Even though she is highly respected for her skill with the needle, Cynewyn is
locked into her cell every night. Her only company is Aelfgyva, a sweet Saxon
seamstress who suffers nightly from sexual assault by Bishop Odo in the next
cell. Cynewyn tries in vain to comfort her, noting that the only person not
afraid of Odo is Queen Edith. Turold, dwarf jongleur, entertainer and spy for
Queen Edith arrives and lightens the mood. He orchestrates a visit to nearby
Roman ruins, where they find not only evocative murals, but Bishop Odo,
whose sexual assault upon Cynewyn is forestalled by Queen Edith. At the end,
Turold and the rest of the group sing The Song of Roland as a rebuke to him.
Cynewyn, chatelaine of Drayton manor, is ejected from her home after her cousins Morcar and Edwin rebel against the new King William and their lands are confiscated. The new lord, Thurstan de Basset, the Grand Falconer to William, angers and alienates his new subjects.
Cynewyn successfully pleads for food for her people, who are slowly starving because of the predations of Thurstan’s men. Thurstan’s wife Isabelle, who is pregnant, arrives from Normandy but is deeply unhappy to be in England. Then, tragedy strikes.
Cynewyn loses her baby in a tragic accident caused by Thurstan. At the same time, Isabelle is safely delivered of her son, who she rejects and refuses to care for. Before she runs away to her Abbey in Normandy, Isabelle arranges for Cynewyn to leave Drayton for the court of Queen Edith.
At the Abbey, Cynewyn struggles to create the images for the Bayeux Tenture while Thurstan wanders across Europe, Russia and Turkey looking for hunting birds. At the Emperor’s palace in Constantinople, Thurstan finally faces his past and is tempted to join the Varangian Guard.
Aelfgyva, a sweet Saxon seamstress, suffers from sexual assault by King William’s brother Bishop Odo in the cell next to Cynewyn . Aelfgyva and Captain Vital connect while Turold, dwarf jongleur, entertainer and spy for Queen Edith, arrives and lightens the mood. Bishop Odo has evil intentions.
In the aftermath of Odo’s assault, Bardolfe, one of William’s knights, pledges undying protection to Cynewyn. Her cousin Morcar nearly loses his life and Aelfgyva reveals that she and Captain Vital are to wed. Turold leaves on a secret mission for the Queen and Thurstan returns to England, at last.