Uhtred leads a raiding party to Cornwall on a mission for wealth and independence. Uhtred attracts the attention of a beautiful pagan queen but must eventually return to Wessex and face Alfred's wrath.
On the heels of the Battle of Cynwit, the ever-tactless Odda the Younger continues to abuse his newfound wealth and power and builds an extravagant church at Cynwit to curry favor with Alfred.
Meanwhile, Uhtred grows further apart from his pious wife and decides to take Leofric up on his offer of masquerading as plundering Danes in order to loot silver from the neighboring kingdom of Cornwalum (Cornwall). But Danes have already raided the towns they visit and there is no silver to be found. They are met by Brother Asser on the road and brought in front of King Peredur of Cornwalum, who offers to pay Uhtred and his men to help rid him of fellow Britons that have taken over a nearby fortress. Peredur is a newly-converted Christian with pagan tendencies and calls for his shadow queen, Iseult, to read his fate with Uhtred. Iseult tells him that Uhtred is the chosen one to save them.
Upon approaching the fortress, Uhtred and his men are confronted not by more Britons, but by real Danes, led by Skorpa, the war lord. Skorpa informs Uhtred that there is no silver to be found within the fortress either, they've already ripped it apart. Uhtred realizes he has been tricked by Peredur, and so enters into a 50/50 agreement with Skorpa to turn on the Britons in a surprise attack. Skorpa convinces Peredur to tell him where the silver is really hidden by promising to spare his life, but stabs him in the chest once he gets his information, much to Uhtred's disdain.
Both Danish parties then return to Peredur's hall to unearth the silver hidden beneath his throne. Iseult slyly lets on to Uhtred that she lied to Peredur because she had foreseen Uhtred as the one to free her. Unsurprisingly, Skorpa goes back on his word to Uhtred and threatens to kill Iseult unless him and his men are able to leave with the whole loot. Backing out the door, axe to Iseult's neck, he whispers something in her ear before fleeing. Leofric refuses to lose more men in chasing down Skorpa, but Iseult reveals that there is more silver hidden elsewhere. They dig up a nearby pile of dung and straw while Brother Asser watches from a hiding place.
Uhtred makes a stop in Exeter to see Bishop Ælwold regarding the outstanding debt on his and Mildreth's land as well as the wergild he is being summoned to pay for Oswald's murder. He presents the bishop with an Irish relic of a solid silver, bejeweled cross as a way to pay off both debts. He then returns home, debt free, but with Iseult in tow, to whom Mildreth does not take a liking. But this no longer matters to Uhtred as he does not see Mildreth (or his son, who was baptized against his wishes) as a lasting part of his future.
Summoned to the witan by Alfred, Uhtred walks blindly into a one-way trial where he is accused of not only raiding and plundering Cornwall by plotting with Skorpa (true), but also of helping Skorpa burn down the church being built at Cynwit (false). Leofric is brought in as a prisoner and admits to plundering Cornwall alongside Uhtred as his equal, but Odda is intent on blaming the Dane. Uhtred refuses to get on his knees to beg forgiveness and Alfred is left with no choice but to sentence him to die. In a desperate attempt to give Uhtred the dignity he deserves as a warrior, Leofric requests a fight to the death instead. Leofric argues that God would be on his side, an argument he knows Alfred can't refuse.