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It begins with an illicit affair. Honoria, sister of Valentinian III, emperor of the Western Roman Empire, creates a scandal when she is discovered in bed with her steward. Imprisoned for her indiscretion, Honoria sees the instrument of her deliverance in the form of the most feared warrior in the known world -- Attila. Desperate, she dispatches a messenger to the leader of the Huns, asking for his aid. Taking the entreaty as a marriage proposal, Attila begins to mass his forces to claim the half of the Roman Empire he feels should be his dowry, thus setting in motion the engines of war.
Fearing that open war with the ferocious Huns could destroy the empire, the Romans seek a clandestine solution. Dispatching a group of ambassadors to Attila's camp under the guise of seeking a diplomatic accord, the Roman leadership intends instead to corrupt one of Attila's lieutenants into an assassin, eliminating the threat by murdering the Hun leader.
Jonas, an ambitious intellectual, joins the party as its historian. But when the plot is discovered, he becomes much more. Taken hostage by the Huns, Jonas realizes that it will require all his skills in diplomacy, and some newfound skills with the sword, to survive. But survival isn't his only concern. Within the Hun camp he encounters Ilana, a Roman beauty imprisoned by the Huns and promised to one of their warriors. To attempt an escape alone would be foolhardy. Tocombine it with a rescue would be suicide. But Jonas knows he cannot leave the camp without Ilana, even if his devotion costs him his life.
As Jonas plans his escape, he seizes what could be a crucial element in the coming war between Rome and the Huns. Now his life isn't the only thing at stake. To save the empire and Ilana, Jonas must bring warning and an ancient sword to prepare Rome for the biggest battle in history, in which two vast armies will clash to determine the future of Western civilization.
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