Cobblestone streets . . . Thatch and slate roofs . . . wattle and daub Tudor houses . . . coats of arms . . . blacksmiths and bakers . . . weavers and minstrels . . . the rise of the merchants!
It is the fifteenth century. Serfs can find their freedom if they live a year and a day in “town” – a place of craftsmen, merchants, minstrels, and innkeepers, a place to gather and listen to the news of the traveler spread through the minstrel songs. Mr. Latimer is a merchant in the exotic and decorous trade of spices. Traveling far and wide, he carts the precious commodity back to his town and the earl who charted the town of East Avingstone. However, after one of Mr. Latimer’s journeys, the steward of the earl’s house finds the spices spoiled and ruined. East Avingstone begins to mistrust Mr. Latimer, and his only recourse is to acquire more spices soon to revitalize his reputation as an honorable spice merchant. His oldest son journeys with him on a forlorn attempt to purchase more spices, using the last of their wealth as they seek spices from a solitary merchant in an old castle far away.
Back in East Avingstone, the townsfolk continue to compete with their rivaling town of West Avingstone, and some wonder whether or not the spices were spoiled by a resident of West Avingstone. With the help of a courtly minstrel – who befriends Mr. Latimer’s children – the question about the ruined spices is answered. However, the two towns are still hostile with each other, and it not only takes the return of Mr. Latimer, but also the appearance of a very honored guest of a minstrel before the two towns might begin to realize that they are more alike to each other than what they believed.