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Summer 75 CE

Just a few days earlier Quintus had received a letter from one Gnaeus Flavius Paterculus. There were few messages sent across the empire that were routed directly to Caesar without first going through the hands of his secretary - those from Paterculus were among the few. Paterculus was a servant and later freedman to Quintus' father, and had in many ways been a fatherly figure to Quintus in his youth. He had been a part of Quintus' entourage during the Greek rebellion nearly two decades earlier, and after Quintus secured Athens he allowed Paterculus to remain in Attica... which was his home.

There was another reason Quintus left Paterculus in Attica. Quintus, in his younger years, was one for tasting all of the local flavors... so to speak. He went through young men and women and considered that just as much a conquest as the battles and wars he fought against Rome's enemies. Only twice (that he knew of) did those encounters leave him with children. Ausonia, in Hispania, had given him Publius - whom he later adopted with full rights - and a daughter, Belanina. And in Achaea, Patroclea had also given him a daughter: Eutropia.

Paterculus, then, had been given the task of looking after Patroclea and Eutropia. In time Paterculus married Patroclea and Quintus had presumed that Eutropia thought Paterculus to be her father.

That all came to an end with the letter.

Within, Paterculus explained that he had a fever and would likely pass before the letter arrived to Quintus in Rome. He went on to say that an unfortunate string of bad luck in gambling had robbed him of his assets, and those Caesar had sent to him to take care of his family. Eutropia, who was set to be married to a low-level member of the Athenian senate, was distraught to find she had neither an inheritance nor dowry. In all the hysteria, Patroclea had let slip the secret that Eutropia's wealth was with her father in Rome... which then pressed Eutropia to dig for the truth of her lineage.

It continued to say that Eutropia had left for Rome, and after they heard nothing back from her, Patroclea went after her. The only letter Paterculus had received from Patroclea was that Eutropia had gotten into some sort of trouble. The letter ended with an apology.

Eutropia had to be found.

To that end, Quintus had relied upon his aides to arrange a meeting with a contact who was supposed to be one of the very best at finding and selling secrets.

An abandoned apartment had been secured in the subura of Absidata. With the combination of stubble he had not shaved for days, some soot to dirty his face, and a hood to cover his imperial features, Caesar had gone unnoticed to the point of contact. A hand-picked group of German Guard were dressed in civilian clothing, making themselves busy in the streets outside, and Caesar carried a belt around his shoulder that sheathed a small and very sharp dagger. He was prepared for whatever might come.

He heard the shuffling of foot steps, and then a knock.

"Enter" he said.

@Atrice

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This was very interesting! Helios had for years been doing what he’d been doing… well, for years. He was a prostitute in the Domus Venus, catering to the best Senators (and sometimes their wives) and on top of that, he collected secrets for his mistress, among other people. He collected them and kept them or sold them to anyone who might pay for it. Helios rather enjoyed that part of his job and as he once discussed with a friend, who had since then moved on to serve another master elsewhere… if he was ever to be freed, he might become a real investigator and spy. But for now, this was all he had. His mistress had suggested freedom might come someday, but it wasn’t here yet.

Helios was ready to gain any secrets he could and gain some coin in return somehow. When he had been contacted by a slave, claiming he came from nowhere (but Helios could tell he served someone of a high rank), who said his master had a job for him… Helios naturally agreed. He had been told that this job required his full attention and discretion and if he was to let anything slip to the wrong people, or to anyone at all really, he might not see the light of day again. That was quite a threat! And quite a job too, he thought. He could earn a lot on this. If he did it well, maybe he’d gain enough to buy the freedom himself.

And so he showed at the arranged meeting place, an abandoned old apartment in his own area of the great city. Helios wore a simple, but light, flax tunica and a belt with his purse. And a cloak too of course, because of all the secrecy. To be honest, it made him very curious. Who was he meeting? Who was this person, who needed his skills and required such discretion?

Helios knocked on the door and was told to enter, so he did that. He slipped inside and was careful to close the door behind him. In the room was another man, cloaked with a hood too and Helios looked him over. He didn’t seem familiar, but it was hard to tell in a dimly lit room and with the man wearing a hood.

“Greetings Domine… I am Helios.” Helios said, “I understand you’re in need of my services?” He didn’t know what yet, after all.

@Chris

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Quintus remained seated but looked up. He kept a straight face, nodding at the man's introduction and deciding to forgo mentioning any sort of name for his new persona. And then they went directly into business.

"I am," he said, and then pulled back his hood. The disguise had served its purpose in concealing his identity on the journey to the meeting. But for the true weight of the matter to really weigh upon this Helios, Caesar needed the man to see him for who he was.

"There is a very delicate and personal situation that I need dealt with. A situation that cannot be officially recorded or noted." Which is why he wasn't relying upon the division of the guards that specialized in truth-finding. "I have been told by people whom I trust that you are capable and dependable. You know who I am. You know the power I have. But I am a man who prefers to reward for a job well done over punishing for failure.

"With a simple sentence I can change your life, but I need your word, here and now, that I can trust you." There were seldom second chances with Quintus.

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Helios was curious to learn more about the job – and the man who hired him for it. He didn’t even know yet how much he’d be paid, but he assumed it would be quite a sum. The more dangerous or high-risk a job was, the more you earned. And not even Helios’ mistress knew about this, it was that secret. He could only hope it wasn’t all a ruse and he had somehow angered someone in a high place and he was going to end up dead in a few moments…

But that didn’t happen. Instead the stranger with the hood confirmed he needed Helios’ services and then pulled back the hood. Helios’ eyes were adjusting to the faint light in the room and he narrowed his eyes, it was a familiar face, but not someone he had ever met, been close to or slept with, he thought… it was obvious though, that the man expected Helios to know who he was. Meanwhile the stranger continued talking about a personal and delicate situation that had to be kept secret. And apparently he’d heard about Helios for this job. Alright, so the man was powerful – he said so and Helios should know who he was. He looked more closely at the other man who sat before him. Was it who he thought it was?

“Of course, Domine… I am certainly dependable and capable to anyone who will pay the right price and reward me well for my services.” Helios promised. It felt strange to just straight out ask someone ‘are you Caesar?’ but he never met the man before or had any chance to come close to him before. Helios was a slave, first in a private household and then here. There was no way a slave and prostitute like Helios ever got close to the most important man in the Empire. Until now anyway…

“I want to make sure however, that you are not playing me for a fool. If you are who I think you are… and you will reward me in the way I hope… then you should have no problem telling me your name. In return, I am prepared to do whatever it takes to help you with your… situation. Domine.” Helios was not trying to be impolite or offensive, he simply needed to know the truth. His heart was beating as if it was trying to escape Hades though. Never in his life would he have believed he’d be standing before Caesar and asking to know exactly who that man was! This was so much more than he'd ever expected from his life.

@Chris

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Quintus smirked at Helios' insistence on knowing his name. He'd assumed - obviously incorrectly - that even in that dimly-lit room, his features would be recognized. Apparently not. Unless the man was simply in so much disbelief that he wanted to hear Caesar's name directly from his own mouth.

"Perhaps the light doesn't do me justice," he quipped, and then added, "I am Caesar." He stopped there, to watch the man's reaction and then asked if he had any other questions so that they might get started with the job.

@Atrice

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Truly, he'd never in his life imagined this would happen. Captured in Britannia as a child, enslaved in Rome, eventually as a prostitute and later also a secret-collector and investigator... Helios did not think the mighty Caesar of the Roman Empire would ever hear of a man like him and definitely not meet him in person. And here they were, in a dusty and faintly lit room in one of the dirtiest areas of Rome and Caesar wanted his help. He had smirked and said the light didn't do him justice and confirmed what Helios had been thinking. Helios inhaled a breath. Caesar. Caesar! 

"Caesar, I am... honored!" He said, bowing his head, not as a slave, but as a member of this odd society. He was a slave, but he was also a member of the Empire, even if he had no rights to call his own, "Honored that you have heard of me and wish for me to help you with your delicate situation. Of course, you have my assistance and my trust and silence in the matter, since that is what you desire." He added with a little smile - he did deal with desires, after all, "What will you have me do?" 

@Chris

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After the praise and thanks and talk of honor was finished, Caesar nodded. Truth be told, he wished he wasn't in a situation to need a secret meeting with a slave who made his career off finding and selling secrets, among whatever other things he did. However, Quintus was a man who understood that no matter a man or woman's station, they could have skills and value. He fully believed in giving the opportunity for someone to prove themselves. Helios' opportunity was at hand.

"I need you to find someone," he started. "An Athenian woman recently arrived from Greece. Her name as I know it is Eutropia, though she could call herself Flavia." That was simply a guess, or intuition on Quintus' part. "She is young. In her twenties. Both her mother and father are dark-haired. Her mother has crystal blue eyes. The only other information I have on her is that she has recently run into some sort of trouble. I suspect that as a newcomer to Rome without money that trouble involves circles of people you are familiar with."

He stopped there. "What else do you need to know?"

@Atrice

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Helios was still surprised that of all people, Caesar chose to come to him to ask for help and assistance in an important matter! But of course, Helios would serve the most important man in the empire. And not just because he feared he might lose his head or limbs if he said no, but because... well... anyone should serve Caesar and do his bidding. Helios did not recall much of the emperors before this one, well of course he remembered the uproar and the civil war and all that, but he was quite young and not even a prostitute back then. Back then he was still a house slave. And back then, Caesar had little impact on his life. Truth be told, he didn't have that still, well until now anyway! So of course he'd serve this emperor, because of who he was and he knew the peace this Caesar had brought with him. He was one to be admired. And served.

Caesar explained what he wanted Helios to do - he was to find a young woman and Caesar explained more about the young woman. Helios already tried to read between the lines when the man began to explain. Eutropia, but she might call herself Flavia. And she was young and her father was dark-haired (Caesar had dark hair) and he described the mother's eyes as if he knew them well. Was this Eutropia or Flavia his relation? His child? Not that he would ask, but he could assume and maybe it was right. Apparently the young woman had run into trouble and might be involved with the dark-minded part of Rome's inhabitants. What else did he want to know? Helios thought it over.

"There's not a lot to go on, besides a few names and her looks. That description could probably fit hundreds of women in Rome." Helios said, because this was the truth, "Do you know exactly when she arrived? And would she have friends or relations here, that she might have sought out?" 

@Chris

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Indeed it was not a lot of information. Quintus adjusted his seating and rolled his neck around his shoulders to crack it before continuing. "I don't know the exact date she arrived," he admitted, but added "within the last month." He paused before answering the second half of Helios' question. Her relations. 

"She is an illegitimate member of the Flavian family," he said at last, his eyes pointed and direct as if to relay the unspoken details. "I have reason to believe that she was made aware of that fact just recently and thus came to Rome to seek out either more answers.. or status, or wealth, or some combination of it all. To my understanding she has never been to the city, and must have come in by way of Ostia and up the Tiber."

Caesar was not so familiar with the routes of travel used by the lower class citizens to get into the city, but he presumed Helios was.

@Atrice

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