Uhtred, Finan, Sihtric, Clapa, Æthelwold, Æthelred, Aldhelm, Steapa, and Beocca return to camp to find it in ruins. Beocca and Steapa call out to Thyra and Æthelflæd, respectively. Thyra emerges from the woods and runs into Beocca’s arms. Uhtred then asks her about Æthelflæd, but Thyra is unaware of her whereabouts.
Uhtred, Finan, Sihtric, and Clapa part ways with the others and return to Coccham. Assuming Æthelflæd is still alive, Finan knows that Uhtred would never abandon her, so he questions why they’re not going to Winchester. Uhtred won’t be part of a whispering court. They will go to Winchester when he has something to say. Uhtred then orders Sihtric to take Rypere to Beamfleot to confirm Æthelflæd’s whereabouts.
Erik, Sigefrid, and Hæsten return to Beamfleot with their captive Æthelflæd. The ransom for her life will provide wealth and glory for all men. They take Æthelflæd to a room, where Hæsten and Dagfinn will be on guard at all times.
Winchester, Wessex; King Alfred, Ælswith, and Odda get news of Æthelred’s return from war. He, along with Father Beocca, Æthelwold, Aldhelm, and Steapa, inform them that while London has been reclaimed, the brothers abducted Æthelflæd. And they’re unsure if she’s still alive. Alfred will send word and ask for word regarding Æthelflæd’s health. Odda accuses Æthelred of putting all kingdoms at risk, making him the fool he always believed him to be. Aldhelm comes to Æthelred’s defense and tells Odda to go and find another cup of wine. Instead, he asks for every detail from Beocca and Steapa. Æthelwold finds amusement in Æthelred’s scolding and reminds him and Aldhelm that the only man capable of cleaning up this mess is Uhtred, who they’re desperately trying to blame.
Gisela worries about Æthelflæd. If she lives, Uhtred will be her hope. It should not be for Uhtred to resolve, but he will do it. By sending Sihtric, he has already begun. They are approached by Osferth, who joins them for dinner. He tells Uhtred how everyone in Winchester is praying that Æthelflæd is alive. Osferth wishes to serve Uhtred as his Uncle Leofric often told him that Uhtred is a good man. Gisela tells Osferth that while Uhtred may be a good man, he’s only allowing him to join his crew to embarrass Alfred. Gisela wants to go to Winchester, but Uhtred has no news to share yet.
Dagfinn informs Erik that Æthelflæd is refusing to eat. She would like to bathe as well as breathe fresh air. Erik tells her how Sigefrid wanted her to bathe in a barrel in full view of their men. Erik, however, refused him. Erik will arrange for her to bathe with privacy, but in return, she must eat the food they provide.
Ælswith tells Alfred that she feels their daughter is alive. Alfred states that Æthelflæd has her mother’s courage, and it is why she will survive this ordeal. Ælswith suggests that Alfred recall Uhtred to Winchester. However, Alfred cannot.
Sihtric and Rypere arrive in Beamfleot and get eyes on Æthelflæd. With news of her health, Sihtric sends Rypere to find Uhtred.
Erik, Hæsten, and Dagfinn take Æthelflæd to the river, where she can bathe in somewhat privacy. He orders them to turn around and show Æthelflæd the back of their heads out of respect. Erik then tells Hæsten that the girl is worth ten times her weight in gold and silver.
Rypere returns to Coccham with news of Æthelflæd’s whereabouts. And so, Uhtred, Gisela, Finan, Clapa, and Osferth ride into Winchester.
A Witan is held in Winchester. Æthelwold expresses his concerns of the Northemen in Beamfleot. They’re currently raiding into Mercia to feed their army. It won’t be long before they move on to Wessex. Æthelwold suggests raising the fyrd. However, Alfred tells him that he has no place to speak of raising fyrds. Alfred instructs the Ealdorman to begin harvesting. Should the Danes raid, they won’t be fed off Wessex food. Selwine argues that the brothers must be dealt with. Aldhelm informs him that they have Æthelflæd, so nothing can be done. Selwine states that if Æthelflæd was still alive, the brothers would have made their demands by now. Father Pyrlig then informs the Witan of Uhtred’s arrival.
Æthelred questions Uhtred’s position and Beocca comes to his defense. Furthermore, both Odda and Æthelwold vouch for Uhtred's entry. Ælswith convinces Alfred to allow him inside. Uhtred, Finan, and Gisela enter with news or Æthelflæd’s health. The Danes have been boasting about her abduction and outrageous demands are soon to follow. Alfred will do what he has to to recover his daughter, even if it means negotiating. Uhtred advises him against attending the negotiation. The presence of the king will increase their price. And so, Alfred orders Æthelred to go to Beamfleot and negotiate. Selwine suggests sending a representative of Wessex as well. Odda and Æthelwold again vouch for Uhtred. Beocca reminds Alfred that Uhtred is his only choice, and with Ælswith’s reassurance, he orders Uhtred to accompany Æthelred.
After the Witan, Beocca tells Uhtred that he asked the king to exclude him from Uhtred’s journey to Beamfleot. He feels shame for abandoning him, but Uhtred tells Beocca that his place is in Winchester with Thyra.
Sigefrid plans to take some of his men across the water to Wessex to spill some blood. He notes that his brother is growing quite fond of Æthelflæd and encourages Erik to hump her.
Hæsten walks towards Æthelflæd’s chamber. He tells Dagfinn to keep his mouth closed as he enters her chamber to hump her. He tells her to remove her clothes, claiming that Erik sent him. She hits him over the head with her night bucket and grabs his knife. Just as she is about to kill him, Erik and Dagfinn restrain her. Erik then punches Hæsten for going against his wishes. He reminds Hæsten that she is of value and tells him and Dagfinn to leave. Erik helps her off the ground and apologizes for the inconvenience. She tells him it’s not the first time a man has mistreated her. Now she knows what to do should it happen again.
Odda recalls Alfred speaking of paying for Æthelflæd's release in one of two ways-with silver, or with blood. There is a third way. Should the ransom be too great, Æthelflæd should be encouraged to take her own life for the greater good of the kingdom. Odda tells the king to look around him and see what has been sacrificed. He reminds Alfred that he is a king before he is a father. Unbeknownst to them, Æthelwold eavesdrops from the hall.
Erik takes Æthelflæd to the hill side to breathe the night’s air. He was born on a night of a whole moon. His father wanted to call him Mani, after the moon god. But Mani is chased each night across the sky by Hati the wolf. His mother did not want him to be chased by wolves. He saw the moon, the clear sky and wanted to share it. Erik has never known such beauty such as Æthelflæd. And any man who doesn’t see her, such as her husband, is blind or stupid. Æthelflæd replies that he is not blind. Erik realizes that it is her husband who she spoke about that mistreats her. They then share a kiss.
Odda gets drunk in the courtyard. He asks Æthelwold’s opinion on paying a ransom for Æthelflæd. Admittedly, it’s not an opinion that he’s willing to say out loud. Odda asks if there’s any of Æthelwold’s father in him. Æthelwold replies that he is becoming more like his father by the day. He tells Æthelwold that the time may come when he needs his help.
The leaves are falling. Erik and Sigefrid want the ransom paid in full by winter. Then an army by spring. And a king's crown by summer. Sigefrid asks his brother how does Æthelflæd ride. He replies that while she’s bony and squeals, she passes the time.
Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, Æthelred, Aldhelm, Steapa, Clapa, and Father Pyrlig set course for Beamfleot to negotiate with the brothers. They find themselves surrounded by Hæsten and a group of Danes. He’s come to take them to the fortress.
They arrive at the fortress, where Erik and Sigefrid await. Sihtric watches from the crowd. They wish Uhtred would have joined them. However, he questions why they didn’t simply ask rather than have a dead man tell a prophecy. Æthelred demands to see his wife before negotiations start. Erik then forces Æthelred to kneel. Dagfinn brings out Æthelflæd, who is alive and well. She assures Æthelred that she is being treated well and has not been touched. He warns her that negotiation is about to begin and not to be alarmed by anything he says. Æthelred asks for their price. He offers 100 pounds of silver. Sigefrid asks if Æthelred speaks for Alfred. When Uhtred says that he does not, Sigefrid calls down Weland and instructs him to knock Æthelred out.
Uhtred now leads the negotiation with Erik and Sigefrid. Uhtred claims that Æthelflæd is unloved and was sent to Mercia to be humped by her husband. And because of that, Alfred’s not willing to pay a great sum. They’re willing to pay 300 pounds in silver. Pyrlig assures him it’s a fair price. Sigefrid is insulted by their offer. He threatens to have her brought in and have every man take a turn with her, though Uhtred can see that Erik is very much conflicted. Sigefrid wants 10,000 pounds weight in silver and 1,000 pounds weight in gold. Delivered by Alfred. However, Uhtred refuses his offer.
Æthelred wakes up naked in the pig's pin. He enters the hall, where Sigefrid welcomes him to sit and eat. Aldhelm gives him a blanket to cover himself with and informs him that a bargain has been made. Finan tells him that Father Pyrlig and Uhtred went to check on Æthelflæd.
Erik tells Uhtred that Æthelflæd is praying with the priest. Uhtred can see her afterwards. Uhtred spots 26 ships in the river. By the next moon, there will be more, Erik tells him. Alfred will pay for his own destruction. Uhtred remarks that he was surprised at Erik’s anger towards Æthelred. He questions the purpose behind it. Uhtred realizes that Erik cares for her. Erik replies that he cannot give her up.
Uhtred goes to see Æthelflæd and informs her that they’ve arranged her release. She asks if he’s spoken with Erik and what he has told her. Uhtred tells Æthelflæd that any hope she has of a life with him is nonsense and can never happen. However, Æthelflæd despises her husband. Uhtred warns her that she will lose her entire family, and she will die. A life with Erik is what Æthelflæd wants. She can only say this to Uhtred, though. She looks to him to help her escape with Erik.