As the threat of yet another Viking invasion looms over his troubled realm, Alfred, King of Wessex, reviews and strengthens his defences. Among his many concerns is the fate of Edward, his stable boy, who he believes to be the bastard son of revered warrior Matthew, who died serving the Saxon cause. If his heritage can be proved, Edward is not only heir to vast fortune but, more importantly, he has the blood of a warrior in his veins, something the Saxons are likely to need in spades. More worryingly, Alfred fears that if Edward's true lineage ever became known, there would be those who might seek to exploit him, or, worse still, use him to usurp Alfred's rule. He confides in just two of his closest advisers and they conspire to send Edward to the relative safety of Wareham on the pretext of having him train Governor Osric's magnificent black stallion, a horse thought to be all but unrideable.