Winchester, Wessex; Ælswith, Æthelflæd, Æthelwold, Odda the Elder, Father Beocca listen as Alfred gives a speech. After the legendary Battle of Athendun, King Alfred and Wessex basks in the glory of victory. But King Alfred knows the Danes are not fully defeated. He turns his attentions north towards the city of Eoferwic, Northumbria, where the people are ruled mercilessly by two war-hungry Dane brothers named Erik and Sigefrid. The brothers depart from Eoferwic to battle the Scots, leaving a commander named Haesten in charge of the city. But the Christian priests who lived there under subjugation seize the opportunity of Erik and Sigefrid's absence to revolt and kill all the Danes.
Bother Trew rides into the kingdom wishing to speak to King Alfred.
Odda and Alfred discuss a betrothing Æthelflæd. They are interuppted by Father Beocca who brings in Brother Trew in front of Alfred. According to Brother Trew, Father Eadred of Cumberland claimed Saint Cuthbert came to him in a vision, and spoke of this Guthred who would be king.
Lichfield, Mercia: Not long after this, Uhtred, accompanied by Hild and Halig, come upon the city. Uhtred has begun his journey back north, but spends his nights drinking and whoring. A wench almost steals Uhtre's sword whilst he sleeps but Hild takes it away from her. She goes to wake Uhtred up by having throwing a bucket of water at him. Hild does her best to remind him why it is they go north: to free Uhtred's enslaved sister from Kjartan, the same man who killed his Viking father.
Eoferwic, Northumbria; Father Hrothweard is belittled and beaten by Sigefrid, just before he and Erik prepare to lead their men into war. They leave the city under Hæsten’s control. Father Hrothweard retreats to the hall, where he tells his fellow priest that they must rise up. Father Hrothweard leads the men of Eoferwic into battle with Hæsten and his men, and Hæsten is taken prisoner during the Revolt of Eoferwic (878).
In the city square, the Saxons have tied Haesten, the only surviving Dane, to ropes and make him fight various members of the crowd for amusement. Uhtred frees him to the anger of the townsfolk, but is pardoned when they learn his name, which has already reached legendary status following the Battle of Athendun.
There Uhtred coincidentally reunites with Father Beocca, who has left Winchester on Alfred's orders with Brother Trew to free an enslaved northman prophesied to be the next King of Northumbria. The two priests have taken silver from the church, granted by Alfred, to pay the ransom fee for Guthred's freedom. Beocca tries to recruit Uhtred to his cause, knowing a skilled warrior would help them their task. But Uhtred wasn't convinced in joining until he heard that Guthred's father was killed by the one and only Kjartan, and is now enslaved on his lands. He now sees an opportunity to attack Kjartan if this future king and potential future army were on his side.
Winchester, Wessex; Ælswith comes to wish Alfred good night and he tells her to stay and they kiss passionately.
Eoferwic, Northumbria; Hild and Uhtred talk.
In the morning, Uhtred, Hild, Halig, Beocca, Trew, and monks leave the city.
Northumbria; Uhtred spies on Hild as she gets dressed after washing. They then walk by the stream.
At night, to free Guthred, Uhtred devises a plot using the three lepers travelling with Beocca. Using the skull of a dead animal, he masks himself as an undead horsemen (four apocalyptic horsemen total) sent to take the souls of Kjartan and Sven. They attack the slave trade auction led by Gelgill at night and everything goes to plan. All the people in attendance fear Uhtred's 'Undead Horseman' figure and flee. Uhtred knocks out one-eyed Sven, blindfolds and ties him, and releases him to find his way back home.
They successfully rescue Guthred.
Dunholm, Northumbria; Kjartan is enraged that he was bested by a make-believe figure, and gets angrier when the dogs in the cellar won't stop barking. He yells at Sven to "shut his bitch up". Sven descends into the cellar to tell Thyra to make the hounds be quiet. He is clearly afraid of her.
Northumbria; Meanwhile, Guthred feels indebted to Uhtred and offers to make him the commander of his army. Uhtred, knowing he would need an army to command if he were to overtake Dunham where Kjartan lives, accepts.
Cumberland, Northumbria; They travel to Cumberland where the village folk greet the new king warmly. Guthred is sworn in over the bones of Saint Cuthbert as the new King of Cumberland.
Following the crowning of Guthred, Abbot Eadred questions Brother Trew on Uhtred's loyalty. Trew informs him that Uhtred wishes to take back his ancestral home of Bebbanburg. Eadred says that Uhtred must be watched.
Dunholm, Northumbria; Sven informs Kjartan of Guthred's crowning, and that the commander of his army is none other than Uhtred. Kjartan sends out his man, Tekil, to join Guthred's army. Kjartan orders him to kill the king if possible, and to bring Uhtred back as a prisoner.