Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Vikings are back in Week 15/Chapter 15 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!

Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 15/chapter 15 of  Maria MacAuley's Silver & Spice. There are only two more chapters after this one (pouts) 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 HERE, chapter 7 HERE
chapter 8 HEREchapter 9 HEREchapter 10 HEREchapter 11 HEREchapter 12 HEREchapter 13 HEREchapter 14 HERE

Chapter 15

Conall looked around the chaos of the rath.  He and Diarmuid had joined the other men in clearing up. Digging a shallow grave he buried the hounds that had been killed the night before.  Tine and Sioc, his two favourite dogs named Fire and Ice, were now lifeless in the ground.  It could have been much worse.  The larger livestock were on the back pasture where the boys normally played hurling, and were safe. With the exception of a couple of slaughtered chickens and month old lambs there was no other loss of life. Cleaning up the aftermath, Fergus was unusually quiet, but when Conall had questioned him, he merely shrugged and continued filling in the graves of the wolfhounds. The chieftain put it down to anger over the attack, and without any reason, did not question him further.  Conall had found it odd that Fergus had been unscathed during the raid, yet Diarmuid had a nasty gash in his arm and Patrick, his son, had been severely beaten.  Both would recover, and now was not the time to apportion blame.


The rain poured from the skies. All day, all night. All the following day. The wind chopped up the waters, the waves crashing down along the normally serene waters of the fjord. Roisin was anxious lest the time to sail would pass, and another moon and tide would go by before they could leave. She wanted to see her father, to tell him she missed him, but to tell him she was happy. She got up from bed, and went to fetch some water to wash her face and hands. She loved the Norse custom of regular washing, and this would suffice until the evening.
Still lying under the furs, Kristr watched her intently as she brushed her hair, the narrow white teeth of the comb moving smoothly through the dark black waves, her fluid expert motions the result of years of practice. Reaching behind, she separated her tresses into three, and started to braid. He sat up and moved behind her, taking the strands and continuing the plait, until the rope of hair ended just above her slender waist. Running his hands softly over her curves, he delighted in the sensuous feeling of her skin, and her sigh of appreciation to his touch, before she stepped away, opening the trunk and pulling out a green linen kirtle, the colour of her eyes.
'Will we leave tomorrow?' she asked, hope in her voice, as she dressed, carefully pinning the brooches of her apron dress into place, looking down, making sure they were straight. He smiled inwardly at her Nordic dress, and how beautiful she looked, clothed or not.
'It is unlikely, Sweetling. If the rain ceases today, then we may sail before the waning moon.' His voice was gruff, more so than was necessary. He was avoiding starting the journey, and he knew it. Johan had assured him that Conall did not have the silver, but holding Roisin to her word that she would return with him after all that they had shared would be so difficult. Tethering her and bringing her North once was unfair on an innocent party, to do it again would result in her hatred. He no longer cared about his honour as a trader and merchant. His honour as a man should be greater, and he would try to explain that to his father.
'All this rain reminds me of home,' she sighed. 'It can be tiresome, but without it, we do not have our fine green land.'
He could not disagree with her. The lands of Ulster, known in Gaelic as Uladh, were varied with their undulating gentle green slopes, majestic valleys, and purple heather topped hills, the coastline craggy and wild, the grey mists that blew in from the sea. On a rare clear day the lands of Albion could be seen to the East, to the west, it was ocean for days, weeks and months. It reminded him of home. He could make it his home.
The other provinces were so different. Connacht was barren and craggy, stark in its beauty. Few men had sailed there. Leinster was green and lush, the place where Dubh Linn was founded. Munster to very far south was rocky yet green, warm yet wet, an otherworldly place with high mountains and high tides, hardly accessible without crossing the rough boggy land of the centre of the island. For such a small place, the changes in landscape were extreme; no wonder the Irish never gave up belief in the fairy-folk, or the Sidhe, as they were called in Gaelic.


Stepping out of the dim light of the hall, they were greeted by a wide glorious rainbow, the sun was struggling to come out from behind the clouds, leaving the magical colours of the arch in the sky. Marthe came slowly towards them, picking her way daintily along the mucky path. Roisin laughed in amusement, slow and dainty were not words usually associated with Kristr's tall lively sister.
'Hej! Kristr und Roisin!' She sidestepped a brown pool of water, nearly landing in another one. 'The weather has changed, and I have to go to the woods to see what new plants the earth god Jord has left for me with the gift of his rain!' Obviously being confined to the hall for three days did not suit Marthe's personality and she was keen to be outside again.
'Marthe, I would love to go to the woods with you, but maybe we can wait another day for the earth to dry out a bit. I'm sure the gifts from nature will still be there tomorrow.' Roisin hoped that the gentle refusal would be understood. 'Perhaps instead you can show me some of your runes?' Ever since she had seen the angular shape on Kristr's breast, she had been fascinated by the symbols, so unlike the fluid letters of her own language. She had copied the rune as carefully as she could for her embroidery, but would need Marthe's assistance to know that it was right. Also, the day spent around the hall would give her a chance to pack her newly acquired belongings for the trip; her precious rose oil, needles and hair comb, as well as preparation of the food and ale for the crew.
Marthe seemed to be glad of any activity, and her noisy exuberant approval would waken the dead. She hugged Roisin, 'What a magnificent idea! I shall make sure Ciara joins us too!' She danced off, only managing to avoid half the puddles as she went in search of Ciara and Erik, not aware of Roisin's giggles.
'Your sister's attitude to life would bring a smile to the face of even the most sour old crone.' Roisin, squeezed Kristr's hand. 'I think her smile might be one of her most potent potions in her store of healing skills.'
Kristr followed his sister's movements until she had made it back to the hall, her calls for Ciara cutting through the quiet morning. 'Ja,' he grinned. ' I love her dearly, but I pity the poor man who takes her as a wife.' He did not believe that at all. His sister was coming of age, and there would be no shortage of suitors for the lively, intelligent, kindhearted Jarl's daughter. It would be a fortunate man who succeeded in wooing Marthe as well as her father, mother and brothers.
The following day was a perfect Spring day. The sea was calm, there was only a few wispy clouds in the sky and there was even a bit of warmth in the sun as it stretched its rays over the fjord. The torrential rain of the previous days was forgotten in the bright light of the morning. Shortly after the dagmal, Marthe, Ciara and Roisin left for the woods, with instructions from Kristr to keep to the path, and to be aware of boars. He had tucked her new sharpened dagger in its sheath, and fastened it on to her girdle. Marthe brought her basket to gather fresh herbs for her healing potions, and Ciara was keen to find some cloudberries; she had never tasted them before and Erik spoke longingly of the first tart fruits of Spring. Roisin packed her sewing into a little satchel. She could find a dry spot to sit and finish her embroidery whilst the other two foraged for their ingredients.
As they walked along, listening to Marthe and her stories, songs and mimickry of her menfolk, Roisin felt that if she was not training to be a healer, she would be known throughout the fjords as a skald and entertainer.
Marthe's mischievous side was not far under her skin. 'Tell me, Sisters,' she swung her basket casually from arm to arm, 'what is it like being with a man?' Roisin blushed crimson and Ciara giggled in amusement.
'We cannot talk about such things, Marthe,' Roisin chided. She did not want to start talking of Kristr and their bed play.  Her mind drifted to Kristr’s naked form, his body muscular from years of sailing and farming. She broke out of her reverie when Marthe's voice rang in her ears.
'But I am still virgin, and how will I know what is love?' Marthe pouted. 'I know nothing of the ways of the world, and now that I have found women for my brothers, I want to know what to expect! I'm not a child, and as my sisters you should tell me what I am to expect!' She threw her arms in the air in mock despair, her basket almost launched through the air. 'By the time I meet a suitable mate, Erik, Kristr and my father will have scared him so much, I shall be a maiden forever, with grey hair and stooped over a walking staff!'
Ciara put her arms around Marthe, 'Sister,' she said, proud of Marthe's acceptance of her, 'all I can tell you is that you will know when it is the right man for you.' Ciara knew that better than most. 'It will be most pleasurable to share yourself with a man you love, and who loves you.'
Marthe did not appear to be satisfied with the response, and continued her interrogation.  'But how can something that causes pain give pleasure?' Roisin blushed further, thinking of her recent evening spent wriggling on Kristr's lap, her audacious lust as she initiated further play. 'Why do your cheeks pinken so, Roisin?' queried Marthe. 'I thought there was only pain the first night.' Roisin opened her mouth and closed it again, the words would not form.
Finally she managed to compose herself and sputtered, 'It only hurts for a short time, but after that, it is pleasant.' For reassurance, she looked to Ciara, who nodded in agreement.
'Do not think your blushes will save you from further questions, Sisters!' Marthe laughed at the modesty of the pair, even after nearly a full moon on the steading with the Halsrason family. Shyness with nudity and flesh must be a Irish or a Christian custom. She would leave it for now.
They spent most of the day in and around the edges of the woods, Ciara and Marthe were busy digging roots and cutting plants. Roisin found a log, the space left by the fallen tree affording plenty of light to work on her sewing. She was so proud of her embroidery creation, a Norse pattern sewn with her new silver Norse needles. As the sun started to move down in the sky, she squinted at the light, and called to the others. 'Perhaps we should think about heading to the steading now.'
'But it will not be dark for ages yet,' Marthe was engrossed in carefully lifting a piece of lichen off a rock, 'and I have so many more places to look.'
'All the same, I think we should turn back. The light still fades fast in Spring here. We can come out tomorrow, if Kristr and I have not sailed.' Marthe scrunched her nose in disapproval but shrugged in acceptance. She called to Ciara and they picked up their baskets to head towards the steading, excitedly talking about what each had achieved that day.
'Oh no!' Roisin stopped in her tracks. 'My needles!' She had to go back for them, they were a precious gift from Gertrude. 'You two go on, I shall catch up with you before you know it.' She turned around and hastened back to her sewing spot, and the log on which she had sat. She picked up the little leather cylinder of needles, and prepared to fasten them to her brooch with their silver chain.
She thought the shadow of the sun was falling quickly over the trees, and she made her way back to the path, when the shadows moved and the long light caught the quivering leaves. That was peculiar. She started to walk briskly, then, her imagination getting the better of her, she started to run, when she tripped over a tree root. Wincing, as she got up, she realised she must have strained her ankle. Marthe would be able to help her when she got back to the hall. Unless it was a boar, she should be able to fend off a smaller animal like a fox. Perhaps it was just a rat. She pulled out her shiny sharpened dagger for protection, the metal just catching the last rays of light.  She scolded herself for letting the long shadows of the afternoon sun scare her.
That was until the shadow cast over her body. She turned around and lunged, hearing a man's voice howl in pain and outrage. 'Bitch!' The language was Irish. Another shadow came from the opposite direction and pushed her to the ground, one knee on her back, the other crushing upon her dagger arm, forcing her to release her weapon. She screamed as loudly as she could, but choked as the knee pressed harder on her back, pushing the air from her lungs. 'Hold her there, Lorcan. She shall not cause me further damage.' She tried to scream again. She knew that voice. He came closer to her, squatting on the ground as she lay prone before him. 'I see your lover has been teaching you well. He held up his arm, the gash evident on it, blood congealing in a sticky mass around the lurid saffron coloured fibres of the sleeve. You will pay for this.' His breath was rancid, and she resisted the urge to vomit. He ran a leather thong through his fingers, but rather than reaching for her hands, he pulled on her hair, binding the leather tightly halfway down the length of the braid before pulling out his own knife. 'Shall we leave your lover a present?' He spat the words at her, spittle flying onto her cheek.
She heard the rasping sound of the knife, and her eyes filled with tears of rage as he waved three hand lengths of braid in front of her. 'He will kill you for this insult!'
Throwing the plait on top of her satchel, he issued another order. 'Lorcan, silence her and get her onto the boat.' Roisin felt a slap to the back of her head, felt dizzy and then felt nothing.


Ciara and Marthe were nearly back at the outbuildings of Halsrafjord when they met Kristr and Erik coming towards them. Kristr's eyes narrowed. 'Where is Roisin?'
'She forgot her needles when we were at the edge of the woods, and she went back to retrieve them,' Ciara confirmed. 'She said she would catch up with us.' Frowning, she realised that Roisin should have caught up with them long before now, but herself and Marthe had been so involved in their chatter that they had not noticed.
Kristr took off running in the direction of the woods, shouting for Roisin, and followed closely by Erik. With each stride he became more and more panicked. What if she had fallen? Was she injured?
When he came upon the scene in the clearing he howled in rage.  In a heartbeat he was stabbed with guilt. Now he knew exactly how Conall of Dun na Shee must have felt when he found the ransom note stabbed through the tree. Kristr fell to his knees as he saw the satchel, the dagger with blood on it, and the length of her beautiful hair, so carefully plaited by him that morning.
His heart tightened and his stomach lurched. This was not the work of Roisin's menfolk taking her back by stealth. MacRonan had been here. He stared at the disturbed earth, evidence of a struggle. Horror was replaced by anger, and fear of what had become of her. Erik caught up to his brother, and roared in outrage at the small pile of Roisin's belongings before them.


Roisin tried to shake herself awake.  She realised that she must be on a boat, the undulating movements were of the sea, not land. Boats did not normally make her feel so ill; and her head was throbbing. She heard men’s voices but they were speaking in Gaelic, not Norse. She tried to open her eyes, but something was stopping her. She reached to her head and felt a rough piece of material. Tugging furiously at the blindfold, she screamed for Kristr , but was rewarded with a foul-smelling hand clamped over her mouth, and the horrifying familiar voice. 'Your precious Viking is not here!' Another dirty pair of hands pressed a wine skin to her lips, but when she tried to turn away, the sticky sweet liquid poured down her throat. She choked, swallowed, and all was dark again.

Be sure to come back next week for chapter 16!

Thank you to:
E. Paterson for the Viking painting and the Viking hall


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 favorite 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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