A ring of mail in the night is a rude awakening to regicide and the start of an imaginative reconstruction of an uncertain period, the boyhood of Olaf Tryggvison. Hero of an Old Norse saga, Olaf I was born to Queen Astrid and separated from her after the murder of Tryggvi, yet made his exiled way to an uncle at the Novgorod court of Vladimir before returning to his birthplace and assuming the throne. In this version--educated guesswork -- he is helped by protective Thorgils, a chieftain's son who puts the Prince's safety above his own comfort and freedom. The unfortunate butt of poor peasant woman, then a rough master, Olaf grows bold when pampered by another, wealthier master but not too self-satisfied -- when his uncle unexpectedly arrives -- to forget his debt to Thorgils, still in servitude. In an overly dramatic (and decidedly modern) gesture, he insists that his loyal companion be freed with him. The background detail is slyly informative, the foreground delineation less distinctive but still invigorating.