"Shannon, this is where I leave you." Erik's face showed his conflict as he confessed his reluctance to pursue the search for the Irish bard's wife.
The bard stared at the Danish ship captain for several moments, then shrugged. "I know you must go. You have done so much for us, so you have. I cannot ask more."
Something in the man's tone of boice told Erik that Shannon had put a different interpretation on his "desertion". "Shannon, it is only because I have my own work to do. Nothing to do with whether I think this quest is going to pan out."
Falni Jarlsdottir, the bard's wife, had been captured some time ago by Frankish pirates who delivered her into the hands of slave dealers in Honaflodn in what would come to be known as Normandy. At the slave pens Shannon's friends, Rory and Ceridwen had found two young children and bought them, fully intending to raise them as adopted children, and had sailed home with them to Críslicland. The Dane had brought them all here and helped with their search. Shannon, who was none the healthier for the loss of jpart of one foot and several fingers from a past frostbite, now faced continuing his search alone.
"Why don't you come back with me, Shan," the usually stern sea captain asked him affectionately.
"What, and leave me darling Falni to servitude or worse?!" Shannon's freckled face was becoming red with his outrage.
Erik glared at him. "You really think you can find her alone?"
With a painfully sharp look of resentment, Shannon replied, "I shall have to, so I shall." He shifted his sack on his shoulder and started to turn away.
Erik deftly reached a long arm and clamped his hand on the shorter man's shoulder. "Just wait. Let's come up with some sort of plan, at least. And we need to get you some provisions before you go off like that."
Shannon shrugged again and followed Erik to where they could sit and talk.
The day before the two men had gotten little information from the slave broker. Even when Shannon proved he could not be relied on to keep his mouth shut by blurting out his connection to the royal house of Críslicland and the possibility of rich reward, then terrible punishment from that quarter, the man had been evasive. If anything, he was more closemouthed after.
"I told you to l eave the questioning to me," Erik snapped as they walked away from the pen.
"If I left it to you, we'd never know a thing," the Irishman shot back.
"It's thanks to you we never will, my friend."
The most they had learned from the man had been that a woman somewhat resembling Falni may have been in the pens, that she may or may not have been sold, and that the man could not recall who sold her to him nor to whom the woman had been sold. When asked which way they had gone after the sale, the man looked one way and then another, and then he had said, "I don't know. I don't watch them leave."
The best the two men searching for Falni could do was discuss all the possibilities. She could have been taken away on ship, she could have traveled east or South or even north. The slave holder had refused to let them talk to the other slaves that remained in the pens. With Erik leaving it was up to Shannon to decide how to proceed.
"I will do this for you," Erik conceded. "I will go back to Lawrencium and report what we know, or rather don't know, to the king. He will send you help."
The two men parted reluctantly in the morning, Erik traveling back to where he had moored Champion, his trading vessel, and its crew.
Shannon could not bear to stay near the pens, seeing how miserable conditions were, so he decided to look around Honaflod and ask what questions he could. The people here were mostly Saxons who had come across the water to settle or rather take over the ports that were so close to the river. He could communicate with them having lived for years in Críslicland. The people he spoke to were evasive, since they either worked for the slave holder or were afraid of him. He was greatly dispirited when he heard someone singing a familiar tune, one of his own in fact, in his own native language.
Following the sound he discovered a small encampment full of men dressed as did the searthy Moors from Iberia. He managed to figure out that the boice, a woman's, came from inside one of the tents. He saw no way to get to her, as the tent was well guarded with huge armed men in turbans. He stood, with his lute on his back, until he heard a heavily accented voice at his shoulder.
"You are a musician?"
He turned to find a young man barely more than a boy. The fellow was of a height to Shannon, was extremely well garbed and had warm brown skin and big soulful dark eyes. Shannon guessed him to be an important man's son. He bowed deeply.
"You speak Saxon, young lord?"
"A little. But you do not sound Saxon to me."
"Nay, I am from Erin, a bard by trade, looking for a place to lay my head and get food and drink in exchange for a song or two."
The young man's face brightened. "I knew it. I am from Iberia, and I know that your people, the... Milesians, yes? are also from iberia."
Shannon offered him one of his lopsided grins. "Aye, that be our ancestors, those of us not from even older people."
Again the young man beamed. "The Tuatha de Danann!"
Shannon corrected, pronouncing "Tuatha" as "too-ah". "You know a lot about my people," he observed.
"Thank you. I travel about with my father to many lands. I love to learn about them. He has jsut bought a slave from your land, a young woman. She is to be my tutor in your language."
Shannon tried not to look too anxious. "Ah, then, heard that colleen singing sweetly, I did."
"Yes, that is she. Oona. But do come with me to meet my father. If I ask he will feed and house you for a song."
Shannon, pleased to have a chance to talk to this Oona about Falni, smiled and bowed and followed the handsome young man into the camp.
to be continued
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