9. Shopping And Slaves
***Text summarized which was written by others.
In this chapter, we first meet Olaf, another of my characters who will become important to the story.
When Tellus awoke, he tried to remember the events of the morning, without much success. He had been sent home by his master Philandros because he tore up a message from that whore of a roman Sextus Manlius; Tellus didn't quite understand why--he had only been looking after the boy's welfare. That scum was not good enough for my master...he would hurt him, and then discard him once he had taken Philandros' innocence! Why didn't the boy see it? Why didn't they all see the evil plans the man had for his dear master? Essentially buying his body for ten thousand denarii!
His memories stopped just after he had accepted a ride from someone--who? The next thing he knew, Tellus was riding the horse alone as it ran through the brush away from the road. He had to duck to avoid tree limbs and the thorns tore at his legs as the horse's frantic plunging gradually slowed. Just when he thought he might be able to control the beast, it reared--pitching him to the ground.
Now, he found himself alone, battered and aching but otherwise unharmed in a forest clearing near a stream. He bent down, taking handfuls of water from a small pool, and drank the first, then washed his face with the second. As the water's surface became still, he could see himself--hair dishevelled, tunic torn...and bloodied in the front! What had caused that?
Tellus inspected his stomach, but found no tear in the cloth, and no sign of a wound on himself...save a few scratches from the wild ride through the underbrush on his arms and legs. There was also blood on his left hand, but no sign of a cut there either.
I must get to Philon's grandfather--he will want to know what has happened to the boy...but surely he will beat me if I report that his grandson has become seduced by a roman whore--and a male one at that! He stood indecisively for a while, debating his options, but loyalty to Solon won out in the end.
It was only as he was trudging back toward the road below that the full recollection of events came to him, causing him to stop dead with his mouth gaping.
Great Jupiter! What have I done?! I'll be crucified--if I'm lucky! For a slave to assault a free man--and a roman at that! Tellus felt his knees begin to shake, and his legs weaken in fear...but he was old, and had seen much in his life. He would have lived only a few more years in all likelihood--and it was master Philandros who mattered now.
Tellus started on again, mind whirling with thoughts of Philandros, his old life at the villa of Solon, and thoughts of that roman bastard Sextus. His hands clenched as the image of the man came to his eyes...the mocking grin, the impudence in his eyes...that tone of seductive innocence in his voice....
Did I kill the bastard? The Furies grant I did!
Yet, it occurred to him, he didn't know...and he decided he had to live long enough to make sure the job was done right--but how to avoid capture too soon?
END OF TELLUS NARRATIVE
***At Green Acres, Arrius returns to talk to Sextus--during which Sextus learns Arrius has a plan to test Philon's fidelity.***
Philandros jerked awake, staring about him in alarm--where was Sextus?! Then, his memories caught up with him...and he stretched his arms wide and raised them over his head. Grumio backed away, and set down a glass on the table beside his couch. He noted the clothes the boy had picked out and began putting them in a small leather case.
As he sipped the cool juice, he noted a small smile on Grumio's lips. "What is it?"
The man shook his head, and the smile widened. "So many clothes for an overnight stay..." If what he suspected of their activities was true, even by half--then he reckoned his master had packed too much!
The greek was still innocent enough to miss the implications. "Well, I might stay longer...or need them for my next visit to Sextus' villa. Did you know, he has a fishpond!"
Grumio closed the case with a laugh, and carried it down to be strapped to Bucephalus' saddle. He had taken the liberty of saddling Philandros' own horse so the boy could return that of Sextus to its rightful stable--no sense feeding a stranger's horse when he had his own home less than an hour away!
As Philandros passed through the kitchen to the stable, he turned to Corinna. "I'm coming in tomorrow morning to shop for a new steward...I think Sextus and I will want some lunch--some of your wonderful apple pastries would be great!"
Corinna smiled. "Never you worry, young sir! All things will be just right! Give master Sextus our greetings!"
The sun was setting as Philandros was on the highway and headed for Green Acres. He had the stable boy put Bucephalus away, and handed him a copper for the extra trouble. Like any slave would do, the coin disappeared as soon as it was offered, with a nod of the head and a smile.
Philandros walked into the atrium of the villa, and patted the Priapus on his oversized member. You wish! was his comment as he went up the stairs to Sextus' bedroom. He tiptoed to the door, opening it very quietly in case Sextus was sleeping.
Sextus was sitting at a table, writing something, his back partly turned toward the window. Not sleeping? He must be feeling better! was Philandros' glad thought. Then, why isn't he smiling? was his next, as he entered the room.
"Sextus...I'm home!" The older man turned, rising carefully from his chair as Philon dropped his case and stepped forward quickly. There, was the smile! he laughed to himself as he molded his body to that of the roman, inhaling his exotic aroma as he opened his mouth to receive Sextus' kiss.
***Sextus and Philon set out in a litter to Pompeii's Slave Market, which Sextus runs. There is an auction underway.***
Philandros jumped out of the litter, and reached in to help Sextus out...giving a playful squeeze to a part the man was trying to will into a state of repose. Sextus slapped his hand away with a grin, and only winced a bit as he slowly stood up. The ride in the litter had been more than enjoyable, but he knew better than to make any sudden or drastic moves.
The current items for sale on the platform were girls--appealing to matrons as serving girls, or to older men for other duties. Philandros sniffed, and walked past them with only a cursory glance of disdain. Sextus smiled at that...and pointed the way to an area where the better class of slaves were kept.
Seeing Sextus Manlius, the auctioneer waved, but Sextus motioned for him to continue, and looked around with interest to see how things had been running without his presence the past few days. He noted one or two small matters, but nothing seriously wrong...and was perhaps a bit disappointed? Within a few minutes of his arrival, his assistant hurried over, bowing deeply. The man inquired as to Sextus' health, noting that he was still slightly pale, and moving carefully to avoid jarring his back.
"Nothing bad...just need to go easy for a few more days. Business good? No problems?" Sextus asked hopefully. His assistant smiled, obviously glad his health was good...rumors had begun to spread that he was dying of his wound! He informed Sextus that a shipment from Crete was a day or so late...but nothing else was wrong.
"Are there any good prospects for a house steward or butler in stock? I can't recall any before my little 'holiday'..."
The manager consulted his tablets for some moments, then nodded. He pointed to a section of small alcoves where the best educated slaves were kept--more like rooms than cells, where their occupants were kept locked in--this type of merchandise deemed too good to need chaining since they had volunteered for servitude. He motioned to one of the doors, and let Sextus inside.
Sextus looked at the room's three occupants, two of medium age, one elderly. All seemed to be of greek ancestry, medium skin and brownish hair. They were dressed in decent clothing, and upon questioning, responded with polite and well-phrased answers. Sextus nodded, and looked around for Philandros' opinion, but he was nowhere to be seen.
With a frown, Sextus left the room, and walked back out into the market. He spotted Philandros standing off to the left examining a trio of young men waiting to be auctioned off. They were all stripped to loincloths, and their skins glistened with oil. Two were of medium height and build...possibly from Asia...but the third was another type entirely! His skin was very pale, reddened by sunburn in places, and his hair was so pale as to be almost white. He was unusually tall at over six feet, with muscles of just the right dimension for his height. The placards they bore, said they were considered good for gladiators.
When Sextus walked up to him, Philandros was trying to talk to the blonde, with limited success. The two others said he was from somewhere far to the north where the snow lasted all year, and had only a few words of Latin, and no greek. It was established that his name was something like Olaf...but little else was known.
"Philandros...the better slaves are over here! There are three possibilities for stewards--come see." Did Sextus sound a bit annoyed? Jealous of the boy's attention to a slave? When he turned to see Sextus, his face lit up with joy, and he quickly closed the distance between them.
"Sorry--when you were talking to the manager, I saw this tall one--and I had to see what tribe he was from! Grandfather had a book written by Pytheas of Massilia--a periplus of the Northern Lands and Seas Beyond Britannia--this man fits the description of some of the peoples in Thule."
He followed Sextus to see the prospects for a house steward, but kept glancing back over his shoulder at the blonde wraith. Such a one was fit for more than a gladiator's lot--what would Sextus say if he bought him?
As they talked with the three prospects for position of steward, Philandros listened with half an ear, any of them would do...he had little staff, and not much in the way of heavy duties were required that Grumio didn't already do. Something about the younger two put him off...but Tellus had been old, and look what happened there! In the end, it came down to one question, vital to Philandros, if not Sextus.
"I have a lover--who will often be in the house--you'd best know it is a man; there will be no mistress of the house to obey, but I will have respect shown to my lover at all times. If you have a problem with that, speak now."
One of the younger pair, shook his head and turned away--unfortunately it was the only one of the pair Philandros had considered. The other young man--something about him seemed odd--a bit too clever perhaps? Philandros turned to the oldest man there...about sixty years of age with white streaks in his hair, but a straight back and flashing eyes. "Well?" he asked.
The old man smiled, revealing a good set of teeth with only one missing to the side. At Philandros' challenging tone, the smile broadened even more. "Sir, the world is made up of many parts, each serves its role, and is necessary to the others. It is not for men to judge what the gods create, merely accept it."
Sextus frowned at that...the man seemed awfully well-spoken for someone entering into slavery. When questioned, he answered truthfully. "I was a teacher...my own wife and children were carried off by disease, and I could no longer find a position due to hard times in my home region. I had just enough money to come to Italia, and it is either become a servant, or starve."
Hearing the man had been a teacher, Philandros' eyes lit up--someone he could discuss books with! He placed his hand on Sextus' arm, and squeezed the muscles there excitedly. "He's the one, Sextus! Can I afford him?"
Philandros was also going to buy the northman, if he could get back outside before he went up on the block--there was some mystery behind someone so far from his home--and Philandros loved a mystery!
***The two buy the steward, and Sextus tells Philon to wait in the litter as he has some business to do--he comes back with the blond Northerner as a gift.***
It was some time before Philandros could speak...there was a lump in his throat which seemed as big as the world. He took Sextus' hand in his and kissed it. "Sextus, you are too good for me--I can never hope to be worthy of you!"
The two walked the short distance across the forum to Romanissimo, with the litter and the man Olaf following behind. The tall blonde attracted stares from the ladies in the crowd, and not a few men as well. Philandros could hardly wait to find out about his history...but that would have to wait until he learned more Latin. He had completely forgotten about the new steward!
"Sextus, where's the new steward...what's his name--Archelaus?"
"I gave him directions to your house, and sent him on his way--I don't think there's any chance of him running away with a secure position in a house with little work!" The man tousled Philandros hair lightly, which caused the young man to lean into him for a moment, hinting of promises to be fulfilled later.
All thought of servants vanished when Philandros entered the shop, and got his first look at a real city shop. The counters were stacked with different items...cloth by the bolt, jewelry, ornaments--even some garments already put together for immediate purchase! An exquisitely dressed woman approached them with a smile.
"I am Bianca, the owner of Romanissimo--how may I help you sirs? Ah, Sextus Manlius--I hope your lady-friend liked her present?" Her eyes took in Philandros, who was looking at Sextus with a very odd expression indeed. Bianca raised her brows slightly, but allowed no other expression to cross her face. Life was diverse--and fleeting where the elite were concerned!
Sextus squeezed Philandros' arm gently, and smiled. 'Old news' he mouthed silently, to Bianca. "I can't say...we are here today to do some shopping for my friend, here."
Bianca at once turned her charms to Philandros, noting the stylish cut of his chiton, and the fineness of the cloth and its color. A young man with style...and money? "Of course, young sir...what will be your pleasure today?"
She noted the look the youngster shot at Sextus, and the blush which spread to his cheeks; so, it's like that then? She wasn't surprised--almost everyone wanted to be in Sextus' bed...and it seemed this boy was the latest.
"Something in sky blue...a chiton perhaps...didn't I see a picture of one somewhere? Or something in scarlet with gold trimming--"here he leaned close and whispered "for Sextus, as a surprise."
"Of course, sir...right this way...I know just the thing!"
***Tellus, meanwhile has found shelter in a villa pretending to be a victim of robbery...Going back to Sextus' villa with the northerner, Arrius learns Olaf will be Philon's atttendant. Arrius questions Philon about Tellus, and says they will need to search every villa with some soldiers' help.***
Philandros had given his opinion of Olaf to Arrius without thinking--he appreciated a good looking body as any greek would, whether there was any romantic or sexual interest present or not--then he realized the roman might take it wrong. Only then did it occur to him what Sextus might think! He was more than a little relieved when Sextus winked, and gave Arrius his own opinion, along with a tactile display.
Arrius then had to spoil the joke by bringing up the subject of Tellus! He answered the man's questions about the runaway slave with what detail he could, only then did another idea occur to him!
"Arrius...I haven't even sent word to my grandfather about Tellus--he has heard nothing of me since I moved here! Nothing of Sextus, nothing of our...relationship. I think he should know of the attack on Sextus and his disappearance right away!"
Sextus saw the hunted look which crept into Philandros' eyes; knowing of his grandfather's fears, he sympathised with the greek's plight, and understood the look of desperation and fear which he saw in those green pools. "An attack on a roman citizen is serious, and Solon must be told at once of Tellus' involvement, if nothing else." He put some slight emphasis on the last words, which Philandros heard with relief.
"Would your grandfather assist Tellus?" the tone was sharp...Tellus had been a family slave for a long time. Arrius made no comment on anything else--did that mean he had missed Sextus' idea that Solon be told no more than necessary?
Philandros looked at Arrius, but the man's face gave nothing away...he still had no idea of what Arrius' response was to their conversation of--was it only the night before? Would he share in the bond between Sextus and himself, or demand that Philandros give up Sextus?
"He would never shelter a runaway, especially one who attacked anybody--citizen or not! When do we start the search? Tonight or in the morning?"
Philandros looked from one to the other, the message to Solon should go out now--he'd write it himself if Sextus would send it--but he thought it might be too late in the day to begin an actual manhunt.
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