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Aeterna Roma RPG

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Early September, 75 AD

This place was… huge! Wulfric was barely even sure when he entered Rome, it seemed to go on forever and it felt like he’d been walking for days, when he reached this part of it. He had planned to make it to the center of Rome and people kept pointing him this way, towards the so-called Forum of Rome. He knew a forum was a marketplace of sorts, but when he entered this part of Rome, it seemed to be a marketplace for white marble rather than anything else. And painted statues and gold and people literally everywhere.

Wulfric grew up in a town, it wasn’t small, it was large actually, for a Germanian town. He bet the Romans would not say it was even a town, they would call it a village. A gathering of houses, even. And the houses were barely houses, compared to what they lived in. And this place, Rome, was not even a town, it was a city or was it actually a country in its own? Of course he knew it was an Empire, but that word was almost beyond his understanding. He’d never seen so many people before in his entire life, nor had he seen so many buildings made out of brick and marble and he’d not seen… well any of this. The towns he passed through on the way here did not compare to Rome. He had been somewhat prepared, but he was still astonished by this. Some called it the eternal city, because it had already existed in centuries, and he’d believe it if it still stood when all men had gone.

It was also a bit confusing, to be honest. Where did you go? Wulfric wore nothing but his travelling clothes, the more ordinary clothes, and on his back he had a sack with the rest of his clothes and other personal items. He should find a place to sleep, he’d been sleeping under the sky and with friendly people on the way here. He’d even stayed in a few places where you could buy a drink and pay for a bed, which he never tried before. Perhaps they had such places in Rome too? He should also find the palace though. He was a prince. And most importantly, he should find Varus!

But where to begin? He stood staring up at a huge building of white marble, he understood it was a temple of sorts, to their gods, although it was nothing like the temples they had where he came from. It was as huge as everything else. Wulfric scratched the back of his head, he probably looked as disoriented and confused as he felt.

@Chevi

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Rome was everything. Even when he only got to earn a few coins a day, competing with all the other things to see and do and all the other people to talk to, or do business with, or have sex with, Iophon was deeply in love with the city. The beating heart of the whole place was the Forum Romanum (whatever senators and imperials wanted to claim otherwise), and it was full of interesting people, and goods from all corners of the Empire. And stories. Stories to hear, and stories to learn.

The lanky young Greek was watching the milling crowds, casually leaning against the foundation of the statue of Vertumnus, at the place where the Vicus Tuscus skirted around the Palatine and entered the Forum. It was a good vantage point, and very neatly situated close to the booksellers' stalls. It was also right in the middle of everything, and therefore a good place to spot travelers and visitors, who, whatever corner of the Empire they hailed from, all tended to wear the same uniform look of awe and confusion on their faces. Iophon himself used to have it a few short months ago. That look was a beacon for a periegetes

"You look like you have made a long journey" he said to the man who looked like he hailed from somewhere in the barbaric North. Germania, most likely. Iophon flashed him a bright, friendly smile, and spoke Latin, hoping it would be a common tongue for the both of them. "Welcome to Rome, Queen of the Cities! It's a marvel, isn't it? Something straight out of the best legends. Also a little bit confusing, I know. Can I help you find what you are looking for?"

@Atrice

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The most clever thing would of course be to simply find his father and demand a bed there. But eh doubted he’d find his father on his first day in Rome. There were thousands of people here, which he understood was a very big number and more than he could count, to be honest. Not that Wulfric was unable to count, but how did you count to thousands? And from what he’d seen so far, by the way, thousands of people in one city was not necessarily a good thing. Not all of them lived well and he’d seen many who must be very poor people. Not here though, not at the Forum. Most people here were well-dressed. As if they were made to fit in with the white marble.

He hadn’t moved from his spot yet, when a curly-haired tall man (taller than Wulfric anyway) approached him and began talking. He hadn’t expected that. Wulfric paid him attention though, focusing on understanding the words. It was a different dialect than what he learned back home, but he had met many people during his journey to Rome and he’d learned to listen well to the different versions of Latin. His own was probably a bit broken, but not the worst either. The stranger welcomed him to Rome, calling it a marvel and then confusing.

Wulfric gave the other young man a smile, “Gratitude for warm welcome.” He replied, the German accent probably a little on the heavy side, “It is… very… confusing city, yes. I need place to sleep, tonight? You know such place? Taverna?” He had not expected to see such a friendly face and gain such a welcome to Rome, but he was pleased so far. If all Romans were like this one, he was in luck, wasn’t he?

@Chevi

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“Gratitude for warm welcome.”

Ah, the accent was a giveaway. Iophon had a Greek tilt to his Latin as well, but he doubted the other man could tell. To Romans, it sometimes made him seem more sophisticated.

“It is… very… confusing city, yes. I need place to sleep, tonight? You know such place? Taverna?” 

"Oh, for sure" Iophon nodded with a grin "You can have your pick of all the taverns in the city. I know some good ones. Good wine, decent beds, sometimes good company" he winked, and held up a hand "But, to make sure you get the best place in the most convenient part of the city, I must ask... what brings you to Rome? Trade? Study? Family?..."

@Atrice

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He was quite certain it was obvious he was a foreigner. He did not wear the same clothes at the Romans and his broken, accented Latin was also a giveaway. This man here, he definitely looked Roman to Wulfric, but then everyone who were not from the North as himself, looked Roman. The welcoming stranger grinned and said he knew a taverna and actually several. All of the taverns in the city? They had many? Of course, such a huge city catered to so many people. There had to be taverns. Places where you'd buy your drinks. It wasn't like back at home at all, you might trade, but not so much with little pieces of silver or other metals. You'd trade goods. Someone had something you needed and you had something they needed. So you'd trade like that. No one could eat coins, sadly. But here in Rome, they seemed important. Wulfric would have to find a way to get some. 

Wulfric tried to pay attention to the stranger, who knew places with good wine and beds and company. And then he would know what brought Wulfric here. 

"I guess family. I have family here... somewhere..." He gestured around him with a hand, as if to say they could be anywhere in Rome, with it being so vast and filled with people, "I don't have much... coin, that is used for trade. For buying. So maybe not taverna that is... need... much coin?" What he was trying to say was that he could not afford some expensive place, but he'd figure it out. And eventually he'd find his father and maybe he could help too. 

@Chevi

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"I guess family. I have family here... somewhere..."

"Is that right?" he did not look like he would have rich cousins or something in the city. Was he looking for enslaved family members or something? Iophon was intrigued by the possibility. Quite a long journey to take on such a slim chance at reunion.

"I don't have much... coin, that is used for trade. For buying. So maybe not taverna that is... need... much coin?" 

"A place on the cheaper side. I've got you." Iophon smiled and nodded, picking a direction to walk in as he sorted through the possible taverns in his head. "Are you planning on staying long? Or just until you find your... relatives? If you are thinking on the long term, renting a room in an insula would be a better bet. A taverna is good for a few days, but they tend to get greedy after a while. And, frankly, they are not that comfortable." he shrugged, smiling as they walked through the crowd across the forum "Do you know where your family lives?"

@Atrice

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Wulfric honestly didn’t know either whether his father would be rich or poor, but he suspected that his father was rich. His mother had said he’d dressed finely and spoke of how dreadful the tents in the camp were, compared to the fancy home and city he grew up in. A place with walls of stone and mosaics on the floor and a garden. Wulfric could barely imagine it before, but now he was beginning to understand.

The stranger seemed to look at him strangely when he spoke of having family here, but Wulfric went on, explaining how he needed a place that was not too expensive. The stranger seemed to understand and began walking and Wulfric followed, while the other talked. He wondered how long Wulfric would stay and suggested renting a room in an insula? Wulfric barely knew any of those words, he knew renting had to do with borrowing though. The stranger said tavernas were only good for a short time and not comfortable.

“Maybe… in..sula is best, then? You would prefer insula?” Although he had no idea what it was, but how to ask without appearing stupid or unintelligent? The stranger would know where his family lived, but Wulfric shook his head.

“I don’t know. Just in Rome.” He explained, not yet ready to share names with a stranger, since he knew nothing about Varus except for the name and stories about what he was like 23 years ago, “What is your name? I am Wulfric.” Wulfric then said, feeling a bit odd following a stranger around. It would be better if they knew each other.

@Chevi

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“Maybe… in..sula is best, then? You would prefer insula?” 

"That's where I live." Iophon nodded "Small rooms, but good enough for a bit. I'll show you and you can decide." Iophon was not sure how much the man understood about his options, but it was easier to show than explain. If he was only going to stay until he's tracked down his relatives, then it would be as good as a tavern, in any case. Depending on how much he knew about where to find them.

“I don’t know. Just in Rome... What is your name? I am Wulfric.” 

"Neat name. Does it mean something?" Iophon smiled "I'm Iophon. I have been where you are now. I'm not originally from Rome either. I know it takes some getting used to."

@Atrice

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Maybe he should not follow a stranger so easily, but he seemed nice enough and Wulfric had met plenty of odd strangers on the long road to Rome. This one honestly did not seem half as weird or dangerous as some he had encountered. And the man seemed happy to teach him a bit about Rome. Now Wulfric was learning a new word too, insula, which was apparently a room you could rent in Rome. It sounded interesting enough.

Wulfric nodded quietly at the stranger and had then decided to introduce himself. The stranger said it was a nice name and wondered what it meant and then introduced his name too. Iophon. People had such odd names here.

“Iofon…” He repeated, trying to say the name out loud, while the guy also said he had once been new to Rome, since he wasn’t from here either.

“I think you are right.” Wulfric replied, “Wulfric means… how to explain…” He tried to remember the Latin word for wulf and then thought he had it right, “Wulfric means… powerful or strong wolf?” He hoped he got the word right and decided to ask the same question to the stranger, “What does Iofon mean?”

@Chevi

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“Iofon… I think you are right. Wulfric means… how to explain… Wulfric means… powerful or strong wolf?”

"Ah. Right on. That is a good solid name in any language." Iophon nodded his approval. The god Apollo was a wolf in his most formidable shape. Wolves were respected and feared in most parts of the world; no wonder someone from the forests of the North would respect them enough that they gave this name to their son.

“What does Iofon mean?”

"It means 'voice from the moon'" Iophon grinned, making a grand gesture "Which is only fitting, really, since stories are my trade. It's Greek. Well, I'm Greek. From Egypt. And you are... from Germania? Did I guess right?"

@Atrice

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Wulfric knew that he mostly had his name because his father - or, the man he grew up thinking was his father - was called Wulfstan, so his own name had to resemble that. And because Wulfric was also a grandson to their chieftain or king, depending on whom you asked, the name he was given seemed right. It was never really something he had considered before, but his new friend thought it was a good name. Wulfric nodded, "I agree." He simply replied, wondering if he ought to change his name, now that his mother had revealed whom his father was. He was no longer Wulfric, son of Wulfstan. Would his father think it a strange name? He probably would, it sounded nothing like the names people had in Rome.

He wondered, naturally, what the other man's name meant and Iophon explained it. Voice from the moon! First Wulfric thought it might mean he was some kind of bard and it wasn't entirely wrong. Iophon explained that he traded stories and his name was Greek, although he was from Egypt. Then he guessed where Wulfric was from.

"Germania, yes. My people are known as Chatti. You know Germania and the people?" He said, wondering if Iophon, as a storyteller of sorts, knew the story about the time his people - along with other people from Germania - defeated the Romans. Not that Wulfric had been present, he wasn't born back then, but he knew the stories. Everyone did, where he came from. 

@Chevi

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"Germania, yes. My people are known as Chatti. You know Germania and the people?" 

"I can't say I have ever been that far up north myself" Iophon said, regret clearly visible in his face "But I have heard many things. Mostly second and third hand, mind you." Most of it had to do with the wars. The German tribes were formidable warriors, and Rome had a long history of fighting them - victories as well as disasters. But one could not just go around asking strange people from Germania to tell him about what happened to Varus' legions, right? That would have been rude.

Iophon perked up. "Maybe you can tell me more? I know you have gods different from ours. One of them has one eye? I'm fascinated by the gods. We had a lot of them in Egypt, but not all of them are worshipped in Rome."

@Atrice

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He was kind of disappointed to learn that Iophon did not know his people, but then again, the Romans seemed to think themselves above any other people in the world, so why would anyone down here tell stories of the Chatti that a Greek storyteller from Egypt would know about? Gods this was kind of confusing, wasn't it? Iophon said he had heard many things, but it seemed to never have come from someone who actually knew things. Iophon suggested Wulfric should tell him more and knew about the gods.

"We have many gods too. Different from Roman gods. More... natural. No temples like Roman temples where I grow up. Our temples made of wood... or sacred places in forest." He explained and tried to think about how to explain what Iophon asked about. The god he had heard about was quite important, but there was an abundance of stories about him and his looks. Sometimes he had one eye, but not always. Sometimes he had both eyes. It depended on the story. 

"Wotan gives eye away, in stories. To gain wisdom from wisdom well. There are many stories about Wotan." Wulfric said, looking at Iophon, "You first person I meet, who has interest in our gods. Why?" 

@Chevi

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"We have many gods too. Different from Roman gods. More... natural. No temples like Roman temples where I grow up. Our temples made of wood... or sacred places in forest." 

"So I hear." Iophon nodded sagely. He did not add that most of the times he'd heard that, it also included Roman soldiers being sacrificed alive in said forest places. No need to start off on the wrong foot with his new German friend.

"Wotan gives eye away, in stories. To gain wisdom from wisdom well. There are many stories about Wotan. You first person I meet, who has interest in our gods. Why?" 

"Why? Because I'm a storyteller" Iophon grinned, making a flourish with one hand "I live for a good story, and there are no better stories than those of the gods. Look around! We are surrounded by them." he added, with a sweeping motion of his arm "Jupiter, Saturnus, Vesta, Castor and Pollux, Mars and Venus. Power, money, love, war. Rome at its heart. And guess which one the great Julius Caesar claim his own divine descent from..."

@Atrice

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Iophon had apparently heard about Wulfric's home and their temples and gods. They did have temples, just not these huge ones made out of stone and marble, each one of them seeming larger than the previous one. As if someone were trying to compete about something or maybe compensate for something, he thought with a little smile. The temples he was used to, they were not like this. There were their ancestors stone-circles and graves and there were the dark and wooden buildings that had been risen, where the wise priests and völva would perform certain secret rites. Wulfric had only been inside such a building a few times in his life. He was no priest, after all, he was a warrior and that was a different life. 

He explained a little about their god Wotan, who had given his eye away and then wondered why Iophon was interested. Iophon explained it was because he was a storyteller and he really liked stories of the gods. He said they were surrounded by the gods and threw out quite a few names, some that Wulfric had heard before and some that he was not yet familiar with. Of course everyone had heard about Julius Caesar though.

"I am not so well... known... with Roman gods, friend. But I will learn. I know  about Julius Caesar, stories of him are told. He come from gods? Which one?" Wulfric was willing to learn all he could about the Roman way of life, even if he did not intend to stay here forever. But he needed to learn more about the life his father had. Then he'd be better prepared for if or when he found the man.

@Chevi

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Iophon always enjoyed introducing newcomers to Rome. He could pretend it was his own home, and tout all the best parts, coloring them as he wanted. He grinned at the hesitation he saw in Wulfric's eyes.

"I am not so well... known... with Roman gods, friend. But I will learn. I know  about Julius Caesar, stories of him are told. He come from gods? Which one?"

He didn't know the gods, but he knew Julius Caesar. Was that not what all great men aspired to? Be remembered reverently, even by their enemies, long after they were gone? Iophon grinned.

"Oh he did, or so they say. He claimed Venus as his divine ancestor. The goddess of love herself. Very fitting, since they say he enjoyed all kinds of love." he added with a wink, gesturing towards the shining columns of the temple of Venus Gentrix. "Of course, now he is a god himself as well. His temple is over there." he noted, pointing in the other direction at the shrine of Divus Julius. "That's as high as you can climb the social ladder in Rome... at leats if you are descended from a goddess. Why, your people don't claim divine ancestry every once in a while...?"

@Atrice

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Wulfric could already barely remember half the names of the Roman gods that Iophon mentioned to him. He tried to learn about and remember the most important, but the rest were harder. And less important, or so he hoped. But at least he knew Julius Caesar, even if they said he never reached the Rhine or Germania... everyone knew the stories, of course they did. The man led an interesting life, according to the storytellers. But Wulfric did not know that the infamous Roman claimed to be related to the gods.

Iophon explained that Caesar claimed that Venus, the goddess of love, was his ancestor. Wulfric arched a brow at the way Iophon winked at him, but then looked up at the temple they were walking by. And then Iophon said Caesar was a god now too and pointed at his temple! Then his new friend wondered if his people never claimed divine ancestry... 

"Some say we all have such ancestry. That the gods walk among us long time ago, were like us. But they do that even now, too." Wulfric explained, "But they hide, look like us. So no one guess who they are. To keep eye on our behavior." He said. There were many tales of odd strangers visiting towns and villages and strange things happened while they were there. And one day then, they would simply disappear and no one could explain it. Had to do be the divine, right?

"You said you are Greek, from Egypt." Which was already confusing... and then he was here in Rome... "Are your gods like Roman gods?" It was interesting to talk to Iophon and try to understand all these things.

@Chevi

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The Romans had been generous about granting divinity to such people as Caesar and Augustus. It was as much for show as it was for true devotion, but as a storyteller Iophon had to admit that many of those illustrious men had achieved true immortality by carving their name forever into the memory of people all over the empire. Names spoken meant the person living on. They had that in common with Egypt.

"Some say we all have such ancestry. That the gods walk among us long time ago, were like us. But they do that even now, too. But they hide, look like us. So no one guess who they are. To keep eye on our behavior." 

"Yes, my people say the same" Iophon nodded. Many stories featured gods in disguise "You could be a god, disguised as a stranger. Or I could be a god, welcoming a traveler into my city. Or we could both be gods who've never met! There's a funny thought. Here we are, huh?"

Maybe there was a story in there. One he should not tell so close to the temples...

"You said you are Greek, from Egypt. Are your gods like Roman gods?"

"Oh. Egypt has many, many gods." Iophon nodded sagely "Some Greek, some Roman. Some Persian. But then there are the old gods. Now, there are some stories...

They crossed the Forum and turned onto a street that curved towards the Esquiline. Iophon decided to drop the talk of religion.

"Enough about the gods, for now. We are in Rome! Tell me about your family. Who are we looking for?"

@Atrice

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How could a man, who had walked among the people, suddenly become a god? Usually it was the other way around, if a god fell in love with a human or something and chose to live as humans. But humans did not become gods. Not where Wulfric came from anyway. It was an interesting idea though and he kept it in mind, while he told about how everyone might trace their families back to the gods and that the gods walked among people too.

Iophon said his people said the same and suggested they could both be gods, disguising as strangers. That was a fun idea, but Wulfric would claim no such thing. He was a man, nothing more, nothing less… and a stranger to this city of course. He chuckled at Iophon’s idea though, “It is very funny thought. But I promise you I am man… and you are too, I think.” He said with a grin and a wink. Then he had asked about Iophon’s gods and the other man said they had many gods and some were even from other places. And they had old gods too and then he began saying something about stories but trailed off for some reason. Why?

They crossed into another street and Iophon then asked about Wulfric’s family.

“I know little about family here. I only know name. I think not…” He trailed off, trying to find the right words, “They not know I was born. It will be surprise. I hope it will be good.” But honestly, he didn’t know, because he knew nothing about his family here. What a man, his father, was like over twenty years ago, said little about the present. People changed.

@Chevi

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“I know little about family here. I only know name. I think not… They not know I was born. It will be surprise. I hope it will be good.” 

Iophon's eyebrows ran up, and then the realization dawned on him. "Oh... OH." Now he got it. Wulfric had come from far away into the great city of Rome seeking family he had never met before... and even more than that, family that did not even know he existed.

"You are looking for your father." he stated, suddenly even more intrigued. It only made sense. Mothers were usually keenly aware that their offspring existed. Unlike fathers. And if some Roman man had fathered a son in Germania, someone who was definitely not Roman... Well, there had to be a story there. "You are going to need a drink." Iophon stated, steering Wulfric towards a nearby popina that he sometimes brought guests to.

@Atrice

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Iophon seemed surprised when Wulfric explained that all he knew about his family here, was a name. And they didn't know about him at all, so they'd be surprised. He honestly had no idea what his father would think. So far he just hoped he'd be believed, when he finally found his family. And that they'd not tell him it was impossible he could be the son of a Roman. Or that they told him they didn't want him. But so far he was optimistic, because as long as you didn't know what was going to happen, why worry too much about it? 

Iophon easily guessed Wulfric was looking for his father though and why lie? "I am." Wulfric confirmed and then Iophon decided Wulfric should have a drink. They steered towards a place to find drinks and he wondered why, "I thought you show me place to stay. But drink... is good too. Just not drunk. It is early." Wulfric added with a grin, as long as Iophon would pay for his drink, he wouldn't mind. He didn't have a lot of their money yet, but Iophon already knew that. How lucky that he'd meet such a friendly man on his arrival in Rome.

@Chevi

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"I am."

The man was looking for his father, a man he had probably never seen, in all of Rome. Iophon now felt intrigued. Was it possible to accomplish such a quest? And if it was, what would the Roman man say, seeing his son from Germania? Romans were not generally fond of barbarians. Iophon was not sure if that exempted barbarians they'd made...

They definitely needed a drink to discuss this further.

"I thought you show me place to stay. But drink... is good too. Just not drunk. It is early." 

"Got it" Iophon walked into the popina with Wulfric in tow, waving a hand "New guest coming through! Will someone please give us a drink, my friend here has had a long journey and it's not over yet. Thank you love." he grinned at the girl who hurried over with some cups and wine. Since it was the middle of the day, the popina was not overly crowded yet. Iophon found a place for the both of them to sit, and talk undisturbed.

"Sooo" he said, taking a drink "You are searching for a father who doesn't know you exist. And you were born in Germania... I feel like there is a longer story in there. Is there anything in it that can help you find him?"

@Atrice

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He hoped Iophon would show him a place where he could rest for the night later, but right now, he decided to accept the invitation for a drink. Iophon seemed like a very friendly guy and Wulfric had long ago decided he liked him. Not everyone were equally friendly of course, but one friend in Rome was better than none and it was a good place to start. As long as Iophon would pay for the drink of course. And as long as he didn't get drunk this early in the day.

He followed Iophon into the popina. He'd been to taverns on the way here, but this looked like a very nice place. Iophon announced their arrival and asked for a drink nand a girl came over with cups and wine. Iophon found them a place to sit and then began talking about Wulfric's search for his father. 

"It is very long story." He said with a grin, "Since it began... before I was born." He added, "But I do know some things. A little. I know a name. I want to know Rome first though. I want to know how... to behave. Before I find him. Maybe you can help... Iofon?" 

@Chevi

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"It is very long story. Since it began... before I was born."

"True enough" Iophon agreed, raising his glass. The story of Wulfric's parentage reached back to whatever Roman man ventured into Germania and had some kind of relations with a woman. The details made the story, as usual, but he did not want to pry too far into that just yet.

"But I do know some things. A little. I know a name. I want to know Rome first though. I want to know how... to behave. Before I find him. Maybe you can help... Iofon?" 

"You want your Roman father to see you behave like a Roman" Iophon summarized with a slow nod "That's... well. You will get used to the city eventually, the rest depends on how high his expectations are... Is he rich? They are always snootier when they are rich."

@Atrice

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Iophon understood that Wulfric’s story was very long and raised his glass. Wulfric did the same. He had wine quite a few times before and was getting more used to the taste of it. Not that it made him take a huge gulp. Maybe later. Then he explain that he knew the name of his father, but would know more about Rome and how to behave first. And then he asked for help. Iophon came with his own assumptions and said you’d get used to the city, but it all depended on his father.

 “I do not know if I will behave Roman. But right. Behave right. No make ashamed.” Wulfric tried to explain. He didn’t want to be a Roman and act like one. But he wanted to know how to do things right so he would not embarrass himself or make himself or his father ashamed. He wanted to make a good impression. It’s what his mother wanted, he knew that.

 “I know not if he is rich. Maybe?” Wulfric said and then decided to go for it, “You hear name Varus before? Except for in stories about Germania.” He added with a smile while he assumed that Iophon, being a storyteller and all, knew that story too. It was very embarrassing for the Romans. At least Iophon was not really Roman, so hopefully he’d not feel shame over it.

@Chevi

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