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Mystery surrounds the young peasant boy known as Big John. Raised during the strife-filled days of the reign of King John of England, his life is one day changed when a knight says, in passing, “You remind me of someone—someone I once knew and loved.” It is from “Old Marm,” the herb woman, that John understands that injustice has been done his family. Though never telling him the family name lest he unwittingly betray himself, she does all she can to prepare him to one day reclaim his name and family honor. Then Old Marm dies, and John is left without a clue to his identity. In the next years John’s unusual size and strength and the knowledge he has gained of letters and of the art of healing earn him a place as page to an earl organizing the 5th Crusade. In the Holy Land John searches for a father he hopes is living still. Amidst battle, capture and setbacks, John—now a squire to a Knight Hospitaller—encounters Francis of Assisi, who had come to the Holy Land just at this time to preach the Gospel to the Saracens. It is another meeting that changes the course of Big John’s life.
In the year 1200 in Cornwall, thirteen-year-old Martin’s first day as page and squire to Baron Eric of Less Mortain is also his last when the Baron mysteriously disappears and his visiting distant relative and heir, the moody Sir Basil, takes charge of the castle.