That's the mystery Emperor Justinian in-explicably sends his Lord Chamberlain John the Eunuch to solve, at the very time John desperately needs to clear himself of accusations he murdered a senator in the Hippodrome.
Mehenopolis, a pilgrim destination thanks to its ancient shrine to a snake deity as well as the home of the late sheep, is nearly as byzantine in its ways and undercurrents as Constantinople.
Among suspicious characters John encounters are a pretentious local landowner battling a self-styled magician for control of the lucrative shrine, an exiled heretical cleric, an itinerant bee-keeper, and a disgraced charioteer. Meanwhile, in Constantinople, John's good friend Anatolius does his best to trace the senator's murderer.
At stake are not only John's honor and his head, but also the family with whom he recently reunited, now in danger of being broken apartor worse.