Marcellus is a tribune in the time of Christ. He is in charge of the group that is assigned to crucify Jesus. Drunk, he wins Jesus’ homespun robe after the crucifixion. He is tormented by nightmares and delusions after the event. Hoping to find a way to live with what he has done, and still not believing in Jesus, he returns to Palestine to try and learn what he can of the man he killed.
The story picks up at the point where “The Robe” ends, following the martyrdom of Diana and Marcellus. Christ’s robe is conveyed to Peter for safe-keeping, but the emperor Caligula wants it back to benefit from its powers. Marcellus’ former slave Demetrius seeks to prevent this, and catches the eye of Messalina, wife to Caligula’s uncle Claudius. Messalina tempts Demetrius, he winds up fighting in the arena, and wavers in his faith.
Freshly arrived Sandhurst-trained Captain Alan King, better versed in Pashtun then any of the veterans and born locally as army brat, survives an attack on his escort to his Northwest Frontier province garrison near the Khyber pass because of Ahmed, a native Afridi deserter from the Muslim fanatic rebel Karram Khan’s forces. As soon as his fellow officers learn his mother was a native Muslim which got his parents disowned even by their own families, he falls prey to stubborn prejudiced discrimination, Lieutenant Geoffrey Heath even moves out of their quarters, except from half-Irish Lt. Ben Baird.