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May 75AD, the morning after Next steps

 

Aulus had time between his breakfast and his first clients to speak with his wife's body slave. Her admission yesterday had been concerning, yet she had been in no condition for him to press for details. He hoped that the distance of a few hours from the event would have fortified her somewhat, so that she would be able to recount what had happened without the immediate rush of emotions that she had naturally had 

He decided to have this conversation in the garden because summoning her to the tablinum would probably make her far more nervous than need be - she would already be nervous at receiving the summons from the master of the house. 

He made sure he had a wax tablet to hand in case he needed to make any notes before sending a slave to fetch her.

"Callista. I hope you have recovered from your ordeal yesterday," he said when she appeared.

@Laria

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⁴On any other day Callista would be panicky if she had been ordered to go see the dominus, today however, she was completely calm. She knew exactly what he wanted to as her about and had expected him to summon her. She understood that she may be under some suspicion due to her agreeing to betray her masters, but under the circumstances it seemed like the only option. 

"Callista. I hope you have recovered from your ordeal yesterday,"

"I have Dominus, thank you." It was true that she was much less emotional than she had been the day before, yesterday she was a mess of fear, anger, confusion, and remorse, but today she just felt numb. She stood before him and waited to be asked to explain what exactly had happened yesterday that had caused this whole mess. 

@Sharpie

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Aulus looked at Callista. She was a pretty girl, obviously of African descent, and intelligent. He knew that she had served her mistress, his wife, for almost as long as Felix had served him. That was not something easily set aside and forgotten, by master (or mistress) or slave.

"No doubt you know why I sent for you," he said mildly. "Yesterday was rather emotional for you, and for good reason. I would like to hear what happened, as clearly as you can tell me."

 

@Laria

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"No doubt you know why I sent for you, yesterday was rather emotional for you, and for good reason. I would like to hear what happened, as clearly as you can tell me."

As he spoke she shifted her weight from side to side, she did indeed know why she was here but that didn't make it any less nerve wracking for her to explain what had happened the day before. It did help that he was being gentle with her rather than going about this interrogation style, but it still was not an event she wanted to relive. "I was running errands when I was taken to the Castra. I was threatened with torture by the guards who had apprehended me, then the one who would end up questioning me interviened, he told them to release me into his custody. I think he was trying to make me feel safer with him by saving me from a situation that it is clear to me now he orchestrated. He lead me to his office and asked about Domina's family, it was as if he were trying to disguise his questions as small talk but with every vague answer I gave he grew more and more frustrated." She paused to take a shaky breath, "I don't remember exactly what was said but more guards that had been waiting outside the door burst in and grabbed me, he then said that he believed Domina's family were all traitors and that he wanted me to help him find proof. He offered me freedom and then threatened go have me crucified, after that he threatened the children and I found myself agreeing to his every demand. I couldn't see any other way to leave there alive." She looked down in shame before continuing "I acted selfish and reckless, my behavior was inexcusable and I hope that you can somehow forgive me" 

@Sharpie

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Which was as he had thought: she had tried to fob him off and of course he had seen straight through her and refused to be fobbed off. And of course he had been able to scare her into giving him what he wanted.

"It took a threat directed at the children before you gave him anything."

That the man had threatened Horatia's family rather than Aulus was interesting - was he somehow trying to get at Horatia? He would have to consult with Publius, he thought.

"That must have been a very difficult position to be in," he said. "Now, I need you to be honest. If Felix had not told us that yesterday, would you have told your mistress or me, or would you have kept his demands to yourself?"

 

@Laria

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"It took a threat directed at the children before you gave him anything"

She nodded and stifled a yawn, after a fitful night of sleep it no longer seem as important to point out that the threats, while directed at the children, were vague rather than direct. 

"That must have been a very difficult position to be in. Now, I need you to be honest. If Felix had not told us that yesterday, would you have told your mistress or me, or would you have kept his demands to yourself?"

Her mouth fell open and her eyes widened in suprize. Had Felix told him? Surely he wouldn't have, but then again he was one of, it not the most loyal slave in the household. Maybe he hadn't told on her, perhaps it was how she acted last night that gave her away. She composed herself and answered honestly, "I don't know, yesterday I was motivated only by fear and that praetorian told me that everything would be much worse if he even suspected that anyone but Felix and I knew what he had done, and I believed him. I think I still would have told you, but not last night." 

@Sharpie

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"He can hardly be surprised that we know now, though," Aulus said dryly. He nodded, his suspicions confirmed: she thought that she would have told them (and really, he couldn't be surprised at her slight uncertainty) but it wouldn't have been yesterday, with the fear still there and emotions running high.

"You're a good girl," he said, sitting back. "My order still stands: neither you nor Felix are to leave the house - you shouldn't need to, anyway. And your mistress with find you something to do to keep you busy and help keep your mind off it all. There will be an end to all this nonsense and everyone will be safe. If anything like this ever happens again, you are to tell your mistress or me as soon as possible."

Horatia would be glad, he thought. Of course there was that slight uncertainty - Callista was a slave and had never been in any sort of danger threatened by another, and naturally she would not know how Aulus or Horatia would take her news. Hopefully, there would be less uncertainty and hesitation in the future. Not that he expected anything like this to occur again - he most certainly did not.

 

@Laria

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"You're a good girl, my order still stands: neither you nor Felix are to leave the house - you shouldn't need to, anyway. And your mistress with find you something to do to keep you busy and help keep your mind off it all. There will be an end to all this nonsense and everyone will be safe. If anything like this ever happens again, you are to tell your mistress or me as soon as possible."

"Yes Dominus" she was grateful for the extra work and the guarentee that she wouldn't have to leave the house. She had always been able to distract herself just so long as she had something to do and she felt safer at home. She felt relived that he seemed to understand why she had done what she had done; he made it clear to her that if something else like this ever happened she was to inform him immediately and she was likely to do so because of how reasonable he was being with this situation. 

She shifted her weight again and waited to be excused, she didn't think there was anything left to talk about. It seemed to her that this whole situation was out of her hands now, if felt as if a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders.

@Sharpie

So should we wrap this up?

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"Thank you for being honest with me." It couldn't have been easy for her; Aulus was the most powerful man in her life and for someone to have threatened her like that - and moreover, to have threatened her mistress and master... Of course she had been shaken. 

"You can go," he said. The interview had only needed to be brief, after all, and she had needed the reassurance. She had probably not been in a state of mind to take it in yesterday, which was understandable. 

He would need to reassure Horatia of Callista's loyalty too; the thought that she had voluntarily offered to report the family's movements to him had not sat well with her and while Aulus had suspected that was not the case (and had those suspicions confirmed both by Felix and Callista), it wouldn't hurt to reassure Horatia.

And this issue had to be dealt with. At least now he had more of an idea what they were up against and how to counter it.

 

@Laria - end? And thanks!

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