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On a pleasant autumn day in the year 1357, Pedro, King of Portugal, sets out on a hunt, accompanied by a group of his companions. He soon discovers that wild boar are not his only quarry for they find a body in a field, face disfigured, clothes stained and tattered. Was this unfortunate a pilgrim or a beggar? Was he the victim of robbers or did he provoke the anger of a fellow traveler? Because a king owes justice to all his subjects, no matter their station, King Pedro has the body taken to Santarém, where the court is in residence, in hopes it will be identified. He sends a group of men out to learn if there are any robbers in the area and capture them if possible. He instructs another man to question the inhabitants of the area where the body was found.
However, it soon becomes clear that the matter is more complicated than was originally thought. Far from being a beggar, it appears that the dead man was a prosperous goldsmith. He was also a Jew. New evidence suggests that the death cannot be conveniently blamed on a band of robbers but is instead the work of members of the court, perhaps even close associates of the king himself. Soon Pedro must ask himself what he will do if forced to choose between justice for an outsider and friendship for a member of his court.
This story is based on an incident recounted in the Chronicles of King Pedro, written by Fernao Lopes, who served at the court of Pedro's grandson, King Duarte of Portugal.