Uber Setting: Ancient Rome
Disclaimer: All non-original characters herein belong to persons such as Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, WB, etc, etc, etc, rather than me, myself and I. No compensation is received by me, only the pleasure I take in writing it.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse, Through the Looking Glass, Different Colored Pens, LiveJournal
All others, please ask.
Feedback: Always welcome.
Author's Notes: Although I am fascinated with history and prefer stories with historical accuracy, I take liberty with the events surrounding the characters and places in this story. Any errors of fact are purely my own.
Dedication: I've wanted to write something for my Aussie friend Chris Cook and all the wonderful readers at The Kitten Board for a long time now. I hope y'all enjoy.
Summary: Willow's insatiable curiosity gets her in trouble and a beautiful patrician comes to her rescue.
Part 1 Part 2
The Romans call it Iamnia; its residents name their home Yavne. For many, the town was a refuge after the wrath of Titus destroyed their temple, for others it was a corner outpost in a remote province, where lonely legionnaires counted the days until they could return home to Rome. For one young girl, it was like a prison, just one small speck in a vast Empire waiting to be explored.
Willow, daughter of Ira the town's apothecarius and respected Council member, sat at the scribe's desk in her father's herbarium reading a treatise by the famous Greek physician Dioscorides. The scroll was written in the good doctor's native Dacian, but Willow easily read the distant land's language. She was taking notes on a small scrap of parchment, idly translating the names of plants into Latin, Hebrew and her native Aramaic.
It was late afternoon of early winter, the mild Judean sun beginning its final descent toward dusk. A basket lay on the clean sandy floor next to Willow, empty and forgotten as the redhead bent her head studiously over the scroll.
For the second time that day, Willow missed her mother calling her. She had snuck in the cool and dark room the moment her father and his apprentice left to meet with the Council as they did each afternoon.
Willow's mother strode briskly into the room. She was dressed in a plain, but obviously high quality blouse and skirt with a homespun kerchief covering her hair. "Willow!" she yelled again startling her daughter so the end of the scroll slipped from her hands, off the desk and unrolled until it was stopped by Sheila's sandal-clad feet. "What are you doing? I sent you to the baker an hour ago!"
Willow glanced guiltily at the empty basket sitting neglected next to her. "Um, well…just reading."
Sheila's hands left her hips and crossed over her heart in a gesture of heartbreak. She looked up at the rough-hewn ceiling. "What more can I do, O Master of the Universe? My willful daughter will be the death of me!"
Willow rolled her eyes at her mother's theatrics and she began to gather up the scroll. "I'll leave now and be back before you know it, Mama."
"You should have been back already," Sheila admonished. "What are you reading anyway? What's so important you have to disobey your own mother?"
"Dioscorides' new treatise," Willow said excitedly. "It's the latest herbal expanding his De Materia Medica. I was thinking I should translate the Dacian. Do you think I can borrow some parchment, Mama?"
"No!" Sheila said horrified. "Dacian? Since when do you read Dacian?"
Willow blushed. "Um, I found a book of poems by Ovid written in Dacian," she explained. "I compared that to his Latin version and, well…"
"Oh Willow," her mother said. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you. Your father has punished you time and time again for defying him. When are you going to learn?"
"I'm sorry, Mama," Willow said. She picked up the basket. "I'll go now."
Sheila watched as the young girl hurriedly left the room, her skirts swishing around her ankles, the basket now swinging from her arm. With a sigh she hurried back to her duties.
Willow walked quickly through the town. Merchants, artisans, servants, government officials and soldiers all crowded the street. Yavne had been an important center for the Jewish people since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem years ago. With the gathering of the Council, a group of elders, priests and important men who had survived the disaster, the town was turning into a thriving metropolis. The Council, which included her father, was working hard to preserve the traditions of the past.
Willow thought briefly about Daniel, the boy her family had betrothed her to when they were children. Daniel, along with many able-bodied Jewish men, had been taken from Jerusalem by the Roman who ordered the destruction of the temple. General Titus had given his father, the Emperor Vespasian, thousands of slaves who were immediately put to working building the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome. Willow heard the giant colossus was nearing completion and for his sake she wished Daniel had survived the harsh sentence he was given simply for being a young man living in Jerusalem at the time of the rebellion.
Willow and her family had been more fortunate. Her father's skill had spared him and his family and due to Ira's foresight, their flight to Yavne had been relatively effortless.
Fortuna favors the wise. Willow shook off the heretical thought and then noticed a small flock of birds pecking at a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the baker's. She suddenly remembered her mission and hurried down the street.
A Woman's Worth
The tall woman sighed and moved toward the open balcony that looked out from the family's urban home on to a busy street in the City of Paestum. She tied back the heavy curtain which covered the opening and the bright sunlight filled the room. The woman paused to look down at the diversity of people going about their business. She looked in the direction of the forum as the loud cheering of multiple voices filled the air.
"Please, Tara," a warm masculine voice said from within the room. "Let us continue."
Tara turned back and walked back to the table. She took a seat next to a blonde-haired woman dressed in a simple tunic and sandals, in contrast to her own richly-appointed stola. Across from them was a dignified man with graying hair also dressed in a simple woolen tunic, but of a better quality than the other woman's. Scrolls covered the table and scroll-filled capsa rested on custom-built shelves. In one corner, a small straw and herb-filled mattress rested on a raised pallet and a personal chest made of unadorned wood, but secured with a metal lock, sat at the foot of the bed.
"Now, Tara…what do you remember of the Germanic tribes we discussed during our last session?" the man asked.
"That every citizen was worth a set amount to be paid by a murderer to prevent a blood feud," she answered.
"Correct…mostly," he said. "However, even certain slaves had a set value, depending on their function, but often the price was paid to the slave's master rather than the family or clan." He paused and glanced at the blonde woman who was looking at the open balcony with a wistful expression on her face. The occasional cheers from the forum seemed to interest her. "And what was this 'man-price' called, Buffy?" he finally asked.
The woman continued to stare, obviously not listening.
"Buffy?" Tara prompted.
"What?" she asked and then blushed and turned to the man. "I'm sorry Master Giles," she said. "What did you say?"
"What is the Germanic term for 'man-price'?" Giles repeated.
"Um…" she paused as she thought a moment and then her face brightened. "Oh! Weregild!" she said triumphantly.
Tara smiled in indulgence at the other student. "The older term is wargaz meaning 'strangler'," she said to Giles, knowing he expected her to know the information.
"Correct," Giles said. "Etymologically, were is from the Latin for man and gild is their word for gold."
"So why isn't it Viraurum instead of Weregild?" Buffy asked, confused.
Giles looked at his student with a nonplussed expression on his face. "Your ability to create new words never ceases to amaze me, Buffy."
Buffy ignored the jest. "So what was a woman's worth?" she asked.
"Caesar described the Germanii as total barbarians," he replied. "That was, perhaps, his excuse to conquer them, but in any case, among the various tribes, a woman's worth is dependent on her 'bride price' – a dowry – if you will, however the groom paid the bride's family."
"Well, then I guess I don't have any value in either society!" Buffy fumed and crossed her arms in indignation.
By this time, Tara was laughing at the two and Giles sighed. "I think that's enough for now, girls," he said and started to roll up his scrolls.
Tara stood hurriedly. "Buffy, stay and help Giles clean up and then please join me. I'm going to go find out what's going on."
"Yes, Domina," Buffy said with a smile, knowing how it annoyed Tara. Giles glanced up at the two under his brows, a small smirk on his lips.
"Buffy!" Tara exclaimed as she spun around. "I've asked you never to call me that, unless Father or Donus are home." Tara paused as she realized that Buffy was teasing her. She shook her head, turned and left the room.
"You shouldn't tease her so, Buffy," Giles admonished. "She allows you far more liberties than any other slave in this household."
"I know, Master Giles," she said. "I can't imagine what my life would be like if Tara wasn't my mistress. It's just that I can't help but have a little fun with her now and then."
"I realize that," he said. "I also take advantage of her kindness, but you must remember to be careful. The consequences to her could be disastrous should her father learn of the path that Tara has chosen…the same path that had such tragic results for her mother."
Buffy's face paled as she remembered that horrible time and how Tara herself had barely escaped the same fate as her mother. She knew her life wouldn't be worth a single copper as were it not for Tara and the privileges and education she received as the woman's personal servant. But more than that, her love for Tara as a friend inspired her protective streak. She would not want anyone with as kind and gentle a nature as Tara's to suffer.
She nodded emphatically. "You're right, Master Giles," she said. "I'll do everything I can to protect her."
"Very good, child," he said. "Now, go along and attend to your mistress. I'll finish here and head to the public baths. Perhaps I can find out what's causing this ruckus!" He threw an annoyed glare at the balcony.
Tara rushed down the stone steps to the main floor of the house and hurried through the peristylium. In the vestibule, she found several slaves lining the walls and a dark-haired woman wearing a stola in a similar style and adornment as her own.
"Faith!" Tara said. "What is going on?"
Faith turned to look at her cousin, a worried look on her face. "My uncle – your father – has arrived from Rome. Pallas ran home to tell us that he and your brother are making announcements in the forum and then they will come here. We are to be ready to greet them."
Tara paled at the news and Faith reached out a hand to steady her cousin.
To Be Continued…
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