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July, 76 AD

He was not a slave, on his way to the slave market to be sold to another household. That’s not how it happened, when you were a freedman in Rome. No, when you were a freedman and the man who originally freed you had died, you were entirely free. And since he sold his old home, the one he inherited from his father… and his wife was still missing… and he now lost his job, he had nowhere to go. All he had was the sack with his things in it and the money he’d been given when he left the family and the domus.

 It had been interesting to work for the Tusca family, although also challenging. He could see why the young lady had needed a bodyguard – she was beautiful and easily tempted and he would never trust her half-brother, whose words were as smooth as butter and his eyes full of mischief. But the family had no need for him anymore and so he ventured into the streets of Rome again, considering what to do.

 Maybe he should find himself an insula to live in? He didn’t have a lot, so it would be a simple room in the top floor or something. It would have been easier, had he been a slave. Then he would have known where to go. The slave market or a new owner. But now he needed so much more; he needed a new job and a place to stay.

 He sat down on a step, thinking through his options. What could he do? Maybe return to the market as he thought about and ask for his old job back? That was the best option. He didn’t want to look for an insula before he had a job. So he stood, but as soon as he’d taken a step, the knot in his sack (which was really just a large piece of linen tied together as a sack) fell apart and everything spilled onto the ground. He cursed and sighed deeply, before beginning to pick them up quietly, because this was his lot in life. Things falling apart. As they always did.

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It was still relatively early in the morning, and Rome was just waking up. A man was walking past with purpose, but with a halting gait, aided by a tall staff, whilst behind him walked a matched pair of slaves, tall and strong, carrying a litter. The litter itself was empty but was clearly an option for the man, should his uneven gait become too tiring.

As Manius's things scattered across the stones of the roadway, a wooden cup came to a rolling stop at the man's feet. He paused, followed the route the cup must have taken, back to the man with his things scattered about his feet. For a moment a tired look flickered across the face of the man with the staff, then something closer to a touch of compassion, before he glanced back at the slaves with the litter. "Romulus, help him."

The two slaves set the litter down, and the one who'd been carrying the front stepped forward to help Manius gather up his things, whilst their owner bent down and picked up the cup himself, stepping closer to the stricken fellow.

@Atrice

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He'd unfolded the sack on the ground to place the things onto. There were a few household items, a spare, nice tunica and some other personal artefacts, like the lares to place in a home and so on. Of course there was his personal gladius too, sheathed, that he used when working as a guard - but he'd picked that up first. The clothes he wore were nice enough, simple and dark as he preferred his clothes... and with the curly mane of his hair not held together in a ponytail at the moment, no, it was all over and for him to hide behind, should he need it. But there was nowhere to hide in the open street in Rome, and apparently some of his things had fled further away from the sack than he liked them to. A man walked by with a litter and slaves and saw it all. And stopped and ordered one of the slaves to help Manius pick the things up.

"Gratitude." Manius said to the friendly stranger, who picked up a cup and came closer to him. "You really don't have to do this. I don't wish to keep you from your business." And he must have one, because he did not appear to be a Senator, but he was wealthy enough to have a litter and slaves to help him out. Wealthier than Manius, that was for sure, but it honestly didn't take much to be wealthier than he.

@Sarah

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The rangy man snorted in mild amusement. "I know I don't have to." He replied as he handed over the cup. "But I choose to." And there was something that he thought all too many people forgot. If you weren't a slave you had agency; you could choose to do something that made the lives of others a little easier. And it cost him nothing.

As he straightened up again he shrugged, leaning on his staff. "My business will wait for me; but yours might not wait for you." If he was late to work, this fellow might catch the ire of his employer and lose his job, and he looked like he needed it. Judging by the contents of the bundle which Spurius pretended not to inspect too closely, he was of no fixed abode. The lares were the give-away.

@Atrice

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The stranger argued that he didn't have to help out Manius, but simply chose to do it. Why though? Did he want something? Everyone in Rome wanted something. Few helped out strangers just because they were kind and friendly, most had a secret agenda that would come to light sooner or later. Manius took the cup though and packed it, together with the other things that the slaves picked up. He didn't have a lot of things though, so it didn't take very long. The stranger leaned on his staff - seeming to actually need the staff, it was not just for show - and spoke of how his business would wait for him. So he was a businessman. Of course he was. 

"I have no business to attend to, so there is nothing waiting for me." Manius explained, carefully placing some things in certain places on the cloth and packing things made from steel or ceramics into clothes and other soft materials, so they wouldn't break while being carried. Maybe this man had a job for him though? He thought he'd seen him before, maybe at the slave market? Either he purchased slaves for his business. Or he sold them.

"May I ask, what sort of business do you have? If you don't mind me asking?" He asked, as he stood again, facing the stranger, wondering what he was all about.

@Sarah

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No employment either, from the sound of things. Spurius hoped for a moment that he wasn't an escaped slave, though he didn't seem to have quite that manner. Social class didn't always reflect how well off one was either; some slaves were well dressed and cared for by their owners, and many plebians lived in poverty.

"I trade slaves in the Emporium Magnum." He replied bluntly. "I have a warehouse there." Which meant business was going very well indeed, to be right on the main square. And what was this fellow's story, that he had no business, and quite possibly no home. He didn't have the look of one long impoverished, and Spurius considered himself practiced at assessing people quickly, though usually it was either slaves or customers.

"Are you looking for work?" He asked, just as direct. As well as his own needs, Spurius had a number of commercial contacts who might have want of this fellow. He looked like he might make a suitable dock worker, or even a guard if he could handle himself.

@Atrice

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One couldn't say that Manius was an escaped slave, but maybe sometimes he wished that was the case. He had been a slave, after all. And freed almost against his own b will. If he was an escaped slave, he might be punished, as he deserved. It had come as a surprise back then, that his master chose to free him rather than punish him, as he'd done before. But that's how it was and here he was, alone and on his own, without anything but what he carried. The stranger explained that he was indeed a slave trader and he had a warehouse in the Emporium Magnum. Then he asked if Manius was looking for work and he looked up at the stranger.

"Well since I have none, I suppose I am. If you need help..." Manius began, standing up straight, "I've worked at the slave market before, as a guard. I've also served as bodyguard and personal sparring partner more than once - I have plenty of experience. If you need it." He explained. If he could get a job, then he could earn some coin and maybe get himself a tiny insula to live in. He'd not need much, just room enough for a mat on the floor, maybe a bed, but just a place to sleep would be enough. 

@Sarah

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Something that Spurius had learned from his father, trader of fineries to distant lands, and had reinforced over the years, was the value of recognising an opportunity when one saw it, and taking advantage of it. Yes, he used guards and handlers with his slaves, and he could hire more at any time. Manius was not special in that regard, except that he was here, now, infront of him, in need of work. Gratitude was a fickle currency, but sometimes a very valuable one.

"I see. And where did you gain this experience?" He asked, intrigued. "Where did you learn skill at arms?"

Anyone could carry a sword and poke the pointy end at people if required, but if Manius had genuine skill and experience with weaponry, that was something more, and potentially valuable. Spurius had never used a bodyguard, but he had considered it. He'd also entertained the idea of actually learning to fight with the staff that was his constant companion. The closest was the spears he had used as a legionnaire. Might Manius be able to assist him?

@Atrice

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It would be almost odd, to be at the slave market again, after he himself had been a slave... and then freed, almost against his will. He chose to become a slave, after all, because he believed that's what he deserved. But now life had thrown him another opportunity and he'd long since learned, to follow life wherever it took him. He couldn't control it anyway, it was in the hands of the gods. And they chose this, now. The stranger with the trading business would know more about Manius' skills then, which was a good sign at least.

"My father taught me. And then he even hired a trainer, so that I would become a better fighter. He thought it important." Manius explained, "And I have made good use of my skills, as you can imagine." He then added and waited politely, as a man and former slave, who was used to taking orders, would. He was no slave. He was something else now. And would be loyal to whomever would give him something to do with his life.

@Sarah

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Trained by his father, rather than a legionnaire, or even a gladiator. Interesting. There was of course a market for personal guards amongst the Patricians, and even some of the lower classes, and Spurius used them with his slaves all the time. The man provided the information requested, then waited expectantly. It was the manner of one speaking to a social superior; almost the manner of a slave. Curious. Spurius noticed these things, it paid to do so in is industry.

"I am looking for a guard for my warehouse." He allowed. Secundus had taken a job with a Patrician family, leaving him one short. "I can give you a trial, if you're interested. Five days, pay each evening, then we discuss." Manius might not like the work, Spurius might not like him. But if they suited each other there could be plenty of work, and Spurius might even decide he had use for a bodyguard after all.

"What say you?"

@Atrice

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He was looking for work and with the stranger's questions, it did sound like he was interested. Also since he asked if Manius was looking for work, and he was. For now though, he'd answered the questions and the stranger told him he was looking for a guard for his warehouse. He then suggested a trial period of work and then they could discuss if it should continue.

"I say it sounds good... and much better than not having any work at all." Manius said simply. A work was at least a start. And maybe he could get a roof over his head, if his new employer would allow him to sleep in the warehouse. Then he could also watch over the slaves there. And he didn't mind sleeping among them, he'd done that before. 

"I will take the work, if you will give it to me." He then added, "I am Manius Rutilius Gallus, by the way. And you?" He asked. Maybe the stranger would recognize a part of his name, maybe he wouldn't. The civil war was many years ago now and it was many years ago since Cyprianus was executed, so maybe the past was the past now for everyone else. It was just Manius who couldn't leave it behind. Yet he had to move on. It was a new day and maybe a new job, again.

@Sarah

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Any work was always better than no work. Spurius gave a brief half-smile. He was a man who looked for opportunities, and it seemed that he had found one. Perhaps the other man had too. "Excellent. Come with me then." He said and indicated that they should set off in the same direction he'd been walking. The man had potential, if he was all that he said, but he also represented a risk; there had to be a reason he appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods with him. Time would no doubt tell.

Manius Rutilius Gallus. Rutilius wasn't a common gens, and it could be a very specific one. Had this man been tied up somehow with a certain Dictator? Surely he wasn't related to him, he looked like no Patrician. Or it might be pure coincidence. If he worked well, it didn't really matter.

"Well met. I'm Spurius Antius. Called 'Claudus'." He replied as he walked along with his limping gait, the two large slaves carrying the empty litter behind him. It was little more than a chair with a sunshade, supported by a pair of poles, practical rather than ostentatious. But it was clear why he had it as a back-up.

They weren't far from the markets, and it wasn't long before they were crossing their worn flagstones, already filling up with early patrons. Stalls of every good imaginable were laid out, their owners hawking their wares. Everything from fabric to jewellery to food, whilst the first few slaves were being marshalled out for show and possible sale. Spurius however paid the variety and people little mind, heading for a building to one side of the area. The hulking twins disappeared around the back with the litter, whilst a man who looked more guard than slave opened the door.

Inside was quiet but busy, as the slaves were given chunks of bread for their ientaculum whilst an older fellow with a wax tablet was eyeing off the slaves in each pen and making some notations. It was clean and smelled of fresh straw and people, but not of toilets, illness or the badly unwashed. Inside there was another man watching, who looked more guard-like than slave, as beyond him a group of slaves were marshalled out; a work gang for hire. "Numerius, this is Manius, he'll be joining us as a guard. He'll need a club." Which was a simple but effective weapon, and most importantly, non-lethal unless used carelessly. Numerius nodded and turned away.

"You said you'd worked as a slave guard before." He observed. That was good, Manius shouldn't need much training. "Numerius will show you our routines. Consistency is key to good behaviour. I keep good quality slaves here, they behave well and you treat them well. Any questions?"

@Atrice

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He noticed how the other man smiled, when he said that working was definitely better than not. And then he followed the other towards the market. On the way he also introduced himself and naturally also asked for a name. He nodded when it was said, “Claudus.” He said, to tell it to himself too, “People call me Manius or Gallus. So you pick.” Manius was the name he was actually born with, but when he worked for Cyprianus, who shared the same first name, Gallus had been his slave name. And then he gained it all back when his master chose to free him. The whole ordeal still barely made any sense to him. He’d disobeyed his master, but was freed along with the woman he loved, so that they could marry. And now she was gone too. He had nothing but the job Claudus gave him, now.

 They soon came to the markets, followed by slaves carrying a litter and he wondered why his new employer chose to walk rather than using the litter. But he asked no questions. He knew better than that. They then arrived at the right building and Manius followed inside. There was a fresh smell in there, not the worst at a slave market, and Manius met another guard. A club? Sure. When he worked as a slave guard before, he’d often had a whip. But he would take what Claudus preferred. Still he said nothing, but paid attention.

 “No questions for now, I think. This looks like a good place. Oh, I may sleep in here, the first night? Until I find my own place to stay?” He said, looking around and then back at the man, who earlier today was just a stranger helping him. Now he was much more, “I will not let you down, Dom… Claudus.” He was no slave, but easily fell back into old routines, even if it was now more than ten years ago he was freed. And he hadn’t been a slave for that long. But he’d preferred it back then. Chosen it, even. And what his new master didn’t know yet, was that with Manius he’d gain a loyal employee who'd follow the rules probably more fiercely than most.

@Sarah

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It was always a gamble, taking a chance on a piece of rough in the hope it turned out to be a diamond. Some of them didn't, and he paid for that in time, experience and sometimes money. But some of them did, and they were worth the risk. Spurius made his money seeing beneath the surface picture, whether it was what his customer really wanted or what a slave was really suited for. And instinct told him that there was more to Manius than the homeless drifter he had appeared on the street. If he was the trained fighter and experienced slave guard and handler that he claimed, then the slaver had just filled a rather inconvenient hole in his work force.

Some slavers used whips, and they certainly had their place. Spurius preferred clubs because they left fewer marks on the skin. But above all he preferred that his handlers use nothing at all but their voices. Very occasionally he'd had to demonstrate what happened to disobedient slaves, but generally he'd found that consistency and clear orders worked wonders on slaves. Like children and animals, they did best with clear boundaries and expectations.

It was a good place. One of the better. Spurius had worked hard to make his establishment one of the pre-eminent slave sales points in Rome. His customers included everyone from Freedmen to Patricians; even the odd Imperial. He had standards to keep, and generally he saw that they were kept.

If Manius's request surprised Spurius, he didn't show it, just gave the other man a thoughtful look. He hadn't missed the momentary slip of the tongue; the man was an ex-slave, a Freedman. Perhaps he too would benefit from a little routine and consistency. "You may." He allowed graciously. "Quartus will be on as night guard, he can show you how to close up." Might as well make it a learning experience. "There are cots made up in the infirmary. Come with me." With a jerk of his head he indicated that Manius should follow.

@Atrice

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Manius preferred to not use any weapons with the slaves at all. He hadn't cared if you'd done it to him and he had accepted a flogging a few times, back when he was a slave. But he wouldn't wish it for anyone else. If a slave could be reasoned with, without violence, that was the best way to do so. He knew that sometimes you had to punish them, to set an example, but that wasn't his choice to make. Not when they weren't his slaves. 

He dared to ask if he could sleep in the warehouse until he found his own place to stay. The other gave him a look, but didn't comment on Manius almost addressing him as Dominus rather than Claudus. He corrected himself though. Still, it felt almost the same, even if he was free. He still worked for someone else, who would tell him what to do and when and how. And if he failed his employer, he'd lose everything he just gained. To him, it wasn't that much different. And that was fine.

Claudus confirmed he could sleep in the warehouse and mentioned the name of another guard. Manius nodded quietly and Claudus would show him cots where he could sleep. He nodded again and followed his new, not master, but employer. 

@Sarah

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They walked the length of the warehouse, away from the slave pens and into the section that served as store rooms and offices. "Here's the infirmary." He gestured with his staff. It was small but neat, with three cots made up, and a faint, lingering scent of vinegar and herbs. That was where Claudus had said Manius could sleep.

"This is the main store room. That's the kitchen, which has it's own store. There's the guards' room, and that's my office." With each name the slave trader gestured to another door. "I trade in top quality slaves; they are to be treated fairly but firmly. Corporal punishment is a last resort; if it becomes necessary, try not to leave a mark." He warned. "But it shouldn't be. Those here know the rules, and they have what they need. They'll go to good buyers, so long as they behave themselves." He'd worked hard to build his business's reputation and made certain that he traded the best to the best.

"I have two work gangs whom I hire out on a half-day basis; they're the two pens nearest the doors." The fit-looking men within had all had woolen tunics in good condition, and a blanket apiece that could serve as a cloak when they bedded down in the hay. "I send two guards with each team so you'll probably get to do that at some point. They're regularly hired for unloading ships and similar, occasionally for construction work. Slaves in the pens get two meals a day, the work gangs get three if they're working. No fighting amongst the slaves is tolerated; any slaves caught fighting get put into the individual cells in the back, and restricted to one piece of bread and justwater for a day. That's usually enough."

What else? "My clerk handles some of the minor sales, and the work gang hires. Any Equite or Patrician customers, and any looking to purchase multiple slaves, I handle myself. I expect you to be polite and courteous to my customers at all times." All pretty simple really.

"If you have any questions, ask Numerius or Quartus." Those were his two senior guards, good men who'd been with him for years now.  "Anything they can't answer, ask me."

@Atrice

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Manius looked at the infirmary and nodded, it looked fine. All he really needed was a bed, so if he could sleep here, it was more than perfect. It was better than the street. He then followed Claudus through the building, there were a lot of rooms. A store room, the kitchen, the guard's room and then of course his employer's office. Then Claudus continued to explain how he wanted the slaves to be treated and Marcus nodded, "I hope it shall not be necessary to punish your slaves." He said and then the other continued, telling about the work gangs he had and would hire out. And how slaves were treated, should there be a fight between them.  

He nodded again, of course he would be polite and courteous to the customers in the warehouse, what else should he be? 

"I shall try to remember it all. I'm usually a fast learner." Manius replied when Claudus was done talking... "I think I will take a closer look at everything, and get started then? Find Numerius, so he can show me the ropes here. If you will have me start right away, of course." 

@Sarah

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I hope it shall not be necessary to punish your slaves.

That was an unusual comment from one who purported to be a guard. But Spurius recalled that earlier slip; he was pretty certain that Manius had been a slave. Sympathy for their charges wasn't a bad thing, so long as it didn't cause him to become lax. As with anyone, give them an inch and they'd take a mile.

"It rarely is." The slaver replied. "Slaves thrive on clear boundaries and expectations, and having their needs met. Do that, and they're happy. And we do." He'd already explained how, so he didn't bother to do so again. Manius would learn the finer points of how things worked here by experience; or he wouldn't last long.

But he maintained that he was a swift learner. "I'm sure you shall. As always, if you're not certain, ask Numerius or one of the other guards." That was simple enough. "You might as well start now. I'll pay you by day this week." That would give Manius some funds to sort himself out outside of work, and also make it easy to terminate his employment if he proved unsuitable. Spurius rather hoped that he wouldn't, he could use a guard and if the man was the fighter he claimed to be, perhaps more in future.

"Now, I've got a client to see." Numerius approached and offered Manius the simple cudgel that Spurius had requested, and guided him away to start their morning duties. His new employer meanwhile went to his office to get his records. A chance encounter might well work out for the best for both of them.

(OOC: Finished! And thank you!)

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