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Aeterna Roma RPG

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January 76 AD

The new year had brought about a slight increase in business, but it hadn't increased Artemon's meagre salary in the same proportion. Gallus only cared for his own purse, that's what he did, and Artemon grumbled under his breath in Egyptian as he flitted about the old warehouse, loading and unloading things here and there like a (badly) paid cargo mule.

He had just put down his last crate and made a beeline for the water jug nearby when a figure came into his line of sight. That wasn't Gallus, or any of the other labourers he knew of. For one, none of them had such long hair. For two, none had such obviously feminine features either. Who was this lady? Had she entered the warehouse by accident, lost on her way to some other place? Artemon's first instinct was to greet her and ask her if she needed help, but Gallus wouldn't have approved of that. No, he was supposed to be serious and gruff so people knew not to mess with him!

"What are you doing here? This is private property!" he parroted in his best stern tone, wiping his sweaty hands on his equally sweaty tunic. "You need to leave."

@Sara

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Zia stifled a yawn with the palm of her hand as she languidly walked through the Porta Absidata towards the small warehouse. They technically had two - one at the port in Ostia and the other here - a corner of a larger building where they stashed their goods to be distributed throughout Regio IV throughout the evenings and nights. It was a storage solution she'd inherited from the schmuck whose business she'd stolen, and Gallus had kept a tight grip on it this time around - ensuring those he hired and handled valued discretion as much as the money filling their pockets. Still, despite Gallus being proficient enough, she knew better than to let those she trusted run things without any oversight - hence her visit tonight. 

Gallus himself was on the streets, supervising the runners that actually sold the product and so she took the opportunity to visit the store. It was late - well past midnight and she felt exhausted, but tried to ignore it as she surveyed the crates that were stacked shoulder high. It had been a good winter for growing, the farmers had obviously perfected their craft and she was pleased. Especially so given her nice little pot of gold was rapidly building. 

What she was less thrilled with though was the voice of an indignant little man shouting at her. She arched a brow as she came face to face with him, placing a hand on her hip. "Do I indeed?" She queried with sly amusement. "And who are you? Are these your crates?" She'd missed toying with people. She didn't get enough of an opportunity to do it in her day job. "There's a rumour some of the produce here is stolen. Know anything about that?" She teased with a sickly sweet smile. 

 

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This was no damsel in distress, afraid of finding herself in a warehouse with a strange man or of getting a good whipping from her master - after having put his foot in his mouth so manifestly with his new Egyptian friend, Artemon had become more adept at noticing slave collars. She walked in like she owned the place, and Artemon narrowed his eyes at her, wanting to seem appropriately suspicious but instead managing to squint like he was nearsighted and end up looking like some alien bug.

"These crates belong to my boss. If you wish to see him you will have to come back during the day," he huffed, puffing out his chest and folding his arms across it. Good, now the woman should be suitably impressed. "I don't know anything about stolen stuff. Why are you here? Did your master send you?" Isis willing, the arrogant woman would leave on her own accord... because if not, Artemon didn't really know what to do. Gallus had told him how to deal with intruders, but he hadn't covered female slave intruders. Unless...

@Sara

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"And what is your bosses name?" She queried with all the innocence of a worldly prostitute down on her luck. She tried her best not to laugh as he puffed out his chest as if to menace her. She had dealt with far more impressive and malicious men in her years, did he think she'd be afraid? By some folded arms and a vague glare? Do not laugh Zia. 

But may the Gods damn Titus Sulpicius Rufus to an early, torturous grave. After slipping her collar - much as an unruly dog might - her first few months in Rome, the current incarnation she donned sat much higher up her throat. Whilst it was only a thin strip of leather with a tablet bearing her masters name on, it was also locked in place on her neck with her dominus having the only key. It made it far more difficult to lose, as to cut it off would demonstrate a purposeful act for which she'd undoubtedly face punishment. Usually, on nights such as this when she wished for her slave past (or...present, rather) to be concealed she donned a cloak but it had slipped down too far this evening. Honestly, fuck Titus Sulpicius Rufus and his petty ingenuity. 

"My master is none of your concern." She wagged a finger at  him, "Or..." Or maybe she could use this, "Or maybe it is your concern friend. Do you know who the Praefectus Urbi, is? Or even what it is?" From his slack jaw, she doubted he did and she'd only been clued in by Gallus a few months ago but it was becoming very useful knowledge. "My dominus is a powerful man, one who wouldn't take kindly to an imbecile carting stolen goods around a warehouse at this hour. So...are you going to tell me what's in those crates?" 

Only after she'd seen just how stupid this one was, that she'd reveal who she was.

 

TAG: @Liv

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Why wasn't the woman leaving?! Artemon shot her a threatening look (or one he hoped was threatening), hoping she would turn tail and he could finally get that water. His tongue felt like a dry log inside his mouth, but he didn't dare turn his back on her; there was no telling what she might try to do. Maybe she was hiding a rock somewhere with which to knock him out.

Increasingly suspicious and just as increasingly uneasy, Artemon cleared his throat. "He is called Gallus. And if you had any business with him, you would know that. So I assume you do not." If only Iophon and the rest of the family had been there to marvel at his deduction skills! Encouraged by his flash of genius, he stepped closer to a pile of crates as if to protect them from this possible thief. Nothing would get past him, and certainly not a cheeky slave.

"The who now?" His newly-found courage dissolved into dimwitted ignorance, and Artemon gaped at the woman like a fish out of water. He had no clue what this Praetor... Praevaricator was. Gallus hadn't told him about it? Him? Them? And if this entity was of importance, then Gallus definitely would have. Artemon concluded therefore that the woman had to be bluffing, and spoke accordingly. "If these truly belonged to your master, he wouldn't send a slave woman in the middle of the night to recover them! I'm sorry if he's had stuff stolen, but this is not it." He shook his head forcefully and laid a hand on one of the crates.

"Of course I do! What kind of fool would I be not to know what I'm working with?" He did know. Sort of. Some kind of herb. Deep down, he was still convinced it was some rare spice. "But you'll never get me to tell if that's your plan. Now leave, you're making me waste my time," he scowled, pointing his finger at the door.

@Sara

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Zia was quite capable of tempering her emotions when needs me but this instance was beyond her patience. She let out an irritated huff and folded her arms across her chest, glowering at the little man in front of her. She let him waffle on in answer to her barrage of questions, and when he finally stopped and asked her to leave she stood still, staring at him with that unnerving glint of danger in her eyes. She stayed silent, quiet, for a few long moments considering her next move. Somebody would pay for this idiocy. 

"I was informed that Gallus was being cautious with whom he employed." She started, speaking slowly as if she was conversing with an invalid or a child, "That he didn't use his real name most of the time, and that he certainly didn't tell his minions what was contained in those boxes." She gestured to them stacked high. Whilst not illegal, the crates were incredibly valuable and also desired from various other traders and brokers in other regions of Rome. She only had authority in one, and she was sure any number of others would like to kick her off her pedestal and reclaim their patch. 

"They are my crates." She said with a sneer. "And Gallus is my employee. Which makes you my employee. And I would like to know just why you think I should let you go about your business when you seem intent on telling my secrets to any odd person that walks in." Danger lurked in her voice as she stared him down.

 

TAG: @Liv

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This woman was looking incredibly displeased, and reminded Artemon of his mother whenever he did something particularly stupid. He swallowed audibly, throat suddenly as parched as the land where the Nile didn't reach, and blinked at the woman as she addressed him.

"Your employee...?" Artemon stared at the woman, a deep crease forming between his eyebrows. But she was a slave. Slaves couldn't do business, or so he thought he knew. Or could they? Panic started to course through his veins as he pondered the likelihood of the woman speaking the truth. He could be in so much trouble if she was right. Might even lose his job, and end up hungry and on the streets! He would have Iophon's company, but that was a very small consolation. 

He needed to talk his way out of this sticky situation - and not just because he didn't think it was acceptable to hit women, but because if he did her master might come looking for him demanding reparations. And there was no way in this life that Artemon could afford that. His brain kicked into overdrive. "Well, in that case you should have no trouble telling me what's in these," he patted one of the crates, satisfied with his ingenuity.

Until it occurred to him that if this wasn't her first foray into the warehouse, she might already know what the crates contained. So his brilliant idea might not necessarily work. "Maybe we should go find Gallus? If what you claim is true, he will be able to confirm it." Possibly flay Artemon for entertaining a stranger too, but it didn't even cross his mind.

@Sara

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Zia was dumbstruck. Was this man an idiot? Or just a very good actor? "My employee." She confirmed in clipped, accented Latin. In other circumstances this would be laughable, but Zia found absolutely no humour in her business, business that would one day afford her and her son (and perhaps her husband if he made amends) their freedom. 

She arched a brow and folded slender arms across her chest, taking the time to look him up and down with the same fiendish look of a cat trying to take the measure of some potential prey. "It's a flower." She said, and offered no further explanation - her silence deafening in the otherwise deserted warehouse. 

"And yes, excellent idea." She turned on her heel and stalked out of the warehouse - only stopping when she got to the door. She was impatient at the best of times - as if waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to her harebrained schemes. She clicked her fingers at him and shot him a glower. "He'll be at home. I hope you are prepared to walk, you look like you'll drop dead." Zia herself was unused to manual labour and tried to avoid it as much as possible in her current household - not that it gave her any more pity for the dolt stood next to her.

 

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Artemon blinked again, squinting as though the sun was shining straight in his eyes (which was of course impossible at that time of night and inside a warehouse to boot). "Your employee...?" This made no sense at all. And the woman was looking more displeased by the second; Artemon felt himself wilting under her intense gaze like the flower inside the crates. It hadn't looked much like a flower to him since it was all dried up and had no petals anymore, but she wasn't wrong. Which made the situation all the more dire for him.

Well, it had been his idea, so he had to stay true to his word. His father always said that keeping one's promises was very important to get ahead in life. "F-fine!" he replied in an indignant tone, entirely fabricated to give himself some courage. There was always somebody coming and going - the warehouse wouldn't be left unattended. With an uncomfortable sensation that resembled fear pooling in his stomach, Artemon followed the woman to where she stood waiting for him by the door and tried to give her a glowering sample of his own.

"It's because I've been hard at work!" Yes, he was tired, but he was also used to running on little fuel. "You, on the other hand, don't look like you know what work is," he harrumphed with a very out-of-place smirk. Maybe the woman was attendant to the lady of the house, if there was one. Artemon saw them on the streets sometimes, some twice as plump as he was and clad in much better quality fabrics, and always concluded that it must be a very cushy job. "Lead the way, then!" he gestured towards the streets. It didn't occur him to ask how she knew where Gallus lived.

@Sara

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Zia only stared the dolt down and arched a brow; "When you're clever you don't need to do the work. You get people to do it for you." She shrugged and gestured flippantly at him. It was a true statement both for her enterprise with the flower where she had minions like this man to do her bidding, and in the domus where she did the absolute bare minimum and got gullible fools like Nymphias to pick up the slack. 

She turned on her heel and walked out of the warehouse without checking that the small man was following her. For better or for worse Zia had something about her that generally meant simpletons or those beneath her did her bidding. She didn't doubt that this man was such a person and was trailing her. It was a walk that would take them some half an hour, but she was determined and ignored the ache in her feet in her stupid wooden sandals as she weaved in and out of the crowds. Why was Rome so busy? Even in the dead of night? 

She called over her shoulder, occasionally, to try and engage the young man in conversation as they walked - not out of niceness, mind. "How long have you been working for me?" She didn't look at him as she walked and instead kept the cloak she wore firmly wrapped around herself - hoping to disguise the ugly metal collar around her neck. 

 

TAG: @Liv

 

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Maybe the woman had a point after all, and that was why Artemon was stuck working for Gallus instead of being at the helm of his great as-of-yet-non-existent enterprise. Then again, she couldn't have been that successful, or she would have managed to buy her freedom by now. Whatever the plant was used for, it sold like hot honey cakes, the flurry of crates in and out like so many busy bees round their hive.

He grumbled something in Egyptian as he trailed after the woman - something that was not meant to be repeated in polite company -, dragging his feet. Just how far away was it? He hadn't had food in almost a day, and his stomach was starting to have a thing or two to say about that. If Gallus was home, maybe he would invite Artemon and the woman for some supper! Dreaming was still free of charge.

"Since a little after the earthquake last year?" Artemon raised his brow and wrinkled his nose, giving himself a profoundly daft expression. That the haughty lady had called herself his employer had whooshed right past him, never to be remarked upon. "But business has really been picking up lately! How come you're not dressed in silks and covered in jewels if you're that rich, huh?" His tone was one part malice and nine parts pure wonder as he sidestepped other nightly passersby, keen on not letting his guide out of his sight in the darkness. "Why did you choose Gallus to be your man? He could just rat you out to your master, couldn't he?" And lose a source of income in the process, but Artemon's reasoning didn't reach that far.

@Sara

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Zia was tempted to completely ignore the young man and not bother to answer any of his questions. She owed him  nothing; in fact, quite the reverse. Nonetheless - she was bored, and annoyed, and he was an easy target. Might as well flex her lying muscles a bit. 

"Because I don't want to get robbed, you dolt." She tutted, "If you own enough gold to cover yourself in it, don't flaunt it or you'll end up stripped down and in the Tiber." She still smarted at the loss of her gold. She had so much, and it was so beautiful. Titus was a prick. 

And the questions kept coming as they walked - Zia at a confident stride as they weaved through the late night crowds. "And Gallus is a good man. And I know how to keep him sweet." She chuckled, "Plus if he rats me out - what do you think would happen to him, huh?" She cast a glance back of his shoulder, "Or you for that matter? You want to starve on the streets?" She gave him a deep, unnerving stare for a long moment before turning back to the front, flicking her hair back over her shoulder as she did. "Where do you live, and what's your name boy?"

 

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What was the point in being rich, then, if you weren't allowed to show it off? Artemon scoffed. The woman clearly didn't know what she was talking about. "Then what use is gold? Even if you leave it all at home, burglars may still take it," he shot back, voice full of scorn. "If you flaunt it then thieves will know you're rich enough to send people after them to get it back." Big burly hired goons, maybe former gladiators that would frighten any criminal into giving up stolen goods. When he was rich, Artemon too would hire such goons so he could flaunt his gold all he wanted.

His stomach, however, clamoured for food and not gold, and answered the woman before his mouth did. "I don't want to starve," he admitted, flicking his eyes away from hers. She was a bit intimidating, almost like a weary mother - and she was reminding him of his, with her exasperated tone and dwindling patience for the daftest of her flock. "I'm Artemon. I live in an insula on the Esquiline, why?" He scratched the side of his nose. If she was intending to call on him for supper in the future, she was very wrong!

"What would happen to him? He's free, you're not. He could just say you bewitched him and hand you to your master." Artemon narrowed his eyes in suspicion, as if an idea had just occurred to him. "Are you a witch?" That would explain so much - her sway over Gallus, the herb she needed for her poisons... He needed to be very careful now!

@Sara

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"Gods above Artemon," She scolded, absolutely bemused how somebody as simple as this could have survived for this long, "Is that genuinely your name? And genuinely where you live?" She snapped as she turned her face over her shoulder, glowering at him in that Zia-esque way. "A word of advice, if you want it, don't tell everybody you meet your actual name and where you live unless you want to get bloody robbed. You work for a master that likes his discretion, Gallus, and a mistress that likes it even more. I don't want my employees names and locations getting out," She huffed, "Lest my competitors come knocking on your door in the middle of the night and give your poor dumpy wife a heart attack." 

She turned back around and continued her long stride to Gallus' abode as the man prattled on incessantly behind her. "Yes, I'm a witch. A Germanic witch." She affirmed with a nod and a shrug of her shoulders, "Which is why Gallus will never betray me - he knows what'll happen if he does. Have you ever seen what a Germanic witch can do?" She glanced back over her shoulder to him. With a sly smirk she drew to a stop and held up her hand close to his face. She waggled her little finger and then glanced down his person slowly and with purpose until her eyes fell to his crotch. With a smirk, and after a pause she flicked her eyes back up at him. She wasn't prone to being graphic in her every day conversations, but this idiot probably needed it spelling out for him; "I can make your cock shrivel up to the width of a stylus. So don't cross me little Artemon."

She stepped back and folded her arms across her chest, arching a brow at him. "Now, any more pressing questions before I take you to Gallus to meet your fate?"

 

TAG: @Liv 

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"Uh, yes!" Artemon bristled, and would have looked like an offended cat if he had more body hair (alas, he did not, true to his Egyptian stock). "I'll have you know it's a very respectable name! It's after the goddess Artemis, although I don't expect you to know much about that," he scoffed at Zia, affront momentarily overruling the little sense he had and which hadn't been enough to suggest that maybe it would have been wise to provide false information. With a sassy glare, he kept on prattling. "Hah! Let the burglars come, I have nothing of value to steal!" This should be nothing to boast about, but he wore his poverty like a tunic of immunity against the misfortune of thievery.

He didn't know if Gallus liked discretion so much as he believed the man just didn't really care. Why would their competitors come knocking for him (and who were these competitors and did they pay better?)? "Am I that important to your business?" he asked, already moved on from indignity to self-importance. Well, it made sense now that he thought about it! Without him, there was no way they would have loaded and unloaded so many crates, and if it weren't for his expert instructions, they wouldn't have known how to store them to maximise floor space! "Hmm, maybe they should come then..." he caressed a non-existent moustache. "I don't have a wife, though. I live with my brother."

And if what Zia said next was true, he would not have any luck keeping one in the future! Artemon cowered under her words, eyes growing to the size of dinner plates as he instinctively dropped his hands in front of his crotch to protect it. He floundered for a bit, fearful gaze flicking back and forth between her little finger and his family jewels. By the great Sobek, why had he provoked the ire of a witch?! A German witch, at that! Egyptian witches he knew how to contend with; Greek and Roman ones, he was learning. But a German witch was uncharted territory, as scary as what lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules. His words came out in an embarrassing squeak. "I h-haven't... Wh-what can you do?"

Hopefully not kill him! On the other hand, some witches could be kind. Zia didn't seem like that type, but maybe, if Artemon ingratiated himself with her, she could use her magical powers to his advantage?

"Yes, just one." He adjusted his hands' protective stance. "if I don't cross you, will you make me rich with your magic?"

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Zia felt a stab of pity in her heart. The poor idiot didn't even have a woman (or a man) to warm him. No brain, no partner and no money. If she were him she might've thrown herself into the Tibur weighed down by stones by now. "Well then," She said irritably with a sharp glance over her shoulder, "Think of what they'd do to your poor brother. All because of your idiocy." That there were two of them made her vaguely suppress a shudder. Perhaps their parents were siblings? To produce such air headed children? 

His reaction soothed her ego and made her smile that wicked, twisted smile that many a man had commented made her look deeply unattractive. It severed its purpose though, and with a final wiggle of her finger she set it down to her hip. She stood there - glowering at him with that unnerving look on her face. "I can do more than shrink your nutmegs and sausage." She ventured, hoping he'd understand what she meant, "But I'm pretty sure you wouldn't wish to find out the extent of my curses little Artemon." Never a creative vision, she was struggling to come up with something as equally painful for a man as losing his manhood and so left it to his imagination. 

She had expected that and stood back on her heels, considering him. "How much does Gallus pay you?" She left it to him to determine these sorts  of details. "I can perhaps encourage him to increase your wage a little, but I might need your help with something else." 

 

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What could those crooks do to Iophon indeed? Artemon was not keen on finding out; he liked him very much, and the coin his twin occasionally brought in had more than once kept them from going to bed on empty stomachs. "Poor Iophon..." Artemon muttered, shaking his head dejectedly but still keeping his hands in front of his privates. This witch would not trick him into defencelessness by bringing up his brother!

The ugly smile on Zia's face told Artemon she was enjoying this very much, and he let out another squeak at her threatening words. "M-more?" What could be worse that what she had described? He hurried to shake his head no with zeal in case she took his rhetorical question as an invitation to show him. Perhaps he would have to spend some of his hard-earned money on some thick protective underwear in case she tried to catch him unaware.

"Umm, it varies," he scrunched up his nose, managing to look even less intelligent than usual. "Most of the time it's only a sestertius, but on days where business is booming he'll throw in an as." Artemon's features slacked into wide-eyed curiosity, and forgetting about his earlier fears, he let his hands hang by his sides. "Do you think you could convince him to raise my pay? Maybe to a sestertius and an as on normal days and two sestertii on good days?!" With that kind of funds, he and Iophon would be able to afford new tunics in a couple of months! Already lost in his pipe dream, it did not occur to Artemon to be suspicious of exactly what sort of help Zia needed. "What is it? It's not stealing, is it? I can't because I might get caught and be imprisoned or have my hands cut off and then we'd be out on the streets and starve to death," he justified in a single breath.

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Zia smiled to herself, good. Gallus was frugal, and paid this man far below what his labour was worth but that was fine by her, as long as he was too dim witted to realise it and go off to one of their many competitors. At his question over a raise she merely shrugged, "Perhaps. I'll see what the finances are looking like." Which was a 'no', but it always benefitted her to keep these morons onside and if he hoped and thought she'd secure him a raise that would be more to the better. That he also feared her was an excellent addition. 

Rolling her eyes at the dramatic turn of phrase, she spun on her heel and continued to stalk through the streets to Gallus' home. "No, not stealing." She had no need. She was rolling in the earnings her business made and that was plenty for her. "Well, it's two things really," She glanced back over her shoulder at him with that same twisted smile, tossing her hair as she walked. "Firstly I need you to find me more of your friends who need jobs. Men like you, with your...view of the world." Idiots, she meant. She was expanding her market and needed more lackeys to move the goods. "If you find anybody then you'll take them to Gallus, but may the Gods help you if you utter a word of what the business does." She said the latter with a stern voice and fire in her eyes, "And secondly - do you know anybody who works in the noble houses here in Rome?" 

 

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So he was getting a raise after all! Artemon uttered a sound of self-satisfaction as he followed the witch. Maybe she wasn't that evil after all. There was also the merit of his help, of course, and now that she had seen just how cooperative he could be, surely she thought he deserved more than his current pay. Already thinking of all the fabulous thing his new wealth would afford him, he was pulled out of his reverie by the witch's long hair slapping him in the face. "My... view?" Well, he did have a few friends, but he wasn't sure they would be interested. Iophon preferred to stick to storytelling; Alexius was big and brawny but the pay was perhaps too low for him; Davus was a slave, so he couldn't work... This was harder than it first appeared. "I'll see what I can do," Artemon replied with an air of self-importance - not that the woman could see it with her back to him.

Her second question was easier. "Yes! One of my friends is owned by a senator!" Artemon produced a smug grin that was just as invisible. All senators were noble, right? (These Roman classes were so hard to keep up with; things were much easier in Egypt.) And thus the houses they lived in must be noble too. Ah, how satisfying it was when all the pieces fell into place! "But that means he's not got a lot of free time. What do you need from him? You may have to buy him if the task is very... very..." What was the word again? "Exhausting? Exhaustive?" Eh, she knew what he meant.

Lost as he was in conversation, Artemon had until that moment failed to notice that despite the barely existing lighting, they were entering familiar grounds. Very familiar grounds. He looked all around him like an owl, blinking and rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn't dreaming, and tapped the woman on the shoulder to get her attention. "Why did you bring me home?"

@Sara

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"Good." She smiled with an inclination of her head, "I'll tell Gallus to expect a list of potential employees within the week." No doubt all idiots like this one, but that was only to her benefit. She didn't want clever people in the sorts of labour Artemon was doing for her - people with even one brain cell asked questions, and took risks. No, she preferred docile idiots like little Egyptian Artemon who happily got on with his back breaking work for an as or two. 

But as he said he knew somebody owned by a senator, the cogs in her mind began to whizz at a furious pace. Keeping her back to him, a feline grin nonetheless spread on her face. "That's excellent Artemon. Do you know the name of the Senator he works for? I'm looking for somebody, a little boy," She glanced over her shoulder at him, "And I think he's in a noble household. So I'd like to find him." Whenever she saw Luto it was either at Titus' domus or at another location that was most definitely not Luto's residence and place of employment. If she could find out where he lived, it would make things so much easier. She could drop by, see him unannounced. She just had to find out where he was first, and so she was spreading her tendrils long and wide to do so.

The tap on her shoulder made her jump, lost in her thoughts about Luto as she was and she rounded on him, hand raised almost as if to strike him in reflex. She settled herself at his dumb expression and confusion. "What?" She frowned, looking confused herself now, "I've bought you  to Gallus' insula." She gestured to the rickety building behind her. Oh for fucks sake. "You...live here too?"

 

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Artemon could only hope she wouldn't tell Gallus to expect a long list. Maybe he would have to do some sleuthing and ask round - Iophon knew lots of people, so that was a good place to start. Alexius had guests over all the time too, maybe one of them would be interested in earning a few extra asses. In the worst case scenario, he could always take his skint bottom to Ostia and see if any sailors out of work wanted a job on land for a while. It might have been wise to ask for a commission, a fixed percentage for every successfully referred new worker, but wisdom was not Artemon's forte. He made some energetic noncommittal noises and prayed that Gallus could read Greek, because his Latin scribbles would put a young child's to shame.

Speaking of children, he couldn't recall Davus mentioning any little boys, but the attempt to dig deeper into his memory was aborted by the woman's confused tones.

"Yeah, this is my insula!" Not his his, of course. Still, the shock brought on by the witch's deduction made Artemon's jaw drop to the floor. "You mean Gallus and I are neighbours?!" His eyes grew impossibly wider, almost threatening to go flying out of his face like projectiles hurled by a sling. "That makes my life so much easier!" He took the woman's hands in his own and clasped them with enthusiasm, shaking them up and down. "I can just go ask him for an advance! Thank you, witch!" Her powers were truly wondrous.

Now it was his turn to shine - or rather, strut into the insula like he owned the place. "I live on the top floor," he informed gaily, forgetting to keep his voice down. "What's his?" They would have to go up at least one flight of stairs, anyway, unless Gallus secretly kept a shop and slept there too. As they went up, Artemon had regained enough brain power to allocate to the matter of little boys. "Um, if I do I don't remember right now. Sorry," was his contrite admission before brightening up again, "but I can ask my friend next time I see him!" The gods knew when that would be, but Artemon did not lose heart. "And this boy, what is he called? Is he your son or little brother?" Or maybe she wanted the child for more nefarious purposes, like a blood sacrifice! Faintly scandalised by his own conclusion, he gave the Dacian lady a suspicious side look. She didn't look the type to do such a thing, but ships didn't look the type to sink until they were taking on water.

@Sara

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Oh for Zalmoxis' sake. Of course this was where he lived. Well, small mercies that at least she wasn't the one that was going to get hounded to death by this dim witted fool - but poor Gallus. If she were him, she'd simply move. "Third floor." She responded evenly as they climbed the stairs. Her place in the dormitory in Titus' domus might be crowded and cramped, and she might be subjected to the snores and worse of her fellow slaves, but at least she didn't have to pay for the privilege of living in a shithole like this, like Artemon. 

"No, we're not related." She replied firmly, "He's useful to me though. And his name is Luto." Though he might have a new name by now. She supposed she was only allowed to keep hers because it was easy enough to pronounce. Not willing to entertain any more questions on her son - as she found it her one and only sore point (which meant she was more prone to fits of overt anger and hatred when he was brought up in conversation), she silenced the little man behind her with a sharp look. "You tell Gallus the second you find him. But do not tell your friend who asked you about him. Am I understood?" The last thing she needed was it getting back to the little shit Titus that she was on the hunt, and Rome - whilst vast - often felt like a village for gossip. 

Finally they'd climbed three flights and she drew to a door. Knocking once and then standing back in the shadows, she heard movement on the other side. A tall man loomed into view as the door swung open and he furnished Zia with a sly grin and an arched brow as if to say; Coming in? before he realised who else was standing there. "what's the urchin doing here?" He asked Zia, paying no heed to Artemon. 

 

TAG: @Liv

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Third floor, huh? Greedy Gallus was raking in the sestertii and shafting Artemon at the same time! But oh no, things were going to change now! If Gallus got cheeky, Artemon would come down in the middle of the night and bang on the door (and then hide or beat a speedy retreat). He smiled victoriously; this knowledge changed everything. Finally they would be able to afford bread every day!

"Lu-to..?" he repeated, slightly puzzled by the name. It wasn't one he could recall having encountered before, but he supposed the boy was German since the witch was German too, and he didn't know a lot of Germans. He was starting to think they were scary people, and the fearsome look directed at him only cemented that opinion. "Um, no, not really," he confessed, already wincing in preparation for whatever punishment she would inflict on him. "If I ask my friend about the boy, I'll have to tell him why. He's really smart, so I can't just lie to him." Not to mention that one shouldn't lie to their friends!

Any possible clarification by the woman was interrupted by her coming to a halt in front of a door on the third floor and knocking just once. Was this some kind of code? Artemon squinted, deep in thought. He should learn this code and teach it to Iophon in case it was ever necessary. Gallus' familiar voice brought him back into the present, and Artemon straightened up, attempting to look all prim and proper. "I found this woman trespassing, but she said she's your boss? So we came to see you. We're neighbours, by the way!" he beamed, pointing at the ceiling with his index finger. "I live on the top floor."

Now, when would be a good time to bring up that pay raise? Well, here was one possible avenue he could try. Still grinning, Artemon went on. "And she said you need more people to work. In that case, since I've been a good employee for a while now, I would like to be rewarded with more coin!" There - professional and concise, just like Artemon.

@Sara

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"You tell him that your boss is looking for him, and that is all. You do not say your boss is a woman, you do not say why they are looking. Clear?" It had better be clear because they had no time to discuss it any further as the door swung open and a confused looking Gallus enquired why Artemon was outside his door. Fair question. 

She opened her mouth to speak but the irritating little man chimed in first and she shot him a glare. Gallus paused after he finished, taking in Zia with a stern look and then glancing to Artemon. "Is that so?" He queried and shrugged reaching behind him to a small table to pick up a knife, dripping with the juice of whatever fruit he'd previously been cutting with it. "Should I cut her throat or put it in her belly, Artemon? We can't abide trespassers at the warehouse, you know that." Gallus sighed and moved as if he was going to strike Zia before breaking into an easy grin. He continued to move, but only to plant a kiss on Zia's cheek. "She's my boss, the big lady at the top of the tree." He gave Zia a chuckle and then deposited the knife back inside. Zia, for her part, only offered the faintest hint of a smile. 

His comic timing was genius though, Zia had to give him that and at his request she cracked a full smile whilst Gallus laughed garrulously. "It's up to the boss lady." He gave her an amused look and Zia rolled her eyes and clicked her tongue. Artemon was paid well, well below market rate and business was booming so an increase wouldn't hurt. Maybe it'd make him keep his mouth shut? At the very least, he'd be indebted to Gallus and her, and therefore more likely to do the odd-jobs nobody else wanted to do. Rolling her eyes she nodded slowly. "One sestertii and two asses." If he was only on a sestertius at the moment that was almost doubling his pay. "But I want you to leave Gallus alone, and I want you to be ready to work on anything he - or I - deem you need to work on. Understood?" Mainly the midnight shift. 

 

TAG: @Liv

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As clear as the waters of the Nile after the flood, which meant still a bit muddy. He could always hope Davus didn't ask too many questions, though, and run things past Iophon beforehand to get a better sense of how to tackle this future situation. 

Gallus was kind enough to let him finish before speaking up, but as Artemon watched him pick up the dripping knife, a horrible sinking sensation took hold of his stomach. This witch was no good at predicting the future, else she would have known she had come to the insula to meet her end! "U-uhh..." he stammered, following the knife's trajectory with his eyes as he considered the options. Neither was good and both were lethal... He was spared from having to reply by Gallus seemingly growing tired of his indecision, and Artemon squeezed his eyes shut for an instant before morbid curiosity won out and he opened one of them to see... Gallus smooching the witch?!

Now he had definitely seen it all.

He opened and shut his mouth a few times in quick succession, uttering sounds of confusion until the words sunk in. So she hadn't been lying! But how could a slave be a boss? In any case, good thing he hadn't angered her too much, and he definitely shouldn't start now! Doing his best impression of a lost puppy, Artemon cast Zia a pleading look, almost ready to prostrate himself at her feet. Fortunately he didn't have to as she agreed to up his pay, and he nodded furiously at the conditions she set, making himself dizzy with the movement. "Yes! Understood! I won't let you down, you can count on me!" he exclaimed, forgetting that he was practically shouting in the hallway in the middle of the night. 

This was the best day ever! Come his next wage, Artemon would treat himself and Iophon to a proper meal of bread, stew and beer to celebrate. Gaze jumping expectantly from Gallus to the witch, he decided to push his luck one more time. "Since I'm already here, may I consider my shift finished and go home to sleep?"

@Sara

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