Talia is a farm girl from the southern border of Valdemar. She lives with a clan of Holderkin, a socially and religiously strict group which believes in female submission and polygamous marriage. On her 13th birthday, she heretically rejects an offer of marriage, declaring her desire to be a Herald. She is in hiding from her family when she encounters a horse-like being -- a Companion, who Chooses her and takes her away from the Holderkin. Because she does not know anything about the Heralds, Rolan places a temporary block on her memory until he can get her to people who can explain everything.
Talia and Rolan travel to Haven. Upon reaching Haven, Talia is introduced to Princess Elspeth (the Heir-presumptive and a spoiled brat), and Queen Selenay. She is delighted to find that she will be allowed to stay and become a Herald. She tours the Collegium, meets the rest of the trainees, and starts to attend classes at the Collegium.The second section details the torment to which Talia is subjected by a group of "Blues"--Collegium students not affiliated with the Healers, Bards or Heralds. The group of Blues intimidate Talia in both physical (including carefully timed trips and shoves) and psychological ways, including the use of disappearing ink designed to make Talia question her sanity. The torment is quieted by the Midwinter holiday as well as Talia's blossoming friendship with Herald Jadus. However, the calm is not to last. The Blues ambush Talia and throw her into an ice-covered river, intending to drown her. Talia survives, though she is hospitalized for a few weeks with pneumonia, and the experience awakens her Gift of Empathy. Because of her Gift, Talia begins to take on the responsibilities of being the Queen's Own Herald, including the role of councilor to the Royal Family. The third section describes Talia's dealings with Princess Elspeth. Known as "The Brat" in the Heraldic Circle, the Heir-presumptive lives up to her nickname. Talia attempts to spend time with Elspeth in hopes of reforming her behavior; she is turned away a number of times by Hulda, the child's caretaker. With the help of Herald-trainee Skif (this has also been spelled 'Skiff'), a former thief and pickpocket, Talia learns that Hulda is acting on orders from a mysterious man who wants Elspeth to remain a brat so that she will never be Chosen as a Herald--and thus never take the throne. She passes the information on to Selenay, but Hulda is warned and flees before being captured by the authorities. Without Hulda's influence, Talia turns Elspeth from her bratly ways, and within a year the young Princess becomes the pet of the Collegium.
The fourth and final section of the book deals with Talia learning to use her Gift. She attends a training class and also demonstrates the strength of her Gift and her bond with Rolan. She is exploring the range of her new senses when she empathically 'witnesses' the murder of Herald Ylsa several miles north of Haven. Ylsa was on assignment gathering information and was carrying several important documents. Talia saves Ylsa's life-mate, Herald Keren, from committing suicide, then psychically leads Herald Kris and Herald Dirk out to the murder site. Kris is able to See the place at a distance, while Dirk can Fetch the documents with his mind. After this ordeal, Talia feels she has finally earned the respect which had been given her.