Lake Albano, Castle Gandolfo, Italy
“Want to take a ride on a dragon?”
Gillian Green turned around. Suspended outside the open window of her suite in Gandolfi Palace overlooking the azure waters of Lake Albano hung an angel, his white wings slowly flapping in mid-air.
She absentmindedly ran a hand through her hair. “Absolutely. Do come in, Brock, or PM Sinclair, or is it Charlemagne, or do I call you the Prince of Europe, Defender of the Empire? You are so many people these days.” “Thank you, Gillian,” Brock replied as he landed on the portico and folded his wings. “To you I am always and forever Brock, just a simple man who wants to make the world a place of abundance where all can be one.” Gillian walked out next to him and watched as his wings receded into his back. She reached out and brushed the back of her hand against his skin; she could feel the wings sliding into their resting place between his shoulder blades. She withdrew her hand reluctantly. He waited for a second as his skin shirt grew over his back and linked up with the rest of his clothes and then turned to face her. “Gillian, it has been so long, and so much has happened since we last met.” His midnight blue eyes stared deeply into hers. She wondered, not for the first time, if he could peer all the way right down into her soul. She wondered what he would find if he arrived: a verdant forest, or a desert wasteland? At the least the trip had better generate top viewership in its time slot. “You know I have been accused by my critics of being overly familiar with you, Brock. They say I should refer to you only by your title.” Up close she noticed that he seemed somehow younger and more powerful; the lines on his face had vanished. She suspected that recently he had used nanotechnology in his body to alter it in ways perhaps far more profound than merely a couple of wings. Sinclair turned and looked out over Lake Albano, dotted with brightly colored sailboats, and gestured to it and the marinas at the water’s edge and then pointed higher up on the mountainside to the houses and buildings of Gandolfo. “Millennia before the Gandolfi family gave this town its name, it was known as Alba Longa, the oldest, and some might argue, the most powerful capital of the Sabine League. The Sabines were the sworn enemies of the Latin League and its most notable member, Rome. They fought many wars. You might have heard of the Rape of the Sabine Women?” Gillian shook her head. Sinclair’s mercurial change of subjects had been noted by more than one commentator. She viewed it as a manifestation of the restlessness and omnivorous nature of his ambition. “Well, it is one of many in a long list of sins for which Rome has yet to answer.” He touched his ear. “It is time. Gillian.” He pointed out to the lake. “The Day of Judgment approaches.” Gillian watched as the near end of the lake, fortuitously devoid of boats, began to bubble and froth. Slowly, a huge shape as long and wide as two football pitches side-by-side arose from the lake. Shocked, she noticed the monstrosity was alive, and as it lifted clear of the lake with water streaming from every part of it, she knew she was witnessing a fairy tale come to life. It was a dragon, complete with green luminescent skin, a long snake-like body, and two giant wings. Only the head was different. It looked more crocodilian than lizard-like, and as it came closer she could see that it had bumps on its head. Ten bumps, five on each side of its tapered, teeth-filled snout. Between the two rows of bumps she spotted a filmy half sphere, its surface shimmering and wobbling, like a bubble blown by a child.
Then the dragon roared, and its sound surrounded her. Its wings parted the air with a noise not unlike distant thunder. And as it drew closer she could hear a deep throbbing boom….
BISHOP OF ROME