In the year of our Lord 1602, the month of December, an unlikely pair of travelling companions left their vessel at Hull. First ashore was Kato, latterly the bodyguard of a Japanese noble on a diplomatic mission to the court of Elizabeth. Following him was Ben Finn, privateer and the man who saved Kato (although, sadly not Kato’s former employer) from the piratical clutches of the dread pirate Logan.
Lacking purpose and gainful employment, the pair decide to travel to Bristol in the hope of finding one or the other. The first day’s travel is cold, wet and windy and they are glad to arrive at the small town of Barton-Upon-Humber. Taking the opportunity to dry out in front of the fire, they overhear the conversation at the next table and their interest is piqued. Their neighbours are shipwrights and until recently they were working on the demolition of Saint Mary’s Abbey at Thornton Curtis. Mysterious deaths and disappearances have prompted the workmen to abandon the job. They are heading for Hull to seek employment on a ship and they advise Kato and Ben to avoid Thornton Curtis like the plague for the whole place is cursed.
Of course, Kato and Ben choose to ignore this good advice and the very next day travel to the Thornton Hunt Inn to find Sir Robert Sutton, who is paying for the demolition of the Abbey and the construction of a new family home on the site. They question Sir Robert and offer up their credentials for his consideration. He is convinced that they seem to know what they are doing and offers them a generous reward if they can get to the bottom of the mysterious events at the Abbey and enable demolition to resume.
Kato and Ben decide to visit the village church and speak to the local Vicar (Reverend Piers de Croft) to try and find out if he knows anything about events. He tells them that the problem seems to be worsening and that the local miller was murdered in his own house two days ago. It seems nowhere is safe now, not just the Abbey. He is convinced to let the pair of travellers examine the Parish records, where the sad story of Thomas de Grethem and Heloise Randle-Holmes is uncovered. Convinced this is a clue as to what is happening at the Abbey the pair quickly find and explore the Randle-Holmes family seat, a crumbling and decaying mansion located at the edge of the village.
As darkness falls, they uncover a family bible and ascertain from this that Heloise died of a broken heart after the sudden departure of Thomas de Grethem (formerly Abbot at the Abbey of St Mary’s) and that she is buried in the family crypt in the grounds of the mansion.