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The smell of fried onions and cooking meat beckoned to Clio irresistibly. She had walked past the thermopolium a number of times over the past few weeks and nearly succumbed to its delicious aromas, but it was only now that she had the agency (and bravery) to actually become a customer. She was a faithful slave on a secret mission: to sample the wares of the Wolf-man. If they passed the taste test, she was to bring some back - discreetly - for her domina to try. If they didn't, she got a free meal out of it anyway.

From inside the shop the owner's voice boomed, and Clio trembled in anticipation. The shopkeeper's reputation preceded him, and it was not the first time Clio heard him ranting or complaining at one of his helpers, probably a slave who knew better than to argue back or really do anything but nod. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and approached the stall. It's for Domina, she told herself in a bid for courage. Clio had not dared to bring up the subject, but could this particular craving of her mistress's be caused by new life in her womb? Pregnant women were known for wanting all sorts of extraordinary foodstuffs, after all. On the other hand, it might just be due to wanting to try some tasty commoner food. Clio would reserve judgment until a later date, when things became clearer, before reporting this to her master.

"Hello," she greeted timidly, elbowing her way between two patrons, each busy with gorging himself on bread and meat. The smell was enough to make anyone's mouth water.

@Gothic

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"Come on, Gallus. You dumb fucking gaul... I'd send you to the mines if I had the sense!" Caius complained at Gallus. Silently Gallus said nothing. Once Caius was done with his anger it was soon gone once more. Gallus hurried to mix the spices into the flour, a secret recipe that Caius had mixed up and hurried his pace. It was busy, rarely there were moments when they would be enough quiet. Caius nearly didn't hear her. A pretty one between both of his regular patrons. He glanced towards his two daughters as they served the guests, Soraya was also serving and spending time with the guests, and it was up to him to serve the pretty and quiet one. He smiled at her, his eyes wrinkled as he did so and then pointed to his ear to encourage her to speak up. It was not always easy to hear, and he had a few issues with hearing. 

"Hello, you're going to have to speak up, love." He said, leaned in close and once one of the patrons noticed she was there. They leaned to one side so she could step closer to speak and give her some space. Caius leaned across the bench with deep bowls where some of the hot food waited for a hungry patron. There were all sorts of clients who came here. Slaves, freedmen, plebs, proles, lower ranked soldiers, and he hoped someday he would gain the attention of the nobility. Although his food was for the working man. The true Romans. 

"Now, what will I get ya?" Caius asked, wondered what she wanted and rested his hands on the surface of the bench. 

@Liv

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She was not the target of the shop owner's irritation, and still Clio couldn't help but flinch at the mention of the mines. They were a slave's worst nightmare, their mention more fear-inducing than Medusa's face. Many owners would insult their slaves; a few, like this one, would threaten them with promises of a terrible fate, but only a very small part of them actually made good on it, the gods be thanked. Perhaps this vendor was like the fire-spitting mountains to the south that Clio had heard of: troublesome , unpredictable and sometimes inclined to blow everything around them up, but also capable of great periods of rest between explosions. Looking at the scene around her, there was no doubt the man and his household would be stretched thin at times. 

Still, the man wore a kinder expression when he turned to her and requested she speak up. Of course the cacophony of voices and sounds would leave anyone a little hard of hearing if they had to deal with it day in and day out. That, and short on patience, probably, so she'd better hurry up and pick something from their selection. "I was sent by my masters to purchase your specialties," Clio started tentatively, smiling back at the vendor. "It seems like meat and cheese are popular with your patrons." She leaned forward a little, raising her voice - hopefully without sounding too shrill - as she looked at the plates of her bench neighbours. The meat looked juicy and tender, and an elderly man was going at it with such gusto that he even licked the juices dripping down his forearms. "I take it you have several kinds of each?"

@Gothic

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Caius nodded kindly when she said she was there to purchase some specialities on behalf of her owners. This was fairly common, while the food he cooked was popular there were many who did not wish to be seen purchasing from his store nor spending time with the 'lower' parts of society. That suited him just fine. They had their world and he had his. "Aye they are, they are," He paused to give a borderline disgusted look at the man who licked the juices off his forearms and used the towel to give him a smack. Sure, they were not the grandest of establishments, but still. 

"Gods! Have some manners, man!" Caius exclaimed but laughed at it. How could he not? The order she requested sounded quite large, they had a fairly extensive menu and nodded. "I hope you have enough coin to cover it?" He asked, occasionally the higher ups would request free or cheaper meals. There were times when he would oblige or try to get in to provide food at the games or the races. It brought a decent amount of additional income. "And yes, we have some that are richly spiced, others filled with cheese or pork," Caius continued, pride clearly in his voice and tore one in his that he claimed as his snack, then handed her one piece. "That one is the ham and cheese, do you like it?" 

He folded and popped his part into his mouth, slowly chewing with bloated cheeks. 

@Liv

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Clio winced instinctively when the towel hit the old man, who grumbled at the interruption but wiped his arms on his stained tunic before resuming his meal. The owner clearly had no qualms about setting his clientele straight, and she found his no-nonsense manner refreshing. To his his straightforward question about her funds, Clio replied by patting the coin pouch she was trusted with and letting the sound of metal clinking on metal speak for itself. "I've got a bit."

She took the piece the shopkeeper offered her and put it in her mouth. It tasted great, and the longer she chewed the more complex the flavours became. The salty ham was the perfect counterpart to the richness of the cheese. Her masters would like it, possibly paired with some wine. Cheese always went well with wine. "It's delicious!" she beamed.  No wonder the thermopolium was almost always full, if all the food was like this. "I think I'll take..." Clio trailed off, looking at the ceiling for a split second as she did some reckoning, "four of these." One for domina, one for dominus, one for young Canica, and maybe one to be split among Clio herself and dominus' body slave, if the masters were feeling kindly towards them.

But just one filling wouldn't be enough; there had to be more variety. "And I'll have four with pork, too." Best to take fewer pieces of different flavours. "You mentioned ones with spices. What sorts?" There were probably more types of fillings than she could afford at the moment, so she would have to select the ones more likely to be approved of. Two or three more should be enough, taking both palate and budget into account. Hopefully the man wouldn't try to rip her off - but if she tried, she had a secret weapon ready to be used!

@Gothic

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Caius practically beamed at the sight of her approval. He loved seeing people happy and enjoying the food he made. The fact that they paid for it and put more coin in his pocket made it even more worthwhile. He nodded, Gallus began to place them in a piece of cloth to keep them safe for the road. Caius was imagining it now. Her Domines would request food. Perhaps they would then become frequent customers who would rave about his products to their family and friends? Eight now. His browline narrowed a little, and certainly hoped that she could pay for the food. "Of course," He answered, turned his head and gave Gallus a nod. Not that it was necessary. The silent Gaul kept working and added the pork buns to the parcel. 

"Some have garrum on them, nutmeg, tumeric, basil, dill, thyme," He listed them off on his fingertips. His focus went heavenward in thought and decided that was a good enough list. Caius smiled, friendly and ever the salesman. One of the clients bumped into her again, pressed his body a little too close to her for comfort and smirked at her. Caius growled, pointed his finger at him and reached under the counter to pull out a cleaver. "BEHAVE!" He roared, raised his eyebrows in a warning and waited for the customer to settle down once more. The customer behaved, obediently nodded his head and turned to walk to go sit in the corner.  His features softened again, smiled at her and rested the cleaver on the table. 

"Would you like to try one of the ones with the spices? They tend to be a little bit more expensive to deal with the expense." Caius added. The more expensive ones may have been faked a little in order to ensure that he had increased wealth. Thus far, none of his customers had complained nor did they realise what was happening at the time either. 

@Liv

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Clio watched the work of the thermopolium's slave in silent appreciation. The man's fingers were as nimble as a seamstress's as he packed the buns carefully - and his owner seemed to be satisfied with his work too, since he wasn't barking orders. They had probably been a team for many years.

The shop owner required her attention now, busy listing the types of spiced buns. She wrinkled her nose at the mention of garum; that was far too common. You could put garum in essentially everything to begin with, so if she was going to impress Annia Comna with her (hopefully) good judgment, garum would not cut it. Nutmeg, on the other hand, was notoriously difficult to obtain and thus ridiculously expensive... which led Clio to wonder if a simple, no-name shop owner in Rome could afford the real thing.  Best not to take chances on that one, especially with the mistress's money. 

Basil and dill, however, sounded just as tasty while having more believable authenticity. Just as Clio opened her mouth to order, someone bumped into her and lingered too long before stepping back. Bothered, she was saved from having to address the patron by the shopkeeper's booming voice. It was clear he didn't tolerate such behaviour under his roof, and Clio was thankful for it, especially because slaves weren't very well supposed to talk back. Fortunately, the sleazy patron did as he was told and slithered off to a corner.

"Yes, I would appreciate that very much. I was thinking about basil and dill." If those were as good as the pork and cheese ones, then that would be it for a first order.

@Gothic

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