A eunuch archpriest and an unscrupulous senator smuggle products from China to Italy that will change the course of western history.Surgeon Getorius Asterius, his wife Arcadia, the eunuch archpriest of a pagan fertility cult, the female head of a heretical Arian church, and an ambitious senator in league with a Chinese merchant: these are the prime movers in this mystery set in Ravenna, Italy, in A.D. 440. When Getorius is summoned to examine the castrated body of a youth found by Thecla in her Arian church, who is the sobbing "Vestal Virgin" nearby? Why is the senator smuggling counterfeit Western coins to the Eastern Empire, and contraband Chinese products back to Ravenna? Thecla's coded message leads to a secret tunnel and the sinister temple of Cybele, whose devotees are self-mutilated eunuchs. In a stunning climax, the conspirators try to escape Ravenna, planning to sell one product in Egypt, but failing to recognize the far more deadly nature of the other.