AD262 - the Imperium is in turmoil after the struggle for the throne. Furthermore, Ephesus, Asia's metropolis, lies in ruins, shattered by a mighty earthquake. Its citizens live in fear as the mob overwhelms the city, baying for blood to avenge the gods who have punished them.
Yet an even greater threat to the Empire advances from the North. The barbaric Goth tribes sail towards Ephesus, determined to pillage the city. Only Ballista, Warrior of Rome, knows the ways of the barbarians, and only he can defeat them.
The Goths' appetite for brutality and destruction is limitless and before long Ballista is locked into a deadly bloodfeud, with an enemy that has sworn to destroy him - and the Imperium - at all costs.
The Caucasus, Autumn AD259
A family formed by crime must be broken by more crime.
– Seneca, Medea 55
He was wounded and unhorsed, but he was alive. At the top of the slope was a stand of
mountain pines. In cover, back against a tree, the man tried to listen for the pursuit. He
could hear nothing over his own agonized breathing.
The shaft of the arrow had snapped when he crashed from his mount. The arrowhead was
embedded in his left bicep. The blood still ran hot down his arm. The pain came in
He was a fool to have agreed to hunt bear. Lonely wooded glens, many armed men; it was
all too easy to become isolated, then all too easy for an accident to happen. He was a
fool to have trusted his brother. There had always been something not right about the
youngest of them. The presence of their sister and her retinue had lulled him. If only he
had remained close to her. His brother and his followers would have attempted nothing
then. The man knew he had been a fool, and now he would die. He despaired.
This was not right, not for a descendant of Prometheus. The man tried to control his
sobbing. On the peaks above, Prometheus had been persecuted. Spiteful Zeus had hung him in
chains. Every day, with the sun, the eagle had come, its cruel, sharp beak lunging into
the soft flesh, tearing, slicing, gobbling down chunks of Prometheus’s delicate, dark
liver. With the night, the eagle left. As the cold winds blew and the snow flurried,
miraculously, the liver was healed. And then, with the dawn, the eagle returned. Thirty
years of torment until Heracles had shot the eagle and freed the man’s ancestor.
Prometheus was a lesson in endurance, in suffering overcome, of ultimate redemption.
Who should learn it better than his distant off spring? The man drew a slower, deeper
breath; still ragged, but more in control. He forced the pain away and kept very still. He
listened. All was quiet; so quiet you could follow a mosquito by its hum.
The hunters were out of earshot, at least temporarily off the trail. After the ambush,
he had ridden some distance before the moment of pain-induced inattention and the low
branch that had swept him off his horse. The horse had bolted. He was alone. The man
looked around. The copse was shot through with shafts of weak sunlight. It was quite
considerable, and not of pine alone. Here and there blazed the autumnal reds and golds of
beech, maple and birch. There was no undergrowth, but the trunks and low branches, the odd
fallen tree, all gave some cover. The man turned his attention to the arrow. Thinking of
it brought back the pain. He forced it down again. His left arm was almost useless. Using
his teeth and the dagger in his right hand, he cut the sleeves of his sheepskin coat and
linen tunic away from the wound. He had to bite his lip hard when the material pulled
clear. The blood started to flow fast again.
The man unstoppered his wine flask. Not pausing to dwell on it, not giving cowardice an
opportunity to undermine his resolve, he poured the alcohol over the wound.