When Nicholas Elyot and his friends set out to spend the Christmas season in the country, they are prepared for a hard journey in winter weather. They are also wary of violence on the road, for these are troubled times after the Great Pestilence, when bands of dispossessed and desperate men roam the countryside of England. It is not surprising, therefore, when the troubadours hired to provide entertainment at Leighton Manor are attacked in Wychwood. Yet why should this insignificant group draw the attention of outlaws, who are searching for something? Is one of the troubadours not quite what he seems?