June 1815Sharpe has settled down to an idyllic lifestyle with Lucille on her French farm, when the news of Napolean's escape from Elba compels him to return to the army to fight at Waterloo. There, he joins the staff of the Prince of Orange.
Winter 1813 Wellington is told by the debonair Frenchman Maquerre that Bordeaux is ready to rise in rebellion against Napoleon. Wellington's spymaster, Ross, is doubtful and tests Maquerre by proposing the British use Maquerre's own castle as a base. He reluctantly agrees, but says the castle is in Napoleon's hands. Wellington appoints Colonel Bampfylde to lead the attack on the castle, with Sharpe in support. Sharpe, newly married to Jane Gibbons, is angry that he has lost his command to Bampfylde, but he is soon distracted when there is an outbreak of yellow fever and Jane falls ill. Her chances of recovery seem poor, as there is not enough quinine in the camp to cope with the outbreak. With a heavy heart, Sharpe sets off on his mission, knowing he may never see Jane alive again. Bampfylde, intent on glory, sends Sharpe on a scouting mission and tries to capture the castle on his own. He fails, and the casualties are heavy. Sharpe, seeing the carnage, has Harris and Frederickson sneak into the castle in disguise. Once inside, they force the French to surrender. Shamed by Sharpe's easy victory, Bampfylde sends him on a reconnaissance mission. Sharpe soon discovers that Bordeaux has no intention of rising against Napoleon and that Maquerre is a double agent.moreless
The Franco-Spanish Frontier, 1813 A carriage travelling through the Spanish countryside is ambushed by French soldiers and a young nun flees in terror. Later, the soldiers themselves are attacked by the British and the French colonel kills his captain and trades uniforms. The French soldier claims to be Captain Dumas and surrenders himself to Sharpe. Sharpe is suspicious, but before he can question Dumas further, Col Berkeley of the South Essex accepts the man's parole. The terrified young nun emerges from the woods and attaches herself to Sharpe. Struck dumb with fear, she is unable to tell Sharpe who she is or what happened. Later, Munro tells Sharpe that Napoleon has sent a French colonel to capture a British agent called El Mirador. Sharpe is ordered to go to Villafranca to kill the colonel. At Villafranca, Sharpe is dismayed to discover that an old enemy, Sir Henry Simmerson, is in charge of the town. He pompously declares that the French are no threat and is immediately proved wrong when they attack and Dumas escapes. Sharpe's suspicions are proven correct when he is revealed as Leroux, the colonel intent on killing El Mirador. The South Essex mount an attack, but just before Sharpe can kill Leroux, he is gravely wounded and lost in the fray.moreless
Portugal, 1813 The Spanish town of Adrados has been captured by a horde of French, Spanish and British deserters, who have taken two English women hostage, Sarah Dubreton and Isabella Farthingdale. Captain Sharpe is ordered to deliver the women's ransom, much to the disgust of Sir Augustus Farthingdale. Sharpe and Harper enter the convent where the women are held and are confronted by two French officers. Sharpe learns that one of the officers is the husband of Sarah Dubreton and they are on the same mission. To Sharpe's dismay, he learns that Hakeswill is a leader of the renegades and has increased the ransom price, giving Sharpe five days to come up with the extra money, or the women will be raped. Nairn discovers that the French intend to invade Portugal from Adrados and decides to thwart the plan. Sharpe is promoted to major and given command of the 60th Rifles in order to secure the safety of the women and prevent the French from taking the town.moreless
Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson arrives with his regiment, the South Essex, and Wellesley orders the South Essex to blow up a bridge at Valdelacasa. Aware that Simmerson is incompetent, Wellesley orders Sharpe to see that the mission is a success, in exchange for a promotion to captain. Simmerson is furious to learn that Sharpe is not a gentleman and was raised from the ranks. He orders Sharpe to train his men to fire three rounds a minute by nightfall, or they will be flogged. Sharpe and Harper succeed, but this infuriates Simmerson even more. Sharpe has made an enemy. The following day, Simmerson orders Captain Lennox to lead the South Essex across the bridge and chase off a small French patrol. However, a large body of French cavalry appears and the men of the South Essex panic and flee across the bridge. As the French cavalry butcher them, Sharpe leads his Chosen Men to the rescue, unaware that Simmerson has ordered the bridge to be blown, so they are trapped on the wrong side. The French capture the King's Colours of the South Essex. The dying Lennox urges Sharpe to avenge this insult by capturing a French imperial eagle. A furious Wellesley disbands the South Essex and promotes Sharpe to Captain. Sharpe is later warned that if Simmerson can't damage Wellesley, he will do his best to strip Sharpe of his promotion. Sharpe realises that the only way he can hold his own is by capturing the eagle.moreless