From an early age, Plain Kate is taught woodcarving skills by her father until she is quite good. Growing up in a superstitious village with the odd appearance of having two different colored eyes and the ability to carve with a knife, Plain Kate is viewed upon by the villagers as an oddity. When a sickness referred to as "witch fever" strikes the village, fingers begin to point her way. Her situation goes from bad to worse when her father falls ill and dies before Plain Kate can become his apprentice. Soon a new master carver from the guild arrives and Plain Kate finds herself homeless.
Plain Kate decides to live in the bottom drawer of her father's market stall. She is soon joined by three motherless kittens whom she cares for. Plain Kate earns some money by carving amulets and other items for the townspeople who don't wish to patronize the master carver. Two kittens go off on their own but the one she named Taggle becomes her companion. Soon several visitors arrive in the town. Linay, who could be described as an albino, sells trinkets to ward off witchcraft in the village square. Turns out Linay is a witch. He offers Plain Kate her fondest wish for the price of her shadow She turns him down. When devasting situations occur in her village, the townspeople begin pointing fingers her way. Harshly awakened by an axe destroying her stall one night, Plain Kate decides her luck has run out. She turns to Linay for help leaving the town. He will help her, for the price of her shadow. She agrees and Linay warns her to find a place to fit in before someone realizes her shadow is gone.