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Clio

The bonny and bookish

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January, 75 AD

That autumnal conversation with Helenus had been on Clio's mind for a few months, running in the background like that big hairy spider you knew lives in a corner of the house but still spooks you every time you actually see it. It had been surprisingly insightful in more than one subject. For all the airs she put on, it had struck Clio at the time how she really had nothing more to offer than her exotic looks and occasionally witty remarks - but, she justified to herself, none of her past and current owners had purchased her for what was between her ears and they had similarly had no expectations of her attaining the intellectual levels of a philosopher or mathematician. 

Still, she was nothing if not determined, and she no longer wanted to be seen as a pretty face and only that. Servitude was no excuse not to educate oneself, Clio reasoned, and so she had put a portion of her savings inside a small leather pouch and headed off to the Emporium Magnum, where she assumed she should be able to find reading material appropriate for both her literacy level and purse.

It was, naturally, easier said (or thought) than done. As she stood in one of the many pathways inside the market, shoulders jostling when she and other patrons unwillingly walked past one another, Clio began to wonder if the whole thing was such a good idea as it had seemed. She reached the quieter quarter of booksellers and stood and watched from a corner, biting her lip in indecision. What would her domina say if she found out? Clio didn't need books, they added nothing to her value as body slave to Annia Comna. What if it gave domina the idea that it was some secret beau that had put the thought into Clio's head? And if she did buy something, it should be something harmless, nothing that could evoke thoughts of rebellion or escape (even if none existed in Clio's mind!). 

She shuffled her feet, her lost gaze flicking from one tent to the other without really taking in anything. A scroll might be the better option, yes... Small and easy to conceal, and not too expensive if it was taken from her... Or maybe saving her coin for Mersis' hair ornaments was the right thing to do, as she'd been doing all along. That orange pin had looked so lovely against her black hair that domina hadn't even been angry, but appreciative.

Frustrated, Clio let out a loud groan, not giving any consideration as to whom might hear it . Was the path to education really so thorny?!

@Chevi

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Septima was, once again, visiting the booksellers of the Emporium. It was her place of blessed solitude and learning, a place where they knew who she was and never bothered her with questions or judgment about a noble maiden spending so much money on learning instead of ornaments. She was not really looking for anything in particular, just browsing some new books and some classics that her collection was still missing; her grandfather had plenty of reading material in their home, but every one in a while an old book got a new edition, or a beautifully written version, and she simply could not resist. 

Septima noticed the dark-haired woman standing outside the bookseller's shop, looking hesitant. She knew that look. It was a weakness of hers, trying to help out people who were at a loss about reading material. She just loved to share recommendations for books, always hoping she'd make new friends of fellow book lovers. Overcoming her shyness, Septima conjured up a friendly smile as she approached the young woman.

"Are you looking for something in particular to read? Or are you just browsing?"

@Liv

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Her outburst had drawn the attention of shoppers nearby, and Clio hesitated between looking down at her feet with a mortified look or flashing an annoyed glare at those who looked her way. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks and was just about to turn tail and head home when a friendly voice addressed her. Clio turned a little to the side and saw a pretty young woman - just on the fence between girl and woman, by her looks - smiling at her as she posed questions in a gentle tone.

It was impossible to tell if the young woman was somehow affiliated with the bookseller or if she was a more experienced patron, but her offer of help was very welcome. Clio gave a smile of her own and exhaled in relief. "I... I think I'm browsing? I mean, I sort of know what I'd like, but I don't know if that's really what I want, if that makes sense," she replied tentatively. That very inarticulate response made little sense even to her, and Clio tried to explain herself a little better.

"Umm..." she started, suddenly self-conscious. What if the younger woman had a gigantic library at home and ended up laughing in Clio's face?! But she seemed nice enough, so she couldn't be that mean. Clio willed herself onwards. "I'm not well-read, and I don't have a lot of money. And I'd prefer to read in Greek. Do you think this place has books for the likes of me?"

@Chevi

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The woman definitely looked hesitant about staring up a conversation. Septima noted she was a slave; not that it mattered much. Maybe she was looking for someone for her master or mistress, and not for herself?

"I... I think I'm browsing? I mean, I sort of know what I'd like, but I don't know if that's really what I want, if that makes sense."

It really didn't. Septima tilted her head curiously, making an effort to follow. The woman kept talking.

"Umm... I'm not well-read, and I don't have a lot of money. And I'd prefer to read in Greek. Do you think this place has books for the likes of me?"

Oh. So it was for her, then. And it was enough information to work with. Septima smiled an encouraging smile, and nodded.

"They do have quite a lot of Greek literature, I am sure there is something you will like. Poetry and shorter works are usually cheaper... is there anything you are particularly interested in?" she ventured, stepping up next to the woman "Oh. I apologize. My name is Septima Minor. I come here a lot." she added with a sheepish smile.

@Liv

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Once she had blurted out her thoughts, Clio felt surprisingly much more at ease. When no ridicule or snooty laughter came in response, she allowed herself to relax her posture a little and droop her shoulders. Maybe it wasn't as strange for a slave to seek out books as she thought.

The younger woman seemed very familiar with the shop's selection as she came closer to Clio, and her words soon brought to light the why. Since she was a frequent customer, she must be educated and from a family of some means, with enough time and money to spare in scholarly pursuits. Calmer but still self-conscious, Clio smiled timidly back and gave a deferential nod; however friendly their interaction with Septima Minor was so far, she was still but a slave. "It's very nice to make your acquaintance, domina. I am called Clio."

She turned her focus back to the information Septima had provided. "I think something short would be adequate for me, if it's too long or has many difficult words it may become frustrating to read. Poetry... I don't think I can appreciate it well," she confessed diplomatically. Poetry was lofty and elaborate, although there were stark exceptions like that Landicus the gladiators liked to quote so often - Clio preferred something more down-to-earth, less stylistic. "I think I would like to know more about gods and heroes and their stories, like the Trojan war... Or about important people of old, like Hannibal and his elephants. But do you think there are there short texts about these subjects?" she asked Septima with an edge of uncertainty in her voice. The young woman probably thought Clio was in over her head, trying to learn too much about things that didn't concern her in the least... but she had been kind and helpful so far.

@Chevi

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"It's very nice to make your acquaintance, domina. I am called Clio."

Septima let out a delighted chuckle as the slave woman introduced herself. What were the chances of two women named Clio would meet at this shop? Sure, it was not her real name, but given that the other woman was a slave, it was probably not hers either. "My family calls me Clio too. What are the odds?"

"I think something short would be adequate for me, if it's too long or has many difficult words it may become frustrating to read. Poetry... I don't think I can appreciate it well,"

Septima nodded attentively, her mind already sorting through options. No poetry, then. She could understand that. She enjoyed poetry herself, but she generally chose to read things that were more... informative.

"I think I would like to know more about gods and heroes and their stories, like the Trojan war... Or about important people of old, like Hannibal and his elephants. But do you think there are there short texts about these subjects?" 

"Well..." Septima tapped her lips with a finger, thinking "There is this Greek man who has been writing about the lives of famous people of old. He pairs them up, and calls them Parallel Lives." she glanced towards the shelves "I am sure we can find a few of those here. As for the gods, I enjoy Ovid, but his works are in Latin... Hesiod, maybe?... Oh, how about the Argonauts? I love that story..."

@Liv

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The gods had a truly particular sense of humour! That two women, at least one of them coming from the other end of the empire, should share a name and end up meeting before a little bookshop of all places. They also shared an interest in stories and a complexion darker than that of the Italian natives, but Clio the slave doubted their similarities extended beyond these few coincidences. Not wanting to make her cynicism obvious, she too laughed softly. "A surprise indeed." Was Septima called it because of her bookish inclinations? She had to test the waters. "It is an apt name for you, domina, with your knowledge of such stories. For me, not so much," she chuckled mirthlessly, "but nobody ever bothered to change it."

Clio waited in silent excitement for Septima's recommendations, and perked up her ears when they came. Paired biographies seemed like a good topic  - if she did not see the relevance to the first man, perhaps the second would make it clearer. Like killing two birds with one stone. She mimicked Septima's look towards the shelves, already convinced. "Do you think these 'Parallel Lives' can be bought a pair at a time?" Clio hoped so. "I heard the tale of the Argonauts many times in my childhood, but somehow it was always a bit different every time. It would be nice to have a definitive version, I think." If it wasn't too pricey for her purse.

Equal parts eager and apprehensive, Clio approached the shelves, looking at them in respectful awe for a heartbeat. So much wisdom and knowledge crammed into some simple-looking pages and scrolls, accessible to those with the twin tools of coin and literacy - and a good measure of free time, too. Clio glanced back at Septima in a silent plea for guidance before the bookseller came and shooed her off. How to figure out where were the stories she wanted to buy? "Domina, how do you know where to find what you seek?"

@Chevi

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 "A surprise indeed. It is an apt name for you, domina, with your knowledge of such stories. For me, not so much, but nobody ever bothered to change it."

Ah, there it was. Septima noted that this other Clio probably had another name, a name she used to wear before she became a slave, maybe, or the name a previous owner gave her. She sometimes wondered what it would be like to be given a name one did not choose. She did not feel it was appropriate to ask about that.

"Do you think these 'Parallel Lives' can be bought a pair at a time?... I heard the tale of the Argonauts many times in my childhood, but somehow it was always a bit different every time. It would be nice to have a definitive version, I think." 

"As much as Apollonius of Rhodes can be called a definitive version... he crammed way too many people into one ship" Clio smirked, one of the little literary inside jokes no one around her tended to understand except for her granfather. She browsed the shelves, looking at scrolls of Parallel Lives. Some were quite small and thin; she suspected those were the abridged editions of one pair each.

"Domina, how do you know where to find what you seek?"

"Practice" Septima admitted, pulling some of the scrolls from the shelves. If the other Clio had done it, the bookseller might have intervened, but Septima was one of the best customers of the shop, and they knew she could be trusted. "I come here a lot." she added, offering some of the smaller scrolls for Clio to inspect "Here. Parallel Lives, in Greek. This one too. Theseus and Romulus... Lycurgos and Numa Pompilius. That sounds interesting."

@Liv

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Clio had a faint, vague idea of where Rhodes was, but not the foggiest clue as to who its son Apollonius was. If he was a writer, then it was only natural it escaped her; there were many things her masters favoured, but literature just did not seem to be one of them. But if there were too many characters in the story he wrote, it should follow that the script would be extensive - and probably expensive. Perhaps it would be better to go with Parallel Lives, at least in the beginning, until she had got a better grasp on the letters and words and hiding places available to her in which to hide the scrolls.

She watched as Septima expertly pulled out some pieces and confirmed she was a frequent visitor to the small shop. It must be pleasant to have enough time and money to buy new books often, Clio wondered without envy; she knew so, so little of Septima's life that she could not be jealous. "Thank you, domina," Clio blurted out, pulled from her thoughts as the other woman presented a few scrolls to her. They were short and flimsy enough that they should be within range of her reading skills and money purse. "Romulus, that was the founder of Rome, wasn't it?" The other Roman name sounded less familiar, but she'd heard people mutter and sometimes even shout swears related to a Numa's balls, so maybe they were one and the same. Whether that was a good or bad thing, Clio couldn't say.

Taking one scroll in each hand, Clio took their weight and examined them carefully, afraid to damage them. They would not be difficult to hide among her sparse belongings, but first, she had to make sure their contents were safe if they should ever be discovered. "Domina, is the text in these, um..." She struggled to find the right words - the elegant and polite words - for her question. "... is it, um, proper? Would my mistress be angry if she found these and read them?" If they were chock-full of descriptions of naked people and lecherous acts, Annia Comna would have her skinned. But Septima was still young and she looked innocent enough, so Clio doubted these would be spicy tellings.

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"Thank you, domina... Romulus, that was the founder of Rome, wasn't it?" 

"He was" Septima nodded. She had not read through many of the Parallel Lives yet, but she had read lots of other works of history. "And Numa Pompilius was the second king, after him."

Clio looked hesitant as she held the scrolls, as if she was trying to tell which one to buy, or if she should buy one at all. Some slaves had their own money, and it was not illegal for them to buy things, even books. But a lot depended on their master.

"Domina, is the text in these, um... is it, um, proper? Would my mistress be angry if she found these and read them?"

Septima was surprised at the question, but she gave it honest consideration. She did not want to dismiss the other Clio's concern.

"I don't see why she wouldn't approve... these are great figures in history. Numa Pompilius was said to be a very pious man. But I don't really... know your mistress' taste."

@Liv

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Clio the slave nodded as Septima confirmed her inquiries. The lives of kings of Rome should in theory be a respectable topic to read about, but some people had led very colourful lives. The last thing she wanted was for her masters to reproach her for her readings, or having other slaves be telltales and snitch on her. Lowering her eyes in embarrassment, she attempted to explain the reason for her reservations.

"To be entirely honest, domina, neither do I. She is not the type to read much," the slave admitted, shuffling her feet. It was not something she felt comfortable sharing as it could reflect badly on both her and her mistress, but at the same time, Septima had been so helpful and kind that Clio felt she deserved to know why it would have made no sense to ask her domina for book recommendations. The only thing Clio could recall ever having seen her read were letters.

"Nevertheless, if she should grow curious about these stories, it would not be wise to have them mention fugitive or rebellious slaves in a good light... Or, for that matter, star-crossed lovers and secret affairs. She might think it is these things that drew my attention, or that somebody of weak morals gave me the books to convert me to their way of thinking..." Although she could not say it in so many words, what Clio feared was the scrolls making her owners think she was considering running away or that she was having a secret relationship.

@Chevi

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"To be entirely honest, domina, neither do I. She is not the type to read much,"

The other Clio looked uncomfortable. And a little ashamed of asking these questions about the books, even though Septima did not mind at all answering them. She wondered whether a domina who did not read much would disapprove of her slave reading books about Roman history.

"Nevertheless, if she should grow curious about these stories, it would not be wise to have them mention fugitive or rebellious slaves in a good light... Or, for that matter, star-crossed lovers and secret affairs. She might think it is these things that drew my attention, or that somebody of weak morals gave me the books to convert me to their way of thinking..."

"Oh. I don't... well. Numa Pompilius, according to some, was the lover of the nymph Egeria. But it's all very respectable... She taught him about laws. I think this writer is trying to make a point about greatness and tradition... star-crossed lovers are more of a... Greek thing, with the adventure stories and such. But if you are not sure if she would approve, I can read through them... or maybe find something that is... safer to read?"

@Liv

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