When they leave, Vicinius is more enthralled than ever, and Petronius is determined to help him. Thinking it over that evening, he comes up with a plan. Of course, Marcus Vicinius is a Tribune and a Patrician, so it's unthinkable that he marry a lowly hostage, but there are other avenues. Petronius decides to go to Nero and tell him of the existence of the girl, which has been forgotten. He is confident that he'll be able to convince the emperor to have Lygia brought to the imperial palace. Once there, away from the protection of her guardians, Petronius knows he'll be able to manipulate Nero into giving the girl to Vicinius as a concubine. He enacts his plan, and soon soldiers arrive at Plautius' home to escort Lygia to Nero's palace. The old general would like to refuse the order but knows that, if he did, Nero would execute not only him, but his wife and son. Pomponia is a Christian and, through her witness, Lygia has become one as well. As the girl prepares to accompany the soldiers, Pomponia exhorts her to be strong in her faith and to trust God, no matter what happens. Pomponia then writes a letter to Acte, a concubine of Nero's whom he has lost interest in. She now lives ignored in the palace, but is known to be sympathetic to Christians, so in her letter Pomponia asks Acte to watch over Lygia. For added protection, Plautius and Pomponia send Ursus along with Lygia. He was the bodyguard of her and her mother, captured at the same time they were. A huge and immensely strong man, he too has become a Christian, though he often finds the doctrine of peace at odds with his desire to protect and defend.
Eagerly awaiting Lygia's arrival with Petronius, Vinicius is instead greeted by the sight of his battered slaves returning empty-handed. He is so enraged by this that he strikes out, killing the slave who is explaining what happened. Charming. He also can't understand why Lygia would flee- he's a rich, handsome nobleman... what girl wouldn't want to be his mistress? Determined to find her, he and Petronius hire Chilon Chilonides, a slimy individual if ever there was one, to investigate what happened and locate the fugitives. He eventually discovers that Lygia and Ursus are Christians, and reports this fact to Vinicius and Petronius, telling them that the two are probably being hidden by other members of the church. Chilon will track them down... for a price, of course. Vinicius agrees, grateful for some information, and also for a possible reason for Lygia's rejection of him. Neither he nor Petronius knows much about Christianity, except that there are wild and improbable tales told about Christians, and that Pomponia was suspected of being one. Vicinius assumes that her strange religion is responsible for Lygia fleeing from him- after all, she couldn't have any objections to him personally, right?
This is the breaking point for Vinicius. He realizes that he can no longer live life as he has been. He wants to become a Christian, but doesn't know how, so he seeks out Peter and Paul and asks them to teach him what he needs to know. He also humbly asks them for permission, when he has become a Christian, to court Lygia honorably. Unfortunately, at this juncture Nero again rears his ugly head. Wanting to get out of the city and to the seashore for the summer months, he again demands the presence of the court on his travels. This time, Vinicius will not be able to use sickness as an excuse, and so must go along. He asks Paul to accompany him, so that his teaching will not be interrupted. Seeing this as an opportunity not only to instruct Vinicius, but to witness to Romans of all social levels, Paul agrees. Before they leave, Vinicius is given the opportunity to meet with Lygia. They pledge their love to each other, and then the tribune reluctantly leaves.
Then, one night soon after Nero has been maundering on about what a great influence the burning of a city would have on his deathless poetry, word arrives that Rome is on fire. It is obvious from the demeanor and behaviour of Nero and Tigellinus that this is no accident. Thinking only of Lygia's presence in Rome, Vinicius leaps onto a horse and heads back to the city as fast as he can. As he gets closer to Rome, he meets more and more people, fleeing the city in panic. Uncaring for his own safety, Vinicius charges into the heart of the city, searching for Lygia. Fortunately, she, Ursus, and those they were staying with managed to escape the flames, and he eventually finds them praying with other Christians. The fire burns for six days, and though much of the city is eventually saved, a lot of it has been destroyed, and many have died.
* Nero did not long survive Petronius; in A.D. 68, there was a successful coup, which resulted in his committing suicide... sort of. Trying to steel himself to do it, he apparently paced around muttering,"What an artist dies in me." He lost the nerve to do the deed himself, and eventually his secretary had to "help" him out of this world. Good riddance, say I... not that what came along afterwards was much better.