It is winter 1139 and the tranquil life in the monastery gardens in Shrewsbury is again interrupted by violence.
Raging civil war has sent refugees fleeing north from Worcester.
Among them are two orphans from a noble family, a boy of thirteen and an eighteen year old girl of great beauty, with their companion, a young Benedictine nun.
But the trio have disappeared somewhere in the wild countryside.
Cadfael fears for these three lost lambs, but his skills are needed to tend to a wounded monk, found naked and bleeding at the roadside.
Why this holy man has been attacked and what his fevered ravings reveal soon give brother Cadfael a clue to the fate of the missing travellers and he sets out to find them.
The search will lead him to discover a chilling and terrible murder, and a tale of passion gone astray.