Roger and Alice live alone with their mother in a tiny cottage. Their father, a knight, left five years earlier to fight in the Crusades and never returned. Roger and Alice are sent by their mother, who is sick and feverish, on a journey to find an uncle they did not know they had. They take with them their mother's lute. "Show him the eagle carved on the back," she tells her children. "Ask him to come quickly. Quickly!" Their journey is complicated when they are captured by outlaws, and their lute (their only prood of identity for their uncle) is stolen. Alice, the better climber of the two, climbs out of the tower from a high window. Now she journeys alone, and somehow must find her uncle and persuade him to help.