When Walter, a young peasant boy, attacks his abusive stepfather in order to protect his sister, Elisabeth, the consequences leave him no choice but to flee, alone and penniless, into the unknown and dangerous world beyond Cottesham, his home village. He is a runaway, a masterless man, and can never return.

For the next 10 years Walter's travels take him throughout England and eventually to the Holy Land. Kind and courageous Walter makes friends easily, but fate is cruel and his life seems to be beset by sorrow and misfortune.