Wednesday, May 1, 2013

~The Vikings are back in Week 3/chapter 3 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!~

Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 3/chapter 3 of  Maria MacAuley's Silver & Spice. Now we present to you another portion of a very exciting, romantic and all-around great story.  We will be posting a chapter for you to enjoy each week until the story's end. We are looking forward to 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!
View Prologue and first chapter HERE & chapter 2 HERE

Chapter 3
The heat of a man’s breath against her cheek startled her awake. 'Hush. Let your companion sleep.' A finger pressed softly against her lips, leaving a faint taste of sea salt.  She stilled in fear as her hands were taken in a light grip, and the knife sliced through the leather thong, her wrists still within his grasp. Dropping his dagger Kristr gently rubbed the raised flesh with his thumb, circling the narrow purpling welts, encouraging the circulation to return. 'I would not have bound you so tightly if I had known you were so defenceless, with not even an eating knife in your possession.'
'Mayhap you would not have bound me at all!' Roisin hissed in outrage. She was angry, at Kristr for stealing her, at MacRonan for using her, at her father for over-protecting her.  Conall, in wanting to protect his daughter from the harsh aspects of life, had effectively sealed her fate in becoming nothing more than a helpless maiden. An ability to work a loom or sew a kirtle were qualities in a good wife, but were not much of a defence against an attacker. She stared straight up at the dun-brown leather ceiling above her head, the material snapping and rippling lightly against the wind. She wanted to ignore Kristr as he continued his gentle massage of her hands and wrists, relief at being free but dread at the truth that she was anything but.
'I had assumed that any man who lets his precious goods out of view would have had the foresight to ensure his goods had adequate protection.' He arched his brow, his voice taunting, 'especially given the marriage transaction that was due to take place between the goods, namely you, and MacRonan before the new moon'.
'I am not goods, nor chattel, nor property.' her voice trembling but rising, making Ciara stir. She wished with all her heart she believed her words. His cold assessment of her woman’s lot in life may have been but a few short sentences, but the content chilled her heart. Finally finding some courage, with the only weapon she had at her disposal, her tongue, she hissed, 'But you, you …  brute of a Viking, are a kidnapper, a marauder, a berserker, a beast and no man of noble deed. Stop torturing me with your false gestures of care.'
With a low growl, he released her hands.  Roisin’s arms, numb from being in the same position so long, fell limply to her sides.  ‘Think whatever you want, little Roisin, but you...  you are now my property, my war prize, my hostage until one of the menfolk in your life decide that you are worth the silver.’  His voice was uncompromising in its tone, before curiously softening to a whisper, ‘I would certainly pay what you are worth.’  Turning away from him onto her side she snorted in disgust at his words, and, with a an exasperated sigh, he left her to her thoughts.


Earlier that same morning, Conall of Dun na Shee had made his daily visit to Breda, his wife. Sitting down, he lifted her prayer beads in his hand, worrying each tiny leather nub as he spoke. 'Breda, Roisin will marry soon.' He paused. 'You know that. Forgive me my absentmindedness, my love. MacRonan may seem a little ostenatious for our precious child, but I believe he will be kind and keep her from harm.' Tracing the shape of the tiny silver crucifix with his forefinger, he continued talking to Breda. 'She has your beauty, and generous nature, but she doesn't accept she is becoming a woman to be loved and protected. She deserves to be cherished and respected.' He went back to idly rubbing the little beads on the worn Rosary. 'I will see you on the morrow. MacRonan is expected soon.' The lack of response did not perturb Conall. In fact if there had been a reply he would have been astounded. Bending over, he plucked a stray weed from the side of the grave, stood up, crossed himself and walked slowly back to the rath.
With the Christmas past, Breda had been dead for fourteen winters. She was taken from him when she was only three-and-twenty years; much too young to leave this world. Conall had been in love since he first laid eyes on her.  He had impudently shouted words of encouragement to the young Breda as her father, Seamus of Cillnasaggart bested her in mock battle. The stocky barrel of a man had taught his slip of a daughter to use a bow and arrow, and was currently educating her in the use of a sword. She was no ordinary chieftain’s daughter, and Conall was besotted.
He was but seventeen summers old himself, an untried youth and even in this first flush of love he knew the affections he displayed for Breda would be his last. That he was to be a chieftain himself was not enough for Seamus.  It had taken five years for Conall to prove himself on cattle raids in the nearby provinces and trading missions to far-off shores before Seamus would take his intentions seriously.
After they wed, he continued to love and nurture Breda's independent spirit, her skill with her bow and her willingness to help others.  When she birthed Roisin, Conall imagined teaching his infant daughter all that her mother knew. She would be taught accuracy with a bow, dexterity with a dagger, to be kind and firm and willing to help those in need.  She would grow up to be the wife of a chieftain, educated, travelled, wise.   Conall, having both a wife and daughter to indulge and love, was a contented man. When he eyed the gentle sway of Breda’s sweet bottom, her fluid grace as she walked through the rath, he hoped that the noise of many more children would fill the hall of Dun na Shee.

Conall’s plans for his little black-haired daughter ended the night Breda went to tend to one of the women in labour.  The labouring mother was a member of the shepherd’s family, who lived outside the ramparts of the rath.  The mother and babe had survived the night, thanks to Breda’s skill,  but she herself was found the next morning, bruises surrounding her throat and her pallor as grey as the sky above. Keening in rage and grief, Conall vowed that his three year old daughter would never be left alone to fend for herself.  He prided himself on the gentle daughter that Roisin had become; the influence of the stoic Ciara keeping her natural independent nature in check.  Every time he looked at Roisin, he saw Breda at that age, with her liveliness and mischievousness barely concealed. He wished he could let his daughter live like his wife had done, but his worries had become too great as the years progressed.  Now he had made a match for her in a wealthy older man who promised faithfully to keep her safe. 
When the midday meal had come and gone, Conall still had no sign of Roisin or Ciara. They had promised they would not go further than one hundred paces of the ramparts. 'Fergus! Diarmuid!' Conall bellowed for his two most trusted warriors. The men came running, their chieftain's voice echoing around the walls of the hall. 'My daughters have not come back from their walk this morning. We must go and find them.'  He was furious that he had let his guard down, listening to Roisin and her pleadings that she needed to discuss 'womanly things about married life’ with Ciara. Silly girls! When he found them he'd have them scrubbing floors, repairing tunics and cleaning the hearths until their respective new husbands came and took the troublemakers off his hands. He stopped and tried to breathe, his anger fleeting now, worry taking its place.

Choosing horseback, the three men followed the footprints, two lines of crushed blades of grass, to the stream. The trail continued to the woods, with no evidence of a return journey. Conall paled, any fury completely displaced by the horrors he expected to see. Dismounting, he handed his reins to Fergus and strode into the woods, sword drawn.  


Fergus looked at the receding form of his chieftain, and then to the uneasy expression on Diarmuid’s face.  On hearing an inhuman howling piercing the silence, they tore into the trees to find their chieftain hunched over a cloak, a parchment and a Viking blade.  Despite his earlier animalistic cry, Conall was now silent.  For a warrior who had seen death and destruction on loud battlefields, the deathly silence of his chieftain, enduring this loss, was unnerving.
Seeing the menacing evidence left behind, Fergus knew there had to be more to report, signalling to Diarmuid, both men had the presence of mind to act, the silence unbroken. Conall as a chieftain was a kind, wise man, a thinker who was not afraid to make decisions. Conall as a distraught father acted just as they would have done, should they have suffered the loss of a child.   Fergus squinted through the shadow of the woods, the trail of what looked like three people on foot.
‘Diarmuid, if you ride back with our chieftain, I shall follow the trail.’  The three trails of footprints concerned Fergus, especially as one set looked as if they were dragging their feet.  If he was correct, at least one girl was being carried, and the other was resistant.  He shuddered to think what had become of them; Roisin may have been betrothed outside of the clan, but her bloodline still flowed from Dun na Shee.
Galloping blindly back to the rath with Conall, the church bells were rung to raise the alarm but Diarmuid knew it was too late. No ship had been sighted, no strangers seen. Knowing his chieftain would not survive the journey without killing himself, the horse or both, Diarmuid volunteered to ride and inform both Brian of Dun na Shee, and the true-father of Ciara.

Reading and re-reading the terse scratched sentences Conall shook his head, his eyes blurring with red mist.
MacRonan took from me.
I took from him.
Six pounds of silver within four seasons.
He cursed himself for his short-sightedness, for trusting MacRonan, for believing him to be honourable to his word, and a suitable match for his daughter. He could not be trusted to protect her, and he had not even sailed into the lough yet to claim her as his wife. As far as Conall was concerned, when MacRonan arrived, the match would be annulled, if he did not drive a sword through his black heart first. He would sooner see his daughter live out her days as a spinster at the hearth of the rath, than be a pawn in this man's treachery, his careless selfish actions impacting on Roisin’s life. Conall bellowed in outrage, remembering that he had invited the beast to Dun na Shee early, so that Roisin and he could become better acquainted, and ease his precious daughter’s fears.  His judgement failed; hers had not.


When Brian arrived back with Diarmuid, the hall of Dun na Shee was in complete disarray. Chairs were overturned, linens ripped asunder, broken trenchers lay on the floor. The destruction in Conall's rage was obvious, but now he sat slumped on a bench, silent.  Slowly approaching the only father he had ever known, Brian removed his mantle and gently tugged the stabbed parchment from his father’s grasp. He fingered the slice through the words, reading the short text. The language was Irish, but the hand-script did not flow in gentle curves like their own alphabet.  Handing it to Diarmuid, who read it with an equally grim expression, 'MacRonan will pay for this travesty against our family.' Brian did not know whose life he valued more. He loved both girls as sisters, but just as Ciara had expressed to Roisin, he had no romantic feelings to her a wife. They had never discussed it themselves, the unspoken agreement between them that this was a union of land, not of hearts, duty to the soil greater than duty to themselves.
Examining the Norse runes on the dagger, for once wishing he could read the jagged angular letters, Brian stabbed the dagger into the table, its hilt reverberating with the force of the blow. 'When do you expect to see MacRonan, father?'
'Within the next morning, perhaps the following day.' Conall swallowed. The Vikings would be well on their way to the dark pagan north by that time, their fast ships gliding along the west coast of Albion, heading north. Or, depending on the tides passing Rathlin Island, they may simply make the shorter journey to the settlement of Dubh Linn.  Brian suspected it would be the former; if the Viking traders had indeed been double-crossed by MacRonan, they, and their treasures, would be sailing far from his greasy grasp.
Conall continued, ‘I had arranged with him to arrive some days before the marriage so that he could get to know his bride.' He put his head in his hands, the words choking in his throat as he said them.
Brian realised that with his father in this state, he would have to act as chieftain to the clan.  His decisions would be accepted and actioned; these lands and people would be his responsibility some day.  Calling the warriors together, along with every able bodied man who could wield a bow or sword, Brian laid out his plans for retribution. The discussion went on until near dawn. Fergus had reported the foot tracks through the wood, and the trail of two horses that led to the far side of the loch. No wonder they had not been seen; it was not expected that any boat would sail in that channel, the water considered too shallow, but not for Norse flat-hulled ships.
Brian stood up and gave his decision to the assembled men. His message, like the ransom note left in the woods, was plain and simple.  MacRonan would not set foot on Dun na Shee land.
By daybreak, Brian, with the help of Fergus and Diarmuid, had organised a camp by the lough.  MacRonan’s ship would be expected to dock there. Although exhausted physically and mentally, there he would confront MacRonan and challenge him to single combat. With Roisin and Ciara’s disappearance, there had been enough loss of life on their land. No blood may have been shed, but without proof that his sisters lived, Brian would avenge their abduction.  Brian would fight MacRonan one-on-one. He was not going to leave the camp until he had the deceitful traitor in his sights and MacRonan’s blood on his hands.
Brian did not see MacRonan as much of a challenge in a fair contest. The one introduction they had had was not impressive. MacRonan’s wide girth spoke of good living and no battle training. At the time he wondered what his father had been thinking, listening to MacRonan's hollow words of honour and protection. But, Conall, in his single-mindedness to ensure Roisin’s safety, had ignored the more subtle flaws in MacRonan’s bearing.   Unless MacRonan planned to protect Roisin by keeping her a prisoner in his home, his fat unfit body would not provide any security or defence against thieves or pirates. However, today was not the day to upcast his old doubts to his father; the fine strong chieftain of yesterday was nothing but a hollow shell today.


Sitting in the darkness of the hall, the hearth unlit at his request, Conall appeared to age a score of years overnight.  The women of the rath clucked quietly in disapproval and worry.  In Ulster, an unlit hearth, dying embers left unattended, was considered a negative omen, a portent of death.  The fire had never been extinguished for a single night in the past three generations on the rath.  Brian’s heart felt as cold, rough and dead as the blackened ashes, spread below the unfilled iron cooking pot.  All he could see in his mind were three women in his life, the three he had lost, the three he had failed. Breda, his one true love, Roisin, his true-daughter and Ciara, his foster daughter whom he loved as though she were his own flesh.
There was not a long wait. MacRonan's ship had been spotted sailing into the lough, his colours flying from the mast as if he were a king returning from battle. The camp at the side of the lough proved to be no welcoming committee, cheering the victor home with the spoils of war. As the ship docked at the small wooden deck Brian drew his sword. 'Halt, MacRonan.' He looked up at his once future brother-by-marriage, bedecked in jewels and medallions fit for a queen. His appearance was that of a jongleur, changing his from man to woman to man, for the merriment of the audience. He wanted to vomit. 'Your betrothed has been taken hostage, along with my foster sister.'  Pausing, he took a deep breath to steady his rage. 'The ransom is six pounds of silver, and unless you wish to lose your life this morn, you will tell me what has happened, and how you intend to make right this wrong.'
Brian stared up at MacRonan, unfazed by the man’s wealth. 'I am an honest merchant! That Viking Kristr Halsrason is intent on destroying me. He wants nothing but my silver and gold, and will use any means to get it. Even ransom.' Brian’s eyes narrowed when MacHyde halted mid-speech, balking at his own words. It was evident from his grey sweaty face that MacHyde realised he had said too much.
Brian shouted as loud as he could manage, his normally smooth olive skin now purple and mottled with rage, ‘I did not state they were captured by Viking, you brigand! What makes you say that it was this man who has taken my sister? Why would you throw a name around so freely if you did not have a quarrel with him?’ Giving the clan battle cry, he yelled at his enemy, 'disembark now so that I can run you through, you snivelling excuse of a man! I'll cut off your ballsack and throw it to the sea, along with your tainted silver, and your worthless corpulent body can follow both to a watery grave!'

MacRonan gave a signal to his men to turn.  He had no intention of letting the younger, fitter man best him in combat.  Ideally he would and to send in his man, Lorcan on his behalf.  Lorcan fought all his battles, but today’s circumstances would result in himself and all his crew losing their lives at the hands of the two-score assembly of Dun na Shee men. He could not, however, resist a final insult.  'I think I shall take my leave this day. Perhaps Halsrason and his Viking brothers will return your womenfolk with a Norse bastard in their wombs. If so, my offer for your ruined sister still stands. Or Ciara, your own betrothed.’ He shrugged. ‘It matters not to me.'

With this final insult Brian's temper exploded. He ran to climb the side of the ship hacking viciously at the timbers, as the oarsmen started to row furiously. His actions caused little damage. 'Unleash the arrows!' he yelled, but it was too late. The ship was retreating down the lough at such a speed, the weapons would not cause any harm to either ship or crew. 'We must follow! I want him dead!'
Grabbing him by the shoulders Fergus, his cold even tone freezing Brian to the spot, 'It will be done. Not today. Not on the morrow. Even if your sisters do not survive this ordeal, their deaths will be avenged. As my future chieftain, you have my oath.'


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 4 HERE

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


  1. i love vikings and this sounds so good, wish maria all the best with it

    1. Awe. That's so awesome of you Julie!! Be sure to come back each Wednesday for the rest ;)
      I've had a sneak peek and REALLY enjoyed it!

  2. Thank you so much for reading, and for your comments! Who doesn't love a big beasty Norseman ;)

  3. I come from a long line of axe swinging barbarian types... and I have enjoyed reading your story immensely. :D

    1. Wow! Maabraham, I am so pleased you are enjoying it, and a huge thanks to AR for hosting me

    2. Always a pleasure to have you and your vikings here :)


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