Pisa, May 1364.
Sir William Gold is looking forward to a lucrative career as a hired sword in the endless warring between Italy's city states. But when a message comes from the Grand Master of the Hospitaliers, William is forced to leave his dreams of fame and fortune behind him.
The Hospitaliers are gathering men for a crusade, and Sir William must join them. Yet before they set out for the holy land, the knights face deadly adversaries much closer to home . . .
In the twisting politics of Italy, no one can be trusted. And there are those who would be pleased to see the crusade fail . . .
Can Sir William and his knights survive this impossible mission into the heart of the enemy?
September, 1356. Poitiers. The greatest knights of the age were ready to give battle.
On the English side, Edward, the Black Prince, who'd earned his spurs at Crecy.
On the French side, the King and his son, the Dauphin. With 12,000 knights.
And then there is William Gold. A cook's boy - the lowest of the low - who had once been branded as a thief. William dreams of being a knight, but in this savage new world of intrigue, betrayal and greed, first he must learn to survive.
As rapacious English mercenaries plunder a country already ravaged by plague, and the peasantry take violent revenge against the French knights who have failed to protect them, is chivalry any more than a boyish fantasy?
But even these stunning victories only served to buy the Greeks time, as the Persians gathered a new army, returning with overwhelming force to strike the final killing blow.
For the Greeks, divided and outnumbered, there was only one possible strategy: attack. And so, in the blazing summer of 479 BC, Arimnestos took up his spear one final time at the Battle of Plataea.
Political alliances are beginning to rupture. No state is immune: England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Milan, Genoa, Venice, Constantinople . . . Every mercenary knight for hundreds of miles must sharpen his sword and prepare for battle.
But Sir William Gold has other problems. Just to reach Europe, he must capture its most unassailable fortress. He must also protect his liege-lord, the Green Count, from assassins hell-bent on his demise.
The balance of power in the West will change. William Gold must trust to hope, and his men, that he lands on the winning side . . .