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Io Saturnalia


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For the fifth time that day Titus had to shoo away Betua's anxious form that kept hovering about the entrance to the kitchen. Yes, it was her territory as much it was his possession, but there was a tradition to uphold. If she found the results of said tradition inedible she was free to go and serve something up on the sly. If Titus had to be honest, though, he thought he and this three helpers were faring quite well and did not warrant such levels of worry. Valeriana had helped pluck a chicken with unfettered, gleeful abandon, tearing out the feathers in small but forceful fistfuls before gathering an amount she deemed sufficient and running off giggling, possibly to disturb her indisposed mother. Publius was surprisingly adapt at peeling fruit and vegetables; in another life he might have made a fine tailor, or perhaps a medic. Still, the boy was just the right amount of both careful and daring with a blade in his hands. And Titus? Well, he had finished plucking the chicken, quartered it - clumsily, yes, but he was no butcher -, taken out the nasty bits and tossed the good ones into a big clay pot where onions, lentils, carrots and chestnuts awaited company. Copious amounts of garum and red wine and a handful of assorted herbs and spices, selected with no concern for how well they would go together but merely for their fragrance, had followed suit and the pot, properly lidded, had been placed in the oven to work its magic and hopefully turn all that food into a passable stew. 

At the same time, his eldest hadn't been idle either, and had prepared quite the artfully decorated platter of assorted cheeses and cured meats before moving on to dessert: apples boiled in a mix of red wine and honey with chopped walnuts and more honey on top, and some stuffed dates and preserved plums on the side in case someone didn't fancy apples. Titus felt a surge of parental pride well up inside him: if his attempt at preparing a meal for the slaves failed, Sulpicia would save his honour by making sure they would still have something decent to eat. 

The clay pot was smelling like it might be done cooking, and after a moment's deliberation with his son on how they would take it out of the oven without incurring serious burns, Titus spotted two thick and seemingly well-used squares of leather hanging from a hook just by. They served their intended purpose and soon enough the pot was set on a table and uncovered, belching out a great curtain of steam. It smelled like food, which was a start. As he portioned the stew into two big bowls Titus dipped his ran his fingertip along part of the edge of the pot and brought it to his mouth to taste. All right, so maybe he had been too careless with the garum and the gravy was a bit saltier and thicker than intended, but he had had worse. All in all, it was a valiant effort; he was pleased.

Now all that was left was to serve it to the critics. He picked up one of the bowls, Sulpicia the other and Publius the charcuterie platter and the three of them made off into the triclinium, where bread, wine and olives had already been freely made available to the servants. Titus had the feeling it wasn't only just Betua's expectant look that was trained on him, and that made him a little uncomfortable - nobody liked to be judged, after all. But a natural inclination for resting bitch face and years of making intentional use of it meant his expression remained mostly neutral, even as they placed the food on the table and began ladling the stew into individual bowls for the slaves' convenience. 

"Dinner is served, my fine ladies and gentlemen. I hope you'll enjoy it."

@Chevi @Ejder @Sara @Sharpie

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I suggest no set posting order since there's a few of us. Also, feel free to NPC Betua and any other slaves!

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Zia hated Rome, which meant of course that she equally hated all of its silly traditions and holidays. She didn't believe in their Gods and so forced merriment on their account just made her skin scrawl. But, she was to endure it as with any other holiday. It amused and exasperated her in equal measure that this particular festival was apparently supposed to be a role reversal and gave her opportunities to go out and do what she actually wanted to do. But, traditions being traditions, she was forced to endure Titus' dreadful cooking and the lacklustre company of her fellow slaves. It didn't exactly spell out freedom to her. 

She sat cross-legged with her arms folded across her chest on one of the couches. The others were chattering away, but she made no move to speak to them. The only people she vaguely liked within the household, Nymphias and Davus were otherwise occupied and so she shouldered the festivities alone. She had dressed up for the occasion - not the stupid flower crown mind, which she'd destroyed by picking off the petals one by one, but with her new source of income she'd managed to purchase herself a nice enough chiton and a gold bangle which she wore on her right wrist. She flaunted it, and suffered the stares of the other slaves. 

When Titus and his little family entered, she merely quirked an eyebrow and watched him ladle it out. It smelled like all Roman food - heavy on the spices, lacking in any actual taste. Delightful. She wrinkled her nose and shot him a disgusted look; "What is it? Poison?" 

 

TAG: @Liv @Chevi @Ejder @Sharpie

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Of course the Dacian was going to do her best to cast a damper on the whole festival, sitting there bolt upright with her arms folded and a scowl on her face. 

Whatever the master was ladling out smelt... interesting, as though he'd just added herbs and spices because they'd been in his reach in the kitchen. Oh well, it was his money at the end of the day. 

He adjusted his own position - reclining to eat felt odd - and accepted the bowl and spoon given to him. Well, whatever was in the bowl was hot, at least, judging by the steam coming off it. 

"Io Saturnalia!" he said, shifting his feet so his couch mate could tear a chunk off a loaf of bread, seeming to prefer to dip that than try with a spoon.

"We could always make you taste it first, but that's hardly in keeping with the season," he told Zia, dipping his spoon and blowing the steam off before taking a cautious sip.

@Liv @Chevi @Ejder @Sara

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Unfortunately it wasn't poison; the other slaves were good eggs for the most part and didn't deserve to be indiscriminately offed when a much better transaction for all parties involved would be to sell them. Titus reminded himself - and not for the first time - that if he ever went off gallivanting again to the borders of the empire, haughty natives who didn't show signs of being able to learn their new place would have their mouths sewn shut and then be crucified where everyone could see them.

But it was Saturnalia, and it was also too late to have that one slave nailed to a cross without it putting a damper on everybody's mood but his, so in the spirit of the holiday Titus answered with a shrug and a cryptic smile as he set down the last bowl and stepped back. "Nobody's forcing you to eat it." She could starve herself for all he cared, more left for the others. At least Davus looked properly appreciative; he really was a good lad.

"If it's not to your taste help yourself to the rest." It wasn't Zia's critique he was most curious about, anyway: it was Betua's. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the old woman dip a piece of bread into the stew and eat it, though he couldn't quite tell what her expression meant. She seemed surprised and almost pensive as she chewed, but as their eyes met she swallowed quickly and gave Titus a quick smile and nod before turning her attention back to her bowl and peering critically into it. That was a stamp of approval, right...?

@Chevi @Ejder @Sara @Sharpie

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Zia just retorted to both Davus and Titus in turn with a smug, self-satisfied grin and pushed the bowl of slop away from her on the table. Their food was always too rich anyway, and why the need to add gram to everything?! Instead, she leant over the slave sat next to her (who huffed, but said nothing after Zia merely arched her eyebrow back at her), and pulled a few pieces of cold meats loose from the spread Sulpicia had prepared, and a piece of bread. 

She sat back, cross legged on the couch (who thought lying down to eat was a good idea?) and stared morosely. Everybody was in such a good mood, and she didn't understand why. Did they not see that this one, stupid festival was the Romans way of controlling them? Giving them something to be grateful for, so they didn't press their luck throughout the year. It was so obvious to her very, very jaded mind. Still, she wasn't going to say that out loud. Just as she understood that this holiday was a mechanism of control, she also knew that whatever she did today would have ramifications further down the line. She had no intention of being whipped tomorrow for an ill-timed comment today. 

Instead, she flashed her feline grin to Sulpicia, "This is lovely, thank you." You see? She could play nice! "What else do you do on Saturnalia? We get to go out, don't we?" She queried to nobody in particular. 

 

TAG: @Chevi @Ejder @Sharpie @Liv

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Though Florus had been a slave for some years now, he had never partaken in the celebration of Saturnalia. These were not his gods, on one hand, but on the other hand, he'd always just been the gardener, and had never really mixed with anyone. No one bothered with the gardener, no one bothered to tell him that there were things going on. And, quite frankly, for all the other years of his servitude, it had suited him just fine. This year, however... When he'd learned there existed a day where he could just relax right beside Tranquillus without having to worry that either of them had completed their tasks, it had seemed too good to be true. And yet, it didn't seem like a prank. It was too elaborate for the whole house to be in on it, and Tranquillus wouldn't lie to him.

He'd accepted the bowl of whatever that was, expression neutral as always as he sniffed. It didn't remind him of anything, but he didn't really believe someone who was waited on hand and foot all other days of the year could wind up being a perfect cook during that one day. Still, though, it was food, and it was warm, and he was not in the habit of complaining.

'Gratitude,' he told the Roman, too distracted by Tranquillus' mere presence beside him on the couch to pay all that much more attention to the man who'd handed him the food. He traced patterns on the body slave's back, very content with his day so far. The Roman wouldn't hold that against him, surely. He wasn't the one who was complaining about everything, after all. Surely that drew more attention than his affection for the older man. Surely everyone heard the surly woman's remarks. She always seemed to have something nasty to say. Although he wasn't afraid of her, he preferred to stay well out of her way. No reason to interact with her, really, was there?

 

@Chevi@Liv@Sara@Sharpie

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