They call her misthios--mercenary--and she will take what she is owed.
Kassandra was raised by her parents to be fierce and uncaring, the ideal Spartan child, destined for greatness. But when a terrible tragedy leaves her stranded on the isle of Kephallonia, near Greece, she decides to find work as a mercenary, away from the constraints of Sparta.
Many years later, Kassandra is plagued by debt and living under the shadow of a tyrant when a mysterious stranger offers her a deal: assassinate the Wolf, a renowned Spartan general, and he will wipe her debt clean. The offer is simple, but the task is not, as she will need to infiltrate the war between Athens and Sparta to succeed.
Kassandra's odyssey takes her behind enemy lines and among uncertain allies. A web of conspiracy threatens her life, and she must cut down the enemies that surround her to get to the truth. Luckily, a Spartan's blade is always sharp.
377 AD: Emperor Valens has stripped the Persian frontier of its legions, sending every available man to Thracia in an effort to contain the rampaging Gothic hordes. Now, covetous eyes have fallen upon Rome’s trade-rich but sparsely defended desert provinces. Shapur II, Shahanshah of the Sassanid Empire and his many client kings have long believed Rome’s eastern holdings to be theirs by ancestral right, and those lands have never been more vulnerable. Thus, Valens must grasp at the slimmest of hopes that a Persian invasion can be staved off, not by the brute force of absent legions, but by the tenacity of a hardy few. For in the heart of enemy lands, something thought long lost might just offer salvation.
When Optio Numerius Vitellius Pavo and a select group of the XI Claudia are summoned to the Persian front, they leave Thracia behind, knowing little of what awaits them. They know only that they are to march into a burning land of strange gods. They whisper tales of the mighty Persian Savaran cavalry and pray to Mithras they will see their homes and families again. All too soon it becomes clear to them that this is no ordinary mission – indeed, the very fate of the empire might rest upon their efforts. But for Pavo the burden is weightier still, for he knows that the east also holds something even more precious to him . . . the truth about his father.
Awaiting the relief armies in Constantinople, Centurion Pavo and the XI Claudia prepare as best they can. The Gothic War has taken much from each of them, and none more so than Pavo. But still he and his fellow officers cling to the chance that two lost to them might yet return: their leaders, Tribunus Gallus and Primus Pilus Dexion – Pavo’s brother – have not been seen or heard from since setting off on a mission to Emperor Gratian’s court in the West. Some are sure they must have fallen, yet Pavo refuses to give up hope, instead whetting his blade and praying that fate will guide the pair back in time for the clash that is to come: a clash that promises to end the Gothic War – for the empire’s finest legions are destined to meet Fritigern’s ferocious masses… on the plains of Adrianople.
376 AD: the Eastern Roman Empire is alone against the tide of barbarians swelling on her borders. Emperor Valens juggles the paltry border defences to stave off invasion from the Goths north of the Danube. Meanwhile, in Constantinople, a pact between faith and politics spawns a lethal plot that will bring the dark and massive hordes from the east crashing down on these struggling borders.
The fates conspire to see Numerius Vitellius Pavo, enslaved as a boy after the death of his legionary father, thrust into the limitanei, the border legions, just before they are sent to recapture the long-lost eastern Kingdom of Bosporus. He is cast into the jaws of this plot, so twisted that the survival of the entire Roman world hangs in the balance…
With the ashes of Adrianople still swirling in the air, the Eastern Roman Empire is in turmoil. The emperor is dead, the throne lies empty and the remaining fragments of the army are few and scattered.
Numerius Vitellius Pavo, now Tribunus of the XI Claudia, tries to hold his patchwork ranks together amidst the storm. One of the few legions to have survived the disaster at Adrianople, the Claudia do what they can to keep alive the dying flame of hope. When word spreads of a new Eastern Emperor, those hopes rise. But the coming of this leader will stir the Gothic War to new heights. And it will cast Pavo headlong into the sights of the one responsible for the East’s plight – a man mighty and seemingly untouchable, and one who will surely crush any who dares to challenge him.
From the ashes of Adrianople, new heroes will rise… with dark ghosts in close pursuit.
Deep winter, 376 AD: Emperor Valens has withdrawn the field armies from Moesia and Thracia to fight in the Persian War. The impoverished limitanei legions left behind to defend the banks of the River Danubius are now all that stand between the war-hungry Goths and heart of the Eastern Roman Empire.
For Numerius Vitellius Pavo and the men of the XI Claudia, the brief from Emperor Valens is simple: to avoid war with the Goths at all costs while the Roman defences are so weak. But in the frozen lands north of the Danubius a dark legend, thought long dead, has risen again. The name is on the lips of every warrior in Gutthiuda; the one who will unite the tribes, the one whose armies will march upon the empire, the one who will bathe in Roman blood . . .
377 AD: Thracia’s legions are few and broken in the wake of the Battle of Ad Salices. But the scattered centuries and cohorts rally in an effort to blockade the Haemus Mountain passes and hold back the relentless attacks of Fritigern’s swelling Gothic armies. These passes must endure until Eastern Emperor Valens and Western Emperor Gratian can muster and bring their Praesental Armies in relief.
Numerius Vitellius Pavo and the men of the XI Claudia return to Constantinople from their brutal Persian sortie to hear widespread tales of Thracia’s plight and the precarious mountain blockades. Each of them knows what is at stake should those passes fall: the heartland of the Eastern Empire would face the wrath of the barbarians and loved ones would be at the mercy of their savage blades. When the Claudia are despatched to aid the effort at the mountains, Pavo can think only of two souls wandering in the jaws of the Gothic threat: his beloved Felicia and his lost half-brother, Dexion. So he and his comrades march at haste, headlong into the storm that awaits them . . .
1071 AD. Emperor Romanus Diogenes has rekindled the guttering flame of Byzantium. Yet in the eastern borderlands, two vital strongholds hang in the balance. Manzikert and Chliat must be won to secure the empire’s fragile frontiers and vanquish the would-be usurpers who covet the imperial throne. But Sultan Alp Arslan and his vast Seljuk armies look to those twin fortress-towns also, resolute on seizing them first.
Apion rides by the emperor’s side as they march east, marshalling Byzantium’s armies for the conflict that is to come. He knows only too well that the threat posed by the Sultan’s hordes is well-matched by malevolent forces within the Byzantine ranks. Thus, the road to war is a savage one, but one he cannot refuse. For at its end, Fate beckons, taunting him with a choice of two futures.
On the plains of Manzikert, one great power will rise and another will fall. On the plains of Manzikert, Apion will face the storm.
The great struggle between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Gothic Horde rumbles into its fifth year. It seems that there can be no end to the conflict, for although the Goths are masters of the land, they cannot topple the last of the imperial cities. But heralds bring news that might change it all: Emperor Gratian readies to lead his Western legions into the fray, to turn matters on their head, to crush the horde and save the East!
The men of the XI Claudia legion long for their homeland’s salvation, but Tribunus Pavo knows these hopes drip with danger. For he and his soldiers are Gratian’s quarry as much as any Goth. The road ahead will be fraught with broken oaths, enemy blades... and tides of blood.
1046 AD. The Byzantine Empire teeters on full-blown war with the Seljuk Sultanate. In the borderlands of Eastern Anatolia, a land riven with bloodshed and doubt, young Apion's life is shattered in one swift and brutal Seljuk night raid. Only the benevolence of Mansur, a Seljuk farmer, offers him a second chance of happiness. Yet a hunger for revenge burns in Apion's soul, and he is drawn down a dark path that leads him right into the heart of a conflict that will echo through the ages.