Throughout the book, Krispos has to deal with raids by an evil priest named Harvas Black-robe, an internal rebellion led by his predecessor'suncle, theological/political problems with the patriarchs of the empire, and the issue of the identity of his son's father. Krispos struggles to overcome all these problems but manages to retain his crown and his head.
During the novel, Krispos learns more about being an Avtokrator of Videssos and the power struggles that come with that exalted position.
It is in this novel that Krispos' wife Dara gives birth to his first son and, later his successor, Phostis, whom Krispos names after his father, who died after a cholera outbreak in his village.
Mavros dies fighting Harvas, leading Krispos to name Iakovitzes,a man who had his tongue cut out by Harvas, Sevastos.