Packed with sharp depictions of combat, prayer, debate, and natural beauty, this epic poem recreates the physical and mental world of the Christian West Saxons and the pagan Danish invaders. Centered on southwestern Britain in the 9th century, the story shows young King Alfred and his wife Lady Ealhswith struggling for survival in the face of the Northmen's onslaught, while Jarl Gormr tries to found a new kingship on a council of headstrong warlords. Driven into the wilderness, Alfred seeks in vain for Ealhswith and Bishop Athelheah, then infiltrates the Danish court and serves Gormr as a trusted cunning man. He escapes and raises a small army. History unfolds, as it does, in calamity and miracle.