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January, 76 AD

 Wulfric had been in Rome for months now – 4, to be exact. It had been late in the summer when he had arrived and now it was the winter half of the year. It wasn’t very cold though, he thought. Not compared to the lands he came from. He had not seen a snowflake and he had not seen a single pond or lake with ice on it. So he didn’t consider it very cold at all, although of course colder than when he arrived. He had for a while now known where his father lived. And he’d met his father’s brother a little while back... he had not been too impressed, but that was almost a given, with how Aglaea had described him. By now, Wulfric felt he had done all he could to gather information about his Roman family before he met them.

 And now was the day. He had paid a scribe to write a letter to his father, saying that he would come to visit. That he was a prince of the Chatti and that he came with an important message for Tertius… though of course he had not revealed that he was Tertius’ son. Now the planned day had arrived. Wulfric wore the new set of clothes he bought a few months back, an attempt to look at least a little bit civilized to the Romans and his father especially. It was just a tunica, dark green, a pair of short breeches – he was no Roman and wore no toga. He had however a forest green and grey cloak, that his mother had made for him, but he had swung the fabric over the shoulders now, as it was not so cold indoors. He had not gotten rid of the beard, although it had been trimmed. His hair was not cut short and precise, which was the way the Romans seemed to like it. Wulfric was proud of his heritage and was not afraid to show he was a foreigner - but he did want to look nice for today.

 After having knocked on the door, he was allowed inside by a slave, into the atrium. He already thought that it looked nicer than his uncle’s home here in Rome. It was tidier and cleaner.  In fact the floor was almost shining. Quietly he now stood there, with his hands gathered on his back, waiting to meet his father, finally.

 The house was silent to begin with, but suddenly the silence was disturbed by the wail of a small child, maybe even a baby, which surprised him! He had momentarily forgotten that Aglaea mentioned months ago, that his father only recently had another son by a slave. Wulfric around towards the sound and saw a short and pretty woman, a slave judging by her clothes, coming towards the atrium carrying a small child that was squirming a bit in her arms. When she noticed him, he smiled at her and at the child – Wulfric had no wife or children of his own yet, but his oldest sister, Hilda, had two children already and he liked them. It was then he recalled this might be the newborn brother Aglaea told him about. Suddenly, the child was even more interesting and he wanted to say something to her, but suddenly the words were caught on the tip of his otherwise often diplomatic tongue. Instead he was just caught there, watching her, smiling at her.

@Sara

Edited by Atrice
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Charis felt exhausted. The problem with children, she now realised, was that they looked ever so sweet and fun from the outside when one didn't have them - but when one did have them, it was something much more complex. She never realised how much she could love before Peregrinus has been born; it was as if her heart had to be painfully broken and then re-mended twice the size to accommodate just how much she loved him. Yet, that love came with the constant feelings of pressure, of tiredness, and frustration. It hadn't been so difficult in the beginning - he had slept most of the days away - but now he was a little over five months old, he was suddenly all energy and the nights... 

She had been told by Rhoda it was a sign he was teething - which made sense given how much he wanted to put in his mouth (the rattle he had been given, Antonia's jewellery when she played with him, his little chubby fists...) but she couldn't remember the last time she had slept solidly. Jocasta had moved out of their room (lucky for some!) leaving just Charis and an irritable, overtired baby to settle by herself. Last night was no better and nothing she had tried; nursing, burping, walking him round and round the domus in circles until her feet ached, had settled him. He had fits and starts of sleep - every hour or so for a few moments - until she had given up trying to get any more rest herself and bundled him into his basket to the gardens at just past dawn. 

She was irritable and grumpy from a night of broken sleep and in no mood to let Antonia or Tertius for that matter, disturb her son any more or wind him up only for her to have to soothe him and settle him later. She, in retrospect, probably should have taken the morning to try and catch up on some sleep and passed him off to one of the other  house girls but she liked to be busy and even in the winter the garden was her solace. The fact that the cold seemed to make her son drowsier was only an additional benefit. She mindlessly worked, weeding out the dead flowers from the beds as Peregrinus contented himself with his rattle in his basket by her feet. It was only his wail of protest that made her glance down at him - studying his face, which seemed to have affected the perfect pout. Despite her bad mood she couldn't help but chuckle and she set down her tools, rinsing her hands in the bowl of water she had by her bare feet. 

"Shhh," she intoned as he continued to snuffle, looking irritable, as she wiped her hands dry on the side of her tunica. Reaching into the basket she plucked him up. He didn't feel as if he needed to be changed, nor did he seem interested in a feed. She frowned - she supposed boredom struck at babies as much as adults. She sighed and rocked him on her hip as she padded from the garden back towards her room where a slew of toys were already waiting for him. "Shall we play, hm?" She asked - obviously not expecting an answer. He merely stretched out his arms and grabbed a fistful of her hair in response. 

She padded through the domus until she frowned, noticing somebody in the atrium. Oh Gods. How could she have forgotten?! The rumour mill had been swirling for a few days since the mysterious letter had landed in Tertius' tablinum. A Prince was coming to visit. A prince! Here! Nevermind that she didn't know what the Chatti was, it was still a deeply intriguing mystery. Yet, in her tired and irritable state she had completely forgotten that today was the day he was arriving. She stopped in her tracks - Peregrinus still fussing on her slim hip. She couldn't very well fetch him a drink with her son attached to her like this and she glanced around - utterly bewildered by where the other slaves were. She cleared her throat and glanced up at his face very briefly. She was pleasantly surprised - a beard! She swore she hadn't seen one since Britannia! Yet there was something deeply familiar about his eyes, his face that she just couldn't place. Had she met him before?

Glancing back down she said quietly in accented Latin, "I'm sorry Sir, has somebody gone to fetch my Dominus for you? I would fetch you a drink but..." She shifted Peregerinus and offered a small, rueful smile, "My hands are a little full."

 

TAG: @Atrice

 

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Wulfric had just realized the boy in this woman’s arms might be his half-brother. One of them, at least. Apparently he had two here, and then a sister. And then his sisters back home. Five brothers and sisters in total, suddenly. It was quite interesting! Right now though, this young child was the most interesting, because he was right in front of Wulfric. The woman carrying him was quite short, had long and pretty hair and wore her working clothes. He noticed the stains on the dress briefly, it looked like dirt, did she work outdoors? Not that stains mattered. Then he noticed she was looking at him too, as she stopped in her tracks and cleared her throat after a few moments.

Gods! He must look like such a jerk and fool, just standing here, staring her without speaking! And now she got there first, although she looked down again and then she wondered if anyone had fetched her Dominus and said she would fetch him a drink, but she had her hands full.

Wulfric chuckled, “No need to offer drink, I do not demand… also yes, I am waiting for him.” Wulfric said to her, his Latin had improved a lot since he got here, although he still had an accent, he knew that. And that was fine too, again, he was not ashamed of his heritage.

Then he looked at the little boy in her arms, “Is this child… yours? And his father is your Dominus?” He asked curiously and smiled at the boy, who stared at him now. He didn't consider that his knowledge gave away, that he knew something about this house already, “He is sweet. What is his name?” Was he asking too many questions? But it was too late, and he was curious about his brother, the first brother he ever met.

@Sara

Edited by Atrice
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His accent was unlike any she'd heard before, it wasn't British but it was familiar. It reminded her a little of Alexius - some of the edges of his words always sounded different, and she tried to ignore the blush that crept onto her cheeks when she thought of him. Focus, Erea! She merely nodded politely. Presumably one of the other slaves had gone to fetch Tertius, but he was likely busy doing...whatever it was that occupied his days, she'd never really figured it out - even when working with him in his study.

Charis glanced between her son, wriggling on her hip and the stranger - careful not to meet the letters eyes. She supposed she'd never really discussed with Tertius how their son should be introduced; he was a citizen, a freeborn heir of her master...but he was also her son, and the son of a slave. She could guess which one would take precedence though in his introduction and she nodded minutely; "Yes, yes this is Peregrinus..." She smiled warmly and reached with her spare hand to take his little hand in a mock wave to their guest. It was probably very inappropriate but she could sense from the man's tone and the warmth in his words that he seemed intrigued, even if she couldn't see his smile. "He is the dominus' son," She added for good measure. She wanted to say he was also hers, but didn't dare. She didn't know if she could. She continued with a little nod, "He's just a little over five months now, and yes...very sweet...most of the time." She flashed a warm, cheeky grin.

 

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Wulfric was always very attentive towards the person he spoke with – right now this pretty and young slave, apparently his brother’s mother, or so he assumed at least. And now he noticed, when he spoke to her, that she was blushing slightly. He hadn’t said anything to try and charm her, had he? He hadn’t intended to, although she was nice to look at, but he didn’t know her yet. He knew Aglaea… and wouldn’t mind charming her, if he could. She had certainly charmed him, even though she was not his slave and pregnant with his uncle’s son… his cousin? No, he didn’t want to consider that. It was too weird.

Meanwhile he waited for this particular slave to answer his many questions and she glanced around a bit, before she finally said that the child’s name was Peregrinus and that he was indeed her Dominus’ son. She kept looking away from Wulfric though. What was wrong? Why would she not meet his eyes? Was it because she was a slave? But Aglaea hadn’t been afraid to do so and she was a slave too. Why was this woman here more afraid? That was troubling… meanwhile, she told him Peregrinus’ age and said he was sweet most of the time.

“Only most of time?” Wulfric asked with a friendly grin, “I sure… or, I am hope… he will grow up to be good man.” He said and glanced around. No other slaves were approaching, nor any Roman and important looking men that might be his father. So he looked at her again, “I know your Dominus name. And Peregrinus. You have name too?” It was only fair he knew that, since she was his brother’s mother (although she appeared younger than Wulfric) but then he stopped himself and spoke before she had a chance to answer, “Apologies, I ask name and I have not introduce me. I am Wulfric. Now you?” He said with a smile then, very curious to know her.

@Sara

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She chuckled and adjusted his weight at her side, "He has taken to not sleeping as much as I expected he would...but besides that? Perfection." She smiled to herself, and up to him very briefly before lowering her eyes again. This man was a Prince, and a guest in her masters house. She would be especially respectful. She didn't reply to his assertion that he'd grow up to be a good man. She didn't like to dwell on the future, as much as she didn't enjoy dwelling on the past. Worries over what might be were oftentimes as painful as memories from her old life, and so she stayed quiet and gently rocked the wriggling little one who seemed particularly fascinated by the guest - reaching out an arm to him as if in greeting.

She was about to ask, but he interrupted her. She merely nodded and dipped her head, "It is an honour to have you here, Sir." Was that too much? Even back in Britannia she had no notion of royalty - not like Cynane - she had no idea how to address a Prince! But she did know that her role was a slave, and as such, she should not be too familiar and use his given name. But at his instruction of 'now you', she spoke softly; "Charis." She didn't remember a time when a guest of her masters had asked for her name; usually she just got a flick of the hand to signal for a drink or something, or most often she was just plainly ignored. "My name is Charis, sir." 

She swallowed, "Are you sure there is nothing I can get for you?" 

 

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Most Romans didn’t seem to think much of Wulfric and honestly, he didn’t want them to. He wasn’t here on official business on behalf of his people, not really. He was here to find his family and perhaps learn more about his Roman background. But he wasn’t here to meet the Caesar and he wasn’t here to act like a prince. He had an ordinary job at the marketplace. He lived in a tiny insula, just one room, he didn’t need more. He didn’t grow up in a very fancy house like this. But the woman here, she avoided his eyes, she blushed at him and she seemed humble, somehow. And very sweet.

She told him more about how her brother didn’t sleep as much as she would like and Wulfric just smiled, “I think children often like that. My sister has little children also and they act same way.” He explained, looking at her. There was something about the way she spoke that told him that perhaps she wasn’t Roman either, although her words were almost flawless. Where was she from? Then Peregrinus reached out a hand to Wulfric and he chuckled and reached his to the child too, while the mother said it was an honour to have him here. Addressing him with fine words and then finally introducing herself as Charis.

“Charris.” Wulfric tried, “Is that said right? Roman name sometimes… hard to say.” He said and she wondered if she could get something for him, but he shook his head, “You have all here. You have my… I mean… this sweet boy.” Wulfric almost gave it away there, but then he decided he liked Charis and leaned a little closer. She was the mother of his brother anyway, so she deserved to know almost as much as his father did, didn’t she? He smiled slyly at her, “You want to hear secret?”

@Sara

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Charis' heart swelled as he reached out a hand to hold Peregrinus' tiny little fingers. He'd grown so much since he was a newborn, so much so that she could scarcely believe it, but compared to this man here he was as small as a gnat.

She smiled a little and said it slower; "It is like Kah-ris, I think. My domine told me it was Greek," She shrugged a little. She had been aghast at first that she was to have a new name after living so many years as Erea, but how laughable that was now, to be offended by such a small thing! If only the Charis of then knew what else was in store for her, she wouldn't have put up such a fuss. Besides, it had been easy to get used to - and it was almost nice in a way. By having a new name here in Rome she could be a different person, separate off the good of her life 'before' - that life belonged to Erea, who was now gone. Now she was Charis. 

She blinked, surprised as he leaned closer. Was he trying to say that her life here was good? Is that what he meant? She supposed it was true. She had a healthy, happy little son. But that was the extent of her joy, really. "I..." She stumbled. "I suppose, sir." How odd this man was, wanting to talk to her like this! Peregrinus wriggled, as if intrigued by what was happening. 

 

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Peregrinus was sweet, wrapping his small fingers around Wulfric’s hand and he looked at the boy, thinking the eyes at least looked familiar. This could indeed be someone he was related to, although he’d never have thought it, if he didn’t know they shared the same father. But he was talking to his son’s mother, who tried to teach him how to pronounce her name and then she said it was Greek.

“Your… Roman Dominus give Greek name for slave?” He said, sounding a bit surprised, why would a Roman not give a slave from a foreign country a Roman name? He didn’t know the Roman people’s fascination with Greece or that his father had other slaves who also bore Greek names. But she’d wondered, this Charis, if he wanted her to fetch something and honestly, meeting his brother was more than enough right now! He couldn’t just say that though… or could he? He decided that he could and leaned closer, suggesting to share a secret. The secret. Charis was surprised and Peregrinus… interested, although he probably didn’t understand a thing.

“It is big secret… it is why I have come here, to speak with your Dominus.” Wulfric said and looked at Peregrinus, “Peregrinus is special for me. Because he is not only some child. He actually is my br…” Wulfric didn’t get the chance to finish the word or the sentence, as foreign footsteps entered the atrium and he looked over his shoulder to see a very important looking man entering, wearing the ordinary Roman men’s outfit with a knee-long tunica and a toga on top of it. And his face… his eyes and nose especially… and the way he held himself, the broad shoulders. Wulfric straightened. Now he understood why Aglaea had first thought he was his father.

“Charis… I see you have met our important guest before I did.” Tertius said with a friendly tone while looking at the stranger in his atrium, who stood there so close to Charis and Peregrinus, his son’s fingers even wrapped around the German’s hand. Tertius looked him over and then he arched a brow and inhaled a breath in the same motion.

@Sara

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Charis frowned, trying to follow his words. Peregrinus was special? Of course he was, to Charis at least, but to this man? The silence seemed to swell forever between his words. He is actually my br-. His what? His br-? Charis heard the footsteps and knew from the weight and pace of them (how attuned she'd become!) that it was Tertius. She took a step back and to the side - breaking little Peregrinus' grip on the strangers hand as her dominus spoke.

She replayed his words. His br...his br...his brother? What other word could he possibly say?! Charis managed to keep in the gasp she wanted to let out and instead glanced up at him. Was that why he looked so familiar? Oh Gods.

Realising she hadn't answered Tertius' question she respectfully inclined her head, trying to keep her addled thoughts together. She was far too tired for this. "Yes domine, apologies." She didn't know why she was apologising, but it was always good to - she had learnt. Slaves always did something wrong. "Peregrinus was fussing and I chanced across your guest. I offered him wine, domine." She said, by way of an explanation as if to prove a point that she hadn't just been standing around chit-chatting. 

"Would you like me to leave?" She sensed a tension in the air and didn't know why. Maybe because she knew what was coming? She was almost positive that her son would start wailing as soon as she stepped away from the distraction (fascinated as he seemed by both men judging by his wiggling at her hip). 

 

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If Charis had been married to his father, she could technically be his mother. And she was quite possibly younger than he was. Not that it mattered, he felt she had as much right as his father to know who he was. And that’s why he decided to tell her, but before he had the chance to, of course the man he’d come to Rome to find, had to show up. There was no mistake. Wulfric had never met him before but he instantly just knew. And judging by the way his father looked at him, maybe he knew too, already? There was a pause, an odd silence, after Tertius had spoken. He felt that Charis had moved away from him…

And then she spoke, apologizing to her Dominus and explained what had happened and that she had offered Wulfric wine. He smiled, “She did, but I see no need. She has hands full.” Wulfric explained, helping her, as she seemed a bit uncertain. Had she guessed what he’d been trying to tell her? Charis then asked if Tertius wanted her to leave. Wulfric arched a brow quietly, wondering what his father would demand of the mother of his son… and the mother to Wulfric’s brother. She really deserved more credit for her role. Instead of appearing so cautious with her dominus, like she did right now.

@Sara

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Tertius looked them over. Why had the guest, this Wulfric of the Chatti, a prince, apparently… bene standing so close with Charis and his son? Also, the Chatti? He’d come all the way from Germania to meet Tertius and deliver some important message. There were so many unanswered questions here. Another was the appearance of the guest. He seemed oddly familiar. Slightly taller than Tertius, but almost the same build – perhaps more athletic though – and there was something more he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Then the German spoke, supporting Charis’ words in a friendly tone. Friendly with Charis? Tertius wasn’t sure if he could stand it.

“I see… well I am certain I can find a slave who does not have his hands full, who can serve our guest.” Tertius replied, he didn’t mean to sound so harsh, but there was something in the air here… he approached the guest and Charis too, since she stood so close, “You can leave, Charis… for now.” He added, thinking he might need to interrogate her later about Wulfric here, and what they’d talked about.

Then he looked at the guest, “I am Praetor Tertius Quinctilius Varus and I understand you are Wulfric of the Chatti? Please… follow me, so we can talk privately.” Tertius said formally, trying to sound polite and friendly, but something about the whole situation here made him feel uncertain – and he absolutely hated that.

@Sara

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There was something clipped, irritated, short in the way that Tertius spoke and she merely nodded. She wasn't afraid of him - she'd seen enough of his soft side with their son, and with her in months past, to know he didn't have the tendency to lash out or anything so dramatic. But she did know he was possessive, and about as open as a firmly sealed drawer and one could never be too careful. It wasn't fear that kept her eyes down or words muted, it was wariness. One could never read Tertius! 

"Yes domine." She said with a simple nod of her head and a light smile on her face, before turning to Wulfric. "It was a pleasure speaking with you sir." She inclined her head again and hoisted Peregrinus farther up her hip from where he had wriggled down, before walking quietly from the atrium back towards her room. She could sense her sons confusion - this interesting new man had disappeared and now he was cloistered back in a bedroom. For a child so young, he seemed remarkably open to strangers, fascinated by them. Charis set him down on his stomach on the blanket that served as his play mat and sat herself on the edge of the bed. Please don't start crying...

 

TAG: @Atrice

Charis is out! Let me know if you want her to come back in at any point!

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Tertius wasn’t sure if he trusted this Wulfric – or his intentions here, although he didn’t know them. The letter he received, which he doubted was from Wulfric’s own hand (Germans rarely knew how to read or write Latin), stated that the Chatti prince had come with an important message for him. And what could that possibly be? Tertius had not been near Germania since 20 years ago and he had no bonds with anyone there. Was it something concerning Secundus, perhaps? But why seek out Tertius then, and not Secundus? Did it have something to do with Wulfric’s oddly familiar appearance? Tertius had only ever seen his own likeness reflected in water or in the polished metal mirrors, but he thought Wulfric did look familiar. It was a mystery he hoped to solve soon.

They reached the tablinium and Tertius turned around here, looking at Wulfric, “Please take a seat.” He gestured to the chair for guests in his study and then he took his own seat behind the desk. Hector stood by in the doorway and Tertius waved him off to find something to drink for them both. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt it was important to remain alone with Wulfric. He looked at the young man again. There really was something too familiar about him… “I am very curious about the message you have for me. It must indeed be important, if you travelled all the way from Germania to Rome to tell me.” Tertius then said, “Please… enlighten me.”

Wulfric tried to keep an open mind towards the man that was his father. Tertius didn’t know that fact yet, after all, and at least that meant Wulfric had the upper hand so far. He wondered how much of what Aglaea told him was true… if all of it was true. That his father was a duplicitous man and that his family here didn’t deserve him. She was too kind, wasn’t she? On the other hand, it did kind of make sense, since to his knowledge now, Tertius had four children with four different mothers… and his youngest child was not even a toddler yet. But Wulfric had already followed the man into another room with a table and chairs and he took a seat when instructed to do so. Tertius seemed oddly hostile so far, he thought. Or, not hostile. Just defensive. Protective, even.

“First, gratitude for meet me today… that you have time for me.” Wulfric began first, “Also yes, I did travel from Germania to Rome, to meet you. I have important message, yes. You have been in North, I know this, many years since. And there, you meet woman. Frieda. You remember?” Wulfric asked, while watching Tertius’ expression carefully, he didn’t want to be caught off-guard when it came to his father. And he noticed that Tertius was watching him just as intently. Was this a trait of the Varus? Tertius seemed surprised to hear the name.

“I remember a woman. Her name was Frieda?” Tertius asked, but he did remember Frieda, because he spent several nights with her and she was lovely company, but she meant nothing more to him than that – entertainment and comfort in an unfriendly region of the world. And it was a long time ago. Yet… when Wulfric said it like that, he kind of already thought he knew what Wulfric would reveal to him. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear it, because it might just complicate things further and things were going so well with Peregrinus and Charis at the moment. Wulfric talked about Frieda and an important message. And Wulfric’s appearance… he looked even more like Tertius than Teutus did, Tertius thought. It was obvious. But why had he come? Just to meet Tertius? Was that really all a German wanted?

“Yes, her name is Frieda.” Wulfric said, “She remember you well. After you say goodbye, she marry other man… Wulfstan. And she have children. I am first son to Frieda. Born early, because Wulfstan… was not father to me.” He paused, letting those words sink in, while his father seemed to have frozen almost… before he continued with the revelation, “I think you know, now. That it is you. I am your son.” Wulfric didn’t beat around the bush here, why should he? Now he almost held his breath though, while allowing Tertius a moment to take the news in and react. The tension in the air… you could have cut it with a knife. Then Tertius lifted his chin a bit while inhaling a breath, almost reminding Wulfric of Secundus there. Although Tertius seemed much calmer than his brother. Tertius’ eyes were still fixed on Wulfric, while he thought about what to say to this sudden claim. Another son of his… unknown until now. What was he supposed to do about that?

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Wulfric remained silent for now, waiting as patiently as possible on his father’s reply. Would Tertius even believe it? But he had to. Just look at them! And he only met Aglaea because she thought he was Tertius! They looked alike. Wulfric was Tertius’ son. It was certain.

“I understand that much. Even if I didn’t admit it, I think anyone would guess.” Tertius then finally said, “I didn’t know Frieda was pregnant when we parted ways.” Tertius began, as if he were unimpressed, and then Hector showed up with a jar of wine and two cups. He poured for them both in silence, while Tertius considered his words carefully. He could feel Hector’s eyes studying him and for once, he didn’t want his body slave to be here. This was private. Very private! He didn’t want any gossip to get out. Tertius told a surprised Hector to leave, but his most well-behaved slave at least did as he was told. He left. Allowing Tertius to continue talking… his eyes landed on Wulfric again, “And you are even a prince? The letter said so. I didn’t know Frieda had such a rank. She didn’t tell me much.” They hadn’t talked much. She knew Latin, but they didn’t spend the nights together to talk, after all, “You must understand, that this is all very… sudden, for me. Meeting you. You have known and planned this for months, but it is new to me. But I do wonder, if this is true… after all these years, why have you come? Is there something you want?”

Wulfric shook his head, “All I want is meet my father. Meet you. When Frieda’s husband Wulfstan die, she tell me truth about you. And now I am here to know Roman family.” Wulfric explained in a friendly tone, because really, that was all he wanted. He felt oddly defensive though because he sensed Tertius was not pleased. But Tertius arched a brow. As if that is all anyone wanted from meeting their father that they only recently heard about! Surely no one cared to travel so far just to meet someone. No, there had to be more to it, if Wulfric was really his son – and it was obvious that he was. Think that he had another son… a third son! Wulfric was younger than Teutus, of course, since Teutus was born before Tertius and Secundus went to Northern Gaul. Wulfric was then of course at the same time older than Antonia and Peregrinus. Another son, born far away in a foreign land among barbarians. But not born to a slave. Wulfric was born free, the only of his sons who was not born to a slave. Yet he was a foreigner. Tertius couldn’t just recognize him officially and just give him everything!

“That’s really all you want? You came all this way… just to meet me?” Tertius asked and Wulfric nodded with a smile, but Tertius didn’t believe it. Why was he so hostile towards Wulfric? Maybe it was just the unexpected surprise. Tertius hated such things. He hated not knowing what was going to happen. He hated not being in control of a situation, and that’s what he felt now. Add to that that he had caught Wulfric with Charis and Peregrinus. Maybe that’s why Wulfric spoke to her. If he knew all along that Tertius was his father, maybe he guessed Peregrinus was his brother… gods, this was a lot to process! But he couldn’t let the silence simmer for too long. He had to show Wulfric that he was superior – he had to keep the conversation going, “For how long have you been in Rome… Wulfric?”

“I come in late summer. I have home and I have work. I mostly meet kind people in Rome. I am telling truth, I come, just to tell you about me. And to know you… father.” Wulfric dared to add, although right now, he wasn’t so sure what Tertius would say to it. Why was Tertius being so difficult? Perhaps it was true, what Aglaea said. But Tertius was his father, none of them could deny that. His mother even said he looked like his father and it appeared to be true. They had to have a relationship. And preferably a friendly one.

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“You have a home and work here?” Tertius asked, sounding surprised. Had Wulfric been here for so long? Why had he not come sooner? And what kind of work did a German son of a Varus have? And what home? Tertius couldn’t just offer him to move in here… could he?

“Yes, I live in… insula. One room. I work at market, in warehouse.” Wulfric explained, “At home, I am guard and warrior to my king, Frieda’s father. But I think you have plenty soldier in Rome.” He added with a smile, but Tertius wasn’t smiling. He wanted to… throw something! This was kind of frustrating, to be honest! He didn’t know what to do. His son, whom he just met, lived in a tiny insula and worked at the market. He could hardly deny Wulfric was his son and apparently his son, the son of a Senator of Rome, who was basically a prince where he grew up. And in Rome right now, he was basically nothing. But at the same time, it was kind of hard to just admit it all straight away and give Wulfric everything, because… for some reason, it didn’t feel right. He needed time to think.

“You are right.” Tertius finally said, “Anyway… I need to… I have work to do. Maybe you can come back tomorrow evening for a proper meal and a talk?” He then added, he wasn’t just going to toss Wulfric out and never see him again. But he needed time to think this through, needed time to figure out what in Jupiter’s name he was going to do with this new son of his.

“Of course, I mean not take your time. I can come back.” Wulfric agreed and stood before Tertius told him he should – it was clear that Wulfric was very used to making his own decisions without asking first. Tertius stood too, he felt he ought to and Wulfric continued talking, “I hope… you are not too surprise or… disappoint. But I will come tomorrow.” He promised.

“I will see you then… Wulfric.” Tertius replied and Wulfric looked him over one last time, before he turned away and left the tablinium. Tertius sat down again, staring into nothing in front of him. A new son, well new to him anyway! From Germania! That was very unexpected, very surprising and very… frustrating! Tertius didn’t know if he was disappointed. Just taken aback. Thrown off course. And he didn’t like that.

Meanwhile Wulfric made his own way through the house, looking out for Charis or anyone else he might meet in this house. It was interesting meeting his father, although it went very differently from what he expected. Not that he’d thought his father would welcome him with open arms, but he seemed so defensive and Wulfric really hoped his father would be friendlier tomorrow. Meanwhile he was also curious to meet his Roman siblings, both Peregrinus again, as well as the other ones that Aglaea told him about. He wanted to see her again, but it would seem she’d left Rome with Secundus and he wasn’t sure how to reach her. Maybe Charis could help somehow? If he could find her? Hopefully he’d not be tossed out if he took a few moments to look around. He could always pretend he got lost in this huge house – it was larger than any house at home anyway, so surely that was a fair excuse?

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Charis was still sat on the edge of the bed as Wulfric and Tertius spoke. She tried not to dwell on what was happening in the tablinum or what it might mean for her boy, lead on his stomach desperately clutching at a little wooden rattle. He was, mercifully, contented with his wooden toys enough not to cry at the loss of the funny looking man that might very well be his brother. She swallowed the lump in her throat and reached out to the little table next to her bed to pour herself a cup of the cheap wine that was given to slaves. 

Her door was open, back on its hinges as Antonia sometimes liked to visit her little brother and she'd learned well enough not to shut her out unless he was sleeping. The little girl was sweet, but had a temper she didn't wish to provoke. Truth be told she mistakenly thought it was the little domina that walked passed her room and she glanced up, calling her name; "Domina is that you?" She tilted her head to the side to try and peer out of the room. "He very much likes the wooden toy you bought for him at the market, thank you." She called out again - in case the little domina be in earshot. 

 

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It was a huge house… or it felt like it was a huge house. He’d gotten used to these in Rome, but it would never be the same as the houses he grew up in and around. These huge structures made from brick and stone and marble, they were beautiful and solid, yet they felt strangely cold, despite the heating in the floors and for the baths. As if all the stone made it cold and harsh despite its beauty. But there was beauty inside it, like the decorations and the people. The mother of his brother was pretty too. Slaves bedded by their masters were of course pretty. His uncle and his father didn’t choose women who weren’t good looking for that, of course.

 But where was she? Charis? He honestly did begin to feel lost, when he passed a door and heard her voice from inside. She spoke of a wooden toy and seemed to think it was someone else outside. Wulfric came closer to the door and pushed it more open, gently.

 “Apologies, I am not Domina.” Wulfric said with a smile, looking over the simple room and his baby brother there on the floor. But Charis was his focus right now, “I did look for you. I am suppose to leave, but I want talk… with you. Can you… I mean…” He tried searching for the right way to say it, “Will you speak with me? Only short?”

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Charis looked up a bit startled. This was definitely not Antonia! She hurriedly pushed herself to stand although glanced down immediately to keep an eye on Peregrinus - now out of her reach, although he looked contented enough. She managed a little chuckle and tucked her hair behind her ear. "You are not domina, no. Sorry sir, I thought you were Domina Antonia, she sometimes comes to play with her brother." 

His accent was strong, but then again she supposed hers was too - even if she was now fluent in Latin, but she had to strain to get his meaning. When she did, she stood awkwardly - eyes down towards her son. "I..." Tertius wanted him to leave, which suggested it...hadn't gone so well. Well, shit. She didn't want to say no - she genuinely wanted to speak with him but if Tertius or Hector saw him in here, with her, alone....well, shit. 

Swallowing, she nodded quickly. "Y-yes, but not here sir." She leant down to scoop up Peregrinus who sniffled and started to fuss at being removed from his playtime. She gestured to the rattle on the floor sheepishly, "May you pass that to me? And we can speak in the garden, in the open? I don't think Dominus would wish you to be in here." She sounded harsh, cold even - which wasn't her, she sighed, "I mean...we can speak - I want to speak with you but...where others can see is better." She glanced up ever so briefly and offered him a little smile. 

She moved to step out of the room, Peregrinus still fussing. "Did your talk with Domine go well...?"

 

TAG: @Atrice

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She chuckled at his appearance, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. He could see why his father would enjoy this woman, she seemed very sweet. Almost gentle, but not in the same way as Aglaea. Charis seemed a little bit more rough, but not in a bad way. She explained now that her Domina, Antonia – his half-sister – sometimes came to play with her brother.

 “That is kind of her.” Wulfric replied with a smile and then he’d tried to say he wanted to talk to her and wondered if she would. He didn’t want to intrude or force her to speak to him, but if she wanted to, he would be glad. It took a few moments, then she stood and seemed uncertain. Wulfric waited patiently, before she said they should not talk here. She picked up Peregrinus and Wulfric picked up the rattle and rattled it a bit in front of the little boy, who grinned and reached for it. Meanwhile Charis said they could speak in the garden and Wulfric shouldn’t be in here. She wanted them to be out in the open. Was she afraid of him? He wouldn’t hurt her. That wasn’t why he was here. Not at all.

 “If you want talk in garden, we can.” Wulfric then replied politely, following her out of the room. Charis asked if his talk with Tertius went well.

 “I not sure? He… seem… it hard explain. He is difficult? Maybe he is surprise meet me. He did not expect what I tell him.” Wulfric struggled to explain it. He had been here for months and on a daily basis, he did just fine. Even talking to Aglaea was fine. Somehow this felt so important though and he wanted to get it right, to talk to her.

 “When we talk before… I try tell you secret. Now your Dominus knows it. You must know it too.” She should know it, that’s what he meant. He didn’t know if she caught his meaning, when he tried to tell her before, because Tertius came and interrupted them.

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Charis hid her smile at his description of Tertius behind her son's head, trying not to chuckle. Difficult was...well, that was one word for it. Yet she was not going to say it quite like that, or quite so overtly to a perfect stranger. She had learned her lesson since the incident with Helios to know what to say and when. Sharing her opinion about her dominus with somebody not in the household was completely off the cards, unless she trusted them intimately. 

Charis drew to sit on the bench at the far back of the garden. Nobody could say she was hiding - anybody in the house could find her there, but it was secluded and away from Tertius' tablinum. She just hoped he wouldn't look out from his desk, because he'd have a perfect view of this conversation. Knowing him as well as she did now, however, she suspected he'd be brooding by himself for a few moments at least. 

"I know it." She offered with a weak smile as she kept her eyes on Peregrinus, who reached and contorted for the rattle held in the other mans hand, "I mean, I guessed it. What you were going to say, sir. You look like him," She managed to keep her voice even even though uncertainty ran through her like a river. "And you almost said it before...I guessed as much." She sighed and kept her arms wound round her son, swallowing her uncertainty. "You're his son?" 

 

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Wulfric followed her into the garden, where Charis picked a bench at the far back. They’d still be in full view of everyone, but at least they could talk privately. He wondered though why they had to talk where others could see them, but maybe it had to do with Charis’ son, his brother… Tertius must be fond of her, he thought, since he fathered a child with her. Would he be the jealous type? Wulfric honestly didn’t know if he was, he wasn’t married yet and although there were a few women he’d fancied before, it never became more than that. Aglaea… he could hardly be jealous of her relationship with Secundus. It’s not like she wanted it. But his father might be different.

He sat down next to her and spoke of how Charis should also know what he told her Dominus. Peregrinus reached sweetly for the rattle that Wulfric held and he shook it a bit, making it actually rattle, before handing it to the boy, who seemed overjoyed to have it back. Meanwhile Charis said that she knew what he’d told her Dominus, because he’d been about to say it and then she said he looked like him.

“Yes… I hear before. That I look like him.” Wulfric confirmed, that’s how he met Aglaea, after all. Charis’ tone was strange and he couldn’t quite read it. Was she nervous? Then she confirmed the unspoken words from earlier.

“I am. My mother’s husband… is dead. So after, my mother tell me about Tertius. And now I am here.” He added, but kept watching her, because there was something off and he really didn’t mean to make her feel nervous or doubtful, “How you feel about it? Are you… alright?” Wulfric asked, sounding concerned, because he was. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked to speak to her, if he made her feel odd. But that was too late now. He was here.

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She felt like a lead weight had been dropped around her neck, and she'd been thrown forth into the Tibur as he confirmed her suspicion. She had guessed it, but now he had confirmed it she felt sick. Is this what Teutus had felt like - or a fraction of what he had felt like when Tertius had lifted up Peregrinus? Wulfric was a foreigner, not a citizen, but he was freeborn and older than her son. It cast Peregrinus one rung lower down on the ladder and it frightened her. She had not been through what she had endured only for the son she had laboured for days with, to be cast aside in favour of another. It wasn't fair.

"I...I am surprised." She managed with a wan smile, and she shook her head. "I did not know dominus had another son, he already has two..." And you are intruding, she added in her head. She shifted Peregrinus on her lap, his infant-giggles warming her heart a little - even as anxiety swelled within her. "Do...do you know what he intends to do?" She asked cautiously and glanced up at him - keeping her eyes on his, which were frighteningly reminiscent of his fathers. "You are his first, freeborn son. That will mean a lot here in Rome, even if you're not from here."

Peregrinus squirmed in her lap and Charis sighed, setting him down on the floor on his belly with the rattle within reach. It seemed to settle him enough, and she kept her eyes trained on her son rather than face the man sat next to her. What on earth could she say to him?

 

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Wulfric was very much aware of how his sudden presence might interfere with their lives here in Rome. His father had not expected he came. And he had not expected to come here and find out about several siblings, one of them not even a toddler yet… who was apparently also destined to become the next heir. Which was fine with him, honestly! But he knew it would be hard for them to understand. He sensed Charis was not entirely alright with the situation, even if she said she wanted to speak to him, so he asked her how it all made her feel.

 She confessed that she was surprised, because she didn’t know Tertius had another son. Wulfric nodded, “He did not know either.” He replied with a small smile, and then she glanced up at him and wondered what Tertius would do. She said it meant a lot to be a first-born and free son in Rome, even if he wasn’t from here.

 “I do not know, what he will do. I promise coming tomorrow, for dinner. Then we will talk.” Wulfric explained, “I am not here to demand things. I come to Rome, to meet my father. That was what I want. Know my family in Rome. I do not wish for money or gifts. Just… family.” Wulfric said, he wasn’t sure if she understood, because Tertius hadn’t seemed to believe that Wulfric just wanted to meet his family and nothing more, “I do not plan stay in Rome forever.” He added, hoping she would understand, “Rome is… busy. Many people. Where I come from, life is calm. Also… not as warm. And… people less… wary.” And maybe that wasn’t a good thing, because the Romans would surely take advantage of that, but Wulfric liked that he was able to trust people there. In Rome, it was hard to know whom to trust at all.

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"Dinner?" Charis arched a brow, "He must like you." She managed a small amount of humour and a little laugh. She wondered what her dominus had planned? Had this been last year, she would have raised the matter after he'd bedded her when he was generally in a good mood, or perhaps on one of the walks they sometimes took. But now? Her position was precarious, and her relationship with Tertius was odd. She didn't know where she stood, and didn't know how to act. 

She listened to him as he spoke, and had to hide her scoff. She didn't believe this man wouldn't want anything. Nobody was so naive, surely, to come to Rome just for a familial reunion? He must have a motive, she was more than positive of that. 

But she wouldn't be unkind to him. She still had her manners, and more fundamentally than that, she was still only a slave and this man was a freeborn foreigner, she had to be polite if only because of that. She offered him a lukewarm smile and inclined her head; "I thought much the same when I came here. I am not from Rome, or Italia." She supposed he might not know that, if this was his first time here, "I come from somewhere cold too - and much less busy...but you do get used to the crowds and the heat...eventually." She smiled and leant down to stroke Peregrinus' whisps of soft dark hair. 

 

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