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Early July 74AD - Gardens of Sallust

Charis ran her fingers across the leaves of a blooming rosebush, inspecting them. She must have looked like she fitted right in amongst the slaves that tended to the bountiful, beautiful gardens of Sallust as she knelt there, examining the detail of the plants. She had yet to be allowed to work back in the peristylium at the domus, but it was surely imminent now as the bruises had faded to only the faintest shadow on the arch of her cheekbone. She had come here to get some perspective, and hopefully a little...help. Whilst she was pleased with her work, and had done better than she thought she might, she was still no professional. Most of the plants they grew at home were for practical use rather than beauty, and she was acutely aware that the challenges she faced (and thus far, weathered) in the peristylium were out of her skillset. She'd managed thus far, but as the weather grew hotter and the flowers started to wither she was worried she'd falter. 

Standing up and brushing down the debris from the front of her tunica she glanced around for one of the slaves that worked here. Frustratingly - there was nobody to find, and she supposed the midday sun had driven them away. With an impatient sigh she slowly moved off on one of the paths towards a shaded area and a bench perched beneath a tree a little way off. Despite her months of living here she'd not yet grown used to the unbearable heat and humidity of the city and frustrated as she was that she couldn't find anybody to question mercilessly about the behaviours of roses and other flowers, she did need the respite of the shade. 

She breathed deeply and folded her head in her hands as she sat down. This was her first visit to these gardens and even exhausted as she was, she couldn't help but appreciate their beauty. As she straightened up, she cast her eyes over the scene in front of her. A little girl was playing with her friend - she couldn't be much older than Antonia Varia - whilst a woman, perhaps her plebeian mother, or a slave, watched with an idle smile. She watched their game unfold in front of the majestic spread of plants and trees with a relaxed smile, and so distracted by the domesticity, she didn't notice somebody walking to join her.

 

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He’d made it to the gardens of Sullust today. It was a very hot day though and for once, he actually thought it would be nice with a bit of cold water. He found a fountain and splashed some water in his face and almost sat up on the edge to dip his feet into it too – but some people drank this water and he knew he shouldn’t do it. He should act well and work hard and he’d be treated with kindness. He would behave and not be disobedient. Maybe then one day he’d get a better job.

He continued walking and came by the lady with the child. The girl was deep in her own game and Helenus tried to walk around her – but she did not seeing the world around her and suddenly she ran right into Helenus’ chest. He stumbled backwards and the girl looked up at him with wide eyes and then ran back to the woman.

“You should watch where you’re going!” The woman said, “And don’t scare the children. What are you doing here anyway, don’t you have a job to do?” She said and Helenus sighed, not even here could he relax today, it seemed, “I’m sorry, Domina… I didn’t mean to. But the child… she should look where she’s going too.” He dared to actually stand up for himself and the woman gave him an angry look, “Disobedient! Watch your tongue or I’ll find your master and he’ll take care of it!” The woman replied, “Get out of here, now!” She then yelled and Helenus hurried to turn around and walk away fast before he’d say more stupid things. He shouldn’t have said that about the child, he shouldn’t. What if she did find his master and he’d have his tongue cut out? It really wasn’t fair though, it really wasn’t. And what about that woman who sat under the tree right in front of him… did she see the whole incident? But she didn’t intervene or anything. He looked at her, she was dressed as if she too was a slave and he had to get his frustration out somehow, so he spoke to her, “Watch what you’re doing here or you’ll be sent straight home too.” Helenus said to her as he walked by where she sat.

@Sara

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Charis watched the unfolding scene with an impending feeling of dread. Definitely not a slave then. She thought to herself at the woman's outburst - sometimes the plebeians of Rome, she'd noticed, could be the cruelest of all to those enslaved. She supposed it was something to do with the fine line between their classes. She winced at the poor mans expense as the woman chided him but knew it was useless trying to intervene. She'd already been scolded (and worse) in her only other visit to the gardens of Rome and she was determined not to make a nuisance of herself this time. 

However, her bystander position didn't last long as the imposing figure of the other slave strode by her. She caught his words with a frown and glanced between him and the children, calling out to him before he could get too far out of earshot; "I be alright, I don't make habit of running into free children." She offered as a joke with a sly smile. 

Wincing at her remark, realising he might not take it in the jesting way she intended she hurriedly stood and took a couple of paces towards him. "Sorry, she should not have scream at you." She said in her accented Latin, with an open face and apologetic eyes. It seemed in Rome a slave couldn't turn anywhere without either being ignored completely or scolded. She didn't know which was worse. Glancing up through the canopy of the tree to the white hot sun beating down she jerked her head to the bench, "It's hot, take some shade - show her you don't have to leave." There was a mischievous glint in her eye. It was surely not disrespectful to simply sit in a garden, and the girl was a little way off, back up and playing her game again - absolutely fine.

 

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It had been so nice to escape the moist air of the thermae and he had enjoyed being here in the garden, but that’s only until he tried walking around that child. He did see where he was walking and where he was going! It was the child who didn’t! But still he was the one to fault and blame for the incident and the woman had yelled at him and then told him to leave. Helenus didn’t want any trouble, so he hurried to leave and as he walked by a young woman – also appearing to be a slave – he told her to watch out, because he had to get his frustration out somehow.

And then she said she’d be fine and didn’t run into free children. What? As if he did it on purpose? It just really wasn’t his lucky day. He almost shivered with the humiliation and hurt he felt within, that another slave would also blame him. But he really didn’t want more trouble and he would just continue walking. Then he heard the other slave get up behind him and she spoke to him, said the other woman should not have screamed at him and she apologized.

He stopped walking and looked over his shoulder at her, “She has the right to. I just shouldn’t have walked that way at all. It was my mistake.” He just said, even though he felt a knot in his heart as if it didn’t feel right to say it, but he knew it was right. He sighed and then the pretty slavegirl suggested he came to rest in the shade and showed the other woman he didn’t have to leave.

“But she told me to leave.” Helenus replied to her, glancing over at where they were. The woman still looked in their direction. It would be nice to just rest in the shade here, but oh he shouldn’t. She told him to leave, the other woman did. He saw the mischievous spark in the slavegirls eye though and wondered if she was a troublemaker. He didn’t want to be one. But he didn’t seem to turn around and walk away either, Helenus considered his options, “I should leave.” But his words didn’t hold as much weight as they should. He wasn’t leaving, after all.

@Sara

 

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She winced at the poor mans reaction and glanced between the woman - watching their interaction with narrowed eyes - and back at the slave. "You should but she don't own gardens." She said with a little shrug. The heat had always made Charis irritable back at home, but she'd found here in Rome it just made her defiant. 

With a little smile she jerked her head back towards the bench from which she'd stood and without waiting for him, returned to sit on it. She spoke low, so the woman and her child wouldn't hear her; "And she don't know your name or who your domine is. Who is she going to complain to?" She sincerely doubted any of the wealthy in the gardens would care to get involved in a spat between a slave and a pleb, particularly a woman. They had much better things to be doing (well...so did the slaves). 

Smoothing out her tunica over her legs she arched a brow at him, "You don't work here, do you?" She asked with a little hope in her voice - that was her whole reason for being here after all. She added; "My name Jocasta." She'd decided, pretty much instantly from finding out about Helios' treachery that until she had built deep trust with somebody, they weren't to know her name or whom she worked for. Finally her self-preservation instincts were kicking in. 

 

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The other slave pointed out that the plebian woman over there didn’t own the gardens. She didn’t seem to think that Helenus should leave, even if he had been told to leave. He belonged to the empire, he was an imperial slave… technically, he belonged to anyone and anyone had the right to tell him what to do. At least as far as he knew. It wouldn’t be right to be disobedient, would it? He had to be good and obedient and then he’d keep his tongue.

But the slavegirl also said the woman wouldn’t know who to complain to and he nodded, “I guess she doesn’t know. I doubt she’s going to see Caesar about it.” He said and maybe with a small smile too. He was an imperial slave and of course, all of them had one superior above them all and that was Caesar. Not that he ever met the man or saw him up close. The slavegirl then wondered if he worked here and said her name. He looked at her, she did seem nice and it would be nice to sit here with her and just relax. That’s really what he came here for.

“I’m Helenus and no, I don’t work here. I work at the thermae, I’m a capsarius. What about you, Jocasta?” He asked curiously and made up his mind about staying here finally, with a compromise, “Let’s go and sit… but not here. We can find another bit of shade I’m sure. If you want to.”

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"Helenus." She repeated with a smile. Compared to some names the Romans gave their slaves, that was mercifully an easy one. Although he had no accent, so she supposed he must have been born here - much like that sweet redheaded slave she met when she first arrived, or Teutus. "Just house slave." She shrugged, "Cleaning, tidying, helping at cena." Poor Jocasta - she might have been ten or so years older than Charis, but for now the young Briton was occupying her place in Tertius' household. It seemed it was safer to be somebody else for now. 

Glancing between him and the woman at his suggestion, she sighed. She was loathed to move, especially as it was a point of principle for her now (even if it was misguided or altogether foolish) but company was welcome after weeks being cloistered in the house. 

With a light smile she nodded and stood, moving to join him as they walked away from the bench and back into the white hot sunlight. She didn't miss the woman's laugh as they moved away. Bitch, Charis thought. Glancing at him as they walked she studied him but asked; "What brings you to gardens, Helenus?" 

 

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She spoke his name and smiled and he couldn’t help but smile back. Now that they’d talked and she apologized for blaming him for running into the girl… she actually seemed very nice. He explained what he did and she told him how she was a house slave. Helenus nodded, “It must be nice, being a house slave. I never tried it.” He said to her. An imperial slave got to work for everyone and while he showed little skills when it came to construction and his former superior moved on and let him get into the thermae… he never tried just working in a house. Not quite like that anyway. It would be nice to just have one master and one house to belong to. He thought Jocasta was very privileged. 

Jocasta didn’t seem too thrilled about going somewhere else to sit, but then she sighed and seemed to agree. They walked in the other direction of the path and he heard the plebian woman laugh behind them. The sound almost felt like a slap to the back of his head and closed his eyes for a brief moment, then he stared at the path before him. His new companion wondered why he came here though.

“I just wanted to relax and get away from all the people, now that I had the chance. And this is usually such a calm place.” But apparently not today, he thought. Helenus already had problems relaxing. There was so much he had to do and so many demands made of him… and then he came here to relax. And now he couldn’t even do that.

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"It...not always nice." She offered with a wince but a little smirk on her face. "Dominus' are sometimes very complicated and houses can be tense." Because they were. Especially, it seemed, if you were an attractive young man or woman. Or your domine was particularly complex, like her own. "Maybe I prefer to be owned by empire," She said with a little pause. She'd learned about the different types of slave at the market; imperial, personal, gladiators..."Work on nice farm somewhere quiet, meet nice man, be peaceful." It sounded heavenly compared to her current mess of a life. 

As he spoke, she arched a brow. Get away from all the people? She could understand that. 

"I can leave you alone? If you want? If you want some quiet?" She said conscientiously. She didn't want to feel like she was imposing. They were now far enough away from the woman and her child to have a little breathing room and she glanced around to find somewhere to sit.

 

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Of course it wasn’t always nice to be owned by a private household, he knew the masters and mistresses out there could be quite wicked, but it was still something different from what he tried in his lifetime. The slavegirl said that her Dominus was very complicated and the house was tense. Helenus nodded, “I guess you’re right.” He said and she suggested she might prefer to be owned by the empire and then revealed dreams she had.

“That does sound very peaceful… like a dream, almost.” Helenus replied, because that was what it sounded like. He’d love that too. A more quiet and relaxed and peaceful life, but he doubted he’d ever get that. One day he’d catch some disease in the baths and that would be the end of him. Even if he did have dreams that one day there’d be someone to pick him up and take him away, the older he grew, the less likely it seemed.

When he told her why he’d come here, Jocasta suggested to leave him alone, but he looked at her and shook his head, “Oh… no, that’s not what I meant. You’re alright. I more mean… all the people in the baths. The work. The… expectations. There’s always so much to do and so many people to please and… when I can, I like to leave it entirely behind. I don’t get to go out so much though.” Helenus said, “I don’t want to displease anyone.” He wasn’t very good at saying no, because he knew he shouldn’t. So when someone came and told him to get something done, he did it, no matter if he was actually supposed to take a break. He’d rather do that than being punished for misbehaving.

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