“Your job,” the procurator told me, “is to be an exemplar, an example to others.”
“Of a letter?” I had been plucked from my studies at the university and brought here by a decurion and his men. Not only was I missing an exam, it was no small matter to come to the attention of the Imperial authorities and I could see the Faculty Administration’s red tape filling my future.
“Apparently the Emperor has received divine guidance on the subject and these appointments for life are being made across the Empire.” The procurator pushed a piece of paper across the desk to me. “Additionally, the divine guidance was kind enough to provide details of the virtues you are supposed to embody as well as telling the Emperor how to find you using the Imperial citizenship records.”
I read the list in silence. Twice. Finally I said, “I think I can live up to these. It seems, though, that I am to be a sober, eternal student. Why is “Z” carrying around those attributes?”
“Exoticness perhaps,” suggested the procurator. “You will note that ‘steadfast materfamilias’ is also on the list. His Excellency, the Governor, has asked me to assure you that he will put the capabilities of his office towards finding you a suitable husband when the time comes. Perhaps in a few years when you have finished your current degree and settled into your new role?”
All I could say in response to that was, very faintly, “Thank you.”
“An Imperial stipend goes with the appointment, of course,” went on the procurator, “and you sit directly under the authority of the Pontifex Maximus and through him, of course, the Emperor. A staff and a residence will be provided for you, in fact a suitable villa within the Imperial gift standing in the north-eastern corner of the university grounds is being vacated as we speak.”
“Excuse me sir,” I interrupted politely, “but isn’t that the Archchancellor’s residence?”
“Up until this morning, yes, it was.”
I sat in stunned silence.
“Finally, His Excellency asked me to convey his apologies for not conducting this interview himself but he’s meeting with the new exemplar of the Legionary to have much the conversation we’re having now.”
“I’m someone the Governor apologises to?” I was flabbergasted.
“Technically this is a divine appointment, not unlike being a Vestal.” He smiled at me benevolently
“Now, as to the details of your stipend,” he went on.
My life was never going to be normal again.