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June 77

 

It had been a long time coming. Too long, perhaps, but it was better to correct an oversight than to ignore it in favour of the status quo.

Rather than a more formal dinner party with entertainment, it was a small private gathering of Aulus, his wife, his eldest son and daughter and one or two close friends and family members who took their places in the summer triclinium which overlooked the garden. The smaller number could recline on the dining couches which were arranged in the usual fashion around the table in the centre, allowing for quiet conversation over good food. There was a single space left once everyone had taken their places, which might look (in a more slapdash sort of house) as though the host had miscounted or couldn't be bothered to try to get the right number of people to come.

"I beg you will indulge me for a moment before we begin our meal," he said to his gathered guests. "We have one further guest, though I think it may come as a bit of a surprise to him." He turned to one of the waiting slaves. "Tell Felix to come here."

"Yes, Domine." The slave turned and departed on his errand.

It was only a moment or two before Felix appeared, as quick and attentive as ever. Aulus indicated  the spare place. "Felix, I would like you to join us, if you will."

 

@Chevi @Sara @Sarah

Edited by Sharpie
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It felt... good, to be around family again. Grounding. A reminder of what was important, as well as the support of those to whom he was close. He'd missed that whilst in Achaea, in the wake of Lucia's death; missed it without realising that he had. Now that he was back, falling into the rhythms of family doings made that interconnectedness so much clearer. He was not pater familias yet, but even the head of the family was not an island, but surrounded by his peers. Publius appreciated Aulus inviting him to a family dinner.  

Dressed in his finest toga, Publius reclined on a couch in the triclinium of Calpurnius Praetextatus that overlooked their garden. It was a fine house, worthy of his sister who obviously kept it well. They'd proven an excellent match. As had he and Lucia. Now that space in the household was empty. It needed filling, but he wasn't going to think about that tonight.

Rather he was curious about what his brother in law planned, when the man requested their indulgence and summoned one of his slaves. 

@Sharpie @Chevi @Sara

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Felix had been told his services were not needed for the small family-and-friends gathering his dominus was planning for the evening. He made himself scarce, retiring to his small room to use the time as he usually did, with quiet contemplation and making sure all his things were in order. Sometimes he'd borrow books from Aulus' library and read, but today he was not really in the mood; he didn't want to go out to the gardens in case he disturbed the guests' view.

And then, one of the other household slaves came to get him. Felix assumed Aulus had something he needed done right away, so he promptly appeared in the triclinium, nodding his head in silent greeting to the guests.

"Felix, I would like you to join us, if you will."

Felix blinked. For a moment, he didn't understand, then followed Aulus' glance to the empty couch by the table, and he took on a look of surprise. He had never really been one to question the dominus' orders, but in this moment, he froze. "... domine?"

@Sharpie @Sara @Sarah

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It was unusual to see Felix nonplussed, but Aulus couldn't revel in it - not with people looking on. Anyway, he didn't enjoy others' discomfiture the way some people he knew did.

"You have served me very well and loyally, for more than fifteen years. We are here to celebrate your manumission," he said, speaking quietly and gently, as if Felix was the only other person present. "So, please join us."

He indicated the empty space again before picking up the slim scroll that lay by his elbow, and held it out. "The invitation is the informal manumission, this is the formal one. I want you to have all the rights possible, which this confers."

It had the requisite signatures of seven full citizens - the ink of Tiberius' signature was barely dry, his being the last one added.

 

@Chevi @Sara @Sarah

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He'd discussed attending Aulus's son's coming of age ceremony with his wife, but the invitation to this cena had been unexpected. It was oddly touching to be included in the doings of the Capurnii Praetextati as though he were family, though as they'd each hinted at and danced around, he might well be in the not too distant future. But that was not a given in the young Imperial's eyes, both because he had not yet really had the opportunity to speak with Aulus's daughter, and because he knew that the needs of the Empire sometimes changed, and quickly. But if they suited each other and the planets and wills of the Gods aligned such that he wed Calpurnia Horatia, it would be a connection to a good family and he would not object. There was no need to make things more complicated than necessary. 

For now he was here for quite a different event, but still a personal family event, though he'd been a little surprised when he'd learned what it was to be. But Tiberius had added his signature to the end of the scroll, and now watched with interest as the meal's guest of honour was informed that he was, in fact, just that. For a moment his thoughts drifted to Jason; that was something he'd tuck away to consider later. Instead he forced himself to focus on the events playing out before him. 

@Chevi@Sara @Sharpie

Edited by Sarah
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Calpurnia knew that Aulus held Felix in high esteem. Ever since his flight from Rome, the body slave had been at his side. As far as Calpunia knew, Felix was an honest and stalwart man. Now that her brother felt it was time to grant him his freedom, she knew it would be an important occasion. She smiled, reclining on the couch as she watched the scene unfold. The young man seemed like he was about to faint. Clearly, he had not expected this honor. Or not so soon, anyway. Calpurnia gave him an encouraging nod, sipping her wine. She'd let Aulus do the talking for now.

@Sharpie @Sarah @Sara

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"You have served me very well and loyally, for more than fifteen years. We are here to celebrate your manumission,"

Felix had learned to control his emotions in the presence of his dominus, but hearing those words made the surprise clear on his face. His jaw almost dropped. Manumission. Aulus was giving him his freedom.

"So, please join us."

The empty place at the table was for him. He had never sat down in the presence of free citizens (unless one counted the very unusual circumstances of his flight with Aulus, once upon a time). It just felt... strange, to think of himself as a free man. Someone invited to... join them. He looked at the others - Aulus' family, and even the young imperial he knew from sight. Seven citizens. He knew well enough how a manumission worked. In theory.

"The invitation is the informal manumission, this is the formal one. I want you to have all the rights possible, which this confers."

He took the scroll and read it. It was official. He was free. Felix felt like his head was spinning, as he looked up. "Thank..." he swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. "... thank you, domine. Truly. I... don't know what to say.

@Sharpie @Sara @Sarah

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Aulus picked up a cup of wine and held it out. Felix' reaction was pretty much what he'd expected. "I think you need this," he said, with a smile. "You can figure out what to say later, just enjoy the moment."

They could sort details out later; as he had said to Horatia, he had no intention whatsoever of turning Felix out into the street. The house was big enough, after all, they could find a room for him and he would have the freedom to come and go as much as anyone else in the family did. He would also have to find a replacement for Felix, but that would be something to discuss with the man himself (who would know the staff) and with Horatia.

He indicated the slave tag Felix still had on. "You can take that off, at least."

 

@Sara @Sarah @Chevi

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It was almost amusing, how clearly surprised Aulus's man was at his manumission; clearly Publius's brother in law had given no hint as to what was to happen. But if the man had served well and faithfully for fifteen years - which would include Aulus's flight from Rome in that time - then clearly Aulus felt that he had good grounds on which to grant it. Publius gave the former slave a nod of acknowledgement, as his brother in law bid the man join them. 

In many ways it was those invited to witness the manumission that Publius found more interesting. There was Aulus and Horatia of course, their elser two children, himself, Caesar's brother no less - he'd have to find out what the connection was there - and an elegant and stately woman whom he'd only seen a handful of times; Aulus's sister Calpurnia Praetextata, whose time as a Vestal he understood had come to an end. It must be quite the change, coming back to her brother's household after almost a lifetime of service. Perhaps, once the formalities were over, he might have the chance to speak with her. 

@Sharpie @Chevi @Sara

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