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
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The Road to Paris: Pirates (Newest Stories)
The captain of the Frankish ship looked over his soon-to-be prize. Clothar was not a man who balked at taking what he wanted. The fishing boat looked to be laden with ocean fish. The crew was small, four men and a boy. He gestured to the bowmen who perched above him on the vessel’s rigging. They took aim, waited for a clear and certain shot and let fly their arrows. Immediately two of the crewmen on the smaller boat were killed. That left two and the boy. They were close enough now to throw the grapples and board. Why not let the men have a little fun.
Ranigg stood shoulder to shoulder with Snorri on his right and Falni on his left. He glanced at her, turned back to watch the Franks as they swung their grapples. He waited until the first men climbed the gunwales to step aboard the Pride, reached around behind Falni and pushed her overboard with all his might. Her cry of outrage was submerged literally. He swung his sword, cleaved one Frank’s arm from his shoulder and stabbed another through the belly. Then a third man thrust his spear through Ranigg.’s chest, its point coming out through his back the force was so great. Snorri was long since dead.
Falni struggled in the icy water. Somehow the movement of both vessels made a current that swept her around behind the Pride. She surfaced long enough to hear that the sounds of battle had faded to voices only. She knew what that meant. Ranigg , her dear older brother, her partner and champion, was on his way to Odin’s table now. Her salt tears blended with the sea spray on her face.
She knew that she would not last long in the frigid water. If one of the Franks did not find her as she clung to the boat she would surely freeze to death. That reminded her that Shannon had nearly frozen to death when he fell into this same body of water. She and her brother had found him, rescued him, and christened him “Drivvid” or “driftwood”. It had been the parting with his wife that had driven her Shannon to attempt his own death in the sea. What would happen now that he had lost another, better love?
She could feel her feet and legs going numb. Her mind was slowing due to the cold, but her thoughts raced as quickly as they could. If she died, that would be it. If she let herself be captured, she might, just might find her way back to Shannon. In what shape, she did not know, but she did know one thing. Unlike many men she would be as precious to him ravished by another as she was before.
She wondered if she could pass for a boy. That might be the one way she could escape the violent attentions of these pirates. It was worth a risk. She let herself fall back into the water, keeping herself afloat with her paddling arms, and shouted.
A huge head looked over the gunwale at her. It was a man of at least forty with a bushy reddish beard and eyebrows, many missing teeth, a deep scar above his eyes, and tiny black eyes. He said something in Frankish, a language closer to English than Norse, but she caught the word, “boy” and her hope lifted.
The man swung one arm around to beckon to his crew. Three of them grabbed grapples and started fishing for Falni. One of the hooks snared her arm,. Nearly pulling it from its socket. She cried out with pain, but the man continued to pull her up, one of his mates succeeding in hooking one of her legs. She was glad of the britches she wore at sea.
On the deck of her own boat she lay sodden in the puddle she herself made. The big man, the leader, leaned over her to get a look. In Norse he said, “So we have netted a stout young lad. Should fetch a good price in the slave market. Where were you bound, boy? Frankia, Norway or England?”
One of his crew came up and reported on the booty he had found in the boat’s hold. The captain roared with triumph. Turning back to Falni, he said, “A fine catch! How nice of you and the crew to do all the work for us.” He prodded her with a booted toe. “I asked you a question, brat. Obviously you were headed for a near port. Lawrencium? Skirbeck or somewhere in Frankia?”
Falni tried to skitter away as the boot came back with more force. She pointed to her mouth and shook her head, then to her ears and did the same.
“Deaf and dumb, are you? Well, we will see about that. “ He commanded one of his men, “Bring that corpse over here. He looks a little like this boy. Maybe they are father and son or brothers. Let’s see how this one likes watching her kin mutilated.”
His words had been in Frankish. She thought he might have said something about father or brother. Then she saw what the men were doing. They dragged Ranigg.’s body over to the captain, who gestured for his men to pull down Ranigg’s britches. He himself drew a knife from his belt.
“It would be too bad if this fine young warrior arrived in Valhalla a gelding, do you not agree?” He leaned and reached for her brother’s exposed phallus.
“Stop!” she shrieked.
The captain grinned evilly, re-sheathing his knife. “I thought so.” He reached down to grab Falni’s arm and drag her to her feet. “Now let’s get down to some information…”