The following story constitutes the beginning of an entirely new series on An Involuntary King: The Stories.
Rory and Ceridwen looked up from their seats near the fire pit as Shannon turned the corner and walked through the gate to their dooryard. The light of the day was dimming, but they still could see his usual merry look was absent. He limped in, his disability more pronounced, and without a word he sat down on the bench near them.
The couple exchanged surprised glances. Ceridwen voiced the question in both their minds, "Shannon, what's wrong? You look terrible!"
Rory waited for the typical riposte from his lifelong friend, something like, "Och, and i that grateful to ye for the compliment, colleen." It did not come. Instead Shannon sat looking off to the side as if not listening.
Now the look on both their faces as they regarded the tousled Irishman was alarm. Rory got to his feet and went over to sit by Shannon, who moved to make room he did not need to make. "Shan, old man, are you unwell?"
Shannon looked sideways at him as if he had never seen Rory before. Then he seemed to shake himself out of his funk. "I am that sorry, Rory, me darling. 'Tis Falni."
When the battered and disheveled man did not go on to explain, Rory urged, "What about Falni? Is it she who is ill?"
He looked at his wife who was as concerned as he. he gestured with his head that she might want to get them something to drink. he did not need to be reminded that Shannon no longer touched strong drink. Ever since his near-drowning and being picked up by the fishing boat Sif's Pride there were several things different about Shannon. Not only did he no longer tolerate ale or wine, but he had lost toes and fingers to the frigid waters of the North Sea, and somehow his ability to make love even to his beloved wife had been lost.
He put an arm around Shannon's bony shoulders. "You were just in Lawrencium, were you not?" lawrencium was where the king of Crílicland lived and the nearest seaport.
"Aye," Shannon replied, accepting the cold water that Ceridwen proffered. "I have been staring at the palace since I thought it likely me darling Falni would return from her latest voyage."
Ceridwen inquired, "And when did you expect her?"
He looked up at her grimly. "More than a fortnight since. You know her, she is unfailingly here when she has finished her fishing. But she is not back and there is no word."
The three sat on in silence for a time. Rory spoke up, "What has the weather on the sea been of late?" He knew a constant worry for Shannon was that his wife, a competent sailor if there ever was one, could be caught out in a dangerous storm.
Shaking his m op of unruly red curls with their streaks of gray silvering the crown, Shannon replied, "I have heard of nothing but calm seas, relatively calm for the North Sea so it is. I waited in Lawrencium until some Norse fisher folk were expected to arrive. None of them had seen Sif's Pride in some time."
Rory realized how remarkable it was that Shannon had made the long trip to Healing to see him and Ceridwen. Shannon would not ride a horse, so he must have begged a ride with a carter or actually walked. "Who brought you?"
The man looked about as if expecting to see someone standing nearby. "Oh, Father Angus. He took me behind him on his mule." He gave Ceridwen an entreating look. "I just had to talk to you, to tell you about it. I don't know what to do." His voice ended on a note of desperation.
Shannon had been rescued from a pllunge into the North Sea by the captain of the Sif's Pride, a Norse fishing boat. That captain was Falni Jarlsdorrir, who took him back to her home in Jarlsfhord in Norway. She and her brother and first mate, Ranigg, nursed the strange man they had come to call "Dribbid" which meant "driftwood" in their language. When Drivvid began to come out of his long stupor to find himself missing fingers and toes and unable to speak about a hoarse rasp, he also could not remember his name or where he had come from, no less how he came to be in the sea. It took him the entire summer, a summer when he and Falni had begun to love each other, to pick up the strings of his former life. When he first recalled his wife heather, the two had been devastated to know they could not marry. Then he recalled that the very reason he had been in the icy waters and nearly died was that the same wife had had their marriage annul ed. As painful as that meory was, he also knew it freed him to be with Falni.
Theirs was an odd relationship. They were both deeply damaged people. Shannon's life from childhood had been a series of joys and despairs, starting with his father's quick temper and quicker fists and ending with Heather's betrayal. For Falni's part, she had only been nine years old when she was caught out away from the village and horribly raped by an older man. Since that time she had hated being ashore and sought chances to get out to sea again almost as soon as she put her feet on dry land again. He father had wisely made her his heir, giving her the freedom to flee her devils whenever her panic set in.
And Shannon and Falni shared that neither could make love. Falni was too damaged and frightened, and Shannon's famous lustiness had been left in the frozen waters off the coast of Northumbria.
"I need to go back, Rory. I need to go back to Lawrencium. I need to be where I can get word." The broken man's face was suffused with fear.
"I will go ask Ewan to keep an eye on things for us," Ceridwen said and stood to go out of the yard.
Shannon reached to grab her hand as she passed him. "Och, Ceri, ye are good to me, you are."
Rory's eyes showed her that he was grateful as well for her understanding that Rory needed to go with Shannon. The three would go and wait for word of the missing Norse woman.
You can see the story of how Shannon and Falni met by visiting the Shannon in Norway stories.
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