At the end of last session, Skallagrim had reviewed his troops and gave a speech to them, which they did not understand but which did give them a sense of him as a fellow fighting man rather than a political speaker. He then prepares to go off to Raudarbank with the others of the scouting party. They will return from scouting to meet the troops at Raudarbank in three weeks time.
Before the Althing ends, though, Poul brings up a matter with Skallagrim concerning his odd huscarl Hrapp -- whom they had found the previous summer wandering in the Catskills, seeming to be the victim of some curse. On the last day of the Althing, Poul saw Hrapp speaking with Marie Delort, and he was acting quite strangely. They discuss the matter a bit, but eventually Skallagrim reasons that his wife Borgny is capable of handling Hrapp.
After the Althing, they sail south and are welcomed at Raudarbank at Melnir's stead. Other Raudarbank families come to Melnir's to greet his new family and friends, including Eystein the Innocent. At the feast, Kjartan gives a speech where he describes the events of the Althing, praising Melnir but giving particular attention to the role of himself and his friends. Melnir feels a certain rivalry with Kjartan, and he gives a speech emphasizing the work of the Raudarbankers over the northern families. His speech is less eloquent but plays well to the home crowd.
Eystein describes to them what he knows of the political situation of the tribes. Essentially, he describes the nearby tribes as being disorganized and primitive. They are collectively called the Lenape, divided into the Minsi (or Munsee) in the north, the Unami closest to Raudarbank, and the Unalachtigo to the south to Delaware bay. Eystein says that there are occaisional opportunistic raids from these tribes, but nothing of consequence. He views it as impossible to organize them into a buffer state -- that there is no leader like the Mohican Rowtag among them.
The Raudarbankers also suffer Redaxe raids, though, which are serious and organized attacks. They have caused serious damage, and Eystein says that he can tell the attacks simply from the bodies in that the Redaxes are simply bigger than any of the locals. He has taken scalps of some of the attackers, and Kjartan offers to try to guess at their tribe from the description and scalps. His best (though wrong) guess is that they are Onondaga.
As they prepare to leave for the scouting, Thorgerd has brought her new horse Thruma (Thunder). With her excellent riding skills, she has ridden the beast, but he is far from tame and none but her can even touch him.
So ten set out on the scouting expedition: including the leading men Poul, Thorgerd, Kjartan, Skallagrim, and Melnir along with Skallagrim's man Matunaaga along with Silksif, Vagnhild, the boy Honiahaka, and two local guides. They travel on horseback along the Raritan river. On the first night of the expedition, Kjartan has a vivid nightmare about fighting Poul in the throws of the serpent's curse.
Six days out, they reach the Delaware river, and see a small village on the opposite bank. They approach boldly and speak with the sachem, Noshi. He describes that they are small and largely avoid trouble with the people of the muddy river to the west -- the Susquehannock. However, they have lead raids against them. He introduces one brave, Wematin, who when he went raiding saw a great battle between two hosts: the Susquehannock and another redaxe tribe. Kjartan guesses that they are Mohawks from the description. While they continue discussing this, though, there is an accident. A local man tried to steal the horse Thruma, who promptly rears and viciously kicks him in the head, killing him instantly. The locals are frightened by this, and quickly assent to the Vinlanders' demands. Thorgerd visits the widow of the man killed, and pays some compensation although with a warning to choose her husband more wisely in the future.
They then travel for two more days west of the Delaware river, entering into the "black hills" described by Wematin. There Poul finds the coal that he was looking for. However, he then gets into an argument with Melnir. Melnir makes a snide comment about his great effort to get these rocks, which he views as a base superstition. Poul naturally gets defensive about this and shows his sword Oath-Binder as a demonstration, to which Melnir responds that his sword is just as strong and did not require any rocks to forge. Melnir tries to soothe by saying that both swords are well-forged, but it does little good.
The argument quickly escalates, and they prepare to fight to test their words. However, in his anger Poul drinks the potion which Marie gave him., Silksif threatens Poul that he will not have her protection if he attacks her husband, but it is too late. Poul and Melnir then join in impromptu duel. The first few blows are exchanged without injury, but Melnir is taken aback by the ferocity of Poul's attack. Silksif sends Honiahaka away, asking him to try to journey to the spirit world -- but he has little skill at this, having only made the journey once before. Poul makes a particularly desperate attack. At this, Thorgerd shouts out for the others to intervene, saying that Poul is berserk and beyond control.
After failing to break through Melnir's defenses, Poul throws aside his sword Oath-Binder. Melnir backs off thinking that he has regained his composure, but Poul is taking out his heavier axe that he is more skilled with. He soon charges and attacks, and Kjartan and Skallagrim take up arms against him beside Melnir. Kjartan taunts Poul in an effort to distract him. Meanwhile, Thorgerd has picked up Oath-Binder and snuck up behind Poul to hit him over the head with the flat of the blade. Poul is stunned by the blow and falls down, whereupon Skallagrim and Kjartan pile onto him to hold him down. However, Poul throws off Skallagrim and Poul in a huge feat of strength . Thorgerd shatters his axe haft with a blow from Oath-Binder, but he attacks Kjartan with the sharpened stick. With his curse-strength, he punches through Kjartan's mail with the broken haft which sticks in the mail. He then throws Kjartan who flies onto Skallagrim, landing in a heap. At the peak of his rage, though, his nephew Bjarni attacks him, slicing through his mail with a powerful blow that cuts open his abdomen. Poul collapses.
During this time, Silksif has slipped off to go into a trance. As Poul reaches the dept of his berserk fury, his conscious mind finds himself in a dream where only Silksif is there. He apologizes for his rash action, but she forgives him and soon helps him to return to his body. While she is unconcious, the others try to help Poul with his grievous wound with little help. Luckily, Poul's profuse abdominal bleeding helps avoid infection.  When Silksif and Poul return to consciousness several minutes later, she treats the wound herself.