Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Vikings are back in Week 5/Chapter 5 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!


Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 5/chapter 5 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 & chapter 4 HERE


Thanks for the painting are given to E Patterson

Chapter 5

Erik listened as he heard the door creak open, slam shut and his brother’s stomping footsteps echoing down the hall.  In the dim light, he watched as Kristr took up a space on one of the sleeping platforms that lined the long room.

Smiling to himself, Erik said nothing. At least this voyage, Kristr had not lain with Alfhilde. His younger brother was very much his own man, who meticulously planned his life and his voyages. Even plans had alternate plans. Judging from the heavy footsteps, the growling and angry tossing of the bedfurs, his plan with Roisin had only been considered with one outcome. Silver. The dainty Irish woman was getting under his brother's skin and it was just what he needed to release the hold of Alfhilde. 

Erik did not see himself as a complicated man. His own life had been mapped out for him, just in a different way to that of his brother.  Whereas Kristr’s education had been through fosterage, his own was through his parents and senior members of the steading.  From a young age Erik knew what his position in life was going to be, and was taught farming practices, Norse law and leadership.   When he grew into  a young man he started to enjoy the company of women, but none were suitable for the role of Jarl’s wife, and he expected his father to make a match for him when the time came, but he still had a few seasons of carousing in him yet.  That was until he saw the tall, blonde beauty splashing in the water with her tiny dark-haired friend.  His father may not allow him to marry an Irish woman, but Erik would be proud to have her as his concubine.   He would not take her unwillingly, but from the beaming smiles that she cast his way, he believed the feeling mutual.  It was just a matter of ensuring that her Christian practices and beliefs did not get in the way.  

The tossing and grunting continued. 'I know you are awake, Erik.' Kristr spoke in Gaelic so as not to share his business with the hall, and numerous male foster children of Alfhilde. 'I do not want to hear it whatever barb is caught in your gullet.'



'Little brother, it is good that you have come to your senses.' Erik said no more, and Kristr rolled onto his side and stared into the embers of the long hearth, thinking of green eyes, pink lips and long black braids.  At this stage he wondered if his own determination for revenge had impaired his normal good judgement.  Capturing men and women for slaves was a way of life in Viking society, but claiming a free woman for the unpaid debts of another, was a questionable action.  Either way, she was his responsibility now.  He may return her to her father, but he knew in his heart that to hand her over to the treacherous MacRonan would be nigh on impossible.

Photo thanks to unknownswilly.org




oooOOOooo

Roisin and Ciara were awakened with the general noise and hubbub of morning, the
guttural sounds of Norse carrying clearly through the air. She rattled the door, but they were still under lock and key. Cuddling back up to Ciara, Roisin took a deep breath, preparing the question in her mind, the answer to which she was not sure she wanted to know.

‘Are you having feelings for Erik, Ciara?’

'He his handsome, I will grant you that.' Ciara smiled to herself.  Roisin was not quite sure what to make of her foster sister’s demeanour.  Since she had become a young woman, Ciara had never discussed a man in this way.  She continued,  ‘Joseph is handsome too, but he does not make my skin tingle when he is nearby, nor does he look at me the way that Erik does.’  It was obvious to Roisin, that Ciara knew in her heart that for any happiness in her life, a marriage to Joseph was no longer a choice. Both Conall and Ciara’s own father would be displeased. But to see these budding emotions in the quiet, stoic Ciara, locked away for four winters, since her original betrothal was announced, could no longer be contained.

'If he takes you to his furs, will you go willingly?'

Another smile. 'Aye, I believe I will.'  Ciara’s honest response, may have startled Roisin, but she was very clear in her own mind.

She sat up from the sleeping bench and folded the furs neatly.  Roisin was pacing again by the door, and Ciara understood her impatience, although perhaps not for the same reason.  Three days ago she would never have dreamt of disobeying her father, brother, or Conall, let along mentioned giving her maidenhood to a man who was not her husband.   She had resigned herself to her fate; born a chieftain’s daughter, taken into fosterage, grow from a girl into a young woman with the onset of puberty, marry a chieftain‘s son and bear him children, continuing the cycle.   But three days ago she would never have dreamt that they would be taken by force from their home for another man‘s crimes.  The blonde Viking with the smiling eyes had not harmed her in any way, and had never looked at her with lust.  Speaking in halting Gaelic made his scant words as rich as a fíle, or poet, when he addressed her.  She was full of new emotions, and as it was happening, Ciara could not and would not stop them.



The bolt scraped back and Roisin lurched forward into the doorway, eager to see what was happening outside. She moved too fast and the blood rushed from her head leaving her dizzy and seeing stars. An arm curled around her waist, and she turned her head, finally focusing on the grey eyes, the low Spring sun dancing on the riotous mess of auburn waves, turning it into a flaming crown. She gave a small sigh when she thought how vibrant the colour and texture seemed to be compared to the lank stringy hair of MacRonan. She immediately chastised herself and tried to wrench free.

Returning the stare, he cocked his head, 'Do you like what you see?' He steadied her, resting his hands on her shoulders, gently pinching the dull material between his thumb and forefinger. 'Now that you are clean, I like what I see, but the garments of a thrall are not becoming.' 

Ruth came in and laid a trencher on the bench. Releasing her from his hold, he guided her over to the trestle. ‘Eat. The bread is fresh and the bacon, eggs and cheese will provide sustenance for the journey.' His eyebrow arched as he continued 'I know now how sour you become when you are hungry, and I'd just as soon have the final three days of our journey begin with you in a pleasant disposition.'

Stabbing at the meat with an eating knife she glared at him. 'You gave your word that you would not harm us, but now you have us dressed as slaves. Has MacRonan taken so much from you that you would in turn take so much from us?' She shoved the food into her mouth, taking her anger out on the viands as she chewed furiously.
'Easy, little piglet. You'll choke.' His eyes narrowed. 'I have taken nothing of worth from you.  At least not yet, and that will depend on your men folk.   And I did not say you were a slave, merely that you are dressed like one. Alfhilde provided you with clean clothing for you to finish your journey. She was obviously in league with Loki himself to come up with something so ugly for someone so comely.'

Roisin blushed. This cold north air must be addling her brain. He handed her a dark green cloak, its fine woollen weave a contradiction to the brown linen sack she currently wore. He fastened it about her neck with a silver brooch.  'This is mine. It will keep you warm as we sail north.' She nodded her thanks and fingered the soft fabric and followed him out of the hut.



As the boat pushed off the bank, Roisin took a final look at her surroundings.  Silently staring  back towards the Jarlshof settlement, she observed  that Alfhilde had not come to bid them farewell, but had stood at the door of the main hall, twirling a dagger in her hand, her expression grim.  It was the direct opposite to her simpering behaviour the previous afternoon when they had arrived.  The older woman hand been clinging to Kristr like briar, and this morning she looked like she desired his death, and the icy stare made Roisin shiver.  Whatever had transpired between the two had not ended on pleasant terms.

Roisin recalled that Kristr had suggested three more days, and they would be on his land.  With each stroke of the oar they were further away from home.  Their next stop would probably be their last.  Would her father even know where to find them?  Ciara gave her a nudge, a reassuring smile and a hug.  For once she was turning to Ciara for comfort, rather than the other way around.  Not only did her foster sister not appear to fear the Norsemen, she actively enjoyed the company of one in particular.  If she went to Erik’s bed furs, the ruination of her maidenhood would prevent a respectable marriage when she got home; at this stage she could not be sure that Ciara would return home.

Photo thanks to unknownswilly.org


OooOOOooo


In the three days since Johan Flynn left Kristr, Erik and the terrified girls, he had been busy. He knew no harm would come to the hostages, but, as with everything he saw both sides and understood their fear. Anyone who lived on the coast feared Viking raids; the bloodthirsty actions of the Norsemen were well-documented.  However, what was less commonly shared was the fact that the majority of Vikings were sailors, traders, explorers, with no interest in destroying the settlements they visited.  Johan had known Kristr since he was a young angry boy arriving at Alfhilde’s steading. As Kristr's senior by three summers, Johan had become a friend and mentor to him, his natural good humour and patience matched evenly to Kristr's anger and temper. Alfhilde may have been a firm disciplinarian in her role as foster mother, but she was able to see the talent in the young men in her care, and Johan was no exception. She taught him to hide in plain sight, to be seen by all, to disguise his identity and accent, and helped him develop a network of contacts that would get him out of any difficulty. Most importantly, she taught him how to elicit information from his conversations without the threat of torture. He was known by everyone but at the same time known by none. It was best that way.

In an ale house on the harbour of Dubh Linn, he met with one of the docksmen. Handing him a pouch of silver, he advised, 'I expect Sean MacRonan to reach port in the next day, when he does, you will know where to find me.' The squat stocky man nodded as Johan continued, 'The other group may be more difficult to identify. They will be from the far north of this island, from Donegal. It will be their broad speech and dialect of Gaelic that marks them as visitors to the settlement. If I am correct, allow three days before expecting them.'   Emptying the silver into his hand, examining the coins, and handing the small pouch back to Johan, he grunted in agreement. Johan pulled the overlarge cowl of his cloak over his head and slipped off between the timber buildings.

 Photo thanks to unknownswilly.org


oooOOOooo

Kristr was right, thought Roisin. Despite the bright sunshine, the air was cold, and she shivered.  She had never been on the open sea before.  He playfully tugged her braid. 'Cold, little piglet? Or scared? You should not feel either.' He pulled her close, and vigorously rubbed her back. For a moment she felt safe against his broad chest, but tore herself away.

'I am neither. And why do you care? I'm only goods for trade, dressed as a thrall, you have sealed my fate.' She turned and stared out onto the horizon.

'Nei. You are not a thrall and will not be treated as one. There are no slaves on my father's homestead, and have not been for twenty three summers. There are only freedmen and women. My father is a fair man and a strong leader. In return for the protection of Kerik Halsrason, all work together and the steading of Halsrafjord is profitable.'

Confusion crossed her face. 'But what of all the raids, of capturing our people?'

'Ja. Those things are true. My father had taken slaves in his youth. But something happened many years ago that changed my father's opinion on owning thralls.' Roisin looked at him, expectantly; there had to be more to the story than one sentence.  'He had captured my mother as a slave, but fell in love. And it happened as quickly as between my brother and your sister.'  He gave a light chuckle as Roisin tutted to herself.

'You and Erik are not full brothers?' Roisin knew any resemblance in both nature and looks between the two was like night and day. Their only similarity was their height and stature.

'His mother was my father's concubine. She is now his wife, and has been for a long time.'

'But your father acted as husband to two wives? That is not the Christian way.'
He laughed. 'My father is not Christian. My mother was, and she gave me my name, Kristr. It is the Norse word for Christian.' Roisin was surprised at his revelation, but it explained how a heathen came by the name.

'Does she still live there in, Hasjar...?'

He corrected her struggle with the unfamiliar word.  ‘Halsarfjord. Nei, she is dead.’ His bluntness took her by surprise.  ‘She was killed when she returned to Ireland to go on a pilgrimage to Clonmacnoise, the Irish monastery, when I was eleven summers.'

'I am sorry to hear that. My own mother died when I was three winters old, so my memory of her is scant.'  Conall had told her of her strong, intelligent mother, speaking with pride of her skills with weapons.  Through Diarmuid’s stories she knew that her mother had been killed at the hands of an unknown assailant, whilst she was without weapons and helping another.  Breda would not have succumbed to this Viking so easily.  Would her mother be ashamed of her now, a daughter incapable of defence?  Or would her mother be proud that she had not crumbled into a sobbing maiden?  It would have been so good to have known her, to remember more than part of a lullaby at bed time.  Ciara did not even have that, her mother having died in childbirth.

Looking into her clear innocent green eyes, against his normal self-administered advice,  said 'Would you like to know the story?'

'If it is not too painful to tell.'

'Her name was Aisling, meaning ‘Dream’. She was small in stature like you, with flame red hair like mine.' He pulled on his short thick bunch of hair, as if to prove the point.

'My father had captured her on a raid, and had stolen her because of her distinct hair and beauty. She was so delicate in frame, she would have been useless as a field thrall. When he saw the bruises on her body, he knew that she had been beaten. By her husband.' He scowled. 'At least we have laws that allow a woman to divorce a man who is not fit to be her husband.'

'She must have been terrified to go from one abusive man to another.'

Kristr clenched his fists, and slowly unclenching them he continued. 'My father did not abuse her. He loved her. Raping defenceless women is not a badge of honour or evidence of prowess.’ Those berserks that carried out those actions in their bloodlust often regretted their actions when they finally took wives, or sired daughters, but young men in the heat of battle did not hear anything but the war cry around them.  ‘She was welcomed into my father's settlement, on Halsarfjord , as a freed woman, and within ten moons I was born. There are only four seasons between Erik and I and our mothers shared the childrearing.'   As far as Kristr was concerned, there was no point in trying to explain to Roisin the nuances of Norse life. To him, the confusion was evident on her face as she tried to make sense of their life at the steading. He continued, 'At eleven summers my mother wished to take me to Clonmacnoise, as a pilgrimage to her faith and that I may become a full member of her church. In our own Norse culture a boy is considered a man at ten-and-two years. My father accompanied us to Dubh Linn and then she and I left with a group of pilgrims, monks and nuns. No more than one day's travel from Dubh Linn we were ambushed by brigands. My mother kept whispering to me, ‘Run, Run! Run, Run!', but there was nowhere to do so, and I would not leave her. She pushed me behind her and I could only watch as a short fat masked beast singled her out and raised his sword. It was the last thing I remembered before wakening up at my father’s side. He said that three days had passed since the atrocity. She was the only one killed,'

'Did your father find the culprits?'  Even by the bloodthirsty standards of the lands outside Dubh Linn, an unprovoked attack such as this would demand retribution.

'Nei. And in my grief I rejected everything to do with the Christian faith. I could not reconcile with a God who would cause so much misery to so many people.' They sat in silence for a short while. He stood up and squeezed her hand.  'Thank you for listening to my tale. It a long time since I spoke of it, but I think of her every day.' Talking about Aisling always opened old wounds for him, and when he spoke of her, again he was that young boy.  Kristr knew he had to compose himself, and set his jaw firmly, as he turned on his heel and went to the rudder.  ’Knottr, I will take the steer now, go rest.’  He knew it was not yet his turn, but he needed to be alone. Knottr merely shrugged and helped himself to water from the barrel, before resting on his sea chest.

Roisin settled herself in the small tent, grateful for its shelter from the bracing wind as the boat skimmed over the waves. Her belly was heaving, not with seasickness, but with the story that Kristr had shared with her. Seeing her friend's pallor, Ciara gave her a hug, as she stood up to take her leave. 'I should like to say hello to Erik now.' Roisin smiled at her friend. Ciara's grin was always infectious and it was now an almost permanent feature on her beautiful face. The year as a hostage had seemed interminable, but as Roisin suspected Ciara would not be returning with her, these upcoming seasons would be so short.  She hoped that she would return to Donegal, but that would depend on her men-folk.

She mused on Kristr's statement on divorce in his own land. Her status in life was not much different to any woman in Ireland. She may have had fine clothes and comfort in the rath, but whether of noble or low birth, they were all the same, women to be married off to breed until they died from childbirth or exhaustion. Their station in life could be so casually decided by men. She thought of the old myths and legends, the warrior queens, the strong women with as many rights as men. Even her mother, with her skill as a huntress had more independence than she herself had.  Times had changed with the new faith; the priests and monks had control over the canon laws of the Church. The Brehon Laws of the ancestors were recorded in the texts, but were no longer used. Divorce was forbidden. Forgiveness and turning the other cheek may have been the mainstay of the faith, but there was not much protection against a woman who was wronged. The image of a young red-headed lad being protected by his mother as she saved his life haunted her mind.







Bio

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 6 HERE


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





2 comments:

  1. Oh boy oh boy!!
    :)
    I'll take Erik with a side of Kristr please!

    ReplyDelete

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