With time to spare before the coronation in Tamworth, Ivarr the Boneless asked Eivor to walk with him and she agreed. Together they made their way through one of the gates, along the wall of the fortress.
- Eivor: Where to?
- Ivarr: Nowhere in particular. I only want to celebrate.
- Eivor: Didn't think you were the type.
- Ivarr: You have drawn a dark conclusion of me, haven't you? That is all well and good. I have drawn some about you as well.
- Eivor: Are you leading a lamb to slaughter?
- Ivarr: See what I mean? Dark. Too dark.
They reached an area where two men sat at a table set up under a canopy.
- Ivar: You there... Get lost.
The men quickly, if drunkenly, got up and stumbled away at Ivarr's order. After getting himself a tankard, Ivar sat and instructed Eivor to do the same.
- Ivarr: Sit down.
The two looked at each other for a moment, then both took a drink.
- Ivarr: I know I have been a cock. But you are a good fighter, I respect that. Let it be said that Ivarr the Boneless considers Eivor a friend.
He raised his tankard, as though in toast, announcing this to anyone who might be around to hear. Eivor took another drink.
- Eivor: Who calls you "boneless"?
- Ivarr: Some bacraut (asshole) I killed in Hibernia. Used his guts to shine my spear. Called me boneless because I move like a reed in the wind.
He swayed in his seat, as if to demonstrate.
- Eivor: Not because you're always too drunk to plow?
Ivarr shook his head and both took another drink.
- Ivarr: Valhalla. That is where I am bound. I can smell the blood and taste the mead. I will sit beside the high one with my axe in hand.
- Eivor: A fitting end for a Ragnarsson.
- Ivarr: You would think, eh! Me, Halfdan, we'll be there. But Ubba... no... I think we are chasing the same victory. Not anymore.
- Eivor: What does Ubba want?
- Ivarr: To grow old and fat on a farm somewhere, with little Ubbas to chase about.
- Eivor: He wants an heir. It's a common dream.
- Ivarr: Not for a warrior! Not for drengir like us! He was different before. But this place, England... it softened him.
- Eivor: What was he like before?
- Ivarr: Like me. Ferocious. Wild.
- Eivor: With respect, I don't think anyone is like you.
- Ivarr: If that is a compliment, I missed it. All I mean to say is, things were easier some time ago.
- Eivor: If it bothers you so much, why not strike out on your own?
The two continued drinking, well into the night, stumbling about Tamworth. In the morning, Eivor awoke beside a firepit, in the ruins of a hut outside the fortress walls, and rose somewhat unsteadily.
- Eivor: (groaning) Outdid myself again. Ugh. Did I miss the crowning?
Another man lay nearby, facedown in the grass.
- Eivor: He's worse off than I am.
Just outside the makeshift camp, she found a figure built of sticks and cups, with a cross for a head, atop a barrel.
- Eivor: How much did we drink? I don't remember this at all.
She made her way back into Tamworth and up the hill to the longhouse. Inside, a group of people were gathered around the throne, where Ceolwulf sat. She walked up to stand beside Sigurd, who said nothing but gave her a look. Meanwhile, Ceolwulf scanned the crowd from his seat.
- Ceolwulf: Where is my son?
Nearby, a man stood in conference with a soldier. When they were done speaking, he stepped forward to speak.
Ceolwulf considered this regretfully, then nodded, gesturing someone forward. At the other end of the hall, the door opened, and Burgred entered, escorted by Ubba and Ivarr. Burgred stopped some ways from the throne, considering the people gathered, and barely hid his scorn when he turned his gaze to Ceolwulf.
- King Burgred: You sought me out, old friend. And here I am, standing before the throne from which I reigned not long ago.
- Anglo-Saxon Man: You stand before us to accept this witan's unanimous decision. That you are unfit to rule and are hereby deposed. We demand the abdication of your kingdom and your crown to Thegn Ceolwulf.
The man gestured to Ceolwulf, who stood.
- Ceolwulf: Mercia has spoken, lord. The crown...
He held out his hand, and Burgred once again barely hid his sneer.
- King Burgred: Is that you, old friend? Ah, yes, I see it now. Forgive me. The robes of righteousness sit so loosely upon your shoulders.
With faux-friendliness, Burgred approached Ceolwulf, patting him on the arms. Ceolwulf frowned, and Burgred turned, stepping away.
- King Burgred: If the heavens mismark me as king, forgive its obscuring light! Amen! Now... where is my crown?
The man who had declared the witan's decision stepped forward again, carrying the crown upon a red pillow. He offered it to Burgred, who took the crown, holding it almost carelessly.
- King Burgred: Forgive my nerves. Here I am, an upright man who never once learned how to bend the knee. And yet... I shall try.
He walked toward Ceolwulf, who held out his hand again. Burgred made as though to pass it over, but pulled it aside at the last moment, kneeling down.
- King Burgred: Ah, how simple it is. How easy to kneel without fear... and feeling.
- Ivarr: He's mocking you, man! I'd kill the fucker.
Ubba held out an arm to keep Ivarr back.
- King Burgred: Worry not, Dane.
Burgred stood, still holding the crown, and addressed the crowd, clearly stalling.
- King Burgred: I shall resign this crown, and this pagan-infested kingdom, and the favors of these two-faced men... but I will do so on my own terms. My demands are simple. Firstly, you must—
Ceolwulf stepped up behind him and, when the king turned toward him again, slapped Burgred across the face, hard enough to send him falling back. Ubba and Ivarr caught him before he hit the ground and pushed him forward, sending him to his knees.
- Ceolwulf: You fool, look around you. You have no leverage here. Plead for your life, for it is the only thing these men will grant you.
Behind Burgred, Ivarr, Ubba, Sigurd and Eivor stepped forward threateningly, Sigurd cracking his knuckles.
- King Burgred: Yes... yes. Forgive me, I... Do not harm me, I beg of you. Please. I'll go anywhere. Here! I resign it! Here!
Burgred offered up the crown and Ceolwulf yanked it angrily from his hands before walking back to the throne that was now his.
A soldier grabbed Burgred by the arm, hauling him up and pushing him out of the longhouse. Ceolwulf placed the crown upon his head.
- Anglo-Saxon Man: The witan recognizes King Ceolwulf of Mercia, second of his name. A just king. A merciful king. God save the king!
The crowd cheered. Beside Eivor, Sigurd clapped slowly and muttered to her.
- Sigurd: He better be worth all this trouble.
A warrior ran through the doors at the other end of the hall.
- Norse Woman: Mercian soldiers! Marching on Repton.
- Ubba: Leofrith...
- Ivarr: Loyal to the ugly end, the bastard.
- Eivor: Gather what men you have and split them between the north and south gates. That should divide his forces.
Ubba and Ivarr left as Ceolwulf came up to Eivor, panicked.
- Ceolwulf: Ceolbert is there. Eivor, you must save my son.
- Eivor: He'll come through this, I promise.
Sigurd stepped up beside the new king.
- Sigurd: I will stay here with Ceolwulf. Go.
Leaving Tamworth, Eivor quickly made her way to Repton and even at a distance could hear Norse warriors and Mercian soldiers battling throughout the city.
- Eivor: They've breached the walls. I must find Ceolbert.
Coming up from the docks, she came across Ivarr fighting near the city gate.
- Eivor: Any sign of Ceolbert?
- Ivarr: No. Boy is likely cowering in a haystack somewhere.
- Eivor: Keep an eye out.
Eivor fought her way through the city to the old church, helping other warriors where she could. There she found Ubba.
- Eivor: Have you seen Ceolbert?
- Ubba: No, but we caught sight of Leofrith fleeing across the river. He was chasing someone.
- Eivor: It has to be Ceolbert. He's the only prize worth taking in this mud sink.
Eivor continued fighting and helping through the city, down to the river, crossing in the shallows to the isle of Woden's Eye. She searched the shipyard until finally she found Ceolbert, the grip of his sword held in both hands, pointed at Leofrith, who paced before him.
- Eivor: Ceolbert! He's in trouble.
- Ceolbert: I won't back down, Leofrith! I will not!
- Leofrith: Don't make this harder than it has to be, boy.
Eivor approached them.
- Eivor: Leofrith! Let him walk. You answer to me.
- Leofrith: I answer to my king. I silence Danes... with this.
He turned toward her, still clearly wounded from previous battles, and displayed his greatsword. Eivor nodded at Ceolbert, who finally lowered his sword and retreated to the side.
- Eivor: Lay it by, Leofrith. There's nothing left to fight for. We've stormed Repton. Only a matter of time.
Leofrith considered her words, but shook his head.
- Leofrith: I cannot do that.
- Eivor: Then you will die.
- Leofrith: Someone will.
The two fought, though Eivor didn't stop trying to reason with her opponent.
- Eivor: You can't win this, Leofrith. Even if you defeat me, the Ragnarssons have won the day.
- Leofrith: I have fought many a Dane in my time. I'm still standing.
Eivor dealt him a heavy blow.
- Eivor: You're slowing.
- Leofrith: Bah!
- Eivor: You're a strong-willed thegn. Burgred was lucky.
- Leofrith: To stand in the way of you and Mercia is my duty. I will die before I yield.
Eivor weakened him further.
- Eivor: You're finished.
- Leofrith: Not yet. Fight me, heathen!
After a long, arduous fight, Eivor finally defeated Leofrith, kicking him to the ground.
- Leofrith: Go on, then. End it.
Kneeling, Leofrith lowered his head, waiting for the killing blow.
- Eivor: No appeal to your god? Or your king?
- Leofrith: I swore an oath to serve Burgred to the death. I fought. I lost. We both know how this goes.
The world around Eivor faded to darkness as Odin stepped up, just behind her shoulder. Together, they considered her resigned opponent.
- Odin: An honorable thegn fighting a dishonorable war.
- Eivor: Burgred abandoned him, betrayed his trust. If I were Leofrith, I'd want to know.
- Odin: Why rob him of this last glory? A warrior ready to meet his god and bask in his praise. To live will only lead him to shame.
- Eivor: It's not an oath he would keep if he knew the truth.
- Odin: Then choose. Truth... or glory.
Odin and the Memory Corridor faded away and Eivor once again stood alone over Leofrith's form.
Eivor stepped forward.
- Eivor: Stand, Leofrith. Live to fight another day.
Surprised, he finally glanced up at her.
- Leofrith: What?
- Eivor: Your loyalty to Burgred is not a loyalty returned. He resigned the crown and fled to Rome. He's gone.
Leofrith pushed himself up, considering her words. When he spoke, his voice was more pleading than angry.
- Leofrith: You lie...
- Eivor: Lie to a man seconds from death? What would I gain?
Leofrith's brow furrowed.
- Eivor: He saved himself and left you to die. All this fighting, it's for nothing. For no one.
Eivor kneeled before him, putting them on the same level.
- Eivor: To betray one so trusted, so close... it's a dishonor worth a thousand deaths.
She stood and after a moment, Leofrith did as well.
- Leofrith: Eivor... you have shown me a great kindness. It... it is only fitting that I do the same. At Venonis, there is a statue with a scroll laid in a small bowl. You must burn it.
- Eivor: A scroll?
- Leofrith: Your name is on this scroll. At Burgred's request, I put it there. When it is found, the Zealots who read it will hunt you.
- Eivor: Who are they?
- Leofrith: It doesn't matter now, you haven't much time. Burn the scroll. Or they will never stop hunting you.
Eivor nodded and Leofrith turned to leave.
- Eivor: Where will you go now?
His expression hardened.
- Leofrith: Rome.
He approached Ceolbert again, laying a hand on the young man's shoulder and smiling, before walking away.
- Eivor: Come on. Let's take you back.
Eivor walked toward him, drawing her axe from her belt.
- Eivor: We Norse have a name for men and women with courage like yours. Drengr. I name you one now.
She swung her axe, killing him. Ceolbert flinched away with a grimace.
- Ceolbert: He didn't deserve this.
- Eivor: He chose this.
Ceolbert shook his head sadly.
- Eivor: Come. We should get back.
Eivor started walking back toward Repton, Ceolbert following closely behind.
- Eivor: Careful, you're injured.
- Ceolbert: I'm all right. Really. A few nicks and cuts from the battle, that's all.
- Eivor: These wounds will heal quickly. You're lucky.
- Ceolbert: I threw myself at him, Eivor. But he only toyed with me. He knew I couldn't touch him.
- Eivor: You should have stayed hidden, Ceolbert. This wasn't your fight.
- Ceolbert: It was. It was our fight. Yours, mine, my father's. I had to help.
- Eivor: And you did. You showed courage today. Bravery. You're a boy no longer.
- Ceolbert: Back there, with Leofrith... I didn't think you'd spare him.
- Eivor: There is no honor in killing a man misled. He believed his king would die fighting for Mercia.
- Ceolbert: He knows the truth now.
- Eivor: And with that truth, he forged a new path.
You were right about him, Ceolbert. And right to believe the line that divides us can be thinner than it seems.
Together, they returned to the ruined church, where Ubba and Ivarr were talking. Ivarr turned to look at them and grinned.
- Ivarr: Ceolbert!
Ceolbert smiled back and Ivarr clapped him on the shoulder.
- Ivarr: Look at you, bloody and battle-worn! Could be chieftain of your own clan with courage like that!
- Ubba: No less than the King of Mercia, Brother. One of these days...
- Ceolbert: And how is my father taking to his new role?
- Ubba: See for yourself.
Ubba waved toward the church, where Ceolwulf and Sigurd emerged, trailed by a few warriors.
- Eivor: You're an odlingr now. Or aetheling, I think you'd say. Next in line for the throne. It's an honorable title. One that demands good judgement. Be careful who you trust.
Sigurd and the new king approached, and Ceolwulf gripped Ceolbert's shoulders, looking him over.
- Ceolwulf: My son, are you well?
- Ceolbert: Yes, Father. Well enough.
- Eivor: He honored you today. Fought bravely, against many stalwart foes.
- Ceolwulf: You have my thanks, all of you. And my blessing.
- Eivor: We knew what this alliance might cost us. But it's over now, and everyone has gained something. Silver, honor, allies.
- Ceolwulf: Agreed. Today we turn a new page. All of England must know... the Kingdom of Mercia has a new king.
Ceolbert looked at his father in surprise, then shook his head fondly.
- Ceolwulf: Would you welcome him among your clan?
Sigurd considered Ceolbert.
- Sigurd: Hm. Do you have a horse, young aetheling?
- Ceolbert: I do. A young steed called Theobald.
- Sigurd: Good. I can ride with you as far as the River Nene. You may find your way from there.
- Ceolwulf: Thank you, Sigurd. This puts my mind at ease.
Sigurd turned to leave and Ceolbert nodded at the group before following while Ivarr watched him go almost fondly. Sigurd paused before he got too far, though, calling back.
- Sigurd: Be ready for my call, Eivor. It will come!
Sigurd, Ceolbert, and Ceolwulf left.
- Ubba: You and Sigurd make a good pair. The future of England will be pagan from top to bottom.
With a nod, he pulled something from his belt, presenting Eivor with an arm ring.
- Ubba: Take this, Wolf-Kissed. As a sign of friendship. And should you call, the Brothers Ragnarsson will come.
Eivor accepted it while Ivarr looked on with a flash of surprise.
- Eivor: You honor me, Ubba.
Not to be shown up, Ivarr stepped back, scanning the ground, and picked up an axe from beside a fallen warrior.
- Ivarr: See that? Sly bastard, trying to win your heart. Well, two can play that game.
Ivarr tossed the axe to Eivor, who caught it, and responded with amused sarcasm.
- Eivor: How kind of you Ivarr.
- Ivarr: My pleasure. Our friendship is the best thing to come from this mess. Maybe Ceolbert too, the brave little twig.
- Eivor: That's good to hear...
The group said their farewells and parted.
- Eivor: Now then... Leofrith said there are hunters after me. Zealots. If I don't clear my name, I'll be marked for death. I should head to Venonis.
Ceolwulf was crowned King of Mercia, with both Burgred and his wife Æthelswith exiled to Rome. Eivor travelled to Repton with Ivarr to help Ceolbert repel an attack by Leofrith.