Summer, AD 69. Rome and its empire are in turmoil, caught in the coils of a desperate and destructive civil war.
The emperor Otho is dead by his own hand and his rival, Aulus Vitellius, occupies the imperial throne.
However, a new challenge has arisen in the East - the legions of Titus Flavius Vespasian have declared him their Emperor.
In the dry heat of an August morning, Gaius Valerius Verrens prepares for his last day on earth.
Wrongly accused of deserting his legion on the field of Bedriacum, it seems he is destined to die a coward's death. Then the executioner's hand is stayed. Vitellius' enemies will spare the life of the man who was once Hero of Rome if he pledges allegiance to Vespasian and his cause.
Valerius - tired of the endless slaughter and hoping that he might be reunited with his lost love - agrees. And so he must battle his way south to Rome in order to persuade his friend Vitellius to stand down for the greater good of the city, its people and the Empire.
But this is civil war and this is Rome, and Valerius - his loyalties divided and branded an enemy of the people - is trapped in a maze of distrust, corruption, betrayal and blood-letting . . .