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Slip-up at the Ludus Magnus


Rufus
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August 76

 

It was rare that Rufus was sent on an errand by his master; he was his master's personal attendant and errnads were generally given to house-slaves to run. This one had been deemed important enough to dispatch Rufus himself, though, and he was glad of the little bit of freedom to leave the house and take the message, which was for the lanista of the Ludus Magnus.

The only reply he'd been told to wait for was a 'yes' or a 'no' (and Rufus' master being who he was, the expected and only acceptable answer would be 'yes') which answer he'd received. He was on his way home and hadn't managed to get very far when he had to move out of the way of a litter that was being carried along the street with little regard for the pedestrians already in it.

He hastily stepped backwards and, as he did so, caught his foot on the edge of a pothole caused by a missing paving stone and went down, hard. It was a moment before he could gather himself, and look down at his ankle, which was throbbing. He hadn't heard or felt anything break, but there was a definite swelling at the joint, and he sucked in a breath.

mehercle but it hurt!

 

@Chevi

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Theo was heading to the Ludus Magnus for a long day's work when he saw the accident. The slaves carrying the litter pushed a red-headed young man out of the way, and he tripped in the uneven street, going down with a cry of pain. The litter moved on, neither carriers nor passengers paying much attention to the commotion they caused, and people kept on milling about their business. People tripping on the cobblestones was not exactly a newsworthy event in Rome.

"Are you alright?" Theo stepped up to the young man, looking at his ankle, which seemed to be swelling. "Did you twist your ankle?"

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"I don't - yes." Rufus bit his lip as he tried to get up, only to find that he couldn't put any weight on his ankle because it just hurt too much. "It hurts," he added, unnecessarily. How was he supposed to get home like this? Litter bearers - snooty idiots at the best of times, they were probably only carrying some senator's bratty kid to school.

There wouldn't be anything else for it; he'd have to take a carrying chair home and feel like some ridiculous foreign dignitary or something and probably get an earful for acting above his station.

"Would you mind helping me up?" he asked - one thing at a time, after all. His ankle was well and truly swollen by now, too. Great.

 

@Chevi

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It had been a question to make polite conversation, because Theo could see that ankle already swelling. It was clear the redhead was not going to walk on it anytime soon. He was a slave, he must have been on an errand, but it was no use to anyone to try to force him to walk.

"I don't - yes. Would you mind helping me up?" 

"Not at all. Here." Theo held out a hand, and helped the man up, supporting him with his shoulder. "Were you just coming from the Ludus? I'm a medicus there. We can go back and I'll take a look."

@Sharpie

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"I was - I have to get back to the Palatine, though gods know how I'm going to manage that now, short of borrowing Hermes' winged helmet. Or possibly Pegasus," Rufus said, grateful for the other's shoulder to help him balance. He was a medicus - that was a stroke of luck - although... "I don't know if I ought to accept, I wouldn't want to cause a problem."

And there was the question of payment, of course - Rufus couldn't afford a medicus, and while he didn't think his master would begrudge payment for someone to treat his slave's sprained ankle, it was still an imposition.

"I wouldn't mind a sit down and the chance to look at it properly, though," he added. At least, given a few minutes' respite, he could maybe come up with a workable plan - and if he only got advice for how to look after it, that would be better than being an unexpected cost to anyone.

 

@Chevi

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Theo helped the redhead up and out of the way of further litters and pedestrians. Not many people in Rome cared much about bumping into someone, especially if they were a slave.

"I was - I have to get back to the Palatine, though gods know how I'm going to manage that now, short of borrowing Hermes' winged helmet. Or possibly Pegasus,"

"Well you are definitely not walking" Theo noted, heading back towards the doors of the Ludus. Before taking a better look, he would not know anything for sure, but walking was probably out of the question.

"I don't know if I ought to accept, I wouldn't want to cause a problem. I wouldn't mind a sit down and the chance to look at it properly, though,"

"No problem at all. There are no games today, so there should be no new injuries to attend to..." he reassured the man with a small smile. "What's your name? I'm Quintus Flavius Theodorus. You can call me Theo."

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"It's a bit far to hop there, too," Rufus said ruefully, and managed a grin, though it was pinched thanks to the pain of his ankle. "I'm Rufus - you can call me Rufus. 'Oi, you' works, though you get a whole bunch of people turning round. 'Oi, ginger!' narrows it down a bit - oh!" He sucked a breath through his teeth as his ankle was jostled just the wrong way.

He was very grateful for the help; he didn't think he would even have made it this far on his own.

He took another look at the man helping him; the name didn't mean very much - a lot of people took the Emperor's name when they became citizens if they were granted citizenship in a bunch or for some other reason; it didn't mean that he was an Imperial freedman. He looked like he might be Greek - but that was backed up by his being a medicus.

 

@Chevi

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"Rufus, then" Theo smiled. He knew people did not always address slaves by their name, but he was not the redhead's owner or master, and besides he liked to call people by their name rather than yelling. Unless they were being unreasonably annoying, but Theo was a patient man. "Careful."

They managed to get back to the ludus, and Theo headed to his workshop, helping Rufus sit down as they got there. He opened the windows and the door, letting the morning light in, and then found a stool for Rufus. "Here, put up your foot. Let me see."

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"I am trying to be careful, it's my foot. Even if I do have another one on the end of my other leg," Rufus said, trying to remain cheerful despite the pain. It was only a minor inconvenient injury, not a life-threatening wound, after all. He'd probably be off his feet for a bit, or limping around at least - he could hopefully manage most of his usual work without inconveniencing his master too much. He might have to borrow someone to help out for today, though.

It couldn't be helped! Everyone out in the streets ran the risk of getting shoved out of the way, especially if they were slaves or poorer citizens.

He sat down and rested his foot carefully on the provided stool. The joint had swollen magnificently and he sighed. "I'm sorry to be a bother," he said, though he was reassured by the other's earlier statement that there was no demand for Theo to treat any wounded gladiators today. "I'm not usually as clumsy as this!"

 

@Chevi

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Theo chuckled at the comment about the other foot. It was technically true, but it did not help much under the current circumstances. Luckily, the injured ankle did not look broken or torn, just badly twisted. Theo examined it, touching it gently and moving it a little.

"I'm sorry to be a bother. I'm not usually as clumsy as this!"

"I believe you. It was more the litter's fault anyway" he nodded "Well, the good news is, it's not broken, or anything serious. But it is hurt." He moved to the table, dipping a clean cloth in water that had been kept cold in a stone jar. He carefully wrapped it around the ankle "There. You need a bit of rest."

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Rufus tried not to wince or flinch as the medicus examined his ankle. He was trying to be gentle, but even the gentlest of touches in the wrong place hurt because it was so tender.

"Litter-bearers - overbearing pushy sorts at the best of times," he said with a shrug. "I suppose because their passengers are too important to deign to walk anywhere like the rest of us mere mortals. and yet simply must get to the market to buy a length of fabric for a new dress, or whatever." At least the ankle wasn't outright broken, though being able to rest it would be almost as likely as for Rufus to grow wings and fly. "I'm a slave, there's not much chance of being able to rest it. Not for very long, anyway."

And saying the words out loud would surely make the other aware that Rufus couldn't pay for his help - and most medici wanted payment for their time and knowledge. If this one didn't, he'd be the only one in Rome!

 

@Chevi

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Theo did what he could for the ankle, but there was not much he could do for the rest of the man. The redhead seemed pretty upset about being run over by a litter, which was completely understandable.

"Litter-bearers - overbearing pushy sorts at the best of times I suppose because their passengers are too important to deign to walk anywhere like the rest of us mere mortals. and yet simply must get to the market to buy a length of fabric for a new dress, or whatever." 

The medicus chuckled. Rufus definitely had opinions, although that might just have been the pain talking. He moved to the table, pouring some spiced, unwatered wine that he usually used for occasions like this.

"I'm a slave, there's not much chance of being able to rest it. Not for very long, anyway."

"Well, if your master wants you to do your job well, they will have to cut you some slack" he observed. He handed the cup to Rufus, giving him a questioning look. "If you overexert your foot, you'd hurt it more. Do you think... they would accept that?"

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Rufus sighed, letting the tension bleed out of him. It was his ankle, it wasn't broken - he'd live! "I suppose it depends on how long it's likely to be before I can walk on it again." Even limping would be better than being completely unable to put any weight on it. "And that's probably not something you can tell me for sure - even a guess?" He shrugged. "I can probably borrow one of the others to help out for today, maybe even tomorrow, though it depends on what plans my master has for the day. He's pretty reasonable, though - or at least, he hasn't been unreasonable to me."

Octavius Flavius Alexander was a pretty decent master, all things considered, and Rufus knew he could have ended up in a far worse situation.

He took the offered cup, giving the medicus a questioning look after the first sip, which proved it to be neat wine, though spiced. "Are you trying to make me drunk? Is it really as bad as that?"

 

@Chevi

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Rufus' master was reasonable enough that he would not force his slave to work with an injured foot. Theo believed all masters should be. It was in their own best interest, after all, not to have their men permanently crippled, wasn't it? Even if they did not care for their humanity, they had to at least understand that.

"I would say it should get better after two or three days" he ventured "But I'd rest it for a week if possible." He added, holding out the cup to Rufus.

"Are you trying to make me drunk? Is it really as bad as that?"

"It's just for the pain" Theo chuckled. "The less it hurts, the more your muscles will relax too. I will make sure you don't get completely wasted."

@Sharpie

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"A week? A chance would be a fine thing," Rufus said, ruefully, and drank some more of the wine. It was rough, probably because it was meant for gladiators, but it wasn't as rough as the wine he usually had access to. Even two or three days might be pushing it - Rufus' master was a decent sort but he didn't indulge his slaves. He certainly didn't spoil them, either, and let them lounge around at their leisure.

And the question had to be asked eventually. "How much will this cost?"

If Rufus couldn't pay it from his own savings, he would have to hope that his master would be gracious enough to cover the sudden expense.

 

@Chevi

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"A week? A chance would be a fine thing,"

Theo sighed. Of course a slave could not spend an entire week resting. He had to be on his feet, which would make it painful, and longer to heal. But if he managed the first day or two, it was likely he would get better relatively fast. And the wine was at least going to help with the pain. And possibly the mood. That was also a useful side effect.

"How much will this cost?"

"Oh, don't worry about that" Theo waved a hand. "It was an accident, and no bother at all."

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"Are you sure?" Rufus relaxed a bit at the pronouncement, but he couldn't relax completely. Medicines were expensive, bandages and wine a lot cheaper but even they weren't free. He watched the medicus going about his work, always curious about other people and their work - though even with someone as friendly as Theo he didn't feel comfortable initiating conversation. It wasn't his place to ask questions or start talking about anything, something that had been instilled in him from the cradle.

He supposed a sprain would be the least of the injuries this man dealt with on a regular basis.

 

@Chevi

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"Absolutely sure. Call it my daily good deed" Theo nodded cheerfully, moving about the room, trying to tidy up a little. He did not like to be idle. "You can wait here until you feel like you can make your way home. I'll try to find you a crutch, at least." He was a slave; no litter was bound to show up to take him home. He would have to do his best, and if he was going to hobble, at least he could use some help. Theo was willing to walk him home, if he had the time. But he had duties too. "More wine?"

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"Well, then. You have my sincere thanks," Rufus said. "I wouldn't mind a bit more wine - but I don't need it neat, it doesn't hurt so much as it did."

It wasn't broken, but it did look very swollen, though the cool compress was helping.

"I can probably get a hired carrying chair home - or most of the way home, at least," he said, his habitual good humour beginning to resurface. He hoped that the medicus didn't think that he was a sour-tempered snappish sort all the time. Apparently it took a bad sprain to do that to him.

He would also try to find some way of repaying Theo's kindness; he shouldn't have to be out of pocket simply because he'd treated a slave, after all.

 

@Chevi

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"Well, then. You have my sincere thanks. I wouldn't mind a bit more wine - but I don't need it neat, it doesn't hurt so much as it did."

"Wine it is" The smiled, refilling the cup. It was the least he could do to make his guest feel more comfortable. He poured himself a cup too, from another jar, less heavy and less spiced.

"I can probably get a hired carrying chair home - or most of the way home, at least," 

"I'll see if I can find someone to escort you. I'd ask Astrius, but... well, he's on duty somewhere else." he sighed. His one and only slave was on loan to another ludus... hopefully, and not setting fires.

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Rufus blinked. Nine out of ten people considered slaves to be little better than animals and wouldn't think twice about how an injured slave was going to get home. Apparently Quintus Flavius Theodorus was the ten per cent. His cognomen was an apt one, he was indeed a 'gift of the gods'.

"I've caused enough disruption to your day," he said (not to mention the other man's purse!) "I'll be all right."

He lowered the cup after taking a sip of wine. "Do you often put yourself out for injured slaves?" he asked, unable to rein in his curiosity now that the shock of the injury had worn off and it didn't hurt so much. "It makes you a very unusual man, Theo."

Great. Now he was drunk on top of everything else! Hopefully Theo would put the impudence down to the wine, anyway.

 

@Chevi

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"Do you often put yourself out for injured slaves?"

What a strange thing to ask. Slaves were people too, and injured people needed help. Theo was Greek, he had taken an oath as a medicus. Maybe here in Rome, people saw that differently. That was not very surprising. 

"When help is needed, yes. Why?"

"It makes you a very unusual man, Theo."

Rufus looked a little sheepish right after he said it. Theo chuckled. "So they tell me. But I don't really have anything to lose by it. And as a ludus medicus, I treat slaves all the time anyway. I think everyone chalks up the rest to me being Greek."

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"Greek? I should have guessed from your cognomen," Rufus said, and wondered for a moment if the medicus was a freedman, which would explain his unusual attentiveness towards Rufus, a slave. "May I ask, where from in Achaia?" he asked, switching to the man's native language (or at least, the Campanian dialect of it that he spoke).

Greek was the second of the two major languages spoken throughout the Empire, but Rufus didn't often get to speak it - occasionally with his master, but not very often otherwise.

 

@Chevi

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Theo smiled a surprised smile as Rufus switched to speaking in Greek. It was a different dialect, spoken by Greek people in Italia, but he understood just fine. And he appreciated the effort.

"Korinthos." he answered, smiling at the thought of his birthplace. "I studied there under my father who was also a healer. I left it when I joined the legions."

Judged by his age, it was clear that had been before the unrest in Achaea. He had not been back there since, and he often wondered how the rest of his family was doing. Or how Corinth had changed since then. "Where did you learn Greek?"

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"I grew up in Paestum in Campania - Hellas Megara* it was, once, I understand," Rufus replied. So he'd been a peregrinus and earned his citizenship with the legions. That certainly explained the cognomen, and the Imperial praenomen and nomen, too.

He really couldn't take up much more of the medicus' time and his master would be wondering where he was if he loitered here much longer - and it was going to take longer than usual to make his way back up to the Palatine as it was, too.

"Thank you, for your kindness," he said, and braced himself to stand. "I have to get back before my master starts looking for me."

 

@Chevi

*Great Greece or Magna Graecia, Greek colonies in Italy established somewhere in the sixth century BC or so

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