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During the British Raj, Captain Curruthers (Roger Livesey) works under cover to track smuggled shipments of arms on the restless Northwest Frontier of "India" (the modern day Pakistan-Afghanistan border). He fears a full-scale rebellion is brewing. To forestall this, the British governor (Francis L. Sullivan) signs a treaty with the friendly, peace-loving ruler of Tokot, a key kingdom in the region, which is described as four days' march northward from Peshawar. (The British held a fort at Abazai near this location, not far from the famous Takht Bhai ruins) Meanwhile, the king's son, Prince Azim (Sabu), befriends Carruthers and a British drummer boy, Bill Holder (Desmond Tester), who teaches him how to play the instrument.
However, the king's brother, Prince Ghul (Raymond Massey), has the king assassinated and usurps the throne; Azim escapes a similar fate thanks to two loyal retainers. They hide out in Peshawar, where the British are based. When one of Ghul's men finds and tries to kill the prince, Azim is rescued by Carruthers' wife (Valerie Hobson). Though he is offered sanctuary, Azim declines, believing it to be safer to remain hidden among his own people.
Carruthers is then sent to negotiate with Ghul, who pretends to want to honour the treaty. In reality, Ghul is the mastermind behind the rebellion. He plots to kill Carruthers and his detachment of men on the last day of a festival to signal the start of the revolt. Prince Azim learns of the ambush. When he is unable to convince the governor, he chooses to risk his own life to warn his friends. After Azim leaves for home, the governor receives confirmation of the plot and sends four battalions to the rescue.
Azim manages to warn Carruthers of the impending massacre by playing a danger signal on the "Sacred Drum of Tokot", saving many British lives. Ghul is killed in the ensuing battle and Azim is installed as his replacement.