Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Immediately following on from Juno, bless us, end of January 77AD

Horatia only had eyes for her son as the litter meandered its way back towards the domus. The evening was drawing in now, but she knew - despite her exhaustion - she needed to leave the sanctuary of the temple and go home. She had sipped her wine and fallen into a peaceful doze, her son curled on her chest whilst the priestesses and their slaves tidied around her.

And then tidied her. No woman, immediately after childbirth was going to look presentable and Horatia was no different. As the litter deposited her down outside of the domus (as close to the door as they reasonably could get her), she saw her slave rush out to greet her - thick cloak in hand. Horatia smiled at the thoughtfulness. The pale green tunica she had been wearing had been soaked in blood and so she had stripped after washing into a thin, scratchy tunica owned by the priestesses. The baby was merely cradled in a blanket. Her hair had been combed and was braided in one simple one down her back, but she didn't look herself; the woman with not a hair out of place usually and nor should she. She let the girl cover her shoulders and her son in the cloak and then with support from the litter bearers, made her way slowly (very slowly) through the door into the domus.

She breathed in deeply and as the door clunked shut behind her, she felt herself relax - the tension and panic of the preceding few hours washing out of her by the serenity of her home. She didn't know if Calpurnia or Aulus were in, or her children but the place was oddly quiet. Until she heard footfalls from the direction of the tablinum. She raised a hand pre-emptively, or her spare one anyway given the other was holding the child to her chest; "I'm fine, I'm fine." She breathed and tried to look reassuring but she winced as she walked and offered her husband a weak smile. "The...temple was more eventful than I thought it would be." She cleared her throat. This wasn't proper...but...Aulus had waited the nine days for Titus...and close to six years with Calpurnia..."Your son." She pulled back the folds of the cloak very gently so she could see the dozing, tiny baby against her chest. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The afternoon had been a fretful one for Aulus, who was utterly thankful that his term as Consul was over because he had been able to slip out of the Curia the second the session was over - the message had been passed to one of the Curia slaves and thence to him. His mind had not been on what was being discussed, although he could not leave the Curia immediately. The rational part of his mind had helpfully reminded him that childbirth was the province of the womenfolk and he would only be in the way, and he had about as little right to intrude on the premises of Juno Lucina as he did the Temple of Vesta, or the rites of the Bona Dea.

And no longer being a Consul meant no longer being preceded everywhere by twelve lictors - who might have been helpful in clearing a way for him, admittedly.

Once he reached home, he dismissed Xanthos - he was not going to get any work done whatsoever - and found himself pacing until the sound of the door closing announced his wife's return.

"You're fine?" he said, looking at her pale face. "You - gods, Horatia! I shouldn't have let you go anywhere!"

What if it hadn't been fine - he had the city's best midwife on retainer, ready, and...

"My son?"

He probably wasn't supposed to see the baby yet - every tradition said he was supposed to wait, to let the mother have time to heal after the birth, but he was already looking at Horatia and the bundle she carried.

They had never managed very well at observing tradition, beginning with their very unconventional wedding.

"Would you - can you - put him down? Even if it's not nine days after the birth, we ought to do something right."

 

@Sara

  • Haha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I didn't know it was labour." She protested, but that wasn't entirely true. She did know, she just chose not to believe it...and look where that had gotten her. But Aulus' indignation, whatever it was, seemed to dissipate as he took in what she said. They already had a son who had survived the perilous first few years and was thriving. Either sex would have been a blessing, but she knew it was something special for a man to see his legacy live on in his sons. She smiled softly herself and nodded gently; "Your son." 

"You wish for me to bend and place him down..." She chuckled and cast him an amused glance, despite her tiredness. She was in pain - but it was that low, dull ache rather than the agony of earlier. There was definitely a reason for the nine days. She bit her lip and glanced down but knew it was important. They really should have waited but they were far beyond that. She really shouldn't have given birth in a temple either. Tentatively and with a gasp and a wince, she somehow managed to gently lay the boy on the floor of the atrium. A few slaves poked their heads out to see what was going on and the wide-eyed stares they gave were priceless. Clearly the news hadn't spread. She took a step back and leant a hand on a chair to hold herself steady.

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Or get your girl to -" he began but was interrupted as his wife (his beautiful stubborn wife!) bent herself to place the bundle on the floor at his feet. One quick glance was all it took for Horatia's girl to step closer to support her mistress, even as Aulus stooped in turn to pick the baby up, trying to be as careful with him as Horatia had been.

He flicked the blanket back just enough to see that it was a boy - not that he expected Horatia would have told him anything other than the truth, especially when she knew he would be happy whatever the baby's sex. "Quintus. Quintus Calpurnius Praetextatus," he said, looking from the tiny newborn to his wife's tired but proud face.

"Help your mistress to her room," he said to the slave-girl. "I'm coming too, my dove - I know you want to spend time with him. And he needs his mother."

And quite possibly Titus and Calpurnia were going to be furious at missing everything.

Oops?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Horatia's heart leapt into her throat as Aulus leant to pick up their son, only a few hours old. He looked almost comically small in Aulus' arms. "Quintus." She said with a genuine smile and a nod of her head. "It suits him." They'd discussed names briefly - whilst it was in Aulus' power, she was not going to be stuck calling her son something dreadful. Not after she'd done all the work. "You should write to the other Quintus to let him know he has a namesake." She chuckled but leant into her slavegirl for support, grateful for it. 

Usually it was not right for a man to come into his wife's rooms so soon after birth, but then...she hadn't given birth in this space and it was just as neat and orderly as it had been when she'd left it this morning. She walked slowly towards it with winces of pain and a shuffling gait before she sank down into the comfort of her own bed. Bliss. Se'd wash and change later, for now, she just wanted her son back in her arms. Shrugging off the cloak she reached for him. "I am fine." She repeated to Aulus but didn't look at him, "May Juno be blessed. And Lucius Cassius Longinus' slaves." She chuckled, shaking her head. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

He carefully transferred the baby Quintus back to Horatia's waiting arms once she was settled in her bed, sitting upright against the pillows. He kissed her forehead, lingering to see his new son, looking even tinier than Titus had at his own tollere liberos - although Titus had been the proper nine days old for his.

He could only pray that he hadn't tempted the Fates by naming Quintus on the day of his birth.

"I shall," he said, finding her high-backed chair and settling into it. "I shall offer Juno all the sacrifices and prayers I can - and what in the name of Jupiter Optimus Maximus have Lucius Cassius Longinus' slaves got to do with any of this?"

He needed to do one other thing, and a lot sooner than he'd expected to have to - find a wet nurse for the boy.

 

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Horatia stroked a soft finger against her son's cheek. So small. So, so small. He must have been early by a week or so, but even with his size he was healthy and Aulus' hadn't yet been subjected to the strength of his lungs, which was nice as it would have ruined the peace of the moment they were now sharing. 

"One of his slavegirls...we got talking on the path up to the temple, in the grove, when the pains started properly...it was just myself and her. She...did everything. I owe her everything," She glanced down at her son, "We both do." She leant to leave a soft kiss against Quintus' forehead and shook her head. "Metella. I don't know what she does in Lucius' household, I...didn't ask." And she felt a gnawing of guilt for it, "But she's with child herself. I have to write, when I'm recovered." 

She flicked those vivid blue eyes up to her husband and smiled softly, apologetically. "I didn't mean to frighten you. I promise you, I'm well." 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I was hardly about to tie you to your bed, but you shouldn't have been going anywhere in your state - of course I was worried." He took a breath and let it out. "Isn't that what the men are supposed to do when their wives are giving birth? Although had you been here, you would have had the very best attendants Rome has to offer." He smiled. "We will have to thank her somehow."

How, remained to be seen - and Cassius Longinus would no doubt be pleased that his girl was there, and able to give such valued assistance.

"I believe she is the nursemaid to his daughter, or something along those lines," he said, though he couldn't be sure - as if he'd paid attention to any of his friends' slaves at all. He was just about able to name his friend's impertinent body-slave as Attis, after all, never mind tell what any of his other slaves might do in the household.

 

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She took the chastisement but offered Aulus a quirked eyebrow as he spoke to her. She knew he was right and that she should not have gone, but visiting the temples had been her solace in a way he wouldn't understand and she wouldn't have given that up for anything. So instead she kept her eyes on him with a marginally unimpressed look and shrugged her shoulders before diverting her eyes back down to her son as he relaxed and spoke of Metella.

"I intend to send some gifts, and if she is as good with Cassia as she was with our son, then Longinus is lucky to have her." And Horatia wondered - briefly - if he knew it. Knowing the idiotic oaf that was her husbands friend, he probably paid the redheaded woman no more heed than a statue in his atrium. She sighed and then finally dragged her eyes back to her husband although it felt almost painful to look away from the tiny bundle in her arms. "Where are the children?" She asked with a frown before shaking her head, slightly amused; "Our other children?" She usually kept close tabs on their whereabouts and could recall them at a moments notice but with her tiredness, it was as if her head was filled with fog and she couldn't recall.

"Can you write to my father for me, as well, and your own obviously." She'd do her own correspondence to her sister and brothers, but not for a few days. The birth - she was coming to realise now led in a comfortable bed - was more trying than she had given credit to and she felt herself desperate for sleep.

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Titus has gone to the law courts with his tutor to listen to some of what he's being taught actually put into practise. Calpurnia went to the baths with her friends, I believe she's having dinner with them, at Menenia Lanata's house. I will send a litter for her later, and a suitable escort. They will be furious at missing all the excitement." He smiled. "I suppose we could always do it properly for them at the proper time."

He looked up at his wife's slave-girl. "Have the crib made up and brought in."

"Yes, Domine."

He turned back to Horatia. "Will you be all right nursing him tonight and tomorrow - I will get a wet-nurse but I doubt I'll be able to find one before tomorrow afternoon, at the earliest. I hadn't expected to be looking for at least a week or two, after all. And of course I will write to your father, he will no doubt be delighted to hear he has another grandson."

 

@Sara

Edited by Sharpie
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She smiled and nodded, relieved at his thoughtfulness of taking on things (such as arranging a litter for their daughter) which should really be in her purview as matron of the house. "We should," She nodded, "And you should lean on Calpurnia," She shook her head, "Both Calpurnia's to take my place for the next week and a bit. It would do our daughter good to see how she fares running a house when it's quiet." Aulus was unlikely to be hosting any dinners or parties, after all, whilst his wife was sequestered away with their newborn until the ninth day.

"I've already found one," She chuckled and gave him a sidelong look which said 'I might have just given birth, but I'm still Horatia and meticulously organised', "I sent one of the slaves at the temple to fetch her - I picked her out last week, and good timing too. She's well bred, and has just had her second child." A nice, simple, sweet young freedwoman (and ex-slave of one of her friends) who was astounded to have the wife of the previous Consul in her home, but drove a hard bargain which was a good sign that she wasn't just some beggar looking to make any money she could. She could afford to be choosy. "But if she's not to your liking, you can find somebody else." But Horatia would have opinions on that. She'd nursed her son briefly in the temple, but she hoped the woman would arrive soon. It felt almost cruel to both herself and her son to share something so intimate only to stop again, because of her class. 

She dropped her head back on the pillow in tiredness and contentment. "Will you read to me?" She asked, quietly. It always calmed her down.

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I am sure they will be quite willing to step into your place for the next week or so," he told her. His sister was quite forthright enough to act as hostess for any unexpeced (and potentially unwanted) guests, and their daughter would benefit from running the household for a week, with all that that entailed.

He tried not to sigh at the thought of having two babies in the house for as long as it would take for Quintus to be weaned; he would not separate mother and child, if the woman's child still lived. "I presume that having made arrangements already, there is a room prepared for her?"

Horatia was, as she had pointed out in that oh so eloquent look, exquisitely organised.

"If you consider her suitable, I am not going to quibble over it. She may stay as long as you both please, and have the run of the house." He presumed the woman in question was not a slave, anyway - he would have been informed had there been a new slave added to the household, surely?

"Of course I will."

The crib was brought in at this point and Aulus caught the attention of one of the two house slaves who'd brought it in, directing him to fetch the scroll of Virgil's Eclogues from his study. It was brought, and he unrolled it to find the beginning of the fourth Eclogue to begin reading quietly:

"Muses of Sicily, let me sing a little more grandly.

Orchards and humble tamarisks don’t please everyone:

if I sing of the woods, let the woods be fit for a Consul.

Now the last age of the Cumaean prophecy begins:

the great roll-call of the centuries is born anew:

now Virgin Justice returns, and Saturn’s reign:

now a new race descends from the heavens above.

Only favour the child who’s born, pure Lucina, under whom

the first race of iron shall end, and a golden race

rise up throughout the world: now your Apollo reigns.

For, Pollio, in your consulship, this noble age begins..."

 

(Fourth Eclogue, translation A.S Kline, found here. Please excuse the spacing, I couldn't make the line spacing work properly!)

 

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Horatia blinked. No; no room had been prepared for the girl and she felt embarrassment colour her cheeks. Really, obviously, she had been in no condition to arrange it and had been...distracted, but she'd felt a frisson of annoyance at herself. "No," She cleared her throat and offered him an apologetic glance for her earlier smugness, "If you could arrange something I would be grateful. She lives close, her husband will stay in their insula with her elder child so it's just her and the baby." If Aulus' face betrayed the fact he was aggrieved with another small child in the house, Horatia didn't notice, distracted as she was with peering into the blue eyes of her son.

She smiled softly as he began reading, but was determined not to doze. It didn't work. She only woke up some time later by the squalling of her son against her chest and blinked. The room had dimmed, the lamps burning lower and Aulus was far further on in the work than where she had last remembered him to be. She tried to blink the sleep from her eyes and sit herself up a little straighter. She needed a bath, a proper bath, and to have a proper sleep but the quiet enjoyment of these moments - which she'd missed out on with Calpurnia's birth, she couldn't find the motivation to move. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, we've got more than enough guest rooms, I'll get the slaves to sort out a room nearby for her," he told his wife. Or he'd get his sister to, or something; doubtless things would be thrown into total confusion if he were to try. He didn't have the feminine touch that no doubt Horatia would expect to offer the woman in question.

He looked up from the scroll as Horatia dozed off, but smiled to himself and continued his reading, enjoying the words and simple delight of reading to his wife and brand-new son.

Until he was brought to himself again by the baby whimpering and then beginning to cry; he was probably hungry - or something.

The room was bound to have womenfolk descend en masse any moment now, and he grinned at his wife, picturing their scandalised faces when they realised the baby's father was present mere hours after the birth.

"I should probably go - you'll want your privacy, I think," he told her, reaching for the cord to tie the scroll closed. He would continue where he'd left off for her another time.

 

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She woke to the muffled mewls from the baby against her chest and blinked groggily. The sleep hadn't helped much, she needed proper rest not a few snatched moments. She heard Aulus speak and with a glance turned to him. He was still here. She gave him a sleepy smile and nodded at his words. "You know," She sat herself up a little and gently rocked her son to try and still him. "Given we've skipped ahead nine days, you can come back to visit."

With Titus they had done it properly and she hadn't seen her husband for nine days, and with Calpurnia well...that had been almost six years. "It's been fifteen years since you held your own newborn," She offered with a sly smile, "You should take it in. I'm not sure the Gods will bless us again, after all." She settled back down against the pillows as Quintus quietened, despite the flurry of slaves coming in to attend to her and him. She stole a glance back up at Aulus though and added softly. "I love you." 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I would think you'd like the time to rest and begin to bond with your son," Aulus said, setting the scroll to one side and coming across to sit on the edge of the bed where he could look down at his newest son.

"I love you, too, my sweet," he told her, just as quietly. "You do realise that now you're a mother of three, you're an emancipated woman?"

He didn't need any more children - hadn't needed this one, if the truth were known, but now that Quintus had arrived in the world, he wouldn't be without him.

"I missed so much with the others, I don't want to miss anything with Quintus," he added, finding that strange sensation of having a chest too small for all the love that was in it for his wife and his three children which he had first experienced when Horatia had presented Titus to him, and again when he'd returned home to meet his daughter for the first time as a young girl.

 

@Sara

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She tried not to look affronted by his statement, but didn't quite manage it. She did give him a bemused smile with a shake of her head; "I can bond with him and see you. But if you wish to do it properly, that's your decision and choice." She shrugged limply. The damage from those almost six years apart had been so difficult to repair that despite their strength now, Horatia still firmly wanted to make up for lost time. She'd had it with Titus but that had felt so long ago she could barely remember it. 

She chuckled though, at his next statement. "I know." She shook his head, "Not that it really matters. I'll still go to my father for guidance, and you." If she was  honest, Horatia had no desire to be emancipated. She might have chafed, sometimes, at the lot that her gender had in their society but she didn't practically wish to do anything differently. The child had been such a surprise she didn't even really know what emancipation meant in practice. 

"You won't." She smiled up at him and squeezed his hand with her spare one, running her thumb over his knuckles. "We'll be together this time...and if the Gods forbid, anything happens in the city I can tell you right now, I am not going to Baiae." 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, I think we have well and truly passed properly, my dove," Aulus told her, amused. "I would not say no. I merely thought you might like some time with him, uninterrupted by grown men who really have very little experience or knowledge when it comes to such young children. I have no intention of confining you to your room or any such nonsense like that - or making you feel so confined, even, if you were worried about that."

Which she shouldn't be, of course.

He had not expected that she would return from her planned visit to the temple of Juno Lucina with their newborn son in her arms, and adjusting to that unexpected event was - well, wasn't that why there was that nine-day wait, usually?

He laughed softly. "I think, at the very least, that we can't be accused of being as traditional as most married people of our level of society, despite our best efforts. And I think you would rather I arm you with a gladius and teach you how to use it than send you to Baiae again, should anything happen."

He had seen warrior women, since then, and could picture Horatia as one of them, in all her patrician fury, daring anyone to harm a hair on her children's heads.

"Let us pray that we never see such an event again," he added, a little more soberly. She had been able to show Titus to her mother, at least, and he thought that Livia Calavia would have doted on her grandchildren. He would write to Marcus Horatius, though; the old man would surely be proud that his daughter had brought a second son safely into the world despite the extremely unorthodox place.

 

@Sara

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She nodded with a hint of amusement. She always thought of herself as a traditionalist - a woman who revelled in the rules and the confines and safety of her gender and its role in society but...in their own way, somewhere down the track, she and Aulus had diverged. He had proposed upon their first meeting, after all, and now lived a life both conventional and unconventional. She had her own office, her book club, her walls stacked overflowing with codices and scrolls. They spoke of politics, of Aulus' work and she knew her opinion was valued and integral to Aulus' world. Yes...he was right. They were not traditional, despite their very best efforts.

She said nothing at his comment on the gladius but merely nodded solemnly at his prayer. "Indeed." She'd admitted it, eventually, what had happened. One of her greatest secrets had been un-bared (although the other remained deeply buried), and Aulus had been as understanding and caring as she should have expected. Shifting on her bed as the boy against her chest gurgled and mewled, until she was leaning against his arm. "I suppose I do need some rest...but you should say goodbye to your son." She smiled and leant up to leave a soft kiss against Aulus' lips. It was lingering and gentle, but said everything she needed it to. 

 

TAG: @Sharpie

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

He shifted until he could put his arm around her, and smiled down at the tiny baby she was cradling.

"He is perfect - you are perfect," he said, and returned her kiss, tenderly. "I will have some food brought to you - you've had a difficult day. Take as long as you need to recover - although if I find you've started exerting yourself again needlessly, I won't be best pleased." The smile on his face softened words that might otherwise seem harsh. "You can send your girl for any of you books and scrolls that you may want, and I am sure that both Calpurnias will rise to the challenge of running the house to your standards."

He would come and sit with her again in the days before she returned to taking the household reins again. Footsteps outside made him look up.

"It seems your wet-nurse has arrived," he told her, and bent to kiss his son's forehead. "I shall let you get settled with her."

He crossed to the door, turning just long enough to give mother and son another fond glance before leaving to make way for the wet-nurse and Horatia's maid.

 

@Sara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...