We begin as Silksif and Melnir are returning home to Raudarbank after their visit to Tjaraholt. The carl Gudmund accompanied them on the road and then turned south to Skallagrim's stead ("Grimholt" or privately "Aud's Gift"). The next two weeks are busy ones as preparations for winter come underway.
At the time of the first snowfall in mid-October, Edny (the wife of Ivar the Black) leaves Tjaraholt and comes to Brygjafael to her only surviving child Alfdis. She says that she could not stand to stay in Ivar's home any longer, and meekly asks Poul (now the husband of Alfdis) if she may stay with him. Poul generously welcomes her. After some deliberation, that evening she quietly tells her daughter Alfdis that she will divorce Ivar.
A few days later, Poul, Maushop, Kjartan, and Thjohild leave to visit Raudarbank -- bringing the news about Edny to her grand-niece Silksif. They also have various other business to discuss. Poul and Kjartan discuss plans with Melnir for the coming season, including vague plans for the college at Brygjafael and more concrete plans for raiding on the following summer. They agree to raid Redaxes of some sort, partly because this would be looked on favorably by the Susquehannock whom they desire as allies. In relations with the tribe, Melnir favors that they should show in deeds their common goals -- before approaching the Susquehannock again. Melnir subtlely indicates that he would be interested in the position of Commander. Kjartan responds favorably, but Poul says that he must know if Skallagrim desires to keep the position before he decides. Melnir says that he will talk to Skallagrim about it.
Meanwhile, Kjartan and Poul also have a religious matter to discuss with Silksif. They are interested in cementing ties with the land by finding a totem spirit for their clan. Silksif agrees to help them (for an unmentioned price), and goes out to a hut for a journey to the spirit world. She lies down on the platform while her sister Lofthaena and another woman sing the songs of such travel. In the spirit world, shd seeks out the disir of Brygjafael and eventually finds her. A black-haired woman comes to meet her at the border of Brygjafael lands in the spirit world, saying that she knows of Silksif's good reputation and was waiting for her. 
The disir listens to Silksif's request, and then says that there is another who should hear and decide. The black-haired woman leaves and returns with another woman, who appears of Lagakin descent but is dressed also as a disir of the clan. She is introduced as the first woman's daughter Hrafna. Hrafna says that this request is welcome and if anything overdue. It will mean added responsibility for the clan, to appease both the disir and the totem. However, there is no necessary conflict. Silksif mentions their interest in the mustang as a spirit. The black-haired woman suggests that Silksif seek out a totem spirit known to her for an introduction -- one which has contacted her or touched her in some way.
Silksif returns from her journey after many hours and is exhausted. Kjartan hears excitedly about the her talk with the disir, and suggests that these are legendary figures from the founding of the Brygjafael clan: Ragna the Black, and her adopted Lagakin daughter Hrafna.
Meanwhile, back at Grimholt, a disaster happens when Hrapp falls asleep in the barn -- allowing two cattle to wander out through the open door. When Matunaaga finds him, the cattle are nowhere to be found. Hrapp is given a thorough talking-down by Matunaaga, and he resents the other carl's superior tone.  They head out with Skallagrim in search for the cows, and they are joined by Vagnhild.
The cattle are found dead a half-mile from the stead, with their heads missing. The men begin the arduous process of lugging the bodies back to the stead, which continues past sundown. Just after sundown, they can hear hoofbeats of a man on a horse shadowing them just out of sight. They make it back to the barn with the bodies, without being attacked but somewhat unnerved.
Skallagrim and Matunaaga keep watch that night for the stranger. Around midnight, they both go to investigate a strange noise, and come back to find the barn doors open. Inside the heads of the two cows have been hung up -- along with the devil head and serpent head. A voice in the barn speaks to Skallagrim, saying that it admires his collection. They back out from the barn, then close the doors. Matunaaga goes back to the longhouse for torches, while Skallagrim heads alone to the back doors of the barn. A horseman escapes past Skallagrim at the back doors, but he gravely wounds the horse in the gut as it passes. Three men (Skallagrim, Matunaaga, and Hrapp) head out to track it -- while Eldgrim and the other two carls guard the house in case the stranger slips back to attack. The tracks first lead to a stream where they seem to disappear. Skallagrim and Matunaaga at first disagree on which way to go, when by chance Skallagrim sees the body of the horse floating downstream. The man apparently went through the freezing water upstream to throw them off, then headed out to the northeast.
There is a gibbous moon, but trying to track at night is slow even in snow. They eventually follow the tracks the man to the burial mound of Tjaraholt where Gest, Vagn, and other relatives are buried. It was clearly disturbed, but from multiple tracks going to or from it is not clear whether the offender is still there. Skallagrim respectfully does not disturb the grave, but instead returns home. Upon returning, the other carls turn against Hrapp and side with Matunaaga as a leader among them.
Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, news goes around that Hring is badly ill and may need aid.