Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Like Vikings? Let's enjoy story time with Maria MacAuley- Read the prologue and first Chapter of Silver and Spice

Hello friends/followers! I'm trying something new and hope you all will enjoy it as much as I have. Now I present to you a small portion of a very exciting, romantic and all-around great story written by the talented (first time EVER writing) Maria MacAuley. We will be posting a chapter for you to enjoy each week until the story's end. We are looking for comments, feelings, thoughts, etc. of what you think for each portion posted. So please be sure to leave a comment in the comments section :)
Now I present to you... Silver and Spice!


The wet, Irish, January wind howled through the doors as the tall figure entered the hall, a cedar chest in his arms.  Kristr Halsarson walked the length of the room, heavily decorated in tapestries from Babylon, bronze shields from Persia, and striped sails from Viking longships.  The curious clash of cultures and textures was painful to both his eyes and senses, but he strode on to meet his man, scattering withered and decaying rushes in his wake. He did not like his host, and the feeling was mutual, but trading necessitated some unpleasant acquaintances, and the sooner he had his coin, the sooner he could return home to the North. He had spent the years of his youth in fosterage, learning the skills to become a warrior, a trader, a sailor, and a leader.  He was master of his world and he knew it.

Putting his chest on the table, pausing to pull down his cowl, he shook his head violently, causing his shoulder length dark auburn hair to swing free from its leather strap.  He cursed silently, it was so thick, it could hardly be contained.  Perhaps he should chop it short, like one of those feeble Saxon lords.  Finally, he turned his attention to the man sitting at the head of the table; his oak chair ornately carved and raised a full hands-width higher than the benches that lined either side of the trestle. He did not smile at the black-haired man seated there, greasy hair clinging to his scalp, his fist curled around a goblet.  The vivid purple tunic he wore was stretched to ripping point over his distended stomach. The stench of sweat and unwashed body was overpowering.

‘MacRonan.’ He remained standing; his tone clipped and formal. ‘I have brought spices from the trading markets in Byzantium.’ Both parties knew the value of spices from the city that was the crossroads between East and West.  The journey was not particularly difficult in the summer and autumn seasons, but it was long and tedious, especially with stops along the Volga.  The valuable goods such as perfumes, silks and spices that were brought back fetched the highest prices in the trading markets of Ireland and the Danelaw.  It was profitable for sailing merchants and middlemen alike.

Sean MacRonan drained his goblet, dragging his filthy thumb along the rim to catch the last drop, before sucking on it like an infant.  He swept his black hair out of his eyes, only for the lank strands to fall again.

‘Halsarson.  How good to see you. I hope your vessel sailed without any challenge from pirates or brigands.’  His tone did not reflect the smooth words he uttered. ‘Would you care to show me what treasures you have brought?’

Kristr unhooked the hasps that secured the lid.  When the chest was opened, a warm beautiful aroma filled the hall; the sweet smell of the cinnamon blending with the woody scent of the cedar chest.  He opened several smaller vessels contained within the larger chest; cardamom pods, ginger root, and finally, unwrapping a ribbon of silk from around a Venetian glass bottle, displayed the fine orange strands of saffron.

MacRonan sniffed the fragrant air in appreciation.

‘How much for all?’

‘Twelve markur.’ Kristr gave the price in Norse.

‘Hmm, six pounds weight in silver.’  He scratched his stubbly chin. ‘That’s the price of one of your Viking she-thalls,’ he laughed, but Kristr did not respond. ‘Or, in my case the cost of a dowry for a darling little virgin bride from Donegal.’ Pressing on a boil on his neck he studied the lumped contents, muttering to himself, ‘Indeed, Roisin of Dun na Shee will make a fine vessel to carry my sons.’

‘The price still stands.’ Kristr had no interest in the nuptials of this man, other than to pity the undoubtedly halfwit bride who would be impressed by his likes, or unrepulsed by his coarse manners.

Scratching his chair back over the hard clay floor, MacRonan stood up.  ‘Come on then, Halsarson, I agree to your price.’  He extended his greasy hand to the younger man.

Kristr’s eyes narrowed as he looked at MacRonan’s palm, creased black with days of dirt. The Irish were as unclean as the Saxons.  He did not extend his hand in return.  MacHyde never accepted the first offer made, and this was easy.  Too easy.  Turning slightly, he heard heavy shuffling footsteps coming from the side chamber, and a bear of a man emerged, an ax in his hand.  Further down the hall, he looked in fury as another four men came forward, armed with clubs, mace, and other weapons.  Kristr spun, and threw his dagger which landed with a sickening slice in the giant’s stomach, but not before a missile was catapulted up the room from the advancing men, hitting him on the back of the head with a dull thud.   The sharp pain that followed was excruciating, and he collapsed in a heap on the floor.

When he woke up he was lying on a boat, his body snug between two sea chests.  Struggling to remember, he groaned aloud, reaching up and feeling the lump on his scalp.  He blinked in slow recognition; this was his boat.  A blond haired man crouched down beside him.  ‘Brother.’  He put a waterskin to his lips. ‘Drink.  You were ambushed.  Knottr found you on the dockside here in Dubh Linn, unconscious and without possessions.’

Kristr sat up slowly, and gulped the water gratefully.  ‘My thanks Erik, and to Knottr.’ Without the actions of both his brother and strongest crew member he would have perished.

‘Who did this to you?  Did you see anything?’  The concern in the other man’s voice was evident.

‘Ja, I did.’  Kristr formed a fist as he recollected the events last in his mind.  ‘That underhanded traitorous Sean MacRonan.’   Closing his eyes he saw the sweaty face of his enemy.  MacRonan may believe he had won the battle, but by Thor, he would lose the war.

Chapter 1

The feeble sun shone low in the sky, the first rays of spring trying unsuccessfully to warm the ground. Roisin and Ciara had taken the opportunity of the rare cold, dry, sunny day; it was a chance to leave the rath, the excuse being to look for first tiny blossoms of the season, the real reason to converse away from Conal of Dun na Shee.  Conal was the chieftain of the clan, Roisin’s father and Ciara’s foster father, with a sharp mind and even sharper ears.
Roisin spread her precious scarlet woollen cloak on the ground, and kicking off her shoes, stretched out and wiggled her toes in the pale green grass, enjoying the tickling sensation on her soles after a winter in thick woollen socks.
'You won't be doing that much longer Roisin', Ciara grinned down at her friend.
Shading her eyes from the weak Spring sun she looked up at her best friend and foster sister. This year they would be eighteen summers old, ten of them spent as foster siblings. Before the fortnight was out Roisin would be married to a merchant from Dubh Linn, ten years her senior.
Ciara would wed Brian, Roisin's brother, within three moons, when he returned from his own fosterage with Ciara's clan. Conal of Dun na Shee had been sorry to see his son leave; Brian had been found nearly dead in a little coracle washed up on the shores of Dun na Shee when he could not have been more than five summers old, with no recollection of his life before then. Conal adopted the boy with the deep brown eyes, and hair as black as night. With Roisin as his only natural child, Brian became his son and heir.
‘It is a travesty, Ciara,' Roisin grumbled. 'I may as well be in Orkney as be in Dubh Linn. 'Bah! It is the end of the world.' Conal had made the match when Sean MacRonan sailed north the previous Spring. Roisin had thought him a peacock; his elaborately embroidered light cloak and mantle ridiculous in the bright cold Donegal weather. But he had coin and connections and Conal had agreed.
Ciara sighed in agreement. The MacRonan lands were four days away by boat, down the coast between the islands of Ireland and Britain, and on the border of the Viking settlement of Dubh Linn. 'I know it seems so far now, but remember, as part of your marriage contract, MacRonan did agree that he would bring you to Donegal for the old festivals of Bealtaine and Samhain.'
She understood Roisin's fear of leaving their home, but Ciara's own worries were different. She and Brian had exchanged places, and he had been fostered by her own sire, chieftain of the neighbouring clan to the lands of Dun na Shee. As a sister she loved Brian dearly but she was only the bride in this political match. Knowing her expected future from the time she was fourteen summers, Ciara had resigned herself to fate.
'It's not the same and you know it.' Roisin repeated to herself softly, twirled her fingers in the grass and rolled onto her belly. Looking at Ciara staring up into the sky, Roisin seemed to read her mind. 'It might not be a love match, but at least you get to stay in the land that you love, with the people that you love.' She brushed an escaped tendril of Ciara's long blonde hair off her cheek.  They could not have looked more different; Ciara was reasonably tall, with blue eyes and white-blonde hair, almost Nordic in her appearance, Roisin was nearly the opposite.  She had long wavy hair as black as night, her eyes were green as grass, framed by dark lush eyelashes.  She was a head shorter than Ciara, but she did not let her smaller size get in the way of her duties on the rath.
'But marrying a merchant will take you to all sorts of strange lands, with different tongues and people.' Ciara loved to hear the storytellers weave their fables of faraway lands. She wasn't entirely sure if they existed, but in her imagination it was heaven itself.
Roisin paused, chewed her lip, and rolled onto her back so she too could enjoy the rare sight of the pale blue sky, ‘You know he deals with the Viking in Dubh Linn...'  her voice faded into her own thoughts.  There hadn't been a Viking raid in five summers, but the fear was still there, the image of sinister long ships on the horizon, preying on the fears of all who lived within a league of the coast or a waterway.
'Is it not bad enough that I have to leave home, as a prize to ensure better trade with Northern shores, as well as play hostess to heathens who have ransacked our lands?' Roisin could not soothe the unease in her belly. Thinking of MacRonan during their one and only introduction, his ornate garments failing to hide his paunch and his overloud laugh had made her cringe. He looked like he bathed once a summer, his skin pink and raw where it had been scrubbed clean.  
Ciara looked across at Roisin, and wiped away the tear that ran down her smooth white cheek. 'Sweetling, you know your father means the best for you. Think of that scriptorium and a library to rival Clonmacnoise he said he had. I would dearly love to see those illuminated manuscripts. It is said the monks worked on each one for years.' If his manuscripts looked anything like the man, they would be gaudy indeed and unpleasant on the eye. Roisin pressed the heels of her palms against her eyelids, trying to block out the garish view of MacHyde.
Ciara sat up, pulled her knees to her breast and rested her chin on them. The pause in chatter did not last long. Sighing dramatically, she stood up, nudged Roisin gently with her foot, hitched up her skirts and ran down to the stream. 'Last one in washes the linens for a sennight!'
Laughing in mock outrage that Ciara had such a head start on her, Roisin picked up her shoes, and raced to catch up with her foster sister. 

From the wooded oak south of the rath, two men looked down at the antics of the girls in the stream below.
'Well, brother, is that her?' The blond man looked to his right. He had straight fair hair tied back from his face with a leather thong. He wasn't smiling now, his normal good natured features set in a frown.
'Ja. That is she. MacRonan’s betrothed.’  He pulled his thick auburn hair back for the third time that day. 
'If you weren't quite so tall, little brother, that fine red hair of yours would make you appear an Irishman.'
The teasing comment was met with a snort of derision. ‘Erik, my hair is not the subject this day.' He nodded towards the women.  'That is what is important, and you gibbering on about hair as if you were a wench in the weaving room. You'll be discussing silks from Byzantium next.  Besides, you know where I got my hair from, unlike the red-blooded Norseman you are.'
Erik shrugged. 'I can see that the little black haired one is comely, but her companion could warm my furs any day. What say you I bring her too?'
'You might be more clever than you appear, Erik, but if you take her, she is to be your responsibility.'  The peacock MacHyde had cheated Kristr out of a considerable weight in silver during the Winter, and Kristr did not take lightly to this affront. His scout and friend, Johan O’Toole, had been paid plenty of coin to help Kristr in his plans, and his reports did not disappoint. Johan, sired by a Irish father with a Norse mother, and with a foot in each world had great skill in getting even the most secretive to reveal their deepest thoughts. 
'Her name is Roisin of Dun na Shee.' Erik smirked. Kristr liked to be prepared, and today was no exception. He decided to test his fiery haired brother.
'And what is the name of that blonde beauty?'
'Ciara.' Kristr narrowed his eyes at Erik. He would not make this easy for him. He knew his good natured brother wanted to play, and ease the tension of their plans.
'And? Who is she to marry? Or is she to take the veil and hide in one of those Christian convents, a follower of St Bridget?' Kristr gritted his teeth at the mention of the faith.
'She is to marry Roisin's brother, Brian.' Erik was clearly aware of Kristr's plans. By taking both for ransom, Kristr would retrieve the silver owed to him, by the men of Dun na Shee or from MacRonan.
Kristr stared down at the women splashing calf-deep in the stream. That tiny black haired slip of a girl was too pretty and innocent to waste on the odious MacRonan.  For a father to offer her hand, she must be unaccomplished indeed.   Twelve markur, that was her cost.  In beauty alone, she was worth twice that amount.
Patting his shoulder, Erik said, 'I know how important this is to you, brother. We will have time to dwell on your enemy later. Now, let's see to our horses because they'll have a tiring ride back to the far channel and our longship'
Starting on their walk through the woods towards the stream, Erik once again could not resist teasing his brother. How is your Gaelic? It's been two moons since you have been to Dubh Linn, and a full four seasons since you spent any time there.' Erik finally smiled, his blue eyes twinkling, the creases around showing his good nature was displayed often.
'Better than yours, Erik, and by the time the ransom comes, they will be speaking Norse. I have no time to dance attendance to MacRonan’s woman.'

Using a corner of Roisin's cloak to dry their cold feet, the pair pulled on their socks and shoes again, stomping on the short grass to get the blood flowing. 'That was refreshing.  Did you not enjoy the first outdoor bath of Spring, Roisin?' Ciara shook out the damp cloak, and Roisin shrugged. Another annual passage of childhood ending.  Married women could not act like girls.
'Come, let's go through the woods home, I want some willow to make a new basket for my stitching.’  Ciara loved any excuse to be away from the rath, in her mind its turf ramparts and high wooden gates proving more stifling than secure as the time passed. Linking arms, they headed toward the trees, onto the narrow path snaking around the gnarled roots.
Roisin glanced around nervously, 'Let's stay to the outside of the woods, I'd not want to come across an angry boar.' From they were little girls, Conal had lectured on the dangers of the woods without a chaperone. No amount of pleading to learn to defend herself had worked on her father. Once again, I'm nothing but property to marry off, she thought. No rights of my own, to be passed from one man as daughter to another as wife.  She loved her father dearly, but ironically his protectiveness had left her feeling very vulnerable.
Shivering from their dip in the river, the cool green light of the woods didn't let many of the weak sun rays through. Keeping a brisk pace to try and keep warm, Ciara and Roisin did not say much, lost in their own worlds, and in the stillness, they heard a crack behind them. Boar! It had to be a boar, but Roisin did not want stay around to hear its menacing squeals of attack before they were gored by its tusks. A surge of panic fled through her as she and Ciara grabbed hands and started to run, aiming for the rath, but as they saw the welcoming blue skies again, they were stopped in their tracks by a giant blond man. Spinning on her heels Roisin grabbed Ciara to run the other way, but locked eyes with another giant, this time with red hair and grey eyes dark and glinting, like Toledo steel. She gasped when she saw the bindings he was holding, and her stomach lurched. She could hear her blood rushing though her ears, and saw stars in her eyes.
A voice finally cut through the haze.  It was Ciara sobbing, 'Roisin, run! You must raise the alarm!' 
Frozen in fear, she couldn’t think straight to make a choice.  Ciara’s cries rang in her ears, but to save herself and run to the church would sacrifice her best friend and sister.
The decision was made for her.  'I don't think so, Roisin,' the red haired giant said in Gaelic with enough of an accent for Roisin to realise he was not of the close rival clans of the Cenel Eoghan or the Airghialla.
'Vikings!' she finally found her voice screamed as loud as she could. It was the Lochlanach, the Norsemen.  It did not matter what language was used, their very name struck terror in the hearts of all who lived outside Dubh Linn.  'Viki...' The words fell away as one calloused hand covered her mouth, and another fisted around her long jet-black braid.


Maria MacAuley is from Derry, Ireland and has a degree in Celtic Languages. She is married to the love of her life, and they live in relative peace with two cats.

She has a secret wish that her husband will investigate his Nordic family tree further and whisk her off on a longboat to Hammerfest to view the Northern Lights.

If Maria were to choose her favourite tense, it should be the subjunctive, and is always keen to discuss same over a pint of Guinness.

Thank you to unknownswilly ( for the kind use of a number of her photographs.

Bounce on over to Chapter 2 HERE

~*"No portion of this story may be copied or shared without the direct permission of the author."*~


  1. I love the start of this story.
    Beautifully evocative writing, setting the scene. I can just imagine the dirty treachery of MacRonan, his look and smell are vivid as if he were in front of me.

    Totally enjoyed this start, lovely writing from a first time writer and look forward to future postings.

    1. I'm right there with you Wattle! I cannot wait to see what the future holds! I'm LOVING the story :)
      Now we must wait until next week *sigh*

  2. Thank you Marie for sharing your story with us. I find myself a touch impatient for next week. I'm already drooling for some vikings :)
    he he


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