On a battlefield in Belgium, Edward III discusses the war with Isabella. It's progressing well, but has also depleted England's treasury. More money is needed, and that means more taxes.
Ralph, Alan and their soldiers go to Kingsbridge to arrange their collection. Work on the bridge proceeds slowly; the only way across the river is a ferry, and the Fleece Fair is more sparsely attended than ever. It doesn't stop Ralph from seizing fifty sacks of wool from each merchant as a 'loan' to fund the war. Nobody cares about the invasion threat, just about theft backed with crown authority, and when Merthin confronts his brother, Ralph responds by beating him to a pulp.
Godwyn is still eating at Petranilla's house, grumbling about how slowly his 'reforms' are taking effect. She points out that he should project more authority by living in a palace rather than the Priory. He decides to build it on the land intended for the hospice, but Mother Cecilia pre-empts him, granting the land and funds direct to Caris. Godwyn, however, cheats: he has found Prior Philip's Will deeding land to the convent, and now destroys it. Without this proof, the land belongs to the Priory, and to him. But Mother Cecilia knows otherwise; she and Caris go to London.
Hunting in the forest with Alan, Ralph encounters Annet. This time Wulfric isn't here to interfere, and they rape her.
Wulfric and Gwenda leave the fair. He's aware she's with child, but unaware he many not be its father. On the way they find Annet by the roadside, and when they learn what has happened, Wulfric wants to find Ralph and kill him, something which will end in his own death. Gwenda persuades him to use the Law instead.
Mother Cecilia does so herself, when she presents the convent's own copy of Prior Philip's Will to the Court of Pleas in London. The judge takes it away for examination, but is murdered that same night by Godwyn. Petranilla has persuaded him that all his actions, however bad, are ultimately to serve God's design for Kingsbridge. The body, the house and the Will are all destroyed by fire, and without Cecilia's evidence the new judge dismisses the case. Godwyn has won.
In Kingsbridge, Godwyn fires Merthin from the bridge project because he's increased his costs. Instead, construction rights go to Elfric. Merthin won't be building the hospice either, and gives up on Kingsbridge. Thomas tells him that sometimes the best thing to do is to go somewhere his talents are appreciated, like Florence in Italy. At first Caris is willing to come with him, but when Thomas advise Edmund that the best way to leash Godwyn's ambition is to get a borough charter from the Crown, it seems the hospice once more has a chance and Caris's decision to go with Merthin starts to falter. But Godwyn has a spy in their midst, and Sister Elizabeth reports every detail..
Wulfric arrives at Shiring Hall with a Sheriff to arrest Ralph for Annet's rape. He protests his innocence, but Earl Roland supports the law and despite trying to cut their way free he and Alan are arrested.
In France, King Edward has been wounded and is not healing properly. Also, the English Army is depleted by casualties, and can't be reinforced by a peasant levy - they're needed to grow crops and pay taxes. But there are other sources for recruits...
Determined to prevent Edmund obtaining the charter, Godwyn uses Petranilla's own argument against her. If it's God's will to protect the Priory by murdering a judge, then it's also God's will to protect it by killing Edmund. And that's exactly what happens, when Petranilla poisons him just as she did his wife.
Merthin visits Ralph in prison, hoping to be reconciled with his brother before his execution, but all he gets is hatred. Alan is executed, but Ralph is saved by the timely arrival of King Edward, recruiting criminals in exchange for a pardon. The King's wound still troubles him, and Caris is summoned to deal with it. Petranilla and Godwyn fear she'll use this private time to request the charter, and take steps to ruin any good influence she gains. Petranilla adds a little poison to William's food -- making him sick -- and then adds a lot to the potion Caris uses to 'heal' him. William's swift death lets Godwyn arrest her for witchcraft and murder, her goods are destroyed, and she can only save her life by becoming a nun.
With Caris lost to him, Merthin sets out for Italy at last.