With Richard the Lionheart still being held hostage after his crusade, his people have been made paupers paying his ransom. The Abbess Helewise is struggling to keep her abbey going through a cold, brutal winter as she fends off starvation of her nuns and the local people. Then her son returns to her in desperate need of help after a seperation of nearly twenty years. He claims his wife is suffering mental torments and his son is mute. But when a man is found strangled, dangling from a tree near the abbey, her son and his family flee the very next day. Helewise and a local Knight, Josse d' Acquin, must investigate deep into the past to the time before Helewise took the veil. Were her handsome husband and enigmatic father-in-law all that they seemed? And can she prevent another terrible murder or will the sins of the fathers be laid upon her innocent son?