Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Vikings are back in Week 9/Chapter 9 of Silver and Spice by Maria MacAuley!

Hello friends/followers! Welcome to week 9/chapter 9 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 HERE

Chapter 9

Ireland,  24 years ago

A year had passed since Peter MacRonan saw Aisling leave in the Viking's arms. He howled with rage when news arrived from a messenger in Dubh Linn that she had borne Kerik Halsrason a healthy red-headed son.  The dairy maid who was sharing his bed scrambled away in fear; she had felt the weight of his fist before today, and now that she was new with child she feared the master even more.  Peter’s own undersized black haired boy froze in fear when he heard his father's bellow, summoning him to the chamber.  As the boy tiptoed into the room he cried in pain as Peter pounced and gripped him by the shoulders.  He shook Sean violently and he yelled into the lad's pale face, his breath causing the boy to retch.
“Your mother did not love you! She hated the sight of you because you are short and feeble, not broadchested like me!”  Sean’s feet were barely touching the ground, his father had such a hold on his frail undernourished body. “She ran away with a Norseman!  Now she has the red-blooded, strong son she always wanted.” He shook him again and Sean whimpered in pain and fear. Any memories of his mother were of a kind woman, sharing a slice of sweet apple bread,  her soothing voice lulling him to sleep in her warm arms.  Peter continued his tirade, killing any remaining good thoughts Sean had of Aisling.  “She lied to you, to us!”
“I will seek revenge on her, her Viking lover and her bastard child. As my only true son and heir, 'twill be your revenge too, do you understand me?” The child nodded, too frightened to wipe the spittle from his father's rage off his face. His father released his grasp, and the boy slid to the floor and curled into a ball, crying for a mother who he believed did not love him. “Do not mourn her! She does not mourn you!” Peter stormed out of the room, kicking up withered rushes and dried clay from the floor.  Servants and animals alike scattered out of his path, his loud cursing and insults ringing in Sean’s ears.

Halsrafjord, present time
Roisin never had believed that a kiss could feel like this. Before Kristr came into her life, a kiss was on the cheek, a goodnight wish for a peaceful slumber. This was not the pure gesture of love and reassurance from a father to his only daughter, nor the gentle goodnight peck from one sister to another.  This was the kiss of longing, of lust, of love.  For a few moments in time, Roisin believed that there was nothing else in the world that mattered.
His mouth covered hers, exploring her sweet innocent pout, gently nipping at her lips. The wanting, needing, the desire in his embrace overwhelming her rational thought as she parted her lips, his tongue invading her mouth and dancing with hers as she returned the emotion he shared with her. She moaned softly as his palm moved over her shoulders, down to her breast, whilst the other cupped and stroked her behind. Her eyes flew open, bringing her back to Halsrafjord and reality.
“Kristr, stop.” She went to push him away, even more confused, as she wanted him closer. Her brain was addled. 'I... I cannot.'  She was not sure what ‘cannot’ fully meant in her own mind, but she knew there was more than a kiss at stake.
This was the man who abducted her from her home, but who saved her from a marriage to a slimy toad. The man who had bound her as his captive, but now treated her like a princess. The man whose actions, with his fair haired brother, had resulted in her sister’s genuine happiness. The man who admitted he wanted her but did not force her onto his furs. The man who made her aware that there was more to the world than the sheltered world of the rath.
But he was also the man who believed her value was in six pounds of silver.
His hands moved to the tree trunk, bracing his body away from hers, only their foreheads touching. His breathing shallow and harsh, “Roisin, we are not doing anything wrong.” 
“It is wrong because... I... I am still your captive.” Her eyes fixed on the ground, as she circled the toe of her shoe in the moist dark soil. He might have dressed up her stay here as one of a guest, and she had started to believe it, as she felt herself increasingly attracted to Kristr. “When my ransom of silver is paid you have given your word to  release me, and... and I will go back to my father. Your plan will have been complete and I...” She could not give her thoughts any voice. She had dreaded the thought of marrying Sean MacRonan, of saying farewell Ciara, of leaving her home.  Now she was an ocean away from Donegal, and whilst a future without Kristr would seem empty, she would be heartbroken if she never saw her father or brother again.
Kristr turned away, running his hands through his hair. “Roisin.” He understood her predicament as he also was tormented by his own feelings. Her name was a prayer on his lips, an offering to Freja, goddess of love. Developing more than an attraction for the delicate Irish maiden was not part of his plan, but he was falling in love with this woman.
The woman whom he had abducted to avenge the crimes of his enemy.  The woman who did not try to save her own skin when she saw her sister unconscious and helpless in Erik’s arms. The woman who sparred insults with him, unafraid of his temper. The woman who held her head high as a queen when Alfhilde dressed her as a thrall. The woman who cuddled into him as she listened to the skald, entranced by his words, gradually trusting him.
The woman who ruined his plans. The woman whose value was priceless, any ransom was a drop in the ocean of her true worth.  The woman for whom he would give up all the gold and silver in the world.
“Come, Sweetling.” He offered her his hand. What could he say or do now? He would not take her against her will, despite the fact that he wanted nothing more than to lay with her to claim her as his own.  The short charm of the kiss may have been broken, but the gently growing trust remained intact, and he was grateful to Odin for that small mercy.  He offered his hand, and she accepted the gesture without a word.  The walk back towards the settlement would be a quiet one.
Their silent journey was interrupted when they were greeted by a now familiar squeal. “Hej! Kristir eda Roisin!”   Marthe bounded up towards them, eyeing them quizzically before grinning in amusement as she noticed their hand holding, and Roisin's pink lips, still swollen and reddened from their embrace.  She spoke in Norse, her only language. “What have I missed?”
“Marthe!” Kristr muttered in exasperation. What was it that his family could not have the common sense and manners to ignore his blundering attempts at a romance? Just this morning Erik had shouted down the hall, startling Roisin.  Now it was his interfering matchmaking sister.  He turned to Roisin, who was blushing furiously, trying to squirm her hand out of his firm grasp. There was no need to translate Marthe's smirk or question.
“Sister, what ails you this day?  Surely you do not have idle hands?”  Marthe snorted at his comments.  She had more important things to worry about. And that included finding suitable mates for her brothers.
Marthe waved her willow basket at her brother and explained her planned activities for the rest of the day. She was training to be a healer and part of her skill was an ability to prepare effective salves and elixirs.  Some ingredients were brought back by her brother on his long sea journeys, but other medicinal healing plants grew on their own land. Different botanicals were harvested at different times of the year, and Spring came late this far north.  Bringing Roisin with her would be a good opportunity to both teach her some more words and to see how her actions betrayed her feelings to Kristr. Marthe was no fool, and having spent the previous four summers seeking a wife for her brothers, Erik especially, she needed to confirm if Roisin could be the one for Kristr. She twirled her basket and gave Roisin the Norse word.  “Bingr.” Roisin repeated the word, and Marthe beamed and crooked her arm, indicating that they should link together. “Anlegg.” She pointed to the woods, and took Roisin's arm, linking together.
“She wants to take you to the woods to look for plants that help in her healing potions,” Kristr explained, as Roisin gave him a perplexed look, “and she wants to teach you more words. But she promises not to suffocate you with her enthusiasm.”
Roisin paused, an earlier memory flashing through her mind.  Conall had always warned of boars in the woods, and it was in the forest at Dun-na-Shee that Kristr had taken her from her home. “Will we be safe there?”
Guilt coursed through him.  He had not thought of her terror of the previous week.  “I shall tell Marthe to stay out of the woods until you have a chaperone; in the meantime she should be able to find her plants upon the open ground.”  He knew that Marthe would have her dagger to defend herself but Roisin would not.  He would teach her how to protect herself, at least enough to make an escape.
He waved them off, happy to see Roisin turn around and gave him a shy reassuring smile. He watched as Marthe led Roisin in a girlish skip, her black braid bouncing with the motion. Another long hard day was now ahead of him, as he went in the direction of the untilled fields. He needed to speak with his father.
“Aha, Kristr-sonr! You have decided to join us in some honest work on the land!” Kerik shouted to his second born.
“No, Fadir,” Erik yelled, “he has just smelled the fresh ale that my beloved has brought.” He waved to Ciara as she walked back towards  the steading, and  still yelling, 'Thank you Sweetling! Save me a space on your trencher for the natmal.”
“Sonr, I do not think any man on the steading would dare to even look at your Ciara at the evening meal. The doe eyes you make at each other make your intentions clear.” Kerik had given his permission for Erik to take Ciara as his concubine, but not as his wife. Not until the terms of the ransom had been met.  As a concubine or mistress, she would have some status on the steading, but not as high as that of a wife.  Until Kerik either died or passed the title of Jarl to Erik, Gertrude would remain the head woman on Halsrafjord.
Kristr sat down beside his father and brother. He picked up an axe and idly started swinging the blade toward the chopping block, pulling the tool back out with a slight tug. The only sound from the trio was the thud of the strike and the squeak of retreat, increasing in sound as the blade cut deeper into the wood fibres. When he finished his cup of ale, Erik picked up an empty leather bucket, and took his leave to fetch water and ease thirst of the plough-oxen.
“I have to take her home, Fadir.”
“Yester-eve, you said were falling in love with her. I do not believe you to be so fickle.” Kerik knew his son well, and tolerating plans that went awry were not in Kristr's nature.
“I know. But she has a pure heart. I have treated her as if she were a game piece in tafl. I believe she shares my feelings but her circumstances of her arrival here are still raw.” Kristr knew the reddened marks caused by binding her had faded, but her hurt at his taking her from her father was as fresh as an open wound.  Guest status or not, Roisin did not deserve what life had thrown at her.
“Mayhap, but you have saved her from a marriage with MacRonan.” Kerik knew who Sean MacRonan's sire was, and although he was no longer a warrior, he would gladly run through the pudgy deceiving scoundrel, or any kin of his. “Do you believe that if you returned her to Dun-na-Shee, he would not demand that the marriage contract be renewed? You know as well as I do the same son-of-a-murderer would storm her father's lands, kill all the men with paid mercenaries and take her as his wife.”  Kerik squinted at Ciara in the distance. “Look at her foster sister there, reluctantly betrothed to a man who was practically her brother.  You know as well as I do that it would not be difficult for MacRonan to find one of their Christian priests who would marry them, despite the woman’s protest.”
Kristr paled at his father's harsh words. He did not know why Kerik spoke with such vitriol over MacRonan, and his sire, Peter. But whilst he trusted his father's guidance, he wanted Roisin to be happy, nonetheless.
“Son, I will give you a suggestion. After Johann O’Toole meets with you, you may take Roisin to visit her father, and provide assurances that she is well. However, I will only grant this boon if Roisin agrees that she will return with you until the terms of her ransom are met. Bind her to you again if you must. We are treating her as a guest, but she is still your hostage and responsibility.” Kerik paused. He knew that Kristr did not need the silver, but if he let his son behave like a love-sick puppy, his honour and status amongst his own kind would be crushed. Trying to soften his firm judgement on the matter, he continued,
“I believe that she cares for you. I am not an old blind Jarl who cannot see what happens in his hall or on his lands.” His lip twitched in amusement at his son's embarrassed expression. “Nei, 'tis not what you think. Our ancient trees hold many secrets told by many young lovers.  You are not the first man on the settlement to go walking with a maiden.” Ruffling his son's hair as if he were a boy, Kerik stood up. “She is in conflict with her feelings, but let her find her way to you. Bride stealing is as old as Odin himself, and many a fine match has been made this way. Be patient.”  Kristr knew that the ‘stealing’ more often than not was instigated by the young couple themselves. Although not planned, his own mother had been taken willingly by Kerik, but his father had never disclosed the name of Aisling’s husband in Ireland.           
Patience was not necessarily a quality Kristr had in barrelfuls at the moment. Following his father, he patted the oxen, and hoisted the yoke of the plough onto his shoulders.  The hard work of turning the soil would make him sweat and would take his mind off Roisin, and the thoughts of wrapping his hand around her braid whilst she wrapped herself around him. He let a long low growl and clicked at the oxen to move forward.


Roisin found Marthe's good nature infectious. The younger woman was determined to have her learn as many words as possible, and continued to test her knowledge as they walked around the edges of the woods. Roisin reflected that Marthe may be training as a healer, but would have made an excellent educator, with her gentle persistence and patience. Marthe, pointed out objects and insisted that Roisin repeat the word three times. After learning another five words, would return to those she had been taught earlier in the day. The language was coming slowly but the jester in Marthe had Roisin in fits of giggles at her visual impressions of her family; Kerik's booming voice, Erik's ridiculous manners and Kristr's obsession with his hair, and the arching quizzical eyebrows beloved of all three men.
Ciara would have gently chided Roisin for such mischief making in the past, but now she would probably throw herself into Marthe's antics with glee. She wondered where her friend was today. Pulling on Marthe's sleeve, taking her attention from her theatrics, she asked “Ciara?”
Marthe thought for a moment. “Ki-ra. Med Madir.” With Mother. She motioned as if she were kneading bread. “Brauthgorth.” Roisin did not know the word but it was clear that Ciara was obviously taking her immersion into Nordic life seriously, if she were joining Gertrude at the cooking hearth. Perhaps she would not feel so conflicted about her head and her heart if she embraced the next year of her life with the same determination as Ciara.
Lifting Marthe's basket, she picked up each tiny plant, and named them correctly, blushing under Marthe's approval of her tutelage. She managed her first halting sentence in Norse. “We go back to the hall.” Marthe hugged her, squealed in approval, and swinging the basket in the crook of her arm, they followed the path back to the buildings.
Marthe pointed beyond the stable to the fields, and Roisin saw the trio working, with another dozen or so of the men involved in various chores in the process of ploughing and clearing the land. As they approached the men, Roisin watched as Kristr pulled off his tunic, exposing his muscled flesh, the sun catching the beads of sweat on his forehead. She chewed her lip furiously, not knowing whether to stare and be caught, or look away and reject the sight of the man who was addling her brain and her belly. Marthe squeezed her hand, and kissed her on the cheek. “Kristr. Vaenn.” Handsome. She circled her face.  Roisin blushed at Marthe’s assessment, and nodded in agreement.  When Kristr caught her eye, he unhitched himself from the yoke of the ox-plough, walked over to the girls.
Brushing the mud off his hands against his woollen leggings, he put his thumb to her mouth. “Roisin, do not bruise your pretty lips!” Relaxing her jaw, she could not help but brush her hand over the runes on Kristr's breast. She felt him flinch at her touch, but he did not move away. Green eyes stared deep into grey.
Marthe giggled at the grubby hands of her brother and the soft gasp of Roisin. “Brother, when will you and she give your intentions? Between you and Erik I nearly have two sisters but not one is confirmed. Doe eyes and hand holding is for the skalds!”
Closing his eyes, and silently wondering why this daughter of Loki was tormenting him, Kristr  turned to his sister, “and since when has learning the power of healing given you the power of second sight? Meddlesome wench! Marthe only laughed at him. It did not take a soothsayer to see how his brother felt about Roisin, and she about him. She would just have to wait until they saw Freja's path for them. And she would need to enlist Ciara's help.

Marthe led Roisin to the bakery where they discovered a sweating Ciara, kneading bread before shaping it and passing it to Gertrude for baking in the stone oven. She waved at the pair, brushing her flour covered hands on her apron dress. Calling to her mother, Marthe and Gertrude exchanged a short conversation, which ended with Gertrude gesturing in approval.
“Komme, Ki-ra, Rosh-een.” The syllables of their names were still unfamiliar on Marthe's tongue. She motioned that they should follow her. “Svet-kot.” Sweat House. Roisin looked at her sister and shrugged. Time with Marthe so far had been fun. She did not imagine Marthe had an afternoon of work ahead of them.
Opening the door to the small windowless room, Marthe lit the fish oil lamps. Adjusting her eyes to the light, Roisin could see a shallow pit, like a small hearth sunken into the ground. There were benches on both sides of the room, and to the back there were barrels, the light of the lamps casting yellowing lines over the rippling waves of water they contained. Marthe bent over to light the fire, and surrounded it with fist-sized stones. She started to take off her apron and linen dress and indicated that the others should do the same. Folding her clothes and placing them neatly on the floor she laughed as she saw the others standing in their shifts. “Nei!” she said with humour, as she tugged on the hem of Roisin’s under-dress. “Svet-kot.”
Roisin still found the nudity strange. She had barely seen herself in the nude in her eighteen summers, never mind Ciara or Marthe, who she had known for all of half a day. Yielding to Marthe's murmurs of encouragement she gave in, and put her folded clothes with the others. The dry heat from the fire gave way to damp warmth as Marthe added water to the hot stones, causing them to sizzle and splutter, beads of water dancing on their surface before disappearing with a hiss of steam. They sat back and felt the warm air open their pores and Roisin relaxed onto the bench, her memory of Kristr's naked torso causing her skin to tingle in delight, the tickle of the beads of sweat adding to her already heightened desires she felt within. Her daydream was broken by a knock at the door, with Gertrude, who entered with two kind faced serving women, bearing clean linens and clothing.
An older woman washed Roisin's hair with a cake of scented soap and dried her carefully.  Marthe helped her into a clean shift, blue dress and cream-coloured apron, sighing in approval as she finished dressing her by fastening the brooches. Roisin went to braid her still-damp hair, but Gertrude interjected. The bone comb she used easily removed all tangles, and with Marthe's help they dressed Roisin's beautiful  black shiny hair into narrow braids at her temples, and wove them into a circlet like the one Ciara had worn that morn. Handing her a polished plate, she looked at her reflection, her hair flowing down her back, cheeks flushed from the heat of the steam room and her day dreams of Kristr. Marthe gave a squeal of delight at her handiwork and murmured to her mother that Kristr would soon be as content as Erik.
Gertrude gave Marthe a long look, somewhere between approval and exasperation. “Kommen dottiren, Natmal.” Marthe looked down and smiled to herself. Roisin and Ciara might not realise that Gertrude had called them her daughters as she led them to the hall for the evening meal.  Kristr was not the only Halsrason who could develop and carry out plans.

Thanks go to: For the hand drawing and viking painting E Paterson, and the Norway scenery picture is copyrighted to Sarah Gordon

Bounce on over to chapter 10 HERE


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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