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Tourists and Trouble


Ione
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February 77AD

Ione brushed down the wrinkles from her toga. Balling it up on the floor whilst she was working always meant it looked like a crumpled mess...which she didn't think her new dominus would appreciate. She equally raked her fingers through her hair to neaten out the curls one of the other girls had kindly styled for her that morning. The last man had been quick and quiet, which was absolutely her favourite type of customer. She was tired though and stifled a yawn on the back of her hand as she loitered in the corridor with a couple of others.

The Elysium was busy, it was after cena and the lonely husbands and bored workers were flocking for some early evening entertainment. Sounds of pleasure and exertion drifted out from the cells and Ione, needing some air and a break, she ducked out of the door. The guard grunted at her but let her linger against the stone wall with him as she tried to catch her breath and cool her skin. The streets were as busy as the brothel and she offered what she hoped was an enticing smile to passers by as she endured wolf whistles and comments thrown her way. 

 

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The Elysium had taken a hit since the earthquake. It was not one of the fanciest or the nicest brothels around, although Iophon had a soft spot for it, from a purely friendly perspective. These days, he directed visitors to other establishments, according to their tastes, but rumor had it the Elysium was looking ahead to better times. Or trying to, anyway. He had not been around for several months now, so being in the neighborhood now presented an opportunity to stop by and see what was happening. Other than the usual business, obviously.

A girl was standing just outside the door, looking a little disheveled, but smiling at people anyway. Iophon walked up to her with a curious smile. Some things had changed, apparently. 

"Well, you're new..."

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Ione missed the man walking towards her - her eyes followed a small family hurrying past - the woman decked out in silks and colours that Ione could only imagine. It was only when the man spoke that Ione snapped her wide eyes in his direction. She looked, for a moment, like a baby deer caught in torchlight; she'd never managed to learn how to become the naturally alluring, always ready whore that many of her peers seemed to effortlessly be. 

Still, she tried. Her smile widened and she nodded hurriedly. "Brand new," She lied with relative ease as the guard took a discrete step further away from them so he didn't have to hear the conversation, he knew it often put people off, "Off the boat only a few weeks ago." It had been months but he didn't need to know that. "And you?" She fluttered her eyelashes in what she hoped was a seductive manner, "Are you new to the delights of the Elysium?" 

 

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"Brand new. Off the boat only a few weeks ago."

Well, that explained why Iophon had not seen her around before. He doubted she was as new as she claimed to be; but fresh girls always had a certain appeal to certain men, so he did not fault her. She looked a little... awkward.

"And you? Are you new to the delights of the Elysium?" 

Iophon smiled, shaking his head. "Can't say I am. But it's been a few months since I've been around last. Came to see what's new. Other than yourself."

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She giggled a girlish giggle and grinned at him. He was handsome, if a bit gangly, and had an easy smile. That was a marked change from most of the men that darkened her door. 

"We're doing the place up," She offered with a little smile in her accented Latin, "New management. Why don't you come in and see for yourself?" She placed a hand in the curve between her waist and her hip and rose her brow suggestively. The guard, she saw from the corner of her eye, was eyeing Iophon was some vague recognition. Was he that much of a regular? She'd certainly never seen him before...but then again, she might have been...occupied when he had visited.

 

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New management. Now, that was interesting. It would hopefully mean an improvement in quality of service. And also the chance for Iophon to renegotiate his terms of collaboration. If he was going to start bringing clients here again, he would have to make sure he was also benefiting from the arrangement.

The girl was trying a little too hard. Iophon grinned at her invitation.

"Sure, I would love to. Show me the improvements."

@Sara

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Ione grinned, genuinely this time. She so rarely landed a catch - she usually tripped up over her words or said the wrong thing and most men passed by without a second glance. She'd actually done it! The guard looked just as surprised as her and let them pass. That was curious, usually they demanded payment up front, but to Ione the man she was with must have seemed trustworthy. It didn't occur to her that the guard recognised the gangly man following behind her as she ducked through the door.

The Elysium might have been under new management but it was still not anywhere close to its state before the earthquake. The girls were still working in cramped, leaky cells and the sparse soft furnishings they had were still piled in the corridor rather than the old receiving room...which had been decimated when the roof had collapsed. A breeze filled the air of the place, threatening to snuff out lamps, from the cracks in the walls. Ione winced and glanced to the man following her. 

"The dominus has big plans, but this is home..." She was almost apologetic. "My cell is through here," She made a few steps to the curtained off room with its sad little bed, basin of water and...well...that was it.

 

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Well, the inside of the Elysium did not live up to its name at all. Iophon looked around with a sad expression. The receiving room was a disaster (literally), and the chambers did not seem any better. Iophon was too busy looking around to realize he had given the girl the wrong impression until they had reached her cell.

"Well, this does need a bit of work, doesn't it... used to be a tad less drafty" he noted, finally turning back to see her pointing the way to her bed. "Oh. Oh. No, darling, I'm not here for that." It wasn't her fault, she didn't know better. "My name is Iophon. I'm a tour guide. I used to bring clients here."

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The look of palpable disappointment on Ione's face was plain to see and she swallowed the lump in her throat. Oh. She glanced at the bed and then at herself. Even tour guides needed bedding; maybe she just wasn't what he wanted? 

She tried to push off the melancholic feeling that was falling over her and managed a smile, albeit a wobbly one. "Iophon." She nodded and moved to sit down on her bed anyway. Some of the girls were so good they could get their man into the sheets with just a look. Ione was in her room, dressed in nothing but a virtual scrap of material wound around her, and the man still didn't want her. She tried to channel her disappointment into effort. "You're not here for that," She grinned and arched a brow, "But you're in my room...and want to see what's new here? How will your clients know if we're any good unless you test us out...?" 

 

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The girl looked disappointed. Iophon sighed. She really was new, if she was trying this hard to get clients. And working in this sorry excuse for a brothel, her life was probably harder than that of girls in other places. 

"You're not here for that. But you're in my room...and want to see what's new here? How will your clients know if we're any good unless you test us out...?" 

It wasn't like Iophon did not appreciate good company. He occasionally even had money for it, although less so until he made a new arrangement with the new management (discounts were nice). He took a seat next to her on the bed, stretching his legs. The room was awful, but she was the one who had to work in it.

"So... what's your name?" she had not introduced herself "This place is a dump, no offense. But it used to be quite decent. I'd love to see it get back to that, I bet you would too. But I'm a storyteller, not an investor. You gotta give me something to work with..."

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"Ione." She offered with a fleeting smile and glanced around the room as he spoke. The darkness made it worse, as did the pictures on the wall which her eyes skirted over. Titus had thought them genius - that the clients could merely gesture to one and the girls could do as the instructions in paint said. He'd clearly never tried to bend his body like that. 

"Like what?" she glanced to him, confused, not understanding. She shifted on the bed and drew her knees up until she could wrap a spindly arm around them - almost protectively. "You want a story about...me?" She tipped her head to the side and gave him an amused look, "I'm not very interesting." 

And apparently not very good at my job, if all you want is a story...

 

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"Ione." Iophon repeated her name. A Nereid. Girl from the sea. He wondered where the ship had come from.

"Like what? You want a story about...me? I'm not very interesting." 

"Everybody's interesting" Iophon noted, and he meant it. Every person had a story, some were just better than others. "Look, Ione, here is how things work. I will make a deal with the new owner to direct clients here if they are looking for entertainment. But I need to make sure that I can vouch for this place as I used to. I hope the renovations... will go well. But Rome is full of brothels just like this one, or better. So, a good place needs a good story. You mentioned you are new. Are you the only one?"

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She listened to him with rapt attention and nodded appropriately. When he posed his question, she shook her head. "There's one newer than me...she used to be a house slave, she's a decade or so older than me." and miserable. 

"But the dominus had plans..." He just won't tell us what. She shifted on the bed and eyed him carefully, "Should our selling point not be that the girls are beautiful and your every desire is catered for?" She tried to look seductive but how successful she was, she didn't know... "That's the beauty of the Elysium, you can do whatever you like." That's what Titus used to say and so she parroted the line now and tried to look brave as she said it. Her five months here had shown her that whatever you like was more brutal and awful than her imagination could ever conjure.

 

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"There's one newer than me...she used to be a house slave, she's a decade or so older than me." 

Well, the new management was clearly not spending money on the girls. Dead end.

"But the dominus had plans... Should our selling point not be that the girls are beautiful and your every desire is catered for? That's the beauty of the Elysium, you can do whatever you like." 

"Honey, that is everybody's selling point." Iophon pointed out. That's why so many of the prostitutes were slaves. So that clients would have the freedom to basically do anything and everything. Ione did not look very comfortable with the concept, either. Iophon sighed, glancing at the faded pictures on the walls. "I spend five more minutes in here and the guard's gonna come beat me up, isn't he."

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Ione frowned, confused at him. "I thought the more expensive places..." She drifted off into silence. She thought the more expensive places meant the girls were treated better. That had been her hope - she knew there were limited options for women like her who grew into their bodies and their lives in the walls of a brothel. She would either die here or be sold, and if it was the latter surely she could only hope to be sold to another brothel? 

"Not if you pay..." She said with a sing song voice and a little smile and gently moved her hand to his thigh. She plastered on her smile wider and arched a brow. "And if you pay, there's no reason why you can't get your fill as well. I'd be happy to..." Certainly happier with him than some of the others currently being serviced within their walls. 

 

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The more expensive places were better to the girls. Sometimes. Definitely had cleaner rooms and more comforts, but that was usually for the clients' benefit, more than the slaves'. Poor Ione. She was stuck here, doing a thankless job.

"Not if you pay... And if you pay, there's no reason why you can't get your fill as well. I'd be happy to..."

She placed a hand on his thigh. Iophon smiled at her, patting her hand. "You don't know me, but I used to come here quite often. Told stories in the receiving room to the girls and the waiting clients... had nice chats and everything. I kinda miss this place. I'll go pay, but you don't have to put on the show."

@Sara

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Ione was genuinely puzzled. He wanted to just...talk, even if he paid. That was a first. She supposed she shouldn't have been too surprised - Wulfric had wanted to speak at first as well. Maybe some men were just awkward with their whores? Maybe, she thought with dawning realisation, he was impotent. Poor man. 

She nodded and withdrew her hand so he could duck out of the room and pay the meagre fee for a few moments of her company. She remained curled on her bed and watched him closely. Iophon. She'd remember the name. As he came back in she gave him a curious smile, deciding to let go of enticing him between her legs. If the man couldn't get it up then there really was no point. "You could tell me a story? If you'd like? From where you're from...you're not Roman?" He had an accent, just like she did.

 

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Iophon went and paid the fee for Ione's company. She was cheap. Cheaper than he remembered, from before. The place really was struggling, and by extension, so were the girls and boys. It was not the first time Iophon bought someone's time without expecting sex, although it was too expensive a charity to do often.

"You could tell me a story? If you'd like? From where you're from...you're not Roman?" 

"Greek. From Egypt." he grinned, settling back on the bed. "How about you? You're named after a Nereid. Is that your real name?"

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She delighted, and a wide, beaming smile fell across her lips. She immediately switched to Greek herself. It was common enough in Rome to hear fellow Greek-speakers, but she'd yet to find somebody to actually converse with. She felt something crack open in her chest as the lyrical sounds of her native tongue came tumbling out. 

"Greek, from an island in the Ionian Sea." She shook her head at his question, he must have expected that. "I was called Hilaera, when I was..." She gestured limply, when I was free. Most of the girls here had come already enslaved - as had she - but the majority of them had been born into slavery, not once free like she was. She made a point of not mentioning it though, not after the first few weeks. Some of the other workers had deigned her posh of all things, for having once lived a free life. It baffled her. "My dominus thought that with my background the name suited me..." She shrugged. She didn't mind it as much as she thought she would. "Tell me about Egypt?" She asked and placed her jaw in her hand as she peered at him, the sour mood of a few moments ago lifted. 

 

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The smile that lit up her face was the first genuine one since they met. It looked much better than the fake flirtations. She spoke Greek, and Iophon could tell it was her native tongue, although she spoke it with an Ionian accent, slightly different from the Greek his own family spoke.

"Greek, from an island in the Ionian Sea. I was called Hilaera, when I was..."

Free. She was free-born. Those stories were never good.It explained a lot about her.

"My dominus thought that with my background the name suited me... Tell me about Egypt?"

Iophon responded in Greek.

"I moved to Rome two... three years ago, with my brother. Before that, we worked on ships... we were born in Upper Egypt, along the Nile, in Ptolemaios Hermiou. It is quite a beautiful place... very different from Rome. Until I came here, I thought my home was a big city."

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She smiled conspiratorially at him and nodded in understanding. "I know. I..." She cast a glance to the door. She never spoke of her life before with clients...besides Wulfric, really, most men didn't want to know, but there was something about this one - a feeling of a kindred spirit, that meant she loosened her tongue just a little. "My town was so small you could see from one end to the other if you stood on the beaches, but it was beautiful." She nodded with an almost wistful smile, "And I thought at the time it was enormous. Then when I went to Athens I couldn't imagine anything bigger or more grand..." She chuckled and fiddled with the fabric of her toga, "But the Romans have a way of making everything else feel small." Including people like her.

She tipped her head to the side and studied him. She'd spoken too much of herself - even if he wasn't paying her to spread her legs she was mostly sure he'd rather talk of himself than the downtrodden slip of a whore he was set next to. She posed another question; "What brought you to Rome? Away from your beautiful home, Iophon?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

 

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 "I know. I... My town was so small you could see from one end to the other if you stood on the beaches, but it was beautiful. And I thought at the time it was enormous. Then when I went to Athens I couldn't imagine anything bigger or more grand..."

"But then you came to Rome" Iophon finished the sentence with a chuckle. He knew the feeling. Traveling down the Nile, he had seen Alexandria. And then Rome. He had always thought he had come fromt he cradle of civilization, but this city, it was something else entirely. He could imagine the contrast for someone like Ione, coming from a small island.

"But the Romans have a way of making everything else feel small."

Iophon nodded. She watched him, probably still not sure if he was just paying for her time, and not her services. But Iophon truly enjoyed getting to know new people. And talking with them in Greek.

"What brought you to Rome? Away from your beautiful home, Iophon?" 

"Work, officially. My brother and I worked on grain ships that came to Rome. But then we decided to stay... I kind of fell in love with the city. Now I'm a tour guide. And a storyteller. I like it much better than hauling crates and amphorae."

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She chuckled with a nod, before clarifying; "And then I came to Rome. I've not seen much of the city though. Just this region, really, and the markets. I hear there's some beautiful gardens though, and temples." Which she wouldn't be allowed to visit any time soon, she imagined. When was the next festival anyway? That seemed like her only opportunity to duck out of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Elysium and actually explore her surroundings a little. She wasn't even allowed out of the region to fish for customers, which seemed like both a missed opportunity and a crying shame to her...not that anybody cared for her opinion.

She listened with rapt attention to his explanation, her smile becoming as wide as her eyes. He wasn't joking then, when he said he wished to try out the place for clients. She felt her heart thrum a faster rhythm and looked at him nervously. "My...my dominus, I'm sure, would want your business. To bring tourists here." She swallowed, clearly nervous, clearly possessing none of the skill of other women in her trade who could mask their every emotion. "I...I hope I...and this place haven't put you off?" She winced. She wanted to a hear a story, from a professional, but figured he'd already paid for her time, she shouldn't push it.

 

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"And then I came to Rome. I've not seen much of the city though. Just this region, really, and the markets. I hear there's some beautiful gardens though, and temples." 

Iophon looked at her, baffled, for a moment. To him, someone living in Rome and not knowing most of the city... was shocking. It took him a moment to remember that she was a slave, kept in a brothel. And when he realized that, he felt sorry for her. For a lot of things... but also for being in the center of a city of wonders, and not getting to see it. It probably showed on his face. "There are. Quite a few..."

"My...my dominus, I'm sure, would want your business. To bring tourists here. I...I hope I...and this place haven't put you off?" 

"You? Never" he smiled, patting her hand. "This place... has seen better days. But I'll have to talk with your dominus about that. And maybe figure out what story to spin up to have nicer patrons come this way."

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"What's your favourite?" She asked earnestly and openly, with no hint of sadness. "Maybe at Veneralia I can visit, I think the dominus said we might get that off. Or some of it, anyway." She knew the brothels celebrated the festival of the deity of love and lust, but she didn't know of any others before then that she'd manage to escape the suffocating walls of The Elysium.

She exhaled with a relieved smile as he patted her hand and nodded. "I can take you to him? If you'd like?" She eyed him. She still didn't know if the dominus liked her, or even tolerated her, or whether she'd be shunted off to the markets when he was through making his decisions on who would be staying and who would be going, but surely he'd be pleased if she brought him business, via Iophon? She could hope at least. "It was the earthquake," She shook her head with a little sigh, "Or so I was told. It was like this when I came here. But...maybe you could spin it into some heroic tale about the girls of the Elysium being brave?" 

 

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