The conflict between the merchant and the adventurer in mediaeval times is played out against the operations of the League of Hanseatic cities with the issues between Simon van Utrecht and Klaus von Sissingen settled by the executioner. Stoertebeker captains the Can Grande with his companion, Goedeke Michel, and Simon is succesful with the Spreckled Cow; each helps to transport the usurer Peruzzi, his wife, Donna Angelina, and the gold they are bringing to buy the freedom of King Albrecht of Sweden. But Stoertebeker turns against the League and declares war on the cities trade after he has been discredited when he has gone to relieve the famine in Stockholm and is so successful in his raids on the Flemish fleet that patrols are sent after him. It is Simon who finds him and engages him in a sea battle that sinks the Can Grande and returns Stoertebeker, Goedeke and their men to Hamburg for the death sentence. The Frisian marshes, the growing ports on the Baltic and North Seas, the piracy of the Likedeelers, brotherhoods among the raiders and the merchant sailors and traders are a background for larger than life figures whose exploits are in keeping with their age. There is more solicitude for history perhaps than for the reader.