Edmund is but a simple apprentice working for Otto, the coiner. Turns out Otto isn't so simple, though, and has been hoarding silver from the king and making bad money. And since Edmund works under him, he is guilty by association. Gulp.
Luckily, Edmund gets handed over to Sir Nigel, who's on his way to the Crusades. Along with Hubert (the other squire), Rannulf the pagan Crusader, and a few others, they start making their way to the Holy Land.
The journey is a learning experience. Edmund has to learn how to ride a horse, swing a sword, and master all of his duties as squire. As they pass through London, France, and Venice, Edmund sees all the maps that he saw as a child unfold into real places. Places that fit his imagination to greater or lesser degrees (London = not his ideal vacation spot).
After battling seasickness, hangovers, and a bout of fever, Edmund and his gang land in Acre. Crusaders from all over get ready to take the city as they wait for their king, Richard the Lionheart. After a few skirmishes the king arrives, and shortly thereafter they are able to lay siege to the city.
Edmund is a little thrown off by the ways of war. The fighting is one thing, but King Richard's command to slaughter thousands of prisoners is quite another. And Edmund's not the only one who finds it shocking—even Sir Nigel finds it a tough pill to swallow.
After Acre, the Crusaders from England break camp and pursue their enemy's army into the south, toward Jerusalem. There's another major battle in Arsuf, where both Nigel and Rannulf are injured.
Edmund is left with a choice—join another knight in riding to Jerusalem, or return home with the others. We leave him in this predicament, looking between the shining city of Jerusalem and the dark Crusade ship bound for England.
What will he do?