Ximene Trencavel is the hero of the story. She is a descendant of both the Comte de Carcassone and the Comte de Toulouse.
Both her Uncle Gaston de Foix and her grandmother Eleanor Garcia de Padilla believe she should lay claim to her inheritance, but for very different reasons.
Eleanor wants Ximene to found a state which can provide a safe haven for those who espouse the Cathar faith, declared to be a heresy by the Church of Rome.
Gaston on the other hand, wants to use Ximene’s inheritance as leverage to promote his own territorial ambitions.
Eleanors lover Guillam de Clermont—Dessous will do anything for Eleanor, even risking his own life.
Guillam makes plans to allow Ximene to escape from her dominant uncle.
Gaston has decided that his interests will be best served if Ximene marries the Edward of Woodstock, Black Prince, heir to the English throne, Prince of Wales and Duke of Aquitaine
The Black Prince is however deeply in love with his cousin, Joan, Countess of Kent.
The Prince meets a shepherd boy, John Stanley , during a deer hunt in the north of England. He recruits John into his service and by dint of hard work bravery and loyalty John quickly progresses through the ranks.
John comes to the attention of Ximene who decides to groom him to become her perfect knight.
Bertrand du Guesclin is an evil antihero who commits himself to murdering Ximene, preferably after raping her first.