George was a shoemaker – but not just a simple artisan. He thought a lot, worried too much and questioned everything. But he knew when to keep his mouth shut, and he knew his duty. Life in the Roman Empire was hard these days, and no one could say it might not get harder. Cities to the north of Thessalonica on the Greek peninsula had already fallen to the swarming Slavs and Alars. The tribes were definitely on the move, bringing their powerful pagan demons with them: bats with gleaming red eyes spied out the city, diving on the militia men as they patrolled the city walls; giant wolves whose howls chilled the soul surrounded the city; and there were rumours of worse. Even the satyrs, centaurs, nymphs and other remnants of the Greek pantheon lurking in the mountains around Thessalonica were frightened. George’s city was a Christian light in a sea of pagan darkness. And now that sea was rising, threatening to wash over him and his little island as if they did not exist and were of no account. For George, that was just unacceptable. He was a simple artisan – but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t give everything to defend his family, his city and his faith.