Falni hung back as Erik and Clancy climbed off the ship and rushed over to Drivvid.. she had to remind herself, this was “Shannon”, not “Drivvid”. Shannon was so intent on greeting his friends he did not notice that she pulled away from where they had stood together.
The blonde boy with exactly the nose Shannon had were his not broken tore up to him and stopped short just feet away. The Dane strolled up and observed what Clancy did but was less shocked.
“Shan,” the boy cried, looking at Shannon’s hand and foot and the staff. “What happened to ye?”
Shannon lifted his hand with only three digits and looked at it. “Sea serpent bit them right off then” he jested.
This was all in a language Falni did not understand but she guessed he had made a jest from the boy’s horrified look and Erik’s twinkling eyes.
She watched as the conversation went on. She heard her and her brother’s names and the word “Jarlsfjord”. She exchanged a look with Erik, who smiled and nodded his head. He went to greet her. In Norse, he told her, “Falni Jarlsdottir, it is good to see you again. We are surprised to find Shannon O’Neill here. Everyone in Christenlande thinks he drowned. So you and Ranigg pulled him out of the sea.. I assume he lost his fingers and toes to the cold?”
She nodded, smiling reservedly. “Yes, he was in very bad shape when we found him. He is lucky to have lost just those… although there were other effects.. you hear his voice. I think it was not that rough before. And he has trouble getting enough breath.”
Erik glanced at the two O’Neills. “There will be many who will be overjoyed to know he is alive. He is much loved.”
Falni wanted to ask “By his wife?” but bit her tongue. She wanted to stave off that heartbreak a little longer. “I suppose he will want to go back with you..” she began.
Erik shook his head, turning as Shannon and Clancy turned and came towards them. “If he does, he will have a wait. I will not be going back to Christenlande for at least two months.” He saw just enough to see that Falni relaxed.
Shannon had heard and understood as he came up. He too had an air of relief. “I was just thinking of finding my way back when Champion came into view.. I don’t remember everything but I am starting to.” Clancy was looking at his brother quizzically. Shannon said something to him that made the by shrug and nod.
Falni spoke, “Drivvid, shall we take your brother and Erik to our longhouse?”
Erik laughed. “Drivvid? Is that what you call him? That’s wonderful. That suited him even before he jumped in the water.” He turned and explained to Clancy in Saxon that “Drivvid” meant “driftwood” in Norse. Clancy did not seem to care for the jest.
Meanwhile Falni and Shannon had both looked up at the word “jumped”. They exchanged glances.
Shannon hobbled to Erik’s side. In Saxon he whispered, “Erik, will ye have a private word with me a moment?” Erik willingly followed Shannon off a little distance from the others, the woman and the boy who stood awkwardly smiling at each. “Erik, am I married?”
Erik looked at him, then at Falni, and clapped Shannon on the shoulder laughing. “You were.. but she convinced the Church to annul your marriage.. she’s married again, Clancy tells me. So if there is anyone you are.. interested in… you are free.”
Falni had kept an eye on the two, and seeing Shannon grin broadly first at Erik and then her, she started to hope. Shannon made his way over to her and whispered in her ear, adding a kiss on it at the end, “Falni, will you marry me?”
She jerked and looked at him anxiously. “Oh Drivvid, is it true? Are you not married?”
“It appears that I am not.. the woman I dreamed about is married to someone else.. and for some reason that news is making me very, very happy.” He threw his arms around her, staff in his hand and all, and they laughed and embraced.
Ranigg had come running up at this point and gave Erik a welcoming bear hug. “Welcome, welcome, and what is this?” he smiled looking at his sister and Drivvid.
Erik smiled back, “It looks like Shannon just asked your sister to be his wife.”
Ranigg just stared. “Shannon? Wife?”
Falni looked over and said, “That’s exactly what he did, Drivvid I mean. He is not already married. Is that not wonderful?” She was beaming and teary eyed at the same time.
Ranigg’s own face beamed. He went up to Drivvid and threw his arms around him. “Brother! That is what I hoped. The gods must love you indeed.”
Poor Clancy stood with his arms down limp at his sides entirely in the dark about what all was going on. Shannon saw this and took Falni’s hand to lead her over to his brother.
“Clancy,” he said in Gaelic., “WE have a great deal to talk about … The first thing I want to tell you though is that this is Falni Jarlsdottir.. and she will soon be your sister. I just asked her to marry me.” Then he turned to Falni, with the gentlest of smiles on his face. In Norse he said to her, “Falni, I could not have believed this wonderful thing could happen. This is my youngest brother Clancy O’Neill.. I told him we are getting married.”
Falni looked at him smiling, then at Clancy who was looking surprised but happy. They smiled at each other, then laughed and embraced. Shannon put his arms around them both.
The tables from inside the longhouse had been dragged out to join the ones that lived outside year round and all the food for the feast was being prepared. Erik sat on the bench along one side of one table next to Clancy so he could translate from Norse to Saxon and back. Clancy’s question made him laugh.
“Why is she not serving the feast with the other women?” He was looking at Falni, sitting on the other side of Shannon, joining in the talk and laughter, her huge drinking horn listed to her lips.
“She doesn’t cook and serve the fish.. she catches them!” he explained. “Falni is the captain of her fishing boat. And a damned fine one at that.”
Clancy looked at her with new respect, but said, “I should not care to serve under a woman captain..”
Erik slapped him on the back and laughed aloud. “I would! And I mean that every way I t can be taken. But I am actually surprised she is marrying Shannon.. I thought she would never marry.. she has.. or had I suppose.. no time for men.”
Falni had heard her name and glanced over at the pair conversing. She smiled at them, then went back to listening to Drivvid/Shannon talk.
Shannon turned to look at his brother and the Dane. “Seein’ ye makes me start to remember more.. not all I am that pleased to be recallin’. But there is one thing missin’.. something important.. someone important.”
Clancy exchanged glances with Erik, then asked, “Do ye remember the King?”
“Aye, Lawrence. And Queen Josephine. And Prince Peter, and two little girls, twins, and two more boys… Tavish and… Donalbain.”
Erik supplied, “The girls are Caithness and Elaine.”
Shannon smiled with recognition. “Aye, a fair one and a dark one, I recall. And let me think.. Duke Lorin and his wife Larisa and their son whose name I dinnae think I e’er could remember.”
Clancy laughed, “True on you, Shan. ‘Tis John but ye dinnae forget.. ye never remembered.” He looked hard at his brother. “And who might Seamus and Deirdre be?”
Shannon went pale and put his cup down. Falni looked at him concerned. He turned and said something to her in Norse.
Erik told Clancy, “He just remembered his children. That must feel very strange.”
Clancy nodded. “Are ye noticin’ what I be noticin’.. who he is leavin’ out.. the most important one of all?”
Erik nodded. “Shannon,” he called.
Shannon looked from where Falni had been comforting and asking him questions about his son and daughter.
Erik said gently, “Do you remember Rory?”
If Shannon had been pale before he was drained of all color now. His face filled with distress. He put his face in his hands and started to weep, speaking in Gaelic, sounding just miserable. Everyone else turned now to Clancy. But the boy was up and at his brother’s side in a flash, his arms around his shoulders, joining him in the Gaelic and in the tears. Falni was frantic.
Shannon had just remembered it all in one fell swoop. The journey to Scotland. The hell he had put Rory through. The angry words between them.. well actually Shannon’s rejection of Rory. The suicide note. The boat. The water. And Rory.. what must he be feeling with his friend dead by his own hand… his childhood friend and almost constant companion. He could not near it, thinking of Rory’s pain.
Clancy tried to reassure him. “He was getting back to normal when I was about to be leavin’ with Erik. It was that hard on him at first, but Beltane was one of the last days I was there and he was celebratin’ with the rest of us.”
Shannon turned to Falni. “Oh, Falni, I just remembered the man who has been my dearest friend and brother almost all my life. And I was cruel to him in the end.. I meant to kill myself.. I think at the end I fell. I did not jump. But Rory, my friend, has been in terrible pain thinking I am dead. I have to go. I have to go tell him I am alive.”
Falni thought about what it would be like if something like this had happened to Ranigg and she thought he was dead. “I will take you, Drivvid. I will take you home to Rory.”
Next: Shannon Returns to Lawrencium
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com