The book is set at the beginning of the 13th century and follows a young Kentish man whose future seems secure and destined to follow the course set by his parents. However his curiosity and restlessness is fuelled by travelling story tellers, and he determines to leave this secure and comfortable life path to embark on an adventure across Europe.
His early steps are guided by a travelling companion from whom he learns to use his wits and skills to best effect. However the companion leaves him, in tragic circumstances, with a quest to fulfil which requires him to go further and reach the Holy Land. In France he finds he is crossing a land riven by religious upheavals as the Cathars struggle to follow their own Christian beliefs in the face of the increasing attention and displeasure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
In south west France he meets a young Cathar man with whom he experiences emotions which have not before surfaced. The relationship seems destined to be short-lived, but on his return voyage from the Holy Land he is drawn to revisit the area, and search for the young Cathar.
This new adventure brings him into the midst of the Cathar community which is fighting for its life against the overwhelming might of the Roman Catholic Church. The reunion is achieved but against the backdrop of the community being besieged and brutally extinguished in Beziers. Retreat to the mountain defences of the Pyrenees offers a final chance for the two men to share.