This novel, John’s second, begins in 1350 in Calatrava, Spain, and later in Avignon. Albornoz was born into a well-to-do family and his father hopes that his son will follow him into a military career. However, the boy prefers learning and the Church: he will search to reconcile right and wrong.
We see Edmond, as in the first novel, in Carpentras where he has a son, Marius, who will be the link between his father and the now established Pope Clement.
Albornoz studies theology and rises to the rank of cardinal, in Avignon. Marius’s search for work is thwarted, secretly, by Clement, so he moves his family to the walled town. The plague strikes and the promoted magistrate, Marius, leads the struggle. But, the next crisis is between the fair-minded, honest Marius and the punitive Albornoz who bribes witnesses at court to satisfy his maliciousness and Clement’s ever-present need for revenge over Edmond, who offended him so when they were children.
Pope Clement is shown his unholy lifestyle and is forced to discipline Albornoz, divesting him of his title. Marius creates a modern, compassionate magistracy for Avignon, the place he loves.