Jump to content
Aeterna Roma RPG

Wandering and wondering


Felix
 Share

Recommended Posts

There used to be a time when Felix would have never, in a million years, dreamed about one day visiting the imperial palace. It was simply not something a household slave ever thought about, and even after becoming Aulus' body slave and confidante, he still did not set his sights that high. And yet, now his dominus was consul, and Felix suddenly had access to the most elevated place in Rome. Well, as much as a slave had access to anything... But he was physically present in the palace, and while Aulus was discussing important matters behind closed doors, he was given a little bit of time to himself.

The Palatine was a stunning place. Felix was used to the Calpurnius household, but the imperial palace was above and beyond anything he had seen in his life. This was not his first visit, but it was the first one when he did not have to stand at attention behind Aulus the entire time, and honestly, he was not sure what to do with his time off. He stood by the door for long minutes, thinking his dominus might ask for something or send him on an errand, but other than some slaves moving in and out of the room with cups and plates, nothing happened. The other body slaves meandered off to the coolness of the porticus nearby, or the corner of the gardens. Eventually Felix grew thirsty and moved away from the door, heading down the hallway he'd seen the household slaves go, hoping to find one of them to give him a drink. Any maybe food. But as he took turns and walked down corridors, Felix had an increasing sense of being... a little lost. Or maybe more than a little?

@locutus-sum

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Being a tutor rather than a body slave, Antheia had the luxury of a lot more time than her fellow-slaves, even if she was not permitted to leave the palace without express permission. The Palace was big enough to keep her interested, anyway, and there was more than enough room inside her constantly ticking mind for her thoughts to run free. Even excluding the many off-limits areas, Antheia had plenty of space to stroll around, from lavish gardens and large peristyles to dingy little service passages, and she had taken to wandering aimlessly around whenever she got the chance. Walking was a good way to get the mind in order.

It was in the warren-like passages which serviced the grand triclinium that she encountered a stockily-built man with a thick neck who filled up half the corridor - Antheia would have had to turn to the side to pass him. Two muscled arms as wide as suckling-pigs emerged from underneath the tatty sack-like garment he wore over his square frame, but something about the way the man held himself dispelled the fear that such a figure would ordinarily have instilled in Antheia. The man caught her eye and opened his mouth slightly stupidly, as if contemplating saying something, but a second later Antheia realised there was nothing stupid about this man at all: his eye were - well, not keen exactly, but a deep brown, and their gaze was gentle and steady like that of a puppy.

And he looked very lost. Antheia was usually a private person, but not to the extent where she passed on general civility. And something about this man compelled her to help him out.

"Are you looking for something?" she asked, donning her sunny smile which she knew put people at ease.

@Chevi

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Felix took another turn into a narrower corridor, reasoning that passages like this must have been used by the household slaves to get around the palace. He would either end up in a place where slaves were allowed to be (and maybe get a drink), or he would eventually run into someone he could ask without stepping out of bounds. The latter came true: a woman turned the opposite corner and they came face to face. Felix was aware that he filled up most of the narrow passage, and also he was a stranger (even though with his slave status stated on the tablet around his neck). He pulled up short, dipping his head and trying to look smaller as he nodded to her in greeting. She gave him a friendly smile. 

"Are you looking for something?" 

"Uh... probably the way out." he nodded "I was looking for a drink of water, and I'm afraid I got turned around."

@locutus-sum

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The man seemed to retreat into himself slightly as he replied, as if aware of his own imposing stature, which made Antheia's smile a little wider.

"Oh, well you're not far off; you're almost at the kitchens," she replied cheerily. "Though I think the place is busy right now with preparation for some kind of grand meal. If you wait outside, I'll pop in and fetch you a glass, if you like," she offered, taking a few steps backwards and beckoning encouragingly. "I can slip in easily without.." her eyes passed briefly up and down his hulking form, "without... attracting attention," she said delicately. "Come on."

@Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This place was a labyrinth. Felix wondered how long it took someone to learn all the turns and secret passages, and was somewhat relieved that he served Aulus and not someone who lived in a complex place like this. Well, at least he'd managed to run into someone who was friendly and willing to help.

"Oh, well you're not far off; you're almost at the kitchens. Though I think the place is busy right now with preparation for some kind of grand meal. If you wait outside, I'll pop in and fetch you a glass, if you like,"

"I'd greatly appreciate that" Felix nodded, returning the smile, and followed along.

"I can slip in easily without... without... attracting attention. Come on."

Felix chuckled at the look she gave him. If he felt out of place in the narrow passageway, he would definitely cause a scene in the kitchens if he walked in uninvited. Many people mistook him for a bodyguard when he followed Aulus around.

"Thank you...?" she didn't give him a name yet. "I'm Felix. Body slave to consul Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus." Which both explained what he was doing on the Palatine, and hinted at his pride at his master's new position. 

@locutus-sum

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something about Felix's tone as he talked of his master made Antheia feel fuzzy inside. Yes, she'd felt the same about her old mistress, even letting her pride show through the Antheia veneer. It wasn't as if 'personal tutor to Claudia Caesaris' didn't have a certain ring to it, it was just... it didn't feel the same. If she were a bitter person, she might have envied Felix that.

"I'm Antheia, personal tutor to Claudia Caesaris," she said nonetheless, smiling over her shoulder as the man walked just behind her, tiptoeing as if the stride length he was forced to adopt to keep pace was much shorter than to which he was accustomed. "I suppose the consul is in conference with Caesar. I don't think I've seen you down here before, though."

They reached the kitchens as Felix finished his reply. She listened, nodding politely, then excused her self, slipping into the huge, steam-filled room and leaving her bulky companion outside.

The glassware, she knew, was on a shelf near the door, above the sink. Twisting her waist with the skill of a saltatrix to weave among the frenzied cooks dashing about the place clutching fragrant dishes in their hands and even under their arms, she made her way as directly as possible towards a cheap-looking glass beaker. There was a huge, round amphora full of iced water sitting on the floor, and next to it was a smaller amphora designed to decant it. Glancing quickly around, Antheia made sure that nobody was heading her way, then carefully filled the glass from the dripping jug, sweeping her sleeve quickly across the counter to wipe up the spillage. A soon as a path back to the side door opened up, she exercised once again her remarkable talent at blending in with the furniture and made a beeline for it.

She managed to stop herself short before the momentum sent her smacking into the wall of the service passage. With a quick smile, she tucked her hair behind her ear and pivoted round to face her companion again, her face slightly flushed.

"Water."

@Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I'm Antheia, personal tutor to Claudia Caesaris. I suppose the consul is in conference with Caesar. I don't think I've seen you down here before, though."

"I haven't really gotten the chance to look around." he admitted.

Personal tutor. Impressive. She must have been a smart woman, then. That she was capable was already becoming obvious by the way she handled the task at hand, weaving her way into the kitchens without disrupting any of the hustle and bustle going on inside. Felix stood by the door, out of the way of others hurrying around. Antheia returned promptly with a cup of water.

"Thank you" he smiled, draining the cup. He was thirsty, and it had been hot outside on the way over. "I appreciate the help. I know it's not really an imperial tutor's job to help out lost strangers." Especially if they were slaves. He did not need to add that. Antheia was a slave too, most likely, but her job came with a different position than the rest of the household.

@locutus-sum

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something about his earnest thanks appealed to Antheia. Was this a man not used to any special treatment? She was aware she lived a life probably a lot more comfortable than his, but she too had had her fair share of trauma. She'd only been ten when they'd sacked Athens.

"Well, the way I see it, it's the job of any decent person to help out another now and then," she smiled weakly. This was true - she was a generous soul, on the whole - but something about Felix made her quite enjoy helping him, the way he shifted from foot to foot holding the empty glass. "Now, would you like me to show you the way out? There's quite a lovely garden near to Augustus' receiving room; we can wait for your dominus there, if you'd like," she offered earnestly. Despite being a singularly insular person, other people intrigued Antheia, this man particularly so.

@Chevi

Edited by locutus-sum
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, the way I see it, it's the job of any decent person to help out another now and then,"

She took the cup back, and Felix smiled in agreement. He generally believed the same. He had duties and obligations, but he tended to be friendly even when he was allowed to make his own choices. And anyone born into the imperial family probably needed a tutor who taught them the same.

"Now, would you like me to show you the way out? There's quite a lovely garden near to Augustus' receiving room; we can wait for your dominus there, if you'd like," 

"That... sounds perfect." he nodded. Sitting in a garden was much better than hovering outside the door. He followed Antheia as she expertly wove her way along the passages and corridors and courtyards towards the garden. She clearly knew what she was doing. "Have you lived here long? Or are you just very talented at navigation?"

@locutus-sum

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Have you lived here long? Or are you just very talented at navigation?"

Antheia allowed herself to laugh for once, a low, dignified sound, but a genuine one all the same.

"Oh, no, I've been here under a month. I understand, I really do. This place is a maze if you don't know it well. I've been spending a lot of time just finding my way around. Plus," she grinned, "what they didn't tell Theseus was that if you stick to the left wall, it's lead you out eventually."

Squinting against the sudden light as they emerged from the service passageways, Antheia ducked into the peristyle to make herself as inconspicuous as possible (a quality that any slave would do well to pick up to please their masters), reaching behind her to grip the rough fingers of her companion and lead him into the currently empty hortulus. At this time of day, one marble bench in particular, the one in front of the fresco of the Danaids, was covered with comfortable shade. The low voices of people talking in the nearby offices and the gentle trickle of the ornamental fountain bearing the head of Livia Augusta were the only sounds.

Antheia let Felix seat himself first, perching herself on the small area of seat left.

"So. How's life being the consul's body slave, then?"

@Chevi

Edited by locutus-sum
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Felix trusted Antheia to lead him out of the maze of corridors. He tried to commit some of the route to memory, although he was not sure he would get to navigate this part of the palace ever again. It never hurt to know one's way aound unfamiliar places. He'd learned that a long time ago.

"Oh, no, I've been here under a month. I understand, I really do. This place is a maze if you don't know it well. I've been spending a lot of time just finding my way around. Plus, what they didn't tell Theseus was that if you stick to the left wall, it's lead you out eventually."

Smart woman. Felix smiled as they left the corridor and walked into the gardens. She pulled him along, her hand small in his.

"They also didn't tell him he should pay more attention to the woman who saved him." he noted. Theseus had left Ariadne on Naxus, and that part of the story was a lesson to every man. He'd heard the story countless times from his mother.

"So. How's life being the consul's body slave, then?"

"It's... busy." they took a seat on the bench. It was a lovely spot, something that slaves were probably not supposed to take advantage of whenever the family was around. "Dominus is a good man, and he does good things. But his days are definitely longer now that he's consul." and, obviously, so were Felix's. "How is life as an imperial tutor?"

@locutus-sum

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"They also didn't tell him he should pay more attention to the woman who saved him."

Aha, he wasn't dim at all! She had the feeling many people got that impression, but she knew better. She had seen in him a kindred spirit. His mind was clearly just as quick to the mark as hers. And something about the implications of his continuation of the analogy made her feel strangely flattered. If she was to be Ariadne, then she was someone who deserved to be paid attention to. Though his tone was light and friendly, perhaps it was indeed an acknowledgement of his reciprocated respect.

"Dominus is a good man, and he does good things. But his days are definitely longer now that he's consul."

Again, Felix's words were simple as could be, but revealed a certain intelligence. So concise, straight-talking. Good. There were too many obfuscators and yarn-spinners in this city. This man was not one of them.

She would have preferred him to continue talking about himself, but then again, she reminded herself, she would have answered in a similar fashion.

"How is life as an imperial tutor?"

How was it indeed?

"I... enjoy a lot of privileges I didn't get before," she started cautiously, racking her brains for something suitable to say. "And I've gelled quite well with the rest of Claudia's girls. I enjoy discussing philosophy with her, getting a perspective so..." - she was careful to rid her voice entirely of bitterness, one of Antheia's main skills - "different to my own."

@Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Antheia seemed like a friendly person, but she was also poised in a way that made Felix think she cared a lot about how others saw her, or how much they were allowes to see. He was not going to push the conversation if she didn't want it to. It was not like they were supposed to be talking at all anyway. The last thing he wanted was to make someone uncomfortable. 

"I... enjoy a lot of privileges I didn't get before. And I've gelled quite well with the rest of Claudia's girls. I enjoy discussing philosophy with her, getting a perspective so... different to my own."

A small smile played on Felix's lips. When it came to an enslaved woman discussing philosophy with an imperial princess, that was probably a very diplomatic way of putting it. Then again, wasn't that the entire point of philosophy? "I'm sure she values yours too." Otherwise, she would have just picked another tutor.

"Do you mind if I ask... are you Greek?" she had a Greek name, and she taught philosophy, but neither was definite. Slaves often got their names changed by their masters.

@locutus-sum

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Do you mind if I ask... are you Greek?"

Antheia couldn't help a small, pleased chuckle.

"Oh, didn't the accent give it away? Well, I am pleased. Aristo - an old friend of mine - was always correction my Latin intonation, so I'm glad to see I've made some progress. Yes, I suppose I am Greek. I spent my early years there, anyway, and grew up with the language. My formative years I spent in Rome - I was enslaved in the sacking of Athens, you see. I suppose I think of those people as my real family." Antheia wasn't quite sure why she was telling this man all of this when she was usually so reluctant. A pause. She looked sideways at him shyly, trying to figure him out. "Why do you ask?"

@Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She didn't get annoyed at him for the question, that was good. For slaves, it could go either way, depending on their feelings about where they had come from.

"Oh, didn't the accent give it away? Well, I am pleased. Aristo - an old friend of mine - was always correction my Latin intonation, so I'm glad to see I've made some progress."

Felix nodded with a small smile. Her Latin was good. He'd noted the accent before, but only in passing.

"Yes, I suppose I am Greek. I spent my early years there, anyway, and grew up with the language. My formative years I spent in Rome - I was enslaved in the sacking of Athens, you see. I suppose I think of those people as my real family."

Not verna, then. Felix often met other slaves who had been born free once; he always wondered if it was better or worse for them, where they were now. He couldn't hear bitterness in her voice, but that didn't mean she was not keeping her emotions in check.

"Why do you ask?"

"Your name" he pointed out the obvious "And... the philosophy lessons. Nobility likes to get their philosophy straight from the source." he chuckled a little too. "My mother's Greek. But I was born in Rome." he added, as an explanation.

@locutus-sum

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Ah, I see." She bent forward confidentially, "what I didn't tell them is I hadn't really had any experience of philosophy before I came to Italia. I learnt it all from Aristo - he was a bona fide philosopher from the school of Anthens - while he was serving as my old mistress' tutor. But I count as Greek, and I sound Greek, and that seems to be enough for them."

She watched his face eagerly, trying to pin down all the expressions that registered there as they came.

Her next question was one which she hoped wouldn't cause offence. He was clearly smart, but as a simple body slave, one never knew whether or not he'd had the training in literacy.

"Can you... can you read?" she decided to ask anyway, waiting anxiously for a response.

@Chevi

Edited by locutus-sum
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was a glint in her eye as she decided to confide in him. Felix, once again, was beginning to suspect that there was more to her than what she showed at first, as a member of the imperial household.

"what I didn't tell them is I hadn't really had any experience of philosophy before I came to Italia. I learnt it all from Aristo - he was a bona fide philosopher from the school of Anthens - while he was serving as my old mistress' tutor. But I count as Greek, and I sound Greek, and that seems to be enough for them."

Felix let out a laugh at her confession. It was almost cheeky, the way she decided to state that she had fooled the entire imperial family... if they cared enough to check on their daughter's philosophy education, anyway.

"Sounds you have a lot to teach her, whether it's philosophy or not" he noted. Any young princess could benefit from being tutored by a clever adult woman.

"Can you... can you read?"

"I can" Felix nodded, still amused. He wasn't an avid reader by any stretch, but he'd learned to read and write despite most people thinking he was dim. It was useful to know, especially once he started serving Aulus as a body slave. "I'm not exactly a scholar, though. Greek or otherwise."

@locutus-sum

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Sounds you have a lot to teach her, whether it's philosophy or not."

Perhaps, but whether she wanted to be taught was a different matter. The mistress was quick-witted, an actually quite interesting intellectual sparring partner, but a marble statue would have been easier to shift from its position.

"There's a lot she... could be taught, yes," Antheia said after a while, trusting he was quick enough to pick up her meaning.

Felix didn't seem at all fazed by her inquiry into his literacy, answering candidly.

"I'm not exactly a scholar, though. Greek or otherwise."

She smiled. "No, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy reading. What do you like? Poetry? Oratory? Philosophy?" She paused, looking at her lap and then at his face for encouragement before deciding whether to confess this or not. She smiled slightly bashfully. "As for me, I'm not just a philosopha. I wouldn't say I'm any good at it, not really, but I... well, I can find my way around a cithara, and I used to play Sappho for my old Domina."

@Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Felix had never really been ashamed of his status as a body slave who had been verna. He was not highly educated, but he could hold his own in all the tasks he needed. He could tell, however, that Antheia could probably run circles around him in literacy.

"No, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy reading. What do you like? Poetry? Oratory? Philosophy?"

"I... like stories" Felix responded, a little sheepishly. "Histories, I guess. I have never quite gotten a taste for philosophy." He liked adventures and old histories and faraway places. He had no ambition to participate or travel to any of them, but they were entertaining to read, and not too theoretical for his taste.

"As for me, I'm not just a philosopha. I wouldn't say I'm any good at it, not really, but I... well, I can find my way around a cithara, and I used to play Sappho for my old Domina."

"A musician too?" Felix arched an eyebrow at her, smiling a little. No wonder they selected her as an imperial tutor. "Your old domina must have appreciated you..."

@locutus-sum

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Antheia smiled widely. "To be perfectly honest," she said, casting her eyes quickly around the garden then leaning towards Felix (not that there was much room left on the bench by his large frame to get any closer), "if I'd learnt philosophy from a book, I'd probably feel the same. But it's not about winning arguments against fictional characters. Aristo taught me that. It's about making people think about how they live their lives. Not that I felt I did a whole lot of that performing as a novelty at dinner parties," she said darkly but without any kind of resentment (she buried that deep).

The genuinely impressed face (as far as she could tell - but he seemed a genuine sort of fellow) Felix made as she mentioned her musical exploits gave Antheia a strangely conflicted feeling. "Well, I wouldn't say I'm a musician, as such, I'm an amateur really, I just used to play sometimes for my old mistress at dinner." One of the things she hated most was receiving praise when it was not due, despite the fact she rarely received it when it was either. "Yes, I think… she grew to think of me as a friend." She pushed away the swell of memories and put on a smile, but she avoided Felix's eyes nonetheless, in case a hint of her sadness gave itself away.

@Chevi

2 hours ago, Felix said:

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Felix rarely ever had the experience of people trusting him right away. Certainly not people who were free citizens, but even among slaves, he was usually overlooked or thought to be a brute, so Antheia sharing her thoughts with him so freely was a rare experience. He liked it. She was clever, and also seemed to be friendly and kind.

"To be perfectly honest, if I'd learnt philosophy from a book, I'd probably feel the same. But it's not about winning arguments against fictional characters. Aristo taught me that. It's about making people think about how they live their lives. Not that I felt I did a whole lot of that performing as a novelty at dinner parties," 

Talking about philosophy was probably much better than reading about it. Having someone to discuss and argue with sounded much more entertaining. And much less theoretical. Felix liked hearing other people's thoughts, whenever they deemed to share them. One could learn a lot from that. Antheia seemed a little less enthusiastic about performing at parties. He could understand why.

"Well, I wouldn't say I'm a musician, as such, I'm an amateur really, I just used to play sometimes for my old mistress at dinner. Yes, I think… she grew to think of me as a friend." 

Felix nodded, noting the hint of... sadness? nostalgia?... in her tone. She might not have whole-heartedly accepted the compliment, but he gave it genuinely anyway.

"Did the imperial family buy you from her?" he asked more gently. It was a very personal question to ask, and he almost immediately regretted it.

@locutus-sum

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was no reason to lie or ignore the question. It wasn't an unusual thing, either. So she answered honestly, despite the pain. It had been a few years now, anyway.

"Yes. Well, she had no more need for me. She's dead, you see. She'd only been married three months. She died giving birth to her first child. Stillbirth. Her father realised my status as a curiosity would likely make me more use to him as an entertainer than a body slave. I spoke at all his dinner parties. He lent me out to some friends, too. Well, he hosted one of the Imperial family - which, I'm no longer sure - and this guest decided he wanted me for Claudia's tutor."

She hoped she'd managed to tell that story with her usual equanimity. Honestly, it didn't hurt as much as she thought it might. Maybe she really was moving on.

"What about you? Did you serve someone else before consul Calpurnius?"

@Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...