The scene takes place in 1212 at the beginning of the Middle Ages. The Queen has suddenly taken ill at Riberhus Castle. In her feverish dreams she meets the persona of death with its bony hand holding the white queen on a chessboard. Several mile's away, King Valdemar Sejr, who doesn't yet have knowledge of his wife's illness, is out on a hunt. Suddenly his falcon disappears in the woods and the king pursues it. He finds it on the shoulder of a bony man who is dressed in a black mantle and waiting for him beside a chessboard.