Thousands of knights and foot soldiers are mustering in Venice for the launch of the fourth Crusade. Among them is young Arthur de Caldicot, soon to dubbed a knight. He is thrilled to be part of this huge gathering; but all too soon the crusade falls into disarray.
‘Will you swear to take me?’Halfdan stared gravely at his daughter. ‘In my heart, I will.’ One morning Solveig wakes to find her father, Halfdan, gone.Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who longs to rejoin his friend, Harald Hardrada, in Constantinople, where he is leader of the Empress’s guard. But when he goes, he breaks his promise to take his daughter.Solveig decides to follow him. She sets off in a tiny boat and into an adventure along the Baltic and through the river routes of Russia to the Black Sea.
The year is 1199, the place the Welsh Marches, where young Arthur de Caldicot practises his tilting and archery, learns to be a dutiful page to his father, and waits impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father's friend Merlin gives him a shining black stone. When Arthur starts to see stories in the stone, his life quickly becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the boy who pulls the sword in the stone.
Arthur de Caldicot, now page to Lord Stephen, sets off to Bruges and thence across France to Venice as the first stage in the preparations for going on a Crusade. On his journey, he looks into the shining stone that Merlin gave him and sees the legends of King Arthur and his knights revealed to him.
It is 1202, and thousands of knights and footsoldiers are mustering in Venice for the Fourth Crusade. Among them is young Arthur de Caldicot, squire to Lord Stephen. It is thrilling to be part of this huge gathering; but as Christian falls upon Christian and Saracens draw their scimitars, Arthur's eyes are opened to the realities of war. Looking into his seeing stone for guidance, he realises that the exploits of King Arthur and his knights, like those of the crusaders, are as grim as they are glorious.