Previously on World Without End: Petranilla killed a few more people, because why not? and Godwyn got in on the action in order to try and steal the convent’s land. For his last trick, he tried to get Caris executed for witchcraft, but she and Cecilia did an end run around him and Caris escaped the punishment by becoming a nun, prompting Merthin to finally hit the road and head to Italy.
We’re seven years on, and back in France with Edward’s armies. His lords report a rather dire situation: they’re in a bad way, manpower-wise, but they can’t get out of France because they can’t cross the Somme because the French have cleverly destroyed all the bridges. So, it looks like they’re going to end up having to stay put and starve through the winter. Ralph says there must be farms around they can raid, and I’d have thought these guys would have already considered that, or that the farms would have been long ago picked clean, but maybe not. One of the other guys says the farms aren’t enough to keep an entire army fed. Edward insists they find a way to cross the river so they can get back to England. Ralph suggests they ford the river at Abbeville and another guy says the French will expect that. Ralph retorts that they could beat the French army there, so Edward gives the order to move out.
Back in Kingsbridge, Gwenda, Wulfric, and their two sons show up in town and it quickly becomes clear that things are tense between Gwenda and Wulfric. Poverty’ll do that. She sharply tells him to keep an eye on the kids and peels off.
She finds Caris at her father’s grave, laying flowers on it, and gives her a fresh supply of feverwort.
Gwenda’s two kids, meanwhile, sneak into a performer’s tent and start screwing around with what appears to be early gunpowder. One of them tries to get it to go off, but it does nothing, so he rubs it on his sleeve. They leave, and while they’re walking around, he wickedly tries to steal some baking bread from a nearby oven and promptly sets his sleeve aflame. Someone rushes to put it out.
Gwenda, walking back to the convent with Caris, complains about how hard things are and how love hasn’t turned out the way she expected. Let’s be fair here, Gwenda: you hooked up with a man who had no land and no visible means of supporting himself. How did you think this was going to be? Someone comes running to fetch Gwenda, telling her the kid’s been hurt.
She and Caris hurry to the convent, where Gwenda wastes no time laying into Wulfric, like, is this really the time? Caris, meanwhile, attends to the boy’s burn.
Godwyn comes out of the cathedral and finds another monk, Gregory (not from Kingsbridge), kicking about. He invites him in but Gregory quickly excuses himself, explaining he has business with Cecilia.
Cecilia greets him, along with Elizabeth, who’s the convent’s treasurer. Gregory announces that Cecilia’s cousin has just died and left a very healthy bequest to the convent: 120 gold coins.
Caris finishes up with the boy and Gwenda thanks her. Caris sits down and starts writing down an account of the boy’s injury and treatment, which is a habit she’s gotten into since coming to the convent. She shows Gwenda some other books on medicine they have, from around the world. Gwenda half jokingly asks if she’s sure they’re not written by the devil. Caris’s assistant comes in and says she thinks Caris should write her own book. Caris thinks she knows too little, but the others think she’d make up for it by actually having her book in English, unlike the others. Further discussion is put on hold by the arrival of Cecilia, who asks for a word with Caris.
She starts off complimenting Caris on all the good work she’s done, and then tells her they now have the funds to build the hospice.
English armies on the move. A young boy catches up with one soldier, Holgar, and asks if they’ll be in England soon. He says he hopes so. Meanwhile, Ralph and a few others ride ahead to see how things look and find the whole damn French army gathered on the other side of the river. Alarmed, Ralph rides back and reports to Edward that they’ve been outflanked. Edward unconvincingly damns them and pouts.
Sister Elizabeth goes to put the money in a lockbox. In oozes Godwyn, who asks to have a look at the cash and also inquires how the money is to be spent. Cecilia shows up just in time to tell him she’ll be building the hospice, since Godwyn’s not making any progress on that palace he wanted so much he was willing to kill for it. Cecilia tells him to hand the money back so Elizabeth can lock it up. Then she leaves so he and Elizabeth can have a meaningful, menacing moment.
Gwenda’s at her boy’s bedside as he sleeps in the convent’s infirmary. Caris tells her the boy will be well enough to leave the next day and then asks where Wulfric is. Gwenda says he’s out wasting money they don’t have. Caris tells her that Wulfric does love her, not that that makes things any easier or better, if you ask me. Sometimes love isn’t enough, you know? It can’t keep you alive. Gwenda asks Caris if she misses Merthin, but all Caris will say is that she thinks of him, but Cecilia keeps her busy so she doesn’t have to think too much.
Elizabeth unlocks the treasury and lets Godwyn in, which is stupid, because Cecilia’s obviously going to know who stole the money and who helped him do it.
Meanwhile, some nun (Caris’s assistant, maybe) is doing some chores when she hears two men talking in one of the monks’ cells. Curious, she opens the door a bit and spots Thomas and Matthias engaging in a bit of pillow talk. They turn and see her and she hastens away.
The next day, Caris notes that the girl’s looking a bit distracted. Assistant admits she saw Thomas and Matthias together—you know, together. Caris tells her Godwyn must never find out about it. And how. The assistant asks Caris if she approves of the relationship, and Caris says it’s considered a sin, but they’re both good men. Assistant points out that they’re not betraying wives, and anyway, she doesn’t think God really minds, as long as it’s for love. Wow, what an anachronistically enlightened view. Before Caris can react to that, Elizabeth sweeps in and announces there’s someone to see her.
It’s one Signor Caroli, a guy I think used to do business with her father. She asks how Florence is and he says it’d be great, if there weren’t plague. He says they should be safe in England, though, and delivers a letter to her from Merthin.
She takes some time to ramp up her courage, then opens it and starts reading. We learn the following: Merthin’s a husband and father, living and working as a successful builder in Florence. We get a glimpse of his family life, and it looks pretty great, but he admits he still thinks of Caris. All the time, according to him. But he’s happily settled and wishes her a happy life herself. She finishes reading and burns the letter.
Thomas goes into the cathedral and finds Matthias praying. Matthias finishes up and spots him and tries to make an escape. Thomas catches him and Matthias asks him to leave him alone. Thomas is pretty sure that Sister Mair won’t talk, since she’s not a jerk and she would have done so already. Thomas says he loves Matthias, but Matthias is too freaked out to really deal with this now.
Cecilia and Elizabeth burst into Godwyn’s room so Cecilia can demand her money back. Elizabeth has apparently ‘fessed up. Godwyn asks what she wants the money for, as if she didn’t already tell him, and Cecilia reminds him it’s for the hospice and she already has the Bishop’s permission to build it. Godwyn has the nerve to bitch at her for going behind his back but she brushes that aside and again demands the money. He insists it belongs to the priory, and since the dying woman didn’t have time to write out her last bequest, Cecilia has no proof otherwise. Beaten, for now, Cecilia whirls out.
She tells Caris immediately, of course, and then remembers that Caris met the king some years ago. She wonders if Caris could somehow get him to give a direct order to give the money to the convent for the hospice. It doesn’t occur to her to ask about that borough charter they once wanted, though if someone’s going to go to the effort of travelling through war-torn France, they may as well get all their requests seen to. Caris tries to beg off, and I can’t blame her, because who wants to go off to a war zone? But Cecilia’s mind is made up. And hey, it’s not like she has to make the trip, so why should she care?
Off in Florence, Merthin wakes late at night and finds his wife standing by the open window. He asks what’s up and she turns, showing him the beginnings of plague sores and a bloody nose.
Merthin runs like hell for a doctor, but the doctor says there’s nothing he can do. He won’t even come to check her out, he just advises Merthin to hope and pray. Did this guy train with Brother Joseph?
And in France, Caris and Mair are discovering the horrors of war as they come across two men just hanging from a tree. They cross themselves and hurry past, but it looks like they’ve reached a recent battlefield. Dead men and horses lie all over the place, near a couple of stone crosses. Some of the dead appear to be women. They find an elderly nun and Caris asks her, in French, what happened. The woman says the English came through and just killed everyone. So, not a battlefield, then, a massacre. Caris asks where the English are now and the nun just tells her to follow the path of the dead.
Kingsbridge. Thomas meets up with Cecilia, who’s out with her hawk on the banks of the river. He asks if she’s heard form Caris and hears she has not. She senses he has something he wants to say and he finally asks her if she knows just what she sent Caris off into. She knows it must be tough, but God will protect her. He tells her it’s more than tough, it’s absolutely horrifying, and it’s probably going to change her forever. Well, too late now.
Caris and Mair stop to wash up at a well surrounded by yet more dead bodies, and when Caris steps away, she falls into a hidden pit that’s full of bodies. She completely loses it, until Mair finally manages to haul her out, and then cradles and comforts her. Later, the two women sit seriously by the fire and think about all they’ve seen. Mair thinks God’s at least on their side but Caris isn’t so sure. In fact, she starts to wonder if God exists at all. Mair hugs her, kisses her forehead, and then starts to get a bit sexy with her, which seems very odd under the circumstances. I mean, these women are currently surrounded by rotting dead bodies of innocent people, and Caris is dealing with at least a little PTSD. Who the hell gets in the mood over that? Apparently these women do. Mair tells her that what’s done for love is cool with God, and Caris just goes along with it.
The next morning, a soldier wakes them and, when he learns they’re from Kingsbridge, he quizzes them briefly, presumably to make sure they didn’t just choose some arbitrary medium-sized town to pretend to be from. They pass and he tells them they should come with him, to stay safe. He brings them back to Edward’s camp, where some of the men eye them in a rather discomfiting manner. The army’s still facing off against the French on the other side of the river.
In his tent, Edward castigates his generals for failing to come up with a plan despite having had three weeks to plan. Now the French are closing in on all sides and things look pretty bleak. Happily, the French are offering terms, which the English have almost no choice but to accept. Edward’s not happy about the idea of going down in history as one of the guys who lost, but his main advisor sees no other option here. Edward asks for a moment to think and goes outside to try not to cry. And that’s when Caris spots him and decides to come over and remind him who she is. He remembers. Wow, he’s got a good memory. Though I guess she did save his arm, so that would be fairly memorable. She asks after his arm and he chuckles that it matters little today. She starts to plead her case but he tells her that church squabbles are pretty much the last thing on his mind right now. She reminds him that she’s come a long way, and just as he has his duty, she has hers. She gets through to him, and he tells her how much he admires her spirit and heart. And if he’s still king the following day, he’ll grant her petition. I’d get that in writing, Caris.
Edward returns to his generals and tells them they’ll be attacking the French across the river, because this is no day for cowards. He plans to send a small party across at night to get rid of the sentries so they can bring over their longbowmen and really wreak some havoc. Ralph readily volunteers to lead the sentry party.
Later, Edward and Ralph check out the sleeping army across the river. Edward wishes him godspeed and Ralph and his men set off, walking quietly through the river, which is fairly shallow at this point. At one point it looks like they attract the attention of a sentry, but they crouch down and the man continues on his watch. They complete the crossing, steal through a thicket on the other side, and quickly and quietly kill the sentries and any other soldiers they see hanging about. Once they’re done, Ralph waves a torch on the riverbank to signal to Edward that it’s safe for the longbowmen. Edward sends them over, reminding them to be quiet.
At dawn, the French camp wakes and the soldiers start getting their day started, completely unaware of the hell that’s about to be unleashed on them. One of the Englishmen waves a flag and the bowmen get into position, flooding up over the riverbank where they’d been hiding, lining up, loading their bows. On the other side, the rest of the English army waits and watches. Edward mounts his horse, unsheathes his sword, and gets ready to ride. The bowmen take aim and rain down arrows on the still unsuspecting French camp. Men fall left and right, bewildered at what’s happening, running for cover, scattered. The rest of the army charges and Ralph tells his men that no quarter will be given. Commence the slaughter.
Afterwards, Caris and Mair walk through the French camp with the rest of the army. Edward finds her and happily asks if her prayers guided her arrows. She asks if he’ll grant her petition and he agrees, tearing a piece of paper out of a notebook and writing it out right then and there. How much do you want to bet there’s going to be a problem later because there’s no seal on it or something? He hands it over and tells her that he’ll visit Kingsbridge again, to see how she does. She takes the petition and thanks him.