WELCOME TO ROMAN BRITAIN. It is almost fifty years since the legions invaded but Britannia is still a raw, frontier province. Tensions run high, especially in the north, where Aurelia Marcella, a young Roman woman fled from the ruins of Pompeii, runs the Oak Tree Inn on the road to York.
A BITTER CHILL. In late December 95 AD, Roman settlers in Britannia are preparing to celebrate Saturnalia. Aurelia Marcella's plans for a peaceful holiday are shattered when her brother brings bad news. An enemy in Rome is trying to destroy her family by spreading rumors that they are plotting against Caesar. Her brother has lost his job as a government investigator, the mansio is menaced by a gang of native criminals, and when a party of rich, demanding travelers arrive to stay, their quarrels and violence spill over into Aurelia's household. Then the Saturnalia banquet, highlight of the festival, culminates in tragic death.