Saltwic, Mercia; Uhtred, Æthelflæd, young Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric arrive at Æthelflæd’s Mercian estate. Uhtred has come to bring Stiorra home. Æthelflæd asks where is her daughter, and Ælfwynn rushes into her arms. Æthelstan has been held up with them as well.
Aldhelm arrives to report that Æthelred is fatally injured and he may not last a week. No plan has been made for the succession, so Æthelflæd is eager to speak with him and the Ealdormen. Unfortunately, those who survived the massacre blame Æthelred for deserting them and denounce King Edward for not coming to their aid. Uhtred then tells Stiorra to take the children and secure them. She questions how much younger she’ll have to be a prisoner, as she leads Ælfwynn and Æthelstan into the other room. If Æthelred dies, times will be unstable. Uhtred questions what will happen if the successor the Ealdormen chooses seeks to have Æthelflæd removed. He fears they'll send her to a nunnery and her daughter will be sold to the highest bidder. He urges Æthelflæd to follow him to Coccham, where he can protect her and her daughter.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; King Æthelred is weak and barely conscious. He asks why have the Ealdormen circled around him. Eardwulf and Eadith tell him that he’s been sleeping since the day of the battle, where he fell and hit his head. However, they did defeat the Danes and Erdwukf assures the king he'll recover. The last thing Æthelred remembers is arriving at the battle.
The Ealdormen questions why Eardwulf lies to the king when he is certain to die. Burgred believes this to be Æthelred’s time of judgement. Punishment for his greed and ambition. He left them to face the Danes alone. Burgred lost his eldest during the massacre. His youngest and wife were beaten. No one came to help, and for that, Burgred, Ludeca, and the other Ealdormen will not honor him. Eardwulf agrees that they shouldn’t, claiming he did all he could to convince the king to return sooner.
Saltwic, Mercia; Aldhelm informs Æthelflæd and Uhtred that he’s spoken with the Ealdormen and there’s to be a Witan with the survivors. Æthelflæd suggests that Uhtred stay behind while she returns to Aegelesburg.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Æthelred holds Eadith’s hand and demands that she do not leave his room. Eardwulf returns and asks his sister if the king blames him for their late return. Eadith reveals that he has not spoken of Eardwulf, but they should leave before his mind returns. However, Eardwulf believes the king will be dead soon, and if that’s the case, they’ll have no need to run. This is an opportunity to regain their influence. The Mercian Guard is loyal to Eardwulf and the Ealdormen are against the king. Groups are forming. Æthelflæd then unexpectedly arrives, familiar with both Eardwulf and Eadith. Æthelflæd would like to be left alone with Æthelred and tells everyone to withdraw.
Æthelred remarks that he must be dying if Æthelflæd has returned. He fears he is dying after the priests prayed over over him as though preparing for final rights. He questions why she came. Æthelflæd is concerned about the fate of their daughter should he die. She’s treated cruelly because as Æthelred points out, Ælfwynn isn’t his daughter. At the very least, Æthelflæd asks that Æthelred agree not to betroth her to a heartless fool. The Ealdormen of marriageable age were all slaughtered. Æthelflæd wants to personally choose someone suitable so that the Kingdom will thrive. Æthelred agrees. Had he not treated her with such cruelty since their wedding night, perhaps things could’ve been different between them. Æthelred then takes the time to apologize to Æthelflæd.
King Edward, Lord Æthelhelm, and Pyrlig ride into Mercia to hold Æthelred accountable for abandoning his people. They won the war, now they must help bring about the peace. Edward then tells Æthelhelm to have his mother publicly rebuked for raising King Hywel’s army. Edward calls on Cenric and sends him back to Winchester to have their men brought to Mercia to help rebuild the town. Edward refuses to ignore the Mercians plight again.
Uhtred and Æthelflæd watch as the Ealdormen discuss the next successor. With Æthelred nearing death, Burgred doesn’t want to delay the decision. However, Ludeca argues they are too few to make a decision. They should wait for the other Ealdormen to arrive. But Aldhelm is in agreement with Burgred, that the matter is too pressing to put off. Burgred believes his younger son is the best candidate. However, Ludeca points out that his son is too young. Æthelflæd has tried to speak, but they merely tell her to return to Æthelred’s bedside. Aldhelm reassures them of their worries. The Ealdormen are angry and blame Wessex for abandoning them, and there is talk that some do not honor the union, as in Mercia breaks from Wessex.
King Edward approaches Æthelred, intent on making him answer for his desertion. However, when he sees the king is barely conscious and not even aware of himself, King Edward exits. Lord Æthelhelm advises him to act decisively to install someone in Mercia before chaos breaks out. Admittedly, King Edward hasn’t been as attentive to them as he should have. Pyrlig informs them that Danish survivors have been spotted heading East. However, Edward wants all his forces in Aegelesburg. He also wants to speak with Ludeca to discuss succession.
Lord Æthelhelm pulls Cenric to the side and instructs him to tell the Wessex Guard to settle within the walls. As for the command to punish the king’s mother, he asks Cenric to undertake it.
Uhtred, Æthelflæd, and Aldhelm meet with Edward and Pyrlig to discuss the succession of the king. Uhtred informs Edward of the rumors of a break from Wessex. Edward intends to betroth Ælfwynn to the successor and seal the bond between lands. In return for the strength it’ll bring to Mercia, they’ll simply ask for loyalty. Edward wants Ælfwynn brought to Aegelesburg immediately, but Æthelflæd refuses. Instead, she asks that Edward first find a suitor and they will arrange a match.
Winchester, Wessex; Ælswith, Ælflæd, and Ælfweard pay their respects to the fallen soldiers from Tettenhall as they are brought into Winchester. Ælflæd worries that he’s too young to be displayed before people, but if he’s to send men to war as the future king of Wessex, he must know the consequences, Ælswith argues.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Eardwulf and Eadith plan to ingratiate themselves with King Edward. However, Eadith is reluctant. She wants to take this opportunity to escape and avoid the turmoil when Æthelred dies. She’s the mistress of a soon-to-be dead king and Eardwulf is the favorite. Such people will not thrive. Eardwulf replies that for a whore, his sister lacks ambition. Unlike her, he refuses to run merely because it has become dangerous.
Uhtred informs Æthelflæd that Edward has ordered all his troops to Aegelesburg. Uhtred fears that this means a war is coming. Æthelflæd urges Uhtred to trust her brother. They then stumble upon Eadith and Eardwulf in the middle of an argument. Eadith assures Uhtred that she’s fine, and then Æthelflæd tells Eadith that Æthelred is asking for her. Again, Uhtred asks Æthelflæd to leave with him, but she fears that if she leaves, she’ll never be able to return.
Ludeca thanks Edward for allowing his men to help rebuild Mercia. He then calls over Eardwulf after recalling that he pulled the king to safety during that battle. Edward questions what are the Mercian Guard's thoughts on the succession should Æthelred die. Eardwulf claims they have no view on it. They’re only loyal to the leader of Mercia. Edward thanks Eardwulf for his honesty and action on the battlefield. As Eardwulf leaves, Edward and Ludeca are confronted by Burgred. He demands that the king remove his troops from Aegelesburg. Lord Æthelhelm intervenes, advising Burgred to remove himself. Burgred will do so gladly. He remarks that there are ways to make men the Lord of Mercia without the Witan. Ludeca fears that Burgred will do something foolish to assure his son’s seat on the throne. As Ludeca leaves, Æthelhelm worries that his love for Mercia may lead to conflict in time. Edward wonders how old will he be when Ælfwynn is of age to produce an heir. Æthelflæd will certainly not approve, so he looks elsewhere, possibly at Eardwulf.
Winchester, Wessex; Ælflæd follows Cenric as he goes to inform Ælswith that an order has come from Aegelesburg. Ælswith is to be confined to punishment for raising an army without the king’s consent. Cenric has been asked to enact the will of the king. She will be guarded in the Reading Room. Ælswith calls into question Ælflæd’s authority. She reminds Ælswith that she is anointed Queen, and in Edward’s absence, her will takes precedence.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; King Edward remains troubled by Ludeca’s old age. Edward questions if he should offer his niece to him as dowry in return for a renewal of the alliance. Lord Æthelhelm advises the king to follow his instincts. Eardwulf arrives after being invited to feast with them. Æthelhelm explains that the Mercian Guard is loyal to Eardwulf. It would bring a fighting force under Edward’s command. Lord Æthelhelm believes that Eardwulf would be willing to work with them to achieve peace, especially if it means restoring his family’s name.
Ludeca asks Eardwulf about Burgred, who has not made another move. He then realizes that the king means to propose to the Ealdormen and the Mercian Guard that Ludeca should be the successor. He wonders if he has Eardwulf’s loyalty. Eardwulf replies the Guard are loyal to the leader of Mercia.
Eadith sits at Æthelred’s side. He realizes that all his people wish him dead and wonders what he did to offend them. He then asks to be alone with Eadith. He can’t recall much, but he remembers her name and asks if they were in love, but they weren’t. Æthelred apologizes if he’s ever mistreated her. He asks if she’ll survive without him, but she doesn’t know. She’s survived a great deal already. He asks for her to tell him the truth about his status. Eadith truthfully tells him that he is in fact dying. He’ll need a miracle to survive. She suggests he could pray on the relics of St. Oswald.
King Edward, Lord Æthelhelm, and Ludeca agree that the union between Mercia and Wessex is critical. Edward wishes to further discuss this unity as well as the betrothal of his niece. Pyrlig grows uncomfortable with the talk of Ludeca’s betrothal to Edward’s niece and leaves. Eardwulf believes they are in need of a peacemaker, someone to unite the divisions. He proposes that Eardwulf be that man as opposed to Ludeca. Should Eardwulf agree, they would only need the approval of a Witan.
Eardwulf tells Æthelred that he’s been chosen as the successor. However, the king will not agree to it. He promised Æthelflæd that he would not act without her. Eardwulf fears that without a plan, King Edward will take Æthelred’s throne and Mercia will be subsumed. Eardwulf claims to have always served the king well, but while Æthelred cannot place it, his stomach tells him that Eardwulf lies. Æthelred tells Eardwulf that he isn’t worthy of his daughter and he will never rule Mercia. Eardwulf becomes enraged. He climbs on top of Æthelred and snaps his neck. Unbeknownst to him, Eadith watches through the curtains.
Pyrlig informs Æthelflæd of Edward’s plans to have her daughter betrothed to Ludeca. He asks that Æthelflæd keep his name out of it. With this in mind, Æthelflæd confronts Edward and Ludeca. However, Ludeca reveals that he isn’t the suitor. He’s merely someone trying to prevent chaos.
Eadith watches as Eardwulf steals Æthelred’s ring off his finger and leave. She enters the room, as does Edward and Æthelflæd soon thereafter. They discover that Æthelred is dead. Edward tells Eadith to prepare the body and tell her brother that the betrothal will happen imminently. However, Æthelflæd intends to fight this. She won’t allow her child to be condemned to a life of misery. Æthelflæd pleads with Ludeca to oppose this plan, but he can’t because it offers stability.
Lord Æthelhelm orders Cenric to ride to Saltwic and fetch Ælfwynn. King Edward would like to ensure no force is used.
Æthelflæd informs Uhtred and Aldhelm of Æthelred’s demise. She thought his death would bring her peace, but it hasn’t. Aldhelm promises that he will bargain their way out of this, but what they need is to alert their allies and rally them against Eardwulf if necessary. This would set the Mercian Fyrd against the Wessex army. Pyrlig reveals that a group of riders were just sent to retrieve Ælfwynn. Æthelflæd will try to speak with Edward. In the meantime, she orders Uhtred to go to Ceaster and take her daughter somewhere she can be protected.
Eardwulf catches up to Edward, claiming to have just gotten the news of the king’s death. Edward fears that his sister will not mourn her husband. While she loved Mercia, she never loved its leader. He orders Eardwulf to have Æthelflæd contained until all this is settled.
Eardwulf does as told and takes Æthelflæd to a room. He claims it’s a chance to mourn. She hands over her weapons and is locked inside.
Winchester, Wessex; Ælswith is brought a book to read by a guard while confined to the Reading Room. She tells him to follow her next instructions, and she assures him he’ll be well rewarded, placing a bag of silver in his hand.
Saltwic, Mercia; At Æthelflæd’s estate, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric watch over Ælfwynn, Æthelstan, and Stiorra. Stiorra questions young Uhtred if Bebbanburg was as impressive as they were told it was as children. Young Uhtred replies that it was more so and harder to attack. He doubts he’ll ever see it again in their lifetime. Stiorra orders for Ælfwynn to come inside as she spots soldiers ride up towards the gate. She reports to Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric of their arrival and tells them that she has a plan.
Stiorra opens the front gate and asks Cenric and his men if they are lost. They’ve come to take Ælfwynn to Aegelesburg. Ælfwynn claims that she’s already been taken to Winchester by Uhtred. Centric isn’t convinced and proceeds to search the grounds while young Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelstan hide. However, they come up empty handed. Uhtred arrives soon thereafter to find that everyone is safe. After evading capture, they proceed to pack their belongings and head for Ceaster.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Eadith comes to set Æthelflæd free. She’s alerted Aldhelm, who is outside the window waiting with a horse. Æthelflæd suspects it's a trap, wondering why a mistress would help a wife. Eadith explains that Mercia has wronged them both and both of their brothers have turned on them. Eardwulf cannot be controlled and will bring disaster. Before leaving, Æthelflæd tells Eadith to find Uhtred on the road to Ceaster and tell him to meet Æthelflæd at the ruins of Saint Milburg’s Priory. Do this and Æthelflæd will ensure that Eadith never goes penniless. Æthelflæd jumps out the window and onto the horse. Aldhelm tells Æthelflæd that it is not she who is abandoning Mercia but the other way around.
- Æthelred - Neck snapped by Eardwulf.