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TARBUS.

27 | 21 September 48 CE | Slave | Stable hand | Bisexual | Wanted | Marlon Teixeira

 

ll6CMP.jpg

 

Personality.

Tarbus is a staid man. He’s been through a lot and like most men born into a world of both politics and warfare, he’s very good at hiding emotion. In fact, it might well be that at this point in his life he actually has trouble feeling emotions. He’s tough as nails, durable and enduring, dogged and diligent. He takes life very seriously and it shows, in the lines of his face and the beetling set of his eyebrows. His intelligence runs more to quiet, almost sneaky cleverness. More than one unsuspecting rival or foe has been brought to their undoing when, seemingly out of nowhere, a well laid and carefully thought out trap is finally sprung, with no chance for escape. Unfortunately for Tarbus, it’s he who needs to escape now – from his Roman captors.

 

Appearance

Corded sinews ripple over long, lean muscles on a frame now stripped of any trace of excess nourishment. Enslaved and existing now on the bare minimums of whatever his current master sees fit to feed his chattel, Tarbus’ mass has diminished. Yet what there is of him is hard as stone, from hard work and even harder living. His face too is leaner, more pinched. Naturally swarthy skin, weathered over a  lifetime spent outdoors to a dark golden tan, is now somewhat paler, making the dark brows stand out like warning sentinels. That brow stands guard over the even darker eyes below, which observe the world around him like soldiers on a rampart, taking the measure of the enemy without. A straight nose, set over full lips, somehow evaded any breaking force despite years of combat at arms. Dark waves of now long, untamed locks frame a face lined with the cares of a life spent always on guard, a dark beard and mustache half masking what few expressions appear on that visage.

 

Dressed in the garb of a slave, a simple tunic and sandals, a ragged blanket serving as a cloak for days that bring an added bite of frosty chill, there is little to mark him as the once proud and dutiful son of a warrior, nephew of a chieftain, cousin of a chieftain’s wife. Yet, there is a certain set to his head, and a way he has of looking without fear upon a world grown most hostile to his existence. There is too a posture, a way he holds himself, and walks with a boldness not perhaps as common to those born into slavery.

 

Another distinction now is clearly to be seen on his body, newly made and fresh to his mind, though healed as well as it will ever be physically. His left forearm was badly broken, and slashed deep, by the edge of a Roman short sword. With proper treatment by a bone setter, it might have healed up well enough that he could still use it. But as the injury was sustained in the fighting that saw him taken prisoner, and then enslaved, it was not tended to and the result is a twisted, bent lower arm. There was nerve damage as well, that no amount of care would have cured. He has lost most of the use of his wrist and fingers. The two handed falx will not be a weapon he’ll ever wield again. The gods had some pity on him, though, for they left him the use of his dominant right hand and arm.

 

Family

Father: Sinna, status unknown

Mother: Duccidava, status unknown

Siblings: 3 brothers and 2 sisters, status is unknown

Spouse: Docia, status unknown

Children: Duras, son, age 9, status unknown; Dapyx, son, age 6, status unknown; child, age 1, status unknown

Extended family: Zia, paternal cousin, age 26, status unknown; Diegis, husband of Zia, status unknown

Other: Titus Sulpicius Rufus - owner; Marcus Eppius Parthenicus - "employer" - Tarbus is contracted to him to work as a stable hand for the white faction chariot team

 

History

The successful birth of a child, especially when the mother survives the event as well, was always cause for celebration in the world into which Tarbus made his appearance. The fact that he was born on that day in which, by the priest’s reckoning, the hours of sunlight equaled the hours of darkness, was a strong portent. In their sophisticated methodology, they arrived at the fairly simplistic view that the day of his birth heralded a life of balance and a steady nature. Success and failure, good times and bad, would be his lot in equal measures. As much as any such oracles can pronounce a man’s fate, so far the priests have been proven right. But what man’s fate is either all good or all bad? Perhaps Tarbus’ destiny, as well as his reality, merely reflect the spinning wheel of fortune most men experience. He’s certainly had his ups and downs.

Tarbus was the first born son of Sinna, who himself was a younger brother to Brindis, who, in time, took his rightful place as chief of the Appuli tribe. The Appuli lived approximately in the central part of the lands of the Dacian people (the Daci), nestled against the shoulder of the Carpathian Mountains, in what would later be known as the country of Romania (along with bits and pieces of the modern day countries that border it to the north, west and south). Approximately a century before Tarbus’ birth, the Thracian king, Burebista, had united the tribes of the Getae and the Daci, establishing a Dacian kingdom that stretched eastwards from the Black Sea, south to the Danube, north to the Tisza, and bounded in the north-east by the Dniester. This pushing of the boundaries of Dacian territories brought the Daci into direct conflict with Roman occupation in Thrace, Macedonia and Illyria. However, Burebista’s assassination, some 80 or so years before Duccidava, spent but smiling, saw her newborn son placed into the arms of her husband Sinna, saw the Daci revert once more to a land of internecine conflicts among the many tribes.

The Appuli’s seat of power was the fortress city of Apulum, an important center of both political and economic power in the Dacian lands, sitting at the conflux of two major transportation arteries. It sat in a cradle of low hills and valleys, bounded by mountains to the northwest and south, and giving access to the Transylvania Plateau to the east. Crisscrossed by rivers, covered by forest (wherever they had not been felled to make way for cultivation and pastureland), it was a land rich in resources and supported the tribe with abundant timber, fish, and crops of wheat and other grains. The Daci were skilled vinters, and miners as well. Their lands were veined with rich lodes of gold, silver and copper, and dotted with smelting works for the production of bronze and iron. They minted their own coinage, and traded for goods coming from all corners of the known world, as well as sending their own products of metal and ceramic work out into both Europe and Asia. To the Romans, they might have been branded a wild, warlike, barbaric people. But to the child Tarbus, and to the man he was to become, his world, his land and his people were all that was needed, all that was good and wanted, all that spelled out comfort and home and happiness.

Born into the aristocracy of the Appuli, Tarbus had the best that his culture could offer, in terms of material comforts. His birthright also came with obligation. He was raised to be a warrior, and in a land of near constant strife, his training was put to good use from an early age. Mentally and physically, from both nature and nurture, Tarbus was certainly able to hold his own as a bold, fearless and skilled soldier, in support of his uncle’s ambitions. For what Dacian chieftain of that time ever lacked in a zeal to take more into his own hands? Due to the sheltered location of their lands, though, direct conflict with the Roman Empire was something young Tarbus never experienced. That was perhaps something happening farther to the east, and south. The Appuli, wisely, stayed out of such events.

By the age of sixteen, Tarbus was a seasoned fighter, and held some renown among his kinsmen for his prowess with both the single and double handed falx, and the sword, as well as being known to have a level head, an observant eye, and a quiet cunning. So it was that he was selected from among the young men of his uncle’s family to accompany his cousin, Zia, Brindis’ eldest daughter, to Surcea, across the Carpathian Mountains to the east. There she would marry Diegis, youngest son of the chief of the Ratacenses tribe. It was, of course, a political marriage, negotiated and secured by Zia’s father. To further assure the Ratacensi of his intent to forge a strong alliance between the two tribes, Brindis also arranged the marriage of his nephew, his daughter’s escort and guard and male representative of his tribe, to a niece of the Ratacenses chieftain. Thus did Tarbus learn to straddle the requirements of serving two masters, a never easy task. But he had the head, and the heart, to do it. Beneath the surface, though, his allegiance would always lay with the Appuli, and his uncle, and through that family bond, to his cousin, Zia.

For ten years, Tarbus did his duty, to his cousin, to his uncle, to his uncle-in-law, to his adopted tribe, and to his wife. The latter he did most willingly, for the girl, Docia, was a beauty and had a pleasing manner. Her skin was fair, her eyes the shimmering greens of the new spring leaves, and her oak-colored hair fell in a straight shining curtain to her waist. Her smile was sweet as honey and her merry laugh sounded like the chimes of small silver bells. Unlike his cousin, Zia, Docia had no interest in the political maneuvering of her family. She was content to leave such matters to wiser heads, and longed only for the day when she could add being a mother to her list of domestic accomplishments. Tarbus was eager to give her the desire of her maternal longings and soon enough she bore him a son, who they named Duras. Docia was over the moon with her babe and happily let Tarbus go about his business with his shrewd cousin and her own kinsmen, while she tended to his child and his hearth. On this domestic front, Tarbus had all that he could ask for. Would that life was so simple a thing!

His cousin, Zia, was definitely one of the things which made Tarbus’ life not-so-simple. Zia was always a proud, headstrong girl, and marriage did not change her. She was also very intelligent and not content to simply play the devoted wife and doting mother. An estrangement from her husband rather early in their marriage saw her withdrawing north, to Cumidava, to nurse her wounded ego, and Tarbus of course went with her. His duty was to protect her, above all else, and he never took that lightly. So he put personal feelings aside and went with her. He left a much saddened Docia behind, because he wouldn’t part her from her mother, her sisters, her aunts and cousins, not with her firstborn still toddling about, even though she would have obediently followed him. Thankfully, Zia relented and returned to her husband, and Tarbus had a much awaited and joyous reunion with his wife and son. Unsurprisingly, Docia bore him a second child nine months later, another son, whom they named Dapyx.

Not too long after, a year or so, his cousin bore her own child, a boy, Luto, but this did not in any way dissuade or distract her from continuing to meddle in the political maneuvering of her husband’s tribe. Both Diegis and his father seemed to fall under her sway, or so Tarbus felt, and he didn’t feel it disloyal to his charge to try to warn his cousin’s husband, who was now his closest friend, to exercise great caution when listening and considering her counsel. It wasn’t that he thought Zia stupid, ill-informed or foolhardy. But Tarbus saw the gleam of ambition in her eyes, and he questioned the wisdom of her bold suggestions to prick and probe at the Roman lines to the south and west. He had no personal experience of the might of Rome, not yet. However, there were none in the known world who had not heard of the giant machine of conquest, and the immense wealth which funded the greedy, grasping hands of emperors who were never content with what they had and who always sought more. In this regard, they were not unlike the chieftains of the Daci, or any other men of power. But their armies were huge, well equipped, well trained and brutal. Was it wise to poke this particular wolf who seemed content for the moment to keep to its own territory? Tarbus thought not.

It was not for him to say, however. The Ratacensi began sending small parties of their warriors out to harry and harass, disrupting supply lines, raiding outposts and eventually engaging the Roman troops directly in skirmishes. Tarbus’ increasingly vocal opposition against provoking Roman aggression fell on deaf ears. Nevertheless, despite his own misgivings about such operations, he continued to support the Ratacensi’s covert attempts to provoke instability. He did so out of obligation, for it was his oathbound duty to watch over and protect his pig-headed, proud, ambitious cousin, Zia. And if he could not dissuade her husband from this folly, then he must do whatever he could to help the Ratacenses achieve success. Whenever he had the chance to return to the seat of their tribe, and lay with Docia in his arms, their sons asleep in their cots beside them, he wondered where this path would take them, and if he would live to see Duras and Dapyx grow to manhood.

He did not have too long to wait for an answer to his unspoken question. Poke a wolf one time too many and it is sure to leap upon you, and attempt to rip your throat out. So it was too with these Romans, who grew sick and tired of the bedevilment  peppered against them by this brash Daci tribe. Ironically perhaps, it was in the midst of a feast set to celebrate yet another raid that the wolf appeared.

Tarbus could only send up a swift prayer of thanks to Zalmoxis that the feast was far enough away from Surcea such that, perhaps, Docia and their sons, and the child she carried within her, would have time to flee to safety before the very long and powerful arm of Rome struck there too. For surely the Romans would not rest until they had punished the entire tribe for the audacity of its chieftain, who already lay sprawled in a growing pool of blood. So too lay his eldest and heir, dead. Tarbus realized that Diegis, his cousin-in-law, was now chief of the Ratacenses, little good it would do him.

An exultant Zia, of course, was at this feast beside her husband, Tarbus thought in frustration, as he wielded the one sole falx he had to hand in the moment of the surprise attack. The gods could take her, for being the stubborn, brave, bold woman that she was, he cursed inwardly, as he twisted to avoid a Roman sword, only to feel the blade of another one slashing down on his forearm. In short order, all those who had assembled with the intent to drink to their success against the Romans were instead either dead or taken captive at their hands.

Tarbus was among those left alive, as was Zia, or so he heard in the hours after their resistance was finally and fully squelched. Even young Luto, only a child, was taken, and thank the gods they spared him his life, at least initially. Diegis he had seen alive, before he was hauled away by their captors. Tarbus could only pray that somehow his own little family in Surcea would have at least a day or so of advance warning of what had just transpired, and would have time to escape the wrath of the Romans.

The remnants of his adoptive tribe, and others who had joined them in the raid which had been the motivation for the feast, now became the spoils of war. Tarbus and the rest were handed over to the legate of the Legion which had so successfully rid the area of an annoying nuisance, one Titus Sulpicius Rufus. With his arm badly injured, Tarbus was quickly segregated into a group of captives with injuries or wounds grave enough to question their viability in the coming days. Some were clearly destined to make the journey to the next land. Others, like Tarbus, appeared to have a shot at making it through the coming days. It was a wonder they weren’t simply put to the sword on the spot, for the new life that lay before them was not going to be an easy one, even for those survivors who were wholly intact.

In Tarbus’ case, it may have been that, knowing that he was related somehow to both the chieftain of the Appuli, as well as the captive chieftain of the Ratacensi, the guards that had his keeping were told to try to keep him alive. He might be worth something, maybe more, in any case, than the average commoner. On the other hand, perhaps they had no idea of his connections to both chieftains. At the time, he neither knew nor was in any state to either hide or disclose his status. There was no real attempt to see to his injury though, beyond binding up the hacked flesh and tying the useless arm tight to his chest. A fever soon set in and Tarbus spent the first week of his captivity laid out almost senseless. Fortunately for him, his tough constitution waged a more successful campaign against the infection than he and his fellow tribesmen had against the Romans. Within a fortnight, he was back up on his feet, and it was high time too. The legate was ready to decamp, and with him were to go many, if not all, of the enslaved Ratacensi. Unfortunately for Tarbus, he was included, and thus any chance that he might remain in Dacia and somehow find a way to escape and reunite with Docia and his boys, if they still lived, vanished like snow on the mountains during the spring thaw.

Thus began a long and slow journey, to Rome. The legate was returning to his home there, with a strung out train of family, servants, slaves and baggage, all loaded into wagons, as well as a good number of soldiers as escort. Most of it was overland, to the eastern shore of the Adriatic, from whence they took ship to sail the few days it took to reach Italia. Another week saw them in Roma, and here truly began Tarbus’ new life, as a slave, put to work under a Roman master. Unsurprisingly, the Dacians were dispersed to here and there. Tarbus certainly had no clue where any but himself were sent, or sold. He’d kept quiet about his connection to the now captive chieftain, Diegis, and he hadn’t seen either his cousin or her husband or their son since the night they’d all been overcome by Rufus’ soldiers. He thought it prudent to keep his identity to himself, although he had no idea if the Romans already had determined who he was. If so, they showed him neither exceptional cruelty nor forbearance, and he was treated as were all the other captives. His mangled arm gave him mingled concern and hope – on the one hand, that might be sent to the arena, where he would surely die quickly, or that, if Rufus wanted to get any more coin out of his labor than a corpse would bring, he would be sent to some longer lived and less lethal mode of employment. The latter proved to be the case.

His knowledge of Greek and Latin – which he pretended to have little of - was good enough to understand that he was being contracted to a Roman of Parthian extraction, of the equite class – a man by the name of Marcus Eppius Parthenicus. This man lead a faction, one associated with the wildly popular chariot racing, which was the life blood of Rome’s entertainment industry. The white faction had farms outside the city, where the breeding and much of the training occurred. But Tarbus was sent to the faction’s stables in Rome itself, at the Campus Martius, where the horses who were actively racing were housed. Here there was a constant bustle of work from dawn to nightfall, with a host of slaves, freedmen and plebians performing all the many, many tasks that needed seeing to reach the point where fiery and fit teams of horses and charioteers would be sent flying down the long straightaway of the Circus Maximus and its treacherous, sharp turns.

It was a good thing Tarbus had been around horses all his life, for he was set to work as a stable hand, made to perform whatever tasks needed seeing to in order to keep the horses fed, watered, groomed, bathed and walked after a hard work out, as well as making sure the stables themselves stayed clean and neat. Some of it he found difficult, as his left arm was only partially useful. He adapted though and came up with a lot of work arounds. His shoulder and elbow still worked. It was just everything below the elbow that was skewed and he had limited use of his wrist and his three outer fingers on that hand. The work was physically demanding but not to an extreme. Things could have played out much worse for him. And he was pleased to find that he would often be going with the team to the Circus itself, for the races, and then back to the Campus Martius, for that meant he had some opportunity to learn about the rest of the city. Always on his mind was discovering and acting on some means of escape. It might seem far-fetched. But he had no intention of spending the rest of his life in Rome.

But first, he had to discover what had happened to Zia, Diegis and Luto. He wasn't sure that they had been brought to Rome. But if they were there, he couldn’t leave without them, unless he knew with certainty that one or more of them was dead. His oath to protect and watch over Zia still stood. He had failed her, at the feast. But he wouldn’t abandon her, if she lived still. And upon Luto’s birth, that sworn obligation had extended to her child as well. Diegis was his best friend, and for that Tarbus would do all he could to aid him as well, if it was within his power to do so. But in the off chance that Tarbus could both discover Zia and Luto’s whereabouts and come up with a scheme to get them all out of Rome safely, he would not hesitate to leave without Diegis, if it came to it.

 

 

Springy | GMT-5 | PM/DM

Edited by springy
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