Bebbanburg, Northumbria; A battle ensues on the shores, Bebbanburg is under attack. Ælfric leads his fleet of soldiers into battle, forcing their attackers to retreat. However, they themselves are forced to retreat when the Scottish arrive with reinforcements. Ælfric and a handful of his men make it behind the kingdom’s walls before shutting the gates, locking several of his own men outside to fend for themselves. He watches as they are slaughtered by the Scottish. Aidan reveals that they lost over half their men, leaving them with no choice but to gather more, as the Scottish will surely attack again. If they take Bebbanburg, the Scottish will have a gateway to the south, where they’ll proceed to take all of Northumbria. Ælfric approaches the last of his fighters. He assures them that the Scottish will return, and so they’ll have to fight to keep their home.
Outside Bebbanburg, Northumbria; Just outside the walls, the scavengers steal from Ælfric’s fallen soldiers. Among them are Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric. Finan tells Osferth that it’s time they head south.
Cookham, Uhtred’s Estate, Wessex; Uhtred and Æthelflæd have sex. Uhtred hears a noise coming from outside. He goes downstairs to investigate. Aldhelm has come to tell Uhtred that Lady Æthelflæd’s absence has been noted by her husband and that she should leave before she is discovered. Uhtred pleads with Æthelflæd to stay with him, but she continues to get dressed. She refuses to allow men to die just so that she can love Uhtred. Hopefully, in time, things will change for them. Until then, Æthelflæd will go to Winchester to comfort her mother. She kisses Uhtred goodbye and assures him that his men will return from the north soon.
Aldhelm warns Æthelflæd that her husband would take great pleasure in punishing her for adultery should he find out. Æthelflæd retorts that he’ll punish her no matter what she does. Besides, she has good men to protect her.
Uhtred spends the entire night sitting in front of a fire, waiting to hear back from his men up north, though he receives no such news.
East Anglia; Young Cnut and his younger brother Esgar run through the woods, taking cover behind trees. Cnut is captured by Brida, who holds a knife at his throat and asks if he wants her to show him mercy. He nods his head yes. She reminds him that mercy is for Christians and the only appropriate action when captured by the enemy is to take his own life. They are joined by Cnut, who tells Brida that the boys must like her. The women of East Anglia are shipped off to the settlements for the winter. They must be hidden away while the men go to war. Cnut warns them that if any of them are caught humping a Saxon, they will be executed on their return.
Hæsten arranges a meeting with Eardwulf. He claims that the Danish have been loading ships for three days, leaving the land they fought so hard for. Cnut is taking his men to Irland. A cousin, Sigtryggr, is being held captive by the natives. Eardwulf questions why Hæsten is so eager to tell him this. Hæsten explains that he has not been rewarded for his services to the Danish. Also, he no longer wants war. He wants silver. And so, Eardwulf pays him.
Cookham, Wessex; Uhtred greets Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric as they return from the north. Finan informs Uhtred that his uncle is under attack by the Scots pushing south. He lost half his men in the most recent assault. Leaving him with barely 40 soldiers. Unable to even raise a fyrd. Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric urge Uhtred to attack now while Bebbanburg is weak. Finan explains that the trip will cost a ship and men, as well as all their silver. Uhtred is willing to take the risk. However, they’ll need to ride to Winchester to raise an army.
Winchester, Wessex; Alfred's study is being cleaned out by the guards. Ælswith informs Æthelflæd that Lord Æthelhelm wants the room given over for planning their defenses. Ælswith instructs the men to be careful with her husband’s Chronicle. Æthelflæd remarks that every time she returns home there is a new insult.
Lord Æthelhelm informs King Edward and Pyrlig that Cnut is leaving for Irland to help a cousin, Sigtryggr, who’s besieged there. King Edward says they’ll ignore the news until the scouts confirm and orders them to continue to fortify the board. When the Danes break the peace, they’ll be ready. King Edward is joined by his mother, Ælswith, whom he tells to take comfort in knowing that all is well.
Avlesburv, Mercia; Æthelred tells Eadith to come and lie with him, but she turns him down. He shall only have her when the time is right. He threatens to use force but is interrupted by the arrival of Eardwulf. He reports that he met a Danish spy who revealed that Cnut is taking his warriors from East Anglia and heading to Irland, leaving their women and children in undefended settlements. Æthelred plots to take over East Anglia while the Danish are gone. Eardwulf suggests they leave quietly, before the Ealdorman can disapprove. Æthelred remarks that relics of St. Oswald are already working in his favor. He’s collecting all the bones of their beloved Saint as a good omen to signal to the Mercian people that he shall restore their lands to greatness. Monks are leaving with silver to bargain for his heart. Once Æthelred leaves, Eadith questions if what her brother says is true. He admits that it is. Eardwulf explains that he’s simply trying to keep the king happy and instructs his sister to do the same. However, the moment she has sex with him, he’ll lose interest in her. She refuses to return to being landless and ridiculed.
East Anglia; Hæsten informs Cnut and Brida that he met with Eardwulf and told him that they were leaving for Irland. With their plan in motion, they’ll attack Mercia while their backs are turned. They’ll sail to the estuary before dawn, head upstream and keep the boats apart to avoid any scouts. When they reach Mercia, they’ll assault Aegelesburg in two bands and Cnut will kill King Edward. Brida explains that they’ll kill Æthelred as well. Wessex is honor-bound to come to Mercia's aid. So, they’ll lure out Edward from behind his walls and fight on their terms and take the country. Hæsten questions how Cnut managed to tame Brida. He replies that he treated her with respect and gave her love.
Winchester, Wessex; Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric arrive in Winchester. Uhtred is welcomed by Beocca and Hild. He greets them both with a hug. Uhtred informs them that he has good news; Aelfric and Bebbanburg have been weakened by the Scots and Uhtred is planning to claim what his rightfully his. Aelfric had a son but the heir Wihtgar was banished. He died last summer in the southern sea. Uhtred is hoping that Beocca and Hild will join him. However, their fighting days are over. Although, Beocca promises that he will join Uhtred when the hard work is done. Hild then asks about his children. Uhtred tells them that Stiorra thrives. She lives at Æthelflæd’s estate. However, he doesn’t get to see his son. Alfred’s influence has made him holy. Hild and Beocca inform Uhtred that Wessex is doing well. Edward’s son is walking and the king’s wife is to be crowned a queen.
Pyrlig interrupts King Edward and Ælswith as they pray. He whispers into the king’s ear. Edward instructs his mother to finish her prayer as it is of no concern of hers. They head outside, where Uhtred awaits. Pyrlig, King Edward, and Steapa approach. Uhtred informs the king that Cnut has brought his sons over from his homeland, which means he has ambition here. Uhtred has come to Winchester to make Edward an offer. He can help Edward fulfill his father’s dream of a united land if King Edward gives him men to retake Bebbanburg.
Uhtred, Pyrlig, Lord Æthelhelm, and King Edward discuss the matter further inside. If Uhtred takes Bebbanburg, it becomes a foothold in Northumbria. King Edward could then unite the four kingdoms. One country, one king. With 100 men, Uhtred can take the kingdom in a week. with 200, in a day. Lord Æthelhelm doesn’t believe it is wise to distract themselves with other matters given the ongoing threat with the Danes. Uhtred urges Edward to accept his offer, but he instead agrees with Lord Æthelhelm and refuses to lend Uhtred his men.
Uhtred reports back to Sihtric and Finan with the unfortunate news that King Edward is refusing to help them. Osferth joins them and they proceed to discuss the possibility of taking down Bebbanburg on their own. Uhtred assures them that they don’t need an army. All they have to do is kill Aelfric and the gates will open.
Bebbanburg, Northumbria; Aidan tells Aelfric that all the mercenaries have turned down their offer to fight. Silver will not tempt them as they believe Bebbanburg is doomed. There is, however, another way. Aidan’s gotten word that Æthelred of Mercia is sending monks to retrieve the heart of St. Oswald. It may be their only chance. However, Aelfric refuses to give it up, reasoning that he's a devoted Christian, who fears his saints. Bebbanburg was his reward from God for his constant and unwavering piety. So, instead he instructs Aidan to round up the farmers’ sons and will use them to defend his kingdom.
Mercia; Eardwulf, Æthelred, and Eadith lead a group of warriors to conquer East Anglia. On the border of Mercia and East Anglia, Æthelred tells Eardwulf that soon all the land will belong to Mercia.
Winchester, Wessex; Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric plot their path into Bebbanburg. Hild finds Uhtred and thanks him for offering his men to clear the stables. While they’re distracted, Hild tells Uhtred that Lady Æthelflæd will meet him in the garden.
Uhtred finds Æthelflæd in the garden just as Hild said. Her woman Sable is works at Lord Æthelred's estate and she knows of something that will be of use to Uhtred. Lord Æthelred is collecting the relics of St. Oswald. When St. Oswald’s body is reunited in Mercia, the land will be returned to greatness. All that remains to be gathered is the heart of St. Oswald, which Aelfric keeps at Bebbanburg. Lord Æthelred has sent a pair of monks up north to strike a bargain for it. They should reach Grimesby by Sunday, then Bebbanburg on the day of Ascension, which is ten days before Pentecost. Should Uhtred intercept these monks, he could gain entry into the fortress.
Uhtred finds Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric in the stable and tells them of his plan to intercept the monks headed for Bebbanburg. They will need another horse for the priest that’ll be joining them. Before leaving Winchester, Uhtred says goodbye to Beocca and Hild. Beocca tells Uhtred to fulfill his birthright and restore Northumbria to greatness. Uhtred promises Beocca that one day soon, he will live like a lord in Bebbanburg. Hild then gives Uhtred a silver cross, telling him to turn it into hack-silver and pay for bribes along the way.
Wilbv, East Anglia; A young woman goes into the woods with a bucket. As she does, warriors on horses charge into her village and kill the villagers. She hears the screams and sees the black smoke in the air as her home is set ablaze. She returns to her village to find everyone and everything dead. She herself is then killed by a single warrior.
Winchester, Wessex; Ælswith worries that Steapa is trying to worm his way in with the King’s guards. She shares her concern with Hild. In the past, he has suggested to Ælswith things that are most unchristian in regards to the other heirs of the throne. Beocca interrupts and asks if she’s referring to her own firstborn child, who she had banished so that her son could make a better marriage. Ælswith’s referring to the children who were conceived without holy union. However, Beocca and Hild inform her that the first marriage was, in fact, legitimate. Beocca reminds Ælswith that she chose Lord Æthelhelm’s daughter as a match because he had silver that Wessex needed. She chose her over a woman that Ælswith’s son loved and who had borne him children. Ælswith reminds Beocca that she had him removed from the court and that it’s unwise to remain somewhere he isn’t wanted. However, much like him, Ælswith is unwanted there as well, he claims. After she leaves, Hild tells Beocca that Ælswith is not herself. Her role has diminished and she’s veiled in grief.
East Anglia; Eardwulf and Æthelred reach the Kingdom of East Anglia only to discover that it’s been attacked. He orders Eardwulf to seize the land to the north until he reaches the sea. And then they will see which Saxon Kingdom is the greatest.
St. Wilfrid’s Church, Wessex; Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric kidnap young Uhtred and take him into the woods. Young Uhtred wants no part of whatever his father has planned, claiming the church is his family. Whether young Uhtred likes it or not, Uhtred insists that they’ll be leaving together, headed to Coccham, where they will collect the ship that will take them north to reclaim both of their birthrights. However, young Uhtred doesn’t even know of Bebbanburg.
Winchester, Wessex; Pyrlig instructs Beocca to keep his head down and stay inside for a while following his latest encounter with Ælswith. Pyrlig promises to bring him news when he can. Beocca warns Pyrlig that to advise a king is a great honor. But it can also be a curse. Sometimes he found himself at war with his own conscience. He gives Pyrlig his blessing to do whatever must be done to protect King Edward, who has all the makings of a great leader. Beocca fears that time may be against them. Those around Edward have ambition. And it is not the ambition of the King, or of his father, who they both loved.
Cookham, Wessex; Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric prepare the boat. At the last minute, Beocca arrives after changing his mind and deciding to join Uhtred on his journey. Uhtred questions if Hild sent Beocca to keep an eye on him. Beocca insists that it was his own decision. He admittedly allowed himself to get old too quickly. However, Uhtred questions the real reason Beocca decided to tag along. Beocca reveals that word reached him about the abduction of a young deacon.
Young Uhtred wonders what use his father has for him. Uhtred sees the man that he will be, not the boy that he is. Uhtred knows what it is like to be ripped from life to live another, but it will make young Uhtred stronger. Uhtred points to his sword, which once belonged to his father. One day, it will be young Uhtred, so it is fated. However, young Uhtred retorts that it feels more like penance. Uhtred, young Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric then sail to Bebbanburg.
- Uhtred's Servant
- Young Cnut
- Dane Daughter
- Brother Oswi
- Brother Iestyn
- Several unnamed Scottish soldiers
- At least half of Bebbanburg's forces
- Several unnamed Dane villagers