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Quiet understanding


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Early 76 AD

Calpurnia was settling into her new life at her brother's domus. It was a little strange, living without the strict structure of the Vestal House, but she enjoyed the company, and the leisure time. And the colors. Oh, how she had missed wearing colors. She might have spent some of her money on new stolas and pallas, and she did not regret any of it.

She did, however, still need a body slave. Her brother offered that she could choose one from the household, or go out and buy one. Calprunia had only ever purchased one slave before - a headstrong Briton chief, whom she had immediately freed, to controversial reactions. She did not feel like shopping for a person, so she decided to take her brother's advice first. There were a couple of women in the domus, and one in particular had caught her attention.

"Tacita, right?" she called out to the young woman. She had been sitting in the triclinium, having an early lunch alone, and saw her passing by. "Can you come in for a moment?"

@Jenn

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Early 76 and only a slave in Aulus’ household for a short time she had settled in well, knew her routine and loved her life. He had been correct that it was an easy household if she did her work well. Up to this point she had done a little bit of everything. This day for example had found her working alongside one of the other slave girls cleaning the many rooms of the domus. She had finished the room she was working on and was moving on to another room when she heard a voice call out to her. “Tacita, right?” She stopped at the sound of her name and gave a nod of her head in confirmation that she got the name correct. Looking in the direction of the Triclinium she noted that it was Domina Calpurnia, Aulus’ sister. “Can you come in for a moment?”

Tacita stepped into the room and gave a quick bow. She had of course seen Calpurnia around the Domus as she was living there since her retirement as a Vestal, but other than being part of the general household slaves serving various members of the family they hadn’t had much interaction. She waited for the older woman to explain why she had called her in.

@Chevi

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Calpurnia knew the girl did not talk, although she had never really asked her brother why. Aulus was not the kind of man who would cut out a slave's tongue, so she had either come to the domus like that, or she had some other reason for living up to her name. She was polite and obedient, but Calpurnia was more curious about her than that.

"Tacita, I am in need of a body slave. Have you ever done that kind of work before?"

@Jenn

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People very quickly learned that she did not have a functional voice. She could raise the alarm if needed, but when it came to 2-way conversation she was very limited. Thankfully her former masters had begun to teach her basic writing to increase her ‘world’. When she didn’t have work to do or late into the night she could be found in a quiet corner scratching away practicing.

"Tacita, I am in need of a body slave. Have you ever done that kind of work before?"

Had she been a body slave before? That was a definite no. While she had seen her former masters with their body slaves assisting them, they had all been male so not a role she filled. Tacita shook her head no but took her tablet out to elaborate. “My former owners were all male. I was a general slave.” She held it out to Calpurnia for her to read if she wished.

@Chevi

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The girl shook her head. No experience. She picked up a tablet and wrote out some words. She could read and write, then. That was useful, for someone who didn't speak. Whoever gave her the chance, and the skills, to do so, was clever. Calpurnia tilted her head, reading the words.

“My former owners were all male. I was a general slave.”

"Oh. I see." she nodded "Well... would you be interested in learning? I promise, I am not terribly fussy. But you'd have to learn to do my hair. On normal days, when the ornatrix is not needed."

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She noted Calpurnia tilt her head to read the words. “Oh I see” Calpurnia nodded and then asked if she would be interested in learning. She had been a general or a kitchen slave most of her life but she was always curious about new skills. She listened as Calpurnia went on to say she wasn’t terribly fussy but that Tacita would need to learn to do her hair on normal days when the ornatrix wasn’t needed. That had her a little nervous as hair is a very visual and style heavy skill. She was definitely going to need help/tutoring in the hairstyles.

Tacita pulled her tablet back and wrote out a quick reply. I would like to learn. I hope I do not disappoint you Domina.

@Chevi

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The girl looked shy, but not uninterested. That was good. Shy, she could work with. Being a body slave was a learning curve, but it had the added bonus of them doing exactly what she wanted them to do, in the way she wanted. And she only had to train them once.

I would like to learn. I hope I do not disappoint you Domina.

"I am sure you will do your best" Calpurnia smiled at the girl. "We will start easy, don't worry. My brother has already agreed I could choose whomever I liked from the household." And so far, she liked this girl. "So... you can understand me and you can write, but you don't talk. Don't, or can't?"

@Jenn

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Tacita was shy and a little anxious about the change in her life, but at the same time she was also curious and a little excited….in other words she was experiencing an abundance of emotions at that moment. Perhaps Calpurnia could sense this in her, as Tacita heard her explain that she was sure she would do her best & that they would start easy. She also went on to inform her that Aulus had agreed that she could choose whomever she liked from the household- this relieved Tacita as she feared getting in trouble with Aulus or Horatia.

"So... you can understand me and you can write, but you don't talk. Don't, or can't?"

At her next question, regarding her ability to talk Tacita noted that Calpurnia was asking her abilities or deficits regarding her speaking. It wasn’t that she couldn’t talk- she was able to produce random sounds but it was more like her voice was very rough and didn’t work efficiently to produce words. For as long as she could remember she had used gestures to communicate but the ability to write had been introduced to her by her former masters. She pointed to her voice and shook her head no then pulled her tablet close to scratch out an answer. I have voice but it is just sound & very rough, not words. Use gesture & former masters taught me to write. Once written she held it back out to Calpurnia.

@Chevi

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The girl could hear and understand her; Calprunia suspected maybe she had not been born mute. She looked at the scrawled note curiously.

I have voice but it is just sound & very rough, not words. Use gesture & former masters taught me to write.

She had a voice, but no words. Interesting. Calpurnia looked up, studying the girl, wondering if she should probe more. She decided against it. For now, she'd just leave it at that.

"Well, writing might prove awkward in your everyday duties" she noted, tilting her head "Would you be willing to teach me the signs you use? I think that would make it easier... Is Latin your first language?" She waited for response for the first question before she asked the second.

@Jenn

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As far as Tacita was concerned it was easier to just not use the voice she had- sure it was a quiet life, but as a slave generally your job was to go quietly through your work anyway. She learned to ‘communicate’ with people by yes/no nods of her head, pointing and general gestures to try to get her point across. Usually when she would go to the market for former masters she was often accompanied by another slave who would do the communication but on the rare occasion she needed to go alone there were certain vendors she tended to frequent as they understood how to communicate with her.

"Well, writing might prove awkward in your everyday duties. Would you be willing to teach me the signs you use?”

That was very true- while she was thankful to have been given the skills & tools to write, it was a slow process for her…she was still practicing as much as she could and had certainly got quicker. Tacita always had the tablet with her in case she needed to use it, but for the most part she still relied on the gestures and simple head nods to get her point across. Tacita noted the pause after Calpurnia’s question of teaching her the signs she used. She nodded her head but did write an answer to elaborate. "Signs so far are mostly nodding head yes/no in response to questions and pointing- as I learn my new role we can make signs that work."

Calpurnia then went on to ask if Latin was her first language. Tacita nodded her head in response to that. She had been born and raised in Rome so Latin was the language she grew up hearing. The biggest thing she always wanted people to know about her was that just because she didn’t speak verbally didn’t mean that she was dumb.

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"Signs so far are mostly nodding head yes/no in response to questions and pointing- as I learn my new role we can make signs that work."

"Well, that sounds like a plan" Calpurnia nodded. Instead of learning signs that already existed, she would get to work on them together with Tacita. That would suit them both best - and in addition, no one else would be able to understand them. "We would have our own language of sorts" she added with a small smile. Body slaves were often the closest confidantes of men and women. This would be an added bonus.

"Did a medicus ever... examine your voice?" she ventured. Not that she minded that Tacita didn't talk. She blinked. "I am just... curious, how you have sound, and language, but no words."

@Jenn

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"Well, that sounds like a planWe would have our own language of sorts” She had noticed on many occasions that this occurred naturally between slave and master/mistress anyway, often slaves would learn to read the cues that their owner gave them even without verbal commands. Tacita had of course attempted to develop her own ‘system’ of signs over the years but if those she interacted with didn’t know them then it was difficult. Usually, she would just wave her hands, point to her throat, and shake her head no until someone clued in that she couldn’t speak. Once that was figured out the person direction of conversation usually switched to yes/no answers.

Calpurnia went on to ask a question out of curiosity. "Did a medicus ever... examine your voice? I am just... curious, how you have sound, and language, but no words." She certainly knew she was a bit of a puzzle. Tacita shook her head no but also produced an ‘n’ sound to go along with it. Having been a slave her entire life that was not something she generally could afford. As a child her voice/cry had sounded like a dying animal and although she tried to develop formal words it seemed like the best she could do was ‘sounds’. Then to follow that off some of her early masters particularly liked the fact that she couldn’t verbalize so nothing was ever done to figure out why. At least Octavianus had given her the ability to ‘talk’ with writing & Claudus allowed her to write for him or Linus/Corva. Pulling her tablet back she wrote a short summary. [Abandoned as a child, told by family that found me my cry was strangled. They try to teach me to speak but voice didn’t work. When I was sold I was bought by a master who enjoyed the fact that he had a mute slave….It wasn’t until my last 2 owners that I learned to write.] Once that was written she turned it around to Calpurnia for her to read.

@Chevi

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This time, the girl spent a fairly long time writing. Capurnia waited patiently. She already shook her head no, which meant that no, a medicus had not examined her. Calpurnia wondered if that would help at all. She had not heard of healers who could give someone back their voice... but the gods had mysteries, and the girl had a voice, just not words. She took the tablet and read the scribbled details.

 [Abandoned as a child, told by family that found me my cry was strangled. They try to teach me to speak but voice didn’t work. When I was sold I was bought by a master who enjoyed the fact that he had a mute slave….It wasn’t until my last 2 owners that I learned to write.]

"Well that... is quite unusual." Calprunia nodded. "Maybe, if you want, I can find a medicus to look. But I don't think it will be a problem either way."

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"Well that... is quite unusual. Maybe, if you want, I can find a medicus to look. But I don't think it will be a problem either way."

Unusual? Was Calpurnia referring to the fact that she was unusual or her situation- voice not working, not seeing a medicus, having previous owners who enjoyed her silence. Calpurnia then went on to say that if Tacita wanted she could find a medicus to take a look but that she didn’t think it would be a problem either way. Having never been able to afford a visit to a medicus she hadn’t really thought about what might be going on with her voice… Tacita gave a shrug of her shoulders-she was a little curious but also a bit scared of what the issue might be. She went back to the tablet again and scribbled down a reply.

[Perhaps Domina, but if it is too much trouble I am okay.]

@Chevi

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Calpurnia read the words and smiled, shaking her head.

"Not too much trouble at all." she looked at the young woman. "I need someone in this position whom I can trust. I know we won't quite be friends, but I think it is best if the trust goes both ways. If you are ever in need of anything, please come to me first. I can't promise I can fulfill every wish, but I don't want you to ever be too worried to ask." Calpurnia generally had a patience for people; having a body slave, that was a position of trust, in an almost intimate way. And she didn't pick Tacia because she was mute, and less likely to disclose secrets. She picked her because she was interested in the girl. The rest was up to her. "Alright, first, I'd like you to learn from Horatia's body slave. She'll show you what you need to know in this work. And we can figure out the rest."

@Jenn

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To say her typical day had taken another turn was an understatement. Although she would never be one to boast about a ‘promotion’, she was generally happy with her lot in life & had learned to simply go with the flow. To go from a general house slave at the start of the day to now a body slave was going to be an adjustment, but she was also intrigued by the challenge. Calpurnia went on to say that she needed someone in the position she could trust and that while they wouldn’t quite be friends as there was a mistress/servant role, she thought it best that trust goes both ways. She then went on to say if Tacita was ever in need of anything to come to her first- she might not be able to fulfill it, but she wanted Tacita to feel able to ask..

"Alright, first, I'd like you to learn from Horatia's body slave. She'll show you what you need to know in this work. And we can figure out the rest."

Tacita nodded her head. It felt like the conversation might be coming to an end but there hadn’t been a formal dismissal yet. She scratched out a quick question on her tablet [“Is there anything you need me to do right now or should I go find Horatia’s body slave”]. Once that was done, she turned it towards Calpurnia and waited for her response.

@Chevi

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