Previously on World Without End: The townspeople decided to hang Mattie, because Brother Joseph’s doing such a bang-up job keeping them all alive. Once they all crowd onto the bridge, however, it collapses, killing quite a few of them (including Mattie) and giving Petranilla a chance to move her son up the ranks at the priory.
In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, the wounded and dead are being brought to the cathedral, where Caris is directing operations, presumably because Joseph’s off chanting in a corner somewhere. Monks and nuns try to attend to the injured and give last rites. Roland’s brought in, accompanied by his child bride, who seems genuinely upset. Philippa thanks Ralph for saving him and calls him brave. Caris rushes over and asks to examine Roland, but his oldest son refuses to let her lay a hand on him. She asks if he’d prefer Joseph and the guy lets her get to work. She notes that the skull has been fractured through to the brain and starts trying to fix him.
Gwenda and Wulfric arrive and Wulfric almost immediately finds his dad amongst the dead. He kneels beside him, weeping. She also sees her father’s dead body, and spits on him. That’s fair.
Later, things have calmed down a bit. Caris stumbles outside, exhausted, and Godwyn almost immediately rags on her for not putting dung in Roland’s wound before closing it up, because allegedly dung draws out the disease. I can’t fathom why anyone ever believed that, when dung is so clearly disgusting. Caris tells him that nobody really believes that particularly stupid notion anymore, and he’d know that if he’d studied medicine. He snaps that he studied theology, which is more useful than that cursed medicine. She pours some scorn on that and he tells her the bridge collapsed because God was displeased. Yes, displeased that you were killing an innocent woman, you idiot! Caris tells him the bridge collapsed because it was a piece of crap. He insists that God’s mad at Kingsbridge for becoming a haven for witches, whores, and filth. ‘Well, you would know, cousin,’ she responds. Ohhh, burn!
At Westminster, Isabella steals into her son’s room and puts something just behind a map of France.
The next day, Edward’s playing a board game with his daughter while one of his advisors tells him French ships are now actually attacking theirs, which is an act of war. Edward still refuses to declare war on France. His daughter puts her two cents in, saying that she thinks they should go ahead and invade Calais, like grandma says. He playfully asks if she even knows where Calais is, and she goes over to the map and points to Calais, and then Paris. But when she pokes Paris, red ink starts staining the map, and Edward thinks it’s a sign. War’s on! Isabella is pleased, of course.
Caris attends to Roland, who’s still unconscious. Cecilia comes in, asks after the patient, and tells Caris she’s really sorry about Mattie. She adds that she really admired how Caris stood up for Mattie at her trial and says they need women like her in the church. Caris sniffs, but Cecilia reminds her that, in the real world, a woman is either a nun, a wife, or a whore, and right now, Caris is none of these things.
Later, Merthin finds Caris relaxing beside the river, and they talk about how sad it is that Mattie’s gone. Caris says they really need to build a place to put the sick and injured. He’s on board with that. She asks if his support is because of his faith in his work or because he has the hots for her. He says it’s both. He’s honest, at least. She thanks him for giving her something to think about.
Petranilla’s on Roland duty, and I guess she has the magic touch with him, because he finally wakes up, to her surprise. He whispers that he thought she was an angel and tells her how lovely she looks. He asks if she remembers the first time they met, and how he thought she was the loveliest woman in Kingsbridge. She smilingly calls him the handsomest man, and he asks how long it’ll be before they’re wed. Her face registers some confusion, but then Marjorie comes in and throws herself happily on top of him.
Edmund is speaking with a blind monk whom I guess is the interim prior, telling him they need to build a new bridge ASAP. This guy’s as short-sighted (sorry) as his predecessor was and doesn’t see the need for it, so Edmund explains that no bridge = no tolls and no pilgrims, which means bad things for the priory. Blinkin merrily says that God will provide, and since he took down the bridge, clearly they don’t need one. Jesus, how has this place attracted so many unbearably stupid people? Just because you have faith doesn’t mean you must necessarily be completely and utterly lacking in sense, you know! He moves away, and Merthin and Edmund bemoan the idea of the man becoming prior, which seems like a certainty, since he’s currently running unopposed. The two men think about it for a second, and then glance up and see Brother Thomas in the distance and a pair of lightbulbs go off right over their heads.
Brother Thomas contemplates the idea of becoming prior, and he’s encouraged to run by his buddy, Matthias. But Thomas explains that he came to the priory to find peace, and he’s afraid that, if he becomes prior, such peace may elude him.
Petranilla, of course, pushes Godwyn to run, but Godwyn doubts he stands much of a chance against Blinkin and Thomas, who’s decided to run after all. Petranilla reminds her son that Thomas must have an unsavoury history, and she urges him to unearth it.
Godwyn goes thorough Thomas’s things and discovers that Isabella was his sponsor. He takes the info to his mommy, who reminds him that Thomas was stationed at the castle where the king was murdered. How does she know that? She thinks Thomas has some kind of involvement in the king’s death and encourages Godwyn to ask him about it.
Godwyn does, and Thomas is not happy about it. He insists he had nothing to do with the murder, but Godwyn says other people are probably going to get the wrong idea and start to ask lots of awkward questions, now he’s standing for prior.
Later, Godwyn’s in the cathedral, admiring a gold cup, when he sees Roland’s son, the bishop, come in with Marjorie, who’s giggling like the child she is. They go into the confessional and have sex, because they’re idiots. Godwyn spies for a bit.
Over in Wigleigh, Wulfric’s trying to claim his inheritance, now his dad’s dead. But the guy in charge says that until a new Lord of Wigleigh is appointed, they can’t approve any inheritances. That seems…odd. What, you needed a lord to say, ‘yeah, go ahead and inherit the farm that’s been in your family for generations?’ Gwenda says that this is a question that affects everyone, and the others start to get restless, but guy in charge insists that he can do nothing. He tells Wulfric it would stand him in good stead if he proves he can farm the land until the new lord takes office, and Wulfric has no choice but to go with it, though that seems like a risky proposition, because he could wind up putting a lot of work into land that could just be handed off to someone else.
Outside, Annet asks Wulfric who Gwenda is and he tells her she’s just some girl. He goes over and thanks Gwenda for backing him him. She says it’s no big deal and also offers to help him farm the land, which is really too much for one person. He tells her nicely that she’s done enough and then Annet calls him over.
Gwenda’s not the type to take no for an answer, so the next day when Wulfric comes out to the field, he finds her waiting. She asks him where his oxen are, and he admits he doesn’t have any. She says he’ll just have to pull the plough, then, while she pushes. He tells her he can’t pay her and she tells him they’ll work something out. Oh, I bet they will. He grabs the harness and they get started.
Later, they rest and he asks a little about herself. She says she never had a home, but she’d like to, someday. She asks him who Annet is and he says she’s his fiancée, and they’re to be married in the autumn. She asks why she isn’t helping him out, then, and he laughs at the idea of Annet in the fields. It turns out this is a bit of an arranged marriage, as their fathers were close, but he claims to love Annet and is sure she loves him.
Caris takes Cecilia for a little tour of some priory land near the town and proposes building a hospice there. Caris offers to run it, but not as a nun, as Cecilia hopes. Cecilia’s understanding, and she does seem to like the idea of having a hospice, but says she’ll have to think about it.
Roland’s having a family dinner at the priory. Godwyn oozes up to him and tells him the monks are going to elect a new prior the following day and asks Roland for his support. We learn that Thomas has backed out of the race. Roland asks why he should support Godwyn and Godwyn promises to return Kingsbridge to its glory days under Prior Philip by removing all temptation. Prior Philip, if I recall, allowed a highly sexual woman to live with Tom Builder at the priory for a while, but maybe Godwyn doesn’t know about that. His solution: build a wall between the priory and the nunnery. Roland points out that not all temptation is female but Godwyn says that, once all the power is returned to the men, everything should be fine. Roland tells Godwyn he’s more of a jerk as an adult than he was a kid, and though Blinkin is blind, at least he’s not a prude. He orders his son Bishop Richard to appoint no other prior but him. Poorly played, Godwyn. Richard promises to obey and heads off to bed.
In the cathedral, one of the older monks is guiding Blinkin through the walk up the aisle for the wedding the following day. Blinkin doesn’t want to appear weak just because he’s blind, so he won’t have a guide for the actual ceremony. Godwyn spies on them from the shadows, and after they leave, he shifts the wooden step at the base of the altar just a tiny bit to the right.
His next stop is Bishop Richard’s room, where of course he finds Marjorie, because these two are still stupid. He tells Richard he’d better approve of his appointment as prior, or else he’ll tattle on him.
It’s time for Roland’s and Marjorie’s wedding. As the procession makes its way up the aisle, Blinkin trips over the misplaced step, knocking into the monks carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary, which then breaks. At the afterparty, Roland bitches about Blinkin ruining the whole wedding. Richard comes over and tells Roland that Blinkin has taken his fall as a sign from God that he’s not meant to be prior, so it’s going to be Godwyn after all.
And Godwyn it is, though the vote is not at all unanimous. Thomas, for instance, does not approve. But there’s nothing to be done, and almost immediately Cecilia finds workmen building a wall between the priory and nunnery. The look she gives Godwyn over it clearly says, ‘oh, game on.’
At night, Thomas runs into Matthias in the hallway, and Matthias gives him a bit of a come-hither look before disappearing into his cell. Thomas follows him in.
In the town, the locals are debating the bridge project, which I guess is going ahead after all. Merthin’s bid is a bit higher than Elfric’s, but it’s also twice as wide, which is what they really need. Thomas asks how the piers would be built and Merthin has some new-fangled Italian way of doing it that should make the bridge last longer than Elfric’s method. Merthin also offers to take no pay for his work, all he wants is the deed to the Leper Island. Merthin gets the vote.
After the meeting, Edmund congratulates him, and then sees Caris nearby and obligingly makes himself scarce. Merthin thanks her for having his back (she stood up for him in the meeting) and then asks what it’ll take to win her over. She says nothing, but they move in for a kiss, and then some local dochebag comes over and grabs Merthin to go celebrate at the inn.
At Shiring Castle, the earl and his family are having dinner together. Roland proposes a toast to his wife and announces that she’s pregnant. Richard looks at her knowingly and her smile fades just a tidge. In comes Ralph to tell Roland that Isabella’s sent for him.
Of course, she’s gathering everyone together to announce yet more taxes and fees. He tells her that they’re rebuilding their bridge, and these taxes are going to be rough on them. She doesn’t care and yells that Kingsbridge can wither and die for all she cares. Edward’s daughter asks her dad why grandma hates Kingsbridge so much. Edward has no idea.
Roland dispatches Ralph to Kingsbridge to stop the bridge building. Ralph reminds him that the bridge is being built on priory land, so he has no authority to shut it down, but Roland tells him to just get it done.
Ralph arrives and tells his brother that they have to stop work, on the queen’s orders. He hands over some proclamation and everything. Merthin says this is nonsense and they need a bridge. To his credit, Ralph does seem to feel badly about this. One of his minions is going around telling everyone to stop working, by order of the queen, and one local just shrugs and says F-her, which gets Ralph’s attention. He draws his sword and advances on the man, who says he has a family to feed, and furthermore, Ralph’s father would be ashamed of him for…obeying orders, I guess. Merthin tries to diffuse the situation and finally gets Ralph to start walking away, but the guy, who clearly has no functional brain at all, calls Ralph a traitor, and gets slashed almost in half. Welcome to the idiot brigade, you moron, you were obviously too dumb to live. Merthin asks Ralph whose side he’s on and Ralph coldly says he’s on his own side, then tells the others to get on home.
Still stained with the man’s blood, he arrives at Shiring Castle and tells Roland the bridge has been stopped. Philippa, who’s nearby, stares at him, aghast and disgusted, but after Ralph leaves, Roland admiringly says he’s a man who knows how to take an order.
Wulfric and Gwenda are harvesting their wheat when one of the neighbours comes over and tells him that a new lord’s been appointed and will hear the case tomorrow. Wulfric gets back to work with a song on his lips.
He arrives at the court the next day with Annet on his arm, only to find the new lord is…Ralph. Yeah, this isn’t going to go well. Of course, he turns down Wulfric’s inheritance.
Wulfric takes his rage to the field, where Gwenda finds him drunk and crying and thrashing around. She tells him he can appeal, but he reminds her that there’s nobody around to listen. Also, Annet left him, so now he really doesn’t seem to have anything. He urges Gwenda to go home, and she tells him that her home is there. And then she jumps on him, and before long they’re having what I can only imagine would be very prickly and uncomfortable sex on the half-harvested wheat.
Early the next morning, Gwenda wakes and steals away to the village, where she sneaks into the place where Ralph’s staying and puts a knife to his throat, demanding he give Wulfric’s land back. He throws her aside easily and gets up to pee. He tells her he’ll give Wulfric his land if she sleeps with him. Gwenda refuses and stomps out, but then stomps right back in and agrees, if he’ll swear on the bible to see his promise through. He picks up a big book from the bedside table and swears, so she obediently strips and they get down to it. But the book wasn’t the bible at all, but The Romance of Lancelot. Of course. And if she didn’t see this betrayal coming a mile down the road, she’s not terribly bright, because it’s not as if Ralph has shown himself to be all that trustworthy to anyone except Roland.
Godwyn tells his mother about Bishop Richard and Marjorie and boy do her eyes light up at this juicy bit of gossip. After Godwyn’s gone, she sits down and writes Roland a letter, telling him all about it. Why would she do that? Just because she likes stirring shit up?
Gwenda accosts Ralph as he gets ready to ride out and demands the deed to the farm. Ralph says he gave it to some other guy, and she angrily tells him he swore on the bible he’d give it back. Ralph rides off without a backward glance.
Marjorie joins her husband, who asks her which of his sons their baby will most resemble. He guesses Richard, since he’s the one she’s been sleeping with. She tries to deny it, but Roland will hear none of it. He grabs her, dragging her to the stairs and screaming for her to get out. He finally gets tired of dragging her and just tosses her down a flight of stairs, killing her. Nice. Better whip up some crocodile tears, Roland.