The Talisman is a book written by Sir Walter Scott. It is about a knight in the Third Crusade fighting to capture the Holy Land.
In the first chapter, a knight is travelling alone across the vast plains of the Holy Land near the Dead Sea. He is riding on a charger and is ready to fight any enemy that approaches him. He meets a Muslim, who attacks him. The knight knocks his enemy from his horse with a throw of his mace, but the other man jumps back onto his horse and draws a bow and arrows. The knight is shot and falls off his horse, pretending to be hurt, but succeeds in winning the fight. The fallen Muslim asks for a treaty, which he is granted, and they do not fight anymore but ride as friends towards an oasis.
The two men are riding side by side, thinking about their recent encounter. The Muslim's horse was not in the least showing exhaustion, but the horse which belonged to the soldier was beginning to show signs of weariness. The Muslim remarks that the knight's horse was not doing too well in the desert. The knight replies that his horse had taken him across a lake without getting wet at all. The Muslim does not believe him, but is convinced by the knight that he was not lying. He tells him that in the winter the lakes in France were frozen and became as hard as rock. The two men arrive at the oasis and stop there to take a break. They take out their sacks of some food and start eating while eying one and other. The Muslim remarks that the European eats like a wild beast, and that the pork that he was eating would cause a Jew to shudder. Then the two men discuss liquor; the Muslim says that he does not believe it's ok for people to drink strong drinks, but the European believes otherwise. The two men then discuss whether it is ok for a man to have multiple wives. The European does not think it is ok, but the Muslim thinks that it is alright.
After refreshing themselves and mounting their horses, the two men continue their journey. The European asks if the Muslim knew what the name of the spring was. He is informed that it was called the Diamond of the Desert. The Muslim asks what the knight's name was, and he is told that it was Sir Kenneth. Kenneth then asks what the Muslim's name was and is told that it was Sheerkohf. The Muslim says that he commanded a force of more than ten thousand men, and the European says that he commanded fifty troops. The two soldiers soon arrive at a mountain pass where Kenneth is told that many wild animals, and evil men ambushed unsuspecting travelers. The knight is not afraid of these threats, but then realizes that this mountain pass could be where Jesus was tested. He becomes afraid of being attacked by evil spirits. He tells the Muslim that this was the valley of the shadow of death and that he needed to pray constantly to drive away evil spirits from himself. Sheerkohf says that he is blaspheming the Genii and that his people were their descendants. The knight and he argued, and the European came to the conclusion that the people of Sheerkohf were the offspring of evil spirits and that by their evil arts they had kept hold of the Holy Lands. The Muslim tells the knight a tale of an evil Persian king who sacrificed humans. After hearing the story, the knight says that he understands why the Muslims felt happy when going near places where there were “Genii” because they felt happy to be near the home of their “ancestors.”
The Scottish Knight notices that another creature was following them at a distance. He assumes that it is a devil, and that Sheerkohf had summoned it by worshiping it. Suddenly, a man rushes out of the underbrush and grabs the Muslim's Horse's bridle, causing its rider to fall off the steed. The man is about to kill the Muslim when the Scottish knight stops him. The man was a Christian hermit who was trying to kill Sheerkohf because he was singing praises to Satan. We find that the man was Theodoric of Engaddi who was the man whom Sir Kenneth was looking for. The hermit invited them to stay at his home for the night. They go there, and they are fed some food by the hermit. After the meal, the Muslim tells the Knight about Theodorick's past, and then they all go to sleep.
The knight is woken up by Theodorick. The hermit asks if the Scottish Knight was sent to meet him by the king, and he is answered that he was. He asks the knight for a password, which he receives, then he takes the other man to his Chapel. He asks the knight to put a cloth over the hermit's eyes, and to take off his shoes because they were standing on holy ground. They enter the building and the Knight sees a crypt containing a part of the cross. He bows and a few people come in, including Edith, a member of the royal family. The knight loved her and wanted to be with her, but because he was not royalty, the knight could not mingle in her circle.
Out of nowhere, some dwarves enter the holy sanctuary and start sweeping the floor with some brooms. They are talking to each other and are laughing, which the knight thinks is disrespectful of the surroundings. He walks up to them and asks who they are and one says that he is Nectabanus and when the second one is asked who she is she replies that she is Guenevra. They start pretending to be other people, like a sultan, or a king, but then a voice tells them to leave and they go away. The knight goes back to the hermit, whom he leads back to the hermit's abode, and the knight is told to go to sleep and he does.
The king Richard the Lionheart is on a sickbed and is being assisted by a baron named Lord de Vaux. They are close and everyone besides this man is scared to take care of the king because if something went wrong they would be blamed. The two men discuss the queen and her princess going to Theodorick's altar and praying for his deliverance from his disease. The king says that he does not believe that they are safe from the infidels, but he is told that they have protection from Saladin. The baron starts listing possible candidates for the leaders of the crusade if Richard was incapable of commanding the force. He names the King of France, the Archduke of Austria, the Grand Master of the Templars, the Grand Master of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, and the Marquis of Montserrat. The king suddenly hears the war cries of the Turks and knows that they are in his camp! The baron leaves the pavilion where he was treating the king and charges the rest of the royalty's servants to not let him leave.
The Scott goes back to the camp and tells Lord de Vaux that he needs to see the king immediately. He has brought a Muslim healer, El Hakim, who was sent by Saladin to cure the leader of the crusade. The English lord does not trust the Scott nor the Muslim and does not accept his request. Sir Kenneth informs him that El Hakim had healed his servant from the same illness that the king had and that he was sleeping peacefully, so the baron wants to see the servant. After being convinced to trust the physician, the baron takes the credentials of the healer to the king.
The baron tells the story of the knight to the king, and he reads the letter sent to him by Saladin. The king is slightly annoyed that in his letter, Saladin had said that he was praying to Mohammed for his healing and said that he would repay the Sultan for sending the healer by personally baptizing him forcefully on the battlefield after he would win a battle against him. Then he says that he wants to be healed by the Muslim physician. Le Vaux goes with the Bishop of Tyre into the hut of the Knight and sees that his servant is healed. They then agree that it is safe to allow the king to be treated by the Muslim healer.
King Richard called Kenneth to his quarters, where he started questioning him about his trip to Theodorick's grotto. He asked the knight who sent him there and for what reason. The knight reluctantly tells the king that he was sent there by the leaders of the crusade to propose peace to Saladin. They are interrupted by De Vaux, the Grand Master of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, and the Marquis of Montserrat. The healer, along with these men, goes into the king's shelter. The Marquis and the Grand Master are sent out of the quarters and the Muslim starts giving the king medicine.
The Marquis and the Grand Master plot to end the crusade. The Templar wants to kill Richard so that the crusade would stop, and the Marquis only intends to make the British and another faction in the camp mad at each other so that they could not collaborate and thus not fight a crusade. The Marquis is doing this to gain power in the land of Palestine, but he does not want blood on his hands, so he opts for his idea first, to try dividing the camp to end the crusade rather than to kill Richard.
The Lord Marquis suggests to the Archduke of Austria to take his flag and plant it next to the English flag at the highest point of the camp. Meanwhile, inside the king's tent, the healer cures him of his ailment. The king hopes to pay him, but the Muslim does not accept the payment. The Marquis goes into the king's tent and says that the Archduke was taking down his flag and was putting up his own. The king gets out of his bed, goes to the banner of the Austrians and rips it down, then he tramples it. Some knights in the crowd revolt and one of them strikes at him, but Kenneth deflects it. The king of France comes up before the fighting continues and stops them by reminding them that they did not come to quarrel, but to fight a holy war. Everyone calms down, and they stop fighting, then Sir Kenneth is put as a guard for the flag of England.
Kenneth and his hound are guarding the banner when the knight hears a noise in the darkness. He sees the dwarf known as Nectabanus, who tells him that the lady that he loved wanted to see him, and that she gave the dwarf her ring to prove the legitimacy of Nectabanus' message. The knight goes with the messenger to a pavilion where he was supposed to meet the princess.
The knight hears Nectabanus and a few women conversing in the tent. He hears that Edith had not called him, and that in fact the queen and some of her maidens had pulled a prank on him to show Edith that Kenneth was not a trustworthy guard. The lady, whom the knight loved, is told about what happened. Nectabanus tells them that the knight was inside the tent, and then Edith opens up the flap separating them. She tells the man to go back to his post, but before going he bows and offers to give her ring back, but she asks him to keep it. Once out of the tent, he hears his dog barking; rushing back up the hill, he finds it in its death throes and sees that the banner is missing.
The Muslim physician walks up to the knight and offers to heal his dog. Then the Muslim tries to convince the knight to leave the camp and save his skin, but the knight says that he will not and wants to suffer the consequences of not doing his job. From the discussion with the Muslim, he finds out that Saladin wanted to get married to Edith and would allow Richard to keep garrisons in Jerusalem and the six strongest Palestinian cities to secure the peace. He would also allow all Christians to go on their pilgrimages in peace. Then the Muslim leaves and the knight starts walking towards the king's tent.
The knight tells the king that he had abandoned the post. The king sentences him to death, but before leaving, the knight tells the king what the Muslim had told him about the plot to give Edith in marriage to the Sultan. Because the queen was coming to see the king, the knight is taken to a room where he is waiting to die. De Vaux asks Kenneth if there is any reason why he left his post that could save his life, but he is told there is not.
A female servant tells the queen about the predicament of the knight. Edith and the other ladies try to convince the queen to talk the the king about the knight, and to ask for his release. The queen tries to find excuses not to go, but when Edith starts to leave to talk to the king herself, the queen stops her and goes to the king herself.
The queen and Edith try to enter the tent of the king but are stopped because he was talking to the executioner. The two women enter anyway, and the queen and Edith tell the king what had happened the previous night. The king does yield to their requests to release the knight. The monk of Engaddi comes in and tells Richard that the knight had confessed something that could save his life, but that he could not tell the king because it was secret. He asks for the knight's release but is told that Kenneth would not be let go. El Hakim says that he needs to talk to the king alone, and Richard tells everyone to leave.
El Hakim says that because he had saved the king's life, he requested that sir Kenneth would be released and sent with him. The king does not want to release the knight, but after telling the king the story of his talisman, Sir Kenneth is set free. The king thinks that the Archduke of Austria had taken the banner, so he sends De Vaux to accuse him. The Hermit of Engaddi stops Vaux and tells the king that his life was in danger and that he should not split apart the crusade. The hermit then informs the king that the other leaders of the crusade would put the flag back and prosecute whoever stole it. The king believed that it was the duke of Austria and thus wanted to duel him to prove his point, but the Archduke had taken an oath that forbid him from settling disputes by dueling.
The king is advised to let Saladin marry Edith in exchange for peace. He says that he will not accept this because Saladin was not Christian and was an infidel. Meanwhile, all the other leaders of the Crusade were all deciding that they wanted to go home. The king goes to a council and manages to keep them all in the crusade. The Master of the Templars accuses him of treating everyone like his subordinates and the man says that he did, but that his heart had the right intention, that of leading the crusade to victory. The Templar loses the argument, and he and his ally the Marquis resort to hiring an assassin to kill King Richard.
The king sends for Lady Calista of Montfaucon to question her about the incident with the knight. The queen tells her to “devise a cunning tale”, but Edith threatens to spill the beans herself if Calista would not tell the truth. The lady goes to Richard and tells the truth. When the king interrogates the queen, she informs him that it was Nectabanus' fault. The king and queen banish the dwarf, and Edith goes to the king and tells him that it was not good of him to send the knight to the Muslims because they would mistreat him, but Richard does not listen to her. Saladin sent a Nubian Christian slave to Richard as a gift, along with a hunting dog. Meanwhile, outside the tent, a Dervish is forced to spin for a long time and then to drink wine, after which he collapses.
The Dervish enters Richard's tent and attacks the king. Luckily, the Nubian slave notices the man in the reflection of a shield he was cleaning and dashes towards him and saves him by fighting off the dancing Muslim. The man gets cut, and the king sucks the wound's blood out because the assailant's dagger was poisoned. The king asks if the slave can write and is shown that he can, then the Nubian is given a pen and paper.
After Sir Kenneth was given to Hakim, they went to the Muslim camp, where the knight lodged for the night. The next day, the two men, Kenneth and Hakim, ride side by side and Hassan, a poet, tells Kenneth a story. After some time, the column stops and all the Muslims get off their horses and pray, then they continue. A few scouts go on top of a hill and notice some people in the distance who they did not know. The knight recognizes them as Christian soldiers. The Muslims and the knight flee and escape.
The Muslim physician asks if he can enter the knight's tent, and being allowed to, the knight sees his old enemy turned friend, Sheerkof enter the room, who was in fact Hakim. The knight is given a turban so that he may blend in when they go to the Sultan's camp. The Muslim says that the reason he had sneaked into Richard's camp was to see the women that the knight had talked about. The knight has an argument with the Physician because of this, but they make up and the Muslim creates a plan for the knight to go back to Richard's camp. He plans to disguise him, give him his old dog to figure out who stole the banner, and send him with a message from Saladin to Edith.
The king has a parade of all the leaders of the crusade. As the Marquis passes in front of the slave, the Nubian's dog tries to kill him and the Conrade is taken away because he was the person who took the banner. The man denies being guilty, but Richard decides that the only way to determine if the man was innocent, was by a duel. The king plans to ask Saladin for neutral ground where he could fight the Conrade.
The Nubian will be sent to the Sultan with the request of the king for neutral ground where the duel will take place. A knight named Nevil takes him to the queen's quarters, where Kenneth delivers a message to Edith. While there, she recognizes him as the knight and tries to make him talk to her, but he cannot due to his promise to the king that he would not speak. She angrily sends him out of her presence because he would not talk to her, and also because of a letter of homage from Saladin.
De Vaux and the King are discussing military plans when a minstrel named Blondel arrives. The king asks the minstrel to sing a song, and he sings one about a lowly knight who loves a lady too high in rank to marry him (like the case of Edith and Kenneth) who in the end wins his lady's respect and marries her. The king escorts Edith back to her tent and, on the way, asks if she was going to accept Saladin's request for marriage. Edith says that she will not, and the king prepares to send Saladin this message through the Nubian.
All the leaders of the crusade are planning to go back to Europe because of the “arbitrary domination of Richard of England.” Suddenly, a messenger brings Saladin's response, which is in the affirmative, and Richard and his countrymen, go to the Muslim's camp together with the Archduke of Austria, Conrad, and the Grand master of the Templars. When they got there, King Richard is told that the Nubian was in fact Kenneth and that Saladin was Hakim. Richard and Saladin agree on a place for the duel, an oasis named the Diamond of the Desert, and Kenneth is chosen as the king's champion in the duel.
It was decided that the battle was going to take place at sunrise. The two combatants go to the Hermit of Engaddi to confess their sins in case that they die. The Templar does not want the Marquis to confess in case that he would get caught. Kenneth and the Marquis fight and the Scott wins and leaves the Marquis wounded, who then confesses to taking the flag. The Templar then takes the Marquis to his tent to heal him. Saladin says that he will attend the wounded man. It turns out that Kenneth was in fact David, the prince of Scotland, and the reason he had not revealed his rank was because he had made a vow to keep it secret until he and his fellow crusaders had conquered the Holy City. During the feast after the victory of Sir Kenneth, Saladin kills the Grand master of the Templars because he had stabbed the Marquis before confessing his treachery. Then the Prince of Scotland marries Edith, and as a wedding gift, Saladin gives him the Talisman. Then the crusade ends and the crusaders go back to Europe.