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
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Shannon in Norway: Total Recall
Falni lay in her bed closet, her face buried in the straw bed to stifle the
sound of her weeping. Drivvid was married. He would leave her now. She
felt the old familiar panic rise but let it make her tremble. She did not
get up. She did not pull on her clothes. She did not call for Ranigg and
the crew to set out to sea on Sif's Pride.
Why not? She had done it before in the middle of the night. Not often, but
it had happened. It was because if she left, she would lose any chance that
Drivvid might be persuaded to stay or at least to wait. She clung to him
even as he told her he would leave.
He was right. If there was a family out there who thought their beloved
husband and father was dead, he had to go to them. She tried to see it from
their point of view. He was right. But she did not care. She loved him,
needed him. She would do whatever she could to keep him.
A thought crossed her mind. Was he as much leaving her as going to that
other woman and her children? If she would lie with him as a woman should
with a man, would he stay? Might it be preferable to face her fear and pain
than let him go?
It was worth a try, and she pulled on her dress and opened the bed closet
doors. The hearth fire was low but it gave enough light to show that
Drivvid was lying uncovered on the bare floor. She went to him in her bare
feet and lay down alongside him. She pressed up against him and
tentatively, anxiously, reached for his manhood.
Drivvid started awake. "Falni, what are you doing?" He pushed her hand
She reached for him again. "Don't leave me, Drivvid. I can do this, I can
make you happy."
He pulled away and sat up. He took her wrists in his fists and held them
away from him. It was difficult; she was a strong woman. "Falni, stop!
You don't have to do this. I couldn't anyway. That's not what this is
Falni struggled to tear her wrists from his grasp. She pulled her right
hand away from the weaker grip of his injured hand. He grabbed it again.
His words finally made it into her understanding. She struggled one last
time and then relaxed. She fell forward onto his chest, her arms around
him. "Oh Drivvid, I am sorry, I just wanted to make sure you knew you could
have whatever you want.. so if that was part of why.."
Drivvid put his arms around her and pulled her up against him. "Falni, I
don't want to go. I want to stay.. with you. But I can't. I can't let
them wonder, grieve, for no reason."
"Then take me with you. I will stay somewhere while you work it out, "
"Macushla," Drivvid said, suddenly remembering the Gaelic for "darling",
"what if I see them and know I love them.. or that they need me more than
She sat up, angry, "That's not possible. No one could need you more than I
"You don't know that, Falni." Drivvid bowed his head. Then he looked up
again. "Falni, I need to know. I need to remember. If Heather and our
children are out there somewhere, who knows what other obligations I have?
You would not want a man who dishonored the gods by breaking his trust..."
Her eyes were hard and her lips pressed tightly together. He saw this but
went on, " That's why I could not promise you anything.. I could not say for
sure what I might do, might have to..." His voice trailed off.
Falni looked sharply at him. "What? What is it?"
Drivvid reached up and ran his fingers through his hair with a sigh. "I
don't know. It just felt so familiar, what I just said to you. Like I had
told someone I could not make a promise to do what she wanted.. some other
time.." His face screwed up with pain. "Oh gods, either take those
memories away or make them plain. I can't stand this any more," he cried
out, making servants sleeping on the floor stir and wake.
Drivvid saw their looks, at him, at Falni. "Let's go outside," he
Outside the longhouse they walked in silence for a while. Then he noticed
her feet. "What are you doing out with nothing on your feet? Come over
here," he admonished her. He led her over to a small overturned boat. He
pulled himself up onto it and then reached for her. She climbed up to sit
by him. He took her bare feet into his lap and enclosed each in his hands
to warm them. "Like ice," he observed.
Falni leaned her head against his shoulder as he rubbed her toes and feet.
"Who will love me, who will care for me like this if you are gone?" she
Drivvid's voice pleaded. "Don't Falni. Don't do that to me."
She looked up at him sharply. "Don't do that to YOU?" Her anger surged.
She both wanted to cling to and strike him.
He said nothing. His own face was grim and closed. Her anger flared
higher. She slapped him in the face. "Who needs you anyway, you broken
down excuse for a man!" She wanted him to fight her, to fight for her. He
just sat without moving or changing his expression. He had closed his eyes
when she made contact with his cheek, but his expression remained closed,
shutting her out.
Falni made a sound of frustrated anger and pulled her feet away from him.
She jumped down. Without turning to look back at him, she walked quickly to
Sif's Pride, getting her bare feet and skirt wet in the shallow water. She
pulled herself up on deck and went into the little tent-like enclosure.
She did not weep. She seethed. She lay on her side curled up into a ball
and seethed. Then, exhausted, she fell asleep.
Drivvid had not fallen asleep. He was tired and drowsy so although he tried
with all his might he could not stir any more memories. He sat on, getting
cold and feeling empty.
In the morning Falni rose to hear voices from just off her own prow, She
sat up and stretched, then remembered the night before and why she was on
Sif's Pride. Her heart sank. She stood and lifted the flap of the
enclosure and stepped out into a bright, warm August day.
She recognized the voices as soon as she was outside. One was a villager
who had cousins just down the coast in another fjord and visited them
regularly by boat. The other was Drivvid. She realized immediately that
her man was looking for a way to leave her.
She dashed over to the side of the boat and leaped down into the water,
splashing Drivvid thoroughly as she landed. He started and looked up at
her. His face filled with a deep sorrow. "Good morning, Falni," he said
in a desultory voice.
"So Harald is going to help you escape?" Her eyes flashed.
"Please, Falni. That is unfair. I have no desire to escape. If I could
forget it all again I would. But I can't. And I have to go find out."
Drivvid was not looking into her eyes. She felt both pleasure at this and a
strong desire to take him, hold him and comfort him. She realized with a
start that the man she had thought of as fragile, damaged, was showing more
strength than she had seen in other men in her life. This reminded her of
the cruel words she had cast at him while he was trying to warm her feet
with his hands.
"Oh, Drivvid, I am so ashamed of what I said to you last night.." she buried
her reddening face in her hands.
He said quietly to Harald, "Just let me know when you are leaving." The man
nodded, looked sadly at the woman, and turned and went away. Drivvid went
to hold Falni, leaning his staff against the hull of a boat so he could put
both arms around her. "I knew you were upset and angry. You did not mean
to hurt me."
"Aye, I did. But I was wrong," the woman said, leaning against him,
drawing in all the comfort she could from his embrace.
They were both startled by the sound of the horn that heralded the arrival
of a ship. They looked up automatically. Although it was still far down
the fjord, they both saw the sail, with its red and white vertical stripes,
of a dragon ship. Both of them breathed "Erik" at the same time, then
whipped their heads around to stare at each other. Both asked in unison,
"You know Erik?"
Falni was mystified. "How can you know Erik? We do because he comes into
Jarlsfjord once or twice a year to trade."
Drivvid alternately stared out at the ship and glanced confused at Falni. I
know him.. because he comes to Lawrencium. He is.. the King's friend..."
He stood stock still. Then he looked hard at her. "O'Neill. My name is
O'Neill. Shannon O'Neill." It was all flooding back now. There was so
much he could not sort it all out. He took Falni's hands in his and whooped
for joy. "Falni, I remember! I remember everything!"
She smiled and laughed with him, but her look was still guarded. She waited
for the one piece of information she wanted, needed most.
Drivvid.. no, Shannon was thinking hard again. Is face was working as
pieces of his life fell into place. "You were right.. I am a bard.. a
minstrel.. I sing and tell stories.. and I... I.. play the lute..." He took
his left hand from her and held it with its two missing fingers in front of
his eyes. A look of absolute despair flooded his face and he wailed. He
cried out several words in Gaelic. He seemed to crumple, and Falni put her
arms around him to hold him up.
"Dear, dear Drivvid, what is it? What are you remembering?" she begged.
Out of the side of her eye the dragon ship was coming closer.
"Oh, gods, Falni.. I can't play the lute any more.. it was my life.. I made
love to that lute.. it was all I really cared about.. or most of it." He
looked up with a tear stained face. "Was there an instrument, like a bowl
with a long handle and strings.. was there a lute near me when you found
She remembered the thing that had gotten tangled around his neck. "Aye, it
was the only thing keeping you from going under and drowning. We had to cut
it away, cut the strap that was around your neck,. It was starting to
become awash.. it would have kept us from getting you on board or it would
have broken your neck or choked you. What did you call it, a lute?"
His weight took him down to sit on the ground. She could not hold him, so
she sunk with him to sit by him on the cold rocky shore. She put her arms
around him. "Why can't you play the lute any more?"
He looked at her, held up his left hand and stared at it. "This is the hand
I use to make the notes.. and you need all of them to do that."
She nodded. "What do you use the other hand for?"
"Plucking the strings," he said, mournfully.
"Do you need all your fingers to pluck?"
He looked up at her, his face starting to clear. "No.." he began slowly.
"Then can't you make the notes with your right hand and pluck with your
left?" she touched each hand as she said this.
He stared at his hands. "I.. could.. learn to." He looked up at Falni, his
face breaking into a triumphant grin. "Aye, aye I could! When it comes to
music, I can do ANYTHING!"
Voices told them the ship was about to reach the closest point to the shore
its draft would allow. This was almost as near as Sif's Pride, since the
longships were designed for shallow draft, shallow water, and speed.
Shannon and Falni looked up. They could both see Erik at the prow, lifting
his hand to let the rowers know to stop and the man at the aft cast the
anchor. Erik's eyes scanned up the beach and landed on Shannon and Falni.
He stared. They could see him squint, then mouth the word, "Shannon!" He
turned and seemed to call for someone. "Clancy!"
Shannon and Falni got to their feet. Shannon said, "Clancy? What's he
"Who is Clancy?" Falni inquired.
He looked at her smiling. "My brother!"
Just then the blonde head of a boy of 16 popped over the side of Champion,
Erik's ship, and looked, not lighting on the couple immediately. Then he
saw him. "Shannon? Shannon!"
Next: Shannon Again
Labels: Shannon in Norway