - the master's study. Where the master works, and receives his clients... Oh, that bit doesn't matter," he said. He was trying to remember to speak slowly and clearly for her, but to explain one thing meant adding another concept that he would need to explain in turn.

"Come," he said, and led her out of the room. "Hortus, the garden." He led her to where the study was, one side overlooked where they were, the other opened to the atrium. "Tablinum." He smiled at her. "So many words - you're doing very well."

She might not always choose the right ending for the words, but that didn't matter when her overall meaning was clear. Grammar would come, in time, as she spent time around people who spoke Latin all the time.

"I would be very bad at learning British, I'm sure," he added, trying to make her feel better.

 

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"Tab-lin-oom." She repeated, unsure. She understood more than she could say, and not being able to get the accent or the perfect words was irritating. She rolled her eyes at his compliment. "I doing fine. Not well." She was only grateful that she had a natural aptitude for languages, and had picked up a fair bit of Latin in the years before her capture. If she had been forced into this completely without their language she wasn't sure how she'd cope. 

She did laugh though, at his suggestion he learnt her own language. She grinned, spirits lifted slightly. "I will teach you." She sounded out and hesitated at the words, but they seemed right. She shrugged her shoulders as she glanced into the Tablinum, eyes wide and exploring. It was too grand for her. "It will help...if I bad and you have other slave from Britannia to..." What was the word? "Re-replace me?" She didn't want to think about it, but she honestly had no sense of what life was like once you actually belonged to a household. Did you stay for your whole life? Or were sold when it became convenient, or you displeased your dominus? 

She also offered a wider grin and ran her fingers across the images on the walls, speaking over her shoulder; "And we have good swears...you say under your breath...dominus won't know."

 

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Teutus could just imagine swearing in British, at anyone or anything. The mental picture amused him; it might be fun to learn some swearwords he could employ when stressed.

"The other rooms... these are cubicula. Bedroom, cubiculum." It'd make sense for her to learn the plural as well as the singular word, surely - and she was doing pretty well; he could understand most of what she was saying, though between her accent and her grammar, he was having to concentrate.

"You have gods, in Britannia? You pray?" he asked, as they approached the lararium, and mentally castigated himself for allowing his own grammar to slip. She'd never improve her language skills beyond widening her vocabulary if everyone just spoke grammar as poor as her own. "If you need to pray, you can come here - the lararium, the household shrine."

Would she take advantage of the sacred area aroud it, if he explained that? He had no idea yet, and decided to wait a moment.

 

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She nodded, “Cubiculum.” And then continued under her breath, repeating the words he had taught her; “Hortus...T-Triclinium...Tablinum.” She was at least learning something. Even if it was just a smattering of extra words. She hated feeling incompetent, and she’d rarely felt it before now. It didn’t sit right with her. 

Glancing up at him with an arched brow, she nodded her head: “Yes we have Gods...we not savages.” She’d heaed that word thrown around at the slaves on the journey. But she eyed the lararium suspiciously. She had understood, since the occupation that there were similarities in their beliefs but the names of his Gods escaped her. They’d largely been left to their own devices, in her own village, to continue to pray to their own Gods and Goddesses and few had any real sense of the Roman religion outside of understanding it was as important to them, as their own religion was to the tribes of Britannia. 

Tentatively, she reached out to touch the shrine but glanced at him suspiciously before she did, and withdrew her hand. “I can come here...lararium...to speak to own Gods? Not yours?” Though she wasn’t convinced she would. She had always spoken to them outside, with the fresh earth beneath her feet. Then again, greenery seemed in short supply here.

 

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"I don't know where you speak to your gods," Teutus said. "If you need... sacred space... come here." He indicated the two bronze dancing figures. "The Lares, the... guardians, protectors, of the house." There were two lumps of stone that might have been heads of statues but were so weathered now that it was hard to tell. "The Penates... they guard the storeroom." Lastly he indicated the burning oil-lamp. "Vesta. She protects the hearth. The place where the fire is, for cooking," he added, trying to explain what must be yet another unfamiliar word. And there was simply no way that he felt qualified to explain the Genius, represented by the figure of a citizen in a toga, with one fold over its head the way a priest wore his when officiating at a sacrifice.

He indicated the floor, the white marble surrounding the small shrine for a space of maybe a metre and a half square. The white marble stood in stark contrast to the floor of the rest of the atrium. "This, here, is sacred space," he told her. "If you need, to pray to your gods, you can come here."

She might prefer the garden or just a private corner, of course, but he could at least make here aware that there was somewhere sacred in the house.

"I am sorry I am bad at explaining things, Charis," he said "I have never had to, before. You can ask, if there's something you don't understand."

He would attempt to explain it, anyway. Whether he would succeed was a different story , though.

 

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Charis eyed the space suspiciously nonetheless, as he takes her through it. She even went so far as to step out of the bounds of the white marble. She didn't know why, but it made her uncomfortable in here. And she sighed a little, thinking that she'd have to lose even more sleep to go outside to speak to her Gods whilst the garden was unoccupied. She didn't want to get a reputation for it, but she could use guidance now, above everything else. She'd have to make an offering to Senuna* tonight, and hope for the best. 

Still, as he disparaged himself, she reached a hand and tentatively touched his shoulder, shaking her head. "You not bad." She offered a warm smile, "You...patient. Most are not." Certainly those that had taken her on the journey had not been. "You never had Briton slave? Or slave not Roman?" She'd heard tales that the Romans had taken more people than could be imagined from across the narrow sea, surely she could not be his first non-Latin speaker? Or the first fresh slave in this household?

She moved out to of the shrine and wandered a little way away, looking over her shoulder at him for direction. "No more rooms?" What else could there be? Surely even this was too much for one man and his daughter...and the host of slaves he kept. She sighed a little, unwilling to end their tour. She didn't want to have to go back to Rhoda, although it occurred to her - in that instance, that perhaps she had misviewed the other woman's apathy. The person before her had died. That...was undoubtedly a loss that still hurt. "Girl...who was me...before me...what happened to her?" She glanced at Teutus, not sure if this was a sore subject or not, "You friends with her?"

 

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"I suppose..." He paused and looked at her. "The master bought you from the trader, didn't he? Is this your first house, your first household, in Rome?"

He had a suspicion it was, from all the curiosity and unfamiliarity with things that she had shown so far - every house had a lararium, and it had seemed the first time she had ever seen such a thing.

"Traders aren't patient, they don't have time to be." They had too many slaves passing through their hands to spend time teaching any single individual any Latin.

"No British slaves before you. Rhoda... came from Greece, I'm Roman." He shrugged. "The girl who was before you... she was pregnant." He indicated the roundness of a pregnant belly with one hand. "She lost the baby, when it was born, and didn't get better."

Charis was only young. She had mentioned a husband, and siblings, but no children. She may not have have carried a child, of course, but it could not be easy for anyone her age to hear that sort of story, however common it was to lose mother, or child, or both, in childbirth.

He had a confession of his own. "I'm... not really friends, with any of the slaves here. Because I'm the master's son."

 

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She nodded wearily; "First house...first house in Rome, first house not my own." Well...it had been a house she had shared with her husband, siblings and mother, but it had been her home nonetheless. This place, with its strange rooms and grandeur could never be her home, not properly, she was sure of it. And not just because she was to sleep on a straw pallet in a room with strangers, although the thought of that made her even more uncomfortable. 

She listened with patience as he spoke, although she had never been very good at masking her feelings, and her dismay must have been clear on her face. She had been fortunate, her loss had been painful and she had felt weak, but she had only been a few months along - enough that she was barely even showing when it had happened. The horrors of childbirth could, evidently, be so much worse. Silently, she shut her eyes and offered words of safe passage for the girl who had proceeded her, mumbling aloud to Teutus as she finished; "Poor girl...nobody...help her?" Were there not healers that could be sent for? She also cast a curious glance at her companion and added; "Dominus' baby?" Given how tightly regulated the household seemed to be, where else was the girl going to get with child?

She tried to shake off her feeling off discomfort. The conversation was bringing her back to memories she didn't wish to think of; the blood and the pain and the shock. She shook her head, as if to snap the image from her mind. "You must...be alone." She sighed, "You must be...lonely." she corrected herself. What is it with their stupid language? It was impossible. Glancing at Teutus she offered a small smile, but still felt downcast, as if she was weighted by the memories that were just beginning to resurface. Maybe that was what she could offer this household? She wasn't the best at cooking, and certainly didn't want to be here - but shed always been a naturally nurturing person, and wouldn't let somebody fall by the wayside, or isolate himself. "I here...for you now. I am here. No more lonely."

Gesturing around, she shrugged; "All rooms done? No more?"

 

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Teutus would look after her, as much as he could.

"No, not the master's baby." He shrugged. "Not mine, either."

He couldn't do that to anyone - bring a kid into this life, in this house?

"Medicus... there was nothing that anyone could do. We're not barbarians, of course we tried to save her." It was his opinion that she had just... given up, once she knew the baby was dead. She had decided she had nothing to live for, and just stopped living. If the truth were known, he didn't blame her for deciding that.

"I'm sorry," he added, obscurely. Charis was already feeling low, talk like that was not going to help her feel any better.  "Thank you," he added. The offer of companionship, even that of a slip of a British girl who was struggling with Latin, touched him, deeply. He would just have to keep it from the master, if he could - Tertius would no doubt be angry with him for it, though it was mostly Tertius' fault that nobody in the house particularly wanted to spend time with Teutus.

"All these are bedrooms," he said, indicating the other doors off the atrium. "Master's bedroom, Antonia's bedroom. The others are empty - spare. All done now." He smiled at her. "Try to... Try to help Rhoda, do what she says. She isn't so bad. If you can, learn what she knows. She will like you for being interested, and won't keep you always doing things for her where you don't like to be."

 

@Sara

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Charis blushed a little, embarrassed that she hadn't even considered that the child could be his. She didn't know what was...appropriate between slaves. She assumed, given what Teutus and the slave master had said, their lives were heavily regulated and she assumed that also meant intimacy. 

Nonetheless, she offered a wavering smile at her company with an inclination of her head. "Welcome..." How much her company meant to him, she wasn't sure, but she was desperate not to feel alone here - it was hideous enough as it was, throwing loneliness on top of everything else would surely just drive her mad? "I...may take while...to be best company." She'd been through a lot, not that she expected him to understand. But added, with a little shrug of her thin shoulders, "But I...taught you...teach you our games and swears, you be less alone." And in exchange, although it was unspoken, she hoped he'd continue these little lessons. She'd no doubt find them invaluable. 

Frowning, and trying to understand his words she nodded slowly. A little sad that the tour was over, she sighed heavily. "I try." She affirmed. How much the older woman would like her trying to help was another matter. She suspected, given the loss of the previous slave and her almost complete inability to cook food the Romans might find palatable, she wouldn't get very far with Rhoda. She would try though. 

Brushing back loose hair from her face she spun on her heel to the vague direction of the kitchen, but glancing over her shoulder she flashed a grin at her company. "Thank you Teutus." She spoke slowly, but with concentration on the words to make sure they were right. "Teutus the Kind. New name." She grinned again, although she didn't feel particularly joyous. He'd been helpful, moreso than anybody else and she appreciated it. "I see later." 

This would be bad, but at least she'd found somebody to make it slightly more...tolerable.

 

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Well, she seemed a little happier at least, though Teutus could hardly expect her to be overjoyed at her new situation in life. He wondered for a moment how the Roman way of life must seem to her. Confusing, he supposed, though doubtless her own way of life would be equally baffling to him.

"Charis," he said, and waited until she turned back to him. "If anyone gives you any trouble, or you need to ask questions and nobody else will answer them, talk to me, all right? I'll try to help, anyway."

Just how much help he could be remained to be seen, but he could try.

And he could bet that Antonia would have a million questions of her own to ask him.

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