Jump to content

Chevi
 Share

Recommended Posts

The end of 74CE

It was strange to be in the domus without the dominus there. It was not Tranquillus' natural state to be alone in the household. He would have followed his master like a shadow to his visit to a friend's house, except Titus had another job for him to do. This morning, Tranquillus had to accompany Sulpicia Flacca for a visit to a relative's home. She was too young to wander Rome unescorted, and guards or a female body slave alone were not good enough company for a girl of noble birth. So, believing that he could manage fully well without a body slave for his visit to Longinus, the head of the household ordered Tranquillus to escort his daughter instead. The tutor would not have been much help in an altercation, but he was tall and stern enough to look the part.

The visit was shorter than expected, as the relative was not feeling too well. Tranquillus and the young mistress returned home by lunchtime, and since the dominus was still away, there was not much to do for the body slave. He sat and read, organized things, finished some errands that needed finishing, and felt somewhat awkward with the unexpected afternoon off. Tranquiulls liked to plan his days off ahead of time. How inconvenient. 

When Titus finally arrived home, with a new acquisition in tow, the look on his body slave's face was not unlike that of a household dog perking up for his master's return. 

@Liv @Ejder

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

For some inconceivable reason, Titus couldn't help the nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he had done something bad. Although Tranquillus had made not a single sound in protest when Titus told him to accompany Sulpicia instead of him on his outing, the very subtle changes to his body slave's expression reminded him of a dog who did not understand why it was being punished by its master. It was no big deal, really - just a simple delivery mission. And the Dacian he'd just left at Longinus' place, with his huge frame and slightly bovine look, was as good a deterrent for potential troublemakers as anything.

Leave one, take one. A Dacian for a Briton. Yet another Briton, because Longinus apparently only ever sourced his slaves from that damned island. Titus suspected ale might be involved in his friend's incomprehensible decisions. At least this new one had followed along without causing trouble, and he seemed to be adequately housebroken. Spoke decent Latin, too. 

Upon Titus' return with the new slave in tow, Tranquillus was easy enough to find. If the Briton was going to be taught the ropes by someone, the natural choice was his trusty and unflappable body slave, capable of standing even the most inane questions with his neverending patience and paedagogical skills. "Back already? That was quick," Titus commented in the guise of a greeting. He stepped to the side so the Briton could get a better look at his new tutor of sorts, at the same time allowing Tranquillus to make his first impression of the newest addition.

"This is our new gardener..." Titus stared at the young man, appearing to be deep in thought for a few seconds before speaking again. "Florus. That's your name from now on, I don't care what you were called before." Since he'd be taking care of the flowers, naturally. Supposedly as gifted as the goddess Flora herself, too, if Longinus' words were anything to go by. Titus couldn't be bothered to come up with fancy, pretentious names for his servants; he called them like he saw them. Easier to remember, too. He turned his head to address his body slave again. "Tranquillus, I had a mind to have you keep an eye on him." Or 'please check that he's not too daft' for the uninitiated.

@Ejder @Chevi

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chlorus hadn't known he was going to be traded off to another dominus that morning. Hadn't known, in fact, until the moment Longinus had had him sent over from the gardens, where he was pruning the lemon trees, to his atrium, where another Roman was talking to him, a vast slave behind him. Chlorus had wondered what the fuss was. He hadn't said anything or done anything to warrant punishment, as best he knew, but who could tell, with the Romans? They weren't especially fair, in his eyes. You didn't need to have done anything in particular for one to want to punish you. That's why it was best to keep one's head down at all times. Don't get noticed, and they won't think about you when they're raring for someone to beat. He knew that, now. At any rate, he was fairly certain Longinus hadn't had him sent up to compliment his garden in front of his friend. It didn't seem like something a Roman would do. Even if, as he had been told, the citrus trees had never been so healthy since he had started to take care of them.

And then of course it happened. He was being traded off. Like his work wasn't important. He wasn't being asked for his opinion. Like he didn't matter. He didn't matter, he was coming to realize. Romans didn't care about their slaves, and he was a slave. It was offputting every single time he reached that conclusion.

Chlorus hadn't said much of anything as his new dominus led him to his new domus. It wasn't as though his opinions mattered to the Romans anyway. He stood in the atrium with his back straight, immobile, and looked into the distance as his new master started to talk to a slave he couldn't see. The dominus moved out, but Chlorus didn't bother looking at the other man, and kept his usual neutral expression throughout. He was much too busy being absolutely insulted that he was being renamed. Chlorus had been offending enough, and now Florus? That was not his name! His jaw clenched, but he otherwise remained still. At least he supposed the names were similar enough that he wouldn't take too long to adapt...

 

@Chevi @Liv

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Titus marched in, shadowed by a slave who was most decidedly not the large Dacian he'd left with in the morning. He must have traded or purchased him, Tranquillus decided. It was his right. The Dacian had not been the most elegant of household slaves, or one Tranquillus was attached to. But it made him wonder if this had been the real reason the dominus did not take him along this morning. 

"Back already? That was quick," 

"Our hostess was feeling indisposed" Tranquillus summarized the events of the morning. Titus stepped aside, revealing his newest acquisition.

Tranquillus stared.

"This is our new gardener... Florus. That's your name from now on, I don't care what you were called before."

It was the dominus' habit to give new names to his new slaves. It was about the same way Novus had gone to Tranquillus in the blink of an eye. Some masters didn't care about re-naming their slaves, and some gave them elaborate, meaningful names. Titus fell somewhere in-between, showing ownership by re-naming, but not really caring about the creativity of it. He got a new gardener, so he named him Florus.

In the meantime, Tranquillus stared some more.

"Tranquillus, I had a mind to have you keep an eye on him."

He was. The young man stood quietly but with straight shoulders, and there was a hint of defiance in his eyes. This man was no verna. And he was also probably not Roman at all. There was something about him that made Tranquillus feel strangely dizzy, but then again it was entirely possible he had contracted whatever the hostess had in the other household. That was a much more reasonable explanation. 

"Very good, dominus." he nodded, clearing his throat. He was to show this new slave around, and make sure he was no trouble. One never knew, and the sneaky ones could be on their best behavior around the dominus but get up to shenanigans the moment he turned his back. "Shall I show him to the gardens?"

@Liv  @Ejder

  • Like 2
  • Haha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If Tranquillus said his swift return was due to indisposition, then Titus would take him at his word. He trusted his body slave night unconditionally, and Tranquillus was not the type to even fib or embellish the truth. He would keep the gardener on his toes and make sure he quickly became familiar with the household, its rules and his role in it, Titus was sure of it. Said gardener, too his credit, seemed to be pleasantly neutral about the entire situation, and was apparently well-behaved enough that he knew not to speak unless addressed. 

Although he owned no explanation to anyone about Florus' provenience, Titus reckoned the hard stare Tranquillus was subjecting the gardener to was actually a surrogate for the question he would like to pose but was too well-behaved to. "Yes, let's do that," and with these words he motioned for the two slaves to follow him to the gardens. On the short way there, Titus explained the whole deal to Tranquillus. He did not know if Florus was familiar with the circumstances of his change in ownership, but if he wasn't, he was about to find out.

"Do you remember when Lucius Cassius Longinus was here the other day? We struck a deal then. He was in need of a sparring partner, which is why our good Dacian friend went with me and did not come back, and I could use a gardener and he had none for his." Titus looked over his shoulder, casting Florus a brief yet expectant glance. "So don't embarrass your former master, Florus. He sung your praises quite enthusiastically."

Since winter was already dragging its long cloak over the world, the gardens were anything but impressive, with only a few plants hanging on for dear life here and there. With a lazy, sweeping gesture, he presented to Florus his new dominions. There would be the hortus to take care of too, but there he would have to join forces with the cook. This particular patch of land would be his sole responsibility. "There you go. It's your job to make it green and pleasant, preferably without too many insects."

He turned to his detail-oriented body slave for help. "Tranquillus, is there anything in particular you think Florus here needs to know?"

@Ejder @Chevi

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Florus' gaze was hard as he stared at a column. He held his hands behind his back and avoided looking at either the Roman or the one he assumed to be his body slave. His feelings would probably have been clear to see if anyone made eye contact, but his general expression remained neutral, as it always did. He had no idea what kind of master Rufus would be. Longinus was fairly decent, especially compared to the slave traders that had captured him and visited violence upon him. Rufus, though, he had no idea. It wasn't easy to rapidly size up a man who would end up having his life in his hand.

'No, dominus,' he replied in his quiet, low voice, the first words he said in his new household.

He followed suite as the Roman led both slaves to the gardens. They needed some loving care, that was plain to see, but they were vast. Florus could already envision the things he would have to do to make them beautiful, or at the very least healthy. He scanned every last detail of his new domain, as though memorizing them, and refrained from commenting on how many insects actually were beneficial, especially in regards to growing food, and he would to well to favour them. He was used to being the wisest in all manners greenery, and he was used to holding his tongue. It didn't bother him anymore not to share his snarky opinions. Not when he knew the possible alternative.

As he looked at the gardens, a small, involuntary smile crept on Florus' face, which he repressed quickly. He could make something good out of this.

 

@Chevi @Liv

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Yes, let's do that,"

It made sense to show the new gardener his domain, even though he had no say in whether he would work there or not. Tranquillus would have done this alone like he had done it for other new slaves before, but the domins decided to lead the way, and he found that in this instance he was grateful for it. There was something about Florus that unnerved him. 

"Do you remember when Lucius Cassius Longinus was here the other day? We struck a deal then. He was in need of a sparring partner, which is why our good Dacian friend went with me and did not come back, and I could use a gardener and he had none for his. So don't embarrass your former master, Florus. He sung your praises quite enthusiastically."

Just as he'd suspected, his master had traded the large, slow Dacian for this new gardener. Nothing unusual about such transactions. This young man had more potential in terms of becoming a good part of the household... but it was going to take work.

'No, dominus,'

That was all the new slave said, in a low, obedient voice, but the defiance was still not gone from his eyes. He was going to be trouble.  Tranquillus walked behind his master, letting Florus walk behind the two of them as they made their way to the garden.

"There you go. It's your job to make it green and pleasant, preferably without too many insects."

Tranquillus looked to make sure Florus was properly paying attention... but then once again found himself staring. There was a change in the look on the young man's face when he saw the gardens. Something softened, almost too lightly to notice, and then, inexplicably, the shadow of a genuine smile appeared. It was gone as quickly as it came, and Tranquillus doubted the dominus noticed at all. Still, it was... something rare.

"Tranquillus, is there anything in particular you think Florus here needs to know?"

"Um, yes?" Tranquillus turned back to his master when his name was called, clearing his throat again. "Right, dominus. I think I heard the young domina mention she'd like to have more winter fruit in the garden, but the previous gardener did not quite succeed with them. Pomegranates and citrus."

@Liv @Ejder

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quiet though he was, apart from his little acquiescence, Florus seemed every bit the compliant slave. Whether it was his own nature or the time spent in Longinus' household that made him this way, Titus did not know, but suspected it was the former unless his friend's mother had had a hand on it. At any rate, he was pleased thus far.

It was unusual for Tranquillus to stare so much, but perhaps he wasn't convinced by the gardener's obedient act and wanted to catch him in a faux pas. Titus saw no other explanation that fell in line with his body slave's disposition. He seemed a little more distracted than usual, too, but that might well be one of the ways in which Tranquillus chose to show the last of his displeasure. Regardless of the reason, he still had his wits about him, even if it took him a bit longer than usual to respond.

"Good call, she did say something about pomegranates." Titus cast an expectant look at Florus. "Can you make that happen?" Probably not that year, unless Florus somehow procured a mature shrub and successfully replanted it. "I think a sweeter variety would be the better choice. Oh, and speaking of my children," he paused to exchange a knowing look with Tranquillus, "my two youngest like to play here and dig holes looking for worms and such. Valeriana in particular is very... energetic." Understatement of the year, but Florus would find out on his own soon enough. "So you will have to gently and politely keep them away." Titus gave Tranquillus another meaningful glance, wordlessly conveying he expected Tranquillus to ensure that particular order was followed to the letter.

@Ejder @Chevi

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Florus continued to be silent as the man named Tranquillus spoke about citrus and pomegranates, looking at him. Citrus he had experience with. Pomegranates, less so. None whatsoever, actually, but he was a quick learner. And it wasn't difficult, with plants. Every plant needed, in amounts specific to its species, light, water, good soil, and fertilizer. All he needed to know was what pomegranates needed. His hard, pale eyes traveled from the body slave to the Roman, and he gave his new master a short nod.

It was a bit late, this time of year, to plant something and hope for a quick harvest. If Rufus was planning for the next year, it meant he foresaw a future where Florus was still his slave. He didn't know whether it should come as a comfort or be depressing.

'Yes, dominus.'

 

@Chevi @Liv

Edited by Ejder
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tranquillus was glad he managed to muster up that piece of information about the citrus. Nothing short of magic would make pomegranates happen this late in the winter, but it was good to lay out some expectations at least.

"Good call, she did say something about pomegranates. Can you make that happen? I think a sweeter variety would be the better choice."

Tranquillus looked at Florus again, who clearly had no choice to say no to the request. He watched the young man size up the garden, deep in thought. Gardening as a slave wasn't easy, especially when a master's expectations collided with those of Flora and Gaia. Still, a good gardener was obliged to try.

'Yes, dominus.'

Again, quit, but with less defiance. Florus seemed almost distracted by the gardens, as if he was already thinking of his work. That could be a good quality, Tranquillus concluded. Maybe the young man had some other good qualities too...

" Oh, and speaking of my children, my two youngest like to play here and dig holes looking for worms and such. Valeriana in particular is very... energetic. So you will have to gently and politely keep them away."

Dominus have Tranquillus a look, and he nodded. Some things would have a learning curve, but not this. Florus would have to treat the children with respect and politeness, or he'd suffer severe consequences. There was really not much else to say, other than making sure Florus could find his way around the household.  "Shall I show him to his quarters, domine?"

@Ejder @Liv

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If Florus found his newly-assigned task daunting or beyond his capabilities, nothing in his countenance showed it, and Titus appreciated his assertive nod. Maybe - and it was a big maybe, and still too soon to tell, but - the gardener would turn out to fit right in and hopefully reveal himself an asset.

Taking care of the plants, Titus reckoned, was the easy part. Managing expectations and keeping everybody more or less pleased was where the challenge lay. Still, he knew Tranquillus would make sure the young Briton toed the line. "Yes, I suppose that's that for the time being," he agreed, casting an inquisitive look at Florus. "Or is there anything you'd like to ask? Get all the stupid questions out of the way while you have the chance." Titus might not be feeling as charitable or patient the next day.

@Ejder @Chevi

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Florus was uncertain about the looks exchanged between the Roman and his body slave. Tranquillus, his name was. He didn't know what to think of him. What kind of man accepted being a slave and thought he was close to his captor? It baffled him. It unnerved him completely to come to a country where it was the culture of the land that human beings were the property of others, and both slave and masters accepted and navigated this system unquestioningly. His gaze lingered on the man for a moment, then returned to the gardens until the Roman spoke again.

'How would I go about purchasing plants and tools for the gardens... dominus?' Florus' eagerness to think about his new domain cleared everything away from his mind. There were the gardens, and nothing else existed. And with any luck, even the Roman wouldn't exist. 'How much freedom do I have with the landscaping?' Freedom was an odd choice of word, to be sure,

 

@Chevi @Liv

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was not much to do with a new gardener, other than keep an eye on him and make sure he behaved as he was expected. If he wasn't good at his job, it would come out sooner than later anyway, although Tranquillus didn't think Longinus would have sold Florus to his friend if he had not been good at his job.

"Yes, I suppose that's that for the time being. Or is there anything you'd like to ask? Get all the stupid questions out of the way while you have the chance."

Tranquillus looked at the young man again. So far, he had not said much, other than 'yes' and 'dominus.' Would he have any questions? Did he understand his new position at the household? Tranquillus found that he was curious to hear Florus talk more.

'How would I go about purchasing plants and tools for the gardens... dominus? How much freedom do I have with the landscaping?'

Tranquillus arched an eyebrow. Those were very practical questions. Not stupid at all, although the use of 'freedom' in relation to his work was somewhat questionable. Not that dominus cared much about specific landscaping choices as long as everything looked good, but Florus couldn't know that yet. His questions did show that he cared about his work, and cared about doing it well. That explained the smile somewhat. Maybe the young man was defiant about being a slave, but at least he was not resentful about his task. Tranquillus continued observing him as Titus answered his questions.

@Liv @Ejder

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Colour him impressed! It turned out his new gardener apparently had some sense about him. Instead of asking all sorts of inanities about sleeping arrangements and meal times - which Tranquillus would have been better suited to answer, anyway -, the young man seemed to have an archer's focus on his new assignment. With a fledgling smile of approval on his lips Titus began to speak. 

"If it exists somewhere in the empire, it can be found here in Rome too. Try at the Emporium Magnum first, Tranquillus can tell you where it is." Not that Florus would be going anywhere alone the next few weeks anyway, not until he proved himself reliable. "Draft a list of what you need, investigate costs, and see me or my secretary about it." If he thought he would have carte blanche and unlimited funds from the get-go, the Briton had another thing coming. "As to your artistic freedom," Titus emphasised the word with a displeased tone, "you may do as you please as long as there is nothing poisonous or otherwise dangerous." The last thing he needed was one of his kids sick to their stomach or worse because their sibling dared them to eat some random berry. "Though you might want to confer with your domina first, she's more creatively-minded than me." 

He exchanged an amused look with Tranquillus. Valeria would almost certainly have plenty of ideas as to how the gardens should look.

@Ejder @Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Florus nodded briefly, his mouth a thin line, but his eyes twinkling enough for a careful observer to pick up on. Already he had plans for what he could do here. He listened to the words being spoken to him, but hardly registered any hidden meanings, intonations, or anything else. He was in his own mind, and what was going on there took precendence over reality. This was going to be the case at least until the gardens resembled what he was beginning to craft in his mind. The almond tree only a few metres away had many dead branches that would need to be cut, and not only for esthetic reasons. There had been a mention of children, and he would prefer it if there wasn't a chance of dead wood falling on them at any given time.

'Yes, dominus,' he replied. The bit about not being allowed to use poisonous plants was a bit disappointing. Many poisonous plants had distinctly beautiful flowers and leaves, but he understood the need to prevent children from being in danger.

As for now, the drafting of a list of supplies would keep him busy. If he used the rest of the day to tour the gardens, he was fairly certain he would be able to come up with a list within the day.

 

@Chevi @Liv

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...