The ferocious rise of the Borgia family in Rome has taken the country by surprise, as Pope Alexander VI Rodrigo Borgia openly wields his illegitimate children as dynastic weapons: His son Cesare, the arrogant, sadistic leader of a victorious mercenary army, and his scandal-soaked daughter, Lucrezia, a pawn in the marriage game. In Florence, a city once celebrated for her artistic wealth and learning, the people lament what has been lost after the mad monk Savonarola's pious reign. Politics is a blood sport; violence an acceptable form of diplomacy. But Niccolo Machiavelli, a clever and calculating undersecretary, thrives in such conditions, eager to quietly manipulate the affairs of state to his own ends. Machiavelli is impressed with the influence and boldness of the Borgias and one man in particular catches his eye.