Nothing ever goes right for Thomas de Motley. The teenage son of a drunken juggler, Tom aspires to be a kingsfool, the highest rank of jesters. First there's Fool School, however, and before he begins school, he'll need to cross the English Channel and travel a hundred miles to Northern England to get there. And his papa's spent all his money.
In the church of St. Martin's, Tom stumbles over one of the great secrets of history. A boy, Malcolm, his hair red as coals and his eyes green as glass, has been hidden away in coastal France. He wears royal purple and ermine, speaks little, watches faces, prowls, broods, remains nearly alone and incognito, and is protected by a great kingly man named Edward.
For his own reasons, Malcolm volunteers to join Tom at the Fool School.
A great crashing storm drives the ferry off course, but luckily Malcolm, Tom, and Edward have lowered a rowboat and muscle their way across the English Channel. There awaits Tom's new life as a student of tumbling and jongleuring. But Malcolm has purposes of his own.