Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Vikings are back in Week 6/Chapter 6 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!

Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 6/chapter 6 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 HEREchapter 5 HERE

Chapter 6

From experience on the open sea, Johan knew that Kristr’s short dragonship would be nearing Scandinavia in the next number of days.  He missed the lands of the North, and looked forward to travelling there and reporting on what he had found.  True to his word, the burly docks-master had sent word that the first group had arrived in Dubh Linn the previous evening.

Johan studied his reflection in the highly polished silver plate. The person who looked back at him was no longer his quiet unassuming self.   He practiced his sneer, displaying his three blackened teeth.   His carefully considered movements would prove to be overbearing and over-dramatic.  He would have to work on the accent, his mother tongue of Gaelic too fluent for the part he would play, and his natural voice was too low to be credible in this disguise.  Another sneer in the in the shining plate, this time broken by a wide smile in perverse approval at his countenance.  The man others would see was not a pleasant view with excessive padding around his waist, his hair piled on his head, held in place with a sticky mixture of oils and resin. Although he was not short, the extravagant style added another hands-width to his height, and the false woolpack stomach contradicted any illusion of tall stature.  He pinched his nose and cheeks until they flushed red with burst blood vessels, the sign of a man who had taken too much wine; it was not attractive, but that was the point and his skin would heal eventually. The heavily embroidered purple tunic and saffron cloak finished the spectacle. Another day of practice and his trap could be set.


'Sean son-of-Ronan' Johan swept into the hall like a prince. 'I demand that you meet with me and settle my accounts from which your partner has absconded!'

MacRonan looked up from his trencher, picked his ear with his meat knife, and examined the contents between his fingers, 'I'm sure you are mistaken. I have no trading partners.' He stabbed the dagger between the grooves of the table.

Johan was not remotely intimidated. 'You lie! I know that you have traded with Kristr Halsrason and that Norseman has cheated me.' MacRonan made no eye contact, merely flicked the handle of the knife, causing it to reverberate. Johan continued, 'I spent seven moons travelling down the Volga to the Abbaside Caliphate! I did not do battle with barbarians and savages to have that half-bred Norseman steal from me!' Johan was enjoying himself. There was no way a man dressed and fattened such as he was would be able to wield anything larger than a drinking cup and a leg of pheasant, let alone a sword against the volatile Rus, one of the tribes along the Volga River.  The comedy of the act was dangerous, but Johan thrived on the deception.

'That was a far way to go.' MacRonan’s interest was finally piqued. The fine, richly dyed brocades and silks of this man's clothing made him curious as to his story, and he was envious as to where the fabric for the bright colourful garments were sourced. 'Before I speak with you further, Stranger, you already have my name. What is yours?'

Johan's natural ability as an actor was now in full flow. Alfhilde had taught him well..  She may have been a very strict foster mother, with many human flaws, but at times like this he appreciated her education.  'My name is Albert of Northumberland, I am a proud Saxon and I demand satisfaction of this slight to my name and my property.'

'You are mistaken. Halsrason is no friend of mine.' MacRonan summoned the serving girl and pointed to his cup. She filled his cup, and cried out softly as he slapped her hard on her rump, before casually dismissing her with a flick of his wrist. 

Johan winced as he glanced at the poor girl, but trying to ignore her pain he continued, 'So not only do you deny you know Halsrason, you deny me a cup of mead? Not three moons ago you and he were seen at the port in deep discussion. I have witnesses!'  Of course this was not true, but the embellishments were necessary, just like the hideous garments.

'You shriek like a wench in a tussle, Albert of Northumberland. Tell me, what do you claim he stole from you?'  MacRonan’s long black fingernail pointed towards Johan. 

'Garnets! Precious blood red stones from the Arabian Peninsula! It was my intention to use them for trade in Jorvik, but Kristr Halsrason looked at them, giving me the false intention of a willingness to purchase.  Instead he closed one meaty fist around the gems and struck me with the other.‘  Johan continued in his loud high-toned warble. 'This is all he failed to steal from me. ' He dropped three large stones onto the table. MacRonan would know their worth. It was expensive but worth the ruse. 'Twill be a small price to pay you with these if you help me wreak my revenge.'

'It seems that Halsrason has made enemies further than these islands. You have not been the first person to pay a visit to my hall this week.' MacRonan sneered.

Johan’s trap was closing. 'So Halsrason has cheated others? What did he take on them? Gold or Sapphires?' He paused for effect. 'Or spices?'

MacRonan gave a hollow laugh ’Neither of those things. Although I have stolen the very spices you speak of from him, and it was a pleasure to see his bloodied face after my man Lorcan was finished with him.  I will not rest until I have destroyed the bastard Halsrason and his father. Your stones and the payment from my other visitor will pay for mercenaries.' Snap. Johan's trap had closed. Now that he had the fool MacRonan in his trust, it was time for questions. And answers.

'So, MacRonan, what did Kristr Halsrason steal from them? Short of a long-boat load of pretty virgin bed thralls, I can't imagine what else would hold such high value.'

MacRonan sucked the mead off his moustache. 'Halsrason stole their pride.'

'What did your other visitor offer for the destruction of Halsrason?'

'Aha, they don't want Halsrason dead. They want to see his sorrow and destruction at the loss of his woman.'

'Halsrason's mother is dead, I believe she died when he was still a lad.' Johan held his calm.

'Oh I know. The beautiful Aisling died on a pilgrimage to Clonmacnoise.' MacRonan waved dismissively, as if shooing a fly. The use of her name and flippant actions did not go unnoticed by Johan. 'They aren't talking about his mother, the woman who ran from her husband into the arms of a Viking raider. They are talking about his new woman. Barely out of girlhood. A tiny little maiden with glass-green eyes and long black hair. The same woman he stole from me over the loss of his precious spice. And when I take her back, I will have at her before I pass her to my, ah, customer.'

Johan paled beneath his purpled skin, but smoothly queried, 'And what is their payment to you?'

'This.' MacRonan skidded a shiny object across the table. 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.' Johan bent over and picked it up. He had seen this piece before. A crushed gold necklace.  A gift from Kristr to Alfhilde.  He had finally rejected her, and obviously she had not taken his refusal well.


Erik poked his head into the tent. He softly cleared his throat, then again, a bit louder. Feeling a gentle nudge from her companion, Ciara, opened her eyes wide and beamed with delight when she saw his blonde head and wide smile.

'Ladies, I bring glad tidings. Today we shall arrive at our steading.' He spoke with his usual formality. Ciara's smile was there but as she looked over to Roisin, it faded slightly. She herself had never felt so relaxed in her life, but squeezing her sister's hand realised how hard this was for Roisin.  The monks and holy men had tried to discourage the old ways of the soothsayers and fortune tellers, but had failed to quash the old rituals completely.  Ciara now understood the control of the church and its attempts to subdue its people. It was not fairies or demons that the church feared; it was much more human qualities.  Love.  Free thought.  Independence. The basic principles of the faith were pure; it was their execution of those principles that led to conflict.  Erik had stirred emotions  previously unknown, deep within her soul, and pagan or not, she wanted to know his language, to eat his foods, to be with him. 

'Come out and look at the beautiful Scandinavian scenery.  Your own country is magnificent but mine is also a beauty to behold.' Erik offered a hand to each girl and pulling themselves up against his tensed arms, exited the tent.

Ciara was amazed.  She gasped when she saw the vision before her.   It was beautiful, and nothing like she had ever seen before. The deep channel through which they currently sailed felt as if it had been carved by the ancient gods themselves; the high cliffs, leading to green farmland in the distance.  Within a small number of deep breaths, she felt the creation of the three levels of the Norse worlds within her being, the branches of tree of Ygdrassil supporting and protecting her.

Startled from her daydream, she felt warm hands encircle her waist. 'Are you well?' She gave a relaxed sigh. 'You will be made welcome on my father's land. And after these four days on the open sea, you will appreciate the hospitality offered there. There is a lot more comfort there than on this boat.'


Roisin didn’t flinch when Kristr rubbed her shoulders, cupping his hands over their small curves. He was happy to drink in the lush landscape after days at sea.  He smiled when she sighed in appreciation at his touch. Throwing back his sharp words of nearly a sennight ago, she suddenly stiffened her frame. 'I must smell like a sea cow.'

He pulled her back against his chest. 'You do not smell now, and you did not then. I was angry and most rude.' Kristr had to concede that he had been horrid to her, but that was before he saw her spirit, her frustrations with life, and choices made for her.  He was his own man, free to sail, to trade, to fight and to seek revenge.

In effect, in his determination for justice, he had taken another choice from her, over the crimes of another person.  But, the action had been taken, and as part of his plan he had to carry out his threat. Kristr’s  was not used to his mind in such confusion, as he mused on the choice she would make when the time came for her to return to Donegal.  There was no doubt in his mind that, despite her protestations, her men folk would pay for her freedom.  Roisin was too intelligent and strong-willed to be sacrificed for a family’s paltry coffers.

'It is a beautiful country. Is it all like this?' Roisin first craned her neck, looking up at the sheer grey cliffs, topped with the warm blue-green tones of the fir trees, before peering over the edge of the boat looking into the clear depths of the water.

'Ja. Of course it is not all fjords, but sailing down them makes me feel like my homeland is welcoming me back to my homestead. My father Kerik Halsrason is Jarl, and Gertrude, his wife is the woman of the house. She is a fine Jarl's wife, and the mother of Erik.’  He jerked his head in the direction of his brother, who was deep in conversation with Ciara.

Roisin could not keep her silence. 'But how did your mother live as a second woman in the household?'  Not only had she grown up without a mother, her father Conall had never taken another wife, or even another woman to his bed.  The duties of the woman of the rath were carried out by Aine, Diarmuid’s wife.  It was through Aine that Roisin had learned her homemaking skills and through Diarmuid, the history of Breda, her mother. 

'Kristr continued, ‘When my father  brought my mother back to his homestead, she was so scared that her Irish husband would come after her, or that my father would give her back to him. Gertrude took care of her and protected her as if she were a sister.

‘Although she was my father's second woman, he loved both equally, and took neither to be his wife.  I know to your Christian sensibilities it seems wrong, but how you judge one society by another one's rules?'

He was right. To her mind it was wrong; she was brought up to believe that a marriage was between a man and a woman for life. That was before she realised how complicated and ugly life could be. Trying to change the conversation, she lightened her tone. 'Fjords. Fjords. Tis my second Norse word,'

'And what was the first?'

'Kristr. Christian. That was my first word.' She paused. 'Did you know that today was to be my wedding day?' She thought of her father and how believed he had made a good match. Whether she was agreeable or not, she would have been packed up now, her belongings and herself on the way to Dubh Linn to be with MacRonan.

'I knew your wedding feast would have been soon.'  Secretly he was glad that he had taken her before she had become a wife, sullied by MacRonan’s name and his body.

His soul felt black today, the memory of the twin pain of his mother's death and Roisin's abduction, in contrast to the twin beauties of Scandinavia and  the same Roisin of Dun-na-shee that were before him today. She may never forgive him, but he could try to provide her with some answers.

'I could not let MacRonan steal from me. He is corrupt, duplicitous and sneaky in the extreme. Now that I have met you I know he would have used one as exquisite as you. He would have shared your body with any trader who would have given him more coin.' Roisin gulped with fear and repulsion as she listened to Kristr's words. 'And now,' he whispered, 'I don't regret taking you from him.' He did not deserve her affections after his actions of the previous week, but to know that he had saved her from the claws of his sworn enemy gave him some comfort.

She turned from the grey cliffs to look up into his grey eyes. 'What will happen to us at your steading?'

He ran his hand through his hair before tracing his finger over the pattern of her braid. 'You will be safe, you will be cared for, you will be protected from marauders.' She snorted in disgust, pulling her plait from his fingers.

'That's what my father thought at Dun-na-shee, and look what happened there!'

She couldn't contain the bitterness in her voice. 'If you were going to take me hostage for another man's crimes, you could have least have let me say goodbye to my father. Until MacRonan arrives for the sham of a wedding, he will not know what has become of me.' Kristr could not argue with that. Hostage taking in Ireland had been in place since the dawn of time, and he had not obeyed the Irish rules, but he was not an Irishman. Any link to his mother's line ended when he was eleven summers old.

'The deed is done now, and each day may bring you closer to your father.'  He freed her from his hold, but not before giving the whisper of a kiss against her nape, the creamy white skin exposed by the thick black braid. 

She tried not to tremble. Each day brought her, not closer to her father, but closer to her fate, and now she was confused as to whether her fate laid with this handsome Viking, as Ciara’s would, or with her own in Ireland.

The cliffs slowly gave way to land, still a dull winter green and brown, but no less majestic. The pale green fields, speckled with tiny yellow and white blossoms,  were dotted with small tidy halls, similar to those on the Shetland Jarlshof.  There were men busy in the fields, stopping their ploughing just long enough to bellow barely heard greetings to the vessel, returned just as noisily by the men on the boat. In the distance she could see the crowd forming at the side of the water. As Kristr, Erik and the men readied the boat to dock, Roisin sought out Ciara, who could barely contain her joy at seeing Erik's homestead.

Roisin was in awe of the settlement; she could make out a number of long, low buildings similar, as well as barns and stables. The Halsrason homestead spoke of wealth, prosperity and security.

Erik disembarked first, followed by Kristr. As Knottr lowered Ciara into Erik's arms, and herself into Kristr's, the indication of ownership was not lost on Roisin. She looked around at the crowd, who were led by a giant of a man, and followed by a woman; her head was covered by a kerchief, and she was bearing two horns of ale. 

'Hej, Fadir,'  Using Norse, Erik greeted the brown haired man, his father, whose bushy beard was beginning to show strands of silver. He walked to the woman, who was obviously his mother by the features they shared. 'Madir,' he smiled as he took the horn of ale from her, before she passed the second to Kristr.

Roisin observed the ritual with interest. Kristr may have led the raid leading to her abduction, but here he was most definitely the second son. The blonde woman beamed with pride as only a mother could when looking at her children. She hugged Erik, spilling his ale. Kristr chuckled at the exchange, and drained his horn.

Kerik clasped his son's forearm, clapping him on the back he said 'By Thor, we shall feast tonight, my sons have arrived home, and justice has been done for MacRonan's dishonourable actions!'

Kristr looked at Erik and then at their father. 'It did not go quite as expected. MacRonan, true to his cheating nature, refused to give me my silver, so I took something much more precious in kind.' He nodded to the women, and as Erik walked over to lead them to his parents, Kerik's eyes narrowed. Roisin paled. She did not understand a word that had been said so far, but it did not take a scholar to know that Kerik was furious. Erik squeezed her hand, not looking at her; he only had eyes for Ciara, but she tried to calm her fears at his reassuring touch.

'Son, what is the meaning of this?' Kerik bellowed, ignoring his wife's cautionary hand on his arm. 'We do not deal in thralls! I shall not allow you to keep slaves on this steading!'

'Fadir, Roisin and Ciara are not thralls.' Kristr took Roisin's hand from Erik, and possessively put an arm around her. 

'Roisin was betrothed to MacRonan, due to marry him today, of all days. Her father was deceived by his coin and his promises to make an honourable husband.' He held his hand up asking his father to let him finish, as he continued with his tale, Erik nodding in agreement with Kristr's retelling. 'However, my problem is...' Erik interrupted with a cough, '... our problem is that we are not sure we ever want these women to go back to Ireland.'

'What of the ransom? You say MacRonan will not pay, but what if her father comes with coin?'

'If she chooses to go with her father, I will let her go. Until then I offer her my protection.'

'And what is your plan if her father does not arrive?' Kerik knew his son, and his dislike of unfinished business.

Kristr closed his eyes, trying to shut the decision out of his mind, 'Then I shall take her back to her father, after four seasons if she wishes it.'  Four seasons now seemed such a short time to persuade Roisin to stay with him.

Kerik pursed his lips, and addressing his other son, he said, 'and what of you, Jarl apparent? Do you give the same promise?

'I do not.' Erik smiled at Ciara, who shyly returned his gesture. 'I wish to take this maiden, Ciara of RathGorm as my bride.'  Kristr eyed his brother, unable to contain his smirk.  Erik certainly had been busy during his conversations with Ciara.

Erik's parents exchanged glances. At twenty four winters, nearly twenty five, he was not old, but as a Jarl should be seeking a mate. 'We shall talk of this further my son.'

Gertrude held out her hands to the women, gesturing that they should follow her. She pointed to herself. 'Gertrude.' Then touching each girl's cheek, 'Ki-ra, Rosh-een.' She took them to the bath house where, under Gertrude's direction, they were tended to by women of the steading.  Gertrude’s expert hands removed their plain garments, but rather than tutting in annoyance at their shyness, she paused before encouraging both young woman to continue undressing.

Roisin still blushed at being nude in front of others, but this time their gentle ministrations helped her to relax her tense muscles. Sitting in the tub, the cake of soap smelled of flowers, and the soft circling of the warm wet cloth over her skin eased her worried mind.  She still was not sure of what had happened between Kristr and his father, the tone of the language sounding abrasive, even when it was obvious they were happy. She sat quietly in the tub as her hair was rinsed with a fragrant water, and tangles carefully combed though. 

She was helped out of the bath, and wrapped in a linen drying sheet when Gertrude returned with some clothes. She helped Roisin to dress in a soft, clean, white undershift, and a green dress. She looked down at her new attire, rubbing the smooth spun wool between her fingers. It was much finer than what she had been dressed in by Alfhilde, and of a similar quality to that she could weave herself.   'Rosh-een.' Gertrude gently raised her chin with a finger and smiled. She added the last piece of Roisin's clothes, an apron dress, pinned into place with two silver brooches. As Gertrude and the women made sounds of approval, Roisin bit her lip and looked at the brooches.  They were solid silver with an intricate carving of a Celtic knot, one following a circular pattern, the other engraved with an elaborate representation of a Celtic cross the circle highlighted in yellowed enamel; the symbol of her faith. The pieces were exquisite, and were as fine as any she had seen before, but they were made of silver. It was a payment of silver that was keeping her here. Gertrude touched each brooch in turn. 'Kristr.' Roisin assumed it meant they were from him. Torn between the necessity of manners and acceptance of the gift against the symbol of her price to her father, Roisin shook her head. 'Nei.' Gertrude nodded. 'Ja.' Roisin had to concede. She was the stranger here, and her life depended on the goodwill of these people, who so far, had shown nothing but kindness.

She could not help but stifle a giggle when her sister appeared before her. Ciara twirled in her new outfit, again a woollen dress but in a pale blue, set off with a simple leather girdle.  The generous cut of the cloth afforded a graceful bell shape with each of Ciara’s exuberant spins.  With her blonde hair and tall frame, Ciara looked like she belonged.  After eighteen years, Ciara had found her home.


Kerik led his sons to the main hall. Kristr felt like a boy of eight again. 'Well, do you care to explain your plans further, my sons?' Kristr may have felt like a boy, but on studying his son, Kerik felt like time had turned back twenty four summers for himself, when he had first taken Grainne.

With his father dead, he had gone a-Viking with some of his distant relatives, from Merksfjeld, further down the coast.  As a new Jarl, he had lands to defend and a reputation to create.   His intention had been to raid the monastery at Glendalough, just outside the new-formed settlement of Dubh Linn, and plunder the Christian churches; gold for his coffers, and slaves for Halsrafjord.  Any extra human cargo could be sold at Rika or Hedeby for silver,

His bloodlust had faded almost instantly when he had found her crouching behind the church. Her silver-grey eyes, unique in their colour against the red-gold of her hair were filled with terror.  He remembered how she was shivering in fear, shaking her head, willing him to leave her.  She was small, compared to women from the north, but her features, despite the tear stained cheeks were entrancing.  This woman would be useless as a field thrall, but would serve his needs on his bed furs.  When he had taken her wrists to bind her, she had cried out in pain.  On seeing the bruises and welts on her arms, his heart had melted and rather than capture her, all wanted to do was rescue this beautiful woman and ease her pain. He crooned in her ear as he scooped her up in his arms. She did not fight him, but at least she had stopped trembling. He would never let another man hurt such a prize again. That was until he had agreed to her Christian pilgrimage to Ireland, when his world was split apart.

'With your permission, Fadir, I should like Roisin to live in my hall.' I will give her a chamber of her own. I will not take her to bed unless she is willing.

Kristr scratched his beard. 'Is she willing?'

'Nei, not at the moment. Fadir, I will not force her. You know I have more coin stored under the ground and below the sea bed to last three lifetimes. This started as a means to teach MacRonan a lesson, and my plan did not go as I expected. I did not expect Roisin to be the proud, strong maiden that she is.'

Turning to his eldest son and heir, 'Well Erik. Tell me of your intention. Does your intended bride come to you willingly?'

'She does. She was with Roisin when we found her. I am as guilty as my brother in the kidnapping of these women, but when I laid eyes on her, I knew I wanted her. She is betrothed to Roisin's brother, but it is not a love match.'

'If she is betrothed to another, I will not permit you to marry her until the four seasons have passed.' When Erik moved to protest, Kerik cut him short. 'I am Jarl, and until the terms of the ransom demand are complete, you may not wed. However, if she is willing, and only if she is willing, you may take her as your woman.'

'As you wish Fadir.'

Gertrude led Roisin and Ciara into the hall. Standing to greet them, Kristr smiled in pride. 'You look beautiful.' He took her hands and planted a chaste kiss on her cheek.

'Thank you for the brooches,' Roisin tried desperately not to sound so formal, but in the unfamiliar clothes she did not feel herself. 'Can you please thank Gertrude for me, and ask her what chores I may do to earn my keep? We cannot stay here without contributing to the steading.'  Despite Kristr’s assurance that they would not be thralls, to offer help as a guest may keep her in the family’s good graces.

'You will not be working today, as I wish to show you to my hall, but I shall talk with Gertrude and we can come to an arrangement.'

Taking their leave, Kristr walked Roisin to his hall. 'I am the second son, but I like having my own privacy, and during times of feasting, 'tis good to have somewhere else to be.' Roisin's cheeks reddened, believing he was talking about coupling. When they entered from the bright light, it took Roisin's eyes time to adjust to the dark.  Like the larger hall, there were no windows, save for a number of holes in the roof.  The hearth was around half the length of the hall, and ran lengthways through the centre, sunken into the ground.  Currently there was a small fire burning in it, warming the still-cool Spring air.  The walls were sparsely decorated with wooden shields, and a huge canvas sail, with a stylised Viking boat depicted upon it, and the floor was scattered with sweet smelling heather and rushes.  There were a number of benches pushed against the walls; within Kerik’s building, they would be used as sleeping areas for the paid servants and visitors, but in Kristr’s hall, they appeared to be only used as seating.

Kristr led her to one side of the hall, and drew back a  heavy cowskin curtain, and directed her into the chamber. There was a bed, piled with furs, a simple oak chest and a fish-oil lamp, which he set alight with a taper from the hearth. 'This will be your chamber. I will be on the other side of the wall to you. Now, that I have spoken with my father, and received his permission to host you within my building, I need to bathe and dress for tonight's feast.' Kissing her cheek again, he took his leave.

Watching him leave the hall, she touched her cheek where he had planted the delicate kiss, and brought her fingers to her lips. She looked out into the hall, her chamber, her clothes and fell on the bed, sobbing with emotions that had been closed off for the past week.

Thanks for the painting are given to E Patterson
Thanks for photos given
aqwis - wikimedia commons


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 7 HERE

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


  1. YES!!! Nuff said :)
    Thank you for another great addition this week Maria!

  2. Thank you so much for hosting me!


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