In 1120, Cadfael saw "A Light on the Road to Woodstock". Roger Mauduit's father deeded a manor to the abbey of Shrewsbury, which granted it back to him as a life tenant. The old man and Abbot Fulchered trusted one another, and were careless with the charter's actual wording. Now that both principals and all the witnesses have passed away, Roger has brought suit against the abbey that the tenancy is hereditary, and should remain with him, so Mauduit and the abbey's representative, Prior Heribert, are bringing the case before King Henry at Woodstock. Prior Heribert is armed with the abbey's correspondence with old man Mauduit as proof of intent.
Unfortunately, Mauduit knows his only hope is to keep Heribert from appearing in court, so the King will find for Mauduit in default. When 'footpads in the forest' kidnap Heribert, Cadfael (a Welsh armsman temporarily in Mauduit's employ) becomes suspicious. (This story also describes the first few stones that grew into the avalanche of the civil war between the Empress Maud (the King's daughter) and King Stephen.)
"The Price of Light" In 1135, Hamo FitzHamon, a harsh, self-indulgent lord of 2 manors, takes thought for his soul, when his sixtieth year greets him with a mild seizure. On the theory that the prayers of the brothers carry more weight with Heaven than those of ordinary recipients of charity, he has arrived at Shrewsbury for Christmas with his young wife, to conclude a charter arranging payment for the lighting of Mary's altar, and to gift the altar with 2 exquisite silver candlesticks (despite the custodian's opinion that the value of the candlesticks would be better sent to the almoner in this harsh winter). When the candlesticks disappear from the altar, half-blind Brother Jordan, who knows the value of light better than anyone, says that he has witnessed a miracle, of which he may not speak for 3 days.
"Eye Witness" A few days before the abbey's annual rents fall due, poor Brother Ambrose has fallen ill, and the abbey has had to hire a lay clerk to handle the paperwork. Master William, the abbey's steward, takes Ambrose's illness as almost a personal insult, but he's a complaining sort of man, whose worst cross to bear is his wild, continually-in-debt son. The day that Master William collects the rents, Madog of the Dead Boat fishes him out of the river - knocked out from behind, robbed, and thrown into the river for dead, but rescued just short of drowning. Cadfael, knowing that the church attic overlooks the scene of the attack, persuades old Rhodri the beggar (who sleeps up there) to help him bait a trap for the thief.