Previously on World Without End: Lots and lots of people died, and lots and lots of people cried about it. Ralph was made the new Earl of Shiring, Gwenda led a peasants’ revolt, Caris and Merthin finally slept together, and Petranilla claimed one son and had the other one named bishop.
We start off with a very impressive tracking shot over Kingsbridge, so we can get one last look at the town that Godwyn is currently trashing. He’s nonsensically wrecking one woman’s business because she has no husband, never mind that her husband is only absent because he died of plague. What’s Godwyn’s plan here? Impoverish as many people as possible? How would that benefit him in any way? Thomas watches, looking sad. In the background, we see two women hanging with ‘whore’ signs around their necks. Yep, Godwyn’s back in charge, all right.
Looks like Caris has left the convent. She’s back in civvies, helping Merthin pack up his home. Thomas approaches and asks what they’re doing. They’re leaving, because Godwyn has ruined everything. Thomas begs them to stay, telling them the town needs people like them to stand up to Godwyn. Merthin reminds Thomas that he had a chance to stand up to Godwyn himself, years ago, and didn’t take it. Thomas backs down and only asks when they’re leaving. The following day, they answer. He promises to come see them off.
Gwenda and Wulfric cuddle by the fire in their cottage/hovel. Wulfric guesses Ralph will come back with soldiers at some point. They agree that, if they have to fight, at least they’re fighting for something they believe in.
In the dead of night, Thomas goes out into the priory courtyard and digs up the thing he buried there all those years ago. It appears to be a smallish pouch. He takes it to Merthin and Caris and asks if they swear fealty to Kingsbridge and promise to labour for the common good. They answer yes, and he tells them he’s giving them their borough charter. He unrolls it, drips some sealing wax on it, and pulls a large and very impressive looking seal out of the pouch. Merthin notes that it’s Edward II’s seal. Thomas shrugs and reminds them that he told them the king was still alive. Caris drops to her knees but he tells her not to worry about any of that, because he’s just Brother Thomas now. He gave Isabella everything she wanted, but she still wanted him dead, so he killed the man who’d come to execute him, took his name, and escaped with the help of his guard. And it would have been fine, except Langley was under a death sentence too. Thomas fled to Kingsbridge, which had always been loyal to him. He returns to the present and tells the pair that the charter strips the priory of any power over the town itself, so Godwyn’s just been neutered, essentially, though we’ll see how long that lasts. Thomas begs them to stay once again.
Thomas takes the charter to Godwyn, lying that it was found in the scriptorium, having been hidden there by the previous prior. Godwyn says the prior would have told him about it and threatens to have Thomas branded a liar and a forger. Thomas tells him to check the seal.
Godwyn takes the document to his mother, insisting this is the devil’s work (of course). She knows better, and she also knows that Isabella will have a problem with this.
Godwyn’s next stop, with lots and lots of soldiers, is Merthin’s. Godwyn puts Caris under arrest for witchcraft, again, since she’s now left the convent. Merthin launches himself at Godwyn and is pulled off by two of the men. Godwyn orders Merthin arrested, just because he can.
Ralph and Petranilla take the borough charter to Isabella and tell her that Thomas Langley, now a monk, brought it to them. She yells at them to get out, and then examines the seal more closely. You know, it was kind of stupid for Thomas to keep that name, especially once he realised it came with a death sentence. Why didn’t he use another one when he got to Kingsbridge? It’s not like people did background checks then, and he was running a huge risk, since obviously Isabella would recognise the name Thomas Langley if it was ever brought to her attention.
She brings the charter to Edward, freaking out that his father is clearly still alive. That’s quite a surprise to him. She’s more concerned with how troublesome Kingsbridge has proven to be of late, what with their peasant uprisings and borough charters. She quickly starts working on her son, reminding him that he can’t be king while his father’s alive, so he has to make a choice: dad or throne.
He picks throne and gathers his men together to tell them he’s going to be leading the army against Kingsbridge to bring the place to heel.
In Kingsbridge, Merthin’s in the stocks and Caris is in prison, strapped to a pillar. Godwyn comes in to see her and she asks if he’s there to bargain with her. He has not. He’s still planning to burn her at the stake, as a depraved woman. She says he’s the one who’s depraved and he accuses her of having tempted him for years. And now he’s come to take his due. While he masturbates, he asks if the devil’s sent her to tempt him. Once he finishes, very quickly, I might add, she asks if that was everything he ever dreamed of. He slaps her and leaves.
The next day, she’s dragged out in chains, meeting Petranilla on the way. She begs her aunt to speak on her behalf but of course Petranilla refuses, because she’s there to watch a witch burnin’. God, that’s one crazy ass woman. But then, what can you expect from the person who raised Godwyn?
Caris is placed on the pyre before a very unhappy crowd of townspeople. Godwyn screams and spits about how she’s a witch and unholy and all that and he’s the instrument of the lord’s justice. Thomas speaks up and says this is not god’s justice and Godwyn is an insult to the church. The crowd clearly agrees. Thomas reminds them that the town has a charter now and Kingsbridge is free of the priory. The people are all, ‘yeah, he’s right!’ and rush the soldiers and free Merthin. Godwyn tosses a torch on the pyre before hastening away, but Merthin rescues Caris just in time. The melee is put on hold by Gwenda’s kid, Sam, who yells that the king and his men attacked Wigleigh and they all have to flee for their lives. They try to do so, only to find Ralph, fully armored, and lots and lots of soldiers just outside the town walls, ready to put the whole town under arrest the next morning, unless they all beg for forgiveness. Caris’s old friend, Madge, cries that he can’t mean the women and children too, and in response he has the archers unleash a volley of arrows into the crowd. One of them kills Madge, so there we go. Everyone panics and runs back towards the town as more and more arrows are shot. They bar the gate and start to panic and freak out.
Merthin and Caris find Gwenda’s brother, Holger, who tells them this is bad, because the gate won’t hold them long. Thomas steps up and brings some calm to the crowd, telling everyone that, indeed, this is a bad situation, but are they really going to just let these people come in and raze their town, or are they going to fight this tyranny? The crowd finds its collective balls and agrees to fight.
Townspeople get to work building barricades and, at night, gather around campfires. Merthin and Caris cuddle and she says it seems cruel that they wasted so much time, keeping themselves apart. He tells her that, whatever happens the next day, they’ll always be together.
Little Sam asks Holger if they’re all going to die the next day. He says that, if they fight like lions, they’ll do better than die: they’ll be remembered forever. I dunno, Holger. History is written by the victors.
In the priory, Godwyn’s freaking out, thinking Ralph will kill them along with everyone else. Petranilla reassures him that won’t happen, because Ralph is Godwyn’s brother. Godwyn’s floored, and takes a moment to recover before calling his mother a whore and strangling her. He spits in her face and lets her go, right before killing her, and she weeps as he walks away. What the hell did you expect, woman? This is not a man known for his levelheadedness or forgiveness.
Outside the walls, Ralph paces and waits, as it starts to snow. Meanwhile, the royal army is on its way, along with Edward and Isabella, who’s come along to make sure her husband really dies this time. She asks him if he has the heart to do what he needs to do and he promises he does, because he’s her son, after all.
The women and children are being sent to the cathedral for sanctuary. Merthin urges Caris to go too, promising to come and find her. They kiss tenderly as Godwyn watches for a moment before going back inside.
The men man the barricades, armed with a motley assortment of farm implements. Gwenda’s there too, naturally, and Wulfric kisses her forehead before she gives him a steely ‘let’s do this’ look.
Outside the walls, a battering ram is brought forward. A man on the walls signals to those inside and Merthin yells for everyone to get ready. The gate is battered, while the men on the walls throw stones down on the attackers. The townspeople get riled, the gate gives way. Soldiers pour into the town, hit the barricade, and start getting a good old-fashioned whuppin, courtesy of a bunch of peasants and townspeople. The men on the walls continue to throw their stones. Ralph yells for his men to kill everyone and burn the whole place to the ground. People get killed, things are set on fire. Soldiers pour through the narrow streets, still somehow unable to make it past the makeshift barricades. Holger fires arrows left and right. The barricade is finally breached. Frightened children inside the cathedral are comforted as much as possible, while Caris tries not to completely freak out.
A soldier grabs Gwenda and gets ready to deliver a killing blow, but she’s saved by Wulfric. Caris leaves the cathedral and rushes into the priory, while in the midst of the battle, Ralph is unhorsed but continues slaughtering on foot.
Edward’s arrived and walks calmly on horseback through the town, taking in the melee the way one would a festival.
Caris has apparently gone to fetch her book, but she’s startled in the infirmary by Petranilla, who tells her that both her sons have abandoned her, and she can’t bear to see either or both of them die. Caris notes an empty vial beside her aunt and asks Petranilla what she took. Nightshade, apparently. Caris, ever the decent person this family doesn’t deserve, offers to save her aunt with a purgative, but Petranilla’s only regret at this point is not having seen Caris burn to death. Charming. Why Caris doesn’t just turn, grab her book, and let this horrible woman expire is beyond me. She stays, but then Petranilla tells her that she’s the one who made Caris an orphan, and Caris’s face says, ‘ok, I’m done now.’ She watches Petranilla start to writhe in pain and coldly begins giving her last rites. Petranilla shouts for her to stop, but Caris doesn’t, and Petranilla dies under her hated niece’s care.
The battle rages on. Ralph catches Holger unawares and guts him. Little Sam cradles his uncle’s head and calls his name. Merthin gets his hands on a sword and, of course, ends up facing off with Ralph. We all saw this coming, right? And judging from past experiences, Merthin’s about to die, right? No, of course not, because he’s our hero. They start to fight.
Thomas emerges from the priory, no longer in his monks’ robes but dressed in the chain mail he first arrived in. Edward spots him, dismounts, and father and son approach one another. Thomas observes that the two kings thing is a bit of an issue and says that, if he’s to die that day, then Edward must be the one to kill him. He draws his sword, Edward draws his, and they prepare to face off.
Merthin’s getting his ass kicked, but he’s fighting for his home, so he’s getting pretty fierce. Still, Ralph gets him on the ground, unarmed, and seems to be trying to decide whether or not to kill his non-brother when he’s suddenly struck in the back by an arrow, fired at close range by young Sam. Well done, kid. Ralph’s gone.
Back with King v. King, swords start clashing.
Godwyn finds Caris with Petranilla’s body and just shrugs that his mother was just a whore anyway. Caris reminds him that this is his mother he’s talking about. He creeps up to her, as Caris begins desperately trying to escape him, but he grabs her, pins her to the table, and begins strangling her while reciting scripture. Struggling mightily, she gets her hands on a nearby crucifix and buries it in his neck. Jesus, what was that thing made of, razor blades? Godwyn’s gone. About damn time.
Thomas gets the upper hand in his fight with Edward and tells him he was really fine being dead and letting Edward be king. He’s content to let that be the actual case, if Edward will just promise to treat Kingsbridge nicely. Edward gives his word, and Thomas kneels before him and prepares to die. Edward cuts off his head in one stroke and immediately calls for a ceasefire.
With the fighting over, Gwenda and Wulfric are reunited with each other and their son. Merthin walks through the town, taking stock of the dead, as Caris comes out of the infirmary, clutching her book, and quickly finds him. They, too, embrace, happy and relieved.
Isabella awaits her son outside the city walls. He rides up to her, gives her a look, but says nothing and rides away.
In the postscript, we learn that Edward continued his reign for another 50 years, and it went pretty well, though the war with France dragged on for so long it became known as the Hundred Years War. The Black Death pretty much killed of feudalism and paved the way for the Renaissance. And if you want to know what happened to any of the characters, well, I guess that’s what fan fiction’s for.