Helpless, the young convent student Richard has to watch as his mother Sarazenin Zobeida is condemned by the inquisitor Heinrich Institoris as a witch and burned at the stake. From then on, Richard swears revenge on Institoris for what he did to his family. He can escape and is taken by the merchant Jakob Fugger. He wants to teach him not only to seek blind revenge, but to manipulate people like puppets and thus to reach his goals. The two travel from Florence to Rome to influence the upcoming election of the pope and to witness the power struggle between the Medicis and the Borgias up close.