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Rufus

A hive of scum and villainy

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Early June 74; Emporium Magnum...

 

Being a slave, Rufus reflected, wasn't necessarily the worst fate in the world. He corrected himself: Being the slave of a rich Roman who had other slaves wasn't the worst fate in the world. Being the trusted slave of a rich Senator was definitely not the worst thing to be (He could think of many many better things to be, of course, but he could think of worse fates.)

Being the trusted slave of a rich senator had led Rufus to where he was now: in the Emporium Magnum, running an errand for his new master, hoping he'd remember the way home once he was done, and wouldn't get ripped off so badly he'd not get let out again.

There seemed to be some sort of argument going on nearby. He usually steered clear of things like that, but this one didn't sound like the usual row and he found himself drifting closer, curious. Rome was full of people, far more of them than he'd ever seen in one place before - he had no idea how much bigger than Paestum the city was, but it was some order of magnitude larger!

Whatever was going on was more than an argument; there was a burly guy picking a fight or something with someone about half his size - a kid smaller than Rufus, even. The kid didn't look like he'd done anything worse than simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time - there was nobody yelling that he was a thief or purse snatcher. If anything, the sentiment of the watching crowd seemed to be on the kid's size, though nobody was stepping in to help.

It was when the brute swung back, looking as if he aiming a punch at the kid, that Rufus stepped in. "Leave him alone and pick on someone your own size!"

Bloody stupid, he thought, as the man's fist connected with the side of his head, leaving him blinking. He wasn't quite sure he dared return the favour - a slave thumping a free man was bound to get in trouble, after all!

 

@Sarah

Edited by Sharpie

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It was a rare moment of freedom; he'd been trusted to go to the Emporium Magnum, the grand markets, on an errand. It was only picking up a garment that had been ordered, for his mistress, and he knew that it was a test to see how he handled this extra level of freedom, but it was heady none the less, to walk across the flagged square and not be bothered by anyone.

There was someone bothering other people, however. A big brute of a man, a boy cowering before him, a ring of cowards who wouldn't step forward, and then as he watched, one did and just about got laid flat. A lad with red hair, unusual amongst Romans but far more common amongst Aeneas's own people. He was dressed like a slave, but a well-kept one. He wasn't sure from this angle what station in life the big man held. But someone was going to get pummelled if no one did anything, and likely it would now be the youth who'd tried to intervene. Who might his owner be?

"You hit valuable slave, his Dominos ask expensive questions." Aeneas pointed out, stepping into range and eyeing the brute with the eye of an experienced fighter. Under his pale, freckly skin he'd developed the musculature of a gladiator, though he was still tall and lean compared to the big man who seemed to get his jollies from abusing others. Aeneas was never going to have that herculean build that some favoured, but he was quick and light on his feet, and right now entirely focused on the brute and the question of whether or not he would see sense, or pick Aeneas as his next target.

@Sharpie

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Rufus had not come from a household where slaves were routinely hit, punched or thumped, and his ears were ringing somewhat; it had been a heavy thump, after all. He had managed to stay on his feet, though he wasn't quite sue how, and turned to blink at the newcomer who'd stepped up to intervene for him just as he had for the kid (who had developed some common sense and ducked out of the brute's line of sight).

He choked back a laugh at the new arrival's words - they weren't particularly humorous, but Rufus was in that sort of state that he'd find almost anything funny right now. At least he recognised that, he thought, and managed not to burst out laughing. A good thing, too, because his assailant was jabbing a meaty finger into his chest, hard. “Next time you’re around, we’re gonna fight. You hear me?”

Rufus was not expecting that and, combined with his earlier unsteadiness, the jab unbalanced him enough that he staggered back and sat down, hard. "I can certainly make sure my master comes asking those expensive questions if you want," he managed, staring up.

The brute looked between Rufus, still sprawled on the ground, and the newcomer who'd interrupted, and decided not to push the point. He spat, instead, a thick glob of spittle that landed on the paving stone by Rufus' hand, and then turned to leave, scowling at the people around them, who had begun drifting back to their stalls and shopping now the entertainment was over.

 

@Sarah

Edited by Sharpie

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