Author: Susan L. Carr
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 toga, 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.