"How do you know they are telling you the truth?" Shannon asked. It was the third village they had visited to inquire whether any of Clothar's ships had brought in slaves. Each was more depressing than the last, stark enclosures full of filth and lost souls. Rory and Cerridwen had gone off alone this time, needing each other's comfort at what they had seen. So many children. So lost, so sad.
"I don't, not really, but the king's gold should elicit some amount of honesty." He eyed Shannon. He seemed like he was holding something back.
"Look, Erik," Shannon ventured. "I know Rory has been coaching you to keep the worst from me. Just don't, all right? I need to know."
"It's just that I don't think we are going to find her, Erik finally said after a long considering pause.
Shannon nodded, his face averted. He put a hand on Erik's arm and wandered a few paces off.
Rory came back to Erik where he stood watching the short Irishman stand and stare out at the water. "Is he all right?"
Erik gave Rory a long look. "What do you think?"
Rory shook his head. "Ceri and I are going to have to leave you."
The big Dane was startled. "What? Why? Is she ill?"
Rory reassured, "Nay, not ill. But we cannot take this misery any more. We are going to buy one of the children, then we will return home to raise it as our own child. Maybe even two."
Erik gazed at the tall man with a wondering look. "You are good people. Just remember you are adopting damaged goods. These children have been ill used, more than you can imagine."
They stood in silence until Cerridwen came over. "You told him?" she asked her husband.
"Do you need any money?" the Fane asked them.
"Nay, but be blessed for the asking," Rory replied. He headed over to Shannon.
The Dane and the woman watched as he spoke. Shannon took the tidings quietly, nodding sadly.
The two men watched the ship leave the next day with their two friends and the two children they had chosen to take home. One was a litlle girl, dirty, stunted in her growth, who hid behind Cerridwen and looked out suspiciously at Rory. The boy, younger yet, just wept and wept.
"God bless them all," Shannon sighed. "I hope it goes well."
"We should leave for Honaflod," Erik said by way of reply. "It's a big slave port."
Shannon looked up at the blue eyes that looked out at the departing ship. "And if there is no news there?"
Eril looked at him. "I don't know, Shannon. By now she may be sold and on her way to Odin knows where. Morocco? Italia? "Byzantium?"
Shannon shrugged. "She will get away. She will come home to me somehow."