The Pale Horseman is the second book in The Saxon Stories series.
The last unvanquished piece of England, Wessex is eyed hungrily by the fearsome Viking conquerors. A dispossessed young nobleman, Uhtred is tied to the imperilled land by birth and marriage but was raised by the Danish invaders—and he questions where his allegiance must lie. But blood is his destiny, and when the overwhelming Viking horde attacks out of a wintry darkness, Uhtred must put aside all hatred and distrust and stand beside his embattled country's staunch defender—the fugitive King Alfred.
The Pale Horseman is a gripping, monumental adventure that gives breathtaking life to one of the most important epochs in English history—yet another masterwork from New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell.
Uhtred, bored with the peace between Alfred and the Danish king Guthrum, goes off raiding into Cornwall. He comes across a settlement ruled by the British king Peredur, who hires Uhtred and his men to fight an invading Danish force led by Svein of the White Horse.
Uhtred and Svein however ally to kill Peredur and pillage his settlement, and Uhtred carries off Peredur's wife, the shadow queen Iseult. A monk named Asser, who was at Peredur's court, witnesses the betrayal and escapes to Dyfed in Wealas. Uhtred and Svein then sail up the coast to Land's End, where they part ways. Svein goes to Cynuit, where Ubba was killed previously, and Uhtred to the coast of Wealas where he captures a ship laden with treasure. He returns to his estate and pious wife Mildrith, using his hoard of treasure to build a great hall and relieve his debt to the church.
The Witan summons Uhtred to an audience with King Alfred in Cippanhamm, where he is accused of using the king's ship to raid the Britons with whom Wessex is at peace based on the testimony of Asser, who has made his way to Alfred's court, and wrongfully accused Uhtred of attacking the Cynuit abbey on the false testimony of the warrior Steapa Snotor, who is loyal to Uhtred's enemy Odda the Younger. To settle the dispute, a fight to the death is ordered between Uhtred and Steapa.
During the duel, Uhtred carries only his sword, Serpent-Breath, whereas Steapa is fully armoured. The duel is cut short when Guthrum's Danes attack and the crowd is scattered. Uhtred, Leofric, and Iseult hide in the fields until nightfall when they enter Cippanhamm and free their friend Eanflæd at the Corncrake Tavern, and the nun Hild.
The five of them wander for a few weeks until they reach the swamps of Athelney. As they enter the marsh, Guthrum himself attacks Uhtred. Uhtred makes a fighting escape onto a boat that carries him, Leofric, and another passenger to an island within the swamp. The passenger insists that Uhtred should have left a Danish warrior alive, and turns out to be King Alfred himself. Uhtred becomes Alfred's bodyguard and for a few months they hide in the swamp, spreading the word that the King is still alive, hoping that enough men will find their way to join Alfred's army. When Svein anchors his fleet at the mouth of the River Parret close to their hideout, Uthred launches a surprise attack against Svein, during which the fleet is burned and many of Svein's men drown when the flood comes in, after they have been lured out too far into the marshlands.
Later they assemble the army and fight at the Battle of Ethandun and Alfred takes back Wessex, with Uhtred being instrumental in the death of Svein of the White Horse. However, during the battle, Leofric and Iseult are both killed.