Meet Theodora, the most powerful woman in 10th century Rome; and her daughter Marozia, the second most powerful.
They were both mistresses of the same two popes (Sergius III and John X), one bearing a son by Sergius. The "Pope Makers," they were directly responsible for the appointment of six succeeding popes, those pontiffs being son, nephew, grandsons and great grandsons. And if a pope didnít do what they wanted, they simply had him imprisoned and/or killed. Their power was all about murder, seduction and intrigue.
Now Theodora is determined to discover the secret of kings, the secret of the purple. Her lover, Pope John X thinks her desire is vain, unimportant and doubts she will succeed. Just try to stop her.
The weary pope finally orders Cardinal Lorenzo to find the royal tailor and buy the secret with gold. After an unexpected journey by sea, Lorenzo finally discovers the unlikely source and an unexpected ally, Atrox of Tyre.
Returning with the cardinal to Rome, The Tyrian slowly becomes entangled in the intrigue and drama brought about by Theodora and Marozia. Dark covenants are made and this non-believing foreigner becomes a shadowy enforcer of doctrine, feared by those who oppose the will of the church and the women manipulating it.
Release date to be announced.
Snow capped mountains rose sharply on both sides and the flat cracked plain spread out ahead of him. This was the only way through these mountains; The Dzungarian Gate. Atrox lifted his head to the gray sky and inhaled deeply. The air was thin, and the sharp cold burned his lungs. A few tiny, dry snow flakes drifted lazily toward the ground, but then another icy blast hit and swept it bare again.
No defense was needed here. He sensed that except for perhaps in the warmest months, the weather would kill anyone daring to enter this pass. And those months had just ended. It occurred to him this place had almost no color. Where the snow had been blown away, the mountains were brown and black. A nearby ice-covered lake gave this place a stingy tinge of blue. The elevation was too high for any trees and the bitter cold had turned summer's leftover grasses and sparse brush gray and brittle.
Bitter weather protected this gate, but he knew there were other dangers. There was a guard of last defense. The legends said it was so, and standing here, he felt it.
Waiting patiently till the howling wind died again, Atrox scanned the hills and rocky rubble. Finally there was a lull.
"Show yourself," he commanded.
Searching dark places between rocks, his eyes found the logical place for someone to hide. But then his peripheral vision told him otherwise as a figure appeared from behind a different boulder.
Surprisingly, this other one seemed as imposing as he; long, shaggy, black hair, a body covered with animal skins and a sword in each hand.
"Who are you?"
"Atrox of Tyre. Who are you?"
A slight smile. "I am called The Highwayman. Why have you chosen this place to die?"
Tyrian, Chapter 30: The Dzungarian Gate