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  #91  
Old Apr 23rd, 2024, 03:40 AM
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Levian
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Levian Osmanthus
At Abactemus' departure, Levian's strict and upright stance at last relaxes with a sharp exhale. The hand placed by the hilt of his sword reverses its position, gripping the handle and withdrawing the blade from the sheath. The blade gleams in the dim light, the tip still faintly red with dried blood. With his weapon held idly in a lowered hand, he walks steadily across the room to sit across from Gaius and Dianthe and drops heavily onto a hard stone bench, setting the weapon down next to him and kicking a foot up on the base of another statue. Caked mud falls out of the treads of his boot onto the clean smooth marble, a mess for one of Dianthe's servants to resolve after the wing's departure.

"What a worm." he grunts, shaking his head. "I knew Abactemus was scum, but the displeasure of his company exceeded what could be described in even the most detailed report."

Levian cannot help but hurt as Abactemus walks away with heavy purse of silver. He has no doubt that in the hands of that unscrupulous fence, the silver will only go to worsening the city. He imagines the good he could do with that silver in his own pocket. How many agents it could finance, and for how long, without the need for the melodrama that accompanies his promises. In a way, he resents that Dianthe gave it to Abactemus, rather than seeking some solution more absolutely favorable to their side. Of this unpleasant feeling, naturally, he denies the true name: envy.

The time comes to address Gaius, the newest Eagle in their company. Having heard the magister's introduction, the scales of Levian's judgement lurk in his eyes as he considers what to say to the man. The old tutor seems, to Levian, arrogant. As though age and experience make him the superior of those around him on their own. The man's insolence ill suits a servant of the Republic, so it must be the case that Gaius, like Ignaea, is motivated only by the reward promised him. Levian hopes that reward is spectacular, lest the old fool's loyalty be as fleeting as Ignaea's as well.

He unclasps his heavy weather-worn cloak, and pulls it around his body onto his lap. He pulls the canteen from his belt, and begins to open it as he speaks to the old magister.

"The girl, Portia, was a citizen of the Republic. What more reason need there be for her death to be investigated?"

Levian's question, of course, ignores the obvious importance implied by the investigation being carried out by this particular group of elites. He disregards that, valuing the question nonetheless for the jab it strikes at Gaius' dedication to the cause.

"Perhaps if you know too little to ask the right questions, it would be best if you kept your curiosity... and your improper descriptions of your benefactors... to yourself."

Immediately after uttering it, Levian sees that last for the mistake it is. Needling Gaius for calling the senate cruel reveals too much of his own intentions. He hurries on to leave that blunder behind and address the information the other Eagles will need to be of use to them.

"Portia was the latest in a string of a string of orphans found killed in the city streets. A We still have this, right?fine dagger was discovered alongside her body, it is believed to have taken her life. In the neighborhood where her body was found, we learned that young Portia was often seen walking through the streets carrying vellum, perhaps messages."

Levian takes the canteen and pours out some of the clear liquid within onto his cloak, wetting a small portion of it. With one hand, he picks up the weapon by his side and runs the wetted cloth along the blade. His eyes watch his own work carefully as he continues to speak.

"Dianthe and I visited the orphanage where the girl lived, within the domus of Gnaea Bellicia Venustus. We spoke with Bellicia, and met the other orphans and their caretaker. Sadly we learned little. Portia had gone out that day with two boys, Caeso and Postumus, carrying a parchment they were forbidden to read. She left them for a time, as was usual for them, and did not return. Her body was discovered shortly thereafter, the parchment she'd been carrying absent from the scene. I still need to return there this evening. I recruited the children's ancilla to keep an eye on Bellicia for me, though I'm no longer sure what I expect to find. If I do not return as I said I would, it may seem suspicious to her."

Levian holds up the sword to examine it more closely. Bits of blood and hair still stick to the end, so he takes another pass at polishing them away.

Jorunn, another Eagle whom you met briefly when you rescued him from the river, Fidelis, had better luck. While Dianthe and I were occupied in the orphanage, he was attacked by a ruffian, whom he defeated and interrogated. That man had been tasked to order us to leave the dagger at a specific fountain in the city, at the behest of one Paullus Fulvius Barbula, also called Austerus or Pugio Antiquorum. We heard then too that he is a patron of the Angler's Lure, and has a hefty unpaid tab. He was then our primary suspect. We pursued Abactemus as he's a known associate of Austerus', and I knew where to find him. We abducted him from near a dead drop by the river, and brought him here. The rest you know.

Levian examines the blade again and, satisfied, rises and returns it to its place sheathed at his side. The cloak he places back over his shoulders, the wet spot a notable stain from now until it dries.

"Now we know more. Portia's message was likely intended for this Antiklea. And our dear Austerus was sent to retrieve it by another, still unknown to us. The question remains, where next? Antiklea could give us more insight into the nature of the message. The Angler's Lure might get us closer to Austerus. Or we could try visiting the fountain. Bellicia too may have more to share, now that we know Antiklea's name, myself I must go there at least briefly.

 


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  #92  
Old Apr 23rd, 2024, 07:04 AM
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The Young Ones
The young boy stares in amazement as Fidelis jumps around the room. At first he thinks a bee might have stung him or that perhaps he was very startled by something. The reference to a field carrying two crops is a little lost on him; haven't farmers been double cropping for a long time? Hadn't he read that much in Hesiodos?

He yelps when in his mind's eye he sees a woman hanging from the roof. Mother? His mother? "Noooo..." he groans. But then the larger boy seems to pull a pair of clothes' pins out of the air and aims them at his eyes. Suddenly Aristarchos understands. He claps his hands. "It's Oidipous," he says excitedly and follows the rest of the scene with rapt attention.

"I have never heard of any Fidelis," he says matter-of-factly when Fidelis introduces himself, "But it's possible that she has hired a new actor. Anyway, my name is Aristarchos. Or I guess in this country I should say Aristarchus." He stares at the young man in front of him, freshly washed but already breaking a sweat again thanks to his jumping around. He considers carefully what to say.

"So the verses actually mean something?" he says eventually. "I never considered that. One phrase has a continuous past tense, another an aoristos. Then the cases are different and the worst... I never know how to read the pero, no prodo, prosodyprotosy? The stresses, I mean. Magister always scolds me, saying as a native Greek I should do better. But now I see you can also read it as theater. Won't... won't you teach me?"

One of the domestics enters the room. "What is all the screaming about young master? And who is this? One of the mistresses guests, no? Better go back to the atrium. And you, young master, were you not given a task?"

The domestic turns around and Aristarchus defiantly pokes out his tongue at her back. "Even if it's behind me, I know what you're doing young master. I know you too well," she says.

The young boy looks imploringly at Fidelis as that one is getting up to rejoin his group. "Please?"

Fidelis arrives in the atrium just in time to see Levian try to cut his robe with his dirty gladius and give his opinions regarding Magister Gaius and the case.


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It seems you may want to have a little conversation. Let me know when the group is ready to leave (but don't actually leave yet).

Last edited by Dworin; May 1st, 2024 at 02:23 AM.
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  #93  
Old Apr 26th, 2024, 06:25 PM
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Dianthe the Hetaira
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Dianthe looks at the two men, the younger and the older one, with concern. Normally, she would merely shift to a more comfortable position on her couch and watch the two rivals fight a battle of wits and words with interest. As her servants can attest, she is no stranger to such ‘competitions’ and even though Gaius and Levian don’t fight over the hetaira’s attention or favor, she finds such displays of men’s feeling of superiority entertaining.

Not in this case, however.

Portia’s blood calls for justice and infighting could endanger her chances of crossing the River Styx knowing that the one responsible for her death has been punished accordingly. More importantly perhaps, the Sinistram waits for results. If Dianthe is proven inadequate to be an Eagle, Aristarchus will never be recognized as the son of his natural father and a true citizen of Rome. He will forever remain the illegitimate son of a foreign woman, a hetaira, and this is a fate Dianthe will do anything to protect him from. Even though he doesn’t understand what is at stake.

Rising to her feet, she walks over to the magister and takes his aged hand in hers.

"Pay no mind to the anger in good Levian’s words. This case, though it appears simple, has caused us much distress. There have been many obstacles to overcome and like Odysseus our Ithaca seems to always be out of reach."

Smiling sadly at Gaius, she pulls him closer to the veteran, pretending not to have noticed the mud from the spymaster’s sandals now staining the usually immaculate floor of her domus.

"Levian has told you all we know. We can see the threads, woven together in complex patterns, but we cannot see the whole tapestry. Each time we follow a thread, we reach a knot, which is hard to undo and difficult to bypass. Still, with your help, I feel that we will be able to solve this riddle."

Next, she takes Levian’s hand in hers, manly and full of calluses from a hard life of service to the Republic.

"Gaius Erucius Taurillus is right to ask such questions, my friend. You do much the same. He doesn’t doubt the honor of the Sinistram or that of the senate as a whole, nor does he think that even the lowliest of Roman citizens is not worthy of justice. But the interest of such great men in an orphan girl is notable. There might be a story worth knowing there, a clue that will help us reach the heart of the matter sooner rather than later."

She looks pleadingly at the veteran as she places his hand on top of the magister’s, forming a bridge of sorts for the two men to meet each other midway.

"We have been tasked with solving the mystery of Portia’s death and both men and gods are watching intently. We must not disappoint them."

Fidelis’ appearance makes the smile return to her lips. He looks like a young Paris, his cheeks ruddy and his eyes bright.

"Welcome, young friend. Come join us. We must plan our next move."

Once more sitting down on the couch, she looks her fellow Eagles in the eye. There is pride there, certainly, but also the spark of great intellect. She trusts these men to behave properly and work together as partners, at least until their given task has been accomplished.

"I too have reason to visit the domus of Statius Caecilius Ennodius and his wife, though I think that Levian might be better suited to remind Securus the gatekeeper of his promise to me. At the same time, it would be beneficial if someone, possibly you, young Fidelis, would approach Antikleia’s servants and learn everything there is to know about her. Come tomorrow, we will pay her a visit as a group and find a way to make it to the heart of the matter."

Making a small pause, the hetaira smiles enigmatically, as if she is aware of a secret others are not.

"For my part, I have to find a good use for she makes a pun here, meaning Ignaeaan old flame and keep it from burning us all. Would you care to accompany me, magister? A man of culture is exactly the one I need next to me during the visit I have in mind."

Dianthe will say no more. The men will have to learn to trust her.



 


 
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Old Apr 29th, 2024, 11:53 PM
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Gaius Taurillus
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The old man nods as he listens to Levian and then Dianthe speak their pieces of the puzzle into existence. He is quiet for several moments, the only sound the shuffling footsteps of the young man Fidelis as he enters the room. Gaius eyes his one-time student appraisingly, curious if the boy had anything to add to the discussion, but the young slave seemed content to let the elders carry the bulk of the discussion. Why is he here, then? I could see how those dogs in the senate might make use of a legionnaire turned spymaster, or a hetaira with a head on her shoulders. Even my old age is offset by my keen mind, much as I am loathe to admit it. But this young, shy slave boy? Yes, it is an anomaly that he has taken so well to education, but if there is something more to him that lends itself to investigating a crime, I do not see it... yet.

The silence suddenly seemed awkward when it became apparent that Gaius had been staring appraisingly at the slave for the last few moments. He shook his head as he took note of Fidelis's increasing discomfiture. "Forgive me, my young friend. There are many intriguing mysteries here, one of which is how you came to be involved. Clearly that question will have to wait, as our friend the ex-Legionnaire appears to have a bee in his bonnet."

He turns his attention to Levian. "I have perturbed you, sir. Apologies, that was not my intention. As to your judgment of how I speak of the senate as a whole and our benefactors in particular, I dismiss it outright. No man who finds himself in a position of power does so out of blind altruism - and, with every passing year, what selflessness such men do have drains out of them like blood in the rain. Cincinnatus was wise. He knew to return to his plow when the job was done. My father was an idealistic senator once. It cost him his life, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that our 'benefactors' had a hand in it, or know of those who did. Copernicus wouldn't prove the reverse was true for another 1600 yearsPerhaps when the sun revolves around the earth a few more times, you also might gain the wisdom that comes with skepticism of your fellow man.

"As for the case at hand... Well, I cannot fault you for your passion. A young orphan girl, dead in the street. Tragic. I saw an old beggar lying dead beside the road not two nights past, his ribs poking almost out of his skin from hunger. He had the dots of the Legion stigma on his arm. Does his death also not merit investigation? There are millions of us in this great Republic of ours. I am not hoping to quash your passion for justice, I am just trying to temper it, lest your emotions cloud your mind and lead you astray.

"So. We have a dead girl. We have a missing letter. We have a name of the man who has likely killed her - at least, if this 'husband' of yours-"
he says, turning to Dianthe, "-if his word can be trusted. Still, it sounds like this monstrous man, this 'Austerus,' has enough blood on his hands. Well, we have his name and his description. We have this foreigner woman, this 'Antikleia,' who may be tangentially involved. Or perhaps she was just the lover of Austerus. Her villa was described as small and located by an olive grove. Any one of these details could mean something, or they could be just smoke without fire. But you did say one name that intrigued me. You mentioned a senator, one Statius Caecilius Ennodius? given that Gaius is both obsessed with finding out who killed his father (Restore the Honor of My Father) and his extremely keen memory (Mind Like a Steel Trap), it seems almost a given that Gaius would know at least something of the senator. I'm not invoking a fate point yet, but will if it turns out that the others don't have anything on him other than a nameI believe I know of him, and would again, if it's only a name that has been heard, I'll invoke an aspect for more information, but waiting to hear more about him from the othersask how he has come to your attention?"

 
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  #95  
Old May 1st, 2024, 03:45 AM
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Securus returns
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The sun is moving past its highest point for the day and the shadows are short still but lengthening perceptibly. Soon the hour of rest, customary after the mid of day's repast, will be over and people will be about their business, making it harder to meet them for the Eagles' investigation.

While they are still in Dianthe's domus, there is the sound of a visitor at the gate. Damon, her servant, comes in to announce the visitor but this one, though he should really know the customs at a Roman gatehouse better since he himself is a guard, is too excited to stand waiting. Coming quickly behind Damon his eyes scan the garden and, dismissing the others present as friends of the hetaira that need not interfere with his business, he starts addressing her when he is still several meters away.

"Mistress, mistress!" he calls out, with sweat now visible on his brow and slightly out of breath from the jog in the noon sun, downhill though it may be. "Everyone has seen your daughter with the papyrus. But I never knew it."

He comes to a halt at a respectful distance, his manners not so far forgotten that he would commit so grave an impropriatry as to come within arm's reach. He takes a deep breath to steady himself before he starts speaking again.

"Forgive my lack of decorum, mistress, and allow me to make my report from the beginning. That is, if I am not disturbing." Not waiting for any confirmation on his request, he immediately continues. "This morning I started asking other guards and servants about the papyrus. None of the guards had ever noticed it but the servants inside all knew she used to carry papyrus. They even made jokes about it, wondering what such a ..." he checks himself, remembering that he is talking to the girl's mother, "such a young child that had not yet had a chance to learn her letters, what such a child would be doing with a papyrus. When I told mistress Bellicia she was furious! Why was I not told this! she screamed at me. I tried telling her that I didn't know but she just yelled, it was your job to know!" He stops to catch his breath, looking scared at the memory of his mistress' fury.

"Then, when she was done screaming, she instructed me to find out and inform her as soon as I find anything. She also sent me here to update you."


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Levian: yes, you still have the dagger.
There is still the aspect serving two masters [D][D] with two free invokes that you can use whenever Securus is in the scene (and when it makes narrative sense to do so).
Gaius: With your keen memory and obsession combined, I think it's fair to say you know every senator. Is there anything in particular you're trying to recall regarding Caecilius Ennodius?
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  #96  
Old May 1st, 2024, 08:48 PM
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Fidelis Cursor
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Torn, Fidelis looks from the boy to the domestic who has come to summon him, and back again. At last the weight of the Eagle token in his pocket proves too much. He says apologetically, "I have to get back to your mother, my man. Serious business, I'm afraid. But when it's over I'll come back and teach you all about Sophokles and why he is not dull!"

He turns to go, then hesitates. "I am Fidelis Cursor, just so you know."

With that he does go to rejoin his party. He goes to answer Dianthe, but Gaius speaks first. Fidelis' eyes open wide at the sage's cynical view of Rome's leaders, then his expression turns into a thoughtful frown.

But after Gaius speaks, he first answers Dianthe. "Antikleias' servants? I will do my best. But by what pretense shall I engage them? Or have we coin with which I can cross their palms? I am not a man of means, I am afraid."







 


 
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Old May 5th, 2024, 11:52 AM
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Dianthe the Hetaira
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Dianthe the Hetaira
Dianthe smiles sweetly at Fidelis, at first saying nothing, only looking at him with meaning. When she eventually speaks, she does so slowly, as if explaining some difficult philosophical concept to a child that is not yet old enough to understand it. Though her smile never wavers, the young slave detects the shadow of disappointment in the hetaira’s voice. Did she expect more? Is it just or even realistic for her to do so?

"Silver opens many doors and loosens the lips of many, but it also awakens greed and curiosity in men’s hearts. Start distributing it among those who serve Antikleia and it won’t be long before she and others learn of it. No, my young friend, my hope is that you will find some common ground with Antikleia’s servants and use your undeniably bright mind to make them talk about their mistress without realizing it."

Pausing for a moment, the woman absentmindedly plays with a loose strand of hair, giving the appearance of thinking about the matter. In truth, Fidelis doesn’t know whether she is doing so or merely reciting from a long list already in her mind.

"What is it that servants talk about when they leave their master’s house on an errand? The dominus’ secret love affairs? The domina’s quirks? The high price of bread? The graffiti on the butcher’s wall? The latest gladiatorial game? A kiss secretly exchanged during the Bacchanalia?"

Dianthe gives the impression that she could go on forever, but decides to cut the list short, having given enough examples.

"I think you most appropriate for this task, my friend, because you can relate to the servants, their lives and interests, just like I can relate to Antikleia, a foreign woman, living in Rome without a husband. Use what you know. See what only you can see. Speak from the heart and Antikleia’s servants will open up to your charm like night flowers blooming under the moonlight. Do you understand?"

The impromptu lesson ends abruptly, with Securus’ unexpected appearance. The lack of good manners angers Dianthe, but she knows that it is partially her fault for igniting such a blazing fire inside the man. Those who are ruled by passion often do things they and others later regret. She has encountered many such men in her life.

"Loyal Securus, what a good friend you are", she says with just enough emphasis to remind the man of his place. "Leaving no stone unturned was indeed my intention, though I had hoped that my name, and especially my special interest in the girl, wouldn’t have left the four walls of my domus."

She sees the man’s cheeks catch fire and him lowering his gaze in embarrassment, his pride shriveling like a fig left in the sun for days.

"Still, what is done is done and I know that you have handled with the best of intentions. Sadly, you fail to provide me with a name, which is what I asked for. It is strange that no one knows this particular piece of information, even though the subject seems common enough for the servants to make jokes about it. Is it possible that they refuse to talk for some reason? Could the one responsible for the messages be the master himself? Would that explain the mistress’ anger? Is it possible that the honorable senator has dealings he would keep secret from his wife?"

The hetaira shakes her head, instantly dispelling such ludicrous accusations. But she cannot fail to notice that Securus’ eyes are now wide open with surprise. She has planted inside him the seed of doubt, which is what she intended.

"I am sure this isn’t the case. Few in Rome enjoy the good reputation that Statius Caecilius Ennodius does." She makes a short pause and then looks at Securus intently. "But… if there were the tiniest of truths in these baseless accusations, there has to be someone close to the master who will know about it. What about that overbearing Greek man, the one who caused you trouble the other day? Being the master’s scribe, he may be the one who regularly provided the papyrus. Perhaps he is even the one who wrote the messages for the master. Why don’t you find out for me, friend Securus? Discreetly. Claim that his name has been mentioned by the other servants more than once. That the mistress has heard about it too and that she is very displeased. Let’s see how he responds. And then you let me know. In fact, she means Levianthis man here has cause to visit your master’s domus on business of his own later today. You could notify him, if you find the solution to this riddle soon enough. Or you can come to me. You are most welcome in this house and I am always glad to see you."

A smile dispels the clouds of displeasure upon the hetaira’s face and she is bright and radiant once more. Securus imitates the smile. How can he not bask in the sunlight of the hetaira’s beauty?

"I am grateful for your efforts", she says and her hand touches the servant’s arm, if only for a second. "And I am sure that Portia’s shade is grateful too. Now go. I don’t want to see you punished for being late. Dianthe (and I) suspect that Bellicia might be behind the assassination, but she doesn’t want either her or the servant to become suspiciousAnd assure your mistress that I remain true to her. If she ever needs a friend’s ear or hand, she will find both in me."



 


 
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  #98  
Old May 5th, 2024, 02:08 PM
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Levian
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Levian Osmanthus
While Securus and Dianthe talk, Levian pulls Gaius aside to whisper to him.

"Those few Grecians who still cling to Levian's talking here about philosophical Skepticism, rather than just the idea of being skeptical in generalSkepticism are fools. One can only fail to believe in knowledge if they have not known the way that I know. I already know how your impoverished veteran died, with no need of an investigation. If you do not, perhaps you're not cut out for this line of work."

He gives the old man a sneering smirk, half hostile, half playful.

"I have a lead I must track down before the hour grows too late. If I do not return before our plans are settled, find the tavern called the Leveled Road. Whisper what I must know to the boy who scrubs the floors there, and know your words will reach my ears alone."

With that, he pulls his cloak around himself, still mindful of the wet spot on the lower half, and glides past Securus out the door. He heads for the orphanage, hoping to encounter the children's ancilla waiting to give him a report as the two of them had planned the day before.

 


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Old May 12th, 2024, 12:36 AM
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Gaius Taurillus
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Gaius Taurillus

A few minutes earlier…

The magister turned his attention to Dianthe, their hetaira hostess. ”You were enquiring about a senator to your now departed ‘husband’ – a Statius Caecilius Ennodius, as well as his wife, Bellicia? I can afford you a few tidbits regarding these two, though who Antikleia is or what her connection to the matter at hand might be, I cannot say more than what we have all just heard. I was not invested in anything more than surface level details regarding Ennodius, given that he became a senator after the passing of my father. Curiously, Ennodius followed his own father into the senate, a fate I am glad to say I avoided. It’s possible that his father – and by association, he himself - knew of or was involved in my father’s arrest and death, but this is pure conjecture on my part. What I know is that they both come from old plebian families, yet they live comfortably on what wealth remains to them, and they own at least one slave. Much to Bellicia’s chagrin, he has developed a reputation among some of the more cruel senators for being an empty-head, a fool who dithers money and time on his floundering horse breeding hobby rather than working to advance his own career. Given that he cannot manage even this aspect of his life, perhaps it is to the good of populus Romanus that he does little more than occupy space in the senate. Still, Ennodius and Bellicia complement one another perfectly, and this makes her appreciably more dangerous, for she possesses all the ambition he lacks. Why else would she convince her husband that they should open an orphanage out of their own villa, if not for the recognition they would gain among the community? There’s certainly no money in caring for orphans… unless they found a way to monetize them?” Gaius shrugs at this. ”Again, I do not know them personally. I cannot even say yet whether this is part of the same elephant we are all blindly seeking to identify. Hopefully knowing something of the motivations of these two players might crystallize our focus.”

Now…

Gaius’s eyes open a bit wider as Levian pulls him aside to rebuke him for his philosophical position. The man clearly had passion, and Gaius could not fault him for this. I had passion as well in my youth, and now I am an old man with grey hair and a stooped back, and what do I have to show for such passion? Not my father, alive and well, and not any appreciable answers as to why that is. Yet he was not angry at Levian for holding such views. The spymaster simply bristled at the old man for his waning fervor for the republic – that was not something Gaius could deny. I must say something at least, to let him know I do not fault him for feeling thus toward me.

”Friend. I am gladdened to see you burn with such fire for the good people of Rome, and that your yearning for justice is as strong and unyielding as the Alps. Clearly, I have yet to prove myself in your eyes, and so I will say no more regarding my personal views, unless it is somehow pertinent to the investigation. You have a fire that burns within you. I, too, once had that fire. I don’t know that I would still be here were it burning as hot within me. Sometimes… sometimes a pile of dead ashes can still hold a live coal deep within. Perhaps being among you and the others will rekindle my fervor – I cannot say. Just hear me, please, when I say that I respect you and the good work you and the others are doing, and know that what I say is never borne of personal animosity. I had the fire, and it burned bright and hot, but sometimes it is those fires which burn out most quickly.” The magister extends a hand to the spymaster. ”I shall seek out this tavern should young Fidelis and I discover anything urgent.” He waited for the spymaster to or notshake his hand and then watched him leave, all the while recalling bittersweet memories of his own youth and what it had felt like to feel such fire burning within.

 
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  #100  
Old May 16th, 2024, 11:52 AM
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Securus
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Roman Guard from Nick Gindraux, detail

As impetuous, as enthusiastic as Securus had barged into Dianthe's domus, so dejected, so languid he now leaves again. The lady had not been pleased with the tidings of his discoveries; he had seen it clearly in her eyes, even though later she had tried to soften the blow with honeyed words.

Honeyed words and barbs. Could it be that it was the master himself who sent secret messages? It was true that he had dealings with many other senators and tradesmen but why secret messages and why give them in the care of a mere child while so many able-bodied guards would be up to the job?

"Yes, mistress," he had said, "I shall bring word to mistress Bellicia that you are truly on her side. And I shall speak again with our scribe." These are still important tasks when he thinks about it. A spring returns to his step as he climbs back up the hill.


Going their separate ways
When the eagles emerge again from Dianthe's domus, fortified by the food and again looking presentable, barring some wet spots on their clothes, it is still hot in the street even though the shadows have become perceptibly longer. None of their earlier audience is still around and so the four move along the road unobserved, breaking first into two, then into three groups. After a last greeting, they each go their separate ways.

The old kithara master
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Erginus the Cassandreian in better days

It is not far from the opulent villa to the multistorey buildings where the less fortunate rent their rooms. It is so close by, in fact, that near sunset the shadow of one such insula touches Dianthe's house.

It is in one such building that Dianthe hopes to find Erginus, a man no longer young and, though not exactly a Greek, as a Macedonian still closer to her than the Romans. Erginus' hands, grown stiff and crooked with rheumatismage, no longer allow him to earn his keep by playing the kithara. Where no more money flowed into his purse, life's expenses had sucked it dry and Erginus had slid down the ladder of society, too proud to accept any money he hadn't worked for.

Fortunately Dianthe finds him at home but truthfully, where else would he be? With his kithara standing forlornly beside him he clumsily grabs between his unwilling fingers a sherd of a greek vase, a citharede is depicted on it in honour of his victory in the Ancient festivals held in many Greek cities. The most famous Soteria in antiquity were those held at Delphi. They were composed of sports and musical competitions.Soteria.


Back to School
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When Levian arrives back at the domus of Ennodius and Bellicia, the hot afternoon sun has dried the wet spot on his tunic. Securus must have really pushed the military pace in his eagerness to please both his mistresses. Of course Levian can't see whether he already has been to see Bellicia but he is standing alert at the gate. Seeing someone come up from the road, he levels his spear but meant for throwing. I made up this use and it's probably not at all historical.pilum, ready to challenge the lonely visitor but when he recognises Levian, he raises the pilum back up and gives Levian a conspirational grin. "Coming to see the mistress? She's in the dining roomtriclinium with the master but I can ask someone to bring you to the tablinum to wait for them," he says in an undertone.


Holding out an olive branch?
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Olive Grove from Tivoli near Rome, Jorgen Roed

Fidelis and Gaius carefully follow the route as described by Abactemus. To their relief, they find the olive grove without any problem at all. The old and gnarled trees are basking in the sun and behind them, the outline of a small house is just visible, much smaller than the domus of the senator or Dianthe. It is well-built and impresses with carefully stucoed walls but it does not look very likely that there is more than one or perhaps two servants in such a household and entering the house without everyone inside being aware of it seems out of the question.


OOGM
You can post the leavetaking from your fellow eagles, walking (if needed) and arrival below this post. Please indicate (IC or OOC) what approach you will take for the upcoming encounter; after that I will split into three threads to keep the overview.

Last edited by Dworin; May 17th, 2024 at 11:47 AM.
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  #101  
Old May 20th, 2024, 02:34 AM
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Dianthe the Hetaira
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Dianthe the Hetaira
The Wing of Eagles disperses, each agent leaving to pursue their own separate goals. Dianthe reclines on her couch and places a hand over her forehead, trying to forget everything that happened this day. No matter how hard she tries, she doesn’t succeed. The figures of the men she has dealt with seem to loom over her - Porculus Crispus, the kind man she met on the bridge, a man she deceived, the nameless thug she drowned in the Tiber, Abactemus with the bird-like legs and the greedy, hateful eyes, and finally the supercilious poet screaming like a fishmonger outside her domus.

She wishes she had the time to visit the bathsthermae. Some hot water and a relaxing massage with aromatic oil could make all the difference now. Perhaps even a philosophical debate about subjects that have little bearing on real life and the many problems she is presented with. But that is something she cannot currently afford. If she wants to help Ignaea, she will have to move fast, otherwise the young woman is going to be eaten up by the great city now that Levian no longer protectively holds his mighty hand over her. It is the price of freedom, the hetaira knows.

With a sigh, she rises from the couch and heads to her bedchamber, calling her two handmaidens to assist her. As Dianthe uses a bronze mirror to carefully examine her face and naked body, the servants do their best to clean her up, make her hair and help her wear a new dress. The clothes she chooses to wear are simple, but of good quality, and she eschews all jewelry but a pair of earrings resembling bees and a thin golden bracelet. Her old kithara master is not someone she means to impress either by her looks or her opulence. In fact, if she were to appear excessively wealthy, she knows it could damage her chances of getting what she wants.

Once the image in the mirror is finally acceptable, Dianthe visits her son. She wants to scold him for the way he treated his tutor, Taurillus, but once she sees his eyes, angry and defiant, she changes her mind. Instead, she sits next to him and caresses him with both her hands and gentle words. Aristarchus doesn’t respond in kind. She doesn’t even know when was the last time that he put his arms around her and kissed her on her cheek like a son should. Whenever he speaks, her mother’s heart bleeds. But she hides her pain and her guilt behind her smile. She knows she often neglects him. She knows that she pushes him too hard to become the man she wants him to be. She knows he lacks a father. But she is doing her best for him. All she does is for the sake of her son. Even if he will probably never thank her for it.

The boy is bitter. He complains about all the dreary things he has to memorize and accuses her of not allowing him to have any friends. Dianthe listens silently. Arguing now would gain her nothing. Like a terrible storm, the dark clouds will have to dissipate before a ship can leave the harbor. Talking to her son in anger would accomplish nothing good. It would wreck the ship and both of them would drown. But she is both intrigued and pleased to hear Aristarchus talk so highly of Fidelis. It seems that the brilliant young man has made a very good impression on her boy. He begs her to allow Fidelis to visit him again and she graciously accepts. The clouds still cover the sky, but they are now somewhat lighter, allowing the occasional ray of light, of hope, to penetrate them.

Having persuaded herself that she is a good and caring mother, she departs, explaining that she has urgent business to attend to. She doesn’t see Aristarchus’ gaze darken when she turns her back to him. She doesn’t want to see it. She picks up a basket full of freshly baked bread, salted fish, cheese, olives, onions, juicy figs and a bottle of garum and escorted by a single servant leaves her domus. The basket is heavy and she is tempted to ask her servant to carry it for her, but resists the temptation. She wants to appear capable and humble, a good, honest Greek woman, the only kind that Master Erginus holds in high esteem.

The insula the old Macedonian lives in is not very far from Dianthe’s neighborhood, but it feels like an entirely different world. It is louder, hotter and filthier. People come and go in streets that are narrow and twisted enough to resemble the labyrinth of King Minos. Even the sun fails to reach these wretched places in Rome, the high buildings blocking the sunlight and dooming the people to live in perpetual twilight.

The building housing her old kithara master is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. It seems ready to collapse, the wood beams old and rotten, the plaster cracked, the outer walls full of graffiti so vulgar that they would make even a prostitute blush. Dianthe takes a deep breath and immediately regrets it, the scent of human excrement is so strong that it makes her gag. An old, nearly toothless woman points a finger at her and laughs, but Dianthe ignores the rude comments. She asks her servant to wait for her outside and mustering her courage, enters the rickety building. She knows that the old man lives at the top floor of the insula, a tiny attic, hot as Vulcan’s forge in the summer, frigid as Pluto’s heart in the winter and offering little protection from the rain all year round. As a freedman of advanced age, this is all Erginus can afford.

By the time she reaches the fifth floor, Dianthe is panting from exertion and wishes she had visited the thermae instead. Taking a few moments to collect herself and hoping that the sweat hasn’t ruined her clothes, she gently knocks at the old man’s door.

"Master Erginus, please open up. It is Dianthe, your old pupil. I have brought you something to eat."



 


 


 
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  #102  
Old May 21st, 2024, 08:27 PM
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Levian
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Levian Osmanthus
Levian listens quietly as Gaius speaks to him. He suspects he'll never agree with the old man, but he has made the mistake of letting his emotions bubble to the surface too many times this day already. This man is one of his allies, and it would be unwise to alienate him so quickly. Besides, the Sinistram must have known of his attitude when they selected him for the job, which means that his skills must be sufficient to merit overlooking that inadequacy. Levian resolves to wait and see, with as open a mind as he can manage.

He takes the man's hand, shakes it once silently, then nods and turns to depart.




When Levian arrives at his destination, he is greeted by the guard, the familiar Securus. He's surprised to have been beaten here, but this suits him just fine. One fewer person to whom he will need to explain himself. Still, he needs access to the Domus, so he must say something.

"No, no, nothing so formal. I was hoping to visit I don't think this character ever got a name.the children's ancilla. I hope she'll be free, now that the little ones have gone to their beds." he averts his eyes from Securus' gaze "It's a... personal matter. I'd appreciate it if you'd keep my visit between us"

OOCSecurus knows Levian as one of Dianthe's servants/bodyguards, so he's going to try to make this seem unimportant. Perhaps suggesting that he and the ancilla are having an affair? I'm hoping to use my 'Served in the Legions' stunt, if Securus is enough of a soldier for it to count.


 


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  #103  
Old May 24th, 2024, 09:59 PM
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Fidelis walks beside Gaius in unaccustomed silence for some time, his mind troubled. At last he manages to formulate his thoughts. "Master Gaius, your description of Statius Caecilius Ennodius has left me very ill at ease, for I cannot think of any philosophy with which such a man could align. An Epicurean would eschew the Senate...or so...I was taught."

He trails off before finishing uncertainly. "Does he believe in the gods, or no? Or does he believe in anything?"

But with that they come to the domicile of Antikleia. "Oh...that is not what I expected." He frowns. "They will not have many servants, and I see little chance of speaking to them in confidence."'

He studies the dwelling. "Perhaps I should wait until one comes out on an errand. Or if they could be made to go out."



 


 
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  #104  
Old May 26th, 2024, 11:13 PM
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Gaius Taurillus
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Gaius Taurillus


The walk to the olive grove alone would have been a test of the old man’s stamina; the mid-afternoon sun still hung hot and heavy, and it was not long before his long gray hair was sticky with sweat. Coupled with having drunk more wine than water during his impromptu introduction to the other Eagles, by the time they had reached their destination, Gaius’s tongue was lolling, and his breath seemed a bit. He was a scholar by trade, and normally what forays he did make throughout the city were early in the morning, before the sun had tightened its radiant grip upon the city. The only thing that made the trip bearable at all was the company of the young slave boy, the prodigy Fidelis. As the olive grove came into view, the two of them pulled up against a nearby fence to discuss the situation while catching their breath.

”I’m… not sure how to answer your question, young man. I know the senator more from reputation than anything else… *pant* What his belief in the gods may be, or what sort of role he or his wife might have in the deaths of these orphans, I cannot say. It does seem to run counter to the lady's desire for recognition in the city if their charges are being left dead in the street. That sort of attention would be the complete opposite of what Bellicia is after, assuming what scant information I know is correct.

"As to our current situation... well, perhaps we might engage in a bit of chicanery with one of these servants. Fidelis, you are a learned slave, a very rare thing. Might you not be the perfect showcase for what a slave could achieve if given the chance? And here you are, with your magister in attendance, looking for a servant who seeks to expand their horizon. It should be enough to get us in the door, at least - once we've stood and watched for a few moments, of course. Just to be safe."


 
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Last edited by Noquarter19; May 27th, 2024 at 12:50 AM.
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  #105  
Old May 30th, 2024, 08:54 AM
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Fidelis smiles slightly, his faith in this new mentor growing and the prospect of chicanery sitting well with him. "I see what you are saying, Gaius Taurillus. I will play off your lead." He accompanies the sage to the door of the domicile.



 


 
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