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Aeterna Roma RPG

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After a day's work Artemon all but stumbled in through the door of the tiny one-room flat he shared with his twin, body aching for some rest. It seemed like he was the last one to get home that day, he concluded as he spotted Iophon's figure in a corner. "I bought us food, brother!" he announced cheerily, putting down on the table a clay bowl with finger-licking good stew he had got on the way home from the place Alexius had introduced him to.

"Iophon," he started, brow furrowed in deep concentration. "I've been thinking hard about something. What do you think is in those crates I carry back and forth for Gallus? I thought it was some kind of spice, but it doesn't smell like any I know." Granted, Artemon didn't know a lot of spices as his finances only allowed for the most common ones such as fennel and cumin, but that was no skin off his nose as he broke a piece of bread from a round dark loaf and sat down to dip it into the stew with gusto.

In between loud mouthfuls he carried on. "Do you think it's that plant women use so they don't have babies?" Whatever it was, it seemed like business was booming. And Artemon would very much like to be in on it too.

@Chevi

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"I bought us food, brother!" 

Iophon had been trying to use the last light of the day by the window to read a scroll he'd found about some interesting anecdotes. It was past time to light an oil lamp, but that light was not great for reading. Still, he was so immersed in the reading that he forgot it was time to eat until his brother barged in.

"Good job" he said, stashing the scroll before he moved to make some space on the cluttered table. The upside of Artemon having a job was that it made him hungry enough by the end of the day that he remembered to get food. Usually. Iophon sat with his brother, breaking off a piece of bread. The stew was not bad.

"Iophon. I've been thinking hard about something. What do you think is in those crates I carry back and forth for Gallus? I thought it was some kind of spice, but it doesn't smell like any I know."

Iophon arched an eyebrow over the bowl. "How should I know? I thought you knew! You have been hauling those crates for weeks!" Did he really never look inside? Or did he just not know what he saw?

"Do you think it's that plant women use so they don't have babies?" 

"What, silphion?" the storyteller shook his head "Boy, if you were hauling crates of silphion into the city, your employer would be the richest man south of the mountains. That shit's worth more than gold... What makes you think it's spices?"

@Liv

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Artemon beamed at his brother's praise, mouth full of food, and did not take to heart Iophon's incredulity about his ignorance. Of course he was curious! But first, he had had to prove to Gallus that he could be relied on. And one did not achieve that by poking their nose into other people's merchandise, or so a good decking during a stint near Cusae had taught him a couple of years prior. He felt the need to inform his brother about his reasoning.

"Indeed I have! But I was also gaining Gallus' trust, Iophon! I can't show him how smart I am, so I decided to show him I am hard-working and dependable." Artemon nodded solemnly, sauce dripping down his chin before he wiped it off his thumb and sucked it clean. "Besides, they are all nailed shut. I think he'd grow suspicious if i tried to pry one open," he added, looking wistfully at his bowl. It was almost empty now, but he wasn't full yet. Maybe tomorrow he would have more money for a more filling meal.

He raised his head again to ponder Iophon's statement. No, Gallus wasn't that rich, so it probably wasn't that herb after all. "Well, the crates aren't that heavy, you know? And they rustle a bit when you move them, like something dry is inside. Oh, and they also give off this faint smell... Kinda plant-y? It's hard to explain, but if you could smell it too I know you'd agree." In fact, why couldn't Iophon just come and smell for himself?! Then he would form his own opinion, and maybe they could find out what it was!

Time to propose his hare-brained scheme. "Iophon," Artemon cleared his throat as he sat up straight, "I've got an idea. Why don't you come with me and we figure out what's inside the crates?"

@Chevi

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Iophon made a habit of not interfering with Artemon's business ventures right away. Since he believed one could only really learn from his own mistakes, he usually waited until his brother began to realize something was wrong before he drew the moral of any story. Right now, Artemon was happy lugging mystery boxes of expensive product around. He could do that a bit longer.

"Indeed I have! But I was also gaining Gallus' trust, Iophon! I can't show him how smart I am, so I decided to show him I am hard-working and dependable."

"That's smart of you." Iophon smirked, enjoying the irony and chewing another piece of bread.

"Besides, they are all nailed shut. I think he'd grow suspicious if i tried to pry one open... Well, the crates aren't that heavy, you know? And they rustle a bit when you move them, like something dry is inside. Oh, and they also give off this faint smell... Kinda plant-y? It's hard to explain, but if you could smell it too I know you'd agree."

"Sure does sound like spices" he had to agree. He also had to admit he was curious now. Spices were not usually a big enough secret, and they had already ruled out silphion. Maybe it was a new kind of spice that Gallus had cornered the market on? Iophon was intrigued.

"Iophon. I've got an idea."

"Do share, dear." This was bound to be good.

"Why don't you come with me and we figure out what's inside the crates?"

"Ooh, an adventure!" the storyteller grinned. He was a little surprised Artemon would risk the position he'd just said he was working for. Then again he may not have realized he was risking it. "I am happy to sniff some spices. Just for the mystery, mind you. How do you propose we do that?"

@Liv

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That Iophon agreed that it must be spices only filled Artemon with resolve, and he inflated like a pig bladder right before a game of trigon. He stood up with a sprightly movement and began pacing the small room as he went over his plan, completely undeterred by the fact that he was coming up with it as he spoke.

"Well, first we need to go to the warehouse, obviously. It's better just before dawn, because that's when the people working at night want to go home and rest and so they don't pay as much attention." How did Artemon know? He'd been one of them many times before, and by the time the sun peeked over the horizon he usually only had two things on his mind: a piece of bread and his straw bed. "The crates are nailed shut, so we'll need an iron bar or something. Or something sharp to make a small hole in the wood?" The questioning tone at the end was a call for help - he didn't really know if it was a good idea.

Tapping his fingers on his arms, he shot his brother a hopeful look. "Unless you could tell what it is just by smelling it...? But we still have to get to the warehouse." That was the keystone of the whole plan, because Artemon couldn't very well bring a crate home to investigate it. It would have been very suspicious.

@Chevi

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Artemon looked very excited about his brand new idea. Bless him, he didn't have one of those very often.

"Well, first we need to go to the warehouse, obviously. It's better just before dawn, because that's when the people working at night want to go home and rest and so they don't pay as much attention."

"Makes sense" Iophon nodded. Leave it to Artemon to accidentally make sense every once in a while. So far, the plan was not half bad. Unless he counted the times wrong, but so far, it seemed easily doable. Artemon, encouraged by his approval, carried right on.

"The crates are nailed shut, so we'll need an iron bar or something. Or something sharp to make a small hole in the wood?... Unless you could tell what it is just by smelling it...? But we still have to get to the warehouse." 

"I am not sure I can tell every spice by smell" Iophon mused, tilting his head. The crate thing was a hard question. "Maybe we could make a hole in a crate, and claim there are rats if anyone questions us? Can we get a dead rat somewhere? That would be useful. And a file?"

@Liv

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Artemon grinned daftly at his brother, bolstered by the incredibly smart ideas he'd been having. How nice it felt not to have his suggestions shot down right after coming up with them! Iophon's contributions were valuable complements too. Rats could definitely work, although Artemon didn't know if they were inclined to nibble on wood. Then again, they were rumoured to eat pretty much anything. "Yes, rats! And if somehow we're caught, we can say we were investigating the situation. Like where the rats came from and what they ruined!" Perfect. A master plan. He was feeling bolder and bolder about the whole thing.

Until the file threw him for a loop. What did they need it for? To file the nails away? He wrinkled his nose and gaped at Iophon. "What are we doing with the file, though? Isn't a crowbar better?" Artemon proposed, failing to see just how suspicious it would look for two scrawny men to be headed towards a warehouse carrying a crowbar in the wee hours of the morning. "And what if you don't know what it is? Should we take a small pouch with us?"

What with the amount of preparation that went into figuring out what was inside the crates, Artemon couldn't grasp how thieves just went and stole stuff. It was hard not to get noticed!

@Chevi

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Artemon was easily pulled into the wildest plans, as long as they were made by someone he looked up to. Which was most people, but especially his brother. Iophon also knew he would never notice or point out any flaws in said plans, so it fell to him to think things over before they were caught red-handed in the storehouse.

"Yes, rats! And if somehow we're caught, we can say we were investigating the situation. Like where the rats came from and what they ruined!" 

"What are we doing with the file, though? Isn't a crowbar better? And what if you don't know what it is? Should we take a small pouch with us?"

"Pouch, yes. I'll put a few coins in it." Iophon nodded, rummagin around in one of their boxes "The file we need to make some marks on the crates. In case, you know, they don't actually have any rats." he smirked "And yes, we will have to find a way to pry a crate open, although if we are lucky, they might have already opened up at least one for quality checks... How far is this building from here?"

@Liv

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Artemon listened in rapt attention as Iophon detailed just how they would be using that file. Of course! Not only would the marks tell them which crates they had already opened, but also fool others into thinking it was rats that had been sniffing about rather than the twins! Iophon was a genius; no wonder they were related.

"We can also use the pouch to stash away some of the herb, in case we don't have enough time," he added in conspiratorial excitement. "Then we can check it out here at home." Nobody would notice a handful going missing, surely... His excitement gave way to puzzlement, and Artemon looked at his twin as though he was trying hard to remember something. "Umm... To be honest, I don't remember if they opened any. Sorry." The sheepish smile he wore was genuine, but no less irritating for it. 

The question that followed was a lot easier to answer: after all, Artemon made the trek twice a day and had for a few months now, so he had a pretty good estimation. "Close to an hour, depending on how crowded the streets are. Should be a little faster at night..." He worried his bottom lip, eyes widening in realisation. "Do you want to go now?!" It would be risky. But when wouldn't it?

@Chevi

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"We can also use the pouch to stash away some of the herb, in case we don't have enough time. Then we can check it out here at home." 

Iophon blinked, and then did that thing he usually did when his brother invented the wheel with full, honest enthusiasm. "Yes. Yes, we can do that too." And moved on. The tools were not hard to find (their apartment was not that large). The rest they would just have to improvise, and hope for the best. Really, what was the worst thing that could happen? They might not find out what the mytery cargo is. oh well.

"Close to an hour, depending on how crowded the streets are. Should be a little faster at night... Do you want to go now?!" 

"Why not? No time like the present!' he grinned an put on his cloak. "Unless you don't want to?"

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Iophon was on board; great! Artemon beamed, excited at the turn their day had taken. They were going on an adventure, one full of dangers and perils but that could put them on the road to riches. "Of course I do!" They needed to bring their top game to the task. He rummaged around their shabby little flat to find the necessary tools and was soon putting on his threadbare cloak, a little leather pouch hanging from his neck and safely tucked under his tunic.

He sneaked out and down the stairs, looking over his shoulder as though he suspected he was being followed, and took a deep breath of relief when the cool night air hit his skin. "Right, stay close to me," he whispered to his co-conspirator. Then he motioned for Iophon to come with, and began the journey through the narrow and often inadvisable streets and alleys of Rome.

As they walked, Artemon couldn't help but make plans for the future. "What should we do with the stuff after we've taken a sample? Do you think that if we try to sell it, they'll know where we got it?"

@Chevi

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Well, this was happening now. They gathered all the things they needed, and left the apartment to go snooping around at Artemon's workplace. Iophon was mostly motivated by sheer curiosity and a bit of boredom, which was just as well, because Artemon's plans rarely ever ended in profit.

"Right, stay close to me,"

"I'm right behind you" Iophon smirked after his brother looked back for the third time to see if he was being followed. He was. By Iophon.

"What should we do with the stuff after we've taken a sample? Do you think that if we try to sell it, they'll know where we got it?"

"If it is rare enough that they bring all of it into the city, then we are definitely not selling it." Iophon observed "Honestly, we shouldn't take a large enough portion for them to notice. Which means we won't have enough to sell. I just... want to know what it is, first. Maybe if it is exciting enough, we can join in on the business."

@Liv

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Fortunately this wasn't their first rodeo with sneaky doings, and Artemon was pleased to see his brother taking the matter seriously, covering their rear so they wouldn't be caught unawares by somebody approaching them from behind. They had nothing of value in their persons, but the average pickpocket couldn't possibly know that when the night was at its darkest. He scanned their surroundings with eagle-eyed enthusiasm, forgetting to look down every now and then and getting his just reward for it by stepping in a pile of something soft and stinky. Ew!

He stomped about, trying to clean his sandal, Iophon's voice sounding amidst the thumping. "Right, that's a good idea. We should only take as much as can be blamed on rats." There! The sole was more or less clean now. Artemon's ears perked right up and he turned round so fast he was dizzy for a few seconds. "You think?! That he would let us in on it?" His blue eyes glinted with hope. If it was something expensive, maybe this time he would get the riches he had dreamed of all his life!

Uplifted by his daydreaming, Artemon guided them to the warehouse where he worked, stopping a safe distance from it and hiding in a dark corner. "That's the one," he pointed, forgetting that in the darkness Iophon might not see his extended finger. "So what's the plan now? There's usually a guard making rounds. Do we try to avoid him or should one of us distract him while the other sneaks in?"

@Chevi

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"Right, that's a good idea. We should only take as much as can be blamed on rats."

If there was anything to take at all, Iophon thought. Maybe they already moved the goods. Or sold them. Or maybe it was just some spice they couldn't really do anything with anyway. Still, curiosity carried him forward as they made their way to the storehouse.

"You think?! That he would let us in on it?" 

Probably not. No reason to think about that just yet. "We'll see when it gets to that. Maybe it's a business we don't even want to be in."

"That's the one. So what's the plan now? There's usually a guard making rounds. Do we try to avoid him or should one of us distract him while the other sneaks in?"

"Let's avoid and get in" Iophon decided after a few moments. He did not want to let Artemon get inside alone, and he definitely did not want him to be the distraction. Iophon saw the guard round the corner, then followed his movement as he walked along. He seemed very sleepy, ready to hand over duty to someone else. "Is the door locked? Should we get through a window?"

@Liv

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Iophon had a point - even the best laid plans fell victim to Tyche's whims, so it was best not to tempt the goddess if they wanted her on their side that night. "You're right, it could be something sketchy. Or dangerous," Artemon shuddered, suddenly aware of the possibility that it was something poisonous after all. He had heard the upper echelons of Roman society were rife with betrayal and backstabbing; maybe that was who Gallus was catering to? In that case, Artemon didn't think he wanted in on it anymore. The last thing he needed was to aggravate some bigwig.

They huddled in the dark, watching the guard bumble around the perimeter as he let out a big yawn. Artemon found himself doing the same; it was late, he had worked all day, and everybody knew yawns were highly contagious. "Umm..." he scrunched up his nose, thinking hard on whether he had ever seen the door being locked or unlocked. "... I don't know," he admitted with a sheepish smile. "But I know a window we can try! Some crates are stacked up high on the inside right next to it, so if we are are stealthy as spiders, nobody will notice us. It's on the other side of the warehouse," he gestured with a flourish. "Should we wait for the guard to pass by this spot again, so we know how long it takes him?" Tyche was blessing him that night with such clever inspiration! It was clear she wanted them to succeed. If they did, Artemon vowed to make a sacrifice in her name.

@Chevi

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