Ambrose, Prince of Wessex; Emissary to Byzantium.
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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.
- Bruce Corbett, September 2011
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