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Mid-February, 76AD

Charis glanced across to her son, sleeping soundly in the crib next to her. He'd be down for at least an hour, or she hoped so given the night she'd had with him. The afternoon sun was low in the sky as she glanced out of her little room into the gardens. She missed it, working out there. As much as she loved her son and tending to him, her fingers still itched for something practical and useful to do. She'd been that way since she was a girl, always planning her next scheme or enterprise or pitching in when somebody needed a hand. Now she was left to care for her son as her primary duty, she often found herself at a bit of a loose end. Take now, for instance. Peregrinus would be sleeping for a while and she had nothing else to do. His clothes were folded neatly, his toys were organised and stacked away. So she simply sat on the little stool next to his crib and watched him. 

She glanced again at the garden. This time of day, she trusted she could count on one visitor who she needed to see. Running into her dominus in the gardens was far less formal than a conversation in his tablinum - and in any case the place held too many sour memories for her to ever be comfortable visiting it. She glanced back down at Peregrinus briefly before deciding he was content to snooze in peace. Pushing herself up, she padded silently through the bustling house into the winter sun. It wasn't as cold as Britannia in the winters, far from it, but she still felt a chill and wound her arms around herself. Maybe this was a sign she was finally getting used to being in this city. It'd be two years in a couple of weeks time, after all, since the day Tertius had sprung her from her cage. 

She studied the winter foliage and flowers, pursing her lips at the poor job the general household slaves had done in her absence from the garden, at least to her trained eye. She was distracted a moment later, however, when the target of her venture out here came into view. She flourished a soft smile and then dropped her eyes and inclined her head, speaking quietly in greeting. "Dominus. I trust you had a good morning?" 

 

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It had been a few weeks since that dinner with Tertius, Teutus, Wulfric and Charis… which ended with first Wulfric leaving, then Charis and Tertius was left with his oldest son, who had a few truths to speak too. Tertius was quite sure at least half the house slaves heard it all and told the rest, so it wasn’t exactly something he was proud of. But he’d tried to pretend like nothing really happened and it was no big deal. And while the slaves did seem careful the first few days, things had finally gone back to normal. He hadn’t seen Wulfric since then and Teutus had also gone to his own place, so it wasn’t that hard for things to be normal again.

 He went about his business as usual. He woke up next to Hector, sent the slave off to do his morning duties, before helping Tertius get dressed and have an early cup of warm wine to start the day with. Then he would soon leave towards the Basilica Julia to take care of his duties as a Praetor and with a visit to the Senate too, in case there was a meeting. Sometime during the afternoon, he’d return to the house and had a bit of time before the evening meal. During this time, he liked to simply relax… either with a nap in his bed or maybe sit a bit in the gardens, where he was currently working on carving a little wooden horse for Peregrinus.

 Tertius picked the woodwork up from his own chamber, along with the knife he used for the carving, and then he went out to the garden to find a bench in a sunlit corner. Before he got that far though, Charis suddenly stood before him, dropping her head politely and then she greeted him.

 “I did, thanks for asking. I hope you and Peregrinus had the same? Is he resting?” It wasn’t like the house was soundproof and one could easily hear it, when Peregrinus was giving Charis a rough night. Not that anyone complained, they knew better… and Tertius was mostly concerned about his son and the mother, since they were the ones who were most awake during such nights.

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"Yes thank you domine." She nodded. She'd had a morning of boredom, but she'd take that over something worse. Still she kept the smile on her face, knowing she had to get him in a sweet mood. "He is, he wasn't the most...restful, last night, so his nap is a little longer today." She knew Tertius liked to see his son, and despite their shared history, she was usually happy to oblige him. He'd done more for Peregrinus than she'd ever thought he would, even if he hadn't done the same for her. She owed him quality time with his son because of it, at least when he was awake. Charis wouldn't disturb her son's nap for any man, dominus or not. 

"Can I fetch anything for you?" Her eyes, lowered as they were caught the small wooden horse in his hands and she frowned quizzically, although didn't say anything. it was like one she had when she was a girl, carved by her own father. The thought made something lodge in her throat, but she stayed silent, hands demurely folded, head bowed. She needed to broach this slowly, like when approaching a skittish horse.

 

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He smiled when she spoke of how Peregrinus had not been very restful last night, and that might mean his nap today was longer, “Let’s hope so. You never know when they’re that size.” Tertius replied to her. He recalled it somewhat from the time when Antonia was small. You could get into routines with her and just as you thought it all worked, so you could make plans, she’d change her routines. But he hoped for Charis’ sake that Peregrinus did sleep, so she could relax a little too. It was a wonder, that she didn’t rest when he did, but it was her choice. She was the mother, after all.

 She then asked if she could fetch anything for him, but he only considered it briefly, “No, not at the present. I have everything I need.” Tertius added, “But you can keep me company, unless you prefer to return to Peregrinus and get some rest while you can.” He said and moved on towards the bench he had his eyes on, she could follow him or leave. He wouldn’t argue against it if she left, but it wouldn’t be too bad with a little company. They got along so well lately, it was almost as if nothing too serious ever came between them. Almost as if they’d always been friendly with each other.

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"Thank you, domine." She glanced up mischievously and flashed him a smile. She followed him through from the peristyle into the winter sun of the garden. It wasn't warm, but it was refreshing and for somebody that had weathered the winter storms of the north of Britannia, it was relatively mild. 

As Tertius moved to the bench, Charis took to the floor. The path had been swept and was clean, and she knew - reluctantly - it wasn't her place to sit next to him. Besides, it' due odd to stand whilst he sat. Her eyes flitted back to the toy in his hand and her smile was softer as she peered at it from the ground. "May I ask what that is, domine?" She knew exactly what it was, but she wanted to keep him sweet, "And who made it? It's so well crafted." Maybe her compliment was a bit obvious, but she wouldn't necessary think that Tertius would see through it. Pushing her braid over her shoulder she cleared her throat; "I wondered if it had something to do with Teutus' new business." Baby stops...she'd talk of Peregrinus and Teutus first, the sons he liked, before broaching the more...problematic one.

 

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So she chose to not rest while she could, instead she’d spend time with him? Well he would not debate against it, he liked her company. She followed him to the bench, where he sat down and she sat on the ground. A little bit strange, if they were to have a proper conversation, but on the other hand, this was Charis showing him she knew her place. Briefly his mind wandered back to that first night when he met her here in the peristyle garden of the house. Where he made her kneel before him. Thinking about that made something stir within him and he attempted to push it away – thankfully, she helped, with her questions.

 Her very odd questions, however! She looked at the wooden horse in his hand, wondering what it was, complimenting it, asking if it was something for Teutus’ business. Tertius gave her a surprised look, did she really think he was that stupid? She was up to something. She wanted something. But what? He’d play along, see if he could make her think he had not seen right through her. See how far she’d go to get what she wanted from him.

 “It’s a horse, can’t you tell? Maybe not… I’m not done with it yet.” Tertius explained, “But thank you for your compliments.” Despite claiming to not be able to see what it was, she thought it was well crafted? And she thought he’d believe that little… lie? Why did she do this?

 “It’s for Peregrinus, though I don’t know if he’s too young to play with it. He will be able to, eventually. I’m glad you like it.” He wondered for how long he could play along here. It already annoyed him a little that she didn’t just tell him straight away what she wanted. He told her so many times to just be honest with him. Why was it so hard?

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"I'm sure he'll like it." she said, not realising Tertius had already seen through her attempts to distract him. In truth, she was sure from seeing her friends kids that Peregrinus wouldn't be able to play properly for a good while yet. At six months he'd grown more than she'd ever imagined when she'd held the tiny newborn in her arms, but imagining him being capable of playing with a little wooden horse was unfathomable to her. 

Shifting on her legs from where she knelt, she moved her fingers to fiddle with the end of her braid. She rarely wore her hair loose anymore, instead confirming with Roman fashions. She felt stuck. She had thought mentioning Teutus might get her dominus to start discussing him, which could provide her a segue to start asking about Wulfric. The man had been so sweet, and whilst she was inherently suspicious, she needed to know what dominus' plans were...and his own. She needed to see him again, but she'd barely been out of the house for the past few weeks and even if she had the opportunity to leave, she had no idea where she'd find Peregrinus' half-brother. She needed to know if Tertius knew. 

She swallowed the lump in her throat and tried a new track; "I was wondering if I could take Peregrinus out, domine? To see Teutus?" She knew full well he would probably rather stick pins in his eyes than see her son, but still. "He didn't get a chance to see him at the dinner." 

 

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Charis didn’t comment much more on the wooden horse, other than that she was sure Peregrinus would like it. Did she know he’d seen right through her? Or did she buy it. If she knew, she was a very good actress. And Tertius knew from experience that she could be. Honestly he wasn’t quite sure what to think right now. He turned the figure in his hands and began working more on the legs of the horse, since the head and the back were already finished. The legs and the tail would be the hardest parts.

 In front of him, she shifted where she sat and she fiddled with the end of one of her braids. He did notice that. Was she trying to… seduce him or something? Did she… want that? She could be so confusing sometimes. As all women could. Maybe that’s why he had not remarried. Men were often easier to figure out. And Hector was never giving him any kind of problems. Rather the opposite. Yet Tertius grew bored with him lately. Maybe that’s why his mind wandered while Charis was kneeling in front of him.

 She spoke up again, suddenly asking to take Peregrinus to see Teutus. Tertius looked at her, did she not know how Teutus felt about Peregrinus? Really? She never struck him as being dumb. Just disloyal at times.

 “I don’t see why you’d do that. Teutus isn’t very interested in Peregrinus. I think he’d prefer to not see his brother unless he has to.” Tertius explained and decided to stop the game, before it went too far. So he put down the wooden horse again and looked at her, “Is that all you want? To take Peregrinus out? Or… is it something else you want? You could just tell me, instead of making such far-fetched requests.”

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Tertius came straight out with it and Charis felt herself wince. Maybe she'd lost her touch at manipulation (for which she blamed the nights of broken sleep), or maybe Tertius had just become more observant. Either way, he evidently didn't believe her and judging by his tone and far-fetched requests, she was better off coming straight out with it. She sighed and dropped her fingers from her braid to her thighs. Well, shit. 

"I do want to take Peregrinus out domine." She did. She wanted to take him to the gardens in the city and sit with Cynane and Aia and Rufus and enjoy the sun on her skin and seeing her son amongst her people, rather than his fathers. But that wasn't all she wanted and Tertius knew that. "But I was also hoping he could socialise more with his family. I know Teutus doesn't care for him, but since the dinner, I have been thinking of Wulfric." She wasn't phrasing this right and winced, "I want to get the measure of him, but I didn't wish  to offend you by asking of him directly." 

He wanted honesty? Fine, there it was.

 

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He definitely did not believe her. Sure she'd been good, especially since Peregrinus was born. He liked their relationship now. She had become very well-behaved and he enjoyed spending time with her once more. But that was one thing. Another was her poorly delivered compliments and then her far-fetched request about taking Peregrinus out to see Teutus. Even Charis knew Teutus had not shown much affection towards his youngest brother. He'd barely looked at Peregrinus and never spent time with him. Not as far as he knew anyway. So, why wouldn't she just tell him what she wanted? When he asked her to, she sighed and dropped her braid. So it was all a game. At least she now seemed to admit it, since she sighed like that.

Charis said she wanted to take Peregrinus out, to socialize more with his family. Then she mentioned Wulfric. She'd been thinking of him? Tertius gave her a look, did she fancy him? He looked more like Tertius than Teutus did. But they weren't alike. Tertius didn't think so anyway. He didn't trust Wulfric or his intentions. Then Charis said she wanted to get the measure of him. Maybe that wasn't too stupid an idea. Use Charis to try and figure out what Wulfric wanted and why. Tertius had not seen his German son since the dinner, and he didn't know where he lived, but perhaps they could try and find out? 

"You surprise me with your idea... but I don't find it to be the worst idea ever." Tertius then said, deciding to follow his own plan and make Charis useful. This would be good for several things. It would serve Tertius well, because Charis would tell him what she learned. And it would serve him well, because he was giving her something and that surely had to mean she might give him something in return. It would improve their relationship.

"I haven't seen Wulfric since the dinner, however, and I don't know where he lives. But perhaps you can try and find out? However... if you're leaving the house with Peregrinus, you'll have a guard or two with you." Tertius then added, there was no way he'd let his son out in Rome without a guard. Both because he didn't trust Rome and because he didn't know yet if he truly could trust Charis like that. Let her out in Rome alone, with his son? What if she tried to kidnap him? No, that was not going to happen. They'd have guards with them. Maybe even a litter. 

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Charis arched a brow. Not the worst idea? She'd take that as a compliment. She wondered, and then concluded that Tertius was just as sceptical of his prodigal son as she was. Probably for a different reason, granted, but sceptical nonetheless. Charis feared he was here to usurp her son's position - Wulfric was freeborn, a foreigner and therefore not a citizen, but born to a free mother. Peregrinus was ostensibly free but would always carry the fact his mother was a slave around his neck. When push came to shove, she didn't know how secure her son would be. Tertius was likely suspicious - at least in her mind - of  his motivations. She couldn't blame him. A son turning up all these years later, apparently asking for nothing? It was peculiar. 

"I can do that domine." She'd start with Teutus and ask him. Not that he seemed particularly overjoyed by Wulfric's arrival at dinner, but he might have more of an idea than Tertius about where he could be found. "And of course." She nodded. She had no intentions of stealing her son away, primarily because she saw what happened to runaway slaves without a charge of kidnap as well. But her son was so small and so delicate, a guard would not be a bad idea. "I..." She sighed and shifted on her knees again, "I do not trust him, domine." If he wanted honesty, she'd give it to him. "He seems sweet and well meaning, but people are not all they seem." She counted herself amongst that number. "But I can find out his intentions." 

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At first she seemed surprised that he didn’t disapprove of her idea, but he had his reasons and as he thought before, she wasn’t stupid. She might guess why. And then she agreed to it and to finding out where Wulfric was staying. And she’d take guards with her. It was once more Tertius’ turn to be surprised and it didn’t end there! She shifted and began talking about how she did not trust Wulfric and people weren’t what they seemed. Well she had developed here in Rome, had she not? In Rome, so many people had their own agenda that it was hard to trust anyone. Maybe now she understood why Tertius didn’t trust anyone very easily.

 But they agreed on this matter and that was the most important point right now. And that’s what had him so surprised.

 “I do not trust him either and I… agree with you. I don’t trust his agenda. He seems too… platonic? Too much so.” Tertius said and began considering the next step here, “How to find him though? He told me he works at a market, in a warehouse. I don’t know which market though. But one that has actual warehouses.” Hopefully that would help her. He kept watching her, still feeling a bit surprised by her, but in a good way. To think they’d come this far! Now they agreed on a certain topic and they’d help each other figure this out. It wasn’t too bad. Not at all.

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Platonic was a good word for Wulfric. She felt a wave of guilt creep up her throat; she had liked him, he’d been sweet and kind and interested in her and Peregrinus but if living in the Empire had taught her anything, it was that she had to look out for herself first. That meant pulling on the threads of suspicion when they arose. 

“I can ask Teutus, if you would like, domine. Or some other friends I have, Slaves I mean.” She corrected course quickly, “They see and know everything, and some work at the markets or visit it often.” She eyed his hands - not meeting his face - as he held the little wooden horse. Who’d have thought she’d be siding with her dominus, in a team with him? The Charis of eight or so months ago wouldn’t.

“I…fear he’s trying to take Peregrinus’ place.” She said quietly.

 

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Tertius wasn't sure what to make of this new son of his, so having Charis help him out with solving the mystery would be good. She was apparently more than just the mother of his son and his slave. She could also be a companion - and not just in bed. This was something new and interesting to him. Made him see her in a new light. He listened as she suggested asking Teutus about Wulfric, and other slaves she knew at the markets. What other slaves? Tertius would like to know. It was likely she'd lie to him about it though, as she had done before. On the other hand, she'd been honest with him this time and it didn't lead to anything bad. So maybe... he would ask her. Before he could answer her ideas though, she shared her fears concerning Wulfric.

He looked at her and leaned down to place a finger under her chin, to make her look up at him, "He will not, I promise you that. Why do you think I don't trust Wulfric? He shows up so suddenly, a grown man, claiming to be my son from a faraway country. Arriving not a year after I had another son, whom I freed and named my heir? There is only one way he could take Peregrinus place and..." He paused, inhaling a breath as he let go of her chin, he barely wanted to think about it, "That's not going to happen. This is why we must keep Peregrinus safe. I'm sure you agree." She was his son's mother, after all. She too wanted to keep their son safe.

"The ground must be uncomfortable. You can sit here, with me." He shifted a bit on the bench to make room for her. 

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As he placed a finger under her chin, she snapped her eyes up but didn't flinch from the touch, instead following his guiding hand. What a difference two years makes. She felt her heart lurch when he promised her. She was a slave; she was owed nothing, certainly not a promise from her dominus on something as important and critical as this. She only offered a shadow of a smile and nodded. She was genuinely grateful. The Charis that had railed against him, would have been disgusted had she seen her now. 

"I agree domine." Because she did. Peregrinus had to be protected; he was her son, she would give her life over him every single time should that choice be offered. She wanted to believe Wulfric; she wanted to believe that he was good and honest and genuinely just naive enough to want to meet his family. But she couldn't; life and experience had jaded her, but even before her capture she had always been a cautious, plotting-sort. Life had only amplified that. 

Nodding as he gestured to the space he created next to her, she pushed herself up nimbly, dusting off detritus from her shins as she moved to seat herself next to him. Her eyes dropped back down to his chest and his hands. "Thank you." She swallowed and let out a little sigh. "He seems so genuine," She swallows, "If he is, if he wants nothing...he seems like a good man, domine." She owed Wulfric some kind words. "I suppose in that case, he just wishes to get to know you." 

 

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She looked up at him when he touched her chin. She did not seem fearful, she looked up when she knew he wanted her to. And she listened to what he had to say. Of course she agreed it was important to keep Peregrinus safe. They had that to agree upon at all times now. They had that in common. And now, apparently, they also agreed that Wulfric was not to be trusted. It wasn't that he didn't want to (or was it?), it was just so strange for a man to come now, claiming to be his son and wanting nothing else but an extended family. As if anyone travelled for months from Germania just for the sake of their unknown family members! Tertius didn't believe it. And he arrived at such a convenient time. He even said he'd been in Rome for longer, he just hadn't come to see Tertius until recently. Why the wait? There were so many unanswered questions here.

Charis came to sit by his side when asked too, brushing her shins and then she thanked him for letting her join him. But then she sighed and spoke of Wulfric again. She thought he seemed like a good man and that he seemed genuine. Why was she changing her mind so suddenly? Was it because he agreed... did she think she could get more out of him than she already got? 

"Would you travel halfway across the Roman empire only to meet family members you never knew you had? Nothing more than that?" Tertius asked, "I don't think I would. He does seem sincere, but almost too much, I think. His reason for coming here is strange." 

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She considered the question. Yes. She would. Especially now; she had no family left, or at least she was sure she only had a few scattered across the breadth of the Empire. If she had the chance to meet her kin, she would jump at it. She glanced sideways at him to see him watching her. "I would." She admitted with a little shrug, hoping he'd appreciate the honesty rather than the answer.

"But I'd be honest about my reasons, and I wouldn't do it just to meet them. If I travelled all that way, I'd want something from them; money, or housing, or support." She sighed. "I cannot believe he came here just for a conversation." It made no sense and she frowned to herself; "Could his...mother have sent him?" Wulfric hadn't spoken much of her, beyond that her husband was dead. What sort of  woman was she, Charis wondered.

 

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Which side was she really on? Tertius began to question her intentions from just before. First she said she did not trust Wulfric, but then suggested he was genuine and that she would do the same as him. Travel across the empire just to meet family members. Tertius wasn't sure what to think now and focused on carving the wooden horse again, while Charis was clever enough to explain herself. She would not travel far just to meet family members, she would want something from them. And she confirmed she still did not believe Wulfric just came here for conversation. She suggested his mother had sent him.

"That is possible. He mentioned her, how she had married another man, who thought Wulfric was his son. But after he died, she told Wulfric the truth. And then he came here." Tertius explained. But why though? He searched his mind for answers. Why would a Chatti woman of a high rank send her son to Rome, just to meet his family? Maybe she planned on coming too... and since she had Tertius' son, she could ask for compensation or even marriage. Oh he hoped that was not the case! Well he could just deny everything. He had, after all, just promised Charis no one would take Peregrinus' place here. He intended to keep that promise. Peregrinus was the first son of his that he had cared for since he was born.

"You have to find out for me, if you meet him. I think he trusts you more, so maybe he'll be more honest with you than with me." Tertius explained, "What did you talk about with him anyway? The first day he came here? Hector told me you spoke with him before he left." 

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She kept watching his hands, as if they'd tell her what he was feeling, given she couldn't look at his face. his voice was even though - when talking of Wulfric's mother. Charis briefly wondered what she was like in her head; Teutus' mother - she had been told - was dark haired, and obviously so was she. But Wulfric had lighter colouring, suggesting a blonde or perhaps a redhead mother. Maybe Tertius didn't have a type, at least not a physical one. Maybe he just enjoyed the power over his notable female bedmates. 

"Hector is spying on me?" She asked. She was pushing the line a little, but she kept her voice light, almost amused, as if Hector's overzealous stalking was an irritation rather than what it really was, which was far more troubling. 

She shrugged and sighed, fiddling again with the end of her braid; "He said he wouldn't stay in Rome forever. He gave me advice, on where Peregrinus should sleep. And..." she frowned, trying to dredge up the conversation from the recesses of her mind, "He spoke of Germania, and thought I was from there too - with my accent. He mentioned somebody in Germania, another Roman." She cast a quizzical glance up at Tertius, "I think he said he was also a Varus...it was a long time ago, he said, but important, to the Germanic people." She kept her voice confused, and a frown on her forehead. "Do you know what he was referring to?" She knew exactly what Wulfric had been referring to, given he was kind enough to explain it. But she couldn't pass up the opportunity to needle Tertius. 

 

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Was she really surprised that Hector had seen her with Wulfric? He doubted it. For some reason, Hector and Charis didn’t like each other much. Hector didn’t really talk about it, but Tertius was aware of it and it made sense. Of course Hector would be jealous because Charis also once shared Tertius’ bed with him and because she now had his son. She had something with Tertius that Hector could never have. Hector was just his body and bed slave. Charis… was more than that now, even if she no longer slept with Tertius. But she wasn’t just a slave anymore. She was mother to his son. He didn’t comment on Hector spying though, why would he need to?

 At least Charis then went on to answer the question. Honestly too, it would seem. They’d talked about Rome and Wulfric not staying, and they’d talked about Peregrinus of course. And then Wulfric had told her about Germania. First Tertius didn’t know which other Roman in Germania she referred to, but then moments later, it was obvious. It was the one event in the history of the Varus family that no one today talked about. It was embarrassing and a stain on the family name. But since Charis had been so kind to be honest with him, he supposed she ought to know. Her son was a Varus too, after all.

 “I know.” Tertius said, his tone dark, “There was a battle, many decades ago. Rome was going to invade Germania, but the plan backfired, and the barbarians ambushed the walking army in the forest. They didn’t stand a chance. The leader of that army was my ancestor, Publius Quinctilius Varus. After he realized that the Germans would be victorious, he took his own life.” Tertius explained and looked at Charis, “It is the darkest time in our family history and even in the history of the Roman Empire. It’s the reason why I wish to try and honor our name. I’m surprised Wulfric mentioned it, since he’s my son. It’s his family history too, after all.” He concluded and looked at the wooden horse in his hands again with a small sigh. He’d not done a very good job so far, honoring the family name. He had one daughter and then three sons born out of wedlock. Hopefully Teutus and his business would fare better, honor the name better. And hopefully Peregrinus would too, someday.

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Charis tried very, very hard to keep her face as perfectly neutral as she could. She succeeded, but only just. She almost lost it and let out a laugh at his statement that he now wished to honour his family name. He had three sons by three different mothers, none of them citizens and two of them slaves. If that was Roman honour then the Empire was doomed. 

"I don't know why he mentioned it." Charis admitted with a little shrug and a sigh. "I'm sorry you have to bear the mistakes of your ancestors." It was much the same in her culture; shame passed down from father to son, son to daughter. It was the way of the world and it shouldn't have been amusing that it was such a colossal shame but...it was. To think, before she'd met Wulfric, that she'd thought Tertius was above reproach in the eyes of Roman peers. What was less laughable, of course, was that under the law and by his name, her son was a Varus. She swallowed. 

"You are not your ancestors." She gave him a small smile, "And nor is Peregrinus. Thing that happen in the past...should be left there." She gave him a meaningful look, just for the briefest of moments, before dropping her eyes again. "I'll go tomorrow, if you will allow it domine, to see what I can find from the markets on his whereabouts." 

 

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Tertius knew very well that he'd failed in honoring his family name. Now his sons would be the next, who had the chance to rise and cleanse it all. He didn't count on Secundus to do it, he was a lost cause and he had no sons at all. The family history was not something to be proud of, at all. He wondered why Charis was so desperate to know. He felt she should know, since her son was a Varus too. Maybe it made her feel better. Knowing that Romans weren't perfect. Tertius wasn't perfect. But of course she already knew that. He hoped she didn't enjoy hearing it all and knowing he'd failed, although he tried not to. She said she didn't know why Wulfric had mentioned it and then she said she was sorry he had to bear the mistakes of his ancestors.

She added that he was not his ancestors, was she trying to cheer him up? He agreed with her statement and she was very kind to say such things, but...

"Such things are never left in the past. Especially not this. The battle had a huge impact on Rome and our emperor Augustus. There's a name for it even. *Clades Variana." Tertius explained. He'd shared some, she might as well know it all. It might affect their son sometime in the future, after all. Charis suggested going out to find Wulfric the next day. Tertius thought it over. They already made this plan, so he wouldn't mind. He was just not fond of sending Peregrinus out.

So it would be like that... "You can go and see if you can out where he stays. If you do, then you can take Peregrinus with you next time." 

*the Varian Disaster

@Sara

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Charis listened with concentration on her face, trying very hard not  to show her amusement. Imagine that! Her great, powerful dominus the ancestors of the men that nearly broke Rome. She wondered, idly, if he'd ever be the cause of such a farce but decided not; he was far too careful, far too controlled for something like that. Besides, he seemed settled enough in his life in Rome not to bother with going to some far off, distant land in search of glory. Mores the pity - had he left, she could have had some space to breathe. 

Nodding at his instruction, she couldn't hide the disappointment on her face. She'd yet to take Peregrinus out properly, and not alone. He lived a sheltered life, far moreso than the newborns and the infants of her village in Britannia who would be strapped to their mothers backs and in the fields or animal pens before they could walk. "Yes, domine. I understand." Still - she had licence to go and look for Wulfric now. She'd start with Teutus and see if he had any ideas, and then onto her slave friends if not - and perhaps Alexius. Her cheeks coloured a touch at the thought. 

"Thank you." She added quietly and flicked that guarded blue gaze up to meet his eyes for a brief second. Because she was grateful. She didn't now where she stood with Tertius - their relationship ebbed and moved and changed with the tides it seemed, but for now she was grateful she wasn't the only one concerned. Cautiously, she laid a hand on his forearm to reinforce her point.  "I appreciate you listening to my concerns." He liked to be flattered, she knew that - so flattery was what she'd give him.

 

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Tertius had once gone far off to a faraway land, with his brother, but not because he desired to do so. More because he wanted to do his family honor and because his father had told him to go. Then Secundus went missing and Tertius came back here and now he was indeed very settled in Rome. Sure sometimes he wished he’d travelled more as a young man, but those days were over now and now he had a young son instead. One he wanted to keep safe. Charis didn’t seem happy when he told her she had to go out to find Wulfric on her own to begin with, but that’s just how it was. Peregrinus wasn’t some Plebian child, who’d have to go everywhere his mother went. There were other slaves to watch over him, while Charis went out.

 And she accepted his decision. Then she thanked him for it and he noticed how she looked up at him briefly. Was there more on her mind? Then she shifted, touching his arm, telling him how she appreciated that he listened to her. She hadn’t touched him like this in such a long time. It was different than when Hector touched him. Her touch was more caring, somehow. It felt like that anyway, to him.

 “Of course.” Tertius said, covering her hand with his free hand, “We share something now, Charis. More than we did before. Something that’s mine, but I’m not so stupid I won’t admit it’s yours too. And we must work together to give him the best chances in life.” Their child, of course. His thoughts drifted briefly to the conversation he had with Teutus after the dinner with Wulfric… where Teutus once more spoke of freeing Charis, among other things. Maybe he was growing soft, or something. But he considered it. If only he knew if she showed affection towards him because she felt it, or because she knew he wanted it.

@Sara

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Charis flashed a brief smile as he covered her hand. It was an intimate gesture, which she wasn't expecting him to reciprocate. He always surprised her; being tender one moment and cold and aloof the next. "Yes, domine." She would give Peregrinus her life it would help him. 

She had to bite her tongue though; history would repeat itself as it had done with Teutus with her son. Her boy would grow up and see his mother (metaphorically) in chains. She wondered how long it would be before he couldn't call her mama in public, and when she'd have to start referring to her own son as 'dominus'. He was free and that was the most critical thing but Tertius was deluding himself if he thought that keeping their son's mother enslaved wouldn't have any impact on him. She kept her thoughts to herself though, and a smile on her face. If she needed to become free, then pressuring Tertius was never going to be the way to achieve it. She had to try flattery and warmth and all the things he liked. She squeezed his forearm softly.

 

TAG: @Atrice 

 

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