At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Halfdan, who is cutting wood and squaring timber. Halfdan is a slave, despite being the son of an Irish princess, and a great chieftain. Derdriu (his mother) arrives to watch her son work and to look out at the bay near their estate. Not too soon, Gunhild arrives to send Derdriu back to her chores, for she is a slave, too. As soon as she has finished speaking, a longship enters the bay, carrying Hrorik, who has been in England raiding. The reader soon discovers that their raid has been met with failure, and many died or are wounded. Harald is unharmed, but Hrorik is on the verge of death. Quickly, Harald recounts the lengthy story of their raid, and how Hrorik was injured. Soon after, he, Sigrid, Derdriu, and Halfdan gather around Hrorik as he is dying. With one of his final breaths, he asks Derdriu to accompany him to Valhalla (the hall of warriors) which is an honor in the society described. To do this, she must die with him. She agrees, only if Halfdan is freed from enslavement, and is acknowledged as Hrorik's son. Hrorik agrees, and soon he is dead.