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Aeterna Roma RPG

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"Go on right in my friend, you are entering the realm of the Blessed" Iophon said with a flourish, as he ushered another guest inside the brothel. It was a steep exaggeration, steep enough that even he himself kind of felt bad about it. The Elysium was an establishment notorious for many things... but blessings were not one of them. Still, they gave him coin if he steered some guests their way every once in a while. Iophon tended to pick the friendly, harmless looking ones. The girls and boys deserved a break sometimes. 

"And how are all the nymphs and goddesses and demigods doing on this fine evening?" he asked, flashing a friendly grin at the people in the parlor of the brothel. Must have been a slow night, because a few of the prostitutes were sitting around, drinking, eating, chatting while they waited for the next guest. Iophon had seen some of them around before "Does anyone have a cup of wine for the dry throat of a poor storyteller? I am entirely willing to sing for my supper."

@Echo

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Iophon was right about one thing at least - the Elysium was ironically named. Nothing could be so far from heaven than this place. Deianira had only been here for a few months but already, she was miserable. Mistreatment at the hands of her master, aloofness and coldness from her fellow workers, an authoritarian group of guards, and Marcus Barbatius, who adored one thing: inflicting pain. It was enough to make anyone miserable. Tonight, though, was one night when she wasn't. She had had very little traffic and the flow of customers was lower than usual, meaning she had some time to herself. She didn't love being alone with her thoughts, though, so she chose not to ferret herself away in some dark corner, but rather occupied herself by serving wine. 

She watched as a slightly familiar face walked in, a tour guide of some kind that often brought customers to the brothel. She smiled as he spoke - it was nice to find a genuine person here who wasn't here for sex. Willingly, she made her way over to him with an amphora and a cup and poured him one. "I'm sure you are a golden-throated singer," she said with a slightly teasing tone, though she was genuine. "Are you going to tell us a story?"

@Chevi

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One of the girls got up and walked over to pour him some wine. Iophon flashed her a grateful smile and drank deeply; talking always made his throat dry, and wine was a good remedy that. It was somewhat watered, but strong enough to make customers generous with their time and money. The storyteller chuckled, holding his cup out for a refill before he took a comfortable seat on one of the couches.

"I'm sure you are a golden-throated singer. Are you going to tell us a story?"

"With pleasure" he grinned at the girl "Or... without peasure, if you so prefer. I have many stories for many moods and occasions. You may choose... What's your name?"

@Echo

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Deia smiled back at him as she finished pouring him a cup. There was something kind about him that drew her to him, her being so in need of kindness. She poured him a refill as he held his cup out and then watched as he settled on a couch, asking her name. "It's Deianira, but most just call me Deia," she said. "And yours?" His other suggestion was for her to choose what sort of story she wanted. 

"I think I would like a happy one - something exciting," she said with a little laugh. Finishing her rounds with the amphora, she settled into a chair across from his couch, her eyes betraying eagerness. 

@Chevi

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"It's Deianira, but most just call me Deia. And yours?" 

"Iophon" the storyteller arched an eyebrow at her, lounging on the couch. "Is that your name, or is that one they chose for you?"

Names had stories. And some stories largely depended on who was telling them.

"I think I would like a happy one - something exciting," 

"Well, there goes most of my Greek repertoire" Iophon deadpanned with a mock-distressed face. Sure, lots of Greek stories ended badly, but he had dozens that didn't. He flashed a smile a moment later, mentally sifting through his tales, trying to pick one that the young woman might enjoy. 

@Echo

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What a curious question he had asked her - whether it was her name, or one that 'they' had chosen for her. "It's my name," she said slowly, feeling a bit silly. "It's always been 'Deianira'... though, I suppose, surely someone gave me it when I was young." He gave her his name as well and she smiled. "It is nice to meet you, Iophon."

After they had exchanged names, he asked what sort of story she was interested in hearing and she suggested a happy one. Something had to be happy in this place, after all. He feigned distress when she suggested that, though, saying that most of his repertoire did not fit that description. But then he smiled and she responded in turn, recognizing that he had been messing with her. "I should hope that not all your stories end badly," she said. 

@Chevi

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"It's my name. It's always been 'Deianira'... though, I suppose, surely someone gave me it when I was young." 

Well... her parents had an interesting taste in stories. If she was Greek, she might know that already, and Iophon liked to be kind to the people who worked at Elysium, so he was not going to make an issue of it.

"I should hope that not all your stories end badly,"

"I'm Greek" Iophon specified with a grin "But not... not all of them, no. What kind of a storyteller would I be if I did not have some lighter tales as well? For example..." he took a drink "Have you ever been told about the famous Rhodopis of Egypt?"

@Echo

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Deianira wasn't quite familiar with the history of her name. It had always stood out among the names of other women, who had been named after goddesses and such, so she couldn't really see the irony of a sex worker sharing a name with a legend of a woman who'd killed her husband. 

Iophon clarified that he was Greek but that not all of his stories ended badly, asking whether she'd heard of Rhodopis of Egypt. "I haven't, no. Will you tell me?" She smiled hopefully at him. 

@Chevi

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"I haven't, no. Will you tell me?"

Iophon loved hearing those words. Someone who was new to a story, about to hear it for the first time. And it was a good one too. And kind of fitting, given that the hero of the story was a courtesan. 

"Well, they say... a long time ago, back in the days when the pharaohs ruled Egypt, there lived a young woman whose name was Rhodopis. Mind you, that was probably not her real name. She was from Thrace, captured in some war, and when she was sold to the household of a rich man on the island of Samos, he took one look at her, and named her Rhodopis." Iophon grinned, raising his cup in Deianeira's direction "See, she had pink cheeks like fresh roses. Kind of like your own."

@Echo

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Deia found it easy to become enthralled with the man's words already. She had really only seen Greece and the road between it and Rome, and though she had no hopes of leaving Rome any time soon, she dreamed sometimes of exploring the world on her own. Egypt had been one of the places on that list of places she wanted to see, so his story was fascinating already. 

Iophon finished the first few lines of his story with a compliment to Deia and she grinned a little. "Be careful flattering me, Titus might think you are here for other reasons," she said. "What happened to Rhodopis?"

@Chevi

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Iophon loved seeing someone being pulled into a tale. Sure, humor and sarcasm were entertaining, but there was something deeper in honest awe. And the men and women who worked at Elysium probably rarely got to experience that. He just hoped a client wouldn't come in before he was finished with this story.

"Be careful flattering me, Titus might think you are here for other reasons,"

"I would never" Iophon gasped in well faked shock, placing a hand on his heart. Oh, he would. But he was not trying to get a freebie right now. 

"What happened to Rhodopis?"

"Well, for a while, she lived in the rich man's household in Samos. In fact, she made some friends. They say that in the same household there lived an old Phrygian slave, whose name was Aesop..." he paused, watching for a reaction. Some people were familiar with Aesop's tales, and others were not. "... he was a marvelous storyteller, and Rhodopis spend many evenings listening to him. But eventually, things changed. One day, a wealthy young man visited the household, and took a fancy to Rhodopis. His name was Charaxus, and he was on his way to Egypt to make his fortune from trading. But instead, he spent a lot of his seed money on buying the red-cheeked girl." Iophon took a sip of his wine "Ever heard of Sappho, the poet from Lesbos? She was quite famous at the time. And, if we can believe the legends, quite upset that his brother spent his savings on some girl."

@Echo

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It was nice to have something to take her mind off of the things troubling her, Deia had to admit. And it was so rare that she did anything with a handsome young man like Iophon other than sleep with him. She hoped the same thing he did, but it wasn't a particularly busy night and the others were getting all the attention since, to the onlooker, Deia looked tied up with Iophon. She chuckled a little as Iophon feigned shock. He was a charming young man - she hoped he would come to visit more. His story continued, and she watched him, enraptured. 

She smiled again as he mentioned Aesop. A well known name, even to the uneducated sex worker who couldn't even read or write. He asked whether she'd heard of the poet Sappho, and she shook her head. She'd heard of Aesop, but she hadn't really had a chance to read much poetry. "No, I haven't. Perhaps next time, you can recite some of her poetry?" Deia grinned. "Well, what did Sappho do about her brother spending all his money on Rhodopis?"

@Chevi

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"No, I haven't. Perhaps next time, you can recite some of her poetry?"

"I'll come prepared" Iophon grinned and nodded. Sappho's poetry was... definitely unique, and he suspected it would go well with the atmosphere of the brothel. But he could only recite a few pieces of her work by heart, and right now, he was telling another story.

"Well, what did Sappho do about her brother spending all his money on Rhodopis?"

"Well... she chided him in letters and in poems, and tried to talk some sense into him, but to no avail. Rhodopis' charms were stronger than a sister's reasoning" Iophon chuckled, continuing with the story "Charaxus spirited Rhodopis away to Egypt, where he hoped to set up his business. However... as we have already seen, the gods had not blessed him with talent for making money. Or holding on to it. Eventually, as much as he enjoyed life with his new mistress, he fell into dire straits. And when he was all out of ideas, he had to put Rhodopis to work. She had learned a lot by then, and soon she became one of the most popular hetaeras in Memphis. She was charming and beautiful, sure but she could also entertain her patrons with dancing, singing, and telling stories..." 

@Echo

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"Good," Deia replied with a grin. The story continued. Rhodopis must have been some woman to hold a man's attention like that for so long - Deia was not so blessed, but she supposed she wasn't in quite the position to hold someone's attention for very long. Men came and went here quickly and their appetites were satiated after one or two sessions, becoming bored after that, usually. 

"If only I were so talented," Deia said with a wry grin. It was only half a joke. 

@Chevi

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Deianira seemed to be enjoying the story. Iophon liked a captive audience. This tale could have gone either way when told in a brothel out of all places, but so far, it seemed to hit a chord with the young woman, and some other women who were halfway listening.

"If only I were so talented,"

"Oh, I am sure you have plenty of talents" Iophon grinned at Deia. Coming from another man it would have sounded sleazy, maybe, but he actually meant it. Women (and men) in these kind of places were usually a lot more than they though about themselves. 

"Anyway. Rhodopis soon became a popular hetaera, and Charaxus... well, he disappears from our story. He probably went back to Lesbos to beg money and forgiveness from his sister, with his tail between his legs. Or he got lost in Egypt. Who knows? Rhodopis did well on her own, all things considered. And this could have been the end of the story, with her living comfortably... if it had not been for the eagle."

Iophon held a dramatic pause for good measure, and took a drink before he continued.

"Now, I'm not talking about the Romans" he grinned "I am talking about an actual, feathered eagle. It flew over the River Nile one day, and it spotted two things: a beautiful young woman, bathing in the water, and a pair of her sandals in the sand on the riverbank." Iophon smiled at Deianira. Obviously, she would have been the beautiful woman in this situation, had she been born in another era. "The eagle, alas, did not care for the lady, beautiful as she was. But it did care for her sandals, which looked like small creatures from above. So the eagle swept down, and stole one of them. And wouldn't you know: it was the luckiest thing that ever happened to Rhodopis..."

@Echo

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