A dancing bear, a runaway slave and a holy man come down from his pillar journey through the crumbling Byzantine empire to the camp of the enemy Huns. The slave Sylvester has a threefold purpose: to escape the powerful men who know he has witnessed their treachery, to rescue his young mistress Ariadne who was captured by an invading Hun, and to save his beloved bear Bubba from having her forelegs broken by cruel trainers. Meanwhile the ascetic Holy John, who believes that he has been chosen to bring Christ to the Huns, speeds their progress with his learned and eminently practical interpretations of God's motives and, once in the Hunnish camp, saves his friends from death by convincing the Khan that Bubba is an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Dickinson's Byzantine landscape is generously populated with characters who embody -- and gently satirize -- the spirit of the times, e.g., the slave-descended ""king"" of the Slavs, Antoninus, who in his admiration for the dead empire has become more Roman than the Romans themselves. The historical romance is a new form for Dickinson, but his piquant wit and bifocal vision manages to recreate Byzantium while continually suggesting the humorous difficulties of trying to recapture any historical period, and makes Bubba a true heroine -- more loving, and indeed more spiritual, than her human friends.