Following the Battle of Ashdown, the Wessex army have claimed a victory but King Æthelred has been gravely injured by an axe blow. Uhtred and Brida remain locked in a prison cell at the behest of Alfred. Uhtred is determined to use the Saxons to his personal advantage, but Brida is adamant in her refusal of the Saxon way. She doesn't understand their restrictive piety, dictated by their God, which is so different from the vivacity of the Viking way.
Æthelwold was advised by Young Odda to see his father on his deathbed to ensure he was named heir and be a step ahead of the coming witan, but Æthelwold has chosen to spend his night differently. He returns to the palace from his night of drunken whoring to find out that his father has already passed and Alfred has already been named the next successor of the kingdom of Wessex. To ensure the transition goes smoothly in a time of division and strife, Lord Odda the Elder has Æthelwold kidnapped by Leofric and sent off to a monastery in Hampton.
Finally released from imprisonment, Uhtred and Brida are less than pleased and demand some sort of repayment for their tip offs. But Alfred has bigger plans in mind. He gifts Uhtred with a Saxon mail coat and helmet and promises him a Saxon marriage which will entitle him to Wessex lands and therefore an Ealdorman title. It is his goal to use Uhtred's Danish knowledge and sword for a service term of one year to take back English lands from his enemies, whilst dangling the deliverance of Bebbanburg over his head.
Brida, increasingly bitter of Uhtred's submission to the miserable Saxons, goes off into the woods and makes a mushroom ale to induce psychic visions, where she sees herself on Young Ragnar's Viking ship, Wind-Viper, sailing at his side. When she wakes, she is tries to convince Uhtred that their fate lies elsewhere than Wessex, but he has already taken a step towards pledging allegiance to Alfred by agreeing to attend the post-battle negotiations.
At the peace talk, Danish Earls Ubba and Guthrum arrive (Guthrum is identified by the bone tied in his hair, revealed to be the rib of his mother). They are surprised to see Uhtred standing with the Saxons. Guthrum demands payment in land, silver, grain, and livestock for peace whilst Ubba would simply appreciate Uhtred's head. But Alfred, newly anointed as king, is firm in his decision to not give up any more land. He demands the heathen Danes return to London and confine themselves to Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria. A compromise is agreed upon and later that night in the English camp, Alfred and his witan begin their long term plan to defeat the Danes in the years ahead.
The next day, Brida stumbles through the woods by herself, suffering from a painful miscarriage (most likely brought on by the mushroom ale). Uhtred bury the remains, a sign of a passing and the growing rift between the two childhood friends and lovers. Uhtred also begins military training with Alfred's men by teaching them the shield wall while a mysterious hooded figure watches from the trees. The same figure creeps up on Brida as she digs in the forest for Ragnar's silver she has kept safely hidden all this time. The figure is none other than Young Ragnar, who has returned from Ireland.
The next evening, the reunion between the two 'brothers' is tense. Young Ragnar demands the truth of his father's death. Uhtred, still pained by the event, yields his dagger to Young Ragnar if he would truly believe he could kill their father. Relief washes over Young Ragnar as he rushes in to embrace Uhtred and Brida. They vow revenge on Kjartan, but with a carefully calculated plan. Brida does not hesitate to accompany Ragnar on his ship, but Uhtred reveals he has already sworn his oath to Alfred. Ragnar, fair and loyal like his father, acknowledges the oath and will wait until they can kill Kjartan together.
Uhtred watches Ragnar and Brida, the two remaining figures of his childhood, sail away together. He hopes to see them in a year when his service is done, but as Leofric poignantly asks of him, "who will you be in a year?" Uhtred of Bebbanburg or Uhtred Ragnarsson?