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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Warrior of the King.

Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Warrior of the King.

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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Warrior of the King.

369 Seiten
4 Stunden
Mar 4, 2012


After returning from Constantinople, Ambrose and his friends ride north with his brother the king to face the all-conquering Great Army of the Vikings. The king of Mercia sues for peace and battle is averted. Fearing a massive surprise attack, Ambrose and his friends ride north as spies and join the Great Army. Recognized, the friends must flee and battle their way back to safety. Ambrose is wounded and only the love of a maiden and friendship of a mysterious trader saves his life. Betrothed, Ambrose rides south to Wessex.

Mar 4, 2012

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; Warrior of the King. - Bruce Corbett

Ambrose, Prince of Wessex;

Warrior of the King.

By Bruce Corbett

Copyright © 2007, by Bruce Corbett.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example, instead of his advice.................................(Unknown)

I hope I have set a good example.

With love, to my son Andrew.

Table of Contents.

Author's Note

Cast of Characters

Chapter 1 The Friends Arrive in Angleland.

Chapter 2 Ambrose Is Welcomed Back.

Chapter 3 Ambrose, Phillip And Polonius Talk With Alfred.

Chapter 4 Ambrose Meets Gretchen, And The Traders Arrive.

Chapter 5 Mercia Needs Help.

Chapter 6 If you lay siege to a town.....

Chapter 7 They find the Mercians.

Chapter 8 Ambrose, Phillip And Polonius Go North To Spy.

Chapter 9 The West Saxons Visit Saxon Pride.

Chapter 10 The Spies Visit Storm Haven.

Chapter 11 Ambrose, Phillip and Polonius Join the Danes.

Chapter 12 The Spies Arrive At The Danish Camp.

Chapter 13 The Spies Are Accepted by The Danes.

Chapter 14 The Danes Move Against an Angle Force.

Chapter 15 The Spies Fight Side-by-side With The Danes.

Chapter 16 Polonius Is Recognized.

Chapter 17 The Spies Escape From The Danish Camp.

Chapter 18 The Danes Pursue The Spies, and Ambrose is Wounded.

Chapter 19 The Saxons Fight, And The Angles Rise.

Chapter 20 Ambrose Reaches Safety, and Gretchen Nurses Him.

Chapter 21 Ambrose Recovers, and The Danes Arrive in Force.

Appendix I History of Alfred's era.

Appendix II Glossary of terms

Appendix III Map of Alfred's England

Appendix IV About the Author

Appendix V Other books from the author

Author’s Note.

The year is now 867 AD. and while Ambrose and his companions return from Byzantium, dramatic events overtake Britain. Just two years before, a Viking army had arrived in England. It is called the Great Army.

Unlike the previous Viking raiders, the Great Army does not leave after the summer campaign. Instead, the Danes establish strong bases.

Over the next fifteen years, this army, under the expert leadership of three brothers called, Ubbi, Halfdan, and Ivar (the Boneless), it crushes every Angle, Saxon and Jute kingdom on the island, with the sole exception of Wessex. King Ethelred and his brother Alfred ride north to fight after Northumbria has fallen and Mercia is in great peril. Finally, only Wessex is left unbeaten. The conquest of Anglo-Saxon England is almost complete.

First and foremost, this story is a work of fiction. It is a story of adventure, and of love. I have manipulated some historical events for dramatic purposes. Nevertheless, the historical background to the story is quite accurate, as is the rest of the time line. For more information, see Appendix 1.

The young Alfred you will meet is eventually going to become the king who saves Britain from total Danish domination; Alfred the Great. Ambrose, Polonius and Phillip are figments of my imagination, but they have lived so long in my head that I consider them to be old friends. I hope, after you finish reading of their adventures, that you do, too.

I hope you enjoy the story,

The author,

Bruce Corbett


Cast of Characters.

Aella: The upstart king of Northumbria when the Great Army was secretly planning to move north into Northumbria.

Alfred: The younger brother of Ambrose, Ethelred, and Ethelred. He was an intensely curious man who unexpectedly became king at the death of his brother, in 871. In this story, he is a young man who learns from Ambrose and Polonius.

Aylward: (Fictitious) He was the Mercian ambassador to King Ethelred's court when Ambrose first arrived.

Ambrose: (Fictitious) He was an Anglo-Saxon bastard prince of Wessex. Kidnapped as a boy, he was taken to Denmark, and then fled to Norway and Sweden. Chased by the Danes, he joined Gunnar of the Rus, who sent him and his two companions, Phillip and Polonius, to trade on his behalf down the Russian rivers. Ambrose set up trading posts in Novgorod, and then Kiev. Finally he travelled to Constantinople as an emissary for the Kiev leaders. From there he eventually returned to England to help his king fight against the Viking raiders.

Subsequently, he joined the Great Army, calling himself Canuteson of the Rus. Barely escaping with his life, he is finally able to return south with the information Wessex so desperately needs.

Anna: (Fictitious) She was a young Angle-Saxon slave who, along with Ambrose, was owned by Canute. She introduced Ambrose to the mysteries of love. Ambrose had to leave her great-with-child when he fled in order to save Phillip's life. (See Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Trader of Kiev.)

Askold: He, with Dir, are the Rus leaders that left Novgorod to settle at Kiev, a city they felt would be best able to control the Russian-Byzantine river trade. Under their leadership (and a little help from Polonius) the Dnieper River region soon came under Varangian control.

Barca: He is one of the officers aboard the ship that brings Ambrose and his companions from Frankland to Dover.

Burgred: King of Mercia and brother-in-law to Alfred the Great, he requests help from Wessex when the Great Army invades his country. Although he and Ethelred trap the Danes at Nottingham, the Mercian king decides to avoid a fight and agrees to pay Danegeld.

Bran: One of Ambrose’s scouts on the first Mercian expedition. He also acted as commander of the rope detail when Ambrose and his men tried to stop a ship sailing upriver to attack King Burgred.

Ceolwulf: (Fictitious) The leader of fifty Wessex thanes left at Storm Haven by Ambrose.

Canute: (Fictitious) Ambrose's Danish master right after Ambrose had been kidnapped, he treated Ambrose as an adopted son, and arranged that Ambrose and his party be given refuge in Sweden (The land of the Rus).

Dir: See Askold.

Ealhswith: The Mercian bride of Alfred.

Edgar: See Phillip.

Egbert: (Fictitious) He was the thane who insulted Polonius when the friends first arrived at the royal court.

Eric The Bald: (Fictitious) Eric was Ambrose's Section Leader when the prince was part of the Danish Great Army. It was from him that Ambrose discovered the direction the Great Army would take.

Egil (Little): (Fictitious) A Danish warrior, who was sent, along with Olaf the Red, by Halfdan to watch Polonius after his fight against the Viking who recognized him as an escaped slave. He is later wounded in the chase after Ambrose.

Ethelbald: Eldest son of Ethelwulf. He seized the throne in his father's absence, but agreed to let Ethelwulf rule the kingdoms of Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex. He ruled from 858 to 860, when he suddenly died.

Ethelbert: He was crowned king of Wessex upon the death of his brother Ethelbald (860). He re-united the subject kingdoms with Wessex. He died in 865, and was succeeded on the throne by Ethelred.

Ethelred: The fourth son of Ethelwulf, he became king upon the death of his brother Ethelbert in 865. He was the king on the throne when Ambrose and his party originally returned to England from their adventures in Russia, Byzantium, North Africa and Italy. Ethelred, in turn died in 871, and the Witan chose Alfred over Ethelred's young children.

Ethelswith: Daughter of Ethelwulf, sister of Alfred and half-sister to Ambrose, she married Burgred, king of Mercia.

Ethelwulf: King of Wessex, he reigned from 839 to 858. He was the father of Ethelbald, Ethelbert, Ethelred, Ethelswith, Alfred, and Ambrose.

Gorm: He is one of the under-officers aboard the ship that brings Ambrose and his companions from Frankland to Dover.

Gretchen: (Fictitious) Is the daughter of Osmond, Ealdorman of East Anglia, and distant relative to the royal family of Wessex. She first met Ambrose at the Wessex court, and then nursed him back to health when he was wounded during his escape from the Danes. She was devoted to him, and Ambrose falls in love with the beautiful Gretchen.

Gunnar: (Fictitious) Head of a great Swedish trading House, he owed a debt to Canute, and paid it by allowing Ambrose, Phillip and Polonius to act as traders for him, on an impending expedition into the heart of Russia.

Halfdan: He was elder brother of Ubbi and Ivar the Boneless. He was one of the three leaders of the Great Army in England. His father was Ragnar Lodbrok.

Halsig: One of the catapult captains on the first Mercian expedition.

Harold the Frisian: See Ivar the Boneless.

Hengst: (Fictitious) Ealdorman of the subject kingdom of Essex, he bravely held Saxon Pride for the throne of Mercia.

Ivar The Boneless: The brother of Halfdan and Ubbi and joint leader of the Great Army. His father was Ragnar Lodbrok. His son was Sitric, who entered this story as a Frisian peddler by the name of Harold. Phillip rescued him later, and he in turn called off a Danish assault on Storm Haven.

Kuralla: (Fictitious) She was a Slav chieftain's daughter whose village defied Bothi, a Rus chieftain. Her father was tortured and killed, and she was about to be given to the warriors when Ambrose purchased her to save her life. Polonius married her before they returned with Ambrose to England.

Lindun: One of the catapult captains on the first Mercian expedition.

Lunt: (Fictitious) He was witness to Polonius killing Svein, the man from Polonius' Danish captivity who recognized the thin Byzantine as an escaped slave.

Matilda: (Fictitious) She was the blond and sharp-tongued wife of Phillip, and mother of one son and two daughters.

Nicholas: See Polonius.

Olaf The Red: (Fictitious) The other Danish warrior of the Great Army assigned to watch Polonius, to ensure that he didn't flee before hearing Halfdan's judgement over the killing of Svein. He later led the pursuing Danish hunters against Ambrose's Saxons.

Osbert: Once king of Northumbria, in 865 he had recently been driven from his throne by the upstart Aella. The kingdom of Northumbria was thus in a state of civil war.

Osmond: (Fictitious) Ealdorman of Storm Haven in the kingdom of Mercia, he visited the Wessex Court in an attempt to raise money in order to pay Danegeld to the Great Army. He reluctantly agreed to Ambrose leaving fifty Wessex thanes at Storm Haven while Ambrose and his two comrades attempt to infiltrate the Great Army. Osmond refused to allow his own thanes to ride against the pursuing Danish war party. Here Ambrose again met the beautiful Gretchen.

Oswald, Bishop: (Fictitious) A bishop of Wessex who serves on the King’s Council under Ethelred.

Phillip: (Fictitious) A giant of a man, he was called Weapons-master for his fighting prowess, and was the tutor and guardian of Ambrose when the two were kidnapped and enslaved. Where-ever Ambrose goes, there was Phillip. His great goal in life was to protect his prince. When he visited the Great Army's camp, he called himself Edgar.

Polonius: (Fictitious) He was born to noble Byzantine parents, and given an excellent education. When his family had financial reverses, he and his sisters were sold into slavery. He was taken to Lombardy, France, and eventually Frisia. There, he chanced to meet Ambrose and Phillip. Together they embarked on a series of adventures that took him to Norway, Sweden, Novgorod, Kiev, Constantinople, North Africa, Italy and Frankland. An expert linguist and knife-thrower, he returned to England with Ambrose, and, as Nicholas, helped him spy on the Danish Great Army.

Ragnar Lodbrok: A powerful Danish chieftain who invaded England and France. Legend had it that he was killed in Northumbria by being thrown in a pit of snakes. His three sons were Halfdan, Ivar the Boneless, and Ubbi.

Rolf Rolfsson: (Fictitious) He was the captain of the Viking dragon ship that attacked near Dover.

Sedgewick: (Fictitious) He was the grizzled ealdorman who spoke out so openly when Ethelred was planning the support of Burgred of Mercia.

Sitric Ivarsson: The son of Ivar the Boneless. He met Ambrose at the Wessex court, where he was a spy with the identity of a Frisian peddler by the name of Harold. Phillip rescued him later, and he, in turn, convinced his uncles to call off the attack on Storm Haven.

Svein, Son of Onund: (Fictitious) He was a sailor with the Great Army who recognized Polonius. Polonius goaded and then killed him in order to protect their secret.

Theodota: (Fictitious) She was a Byzantine noble-woman who seduced Ambrose and attempted to persuade him to kill her husband. (See Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Trader of Kiev.)

Torr: He was the Mercian ealdorman who met Ambrose and Alfred when they rode north to join King Burgred.

Ubbi: He was the younger brother of Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless. His foraging party 'rescued' Ambrose, Phillip and Polonius from their own riders, and, after testing them, accepted them into the Great Army. Furious once he found that they were spies, he sent out hundreds of warriors to track the fugitives down. His father was Ragnar Lodbrok.

Wolf: (Fictitious) He is one of the under-officers aboard the ship that brings Ambrose and his companions from Frankland to Dover.

Nb. Italicized words are in the glossary at the end of the story.



(Ambrose, Prince of Wessex, Trader of Kiev.)

Some seven years before this story opens, Prince Ambrose and Phillip, his faithful tutor and guardian, are captured in a Viking raid on a village along the Wessex coast. While on the way to Europe as captives, a terrible storm almost sinks the ship. Ambrose, and then Phillip, help to save it.

The battered vessel 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, at the time just another slave, but once a linguist and scholar of Imperial Byzantium.

The ship 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 Ambrose and Polonius are forced to flee in order to prevent Phillip from becoming a sacrifice to a savage Viking god.

The three companions flee by small ship north and then east, until they hit the coast of Norway. They land in an isolated Norwegian village, and after being treated hospitably, leave to begin their overland trek to Sweden to find a friend of Ambrose's old master. Once in Sweden, they meet Gunnar of the Rus and happily settle down as apprentice traders.

The arrival of pursuing Danish ships ends these plans abruptly, however. They are forced to flee once again. They join an expedition sailing for Novgorod; a Slavic river town where Rus tribesmen have been invited to settle.

Ambrose, Phillip and Polonius set up a trading post there for Gunnar. Within months, however, they get an opportunity to join another expedition that will take them deep into the heartland of the continent.

After a bitter fight against nomad raiders on the way south, they reach the town of Kiev. There they work with the new Rus rulers to train men and develop a string of fortifications along the river. The steppes are close and nomad raids were frequent.

A fierce attack on the Kiev area by the Pechenegs is fought off only with great difficulty, but soon thereafter the war arrow is sent up and down the river. A punitive attack on Constantinople, the greatest city in the world at the time, is being planned by the audacious Varangians.

(Ambrose, Prince of Wessex, Emissary to Byzantium.)

The three friends join the attack on Constantinople, and after considerable adventures return to Kiev in the fall. In the spring, the three friends are sent south again, but this time as official emissaries for Kiev's Varangian leaders.

With perseverance, luck and skill, the three emissaries manage to reach an agreement with the Emperor of Byzantium. They head north again with the good news, only to discover that Kuralla, now Polonius' wife, has mysteriously disappeared.

A Slav outlaw risks his life to bring them news of her whereabouts from the north, and the three friends quickly take an expedition north to rescue the beautiful Kuralla. After hard travel and battle, they succeed. They no sooner than reach Kiev, however, than they must sail south again. The emperor of Byzantium impatiently awaits their return.

Welcomed by the Emperor in Constantinople, the three find that the magnificent and decadent city is open to them. Ambrose becomes infatuated with a married noblewoman, and only the timely arrival one night of Phillip and Polonius save his life. Soon thereafter, Polonius and Ambrose realize that they have been made pawns in the imperial power struggle, and the friends flee for their very lives.

(Ambrose, Prince of Wessex, Southern Journey.)

Their ship is captured by Cretan pirates, and the friends feel the heavy chains of slavery. After a daring escape, they make it to the port of Alexandria. Byzantine gold and possible treachery forces them to ride eastward, along the coast of Africa. A Greek Admiral pursues them doggedly. After many adventures, they reach Tripoli, where a Moslem slaver is blackmailed into delivering them to Byzantine Italy. They are attacked again on the lonely roads of southern Italy, and only their fighting prowess and clever planning allows them to reach the independent state of Benevento safely.

(Ambrose, Prince of Wessex, Journey Home.)

There, Ambrose renews an acquaintanceship with a priest from when he was a child, and they travel northward with a strong military escort.

After further adventures, the group of friends finally arrive in England. Ambrose has arrived home, only to find that the Viking Great Army has invaded the island.

This story, Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Warrior of the King, begins when the four friends reach Angleland.



The Friends Arrive in Angleland.

Prince Ambrose awoke to a gentle rocking motion and the creaking of taut rope and sails. Sea gulls screamed in the distance. He opened his eyes to see a bright eastern sky. At last, after some seven years of travel, he was returning to his native Angleland.

The prince crawled out from his sleeping pallet under the deck awning and padded barefoot to the ship's rail. The sun was suddenly a fiery compressed ball slipping silently out of the German Sea. Ambrose only looked east for a moment however, back towards the shores of now invisible Frankland. He turned and focussed firmly west.

In hours, he thought, God willing, I will again stride the land of my birth! In his rising excitement, he crawled back under the awning stretched across part of the midship of the sailing vessel, and woke Polonius, Phillip and Kuralla. Huddled in hides from the early-morning chill, they groaned and then looked up at the excited prince.

Ambrose grinned down at them. Wake up, you sluggards! The sun is almost above the horizon, and I think I can already see a hint of land. Come, I want you to see the famous chalk cliffs of my homeland!

Aware of his great excitement, they didn't protest too bitterly, though it was both early and cold. Polonius, however, once he joined his friend at the rail, watched to the north and east.

The crossing they were making was a short one that had been old in the days of the Roman legions. Even the Saxon, Jute and Angle invasions of several hundred years before had not stopped the regular passage of ships at this most narrow stretch of the sea between the island of Britain and Frankland. Viking sea-wolves, however, were succeeding in what even the fall of the Western Roman Empire had been unable to do.

Once the sea had been full of Frankish and Saxon trade vessels. Now, marauding fleets of long-ships and dragon ships regularly plied the choppy waters, manned by ruthless pagan pirates from the north. The Saxon and Frankish ship crews that dared the crossings lived in fear of being spotted and captured by these human predators.

Even Ambrose wasn't sure that his adroit Norse tongue and runes from the great trading house of the Swedish Rus would save their lives in the event of attack. Phillip, Polonius and he could probably pass themselves off as Viking Rus, but even if they did, it was possible that some Dane might have a grudge against their cousins from the east, or, even worse, recognizes the men for what they once were; fugitive slaves escaped from Danish captivity.

If recognized by roving Danes, their fate was sealed, for Polonius and Ambrose had stolen Odin's own sacrifice from the priests. Ambrose thus saw the thin Byzantine scholar scanning for potential enemy sails, rather than admiring the towering white chalk cliffs that the Saxon prince was so eager to show him.

Relax, Polonius. Look to the bow. We are almost across. See, the cliffs are lit by the rising sun and shine like pure gold! Surely it is an omen to us. I cannot believe that we have really made it!

Master, if we are spotted by Viking marauders, we may yet not reach your golden shores!

"Polonius, I tell you, it is an omen. If you would but look towards the bow, you would see Angleland! After coming this far, how can we not make shore? Today I will walk my brother's land! Look, my friend. This water, which can be choppy and vicious, today is topped with only the gentlest of ripples. We have a mild breeze to keep this vessel moving, and it holds steady.

Prince, this tub depends on the kiss of the wind, and the wind is not blowing towards Dover. Though your beloved Angleland is not far away, until the land is sufficiently heated by the sun, the breeze will continue to push us away. The captain will have to tack labouriously to get us into port, or wait until the land warms.

Ambrose shrugged. Then we will land a little later, when the wind blows again from our stern. What is the problem, Scholar?

The captain said we had to reach shore before dawn to be safe.’ He shrugged. ‘The sun is now up, and we are not yet in port.

Polonius, my friend, I do not intend to ever be enslaved again. We have escaped slaver’s chains three times. Next time, we may not be so lucky. But look around you! The only sails visible are those of some local fishing vessels. They are hardly a threat to us.

Even as he spoke, the crewman precariously perched in the basket attached to the top of the single mast called out in alarm to his captain. Sail ho! Off the stern!

The crew reacted with panic. The tubby merchantman was propelled only by a single large sail. It was a fat sow, with large storage holds, rather than a lean greyhound built for speed. It could not hope to outrun a Viking war vessel, if that was what was chasing them.

The captain carefully checked the wind and the set of his sail. There was little he could

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