Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Vikings are back in Week 4/Chapter 4 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!

Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 4/chapter 4 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 chapter 1 HERE, chapter 2 HERE & chapter 3 HERE

Thanks for the painting are given to E Patterson

Dun na Shee was a flurry of activity as preparations were underway to set sail to Dubh Linn. Tempers frayed over who should make the journey, with each man stating his case to the others. Both Brian and Conall wanted to make the journey, but with Brian's moods swinging from heated temper to icy calm, in each scenario providing MacRonan with a slow painful death, it was finally agreed that Conall would travel with Fergus and Diarmuid. Conall hid his relief at his son's reluctant agreement to stay. With the horror unleashed the previous day, and the loss of one child, Conall did not want to lose another. In addition, it had not gone unnoticed by Conall that Brian wanted to find his sisters, not sister. Perhaps the union he had planned would not be blessed with strong sons and daughters; if there was no romantic love between the pair it did not bode well for a strong marriage and a large family.

One of the smaller vessels was prepared, a currach.  Its size meant  that it could travel close to the coastline  and sailing within the calmer waters would make for a much faster journey for the three men, rather than riding overland with horses. There would be minimal supplies needed for such a short journey and Conall prayed that someone in Dubh Linn may have heard of Kristr Halsrason  or Sean MacRonan.

Roisin was woken with a start, the shouting from outside the little tent jolting her back to reality. Ciara was already sitting up, hugging her knees, rocking in time with the swaying boat. Roisin rubbed her eyes, sat up and out of habit, tucked the stray wisps of hair behind Ciara's ears. It was not going to make Ciara any tidier, her long hair matted from the tossing and turning of the previous day. She gave Roisin a small smile, and she returned the simple gesture with a hug, grateful that they still had each other for now.

The flap of the tent opened, and Erik stooped in, his tall frame swamping any space. 'Good morn, ladies, I hope you enjoyed your slumber.' Roisin rolled her eyes, and tutted loudly. She found his speech pattern preposterous, but assumed it was the language barrier.  Perhaps in his own land they talked like that, overly verbose like in the Greek and Roman dramas.  Erik smiled at Ciara, eyes crinkling in genuine affection. Roisin studied the two; Ciara merely gave a shy half-smile,  but it was obvious she didn't fear Erik. Realisation of what she witnessed left her stunned. If love really could strike, Eros was more mischievous than the fairy folk of time before St Patrick. Brian had never looked at Ciara like that, the talk of a union of land overriding everything else. To see Ciara smile at Erik, this genuine but small smile, her with a small touch of envy.  As far as she was concerned, to fall in love was an emotion that she probably now would never know.

Rosin crawled past Erik through the entrance of the tent, squinting in the harsh daylight, the sun reflecting and bouncing off the rolling waves. The sail was up and the boat was moving swiftly through the water. She stared up in awe at the huge piece of fabric billowing over her head.  As a skilled weaver she was impressed by the size of the red and white striped cloth and how efficiently it harnessed the wind.  These Vikings can capture anything, even the very air around them, she thought.  Further on down the ship only half of the dozen or so men on board were actively involved in work, but the others were busy with their own activities. One man was sharpening blades on a small whetstone, another pair were playing a game that looked similar to fidchell, or draughts, and three more were fast asleep in fur-lined sleeping sacks.  The man she recognised as Knottr, was at the very back of the ship, his eyes fixed on the horizon, steering the boat. Like the other men, he barely gave Roisin a glance, merely making eye contact and returning to their duties.  


Kristr closely watched his hostage as she crouched out of the tent and straightened herself to her full height, taking a few tentative steps onto the deck.  On tip-toes she would not even reach his shoulder. MacRonan really had negotiated a fine trinket for his arm in taking Roisin of Dun na Shee as a bride.  He shook his head in dismay when he realised that he would sail around the country too, if all the women in Donegal and Inishowen were like that.  A cold clear voice cut through his thoughts.

'We need to wash and relieve ourselves,' Her tone made it sound more of an order than a request. Her rudeness was appalling, but he would not forego his payment by losing his temper,  throwing her overboard or mistreating her.

'You do not give the orders here, Roisin,' Kristr looked over at her. Touching the thin leather strip that hung from his belt,  'Do I have to punish you to remind you of your place here?' He grabbed her wrist as she went to strike him in outrage. 'Oh, no, sweet Roisin, it will not be like that.' He jerked his thumb to the small space beyond the tent. You will find a bucket there in which to perform your ablutions.  Failing that, you can lift your kirtle and hang over the edge like the rest of the crew.’ He smirked when she paled at the thought.  ‘And as for washing, you will have to wait until we get to the Jarlshof . Keeping his hold on her wrist he held her close.  Watching as her cheeks reddened in embarrassment , he gently pressed his nose into her hair, inhaling her sweet scent, but masking it with a loud sniff. 'You smell like Irish mud and seaweed, and much as I hate MacRonan, I don't want to lose any value on my silver by failing to maintain your comeliness to a tolerable level.'

Her deep green eyes bored deep into his soul.  'With smooth words like that, I am hardly surprised that you have to capture women to have them near you,’ she retorted. 'Perhaps you should spend some of silver on lining that tongue of yours?'
'And perhaps you should spend more time considering your fate and less on my bed sport.' He chastised himself for his bawdy words. An innocent maid barely out of girlhood should not yet know what pleasures could be had with the act of coupling. He jerked her hand and pointed back to the pot.

'I... I, we, can't go there.' There is no privacy!' He turned his back.
'I have no desire to watch, and neither do my men. You could be naked as the day you were born and they would not look at you in curiousity, never mind ravish you, any more than they would try to ravish a sow rooting in the earth. You belong to me, until such times as MacRonan pays my silver.' He was furious at the exchange.  No wonder he was not fit to be around women as a mate. Did he just compare her to a female pig? Kristr's eloquence and negotiation skills in were well known in Jorvik, Hedeby and Miklagaard, the exotic city in Byzantium, but battling wits and barbs with this woman was making him look and feel a fool.

He left her to consider her options.  He did not care to watch her relieve herself. The water barrel was at the helm, by the tiller.  The smirks from Knottr was evidence enough that they had heard the exchange; a light punch to his shoulder only made Knottr laugh out loud.  For a man of few words, his actions expressed his emotions tenfold.
Kristr scooped a little water into his hand, and tossing the contents over his taciturn friend, ‘I am glad I have provided such a source of mirth to you, this day.’ 

He then dipped a wooden bowl into the clear water, and returned to the sullen Roisin.  'Now you may wash your face and hands.'  She accepted his offering with a modicum of grace.  This woman was not making his life, or hers, easy.   He idly wondered what her mother was like, to issue such a strong-willed woman from her loins.

Kristr watched as Erik stepped out of the tent, holding out one hand to Ciara, helping her negotiate the deck surface undulating with the waves, and shielding her eyes from the watery low sun with the other. For a fleeting moment Kristr envied his brother his capability for compassion, listening in to their conversation, 'I am sorry that there is not much privacy here, Ciara, but if you can forgive the conditions, I promise that you will be well cared for at our father's steading.' He left Ciara alone, and went to a battered chest beside the tiller, where the food was kept. Food!  He scolded himself inwardly that he had not thought of providing a meal, and this woman was so stubborn, she would not have asked.  He was so distracted that he did not think to inquire.


Roisin licked her lips as she saw Erik come back with some honeyed berries, flat bread and dried fish. She sat down, grateful for the food, that he handed her. Having sustenance in her stomach made her feel so much better.  With a little sustenance, her confidence returned, an she finally took a long assessment of the monster who had ripped them from their lives on Dun na Shee.  It was strange;  in the cold clear light of day he did not seem quite so menacing.  He was tall, not overly broad, but through the finely woven linen tunic he wore, the toned muscles were evident.  His hair, so confusingly Irish in colour,  just tickled the base of his neck, and was so thick it looked to be in a battle of wills with the thong that held it in place.  Unlike a number of men on the boat, his face was not scarred from battle, save for a small slice on his cheek; it looked so old, it may have been from one of his first battles as a boy. His voice was much more relaxed when he talked and chatted with the men on board, and it was obvious to all that he led the expedition. She still did not understand the accent, but when he was not growling or ordering her about, the sounds were less grating on her ears.   She blushed and when she realised he was aware of her ongoing assessment.

‘Curious, Roisin?’
She shrugged, dismissing his question.  ‘Where is Jarlshof?'

On the Shetland Isles. I have a very good friend there and any family member of the Halsrason Jarl is welcome when they pass on their travels.’

'You are a Jarl?'  That made sense, he was the leader on the ship.

'Nei, our father is Jarl. Erik will be the next Jarl.'

‘And you are the second son?’

'Aren't you a nosy little sow today? For the first time Kristr's eyes showed mirth in her direction.

'If I'm to be your prisoner, perhaps you'll treat me as the chieftain's daughter I am.  Perhaps if we can be civil with one another my time as your captive will pass much faster for me.'

'I should feed you more often if it improves your disposition so much.' He walked his fingers along her arm, from her shoulder. 'You could do with a few more meals.' His fingers paused on her wrist, the red marks fading. 'And not prisoner,' he corrected, 'goods to be traded.' He silently cursed himself, when she winced at his words. So how long had she known MacRonan, of the fat belly and the greasy hair?  Had she taken him for a lover?  Kristr could not bear to think of his rank breath as he had brushed his lips against her cheek, his sweaty palms as he took her hand to kiss it, his slobbering mustache spreading his disease ridden spittle over her unblemished skin.

'Do you love him?'

'Who? My father? Of course.' Roisin hoped that he didn't mean MacRonan; there was no love in a match made without her consent, and now she was cursed to spend a year under another man’s control.  And all this in the hope that the men folk of Dun na Shee could gather enough silver to make this man happy. If MacRonan displayed such treachery to another merchant, she knew that he'd not see her worth anything that would cost him his coin, or his miserable selfish life.

'How much?'
Kristr looked at her 'How much what?'

How much to return me to my father?

'Your father? Not your beloved?'  There may be some hope for this woman after all; the first man in her life was still her father. He gave a low involuntary chuckle and was met with a dark green stare.

 ‘Twelve markur of silver.’ Obviously recognising  her confusion at the unfamiliar measurement, he continued, ‘Six pounds weight.’  Using his dagger, he dragged a pattern lightly onto the boards of the deck. 'It is equal to two ingots of this size. I will accept one from your father, for each of you. I believe Erik will pay Ciara's ransom, if necessary. He seems smitten with her, and he does have a year's grace, does he not?' Roisin ignored him, and tried not to think of the horrendously expensive price he had placed on her head, or what it would mean for her if Conall could not pay.  It would take four summers for her father to gather that amount of silver; the Viking raid of the previous years  had left them with little coin in their coffers.  MacRonan must have cheated him out of a great value if that was the amount of silver he wanted in return.

 'What did he steal from you?'

'Cardamom, Cinnamon and Saffron, amongst other things.’

'What are they?'
'Spices, from the Euphrates, in the city of Mikegaard. They are used in medicines and cooking and they are most expensive and precious.'  He cupped her shoulders, circling the muscles, mirth twinkling from his expression.   'Like you.' Roisin rolled her eyes in disgust at his humour. 'They come in tiny packages and have to be stored carefully. Like you. Or, they lose their potency. Most unlike you.’   He stopped suddenly, eyes darkening again, ‘And don't roll your eyes like that or I shall toss you over my knee and remind you who is in charge on this craft.’ 

She hoped he was jesting, but flushed with embarrassment. Fergus always complained that Conall had been overly indolent  as a disciplinarian.  She might enjoy wriggling on his lap.  Roisin could not understand why she wanted to be close to him, to feel his presence around her. Was the sea air addling her mind? Had she partaken in mead? She tried to focus.  Men should not make her feel like this, especially  sour-tongued giants from the icy north. 

She tried to change the subject. 'I have heard of Miklagaard, but I have never seen any of the wonders that are said to come from there. It must be so far far away.'

'Ja. The journey there and back takes six moons, but it is a very profitable voyage.' Suddenly, Kristr longed to see her there, draped in flowing silks, showing her the different foods sweet, spicy, and warming. He wanted to expose her mind and senses to the variety of life, languages and peoples that were outside her Donegal kingdom. He looked over the simple measurements of silver he had scored into the timbers. Taking an interest in this woman was not part of his plan.

'How long before we reach Jarlshof?'

'With a fair wind today and tonight, we will be there tomorrow morning. We are moving fast along the coast of Albion. You will have had two full days and nights with me. Your year with me will slip by, a sunset at a time.' He sounded almost wistful.

Kristr was conflicted between stopping at Shetland or continuing home. He was tired, and the verbal sparring with his tiny captive had left his cock twitching. Alfhilde would be there, warm and welcoming and compliant to his needs. He may have teased Roisin about vigorous loveplay, but with Alfhilde it left him satisfied. Since his mother's death as a small boy he hated the tender touch of most women.  For him, a woman’s body could be appreciated and caressed, when necessary,  to please a partner, but any touch that was remotely sensuous returned to him was met with rejection.  Coupling was a way to relieve stress, to clear his mind.   Alfhilde understood this reluctance within him, and did not force the issue. He hated himself at times. Most men loved the caress of a woman and he had heard enough salty ballads and tavern talk to make it clear he needed something different. Roisin was no tall broad shouldered Norsewoman; she would never meet his needs.


The Isle of Shetland was in sight, and the collection of buildings that comprised Jarlshof. To Roisin they looked so different to Dun na Shee. Rather than a timber ring fort, protected by huge turf ramparts, these buildings were long rectangles, made of a dry stone foundation, and the sod on the roof made them almost disappear into the landscape.  There were at least a score of buildings, of different sizes; Jarlshof was clearly a profitable land.

The boat docked at the short pier; the men jumped out of the ship to pull it higher onto the bank. Kristr picked Roisin up, and handed her down into Knottr's waiting arms, followed by Ciara. A small group, mostly of young men, approached to greet the travelers.  They were led by a statuesque blonde haired woman who walked slowly down the path, a horn of ale in each hand. To Roisin, her age appeared to be nearly two score, but she did not wear the kerchief of a married woman upon her head.
Erik, Kristr.' She handed the men the brimming horns. ‘Welcome to my homestead.’ Her voice faded into a whisper. Roisin's eyes narrowed as she watched the woman approach Kristr, her voice husky with intent. Why did she feel jealous towards this handsome woman nearly twice her own age?

She scowled as she watched the Valkryie take Kristr's hands in hers, and continue talking to him as she and Ciara were invisible.  'Come, you will feast with my little fosterlings and I tonight.'

'Alfhilde, we are not alone. We have two women on board.' Alfhilde looked in the direction of Roisin and Ciara, who were standing to the side, under the close scrutiny of Knottr.

'Since when have the Halsrason men started trading in thralls again? The black haired one is so tiny, but the other is passable.' She gave a empty chuckle. 'You have taken a thrall for your bed too Erik? Have you finally coupled with every married woman on the coast?' Erik glared in disgust. 'I jest, Erik, there are new brides wed every day.’ Alfhilde waved dismissively, ’I'll have your thralls washed and appropriately dressed too. There is room for them near the dairy.'

'Nei. They are not thralls. Hostages. MacRonan has cheated me and this was his betrothed.  She is mine until her men folk pay for her.’

A hollow laugh met his statement, 'So, in effect, you have taken a thrall. MacRonan will not pay. She can't be healthy if her father was giving her to that foul beast.'   Alfhilde was no fool; she had met the likes of MacRonan before, and his sire, before that.  ‘Hold your temper, Kristr.‘  Alfhilde assumed his foul humour was rising over the denial of coin. He had become a handsome determined man, and she had trained him well.
'Ethel, Ruth, come here,' she summoned two thralls and pointed to Roisin and Ciara, 'Wash these little halflings and find them some clothing, although how you'll find anything small enough I don't know.' She offered Kristr her arm. 'Let us leave, we have so much to discuss since you were last here.'

Erik turned to Ciara and gave her hand a squeeze. He whispered in her ear, 'Later, my sweet.' She smiled, again.  It warmed Roisin’s heart to see Catherine smile, even if she herself felt it was misplaced.

Ruth and Ethel signaled to the women to follow them. They did not speak the same language, muttering in Saxon or Norse.  Entering one of the smaller huts, Roisin's eyes adjusted slowly to the light inside.  She looked in horror at the metal collars that were fastened about the womens’ necks.  Her skin turned cold; it was what she had heard about the Vikings in Dubh Linn and their treatment of slaves.  Touching her own neck, she tried not to tremble at what her future might hold. Kristr had promised four seasons, she hoped he would be true to his word, even if MacRonan was not.

The long single room was sunken, a long hearth in the middle of the room. There were lit bowls of fish oil, flames casting ominous shadows with their glow.

Ruth started to comb Roisin's hair, complaining loudly and incomprehensibly at the tatted mess. She motioned to her to remove her grubby kirtle. Reluctantly Roisin did so, but tugged it back on as she saw four men come in with large basins of water. Standing by the fire, the woman, pulled her clothing from her, sighed, and pointed to an empty basin. 'Standa hedra'. Ruth started vigorously scrubbing her, pouring the lukewarm water over her tingling skin. Ciara stood shivering in her shift until Ruth had finished with Roisin. Ethel rubbed her down with a linen cloth,  and although cold she was glad to be clean, whilst the process was repeated for Ciara.

Of course the clothes they were given were much too long. Sighing again and muttering, Ethel cut a length off the bottom, and used the strip of fabric to make a makeshift girdle. The brown woven fabric was not particularly coarse on her skin, but was not as soft as the woolen kirtle she had been wearing. She went to grab her own simple garments, but was stopped by Ethel, who threw them into the grey washing water, and left the hut. She returned with a trencher of food for Roisin and Ciara to share. 'Eta.' That wasn't too far from their own word of "ith".

Before the servants took their leave, locking the door behind them, Ciara queried of  Ruth, 'Erik?'

'Swet haus.' Roisin heard the door bolt, and they were alone now, the strange smelling fish-oil lamp casting ominous shadows of Viking trolls who lurked in the corners of the room.

In the sweat lodge, Erik threw more water on the hot stones, breathing in the warm air and studying the little beads of sweat forming between the hair on his arms. 'What do you see in that woman, Kristr?'

Kristr had fostered with Alfhilde from his twelfth summer. She only fostered boys, not yet young men, as was still evident by the group that had met them off the boat. The youths that came under her care were well treated and educated, but under Alfhilde's strict hand a chosen few were selected for additional training. Kristr had spent many nights in Alfhilde’s chamber learning how to please a woman.   As the boy  grew into a man, he became the master of their relationship, and Alfhilde reveled in the focused  rich, determined merchant she had created.

'She fostered me when I was grieving. Whilst you were learning to be a Jarl’s son, Alfhilde taught me how to make my way in the world.'  Erik shrugged. Most second sons were fostered, but not all turned out like his brother. He scraped the sweat and grime off his skin and plunged into the cool barrel of water. He did not trust Alfhilde, and his brother, so normally calculating and controlled did not seem himself around her.

'I for one will be glad to be finish this voyage.' He pulled on a clean tunic and leggings and left Kristr to his thoughts in the warm damp air.

Roisin was startled by the sound of the bolt scraping back, and jumped when Erik stepped into the chamber. 'Well ladies, I hope you sleep well tonight. I shall see you in the morn'. He dropped a kiss on Ciara's forehead. 'I told you I would see you later, my sweet. Only a few more days before I can show you my home.' Ciara nodded, and gave a shy smile again. Roisin began to wonder if Ciara was seeing Erik's home as hers too.  She felt a touch envious that Kristr had not come to check on them.  So much for ensuring the safety of his precious goods, she mused.


Alfhilde prepared her chamber for Kristr's arrival. She had washed, dressed in nothing but scented oils,  and wearing nothing save for an exquisite gold torc about her neck,.  It had been a gift from Kristr, following his first successful trading mission along the Volga.  She arranged herself on the bed furs, no childbirth having marred her breasts or belly.

The door opened. Alfhilde's lips curled a smile in anticipation. 'Kristr,' she purred.  ‘Come, I am willing for you, take me for your own.'  She always enjoyed her trysts with her former fosterling.  He knew what touch she liked; she had taught him well.

'Alfhilde, forgive me. I cannot.'  He made to leave the room, the rebellious strands of  auburn hair dancing the candlelight.

She sat up in fury. 'Cannot or will not?'


Realisation dawned on Alfhilde.  ‘It is that thrall!  I saw how you looked at her!  That little small girl-woman will never satisfy a fine Norse man like you.  I saw how you looked at that lowly bed-slave!  What we have is more than sex. I made you!  I taught you' She rose from the bed, swinging her long legs out onto the ground, and rising to face Kristr.  'Is it because she is Irish? Does she remind you of your mother? Do you wish bedsport with your poor dead mother? '

Kristr turned and over Alfhilde, his eyes blazing, and face twisted in fury. 'This time you have gone too far. We shall be off Jarlshof by morning.' He pulled the golden jewelry from her neck and bent it in  half before casting it to the floor.  'We are no longer acquaintances, and never speak of my mother again.'
Alfhilde may have been a bed partner, but by mentioning his mother, she had broken the boundaries. 


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.

Bounce on over to chapter 5 HERE

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


  1. Thank you Maria for another AWESOME addition to Silver & Spice! I look forward to next week!!

  2. Thank you so much for hosting me, AR. I'm having so much fun with this!


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