After the bridge collapse, casualties are brought to the Cathedral. Petranilla won't let Caris work on Roland's fractured skull until she realizes the alternative is Brother Joseph. Meanwhile Brother Godwyn declares that the disaster was God's punishment for sin, that Kingsbridge needs cleansed, and that he is the man to do it. His fanaticism is a portent for the future.
Mother Cecilia praises Caris for her wisdom and courage, and suggests she could go far as a nun, living more freely than an abused wife. This is unlikely, since Caris later confides to Merthin that Mattie's trial and execution have made her lose faith in the Church, but not in him. It is the first hint to Merthin that his feelings for her are reciprocated.
In Westminster palace, Queen Isabella conceals a bladder of blood under King Edward's map of France. When Edward's young daughter JOAN shows off her knowledge of geography with a sharp pointer, the hidden bladder bursts and blood flows dramatically across the map. Taking this as a sign of what he must do, Edward declares war at last.
Brother Carlus is stand-in until a new prior is appointed, and just as obstructive as Anthony was. Indeed, he's worse, claiming that the collapse was a sign of God's will, that Kingsbridge needs no bridge at all. Edmund, aware that if Carlus becomes prior he will ruin the town, approaches Thomas to run as well. Thomas is reluctant, but agrees.
Convinced that Prior Anthony's death was a sign that he should take over, and unaware of her involvement in that death, Godwyn rages to his mother. The old fool Carlus is easily managed, she tell him, but Thomas is a problem unless there's some leverage to use against him. Godwyn goes looking among the Priory papers, and finds a land grant to Thomas Langley, Knight. It's signed by Queen Isabella, which Petranilla implies might be a reward for murdering the King. There's no proof, but Godwyn's insinuations are enough for Thomas to withdraw from the election to prior.
In Wigleigh, the neighboring village, Wulfric can't inherit his father's land, because when his father died in the bridge collapse, so did the village lord who would have authorized the inheritance. Until a new one is appointed nothing will happen. Gwenda argues on his behalf, and finally Nate Reeve the manor judge lets him plough and sow a crop. Proof he can farm the land will be a mark in his favor. Gwenda helps him, even though his fiance Annet does not, and reveals that after a lifetime of wandering, she wants to settle down. It's a hint that Wulfric fails to recognize.
Meanwhile Caris and Mother Cecilia discuss the building of a hospice on convent land. Cecilia knows it's a good idea, but is reluctant to accept Caris's proposal that she run it without first becoming a nun.
Earl Roland regains consciousness, Godwyn asks for his support, but his prudish plans repel the Earl, who virtually orders his son Bishop Richard to appoint Carlus. Godwyn however catches Richard with Margery and forces his hand, then at Roland and Margery's wedding tricks Carlus into acting more blind and clumsy than ever. Carlus also withdraws, leaving Godwyn prior by default. He immediately puts his plans into effect, building a wall to separate monks and nuns. With more building planned, Elfric and Merthin present their rival designs for the new bridge, which Merthin wins by undercutting costs. The attraction between Caris and Merthin becomes clearer - but she's still married to Elfric, and that will cause trouble.
Queen Isabella summons Roland and demands yet more money for the war, ordering the new bridge stopped and its funds diverted. Ralph and his henchman Alan brutally enforce her command, and Ralph is rewarded with the Lordship of Wigleigh. He hasn't forgotten his broken nose and refuses to authorize Wulfric's inheritance. Annet leaves her impoverished fiance, but Gwenda is more active, first making love to Wulfric out of sympathy and her own unrequited love, then offering herself to Ralph in exchange for the land. She makes him swear to keep his word, but doesn't realize his hand isn't on a Bible, just "The Tales of Sir Lancelot." By the time she learns this, it's too late: she's pregnant, and Wulfric's land belongs to someone else.
Meanwhile, an anonymous letter from Petranilla reveals the truth about Richard and Margery, and in a rage Roland his wife downstairs to her death. Now Petranilla is free to resume their old relationship.
Thomas suggests that the only way to start work on the bridge again is an appeal to the Crown Court in London, based on the Queen overstepping her authority - but he refuses point-blank to go there himself. It's as if he has something to hide. When he enters Brother Matthias's cell and closes the door, it seems that Thomas has far deeper secrets than that.