‘If Jesus Christ was amongst them, he would deceive them…’
1569 AD. The March lands between England and Scotland are a place of terror, where outlaw bands and broken men rob, pillage and murder in open defiance of the law. Here, deadly blood-feud is a way of life. Families of robbers, known as Border Reivers, live via blackmail and terrorism. No man sleeps safe in his bed, and the sound of hoofbeats on the tops is a herald of death.
Richie Reade, known as Richie o’the Bow, finds himself dragged into this dark and bloody world. One night his village is raided by a gang of Armstrongs, the most dreaded of the reiver families. After he slays two of the gang, Richie is declared a dead man walking: the Armstrongs and their allies will not rest until they have his head. Betrayed by the law, Richie is forced to flee into the wilderness. He and his fellow outlaws begin to forge a reputation as Richie’s Bairns, killing the Armstrongs wherever they find them.
Meanwhile the Border is threatened by war. The rebellious northern earls plan to depose the Protestant Queen of England, Elizabeth I, and replace her with the Catholic Mary Stewart. Many of the reiver families rise to join the rebellion, and the earls march south under the Banner of the Five Wounds. Civil war threatens to break out in England, even as fresh murder and conspiracy raise havoc in Scotland.
With the north in turmoil, and the Border in a state of bloody flux, Richie and his outlaws do what they can to survive. As his fame grows, Richie finds himself drawn inexorably into the war for England’s soul. When the final battle looms, above the rushing waters of the Hell Beck, he must choose his fate.