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Attis

servus, servum, servo

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(Jan 75 AD)

Attis was not entirely sure how he had got the afternoon to himself, and nor did he care - what mattered was that he had got the afternoon to himself. What mattered more was that he'd also been given two sestertii to spend and told to go and have fun.

He had wandered around for a bit and found himself in a popina off the Via Lata, which served posca (totally crap but marginally better than lora) and food (greasy but not bad, on the whole). The only  free seats were at a large table to one side and he'd debated eating his food at the counter before deciding that he spent far too much of his life on his feet. If someone else wanted to sit down too, well, the table was big enough. There was someone there already, a redhead of a similar age to Attis himself.

"Mind if I join you?"

"Help yourself, it's a big enough table, and there's nowhere else that's free."

Attis didn't need telling twice and sat down. "Rome the eternal city - keeping everyone eternally on their feet," he said with a grin. "It's nice to sit down for once."

 

@Liv @Joaquin @Chevi

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Felix kept himself to the promise he'd made to Aulus... and also, sort of to himself. He went out when he happened to have free time, and his master did not require his company. Rome was still as fascinating as ever, filled with things to discover (and things to run from). He'd met interesting people, participated in a few festivals, and so far he had yet to run into any trouble as a body slave wandering the streets of Rome.

Today, after walking around and visiting the baths, he felt like eating something. He had the rest of the afternoon off as Aulus had sequestered himself in his study with some important people. Walking into the popina Felix inhaled the mixed smells of food and drinks, some probably better quality than others. He got a bowl of food and some wine, and looking around for a free place to sit he spotted a familiar face.

"Attis!" he smiled, walking over, noting that there was also a red-headed man sitting next to the fellow slave he knew through their masters' meetings. The redhead seemed familiar too, but Felix couldn't quite place him. "Seems like we both have the day off... Would you mind if I joined you and your friend?"

@Sharpie @Liv @Joaquin

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It had become something of a habit for Clio to visit the same popina in Via Lata at some point during her days off. Oftentimes it was for a bite at lunchtime, others to end the day in a jollier note before returning to the ludus. On this particular day, it was the former. The path through winding narrow streets that eventually led to Via lata and the popina was a familiar one, her feet guiding her there practically of their own accord. Her mind, in the mean time, was busy reminiscing on that time she'd met with Helenus at that very place, and a small smile formed on her lips. 

The smells of food and drink hung heavy in the air inside the popina, some more pungent than others. The place was, as usual, alarmingly close to full capacity. As she stepped inside, Clio realised at once she might just have to eat at the counter, or even take it with her. She placed her usual order of posca and a small bowl of stew, collected it swiftly and set about finding a place to sit, surveying the stuffy room like an eagle looking for prey.

One large table still had an empty seat or two and Clio wasted no time in making a beeline for it, striding past eventual competitors for the seat with purpose in her step and menace in her glare. If somebody dared to try and steal that seat from under her nose, there would be trouble. As she approached the table Clio noticed the seat was right next to a small group of chatting men, but they didn't seem to be drunk enough yet that it would be risky to sit there. One of the men had striking red hair, much like a certain wig her domina liked to don sometimes.

"It's not taken, is it?" Clio interrupted the men's conversation, pointing to the vacant seat with her little finger (the only one she could spare, for the others were busy holding a full cup and the bowl).

 

@Chevi @Joaquin @Sharpie

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"No, help yourself," Rufus said to the girl who'd crossed the room to what was, by now, one of the only empty seats in the place. "I'm Rufus," he said to the taller man who'd sat down mere moments before. "Slave of Octavius Flavius Alexander," he added, deciding that it couldn't hurt to let them know his station in life - and unless he was much mistaken, the others might be slaves, too.

"Attis," his first companion said, with a grin, running a hand through his dark hair, briefly exposing some sort of scar on his forehead. "Slave of Lucius Cassius Longinus. I'd say at your service, but..." He shrugged, making Rufus grin.

It didn't seem as though any of these people were going to kick Rufus out, at least, which he'd had a suspicion they might, if it turned out that they (or any of them) were free.

 

@Joaquin @Chevi @Liv (and @me!)

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It was crowded inside and that alone was enough to drive Hector away. While others were met with the beckoning smell of food, he immediately took notice to the characteristic airlessness of a packed room and suffocating body odour and just about covered his nasal passage with a hand while he made his way for wine. While he often made a complete show of how much he couldn’t spare his valuable time of preening or bathing under the warm sun with a bit of wine, he found that he secretly did enjoy being around other humans. If only because it provided him the wonderful pastime of wrinkling his nose or looking scandalised at minute but strange habits in the streets.

As he spun with what was a group’s serving of wine appropriated into one man’s giant cup, he was left with the torture of pressing against loud and red-faced strangers, who occasionally reared their ugly faces into view as he passed by, to find somewhere to plant his bottom and vegetate for the night.

“Oh, you,” he greeted Attis, the first face his eyes fell onto as he slid into the first free chair before he briefly observed the others, all slaves, and moved his gaze from face to face with an air of judgement and disinterest. It was evidently barely interested in what they were doing, they could have been planning an uprising for all he cared, until his shallow attention halted on one who had a triad of qualities that caught his attention: male, beautiful, and very beautiful. Hey, a slave could look. But it was after looking at that one slave that his head swept along the other slaves a second time as if to double-check what he was doing associating with the rest, as if it was unfathomable that people found company for reasons beyond looks.

“What’s going on? Is this some kind of a joke?” he asked, sounding almost as if he were making an accusation. 

@Sharpie @Chevi @Liv

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"No - some kind of joke would be a donkey walks into a popina and the barman says 'Why the long face'," Attis replied, looking up. "Oh, you," he added, in the exact same tone. "Yes, there's a spare seat, yes you may join us. How are things in the household of the esteemed Tertius Quinctilius Varus?"

Attis was fine with being the joker of the group, it was a role he fell into with ease (and that he was still secretly surprised that his master indulged him in) but Hector was one of those who thrived with being the centre of attention - or at least, that had been Attis' perception from that visit his master had paid, Attis in tow, to the Varus house along with his friend and co-conspirator Titus Sulpicius Rufus.

"This is Hector," Attis said, with a shrug, realising that he seemed to be the one to know all the others - with the exception of the girl, who was welcome to join in their conversation if she wished, or keep out of it if she preferred. "Rufus, Felix, and... I don't know your name," he added, addressing the girl.

 

@Chevi @Liv @Joaquin @me! 😄

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Clio thanked the red-haired man with a nod and placed her food and drink on the table before sitting down. Sitting in such close proximity to the group, she had no choice but to involuntarily eavesdrop as they introduced themselves to one another. Her dark eyes widened as she blew on a spoonful of steaming hot stew. An Imperial slave at this sorry establishment? Was he not lavishly fed enough at his master's place that he had to come and sample the poor man's chow? Another of the men said his own name and that of his master; it did not ring a bell in the way the other hand, but it sounded fancy. Maybe some bigwig senator.

She ate quietly, wondering to herself if there was some sort of slave meeting going on she was unaware of. The men weren't friends going out to lunch, or hadn't been when they had entered the popina, because in that case introductions would not have been necessary. If they started plotting their masters' demise, Clio would excuse herself and leave - she had no desire to be associated to modern-day Spartaci.

A newcomer joined them, and he seemed to know the dark-haired chatty slave (Attis, Clio remembered he had called himself). A damned Greek, of course. She'd heard it the second he opened his mouth, the barely-there accent but oh so very familiar. No other people on earth could be so petulant and look so good doing so, even with the way he looked down on them all as if they were flies in his soup. He wouldn't laugh at Attis' joke either, she wagered. "I'm Clio." She wiped the corners of her mouth with her thumb and took a sip of her posca. "Nice to meet you all," she nodded at each man in turn without much enthusiasm. When her eyes landed on the man called Hector, she stopped and smirked. "Kaliméra."1 

Don't go thinking you're better than everybody else, boy. We're all slaves here.

@Sharpie @Chevi @Joaquin 

1 - 'good day' in Greek

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Felix was feeling more hungry than social, but he was not going to be rude to his fellow slaves. A woman soon joined them, and Felix shifted on the bench to make room for her. She could have sat next to a lot worse company in this popina. Maybe she knew someone here too?

Attis introduced himself, and so did the redhead who turned out to be called Rufus. Now that he said it, Felix recalled it too.

"Felix. From the household of Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus." They all seemed to serve important people in Rome. Such a coincidence. Just when he was about to ask if the woman did too, a handsome man walked up an acted like someone'd asked him to join in.

“What’s going on? Is this some kind of a joke?” 

Was it? Felix briefly wondered if he'd walked into some kind of a pre-planned meeting. Attis took the lead on responding, though, and Felix smirked as he turned his attention to his food. 

"This is Hector. Rufus, Felix, and... I don't know your name," 

"I'm Clio. Nice to meet you all. Kaliméra."

"Kaliméra, Clio" Felix gave her a friendly nod, although he knew the Greek greeting was probably not for him, but rather to the man named Hector who seemed very proud of himself. Felix had picked up enough Greek from his mother to converse. He took a bite of bread, and arched an eyebrow at Attis, who seemed to be taking charge of the gathering. "Did I walk into some kind of a meeting here? I can leave if I did."

@Liv  @Sharpie  @Joaquin

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"Kaliméra," Rufus said, probably surprising the others around the table - he knew he looked British so for him to speak Greek was likely not expected. His Latin had the accent of Campania, and his Greek was a dialect spoken in Campania rather than the purer Attic form. He hadn't spoken Greek in a while, though, not really.

"If this is a meeting, I wasn't aware of it - it was just a free table when we sat down."

The darker haired man with the scar indicated Rufus with his sausage roll. "Be fair. You were sitting here and I joined you."

"Doesn't matter. We're all having lunch the best we can. It's nice to have a bit of time off, and nicer to spend it with friends - even new ones."

Rufus was a friendly sort of person, and liked making friends. He just had to be a little cautious and discreet about things, but that would be all right,he thought.

@Joaquin @me, @Chevi @Liv

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In a classic show of self-importance, Hector wrinkled his nose in light disgust; as predicted, the jest had gone over his head. Trying to break a genuine laugh from the slave, if that was ever the purpose, was like chipping away at a block of ice. As Attis proceeded to make introductions, Hector limply followed, and his interest mildly increased at ‘Felix’ with the perk of his ears before his attention fell away again, listlessly completing the round of names as it ended on the only woman of the group. She smirked in his direction and proceeded to greet him in Greek to which his brows pressured together in confusion. She couldn’t have been making a pass at him, could she? Why else would anyone smirk at him in such a way?  

Hector let out a ‘tut’ sound. “So, you can all speak Greek, congratulations,” he observed dryly, deciding then was a good time as any to enjoy his wine like a cat at its milk bowl. That was until by a matter of bad coincidence, someone passing from behind jutted into him in all the crowdedness and mayhem of the midday eating. The slave looked like a mix between horrified and annoyed but then cleared his throat, brushed a hand through his hair, and proceeded to pretend as if nothing had happened.

“No, stay,” Hector barked at the one called Felix, catching his ‘I can leave’. Even if he decided to leave, then Hector would follow. “Just as…” – there came a constipated pause as Hector’s expression wrinkled with an attempt to run through the new names – “Rumpus said, we’re all friends. Have your meal here and listen to Attis and his jokes.” He took another sip of his Titan-sized wine.  

 

@Sharpie @Liv @Chevi

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"Rufus," Rufus said mildly, with a shrug. He only had the one name, it wasn't difficult to get right, especially if you noticed his hair - it was obvious why he'd been named 'redhead' in the first place.

"Well, the first one didn't go down very well, and I don't think any others I know are any better. My master's spent too long in military camps so despite what our Ganymede here thinks, my jokes aren't fit for mixed company," Attis said, nodding in Clio's direction. "We're all friends, why can't we enjoy our meal together?"

Attis did not have very many friends outside the household, it would be nice to spend the time with different people - he knew Felix, but really only saw him when their masters were together, so it was more of an acquaintance than a friendship. He would like that to change, if possible. As for the others, well, why not make friends with them?

 

@Chevi @Liv @Joaquin

 

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