Rome, AD 63. Vespasian has been ordered to a far-flung empire in Africa to free two hundred Roman citizens who have been enslaved by a desert kingdom. But when Vespasian reaches the city, he discovers tensions spilling over into bloody chaos…Battling thirst and exhaustion, Vespasian must help the Romans escape, their only route to survival a desperate race across a barren desert with a hoard of heavily armed rebels at their backs. Meanwhile, back in Rome, Rome's elite fear for their lives as Emperor Nero's extravagance goes unchecked. Can anyone stop the Emperor before Rome devours itself? And if Nero is to be toppled, who will be the one to put his head in the lion's mouth?