Previously on World Without End: Merthin got the contract to build a new bridge, and Godwyn was elected prior. Also, the country’s going to war with France, and Caris wants to build a hospice on priory land.
A year has passed, and the English armies are gathering at Antwerp. Edward arrives and is greeted by his daughter and his mother. Edward greets the first happily, the second rather coolly, as befits their relationship. Isabella asks what the news is and he says he’s rather enjoying warring, far more than politicking. Flanders will join them, but only for a hefty fee, and they don’t have the cash. Isabella shrugs that it’s only money, and surely it can be squeezed from somewhere. No wonder people hated this woman. Edward says he hopes France is worth it and his daughter suggests he get crowned at Reims, which would be beautiful. She’s got her dress picked out and everything. He smiles and hugs her.
At Kingsbridge, the bridge building is going ahead, because they need it. Merthin’s doing well, directing operations, but then Ralph rides past and the brothers eye one another dangerously. But at least Ralph doesn’t slash up any workmen this time.
It’s time for the Kingsbridge fleece fair. We’re treated to the sight of a couple of dead women hanging with signs that say ‘whore’ around their necks. Godwyn’s work, I’d imagine. Also, Gwenda has a baby, and she, too, eyes Ralph as he rides past.
Godwyn’s with his mummy, saying he hopes to bring Kingsbridge back to purity by encouraging everyone to divorce themselves from their worldly desires. She tells him his plans will likely come to nothing unless he moves up and becomes a bishop. Or, at the very least, builds a palace fit for a bishop.
Ralph finds Philippa at the fleece fair and admires the fabric she’s looking at. She tries to shake him off and finally succeeds by telling him she’s pregnant.
Ralph’s minion is helping himself to some wool, which does not please Edmund at all. He says it’s to help pay for the war, and another merchant accuses the men of robbing them. Caris comes running over and asks if they have written orders allowing this. Ralph sniffs that no man there can read, but Merthin steps forward and says he can. I’m willing to bet many of the monks and, probably, Edmund could read as well, but nobody mentions that. Ralph warns him not to get involved, but Merthin won’t back down, because this is his town and they need the money for the bridge. So, Ralph does what he does best and starts beating the shit out of Merthin until Thomas comes over and forces him to stop. Caris rushes to Merthin and starts tending to him.
Godwyn has decided he wants to build himself a nice, big, fancy house right on the land Caris wants for the hospice. Wow, Cecilia’s really taking her time making up her mind about that, isn’t she? It’s been a year! The convent owns the land, so he needs her permission to build there. Cecilia tells him about the hospice plans and Godwyn accuses her of putting Caris’s witchcraft ahead of God, and Cecilia turns that into ‘putting the common good above priestly vanity.’ Well done, C. Also, it looks like the hospice is a go, if for no other reason than to thwart Godwyn, who probably should have thought a bit more strategically before he built that wall.
Cecilia goes to Caris and tells her the land is hers and the nunnery will fund the hospice building. Caris joyfully embraces her.
At the priory, Godwyn finds Prior Philip’s final bequest and burns it. At the next mass, he announces that there’s no evidence in the archives that the land belongs to the convent. He claims that all of Kingsbridge belongs to the priory, which seems a bit outrageous. Still, nobody makes a peep about either that or the fact that this would seem like a really bizarre choice of sermon material to anyone not intimately acquainted with the power struggle between him and Cecilia. Cecilia gets up and leaves in protest, followed by Caris. Cecilia tells her she’s going to London to deal with this once and for all, and she invites Caris to come along with her.
Ralph and his minion are out hunting in the forest when their deer is scared off by some giggling young women bathing in the river. One of them is Annet. Ralph and Minion spy on them and listen to them gossiping about the local men, including Ralph. Annet tells them Ralph gave her a bit of a feel once and he doesn’t have much going on. The girls leave, conveniently leaving Annet all by herself, and of course Ralph and his Minion come out and rape her. And I have to take a moment to ask: WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH KEN FOLLET AND RAPE? Seriously, it shows up disturbingly often in his fiction. I know this was a slightly more lawless time and all, but I still find it hard to believe that men just wandered about slashing workmen and raping women at will. Which reminds me, how was he never prosecuted for murdering that guy? There are some serious holes here.
Wulfric and Gwenda, who appear to just be tramping the roads now, come across Annet sitting by the side of the road, half dressed and weeping, and ask her what happened. Gwenda immediately guesses that someone attacked her and Annet admits it was Ralph. Wulfric, as he does, says he’ll kill him, but Gwenda’s like ‘uh, parenthood, remember?’ She tells him they have to go to the sheriff instead. He grudgingly agrees.
At the court of common pleas in London, Cecilia tells the judge that Prior Philip specifically declared that the convent was to remain autonomous. Godwyn says there’s no proof, but Cecilia has a copy of the last bequest, and again, I can’t help but think Godwyn’s especially stupid, because how could he not think the convent would have had a copy of that? The judge says he’ll need time to examine the document and tells everyone to return the following day for his decision.
Godwyn and Petranilla meet up at an inn and he angrily tells her that Cecilia is giving the land to Caris to work her devil’s magic. Petranilla asks if he truly believes Caris is evil and reminds him that God works through him. She tells him it’s his duty to bring down Satan’s minion, and whatever he does, God will approve. Like he needs more encouragement.
Godwyn goes to the judge’s rooms, murders him, and destroys the convent’s document. Yeah, that won’t look suspicious at all. At least he has the sense to set the whole room on fire, in an attempt to cover his tracks.
The next day, a new judge shows up and tells Cecilia that the old judge is dead and his papers all destroyed. And he knows nothing about Prior Philip’s bequest, and even though this room was absolutely stuffed with people the day before (as it is now), apparently nobody can be found to speak to the fact that there ever was such a document.
Back in town, the bridge project is up for its annual review, and it’s going to need some more cash because of all the delays that have been incurred. Godwyn’s rushed back from London just to cause trouble here, because now the priory wants to replace Merthin with Elfric. Nobody’s happy about that, so Godwyn throws a wobbler and starts screaming like an infant that Kingsbridge belongs to the priory, not to anyone else, and he wants his toy! WAAAAAAAHHHHH! God, he is such a boring character. At least Waleran was interesting in a Machiavellian sort of way, but Godwyn’s just a little brat. He says the priory will rescind their permission to build the bridge if they don’t hire Elfric. I say the townspeople should call his bluff, let the bridge building come to a stop, and see how long the priory can manage without the income from the pilgrims.
They don’t, and Merthin takes a page out of Wulfric’s book and goes out to try and destroy what he’s built so far. Thomas joins him and tells him Godwyn’s a fool. Merthin says that Elfric won’t be able to follow his plans, so the bridge will come to nothing. Thomas sits down beside him and tells him that Kingsbridge isn’t the end of the world. Maybe it’s time for Merthin to see something beyond the town’s walls.
Merthin waits for Caris to come back, and Cecilia obligingly moves away so they can have a chat. He tells her about Elfric being put in charge of the bridge and she tells him that there’s not going to be a hospice now. He urges her to come away with him to Florence, so he can learn to build from the Italian masters. Caris, go, you can learn a lot of medicine! She agrees and he picks her up and twirls her around joyfully.
Back in town, Edmund comes and meets Caris and Cecilia and tells them Thomas may have a solution to their problem. His answer: get a borough charter for Kingsbridge, which would enable it to operate as an independent town. And Edward would grant one because he needs the money. Thomas and Edmund agree to go to London to broker the deal, and Cecilia joyfully tells Caris they can still have their hospice, as long as she’s around to run it. Oh, dear.
That night, Caris goes to Merthin’s and he immediately guesses she’s not coming with him. She says there’s a chance they could have both the bridge and the hospice. Merthin agrees to stick around for a while.
One of the nuns, Sister Elizabeth, tells Godwyn about this charter plan. She says she’s spilling the beans because she thinks Caris practices dark arts (wow, talk about speaking his language), but I believe in the books she just rather spitefully hated Caris and everything she did against her was out of some petty motivation. Godwyn thanks her for the info and asks her to continue to be his eyes and ears in the convent.
He immediately tells Petranilla about the plan and says they need to stop Edmund from going. He implies that his mother get rid of him, and Petranilla looks horrified, not that she was nearly so squeamish about killing her sister-in-law and another brother. He begs her to do this for him and promises to absolve her later. Creepy!
That night, Petranilla serves up dinner and Edmund gently tells her that Godwyn’s not terribly popular just now, since he runs the town like he’s a prince. She reminds Edmund that Godwyn is her son, so he hopes he understands that she has to do anything in her power to protect him. Edmund begins choking and gasping on his food, and, after a good, long while, he collapses onto the floor, dead.
Godwyn buries him, which is sort of the final insult. Caris looks wrecked. As the service draws to a close, she leaves, followed by Merthin, who tries to comfort her. She fights him off, but eventually allows him to hold her.
Lordly banquet at Shiring Castle. Ralph looks on jealously while Philippa chats with her husband. And then Wulfric and some other guy show up with a message for Roland, who reads it and calls for Ralph and his minion, Alan, to stand before him. He tells them he has a warrant for their arrest for raping Annet. Ralph and Alan claim she was perfectly willing, but apparently she was examined and showed signs of force. Roland growls that he always knew Ralph would screw up. Ralph still claims he’s innocent but Roland says that’s for the court to decide. So, Ralph decides to prove his innocence by drawing his sword and trying to fight his way out of this, despite the fact that he’s massively outnumbered. He and Alan are dragged off while Roland watches, uncaring.
A battlefield in France. Men and horses lie dead and Edward’s having a minor wound attended to. He joins one of his lieutenants and wonders why they haven’t won the war yet. Lieutenant tells him they need more men. Edward tells him to call up the peasants, but lieutenant tells him the lords need the peasants to work the land to pay all the taxes Edward keeps imposing. He says there are other ways of recruiting, though.
Merthin goes to visit Ralph in prison and tells him he’s come to say goodbye. Apparently the court’s already found Ralph guilty and now he’s going to hang. So, just to keep things straight, rape gets you hanged, but murder doesn’t even get investigated. Yes, that makes sense.
Time for the execution! Apparently rape not only gets you executed, you get hanged, drawn, and quartered. Wow, they really took this seriously. And I’m not saying that rape shouldn’t be taken seriously—honestly, I’d be fine for every rapist to be castrated, but I also think that murder should carry some kind of penalty. Alan goes first. It’s gross. I’ll spare you the details. Ralph is brought forward next, and he gets the bonus of a castration. Fun! His mother’s there, with Merthin, to watch this, but before things can get started, Edward shows up. Seriously? Edward came all the way back from the battlefields of France to ride to every town in England and announce personally that he’d pardon all criminals who agreed to fight for him? That’s so ridiculous I can’t even find it funny. Naturally, Ralph wastes no time volunteering. Edward declares this a charming place.
Afterwards, Edward wanders around, wincing over his wound, and Roland suggests he go see Caris about it. But Edward’s briefly distracted by the sight of Thomas, who quickly vanishes in the crowd. He shakes it off and tells Roland to take him to Caris. Roland does, and she hardly knows what to do with herself, being unexpectedly confronted by the king. She invites him inside and takes a look at his arm while the townspeople peek in through the windows. She thinks there’s a bit of an arrow in the wound and offers to remove it. He tells her to do her worst. She gets the bit out and puts a dressing on it, telling him that has to be changed twice a day. He notes that she’s not of the dung school and she says she thinks it does more harm than good. Edward thanks her and promises to follow her instructions to the letter. After he leaves, Godwyn whines about how Caris now has the king’s support, and I’m guessing it’s going to be a bit harder for him to sell the line that she’s doing the devil’s work now, but Petranilla tells him to relax, the town doesn’t have that charter yet.
Roland and his family are dining at the priory, and Petranilla serves up some apples stewed in cinnamon, starting with Roland’s son, Philippa’s husband. Thomas, meanwhile, pays a visit to Caris and congratulates her on tending the king. She says she didn’t mention the charter and he says she was right not to do so, since that might have been seen to be taking advantage. He asks if Edward mentioned anything else, explaining that he used to fight for his mother and wondered if Edward recognized him. Caris says no.
Back at the priory, Roland’s son, William, is suddenly taken with stomach pains. How long is it going to take for people to become suspicious of Petranilla? An awful lot of people have been sickened immediately after eating her food. He says it’s just indigestion, but it clearly isn’t, so Philippa suggests they send for Caris to tend him. Petranilla obediently goes to get her, telling her William need s a potion for indigestion. Caris stupidly leaves it alone for a minute, and Petranilla adds something to it. Off they go, and Caris gives William the potion in some wine. William drinks it and starts vomiting up blood and seizing. Godwyn begins giving him last rites, and William dies. Philippa wails and Petranilla asks if he’s been poisoned. Roland angrily asks Caris what she gave him and Godwyn accuses her of witchcraft, of course, although any self-respecting witch would have inflicted her damage from miles away, not standing right in front of the guy. Godwyn offers to test the remainder of Caris’s powder, and he feeds it to a dog, which then dies, of course. Yeah, this doesn’t look good. Godwyn puts her under arrest for murder, even though that’s not at all in his job description.
Guess the kangaroo court works fast, because now Caris is standing beneath a noose in front of the cathedral, being accused of witchcraft and murder by Godwyn, even though the townspeople aren’t on his side at all. Sister Elizabeth smirks, which is odd if you don’t at all know her issues with Caris, so I think some scenes with her must have been cut somewhere. Godwyn, leering creepily, says he’ll strip Caris and examine her for the devil’s mark. Caris shrinks away from him, weeping and Merthin screams for Godwyn to take his hands off of her. Cecilia shows up and orders Godwyn to step away, as the rules of propriety must be observed. She’ll do any examining that needs to be done.
Caris is brought into the convent, where Cecilia tells her they’re screwed, because if they find no mark upon her, Godwyn will just assume she’s covering for Caris. But there is one other solution: they’re on sanctified ground, so Caris could confess and claim sanctuary and be safe. Caris says that would only buy her 30 days, but Cecilia says she could take vows and join the convent and be safe forever. Caris, who’s something of an agnostic if not an outright atheist, says she never sought that path. Cecilia knows, but reminds Caris of all the good she could do. She promises she’ll grow to like being in the convent, which sounds an awful lot like the same speech given to a girl about to enter an arranged marriage.
Bishop Richard, Caris, and Cecilia emerge from the cathedral and Richard announces that Caris has confessed and will join the convent, and all her money and possessions will be forfeit to the church. Oooh, does this mean Petranilla’s now homeless? I kinda hope so. Godwyn looks seriously pissed off to have been thwarted in this manner, and Richard warns Caris that if she breaks her vows she’ll be hanged.
Merthin pursues Caris back into the cathedral, trying to talk her out of this. Thomas steps into his path and tells him he has to stay back, reminding him that this is the only way Caris can avoid being hanged. She looks back at Merthin, her face an open book of grief and regret and apologies. Merthin’s own face crumbles and he leaves.
Monks trash Caris’s workshop while back at the convent she’s dressed in a habit. Godwyn finds one of her dresses and smells it, because he’s creepy, as we already know. He then burns her stuff, because why not? Merthin, meanwhile, packs up all his things and gets the hell out of town. Can’t say I blame him for that.
Caris is all be-nuned. And Godwyn is lying naked on her dress, apparently having sex with it. Christ.
Merthin catches the ferry across the river, and Caris stands in front of a window, crying.