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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium.

Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium.

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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium.

450 Seiten
5 Stunden
Sep 17, 2011


Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium,is a story set during the time of the Viking invasions of much of Europe and Russia.

This story chronicles the life of Ambrose, a bastard Saxon prince of England, and elder brother to Alfred the Great. Forced to flee into the vast Russian wilderness, he helps to establish the Rus domination of the small town of Kiev. Phillip, once Ambrose's stern military tutor, is now his faithful companion and friend. Polonius is a former Byzantine slave who has joined forces with the two Saxons.

As the story opens, the Pechenegs, a fierce tribe of nomads, have just been driven from the territory of Kiev by a federation of Swedish and Slav tribesmen. (See Ambrose, Prince of Wesssx; Trader of Kiev.) Soon after they win the desperate struggle against these invaders, the Viking trader-warriors are called to arms over an injustice done a Viking trader by officials in the Byzantine empire.

Eager tribesmen join the expedition to attack the very centre of the Byzantine Empire, the premier military power of the era! With incredibly good luck (the story is true), the Vikings and their Slav allies pour out from the Dnieper River, cross the Black Sea, and fall upon Constantinople, a city that has its powerful fleet away fighting in the Mediterranean, and its Emperor and army away in Cappadocia. The Vikings and Slavs are able to loot villas and monasteries at leisure, although their forces are not a serious threat against the immense fortifications of Constantinople itself.

The raiders leave in the early fall so that they can ascend their northern rivers before winter arrives. A terrible storm destroys much of the fleet, however.

Ambrose, Phillip, and Polonius all retrace their steps the following spring, but this time, instead of being part of a military force, they travel as traders and emissaries for Dir and Askold, the new Rus lords of Kiev. They succeed in coming to acceptable terms with the Emperor of the Byzantines, and travel hurriedly north to take the terms back to the rulers of Kiev. On the way, they fight pirates and ride with the Khazars; mysterious mounted nomads who hold a shadowy overlordship over the territory south of Kiev.

Their unmitigated joy at triumphantly returning to Kiev is shattered when the friends discover that Ambrose's former female slave and wife of Polonius, has been kidnapped and is being held captive far to the north; near Novgorod. The friends put together a small expedition, and sail north to the rescue. Ambrose organizes a successful rescue, and the whole force race back to Novgorod, in order to bring charges against the kidnapper.

They have a trial, and the three comrades are exonerated from blame for their attack. Exultant, they again sail the dangerous rivers south to Kiev, where they can start yet another journey, back to the court of Byzantium.

Ambrose, Phillip, and Polonius once again arrive at court, where they are welcomed by the Emperor himself. Ambrose is swept up by the wealth and excitement of court life, and starts to grow away from his companions. He is infatuated with a doe-eyed wanton of the court.

When both Ambrose and Polonius find themselves pawns of a scheming royal chamberlain, however, they all realize that their lives are in imminent danger. They flee by night, with powerful enemies after them. The story ends with the little group sailing west to an unknown destiny in Angleland.

Sep 17, 2011

Über den Autor

After counselling teenagers and adults for over 40 years, Bruce Corbett retired to concentrate on his writing and photography. To date, he has written a collection of Science Fiction short stories and two Science Fiction novels. His greatest project, however, is his series of historical novels based on a fictional hero, Ambrose, Prince of Wessex, set in the time of Alfred the Great.

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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium. - Bruce Corbett


You are about to read the fictional story set in an era several centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire; circa 865 AD.

Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium, is a work of fiction and I freely admit that when I was unable to discover the true facts, or when there was a conflict of opinion between scholars, I did not hesitate to use my literary license to invent facts that would best fit my story, but the truth is, most of my story is based on historical events.

In the story, Ambrose, the young hero, expresses great concern over what is happening back in Wessex. The Angles and Saxons, who had already faced several major raids from the Danes, were, in fact, soon to be locked into a quickly escalating struggle with Viking marauders. The invasion of the Danish Great Army occurred in 865 AD.

The Rus, or some other tribe, probably living in what is presently Sweden, really did travel the Russian rivers in their river boats. The daring Vikings sailed as far as the Black and the Caspian Seas.

The Viking trade to Constantinople is well documented. There is considerable debate as to who really founded Kiev, but it appears clear that, at some point, Viking tribesmen arrived and took over control. Within a few years of 860 AD., there was the first of several attacks on the Byzantine Empire by Viking tribesmen travelling down the Dnieper River. While most modern scholars date the attack at around 860, one version of the Primary Russian Chronicles date it at about 865. Since that best fits my story, that is the date I used.

The Khazars, a tribe of fierce nomadic riders, controlled the mouths of several major rivers emptying into the Black Sea. In return for a tithe on all trade that passed through their territory, they fought off other marauding tribesmen.

Constantinople was the heart of a vast trading empire; one that started to expand again shortly after 867, under the inspired leadership of Basil, the founder of the Macedonian Dynasty. Meantime, in far-off Britain, the Wessex kings Ethelbert, Ethelred and then Alfred fought to hold together several small Saxon kingdoms, while facing repeated attacks by Danish invaders.

The ascending throne, roaring lions and the singing metal birds in the Byzantine palace are based on descriptions by contemporaries of the time. Ambrose clearly did not exist, nor Polonius, yet they might have. The story of Basil is true, though he actually sent Michael's own assassin to kill the Emperor, in 867.

This was a time of great turmoil and change in the world. First and foremost, however, this is a novel. I hope you enjoy it.



This story is the second of a series. In Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Trader of Kiev, Prince Ambrose and Phillip, his faithful tutor and guardian, are captured in a Viking raid on a village along the Wessex coast. The Vikings quickly put to sea and sail for home. A fierce storm almost sinks the ship and Ambrose and then Phillip help to save it. The battered ship makes a Frisian port and there many of the Saxon captives are sold. One stranger, however, is brought aboard. Thus Ambrose and Phillip meet Polonius.

The vessel reaches the Danish home port and the three friends are put to work. Ambrose has a generous master and he falls in love with a slave girl. Phillip is brutally treated, however, and in the end Ambrose and Polonius flee with Phillip in order to save Phillip from becoming a sacrifice to a Viking god.

The three companions flee by small ship north and then east, so that they hit the coast of Norway. They are warmly welcomed in an isolated Norwegian village and regretfully leave to begin their trek to what is now Sweden and a friend of Ambrose's old master. There they meet Gunnar of the Rus and happily settle down as apprentice traders. The arrival of a pursuing Danish long-ship ends these plans, however.

They are forced to flee once again. Gunnar quietly arranges for them to travel with an expedition to Novgorod, where Rus tribesmen have been invited to settle. Ambrose, Phillip and Polonius set up a trading factory there for Gunnar and then join another expedition that will take them far south; much closer to the main trade-centre of Constantinople.

After a bitter fight on the way south, the expedition reaches Kiev. There the Rus leaders come to an agreement with the town’s rulers and take control. Soon all, Slav and Varangian alike, work to set up a string of fortifications along the river, for the steppes are close and nomad incursions are frequent.

A fierce attack by an entire tribe of steppe nomads is fought off only with great difficulty. Even before all of the dead are buried, however, the call goes out for all the Varangian tribesmen to rally. An attack on Constantinople is being planned. This is where Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Trader of Kiev ended and this story begins.



The Call for Vengeance Goes Out.

As soon as the thin Byzantine shook the snow from his cloak and hung it up on a peg by the door, Prince Ambrose handed him a tankard of warmed mead. Polonius smiled and settled on the bench in front of the open pit fire. The Saxon prince sat across from his good friend and looked expectantly at him. The winter wind howled and beat at the sturdy wood door and Polonius shivered, in spite of the heat from the fire.

Phillip threw another log on the already blazing fire, knowing his Byzantine friend keenly felt the winter cold. Even he, inured to the cold and damp of his homeland, complained that the Asian winters were bitter. The burly thane pulled his bearskin tighter around him and then settled down beside the fire to listen to Polonius' story.

On the long river road south from Novgorod to Kiev, Polonius had given the Rus jarls Dir and Askold some military suggestions that he had gleaned from his scholarly studies. After some of his ideas had been instrumental in the surprising defeat of the battle-hardened Pecheneg horde the summer before, the Byzantine scholar had suddenly found himself chief military advisor to the rulers of Kiev and its rapidly-expanding river empire.

To no one's surprise, when rumours of impending trouble with Byzantium swept Kiev, Polonius had been ordered to report to the Great Hall, which was the nexus of the rapidly growing Slav and Rus empire governed by Dir, Askold, and Olaf, their Slav ally. Ambrose had not been invited to the conference and he was intensely curious as to why Kiev's town leaders had so urgently summoned the Byzantine scholar.

Ambrose watched Polonius sip his mead slowly, knowing the scholar was savouring the moment. The prince knew his friend enjoyed few things more than telling a good tale, but it was apparent that he intended to tease him and Phillip a little first.

Ambrose sat quietly and with a semblance of outward calm for a few moments, but suddenly burst into a grin. Well? What are you waiting for, you rascal? Tell us what happened!

Well, Prince, Dir had ordered a complete sheep to be stuffed with delicacies, and he served only the finest Greek wine. It was actually an excellent vintage from Lesbos, I think, although it was perhaps just a trifle sweet.

Ambrose could stand it no more. Phillip!

The Saxon thane answered. Aye, Prince?

Ambrose rose to his feet, What do you think about escorting Polonius here to the nearest snow bank? I don’t think it would be necessary for him to stop to get his mitts on the way.

Phillip, a giant amongst even the Vikings, stood and moved ponderously forward. Polonius warily watched Ambrose and Phillip approach. He was still shivering from the long and frigid walk back to the cabin snug against their trading post.

Of course, dear Prince, it was not just to feed me that Dir requested my presence!

Phillip and Ambrose were still closing the distance when Ambrose spoke again. Hold, Weapons-master. This begins to sound a little more interesting. Perhaps we should listen for a moment before we teach him how to make snow angels in a snow bank.

The giant Saxon weapons-master, stolid as ever, came to a halt and grunted.

Ambrose smiled wickedly. You were saying, sir scholar?

Oh, I guess you want to know if there is any substance to the rumours that we have heard.

That will do, for a start.

Well, Master, Dir reported to the council that there was a major altercation between some Varangian traders and the Byzantine authorities at Cherson.

Ambrose looked grim. What exactly happened, and when?

A Varangian trader was accused of theft.


Polonius shrugged. The man was hung. Several of his comrades were whipped, and the entire crew were robbed of their trade goods after they accused the town officials of complicity.

I understand that this would be considered a serious breach of trust on the part of Byzantium, but just why would this cause a poor Byzantine scholar to be dragged out in the midst of a savage winter storm?

What I have not told you, Master, is that the Varangian trader who was hung is related to very influential men in both Novgorod and Kiev.

And you were called from your warm seat by the fire so you could be informed of this important fact?

It was Polonius' turn to grin. No, Prince. Merely to hear that Dir, Askold, and Olaf have allied themselves with Rurik and are planning a revenge attack on the grand city itself; what you barbarians choose to call Miklagard.

"To plan what? We are going to attack the Big City? Are Dir, Askold and the Council crazy?"

No Prince-of-the-Saxons, just very angry.

And so warriors from a few riverside settlements are going to grab their weapons and sail off to attack what you tell me is the greatest city on earth? Polonius, was it not you who told me that the main reason these river settlements even exist is so that the Varangians can have the privilege of sharing the river trade with the Slavs. The city is the destination for most of the trade that goes south. To attack Miklagard would be to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

All true, Prince, but what would happen if it became known that the proud Varangian tribesmen, fierce warriors who bow to no man, simply swallowed such insults and humbly crawled back to be abused again.

Ambrose sighed. I must admit, I can see your point when you put it that way. Our Viking friends are not known for humbly swallowing anything. But just how do scattered tribesmen intend to take on what you keep telling me is the greatest army and navy in the world?

"Prince, you underestimate the sheer number of both Varangians and Slavs who sailed south past our door last year, even while the Pechenegs raided on the river. If just some of the independent Slavs are willing to join in alliance with us, Rurik sends his forces south from Novgorod, and Dir and Askold call up all of Kiev's allied forces, then we have a very numerous and powerful force.

Ambrose looked at Polonius and spoke. Scholar, the Slavs are not best friends with the Vikings who just invaded their land and are brutally crushing any who stand up to them.

Prince, the Slavs watched us defeat the Pecheneg horde and, holding by holding, they are submitting to Viking rule. Make no mistake - they know that, within a few years, the Vikings and their Slav vassals will be in uncontested control of all the land from south of here to Lake Ladoga. Most are already submitting to the power of Kiev or Novgorod. It is in their interest to join us on this expedition. Those who fought at our side last summer, went home rich men.

All right, I concede the numbers and I know the Varangians are accomplished warriors. But against Miklagard? You have many times told me just how impregnable the city is. Could it be that someone found Joshua's horn left over from his battle at Jericho, or do our illustrious leaders have another incredible trick to bring down those walls?

Neither, Master, but they do have me as their trusted advisor. I did tell them how they could avenge the slight.

Polonius, what in the name of Almighty God are you talking about?

I will explain, Master.

I humbly await your words, advisor to-all-the-Rus.

The Byzantine suddenly smiled. Finally, you two show the proper respect a learned scholar deserves.

Phillip, I fear Polonius' head has swollen. We must apply the life-saving properties of snow and ice without delay!

Polonius responded quickly. Think, Ambrose, what would happen if several hundred vessels, each crammed with eager fighting men, hove into sight by the walls of Constantinople?

Polonius, you yourself said that it was impossible to sneak up on the city. I well remember you telling me that there were watch towers all along the coast of the Black Sea, or at least from the Danube south.

True, Master, and if they spotted the Varangian fleet, what would they report?

The size and make up of a hostile fleet. And after your description of them, I have no wish to face a Byzantine fleet armed with this ‘Greek-Fire’ you so often talk about.

The coast guardians would see the same peaceful Slav and Varangian fleet that has arrived on their shores every year since time immemorial. But even better, what if the fleet could arrive at Constantinople without even being spotted?

Then the men could probably manage to fight their way to the walls - you did say there are three separate walls surrounding Constantinople?

Yes, and the tallest is six times the height of a tall man.

Then we could charge bravely to the very walls, where we could spend a few decades waiting for the food to run out, or for the Byzantine army to show up. That is, of course, if the Byzantine fleet, which you continually remind me, is the greatest in the world, does not burn us all to the waterline, first.

Polonius’ smile grew into a grin. "And what if I told you that the Byzantine army is scheduled to march in the early spring for Cappadocia to put down an insurrection and the Imperial navy is planning to launch a campaign against Arab pirates in the Mediterranean at the same time? It is expected that it will take the better part of the year for both of them to complete their respective tasks.

Ambrose looked thoughtful and Polonius continued. You are quite right, Prince. The allies can not possibly take Constantinople itself, but I suspect that they could pretty much devastate the trade that passes through the Propontus. Further, outside the city walls are thousands of unprotected villas, farms and monasteries that are very rich indeed. As you say, why would the Varangians want to destroy the city anyway? The river people have grown rich trading with the city. The intention would be to intimidate; not destroy.

Ambrose sighed again. Why do I suspect that you had a lot to do with this very interesting plan of attack?

Prince, I promised both you and Phillip the opportunity to visit the mother of cities some day. I just didn't think that we would have the opportunity to visit it in quite this manner.


A hundred men, some Slav and some Viking, stood at attention in front of Askold, Dir, and Olaf. Askold addressed the assembled men while Olaf stood silently. Even the Slavs allowed to sit at the governing council conceded that it had been the fierce northerners who had saved their lives in the bitter struggle against the Pecheneg horde the previous summer, and they accepted their new masters.

"You have been assigned your routes. You are to each take one of these war arrows. I want you to spread the word in every town, village and farm that you visit. Every adult male, Slav or Viking, from the Viking Sea to Kiev itself, is enjoined to meet at Kiev! I expect, when the spring flood subsides, to see assembled on our shore the greatest fleet ever seen on the Dnieper River.

We will sail south as an avenging fleet, and we will loot the wealthiest empire the world has ever known. Never again will the Slavs and the Vikings be known as weak traders cowering on their northern rivers. We will travel in our tens of thousands and we will show the Byzantines the power of the northern people!

Last year we stood side by side, Slav and Viking together, and we defeated the fierce Pecheneg nation. A river of gold flowed into our treasury, and those who fought on our side were richly rewarded. This year, we will spring a surprise attack on the complacent Byzantines. We will teach them who are the masters of the northern rivers!

Tell the people that the Slavs and the Vikings are united. Tell the people that Novgorod and Kiev are united. Together, we are a force that is unstoppable!

Go now and prepare yourselves for the journey. The fate of our expedition rests in your hands. I am relying on you to spread the word to every settlement; every farm. Go and do your duty!"


As the last vestiges of snow slowly melted, the mighty Dnieper River swelled and swelled. The raging waters reclaimed the town docks, crept inexorably across the lower meadows and inundated the river fort. Ambrose watched in awe as the river, normally over a Roman mile across, swelled to several times its normal width.

Each day, when it seemed that no more water could be found in all the vastness of the far north to feed the rushing giant, the water crept a little higher. A few Varangian ships made it to Kiev, but only at great peril.

By the end of the month, however, the water began to recede. At first a few and then dozens of Slav and Varangian vessels made it safely to shore in front of Kiev. The higher meadows filled with a city of tents and shelters and the air was filled with the sound of carousing warriors.

Ambrose was surveying the shore when Polonius quietly walked to his side. The prince turned to his friend and tutor.

Greetings, Scholar. Look at the far side over there. I have never in all my life seen anything like this raging torrent. It seems more like a moving sea than a river.

Polonius shrugged. How long is your island of Britain, Young Master?

I do not know for sure, Scholar, but the Romans estimated it was perhaps five hundred of their miles from end to end and perhaps from one to two hundred wide.

The Dnieper then drains an area several times the size of your entire island, Prince. And with the cold here, most of the precipitation in the winter is locked up in the form of snow and ice. What you are seeing here is six months of precipitation, all flowing into the rivers and streams at one time.

It is truly incredible, yet the Varangian and Slav allies have managed to make it here. I counted almost two hundred vessels not an hour ago, and more are arriving every hour. What are Dir and Askold waiting for?

They wait, Prince, for the main fleet from Novgorod. Rurik has sworn his support and has apparently dispatched a large fleet. As you know, they have to fight what will be a vicious current before they can ride the wooden rollers and then sail down the Dnieper. And, Master, it is still too early to sail beyond Vitchev Hill.

I know we marched past it last summer, but Captain Hammar told me that Vitchev Hill is just a day's sail south by ship. Why can this fleet not sail beyond there?

Ambrose, below Vitchev Hill is the open steppes.

I remember it well, Polonius. But the main threat, the Pechenegs, were crushed just last fall, and I cannot imagine any other steppe raiders bothering this fleet. Certainly not if it sails as a coherent force.

It is true that we drove off the Pecheneg horde last summer, but they have raided these shores for generations and will not easily forgive what we did to them last year. We killed many and we took a lot of their gold, but don't be fooled. They still have uncounted thousands of veteran warriors. Somewhere out there, too, are still the Magyars, the Bulgars, renegade Khazars and still others who look to the river for easy pickings. But the main reason we wait, my prince, is that the river is still too dangerous.

Polonius, I assume that you refer to the Seven Cataracts. Why will not the high water allow us to slip over the rocks that would cause us grief later in the year?

Prince, Captain Hammar explained to me that the water must be low enough that we have some hope of managing the vessels as they race through the constricting gorges.

So we are waiting until the waters are low enough that we can control the boats, but high enough that we won't ground.

Polonius smiled. Precisely, Prince. That . . . and the rest of our allies.


Ambrose was caught up in the excitement as several thousand Slavs and Varangians trained near their beached ships. The three friends, who had not yet formally committed themselves to going, finally discussed making arrangements to join the expedition.

Polonius, you are partly responsible for this expedition. Why do you hesitate to sail with the fleet?

"Master, I have never personally felt the least desire to face some ill-mannered thug armed with a rusty sword that weighs more than I do. When I have to, I kill as efficiently and effectively as possible. I have simply never had the slightest desire to prove my worth against someone a whole lot stronger than myself, and I cannot understand the battle lust the Vikings seem to revel in. Life is too precious to risk needlessly.'

He sighed. 'Miklagard is a callous bitch, but she is a big, beautiful bitch, and I guess I would like to see it one more time before I die. The call of one's own land is strong . . ."

And so?

And so I will follow you and Phillip south, if that is your desire.

Ambrose, eager himself to see fabled Constantinople, yet had one last reservation. Polonius, what about Kuralla? You will have to leave her side.

I have discussed it at length with her, Master, and she understands the need for you and Phillip to go south. In fact, she insists that I go and nursemaid the two of you.


With a need for soldiers, plus Polonius' language skills and knowledge of both the military arts and the ways of the Byzantines, Ambrose, Phillip and Polonius were assured a part in the expedition. For his part, Ambrose worked hard with Polonius, when they could take time from their trading factory, to work on his Greek.



The Incredible Adventure Begins.

Early in the fifth month of the Year of Our Lord eight hundred and sixty-five, Dir and Askold finally gave permission for the fleet, now some 300 strong, to cast off. Amidst much laughter and a lot of bantering, the Viking river karves and the myriad dugouts, both large and small, slipped into the current and headed southward. Ambrose, Polonius and Phillip sailed on the Deerhound, Gunnar's ship that had earlier brought them first to Novgorod and then to Kiev.

Some women and children cried. Others waved bravely to their sons, fathers or husbands, as they watched the warrior host embark on a daring and very perilous expedition. The men grinned and waved back, hiding their unease. They were finally on their way to attack the capital city of an empire which was known to have the most powerful army and navy in the world.


Ambrose stared at the shoreline as it slid effortlessly by. The current was strong enough that the men were not sent to the oars except when the bow lookouts called out that there was a submerged log or other obstacle. Generally, judicious use of the steering oars were enough to keep the boats moving and in the main current.

On the first night, they camped on the riverbank a little north of Vitchev Hill. For seasons far beyond the memory of anyone alive, Vitchev Hill had been the traditional gathering site for the Varangian and Slav traders sailing for the Black Sea. Dawn found the warriors awake. Whatever the eventual fate of their daring expedition, they were eager to press on.

When Ambrose had passed this spot the previous fall, the fort had not even been visible. The Pechenegs, on their way north to Kiev, had used its log walls for firewood.

Curious to see the resurrected fort, Ambrose waited impatiently as the Deerhound swept south again. At last, out of the morning mist the prince could see a hill; the highest point of land for some considerable distance. Perched on top was a small wooden fort. After the Pechenegs had been defeated, Dir and Askold had sent men south to rebuild it.

It was not impressive militarily, but the purpose of the little garrison was to watch the open steppe lands that swept south from this point. The fort only needed to provide shelter for messengers and protection while the men lit a signal fire. The little fort by itself could not stand long against any serious fighting force. The dozen-odd warriors who had wintered there, plus their families, stood on the shore and waved cheerily as the fleet swept past.

Starting at the hill and stretching out of sight to the west and the south, Ambrose saw again the fabled steppes that he had heard so much about but had only visited so briefly the summer before. Still to the south of them was the now-famous ford where the Varangians, with Polonius' help, had stopped the Pechenegs cold.

As Ambrose watched the shore slide by, he noted that only in the most protected spots along the river did any trees grow.

He spoke. Look, Polonius. Last year's grasses make the land look like it's made of pale gold.

"True, Master. In just a few weeks, however, the short green shoots you see pushing their way through the golden straw will grow tall enough to hide a standing man.


As the sun neared its zenith, the Deerhound swept around a bend and suddenly Ambrose recognized the large island in the middle of the river. It was the island that the Slavs and Varangians of the Kiev federation had used as a base against the Pechenegs. Just down river was the ford that the warrior nation had been forced to use. It had been here that Polonius' ideas had been put into practise and rivers of Pecheneg blood had been spilled. Finally, in the face of Varangian efficiency and fanaticism, the Pechenegs had been forced to pay gold for the privilege of crossing the river.

The story was still told and retold around thousands of fires. The battle had been the greatest victory in memory for the Varangians and their Slav allies.


Ambrose turned to Polonius. Listen! What is that sound I hear?

Polonius cocked his ear and listened intently. Sweet merciful God! That must be the first of the cataracts. Why is the fleet not heading for shore?

Even as he spoke, however, the lead vessel hoisted the signal flag that ordered the ships to turn in. Most of the crews must have heard the ominous roaring, for the men ran to the chests they used as seats. Once seated, they pulled hard for the safety of the land.

The Deerhound ran ashore on a gentle grassy slope. Captain Hammar pointed at three men standing near him.

"You three! Mallets, stakes and ropes. Over the side with you, you lazy bastards!’ His finger swerved to the next crewman. 'You! Make sure those lines will run freely.’

He looked at the four men who still hesitated. 'Well? You want us to go through 'the chute' backwards? I want those stakes deep in the ground and the lines tied securely to them, before I can finish

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