It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Tris’ bestselling work. The Hun and the General is way-fun stuff, gay historical romance. If you’ve read my blogs here and there, you know that I love historical romance, more so because of the history. Writing historicals is an excuse for wandering around the web and libraries researching the clothes people wore and the food they ate. Going to museums to discover how beds were constructed in days gone by. Looking at the cabinets where they put their jewelry and admiring said jewelry.
Here’s the blurb for The Hun and the General:
Livianus is bored and longs for action. His reward for serving Rome is the governorship of a quiet corner of Gaul, but as he whiles away his days at his sumptuous villa, his thoughts turn to Attila the Hun, the feared barbarian with whom Livianus once enjoyed an intimate friendship. When a desperate emperor asks him to return to Pannonia to broker a truce with Attila, Livianus’s old passion flares.
Attila is losing the will to go on. He is tired of being a tyrant but his people’s future depends on him. The arrival of Livianus renews Attila’s spirit as he prepares to march on Constantinople. Livianus has nothing to bargain with, but when the emperor’s sister delivers a proposition for Attila, a new and brighter future seems to lay directly ahead. For the people, and especially for the two men.
But the deadly hand of the emperor isn’t interested in peace, and as their plans are destroyed, only one course of action remains open to the Hun and the general.
And here’s an excerpt:
Livianus sat on a stool at the side of the bath and watched Caecilius bathe. “I would join you but I can’t face the heat.”
“But you’ll swim with me?”
“That I will certainly do. I seem to spend half my time in the pool—it’s the only way to cope with the summers. The lack of activity makes me soft.”
“The soothsayers tell us these heat waves are the forerunners of a great disaster.”
“Do they ever have anything good to say? Doom mongers, that’s all they are. I’m surprised they have anyone’s ear in this day and age.”
“They’ve been right before.”
“We’ve all been right before. But we’ve been wrong more often.”
Caecilius lay on his back and floated to the surface. His body had lost none of its tightness, the water swilling over his stomach muscles like a stream over smoothed stones. He laid his head back in the water, and his hips broke the surface. The water flattened his pubic hair to his skin, making his thick cock look even longer than Livianus remembered.
Livianus felt his eyebrows arch. “Let’s swim. You’re as clean as you’re going to get,” he said, rising to his feet and adjusting his toga. “One good thing about this place is the spring that flows from the hills behind the villa. I have the best pool in Gaul.”
Caecilius climbed from the bath and shook off the excess water. He grabbed a towel and walked naked alongside Livianus. Out of the corner of his eye, Livianus saw Caecilius’s cock swinging like a loose stirrup, and a knot began to form in his groin.
“The rumors about this place are true,” said Caecilius, looking around.
“Rumors? About my villa? By Jupiter, have they nothing better to talk about?”
Caecilius chuckled. “You still swear on the old gods.”
“I feel my soul is safer that way.”
“Don’t forget you’re a hero. The people need to know that our heroes are well rewarded.”
“Ah, to encourage others to lay their lives on the line when the emperor requires it.” Livianus gestured toward the pool steps. “After you.”
Caecilius dropped his towel on the floor and descended the steps until the water reached his waist. “You’ve grown cynical in your retirement. Perhaps it doesn’t agree with you after all.” He lunged into the water, glided to the center, then turned onto his back. “What would you say if I told you I’d come to take you away from here?”
“I’d say about time. They call it retirement but it’s no better than a slow death. God, I thought Paestum was dull!” Livianus dived into the water and swam to his friend’s side. Caecilius hadn’t aged at all since they last met. Not a single gray hair on his head or chin. His brown eyes radiated youth and strength. “How long is it since we were together?”
“Four years. Maybe five.”
“Seems longer.” Livianus scooped his friend’s head toward him with a hand and pressed their lips together. “I’ve missed you, Caecilius,” he said as he tore his lips away. “Is it true you’ve come for me?”
“I carry an order bearing the seals of Theodosius and Valentinian—”
“Both emperors? I can barely imagine the scale of the sacrifice they wish me to make. Suddenly Gaul appeals to me.” He laughed and swam around his friend.
“How long did you spend in Pannonia? Two years?”
“Three. Why do you ask?”
At that moment, Publius and another slave, an African, brought out towels and clothes.
“Ah, lunch beckons,” said Livianus, swimming for the steps. “I have a good cook, I’m happy to say. With any luck we’ll have sparrows and make you feel at home.” He climbed from the water and turned, allowing Publius to rub him down.
Caecilius emerged from the pool and received the same treatment from the other slave. “I don’t know why you complain, Livianus. I could get used to this.”
“That’s because you don’t have it. Your life is still full of purpose. I can see from your muscles that you are still active, and I can tell from your cunning that you debate with the best of them.” Livianus slipped into a fresh toga and lifted his feet one at a time so Publius could slide sandals onto them. “Are you going to tell me what our esteemed leaders want of me? Or do I have to drag it out of you?” He slipped an arm through his friend’s and sauntered toward the dining room.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“I jest, Caecilius. I have so much time on my hands, and have for what seems an eternity, that I never rush anything these days.” He cleared his throat. “But I am curious as to why you should ask me about Pannonia.”
Caecilius stopped walking and looked at the frescoed ceiling. “There’s no way to dress this up, my friend. I wish I could.” He lowered his eyes and looked directly at Livianus. “You are to return to Pannonia.”
Livianus’s heart skipped a beat, and his head spun as if he’d drunk too much wine in the midday sun. “Return to Pannonia? But I don’t understand.”
Caecilius grasped his arm, and they passed between twin marble columns into the dining room. “You don’t look well.”
“Must be the shock.” Livianus slapped his forehead with the back of his hand for dramatic effect.
Caecilius took Livianus’s weight. “Slave, some wine.”
Publius served wine while Caecilius guided Livianus onto a couch. Caecilius pressed a goblet to Livianus’s lips.
“Don’t fuss. I’m fine.” Livianus drank, then peered at Caecilius over the rim of his goblet. “Pannonia?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Attila is preparing to attack Constantinople.”
“We are certain of it.”
“Attila is no fool. He knows that even the might of the Huns is no match for the great Theodosian walls. Laying siege has never been his strong point.”
“Let us pray that is the case, but he prepares his hordes as we speak.”
“Then he’s taken leave of his senses and his people will slay him.”
“The emperors, the senate, cannot take that chance. In any case, he could be replaced by an even greater monster.”
Livianus slammed his goblet on the table beside the couch. “He is no monster!”
“I beg to differ, Livianus. He’s swept across the empire slaying, burning, and robbing, and you—”
“And I, yes I, have spent time with him. I have lived with the Huns, hunted with them, learned their ways, their language. Just because they are different from us does not make them any less creatures of the gods.” Livianus clenched his fists and pressed them into the seat cushion. “If Attila is even considering a march on Constantinople, it means he’s been provoked.”
“When my last embassy to Pannonia departed, we had achieved peace.”
“A great peace, but at a cost.” Caecilius crunched into a roast sparrow.
“Ah! So that’s it.” Livianus got to his feet and crossed to the other side of the central table, then turned and looked at Caecilius. Suddenly, the sight of the Roman stuffing his face turned his mouth bitter. He planted his hands on the table and glowered at Caecilius. “Tell me exactly what Theodosius has done to bring this upon us.”
Caecilius tossed bones onto his plate and wiped his mouth. “We couldn’t go on paying three hundred and fifty pounds of gold a year just to keep the peace.”
“What did Theodosius reduce it to?” A pointless question, since any reduction was a betrayal.
“He didn’t reduce it. He stopped it.”
“Stopped it? After all that effort?”
“As soon as the walls were completed.”
Livianus straightened and drummed the table with his fingers. “Then he must have expected retaliation.” He looked for his friend’s nod of agreement. “He thought he was safe behind his barricade. So what’s changed?”
“We’ve been losing ground on all fronts, Livianus. The empire is dying. If Attila attacks before this winter, our troops are too scattered and too few. All Attila would have to do, as you have so astutely realized, is lay the city to siege and wait.”
Livianus rubbed his chin. “What a sorry state Rome has become.” He shook his head and pulled on his lower lip. “And I suppose I’m to go and broker a new peace, is that so?”
“I carry all the documents. You will be restored to the army with the title Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces.”
“And no doubt I shall be duly rewarded when I return, assuming I return triumphant?”
“Of course. Theodosius himself—”
“Theodosius himself is all but bankrupt, you’ve told me that already.” He waved a hand dismissively. “This that I do, I do for the people of Rome and the empire I have loved, not for the emperor—not even for both of them.”
“So you will go?”
“Yes, I will go. But tell your masters in Ravenna and Constantinople that this time it will cost them a lot more than a governor’s seal and a villa at the arse end of the empire.”
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