Military sword and sorcery, from the co-author of Kingdoms of the Night (with Allan Cole, 1995, etc.) The former kingdom of Numantia is governed by an effete oligarchy known as the Rule of Ten. As a young, untried cavalry officer, narrator Damastes is sent with his troop to escort a diplomatic mission led by the seer (magician) Tenedos into a bandit-infested border country of Kait. But opposed by Kait's greedy boss--Baber Fergana and his sorcerer, Irshad, not to mention by a powerful demon called Thak and his strangler-assassin Tovieti cult--Tenedos and Damastes barely escape with a handful of survivors. Soon, however, Thak moves into the Numantian capital, Nicias, followed rapidly by the Tovieti with their yellow silk strangling cords, while another enemy, the sorcerer Chardin Sher, brews up spells more powerful than those of Tenedos. Despite all this, the Rule of Ten refuse to take action, and Nicias is engulfed by civil war. Tenedos and Damastes have no choice but to seize control of Numantia, then face further military and sorcerous challenges before Tenedos openly declares himself emperor. A fantasy sex- and violence-fest, courtesy of Bunch's sure grasp of military history and organization, gory battles interspersed with interludes of graphic sex, and dialogue peppered with incongruous modern expletives. The text, while complete in itself, seems to promise at least one sequel.