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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Gretchen, Future Princess.

Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Gretchen, Future Princess.

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Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Gretchen, Future Princess.

386 Seiten
4 Stunden
Mar 25, 2012


The betrothed of Ambrose, bastard prince of Wessex, is kidnapped by Welsh brigands, and then a raiding party of Norse pirates. With the army of Wessex at his back, Ambrose attacks a Welsh coastal stronghold, only to find that Gretchen never made it there. He then travels to Ireland. There he meets a strange ally, and together, they work their way to the Norse stronghold where Gretchen is held. Rebuffed and then threatened by the Jarl who holds her captive, he escapes and flees northward. With the aid of a Viking prince, he obtains two ships and trains Saxon ship crews so he can intercept and free his love.

Mar 25, 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; Gretchen, Future Princess. - Bruce Corbett


Historical Background

(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 Vikings and their Slav subjects.

(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 Viking and Slavic 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 flee eastward, along the coast of Africa. A Byzantine 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 safely reach the independent state of Benevento.

(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 attempted assassinations and avalanches, attacks by slavers and Vikings, Ambrose and his companions finally arrive home.

(Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Warrior of the King,)

Once back in England, Ambrose is reunited with his brothers. Their peace is quickly disturbed, however. In 865, a Viking force known as the Great Army landed in England. Under the expert leadership of three brothers named Ubbi, Halfdan, and Ivar (the Boneless), it laid waste to much of England. Suddenly and without warning, the Great Army leaves its base in Northumbria and starts pushing its way south into Mercia.

Far away, in both Wales and Ireland, the Christians are reeling under the attacks of the Norwegian Vikings. While no permanent settlements are established in Wales by the invaders, considerable portions of coastal Ireland become Viking enclaves, including Dublin and, eventually, Wexford.

Desperate for help against the ruthless invaders, King Burgred of Mercia begs Wessex to send men. Ambrose and his companions ride north to help, followed by the king and the remainder of the West Saxon army.

The combined forces of the Angles of Mercia and their West Saxon allies manage to trap the Great Army at Nottingham. The city is besieged, but the Mercian king insists on buying peace with Danegeld. The West Saxon allies return home.

Uncertain of what moves the Great Army will make next, Ambrose rides north again, but this time in the guise of a spy. Leaving his men at two small fortified burhs, Ambrose joins the Great Army. After getting the information necessary to the security of Wessex, he escapes. Hundreds of enraged Danes, however, ride hard on his trail.

Wounded by his pursuers, Ambrose nevertheless makes it to the safety of the Mercian burh. There, he is cared for by Gretchen, the young woman he had fallen in love with the year before. His friends just return to his side when a full division of the Great Army appears and surrounds the burh. The death of Ambrose and his companions appears imminent, but the surprising intervention of a mysterious peddler saves all their lives.

The story you are reading today, Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Gretchen, Future Princess, begins when Ambrose's betrothed heads south for the royal court of Wessex.

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

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 mind that they seem very real. I hope, after you have read of their adventures, that you feel the same way.

Words in italics indicate that there is more information in Appendix II at the end of the book. I hope you enjoy the story,

The author,

Bruce Corbett


Cast of Characters.

Aevor: (Fictitious) is the senior wife of Dag, Jarl of Wexford.

Alfred: The younger brother of Ambrose, Ethelred, and Ethelbert. 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 rides north with Ambrose in an attempt to rescue Gretchen.

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. Ambrose discovers that his true love, Gretchen, is kidnapped and rides north in order to rescue her. Tracing her to Wales, he travels there, to find that she has been taken to Ireland. Tenacious as ever, he follows her there and, after many trials and tribulations, manages to rescue her.

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.)

Bardaric: (Fictitious) The chieftain of the settlement in Ireland where the Welsh sailors landed Ambrose and his companions.

Bradach: (Fictitious) Is the son of the Irish chieftain named Dearan. It is he who leads the Irish against the Norse pursuing Ambrose and his friends.

Brys: (Fictitious) The huge leader of the Welsh raiders, he was captured by the Wessex forces when they were heading north to find a trace of Gretchen.

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, he avoids a fight and agrees to pay Danegeld.

Cedd: (Fictitious) One of Osmond's wagon drivers.

Cunedda: (Fictitious) Ruler of the northern Welsh town of Caernarvon, which Ambrose first visits, and then takes with a ruse. Cunedda's namesake was a leader from northern Britain, whose posterity became kings of various districts of Wales.

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).

Dag: (Fictitious) The Jarl of Wexford, he attempts to kill Ambrose, Polonius, Phillip and Sitric, rather than release Gretchen.

Dearan: (Fictitious) Is the chief of the Irish villagers where Ambrose, Polonius, Phillip, and Sitric stop; near the stronghold of Wexford.

Dewi: (Fictitious) The lieutenant to Lord Cunedda. It was he who led the ten Welshmen who ambushed and captured two of the escaping Norsemen fleeing from the Welsh hill-top.

Eldwin: (Fictitious) He was the leader of the six Irish vassals sent to intercept and kill Ambrose and his friends after they had escaped from Wexford.

Enid: (Fictitious) The first of Gretchen's maids. She was with Gretchen when the Welsh attacked. With a Danish grandmother, she speaks and understands Danish.

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 his adventures in Russia and Byzantium. Ethelred, in turn died in 871, and the Witan chose Alfred over Ethelred's young children.

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

Frodi: (Fictitious) Halfdan's warrior in Ireland who wanted to kill Sitric.

Glyn: (Fictitious) Celtic captain of the Welsh fishing vessel that took Ambrose, Polonius, Wynfrith and Phillip to Ireland. Before taking them, he fought Ambrose in a duel.

Gretchen: (Fictitious) Is the daughter of Osmond, Ealdorman of Mercia, 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 he fell in love with the beautiful Gretchen. He was forced to leave her at Storm Haven when he reported to his brother Ethelred, but he received his brother's permission to marry her. Gretchen, on the way to her marriage, is kidnapped first by Welsh brigands, and then by Norse Vikings.

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.

Lord Gywnn: (Fictitious) One of the nobles who has joined the Welsh forces, trying to track down and destroy the Norse raiders in northern Wales. He enjoys teasing Lord Cunedda about the captive women.

Hakon: (Fictitious) He is a Norse Jarl of Osford, in Ireland. He is the leader of the force in Wales who captures Gretchen and her maidservants.

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.

Harold the Frisian: See Sitric Ivarsson.

Hroarr: (Fictitious) He was a sub-commander under Olvaerr at Wexford. He and Sigurd led the attack against the retreating Irish tribesmen.

Ivar the Boneless: The brother of Halfdan and Ubbi and joint leader of the Great Army. His father was Ragnar Lodbrok. Before this story started, his son Sitric met Ambrose in Wessex.

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.

Lord Llewellyn: (Fictitious) Master of the northern Welsh coastal area. He joins the coalition forces against the Norse.

Meghan: (Fictitious) She is an Irish slave woman who treats the noble captives with consideration. It was she whom Gretchen speaks to after the Irish attack on Wexford.

Olvaerr: (Fictitious) He was, under Dag, the commander of the Wexford forces.

Osmond: (Fictitious) He was Ealdorman of Storm Haven in the kingdom of Mercia. Before this story opened, 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 met the beautiful Gretchen.

Osmond agrees to the marriage of his daughter to the young prince, and heads south to the Wessex court. The entire column is captured by Welshmen, however, and Gretchen and her maids are taken to be held for ransom.

Penelope: (Fictitious) The second of Gretchen's maids. She is with Gretchen when the Welsh attack. She is the daughter of a captive Welsh mother, and thus speaks the Celtic language.

Phillip: (Fictitious) A giant of a man, he is Weapons-master to the royal court of Wessex, until he and Ambrose are kidnapped. He follows, and protects, Ambrose, from Denmark to Constantinople and back.

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, and eventually Constantinople itself. An expert linguist and knife-thrower, he returned to England with Ambrose, and, as Nicholas, helped him spy on the Danish Great Army.

In this story, he continues to be Ambrose's steadfast companion. He rides to Wales, participates in the attack on Caernarvon, and then travels to Ireland with Ambrose.

Rekkr: (Fictitious) An officer of Halfdan who was in Ireland and wanted to kill Ambrose and his friends.

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.

Rodor: (Fictitious) One of Osmond's wagon drivers.

Sigurd: (Fictitious) He is a sub-commander under Olvaerr at Wexford, who leads the attack on the fleeing Irish tribesmen.

Sitric Ivarsson: The son of Ivar the Boneless, the feared leader of the Great Army and king of Dublin. Later, Phillip rescued him, and he, in turn, called off a Danish assault on Storm Haven. In this story, Ambrose meets him in Dublin, where Sitric is visiting his father. Subsequently he helps Ambrose by loaning him two of his long-ships. He became king of Dublin after his father and his uncle, Halfdan, both died. He himself died in 896.

Snorri: (Fictitious) A Norseman, he is one of Hakon's lieutenants.

Ubbi: He was a younger brother of Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless. His father was Ragnar Lodbrok.

Uffi: (Fictitious) a Norseman, he is the second lieutenant of Hakon.

Wynfrith: (Fictitious) A thane of Wessex, his lands are on the western extremity of Wessex, in territory that two generations before had belonged to the independent kingdom of Cornwall. Due to his knowledge of both the Irish and Welsh Celtic dialects, he acts as translator to Ambrose on the expedition to Wales and Dublin


Table of Contents


Cast of Characters

Chapter 1: Gretchen's Party Is Caught.

Chapter 2: Cunedda's Party Is Captured by Norsemen.

Chapter 3 Ambrose Rides to the Rescue.

Chapter 4 Norse Retreat.

Chapter 5 The Norse March to the Coast.

Chapter 6 The Trap Is Sprung."

Chapter 7 Ambrose Goes to Cunedda.

Chapter 8 The Town of Caernarvon Is Taken.

Chapter 9 Caernarvon Has Fallen.

Chapter 10 Ambrose & Friends Find a Ship to Ireland, but Have to Prove Themselves to the Welsh Sailors First.

Chapter 11 Gretchen Goes South to Wexford and Ambrose Reaches Ireland.

Chapter 12 The Irish Seize the Travellers.

Chapter 13 Gretchen Arrives at Wexford.

Chapter 14 Ambrose And His Friends Talk to The Irish Before Going to Wexford.

Chapter 15 The Friends Escape from Wexford.

Chapter 16 Ambrose and His Party Escape and the Norse Organize.

Chapter 17 Norse Vengeance.

Chapter 18 The Flight Continues.

Chapter 19 Gretchen Learns About The Visitors.

Chapter 20 The Norse Pursuers Catch Up to the Fleeing Irish.

Chapter 21 Gretchen and Her Companions Leave for Norway.

Chapter 22 Ambrose Rents Ships From Sitric.

Chapter 23 Return to Caernarvon.

Chapter 24 The Ships Arrive at Caernarvon.

Chapter 25 Ambrose & Alfred Attack a Norse Ship.

Appendix I History of Alfred's era.

Appendix II Glossary of terms

Appendix III Map of Alfred's England

Appendix IV About the Author. Upcoming books.

Chapter 1

Gretchen's Party Is Caught.

Gretchen looked back at her father's timber and stone fortified burh of Storm Haven. She blinked back the tears and then resolutely turned her gaze south. She was not sure that she would ever see these beloved lands again. She had been born at Storm Haven and lived all of her eighteen years there, except for the few occasions when she had accompanied Osmond, her father, to the Mercian royal court. Her father had held the shire, and Storm Haven, their main burh, as had his father before him, as loyal ealdormen of Mercia.

She suddenly remembered the one memorable visit she had made outside of the kingdom. A ghost of a smile flitted across her face. The God-cursed pagan Danes had swept into eastern Mercia the summer before, and Gretchen's father had begged to be allowed to pay Danegeld in order to buy the safety of his home and shire.

The Danes had laughingly agreed, and even gave him some weeks to raise the necessary gold and silver. Her father's own master, King Burgred of Mercia, had just lost the fortress town of Nottingham to the brazen invaders, and was himself forced into hiding. The king was, therefore, not in a position to help the master of Storm Haven. Gretchen and her father had rushed south to the court of their distant cousin, the king of Wessex.

Gretchen would have liked to erase the humiliating memory of her father begging for the gold, but on that visit she had met a very special man, a royal atheling by the unusual name of Ambrose. Her heart pounded in her chest when she thought of the handsome man. The man's mother had been a slave in whose body ran the blood of ancient British royalty. His father had been the king of Wessex.

The bastard prince had intrigued her. When Ambrose later arrived at Storm Haven, after spying on the Viking Great Army, he had been more dead than alive. In fleeing with the Great Army's secrets, he had taken an arrow meant for his companion.

Ambrose had been put in her private bower, and Gretchen had patiently nursed him back to health after both her father's own healer and the black-garbed men of God had given up hope. In the time it took to nurse the prince back to health, Gretchen realized that she had fallen madly in love with the young man.

Now she was on the way to the royal Wessex court again, but this time as Ambrose's betrothed! Ethelred, the powerful king of all the Angle, Saxon and Jute lands south of the Thames, and grandson of the island's last Bretwalda, had agreed to their marriage! Ambrose, though still recovering from his grievous wound, had been forced to ride ahead. She knew that he was impatiently waiting for her at his brother's royal seat of Winchester.

With the conflicting emotions warring in her head, Gretchen turned one last time to look at the sturdy burh that had been home for all her life. She was sure that she could see the aged Brigitte, her faithful nanny since the day she was born, waving from the lookout tower.

She turned to her faithful servant. Penelope! No snuffling . . . and stop staring backwards. You will fall off your horse!

But, Mistress! I wasn't . . . is that a tear I see in your own eye?

Gretchen quickly wiped the tear away. Of course not! Don't be daft, girl. I just got a piece of grit in my eye.

Suddenly Gretchen's eyes misted over again. Penelope - I don't know if I should be happy or sad. I am going to marry the man of my dreams - but I am leaving behind everything that I know!

Penelope smiled through her own tears. Be happy, Mistress. You will make a new home at your Ambrose's side.

And father says you can stay with me in Wessex if you want!

If there are no cursed Northmen in Wessex, I shall be happy to do just that!


The little caravan followed the old Roman road west and north. Their first destination was Leicester, whence they would cut south, taking the road to Bath, and then eventually east, to Winchester and the royal court.

Like some incredible living creature, the road rose and fell, rose and fell, dipping into dales and surmounting windswept hilltops. As they moved slowly along, the little caravan found Angle villages in the valley bottoms, or occasional native British settlements high on the hilltops.

The land was, for the most part, forested, with only scattered fields. What Gretchen did not see, however, were people. Both fields and vills loomed empty.

Gretchen shivered in supernatural dread and spurred her horse until she caught up with her father. Daddy, it's as if a great evil came this way and swept all the people away. Why are there no people anywhere?

Little Blossom, a terrible evil did come this way. The God-cursed Northmen rode this way when they were done with us.

We saw burned out villages yesterday morning, but none since. Yet there are still no people.

Ealdorman Osmond shrugged. Those who could, fled to Wessex, or even the Continent. No one knew how far west and the south the heathen devils would push. It will be some time before those who fled return to their homes. Besides, we have enough armed retainers with us to frighten any who remain. Many will simply run and hide when they spot an armed band approaching.

"But daddy, the Great Army is going north. Ambrose found that

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