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Aeterna Roma RPG

It's always the gardener


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August, 76 CE

Septima Minor had woken up early, way before her sister (who had participated in a party with some of her friends the night before). The summer was hot in Rome, but the day promised to be just the right amount of cloudy. It was time for Vertumnalia, the celebration of nature and growth and the changing seasons, as well as one of Clio's favorite love stories. In preparation for the day, she rose bright and early, dressing in a hurry and making her way to the gardens to pick flowers and leaves for wreaths and decorations. This job could have easily been done by slaves, but she enjoyed hand-picking the various plants - and she also liked the cool morning air in the gardens.

Making her way to the garden through the doors, she could tell someone was already in there. Her grandfather had talked about hiring a new gardener recently, since the old one had had to leave because of family matters. It was a pity, the old gardener already knew Septima Minor and her curiosity about all things living. He even helped with picking out the flowers sometimes. It seemed like this year, she would have to go about it alone...

@Atrice

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For reasons known mostly to the household he came from, Lexus lost his job. It had something to do with money, or that's what he understood at least. They didn't feel they needed to pay a gardener from the outside, when they could just have a slave do the work. So that's what they chose to do. Luckily enough, it didn't take Lexus long to find something new. There were plenty of gardens in Rome and since he'd worked in the previous one almost two years, he had some experience. He was almost 17 years old and already a somewhat experienced gardener! He did think it interesting. And he had so many ideas, especially for planning how it should all look like. Sometimes he'd find a stick and draw outlines in the sand. He didn't have much education yet. His mother had made sure he knew how to read and write, and he knew a bit about numbers, but he needed to learn more if he was going to continue with this. And it was nice having a job. That made him able to escape home and his father's escapades and the gods did really know how he needed that sometimes. Not that he didn't like his father! They were just so... different.

But now he was here. It was his first day. He'd made sure that his tunica was clean and nice and the slaves had let him into the domus and showed him the garden, telling him all about the old gardener, who had been favored in the household. He had to leave though and they really wondered if Lexus could live up to the expectations. He promised he'd do his best. There was a slave to help him, but he looked around in the cityhouse garden. It did all look very nice, but honestly, there was room for an orange or lemon tree too or maybe both. It was situated well. There was plenty of sunlight and shielding from the wind. It would be a good place for such trees. He'd have to talk with his employer about that idea. 

For now, he picked up a wooden rake to go through the dirt and the sand in the garden, giving it more air. He had barely considered the name of his employer, he just knew he had a job and it was nice. He had barely considered he might meet someone he knew here, it had been so long since he last saw her. But he heard footsteps approaching the garden and he saw her enter. First he continued with the rake but then he looked up again. What?

"Septima?!" He exclaimed, surprised and excited at the same time. She seemed so much at home that this could not be a coincidence! "Is this... I mean..." He trailed off, blushing, she was so sweet and he wasn't sure how to pick the right words, "This is your home?" 

@Chevi

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"Septima?!"

Septima only really looked at the young man working amond the plants when he called her name. Her look of surprise instantly changed into a brilliant smile.

"Lexus!"

It had been months... almost a year, since they had last met, under Thalia's careful supervision. Septima spent some time away from Rome with her grandfather, and really the chances to go out and meet with a boy working in the public gardens were few and far between. She had thought about him often, the way a teenage girl thinks about a young man she had a special moment with... But only now that she saw him again did she feel her heart skip. He'd grown in the past year, carried himself in a different way, maybe had some more muscle... but his smile and kind eyes were still the same.

"Is this... I mean... This is your home?" 

"It is" Clio nodded, still barely believing he was here. "... you are the new gardener Grandfather hired?"

@Atrice

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Her smile was so pretty, he thought, when she noticed him and she smiled at him. Could he dare to hope she'd only smile like that towards him? She seemed happy to see him, very much actually! He hadn't known where she lived or what she'd done since they met in the Gardens of Sullust last year. Her sister had been there too and she was such a different type of girl than the one he knew. Not that she wasn't pretty too, they were twins, but this Septima... he liked her. It was nice talking to her and spending time with her. He stumbled over a few words as he spoke to her and she confirmed this was her house. So he was now working at her house, at her garden. Damn! 

"I am, unless he hired more than one. I know I'm not so experienced yet, but I will be. I already have a few ideas for this garden. Not that it isn't nicely kept already, but... I think it could be even better." He said with a smile, clearly interested in this subject. And it was safe to talk about, with her. 

"Do you ever help keeping it? I don't think I'd mind if you did. I don't know if women... do that?" If women like her did that, he meant. He knew slaves of both genders could be put to work in gardens, but he wasn't so sure about higher ranked people like Septima. 

@Chevi

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Lexus looked equally shocked, which meant he had not known ahead of time that he was going to work in her garden. The gods had mysterious ways sometimes. He seemed a little flustered by the revelation. But if Grandfather had hired him, it was a done deal. And probably better if he didn't know about it.

"I am, unless he hired more than one. I know I'm not so experienced yet, but I will be. I already have a few ideas for this garden. Not that it isn't nicely kept already, but... I think it could be even better."

"I am sure you will do great" Septima smiled at him, walking a little closer. He was bright and eager to learn. And they had already talked about gardening before.

"Do you ever help keeping it? I don't think I'd mind if you did. I don't know if women... do that?" 

"No, I..." Septima giggled, blushing a little "I don't... work in the gardens. But I spend a lot of time out here. Studying plants, and animals, and... Well. Today, I need to pick some flowers for the festival."

There was a rustling of leaves in one of the flowerbeds. One of Septima's many cats prowled the gardens for prey, or maybe just a sunny spot. It was a sleek, grey cat, with green eyes giving the humans an inquisitive look.

@Atrice

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The gods sometimes had very mysterious ways! Like making Lexus encounter the same, pretty and sweet girl several times, although she was entirely out of reach for a plebian whose parents were formerly slaves. He couldn’t give her anything. Sure, his father spoke of things and knew exactly what Lexus could give to her, but she was above him in rank and he didn’t want to hurt her. Or her reputation. She was kind and sweet. And her smile so cute.

 She said she was certain he’d do great with the garden and then he wondered if she ever helped out in the garden. She giggled, blushed, explained that she spent time here although she didn’t work here. And now she was out picking flowers.

 “That sounds nice.” Lexus said and then a cat appeared out of nowhere. Lexus looked at it, they didn’t have any pets where he worked before. It looked very soft. He smiled and looked at Septima again, “Do you want me to help you pick flowers? You can tell me more about the garden too. Is there something you think should be done with it?”

@Chevi

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The day was looking suddenly brighter as they smiled at each other. Septima could not help but think of Vertumnus, the ancient god of gardens and plants, as she looked at Lexus standing in the shade of their bushes and trees. Maybe it was a sign from the god on his festival day.

Or maybe she was just being silly, like Thalia was sometimes.

“Do you want me to help you pick flowers? You can tell me more about the garden too. Is there something you think should be done with it?”

"Yes, some help would be lovely" she nodded, walking towards some of the flowerbeds. The car meowed and walked up to rub against her leg. "I don't really have anything specific... Less valerian, maybe?" she chuckled as she leaned down to pet the cat. "Echo here seems to have had enough..."

@Atrice

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Lexus wondered quietly how it would go with him working here, so close to Septima. He would be seeing a lot more of her. He would get to know her better. Oh his father could not know that the girl he liked lived where he worked! Lexus didn't want to take advantage of her. Honestly though, he wasn't sure if he could. She was so sweet, her smile was as bright as the sun and so contagious too. He suggested he helped her pick flowers and then asked for her opinion on the garden. She agreed to the help and he followed her, he had a knife by his belt, so he could cut the flowers for her. The cat came closer and rubbed against her leg while she was just talking. While the cat rubbed against her leg in a very pretty way. As if someone should paint this on a wall or something. 

He crouched down to the cat too, reached out a hand to let it sniff him, "Echo? Isn't that... a nymph? I think I recall the name from some story." Lexus said, "She fell in love, but the love was not returned." He sighed and stood up again, looking at her. Sometimes he talked without thinking and now he felt shy.

"So... which flowers do you like?" He asked, trying to talk about something else. If Septima was to fall in love with him, he'd return it. But it would be stupid, especially for her, to fall for someone like him. Her family would never approve. And he wasn't his father. He actually cared about such things.

@Chevi

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Lexus crouched down to hold a hand out to Echo. She sniffed at it, the purred; she was generally a friendly cat, and right now she was more than a little blissful from rolling among the valerian bushes.

"Echo? Isn't that... a nymph? I think I recall the name from some story. She fell in love, but the love was not returned." 

"Yes." Septima smiled, happy that Lexus recognized the name. Most people did not pay much attention to how she named the cats she kept. "Although I named her that because she follows people around and meows when they speak."

Echo, true to her nature, meowed, and then flopped down on the garden path.

"So... which flowers do you like?"

"I... like all of them." she admitted, suddenly a little shy that she had to make decisions. Usually she just wandered around picking what she liked, but having a gardener who actually understood the plants made it a bit different. "Something that smells good would be good... Maybe lavender?"

@Atrice

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Lexus was happy to see Septima smile, when he retold what he remembered about the name Echo, which was apparently also the name of a cat. Septima did however explain that she named the cat for a different reason - as he understood it, the cat kind of echoed what the people did. He nodded, that made sense too. But speaking of love made him feel kind of shy, so he hurried to speak about something else. Like what flowers she liked. Flowers were safe, right? 

But Septima liked them all and said she liked something that smelled nice.

"Lavender is good... and they also smell nice even after they are dry." He said with a smile and looked around to see if they had any lavender here, "Roses have a nice smell too and red might go well with the violet of the lavender. Or maybe a blue or white hyacinth?" He suggested, also considering the flowers of various herbs, because most just took them for granted, but they were actually very pretty. And herbs did have a nice smell too.

"Did you bring something with you to cut the flowers with?" He then asked, because they'd definitely need that, no matter which flowers she picked.

@Chevi

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"Lavender is good... and they also smell nice even after they are dry. Roses have a nice smell too and red might go well with the violet of the lavender. Or maybe a blue or white hyacinth?" 

"Let's see what we can find" Septima smiled. She liked the idea of lavender and roses, but she was also happy to work on gathering flowers with the help of Lexus. He knew gardens well, apparently, and she wanted to learn from him.

"Did you bring something with you to cut the flowers with?"

"Um... yes I did" Septima nodded, pulling a small pruning knife from her belt. She had picked it up from among the gardening tools earlier. She was not sure it would work for all the flowers, but it was a start. "Are you going to the festival too?"

@Atrice

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Septima was so friendly and sweet and her smile the same! He couldn't help but smile lightly too, when she replied to him and they ventured further into the garden to take a look at the flowers. He wondered if she brought a knife or something to cut the flowers with and she did. She showed him a small knife and he nodded, it was a good start. He wasn't quite sure what else to say, so it was a good thing that she began once more. 

"The festival? Oh, right, the festival! I don't know, really... I don't really have any plans." Lexus said, "I guess you're going?" Of course she are, stupid, she said she was here to gather flowers for the festival! "With your sister, I imagine?" He then added, after realizing his stupid mistake. Why didn't he never know what to say to girls? How did his father always know? 

@Chevi

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"The festival? Oh, right, the festival! I don't know, really... I don't really have any plans. I guess you're going?"

Septima blinked. Of course she was going. That's why she was here, picking flowers, right? Lexus looked a little flustered, no doubt immediately realizing his mistake.

"With your sister, I imagine?" 

"If she ever gets ready to go" Septima chuckled. Her sister usually took a long time to get ready for a festival. "Vertumnalia is not one of her favorites. I like the flowers, and the fruit, and I like the story. if she is not ready by the time I get these wreaths done, I might go without her..."

@Atrice

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Septima's twin sister had been such a different experience, compared to the Septima he knew better. With whom he even once swapped clothes. But her sister, she was so much more cheerful, in a different way anyway. Septima was cheerful too! But more considerate, more thoughtful, not quite so... everywhere! Septima chuckled as she mentioned her sister taking a long time to get ready and then said the festival was not one of her favorites. But Septima liked it. And so much that she might alone, which Lexus did not think sounded very appropriate. 

"If she's not ready, I could... I mean... unless you want to go alone." Gods he could kick himself over the shin sometimes. Just say it? Just... do it?

"What I'm trying to say is, if I'm done with my work here too, I could come with you? If you'd like that?" He stopped himself before he could add that it was alright if she didn't want him to come. His father would never say that. Or he might, but he would make it sound like he'd be very sad if the girl went out alone. Lexus didn't have it in him to do that. But it would seem he did pay attention sometimes, after all.

@Chevi

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"If she's not ready, I could... I mean... unless you want to go alone." 

Septima looked a little surprised at Lexus' words. She did not mind going alone, but she also enjoyed sharing the festival with other people. Preferably her sister, who was probably still asleep... but also, Lexus was not a bad person to be around.

"What I'm trying to say is, if I'm done with my work here too, I could come with you? If you'd like that?" 

Septima blushed a little, although she was not sure why. She had taken a walk with Lexus in the gardens before, even dressed in his clothes as an experiment. Walking to the festival with him would not have been out of the ordinary. Even though Thalia had been teasing her about the gardener having a crush on her...

"Well... that's... a nice idea" she nodded finally, looking around. "That means, you'd need a wreath too."

@Atrice

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When she gave him that surprised look, he wanted to take his words back, although he'd not clearly stated yet he would go with her to the festival. Still, perhaps it was taking it too far. But he had to ask. He had to do it. He liked Septima. Maybe she would like to go with him. So he asked. And she blushed, which just made her even prettier in his eyes. She was the only girl he ever made blush, he realized. There must be something here, there must be. Did she feel it too?

She liked the idea, that was something. And then said he'd need a wreath too. Lexus blinked.

"So you actually... do want me to come with you?" He asked, still a bit surprised that she actually agreed to the idea. His father would think his words were so stupid, he never knew what to say to a girl and his father always did. But silence was awkward and he didn't like it, so... "I don't think I ever wore a wreath before." 

@Chevi

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"So you actually... do want me to come with you?"

Septima blushed deeper. Gods, what was happening? She liked having Lexus around. He was sweet, and he did not mind all her oddities, like observing bugs, and swapping clothes. "I... wouldn't mind." Plausible deniability. In case Grandfather asked why she invited the gardener along to a stroll.

"I don't think I ever wore a wreath before." 

"Well, you should. It's part of the festival." she was confident about that. "It... goes with Vertumnus' story, and all. Let's go find some flowers for you too."

@Atrice

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Despite her dark skin, she blushed again and Lexus couldn't help but think how cute it was. And special, too! That he made a girl feel like that! She said she would not mind if he came with her. He smiled and then she had spoken of how he'd need a wreath too. Though he didn't wear one before, not that he could recall. Septima said he should and that it went with the story of the festival.

"Well if it's part of the festival, I better do the right thing. Especially if I'm going with you." He said, still smiling. Was she popular among the other young people? He bet she was, with how kind and sweet she was. And pretty too. His father would probably tell him to kiss the girl. Would she even want him to do that? He looked at her, couldn't help but glance at her lips briefly. He'd only ever kissed one girl, and honestly, it felt more like she was kissing him, because he didn't like her like that. And she was more drunk than he and his friend back then. He'd almost felt violated when she did it. He didn't want Septima to feel like that. Gods what was going on? He needed to think about something else.

"What flowers do you think would look good on me?" He wondered, it sounded so stupid, but he didn't know if she thought that. It was all so confusing, all this with girls! 

@Chevi

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"Well if it's part of the festival, I better do the right thing. Especially if I'm going with you. What flowers do you think would look good on me?"

Septima was not sure what to do now. She was not one to usually act on impulse; that had always been more of her sister's thing. But now, the third time she was meeting Lexus, she was once again proposing something she would not have done otherwise. At least they were not swapping clothes this time?...

"Let's... let's go find the lavender. And the roses." she suggested, starting to walk again. "And... maybe some forget-me-nots, if we have them? And maybe lilies. Some rosemary or thyme? For the scent?"

@Atrice

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Septima had gone quiet briefly, but when he asked her about what flowers she thought would be good for him, she spoke of lavender and roses. Sweet-smelling flowers. Did she enjoy those flowers too? He looked at her as they walked, staying half a step behind her, he was not as highly ranked as her, after all. And he had learned a little bit until now, he did know what manners were. From here he had a good view of her hair and briefly wondered if it was as soft and smooth as it looked to be. Right, she still spoke of flowers. 

"You decide. I'm not very used at making wreaths. I think you have more experience there." He said with a smile, "I don't know if the herbs are needed though. There's plenty of scent in lavender and in roses, isn't there?" Didn't she ever smell the roses? She must have.

@Chevi

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Clio moved along the flowerbeds until she found the rose bushes, surrounded by the smaller bunches of lavender. She smiled, lifting one of the roses to her nose. Yes, they would do nicely, as long as she was careful of the thorns. She pulled out the pruning knife and started selecting the flowers carefully. They had long, supple stems, which was good for making wreaths; with only a few roses, one could make a full crown, to be filled in with other flowers. Soon, Septima's arms were full of roses and lavender, and some forget-me-nots.

"That should be enough for both of us" she concluded finally, looking around for a place to sit. "Now we just need to make the wreathes and then we can go..."

@Atrice

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She was so pretty with her arms full of flowers. He couldn't help but liking the sight. She thought there were enough flowers, now they just needed to make wreaths out of them. Lexus nodded, "Shall I carry some for you?" He suggested in a friendly tone, ready to take over from her. She was really sweet and kind, like his previous employer, only Septima was younger and even prettier, he thought. Maybe he should dare to ask his father for advice again, although it had not gone so well last time. Maybe this time would be better. Until then though, he would have to figure it out on his own, "Just tell me what to do." 

@Chevi

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She handed some of the flowers over to Lexus as they took a seat on the bench. It looked like they had plenty to work with. She just hoped she would manage to make pretty wreaths without Thalia's help. Her sister was usually better at pretty things.

"Just tell me what to do." 

"We should... take the thorns off the roses first. But leave the stems long" she told him, getting to work. Once that was cleared, they could start weaving. The roses were fresh and smelled intoxicatingly sweet, and they were still young enough that the petals were not falling off them. "So... you have not been to Saturnalia before?"

@Atrice

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She silently agreed to let him carry some of the flowers and soon he had an armful of roses while they moved to sit down. He placed them carefully on the ground before them and asked her to instruct them. Did she like that? That he asked her to instruct him. So many men liked to have all the power, also over the women. But Lexus grew up with his mother and now lived alone with his father, so he wasn't used to it being like that. And at least his father seemed to respect women, he never mistreated them. Now he thought about it, that was a very good trait in his father. 

Septima interrupted his thoughts, telling him to remove the thorns from the roses. Removing thorns from roses... he smiled, nodding at her words, "Alright." He said and picked up the small knife he'd carried to begin with the job. Septima asked him if he'd never been to the festival before.

"No, I don't think so... but I probably have. There are so many festivals." He said with a grin, "My father attends them all, I think. Especially if there's wine to be had. But I don't know if he knows how to recognize one from the other. Do you usually attend them all?" Maybe she did, maybe she knew a lot that he didn't. She probably did.  

@Chevi

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"Not all" Septima smiled, her hands deftly working on taking the thorns off and bending the rose stems into the shape of a wreath. She liked working on this, even if she was not as skilled as Thalia. And she liked having Lexus' company while doing it. "I go the ones I enjoy, and the ones I am obligated to go to. My grandfather decides that. I also go to the festivals of Isis." As her chosen deity, she worshiped the Egyptian gods along with her, with a handful of other followers in the city. "I like Vertumnus' story. And I like fruits and flowers. So I go, usually with Thalia..." She held up the wreath she had just started. "See how I'm weaving it?... She's better at it than I am.But I think it will look alright."

@Atrice

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