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"And this" Iophon declared with a flourish, standing on the steps of the Basilica Iulia, surrounded by a small group of people who were paying rapt attention "Is the very place where the ground opened up, with a terrible shake and a deafening crash" he waved his hand in an arch, as if painting the scene over the bustling forum, and the people trying to push their way past the group. "And suddenly, in the very heart of Rome, there was a yawning chasm that no earth, brick, mortar or stone could fill. Picture it. Five centuries ago, this very place, the glory of the City, marred by an open portal leading to Hades itself." Iophon had a flair for the dramatic. And he enjoyed holding the attention of people, whenever he was telling a story. Hopefully, they would pay him in the end.

@Sara

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Titus was tired. Exhausted, actually, as he schlepped his way back from the Castra towards the insulae where he and his brother lived, when he could get away from work that was. It had been a long night of no actual fires but lots of crime. Things always got bad in the summer when tempers flared and people left the city (and their belongings) and criminals swept in to take it off their hands. It always sat uncomfortably with Titus that the Urban Cohorts got the cushy job of just basic riots and sedition, the Praetorian's got their sweet Imperial gig but idiots like Titus had to fight fires and deal with crime. Maybe he should complain to Lucius about it some more in one of their weekly meetings.

Titus also hated the fact that he had to walk to the Forum to get back home. It was full of tat and men who thought they were important and giggling maidens and - worst of all - conmen. He had a low tolerance for people that would take money from people that could ill afford to give it and were too stupid to realise it and so often he accidentally kicked dice away from a rigged game, or stumbled over a false cup game to give the poor beggars wasting their time some sense of just how badly they were being duped. He also counted storytellers amongst the conmen's ilk and as he rounded the corner to see the Basilica Iulia and a shaggy haired man lecturing a group of people he groaned. He couldn't help himself. He called out as he walked past; "He's chatting shit, don't pay him." 

 

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Iophon was no stranger to hecklers. Wherever there was a storyteller, or a guide, there was at least one heckler, or maybe more than one. Came with the job. A he got better at performing, they became more scarce, but every once in a while, someone still decided to be an ass about a story.

"Am I?" Iophon shot back, a little on the dramatic side. "Sir, are you calling Titus Livius, one of the greatest historians Rome has ever seen, a liar?" In many cases he was, but that was beside the point. "Right there, in front of us, is the place where the chasm used to be: the Lacus Curtius. Once a chasm, now a small pool. And I was just about to tell you all, good people, how it came to be named. After a terrible prophecy, and heroic sacrifice. But a storyteller has to eat too..." he added, landing on the cliffhanger, and looking expectantly at the audience.

@Sara

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For fucks sake. He knew he shouldn't have engaged but here he was. And Titus also knew that despite being surly and generally not communicative, he was not going to let this moron have the last word. He groaned as he stopped and with a heavy sigh, turned back around to face him - interjecting; "Never heard of him." With a shrug of his shoulders before he folded his arms over his chest and listened with the thinnest threads of patience as the man prattled on. 

"Oh come on," He groaned again throwing up his hands in despair, "Move along." He barked at the people and sensing the shift in the atmosphere, a few of them did. Most stayed. Patience snapping in three...two...one. "These people can't afford to pay you. Get a real job." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Never heard of him.

Iophon placed a hand on his heart with a scandalized expression. Sure, many people in Rome put day-to-day survival over reading and one could not fault them for it... that was exactly why they needed storytellers. Still. Livius?

An then the killjoy decided to tell the people to disperse. And some of them did. Others, however, stayed, expecting the rest of the story, or - let's be realistic - a fight. Iophon could give them both.

"Oh, you think what I am doing is not a real job?" Iophon challenged, smiling "Is it not real enough to know and to hold the most precious stories of our great city? Is it not a service to the greatness of Rome to keep the memory of its most esteemed heroes alive? Is it not needed to guide people freshly come to this city, to tell them of the most important places, and show them where to go if they don't want to fall prey to schemes and cheats? I provide a service here!" Some people in the audience nodded. Thank the gods. "But!" Iophon held up a hand. "I'll be the first to admit that it is not the most important job. Rome is built on the hard, honest work of people. All kinds of people. That is what this exact story is about, my friend. Because!" With a flourish, he returned to the tale. "When the chasm opened right here, where we stand, the priests of Rome consulted an oracle. The ancient books of the Sibylla. And there was the answer, in the mysterious words of the prophecy: the chasm would not close, until they sacrificed to it what gives the greatest strength to the Roman people. But... what could it be? Do you know, my observant friend?"

@Sara

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Titus tried to interject, he really did, particularly at the shaggy haired mans exclamation of 'I provide a service here'; "No you don't you robbing ba-" But then he was off again, his words a tangle and with artful dramatic flourish he kept the punters rapt in attention. Titus didn't even bother to try and suppress his groan of clear annoyance. 

Arms folded over his chest he listened with clear displeasure, and then as the man turned his attention and his question to him he rolled his eyes and thew up his hands in frustration. "No. And I really don't give a shit I-" He huffed. He really, really should just leave this alone but the scene prickled at his conscience. He had always done what he thought was right, which often ended poorly for him - the whip marks on his back, the scars of burns past were a testament to that and so...with a barked order of "Move!" To some of the crowd he strode through them until he was standing next to Iophon on the steps. "Go spend your coin on your families, on your women, on your children. Go home." He ordered, pointedly ignoring Iophon. Or trying to. 

 

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Alright, so the blonde man was fast becoming a pain in Iophon's ass. Some good-natured heckling was all good and well, but trying to disrupt his entire show was just rude. Even more so now that the guy stood up next to him, trying to shoo this audiece away.

He didn't know what he was up against.

"Now now, friend" Iophon said mildly; people didn't disperse, mostly because now they were curious to see if there would be a fight. "These people are here for a story, would you have them leave without hearing the end of one? These smart, curious, bright people know exactly what they want. They know that the chasm is not here anymore, so they know the sacrifice had been made. And now they want to know what it was that Rome sacrificed - what price was paid, so we can stand here on this nice sunny day." Some people murmured, and some nodded. No one dispersed.

@Sara

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Fucking idiots didn’t take the hint and leave. His patience was only paper thin at the best of times and now it was single hairs breadth. He groaned audibly and put his head in his hands for a moment, before he pushed his fingers through his hair with a groan and then sighed.

“Fine!” He barked, loud enough to make a woman on the front row jump. He glared at Iophon. “These people are clearly morons so have at it.” He shook his head and started to descend the steps, “And a spoiler for all of you, a man jumped into the chasm. To sacrifice himself for all of Rome.” There were a few mutters and nods from the crowd. Titus paused on the bottom step and smirked at Iophon. “I’ve seen you tell this one before.”

 

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And then he had to go and spoil the story.

Iophon sighed, rolling his eyes. It was not much of a spoiling - a good story was made of performance, not just the facts. Clearly, this man didn't know that. But he seemed proud of himself, smirking and all.

"Oh? A returning customer?" Iophon smirked back at him. "You know... now that I think about it, maybe the gods sent you here today. You know" he tuned to the audience again "Good people of Rome, the hero of our story... well, if we can believe the legends, was much like this young man standing in front of us today. In stature, in handsomeness... in determination."

@Sara

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Titus was pleased with himself. He wasn't an arrogant man - or he wouldn't call himself that - stubborn, for sure, and generally obstructive, but not arrogant but he was amused that he managed to interrupt the story and encourage a few of the idiots  to retreat without paying.

But still the man didn't stop and Titus frowned, turning around to face him on the bottom step. He folded his arms over his chest and scoffed audibly at the flattery. "I am determined. Determined that you fuck off." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"And Marcus Curtius, for that was his name, was just as determined to save Rome from the chasm that threatened to swallow the Forum - and the curse that went with it." Iophon responded seamlessly. The best way to deal with hecklers was to treat them as if they were a part of the show. "Many people sacrificed many things they though gave Rome its power... but none proved true to pacify the angry gods and close the chasm. But there was one man in the city, a young, handsome soldier of Rome, Marcus Curtius, who saw the truth clearly. Imagine him..." Iophon invited the people, waving a hand at the blonde heckler "Just like this young man, in the prime of his life, riding to the Forum astride a white horse, shining in his best armor. Speaking to the people of Rome..."

@Sara

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Titus let out a laugh. For anybody that knew him, they would have widened their eyes at the sound - it was a rarity for him to be amused. Or at least...outwardly amused. He was fond of a wry smile but he was known as a man of few words and gruff temperament. But this was amusing. 

He chose the chance to interrupt again as the man gave a natural pause. "I'm not a solider of Rome." He scoffed, shaking his head. "I'm not even fucking Roman. They won't give me citizenship my friend." Not for another few years of service in the vigiles at least. With a heavy sigh he crossed his arms over his chest and arched a brow. "Are you nearly done?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Well, at least the young man laughed. Could have been worse. He could have punched Iophon. Would not have been the first time. Not everyone appreciated art the same way.

"Oh, but you are young, and handsome, and you have just the fiery spirit that Marcus had. People can imagine the rest" Iophon replied with a grin. Some people chuckled. "Marcus, you see, told the Romans that what gives Rome its power, its strength, its heart... is not riches, or weapons, or law books, or the blood of hapless animals. It's the youth of Rome, our very people, the best of the best, bravest of the brave. Young men like Marcus himself. And with that, he steered his horse... towards the chasm." Iophon swept his arm in a dramatic fashion at the scene. "Women wept. Men prayed. Girls draped garlands of flowers around Marcus' neck, the horse's mane, they laid flowers in his path... Marcus sat on his horse like the heroes of old, like the perfect image of Rome itself. And then, he kicked his horse into a run... and plunged straight into the chasm."

Pause for dramatic effect.

@Sara

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Titus rolled his eyes and audibly groaned with a shake of his head and his face in his hands. He could weep at the idiocy of the people still here, still watching and undoubtedly about to still part with their hard earned coins to this dolt. Who thought that spinning tales - ludicrous tales at that - was the equivalent of the hard work that people like him, and others here, did. Anybody could tell a story. The muscles of his jaw worked. 

"No." Titus shook his head with a smirk. "You're wrong." He interjected in the pause. "Rome gets its power from its slaves." He glanced at the crowd - a few of which murmured with nods - "And hard working people who get no reprieve or gold or garlands of flowers. Not young rich men. But nobody writes stories about the slaves or the plebs, right?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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The thing with this incredible little shit was that he was not wrong. Even Iophon, not being Roman himself, agreed with that. But that did not mean that ruining the story was okay. At least the rest of the people seemed sufficiently impressed.

"Actually, I have quite a few good stories about plebes and slaves" he pointed out, a little hurt in his professional pride. "But those are for another time. As for Marcus Curtius... as you can imagine, the chasm closed. His sacrifice saved Rome. And in his memory, we have the small pond where the chasm used to be. The Lacus Curtius, over there." he pointed. "And a story to go with it." As far as it would go, anyway. "Thank you all for being a wonderful audience... most of you anyway." That earned another collective chuckle. "Please pay what you think is fair, so I can keep entertaining the people of Rome with the histories of this city, and the world at large. Thank you."

@Sara

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Titus could see he had riled the man. Good. He smirked again, arms still folded across his chest as the man implored for tips. A perfect time for another interruption, perhaps? "Don't pay him anything." he barked out and a few of the crowds dispersed. A few still lingered, clearly angling to see the fight that was about to bubble up. 

"Get a real job." He glanced at Iophon, although his voice was loud enough that some of the crowd would have been able to hear the conversation if they wanted to. "You do realise that this is of no benefit to Rome? What would good old Marcus Curtius think?" He chuckled and started to move away back down the steps.

 

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"Marcus Curtius would say that Rome's greatness will live on as long as its greatest stories are told." Iophon pointed out. Some people dispersed, some lingered, and some tossed some coins at him which he expertly caught. "What, leaving already?" he asked, not speaking to the crowd anymore, as he watched Titus walk down the stairs. "Too bad, I was going to buy you a drink." Iophon was a firm believer of trying, anyway. If you never asked, you never won.

@Sara

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Titus smirked. "Yes." Was his gruff reply - yes he was leaving. He was bone tired - every step was an effort at this point and all he wanted to do was check on Caius and then collapse onto the uncomfortable cot he'd set up in the small room he occasionally shared with his brother. 

And then the man had the audacity to...buy him a drink? The scoff that left Titus' lips was one of utter bemusement. Yet again he paused on the bottom step with a deepening frown. "You want to...buy me a drink?" He frowned, not sure if he'd heard the man correctly. In any event he thought he'd answer to just be safe: "I don't go for drinks with conmen. Why don't you try some of your adoring crowd?" He gestured to a few people still lingering. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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The blonde man scoffed, obviously thinking Iophon was up to some sort of trickery. He followed him down the steps folding his arms.

"I'm asking because you are interesting." Iophon pointed out cheerfully. "A bit jaded, sure, and shit audience, but I'm curious anyway."

That was one thing that never changed: Iophon, being curious about people. It was what made him a good storyteller, after all. Because everyone had a story, and every story was about people.

@Sara

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"I am not interesting." Titus responded deadpan, with no enthusiasm whatsoever about being the focus of this mans attention. He was everything he loathed about the city. Or mostly everything. If he had been rich and a conman that would have been worst. 

He set off walking, slowly, through the crowds of the forum making very little progress. "Don't you have more people to con?" He asked, presuming the man was following him although he couldn't be sure and so he glanced back over his shoulder. "Sorry, more stories to tell?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"I am not interesting."  

"Oh, but you are. If you weren't, you'd think you are." Iophon knew people.

"Don't you have more people to con? Sorry, more stories to tell?"

"Storytelling is an art form, you now. Ever heard of Homer? Pindar?... Even Augustus used to summon storytellers when he could not sleep. People live on stories." Iophon pointed out as he kept pace with the blonde man. "You don't like them? Why?"

@Sara 

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"I've heard of Homer." He muttered quietly as he walked - only because somebody had done a bawdy retelling of the Odyssey at the castra. He didn't know why he'd answered the question and blinked before a frown settled on his face, annoyed at himself.

The second question was easier to answer though and he smirked as he continued to stalk away - the crowds parting for the athletic, glowering blonde man and his trailing curly-headed companion. "Because they give people false hope. And don't help them. And people waste money that should and could go food or clothing or help for their children, to be comforted with a story instead. It's weak." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Oh, but the hope is not false. Hope is what people live on." Iophon pointed out, weaving in andout of the crowd to keep up with the man. "It's not weak, to enjoy things every once in a while. Some people have a drink. Some people have sex. Some people just want to listen to a story. There is no harm in it. And for the record, I don't always tell for money. I tell because I enjoy the stories. But I do have to make a living, and it's what I'm good at." He looked at the blonde man. "You didn't even tell me your name. What do you do, mysterious stranger?"

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"People live on food and drink. Not hope." he countered. Hope drove people to stupid dreamlike places. As a slave he had learned that the only way to change his fortune was to do what was right, and what his gut told him to. He was a man of action, not a man of dreams and hope. The only way to change one's circumstances in Titus' opinion was to actually do something about it. 

But he rolled his eyes as the man said he did his trade for free as well and muttered; "What a charitable soul you are." His breath catching in a scoff at the end. Only when he questioned Titus did he spare a glance over his shoulder at the other man. "Titus." He barked out. "Vigile." If that didn't make the man leave him alone, given how generally loathed the vigiles were, then nothing would.

 

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