Josse D'Acquin and the Abbess Helewise are appalled by the views of the fanatical new priest, Father Micah, but are even more horrified when his body turns up by the side of the road. Whatever his methods he was a man of God. And when it appears that a band of evangelical heretics, whom Micah condemned to the stake, might be behind his death, the Abbess is torn by her compassion for their suffering and her duty to the church.
When Josse realises that Helewise cannot possibly condone his desires to save the heretics he is forced to act against her wishes, risking the greatest friendship he has. For the Abbess, her friendship with Josse is deepening the longer he stays at the abbey, as is her awareness of his attractions as a man.
Meanwhile Joanna, Josse's former lover, lives hidden in the forest with their baby girl, Meggie. Joanna continues to learn the skills and secrets of the pagan forest people but it is only at her initiation that she realises what mysterious powers have been unleashed. Despite their wisdom however the forest people are both feared by and vulnerable to outsiders. When Joanna nurses an injured woman back to health, she and Meggie find themselves in mortal danger.