In 1203, the relative peace of the Byzantine Empire is imperiled when the ships of the Fourth Crusade show up outside the walls of Constantinople. Instead of traveling to the Holy Land to battle the infidels, the Crusade, having sailed out of Venice, has been subverted and is now besieging the city. The jester known as Feste, his wife Viola, and their compatriots within the city are faced with catastrophe as the peace the Fool's Guild has worked so hard to maintain is about to be shattered.
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With such a disaster looming, the death of one silk merchant in the Venetian Quarter of Constantinople seems insignificant. But Philoxenites, the Imperial Treasurer and one of the most power schemers at court, has taken a special interest in the case and wants Feste to investigate Venetian merchant's death. The merchant, of course, was not what he appeared to be and, if Constantinople is to have any hope of surviving the troops outside its gates, Feste must quickly uncover what forces were at work when the merchant lost his life.