Jack's journeys lead to a discovery of how to make Tom Builder's vision of a light-filled cathedral a reality; the Hamleighs are infuriated that Kingsbridge has once again become a successful and prosperous market center, and they plan to do something about it.
Upon returning from the war, Richard learns Aliena has no money to continue to finance his knighthood; Alfred requests that Prior Philip accept him as a master builder for the construction of the cathedral; Regan leans on Waleran to approach the king about William's long-overdue earldom; and Aliena is torn between her love for Jack and a promise she made to her late father.
Waleran and Regan work toward a prisoner exchange in hopes of remaining on the victorious side of the war; Tom wants Alfred and Jack to become friends, but their work and love lives get in the way. Meanwhile, William's plan to thwart Aliena involves attacking Kingsbridge; Prior Philip and the Hamleighs receive rights to Shiring lands, but it comes with a steep price.
After William applies to have his father's title of earl transferred to him, he learns that a knight is also interested in the noble ranking. Elsewhere, Jack's reappearance causes a frightened King Stephen to order his assassination; hostages are taken from each side in the ongoing hostilities between the king and Maud; Waleran informs Maud that Philip is responsible for betraying Earl Bartholomew.
Prior Philip and William are both stonewalled in their attempts to access the Shiring quarry; Jack discovers hidden artistic talents as he attempts to carve a religious statue; Richard receives monetary help from Aliena in his quest to become a knight. Meanwhile, King Stephen collapses on a visit to the cathedral worksite.
A mason named Tom Builder hopes to find work repairing the damaged church at Kingsbridge, but a lack of funds at the priory proves to be quite the hindrance. And a bandit who left his thieving ways to become a monk takes in an abandoned child.
In 12th-century England, a power struggle ensues between the late king's only legitimate daughter and his nephew, who has ascended the throne via a mysterious technicality. Against this backdrop, a man of God endeavors to build a glorious cathedral.