The hero of this novel was born on the 26th December,1309 - St. Stephen's Day. At first he does not seem to be the sort of individual who is going to turn out to be a hero. The first of the three sections of the book is entitled AMILE and it concerns the one creature that starts to give a meaning to his life.
From his earliest days Stephen de Beauville, the son of Robert de Beauville, Earl of Greavesby in Yorkshire, has been frightened of dogs. Every member of his large family spends a large portion of their time in cruel teasing as they torment him with his fear of every member of the canine world. His elder half-brothers are openly contemptuous of what they see as nothing but cowardice. Life is one long round of fear and misery and there seems no way that he can live up to the martial spirit of his brothers and sisters. His father rapidly makes the decision that nothing but a life with monks will he suitable for his timid son.
For some strange reason he is presented with a small and sickly puppy, the runt of the litter, as a means of tormenting him even further. He decides to kill it but relents when the puppy turns to him in affection and trust. He gradually overcomes his fear and makes his mind to keep the little dog and names it Amile. For the first time in his life he feels love for another creature and that love is returned.
Amile becomes his day and night companion and grows up to be a handsome and valuable hound which is now coveted by Stephen's jealous older half-brothers. The world changes for Stephen and he begins to develop as a person in many different ways. However, disaster overtakes him again when he reaches his thirteenth birthday and his father has decided it is time to take him to Richley Abbey and hand him over to the abbot. It is the end of his life with Amile. It seems like the end of his world. There is then a brutal solution to his unasked for problem.
The second and third stages of Stephen's life are also marked by two characters who have a profound effect upon his destiny. PAGAN and THOMAS both introduce him to other aspects of his character that he never thought were within him. One influence leads him to Berkshire and Worcesterhire whilst the other takes him north again as far as Berwick and the war against the Scots and later back to the world of his family. He has become a very different person. He has learned that "The coward, being afraid of nearly everything, is alone capable of the highest courage."
The world is now ready to accept him in a way he never thought possible. Yet the choice he makes at the end is another tremendous step and an extraordinary leap of faith. The book involves two journeys - one that is a geographical exploration of parts of the north-the other a deeper journey into the quest for his own soul.