The "Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ": Forged or Found? November, A.D. 439, at Ravenna, Italy, capital of the Western Roman Empire. Surgeon Getorius Asterius and his wife Arcadia are called to examine the body of Behan, a monk seemingly drowned in a penitential rite gone awry. The couple discovers a prophecy text in Behan's hut, suggesting that a document of earth-shaking importance will soon be revealed. Shortly after, during an impromptu visit to the new mausoleum of Galla Placidia, mother of Emperor Valentinian III, a hidden niche violently reveals the "Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ," purportedly dictated to Pontius Pilate's secretary while the procurator is outside addressing the crowd. The stunning terms of the will are an expression of Christ's supreme love and forgiveness, yet if implemented by the Bishop of Rome, His vicar, they now will bring apocalyptic chaos to the twin Roman Empires. Placidia supresses the papyrus while palace librarian Theokritos tests its authenticity. After three witnesses are murdered, Getorius suggests to Placidia that Rabbi David ben Zadok, of the Judean community, evaluates the text and predict consequences if the document is made public. His response: empire-wide civil war, with Christians and Judeans pitted against each other. In the interval of waiting for Theokritos's report, Getorius is arrested, falsely accused of dissecting the body of the monk, leaving Arcadia alone to deal with the papyrus. Late in December, delayed by winter storms, Brenos, abbot of Behan's monastery, arrives from Gaul, ostensibly to bury his monk, but actually to reveal the will at the Nativity Vigil Mass. Frantic at finding that the papyrus has been prematurely discovered, Brenos meets with "Smyrna," his mysterious contact at Ravenna, in an effort to locate the will. In the last late hours of December 24, it is still not certain that fanatical members of a religious order will not succeed in establishing a theocracy designed to supplant the dying Western Empire.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.