Sir Wynfor and Sir Cadfael were honored at King Uther’s Christmas Court for helping Merlin acquire Excalibur. They then visit Shrewton Manor; to find their wayward friend, Sir Rydderch. Sir Cadfael runs off the bandits at the manor as Sir Wynfor runs in maddened despair into the woods. Cadfael’s hunt for his friends ends when he finds the tearing at each other on the ground. Wynfor’s wife pulls both knights from their stupors and all return to Shrewton Manor for the night. The guests are awoken by an unearthly shrieking from Sir Rhydderch’s room. He is being haunted by the ghost of his mother. An exorcism is performed.
As spring arrives the three Knights are invited to join King Uther in his visit to the recalcitrant Duke of Lindsey. It is a successful and entertaining embassy trip. Lindsey bends the knee. The Knights are asked to deliver an invitation to the Centurion King in Eburacum City. The stark northern kingdom of Malahaut is unfriendly and the Knights are not-so-gently rebuffed by the gruff and scarred King.
Meanwhile, Sir Bellias is raiding along the Saxon coast of Britain with Prince Madoc and 100 other brave young Knights. He wins much glory in the salt and blood
When Cadfael, Wynfor and Rydderch return to Salisbury, they stumble upon a Silchester plot to “acquire & protect” the county’s Christian relics. They thwart Sir Rees, Sir Bevan and Father Decius’ plans as diplomatically as possible, sending them packing after exposing their avarice to the light of day.