THESE THREE STORIES together tell a bigger-than-life tale of a “barbarian” raised as an orphan slave among the Roman military, but kept unaware (during his childhood) of the fact that he’s a close relative to the ruler of the Parthian Empire (where Iran and Iraq are today; back then—second century A.D.—Parthia was Rome’s most hated enemy).
Slaveboy Shava, who’s extremely gifted both physically and mentally, doesn’t know that his father was Parthia’s greatest military hero, that his mother is still living (a Roman slave herself), and that when he was still an infant, some grandly mysterious prophecies declared that he would someday become a leader and deliverer for the Parthian people. All Shava knows (in his ignorance) is that he wants to grow up and become a Roman soldier, and that he’d make a really good one. Divine destiny intervenes and bashes him in a series of tragic and disillusioning blows that wreck his plans and redirect his heart. Eventually Shava returns to Parthia as a young man, struggling to live out his true identity as he encounters death threats, civil war factions, a friend who betrays him, and a young woman he knows he must marry.
Further complicating the tale are some swirling and unavoidable religious tensions. There’s the entrenched system of Roman gods, and a rising mystery cult that worships Mithra the Bull-Slayer, and the lure of the ancient Magi of the East—and then also an outrageous upstart movement that worships a man they call Christos, a crucified teacher from Palestine.