The Viking (Chapter VII, page 1 of 5)


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It was a celebration; a festival of spring not unlike those Stefan had often attended in his homeland, with a multitude of people gathered in the center of the village. Occasionally, men would size him up, but as soon as they realized Stefan was just a boy, none of them said anything about the Viking that got away.

Kannak and Stefan enjoyed the men with painted faces who acted the part of the village idiot. The jokesters walked through the crowd, made funny faces and occasionally danced a comical jig to the music of a flute. Tables held a variety of sweet fruits and breads, ale, mead and wine to complement the plentiful assortment of berries, meats and fish. It was all free for the taking and Stefan ate his fill.

Kannak took him to see the wide mouth of the river, the rafts and the fishing boats, most of which were moored across the river on the Clan Limond side. When they went back to the festival, he too was interested in all the items made by other clan members such as new sheepskin flasks, assorted leather pouches and weapons he would have liked taking home with them. But again he decided showing his wealth would be unwise.

Stefan turned from the tables and began to study the people instead. The Macoran clan had more than its share of elders each of whom looked to be in their early fifties. In his homeland, many did not live that long and no one was quite certain why. A man who married late in life was not likely to see his children grown and it was something to keep in a young man's mind. Even so, Stefan was not the least bit interested in marriage.

*

At the edge of the village, two boys nearing the age of ten were fascinated with a campfire left unattended. First the twins spit on the fire to hear it sizzle, and then they tried to entice a cat to come to them hoping to throw it in the fire. To their chagrin the cat got away. They looked around for other things to throw in the fire, and found little more than sticks and the widow Sarah's favorite marketing basket. Searc, the eldest by only minutes, tossed the basket in and ran. Quickly followed by his brother, Sionn, the two hid behind a cottage and peeked around the corner. No one came and they were not caught. They watched until the basket was consumed, and then exchanged shrugs. Not much excitement in that.

At last Searc had a grand idea. He found a long stick, wrapped a cloth around one end of it, set the cloth on fire and then carried it toward a horse tied to the branch of a tree. He hoped to set the horse's tail on fire, but the terrified horse danced frantically until it managed to pull the reins free and then bolted toward the center of the village.

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