When she is sent to Alba (ancient Scotland) to fulfill a marriage agreement made in her youth, Trelagh Mahon discovers her new husband, Colain, is a brutal man who despises her and has agreed to marry her only to please his father. Cold and merciless, he demands her absolute obedience and schemes to cripple her independent spirit. Trelagh is despairing, but unsurprised. In her experience, the gods have never smiled upon her – not, at least, until the moment she first laid eyes on her new husband’s half-brother, Gabhan, gifted harper and son of a Pictish slave.
Trelagh finds favor with Colain’s father, the powerful Chief Kintire, but she knows even his affection will not protect her if Colain discovers the growing relationship between herself and Gabhan, whom he denounces as a bastard usurper. When at last Colain’s abuse becomes unbearable, Trelagh and Gabhan flee together and take refuge with his Pictish relations in the beautiful glen above Loch Sule. Gabhan is content to stay there and take up his inheritance but Trelagh, feeling she does not belong, becomes restless. For her sake, Gabhan agrees to move on, and Trelagh has only herself to blame when Colain at last hunts them down, and her world is rent asunder.
Trelagh is hauled back to Kintire where she emerges from her darkness only to discover she is carrying Gabhan’s child which Colain, enraged, threatens. With help from Colain’s brother, Druan, she manages to escape, only to be forced to take refuge with the same Pictish tribe she had persuaded Gabhan to leave.
Years pass, but Trelagh’s contest against Colain is not done. Kintire warriors, hungry for land, bring war from the west. Trelagh, now fighting with the Pictish, finds herself defending Glen Sule. But Colain’s campaign is powerful; all will be lost unless the Picts can enlist the aid of the mysterious northern chief called the Gray Man. Still, the gods refuse to smile. At last, captured and nearly broken, Trelagh must weigh her faith and face her greatest fears: Colain’s hatred, and the possible loss of a life far more precious to her than her own.