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(The day after Reading, Writing and Arithmetic)

 

The Porticus Liviae was one of those places where, eventually, you'd see every Senator and rich equite in Rome, and their wives twice, which meant that there were a lot of very high-class shops and stalls (so it was somewhere Teutus was interested in for perfectly good business reasons). It was also one of those places that had cheaper more functional shops and stalls selling more everyday items at more everyday prices, because of its location on the lower slopes of the Esquiline. There was no need to drag Jannus further afield to the Emporium Magnum or anywhere else, not with the Porticus Liviae (and the senators' wives!) right on their doorstep, so to speak.

His mother was busy weaving, and didn't need Jannus or him underfoot, and he didn't have a shipment due until the next week, so this was the perfect opportunity to take Jannus shopping. He'd made a promise and was going to keep it, after all. Even a promise to buy something small was a promise worth keeping, in Teutus' opinion. And as they were going shopping anyway, he'd made a list of other things they might look for, for the home. (And if he saw anything his mother might like, he wasn't above spending a bit of money on her; she deserved all the good things, after all.)

"First things first, though," he said to Jannus, diverting to a familiar shop in the arcade. He'd been here numerous times on errands for his father when he was still Tertius' secretary and had a friendship of sorts with the proprietor. "I promised to get you a wax tablet and stylus for your own, didn't I?"

 

@Insignia

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Being at the shops had always intrigued Jannus. Seeing the sheer amount of items held in each stall amazed him. Back when he was a child and told to wait, he'd stand where he was to simply count the number of things on each shelf. When he became older, he sorted them into different categories. Furniture stores had chairs and couches. Stationery had different sizes of wax tablets, lengths of scrolls, types of inks. Perhaps in another life, he'd have a career as an artisan. Symmetry was beautiful and would be an important enough reason for him to continue making furniture or stoneware; odd numbers made everything a perfect set. One in the middle, the others flanking on the sides.

The Porticus Liviae is upscale. Or at least, more so than the typical markets he frequents. As he trails behind Teutus, he silently observes the clientele who come and go from it. Some are better dressed, with people like him following after. He could say quite a few things about his relatively new circumstances, but he cannot deny that Teutus is by far more earnest than the other masters he's had. The writing session the two had yesterday attested to that. It is with this knowledge that Jannus answers with a slight smile. "You did, domine."

@Sharpie

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"If there's one thing I want you to know - and I've probably said this before - I will do my best to keep any promise I make," Teutus said. Doubtless Jannus would eventually learn why that was, but right now was not the time to be spilling secrets, especially when they concerned his own father.

"This is going to be yours, I want you to have one in a size you'll find comfortable to use," he said, and asked the shopkeeper to show a selection of two- and three-leaved tablets in different sizes. They were all plain wooden ones, but this was a high-quality shop and therefore the wooden surrounds of all those on display had a good finish, smooth to the touch and not warped in any way.

Jannus was a quiet, serious sort of slave, careful not to give offence, or to do anything that might offend. Traits that Teutus had seen in others - and had probably shown himself - but that he wasn't used to seeing from the outside. That slight smile didn't go unnoticed, and hoped that as they grew more used to one another, that Jannus would smile more often, at least in private.

 

@Insignia

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Material objects always gave him a comfort not filled by other people. Knowing they are real, that he is real, imbues them with a kind of magic. Did they ever store memories from their past owners? He nods absently as he considers the possibilities. Perhaps the root of stability came not from the materials themselves, but from the emotions worked into them by tired artisans. In a topsy turvy world where objects reigned and people behaved, he reckons he would do just fine. 

"Of course," he trails off as he gazes at the tablets. None of them have holes drilled through the wax part. No wood rot. No warping or splitting. Only brown-gold reassurance. Teutus has given him enough trust to choose an investment of his own. He must take this seriously. Three leaves would be ideal for the prolific writer, of which he is not. Two leaves are more convenient. In the end, he decides on a two-leaved tablet as wide as the length from his outstretched pinky finger to thumb and a little longer than his hand from base to middle fingertip. "This one will be perfect, domine."

Living under Teutus's roof has caused him to relax his guard. The man may be hiding some greater stresses behind the scenes, but he always talked calmly and reasonably and was fairly straightforward about his expectations. He hopes he'll stay here for a few more years, at least.

@Sharpie

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Teutus wasn't going to rush this choice - he didn't know whether Jannus had ever had a free choice about anything before, and there was no need to rush him into choosing something. There was a difference between being a senior slave in a large household, as Teutus had been, and being one of only four slaves in a small household - or at least, Teutus thought there must be. He didn't know Jannus' history or what sort of household he had previously been in, but being one of four meant that he could have a much greater share of Teutus' personal attention than a skivvy in a senator's much larger house would expect from his master. He wasn't entirely surprised to find that he was enjoying watching the other look at the selection and come to a decision - Teutus liked encouraging people, teaching them, helping them grow. Or rather, he'd liked that part of his relationship with his sister, and later with Charis and it was not much of a shock to find he liked it with Jannus too.

"That's a good choice," he said, noting the selection. "You'll need a stylus to go with it - could we see some of your styli?"

"Bronze or iron, sir?" the proprietor asked, already beginning to tidy the other tabulae away.

"Some of both - and not the rubbish ones you're planning to have remade," Teutus said. His own stylus, which he'd kept from his time as his father's secretary, was a bronze pen with a twist detail to it, and fit comfortably in his hand.

"I have copper too," the proprietor said, bringing a selection over and spreading them out.

 

@Insignia

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Indeed, Jannus took this choice with the utmost sincerity. Objects came from living things, no? Wood for the panels was once the flesh of trees, and wax a fruit from the bees. Metals came from the Earth, which means they had life at one point too. If there was a hierarchy in the natural world, the metals for sure would be at the top, serving as senators and whatnot. Only the strongest can afford to remain there when they have nowhere to rise and everywhere to fall. The next would likely be wood, he reasons, the backbone. He used to be a dreamer, after all. Under Teutus's household, that instinct is reemerging.

The spread of styli greet him. Grouped up in twos, they form little V's. Metallic browns merge together, then separate. Two of them have a small scalloped-like detail on the erasing end. Choices, choices. The scallop-edges ones would want to fly home, and the twisted ones may twist up his own mind as well. The ones with small decorative grooves would only collect stray wax, but the plain-ended ones may lack confidence. 

In the end, he decides on a no-frills yet practical bronze stylus with two small bands molded around the area where stylus widens into eraser. "This one will do, domine."

@Sharpie

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Teutus watched his slave's face, though out of the corner of his eye, choosing not to discomfit him more than he had already. He was used to watching without the subject being too aware of it from his time as a slave, although probably another slave would recognise they were being watched.

The selected stylus was bronze, like Teutus own preferred writing tool, but plainer, a straight engraving tool with two bands around it where the stem flattened and widened into the erasing end. A sensible choice, much like that of the tablet. Both were practical and unostentatious enough for a slave, without being so cheap that they would be worn out and useless after a few short months.

"Another good choice," he said, and requested some sealing wax and papyrus for his own correspondence, paying for them before holding the newly purchased tablet and stylus out for Jannus to take.

He led Jannus back out into the bustling Porticus Liviae and paused before turning towards a hot food stall he liked.

 

@Insignia

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Honestly, Jannus is too absorbed in his own world to mind being watched. Teutus was far more laid back, and it wasn't like he'd be punished for thinking. Though, now that he thinks about it, would it ever be possible for portable eyes to be developed? If the walls have ears, then they must grow eyes at some point as part of the next generation. Were people once born without eyes too? If he was, it would be terrible, for he could not write.

And, in his own way, he more than appreciates Teutus's lessons. With a tablet and stylus, he has another skill to make his own as much as he uses it for others. The stylus is so new, its end distinctly pointed. Inwardly, he hopes he maintains enough common sense to prevent it from being used against him. It would be embarrassing and likely more than a little painful if he got jabbed with it. 

Jannus takes the tablet and stylus with both hands, looking down at them a little reverently. He can write down his thoughts and erase them when needed. He can tell stories. Most of all, he will not longer be stuck in his mind turning ideas over and over. When the others write, he can as well. Maybe he'd even take his skills to the streets and write on that old graffiti wall, provided nobody else is looking.

"Thank you." 

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"You're welcome," he repeated, and nodded at the food-stall owner. "Two of your sausages in pastry," he said, finding the coins to pay. It was a simple enough lunch that he'd been able to indulge every so often even as a slave himself, and he nodded as the man held out two of his speciality, each wrapped in a vine-leaf to help prevent burnt fingers.

"It's hot, don't burn your fingers," he said to Jannus, indicating that he should take one. The sausage was good as ever, lightly spiced, and the pastry was just the right sort of sweet to off-set the tang of the pepper.

He thought he ought to check on the warehouse, but there wasn't a delivery due for a few days and his agent and Olipor were quite capable of dealing with any customers who might show up today. He wondered whether he ought to begin some sort of booking system for buyers to arrange an appointment so they could be seen by Teutus himself; he wanted to be exclusive and not just a run-of-the-mill sort of shopkeeper.

Something to think about - and maybe consult with his mother about.

@Insignia

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