Krea is seven years old and a slave. With a ragged troupe of tumblers and jugglers, she travels from town to town in Folger, now a part of the kingdom of Bracken. Every day of the year she is walking or working, and she is always lonely. Then, as winter takes hold of Folger, the troupe realizes that an old woman is haunting their footsteps, and that she has her eye on Krea.
Who is the old woman, and what can she want? Krea's companions argue over whether she is a robber or an assassin. Neither idea sounds very pleasant to the slave girl, who is terribly afraid of being noticed by anybody at all, let alone a robber or an assassin.
Meanwhile, war is brewing in the kingdom of Bracken. And Krea, after meeting the aged woman herself, soon realizes that somehow she is involved in the conflict between Folger and the island country of Bracken. For Krea, a whole new world opens up: a world of comfort, companionship, and excitement spiced with danger. As she gains freedom from the collar of a slave, she learns that there is yet another collar that she must wear.