- "No. No, do not do his bidding! He has betrayed you all! He murdered Lord Æthelred! I witnessed it- (...) As he lay mortally ill in his bed-(...) I will swear to it on the book! Æthelred refused to allow my brother to marry this poor child. So, he killed him. That is the man you serve. Ask him why Æthelred was late to the fight at Tettenhall? Because this man lied to you! Days he delayed telling your fellow Mercians were dead! Days you could of had to travel home and save your families! He killed and buried the messenger that Edward sent alerting us to the trouble."
- —Eadith revealing the truth to the Mercian Guards about Eardwulf[src]
Mercia On the road to Ceaster, Stiorra tells Ælfwynn to stop crying, though she persists. Young Uhtred tells his sister to be kind as Ælfwynn simply misses her mother. Stiorra tells her to be brave and grateful that she’s not betrothed to an old man.
Uhtred, Finan, Osferth, and Sihtric come to a stop, if only for a second as Edward and his men won’t be far behind. Eadith arrives with a message from Æthelflæd. She wants them to meet her at the ruins of St. Milburg’s Priory. They do not entirely trust Eadith, but they have no choice. Uhtred wonders what’s next for her. Eadith has family in Frankia, but that way is Inland, so Uhtred invites Eadith to travel with them.
Edward tells Cenric and Eardwulf that they will seize Uhtred’s land in Coccham and take his children. Cenric reports that Uhtred was seen on the road with a number of children. Edward tells Cenric to not speak of this to anyone. Pyrlig then reveals that Æthelflæd has escaped and left Aegelesburg. And rumor has it that Eadith helped her escape. Edward orders Cenric to track Uhtred down.
Mercia; Eadith tells Uhtred that he’s kinder than his reputation and that Lady Æthelflæd is lucky to have him serve her. Uhtred explains that he simply owes her his respect. Eadith never sought to disrespect Æthelflæd, but only to protect her brother, but he did not protect her in return.
As they ride through the woods, hungry villagers rip the bread that Stiorra is eating right from her hands. They come to a stop as the road is blocked with the bodies of dead men piked on large wooden sticks. Finan and Sihtric go to investigate. They realize that at least one man is still alive but that he’s dying of a sickness. Finan claims that it is spread by touch while Uhtred and Osferth state that it spreads by air. Young Uhtred believes that it only takes sinners. Finan suggests that they return to Aegelesburg. However, they don’t have the power to defend themselves against Edward. Uhtred changes the plan. They will now go across land to Wenloca to avoid the bad air. Sihtric worries that the children won’t make the trip on foot, but they proceed nevertheless.
Wenloca, Mercia; Æthelflæd and Aldhelm arrive in Wenloca and wait for Uhtred. Æthelflæd worries that Edward’s men might have taken her child. Aldhelm assures Æthelflæd that Uhtred will come through as he always has. As for Aegelesburg, Æthelflæd fears that there is no return. They may spare her but they won’t show Aldhelm the same mercy.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Eardwulf confronts Burgred as he's exiting the king’s chamber. Burgred claims that he’s merely showing his son where he will rest when he is lord. Burgred claims to have greater forces and that the lord is on his side. He believes there’s a reason he survived the massacre. God wants him to right the wrongs done to Mercia. He then questions why Eardwulf isn’t betrothed to the king’s niece. Burgred suspects they’re being lied to.
As Eardwulf leaves with twelve guards in search of Uhtred and the king’s niece, Pyrlig and Ludeca get word of a sickness spreading throughout Mercia.
Lord Æthelhelm worries that they’re running out of time to find Uhtred and the king’s niece. Edward orders Cenric to continue looking. Pyrlig and Ludeca then inform them of a sickness spreading across Mercia. Ludeca advises they close the gate to prevent any more sick villagers from entering. Pyrlig and Burgred refuse to abandon the sick, but Lord Æthelhelm is in agreement with Ludeca. Edward believes they should keep the gates open as well, but should he overrule Ludeca, the Witan will say that Edward desires to conquer them. And so, Edward orders that the gates be shut.
Wenloca, Mercia; As Æthelflæd and Aldhelm wait for the arrival of Uhtred, she wonders if she was wrong to interfere with the betrothal. Aldhelm insists she did the right thing. They are startled by the passing villagers, who reveal that the sickness is taking young and old.
Mercia; Uhtred, young Uhtred, Stiorra, Eadith, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelstan continue on the road to Ceaster on foot. Uhtred carries Ælfwynn as Finan carries Æthelstan. From Uhtred, he learns that Æthelstan is Edward’s hidden bastard son.
Wenloca, Mercia; Æthelflæd and Aldhelm can smell the burning bodies in the air. Meaning the fever is just fields away. They’ve likely closed the roads to contain the sickness. She suspects Uhtred would’ve gone on ahead to Ceaster, so Æthelflæd and Aldhelm follow.
Mercia; Eardwulf and the guards cross paths with a group of villagers. He asks if they’ve seen warriors traveling with children. The village woman asks if the warriors he speak of brought the sickness. Eardwulf has no fear of the sickness, claiming it only takes sinners, but his men aren’t convinced and turn around. So, Eardwulf doubles the reward of every man that chooses to stay.
St. Milburg’s Priory, Mercia; Uhtred, young Uhtred, Stiorra, Eadith, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelstan arrive at St. Milburg’s Priory but Æthelflæd and Aldhelm are nowhere to be found. Finan continues to grow more and more worried. He suspects there may even be bodies laying in the fields. Uhtred orders Stiorra to get Ælfwynn out the sun, but she’s tired of mothering her. Stiorra has done it for months and has no intentions on being a wife. Nevertheless, she takes Ælfwynn under the trees. Finan suspects that Æthelflæd isn’t coming and advises they leave. Uhtred realizes that Æthelflæd must’ve gone ahead to Ceaster as agreed, so they do the same.
Finan suspects that Ælfwynn may be getting sick as her face is red, but Osferth claims she’s merely tired. They’ve been on the road for two days with no sight of Edward’s men, so Osferth proposes to Uhtred that they rest. Fortunately, they find a place to stop for the night.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Cenric reports back to Edward and Æthelhelm. Unfortunately, the fugitives haven’t been located. Edward worries that the sickness may have taken her and that they drove her into danger, but Æthelhelm recalls Æthelflæd leaving of her own will. Edward tells Cenric to burn herbs in the surrounding fields to let the smoke drive out the bad air. Ludeca then reveals that Eardwulf left with 12 of their best men. He believes that Eardwulf is simply devoted to himself and would risk the bad air for treasure. Edward blames Æthelhelm on Eardwulf’s departure and tells him to advise him better on who to trust in the future.
Mercia; Uhtred, young Uhtred, Stiorra, Eadith, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelstan sleep as Uhtred watches over them. Day breaks and the group awakens. Ælfwynn goes following behind a crow, chasing it through the woods on her own. That’s when she crosses paths with a sleeping Eardwulf and his men. Fortunately, Uhtred gets to her in time before she can awaken them. The group then run off into the woods.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Ælswith arrives in Aegelesburg but the gates remain closed. Æthelhelm tells her there is sickness all around. She requests to speak to her son. Ælswith survived the swamps of Athelney and is unafraid of the sickness. Æthelhelm reports the arrival of Ælswith to Edward and Pyrlig. Edward questions why his mother is still outside the gate. Ludeca explains that the order to keep the gates closed applies to all. Edward reminds Ludeca that his mother is Mercian in blood and defied him by sending troops to help them. Æthelhelm advises Edward against overruling the Ealdormen, but he does so regardless, demanding that the gates be open. As Ælswith enters, Burgred remarks that Edward lets his own kin in while good Mercians suffer. Ludeca admits that Burgred may have been right all along. King Edward seeks to conquer them.
Edward questions why his mother is in Mercia. She reveals that she was imprisoned, but Edward sent no such command. Ælswith suspects that it was the doing of Æthelhelm, who despises her. Æthelhelm schemes to his own plans, Ælswith adds. Ælswith is tired of fighting and only wishes to see Æthelflæd, who Edward reveals is somewhere in Mercia with Uhtred.
Deheubarth, Wealas; Brida works as a slave for the Welsh. King Hywel approaches. He refers to her as the lady warrior and can’t believe men died to defeat her. He raises his sword as if to kill her, but decides against it. He doesn’t want to give her the satisfaction.
Mercia; Uhtred, young Uhtred, Stiorra, Eadith, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelstan rest at a river stream, where Finan and Æthelstan sail a small ship made from tree bark. Young Uhtred tells Stiorra to rest and he’ll watch over her, but she’s reluctant. While her brother may have the skills of a warrior, he does not have the heart of one. She questions why he continues to pretend as if he does. Honor thy mother and father, he replies. She tells him not to pretend just so that their father would love him and that she can protect herself. She’s taught herself many skills. She then stabs her finger and rubs her blood on a rune she created to protect them during their journey. She then throws the rune into the river. Meanwhile, Eadith looks after Ælfwynn. She’s getting a fever, so Osferth gives her something to drink. Eadith then asks Osferth about Finan and how they’re true warriors.
As night falls, the group settles down to sleep. Eadith thanks Uhtred for not killing her brother. He replies there is no honor in killing a sleeping man. Although, if Eardwulf comes for them, Uhtred will not hesitate. He wonders why Eadith didn’t betray them when she had the chance. Edith explains that she would rather sleep on cold earth than in a palace where people see her as a whore. She asks if his Gods look down on him from the Heavens. Do they sit in judgement. Uhtred explains they’re more fickle than that and he isn’t always sure how to please them. Sometimes, he thinks the path of the warrior is his way to Valhalla. Other times, he isn’t sure. He asks if Eadith’s God looks over her. She looks for signs if he does, but she rarely sees them.
Deheubarth, Wealas; King Hywel and the Welsh feast and celebrate. Hywel says to Rhodri that Brochfael of Gwent hasn’t smiled once. Rhodri has Brida bound by chains like an animal. Now that the war is over, Hywel is going on a pilgrimage and he wants Rhodri to rule in his absence.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; In the late hours of the night, Pyrlig pays off the guards to let in the suffering villagers just outside of Aegelesburg’s gates. Ælswith watches from the shadows as this occurs.
Deheubarth, Wealas; Rhodri pulls Brida’s chain and tells her to come over. He shows her a blade, claiming it belonged to Cnut, but Brida knows that it doesn’t. Rhodri then orders for her to be thrown into the pit. King Hywel tells Rhodri to have some grace in victory. They will melt down all their silver and pay every craftsman in the country to finish the job that King Offa of Mercia started centuries ago. A barrier between them and the Saxons.
Aegelesburg, Mercia; Pyrlig feeds the starving villagers. Before long, they are joined by Ælswith. He assures her that none of them have the sickness. She simply wants to talk with him about why her daughter left Aegelesburg.
Ælswith confronts Edward after discovering that he not only imprisoned Æthelflæd but that he also sent men of violence to hunt her and Ælfwynn down. Ælswith reveals that Edward’s firstborn son, Æthelstan is also with Uhtred. She originally had him hidden at Æthelflæd’s estate because threats were made against him. As best, two of her grandchildren are on the open road during this sickness due to Edward. She wonders how he’s strayed so far. Edward explains that forging an alliance with Mercia means everything. However, Ælswith reminds him of how few children survive after being brought into politics.
Mercia; Uhtred, young Uhtred, Stiorra, Eadith, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelstan continue their journey to Ceaster. Eadith fears that Ælfwynn is getting sick. Uhtred is aware, but tells Eadith to simply reassure her. Unfortunately, they are tracked down by Eardwulf and his guards. They find themselves in a swamp filled with dead bodies, certainly the result of the sickness. So, they are forced to fight their way out. Eardwulf demands they hand over Ælfwynn, but Uhtred refuses. Finan tells Æthelstan to run into the trees when the fighting starts and Sihtric hands him a knife. As the guards inch towards them, Eadith reveals that her brother killed Lord Æthelred and she’s willing to swear it on the book. She adds that Eardwulf is also responsible for the delay of their return to Mercia. Eadith has proof off his crime. She tells the guards to look inside the pouch that her brother wears around his neck. In it is Æthelred’s ring. And so, Eardwulf’s guards turn on him. Eadith advises Eardwulf to save himself and flee to Frankia. He heeds Eadith’s warning and leaves. Uhtred then picks up Æthelred’s ring off the ground.
Deheubarth, Wealas; A man soaked in blood and with his ear nearly torn off enters the hall and reveals to Rhodri that he was attacked by Danes. They have landed west of Wealas. They come from Irland. They are intent on slaughter. And Rhodri’s head is the first they will take. Brida watches this unfold from the pit.
Wollerton, Mercia; Uhtred, young Uhtred, Stiorra, Eadith, Finan, Osferth, Sihtric, Ælfwynn, and Æthelsta arrive in Wollerton. Sihtric asks for his blade back from Æthelstan. Uhtred orders young Uhtred and Sihtric to find Æthelflæd and tell her that Ælfwynn is safe. Eadith and Osferth will guard her until Edward has sworn he won’t harm her.
Eadith fears that Ælfwynn is getting worse. Uhtred asks that Eadith keep her alive until he returns. Eadith tells him that she and Osferth will do everything they can.
- Hundreds due to sickness that's sweeping the land