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Teutus wasn't staring at the floor, things weren't quite as bad as that. He did have his eyes lowered; he found that looking at the belt-buckle of the citizen he was addressing was more than sufficient in most cases.

It wasn't his father's job to remember the errands he set his slaves, it was theirs to remember, and carry them out, or so Teutus had learned. And when Charis spoke up again, he made a mental note to explain - gently, more gently than the master would - just what was expected of a slave when it came to their behaviour around the free, and specifically, around the master of the house.

"I think that all this is very new to her, Domine, and she is finding it hard. But I think that she wants to learn and is trying her best, Domine. I will keep helping her, with your permission?"

Please, Minerva, may I be right - or right enough.

 

@Sara @Atrice

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So Charis had already met Teutus, before she had a proper chance to meet her master. Tertius wasn’t sure if he thought that good or bad. It was of course good that Teutus would show her around and teach her more Latin, he had already thought Teutus could teach her, but… he feared Teutus would not give her the proper picture of life here. He would only tell her his side of things and he was in a weird position because Tertius was his father. Teutus was no ordinary slave. And Charis… was Tertius’ slave. He wanted her to at least try to like him.

Teutus told Tertius what he thought; that it was new to her, she found her new life hard, but wanted to learn. And Teutus wanted to teach her.

“It may be new, but it is what it is.” Tertius said and considered the idea of Teutus teaching her more. He had thought of it, but that’s before he knew they’d already met and before Teutus made it sound like it was all his idea. Gods.

“Of course you know how everything is done in our house. So you will be a good tutor. She’s young, so I hope it won’t take too long before she learns.” He considered saying that Teutus shouldn't let her forget what she was and who he was. That Teutus would be free one day. And you wouldn't know if Charis would be, since Tertius had no habit of freeing his slaves.

@Sara @Sharpie

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Well, it was hardly Teutus' fault if he'd found her on her own with nobody else to look after her, and had the time to step in and start talking to her.

"Yes, Domine," he said, neutrally, trying not to think of the awkward position he had in the house. He'd help her, as much as he could, but he'd have to try to encourage her to make friends with the others - Hector probably wouldn't, but then, Hector had very little time to spend with the rest of them because he was almost always in attendance on the master.

"I'm sure she will learn quickly, Domine." If she isn't scared out of her life by some of the things you do and some of the things she's heard about how the Romans treat their slaves.

She had begun to trust him, at least a little. He could only hope it would last. He glanced at her quickly, and gave her a reassuring smile, though whether or not she saw it was another matter.

@Sara @Atrice

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It was an uncomfortable feeling, to have others talking about you and feeling unable to step in yourself. Still, at least Teutus' review of her capabilities wasn't horrific. It was a little concerning, that he admitted she was finding it difficult - that won't land her in very good stead, will it? - but it was at least honest. As Tertius interjected that he hoped she'd be a fast learner, she swallowed. She hoped so too. The slave market had been humiliating. She did not want to go back there. Least of all because there had been a suggestion with her face, she'd sell well to a brothel. The thought made her shudder. 

As Teutus agreed that she would be quick, she cast a quick glance up at him and reciprocated his smile with one of her own - broad and appreciative. Even if she did find his mannerisms and his aloofness a little perturbing, he had at least made an effort with her. That much could not be said for the other slaves. Then again, she had hardly been in the mood to socialise.  

Not daring to raise her eyes to Tertius and instead dropping them back down from her glance at Teutus, she only nodded silently, assenting that she would be quick. This was a conversation without her know, she supposed, but she felt the need to agree verbally - to remind her master that she was still present. "I will be quick, Domine." She thought it safe, and not impudent to add; "T-thank you...Domine...for chance to...prove myself." She certainly didn't feel particularly grateful, but if that would please him and give her respite from having to do this again any time soon, then it was all to the better.

 

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Teutus replied shortly and simply to Tertius’ words. Well nothing more was needed, was it? A slave wasn’t meant to discuss his master’s words or question them. He was simply meant to follow them – and Teutus knew this. It would be strange the day that Teutus was no longer a slave. At least Tertius would still have the others. It was true Charis might not run into Hector much, at least not just the two of them. Hector was Tertius’ own and personal slave. Right now he was taking a rest in Tertius’ bed, but he would be here when Tertius wanted or needed him for something. That’s how it worked.

The two slaves glanced at each other, gave each other a smile and Tertius wondered if they had been discussing him and what they said. At some point he’d have to question Teutus about what Charis said about her new master. Tertius hadn’t been cruel, had he? He didn’t think so. It wasn’t his fault she was a slave now, after all, but she was there to be purchased and at least he got her away from the market. It wasn’t all bad.

Charis had been quiet the whole time, but now she promised she’d be a quick learner and she even thanked him for the chance to prove herself.

“Of course, everyone should have at least one chance.” And they had already discussed how she would not disappoint him, so he hoped she would not. Teutus said she found it hard though and he didn’t know if he could make it easier, “Charis, try and consider this a new start in your life. The past is the past and this is your life now. And we must all make the best out of the life that is given to us. Isn’t that right Teutus?” Everyone, from slaves and to the imperial family, had their own issues and they’d either deal with them or fail.

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"Yes, Domine," Teutus said. Naturally, his father had never had to deal with this particular 'new start in life' - why would he, after all, a Roman citizen, a senator, even.

Teutus himself couldn't imagine going from being a free person to being a slave, at someone else's beck and call, unable even to call their own body their own. Charis had likely never expected to end up in this position, and to just have to deal with it... Was it any wonder that she was struggling, really?

Teutus had been making the best of his life for as long as he knew; it was only once Tertius' wife died that his master had started talking about freeing Teutus and adopting him, and nine years of that had left Teutus somewhat jaded. Trying to make the best of your life when you no longer knew which way was up - he could empathise with Charis, although her situation was a lot simpler than his own.

How to explain Tertius' foibles of character to her without sounding disloyal - he did not want to sound disloyal, or say anything that might be construed that way. Who knew what tales a jealous fellow slave might carry to the master, and thereby jeopardise Teutus' future - it was a future, at least, however uncertain.

"Shall I wait outside until you have finished speaking with Charis, Domine?" he asked, aware that he had interrupted something.

@Sara @Atrice

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Charis nodded, although her reactions were muted. She felt downcast. "Yes Domine...New start in life." She wanted to tell him that this particular new start was a considerable step down for her; a free woman with a loving family, a husband, a child on the way and a thriving business - to somebody that could not even raise their eyes unless summoned to. Would he even care, if she did? He hadn't asked her at all about her life before she had arrived, although she supposed with sadness, that it was incidental, and he didn't need to care. She was Charis to him - the young, new slave. She wasn't Erea, the daughter, wife and business woman. 

As Teutus spoke again, she cast a concerned glance towards him. She did not want him to go - not because she was afraid of Tertius, whilst he made her uncomfortable, she wasn't afraid, but she didn't want to be left alone because at least her young slave peer had given her a bit of a steer with how to act. She would just copy him, and then she could avoid her Dominus' wrath. If she was left alone again, who knew what she'd say wrong? 

Still occasionally glancing at Teutus, she cleared her throat but her voice was quiet, muted - as if the life had been taken out of her by this very interaction. Which she supposed was partly true. The recovery from the journey and tiredness had an equal part, however. "I... go too, if you want it, Domine?" She didn't want to presume, of course, and she regretted asking the second the words had left her mouth. 

 

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The reply Teutus gave him was very short. He just agreed, that was it. He wasn’t going to elaborate or anything? That’s what Tertius had hoped for, but clearly it wasn’t happening.      Well he did what he could to be kind to Charis, although at the same time trying to show and tell her, that he was her master and she had to do what he said. It didn’t matter that she was an adult, that she’d been free before. She was a slave now and this was her presence. Honestly his best advice for her would be to just forget her former life; that would make this life here easier for her. But he didn’t say that out loud, because he doubted she’d agree.

Charis just mimicked his words too, stating that it was a new start in life. Gods, would it have to be so difficult, even with a new slave? As if slaves who’d been slaves for a while weren’t sometimes trouble, a new one had to be the same. He didn’t want her to just nod and agree. He wanted her to consider it all, take it to heart, live it, not just say it. Well, hopefully she would adjust soon.

Teutus now wondered if he should go and wait until Tertius was finished with Charis. And Charis wondered if she could go too. It was true, this situation was turning awkward. Better just end it.

“If you have no further questions or anything else, you’re free to go and carry on with your work. I really do hope you will adjust to this life soon.” Tertius said to her and then he looked at Teutus, “And that goes for you too, Teutus. You can take Charis to the kitchen. Then check in on Antonia and see what plans she has for the day.”

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His father was a conundrum sometimes. It wasn't always easy for Teutus to work out what he wanted, and if Teutus couldn't always get it right, how did he expect Charis to, when she was new, not just to this household, but to the whole status of being a slave? It wasn't as though Teutus could say that to his father, not without being considered impertinent, but it made him (again!) decide to do what he could to be a better master himself, when he got his freedom.

He might have the privilege of saying such things to his father one day, but today was not that day.

He wondered if the awkwardness was because of his interruption, or if it had been there to begin with. Probably it had been there to begin with; Tertius Quinctilius Varus was one of those who did not really foster ease in his presence.

"Yes, Domine." He paused. "When may I introduce Charis to Antonia, Domine? She will probably ask about her, what am I to say?"

 

@Sara @Atrice

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Charis glanced awkwardly between father and son for a moment. The physical similarity between them was striking, at least to her, but whereas she felt awkward - embarrassed in the presence of the father, Teutus was comforting. Or at least, as comforting as a man who was probably trying to keep his distance, could be. 

As Teritus allowed her leave to go, she inclined her head. "Thank you Domine." She took a step back, about to move to stand on the other side of the doorway to wait for Teutus, but she added; "I...hope I will." Did she? Did she really hope that she adjusted to this new life soon? She wanted to give herself a good slap and to tell herself to stop this ridiculous, meek little charade. But she couldn't. She needed to get into his good books - and if this was how he wanted her; quiet and 'adjusted' to her position. So be it. It would serve a higher purpose for her, and whilst a proud woman - Charis was eminently sensible and practical. She could bite her tongue if it meant greater reward (and other, more impossible dreams) in the future. 

With a glance to Teutus she moved now to the other side of the door and out of Tertius' direct eye line. She knew her way back to the kitchens now, but he'd bid her wait to have his son take her - and she was intrigued by the young slave's question. The intriguing Antonia...when would she meet her?

 

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Charis would also have to learn she wasn’t here to voice her opinions – and Tertius did see how she looked between him and his son for a moment there. But at least she knew how to speak to him and gave him a nod of her head before she left. And she hoped she’d adjust. Yes, she better. It would be like Hades for them both if she didn’t. Tertius really did prefer obedient slaves, even if he didn’t mind a challenge. As long as it wasn’t too much of a challenge, like with that impossible gladiator he’d bought (and later sold) last year.

The new slave left and Teutus wondered when he could introduce Charis to Antonia… “You can tell Antonia that I’ve purchased a new slave, as replacement for our former kitchen slave Elena.” Elena, who had suddenly been with child and who grew very sick while pregnant. So sick that she passed away before the child was born. It was all very tragic. The child hadn’t even been Tertius’ – he never took Elena to his bed. He’d have to make sure Charis didn’t go sleeping around like the other slave had done… but he’d make sure she knew somehow.

“You can introduce them tomorrow. Charis may end up working with Antonia at some point.” Tertius explained to Teutus, “Now, I have work to do. Carry on with yours.”

@Sara @Sharpie

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"Yes, Domine." It was a clear dismissal, Teutus could not hang around after that without rousing his father's anger - and even as the master's son, he did not want to do that. Not every punishment left physical scars, after all, and he was supposed to set an example to every other slave in the house of what perfect obedience looked like from the perfect slave. He withdrew, waiting outside the tablinum in the atrium to see whether Charis would join him and want to continue talking with him, or whether she had too much to deal with.

He wondered what Charis and Antonia would make of each other, and had to hide a smile at the thought that Antonia Varia, with her bright copper-coloured hair, probably looked more British than the small dark-haired Charis.

 

@Sara @Atrice

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Glancing up as another figure approached, she was relieved to see it was Teutus. Offering a wavering smile, she gestured with a jerk of her head for them to step away from earshot and Tertius. She knew Rhoda would be expecting her, and she needed to return - but she was intrigued. She couldn't tell, almost at all how that meeting had gone, and she already valued - at least a little bit - her young slave companion's perspective. 

Keeping her voice quiet, so as not to disturb her Dominus, just the other side of the door, she eyed her company. "It went...fine." She confirmed, "I...do not know if he happy or not." He was almost impossible to read, she deduced. Almost the exact opposite of herself - she had been told that her big blue eyes had rarely hidden her emotions well. It was a crying shame, given her new profession, that she should be such an open book when so much of her day to day life now would be feigning meekness and subservience. 

"I have to go back to kitchens...Rhoda does not like me." She rolled her eyes, "Do...you think Dominus like me? He..." She cast a glance over her shoulder, to ensure he was not waiting for her, or listening in - but lowered her voice further nonetheless, just in case. "Is hard...I can not tell...but...it is good he wants me introduce to his daughter." Surely he would not do something like that if he was displeased with her? Surely she'd be on her way back to the slave market if she was that appalling?

 

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Charis may have a couple of quick words with Teutus before she dashes back to miserable Rhoda in the kitchens...

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"Rhoda is still... upset, about Elena," Teutus said. "Show an interest in what she does, she will like you. She likes talking about her cooking and showing how to do things." Rhoda was easier to read by far than Tertius - even Teutus would agree that the master was a hard person to read.

"He likes his slaves to be polite... to know their place." He leaned down, lowering his voice. "Or look like it, anyway. What you say in here," he tapped a finger against her head, "don't let him see it on your face, and don't say it where he can hear."

She would probably find it hard to learn the blank expression that nearly all slaves could assume, the one that they employed to hide what they were thinking, to blend into the background and be the instrumentum vocale that masters thought their slaves were. "You need to learn, this," he said, making sure she was looking at him, and demonstrated it.

"He won't know what you're thinking, and will think you're a good slave," he said, his face coming back to life. "It's a trick, that's all." He smiled. "I think you'll like Antonia - I think she will like you."

 

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Charis blinked, with an irritated frown and gritted jaw as he tapped her head. Little git, who does he think he is? She tutted internally, but nonetheless watched him. With an eye roll, she moved a few paces further away from the tablinum. "You can read face...my face like you can see from eyes." She wasn't explaining herself well and shook her head, "You see what I am thinking...always been problem." Her eyes had always belied her emotion and she'd always cursed them for it. Maybe it was a good thing she wasn't allowed to look up, after all? 

Still, she watched with a little bit of amusement and awe as his face lost its animation. It was an evidently a skill she'd have to practice. 

At the mention of Antonia, she glanced up at him with genuine pleasure. "Looking forward to her...meeting." She'd always been good with children. It made what had happened on the journey even harder, but then she couldn't stomach the thought of bringing a babe into this life. Maybe it was for the best, she thought with a sad shudder. Glancing over her shoulder again to make sure Tertius was not watching or listening, she offered a sarcastic roll of her eyes to her company and moved again, on her way back to the kitchens. "He seem angry...at you coming in." It was obvious; as hard as the man was to read, that had been plain to see at least. "It was fine...then you come in." That was a joke, although with her stuttered Latin she wasn't sure it came across well. 

"He said I get reward, if I good...day off, more money." She rolled her eyes again, in an irritable mood. Something about the man had rubbed her up the wrong way. "Very generous." 

 

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"I don't know why he gets like that," Teutus said, glad to have some distance between them and the tablinum. Well, no, that wasn't really true - but it wasn't as though he could tell Charis 'he's jealous' when he didn't know quite why Tertius should be jealous.

He tried not to smile at her sarcasm. Tertius was one of those who thought he was a good kind and benevolent master... and yet persisted in being hard to read. He didn't quite set impossible demands, but they certainly weren't always easy.

"I'm sorry, I would have waited if I thought he'd scare you," he said. "And... here. You don't have to stare at the floor all the time. Just... no higher than..." he shrugged, thinking, and indicated his chest. "He doesn't like it when slaves look at his face, because it's like they think they're the same level." He gestured, to demonstrate his explanation. "And we're not citizens, we're not the same. And he's a senator, too, so..."

If Charis' face really were as transparent as she thought, keeping her eyes down must help her hide her emotions. It would be better if she weren't the sort who showed her emotions readily, but she seemed to be. Teutus thought that she was also the sort of person who was easily intimidated, and hoped that he was wrong. Though Tertius thought he preferred his slaves meek, too much of it could also annoy him.

His father was just impossible, sometimes - even Teutus could admit that, thought never in his hearing, of course!

"Antonia is... She knows who she is," he said. "But she hasn't had a woman, not really. If you can talk about the things she likes, she'll like you."

 

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Charis arched a brow at him at his explanation and lowered her eyes to his chest. "Better." She smirked and flicked her eyes back up, "My neck not hurt looking here...when looking at floor..." She raised her hand and pulled the muscle next to her neck, making it click. "Painful." The whole charade of having to look away in any capacity was ridiculous to  her, but she didn't particularly want his fingers on her face again and so supposed this was just something else she had to endure. Inside, however, she was cursing. 

Laughing at his description of Antonia, she moved a hand to her hip and regarded him. "Then you need tell me what she likes so she like me, hmm?" She wanted to make a good impression with the little girl, she needed  to make good impression. Anything to give her opportunities outside of the kitchen. 

Speaking of which, she glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the culina where she knew Rhoda was preparing for the evening meal. The first one Charis would help with. "I need...to go," She looked back at him but sighed, reticent to ask but needing to. "But I something have to ask of you..." She winced, but looked hopeful, "I need practice Latin...I need to better." And quickly, before her confusion or nonsensical sentences raised the ire of the other slaves or her Dominus. 

"Can...you have time to teach me, maybe? In evenings?"

 

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"I'm sorry, it... just is." Even freedmen required the same sort of thing of their slaves, when they'd been slaves themselves and knew what it felt like. "I will - but you can talk, oh, girl's things with her." Things that confused and puzzled and bored Teutus.

He smiled at her request. "Yes. You'll learn fast - a week, two weeks." Latin was such a regular language that once you knew how the verbs and nouns worked, you could work out those you'd never used before. The hardest part, really, was the vocabulary. She was a nice young woman, who didn't deserve what had happened to her - if Teutus could do anything to make it easier for her, he would.

"You'd better go. We can talk later."

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Charis rolled her eyes pointedly. "Girl things." She had no idea of what a Roman girl did or enjoyed. In Britannia she'd enjoyed nature and tending flowers and herbs, helping in the forge and managing the accounts. She  had no idea of cosmetics or hair...although she did suppose she knew men, and grinned at the memories of her early days with Immin.

As he agreed to help her, she smiled genuinely, broadly and moved to squeeze his hands in thanks. "Thank you." And she meant it. If she could get the hang of their language, her life would be easier, and it would make her next moves easier to plan. 

Glancing over her shoulder back to the kitchens, she nodded and released her grip on him. "Later...you better prepare good lesson." She arched a brow, amused and walked back confidently to the kitchen. The meeting with her Dominus had unnerved her, but at least there were others here she could lean on. As long as she could steer firmly clear of Tertius. 

 

 

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