Another episode in the career of Yarbro's saintly vampire, Rakoczy (A Feast in Exile, 2001, etc.), here known as the Comes Santus Germainius. In the year 796, Karl-lo-Magne, king of the Franks—history's Charlemagne—summons Rakoczy to authenticate some rare maps. The well-traveled Rakoczy fascinates Karl with his learning (the king, of course, has no idea how old Rakoczy is, or how far he has wandered in his 3,000-odd years of undeath) not just in geography, but metalworking and healing. To explain his frequent solecisms—he refuses to keep slaves, and treats servants and serfs as people—Rakoczy emphasizes his “foreign,” non-Christian, nature. Karl, no fool, confers estates and significant status upon Rakoczy, whose success soon stirs jealousy and envy among the king's intimates. Meanwhile, the Church wrestles with a problem of its own: a young albino woman, Gynethe Mehaut, displays the bleeding palms of a stigmatic. To some, this is a sign of divine blessing; to others, she's the Antichrist. The Pope, Leo III, has troubles of his own—he barely survives an assassination attempt—but nevertheless only he can decide the fate of the young woman. Rakoczy agrees to escort her to Rome, and since both must avoid daylight, companionship soon develops into friendship—and more. But now Rakoczy and Gynethe Mehaut have jointly earned the hatred of powerful figures. Though ancient and wise, can Rakoczy defy the wrath of both king and Pope?
Yarbro's meticulously researched historical backdrops blend seamlessly into, and considerably enhance, her accounts of the vampire's endless, lonely, brave existence.