In January 532, mobs rule Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire. Against a murderous backdrop lit by raging fires, John, chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, must find those seeking to use the Nika riots to dethrone the emperor.
As Lord Chamberlain, John spent his days counseling Emperor Justinian while passing the small hours of night in conversation with the solemn-eyed little girl depicted in a mosaic on his study wall. He never expected to meet her in a public square - or afterwards, to find her red-dyed corpse in a subterranean cistern.
The year is 548, and Empress Theodora is dead of disease. Such is the belief of everyone in Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire - everyone except Emperor Justinian, who orders John, his Lord Chamberlain, to find her murderer or suffer the consequences. There is no sign of foul play, but many of the aristocrats at the imperial court had good reason to want Theodora dead.