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, September 29, 2010
The Road to Paris: The Search
Shannon deflated. Rory had always been astounded by O’Neill’s ability to cling to hope. Nevertheless, he knew even Shannon had his limits. After putting in at every little cove on the Frankish coast, never learning a thing, he wondered if this man, who had attempted suicide before, would try again.
“That is very likely,” said the no nonsense voice of Erik, the ship’s captain and a seasoned Danish trader. “The pirates keep the people in these villages under their thumbs. I doubt they would admit to having seen Falni if she was standing right there with a feather on her head.”
Absurdly Shannon glanced at the spot Erik had gestured to. He stayed gazing at it as the Dane and Rory exchanged looks. The captain motioned with a tilt of his head for Rory to walk a piece with him.
When they were out of Shannon’s earshot, he lowered his voice to a whisper and said, “We don’t even know if she is alive.”
Rory looked sharply at him, his eyes communicating that under no circumstances should this be suggested to Shannon. “Sssst,” he hissed. “If he heard you it would kill him.”
Erik’s knitted brows reflected his impatience. “It would be a sight easier to search if we did not have to tiptoe around the man.”
Rory glared. “That is just how it is. If we are taking you from more profitable work--”
Erik gave an oath in Danish. “You know full well that is not what I am saying. But don’t push it. I know what I am doing, certainly more than either of you do, and it’s just harder if we have to coddle O’Neill.” When Rory said nothing, he went on, lowering his voice again. “I talked to an old man I recognized from an earlier visit here. He helped me negotiate for a load of herring. He told me that when he and his mates were out fishing a few weeks ago they found a couple bodies in the water.”
Rory’s face drained of color. “Dead?”
“Well, of course they were dead. They weren’t in the middle of the sea taking a swim.”
Rory looked away and scowled. “Could they tell anything about the men? Or—women?”
Erik crossed his arms over his chest and absently kicked at some shells on the rocky beach. “One was pretty eaten up by something, but the other was just waterlogged and bloated. His face was unrecognizable except that they could see the color and length of his hair and moustache. They were wet but dry they would be wheaten. And the moustache – had silver beads woven into the tips.”
Rory looked up, gaping. He breathed, “”Ranigg? Oh Jesu.” Ranigg Jarlssen was Falni’s brother and the mate on her fishing vessel, Sif’s Pride. “Could they tell—how he died?”
“He had a gaping hole in his chest. The other man was similarly wounded.”
Rory put his hands over his face. “Och, Ranigg, poor fellow. “ He reached to make the sign of the cross on his breast. Erik touched the iron Thor’s hammer he wore at his throat.
“I think we need to plan what we do next. This canvassing of villagers is useless. If she is still alive, she has been taken to a slave market. There are three large ones near the mouth of the big river. I think we need to go straight there and find a way to get information.”
Rory, who was still stunned from the news that a man he liked and cared for had died violently, the man who was with his friend’s wife when she disappeared. He nodded. “Don’t say anything about Ranigg to Shan.”
Erik put a strong hand on his shoulder. “I won’t. Now go pray or think or sing or whatever it is you need to do. We will talk at the campfire tonight and sail at dawn.”
The suggestion that that the ports at the mouth of the Flod might prove a better source of information seemed to give Shannon a new direction for his energy. He saw Rory’s distress, though, and asked about it. “Nothin’, boyo,” the tall man said. “I just have the start of some sickness, a cold, nothing worse.”
The decision was made to go to the three ports on the river that led ultimately to Paris. Erik would go in and act like he was in the market for slaves. He would talk to some who had been penned up for a week or more and ask about the women who had come through there. He hoped, oh how he hoped, his act would fool someone long enough that they would let something slip.