Alfred's daughter Aethelflaed is married to the arrogant, scheming Mercian lord Aethelraed, for whom both Uhtred and Aethelwold have nothing but disdain. Aethelraed is also a bullying husband, casting doubt on his wife's fidelity, but he manages to secure influence with the king by persuading him that Uhtred is not to be trusted. After failing to buy off Erik and Sigefrid following their capture of London Aethelraed and Uhtred join forces to lead a liberating army but find the city strangely empty. This is because, unknown to them, the Danish brothers have a more lethal plan of their own.
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