Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Vikings are back in Week 11/Chapter 11 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!

Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 11/chapter 11 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 HEREchapter 7 HERE
chapter 8 HEREchapter 9 HERE, chapter 10 HERE

Ireland four years previously

Sean MacRonan thrived on being a trader.  He sailed from Dubh Linn, to the hot, dry lands of Byzantium, the crossroads of East and West, to the cold bustling port of Hedeby, up and down the rivers of Europe. He earned his coin by trade and trickery, deals and deception. There was always ways to cheat an extra scrap of silver out of the transactions. There were always suspicions around him, but none could confirm his underhandedness.  Besides, Lorcan, his man, fought all battles on his behalf.  Sean’s sire had taught him well, but had become fat and complacent; two years ago when he was a score in age his father had been found with a blade in his heart, the hilt of the dagger removed. No evidence of his killer was left behind. Peter MacRonan had so many enemies it would have been impossible to identify a single suspect.  Since that time, Sean had taken more mercenaries into his hall, men who asked no questions and expected their coin.
Slouching on the dais, he eyed the interaction between Alfhilde and the boy, barely a young man, envy and jealousy eating at him like lye. The fosterling was distinctive in features, with his auburn hair, tall frame and eyes as stormy grey as the north sea, and it was evident that Alfhilde favoured him in her teachings publicly and in the hall, and privately in her chamber. A sharp pain seized his hand, as he looked down and saw the trickle of blood caused by his fingernails puncturing his flesh.
Alfhilde had lain with Sean’s father many times and neither had made a secret of their casual union. It was Peter who arranged his son’s first encounter as an untried youth, and Alfhilde was willing to lie with him. The fact that she enjoyed young blood was well known.   He had taken her to his furs many times since then. Her home on the Shetland Jarlshof had become a familiar stop over the past number of summers, and he was welcomed with open arms, and legs. Other women were not as willing in bed-sport as Alfhilde. But today, Alfhilde only had time for the man-boy Kristr Halsrason, and he would eventually rid the world of his rival.
 Roisin woke up, the feel of Kristr's even breathing warm and reassuring on her neck. Her cheeks pinked as she thought of the previous eve, and how Marthe had left her bound and helpless on the bed for Kristr. Perhaps this was a Norse tradition, but more likely the actions of a playful younger sister used to getting her own way. Without wakening Kristr, she tried to move onto her side, her muscles stiff from unfamiliar use. Propped up on her elbow, she studied the man before her.  She watched his ribcage rise and fall, and finally allowed her fingers to lightly dance down his body, over his muscular chest, tracing over the blue outline of his tattoo, down the fine trail of hair to his navel, stopping as she saw his shaft, rising again. She held her breath as she watched, as if it had a life of its own.
'Curious, Sweetling?' Kristr opened one eye and looked up at her, smirking at her stunned expression. 'I trust you slept well, as I did.' He followed her gaze to his now near fully erect cock, saluting them proudly. 'It is the effect you have on me in the morning. Or afternoon. Or evening.’ He reached up and tugged her half-done braid, her black hair wispy and fuzzy from the lovemaking of the previous eve.
She clamped her hands over her face, peeking out between her fingers, 'I slept well, considering, considering I'm such a hussy!' How could she face Marthe today? Or Ciara? Or Gertrude?  What would her mother, Breda, have thought of her actions?
Chuckling softly, he prised her fingers from her face, 'Maybe, but you are my wanton hussy. I could have you warm my furs every day and night.' Mesmerised by the unfamiliar view in front of her, she continued to stare; in the cool morning light he looked even bigger than the night before. He rolled over to kiss her, and she giggled, as she feigned an innocent struggle, before returning his embrace. 'Come here, little sweet,' he pulled her back onto the bed as he gave a mock growl, 'I need to feel my little hussy, my greedy little sea-cow, again.' She laughed in outrage, then in approval, thinking of his first insults that he threw at her when they were on the boat; now the harsh words had taken on an endearing nature.  He paused, 'Are you sure you wish to continue?  You might feel a little tender this morn.'
'I am fine. Mayhap I am a little sore, but nothing that some more lovemaking with a fine Nordic Viking cannot remedy.'  Roisin could not believe the words that she was uttering, but she longed to feel the myriad of sensations again, upon her body and within her soul.
Giving a squeal of delight that Marthe would have been proud of, he tugged her ankles, sliding her down the bed. Kneeling between her thighs, he licked his lips. 'Now let me apply some of my salve to your poor tender skin!’
She must have fallen asleep again.  Roisin woke up to the sounds of Kristr shuffling about the hall. She looked at the tell tale sign of her purity on the silky sealskin fur that was now folded neatly on the chest. She blushed and groaned in embarrassment when she realised it was he who had tidied the chamber, and that he would have seen the drops of blood, ruining the pelt.
Kristr smiled as she peeked out from behind the leather curtain separating the bed chamber from the hall.  Even after all that they had shared, she was still shy about her nudity, and although he thought it endearing, he was looking forward to seeing her naked form again.  It was his turn to care for her.  There was a ready supply of logs, and the fire was well stoked and now blazed and crackled in the hearth.  Although it was not exceptionally cold outside, the heat was necessary to take any chill off the air.  He had drawn a tub of warm water, the steam rising in curls to the ceiling. For breakfast, he had prepared a trencher of bread, cheese and ham which was sitting on the bench along with a jug of buttermilk.
'Come, let me care for you, lest Marthe return and demand to carry out the duty whilst she questions you on our activities of yester-eve!' Holding her hands, Kristr helped her sit down into the tub, allowing the warm water to lap and ebb. Taking a cloth, he rubbed her skin in soft gentle circles, his eyes never leaving contact with hers. He cupped the warm water in his hands as he rinsed her body, washing away her virginal life, cleansing her of her own perceived sin of wantonness.
Carefully wrapping her in a soft clean linen sheet, he led Roisin back to the chamber, and laid her on the bed. A sensuous aroma filled the air when a small vial of oil was uncorked. Kristr smiled when she inhaled deeply.  The scent would be unfamiliar to her. 'This is oil of rose, from Babylon,' he whispered, as he anointed her pale skin, massaging her tender muscles, worshipping her external beauty with his hand and eyes, her internal grace with his heart and soul. She may be his hostage in the eyes of both Irish and Norse law, but he was imprisoned to her now in love. No amount of silver would meet that ransom.
Only after he had felt he had come some way into treating her as the goddess she was to him, did he help her into her under-dress and kirtle, and return with her to the main hall where they could finally break their fast. He watched intently as she cut the food up in to small pieces, and taking a morsel of bread and ham and a small chunk of cheese, he allowed her to feed him, slowly, lovingly, taking the same care in giving him his meal as he had just lavished on her.
The sensuousness silence was broken by the now-familiar squeal of Marthe as she bounced down the hall. Swinging Roisin in her arms she put her down as she gave Kristr a long look. 'Oh do tell! Did you? Did you?' looking from Kristr to Roisin to Kristr she squealed again. 'You did! I'm going to have a sister!' She playfully punched her brother's shoulder, 'And, if I can manage Erik, soon I shall have two sisters!'
'Marthe!' Kristr called in exasperation 'You have meddled enough! Leave us be, you silly girl lest I find you a husband, should there be a poor man fool enough to marry you!' Marthe gave a mock pout. 'Stop spoiling my fun! I have been waiting so long to see you happy!'
The quiet bubble of their lovers' time was now well and truly burst, as reality came flooding back to Roisin. There were no regrets from her time with Kristr, but there may be some awkward conversations ahead, as her time on the steading was still marked as that of a hostage.
'We shall have to face your father and Jarl eventually, Kristr.'
'I know. I am surprised that my father has not already arrived here. I am quite sure Marthe has informed the entire steading.' He loved his sister dearly, but her exuberance and enthusiasm for life would try the patience of even the hermit monks from Ireland.
Roisin decided it was time that she followed Ciara's lead, and take part in the running of the steading. She was not sure what her standing would be. Ciara was accepting of her concubine status here. Was she one now too? What would the Christian priest at St Aonghus think of her ruination?  She was not even sure if she cared. The Halsrason steading may as well be on the moon, she was so far from home.
She stood up. 'I shall ask Gertrude what I can do. I'm a very good seamstress, and on Dun-na-Shee I wove some of the finest cloth within four leagues,' the pride evident on her face.
'Maybe you were, and I am quite sure Gertrude will be delighted to have your skills put to use, but today I would like to start teaching you how to use a dagger. It will give you some defence against raiders and marauders.'
She paled. Marauders? Did these Vikings raid each other? Sensing her fear, he smoothed his finger over the worry-wrinkles on her forehead. 'Shhh, no lines. It is a very rare occurrence, but all men and women should have at least the means to protect themselves enough to flee to safety.'
Looking into his eyes, her mind flashed to their first encounter and the blazing fury they held that day, were now twinkling silver. 'Would a dagger have stopped you?'
Pausing, he considered her words, 'Nei, it would not have stopped.  I had been taught weapons skill from I was five summers old, and I was determined to thwart MacRonan.’ His actions that day still sent a cold chill through his heart.  ‘Roisin, tell me this, what would have been your choice, to fight and fail and know you did everything in your power to protect yourself?  Or would you have chosen not to fight at all, and surrender in anger and frustration at your lack of skill?' He knew could not argue with that.  He remembered the fear and fury within her eyes on that day.  She had no control over her own life, not even the control to defend herself. Decisions in her life had been made by men. As a man, he was able to offer her a choice.
‘You know, my mother had been trained to use a weapon by her father, my Grandfather.’ Roisin sighed.  Conall, her father told her how kind, gentle and wise Breda had been, but it was Diarmuid, Conall’s best man, that kept her huntress-mother’s memory alive.  ‘But the night that she was murdered she had left the rath without a dagger.  It was the middle of the night when she was called to help birth a babe. The mother and infant survived, but she was ambushed on the way back to Dun-na-shee.’
‘Well, if your mother had half the courage and beauty that you possess, your father was indeed a lucky man.’  Kristr added under his breath, ‘as am I.’
 Kristr found his father with the blacksmith, assisting the giant smithy as he sweated and pounded on a white hot lump of metal, the clanging loud and abrasive on his ears after the calming morning he had experienced with Roisin. 'May I speak with you Fadir?'
Kerik pulled off the heavy leather apron protecting his tunic and skin from the heat. 'I believe you have some news to share with me, my son.' Kristr rolled his eyes. Marthe. There were no secrets on the steading when she was in residence.  He loved his sister dearly, but when she went back to Merksfjeld, the farmsteads on Halsrafjord would be a lot quieter.
'Ja, Fadir. It is true.' He needed say no more.
‘Under our Norse law, she is still your hostage. What are your intentions?' Kerik had to remind his son that surrendering the ransom price was not an option. He would never be respected as a merchant again, despite how noble the action may have been presumed. 'I have not changed my mind from our previous discussions. You may take her to see her father, but without a payment of silver, she must return here until four seasons have passed. Then, and only then when she becomes your property rather than your hostage, can you free her, and take her as your concubine or wife.' Kristr scowled, but his father was Jarl and Kerik’s word was law on his land. His father’s terms were harsh, but it was Kristr who had set the original plan in motion, not his sire.
'What status may she have on the steading, Fadir?'
'Her status remains that of your hostage. She will be cared for, and protected, but she will not have the rights that Ciara now enjoys.' It was not easy to treat his beloved second son in this way, given that he himself had brought an Irish woman into his own life a score and three years ago. For his son's sake, Kerik sincerely hoped that the silver would not be sourced by Roisin's menfolk. 
Roisin found Ciara in the kitchen again, not breadmaking this time, but learning from Gertrude how to prepare the stew for the natmal, grinning in delight each time she said the correct Norse word for an ingredient. She called to her friend, and both women looked up from their chopping. Ciara dropped her cutting knife and ran to her friend.
'Have I heard correctly?' Ciara giggled as Roisin blushed. Her language skills were developing much faster than Roisin's and she had a fairly good understanding of the conversations between Marthe and Kristr the night before.
'Aye, 'tis true. I suppose I am a woman now.'
'We are both women.' Ciara smiled shyly at Roisin. After hearing of Marthe's antics, she had taken it upon herself to throw caution to the wind and herself at Erik the previous eve. And, because their news had not yet reached Marthe's ears, her and Erik’s bed play was not the talk of the steading. Ciara hugged in a long embrace, lost in their thoughts of her previous life.
'What of Brian and your agreement?' Ciara sighed. It was never her agreement, or Brian's for that matter. It was an arrangement made when they were children. 'I do not know. But I love Brian like a brother. I hope he will understand. He has the right to meet a woman who will love him as a husband.'
Their chattering was interrupted by a soft coughing from Gertrude. She stroked each girl's cheek, murmuring softly in her own language. Roisin turned to Ciara, and whispered 'What does she say?'
Ciara looked up at Gertrude, her eyes shining with joy. 'Dottir. She calls us Daughter.'
Gertrude's other daughter ran into the kitchen, wide-eyed and breathless, almost tripping over her skirts in her excitement. 'There's a ship coming through the fjord, it has been sighted by Knottr and Erik, but the sail does not bear Norse colours!'
Roisin did not know whether her heart leapt or her stomach sank. What of her and Kristr?  

Thanks go to:  E. Paterson for the Viking painting


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.

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

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