They simply weren’t dressed for Ancient Rome. But here they were, walking right up to the front door of some Roman aristocrat’s villa, as though there was nothing else to be done on a Monday morning. Darcy tried to keep up with Madame Lobellia’s quick and confident glide up the steps of the villa’s porch. Upon reaching the top, a Roman servant made an effort to keep them from entering though the bronze doors, but, whether due to his weakness or Madame’s force of presence (and Darcy suspected the latter), he gave a slight bow and let them pass.
Once inside the atrium, however, it was obvious why there hadn’t been much trouble getting in. A good size group of visitors on the “petitioner” side of the impluvium (a shallow, rectangular pool in the center of the atrium) was already there. Darcy realized what was happening and quickly jotted down the event on her notepad. Everything had to be recorded if she were to ever advance her career. Every meeting, every conversation, every time-jump.
Arrived just in time for the Salutatio, she wrote, when the followers of a distinguished patron arrive at his house to ask favors first thing in the morning. She had always wanted to attend a Salutatio, just not dressed in her plaid skirt. It didn’t take long for the Roman men to notice her strange 1940’s outfit, and then Madame Lobellia’s Victorian gown. They began whispering and gesturing towards them.
Of course Madame Lobellia paid no mind to the curious eyes and judgmental frowns. She waited with resolute patience for the aristocrat to make his appearance on the opposite side of the pool and conduct the morning’s business. Then finally, just when Darcy thought she couldn’t take the attention any longer, the man entered.
He was dressed in a toga candida. So he was standing for election, was he? Darcy scribbled this on her notepad without looking down. She watched as the man waved elegantly and gave the morning greeting, to which everyone responded. He then chose the first petitioner out of the crowd. Then the next. He had accepted and declined five requests before he noticed Madame Lobellia waiting patiently in the back of the group. He hesitated, but not enough for it to be detected by anyone who wasn’t looking for it. He adjusted the fold of his toga, regained his focus and took another petitioner’s request. Once this was done, he gave a few closing words and dismissed the group. There were some grumbles that the meeting had ended too early (or at least that’s what it sounded like to Darcy—they were speaking in Latin), but, one by one, every petitioner retreated until only he, Darcy, and Madame Lobellia were left in the atrium.
Darcy looked from Madame Lobellia, to the Roman and back again. She couldn’t read the look these two shared. The silence edged toward awkward. She twisted a heel into the mosaic floor. Then, to her relief, the man spoke—in English.
“Here to request a favor, Madame?” he asked.
“To have one repaid,” she answered.
“You believe I am in your debt? I don’t recall any unequal transaction between us.”
“You don’t recall nearly being eaten by a dragon?”
“Ah,” he lifted a finger as if remembering, “that transaction. Very well then, what is it you are in need of this fine, first century morning?”
“What do you know of D.A.R.K.?”
His amusement faded. He shook his head. “I should have let the beast consume me whole. Come, if we are to speak of this, we must speak of it privately.” His gaze ran over the atrium’s walls. He then turned and led them into the inner peristyle.