"...for they had, they said, spent a long time in the country situated north of the numerous nations of India—a country called Serinda— and there they had learned accurately by what means it was possible for silk to be produced in the land of the Romans."
Procopius of Caesarea, History of the Wars
Ten years have passed since a pitiless plague claimed the lives of tens of millions throughout the known world. The Eastern Romans, from their capital in Byzantium, struggle to reconsolidate Italy and north Africa, recently restored to empire during the brilliant campaigns of the Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora’s hand-picked generals who achieved what most thought was impossible when they reversed over a hundred years of Roman decline by upending a thousand years of stultifying, obsolete military doctrines and traditions.
However, their grip is tenuous. With Byzantine armies diverted in the west and religious unrest closer to home, Rome’s perennial eastern rival, Persia, sensed weakness and seized the moment to open an eastern front against the Byzantines. Unlike earlier Roman-Persian wars that contested fertile lands and prosperous cities in Syria, this brutal war pits Roman and Persian armies against one another in the cold, deserted mountains of Lazica, a wasteland beyond the boundaries of both empires.
Drained by wars on east and west, Justinian’s consistorium—his closest advisors—turn their attention to the deleterious effects of the silk trade.
Silk! A miraculous fiber. Softer than cotton, stronger than iron. For two-thousand years, its origins have remained a thing of mystery while Mediterranean peoples stoked an ancient and insatiable appetite for the precious fabric. Now this appetite threatens to unwind all of Justinian’s accomplishments by diverting precious resources from the Imperial treasury—to pay the Persians for their silk!
But fate held strange plans. In their darkest hour the Byzantines found help in the arrival of foreign monks who claimed to know the secret of silk’s origin. They offered to partner with the Byzantines on a mission to return to their homeland, retrieve the secrets of silk, and free Byzantium from hated dependence on its enemies. This party of spies would contend with a shortcoming: the silk arts did not belong to the province of men. To succeed, they needed skills known only to women.
They found their accomplice in Anastasia
Together, they would embark on a feat of sixth-century industrial espionage to unravel silk’s mysteries and steal them away from a distant empire in the land beyond India known only to the Byzantines as Serinda!