When in Rome - Cover

When in Rome

Copyright© 2023 by FantasyLover

Chapter 3

Day 8

I took Antia aside in the morning to tell her about the dream. “I know, I saw it, too,” she replied emotionally. “I will make you the happiest husband in all of Rome,” she promised.

“I’m already very happy,” I replied, kissing her. The kiss turned heated, and we ended up back in bed, but just for a quickie.

“Make Tacita pregnant, too,” she insisted. “No more tea for you,” Antia told a surprised Tacita. “I’m already pregnant and you’re next.”

When I left for work, one of Celsus’s guards was waiting to accompany me. “My name is Brutus. Celsus insists that I accompany you, even though you are obviously capable of defending yourself. As your Patron, Celsus would lose status if he didn’t supply you with the necessary guards. He wasn’t sure if you would accept two guards, but will send as many as you request,” he said.

“One should be sufficient,” I replied. Brutus fell in next to me after I set the clay bowl with soil holding my tomato seeds in the sunny spot again. This time, I strapped on my sword and carried the staff. Then I headed to check on the work done on the new bows yesterday. I was surprised to find ten frames ready. The fourteen bows from two days ago were already drying. They had carved fourteen new bows yesterday and fitted them into frames.

My next stop was the workshop for the saddle tree. Checking it, I decided it was ready for the next step: applying the rawhide.

In Cumae, I bought a cart with mules and filled it with the usual goods, as well as four good pieces of bull rawhide that were the same quality, thickness, and even the same color. I hired eight more men, and they followed me back. When I turned off to go to Baiae, I directed them to continue for about two leagues to where they would see the pozzolana quarry. One of the men knew the way, having been there a couple of months ago. He drove the cart with the other men riding on it.

I found five more men in Baiae and sent them on to the quarry after buying and filling yet another cart with supplies. Antia and Tacita saw me in Cumae and excitedly pulled me over to meet the six women they were talking with.

“Quintus, these women are willing to perform the show you told me about. First, though each of them wants you to become her guardian. They will all give themselves to you by coemptio (by purchase) if you promise to free them and become their guardian,” she explained earnestly. All six women were gorgeous and looked at me hopefully.

I took Antia aside and told her that I didn’t understand what she meant. She explained that women had to have a guardian, usually their father. When they married, their husband became their guardian. These widows had neither a father nor a husband and desperately needed a man to be their guardian. The government would eventually get around to appointing one. In the meantime, they had no protection or representation. Even a government-appointed guardian frequently abused his position, forcing the women and any daughters to have sex with him.

“They’re not embarrassed by what I want them to do?” I asked.

“No, sex isn’t looked down on, not even sex between two women. Prostitution is looked down on, even though it’s legal. This is a way for them to gain a guardian and earn a living. It will also earn you more money,” she explained.

I still wasn’t sure what all was involved in being their guardian, but I guessed that I’d learn on the fly. I found a leatherworker here and explained what I wanted, ordering two specialty harnesses. I hoped that he’d think they were for Antia and Tacita.

We found the Magister and had him witness and record the six women giving themselves to me by coemptio, and me paying each woman a denarius. Then he recorded me giving them their freedom and agreeing to be their guardian. With that business finally done, Antia and Tacita took the women home and I finally headed for work, realizing that I’d arrive right about the normal quitting time for a Roman worker.

I was still trying to figure out the whole idea of buying someone just to set them free, but it was what it was. I guess ancient Rome had laws that were just as stupid and convoluted as some modern laws.

As I approached the turnoff to the quarry, there was a lengthy parade of carts leaving, each loaded with a crate of pozzolana. I counted twelve carts. Janus was excited when he saw me. “We sold twenty-three crates today,” he exclaimed excitedly.

“Twenty-three?” I gasped.

“We had carts bringing us more supplies all day. It’s a good thing that Remus brought back most of his empty crates, although he kept one and shipped it to Rome to show them. Those extra men you sent certainly helped. One of the drivers we hired knew two more men with carpentry experience and brought them back with his next load of lumber.

“The twelve carts that just left are from Neapolis. They left there just before first light hoping to fill all the carts before dark. Now they have enough time to make it back there today. They’ll be back in five days for twelve more crates. They promised to have their carts filled with lumber, rope, and nails when they return.

“Aelius returned the crates from last time and bought six more, and a builder from Misenum bought five filled crates. Even with all that, we have four full crates left and eight empty crates,” he said as we watched several men busy building even more crates or filling the completed ones.

“You and Marius did an excellent job today,” I complimented. “In a few months, I will be traveling for several weeks and will depend on the two of you and on Atilius and Gnaeus to run things. I’ll pay you much more than right now. Even now, you and Marius should decide what days off you will take so one of you is always here to oversee things in case I become tied up the way I was today,” I said.

“Do we have to take a day off?” he asked.

“No, but I don’t want you or any of the other men exhausted. Let everyone work enough to have a little extra coin in their purse, and then have them take a day off. Stagger their days off so you have enough men working each day. Assure them that their job will still be here as long as I can make a profit.”

He kept enough money to pay the men and to repay the deposits on the crates that we had out. I liked the idea he had. Next to his tent, he had a small wooden table holding a leather pouch with pieces split from twigs in it. Each piece represented one crate deposit that we had received. When we returned the deposit, he put the sticks into a cloth sack. That let him keep track of how much we needed to have available to refund the deposits.

“If the men catch up with making crates, build a few tables,” I told him as I looked around.

Even though it was built from stone, the hut I lived in wasn’t much, although it kept the rain off and the worst of the cold out. If the government agreed and gave me this land, I wanted to build residences for the men who worked for me. I also needed to find a cook for them. As long and as hard as they worked, they shouldn’t have to cook meals, too.

After thanking the men again for their hard work, Brutus and I headed for home. Today, I had a backpack to carry the coins, leaving my hands free. I wore my sword and dagger, and carried the staff, ready to use it if necessary.

Arriving home unmolested, I thanked Brutus. When I walked into our hut, however, it was empty. I don’t mean that nobody was there, I mean that everything was gone. Alarmed, I rushed outside. “Do you know where my wife is?” I asked the first slave I saw.

“Master Celsus moved you into the empty overseer’s house so you would have more room,” she said, pointing to a house at least eight times the size of our hut.

I still knocked instead of just walking in. Antia squealed excitedly when she opened the door and saw me, and quickly dragged me inside. “It’s huge!” she exclaimed animatedly, motioning around the interior. I was surprised to find eight women working and figured the six new women I freed today were helping to move everything and to clean the house. There were also several small children inside with us. I realized that the children belonged to the new women.

Boy, was I wrong about them being here just to help us move! Within minutes, the children had disappeared somewhere and what seemed like a dozen hands had all eight women and me naked. Every time I tried to protest, I received a cock-hardening kiss from one of the women or had a bare tit pressed into my mouth.

By the time I could say anything, the first woman had already finished with me, not that I was fighting it any longer. I just wanted to make sure that they didn’t think I required them to have sex with me.

Evidently, Antia had already assured the women that I wouldn’t force them into our bed. Antia had promised the women that she would only insist that they have sex with me one time. After that, it was up to each of them to decide whether they returned to our bed or not.

After the first two women, they took pity on me and fed me lunch. Once we were clothed and at the table, I was introduced to the nine children I was now responsible for. I warned them that it would be a while before I remembered their names. I was going to have a difficult enough time remembering names of the women, as well as the names of all the men I was hiring.

As an afterthought, I took Antia aside. “Would it be possible to find any more women looking for work? I could use a couple of cooks for the men quarrying the pozzolana.”

“There are plenty of women looking for work. I can find women willing to do almost anything,” she assured me.

“Tomorrow, see if you can find two women to cook supper for fifty men, and to prepare something for their breakfast and lunch,” I told her. Looking at the backpack filled with coins, I added. “Also, see if you can find a woman who can keep track of the money from the pozzolana business. She can keep track of it for us when I travel later this year.”

Of course, mentioning traveling required an explanation.

Once we finished eating, I went to thank Celsus for the new digs.

“Once again, it is I who should thank you,” he exclaimed. “Even though you did it just this morning, I have already heard from many of my friends, congratulating me on you becoming the guardian for six widows and their children. Once again, your actions and ideas have brought both of us recognition and prestige. You may even help me receive enough recognition that I can finally be elected to the Senate and become a senator like my father.”

I spent time after dinner getting to know the women and their children better until the ladies became insistent that we head for bed. Each of them was able to play with their new sex toy, me.

Since Antia hadn’t joined us today, I asked her about it. I was surprised to learn that the current thinking was that it was harmful for a woman to have sex while she was pregnant, as well as for however long she was breastfeeding after the baby was born.

“I’ll let you decide what you want to do, but having sex is fine, even up to the baby’s birth. Afterwards, six or seven weeks after the baby is born is long enough to wait for the woman to heal unless there are problems,” I told her.

“Oh, good,” she replied. “I didn’t know how I’d survive for three years with no sex.

“Don’t tell anyone else, though,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Most Roman wives look forward to three years of not having their husband rutting on them.”

Day 9

Brutus was waiting just outside my door again.

The slaves had extra help making the bows today. Yesterday’s batch was already in the drying frames. Soon, I would need lots of sinew and horn, as well as freshwater fish and tail feathers appropriate for fletching.

Celsus now had four men making saddle trees, just not adding the leather to them.

Heading south when we left the estate, we walked to Misenum. The city was an up-and-coming resort for the rich and famous, but then this entire area was a resort for the rich and famous of the Roman Republic.

Ninety minutes later, we reached the forum in Misenum. After buying and filling another cart, I hired nine more men. I was pleased that two of the men I hired already knew where the pozzolana quarry was. After adding three goatskin tents that I saw for sale, I had one of the men drive it to the quarry while the other men took turns riding in the cart or walking beside it.

Once they were on the way, I bought a piece of ivory I saw when I walked through the forum. Then I went in search of another man I saw earlier. The stallion he had for sale was gorgeous. In many ways, it reminded me of a taller than average quarter horse. We haggled over the price for a good fifteen minutes before I felt that I could afford to splurge like this. I knew I’d need a quality horse for the trip later this year and hoped that I’d need one very soon to demonstrate the new saddle.

“Keep telling yourself that; it’s as good an excuse as any,” I told myself as I counted out a large pile of silver Denarii. I named the horse Boots since he had two white boots.

We stopped at the forum in Baiae where I picked up the two completed leather harnesses for the women. Finding the man who sold me the sinew, I told him I’d need as much back and leg sinew from large game and farm animals as possible, as well as at least a dozen pairs of antlers. I also needed all the horns he could find from antelopes, mountain goats, or mountain sheep. Plus, I needed feathers for fletching. When I saw more goatskin tents for sale, I bought what stock the man had available and loaded them onto Boots to carry.

The women were impressed with Boots, but not as impressed as Celsus was. He was immediately hoping to use him as a stud. The ladies were excited that the harnesses were ready. I left it to them to figure out how the carved deer antler phalluses fit into them.

Brutus and I left for the quarry to see how things were progressing. Once again, I was excited when I arrived. The men had made two more cranes at some point. All four cranes were in use, loading crates onto twelve carts while the rest of the men continued building more crates or filling completed ones. A quick count told me they would only have two filled crates left once the carts were loaded. Seeing how quickly the men were working, I revised my estimate upward to six crates left, maybe more.

Marius waved animatedly when he saw me, so I went over to see him. “These carts will bring us up to twenty-three crates sold today,” he said excitedly. “The man from Neapolis sent carts back for more. He sold most of what he bought yesterday to another builder. He even remembered to bring us lumber, rope, and nails.”

Janus came over. He, too, seemed to be excited. “We finally built the half-culeus crates you wanted. We had no sooner finished the one with no bottom than someone showed up who only wanted half a culeus loaded into his cart. It was easy to measure with the crate.

“Aelius sent a messenger to warn us that his carts will be here early tomorrow, and he wants twelve crates. They are ready to pour the next of the new wharves a week sooner than he estimated, so he’s thrilled,” Janus informed me.

“Do we have enough men yet?” I asked. Both men nodded.

“For now,” Marius agreed.

“Don’t be afraid to hire a few more if you find good men willing to work. If we need many more men, I’m going to have to go to Neapolis or beyond to find them,” I warned.

“I’m grateful, but can I ask why you don’t use slaves?” Janus asked.

“Have you ever seen slaves working this hard without someone standing over them with a whip?” I asked. “These men want to work. They are eager to work. All you have to do is direct them and tell them what you need, and they do it. That reminds me, keep an eye on them and watch for leaders developing among the men. Promote those leaders. Give them a group of men to work with so they get used to working together. Then, assign a group to do a job instead of having to choose the men each time. The longer a group of men work together, the faster they’ll become,” I explained.

“Ovis and Candra,” Janus said. Marius agreed with his choices.

“How many men should be in each group?” I asked.

“Three for filling the crates, two for building each crate, and three to operate the cranes,” Marius mused aloud. Janus agreed.

“Make sure each group knows that they will be asked to help with different tasks if we need them to,” I reminded them. When I saw seven more empty carts approaching, I laughed and grabbed a shovel so I could help.

It was well past the normal quitting time for an average Roman worker before we had all seven carts loaded and on their way. Once I counted out today’s payroll, I took the day’s proceeds and left the men eagerly building and filling crates for Aelius for tomorrow morning. I couldn’t believe that we sold thirty crates today. I also couldn’t believe that we had managed to build and fill thirty crates today! I laughed when I remembered how worried I had been that first day when no one showed up.

Three new women graced my home when I arrived, all older than yesterday’s group. These women had children who were teens or nearly teens. Antia introduced them to me. Caelia knew how to keep books. Rhea and Junia would cook for the men at the quarry.

We headed for the forum leaving two of Celsus’s slaves to watch the original nine young children and the two younger children that the three new women had. The other children were old enough that they had to agree for me to become their guardian.

Once again, the Magister witnessed everything, officially making me the guardian of the three women and their five older children. The younger children were automatically included with their mothers since their fathers had died.

We made a quick trip to the baths because I was dusty and dirty from so much walking, as well as from helping to fill crates earlier. I bathed quickly and sat outside the women’s baths and listened to the women laughing, frequently recognizing Antia’s and Tacita’s laughter. When they finished, I bought what Rhea and Junia would need for cooking, as well as food for us and for the men tomorrow. Seeing how much we would have to carry, I purchased a barrow that the two cooks could fill with fresh food each day and then push to the quarry.

When we made it home, I watered my tomato plants.

The slaves carving the bows were becoming more proficient and producing them faster. They had each completed a fourth bow today.

I spent time preparing the rawhide and cutting it down close to what I needed.

Dinner was good, but it still lacked meat. Tacita had told me the day that I brought the chicken home that only the wealthy regularly had meat in their diet. I guess I needed to become wealthy.

The bedroom was even more crowded tonight with two more beds in the room. The women who had fun with me yesterday retired to different rooms to sleep. Tacita went first, reminding me that I was supposed to make her pregnant. That put a little extra starch in Little Quintus.

I protested when Fausta, Caelia’s teenage daughter came over to me. Fausta assured me that she was old enough, and that the man who had been their tutor (their government-appointed guardian) took her to his bed every night. I made sure the women understood that gracing my bed was not a requirement and learned that Antia had already assured them but had also invited them if they wanted to. After listening to what the other six women said about being with me, they wanted to see if what they said was true.

The women were still giggling and carrying on when I fell asleep.

Day 10

Fausta woke me this morning. I can think of worse ways to wake up than to her eyes full of mischief.

Despite being delayed in getting out of bed and having two women pushing the barrow full of food and cooking equipment as they accompanied me and Brutus to the quarry this morning, we arrived just as the men were starting to work. I introduced them to Rhea and Junia, explaining that I had hired the women to cook their supper and to have food available for breakfast and lunch. I made sure the men understood that the women weren’t there for sex. I also made the women promise to boil all water used for cooking or drinking. I had purchased two empty amphorae they could fill with boiled water so it could cool before the men drank it.

After making sure Janus and Marius had enough help and all the supplies they needed, Brutus and I headed for the forum in Puteoli where I talked to three men who supplied game, promising to buy the leg and back sinew of their game animals. I also asked for the animal horns I needed, and any feathers commonly used for fletching. They could wait for me to come to them, or they could deliver them to the pozzolana quarry to receive payment.

When I made it back to the villa, I began working with the rawhide in earnest, cutting it to fit and thinning the edges.

Day 14

Oh, happy day! I’m sure the women thought I was crazy when I started pumping my fist into the air and doing a poor imitation of an end zone dance.

“My tomato plants sprouted,” I explained excitedly.

“These plants produce a fruit that will soon be among the most popular in all of Rome. These are the only seeds available anywhere. If they hadn’t sprouted, I wouldn’t be able to grow tomatoes,” I explained. The soil in the bowl was still moist, so I left it alone. No matter what else happened today, my day was made.

Brutus was waiting for me when I carried my tomato plants outside.

When I checked it, the first saddle tree was dry and ready for us to proceed. While guiding the men who were helping me finish it for the last two days, I’d also worked with the leatherworker, marking, and then cutting the first pieces we’d need. Like the men working with me on the saddle trees, he and his helper also made three of each piece. One I would use, one they’d use, and one would be a pattern for future saddles. We’d soaked two of them last night, letting them sit overnight in wet wool blankets to let the water soak in evenly throughout the leather.

Today, we added the first pieces to the finished saddle tree. The leatherworker understood when I explained that each piece had to be completely smooth.

Day 21

I heaved a deep sigh of satisfaction and relief today. The first saddle had been completed and would be dry and ready to ride tomorrow! The second had been finished yesterday, and another would follow almost daily.

Aside from the saddle being complete, my pozzolana business continued to grow. When I was tired of working on the saddle each day, I’d stop by the pozzolana quarry to see how they were doing. I’d already given Janus and Marius a raise since they were running everything while I worked on the saddles and bows.

When I stopped by the quarry on the way home, I was surprised. Just before reaching the turnoff, I saw a long string of carts headed east. I counted fourteen carts by the time I reached the quarry, and four more were being loaded with two others waiting. Marius saw me and motioned for me to join him. He was with the man who seemed to be in charge of the carts. When I approached, his two bodyguards moved closer to him.

“Quintus, this is Thracius. He captains a merchant ship that just arrived from Rome this morning. Several people there have heard about our crates of pozzolana, and he saw the crate Remus sent. He came to buy as much pozzolana as we could sell him today.

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